Scott Forsyth - MPF
Q1. When did you start with photography and when did you officially open your business.
A1. I first started taking pictures with an eye to creating art in 1999, throughout a two year medical internship in Edmonton Alberta. Going for walks with a camera in nearby parks became my source of relaxation and artistic inspiration. In 2007, with the publication of two feature photographic articles in national magazines, my photography underwent the first transition from hobby to a profession, in my journey to becoming a freelance nature photographer and travel photography guide.
Q2. What is your favourite camera and lens choice?
A2. I started photography in the film era, with a Nikon F5. I’ve stayed with Nikon over the years and currently shoot with a Nikon D810. My favourite lens combination is the tilt/shift PC-E Nikkor 24mm 1:3.5D ED.
Q3. What is your favourite subject to photograph?
A3. The Natural Landscape has always been my favourite subject to photograph.
Q4. Favourite client products/framers/film choice.
A4. My favourite product to create is a fine art print. Since my days of black and white film and print developing, the tangible element of creating a print on paper still provides great pleasure. I’ve invested in my own printing equipment, since I like to be connected with the entire process all the way through from the shutter release to post-production editing and fine art printing. For images beyond the size I am able to print myself, I would recommend Resolve Photo. With respect to framing I have had a very positive relationship with Creative Avenues for the past decade, and remain appreciative of their wholesale discount prices and quality framing.
Q5. Tell us your story. How you started and how your photography, brand, and business transformed over the last few years.
A5. Looking back on life is very interesting, as we can see how our lives today are often a synthesis of our unique experiences from birth. Without realizing it at the time, my attraction to the natural landscape as an art form started early in life as a pre-schooler under the watchful eye of my grandmother, an accomplished landscape painter. This appreciation of nature led me to make a difficult choice between learning to paint it, through an acceptance into the Ontario College of Art and Design, or probe it through science study at Dalhousie University. I chose to study nature in university but
continue to draw and paint through evening courses in local art colleges. Restless to explore the world beyond my culture, following graduation I decided to travel “east” and landed in northern Japan. I spent two years living in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost province, where I studied drawing and Kanji in exchange for private English lessons. Finally, I back-packed for a year from China, through South-East Asia to Australia, before returning home three years older. Living abroad gave me insight to my own country of origin, and I realized how little I really understood about my homeland.
I returned to Canada with a passion to discover its landscapes, that stretch from the Pacific to the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. I also turned my curiosity of nature toward the study of the human body, and emerged as a family doctor in 2001. Throughout the very hectic schedule of internship/ residency training, my drawing and painting gradually diminished as my fascination with the camera as a creative tool took hold. It was a reluctant transition for me, and one still to be resolved. Nevertheless, I embraced photography and started publishing articles in 2007. I made a deliberate decision to focus my efforts on the Canadian Landscape, since I had come to appreciate our country in a new light from living abroad, and had always seen the landscape as its own subject matter worthy of devotion.
Creating a Brand is a longterm commitment and it is important to be true to yourself when determining that brand otherwise one may lose hope and the will to persist along the journey. Gradually I took the outward steps of joining professional photography associations and becoming part of a creative and supportive community that fosters and inspires personal development. This has led me to the current position of leading photography tours/workshops and becoming a staff photographer for Adventure Canada, on expedition tourism travel to the Canadian Arctic and East Coast.
Q6. You have received a number of rewards and recognition over the last little while. Can you share
what these have meant to you and your business?
A6. In 2011, I took the first step of joining a professional photography association, and along with that started to compete in annual photography competitions with seasoned professionals. Looking back my favourite pictures are the ones that emerge from each annual competition. Whether the image won or not is irrelevant, by participating in the competitions my craft has evolved and I have gained a degree of confidence in my own work, while being inspired constantly to improve by the works of other contestants.
Photography in the digital-social-media era is so ubiquitous that one way to stand out above the crowd is to become an award-winning photographer. The Best-In-Class and Photographer of the Year awards that I have received helped build credibility to my work in the eyes of employers, and to potential workshop participants.
Q7. What is the most valuable business lesson you’ve learned so far?
A7. I was recently on an Arctic expedition trip through the Northwest Passage with Adventure Canada. One of the onboard staff photographers was Freeman Patterson. His books and workshops were the foundation of my photographic education so when he asked me to assist him in preparing his slide shows I was immensely honoured. It was illuminating, since here is an individual who has inspired generations of photographers through his writing, and instructional workshops, and yet his photographic equipment was very basic. His camera was the equivalent of a second-hand journalism “starter kit”, and he travelled without a computer. Most of the passengers on the ship had more expensive gear. The lesson here is that photography is not so much about gear but about “seeing” and communicating how and why you see the way you do with others. The temptation to spend $$$ money on ever changing technology is strong, but in the end the things we need to develop are a strong inner vision, and a method to express it - neither requires a camera at all.
Q8. What accomplishments in photography are you most proud of?
A8. This past year I was hired by Adventure Canada to become one of their staff photographers on Canadian East Coast and Arctic expedition tourism adventures. This is a tremendous honour since other photographers on their staff include Michelle Valberg, Mike Beedell, Denis Minty, and Freeman Patterson, to name just a few. But more importantly, this provides me with an opportunity to grow as a presenter, and to acquire and deepen my understanding of the Canadian geography and the stories of the diverse Canadians who live in locations that many of us may never have the chance to
This month, I was nominated to become a member of the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, on the basis of my body of work featuring Canadian Landscape imagery, and my passion to share the stories from these landscapes. I’m very proud to be a member of this society since I fully support its mandate “to make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world”! I have already started receiving invitations to speak at local schools and events and look very forward to being able to share images and stories.
Q9. Where do you draw your inspiration?
A9. The greatest artistic influence on me is derived from painters, specifically the Group of Seven. They first paved the way for the public to see the “Landscape” as a subject worthy of “Art”. They also struggled greatly with their endeavour, never fully achieving financial success from their paintings,
and having to hold down “day jobs” in order to subsist. Nevertheless, their work now stands as a cultural icon, and their paintings are valued in the millions of dollars. Their story helps me have the patience to hold on to a longterm vision, realizing that recognition and financial reward may never
occur in my lifetime, but the pursuit is still worthy of the time and effort.
Q10. Where do you see your life 5 years from now?
A10. Hopefully attending my own book signing event at a Gallery opening featuring the landscapes of Canada. I also hope to expand the opportunity to share multimedia presentations of stories and imagery of our Canadian landscapes to schools, associations, and the general public. Finally, I would
be grateful to continue to have the health to lead photography expedition trips from the Haida Gwaii on the west coast, to the Floe Edge of ice along Baffin Island, to the towering Fjords of Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. Artistically, I am very interested in digital painting. It was with reluctance that years ago I let painting slide away as photography caught my time and attention. Now, with digital photography and painting, the divide is no longer necessary. Creative control is absolute in the digital era, and I look forward to developing my own way of blending painting and photography to express visual images that touch the soul.
Q11. Any final thought you’d like to leave us with?
A11. After years of accumulating photographs, first as slides and now as stacks of hard-drives, I am finally learning to ask myself “why” before pressing the shutter release. Beautiful moments in nature are occurring all around us every moment.
There will likely never be enough opportunity in my lifetime to review all of the nature images I’ve created already, never mind the ones yet to exist. I’m slowly learning to let go of the compulsion to feel the need to photograph every wondrous sight, and instead to enjoy being in its midst. When the urge to photograph arises, increasingly I ask myself what this image will contribute to the already existing massive inventory of imagery world wide.
Often, to ask the question is to know the answer. Increasingly, I am striving to consider the emotional impact of an image. It is a quest to express something personal yet universal. Exactly how to achieve this remains the challenge, and makes the pursuit worthwhile.
Interviewed By Jennifer Kapala - CP