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Behind the lens: Marco Grassi

First picking up a DSLR during his gap year, Marco now travels the globe capturing the world’s most dramatic landscapes.

Words by Laura Jeacocke | Photography by Marco Grassi

While most of his pictures depict the never-ending stature and imposing beauty of mountainous landscapes, Marco still manages to add an element of inexplicable peacefulness to his photos. His work captures nature’s raw power and ruggedness, while his use of light highlights its majesty; his photos act as a constant reminder of our insignificance compared to these monumental landscapes. He frequently summons the strength to head out into the most brutal of conditions and sit through agonising waits, all to get an image he deems worthy of the immense views before him.

Marco has a passion for travel, and exploring continents is quite literally his life; his aim, to inspire others to venture out and witness the world too. Born and raised in Italy, he decided to spend a year travelling around New Zealand, which in turn led to Thailand, and eventually a round-the-world trip. He is constantly on the move, his camera always in hand and at the ready to capture crashing waves, statuesque panoramas and unpredictable conditions. PELORUS caught him between flights to discuss his photography and the planning that goes into every image.

How did you first get into photography?

It was during a one-year trip to New Zealand that I discovered my passion for photography. The breathtaking natural wonders and pristine landscapes have always been the main interest in my travels, and in New Zealand I started feeling as if I had to capture those incredible sceneries around me, share them with other people and inspire them to travel more.

How much planning do you put in before travelling to a new place?

A lot! So far, the more time I spend planning, the better the pictures. I normally don’t have a set itinerary and I tend to travel without reservations, just keeping in mind the locations I want to shoot, and figuring out the rest on the spot. I kind of like the old-fashion way of going to a place without knowing too much, and just being amazed by what I find along the way.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your travels?

No matter how much time I spend planning, once I reach a location I always find something different or unexpected. I also learned that it’s beautiful to go back to the same places and get to know them better, shooting them in different seasons and lights.

What do you find most humbling or inspiring when in the wild?

When out, it doesn’t matter if it is just for a couple of hours or for a week, the weather can be the most humbling factor. With bad weather, it is harder to find the motivation to even get out and explore, but as a landscape photographer, I know that if I decide not to go I’m probably going to miss something epic. I always need to find the mental strength to go, which is also the main reason why I prefer to sleep near the place I’m shooting.

What cameras do you shoot with?

It’s been four years since I have had my first – and only – camera. It’s an old Canon 5D Mark III.

What is your go-to lens for your work?

I’d say it depends – I own three lenses: 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm. When I go hiking I only bring two lenses (wide angle + telephoto), other than that I carry all of them and just use the right lens according to what I’m shooting at the time.

Other than your camera, what essential pieces of kit do you take on every trip?

It’s a long list that begins with things like a 75L backpack, tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, first aid kit, toothbrush etc. But in a way, I like to think that nothing is essential, only maybe the necessary things for a specific trip I’m doing. A piece of advice I like to give is that it’s essential not to travel with too much gear, but instead to try and stay as light as possible. In the end, the secret to a good picture is being there at the right moment, and it can be hard if there’s heavy equipment slowing you down.

Where’s next on your bucket list?

After 20 days in the Arctic, I actually need to go to some place remote. It sounds crazy, but what is truly crazy is the number of photographers I saw during my last trip to Norway. Also, I’m excited about a project I’m working on that involves the South West of America.

If you were to recommend 5 places everyone should visit, what would they be?

In no particular order, I’d definitely say:

Patagonia – Home to some of the most incredible mountains in the world.

The Dolomites – The incredible mountains all around make your head spin. It does come with a high risk of filling up every SD card though!

New Zealand – I love the variety of this country. Seascape and mountains can be shot on the same day, even in the same afternoon.

Faroe Islands – Rugged weather, incredible cliffs and crazy waterfalls. Convinced yet?!

The Unknown – Some place unknown that you probably haven’t even heard about. It doesn’t have to follow the “photography trends” to be a great location, just somewhere to come back home with truly unique images.

Check out more of Marco’s work at www.marcograssiphotography.com or follow him on Instagram at @marcograssiphotography

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