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Beautiful views over a wild landscape

Interview

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. 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARCO GRASSI
WORDS BY LAURA JEACOCKE

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’s during a one-year trip to New Zealand that I’ve 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 I had to capture those incredible sceneries around me, share them with other people and inspire them to travel more.

What cameras do you shoot with? 

In a few days it will be four years since I have had my first – and only – camera. It’s an old and vintage Canon 5D Mark III.

What is your go-to lens for your work?

The best answer is probably that it depends. I own three lenses: 16-35, 24-70, 70-200. When I go hiking I only bring two lenses (wide-angle + telephoto), other than that I’m always carrying them all and use the right lens, according to what I’m shooting. 

How would you describe your photography style?

I haven’t spent too much time thinking about a proper name to define my style. Since when I first started my journey as a photographer my style has changed and evolved a lot over time. If I had to, I’d probably define myself as an adventure landscape photographer.

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

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

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

No matters how much time I spend planning, once I reach a location I always find something different or something I didn’t expect. I also learned that is beautiful to go back to the same places and get to know them better + shoot them in different seasons and lights.

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

When out, it doesn’t matter if it is just for a couple of hours or for a week, 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 where I’m shooting from when possible.

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

It is 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 but maybe just necessary for a specific trip I’m doing. An advice that I like to give is that it’s essential not to travel with too many gears and try instead to stay as light as possible. In the end, the secret for a good picture is to be 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 someplace 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 new project I’m working on that involves the South West USA.

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

Not following any particular order here, but I’d definitely say:

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

The Dolomites – The incredible mountains all around make your head spinning. High risk to fill up every SD card!

New Zealand – 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?

What’s unknown – Someplace unknown that you haven’t probably even ever heard about. It doesn’t have to follow the “photography trends” to be a great location and you could truly come back home with unique images.

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