top of page

Interview with Landscape Photographer Mark Houde

A few months ago, I came across Mark Houde's photographs on social media. His way of approaching composition and texture really stood out to me, so I reached out and asked if he'd be interested in doing an interview. Fortunately, he said yes!

Mark Houde started out as a musician before becoming a passionate landscape photographer. Today, he produces videos, inspires fellow photographers through his writing, and takes beautiful landscape photographs around the world.

Read our interview below to find out more about Mark Houde and his inspiring life story.

interview with Mark Houde

How did you get started in photography?

Mark Houde: My story begins as a musician, majoring in music and investing much of my time in the performing arts. If I wasn’t playing guitar, I’d often have a camera in my hand photographing just about anything that piqued my interest. I documented the years of my daughter growing up and captured everyday moments of my family, photographing even the mundane stuff.

It was the time spent outdoors that continually called to me, and I found myself spending more and more time wanting to be immersed in nature.

It was during this time that I began to take photography seriously and approach it more as a visual art. There was wanderlust that I couldn’t seem to ignore, and the camera made for the perfect excuse to travel while meeting my creative desires. I knew, rather quickly, that this would become my primary source of creativity and inspiration.

interview with Mark Houde

What are the biggest differences between the photographer you used to be and the photographer you are right now?

Mark Houde: Maturity and wisdom come to mind. Much of my early days were inspired by what everyone else was doing. This was a time of over-saturated photos and unrealistic images. I went from documenting human moments to improbable landscape scenes that were over-sharpened, too vibrant, and with artless regard for good composition. I had to take an honest look at my work. Why was I creating these ridiculous photographs?

I began making weekly trips to my local library and borrowing many of the books in the photography section. I began with biographies, especially Ansel Adams'. I had always been drawn to his work and must have borrowed every book they had about him several times over. Then, onto Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz, and even his wife Georgia O’Keeffe from a painter’s perspective.

Then, I discovered Bryan Peterson and his unique way of using color and technique. I learned so much from his books and enjoyed seeing him as a keynote speaker once at a photography conference. I read too many of John Hedgecoe's books and bought a few at reclaimed bookshops - I still have them. So these, and other reads, projected new beginnings for me, and I began to learn the core principles of photography as an art form.

interview with Mark Houde

Your portfolio is made up of categories that highlight different places, such as Oregon, Yosemite, and New Zealand. How do you make the most of a location while traveling?

Mark Houde: It begins before the trip. Research, planning, & navigation are the keys to better time management. You’ll often have to make sacrifices for each location, especially if you’re touring a large area. Have an A-list and B-list of locations. When visiting National Parks, try making reservations inside the park, or find lodging nearby - a real-time saver, and who doesn’t want more time exploring?

I suggest at least two days in one location if you're touring. One day is difficult and reduces your chances of making better images and having a better outdoor experience. Scouting is important and can be done during the afternoon hours when the light is often at its worst and trail hazards can be identified and timed. You can work on composition, too! When heading out the next morning before first light, you’ll be confident, prepared, and have a sense of place.

This video shows how my buddy Mark and I lost precious time at The Devil’s Punchbowl in Oregon because we didn’t have any time for scouting the area beforehand. We were passing through. 

interview with Mark Houde

On your website, you say that “the notion of expressing yourself through visual storytelling is powerful stuff”. How do you approach self-expression as a photographer?

Mark Houde: It begins with intuition. I like to call it a sense of place, calling me, almost as if being magnetically drawn to a scene. It’s a feeling I’ve learned not to ignore. I begin to connect in some way to the land and my internal compass takes over. This would be my approach to self-expression.

One cannot mention the approach to self-expression without also discussing awareness. Light, atmospheric conditions, movement, shapes, textures, colors, lines, and distractions for that matter, all take time to study and learn from each environment - what to leave in, what to leave out. Life in the frame.

Try to make photographs that evoke how you felt upon experiencing a place for the first time. If it’s a grand scene and the expansiveness of it all wows you, then strap on the ultra-wide lens and try to convey that feeling of being wowed. Then go deeper with the telephoto or macro lens, and discover overlooked attributes that make up the beauty of a place. By sharing multiple images - a collection, if you will - we can better offer originality, especially in familiar places where we all have the classic shot that everybody has taken.

interview with Mark Houde

A big part of your journey involves helping others find their creativity. What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to be a more creative photographer?

Mark Houde: A lot more time to learn composition! As I mentioned, think about life in the frame. Photography is a subtractive art in many ways. We attempt to remove elements that can distract the viewer's eye, to not lead it outside the frame and lose interest.

Aesthetically pleasing images naturally draw the viewer deeper into our work and tell more engaging stories. Balance and the use of space around your subject will help it breathe.

For example, if photographing a tree as your main subject and including its trunk, leave space in the frame below the trunk to lead the eye to it. If the trunk’s base is cut off or cropped too close to the frame - and if there are other interesting supporting elements - the viewer may be confused as to what’s important in the photo.

However, if the tree’s bloom is the subject, then intentionally crop out the trunk and try getting in closer to fill the frame and capture the floral notes. Sometimes, by including everything in the frame, nothing jumps out as significant.

Creativity can be found through perspective. Getting low to the ground to photograph a flower while filling the frame and shooting up toward the sky, makes for a more compelling and creative photograph rather than taking the shot while standing over the flower. I once photographed a pepper that I was about to eat by flipping my iPhone upside down and getting the lens as close to the counter as possible.

How about a 365-day challenge? This isn’t easy, but it will excel your photography skills fast!

That said, some of the best advice that I can give is to just get out there and take more photographs. The more you shoot, the happier you’ll be. The rest will come naturally.

interview with Mark Houde

On your YouTube channel, you have a video that covers burnout. What anti-burnout tips would you give to busy photographers?

Mark Houde: Explore to the beat of your own drum and do what works best for you, not what everybody else suggests. For example, despite the notion that you need to create a video every week to be successful, I chose to shift to a bi-weekly schedule which works best for me and frees up time for other aspects of my business.

Self-awareness is a powerful process that not many of us are in tune with. Be honest with yourself, work extremely hard, but recognize the daily burn, step out from time to time, and look at the big picture and what direction you’ve been heading in. Is that where you want to go?

interview with Mark Houde

When do you know that you’ve taken a “good” photograph?

Mark Houde: This is so subjective from person to person, but there are certainly images that have an undeniable appeal, and composition usually plays a big part. If it moves you, then it’s a good photograph.

Sometimes I get so excited during the moments of creating what I believe is a good photograph that I convince myself it is, but then later discover it’s usually one of the other variations from a photoshoot that become my favorite. For me, this happens during the selection and editing process. When viewing images on my 32” screen, I immerse myself in the details that don’t pop on smaller screens. So be sure to create several variations/compositions on a scene.

interview with Mark Houde

What are your thoughts on failure and making mistakes?

Mark Houde: I happen to be comfortable with failure and remind myself of its value. We learn from our mistakes. They humble us, they teach us, and they make us stronger and wiser.

Susan Jeffers once said, “If you haven’t made any mistakes lately, you must be doing something wrong.

Mistakes can also be discrediting, causing us to feel uneasy because too much failure can eventually rob us of our confidence. Be self-aware. This way, you can correct your old mistakes or bad habits and start making new ones - in other words, don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. If we don’t push ourselves, we’re not going to grow.

One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”  — Abraham Maslow

interview with Mark Houde

What brings you the most joy during the shooting and/or editing process?

Mark Houde: For shooting, it’s the experience. Nothing quite matches the experience of being there and witnessing nature’s ephemeral moments, especially the epic locations. Doubtful Sound in New Zealand comes to mind. Yosemite has forever changed me.

For editing, from the moment you realize you’ve created a good photograph - that never seems to get old. I happen to really enjoy the editing process. Each image is treated differently, and that offers fresh creativity.

Most of your photographs are in color, but some of your photos are black & white. How do you decide whether to convert your images to B&W or not?

Mark Houde: A topic I struggle with to this day. I’m never happy with my black-and-white work. I’ll convert an image to B&W when I feel the colors distract from an engaging subject or interesting composition, or when I want the viewer's attention to be drawn to particular objects that naturally stand out better in monochrome.

Some images simply look better in B&W. When I have an image I like, but struggle to edit, I’ll always check to see what it looks like in B&W. Every so often, I get lucky.

interview with Mark Houde

Please share a prompt or idea with the readers to inspire them during their next photoshoot.

Mark Houde: We tend to put so much effort into the final moments of making “the photograph” that we often forget it’s the journey that really matters. When reaching your destination, be sure to plan for some quiet moments to just be, to stand in silence and witness what lies before you.

Learn from others by going out together and shooting side by side. You’ll learn new things you haven’t considered, and these will be the moments and conversations you remember most.

I’ve learned to reach a location, drop my pack, and take some time to study the environment before ever opening it. Occasionally, I’ll pack my camera body without any lenses attached and decide what lens would be best. Also, I don’t set up my tripod immediately (in most cases) but rather walk freely with my camera while framing potential shots. Then, I grab the tripod if needed and further work on my composition. 

It's always interesting to learn about other photographers' techniques and life philosophies. What do you think of Mark's work? Which of his photographs resonated with you the most?

1,043 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Gary Geddes
Gary Geddes
Feb 25

A nice read. Good tips/reminders!

300x600_Tamron_MAY_Sale_thru-5-26-24 copy.jpg
bottom of page