Andy Fortson is a photographer who always seems to be on one outdoor adventure or another. He’s a team FARM+LAND favorite , and we’re so excited to share his talents with you! (If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve probably already seen and been inspired by some of his work.)
We picked out a few of our favorite photos to feature below, and mixed in some Q&A with Andy. Check it out!
What first got you interested in photography?
In high school, I took a black & white film photography class just for fun. Frankly, I wasn’t actually that good at it. But in one of our classes, a representative from a photography college came to talk to us about enrolling, and to show us some of their students’ work. I’m sure it was really just your standard art school stuff, but at the time, it kind of blew my mind. I ended up applying to that photography college, and went on to work in printing. I was actually the last professional color dark room printer in Philly. It was a dying art while I was doing it, and pretty much has disappeared completely since then.
What do you do for a living?
I’ve built up a pretty varied resume over the course of my career: I’ve managed an indie music label, been a startup founder, and led social and digital teams at startups and larger brands. Currently, I work at an agency called Rosewood Creative, overseeing a team developing original social content for Apple Music and iTunes.
How do you make time to go on all these adventures when you have a full-time job?
It’s really just about taking advantage of opportunities when they come up, and not using “not enough time” as an excuse. I had a business trip to Mexico City that I extended through the weekend, and we saw so much in just three days. My wife and I have also taken off for last-minute Yosemite and Sequoia trips for just a three-day weekend. It’s nice to live in LA, where we can get to so many national parks within a couple hours.
What’s been your favorite place to shoot so far?
I feel like I still haven’t explored Yosemite to its full extent, but I fall more and more in love with it each time I go. That place is just really special. Fortunately, we’ve already got plans to go camping there again this August.
What’s next on your list of places you want to visit/photograph?
Yellowstone is next on my list. I’ve been to a ton of great national parks across the country, but Yellowstone is one of the biggest, and actually the country’s first national park. The landscapes are incredibly striking and so different from anything else. It would also help me check off a few more states on my goal to visit all fifty (I’m currently at 42/50).
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had while trying to get a photo?
I’ve been trying to improve my night photography, and I’ve been dying to get a great shot of the Milky Way. Living in Los Angeles, the city lights make it pretty near impossible to ever see it. On recent trips, the timing just hasn’t been right and the moon has snuck up right in front of the Milky Way, but the stars aligned (literally) when we were in Jasper National Park, which is known for having a particularly dark sky.
What you don’t see in the photo below is that in order to get to this spot just outside our campground, we had to drive past the electric fence protecting us from the grizzly bears. Then I had to stand outside in the freezing cold and dark to get the shot, praying there wasn’t a bear somewhere behind me in the dark. But it was all worth it to be out in the pitch black of night, seeing the Milky Way for the first time with my own eyes.
How do you continue to stretch and build your skills as a photographer, and keep your work fresh?
Every time we head out on a new trip, I set a new challenge for myself. Landscapes are relatively new to me—I have mostly shot portraits in the past—so I’m constantly trying to learn new things in my down time (YouTube tutorials FTW!) and apply them in the field.
Any advice for novice travel photographers just getting started?
Learn your gear, be patient, study and plan your locations ahead of time, and YouTube is an amazing source of information.
If you want to check out more of Andy Fortson’s work, follow him on Instagram: @andyfortson
Got another incredible outdoor photographer you think we should spotlight? Let us know!