Interview: Dalton Rooney

Olivia Obluck-Zager: What got you started in photography?

Dalton Rooney: I was a casual photographer for a long time before I got serious about it. I would take pictures just for the fun of it from time to time, but I didn't give photography too much thought until 2005, when I went on an extended trip to Italy. I was completely overwhelmed with the beauty of that country, and I took as many pictures as I could with my little point and shoot camera. When we got back from that trip I realized that it was something I wanted to pursue more seriously, and started learning as much as I could as quickly as I could. I became obsessed.

Learning about the "art world" of photography was a big shift for me. At first I took what I saw in magazines and some of the stuff I found online as the standard I should be working toward. Then I discovered Stephen Shore, and absolutely everything changed for me. Looking at great work has been the most inspiring thing, really.

© Dalton Rooney

Olivia Obluck-Zager: When did you realize this fascination with landscapes and enticing paths into nature?

Dalton Rooney: I've always enjoyed being out in the landscape, even before I felt the need to photograph it. I grew up in the desert in southern California, and I think that has something to do with my affinity for open spaces. I wasn't drawn to natural landscapes right away when I started taking pictures, but it became a common theme fairly early on and I think will probably always be my primary subject.

One of the great things about being a landscape photographer is getting out into nature as much as possible, which is something I truly enjoy. But I am equally interested in the art that comes about from the study of the landscape; it's an important issue and there are a lot of artists who are doing very interesting work in this area.

© Dalton Rooney

Olivia Obluck-Zager: How did your project Outer Lands come about?

Dalton Rooney: Outer Lands is a natural extension of my wanderings near my home. Every weekend I would find myself going farther and farther out into Long Island, exploring the different parks and wild areas I could find. Long Island has a tremendous amount of geological diversity for a relatively small area. It is also known for an extreme kind of suburban density, and yet I was impressed by how untouched some of the land was. Other parts of the island, especially near the city, are completely ruined. I find that going back and forth between these two states is illuminating, it tells me a lot about what we value as a culture.

© Dalton Rooney

Olivia Obluck-Zager: What is your opinion on color vs. black & white photography?

Dalton Rooney: I have room in my work for both, but I have become more attached to color photography lately. I was afraid of color at first, because it can be hard to get right. I learned how to do my own color processing and color printing, and learned how subtle changes in color can make a big difference in the feeling of an image. Now I do my printing digitally, but I think I take all of the lessons I learned in the darkroom with me whenever I am working in Photoshop. I think color fits very well with the kind of work I am doing right now.

That said, I that each project should be approached with the possibility of doing something different. I would have no problem starting a new project in black and white if it felt right for the subject. Some of my favorite work by other photographers is in black and white and I still love the medium.

© Dalton Rooney

Olivia Obluck-Zager: If you could give one piece of advice to other aspiring landscape photographers, what would it be?

Dalton Rooney: I think the most important thing for me has been to pay very close attention to what is going on in the world around me. I study the weather like crazy, I know exactly when the sun is going to come up and which direction it will be pointing at which time of day. I have maps of the places I go already in my head, and I know where particular pictures are to be at which times of year. Get to know a place really well, and I think the pictures will follow.

Also: look at great work and get inspired!

More of Dalton Rooney's work can be found on his website:

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