Cotton Carrier: Where do you call home?
Eric Rock: I call Bozeman Montana home but when it gets cold and snowy I get homesick for Alaska.
CC: How long have you taken photographs for unprofessionally and professionally?
ER: I was sixteen when I picked up my first 35mm film SLR. I have been shooting professionally as a news and assignment photographer in Alaska back in 1993.
CC: How would you define your style as a photographer?
ER: As an Olympus Educator and photo tour leader, I would have to consider myself a travel and nature photographer. Wildlife, landscapes and cultural documentary make up the bulk of my work these days. Teaching and leading workshops and photography tours are really the backbone to my professional life today.
CC: Have you ever gone to photography school?
ER: I attended University of Alaska in Fairbanks Alaska and was mentored by Professor Charles Mason, but I find my education is pretty much ongoing.
CC: Where is your favorite place or thing to shoot?
ER: Very tough question, I often get this same question from my photo travelers and overall I would have to say, “wherever I am at”. I like to live in the moment, I know it sounds like a cop out but I figure if I am leading a photo tour to someplace that isn’t a favorite place of mine, I probably shouldn’t be leading a trip there. If you were to push me, I would say the far north especially Alaska. Early on, studying and working doing wildlife research, I gained some pretty good insight into arctic ecosystems, so I feel very comfortable in these environs. I also started my guiding and professional photography life while living in Alaska, so I can say, it was the arctic light that really captured my imagination while living there.
CC: What Camera(s) / Lenses do you use?
ER: I travel a lot leading my photo adventures. I have come to the realization that I need gear that is tough and easy to get around with. Over the years I have shot with many different camera brands but today I have settled into the Olympus, Micro Four Thirds system. I find both the OMD EM1 X and EM1 MKIII offer everything I need in a professional camera. But overall it is the Olympus Pro lens line up that keeps me excited about travel and nature photography. I can not pick a favorite lens from the line. It was the introduction of the 40-150mm 2.8 Pro that turned me fully into an Olympus shooter and it has only gone gangbusters from there. For wildlife photography the Olympus 150-400mm f4.5 TC 1.25X Pro is one of the best super telephoto zooms I have every worked with. The high quality and lightweight nature of the system just makes photography much more fun no matter where I go.
CC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get “The Shot”?
ER: I guess that is a matter of opinion. Probably one of the stories, I never told my mother, for fear it would cause her to have a heart attack. While working as a daily news photographer in Alaska, The coast guard called me up late one winter afternoon and asked if I wanted to go on a recon run out to a ship that was in distress off the coast of Alaska. Knowing these calls don’t come around that often, I couldn’t turn down a chance like this. After arriving at the base, getting geared up and a quick primer from the flight crew, we were off. Once on scene, the crew gave me a heck of a chance to prove my meddle by allowing me the opportunity to photographed a burning freighter from the skids of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter, while flying around the distressed vessel, all about one hundred miles out on the North Pacific Ocean. The whole experience gave me tremendous respect for what the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard goes through in preforming their duties and the degree of confidence they exude while doing so. For me it was also one hell of a ride.
Nowadays teaching and leading photo adventures, I play it more on the safe side for the safety of my travelers and avoiding putting my subjects into stressed situations. I do my best to be a leader for ethical photography but sometimes things still happen.
CC: Who has inspired you as a photographer?
ER: Probably my mentor, Charles Mason, not only for his passion for photography of all types, but his nature for going the extra distance with everyone of his students at each opportunity he is presented.
CC: What advice would you tell an aspiring photographer?
ER: Learn! Learn your gear, all camera adjustments should be second nature and easily done on the fly, preferably with the camera still at your eye. This takes practice. No matter what you choose for a photographic interest, take the time to learn about your subject. A lot of photographers want to talk gear, believe me, I love talking gear, but when it comes down to it, the better you know your subject the better your images will be.
CC: Can you share a photographic resource you personally use?
ER: I am pretty much all over the internet. For Micro Four Thirds shooters, I recommend the Olympus Learn Center https://learnandsupport.getolympus.com There is a lot of great information and creative ideas to sift through for all photographers but especially those interested in getting the most of their MFT gear. For general information and news, I can burn sometime over at the PetaPixel site https://petapixel.com or Digital Photography Review https://www.dpreview.com these are two great places for me to go down the internet rabbit hole.
CC: How has photography shaped your day to day?
ER: I don’t go anyplace without a camera in my hand. I try to get out and photograph everyday. I find that seeing through the camera allows me to learn and appreciate how the world looks to me. Whether halfway around the world or in my backyard, photography allows me to see almost anything in a new way.
CC: Where has photography taken you, and made you experience?
ER: Photography has taken me to the far corners around the earth, seeking rare wildlife and expansive vistas. My photography has also taken me into the intimate lives of people living in very different cultures than of my own as well as crowded religious celebrations and festivals of life that have expanded my appreciation of the beauty of diversity in our human world. All along the way, I found that my real passion is for sharing how photography can bring travelers together to experience life through the lens. When it comes down to it, it’s not the places I go, but who I go there with. I feel very lucky to get to travel with so many awesome folks that bring their interests and insights to my photography trips. I have made many friends in my photographic travels and I always look forward to making many more.
CC: Any exciting photographic events in coming up you’d like to share?
ER: I am excited to be taking a group of photographers back to Nome Alaska in June to photograph some of my favorite arctic fauna in one of my favorite areas of the north. I also have a specially designed Botswana photo adventure on the books for August. This particular trip has been planned to do a lot of wildlife photography at eye level from especially designed hides and boats along with the traditional safari drives. I really believe my travelers are going to get shots that many photographers work a lifetime to get.
CC: Anything else you’d like to add?
ER: I am honored to say that my photo trips are run through Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, you can find more about them at https://photosafaris.com. JVO Photo Safaris has over forty years of experience developing and running photo tours for photographers of all levels.
Instagram @ericsrock Website www.ericrockphoto.com