Interview With a Photographer featuring: Monika Deviat - Cotton Camera Carrying Systems

Interview With a Photographer featuring: Monika Deviat

Cotton Carrier: Where do you call home?

Monika Deviat: I am based in Alberta, Canada.

CC: How long have you taken photographs for unprofessionally and professionally?

MD: I started as a concert photographer in 2008, mainly shooting heavy metal bands. In 2015, I transitioned from shooting stars on stage to stars in the sky. Night photography has become my favourite genre and it is what led me to landscape and adventure photography.

CC: How would you define your style as a photographer?

MD: To be completely honest, I never know how to answer this question. I shoot many different genres and in all sorts of conditions. I try to stay authentic to what I see and how I feel and shoot what is right for me and my vision while adapting to situations.

CC: Have you ever gone to photography school?

MD: I have no formal training in photography. I studied Physics and Mathematics at University, which I think helped me grasp technical concepts quickly. In photography, I am self-taught with the help of some friends. After all these years I love that I am still learning and experimenting.

CC: Where is your favorite place or thing to shoot?

MD: The Milky Way is my favorite subject and I'm constantly trying to come up with new locations and ways to photograph it with a landscape.

CC: What Camera(s) / Lenses do you use?

MD: I use a Nikon z7ii, D850, and an Astro-modified D810. 
One of my most used lenses is the Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8. I also have 24-70mm f2.8, 70-200 f2.8, 20mm f1.8, and 24-120mm f4. 

Monika Deviat uses the CCS G3 Harness for her photography.

CC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get “The Shot”?

MD: People are always telling me I am crazy for hiking and scrambling up mountains in the dark by myself. There was one night when I was photographing the Milky Way at 11,000ft along a mountain ridge in Alberta and watching a lightning storm a few valleys away. I was ready to go the moment it started moving towards me. I did have to start my descent in the dark.. and it was a long way to get down.

CC: Who has inspired you as a photographer?

MD: It's probably expected that I list some other photographers here, but the people that have inspired me the most in all that I do in my life are some "oddball" musicians. In everything I do, I don't quite fit the expected molds, although I am appreciative of all the wonderful people who accept me as I am. A couple of the people who inspire me are Bruce Dickinson and Devin Townsend. Dickinson is the lead singer of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden, but he is also a pilot, a world-class fencer, and a speaker. Townsend is a musician and singer who doesn't fit a niche and has done whatever he wanted with his music, from extreme metal to albums about an alien invading earth to albums that have been described as the "mellowest and prettiest".  I think seeing people like this helps me feel like I can also be successful as an oddball. 

CC: What advice would you tell an aspiring photographer?

MD: Put the time in! This applies to any genre you shoot. If you are a nature/outdoor photographer, the more you get out and practice the better you get at seeing, your techniques, and so on. It also increases your chances of getting those absolutely stunning conditions. If you can, get out with other people. Workshops are great for learning, but so is going out with someone and simply observing how they approach a scene or set up their compositions, especially if it's different from what you do.

CC: Can you share a photographic resource you personally use?

MD: Photopills is probably the app/resource I use the most. It's useful for night photography, time-lapses, and figuring out when/where the moon is, and where/when the sun will rise or set. It has a lot of great tools in it.

CC: How has photography shaped your day to day?

MD: Photography made me more aware of nature and the environments around me. I'm always looking for new places to shoot and explore, and even when I'm out for something else, I can't help but think about how something might look during sunrise or at night. Photography has also made me very conscious and suspicious of weather and forecasts. I watch forecasts and webcams even when I'm not going out to see how accurate they are and what the trends are.

CC: Where has photography taken you, and made you experience?

MD: Photography completely changed my path in life. When I started shooting concerts, it didn't take up much time. I was maybe shooting a handful of shows per month on average. My first Milky Way shoot was unexpected and not something I had thought to photograph previously. Chasing dark skies is what got me into hiking and landscape photography, and eventually turned photography into my full-time career. I've always been a teacher or coach of some sort, from math tutor to fitness instructor, so teaching photography workshops - which is a favourite part of my business - came naturally. But, I never expected to be doing things like speaking at the Banff Mountain Film Festival about my photography. It's been a really interesting journey and I'm looking forward to more (unexpected) adventures and opportunities. 

CC: Any exciting photographic events coming up you’d like to share?

MD: I'll be speaking at the Canadian Imaging Conference and Expo in April 2023 this year. At the end of May, I will be attending the Lightchasers Conference as a guest (last year I presented) and looking forward to simply enjoying the event and spending a weekend with photographers. Say hello if you're attending!

CC: Anything else you’d like to add?

MD: Thanks for the interview, Cotton Carrier! I hope it shows that photography doesn't have to have a traditional route and that you can take an unconventional path to a career as a photographer. Follow what interests you and what you are passionate about. 

Monika Deviat:
My friend Viktoria Haack and I have recently created Escape to Nature, a photography workshop series. The purpose of the series is to inspire people to be creative in nature while learning various photography techniques and taking the time to enjoy the escape and immersion in intimate details as well as grand landscapes. This year we are hosting workshops in two locations, Waterton Lakes National Park in the Spring and in Iceland in the Fall.