When he was a teenager, Matt Macdonald discovered the wonders of photography with a film camera. He still remembers the feeling of excitement when he was waiting to see how the exposures would turn out. Collecting images and organizing them brought him great joy; step-by-step, he realized that there were infinite possibilities in photography to be explored.
After university, his adoration for photography and the outdoors led him to South Korea, an exotic location outside his hometown of Canada. It was here he could capture unique and inspiring images like never before. He had spent 15 years there and contributed many works to a local news agency, Getty Images, CNN Travel, and a variety of illustrious travel magazines.
Nature has always been an important theme in Matt’s photographs. Having grown to realize how much we take nature for granted and how it is changing rapidly, Matt feels compelled to see as much of it in its current state as possible. He also wishes to motivate others to get outside and explore what a wonderful world we live in by documenting it to his best ability.
Sunset with Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, a UNESCO World Heritage site on Jeju Island, South Korea - Nikon D600, ISO50, F/16, 1s, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED at 18mm
Walking in front of the ancient stone chariot in the Hampi Ruins in northern Karnataka, India - Nikon D810, ISO200, F/11, 1/200s, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 35mm
A unique patch of timber along the west coast of Taean, South Korea - Nikon D810, ISO100, F/11, 1/100s, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED at 14mm
A view of the highest peaks in the world, Lhotse and Everest from the peak of Kala Patthar, Nepal - Nikon D810, ISO100, F/3.2, 1/4000s, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 24mm
A balloon ride over the ancient city of Bagan is a popular activity for tourists at sunrise in Myanmar - Nikon D810, ISO125, F/11, 1/40s, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 44mm
Low lying cloud formations over the Navajo reservation in Monument Valley, Utah/Arizona border, USA - Nikon D700, ISO100, F/11, 1/320s, AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED at 260mm
Matt thinks landscape photography is an isolated activity requiring great patience and a lot of work; travel portraits, on the other hand, are the best images, as they require the photographer to know the subjects on a personal level and share a moment together. It is highly rewarding for him to interact with the locals from the different places he has encountered.
The most rewarding experience, however, can also lie outside photography itself. During the past year, Matt visited the Solukhumbu Everest region of Nepal, where an earthquake occurred only a year before. Other than documenting the happenings around him, Matt volunteered to help local carpenters set up the framing for new tea houses in villages such as Shivalaya, one of the places that was hit hardest by the earthquake. He also donated to local hospitals and taught at schools in Kathmandu. “After 3 months in Nepal, I left feeling both fortunate and touched beyond words.”
With the good, sometimes comes the daunting. Having experienced being woken up at gunpoint rather hastily on a minivan crossing the Gaza Strip, scrambling back from a cliff edge, chased by giant waves, or caught in a frightful encounter with a giant grizzly bear in Yoho National Park, Canada, they are among the most memorable moments in his mind.
It is photography that allows Matt to share with others about what he has seen in his enriching experiences, which not only empowers him, but also in turn comforts him. Photography allows him to better appreciate the world around because it always requires him to slow down his pace.
A floating vegetable market on Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir - Nikon D810, ISO250, F/2.8, 1/25s, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 70mm
A Burmese monk prays by the candle lights in the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar - Nikon D810, ISO160, F/5.6, 1s, AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED
A local man sporting a brightly colored turban plays a flute in Jodhpur, India - Nikon D810, ISO125, F/2.8 1/100s, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 70mm
Young apprentice monks praying in the early morning light. Old Bagan, Myanmar - Nikon D810, ISO1600, F8, 2.5s, AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED
A pilgrim pays their respects on top of Mount Kyaiktiyo, Myanmar” - Nikon D810, ISO100, F/8, 1/1000s, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED at 42mm
When not in a rush, Matt spends more time observing details. He carefully plans his trips months before heading out into the field. He revisits favourite locations during different seasons, times of the day, or with a variety of different equipment, all of which provides him an entirely fresh impressions of the same spots.
Remote locations draw Matt in because of the way they are untouched by human conditions. UNESCO World Heritage sites are also exciting destinations for him to capture unique perspectives from classic wonders.
When out shooting, neither time limits nor insect bites get in his way, he is determined to a fault. During a summer monsoon season in South Korea, he set off around 4 a.m. to set up in a location that he had settled on beforehand, then waited in the bushes to capture windmills with a breath-taking clear sky. “As the sun began to rise and the fog thinned out, these wonderful windmills revealed themselves underneath a dramatic stormy sky that had begun clearing from the night before. Apartment life also can be seen off in the distance contributing to sense of scale.”
Currently, Matt photographs with a Nikon D810, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, and AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. When he needs to shoot at night time or with manual focus, the AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED, and Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 are also choice. Accessories such as a light sturdy carbon fiber tripod with a smaller light head, circular polarizers, 6x6 neutral density filters and a cable release make it easy for him to photograph in all kinds of situations.
Matt’s secret to capturing stunning photographs is to make good use of the magic of lights. He usually gets to a location early or in some cases during mid-day, when the light is not quite optimal, and then uses this time to set up or visualize how he would like the shots to appear.
It is common for travel photography to take its toll on the gear, since the photography is done in unpredictable environments; so for photographers like Matt, it is important to take care of the equipment as much as possible. He also carries up to six batteries on his trips, especially to some locations where electricity comes at a premium.
For Matt, exploring the world and possibilities of photography is something he will not stop pursuing.
“I am planning a week-long photography workshop to Iceland next year, and I also hope to do a photography guided tour with my long-time idol Steve McCurry in the distant future.”
Born in British Columbia, Canada, Matt has spent 15 years in South Korea and is currently residing in the Sultanate of Oman. He has resided in many Asian countries, contributed his work to a variety of magazines, whilst keep on his path of travel, documenting every face of the world.