This week, we are pleased to feature landscape photographer, A.J Rich. A.J. started his art journey as a graphic designer and eventually transferred his art skills over to photography. We are so excited for the opportunity to learn more about A.J. and his work. Of course, we had to ask him a few questions and he was gracious enough to answer. So let's get started!
1. Where has photography taken you and what has been your favorite place so far?
For the past 15 years or so I have been a contributor for Getty Images, where I used my art direction background to create conceptual imagery for purchase in their library. This has allowed me to travel to places such as Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Brazil—where I would mainly shoot lifestyle and portraiture. Several years ago, this industry began to change and I just lost the fire to think of new creative ideas. It wasn’t fun for me anymore.
Since then I have really been focusing on landscapes, as it is fulfilling work. I began to take landscape photography workshops to learn how to approach a scene, and to better understand the technical aspects of the camera and how it works. Since switching to landscape photography, I have shot all over the Southwest; I have shot in several national parks (both in the East and West), and in Northern Europe. One of the places I have photographed is Scotland and that place just rocked me with its unique landscape and ethereal vibe. Just mesmerizing. I am thrilled to be heading back to Scotland this fall.
2. What is your go-to camera setup?
Canon R5 with RF 24-70mm f/2.8 (my most versatile lens); EF f/2.8 16-35 LIII [with adapter] (almost always in my bag); Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5L IS USM; Breakthrough Photography 82mm X4 CP; Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball head with Lever Release Panning Clamp (great for shooting panos); Benro Mach 3 9X CF Series Extra Long Tripod.
3. How do you typically plan your landscape trips?
When traveling, I usually choose a location I want to shoot and hope and pray I get good conditions while I’m there. If I don’t get what I am envisioning (which is typical) I just shoot differently and take what Mother Nature gives me. There is always something different to see, to shoot, or improve on. If I can mix portraiture into landscapes, it makes it better.
Locally, my shoots are usually conditions-based. I am a sky snob—so I am constantly checking forecasts and trying to predict the weather—to catch the best conditions. If conditions look good, I will make a plan to head out. Because some of my go-to shooting spots are an hour’s drive away (and because I work full-time as an art director at BYU), I have to be judicious with my photography forays. If wildflowers are out, I chase; if fall colors are out, I chase as well. Winter is one of my favorite times to shoot in northern Utah as the light hits differently and reveals incredible sky pinks and pastels you normally don’t see in the summer. I shoot a lot in winter because I can still make it home for dinner, and I don’t have to wake up quite so early to hit a sunrise. Hand and foot warmers for the win.
4. Through all your photography adventures, is there one in particular that leaves a lasting memory?
Of all the places photography has taken me, the most endearing one is one I grew up close to—Zion National Park. As a kid growing up on the outskirts of St. George in the 80s and 90s, I took countless trips into Zion for hiking, exploring, wandering (and even dating). It took me traveling the world to see that the place where I grew up—Utah, especially Zion NP—is one of the most majestic places in this world.
I am blessed to now work as a seasonal landscape photography instructor for Action Photo Tours, and one of the places I guide others in is Zion NP. I love to see the look in a person’s eyes when they witness a timeless scene in Zion NP through a photograph they have just taken. It’s an indescribable feeling. Zion is a forever place and I am privileged to be able to share it with others.
5. What is your favorite part about being a photographer?
Honestly, landscape photography is free therapy for me. With all the chaotic hubbub and histrionic performance in the world, I can always count on finding my calm and true self out in nature. If I am lucky, Mother Nature will speak to my spirit through an incredible beginning, unexpected ray of light, or a dramatic finish. Even if she doesn’t give me that desired burning sky, I almost always find the journey was all worth it. I just have to make the commitment to show up.
Thank you A.J. for letting us get to know you better. We've featured A.J. on our Instagram a few times and it's always so refreshing to see his images on our feed. To see more of his work, check out his Instagram or website!
Get to Know AJ:
Ever since he was young, A.J. Rich has had a passion for all things visual. Growing up on the edge of St. George, Utah, he often sketched his favorite sports players and designed logos for his youth sports teams. A.J. also spent countless hours around his childhood home climbing rock mesas and exploring the unknown, including nearby Zion National Park.
After graduating with a degree in graphic design from Brigham Young University in 2001, A.J. worked in the graphic design field for over 20 years and has won multiple national awards for his graphic design work. In 2006 A.J. picked up a camera and, drawing on his art background, he has been a successful Getty Images contributor. In recent years he has focused on landscape photography—where his true passion lies.
Today the quest for the “timeless story” drives A.J. on all his outdoor adventures. While out in nature he seeks the ethereal and spiritual planes, and if he can capture them in a photograph, even better.
Currently, A.J. works by day as a graphic designer and art director for BYU Brand & Creative, always dreaming of and planning for his next photography journey.
*A.J.’s photography is available for purchase at richvintage.com