Michele Sons

Fine Art, Landscape | Last Updated: February 22, 2021

I’m a passionate fine art landscape photographer based in the southern Appalachians. Creative expression and adventurous living are hugely important to me, and I try to incorporate both into my life as much as I can.

Being out in nature is where I feel most at ease and most inspired and so I crave it and spend a lot of time planning out where I will go next.

I exhibit my work at galleries and museums and institutions, and I also sell my work to major publications and private collectors.

The condition I seek out more than any other is fog. I adore the mystery it imparts, and the way it simplifies a scene really resonates with me.

Here in the Appalachians, things are pretty visually hectic, so a bit of fog (or a lot of it) helps isolate things. I am drawn to simple, pared down scenes with limited color and a dreamy feel.

One of the things that sets me apart is my series The Feminine Landscape which I’ve been working on for a few years, now. It’s basically a series of self-portraits, shot when I am out there doing landscape work. I throw on a dress and step into the scene I am photographing, and use a self timer (or a buddy if I’m with one) to trigger the shutter.

I love it for so many reasons. It documents my personal experience of being in a place. It makes me think about what the experience means to me, which is a critical thing to think about in terms of creatively and expressively photographing a landscape. And it helps me tell the story of a place, by introducing scale and helping my audience imagine themselves there.

Gear wise, you’ll find mine is pretty eclectic. I am a Canon shooter, with a fairly typical landscape setup. But I carry some strange and unexpected items, like a dress, a glass plate, a prism, and Lensbaby lenses.

I like to get really creative, and these tools help me mix things up. Usually, I will throw in one or two creative items into the bag, but because I do a lot of hiking, (often uphill here in the mountains), I have to choose carefully what I carry on each trip.

Canon 5D Mark III – I like this body for durability. I shoot in all conditions, and this thing is like a tank.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II – this is a beast of a lens, but oh-so-wonderful. I bought it for portrait work originally, but I use it so much for landscapes as I am always looking to simplify a scene and this helps me do that. I could save some weight by switching to the f/4 version, but I love this too much to get rid of it.

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L – I shoot this older generation lens solely because it takes 77mm filters, like the rest of my setup. I just can’t stomach buying all new filters or mounts for the newer generation lenses, and I don’t want to carry it, either.

Canon 17-40mm f/4L – not my favorite lens, but it gets me wider when I need it. If I could, I would upgrade my wide angle zoom, but I can’t justify it.

Canon EF 2x III extender – for added reach sometimes, but only rarely as I find it softens images dramatically.

My tripod is an Induro Stealth CLT203 with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 ball head with lever release. I love this setup, and use it with the L-bracket by Really Right Stuff to make it fast and easy to go from vertical to horizontal. Everything about this tool is solid and it is a critical piece of equipment.

I always carry my Khatoola Microspikes and consider them to be one of the best accessories I’ve ever bought for my photography! Amazing grip on ice and on rock, these really increase my options for getting into tricky, potentially hazardous positions for my work. I like to think of them as sticky feet :)

That’s my standard setup, but I also use a Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens, a Canon 85mm f/1.2L II, a Zeiss Distagon T* 15mm f/2.8 ZE, Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6, Lensbaby Edge 80mm f/2.8, and Lensbaby Sweet 35mm f/2.5 and Lensbaby Macro tubes to get close and creative all at once.

Filters I carry include the Lee Filter Kit with soft and hard grad suites to control the light, Lee Big Stopper and Lee Little Stopper for long exposure work, multiple copies of cheap circular polarizers.

Miscellaneous other items include cleaning instruments, a self-timer for my self portrait work, a headlamp for dark hikes, and an air horn because I am deathly afraid of bears. I have nightmares about them, actually, and when I am headed into bear cities like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I will also carry bear spray, just to be safe!

My bag is the bomb, I love it dearly! F-Stop Loka – this particular version is discontinued but they offer the Loka in an ultralight version, as well as many alternatives.

Finally, I usually carry a dress or skirt for opportunistic Feminine Landscape shots. You never know when you might need a floor length gown to complete a scene ;)

www.michelesons.com | @michelesonsphotography

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