Hello! My name is Ray Kalisek, and I’m a landscape photographer based in Maryland, USA. I’ve been interested in photography for much of my life, starting when I got disposable cameras on family vacations out west and every year at summer camp. I’m sure most of those pictures are just awful, but it fostered a sense of curiosity, a love of the outdoors and a will to explore and document nature. In 2010, I got my first digital camera, a small Panasonic point and shoot. I loved that camera; I took it with me everywhere, and didn’t replace it until long after I outgrew it. Wanting better picture quality, I bought my first DSLR in 2016, a Canon T5. It was definitely a bit of a learning experience after using only point-and-shoots for so long. I threw myself into learning as much information about photography as I could: books, magazines, blogs, YouTube videos; I consumed anything that I thought could teach me something. I learned more in the first six months with that camera than I had learned in the previous 6 years! My photographs were improving rapidly and I felt like I was getting to be an advanced intermediate beginner. I sold my crop sensor Canon after just two years and bought a full frame camera. Of course, this didn’t improve my photography the way I had wanted. How could it? I thought I was hitting the limitations of my gear, but realized that I simply was no longer improving at the rapid rate I had when I first purchased my camera.
Deciding I wanted to continue to challenge myself, in 2018 I bought a 35mm SLR from the mid-90s and started to shoot film. This was certainly a new challenge. I had never gotten to shoot film beyond the disposable cameras I used when I was much younger, so I had barely any experience with it. Out of my first 6 rolls on that camera, I got five frames that were usable. Even with a “modern” film camera with all the “amenities”, I still managed to mess up nearly every roll. Still, it gave me the analog bug. It was around this time where I really settled into photographing landscapes. I went to Seattle late in 2018, and after visiting Rainier and Olympic National Parks, decided I wanted to document my journey through all the national park units. A year later, I realized that 35mm wasn’t scratching that film itch enough. I bought myself a 645 medium format camera, and loved every minute shooting with it. My 35mm camera started to just sit and collect dust. But medium format definitely was a whole new challenge. Again, I had a modern camera with an accurate light meter, auto exposure settings and automatic film advance, but I chose to use it manually whenever I could to really “get the feeling” of using film. Plus, only getting 16 exposures on a roll really made me stop and consider my compositions much more carefully. This definitely changed how I approached my photography, as I started researching locations prior to heading out and timing my visits to ensure the best light and conditions. Now, I am spending time building my hobby into something more sustainable. I’m not sure if it’s ever going to be a career, but I’m certainly looking forward to where this journey takes me!