Photographer Spotlight – Steve Mills
Tell us about yourself…
I was born in Montreal. I attended undergraduate and medical school at McGill University. I then undertook a residency in General and Cardiothoracic Surgery at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. My first “job” was as a faculty member at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, North Carolina where I practiced cardiac, thoracic and vascular surgery for fourteen years. Subsequently I practiced cardiac surgery at High Point Regional Hospital in High Point NC. I retired from the active practice of surgery last year. I have since had much anticipated free time to both pursue my photographic passion and catch up on sleep. I currently live in High Point NC with my incredible wife Deborah, amazing daughter Reagan and hyperactive dachshund Tulip. Apart from a photographic passion, I love to fly fish and shoot sporting clays. I have collected books for decades and have some serious reading ahead. I am really excited about seeing and photographing many regions not yet visited and in particular having needed time on any location, not having to be anywhere else by a certain date and time.
How did you discover your love for photography?
Typically, as a kid I was exposed to the black and white darkroom and the magic of printmaking. However, for many years I had neither the time nor funds to pursue photography with serious intent. Only when I completed medical school and surgical residency (13 years) I could then really “get into it”. I started with film and a Rollei 6008. I shot transparencies and jumped into Cibachrome. I managed to spend time with Michael Wilder, a master Cibachrome printer who at that time printed for Robert Glenn Ketchum. As we all know Cibachrome was a very difficult process, particularly with high contrast images. But I was in love with color. The arrival and evolution of Photoshop was transforming. While frequently “on call’ and needed at the hospital, it was possible to interrupt image development and return later to pick up precisely where I had left off. The inkjet printer completed the experience. Now at “reasonable” cost, a photographer can own a state-of-the-art printer and compete at the highest level of printmaking. I have a passion for printing. I feel (as do many others) that it completes the photographic cycle.
Who are some of your favorite photographers? (Past or Present)
Charles Cramer, William Christenberry, Fred Herzog, Michael Kenna, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Joel Meyerowitz, Sebastiano Salgado, Burk Uzzle.
My initial darkroom and digital printmaking were attempted in relative isolation. I did not fully appreciate how good a print could be. Attending two courses given by Charles Cramer and Bill Atkinson awakened that understanding and transformed that ability. I owe them a great debt. Attending two very intensive Dan Margulis courses totally and positively changed my understanding and approach to color. I would highly recommend his book Photoshop Lab Color. I have great admiration for those talented enough to make a living with photography.
Your portfolio contains some beautiful landscape images – what is it about landscape photography that you love?
I particularly enjoy the process of searching for and discovering a place that jumps out at me. One that says “this is just great”, a scene that is evocative and yells “print me”. I like the isolation and peace that many landscape locations offer. I thoroughly enjoy the deliberate workflow associated with using an Alpa technical camera and the Phase One IQ4 150 digital back.
What is your favorite underrated photographic tool? Why?
My favorite underrated photographic tool is the Arca Swiss Cube. I find it indispensable. It allows rapid, stable and accurate composition. Steve Hendrix first demonstrated it to me many years ago. At the time he had no prior experience with it. As soon as we set it up together in the field, it was obvious to both of us that it was a must have. It is critiqued re its size and weight. Smaller alternatives are now available. I have not had opportunity to examine these. I would go to any length to travel with it.
With so many great digital camera systems to choose from today, why Phase One?
Each time I open an image from the IQ4 in Capture One the incredible image quality generates astonishment. Literally, I have never seen anything like it. The color fidelity, dynamic range and resolution are unsurpassed. The focus stacking and hyperfocal autofocus abilities are invaluable in landscape work. The file quality is addicting. Once used, everything else is unsatisfying. Phase One’s development of the IQ system is remarkable. The firmware updates for the IQ4 have constantly reinvented the camera. The IQ evolution has evolved such that with a technical camera one can quickly and perfectly compose, focus and expose. It allows more time for thinking about the subject. Technical camera movements of course allow best use of the entire sensor. It lets you leave the field knowing you have the shot.
If you were behind your camera and could choose anything you wanted to be in your viewfinder, where would you be and what would you be looking at?
A Bermuda scene. The photographer Lord Snowden stated accurately that the “light in Bermuda was the most beautiful in the world”. It constantly changes.
Why did you select Capture Integration as your equipment partner?
Steve Hendrix and Steve Hendrix. Steve is simply the best. He introduced me to Phase One some time ago. He is all knowing. He takes time to understand my goals and guide purchases appropriately. Like a superb physician he seems to have all the time in world for your particular issue or question. He is always available. When I experienced technical issues in the field (remote) on a Sunday afternoon he answered the phone and solved the problem. I cannot say enough about him. Brad Kaye has been a tremendous help with various technical issues. He is a patient and superb resource. His posts and help are invaluable. Dave Gallagher has grown a superb organization composed of great individuals. Capture Integration has my complete confidence.
Connect with Steve Mills