Each week we select and profile a photographer from our #SFGuide community on Instagram. We believe these photographers capture the everlasting beauty of San Francisco and the Bay Area. For a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed, or here, on 49Miles.com, tag your photos with #SFGuide.
This week’s featured #SFGuide photographer is Matthew Collazo (@matt_collazo), a traveler from the Windy City (Chicago) currently residing in Flint, Michigan. Scroll down to view Matthew’s amazing work, and learn more about what inspires him as a creative.
#SFGuide Featured Artist Profile
Name: Matthew Collazo
Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois
Where do you currently reside: Flint, MI
Something you’d like viewers to know about you: I am a passionate creative who found a voice through photography and video. I strive to create and showcase moments that are easily overlooked. One day I hope to be self employed by creating content for brands that reflect my adventurous spirit!
What is your favorite spot to shoot in San Francisco, and why?
My favorite spot to shoot when I was in San Francisco would have to be the Golden Gate Bridge. It is such an iconic bridge, and immediately identifiable from a glance. Regardless, I still see other photographers sharing unique perspectives of a bridge that’s been photographed millions of times, and that inspired me to continue finding unique perspectives when I shot around the city!
When and why did you take up photography?
As a cinematographer, composing beautiful shots for video is something I’ve always been passionate about. I shoot primarily with a DSLR, and so I already had the camera in my hands when I decided to take up photography seriously, about a year ago. Originally, it was a challenge I gave myself to begin composing portrait style images to improve my skills, and that’s when I realized just how much I enjoyed capturing single frames. It was a natural progression from there, an obsession to get better and better in both mediums.
What do you love about photography?
As a filmmaker I’m also a storyteller, and to tell a story through 1 image became my newest passion. Photography is unique in that way, and I quickly became drawn to that. Plus, it forces me to think about perspective differently when I’m shooting a portrait, versus the traditional landscape format for video, and I enjoy that challenge!
How do you decide what to shoot?
That’s a tough question. I think it starts with how I feel wherever I’m at. My goal in composing a shot is to invoke the same feelings I have in someone else when they see my image. If I’m somewhere iconic, I sometimes try to capture a familiar sight in a new way that hasn’t been seen before. Same goes for when I’m shooting in my own back yard. One thing I’ve done recently is try my hand at using fairy lights and sparklers. It adds a new dimension and creative freedom in my shots, which makes it all the more fun. So in short, I try to find that unique perspective wherever I happen to be with my gear.
What’s your favorite part about going out to shoot?
My favorite part about going out shooting is knowing that I’m going to get something different every time. Whether I’m going to a new place or an old spot, I’m always trying something new, and it excites me that every chance I get to go shoot, I’ll come home with something new.
Which location did you have the most difficulty getting to, and how did you do it?
We had 72 hours to hit a huge list of spots I wanted to see during my trip. We had to prioritize based on accessibility, distance, time of day, etc. The most difficult spot to get to was at the top of Mount Tamalpais, because at the time, sunset was fast approaching, and we had to find a great spot to set up. We parked the car at a viewpoint and run up and down several huge hills to find a suitable vantage point. Out of breath and soaked in sweat, we found a trail that was well traveled, and we followed it to the top, leading to a sight that took my breath away. All in all, it was probably a 3 mile hike, but the right view made it all worth it.
What is your dream shot? (Where, what time of day, what’s in it / the subject?)
My dream shot is one that captures all the emotions, blood, sweat, and tears that go into capturing that special shot. In my case, I managed to capture mine. I achieved a shot of the famous Point Reyes Shipwreck, which I had been dreaming about getting for years. What made it special was everything that went into making that image unique. In my case, I tracked the Milky Way so it appeared straight above the ship, and had a friend of mine on the ship hold a flashlight beam that shot into the stars above. We light painted the base of the ship to light it up (but not too much!), and he held still for a 30 second exposure. It was initially a cloudy night, but 3 hours of waiting later the clouds disappeared revealing exactly what I was wishing for. We stayed up all night to make sure we got what we came for, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.
What is your favorite app to use for photo editing on the go, and what are your top 3 favorite filters?
I use Adobe Lightroom Mobile for all of my photo editing. There is one preset Adobe has called Old Polar, which processes the photo like an old Polaroid image. I use this sometimes as a base, but I’ve created my own presets that I use also. For me though, an edit is never finished after applying a filter, the magic always unveils itself in the tweaking.
How does Instagram and the #SFGuide community inspire you?
Before I headed to San Francisco, I did some research on photography communities there, because my friends from the city were all so engaged with other creatives. I found SFGuide, and was instantly inspired. I couldn’t believe there was such a diverse group of creative people shooting and sharing their work with a community that cared to see it. I was thrilled that SFGuide was sharing such amazing work from local artists and it definitely inspired me to get involved. I started engaging, tagging my photos, and discovering photographers that had been on the blog. It was so inspiring to be a part of such a supportive community. I love that communities like this can be brought together through Instagram. In fact, the only reason I know my San Francisco group is through the app, and that was the reason I was able to go to San Francisco in the first place. I stayed with one of my friends I made through Instagram, and the rest was history.
What are your favorite San Francisco-based Instagram accounts to follow?
I love the @49milessf, @Bay.shooters, and @coffeeandsunsetsf community accounts because they all do a great job of sharing community and showcasing talent. As far as personal accounts go, I am continuously inspired by work from @iwozzy, @kanecandrade, @andrewoptics, @collins.creations, @davvealcaraz, and @sf.dan. Their work is always fantastic and showcases unique perspectives from around the city.
What type of camera do you use? And what is your dream camera?
Currently, I use a Canon 60D. It’s about 7 years old, but I’m a believer that it’s the photographer and not the gear that makes the shot. But because I want to create videos and photo professionally, better gear is creatively freeing. My dream camera for both would be either the Canon EOS 1D, or the Sony A7sii. Both have astounding quality and many more features to create with.
What are your favorite settings in your idea shot?
That’s a really tough question also, because every shooting situation is different! But I really love shooting in a variety of environments with my 50mm prime lens during the golden hour.
Lens: 50mm 1.8
Aperture: f 4.0
Shutter Speed: 250
White Balance: Automatic/5600k
Focus (Manual / Auto): Almost exclusively manual
Image Format (RAW / JPEG): Always Raw
What advice would you give to new or rising photographers that you wish you had received when you first started?
Don’t create for others, create for yourself. I hear so many stories of people making content that bores them for their Instagram page, but are never creatively driven to get better or try new things. It’s sad really. If you don’t love it, then why are you doing it? Try new things, be different. Nothing is worse than creatively limiting yourself to specific types of work. Especially if, in the end, it’s not even for yourself.
What do you love about living in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Although I don’t live there, I got a really intimate view of the city and its culture, and I can say that my favorite parts about living there would be the incredible sights around the city, the bay life, and the support that people have for each other. Whether it’s for your lifestyle, your art, your hobbies, passions, etc, there’s a community in San Francisco that wants you to share it with them. It’s uplifting and liberating to be able to travel 20 minutes from the city and be blessed with magnificent and iconic sights that are recognized around the world.
View Matthew’s 72 hour trip to San Francisco below: