Lee Nordbye is a landscape and astral photographer based in Alberta, Canada. A gifted photographer, Lee has a masterful eye for capturing stunning and beautiful nature scenes that look like paintings you might find in the top museums in the world. After some time dabbling in freelance photography work, Lee recently began a new chapter in his career and launched his own photography business where he will delight and devote full-time to creating magnificent images that will undoubtedly inspire us for years to come. This week Lee speaks to atlas about the launch of his exciting new business, his trips this summer in Canada and Greenland, and what projects he is working on next.
Since we last featured your beautiful work in the summer, where have you been photographing recently?
Lee Nordbye: I spent the summer exploring the Canadian Rockies near home, the Yukon in June, and Greenland in September. It is always great to explore the mountains at my doorstep, but I have to say exploring two amazing northern frontiers was the highlight for me this summer. In the Yukon, I was amazed by the variety of landscapes. Within a four hour drive of our home base, we got to see and document seascapes, deserts, and of course rugged mountains. As for Greenland, let’s just say I am still piecing together my mind that was blown away. Being witness to the out-of-this-world scenery — whether it was amazing aurora lights shows over icebergs, pastel heavenly sunrises and sunsets or coastlines that were straight out of the movie Lord of the Rings — was truly a privilege. Being able to document it with a camera alongside great friends was the proverbial icing on the cake. I am already starting to plan my next trip which I hope to be four to six weeks long in 2018.
Congrats on launching your photography business. What inspired you to take the plunge?
Thank you very much. It is with a lot of nervous excitement that I set out on this new stage of my career. In terms of the inspiration to take the plunge, it is coming from the heart in that photography a passion of mine. Life dealt me a new set of cards in the spring when I lost my job in the oil industry. I jokingly say that perhaps one of the reasons I lost my job is because somehow my boss knew that at times I would sit in my office staring out the window wishing I was in the mountains capturing those special moments. I truly believe that things happen for a reason and often those reasons turn out for the positive. So here I am now trying to make a living by pursing a life passion.
Is it easy or difficult to switch gears from being a freelance photographer without a formal photography business to now launching your own business?
The short answer is no; it is not easy. The longer answer is photography is an extraordinarily tough business to become successful in regardless of whether you have formal training or not. The digital age has made it a highly competitive industry and difficult to make a living. The successful photographers are those that are about hard work and have a willingness to learn from their mistakes vs. relying on their creative talent. Photographers need talent, but if you do not work your butt off and want to improve, you will not be very successful.
If you look on social media like Twitter and Instagram, the number of people identifying themselves as photographers keeps expanding. How do you make yourself and your work stand out from the rest?
The holy grail of the photography business is finding your unique perspective in photography. As you point out, unique perspectives are becoming as hard to find as the Holy Grail with the big increase in photographers. I am not sure my artistic vision journey is much different than others. It starts with focusing on me and what I am passionate about. It is about exploring different ideas and focusing on those that bring the most excitement to me. Secondary to this, I spend time on social media looking at other people’s photography to look for inspiration, not replication. I follow photographers in many different genres because often inspiration comes from something on the other end of the spectrum. My ultimate goal is that one day people will look at a photo without even knowing who took it and say “Hey, that is a great photo from Lee Nordbye.”
What are you excited the most about running your own business?
The ability to wake up every day and doing something that I am super passionate about. To enjoy the moments like I did this morning with my very first client where they got excited to capture family photos in the famous Alpen glow. To hear the client at the end of shoot say I had so much fun this despite the 5:30 am wake up call. To share special moments like this one, that I have had the privilege to experience in the past, with my customers is super exciting.
Aside from your new business, are you working on any new projects?
To follow up from your earlier question, I set a goal this year to capture five unique perspectives on some of the iconic locations in the national parks. I have three to five to date. Before the end of the year, I need to finish this goal. The funny thing is when I set this goal, I had a number of planned shots in mind but so far the three I have captured were inspired “in the moment.” It is great to get those planned shots, but the spur of the moment inspirations are very gratifying.
You are a father of two. Have your children caught the photography bug?
My oldest son goes through stages where he enjoys taking photos. We have given him our very first point and shoot digital camera to work with. However, currently he and his brother have the standard young person bug — computer games. I am hoping to reignite the bug next summer when we go on hikes together.
Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Lee!
For more information about Lee, visit his website. All images © Lee Nordbye.