photographer • filmmaker
MorganMaassen_Portrait_3.jpg

FAQ

Do you sell prints?
Yes, I do! Please visit my print store, where I have a selection of 11 pre-made prints, along with the option to order a custom print of any photo you see of mine.

What Equipment do you use day-to-day?
Photography: Nikon D4s bodies, 16mm F/2.8 fisheye, 20mm f/2.8, 24mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4g, 50mm f/1.4d, 300mm f/4d, Nikon Nikkormat FTN 35mm body, 50mm f/1.2 ais, Hasselblad 501cm, Planar 80mm f/2.8 CFE.

Photography accessories: SPL waterhousing, Sandisk 64gb memory cards, Burton Shootout backpack 30L, Tamrac 5375 backpack, Pelican case 1550.

Video: Red Weapon CF 6k, Scarlet-W, Nikon lens mount, 14mm f/2.8d, 35mm f/1.4d, 50mm f/1.2, 50-300mm f/4.5, 480gb Minimag, 240gb minimag.

Video accessories: SPL waterhousing, Manfrotto 504hd head + 535 legs, 2x Zoon H6 recorders, 3x Sony UWP-D11 wireless lav microphones, Tenba shootout backpack, Thinktank Airport Security 3 rollerbag, Pelican 1610 (waterhousing), Pelican 1640 (productions).

Additional: Macbook Pro 15” touchbar, 2x 48gb Promise Raid systems, countless Lacie 4tb usb-c rugged, Churchill swim fins. Every bag has some sort of rain sheath or waterproof protection, which is essential.

How do you travel with your equipment?
As listed above, I use a variety of backpacks and Pelican cases to move my equipment around the globe at a moments notice. For larger scale productions and photoshoots, i disperse the equipment between myself and assistants for transportation. While on smaller adventures and personal photoshoots, I can flexibly downsize my photo kit to fit in the Burton backpack; the Red video kit to the Thinktank roller; waterhousings to a Pelican 1550; and my clothes/tripod to a small suitcase. 

How did you get started in filmmaking & photography?
When I was thirteen, I injured myself surfing, keeping me out of the water for several months. This co-incided with a mentor program for 7th grade, and as another student had already claimed the idea of shaping a surfboard, I had to find another way to incorporate my passion for the sport into the project. I ended up asking my father's friend, a cinematographer, and borrowing the family camcorder to learn the ropes of shooting and editing video, which resulted in a 9-minute short film... that was terrible! However, the newfound excitement and gratification i felt from exploring cinematography, video editing, music, and documenting the beautiful waves and talented surfers of my hometown became a passion I had to pursue. 

From there, I set out on a journey of odd-jobs to continuously upgrade my cameras and computers, while producing short videos that i uploaded to Youtube/Myspace, along with several longer films that I sold in our local surf shops on homemade DVDs. Around the age of 18, my Father casually suggested that I try out photography, to compliment the videos I was making. He lent me his Nikon D50 with a couple of old lenses manual focus lenses, and I immediately became engrossed as the transition from storytelling with motion to freezing it in 1/1000th of a second thrilled me. I quickly changed gears and began shooting photos everyday, of everything I could point my camera at. 

How did you turn filmmaking and photography into a career?
I had saved up some money from working throughout my teenage years, so I invested in some decent equipment and then planned several trips to get out of California. I bounced between Brazil, Australia, Fiji, Mexico and Hawaii, shooting everything from the beach scenes of where I was surfing to strangers on the street. I continuously updated my website and blog, and eventually several magazine and commercial clients reached out for me to shoot for them/license photos. Upon returning home, I pursued these relationships, starting with Billabong, Patagonia & Surfer Magazine, pouring as much time and energy as possible into fostering my connection with them. 

What is your advice to pursue a career in this?
Everyone's trajectory will be different, so your mileage may vary on this advice:

1. Shoot photos everyday, of everything - rain or shine!
2. Define your style/message/look/body of work consistently.
3. Update your website, blog, and social media as much as possible. 
4. Learn both the front-end (design/user interface) and back-end (software) of your website/blog/social media experience.
5. Constantly streamline your public work to be your best.. Less is more (I am totally guilty of failing at this).
6. Spend every ounce of energy brainstorming ideas, making plans, researching adventures, networking with people...
7. Create work that is new and unique... this is the best free marketing tool.
8. Reach out to magazines and websites to sell & share your work, followed by brands.
9. Continuously network with people who inspire you, can help you, and you can grow with.
10. Patience, perseverance... give everything your 110%, and remember: you can sleep when you're dead.

How did you develop your style?
My path into cameras was incredibly unorthodox, and can be described as a very casual blend of internet research meeting trial & error. For video, I started with a Canon ZR70 and Windows Moviemaker, and stills with a Nikon D50 and manual focus 28mm f/3.5. Every day I would research the possibilities of each camera, then go out and document anything I could, while fiddling with settings and focus. As I slowly upgraded my equipment, I found myself really gravitate towards minimalism, black & white, and rich colors. I spent my free time pouring over art books and history, which further exaggerated those facets when applied to cameras. I ultimately found a combination of exposure trickery, older lenses and strong depth-of-field to really satiate what I desire to capture, and the rest happens with the composition. Lastly, I avoid photoshop and digital manipulation, out of both principle and workflow, which further motivated my experimentation with cameras and their settings.  

What equipment should I use?
For beginning photographers: if you are into action sports, a Gopro is a great place to start, and they are now completely waterproof! The next step would be a DSLR, that start around $500 with basic lenses. If you want to pursue action sports photography, you'll have to practice great strategy of leapfrogging camera bodies and lenses to both satiate high-speed photos & waterhousing. I pledge to Nikon for their incredible full-frame action bodies, small prime lenses, unique image look, and overall build quality for dealing with weather. Canon is another alternative I have used; and while I struggled with their larger/slower prime lenses, poor build quality, and unique image 'look', their reign on the industry is unquestionable for their incredibly broad and affordable lineup of cameras and lenses. Nikon's lineup is both more limited and expensive, making the initial years of equipment investment slower and more painful.

For beginning filmmakers: Once again, a Gopro is a great place to begin. The next logical step is a DSLR, almost all shoot 4k with the industry standards of 24p and 60p. A good tripod is a crucial investment, followed by a mid-zoom such as the 24-70mm or 18-135mm and a Zoom H4 or H6 audio recorder. This combined package will work as you master Premiere Pro or Final Cut X and focus on traveling/subject matter before making the jump to the Red. Be prepared to fill hard drives, as 4k video off any camera will chew through gigabytes... and you'll never want to be caught without a backup.

What inspires you?
Growing up, I was very fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to build and learn about anything imaginable. This started with an intense passion with Lego and reading. Later, as school became more serious in my teen years, I found myself enamored with history and art. I researched art voraciously, plowing through anything I could get my hands on, while also casually painting myself. Ironically, it wasn't until my early twenties that the power and beauty of film really settled in on me, but once I found it, it was irresistible. To this day, films and art really guide my work, under three pillars: composition, minimalism, and visual storytelling. So many other things also cast inspiration: music, the outdoors, architecture, graphic design, fashion, emotions, my dog Moose, and most importantly... the sea. 

A few of my favorite artists and works: Zio Ziegler, Wassily Kandinsky, Ashley Bickerton, James Ettelson, Werner Herzog's "Lessons of Darkness", Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now: Redux", Mathieu Kassovitz's "La Haine", Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces", Alexander Sokurov's "Russian Ark", Hideaki Anno's "Shin Godzilla", Terence Malik's "The Thin Red Line", and the original "Jurassic Park".

Do you do seminars/workshops? Do you accept interns/apprenticships? 
At the moment, I am traveling 9-10 months out of the year, so seminars are few & far between. As most of my travel is international, I also cannot offer any internships or apprenticeships. In the future, if I can offer any of the aforementioned events or work opportunities, I will post about it via my social media. Always feel free to reach out to me! I live in Santa Barbara and spend most of my free time bouncing between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and am always happy to meet up with fellow photographers and filmmakers if I can. 

Thank you,
Morgan Maassen
e: info@morganmaassen.com
facebook | instagram | vimeo