5 min read

Interviews, Linktree User

Landscape photographer Paul Zizka discusses digital and Aurora Borealis

They’re the kinds of pictures that stop you dead amid a mindless scroll. Stunning night skies in Norway, or chaotic waves on the coastal cliffs of Greenland.

We chatted to the internationally acclaimed Paul Zizka about his favorite destinations, how he uses social media and whether you’ve seen it all once you’ve seen the Aurora Borealis.

Canadian born Paul has captured jaw-dropping scenes across all seven continents which have featured in The National Geographic, Huffington Post and The Guardian and his clients include Apple, Dell and Lululemon. From home base in Banff, where he and his wife raise their two daughters, Paul delivers photography workshops, has published six books,  and has launched an online community for photographers, called OFFBEAT.

As a member of the Linktree community we were thrilled when Paul not only took a second to chat to us, but had a very special gift for the audience… More on that at the end of this article!

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Here's Paul, shot by Dave Brosha

Paul, your images are absolutely awe-inspiring – after many years of this kind of travel, is the work still emotional for you? 

“Absolutely. Travel for me is about exploring new places or finding fresh angles on common subjects. So there’s never any shortage of that!

“One of the best things about shooting landscapes is that conditions are always changing. A place is never the same each time you visit it and weather plays a huge role in that. I also enjoy shooting at night and find places look incredibly different under a starry sky.”

What’s your favourite location to photograph? 

“I’ll never get tired of shooting right at home in the Canadian Rockies. If I had to pick a runner-up, I’d say Greenland.”

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Climber under Milky Way, Banff National Park, Paul Zizka.

Some of your most-captured locations are now disappearing due to climate change. Do you use your work to draw attention to the urgent changes all of us must make to preserve the planet?

“That is often an underlying message in my work, but rarely do I broadcast it. I believe that if people experience a place, if even through photography, that they will feel compelled to care for it. Subtlety can sometimes be just as powerful in sending a message, especially if people can feel it for themselves.”

These days not only do smartphones have incredibly sophisticated cameras, but travel is more accessible than ever. Is there friction between amateurs and professionals or is this something you embrace? 

“It has certainly made things a bit tougher to stand out and make a living off photography, but for me it just means sharpening my sword and continuing to work hard. There is so much “noise” online, it has become about who can shout the loudest.

“My personal tactic is just to continue creating as high-quality images as I can and to stay true to my personal approach to photography. If my audience embraces that, even if I’m not “shouting,” then I think that will have more longevity than if I went with what is trendy.”

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Scenes from the Faroe Islands, by Paul Zizka.

Your audience on Instagram is huge. Tell me a bit about how you use social media, and what your community is like. 

“Social media is my primary way of sharing my images. I feel so grateful that I have such a supportive online community and, as a bonus, it also generates business for me. But I think it’s important that photographers continue to share images that they like, not just images they think will “go viral” or be popular on social media.”

"I feel so grateful that I have such a supportive online community and, as a bonus, it also generates business for me."

You do a lot of amazing slow shutter photography. Any tips for perfecting this? 

“Be sure you use a tripod, turn off the stabilization and check your histogram to make sure you don’t over-expose.”
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Approaching Sand Storm, by Paul Zizka.

What’s your approach to packing?

“It’s all about efficiency as I am often carrying my gear up a mountain or into the backcountry! I have a free packing list for outdoor photographers available on my online store and a list of all my current gear on my website.”

Do you do much work in post-production, or do you let the compositions speak for themselves?

“As a digital photographer, there is an art to editing. My post-production process is important to the overall creative process. Proper post-processing allows me to be a better storyteller through my photography.

“I don’t use the software to introduce any elements that aren’t there. But the tools are there to bring the image closer to what was seen with the naked eye, or in some cases like aurora borealis, what the camera picks up that the eye cannot.”

Are there any special considerations when shooting in such extreme temperatures? 

“My biggest tip is to know how to use your gear in darkness and cold. Practice at home with gloves on and in the dark, by headlamp. You don’t want to miss a great moment because you’re fiddling with your camera settings!”

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Greenland icecap, by Paul Zizka.

Where’s next on the map for you?

“I am headed to the Faroe Island, Mongolia, and Greenland to lead some photography workshops this year for OFFBEAT Photography. I’m sure we’ll be mixing some family trips abroad in there, too!”

Paul's Linktree

Paul is on Linktree PRO, which means he can use an uploaded image as his background. Thankfully, he’s got a few of those around…and has picked one of his stunning night scenes to brand his Linktree. On PRO you can use our Unsplash integration to find your own photographic background.

He’s kept the buttons simple so they stand out clearly against the busier background. When you hover on the buttons, they turn transparent to reveal the picture beneath.

The newsletter sign-up and the social icons at the bottom of his profile ensure he grows his audience across platforms.

Huge thanks to Paul for sharing his work with us. And as a special treat for this month’s mindfulness, Paul has shared one of his pictures with our community for a custom Linktree theme. You can now use one of Paul’s stunning forest shots as your Linktree background. Log in now to bring the great outdoors to your profile!