Cody Cobb is a landscape photographer based in Seattle, Washington. His images are known for their amazing use of light, color, and texture.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, how did you first get into photography?
Photography has always been a way for me to capture my escape attempts from the indoor world. I started carrying a camera with me while exploring abandoned buildings as a bored teen living in rural Louisiana. Initially, I was using these as textures in digital illustrations I was making. At that point in my life, I was unknowingly headed down a path that would lead into a career as a motion designer and 3-D animator working in Seattle, Washington. The Pacific Northwest opened up an entirely new world to escape to. I started spending more and more time in the mountains and forests surrounding the city and eventually became comfortable enough to spend days and even weeks alone in the wilderness. Once again, I started bringing a camera along.
Only recently have I started pursuing photography full-time. I'm curious to see how my relationship with photography changes when I'm no longer looking for something to escape from.
How has photography changed the way you see the world?
I don’t feel like it has changed my perception of the world, it just happens to be the most effective way for me to share my observations with others. Even without a camera, I become completely fixated on geometry and light. If anything, photography allows me to capture it and move on.
Your images have an incredibly surreal feel to them. What kind of light do you look for when capturing these amazing locations? How important is post-processing when trying to achieve your desired aesthetic?
I'm looking for light that actually makes me feel something. I always find that the last light of the day hitting a distant peak is usually the most emotional. It's not always a sense of awe and glory I experience, sometimes it's the cold realization that I'm going to be hiking alone in the dark for another few hours. Capturing those more nuanced emotions is at the core of what I'm trying to do with landscape photography.
Post-processing is such an important tool, much like the mixing and mastering of audio. That's how I like to think of it, at least. While I'm not manipulating the image itself drastically, I do push the tonal values around until it sounds right in my mind.
What is your favorite photograph that you’ve taken? Why?
The single photo that wasn't totally botched during the total eclipse of 2017 might be my favorite. I don't know if it's the strongest image I've shot, but it represents one of the most emotional experiences I've ever had. I had no idea how intense it would be, honestly. For some reason, I decided to try and shoot with my 4x5 that day. There were so many little things that went wrong during the 3 minutes of totality. It was just too much to take in while operating a fiddly field camera. I have about four ruined sheets and then this one deceptively calm image of the sun disappearing behind the moon.
What is your favorite place that you’ve been to take images? What location is on the top of your wish list for places to visit next?
My first trip into the Olympic Mountains of Washington State will always be one of my favorite memories. I had never experienced anything like that and was completely unprepared for a multi-day backpacking trip. I emerged from that trip cold, tired and hungry but it was one of the best things I'd ever done. Sometimes I miss the feeling of being totally out of my comfort zone and experiencing the unknown for the very first time.
I would love to do an artist residency in the mountains of Japan! A side trip up to the Kamchatka Peninsula would also be nice.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve found yourself in when exploring these amazing landscapes?
Besides being in the shadow of the moon during the eclipse, I have a vividly stressful memory of being caught in a lightning storm in the snowy deserts of eastern Utah. I don't want to think about that.
How does the experience of shooting on film differ from digital for you? What is your preferred film stock?
I think I've managed to successfully apply the experience of shooting film to shooting digitally. I rarely look at my images after I shoot, I don't shoot a ton of exposures of the same shot, and I wait a few weeks before importing them into the computer. I'm careful not to romanticize film too much, though it has been important for my photography. I'd easily recommend a small film camera to anyone who is feeling bored or burdened with their DSLR. I'd also recommend they load it with Kodak Portra.
How do you hope to see your work progress in the next 5 years? Any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
I'm beginning to transition from my career as a designer into a career as a photographer. I'm not sure what that looks like, honestly. The future is very hazy but maybe that's what I need, being out of my comfort zone and experiencing the unknown again.