Mike Poggioli: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos
Shoot at sunrise or sunset for the best light. The first hour and last hour of the day are referred to as “golden hour,” because the light is warmer and brings out the best colors and features of the landscape or subject. In the examples below, you can see how you can get a mix of orange, reds, yellows, and even pinks and purples that you wouldn’t get in the middle of the day.
As a part of our series about “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Poggioli.
Mike is a photographer and psychologist living in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina. His first photo book is coming out in late fall 2022, called Blue Ridge Dreaming. It contains over 70 of his favorite images taken at sunrise and sunset in the mountains along with poetry from well-known and local writers. His first photography book will be released with Trope this Fall.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started taking pictures with my iPhone during my train commutes as a teacher in Chicago several years ago. I soon connected with local photographers who also loved shooting cityscapes. It’s safe to say I caught the “photography bug” and have kept it as a vital creative outlet as I’ve changed careers from teacher to psychologist.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My first year in Asheville, I found myself at the top of a mountain one foggy spring morning, called Craggy Pinnacle. All alone, I got to the top of the trail and saw a black bear in a tree, looking back at me. It let out a loud huff that I interpreted as “turn around,” and I did just that!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Weather at the top of mountains is a lot less predictable than at the base. I hiked up to Hawksbill Mountain, in Linville Gorge, on an early summer afternoon, having never checked the weather report. Even though it was sunny at first, I noticed a massive dark cloud approaching me. Within minutes, I was soaked from a thunderstorm and hid under a large rock for the next hour to avoid lightening. I’ve learned to always check the weather in the higher elevations using mountain-forecast.com!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
People say I have a unique editing style in my photos. I bring out the complementary orange and blue colors of images when I edit in Lightroom. I also search for images that will play to this color scheme, hence why I usually shoot at sunrise and sunset.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Pace yourself and stay true to your vision. With social media, it is easy to compare myself to hundreds of other photographers in just a matter of hours. Although I think it’s important to connect with like-minded creatives, it is also important to avoid getting caught in the self-comparison stories, such as, “I wish I could edit like that,” or, “Why can’t I travel to that location?” It’s a daily practice to stay focused on what fulfills me as a photographer and on my incremental growth on a daily basis.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I wouldn’t be the photographer (or person) I am today without meeting many fellow creatives along the way. One of my first photography friends in Chicago was Andre Bayard. We would just roam around the city taking pictures of what we found interesting. I’m thankful for Jason Bayer, another photographer I met in Cincinnati, who is now a dear friend beyond photography. I’d also like to thank Sam Landers of Trope Publishing for being so supportive and encouraging of my photography.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I’m releasing my first photography book late autumn 2022, called Blue Ridge Dreaming! It features over 70 of my favorite photos around the Blue Ridge Mountains alongside beautiful poetry from well-known and local writers. Check it out at: https://trope.com/collections/books/products/blue-ridge-dreaming
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Sharing my appreciation of beauty through photography is one of the most meaningful things I can contribute to the world, in my opinion. I’ve also offered my editing techniques up to others and am always open to other photographers to pass along what I’ve learned and to be open to what they have to teach me. I think if we can all learn to pause and appreciate the beauty around us, the world would be a better place.
Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please share an example for each.
- Shoot at sunrise or sunset for the best light. The first hour and last hour of the day are referred to as “golden hour,” because the light is warmer and brings out the best colors and features of the landscape or subject. In the examples below, you can see how you can get a mix of orange, reds, yellows, and even pinks and purples that you wouldn’t get in the middle of the day.
2. Use the scene to naturally frame your focus. Instead of just taking a picture of a tree, waterfall, or road, for example, see if there is something around the subject you can “shoot through.” This gives greater depth and will add greater context and interest.
3. Experiment with as many angles as possible: I’ll sometimes try to get low as possible to the ground when taking a picture. For example, what would have been just a picture of a beautiful waterfall now has a fallen tree in the foreground, which helps frame the subject and also helps guide the eyes. For another example, what would have been an ordinary photo of an old mill is now doubled with a reflection! I had to press my camera against the ground here to get as much of the reflection and grass in the foreground as possible.
4. Follow the light: Always take a moment to notice what direction the light is coming from. This is a simple but powerful photography hack! Light can shape the entire photo. Check out the examples below to see how I used the direction of light to create a focal point: In one, rays of light illuminated the upper half of the mountain range. In another, light beams streaming directly through a tree created a spotlight effect for the morning jogger.
5. Adopt a mindset of mindfulness while taking pictures to capture what you find most beautiful. I use a 4-Stage Seeing practice developed by Lee Aspland, a mindfulness photographer.
Try this process on your own next time you’re out with a camera!
Anchor — Before ever taking a picture, notice the scene around you for several minutes with just your five senses.
Seeing — Walk slowly and observe, letting the photograph find you!
Resting — Really notice the fullness of what caught your eye first. Take a deep breath.
Creating — In your mind’s eye, imagine the scene in your camera frame. Don’t overthink it. Then, finally, take the photo!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would like to host more photography-based social meet ups that incorporate mindfulness and exploration of beautiful places. With smart phones, everyone has access to an incredibly powerful camera in their pockets. I think photography can unite us and teach us valuable lessons. You don’t need to have a “trained eye” to benefit from what photography can offer!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
The best way to follow my work or reach out is to follow me on Instagram @mpthecomebackid and shoot me a direct message or email!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!