An Interview With Andre Poirier

Andre Poirier - Canadian Landscape Photographer

Andre is a passionate traveller and landscape photographer, based out of Moncton, New Brunswick on the East coast of Canada. A surgeon by trade, he has found photography an escape and a great excuse to explore the world. 

With Ansel Adams and Peter Lik as two of his influences in photography, Andre approaches his photography the landscape looking to combine their skills of capturing emotion and colour, with his own creative flair.

On your website you mentioned that while you were studying medicine, that you purchased your first SLR and hoped photography would be an outlet for stress relief. Was this originally how your Photography journey started? And did it provide the relief you were looking for?

My journey started in high school. In year 9 with the elective selections – I had already taken all the art streams I could so I opted to add photography in but I had never done it before. A few weeks in I was already hooked! My teacher was fantastic and the darkroom was a favourite hang out. Learning to develop film and print my own work in the darkroom was one of the best lessons I could have had. I finished year 12 and was told photography will never make me money so I studied graphic design, for 3 years but soon realized photography was calling me. I then enrolled in photography and received my diploma 2 years later.

You are a Landscape/travel photographer, and often people see this as an adventurous, exciting lifestyle, which it can be. However, it’s not always as glamorous as perceived. What are the pros and cons of being a landscape/travel photographer?

To begin with the cons, I have to say that our trips are becoming less and less luxurious and everything revolves around proper lighting to photograph my subjects. I have very limited time to sleep and rarely miss a sunrise/sunset or night shot opportunity. I do extensive planning before I get to a location and I usually will spend 2-3 hours in one location to get the best light and figure out my composition. Every effort is not rewarded with an image that I will love and this is also difficult. I am quite lucky to have a supportive spouse. I enjoy the cons as much as the pros since I believe that nothing worth getting is ever easy. The pros are mostly reconnecting with the important things in life. Taking your time and enjoying what mother nature has to offer. I agree with your above statement that it is not glamorous at all, but I wouldn’t want it any other way for now. The time and effort gone into creating these images can be easily overlooked by others. The pros is the rush of getting the image you envisioned, to be able to bring it back home and look at it and relive those moments. You also get to witness and appreciate amazing locations and events that would otherwise not be possible if it wasn’t for photography planning.

You also mentioned that your photography was hugely inspired & Influenced by Ansel Adams & Peter Lik. Could you describe to us why these two photographers play an important role in inspiring your photography?

Peter Lik was the first gallery that I had visited that inspired me to think that I could do the same if I had the courage to continue learning. I had never seen a photography gallery in the past and since I was already very passionate about photography, it was easy for me to enjoy wandering through his gallery.

Ansel Adams was also an inspiring photographer who doesn’t need much introduction in the photography world since he is cited in many other photographers books. What amazes me most is the fact that he had a limited amount of film to use and he could not visualize his images before developing his images. His tonal control was excellent for his time and his grand landscape images are still inspiring to this day.

You stated your skills as a surgeon require patience, preparation, precision, and envisioning outcome. How does this relate/transfer to your photography and what did you find the most challenging when transferring these skills to photography?

My main work as a vascular surgeon requires planning, precision and striving towards perfection to create the best outcomes. It takes commitment, passion and sacrifices to be good at anything and my training has helped me understand this.The biggest part of my work is done in the office days to weeks before the surgery. The surgery itself is only the execution of the previous planning, similar to how I create my photographs. I did not see much challenge in transferring these skills to photography to be honest, even if they may seem so different.

As a landscape photographer you mention on your website that you precisely plan your travel around the landscapes you want to capture. How and why do you pick your locations? Does what you see on social media play any part in the locations that you choose?

I have restrictions when it comes to time off from my work to go to certain destinations. That being said, I am limited to 8-9 days in a certain area. For the time being, it is easier for us to travel to Europe, North and South America just to limit any significant flight time and jet lag that we may have. That being said, I have a certain type of imagery that I am personally drawn to which mostly includes colourful scenes with Mountains, Lakes, Canyons, Monuments and fields. I read many books to try to find my next destinations and I find the appropriate season to visit an area. Social media definitely has an impact today more than ever. We only joined in August 2018 and many locations have already been photographed and are displayed. We take notes of certain locations and places and try to figure out the best time of year to go.

What location have you enjoyed photographing the most, and why?

The Canadian Rockies remains my favourite location to this date. The first time I had seen the turquoise glacier lakes and astonishing mountain backdrops I had a hard time to believe it was real. Camera aside, just sitting on the rock pile in Moraine Lake was one of my most inspiring moments while traveling.

With the growth of social media, it has put a lot of locations and iconic shots in the forefront, with many other photographers shooting the same locations. How do you make your photographs stand out from others to your potential customers?

One of the things I love to do the most is to create high resolution files for large prints. I use techniques such as multi-row panorama, pixel shift multi shoot on a high resolution camera as well as focus stacking and HDR techniques. I am seeing myself constantly repeating the same editing process and having my own personal touch to a scene. I print from sizes ranging between 3 to 8 feet to be able to be drawn into the image and recreate the feeling of those amazing places. I take care of small details and I do put a lot of time and effort into each image.

This year you were accredited as a professional photographer of Canada (PPOC). You mentioned your goal for joining the PPOC is to be honoured as a Masters of Photography. Could you elaborate on why this is a goal and what steps do you plan to take to achieve that goal?

I need goals to push myself and I usually stop at nothing to achieve them. Having a Masters of Photography to me is much more than just a title, but a personal challenge. To achieve this goal I am following the guidelines of the PPOC which I must gain points from accreditations, competitions and participate in events through years of being in the PPOC group.

What role does post processing play in your mind, and in the techniques you use while you’re shooting in the field. How do you utilize post processing tools and techniques to enhance your final image? What part do luminosity masks play, if any, in your post processing?

Not so long ago, I did not enjoy the post processing aspect of photography. Today I enjoy it as much as the rest of the process. You can really infuse your own style into each image. Now that I understand it much better, I think of how I would process my images in the field and I make sure that every element is as I want it to be. I use ADP pro for 80% of my editing, which allows me to get unparalleled precision and ease of use for a constant result. Gaining a good understanding of luminosity has been a game changer for my entire photography.

Could you please share with us your favourite personal photography adventure story?

There are many but one that I suffered exceptionally to create. I have started a project of photographing lighthouses in the maritimes with the milky way. I had planned my shot in the Bouctouche Dunes in NB, Canada. I left my house at 10 pm, drove an hour to get to the Dune thinking the lighthouse was nearby. I brought no water, no food and 2 camera bodies, 2 heavy tripods along with my aluminium multi-nodal slider as well as 5 lenses. The milky way core was visible from 1-4 am and I thought having enough time. I walked the boardwalk and to my surprise, no lighthouse. Knowing it was there, I kept walking on the beach with my heavy backpack. I kept seeing foxes running around me on the beach as my phone and light battery where drained. After 1 hour of walking I had to make a choice. Keep going or turn around. So I kept walking… for 4 hours. I finally got to the lighthouse 13 km after walking on the beach at 3:30 am and I only had a couple of minutes to set up to take my images. I did a multi-row panoramic with my 35 mm lens to get the arch above the lighthouse and I was only able to do this once since the sunlight was beginning to rise. After an exhausting night of walking, my legs and shoulders where shaking and I was getting weak. I was afraid of not having enough energy to get back to the car. I took many breaks and I finally reached my car, at 10 am which was 12 hours from my departure time. I did not look at my photos for a month, worrying that I had not gotten the image that I wanted. I finally love this image of the Dunes and I am glad I did that effort since the lighthouse has recently fallen and I can’t recreate the image again.

What is the best advice or piece of information that another photographer has given you?

“Hurry up and take your time.” It’s a short sentence but it says a lot about landscape photography. You need proper planning to get to the location but once you are there it is important to take your time and compose the image as you want it. Look at every element in the scene and make sure you have the optimal technique for each to recreate that moment.

If you had one piece of advice to give to someone who is getting into photography, what would it be and why?

Nothing worth doing is ever easy. Embrace the challenges and don’t be afraid to fail. The extra little effort has always been what I look for to push my techniques and abilities further. Find what you are most passionate about and keep learning. Have a goal in mind and never give up.

Thank you Andre for taking the time to indulge us, and providing some great insights into you and your photography journey. 

Check out more work by Andre Poirier or follow his journey on social media.