Steve Zmak Captures The Essence Of California And The Natural World Through Photography That Speaks To The Soul.
His photography celebrates the culture, history, and lifestyle of California and the West, and illustrates his deep spiritual connection to the natural world and our place in it.
“I seek to capture an ideal of California and the West with humans living in harmony with the natural world rather than over-exploiting it. From a lone surfer or fisherman on an undeveloped beach to sustainable vineyards and plein air painters out in the wild, I celebrate our state and national parks, and all our open spaces where people can commune with nature.”
Zmak shoots primarily in black & white because he’s drawn to the raw essence of nature, its skeletal form without its glitter coating. He captures the natural world through time exposure, glowing chlorophyll, and impressionist grain because he is so caught up in a fleeting scene that his own perception and interpretation become surreal.
Zmak has been influenced by generations of great black & white nature photographers from Ansel Adams and Brett Weston to Richard Garrod and William Giles to John Sexton and Huntington Witherill to Martha Casanave and Chip Hooper to all the West Coast contemporaries that he shoots with every day, such as David Gubernick, Jack Wasserbach, Roger Smith, Brett Thomas, Greg Weeks, and many members of the ImageMakers of Monterey.
Expressions of Infinity (2015) is a science fiction narrative with imagery that suggests celestial spacescapes and a peek into our planet’s prehistoric evolution through macro and landscape photography. I’m finding the same patterns and aesthetic from Hubble telescope imagery here on Earth on a scale ranging from the grand landscape to the near microscopic, and I tell a story of the death of one world and the birth of a new. This is the most abstract work I’ve done to date.
Alaskan Summer (2014) was a body of work in Denali National Park and surrounding region commissioned by Equity Marketing Solutions of Santa Cruz, Calif. and Doyon Inc., the largest Native American land-holding corporation in Alaska. Most of these photos are taken along the Kantishna Wilderness Trail, a breathtaking 93-mile road and the only road in this 6-million acre wilderness.
Lens Painting (2011) came as a result of Zmak seeing the world like a painter but lacking the hand-eye coordination to realize that vision on canvas. With a digital camera and the ability to make exposure adjustments based on instant results, Zmak’s camera lens has become his paintbrush. He has developed a technique called Lens Painting that combines 3 types of motion blur simultaneously. In August 2011, B&W+COLOR Magazine gave him a Merit Award in their annual color portfolio competition for a collection of 11 images from San Francisco, Carmel and Monterey. See more wine and vineyard photos in the Advertising Photography section.
A Year in the Vineyard (2010) takes viewers on a visual journey through 4 Monterey County vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. From January to December, Zmak explores life on the vines, from microscopic dewdrops to aerial views of the vineyard landscape, from dawn to twilight. Originally planned as an exhibit at Pessagno Winery, the full collection of more than 100 photos could only be fully realized through a book, Zmak’s first. See more Lens Painting photos in the Advertising Photography section.
Black & White Whispers (2005) explores the questions, “What does quiet look like, sound like and feel like?” It includes 31 photographs from California and Montana. The photographs illustrate the stillness of the natural world—from an isolated moonlit beach to a star-streaked desert sky to a little boy mesmerized by the tide’s ebb and flow.
California Black & White (2003) features 23 black & white photographs of the natural world from the Russian River Valley to Malibu, including 17 from Monterey County. The portfolio showcases California’s dramatic landscapes and surreal beauty, including a lightning storm striking the Monterey Peninsula, a silken stream rushing beneath fallen trees in the Ventana wilderness, and sweeping vistas of the Big Sur coast.
The Lonely Coast (2000) was shot along the wintery landscape of the Central California Coast. It features 23 black & white photographs spanning from Zmudowski State Beach and the rugged Big Sur coastline in Monterey County to the rocky shores of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County.
“I am a Lorax. Are you one, too?”