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Clark Marten - Delight in the Details

"...it’s a subtle difference, and yet one that you can feel very strongly. The tonal definition is incredible."
It’s hard to believe that the day he picked up a camera he was most interested in exploring its mechanics; he found the camera fascinating. But once Clark Marten started shooting images of his family and his friends, the idea of becoming a photographer took root. It was a lot of fun. So he and his wife launched their portrait photography business, creating a trademark look that’s been born of an artist’s love of dramatic imagery, focus on the uniqueness of individual subjects, and meticulous attention to detail that has set and raised industry benchmarks.

He remembers clearly that there were many steps to this success. In particular, one day, “I asked myself, ‘Which way do we want to go?’”

“We were trying to take our work to a higher level. And to do that, we found that we really needed better equipment. That can be a big decision for a business. While I was thinking about it, my wife, the business manager said to me: ‘Just buy the Phase One camera!’ And so I did. I bought the Phase One IQ250, and once I had that system, I had the tools that I needed. Since that day, I’ve found that it consistently gives me much cleaner, much higher-quality images. We have a great studio, in Billings MT, where we’re showing many images that are 40” x 60” plus … we even have an 8-foot wide print. And you can see every detail, including the eyelashes!”

So, what does a very busy, sought-after portrait photographer and gallery-owner do in his ‘spare time’? Well, his location has a lot to do with it. Clark lives just ninety miles from the Little Big Horn, with a view of the northern mountains of Yellowstone National Park – where the views of sky and plains appear limitless. And over the past ten years, he’s been making the most of his surroundings, teaching himself to “do better and better landscapes.”

He likes to grab his Phase One IQ250 system – the gear that he chose for his portrait business -- and pack it up along with a tripod and his lenses into the back of his jeep and go exploring. Many mornings he hits the road with a cup of coffee and his gear in the back. Clark says that his fine art work is a personal love, and having a medium format camera system like Phase One makes a huge difference.

“Not only for capturing the highest possible resolution. There’s a huge difference in dynamic range as compared to the resulting files I could get from the 35mm DSLRs. That's what gives you such a 3D effect; it’s a subtle difference, and yet one that you can feel very strongly. The tonal definition is incredible.

“In fact, since I bought the Phase One system for the business, I quit using my 35mm camera on my landscapes altogether. I always use the Phase One system because of the detail it offers, as well as the more flexible files, better colors and amazing dynamic range that I mentioned before. I’ve spent a lot of time driving around, training my eyes to find the right spot, and then I choose the right lens (I’m using the Scheider Kreuznach leaf shutter lenses -- 150, 110 and 80, 55 and 28) to capture it perfectly.
"There’s no way that I could get that same feeling into these photographs with anything less than Phase One."
“I also love using Capture One software, which seems to pull everything out of the image, lets you dig into the image quite a bit. There’s so much information in those files! I can’t say that I’ve learned all that’s possible with the program, but I do get what I need. And I know there’s much more. I think Phase One does an excellent job with the online help. You can type in a question, and they do a great job of covering everything that I need.

“I have fun, making large fine art prints that I sometimes donate for auctions. There’s no way that I could get that same feeling into these photographs with anything less than Phase One. And who knows what the future holds? Where your heart goes a lot of times your business goes as well. Part of the joy, is the equipment I’m using – to be able to capture landscapes at such high quality makes it especially rewarding.

“As a photographer, I’m very happy with my world in Montana. We’ve been given this amazing view – and I need to share it, show how it’s opening up in front of us. Honestly, we can get a bit used to it, and then a visitor arrives and is blown away by the beauty of the scenery on our farm and the big hill, and I say, ‘Thanks for saying that.’ It’s easy to forget what you have. For me photography helps me avoid that, and in the process I get to share the beauty that I’ve found with everyone.”

About Clark Marten

A native of Big Sky Country, Montana, award-winning portrait photographer Clark Marten didn’t study photography in school. He earned an agriculture degree, with an eye to running the chicken farming business that’s been in his family for generations. But when he returned to his 470-acres farm, public concern over cholesterol was badly hurting the egg business; so he started thinking about other career options.

Today he is a national Professional Photographers Association board member and one of the United States’ most admired portrait photographers. Clark has photographed George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well as Daymond John of Shark Tank and Willie G. Davidson from Harley Davidson, among other celebrities. He has been featured in numerous magazines, publications and given numerous lectures on photography. And over the years, he and his team have created many treasured family portraits.


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