Matt Champlin Lead Contributor since 2007

About my equipment

Camera: Canon EOS 7D

Dream Camera: Canon EOS 5D MIII, and every L-series lens Canon makes (what, it’s a dream, right?)

Photographing since: Since I was young. My mother got me a camera when I was in Boy Scouts so I could take pictures when I went camping. My first foray into digital cameras was an Olympus C-750 in 2003.

Digital since: 2003, the Olympus C-750

Photoshop: Version CS6

Favorite subject: Landscapes, people interacting with the environment.

Me and stuff

Mom and self taught. Never took a class. Never really read any book either. Just looked at other photos, read some websites till I understood the technicals, then shot hundreds of thousands of times. I wonder what my lifelong shutter count is? Could it be half a million yet?

I’m pretty rough on my equipment, which is why I don’t own L-series or high end glass as of yet. In May 2011 I dumped my main Canon workhorse (the 17-85) into Lick Brook and off the gorge wall a couple of times. I ended up buying a basic 18-200 to replace it, and have been knocking out shots with that since. Interestingly enough, I had the 17-85 repaired when we were on a trip in Saigon, Vietnam. They charged like 80 bucks and had it working like new within a few hours. It’s really amazing what they can actually do there, since in most cases they are the ones making it and shipping it to us!

I’ve been immensely enjoying the 50mm 1.8 from Canon too. It’s a fun foray into prime (fixed) lenses, and it’s amazing what the F1.8 gets you from a technique standpoint. Beautiful soft shots, with bokeh and mysterious depth that seems to go on forever. Don’t get me wrong, top notch equipment is amazing, but if you’re skilled and in tune with your equipment, then the basic stuff can get you thousand dollar results.

I take my camera nearly everywhere with me. I bring it fishing, driving, hiking, walking, bike riding. To some extent, the drive to capture the moments of every day has led me to make photography my journal of life.

I feel like I’m the type of person who always needs a creative outlet. When I was young, I would write in journals. I did that for over 10 years. Then I took pictures on an old 35mm camera later in high school then into college. After college, I started writing and blogging, which I did for 3-4 years before the long-lost love of photography was rekindled. I suppose it finally exploded in 2006 when my (now) wife and I took off on a 3.5 month soul-searching road trip from Central New York to Fairbanks Alaska and back. It was an over 20,000 mile round trip that took us to incredible sites and dozens of national parks in the US and Canada. We abandoned all the freeways we could. Over 90% of our driving miles were spent on local roads. We saw the country. We were free, and finding ourselves and each other.

We ended up spending over 90 nights in a tent. We had the routine down pat – setup, cooking, tear down. I woke up nearly every sunrise. Many mornings it was me and my camera, and some jaw dropping scene of a glowing mountain covered in glaciers reflected in an alpine lake.

The amount of time that we spend in a place reflects in our photography I think. Still to this day the 2006 road trip shots are some of my best. Of course, some credit has to go to the Olympus E-300 and their line of lenses. That camera coupled with the lenses that were designed specifically for that digital line took some sharp shots. The colors were also beautifully and vibrantly processed.

I came back, no idea what to do with my life or myself. I commented absently during our trip that maybe I wanted to be a teacher. Mind you – my degree and work experience has always been in Computer and Networks Administration – your basic IT guy. Hanging out on my parents couch my dad comes in from work one day about 2 weeks after we got back and says to me “The school I work for is looking for a computer technology teacher here’s the principal’s number he wants you to call him tonight”. Whirlwind follows, no lie – one and a half weeks later I’m teaching high school students having never taught anyone before – let alone kids!

To make a long story short – it was my calling. I loved it after the first week. I love it now. I love seeing the students succeed and find their niche and move on and make positive change in the world. Perfectly enough, my teaching profession has always allowed my photography to progress handily. I enjoy taking pictures and always want to get better at what I do. I sell images on the side through Getty due to a partnership with Flickr where I devote most of my time too.

Me and NYFalls

Matt contacted me back in 2006 – another life-altering experience that year! He had seen some of my waterfall shots from the local Central New York area and wanted to know if I wanted to contribute. The site had me at hello. I loved it from Day 1 – professionally done, beautiful shots, everything you wanted to know about all these awesome waterfalls in the state in one place. I dove right in and started running around, finding new hidden waterfalls in some cases 5 miles from my own house! It’s amazing how much wasn’t documented about all these great places we could go and photograph and enjoy waterfalls. I have no doubt the popularity and information on the site has helped get some places expedited protection (Carpenter’s Falls and Bahar come to mind).  I filled in the blanks where I could, photographing, documenting, and writing the page. I always think Matt’s idea was to have a statewide bank of contributors who could all author for the different regions. I understand the difficulty, however, as it is tough work. There is a ton of information that goes into each page, and hours of work.

My contributions have slowed considerably recently, due to some extra workload I have taken on with teaching for one, but also because there comes a point where you finally exhaust the “local” waterfalls and longer trips are required to come up with new material. I have plans to rekindle some waterfall shooting this year, as I haven’t spent nearly as much time photographing them as I once did.


Get up and go. Like Kerouac’s “On the Road”. There’s a big world to see, and a short time to do it in. I originally got the travel itch in college. Then it was onto as many states, Canadian Provinces, and National Parks as I could.  Still to this day the only state I haven’t been to is the one I can’t drive to.

My soon to be wife and I then wanted to travel international. My first trip was to hike the Inca Trail in Peru in 2008. It was an amazing, life altering experience.  The reward was worth the challenge as I also proposed to Stacey as the sun came up overlooking the ruins of Machu Picchu. She said yes of course – and on our way together through life we go. We did a honeymoon in pre-uprising Egypt, went to Vietnam and Cambodia in 2011 and to a wedding in Guatemala fall of 2012. Our next big trip is to do a Safari in Africa. We have met some amazing people who were with us during our journeys through these amazing places. Often times it’s the people you are with that plays a major part when you are venturing across the world.

I highly recommend that everyone do as Mark Twain dictated: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Thoughts on Photography

RAW: Everyone should shoot with it selected 100% of the time.

HDR: Sometimes I use it to better approximate a scene as I am discerning it. Or sometimes I just feel like “popping” an image. I use it in probably no more than 25% of my images.

Black and White: Rarely use it. It’s good sometimes.

Fake Artsy and Textured shots: Again, not my thing, but I can see why they’re popular for books and stuff.

Photoshop: Love it. Use it to adjust white balance, contrast, saturation, sometimes highlights and low-lights. RAW image shooting has really allowed a great control, which lets you get the picture that better approximates the best camera of all – the human eye.

Photoshop Part 2: However, some people use it to create a make believe scene. Once you start doing that, you’ve moved from photography to “art”. Now, I’m not saying a bit of clone stamping and content aware is a bad thing, I use them to subtract sometimes quite often. When you think about it, photography is subtraction. You point your lens and sensor to a square in your surrounding world and press the button. For the most part, the viewer is only getting that square. I find it appropriate that Photoshop is used to subtract unwanted elements from a photograph. When people start using it create scenes that don’t exist by addition, then I lose interest.

The future: Like it or not, the equipment and software in conjunction are getting so good that basically every human will be able to photograph and process a beautiful scene with almost no work at all. Cameras with multiple focus points throughout the range. Software that can completely change a scene with the click of the button. 24/7 high def recording devices that we wear. We all need to be ready for that and understand that it will happen!.

Matt’s Major Contributions

New Hope Mills Carpenter Falls Excelsior Glen Guppy Falls  Rattlesnake Gulf Frontenac Falls


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