Most days find Los Angeles Times photographer Mark Boster on what he affectionately calls “the crash and burn shift,” taking photos of courthouses, accidents and crimes to accompany the news of the sprawling metropolis of Southern California. But ask Boster about travel photography and you’ll get a twinkle in his eye and his unabashed enthusiasm for the subject. Born and raised in Fullerton, Boster has lived in California all of his life and considers traveling around the state to be one of the best ways to see diverse topography and unique vistas. His love for adventure led him to his latest project, a feature series for the Times showing the Yosemite’s seasonal changes that will run on the first day of each new season.
With almost as much relish, Boster’s eager to talk shop with just about anyone who will listen. Last month that was a large audience at the L.A. Times’ Travel and Adventure Show, where, armed with a slide show of his favorite images, Boster talked about everything from how to follow the rule of thirds to not forgetting to pack extra digital cards, batteries and chargers. We followed up with Boster to learn how football, Cesar Chavez and nature has inspired his career.
Do you remember your first camera?
My first camera when I was in college was a Minolta SR-T 100x film camera—it was just a big metal tank, but it was great and a lot of fun. My fist big serious camera was a Mamiya RB67, which was a big giant 15-pound camera. After that I had a series of Nikon cameras.
What do you shoot with now?
All Canon digital. Canon EOS 5D Mark II and a Canon EOS 7D because they both shoot 1080p HD video as well. I transition both of those back and forth between video and still.
Can you remember the first image you took that inspired you to think, “I really want to do this”?
I went to college to play football at Cal State Fullerton. I started messing around with photography and I really loved photojournalism. I thought photography was more fun than getting my head bashed in everyday on the football field. I met people in the photo department who I thought were cooler than cool. Those days a long list of well-known people visited college campuses, including Cesar Chavez, Jane Fonda in her Hanoi Jane days, Russell Means from the America Indian movement. They all came to campus and we got to practice our portraiture.
During my college years I ran into Chavez again on the streets of San Francsico. I started photographing these people and my friends. I met Buckminister Fuller. I couldn’t even tell you where all of the pictures are right now, but it launched into what I am doing now. My photography started progressing and football became less and less in my life and photography became more and more important to me. I dropped one for the other because I got a really bad concussion in football and the doctor just flat out said, “You’re done or you are going to be a vegetable.”
Where did you work before the Times?
I have worked for three other newspapers. I did a nine-month internship at the L.A. Times in the Times Orange County Edition. From the L.A. Times I went to work as a staff photographer at the Whittier Daily News for two years, then graduated to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune for two years. After that I went to the Orange County Register for 4-1/2 years. I have been with the L.A. Times for 28 years.
How did the Yosemite project come about?
The Yosemite project came about very innocently. About a year and a half ago I went there on vacation and the water was gushing. The waterfalls were full. The rivers were roaring and I took a bunch of pictures for myself and really had a good time documenting the water. I went back and showed them to the editors at The Times. They suggested that I go back for all four seasons. Then it went from being really fun to being really serious and I thought, “this is pressure!” Now I realize it is going to take the rest of my life to really do it justice. There is so much there. There are photographers who live there and specialize in photographing Yosemite.
Where do you love to go in your off time to shoot photos?
Besides Yosemite, I really love the Carribean Islands. I love traveling here in California. There are so many amazing things to explore here. California is my place, I love it here.
Can you share some advice for people who want to improve their travel photographs?
—Buy a good camera and familiarize yourself with it before the trip. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries and digital cards.
—Invest in a good camera . You’ve paid a lot of money for the trip. Make sure you have great equipment to document your adventures.
—Keep the camera steady. Buy a small light tripod that you can throw in your suitcase.
—Take the time to think in black and white. Since black and white employs the use of subtle tones, gradations, and contrast can be more mysterious and dramatic.
—Embrace the light. Sunrises, sunset and nightfall are the best and usually render more interesting colors.
—Organize your old photos including scanning the ones with slides and negatives.
—Store everything on Gold discs to ensure they last.