Interview With Tom Mackie

In 1985, Tom Mackie made two very big life decisions – he moved from America to Britain and then embarked on a career as a professional landscape photographer. More than 30 years later, he reflects on the changes from large format to digital

You started out as a studio-based commercial photographer. What prompted the switch to landscape photography?

At the time in LA I was working in a photo lab and many of our clients were landscape photographers. We were producing these massive murals, Cibachromes, for them and I just loved looking at the sharpness and quality. They were using large format cameras. So, I started looking more into doing landscapes at weekends: I’d do trips out to Colorado, or along the West Coast. It was eye opening. I could get out and shoot some landscapes, never thought I could make any money.

Was there anyone in particular who helped you in the transition?

There was a photographer called James Randklev whom I rang up and said… ‘I print a lot of your work and I was wondering if you had a few minutes to have a chat?’ I went down to his apartment, we had a chat, got on really well and he’s still a very good friend today. He lives in Tucson now. He’s a large format photographer and he’s gone to digital as well. I’m giving him tips now on digital because he’s very traditional large format and I’d like to think I’m a little bit more up on the technology than he is!

Indeed, switching from film on 4x5 to digital is a quantum leap in technology, so why did you do it?

Yes, it’s funny. I had friends saying, ‘When are you going to change to digital?’ I said, ‘I’m shooting large format and I can’t change until I get a 50Mb file – the majority of uses are a 50Mb file minimum – and the quality is there.’ I resisted until 2006. In the early days of digital I didn’t feel the quality was there. I was shooting with Velvia and I wanted to replicate the style of shooting I was getting with Velvia. Now, I can get more out of digital than I could with large format. Because of the ...

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