Insights and ideas from Kento Mizuno
Expressing nature's simplicity
Kento Mizuno’s keen eye, skill, and passion for capturing nature are far beyond his years. A senior at The Bay School of San Francisco, Mizuno has already interned with a National Geographic photographer and won several nature photography awards including a high school scholarship sponsored by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). His photographs are featured in private collections in Paris, New York, and San Francisco. In this interview with Photoshop.com, he shares feelings about photography and his creative process.
Photoshop.com: What piece of equipment can’t you live without and why?
Kento Mizuno: Besides my Nikon D300 and my computer, I wouldn't be able to live without any of my f1.4 lenses.
Photoshop.com: What role does Adobe® Photoshop® software play in your photography?
Kento Mizuno: I want as much control over any given photograph as possible, whether it’s destined for Facebook or a studio wall. This is why I choose Photoshop as the final stage any of my photos go through before reaching the eyes of others. I believe strongly in the integrity of a photograph and Photoshop provides me with the correct tools to maintain this, be it through levels, black and white conversion through channels, or through burning and dodging brushes.
Photoshop.com: How did you create the result in the silhouette photo on the ridge (Image 5)?
Kento Mizuno: I was near Pyramid Lake in Nevada when I took this picture, as part of a national high school scholarship with the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). I saw one of my fellow students climbing on this craggy hill and immediately switched from my wide angle to a telephoto. I snapped off two shots and this is the one that turned out. I wanted to convey a sense of adventure and independence in a simple abstract frame. My favorite thing about this photo is how the mountain seems to be a rip in a piece of paper. (Shot with a Canon 7D with a 70-200mm lens.)
Photoshop.com: Tell us about a favorite photo (yours or someone else’s) and what grabs you about it.
Kento Mizuno: One of my all time favorite images is Hiroshi Sugimoto’s image entitled Ligurian Sea taken in Saviore in 1982. This is the same image that U2 used for the cover for their album No Line On the Horizon. The beauty of the photo lies in its simplicity. This is what makes it for me, while embodying this simplicity, it is not a simple photo. Before seeing it, I never thought there could be so many tones of gray, and that gray could evoke such emotion and gravity. If you have a chance, I strongly urge you to look at his work.
Photoshop.com: How do you share your photography with clients, family, and friends?
Kento Mizuno: I share photography primarily through my liveBooks website, kentomizuno.com. This is how most clients contact me or first see my work. In terms of family and friends, like most teenagers in America, I share images through Facebook.
Photoshop.com: In general, during a session, how many pictures would you say you take to find the “right one?”
Kento Mizuno: About a hundred. Looking back at my older work, I would say it would take over 500 photos to find one I would consider passable. All my friends call me a perfectionist; I’m just trying to find the photo that best expresses my ideas and emotions. It’s like trying to choose words to express joy or sorrow, you have thousands of words available but only select two. As I am growing as a photographer, however, I find that it takes fewer and fewer shots to get the “right one.”
Photoshop.com: Are you a self-taught photographer or did you have a mentor or teachers that showed you the ropes?
Kento Mizuno: I’ve always been a self-taught photographer. I did intern with a National Geographic photographer during last summer. It was an incredible experience, I owe him a lot.
Photoshop.com: Describe what gives your photos a recognizable style.
Kento Mizuno: The style I have now is of simplicity – single light sources, clear subjects, strong lines. As I grow however, I would really like to develop and create more complex images, ones that I would be content looking at for a while. At present, I can barely look at more than one image of mine for more than a minute. Maybe that’s just my perfectionist self, cringing at any flaws I see. I am in awe of photographers such as A.K. Kimoto or Hiroshi Sugimoto whose photos I could look at for hours on end.
Photoshop.com: What make you choose to shoot something in black-and-white versus color?
Kento Mizuno: Well, as I shoot digital the choice of opting for black-and-white or color is something I do in editing. If I don’t think the color adds anything to the image, or is in the least bit distracting from a scene and the feeling it emanates, I convert the image to black-and-white using the plug-in Silver Efex Pro.
Photoshop.com: At what point did you evolve from a person who takes photos to being a photographer?
Kento Mizuno: From the moment I realized that it’s a language.
Photoshop.com: Was there a defining moment when you knew that it was time to take pictures professionally or was it a gradual transition?
Kento Mizuno: If anything it would be a transition. But for me, photography is all about the love of taking pictures and expressing myself so I never really thought much about becoming a professional, just about making beautiful images. I am blessed, though, for my art is self sufficient due to jobs I have been given.
Photoshop.com: Tell us about any other creative mediums you work in; are there any other areas you wish to explore and have not yet?
Kento Mizuno: Well, I’ve been a guitarist for almost a decade now (sounds weird saying that as a teenager) but besides that photography is my main artistic and emotional outlet. I know the industry is changing and shifting to one with more of an emphasis on things like video, but regardless I am in love with photography and plan to stay with it.
As a student, one area I really want to move into is war photojournalism. This is a long shot from what I do now, and can be considered drastic. But I want my photography to be a force for good and imagining a world without humanity calls me to action. I believe in the words of A.K. Kimoto when he said, “It was never about awards or anything like that. I thought it was about being out in the world, witnessing things that others don’t see, and sharing these stories with a larger audience. I always said that I do what I do because I only have two hands.”
Photoshop.com: What’s the very first picture you remember taking?
Kento Mizuno: Nothing glamorous; just simple panning shots of cars along the banks of the Seine in Paris. But it was enough to get me hooked. That evening made me realize that photography needn’t always be of smiling family portraits or pet pictures. It was a new language that I could go out, learn, and contribute too.
Photoshop.com: What artist(s)/photographer(s) do you admire?