To the Horizon and Beyond with PJ Photo


Phil Koch is a landscape photographer from Wisconsin and another Fliiby user which work we loved so much we decided to ask him a few questions. 


posted by Fliiby • 7 months ago


Phil Koch is a landscape photographer from Wisconsin and another Fliiby user which work we loved so much we decided to ask him a few questions. When looking at Phil’s photos, one simply wants to go forward, because they all look as if the time has stopped in that very moment, and you’re there at the same spot where the photo has been created.

“Every photograph we take is potentially boundless in the stories they speak, the emotions they ignite and the worlds they weave together. As with music, each fundamentally flows from a common wellspring in which all souls partake. And through every piece of the mosaic, a single thread of truth is sewn within the fabric of our lives…that we are all a part of it and it is all a part of us.”

Hi, Phil! For the start, a simple one – why landscapes?

I was a wedding photography for 25 years and dabbled in indie filmmaking. I shot sports,plays, taught portraiture for 7 years and ran a dozen portrait studios. The one thing I could never get a handle on throughout my life was getting a good vertical landscape. About 6 years ago I stood at the edge of a random field with a new Canon 7d in my hands that I bought for shooting video and tried a new technique breaking one of the simplest rules of photography. Putting the horizon dead center. My goal was to try and get one good shot a day giving equal attention to both sky and earth and letting the sun paint the scene and have been doing the same style ever since.

Has photography influenced you as a person?

Photography has taught me to see beyond the frame. It has taught me to slow down and actually look at what is right in front of me that so many miss in a busy life. Today, as I read all the comments that are posted every day, I think Horizons are more of an influence on others than it is to me. One comment by Dillan a few days back……“You may not know but you’ve inspired many of us to get into photography by watching all your beautiful posts. Thank you and look forward to your next shoot.

Do you spend a significant amount of time in nature before taking a perfect shot?

I never look for a perfect shot because I do not believe there is such a thing. As I drive through the countryside I look for any one thing that may catch my eye. If the sky and lighting are right I then pull over and look at the scene as a whole while concentrating on that one thing that made me stop whether it was a flower, a fence post or interesting shadows. The whole process of taking the photo and then moving on may only take me a couple minutes now. Many have asked me which is your favorite Horizon? My answer is always….”The one I might shoot tomorrow”.

What was your hardest situation in the wild during a photoshoot?

Here is something I wrote a few years back…For only the third time I headed out with the cross I made a few years back from a tree I planted when my first son was born 25 years ago. When a limb died and I had cut it off, instead of burning it, I made a simple cross. This morning before sunrise I headed out hoping to find a simple field in which to stand and photograph it. Nothing fancy. After a short time driving, as the sun was about to hit the horizon I found one and began the walk in with my gear and the cross on my shoulder looking for a place to stand and balance it with two sticks I brought with me.

Within minutes, I was soaking wet with the heavy dew. Pricker/thorn bushes cut at my arms and legs. Spilt my coffee down one of my socks. I dropped the cross at least once as I fell into a small hidden ditch. Then the mosquitos attacked. Found myself cursing out loud as I got up and continued to a small spot among the thistles. The sky was just right, everything was glistening, I had to get the cross standing. Ya….now where did those two sticks go? Back in the ditch. Minutes later and wetter than wet, cold and sweating, I found that the first time was a charm to get the cross to stay put. Until I turned my back and it fell, hitting my shin. Ten tries later it stood. And stayed.

I got back to my camera, getting ready for the first burst of bracketed shots through the clouds of buzzing bugs. Pushed the exposure button……nothing. Card full. Back to the car for my backup. Slipped back into the ditch and landed in more thorny thistles. Cursed a few more times. Ok, all set to shoot. Lined up the first set of shots……and the cross falls over.

Frustrated as hell, sweat in my eyes, my skin itching, realising I also had knocked over my coffee and that was gone, I straightened up, looked up into the sky and yelled “REALLY GOD!!!!!? And in that eternally silent moment a deer stood up from the tall grass about 30 feet in front of me with the sun at her back glistening from the dew that covered everything. Funny how things come in focus so quickly. It was as if God yelled back “REALLY PHIL?” After a minute or so the deer walked away. I took a bunch of shots and when I was done I put the cross back on my shoulder and my camera around my neck and then turned back to the rising sun and said thank you.

What is your favorite thing about being a photographer?

The ability for me to share with people around the world how I see the earth through my eyes filled with light, life and color. The ability to bring a sliver of peace in a world that seems at times to be out of control.

Do any other artists influence your work? Musicians for example?

There is a local musician that composes beautiful pieces of music that I often listen to while I edit Horizons. His name is Ian Macfarlane. I have used a few of his pieces along with Horizons as slideshows and they fit perfectly together.

And there is a local writer, Kelly De Witt Schlicht, who has written dozens of poems that go with specific Horizons that someday I hope to put into a book. His music and her words are the things that have kept me going.

What’s worse – an empty battery or surprise visit from a bear?

Only real difference is that you run to a battery versus running from a bear. Oh, and a battery can’t eat you.

Which you find more interesting to shoot – summer or winter sceneries, and why?

Here in Wisconsin, we have all four seasons. I enjoy the diversity equally, each season having different tones, colors and mood.

Color or BW photography and why?

Right now I am in a “full color” time in my life though I have also done many black and whites along the way. Horizons is about Life, Light and Color. The way we saw the world as children before the blinders of adulthood turned on. So big and wonderful. Everything was new and exciting.

What are your tools of choice for taking the photos? (gear, lens, settings?)

I have one camera. A Canon 7d with a Canon 10-22mm lens. That is it. I shoot in manual, never in auto. My philosophy has always been to KISS it. Keep It Simple Stupid.

How much time do you spend editing your photos?

When I first started Horizons I would take a thousand shots a day to find one good one. Easy to do when you bracket every shot. I spent hours trying to find that shot and hours processing and posting. But now, with much practice and knowing what will look good I only take about 50 a day. I self-edit in the field. So now I work about 4 total hours a day from beginning to end, that being posting to my networks which in itself takes about an hour.

Tell us a bit about skull Bob. What’s his favorite food except green piss? :)

HA! Skull Bob? Last October I had my Halloween decorations out. I picked up that little skull and made a couple goofy videos and posted to Facebook. My dad, who doesn’t get out much anymore, said he really enjoyed seeing those little skits every day. So something that was supposed to be nothing has its own fan base now. I consider the videos to be an enjoyable distraction from real life where I can get away saying things without saying anything. Because it is not me talking, it is Skull Bob. And yes, his favorite food is Bacon.

I get thousands of comments on Horizons but this one I always remember as I am out in the fields at sunrise. I have learned my photography isn’t about me anymore or about how I feel. There is no longer any ego when the sun breaks the Horizon…….”Phil, I have to share this with you and your family. As you may know, the love of my life, my soul mate of many, many years, is dealing with Stage 4 Cancer of the head, neck, throat and tongue. We must go almost daily to the Cancer Clinic in Burlington for treatments. It is a very trying time in his life, and of course, in mine. Some good and some bad days for him, but we are confident, he will beat this.
When I finally take some time for myself and need to “go somewhere else”, I pull up your beautiful pictures, and just lose myself in them. Just looking at them, makes me feel so much better. Thank you”

Featured image Midsummer’s Dream by PJ Photo

Posted by Fliiby • 7 months ago