Our featured photographer, Matthew Sampson, is one talented guy. He's a Chicagoan transplanted in Southern California, a current PhD candidate (in what else but chemistry), my unofficial staff photographer and site developer, and far cleaner roommate and boyfriend. His spectacular California-inspired beach and mountain photography is most recently recognized by Minted and Domino Magazine, who feature Matt as their Artist of the Month for March.
We're thrilled to be able to offer a variety of his prints for sale exclusively through Sister Golden here.
Below we share a little about how he got his start, where he seeks inspiration, and what he loves the most about being behind the lens.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you? Where are you from? Where do you live now?
Hi! I’m a photographer, student, and chemist currently living in San Diego, CA. I’m in my fourth year of graduate school at the University of California, San Diego pursuing my PhD in Chemistry. I grew up in Lisle, IL (a suburb of Chicago) and attended college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I graduated undergrad in 2011 and moved to San Diego that Fall to start graduate school. After graduating from undergrad, I picked up photography as a hobby, and since moving to San Diego I’ve really enjoyed exploring the outdoors and capturing all of the beautiful scenes around me.
What led you to photography?
I’ve always enjoyed nature and the outdoors, so it was very natural to start capturing all of the adventures I went on. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my family’s lake house in Colorado, which is right on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park. It was there where I started to gain a great appreciation and connection to the outdoors. After spending a summer in the Bay Area of CA during undergrad with only an old point-and-shoot camera, I wanted to capture better photos, so I bought myself a Nikon DSLR the following summer.
What inspires the scenes you capture? What drives you to keep snapping shots?
I’m inspired everyday by the beauty of the natural scenes around me. There are so many things to do in the outdoors here – going to the beach to catch a sunset, taking an early morning hike for hazy views of the coast, or heading to the mountains for a camping trip. Living in Southern California, it’s pretty easy getting inspired by nature. I’m also constantly inspired by the talented photographers I follow on Instagram. There are some truly amazing people out there, and they drive me to try new techniques and help me become a better photographer.
When/where is your favorite time/place to photograph?
Definitely at either sunset or sunrise. When the sun is low in the sky, the lighting is perfect. If I had to pick one time, I’d say sunset though – I’m not the best at waking up early (that’s something I need to get better at). I really enjoy photographing at the beach, and that’s the most convenient place since I live just a few blocks from one. I just returned from my first trip to Yosemite National Park and absolutely loved photographing there. Standing in Yosemite Valley, huge granite cliffs, Sequoia trees, and rivers surround you – it’s incredible. That might be my new favorite place to photograph.
If you could travel anywhere with your camera, where would it be?
If I had to pick right now, I would say either Iceland or Norway. I follow a few photographers that have recently returned from trips to those places, and I’m amazed at what they captured. Specifically, I would love to spend some time on the coastal areas of Iceland and Norway. The rugged coastlines have such unique geography. Also, having the chance to see and photograph the Northern Lights would be a surreal experience.
What’s your favorite picture you’ve ever taken, why?
Probably a photograph I captured at Black’s Beach, called “Water Meets Earth” (Sister Golden actually sells it!). I took this photo the first time I visited Black’s Beach shortly after moving to CA, and it’s by far my favorite beach in San Diego. I think all of the elements in the photo go together perfectly. I put a unique twist on the image by making the beach black and white, giving the name of the beach a more apparent meaning. I have a huge 24x36 inch print of it hanging up in our apartment.
When you’re not shooting, what can we find you doing?
Graduate school keeps me pretty busy, spending the majority of my time in the lab. Grad school can be pretty stressful at times, so I just try to relax as much as possible. Brooke is great at helping me relax. When I’m not capturing photos or in lab, Brooke and I are together enjoying each other’s company and exploring San Diego. I also just started homebrewing beer, so I’ll be spending time on that in the future!
Is there another art form you’ve always wanted to dabble in?
For a while I’ve wanted to make small handcrafted leather goods, like wallets and iPhone cases. At one point, I had everything that I needed to get started in a shopping cart on Amazon, but ended up waiting on it. One of these days when I have more free time (like after grad school), I will try it out. Other than that, there are a bunch of photography techniques that I would like to try and get better at. I really enjoy watching time-lapse videos, and I think it would be very rewarding to make one.
Why do you think shopping small is so important? What sets your photography apart from what someone can buy at a department store?
I’ve always enjoyed shopping small, whether it’s at an online boutique like Sister Golden or at a local business. I feel like the creativity and personality of small businesses sets them apart from big online retailers or department stores. Supporting small businesses is more rewarding too because you feel like you have a more personal connection with the owners. The cool thing about photography, and really any art form, is that no two photographs are the same. I feel like my collection of photographs available on Sister Golden gives a unique, personal look at classic Southern California scenes.
What’s your favorite place to grab a cup of coffee in San Diego?
Easy question – Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. It’s a small, local coffee shop down the street from our apartment. Brooke and I go there at least once a week (usually two or three times though). Bird Rock’s owner travels all over the world to directly source all of their coffee beans from small, independent farmers. My favorite thing to get there is the cold brew coffee – it’s so intense and flavorful. I love heading to Bird Rock on a sunny weekend morning.