Travel Photographer Feature: Dr. M Robert Ito

  By Evelyn Drake

When asked what he loves most about photography, travel photographer Dr. M Robert Ito referred to a quote by the writer-photographer, Ralph Hattersley: 

“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.” 

Robert enjoys photography as a means of seeing events, places and people in a way that has meaning to him, unfettered by demands of editors, art directors and others that may have a different agenda, and to be able share his interpretation of the world that he sees with others. He said, “friends say that I am happiest when I am out exploring and shooting images.” I think many of us can relate to that. 

I asked Robert what inspired his approach to travel photography. He said, “I have always had an interest in photography from an early childhood. I loved walking around with an old box camera with no film and only a small reflex viewfinder that allowed isolating a small window on the world. When I became a university professor, I was able to travel to conferences all over the world and this whetted my interest in seeing the world not as a conventional, arm-chair tourist but as a traveler seeking to understand cultures and places.  The combination of business and pleasure trips has allowed me to visit and photograph on all seven continents, including Antarctica, and a diversity of subjects, from people and places to abstracts.”

His most memorable photographic experience was during a trip to Antarctica led by a zoologist to photograph and study the lives and behaviours of the penguins and other wildlife in the harshest of environments.  This trip enhanced his appreciation of the behaviour (culture) of wildlife, and in turn how different people’s cultures respond to their environment, not only the physical environment but the relationship environment.

If he was to go back and photograph just one more place, he would go back to Bhutan. “Bhutan is one of the most isolated and least developed countries in the world – a country where well-being is measured in terms of happiness rather that GDP as in other countries. TV and the Internet were banned until 1999 and so the people were spared the notions of envy and greed that is prevalent in the rest of the world.   It is only in the last 10 years that Internet and TV have become reasonably widely available. It would be most interesting to see how the Internet, TV and cellphones have altered the culture and well-being of the country.

This interpreted photograph of a rock wall mural in Bhutan is one of Robert’s favourite images. “The mural itself is someone else’s work of art; the challenge was to interpret the image in a unique and creative way.  It just so happened that the rising sun lit the Buddha-like face and I decided to try a staccato zoom motion. Two things happened. One was that the zoom causes a ray-like image emanating from the face and the pauses in the zoom created rings which helps to lead one to the all-important face.”

If he were to go back in time to when he first started out in photography, his tip to himself would be to “develop your own vision.  While you can learn from the works of others, try not to copy their style.”

What does Robert Carry in his Camera Bag:

Robert is currently a dedicated Sony user. He always packs his Sony A7R II body, and at least one other Alpha body from his collection. He is somewhat of a collector of Sony bodies and has two converted infrared cameras. One is standard, and one is super-colour. He packs a variety of lenses, filters, accessories and more. Robert also recently acquired a DJI Mavic Pro drone, and is looking forward to exploring aerial photography. “A ground level vantage point is often limiting in some types of photography.  The hovering capability of many drones allows panoramas, HDR photography and access to interesting vantage points.”  The strangest non-photo related items that he brings with him are his gaitorwraps which he uses to keep snow, sand, dirt and mosquito bites off his legs.

To view more of Dr. M Robert Ito’s photography visit: http://www.izentient-photography.com

Evelyn Drake

Evelyn Drake

Evelyn Drake has been in the camera business since 2004. She has been involved in every aspect of The Camera Store's operations with a focus on marketing and event-based initiatives and recently began co-hosting our YouTube channel The Camera Store TV.