Interview with Lee Nordbye from Canada

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Lee Nordbye

is an award-winning landscape photographer, speaker, and teacher based in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada with multiple published works under his name. Lee is renowned for his bold style that captures the intimate details and nuances of the natural world. His elegant and soulful approach to photography reflects his passion for challenging himself, exploring wild places, and having fun along the way.

1Can you introduce yourself and talk about how you got into photography?

I am a recovering accountant who retired in 2016 after 26 years of number-crunching. I now dedicate my detail-oriented mind to scanning the landscape for elements often lost in grand, sweeping images. Growing up in Slave Lake, I explored Northern Alberta on motorised vehicles and had an early introduction to camping and hiking in the Rockies.

I have now shifted this focus to primarily exploring off the beaten track and using my two feet to get there. The result is the creation of a body of photographic work that showcases the landscapes and involves a process that is as rewarding creatively as it is to my passion and well-being.

I consider myself a lifelong student of the art of photography. My first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, came as a gift from my dad, who was an avid amateur. Through this gift and my dad's passion for photography, I was inspired to capture my own visual stories.

In 2015, I invested in workshops with some of Canada’s leading landscape photographers, and my own unique approach to photography emerged.

When I am not behind the lens, my interests include travel, curating bad dad jokes, learning to play guitar and French, training with hot yoga, hockey, and watching Formula 1 racing, bad sitcoms, and British crime dramas. In my ideal world, these are best enjoyed with dark chocolate and coffee.

2Where did you study photography?
I am primarily a self-taught photographer. My inspiration has come from studying photographers I admire. My skills have come mainly from the try, test, and repeat process. I have also gained inspiration and basic technical skills by attending photographic workshops and the odd night course.
3Do you remember your first shot? What was it?

Sadly, I do not remember the first shot as I was pretty young. However, I remember the first shot I took where I felt like an artist. Standing on the tundra at -50 c in Northern Canada, the aurora danced around us.

Inspired by the fishing boats moored for the winter in front of me, I set up to capture the beauty and mysticism of the aurora. This shot and running around in freezing temperatures during the rest of the workshop lit a fire in my belly to become a better student of the art of photography.

4What equipment do you use?

I currently use the Canon R5 mirrorless system with lenses spanning 15 to 35 to 100 to 500 and a 2x extender.

Before June 2021, I used Nikon's D800 and various lenses from 14 to 24 mm to 100 to 400 mm. The people I adventure with use the R5 system, motivating me to switch so we can share lenses and other gear, reducing the total weight and bulk each of us has to carry up the side of a mountain or across a glacier.

5What do you hope to achieve?
I hope to create art that inspires people to become inquisitive about the nuances and details of the natural world.
6What compliment inspired/touched you the most?

I can not recall a specific compliment that inspired me the most. What has inspired me tremendously and kept me going through the whole journey, hard times included, is finding a photographic community that is extremely supportive of everyone's artistic journey.

We live in a world where social media can be extremely negative and demoralising for so many different reasons. Finding an online and in-person community that can inspire and develop you in a positive yet constructive manner is so refreshing and rewarding.

7What inspires your unique storytelling?

For me, it is going out with the sole focus of having fun. I recall the first year I put the word professional in front of my name; I felt so much pressure every time I went out to capture an epic award-winning photograph, whether for myself or a client.

The pressure I put on myself and a few other things going on in my life at the time sent me down a dark path. Coming out of these challenging times, I decided to set out on each shot, whether for myself or a client, with the primary goal of having fun. With this mindset and a curious mind, nature generally delivers inspiring moments for me to capture.

8What THREE (3) words describe your photography style?
Inquisitive, fun and bold.
9Congratulations! As the winner of the London Photography Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?

First, thank you so much for the selection. I am very honoured to have won the London Photography Awards. The world is full of so many creative and talented artists. To be selected among these people as the winner of the awards is so exciting and humbling.

Confession time: I had to look at the website twice or thrice to ensure I read things correctly. I do not have a formal team that I work with. However, I have a small group of photographers I hang out with regularly who have had a tremendous impact on my journey through inspirational photography, informal mentorship and providing opportunities for me to excel.

Whether it has been some very busy, very highly rated professional photographers on the world scene or photographic friends, they all have taken the time to send me a kind note or a welcoming piece of feedback along the way, which has helped so much. Thank you to all those who have helped me along my way.

10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2024 London Photography Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

A mix of planning, serendipity, and anticipation is the best way to describe the process of capturing this moment. One of my favourite mountain activities is wild ice skating, which is skating on frozen lakes.

A friend and I were out scouting ice for upcoming adventures. When we reached the shoreline of a lake along the roadside, we discovered the ice was horrible for skating on.

A bit discouraged, we started to head back to the truck when we looked up to see the moon setting. We thought the moon might "summit" on the mountain peak to our right, so we ran back to the truck and grabbed our gear.

We set up and waited as the moon continued its journey down. The sun was rising; lookers left, so the light on the mountain was perfect. Sure enough, as luck would have, the moon set itself at the top of the mountain to create a Moon Summit.

11How has winning an award developed your career?
Affirmation that hard work will pay off so continue to work hard!
12Name 1-3 photographers who have inspired you.
Paul Zizka, Dave Brosha and Stasia Schmidt.
13What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out, by a mentor or your role model?
When at extremely popular locations, capture the iconic shot first then go after the way more creative and unique takes on the same site.
14What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer today?
Art is not created through rules or guidelines. Follow your heart and gut!
15What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Experiment, experiment, experiment. You will make mistakes, but those times you are successful are so rewarding.
16How do you stay in that space of being receptive to new information and knowledge?
Whether through my corporate or artistic careers, I have learned that listening to people with different ideas than yours and incorporating those relevant to your journey is a massive key to success.
17Anything else you would like to add to the interview?
As a friend reminds me often, through passion, patience and persistence, you can achieve your goals.

Winning Entry

Moon Summit | London Photography Awards

Excitement and gratefulness to nature were the themes of the day. With luck, nature gave Lee the perfect moment of the moon summiting the nearby mountain as the sun rose to cast its soft, warm light on the mountain. 

Lee Nordbye

Lee Nordbye is an award-winning landscape photographer, speaker, and teacher based in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada with multiple published works under his name. Lee is renowned for his bold style that captures the intimate details and nuances of the natural world. His elegant and soulful approach to photography reflects his passion for challenging himself, exploring wild places, and having fun along the way.


Interested in exploring more about the talented individuals that participated and won the London Photography Awards? View the complete list of winners here.