Aspiring filmmaker and photographer Austin Mackay (@austin.mackay) is making waves on Instagram with his colorful and dynamic portfolio of photos depicting life, landmarks and landscapes. A native of Winnipeg, Canada (which he describes as “extremely cold place during the winter, and absurdly hot during the summer”), Mackay cut his teeth making short films at age 8 on his parents’ digital camera. Now 21, he’s a fresh university graduate with a Business and Film degree, who dedicates his time to photography, filmmaking and travel.
We caught Austin on the road and chatted with him about his craft of photography and love of travel.
When did you first start pursuing photography, and what made you pick up that first camera?
I first started pursuing photography almost two years ago exactly. It was when I bought a new digital camera for filmmaking and went to Riding Mountain National Park to work for the summer, I realized I did not have a lot of time to make films, and therefore decided to try and create a story with a single image. I tried my hand at storytelling with pictures and in turn, it helped my storytelling capabilities immensely.
Your Instagram account boasts a diverse palette of locations, shapes and colors. What’s the one thing you love shooting the most?
My Instagram profile is full of different places, and although I do enjoy shooting landscapes, my favorite thing to shoot are people. There’s something intimate about one-on-one with a model. You are able to capture so many sides of one person and truly show the character they really are.
Tell us about the most popular photo in your collection.
The most popular photo I have ever taken is by far the winter cabin reflection at Lake Louise. I remember looking at this photo RAW file in my camera and thinking to myself, “this might be the best photo I’ve ever taken”.
And what’s your own personal favorite?
My personal favorite actually has not been released or shown to anyone yet, so I’ll give it to you first!
It was taken at this bridge in Germany, almost 3 hours outside of Berlin. I woke my friend up at 5:30am after a long night awake to get on a train and get to this bridge.
Once we saw it in person, we quickly realized that this place is even more spectacular in person than any picture could have ever captured it to be.
Of all the countries you’ve visited, what’s your favorite?
Switzerland, without any question. I have never visited a place so amazing. So lush, quiet, beautiful, peaceful and spectacular. I am in love with mountains, waterfalls, and fog. Switzerland is perfect because it has an immense amount of all three.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had while wandering the world?
I remember doing a solo road trip out to Banff and Jasper in November last year. I handed in my most recent assignment and took off the next morning for a week. It was the first time I ever traveled by myself and it most definitely will not be the last.
I remember doing so many winter hikes by myself. My most memorable moment from this was going to a spot called “The Edge of the World” in Jasper that only some locals knew about.
It took me an hour to find it but when I walked out to this spot, the snow started to fall lightly and quiet winds just took over my mind.
It was truly a euphoric moment. I remember just standing in silence for about 5 solid minutes before I even reached for my camera.
Whether it’s from a famous person or a fellow traveler, what’s a piece of profound wisdom you’ve heard or learned on the road, which has stuck with you?
I think it’s that someone told me that the age of 20 to 24 are some of the greatest moments of our lives that most people take for granted.
Now is the time to live life like you can’t any other time. It’s the only time in your life where having zero money or travelling endlessly for fun doesn’t matter at all to anyone; yet most people don’t do this.
Ever since I heard this, I have started to care less about money and care more about living.
What are your thoughts on selfie sticks?
Ya know… selfie sticks… I personally do not use them unless it’s on a GoPro. The only time I find it acceptable is if there is some sort of grand location behind the people. Otherwise, I do not think they are all that useful.
What’s your next big project, Austin?
I am off to Churchill in a few weeks with Travel Manitoba! I am super excited to go as I have never been. I am looking forward to it so much. I also plan to make another short film when I get back from my adventures this summer!
For our foodies, pick one restaurant in the world that’s made an impression on you.
To this day, I will always remember O’Noir in Montreal. I restaurant in a pitch black room where you eat in complete darkness and served by blind waiters. It was one of the coolest dining experiences I have ever had in my life and the food was amazing.
Follow Austin’s adventures on Instagram: @austin.mackay or Snapchat: austinmackay