GB Sports Photographer & The Panasonic LUMIX S1

Q&A With ePHOTOzine Member & Landscape Photographer Andy Gray

John Duder has been out shooting landscapes with site member Andy Gray and while he was out in the field, he thought he'd ask him a few questions about his kit, approach to photography and where he'd really like to capture photos.

|  Photographers
 Add Comment

Andy Gray adjusting the ball and socket head on his tripod. © John Duder

Andy Gray adjusting the ball and socket head on his tripod. © John Duder

 

Andy is a keen landscape photographer, known to ePHOTOzine members as Legend147. He agreed to meet me for an interview - and a day of photography - at the Roaches, near Leek in Staffordshire. A couple of minutes after we met up, he received an email telling him that his picture 'Holy Glow' had received the ePHOTOzine Photo of the Week award...

 

Curbar Edge on the day I happened to be there with my son – there’s not much of a view. © John Duder

Curbar Edge on the day I happened to be there with my son - there’s not much of a view. © John Duder

 

Clearly, Andy’s doing something right: my aim was to find out what he’s doing that most of the rest of us aren’t.

 

The expert view – Andy timed his visit to Curbar Edge for the view, rather than a convenient breakfast. © Andy Gray

The expert view - Andy timed his visit to Curbar Edge for the view, rather than a convenient breakfast. © Andy Gray

 

So, I asked him to tell me about his approach to landscape photography.

"I’m lucky to live where I do, on the edge of the Peak District, so I don’t have far to travel and geographically, I know the area quite well. I do a bit of reading and research on the location, and I follow the weather forecast reasonably closely. I will plan to go somewhere maybe a day before - I don’t think doing it a week before is a good approach because the conditions change. If you’re lucky enough to be flexible, quite last-minute like I am, then you can, hopefully, nail the shot that you want."

 

A view of the barn we searched out, once we’d actually located it. © Andy Gray

A view of the barn we searched out, once we’d actually located it. © Andy Gray

 

What’s your technical approach?

"My technique has come from years of reading and looking at other people’s photos - it gives you passion to go out and take your own. Not copying the way they do it, but taking inspiration from the areas that they go to. I will have an idea of the kind of photo I want to take, based on the weather that day. If there’s a good sunrise to be had, I’ll have a look at that, and I’m always a great believer in having a backup plan. If it’s overcast like today, we can adapt accordingly."

 

Ninety degrees round from the previous image the mood is very different. Processing also plays a part. © Andy Gray

Ninety degrees round from the previous image the mood is very different. Processing also plays a part. © Andy Gray

 

How about the camera work?

"I generally use a tripod, given that my shutter speeds are quite slow. I’m not extreme: most of the time the exposure is less than five seconds. I only use two filters: one is a polariser that I use in the autumn. I’ve found that using a polariser can make shots oversaturated, and modern processing means you can adjust the saturation anyway. I use it to take the glare off the water. The other filter I use is a 10-stop filter."

 

Although Andy uses a tripod a lot, it may be that spending time with someone who usually doesn’t carry one may have influenced him a little that day – and he took a number of pictures hand-held. © John Duder

Although Andy uses a tripod a lot, it may be that spending time with someone who usually doesn’t carry one may have influenced him a little that day - and he took a number of pictures hand-held. © John Duder

 

"Rather than using a graduated filter, which a lot of people do, I will find an exposure that captures both the highlights and the shadows. A lot of my shots are single exposures, and I occasionally take two shots and blend them, exposing one for the background and one for the foreground. You have to be careful, or the result looks a bit HDR – I’m not a big lover of HDR! I want to get a realistic shot, as I see it – not looking too artificial."

 

What lenses do you use – wide-angles or teles?

My lens arsenal is basically two lenses. Mostly a 16-35mm Canon f/2.8 Mark II, but I’ve just invested in a 28-300mm for picking out details, and you can still shoot at 28mm wide-angle! I don’t tend to use prime lenses very much, but I do have an old 50mm f/1.8 which I might resurrect.  It may help me concentrate on a smaller area.

 

Andy checking final details in live view, with the faithful 16-35mm lens on the camera. © John Duder

Andy checking final details in live view, with the faithful 16-35mm lens on the camera. © John Duder

 

So, you’re mostly a wide-angle photographer. It’s very seductive for landscape, to get it all in. But, what do you do so that it isn’t just a boring wide picture?

"What I will do is look at the light within a scene and where it’s falling – maybe the rocks in the foreground or the trees in the background and I will place that to give a leading line into the frame. To take today’s example of the wall where you had the barn in the distance and the wall leading into it. Placement of the objects is crucial. I’d also say that to create depth it’s important to create a bit of sharpness from the foreground through to the distance. I will, loosely, use the hyperfocal method of giving that image a bit of depth and sharpness. But that’s not the only way of doing it – you have to have a bit of luck from the light. Once I’m happy with what I’m taking as the foreground, I will then look at the middle ground, is there detail in the rolling hills in the background? Is that something I want to include or not? Today, we just had a blank sky, so the key interest was the building and the trees against the high toned background."

 

A brief touch of sunshine threatening to break through lifts the grass in Andy’s shot of the barn from below. © Andy Gray

A brief touch of sunshine threatening to break through lifts the grass in Andy’s shot of the barn from below. © Andy Gray

 

You mentioned to me while we were out that you often use the same couple of apertures – which and why?

"When I first started, the trend was for the landscape photographer to use the narrowest aperture, f/16 or f/22. Now, the quality of lenses you’ve got on the market, the sweet spot is around f/11 to f/16, and hyperfocal focussing allows front to back sharpness. You don’t just close down as far as you can because that compromises quality. I tend to use ISO 100 most of the time, occasionally 50 on a bright day."

 

What’s your style?

"I feel I’m quite adaptable to the scene I’m at: if I’m in the Arctic, for instance, I will try to introduce a feeling of isolation and cold using the right white balance. Minimalism is another approach I’m constantly seeking. I don’t like too much clutter in my pictures, so I’ll focus in on minimalistic objects.

 

Mist makes minimalism a good option – here, Andy has used careful choice of tones to make this shot all about the mass of the land contrasting with the tracery of the branches above. © Andy Gray

Mist makes minimalism a good option – here, Andy has used a careful choice of tones to make this shot all about the mass of the land contrasting with the tracery of the branches above. © Andy Gray

 

You read a lot about the fine art thing - and I don’t know what the true definition of that is. I do in the world of art, but... Some people call themselves fine art photographers; other people call themselves Andy Gray Photography. I wouldn’t call myself a fine artist, but if someone wants to call me a fine art photographer, then so be it."

 

Ansel Adams trained as a concert pianist, and knew the value of practice. He also said that the negative is the score, and the print is the performance.

Andy’s sunrise shot at Curbar Edge enhances the colours a little – the result is that he shares the wonderful feeling of being there and watching a real spectacle. Opposing the ball of the sun and the three or four trees on the right used the thirds: the bush and wall on the left anchor these in a triangle. © Andy Gray

Andy's sunrise shot at Curbar Edge enhances the colours a little – the result is that he shares the wonderful feeling of being there and watching a real spectacle. Opposing the ball of the sun and the three or four trees on the right used the thirds: the bush and wall on the left anchor these in a triangle. © Andy Gray

 

"That’s a very good point. I think you should get as much information as you can, and change very little afterwards. I use processing as a means of minor correction and possibly low-level enhancements, like making a sunrise sky just a little more vibrant. It’s a purely personal thing, but I’m definitely one who wants to do all the work in camera. I don’t want to be sat at the computer for five hours when I’ve only been in the field for one hour, and I don’t believe in hopping from one type of software to another. Most of what you want you can do in one single program.

I’m not a great fan of over sharpening in post processing. Images can look harsh and wooden otherwise. In fact, I often don’t sharpen at all. I think it’s more required for print output."

 

Andy’s shot of some damp rocks shows the epic possibilities of a rainy day in North Staffordshire… © Andy Gray

Andy's shot of some damp rocks shows the epic possibilities of a rainy day in North Staffordshire... © Andy Gray

 

What do you do if you lose motivation?

"If I have a period of busy time I may lose motivation, and the first thing I’ll do is look at magazines, at other people’s photography. I think there’s a lot to be said for firing up your motivation. I subscribe to Landscape Photography Magazine, which I find quite inspirational. Ephotozine is my number one site, really, and you get some good feedback on there."

 

How do you balance technical excellence and creativity?

"Technically, I’m quite strong: creatively, I could do a lot better. Creativity is a continuous journey – you never stop. Recently, I’ve been trying different techniques, new creative approaches. If you’re in a wooded area with bluebells in spring, for instance, it’s very easy just to get your wideangle lens out and take the whole scene. I’m trying to move away from that, home in on details in the landscape. And you read about people putting Vaseline on a filter for the blurred look – that’s one thing. I want to try and explore that area a bit more."

 

My general view includes a tree in the bottom left corner. Andy decided we should stroll down the road to get a better view – see the next picture down! © John Duder

My general view includes a tree in the bottom left corner. Andy decided we should stroll down the road to get a better view – see the next picture down! © John Duder

 

Your pictures often make me wish I was there - is that a good reaction, for you?

"I try! One of my aims is to make you feel as if you are there, to capture the scene as I saw it. If I’ve achieved that, I’m doing something right!"

 

Andy’s view of the same tree, pushing the tones for drama. Don’t you wish you’d been there with us? © Andy Gray

Andy’s view of the same tree, pushing the tones for drama. Don’t you wish you’d been there with us? © Andy Gray

 

Is there a place that you’d really like to go to take landscape pictures?

"Somewhere like Patagonia – I know it’s one of those places that’s still relatively unspoiled. It’s very similar to Iceland, which is one of my favourite places. I do like winter landscapes, dramatic scenery and mountains in winter conditions."

 

Best advice for a novice landscaper?

"It’s not down to the equipment – it’s your vision. You don’t have to spend a lot of money – you can get some really decent secondhand cameras nowadays. I would also encourage people who are taking landscape photography seriously not necessarily to go with the wideangle, but to practice homing your vision into a smaller area, so when you do go to the wideangle you’re very much more aware of the constituents of the scene. Get used to looking at the detail of what’s immediately around you rather than taking the peripheral vision. That’s a good bit of advice, I’d say."

 

Leading lines – wall and trees in the mist. © Andy Gray

Leading lines – wall and trees in the mist. © Andy Gray

 

All the good pictures copyright Andy Gray.

 

About Author: John Duder 

John Duder has been an amateur photographer for fifty years, which surprises him, as he still reckons he’s 17.

Over the last year, he’s been writing the odd article for ePHOTOzine, as well as being a member of the Critique Team. He’s also been running occasional lighting workshops and providing one-to-one photographic tuition.

He remains addicted to cameras, lenses, and film.

Support this site by shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, Save 10% with Eversure Insurance.
*It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.

Other articles you might find interesting...

The Stylish Art Of Photography - David Thorpe
Nikon Photographers Explore The Power Of Light In Wedding Photography
The Camera That I Waited 50 Years To Own!
John Duder Talks To Photojournalist and ePz Member Phil Taylor
Top Tips On Composition & Decluttering Images
John Duder Chats With ePHOTOzine Member Mistere
New Year's Resolutions For Photographers
Key Tips For Aspiring Photographers

Comments


BobinAus Plus
4 2 10 Australia
8 Jan 2019 4:43AM
Many thanks, Andy and John, for putting together an interesting and entertaining article. Although books, magazines, blogs, etc are of course informative, I found it particularly enlightening to read about the general creative philosophy and the technical approach adopted by a photographer whose work is at least somewhat familiar. This is an exercise worth repeating with other E'zine members who work with different styles and subject matter. Regards, Bob

Join ePHOTOzine for free and remove these adverts.

8 Jan 2019 8:18AM

Quote:This is an exercise worth repeating with other E'zine members


We're glad you said that as we agree. Smile
mex 11 27 3 United Kingdom
8 Jan 2019 9:03AM
Thanks Andy & John, very good article.
Phil.
dudler Plus
16 951 1521 England
8 Jan 2019 12:35PM
And Nikita and I are hatching a plan or two...
8 Jan 2019 12:52PM
Thanks for this informative & inspiring article John & Andy.Smile
9 Jan 2019 5:16PM
Well done Andy, didn't know I had been with such a professional earlier this year. Ha Ha seriously very well done on your photograph of the week and the interview.
mistere Plus
6 4 3 England
27 Jan 2019 5:45PM

Quote:And Nikita and I are hatching a plan or two...


Really? SmileSmile

Another interesting and informative article John. Thanks to both of you for
taking the time to help enlighten and encourage us all.
I do enjoy landscape photography, I just need to practice more.
I liked the Ansel Adams quote "the negative is the score, and the print is the performance."

Dave.
dudler Plus
16 951 1521 England
27 Jan 2019 10:56PM
Really, Dave...

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.