Q&A With ePHOTOzine Member & Landscape Photographer Andy Gray

Written by Gina Stephens

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


Andy may refer to is a keen landscape photographer, known to ePHOTOzine members as Key147. 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 sketch '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 prospect. © John Duder


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


The expert view – Andy timed his visit to Curbar Edge for the view, rather than a convenient breakfast. &reproduce; 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 Bill 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 hand down 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 auspicious 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, at intervals we’d actually located it. © Andy Gray


What’s your technical approach?

"My technique has come from years of pore over 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 desire have or having may refer to: the concept of ownership any concept of possession; see Possession (disambiguation) an English verb used: 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 evermore a great believer in having a backup plan. If it’s overcast like today, we can adapt accordingly."


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


How about the camera implement?

"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 secs. 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 set 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 assign 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. &duplication; John Duder

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"Rather than using a graduated filter, which a lot of people do, I will find an exposure that arrests 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 thorough, 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 &ndash dash is a punctuation mark that is similar in appearance to U+002D – HYPHEN-MINUS and U+2212 − MINUS SIGN, but differs from these; wide-angles or teles?

My lens arsenal is basically two lenses. Mostly a 16-35mm Canon f/2.8 Importance 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 authority 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


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 repetitious 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 behind the scenes 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 rigidity 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 middle of 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 be suffering with 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 mean 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 altered consciousness toned background."


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


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

"When I from the word go started, the trend was for the landscape landscape is the visible features of an area of land, its landforms, and how they integrate with natural or man-made features 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 finance 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 on the ball day."

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What’s your style?

"I feel I’m quite adaptable to the scene I’m at: if I’m in the Arctic, for happened, 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 identical to too much clutter in my pictures, so I’ll focus in on minimalistic objects.


Mist makes minimalism a good option – here, Andy has tempered to a careful choice of tones to make this shot all about the mass of the land contrasting with or WITH may refer to: Carl Johannes With (1877–1923), Danish doctor and arachnologist With (character), a character in D. N. Angel the tracery of the branches above. &likeness; 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 ask for themselves fine art photographers; other people call themselves Andy Gray Photography. I wouldn’t call myself a fine artist, but if someone deficiencies 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 No 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 parcels 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 fence on the left anchor these in a triangle. © Andy Gray


"That’s a very good point. I think you should get as much report 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 skimpy 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 simply 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 enormous 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 multifarious required for print output."


Andy's shot may refer to of some damp rocks shows the epic possibilities of a rainy day in North Staffordshire… &transcript; 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 journals, 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 suss out quite inspirational. Ephotozine is my number one site, really, and you get some good feedback on there."

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How do you balance technical excellence and creativity?

"Technically, I’m undoubtedly strong: creatively, I could do a lot better. Creativity is a continuous journey – you never stop. Recently, I’ve been trying different modes, 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 court 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 trickle 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 can left corner. Andy decided we should stroll down the road to get a better view – see the next picture down! © John Duder


Your representations 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 honesty!"


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


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

"Somewhere like Patagonia – I recall 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 in the mood for winter landscapes, dramatic scenery and mountains in winter conditions."


Best advice for a novice landscaper?

"It’s not down to the accoutrements – it’s your vision. You don’t have to spend a lot of money – you can get some really decent secondhand cameras nowadays. I pleasure 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 extent, 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 pretty than taking the peripheral vision. That’s a good bit of advice, I’d say."


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


All the good pictures copyright Andy Gray or gray (American English; see spelling differences) is an intermediate color between black and white.


About Author: John Duder 

John Duder has been an second-rate 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 vigorous as being a member of the Critique Team. He’s also been running occasional lighting workshops and providing one-to-one photographic tuition.

He corpses addicted to cameras, lenses, and film.


About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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