November 23rd 2012 by Andrew S Gibson
You have reached the archive of articles posted on my personal blog. This blog is no longer updated, but you can read my latest articles at my new website The Creative Photographer and find my photography ebooks at my new store.
Thanks for reading! Andrew.
This article is part of a series of interviews with long exposure photographers to celebrate the release of my ebook Slow. You can keep track of the interviews by clicking on the Long Exposure Photography Interviews link under Categories in the right-hand sidebar.
Jeff Gaydash is a fine art photographer and based in Michigan in the United States. As well as producing many beautiful and evocative images his expertise also extends to an area many photographers struggle to get to grips with – printing. He runs a fine art black and white printing service for photographers. You will find the details here.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?
I aspire to create work of high aesthetic value from both a creative and technical perspective. Conceptually, my intent is to create images that evoke a sense of time and place, often lost or forgotten. I tend toward strong, carefully calculated compositions and strive to create a sense of drama (or mood) through the use of various techniques and creative decisions. I am a proponent of the fine art print and see my work as tangible objects of beauty. The photographic image combined with the physical attributes of a print create a symbiotic relationship, culminating in the final expression of my artistic intention.
Name three photographers you like and why.
Well it’s difficult for me to narrow it down to three. Obviously there are the numerous classical photographic masters that I take much inspiration from; Edward Weston, Minor White, Frederick Evans, Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler are but a few.
Recently, I have been studying the work of Charles Grogg. Charles creates impeccably beautiful images and produces bodies of work with distinct conceptual themes. Having both a strong aesthetic and conceptual side to ones work is a trait that I admire. His latest work, “Cracked: The Art of Charles Grogg” is a limited edition book containing a series of original platinum/palladium prints along with a number of poems.
I came across the work of Mark Citret many years ago at a local exhibition and have been a fan ever since. Mark’s prints are beautifully crafted with such subtle tonality and exquisite detail. The soft glowing quality of light he captures is something I strive for in my own work.
The Starn Twins have long been at the top of my list. While they are quite a departure from what I am currently doing with photography, I continue to revisit their work for inspiration. They challenge the very definition of photography itself. The most compelling aspect of the Starn Twins work is how they go beyond the traditional photographic boundaries. In some ways they aren’t photographers but artists who use photographic imagery to create multi-dimensional art.
Long exposure photography – what’s the attraction and why do you do it?
I am fascinated by the concept of time and believe it’s one of the reasons I am so fascinated with photography. Photography’s intrinsic nature is that of preserving a very brief moment in time. A long exposure tends to portray the passing of time more powerfully than the traditional short exposure. A theme in my work is natures domination over mankind and how it ultimately prevails over man’s efforts to control it. The passage of time is a fundamental aspect of this process and using long exposures is a technique that helps translate that idea into a still image.
Long exposures are also one way of emphasising the inherent characteristics of the photographic process, something I believe we have lost in the digital era. Traditional photographic processes have many qualities that are unmistakably photographic in nature. Exposure time, aperture, selective focus, film properties and darkroom processes all play an important role in the making of a photograph. Digital photography has it’s own unique markers but they aren’t necessarily photographic. I try to maintain an awareness of these photographic characteristics and incorporate them into my images where applicable.
Why black and white? What’s the appeal?
That’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly, but I think it comes back to the characteristics of the photographic process itself. I remember my first experiences developing black and white film and making those first prints in the darkroom. It was such a magical process for me. I didn’t have the capabilities of making colour prints so I naturally fell in love with the black and white image. This was solidified in the following years when I began studying the history of photography and the work of the early photographic masters.
Photography is a very literal art form, especially colour images that represent true to life colour. Black and white is much more metaphorical and further removed from reality. I have personally found that working in monochrome provides me a greater sense of artistic license, more room for creative interpretation in the process of creating an image.
There is a ‘dark’ feel to some of your photos? Is this deliberate? What attracts you to this look?
Yes, I generally prefer darker images and love capturing exquisite shadow details and deep, rich blacks. Low-key images tend to have a greater sense of mood to them which is something I attempt to create in much of my imagery. That’s not to say that every image I create has a dark and ominous feel. My interest lies in exploring subtle tonal relationships as opposed to higher contrast scenes with pure blacks and whites. The real magic lies in what happens between pure black and total white.
There is a sense of space in your images. And time, solitude, loneliness. Are these conscious themes you are trying to express in your work?
I think those attributes are a result of both conscious and subconscious decisions made throughout the image making process. A general theme of my landscape work over the past few years is centred on the idea of man vs. nature and that nature will ultimately prevail over man’s destructive efforts. The images attempt to take the viewer to a time and place where nature has been victorious over man. Man made objects (I call them ‘artifakts’) are at the whim of nature’s indefensible powers and over time will be returned back to their original natural state.
The image “XO2STRL” (above) is a prime example of this idea. The image depicts what appears to be the remains of a cement drainage outlet into a large body of water. The outlet has fallen into disrepair and much of it has disintegrated from years of abuse by the pounding surf. What is left is covered in graffiti and severely eroded, yet the opening of the outlet still stands in the form of an arch, appearing similar to an ancient ruin. Apparently this was a favourite spot for local photographers as they named the arch “The TV.” A few months ago I was contacted by one of these locals who told me that “The TV” had eroded further and fallen into the water. A blog post about this revealed a sense of sadness that this photographic gem no longer existed and people were posting their favourite images of the location as a sort of final farewell.
You use a tilt-shift lens for some of your work. What’s the appeal of this lens? What does it do that your other lenses can’t?
I shoot almost exclusively with tilt-shift lenses. Prior to adopting a purely digital workflow I shot mostly with large format view cameras. Tilt-shift lenses allow greater control of perspective and the ability to shift the plane of focus, similar to that of a view camera. You can use the Scheimpflug principle just as you can with a view camera to achieve greater focus at larger apertures or deliberately throw areas out of focus for a desired effect. This “tilt/shift’ effect has become quite popular and often mimicked in post processing. It can sometimes be seen as a gimmicky effect but can be a successful technique if used correctly. As I mentioned earlier, selective focus is one of the inherent characteristics of photography, and it can be used to make an image appear more photographic in nature.
Another technique I use quite often with tilt-shift lenses is stitching multiple frames together to achieve higher resolutions than are possible with a single exposure. I often compose in a square format and cropping square severely reduces the resolution of the file. It is possible to use the full frame width in a square image by making two or more exposures (shifting up then down) and then stitching them together before applying a square crop. This is essential for maintaining very high resolutions suitable for large prints.
What is your approach to long exposure photography? Do you plan the shoot first, and try to take an image that matches your vision? Or do you go out without a fixed idea, and respond to what you find?
It really depends on the individual situation, but usually I have a pretty good idea of what I am looking to accomplish. I tend to do quite a bit of research and if possible will revisit a location several times until I am able to get the desired results. Many times I will find a location that looks promising then realise once I arrive that my original concept is just not working very well. Often times I will stumble upon something totally unexpected that ends up being better than the one I originally planned for. Generally I make a point to visit a location with a plan but at the same time keep an open mind as to other possibilities that may arise.
How important is light in your imagery? What types of light do you prefer for long exposure photography?
I believe light quality is one of the most important aspects of photography. Photography literally means to “draw with light”. In landscape photography, dealing with the ever changing lighting conditions can be very frustrating and requires patience, planning and little luck.
I prefer soft, diffuse light. You will often find me shooting in inclement weather conditions such as rain, high winds or heavy snow. I find that I capture the most dramatic images in less than pleasant conditions. I’ll be crouched over my camera on a beach in high winds and rain, and someone will approach me and say, “You should have been here yesterday, the weather was beautiful and the beach was filled with people.” I’ll take the clouds, wind and rain any day over blue skies and crowds of people.
There is a strong design element in your compositions – an awareness of geometry, graphic design and negative space. Do you agree? How would you sum up your approach to composition?
I definitely strive for strong compositions and think it makes for more interesting images. I am a big proponent of “Previsualisation” a concept introduced by Ansel Adams where the photographer attempts to see the subject in front of them as the final print in their mind’s eye. I find the most successful photographs I have made are images where I was able to successfully previsualise them. It can take years to cultivate this practice, but as you become better at it you will find yourself making less unsuccessful exposures and taking a higher percentage of quality images.
I take a reductive approach to photographing a scene, trying to find the best possible angle to isolate the subject and enhance its presence. This requires slowing down and paying close attention to the subject and its relationship with its surrounding environment. In some instances moving the camera a mere inch can dramatically effect the overall composition and it is important to be mindful of those relationships in order to best create compelling compositions.
Jeff lives in Detroit, Michigan where he runs Jeff Gaydash Studios, LLC. a digital print studio specialising in black & white fine art printing. For more information, please visit jeffgaydash.com or jeffgaydashstudios.com.
Here are some more of Jeff’s photos:
If you’d like to learn more about long exposure photography, my ebook Slow takes you through the creative possibilities of using slow shutter speeds, from blurring motion with a shutter speed of 1/30 second all the way to long exposure techniques using shutter speeds of five minutes or longer.
All photos in this interview are protected by copyright. Please contact the photographer for permission to use in any way.