Tell us a little about yourself (who you are, where you are based, what you shoot, etc.)
I’m an Oregon based full time photographer. I quit my job 20 years ago to follow my passion. Right now I’m shooting with Nikon D810.
Where did you grow up? Has your childhood affected your photography at all?
I grew up while my father was in the Navy. I travelled from coast to coast until I was in junior high school when our family returned to Oregon for good. Components and influences from my childhood definitely came together to form the direction of my life. My father enjoyed painting landscapes with acrylics. He would also draw a lot with pencil and paper which encouraged me to draw from a young age. He was also an avid outdoorsman. I spent a lot of my childhood hiking and camping. I enjoyed art class the best when in school and was named most talented in my senior year of high school. I’ve also had a camera since I was six years old. My parents bought me a Brownie Hawkeye camera and would allow me to have one roll of black and white film, 12 exposures, once a month. When I joined the Navy I learned how to develop my own black and white film. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, art and photography. All of these experiences have come together to make me and my photography who and what it is today.
How did you get into landscape photography?
I used to paint but was never really satisfied with the results. I also hike and always took a camera. Once I bought my first DSLR I put film photography away and concentrated on improving my digital work as an art form. I found photography much more satisfying.
What equipment do you prefer to use?
My favorite equipment is my Nikon D810 with my Nikkor 20mm lens and circular polarizer my RRS tripod and my Wiggy’s Waders… and my Jeep.
What does photography mean to you?
It may sound cliché, but photography is my life. It consumes most of my waking hours, and many of my dreams. I say that some people wake up in the morning and grab their pack of cigarettes. I wake up in the morning and grab my camera. :)
What do you wish to convey with your imagery? How do you make sure your images convey this properly?
It’s my goal to try to convey the emotions and feelings that I had when I was there at the scene. I can get emotional, at times, when I’m at an amazing location during incredible conditions. I keep my audience in mind while I’m there. I’m followed online by many people who are unable to go outdoors like they used to when they were young or healthy. Some of the correspondence that I receive makes me realize how lucky that I am to be able to do what I do and just how much that I do helps others.
What is your current favorite photograph? What do you like about it most?
My favorite photograph is typically replaced soon after my next trip or two. At this moment I have two that I’m particularly enamoured with. One is of high spring water at Panther Falls in Washington. I like it due to the unique conditions of high water and the angle of light at that moment. The second one is also a high water waterfall photo. It’s of Yocum Falls in the Mount Hood National Forest here in Oregon. The day that I was there the water was tainted by the tannen's of the forest to a brownish tea color. I was in the creek as the water rushed toward me. The flow of the water created an amazing foreground.
When traveling, is there anything you take with that is not necessarily photography related?
Probably the aforementioned Wiggy’s Waders. I love to get in the creek when I’m shooting. These waders are super lightweight and compact.
How do you recommend getting over G.A.S.? (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)
Put travel into your budget. I keep my gear minimal. As long as my gear isn’t holding back my work I’m happy with it. I use my money to travel as much as possible, even if it’s just a week long road trip. Spending money should always be prioritized. Travel, for me, comes before the latest model of camera.
How do you go about getting noticed?
Make the best photo that I possibly can, share it via social media along with a description that’s enlightening, instructional and/or entertaining to the viewer as well as one that makes the viewer/reader feel that they are gaining insight or information vicariously through your words and photos. Connections can be made. You gain “friends” and they feel an investment in you with the time that they spend with what you share with the world. You create a personal connection even if you may never meet. Interaction with your fans is critical in establishing this type of relationship. This is all wasted time though if you’re not creating imagery that makes people take notice. The quality of your work will be what you will be noticed for ultimately.
Do you feel social media has a positive or negative effect on (new) photographers? Please elaborate.
Social media is like a hammer. It can be used to build or destroy depending on how it’s used. The poison in social media, as in most aspects of life, is vanity as a motivation. The purpose of anything meaningful must be virtuous before it can be satisfying or rewarding. If a photographer is serious about building a business and not just posting selfies on Instagram they will realize how social media, when used properly, can benefit their business. In this day and age it’s not enough to simply make beautiful photos. One must maintain a narrative and the most effective way to do this is through social media. Even when you maintain your own website and blog you must use social media as a way of disseminating the information.
Do you believe there is a way for photographers to help the world become a better place? How so?
Of course, especially when you consider all genres and aspects of photography. Photojournalism is easy to put into this category when you understand how it can reveal the ugly face of social injustice. Landscape photography shows the beauty of the world. In the world of landscape photography the effect isn’t necessarily as wide sweeping as photojournalism. It usually affects people on an individual basis as opposed to en masse. I’ve had severely ill people contact me to tell me just how much my work means to them. That’s beautiful. Making people happy is a great way to make the world a better place.
Tell us about your photography techniques and the post processing of your photos.
I’m an old film photographer. I draw heavily on my experience and technique that I learned when I first started to learn photography. I’m less apt to push my processing into the realm of compositing, focus stacking or perspective blending, although those techniques have a place at times but for me it’s more of a challenge to try to get the shot the best that I can in camera. This also simplifies my processing workflow. I believe that the workflow starts in the field.
Post processing starts in Lightroom where I make my initial basic adjustments in raw conversion. In many cases this will be all that will need to be done, although I prefer to do my final formatting, sizing, noise reduction and sharpening in Photoshop for the purpose that the file will be used for (print or web display for instance). I will also use Photoshop in any kind of processing that would include more advanced techniques such as Orton effect, blending or luminosity adjustments or blending. I try my best to keep my processing formulaic, although it evolves as time passes, the process is more intentional and deliberate in its initial approach, each photo is unique in how it’s finished.
Is there any other form of art that interests you?
I have tried painting, drawing, carving wood and stone, but at this point in my life all I have time for is photography. I would love to be able to learn to play music, but it’s nothing that comes natural to me so I’d have to dedicate more time than I have to it. At this point in my life I will stick to Photography. I’m fortunate that it’s an art form that will always provide a challenge. There’s always something new to learn or to attempt to master.
If you could only take one more picture, what do you think it would be of? How would you begin to make that decision?
If I could take only one more it would be of my friends and family. Without my friends and my family I would have no reason to do what I do. I owe so much to those who have helped encourage and support me in my flight of fancy. Otherwise it would probably be a sunset at Midway Island. I lived there for two years when I was in the Navy and fell in love with the island. I’ve returned three times since then, which is not an easy thing to do as the island is closed to public visitation. That island means a lot to me.
If you enjoyed this interview with Gary, be sure to check out his website (www.gary-randall.com) for more of his beautiful work.