EWW: Steven, you describe yourself as a “Purist” with your work. Can you elaborate a little more on what this means to you?
Steven: For me I am quite particular that I will not crop my images from the original format. As well, I want the galleries to know that each image is one shot. I do not take multiple exposures for dynamic range, or combine images for DOF or to create panoramic images. I shoot with two cameras. A Horseman 617 panoramic camera with three Schneider lenses at focal length 72mm, 110mm and 180mm. and a Hasselblad H4D 50 with four lenses 28mm, 50mm, 100mm and 210mm. I am very careful to remove items from the scene before the image is taken, thus not having to rely on removing them in photoshop. In fact I have spent hours plucking grasses and tidying up a scene so there is less clutter. This is my philosophy and I do not try and stand on a soapbox and preach it, but that this is what I prefer to do. I just want the galleries that represent my work to know that I am making the images in the field and not on the computer. I even give seconds of the slides to the galleries so they can show their clients. I will use digital techniques to burn and dodge an image to try and represent what is in the slides.
EWW: If someone were asked to make a comment about your work as a whole, what do you think they would say?
Steven: I am told by gallery owners that clients feel an emotional connection when they see my work. A wow factor that resonates with them on a deep level and then the long lasting joy that they get from living with my work on their walls. Clients often tell me my work has a particular style and is recognizable to them. They also comment about the depth of field in my work. I try and shoot many of my landscapes using hyperfocal focus thus allowing both for the front tree trunks to be sharp as well as the ones deep in the forest. I like the 3D effect that this technique brings to a forest scene, shooting the Horseman at F32, while still obtaining very sharp images. This allows the viewer to feel like they are walking around the forest.
EWW: If you were asked today, to make a comment about your work as a whole, what would you say?
Steven: I try and produce work that is unique and has a long lasting appeal for a buyer for either their home or a corporate setting. The prints are like windows to the landscape. I print the images larger and want the viewer to feel like they are beside me when I took the picture. Currently, I am preparing an image for printing at 15ft by 39ft for a corporate installation. I used to travel and photograph iconic locations. I try not to spend my time in these locations now, where other photographers tend to gather, as I would rather spend my time in the forests. For the most part I see the landscape in the panoramic format. I prefer shooting in the autumn when the colours are rich and luminous. Also, I feel it is a challenge to shoot in the autumn, the combination of shooting to get the rich colour, stillness from wind and finding compositions in a cluttered forest. I enjoy the challenge.
EWW: If I were to walk into an exhibition, which included works of yours, would I immediately know which ones were yours and why?
Steven: My work would be very recognizable. The exhibit would have all panoramic images of stands of autumn trees. There would be no skies in the images and the compositions would be about the tree trunks and textures of the leaves and patterns of the trees. Hopefully, even though the forest scenes are cluttered I will have found a pattern in the forest to make the scene seem clean and simple. This is a difficult thing to achieve in a chaotic landscape. I wander around for days to find the right spot. When photographing with the panoramic camera, I primarily use the Schneider 180 mm viewfinder to identify the composition.
EWW: You label yourself as a “Fine Art Landscape Photographer.” What do you see as the difference between Photography and Fine Art Photography?
Steven: I believe the difference between Photography and Fine Art Photography comes down to a vision and working towards a goal around that vision. I know the type of image I want and have a direction towards a goal of producing work for the fine art market place. My work is sold in nine fine art galleries. I believe fine art photography should evoke emotion and intensity in the landscape. When I photograph my sole goal is for a fine art print for the wall of a corporate client or a customers home.
Moss and Ferns and Maples
EWW: You have a section in your portfolio, “The Abstract Landscape.” How would you describe abstract photography and how does that apply to your abstract work?
Steven: Abstract photography means a different thing to every artist. The abstract photography I do gives you glimpse of the world, the patterns of trees, light on the water, ripples on the ocean, somewhat like what dreams of nature are made of.
EWW: Do you use Film or Digital or both? Why?
Steven: I use both but my love is film. I like the process of working with it. Shooting the old fashion way, calculating exposure using a meter, and focusing on a ground glass back with a dark cape shading you slows you down and takes time. I get my best images when I slow down and really concentrate on what I am trying to capture. Generally, I shoot the panoramic camera first, then I explore the scene with the Hasselblad camera. If a client wants something smaller, I usually have something from the Hasselblad camera that can work. None of my images are cropped, they are all full frame as I shot them. Of course there are scenes where the panoramic camera just doesn’t work and I shoot with the Hasselblad instead. I always pre-visualise in the panoramic format. Before leaving on a shoot I have ideas of the images I want to capture. I have visited some of the forests eight years in a row now. I believe the viewfinder is essential for me in locating where I want to stand for my composition. I tend not to take a lot of images. I spend days, sometimes a week in one area, waiting for the light, the colour to turn in the forest, and most importantly stillness from the wind. The wind is a killer for long exposures in the forest. Some of the exposures reach two minutes, most are in the 8 to 30 second range. Getting sharp images is a challenge.
Bay of Fires
EWW: Steven, this is a two-part question.
1. What do you see as the major challenges today for photographers in terms of their talent and skills?
2. What do you see as the major challenges today for photographers in terms of marketing and promotion?
Steven: Photography is more competitive than ever because everyone is a photographer. In terms of marketing, a major issue is that there tends to be an initial perception that everything on the market is manipulated.
EWW: How are you managing these challenges?
Steven: I have tried to go to locations that are not as popular, trying to create images that are different and that invite the viewer to stay with the image for a long time. My images are about colour, but they also have a design element that makes the images eye catching. I have recently travelled to locations like Tasmania, Flinders Island, and Northern Patagonia and enjoy the remoteness and isolation that these landscapes give you.
EWW: Steven, just to wrap up this interview, is there anything else that you think would be important to know about you and your photography?
Steven: The hardest thing to get across to people is how hard I work to create the images and how many years in some cases have gone into each scene. All my images are planned. They do not happen by chance, these are not grab shots. I spend days in one location, working on the shot going back over and over again to try and get the right combination of light, stillness and composition. I have been covered with a hundred leeches in Tasmania, been stalked by a puma in Chile and been 10 yards from a grizzly bear in the Rockies. One does not get unique landscapes unless you immerse yourself in the landscape and have a true love for what you want from your photography.
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