APUG FEATURED PORTFOLIO - an interview with Gavin Smith

Discussion in 'APUG Featured Portfolios Archive' started by Christopher Walrath, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    CHRISTOPHER WALRATH: Well, our current APUG Featured Portfolio belongs to Gavin Smith. You all know him as 'coigach'. So we're gonna sit down and have a small chat with Gavin. First off, Gavin, I would like to thank you for being with us and for sharing some beautiful photography with us. Well now, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself.

    GAVIN SMITH: I live in the Highlands of Scotland, having recently moved from Edinburgh. What makes me tick? Books, visual art, jazz, being around creative people, good food, coffee and malt whisky. But not all at once...

    CW: I should hope not. How about your brand of photography? I see you're a medium format shooter. I hate to make part of this look like a resume but I'm sure folks are curious to know what you shoot with and on.

    GS: I use a Pentax 67II as my main kit, with 55mm, 75mm, 105mm, 135 macro and 300mm lenses. I also use a Fotoman 617II with 150mm Caltar and, occasionally, a Fuji GA 645zi.

    I shoot b+w transparencies, all processed by dr5 lab. I love the extended tonal range of this process, and the luminous highlights of Ilford Delta 100, my main film choice. I’m a loyal dr5 user, and think both the quality and service is unrivalled.

    CW: Brilliant. Now it looks like by the photographs in your portfolio that you are not a static photographer. Do you hike out to a lot of your subjects?

    GS: My landscape photos of the Scottish Highlands often involve a fair amount of legwork, walking in to remote areas and mountains. I love being in wild places, the play of light is often amazing, and being there really puts life in perspective. I often return to places over and over in different light and times of the year to try and match the pictures I’ve visualised in my head.

    I was very ill with a neurological condition called Guillan Barre Syndrome about 6 years ago and was not able to walk properly, I never thought I’d be able to get amongst the mountains again. Thankfully health-wise, things picked up to a manageable level, but I’ve never lost the feeling of wonder at being able to get back out into wild places.

    I’ve been building up images I hope to get published as a book – I will submit a draft version to potential publishers in Spring ’11. I’m fascinated by how people make sense of landscape, and the relationship between people and place. I’ve matched my landscape photographs with c20th poetry which relates to the Scottish Highlands.

    Carrying medium format gear in the mountains is always a challenge however – you need to be determined to cart this stuff around. Either that, or be a few slices short of a loaf... ! I hope to get a Mamiya 7II just for mountain trips as this gives me the 6x7 format I love but a lot less weight than my Pentax 67II + 1 lens.

    CW: I'm very glad you're able to get back out and about and enjoy photography with some sembelence of before. You mention that you had picked up a Fotoman 617 a little over a year ago. Do you use it alot? If so, what draws you to the odd format?

    GS: It’s a great, well made camera, and the transparencies it produces are amazingly detailed. I had a bit of a learning curve learning to see in b+w letterbox but I love the format and am starting to get better at what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve found it difficult to do the 617 justice in scans for the web so I’ve not posted many to APUG.

    CW: I want to diverge from the norm here, if I may. So, you ready for a little fun?

    GS: Sounds good, fire away...

    CW: What's your favorite meal?

    GS: Too many things, I love good food and would find it hard to narrow things down. Ok ok, that’s a cop out so I’ll go for a nice haunch of rare venison, slow-cooked in red wine.

    CW: Wow, right up my alley, actually. What's your favorite movie?

    GS: Probably one of the Buster Keaton short films.

    CW: If you could be anything, what would you be?

    GS: A fly on the wall, but a special fly that could zip through time. I’d love to hover and find out the answers to things that have always puzzled me. Everything from key historical events through the centuries to how many socks my washing machine eats per week (see below).

    CW: Did you cry at your own wedding?

    GS: Certainly did – the best day of my life. A beautiful bride and a great ceilidh afterwards...!

    CW: Name three things in your sock drawer.

    GS: Some books (as a bookaholic, books get everwhere!), some maps, a hiking blister pack and some socks too. Although few matching pairs. I’m convinced our washing machine eats them.

    CW: If you could meet one person whom you have not yet met, who would it be and why?

    GS: I’m going to choose a fictional character - Jeeves. If he can get Bertie Wooster out of so many scrapes then I’m sure he’d be good to have around.

    CW: If you could pass along one piece of advice to our readers, what would it be?

    GS: Believe in what you do, work hard at it, be ruthless in editing your work to show your best, and have fun! I know that’s four pieces of advice, but...

    CW: Ah, who's counting. That's close enough. One more thing, Gavin. How can we find out more about your book? It's always good when APUGers get published and I am sure many of our fellow photographers here would appreciate the heads up.

    GS: I'll be sure to let people know how I get on in the APUG Forums.

    CW: Folks, please visit Gavin's portfolio through the link below. Some truly inspiring work, I must say. Gavin, thanks for taking the time to sit a spell and let us get to know you a little bit better.

    GS: Thank you, Chris.





    Gavin's Portfolio
     
  2. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    Chris, you forgot to ask him how he prints from black and white positives. Is he making negatives from the positives, and if so, why not just shoot negatives in the first place? It's lovely work.
     
  3. coigach

    coigach Subscriber

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    Hello Chazzy,

    Cheers for nice feedback on my photos. I really enjoyed doing the interview with Chris too.

    Re: the reversed question. I shoot positives because I like 'look' and the extra tonal range I get as compared to shooting the same films as negatives. They are metered and shot as transparencies, often at different speeds etc than they would be if shooting the same film as a traditional negative. As for prints, either Cibas or, outwith the scope of APUG, Lambda's.

    I'm always a little bemused when people query b+w positives - nobody says "just shoot colour negatives" to a colour transparency shooter. Colour transparencies have particular characteristics and qualities which is why some people choose to shoot them - the same applies to b+w transparencies too...:smile:.
     
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  4. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    Thanks for a great interview !

    I have always been a big fan of your work Gavin,
    your images have a sense of magic to them.

    John
     
  5. rorye

    rorye Subscriber

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    Yep, I'll agree with John on that one.
    Great to hear some inside scoop on a fellow member.
     
  6. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Yup. Feel free to ask Gavin questions directly as I am sure he is keeping a curious eye on this thread.
     
  7. Domenico Foschi

    Domenico Foschi Member

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    Congratulations, Gavin!
     
  8. Joe O'Brien

    Joe O'Brien Member

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    So since you process these as reversals do you do any editing to them prior to being posted on apug?
     
  9. coigach

    coigach Subscriber

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    The scans are matched as closely as possible to the original transparency, nothing more. No burning, dodging, etc. If it's not in the original positive, it isn't in the posted scan either...!

    Cheers,
    Gavin
     
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  10. Joe O'Brien

    Joe O'Brien Member

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    How do you nail the exposure so well? You get great ranges of tones and you keep highlight and shadow detail.
     
  11. coigach

    coigach Subscriber

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    Thanks for nice comments.

    I use the same techniques as folks would with colour transparencies - I use ND Grads for most shots other than macro. My Lee ND Grads get a lot of use, particularly the 0.9 (3 stop)....

    I usually spot meter for midtones and use the ND Grads to hold detail in the sky. I also often use Grads in combination with a yellow filter to boost contrast a little.

    I've used the same film for a long time (Ilford Delta 100, rated at 64) and have learned to judge how it handles most lighting situations.

    As I don't post-process with scans, I need to get things right 'in-camera', and have had many 'didn't-quite-get-things-right' rolls of film to learn from...! :smile:
     
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  12. Shadowtracker

    Shadowtracker Member

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    Gavin, those are great! And congratulations. Thanks for the interview too. The images are easy to look at, and my eyes just keep moving through them, again and again. The atmosphere you visually describe is something I aspire to (but have nothing to show right now), and reminds me of several places I have been. Good luck with the publication.
     
  13. coigach

    coigach Subscriber

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    Thanks for the kind words :smile: