I’m excited to share this month’s ‘Photographer of the Month’, Francesco Gola. His seascape photography is outstanding and well worth viewing. Enjoy this interview where you’ll get to know a bit more about Francesco and his photography.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself how you started with photography?
Hey, it’s a pleasure being here! My name is Francesco, I’m 37 years old and I love the sea. I believe that this is the best way to describe myself because, as you can easily notice, the sea is the main characters of all my works.
My adventure in photography started around twelve years ago when I bought a DSLR with my first paycheck. Immediately my inner voice and the desire to roam and capture beautiful landscapes became louder and louder. And then, I met the sea.
Seascape Photography is your main niche and one you excel in – what is it about seascapes that you find particularly interesting?
The love for seascapes started when I had to move to the marvelous Gulf of Poets in Italy due to my job. This happened around eight years ago. I can’t say exactly why I have a special feeling with the sea, also because I grew up in the dull of the plain. Nevertheless, every time I watch at the sea I get excited like a child. It is able to fascinate me, with its endless space, with its power during a storm, with its stillness during a summer sunset.
In front of the sea, everything is so tiny. So I try to capture its beauty with my images, to have the illusion that a small piece of it can live inside of me. But it is not only a matter of photography, it is more about feelings. A feeling that nothing else in the world can give to me.
A big portion of your portfolio is captured with the use of a slow shutter speed. Can you take us through some of your process in capturing such an image?
Yes, I’m definitely a slow shutter speed addicted. One of the main reasons is that it allows me to really enjoy the beauty of landscapes. During a 2 minutes exposures, for example, there is nothing else to do rather than to sit on a rock to enjoy what Mother Nature created, listening to some good music or, why not, drinking a glass of delicious Italian wine!
In any case, I put a lot of efforts into planning, so pressing the shutter button is really the last part of that process.
Everything for me starts identifying a shooting location, and I do that taking inspiration both from other photographers and also making digital scouting through Google Earth. Once the location is identified, I try to understand the best moment during the year is to visit it, considering both seasonal weather conditions, tides and the path of the sun. But when you’re out there is never as easy as expected: sometimes to get something from a location I need to spend days over days… that’s a part of the game that I really accept, and I think that thanks to that when you get the shot you were looking for, the rewarding experience is even greater.
What is it about long exposure photography that helps you convey a story through your images?
Well, for me photography was a way to escape from the frenzy of modern life, and so in the long exposure world, I found a perfect shelter. It’s like living in a parallel universe where Time and Silence are the main characters. With them I try to convey in my images this ethereal feeling, transforming every single picture into an hourglass.
For me, a long exposure is definitely not a representation of what we call reality, but more a vision of it through an emotion. So, in few words, I think that making visible what’s invisible is what helps me to convey a story.
How would you describe your photography?
In a word, meditative.
In my photography, there is no space for the rush, but just for slowing down everything and to study every detail. Well, I’m aware that this doesn’t let me publish images so often, but I really prefer quality over quantity.
I imagine filters are an important part of your workflow. Which filters do you have in your backpack and which do you use the most?
To create a Long Exposure is pretty easy: actually, the only thing you need to do is to find a way to extend the shutter speed of your camera. To do that, of course, you start from decreasing the ISO and closing the diaphragm, but at a certain point you understand that you need an extra help. For that reason, in my workflow filters are definitely mandatory.
The filters to extend the shutter speed are the ND filters, and among them, I’m using most the NiSi ND8 (3 stop), ND64 (6 stop) and the ND256 (8 stop). Whit these three filters I’m able to select accurately the shutter speed I desire.
Then the Graduated Neutral Density filters are needed to overcome the limitation of the dynamic range of the camera and these are needed either you’re a long exposure photographer or not.
As I’m a seascape photographer, my most used Graduated ND filters are the NiSi GND Medium 1.2 (4 stop) and the NiSi GND Hard (3 stop).
Finally, my favorite filter: the polarizer. With a polarizer, I can not only make more vibrant the colors in the scene but I can also control the reflections on the surface of the sea, and that’s why for me it’s a priceless allied.
What’s your best advice to someone who’s just getting started with seascape photography?
I think that the best way to approach seascape photography is with the right attitude more than with the right gear.
Seascapes could be a really frustrating experience because, as in any other landscape field, everything is decided by nature and not by you. It is really important that apart from learning the right techniques you learn that the greatest reward is to see what Mother Nature put in front of you, not the pictures you get. If you pin this idea in your mind, every great image you’ll capture will turn out even more beautiful as you’ll be able to put in it everything you felt while capturing it.
And never give up… for every 10 photography sessions you’ll maybe be able to publish just one image. But again: quality over quantity.
You say “… for me it’s difficult to think of a photograph if it’s not printed”. Why do you think it’s important for a photographer to print their work?
As I’m a “digital native”, when I started with photography I have not even considered the possibility to print a picture. After I had the possibility to look at some high end printed pictures, I reconsidered my position as I understood the incredible potential of prints: it can give back the tridimensional of the scene you captured.
Looking at an image behind a screen is great but having it in your hands is a completely different experience. Using the right paper, you can really emphasize the different characteristic of your style and image. For example, I love to print on cotton paper because it can extend even more the perception of long exposure of my pictures.
Luckily nowadays there are so many great labs outside, and if you decide to print by your own is really less expensive than you could imagine.
Printing for me is like to complete the natural circle of photography, and there is no single reason why you should not at least try it.
What’s one piece of equipment you always have with you when photographing?
A Nutella jar! 🙂