Yet another year has come to its end and what a year it has been for photography. It’s been an absolute pleasure enjoying the work of photographers from all around and I want to give a big thank you to everyone who’s shared their work throughout the year.
There’s one photographer in particular who’s stood out in my eyes in 2018. A photographer who’s had a huge improvement to his images and has really begun to find his style and place in landscape photography, which is why he’s selected as 2018’s Photographer of the Year. Please join me in congratulating Norwegian photographer Hans Gunnar Aslaksen for this acheivment. I hope you enjoy this interview and the images that follow along:
Thank you for taking the time for this interview and congratulations on being our Photographer of the Year 2018! Can you start by telling the readers a little about yourself and how you got started with photography?
Thank you so much for choosing me as Photographer of the year! That was quite a surprise I must admit and I am so honored.
My name is Hans Gunnar Aslaksen and I am 48 years old. I live in Larvik, a small town on the coast of southern Norway. I am happily married and have two adorable kids. In my daily job, I work as a graphic designer, which has been a great advantage for my photography.
I began getting into landscape photography about three years ago, and I must say that I have really found my self in this category. I have always enjoyed the outdoors; hiking, tenting, fishing and just chill out with friends and family. I bought the Fujifilm XT-10 to have a small camera with me to document my outdoor trips. It did not take long before I was spending hours on YouTube, trying to learn the basics of manual settings and stumbled over the channel of Thomas Heaton. He sure knows how to make landscape photography interesting.
After a trip to Vøringsfossen in Norway, a massive waterfall with a 180 meters drop, I was totally hooked. I felt the connection to nature was so much stronger through the camera. That place made a big impression on me. After that experience, I was all in.
I shot mostly locally, but I am really drawn to explore new places. I visited Lofoten with some friends last autumn and that place really blew my mind. I will return for sure.
The majority of your imagery takes advantage of extreme wide-angle compositions. What is it about getting close to the foreground that attracts you?
I think the type of nearby locations shaped my way of shooting. There are some great spots for seascape photography not far from where I live. The coast here is quite flat and there can be a lack of strong points of interest. In these conditions, a strong foreground is key to get an image with a strong impact.
There are no grand vistas here and the scenes are quite small. I quickly realized that to get a compelling image I had to get really low and close to the foreground. I aimed for strong leading elements that could draw the viewers eye through the image. The wide angle also stretches out the scenes and creates depth.
I shoot with Fujifilm XT-2 and my most used lens is the 10-24 mm, preferably at 10 mm (equivalent to about 15 mm full frame). So I guess you can say that the local spots shaped my style of photography. I also find the more intimate landscape photography very compelling, especially scenes from the forest. So maybe that will be my next challenge.
You’ve got good control of colors in your images. Can you take us through some of the process involved in developing these and the theory (if any) behind it?
I must admit that I find working with colors quite challenging, so I am happy to hear that. It is always a struggle.
I try to simplify the images as most as I can. I am a firm believer in that less is more in landscape photography. I find complementary colors very compelling and very often I aim for two main colors in my images. I like to do some split toning to keep the shadows cool and the brighter parts of the image warm to get good separation. I also try to tweak nearby colors to match the dominating colors in the image so they don’t distract.
I like to keep things as simple as possible. I am an educated designer so I know the basics of color theory and that has been a big advantage for my color work. Based on that I just eyeball it to my liking.
Are there any particular things that you’ve done to improve your photography during the past years?
I always learn something when I am out taking photographs. It does not have to be big things but small improvements. I guess I am also good at learning from my mistakes. I can in hindsight see what I did wrong and I try to be aware of that and try not to repeat my mistakes.
One of the best ways to improve is to let other photographers give you feedback on your work. Preferably someone that is better than you, someone you trust, and someone that can give you constructive feedback on the things you need to improve.
I have also been out a lot more than when I first started. I think its as simple as that. The more you are out photographing – the better you get. Going out with other photographers is also a great way to learn and to keep your motivation on top. I have been lucky enough to meet likeminded people close to where I live that I do regular trips with.
How big of a role does post-processing play in your photography? Are there any specific tools you prefer using?
Post processing plays a big part in my photography. Despite being a designer I was really lousy at Photoshop when I started out. So I soon realized that I had to improve my post-processing skills to be able to take my images to where I wanted.
YouTube is a fantastic channel for seeking knowledge. I have also learned a lot from the tutorials from Ted Gore, Ryan Dyar and Alex Noriega.
Along the way, you will get your own style and your own way of editing. I think I am quite good at visualizing the final image. I know where I want to go with a certain image. So when I am out in the field I know how I will process the image to clarify my vision for that particular scene. I try to photograph with intent. I think that post-processing and the work in the field are strongly connected, not two different sports, they must aim for the same goal.
I use Lightroom for the basic adjustments and do the main post process work in Photoshop. I also find the NIK collection plugin useful for specific tasks.
Your main job is as a designer. How (if any) has this background impacted your photography?
I am an educated designer and I know the basics of composition, colorwork and storytelling. This has been a big advantage for me and I may have had an easier way for improvement than others who start out from scratch.
Design and photography are very closely related and I think my design work has improved as well because of my photography. So this goes both ways.
Part of the reason why your images feel dream-like is your use of slow shutter speeds. Do you think slowing down the shutter is an important part of creating more visually pleasing images?
It all depends on the scene and what you want to express. I try to analyze the scene and the conditions, and from that, I try to think; What technique can I use to clarify my vision for the final image?
That being said, I really like the dreamy look that can work so well with certain scenes, but it must not be forced. I try to play along with the cards I am dealt on that particular day. I live close to the coast and a lot of my images are seascapes, and I think that especially those scenes are more compelling with long shutter speeds.
A shutter speed of ¼ to 1 second can create beautiful wave motion that can work as leading lines, and make your composition stronger. You will also get a cleaner look and it simplifies the image. So I often end up with the dreamy feel in my images.
It is a visual expression that I personally am very fond of as well, so I use it as often as I think it suits the scene.
It’s been amazing to watch you develop your style during the past couple of years. What are your top 3 tips for others who wish to take their photography to the next level?
Thank you! First of all; Photograph with intent. If you have a clear goal in mind you will analyze the scene and do the right steps.
Let other photographers give you constructive feedback on your work. It is so easy to get blind to your own work, so letting someone with fresh eyes give you feedback is very valuable.
Go visit new places. I was on my first visit to Lofoten last autumn and learned a lot from that trip. A lot of mistakes in other words. It really fueled my passion for photography. If you just go to the same local spots and do the same compositions, you will probably end up a bit unmotivated. You need to challenge yourself.
What piece of equipment do you always have in your camera bag?
Since I learn from my mistakes I have always spare batteries and extra memory cards in the bag. And you can’t get enough wipes!
Where do you find inspiration to create new art? Are there any special resources, photographers or places you use as sources of inspiration?
I follow a lot of great photographers on social media that inspires me. I also got to their websites to check out their images in full size. It makes a much more visual impact than the Instagram cropped versions.
I also follow some great YouTubers like Thomas Heaton, Mads Peter Iversen, Nick Page and Adam Gibbs. I also have met up with some great local guys through Instagram, and hanging out with those guys keeps me on my toes and motivated.
I mostly visit local spots, but more and more I have visited new locations and I find that very inspirational. Its hard not to mention the trip to Lofoten when it comes to places that really do something to you. That place blew me away, and I will definitely return at some point. That being said I have visited some awesome places in Norway with spending a few hours in the car.
If money was no concern and you could leave to photograph any destination in the world. Where would it be?
I have not been around much so that would probably be a long trip. If money where of no concern I would gather some fellow photographers, and probably go to Patagonia or to some of the awesome locations in the US. I would not mind spending a month in Lofoten either.
Make sure to stop by Hans Gunnar’s website and Instagram to enjoy more of his work!