IN­TER­VIEW

Pawel Zyg­munt ex­plains the artis­tic thought process be­hind his beau­ti­ful, sto­ry­book im­ages of land­scapes

Digital Photograper - - Contents -

Ex­pert land­scape photographer Pawel Zyg­munt re­veals his inspirations and the mes­sages he hopes to con­vey in his stunning im­agery

Land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy is a de­cep­tively dif­fi­cult genre to mas­ter. While there are po­ten­tial sub­jects ev­ery­where for any photographer to en­joy, ac­tu­ally craft­ing an ef­fec­tive and time­less com­po­si­tion is no easy task. Ex­pert land­scape photographer Pawel Zyg­munt (500px.com/pawelzyg­munt) has first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of all the ma­jor chal­lenges and has learned how best to over­come them.

WHAT GOT YOU STARTED IN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY? TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY CA­REER.

I al­ways dreamed of tak­ing photographs and my first fas­ci­na­tion was with black and white street pho­tog­ra­phy. That was 17 years ago, in Poland, in a time where there was no ac­cess to fast in­ter­net, to get all the in­for­ma­tion re­quired to even start learn­ing. I didn’t have much money to spend ei­ther, as I was at uni­ver­sity.

I re­mem­ber get­ting my first cam­era, which was a Soviet Union-man­u­fac­tured Zenit. I also bought black and white film for it with 12 frames to shoot. As I didn’t know any­thing about com­po­si­tion and light, I wasted that film and had only two photographs ex­posed more or less cor­rectly. That dis­cour­aged me for few years un­til my ac­cess to [train­ing ma­te­ri­als] be­came eas­ier. I tried again when I em­i­grated to Ire­land in 2005, and got my first dig­i­tal cam­era, a Nikon D200. I dis­cov­ered that trav­el­ling and land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy was my des­tiny.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE LAND­SCAPE SUB­JECTS AND WHY?

I don’t have a favourite land­scape sub­ject, but most of my shots are seascapes. This could very much be caused by the fact that I live on an is­land! I ab­so­lutely love places where the ocean meets with land, es­pe­cially Western and North­ern parts of Ire­land’s coast. From mas­sive sea stacks, sea caves and blow­holes to ripped cliffs or even moun­tains fall­ing into rough wa­ters; from waves crash­ing onto the cliffs or wash­ing stones on the beach, to calm turquoise wa­ters and calm bays – you find all of that in Ire­land, as well as beau­ti­ful moun­tains, lakes and places so se­cluded and rugged that you’ll for­get you are liv­ing in times of glob­al­i­sa­tion.

WHAT CAM­ERAS AND LENSES DO YOU USU­ALLY USE FOR YOUR PHO­TOG­RA­PHY?

I now use a Nikon D810 and I al­ways have two stan­dard land­scape lenses with me, which are a Nikkor 16-35mm f4 and Sigma 24-70mm f2.8. I am plan­ning to buy a Nikon 70-200mm f4 and Samyang 14mm f2.8 in the near fu­ture.

WHAT ARE YOU TRY­ING TO SAY WITH YOUR IM­AGES? ARE YOU TRY­ING TO TELL A STORY?

Since I mostly pho­to­graph land­scapes of Ire­land and Scot­land, my photographs are about the beauty of these two coun­tries. My mes­sage is clear – you have to visit these places to feel their power and you will never for­get the ex­pe­ri­ence. Light is the power in pho­tog­ra­phy and light in Ire­land and Scot­land can be amaz­ing, which is what I am try­ing to show.

HOW DO YOU DE­CIDE IF COLOUR OR BLACK AND WHITE WILL WORK BEST FOR AN IM­AGE?

I al­ways shoot in colour and then change into monochrome in post-pro­cess­ing. I pre­fer colour photographs how­ever and when out on lo­ca­tion, I can usu­ally pre­dict what will work bet­ter in black and white. It has to do with how much light is in the scene or what kind of weather I’ve got. For ex­am­ple when I get harsh morn­ing light or a fully over­cast, stormy sky I will quite of­ten de­cide to go for black and white.

WHAT CHAL­LENGES DO YOU FIND IN YOUR LINE OF WORK AND HOW DO YOU OVER­COME THESE?

Build­ing strong com­po­si­tions is still some­thing I am try­ing to im­prove. When

I’m out there I some­times strug­gle to find a de­cent frame and start pan­ick­ing right be­fore sun­rise or sun­set, afraid I won’t get any­thing. If I’m in a very good lo­ca­tion, I try to do too much, in­stead of fo­cus­ing on one par­tic­u­lar shot. While stress­ful, I’ve learned how to han­dle it bet­ter – I al­ready men­tioned that I al­ways have my main sub­ject in mind be­fore I go on lo­ca­tion, so all I have to find is some­thing in­ter­est­ing in the fore­ground.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE IM­AGE FROM THE SE­LEC­TION YOU SENT US AND WHY?

The stag im­age I pho­tographed on my re­cent trip to Scot­land. It was an ad­ven­ture to be so

“My mes­sage is clear – you have to visit these places to feel their power and you will never for­get the ex­pe­ri­ence”

close to a wild animal. It was so un­ex­pected – I was just pass­ing and as I don’t re­ally have a proper wildlife lens, I didn’t plan it at all. He was just sit­ting there and rest­ing when I got out of the ve­hi­cle. I slowly ap­proached it to a few me­tres and took a photo hand­held at 35mm. The deer com­poses so well into the beau­ti­ful Scot­tish High­land scenery and looks like he is watch­ing over his land.

IS THERE A LO­CA­TION YOU’D LOVE TO VISIT WITH YOUR CAM­ERA AND WHY?

I’d re­ally love to visit Ice­land and Nor­way one day, mainly be­cause I have never ex­pe­ri­enced an au­rora show. That def­i­nitely would be the main at­trac­tion, but Ice­land and Nor­way are also known for fan­tas­tic land­scapes. On my first trip I’d like to go to the most iconic lo­ca­tions and an­other trip would be to reach deeper.

WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE PHO­TOG­RA­PHERS NEW TO YOUR FAVOURITE GEN­RES?

Land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy can be a bit frus­trat­ing at the start but don’t get dis­cour­aged – it will all come with time. To start, get tips from other pho­tog­ra­phers, so­cial me­dia and YouTube. There is so much ma­te­rial that peo­ple can learn from and with such easy ac­cess to it, you can make very quick progress. Al­ways plan your trip by check­ing [ev­ery­thing from] weather, tides and wind speed to light di­rec­tion. If you come to the spot well pre­pared you min­imise your chance of fail­ure. En­joy dis­cov­er­ing new places and take pho­tog­ra­phy as an ex­tra to it.

WHAT IS NEXT? WHAT ARE YOUR PHO­TO­GRAPHIC AM­BI­TIONS FOR THE FU­TURE?

I’d love to try my­self in as­tropho­tog­ra­phy and be­cause it in­volves learn­ing new post­pro­cess­ing tech­niques, it could im­prove my edit­ing in gen­eral, help­ing me in pro­duc­ing bet­ter photographs.

It would be nice to get to know other places in Europe and maybe even on other con­ti­nents. The world is so beau­ti­ful and is just full of spec­tac­u­lar things, wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered.

Above top FINNICH GLEN When com­pos­ing his im­ages, Pawel looks for a strong fore­ground in­ter­est and builds his scen­ics from there Above SGURR NA STRI Pawel stresses the im­por­tance of iso­lat­ing an as­pect to fo­cus on, es­pe­cially when in a lo­ca­tion where...

Be­low MALIN HEAD The golden light and blurred wa­ter cre­ate a soft theme, which con­trasts with the sharp­ness of the Ir­ish coastal rock

Op­po­site CAVE KILLYBEGS The splash of strong colour and sense of scale in­tro­duced by in­clud­ing the hu­man fig­ure in this shot, cre­ate a photo with more depth and story

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