Happy Spring

Welcome to atlas! We are busy exploring and working on new profiles of wonderfully talented photographers from around the world who inspire and empower us. So please check back with us soon.  In the meantime, we hope you will enjoy this gorgeous image of the Pacific Ocean, one of many breathtaking images from one of our all-time favorite Photographers of the Week, Andrew Gold!

Andrew Gold: Chasing Waves

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Andrew Gold is a San Francisco based photographer with experience in digital and traditional methods of photography. He is a master at capturing spectacular and magnificent images of the ocean, which inspires him to wake at sunrise to witness. Andrew’s works have been exhibited at Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco and may also be found in residential high-rises around town. He teaches darkroom photography and printing at Rayko and also serves as mentor at First Exposures, a local, nationally-recognized youth mentoring program that makes a difference in the lives of underserved Bay Area youth.  This week Andrew speaks to atlas about how he got his start in photography, his deep passion for the ocean, and how photography changed his perspective on what is important in life.

The majority of your photography involves the ocean. What about the ocean appeals to you?

Andrew Gold: On a more superficial level, the ocean is beautiful. It morphs into formidable shapes and textures and reflects light in ways that respond amazingly to photography. That is the answer I tell people I don’t know that well or are satisfied with a light but tangible answer.

The truth is that at my core, I am a scared, nervous, and anxious person. But when I’m in or around large bodies of water (this doesn’t work in a sink or tub), I feel a range of emotions that immediately snap me out of my fearful state. I feel free. I feel spacious. I feel connected to something greater than me. And being in San Francisco where the swell can get to be 20-25 ft, I am constantly in awe and humbled by its power. It is something so amazing to me that I would cancel any and all plans to wake up at sunrise and go witness time and time again.

The ocean can often be unpredictable and challenging to photograph. What is your approach to shooting the ocean?

It is definitely true — the ocean can be very unpredictable. I first found it to be quite challenging.  But, over time, I started to realize its consistent inconsistency.  Instead of projecting what I wanted to happen on any given day I began to leave all expectations at the door and simply be open to what ways I can make compelling image.  I think a lot of the images I make that fall flat are ones I made on days where I had plan for how a certain day of shooting was supposed to go.

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Some of your ocean photography was recently exhibited at Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco. What did you want your viewers would take away from your work?

Ultimately, through the images I show, I hope to recreate the sense of awe and wonder I experienced as I originally made the image.  Some of the moments I have witnessed as I have been photographing have been truly extraordinary. To be able to capture them and bring to the attention of people who may not have experienced something like that is truly an honor.

Additionally, all of my work is analog.  I use a manual film camera and make my prints in a color darkroom.  So, even though there is an intensity and power to some my images, making them required an incredible amount of patience, timing, and stillness. I hope that viewers of my work find that same sense of quiet that I needed to evoke during my process.

Tell us a bit more about these gorgeous ocean images here. 

The top image is great example of the unpredictability of the photographing the ocean. The majority of film I have from that day is not particularly visually stimulating.  But, two consecutive frames on one roll of film, capture this five minute period where the tide was just right, the wind was blowing steadily offshore, and the light was hitting the water just beautifully. This particular image does not really show the scale, but this was not a small wave by any means. It always amazes me gentle and soft something with so much power and ferocity can have.

About the second image above, as I mentioned before, there are many images of mine that have a certain intensity to them, through the power of the wave, the vibrancy of color, etc. But, I have also been experimenting with creating images that still have enough umph on their own, but evoke a greater sense of quiet in the viewer.  I find these images have their own power through subtlety. The second image above is inspired by a painter Claudio Bravo. He paints objects like tissue paper or wrapping paper that appear almost three dimensional. I like the play of navigating between 2-D and 3-D in a 2-D image.

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This image above and the one directly below are similar to one another in that they both highlight this really unique, fleeting moment that happens as waves break during sunset (or sunrise depending on the coast).  For only a second or two water will reflect the rays of the sun with this bright, vividly golden color.  It happens so quickly that it is only through a still image that we can see and appreciate the beauty of the moment.  It’s just too fast to register in our system.  Personally, I love the idea of taking a moment that holds little importance in reality and giving it a new level of significance as an image.

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Finally, the last image at the end is probably the most significant in terms of the origin of this project. Prior to that day, I had been photographing the ocean with some frequency but in a different way. It was really the first day I started to separate from a more traditional landscape to just focus on the texture, movement and light reflecting on the ocean.  As I peered into the viewfinder I felt as if I was onto something, but it did not sink in until I received the film back. This particular roll was shot on slide film.  Seeing the entire roll of film illuminate on the light table was a truly magical experience.  After seeing the results of shooting that day (two years ago now), I felt a fire in me to experiment with capturing the ocean in as many ways and at as many places I could.

How did you get started in photography?

For me, there really was not anything initially cathartic about picking up a camera. Since as young as I can remember, I loved messing around with point and shoots and disposable cameras. I liked documenting places I’d go to, liked having photos of friends, girlfriends, pets etc. I would take way more pictures than other people I knew, but never really thought much of it.

My apathy had little to do with photography, though. Until a few years ago, I was pretty much completely consumed by my image, status, materialism and ways to get ahead in life. Basically, I thought more money equaled more happiness and was always focused on the next thing I needed to do achieve that. It is ironic the one thing I’d naturally do without thinking or analyzing was capture a moment to savor an experience. It is like my upbringing, surroundings, conditioning were all telling me to act a certain way but my subconscious kept alive how I really wanted to exist.

If you could go on a photo shoot with any photographer (living or deceased), who would it be?

Growing up, Andreas Gursky was one of the first photographers whose work I really resonated with.  As I look at his pieces now at SFMOMA, I am still inspired by them.  It would be great to see him at work.

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You are actively involved with an organization called First Exposures in San Francisco. Can you tell us about First Exposures and how you got involved?

First Exposures is great. It is a one-on-one photo mentoring program that teaches at risk youth both analog and digital photography.  It is a great opportunity to give back and also get more connected into the photo scene in San Francisco.  I originally got involved through my neighbor who is also a photographer.

Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Andrew!

For more information about Andrew, visit his website.  All images © Andrew Gold.

Warren Keelan: Master of the Ocean

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Warren Keelan is a seascape and ocean photographer based in New South Wales, Australia. Initially drawn to music, Warren taught himself how to play and compose music for the guitar and then went on tour for the next decade. Lucky for us, Warren changed gears, picked up a camera and never looked back. As reflected in these gorgeous images, Warren has an incredible gift for capturing the magnificence and power of the moving ocean. Today he is a highly respected and successful photographer. He has won prestigious international photography awards, including International Photographer of the Year, International Landscape Photo of the Year, International Monochrome Award, and Sienna International Photography Award to name a few.  In 2013, Warren opened his first photography gallery in Wollongong, New South Wales where he showcases and sells his works. This week atlas speaks to Warren about why the ocean resonates with him, his approach to ocean photography, and which artists inspire him.

How did you first become interested in photography?

Warren Keelan: I played around with 35mm color and black & white film units over a decade ago but it was not until I purchased my first digital SLR in 2010 did I really see the potential in using the camera as a tool to create pictures. I first began shooting landscape style images of the coast and sea and soon realized I wanted more of a challenge — thinking it would be more personally rewarding to create landscapes from within the ocean itself. I have been shooting on average two to three days per week for the past five years and I am still striving to find unique perspectives of the sea and its inhabitants.

Are you self-taught or do you have a formal education in photography?

As with anything I have done in the art realm, I have really just taught myself along the way. I spent over a decade as a touring musician after teaching myself the basics of the guitar, creating sounds and composing music that I wanted to hear. This might sound strange and somewhat ignorant, but the more I learned about the technical aspects of playing, the more I seemed to lose the mystery of what I was hearing especially from my favorite bands and musicians. As with photography I just saw the camera as a tool to be creative — in this case, with digital and printable artwork. I never learned the technical aspects of say composition, exposure, processing etc but once you understand light and how the camera interprets photons, you can pretty much do anything. I guess you just need an active and vivid imagination.

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You shoot seascapes and oceans exclusively. What initially drew you in to capturing the water? Did you shoot other genres before focusing on seascapes and the ocean?

I have spent the majority of my life in and around the ocean. I have a great appreciation and respect for this natural element and find everything about it and its inhabitants extremely fascinating. I guess the main reason that much of my work revolves around the sea is that it is constantly changing, unpredictable and both dangerous and beautiful all at once. I’ve dabbled in a few different genres including traditional landscapes and portraits etc before delving into what I find challenges me the most; and that is the ocean.

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All of your images are masterfully composed. What is your approach to photography?

A percentage of my work has been conceived prior to heading out into the ocean and a percentage of which just occurred randomly in the moment. I generally have an idea of what I want to create days or even weeks prior to producing an image I feel represents what I hoped to achieve. However, I am mostly dealing with an element that is unpredictable by nature and I am forced to work hard to make a successful image. So the reward is always greater when it happens. An example of this is my image titled ‘Silver Helix,’ an underwater shot of a rolling wave also known as a vortex. I had an idea of how to capture this scene but found it incredibly challenging as these shapes and patterns only occur for a second or two. At the time, I was only shooting with a camera that had a shutter speed of three frames per second. You can imagine how I felt when I looked in my view finder to see the image I had in my mind before swimming out. I feel a great image is one that leaves you wondering.

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What challenges do you face photographing the ocean (i.e., waves) as opposed to photographing people or landscape?

The sea is full of inherent dangers and obstacles that increase the challenge of making ocean images. Avoiding large waves, hard and sharp reef, rips and currents and the aquatic nasties that inhabit the water that constantly play on your mind. I guess with people you can communicate with and control lighting, landscapes you can move about and revisit locations to find the best lighting and compositions. However, with water you literally have no control. You can do your best to position yourself by swimming around, but you are always at the mercy of the sea. The challenge is what I love most about photographing the ocean.

What kind of camera and gear do you use?

I am currently using Canon 5DMK3’s with Canon L series lenses including a 70-200mm IS II 2.8, 24-70mm 2.8, 16-35mm 2.8 along with a Canon 50mm 1.4 and 15mm 2.8 Fisheye lenses. My cameras, lenses, and flash units are all protected with Aquatech Water Housings while shooting in the sea.

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Are there any photographers whose work inspire you? If so, who?

I follow the work of quite a few artists but if I had to narrow it down to photography I would have to say the work of Ted Grambeau, David Doubilet, Jon Frank, Trent Mitchell, Luke Shadbolt, Steve Wall, Phil Thurston, Steen Barnes, Dylan Robinson, and Matt Smith to name a few. I could go into the many reasons these humans inspire me but you just have to look at their pictures to see why.

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You have won numerous international awards for your photography and are well known the world over. How do you stay on top of your game?

I have been extremely fortunate to have had my ocean images recognized and awarded by judges in international photography platforms. It’s really humbling when your peers are seeing your work and feel it worthy of a place in a competition. I know it is all subjective but it is still nice just the same. From what I have learned in my short time behind a lens you just have to follow your instinct and break out of your comfort zone in order to progress as an artist.

For more information about Warren, visit his website.  All images © Warren Keelan.