Q & A with Landscape Photographer Ted Gore

Ted Gore has a keen eye for capturing dramatic landscape images. We had him talk a little about his creative process and expound on some helpful tips. Hopefully you find something worth noting to help you in your continual endeavor to perfect your craft. 

How did you come to find yourself as a photographer? 

I've dabbled with photography for many years, and use it sporadically for my job as a motion graphic designer in Los Angeles. My passion for landscape photography didn't really kick into high gear until I went on a cruise with family to Alaska. I bought some better gear for that trip because I knew I wanted to get some decent images while there. I started researching landscape photography to learn more about it, quickly became addicted, and since then, it's been full sprint mode trying to become the best photographer I can be.

What is it that draws you to landscape photography?

I've had a deep love for the outdoors since I was in college when I started backpacking with my roommates. I've been on many back country adventures, but had never been into shooting photography of these places I was going. Once I started taking photographs while in the outdoors, I was hooked because I could bring back this 'prize' from my efforts, something tangible, not just a memory. I really enjoy the 'game' of trying to find a great comp, and of course trying to best predict what the weather will do to get great light. I also really enjoy the processing aspect of landscape photography. Lastly, I love the people. There is a great community of landscape photographers scattered around the world, and I've made some pretty good friends, who I share a common interest with. 

What are three of the most important things you have learned from your experiences?

First would be avoiding tunnel vision, which I still struggle with, and may always. It can be difficult to go to a location that gets photographed often, and not get fixated on trying to shoot the same thing that others do instead of trying to see it with fresh eyes. Along the same lines, when at your location, always look where you don't really expect a shot to be. Get on the ground, get up high. Looks like there's not a shot over there? Go over there anyway. You never know. 

Second is giving myself enough time to scout the location and settle on a composition so that I can prepare all of my equipment to capture everything I need. Often times I haven't given myself enough time, and end up scrambling, running around looking for a composition while the light is at its best. I've lost several potentially great shots because of that. 

Third is to be patient when you finish processing a shot. Don't rush to throw it out to the world for all to see. I usually put a shot away for awhile after I think it's done, because usually, when I look at it again a day later, something stands out that I wasn't catching before. Sometimes I've even decided to completely start my processing over from the beginning, and it's resulted in a better final product. 

Who have you looked to for inspiration? Why?

I'm pretty caught up in the modern era of landscape photography, I love how the boundaries are being pushed, and the limitations of cameras are really becoming a thing of the past. I believe Marc Adamus is leading the charge in that respect, and has probably had the biggest impact on my own work. He is easily the most influential landscape photographer of this day and age. I learned of his work shortly after getting interested in landscape, and have had the opportunity to attend a couple of his workshops, and also shoot with him as a friend. I've really learned how to seek out the atypical and unexpected when looking at a potential shot because of his approach. His drive to get to the places he gets, as often as he does, is also really inspirational. 

Some other names whose work I really enjoy and am influenced by would be Chip Phillips, for the shear beauty he can bring out of an image, Floris Van Breugel for his genius, classical, yet modern compositional work, and Ryan Dyar for his post processing ingenuity.

Where is your favorite location to shoot?

That's hard to answer because I don't really have one place that is my favorite. I still have so many places I want to explore! Being that I live in Los Angeles, I do have easy access to the Eastern Sierra, which I really love. There aren't many places that have the amount of diverse landscape that area has, so I really enjoy going to that area, especially in the winter. The sierras are covered in snow, and the temperatures in death valley are pleasant. I've also spent a fair amount of time in the hawaiian islands, and well, I can't really complain shooting there. 

What is the most difficult aspect of landscape photography for you?

That would be dealing with the elements while trying to capture multiple exposures to compensate for the limitations of a camera. For instance, if I am shooting a seascape, and I am working a composition that requires the lens be fairly close to the foreground subject, AND I'm shooting into the sun, AND I'm trying to capture water movement… all while the light is quickly coming and going… it can get really hectic. I've been in situations where the camera is on the tripod, with the strap around my neck(to make sure I don't drop the camera in the water), I'm crouched down in the water, I have a trigger in one hand, a lens cloth in the other, while holding a lens cap in my mouth with my teeth. I'm having to capture a focus stack, continually having to wipe spray off my lens, and block the sun with my lens cap to eliminate flare, and then capture several exposures of the sky to get all the dynamic range I need for later blending… yeah, I'm exhausted just writing it! 

How To Stand Out As A Landscape Photographer

We welcome this guest post from accomplished landscape photographer and Gura Gear Pro Team member, Robert Rodriguez Jr

It’s a crowded field when it comes to landscape and nature photography, and it seems everyone is making better images with better gear every day. So how do you stand out from the crowd? What can you do to make your photography more personal and unique, and less like everything else that’s out there online?

Now you may be saying to yourself I’m not really interested in standing out, or comparing myself to others. I photograph for myself and and that’s enough to make me happy. Fair enough, but I would argue that the fact that you’re reading this blog, and probably others like it suggests you are interested in improving your photography. There must be someone you show your work to on a regular basis, whether that’s your loved ones or close friends. If it stands out, they’ll notice and let you know, and that’s sure to be a great feeling after the long hours you put in outside.

Photography, like most other art forms, is built upon what has come before, so we’re always contrasting and comparing our efforts and expectations. It’s human nature to compare your images to others—that’s how we improve.

So with that said, here are five ways to stand out as a landscape photographer, to your family, friends, or the world at large.

1. Shoot familiar landscapes- Become intimately familiar with your subject, and visit the same locations as much as possible. Even when I travel, I will often focus in on one area to the exclusion of others, so that I can really get beyond the obvious compositions and start to learn what really makes the location inspiring and worth sharing. If you’re not moved enough to return again and again (especially when it’s physically difficult), then you’ll probably have a tough time making an image that stands out.

2. Emphasize emotion and story instead of location– So often landscape photographers focus on location, location, location. Great for real estate, but no so effective for images that have something to say. The best images do not show the viewer where the image was taken, they show what the photographer felt about that location, and that will always make an image memorable. Once you adopt this approach, you’ll see creative possibilities in any location, including your own neck of the woods. After all, how often can you travel to exotic locations? Why put the camera away in the meantime?

3. Study all forms of art- It’s so easy to fall into the habit of just looking at photography for ideas and inspiration, and especially contemporary photography. But what you photograph and how you photograph it comes from your individual perspective, how you see and experience the world. That is influenced by everything you come into contact with. Study the masters of photography. Study painting. Read great novels. Find artwork that inspires you, and draw on that to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Photographing a beautiful landscape is not enough. Sharing what you thought about that landscape is much better. By exposing yourself to other art, you’ll develop a much better sense of how others did and continue to do the same, and grow your visual and artistic vocabulary.

4. Show only your very best work– Learn to ruthlessly edit your work. Quantity is not the goal, quality and value is. When the images you show truly reflect your vision, then the criticisms won’t bother you as much. This takes time and experience, but it will give you valuable confidence. It will teach you that everyone has a different way of seeing, and none is better or worse than the other. That does not exclude you from technical or compositional issues however, these are always open to improvement and we should listen to others we trust. But in the end, share the images you absolutely stand behind. Exceptional photographers stand out because they’re not afraid to take risks and be bold. You don’t need lots of images for that, just the right images.

5. Shoot less, look more– Minor White said, “We photograph something for two reasons: for what it is, and for what else it is.” Those who have taken my workshops know I stress restraint—in other words, wait until you are truly inspired before you start shooting. Wait until you see and feel that “something else” that Minor talks about, and I guarantee you it will show in your work. Instead of thinking “what can I shoot.“ think ”what can I say.”

Some may think that buying the latest gear, or learning the latest techniques in Photoshop and Lightroom can have an equally positive result on your work. That may be true on individual images in the short term, but great photographers are respected and admired for a body of work that exhibits a *personal vision.*  My own experience over the years as a landsdcape photographer and teacher has shown me that a commitment to expressing what lies inside all of us as creative human beings is the only thing that can make a difference.

“A good photograph is one that communicate a fact, touches the heart, leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.” - Irving Penn