About me, Steve Gascoigne

How long have you been a photographer?

Ever since I can remember! I got my first camera at 11, (a Kodak Discman!), and my first 'proper' camera a few years later - a Praktica MTL50 SLR. Having taken GCSE and 'A' Level photography at school I was lucky enough to have a brief stint in photo-journalism, before working at one of the major professional photo labs in the country, Colab, for nearly a decade (now One Vision Imaging). On moving to the Isle of Wight in 2000 I spent some time building my landscape portfolio, before approaching various galleries to stock my work, and attending the bustling Art & Craft show circuit on the Island. In 2013 I finally opened my own gallery, 'Available Light Gallery & Gifts' in Newport, Isle of Wight and couldn't be happier!

Do you use film or digital?

When I first started my career in photography there wasn't really a choice (although when I left school in 1991 Photoshop was already a year old!), and so I spent 10 years taking, processing and printing film. When I moved to the Island in 2000 digital cameras were still in their infancy, quality wise, but I didn't have access to the processing equipment I had at Colab, so I combined the two. I shot my landscape images on film, then scanned in the negatives and printed them digitally. In 2003 I had the good fortune to test a Fuji S2 Pro digital SLR, and the quality blew me away. I've been digital ever since.

What equipment do you use?

One of the main reasons I got into photography as a kid was it combined my two passions - art and gadgets! And so I have had rather a few cameras in my time ;-) In no particular order I have owned film and digital cameras from Minolta, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus,Fuji, Canon and Mamiya. But currently I shoot with a Nikon Z7ii and a Fuji X-T5, along with a selection of lenses from Nikon, Zeiss, Samyang, Fuji and Sigma ranging from 12mm to 600mm. I use an RRS tripod and head, Urth filters and Lowepro bags.

Do you manipulate/enhance/play around with your images?

Coming from a film processing and darkroom background, I've always found this a bit of an odd question! All images ever taken by anyone,at any time in history, be it film or digital, have been manipulated in some way. The very act of taking four dimensional reality (length, width, depth & time) and reproducing it onto a piece of two dimensional paper is the height of manipulation. Strangely this question was rarely asked of photographers in the pre-digital era, so I can only assume it has arose since people have been able to process and print their images at home using computer software, and seeing what said software is capable of.

Back in the film days the type of film was chosen for it's characteristics - some films were contrasty and heavily saturated to give the image 'punch'; some were softer and gentler in colour for, say, portraiture or wedding photography. The photographer, or (more often) darkroom printer then had a multitude of manipulative options, from cross processing the film (processing it in the 'wrong' chemistry for weird effects) to different choices of printing papers and colour filtration heads, through to selective contrast techniques (dodging and burning) and also post printing techniques like solarisation and selenium toning.

Now in the digital world we have all these choices and more, and so one has to be careful not to push things too far and make an image that looks 'unnatural'. My personal approach is to take my photos as if I was still using film - I think of every shot as costing me money as it did back when I had to buy my rolls of Fuji Velvia, and that way I take fewer shots, and try and make each one count.

I shoot in RAW, which as the name suggests, is the raw information from the camera, which I then process in a program called Lightroom. RAW is analogous to unprocessed film, but it's even better on two counts. Unlike film where if you had your landscape film loaded and you were shooting portraits or vice versa you were a bit stymied, you can now process to suit the conditions and subject. And the second advantage is unlike film which once processed cannot be un-processed, a RAW image never has any processing 'baked' into it - it can be re-processed at a later stage.

Do you run courses?

I'm afraid not - between taking photographs, running the gallery and taking more photographs there never seems to be any hours left in the day!

When do you take your photos?

The best light tends to be an hour either side of sunrise and sunset - the 'golden hour', when sunlight is at it's warmest and most directional. Luckily these times don't normally clash with the gallery opening times ;-) But if you do ever find the shop closed, especially in winter when sunset is earlier in the day, do give me a bell on 07734 444800, to see what time I'll be back.

How are your photographs printed?

I use Epson large format printers and inks which give industry leading colour gamut (range) and longevity, printed onto Canson, Epson, Innova and Ilford papers and canvases.

Are you an Islander?

No, although I’ve been here nearly a quarter of a century now and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I was born in Coventry in 1973 and moved to the Island in 2000 with my wife Sharon who runs the gallery with me.

Any tips for taking pictures?

The best advice I ever heard was from Joe Cornish, one of the UK's best landscape photographers. He said "go out more, but take less pictures". Learn how light interacts with the landscape, how the colour and quality of light varies throughout the day and year, how the tides change and how the sun moves. Train yourself to really 'see' what's there. And above all, have fun! :)