Create Images of Significance: An Interview with Landscape Photographer Guy Tal
Guy Tal is a professional artist, author, photographer, educator and public speaker. He believes that the practice of creative pursuits manifests not only in the making of art, but also has the ability to transform and enrich life, facilitate meaningful and rewarding experiences, and foster contentment and satisfaction through life-long discovery and learning. His work has been featured in Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, and Digital Photographer magazines, among many others.
BL: What is your photographic specialty and how did you become interested in it?
Tal: My goal is to create images that are personally significant and that communicate something of the state of mind and relationship with the subject that inspired them. In a sense, what I’m after is a more nuanced version of what Alfred Stieglitz called “equivalence,” as in implying something equivalent to the photographer’s experience in all its dimensions, both visual and emotional. In my mind, the best images are not images OF things; they are images ABOUT things.
My favorite subject matter is the landscape of my home, the Colorado Plateau. I first became interested in these places as a young soldier, thousands of miles and a lifetime away, on the Golan Heights. By coincidence, or perhaps not, I found a copy of Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire” and became fascinated with his descriptions. At the time I couldn’t even hope to see these places in person, let alone make them my home; but luck and fate conspired to pull me here. It was a strange and improbable journey. These places continue to inspire me every single day. They are part of my own unfolding story, and I feel extremely grateful to be able to play a small part in theirs.
BL: How long have you been teaching and/or writing about photography and how would you describe your teaching/writing style?
Tal: I taught my first photography workshop a little over a decade ago. It was a large format landscape photography class. Writing had been part of my life for almost as long as I could write. Even when I wasn’t writing about photography, I always loved writing letters, essays and journals. I’m not sure if I could describe a style, but I believe that a good teacher is not just someone who can regurgitate facts and answer questions, but also someone who can inspire and motivate their students to continue learning and evolving their skills after the class is over. I wish I could say it happens every time, but it does happen often enough and is extremely satisfying.
BL: What is your single most depended on photographic item aside from your camera?
Tal: I think most photographers spend their first few years lusting after ever more gear, but after a while the trend seems to reverse. I can do with very little these days, and often have just one lens with me. A tripod is indispensable, of course, but just as important is a good processing workstation and calibrated screen. It surprises me how many people spend thousands of dollars on camera gear but don’t invest much in processing equipment, software and skills, which are every bit as critical to the success of their work.
BL: What type of gear, new or old, are you most interested in experimenting with?
Tal: Nothing comes to mind. If I really need something, I buy or rent it.
BL: Describe what prompted or inspired you to create Creative Landscape Photography?
Tal: The original intent was to have a standard booklet to go with my landscape photography workshops, describing the process I teach and providing some reference material that students don’t always have the time or means to write down while in the field. It was originally designed for print, which explains the square format.
BL: What are some additional resources that you recommend to others getting started in photography?
Tal: Invest in a good library. Study books by masters of photography, then expand into other arts. Knowledge of art history, visual design, and the legacy of notable photographers (both images and philosophy) can be invaluable sources of inspiration and wisdom.
BL: In what ways do you expect readers to improve after reading Creative Landscape Photography?
Tal: I hope they move beyond gear and technique, take some time to examine their motivations and goals, and use the framework to express something of their own unique mind.
BL: What is something YOU learned during the process of making this eBook?
Tal: Sometimes you write the book, and sometimes the book writes itself.
BL: There are a lot of little rules in photography, such as the Rule of Thirds and the Inverse Square Law. Describe a photography “rule” that you use the most or find most valuable.
Tal: I think Ansel Adams summed it perfectly when he said that there are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.
BL: Anything new on the horizon that you are working on, either photography-wise or eBook-wise?
Tal: In a fit of motivation and poor judgment, earlier this year I decided to work on two books simultaneously. Both will be much larger in scope than the series of eBooks I produced so far. The first covers in depth a lot of the topics I touch on in my workshops and talks. I half jokingly refer to it as the book I wish I had twenty years ago. The other is much more personal and introspective, aimed at those who are disillusioned, as I was, by the urban career-driven life and seek a more meaningful and fulfilling experience through art and photography. I hope to have both available in the next few months.