Gavin Hardcastle / Member Interview

Gavin Hardcastle is a fine art photographer, writer and instructor from Alberta, Canada. Become a better photographer today with his free photography guides and photography tutorials. You can learn from Gavin directly at his global photography workshops in some of the world's most spectacular locations. Upgrade your post processing skills with his online video tutorials for Photoshop and Lightroom.


Calgary, Alberta, Canada

What inspired you to become a photographer?

Watching movies as a kid. I was totally sucked in by beautiful cinematography and how powerfully the camera angles helped to tell the story.

Tell us about your first photo that really validated your interest as a photographer.

I think my first long exposure, shot on a tripod. Realizing that the camera had the power to record the passage of time in one exposure was a revelation to me.

Back when you were just starting out, what was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome that?

Getting really sharp images was a major challenge, especially when using cheaper camera equipment. I overcame this by being obsessive about image quality and stability while shooting. Lots of research, trial and error and practice got me the results I needed.

What do you enjoy photographing the most?

Nature at its finest. That could be a lone tree, a mountain landscape, the night sky or a frozen waterfall. If standing at a location makes me go ‘‘Wow’’ there’s a good chance I can capture that vibe and share that with my viewers.

What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?

The very first time I stood in front of one of my large acrylic prints. There’s nothing more satisfying to a photographer than seeing their work realized in its finest physical form.

Tell us about time in your photographic journey where you failed at something and how did you pivot to overcome this?

I’ve failed so many times it’s not even funny. Often my most ambitious shoots fail due to weather conditions. There’s nothing more demoralizing than the climbing a mountain with a back breaking load only to get socked in with cloud and capture zero images.

Sometimes it’s like a fight. You accept defeat, lick your wounds and live to fight another day.

In spite of this, experience teaches you that you should keep on trying. There have been just as many times where I captured just 5 minutes of perfect light after giving up all hope.

Stick with it and you’ll eventually get the shot. Persistence is key.

We all have weaknesses, what is yours relating to photography?

Too many times I’ve driven past some epic scene and said to myself “I’ll shoot that on the way back’’.

I’ve learned that I rarely actually do go back and get that shot. It’s best to stop right there and then and get that shot.

Finding time to get out and shoot is another challenge for many. How do you find the time in your busy schedule to get out there behind your camera?

I go crazy if I don’t shoot for more than a few days. To me it’s like therapy. I make time for it because I simply can’t live without that connection to nature while feeding my voracious appetite for creative expression.

Nailing a composite right can be a challenge. What do you think the trick is to mastering composition?

Stop and study the location to visualize your shot. Become familiar with different focal lengths and lenses so that you know which one will work best for the conditions.

I also teach my ’20 in 2’ method whereby I take 20 or more really rough and quick shots to see which compositions work best. Once I know where the shot lives I’ll then set up the tripod and wait for the best light.

Also, don’t be married to one idea. Be prepared to ditch your first idea and move with the light.

There are many photographers starting out, who don't have the money to buy the camera gear they want. What advice can you give to them?

Work with what you’ve got and rinse as much image quality and creativity as you can with your gear. Exhaust the capabilities of your gear before upgrading. This will make you a better photographer in the end.

How do you feel photography has impacted the way you see the world?

Photography has completely changed the way I see the world. Now I look for the beauty in everything. From a decaying old truck to a pristine lake reflection.

I’d never really witnessed the full core of the Milky Way until I got into astrophotography. That’s 40 years of missing out on that phenomenon. Photography fixed that for me.

What do you see photographers doing today, that if done differently tomorrow would improve their success?

Copying the same old shots might be a good way to practice but take the time to think one step ahead with your creativity. Think “how can I make my shot different?” or “where else can I take this story?”

To get your creative eye focused, where do you draw your inspiration from?

I follow many talented photographers on social media. Often I follow photographers that have a completely different style to me and maybe even shoot in a different genre. This mixes things up and keeps me challenged creatively. Even watching music videos on Youtube can make you look at things in a different way.

What is your best photography related tip?

Look at the camera as a musical instrument. Practice, practice, practice until you can play it fluently. Know thy camera so well that you don’t expend mental energy on the technical side of things. This will free your mind to be more creative with your shots.

What would you like for people take away from your work?

A sense of awe and a desire to travel. I get totally blown away when people tell me that they actually booked flights and hotels to visit a location because they were so inspired by my shot.

What are some ‘must have’ items in your camera bag?

Bug spray, hand warmers, lens wipes, a gazillion batteries if you shoot Sony.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is the ONE photography book you would want to have with you?

I’d bring my Sony A7R2 with the Zeiss Batis 18mm and the Sony FE 55mm. My other two items would be my phone for tunes and my cat.

Final question, and it’s a fun one: Life has been found on another planet and none-other than Sir Richard Branson is piloting Virgin Galactic and has put together a team of engineers, scientist, doctors and has asked you to come along to document the journey. The challenge is you can only bring two lenses and one camera body and two other items. What would you bring?

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