Ty Stedman - West Oz Photographer
Posted on April 04 2018
Ty’s fine art images embody an interplay of time and texture, focus and foundation — a search for what is often left unseen, unappreciated and uncommon.
Views from aloft, compositions of time, and renditions to highlight the details that collectively compose the beauty that is all around us.
Born in Natal, South Africa, Ty became enamoured with the natural world from an early age. His enthusiasm for exploration, attention to detail and education in the sciences, ultimately led to a pursuit in photography where he is able to document the intricacies of the world that surrounds us.
Ty currently resides in Busselton, Western Australia with his amazing wife and three ‘spirited’ young children who are all his inspiration and driving force.
Lets find out more!
Vagabond Photographic: How would you describe your photographic style?
Overall, I would describe my photographic work as minimalist landscapes. I currently split my focus between two genres of landscape photography. These being Aerial Abstracts and Fine Art Black & White landscapes. Although these are essentially at opposite ends of the spectrum, the two common characteristics are their minimalist elements and the opportunity to create images that are beyond the common everyday view.
Both landscape forms are equally important to my artistic drive and each place that I visit is suited best for one capture method or the other. Western Australia has become a mecca for aerial photography with our diverse environments featuring prolific salt lakes and varied sands that colour the landscape. My mode of capture for these images is either via aeroplane or helicopter.
From a traditional perspective, the black and white images feed my drive to create detail-centric minimalist landscapes that isolate a subject or individual element. Details that are often lost within the collective expanse of a traditional landscape image.
VP: How did you get into photography and in particular shooting landscapes?
I have always had an interest in photography but never really gave enough time to it. On moving to the south-west of Western Australia about 6 years ago, I saw an opportunity to document the incredible landscape of the region, as well as being in the ideal location to foster my development.
My background is in the Sciences and Outdoor Education, so I feel that landscape photography has become the perfect vehicle, and excuse, to explore nature and share what I experience.
Part of shooting long exposures in particular that I enjoy is that it forces you to slow down and be a lot more considered with your photography. You simply don’t have the time to fire off five or six exposures to get the shot you have envisaged. The 5 to 10-minute intermissions while an image is being exposed are one of the most enjoyable aspects of photography for me. I have no choice but to stop and enjoy the moment and surrounds.
VP: Where does your creative inspiration come from, whats on your hit list of locations to photograph?
My creative inspiration comes from a number of sources both within photography and other art forms. I subscribe to a number of art blogs and podcasts and have recently started investing in books by photographers such as Michael Kenna, Michael Levin and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Personally, studying photographic work in a tangible form far outweighs the experience and benefit vs viewing something on a screen. For those with a love of the coast, take a look at the work of Wolfgang Bloch from California. He creates a beautiful minimalist, mixed media works exemplifying an affinity with the ocean and coast.
Western Australia is a fertile ground for landscape photographers with some of Australia's best residing in WA, including Christian Fletcher, Tony Hewitt, Luke Austin and Scott McCook. Their work is a constant inspiration to me and it is satisfying that some of the world’s finest landscape images have been shot within our borders.
Working alongside Russell Ord in his final years in the fire brigade, provided immense inspiration for me to push ahead with my endeavours. It has been inspiring to see his career and body of work materialise through his dedication and persistence. I feel it’s important for photographers to be highlighted for the positive impact that they have on aspiring photographers.
On my current hit list of photographic opportunities includes the island of Hokkaido in Japan; Iceland, even with its exploding popularity, it has everything to feed both facets of my photography; Venice is a long exposure paradise; and the West coast of the USA. The stretch from San Diego up to Portland and Vancouver in the north, along with the surrounding national parks, would have to be one of the best road trips on the planet. The photographic potential of that coast! — possibly a photo tour in 2019 Vagabond Photographic?
New Zealand, both north and south islands are incredible and unique in their own ways. I have been fortunate to get across there every 12 to 18 months in recent years. I am looking forward to spending a solid 6 to 9 months travelling to every corner of the islands in 2021 with my family.
This year, I am also hoping to get up to Broome, WA, for an aerial shoot and back up to Shark Bay, WA, which I aim to visit every 12 to 18 months. Regardless of how much that area has been shot from the sky, there are always new corners to explore and it’s amazing how much some areas transform throughout the year.
VP: For a landscape photographic shoot what type of gear are you using?
I am currently shooting with Nikon D810 and D800e bodies, Nikon zooms and Zeiss ZF primes. I enjoy shooting with primes as I feel it requires more focus and consideration from me in planning and executing a shot.
One piece of equipment that is critical for me is a quality tripod. When you are shooting long exposures of up to 5 or 10 minutes, you really want to make sure that you minimise any potential movement in your shots. I currently have a Gitzo which I imagine could last me for the next ten or twenty years. With that in mind, it is one investment that I feel a lot of photographers spend the least amount of their budget on when it should be a fundamental part of your kit and one that will last a lifetime.
A good set of ND filters are integral to my landscape photography. I currently use LEE ND Filters from 3 to 15 stops for a range of conditions and exposure lengths. These allow me to reach the long exposures that give my images an ethereal and clean feel by removing unwanted compositional elements such as chop, crowds, or by introducing a sense of movement to a shot. I also use ND Graduated filters where required, to balance the dynamic range of a scene.
VP: Are you self-taught or have you have some formal training?
I am essentially self-taught with influences from sources on the internet and other photographers. I spend a lot of time musing over other artists work considering lighting, composition and what draws me into an image. If there is something that I want to achieve I will find a way to make it happen or find the best solution for which we now luckily have the internet. Trial and error in learning the craft have also been made easier through digital capture with the instant feedback it affords.
If I was to recommend any course online to get you started in understanding Photoshop, I would have to recommend Peter Eastway’s Masterclass to build your understanding of fundamental Photoshop techniques. Peter Eastway is one of Australia’s most awarded and highly regarded landscape photographers and is an excellent educator. If you prefer face-to-face education, I would suggest attending a workshop in your area, or someone who can offer one-to-one education over the internet.
VP: Can you describe your post-processing workflow?
It is often a few months before I begin working on some of my images. I always have a quick review after a day shooting, especially after an aerial shoot, to ensure that I got the images I had planned for.
I am currently using Lightroom for my RAW image processing. I use Lightroom to ascertain the potential of an image and make basic adjustments to exposure, colour balance, shadows and highlights. My workflow is ultimately dependent on the subject I am working on and what I want to achieve for each image.
After I have made my basic edits in Lightroom, I import an image into Photoshop for some finer adjustments. I predominantly use curves adjustment layers to highlight or tone down specific elements of an image, and saturation and vibrancy layers, in unison with luminosity masks, to control the colour. Luminosity masks allow for the control of specific latitudes of tone within an image and have allowed digital processing to step up a level in recent years. I most often finish with dodging and burning an image to bring attention to specific regions and to guide the viewer’s eyes in an intended manner. I also use various Nik Software programs on occasion to style an image to my desired outcome.
I feel it is important to take time between edits to assess an image with fresh eyes before finalising it. I always make a number of test prints of each edit on various papers for comparison, and to finesse the exposure of the printed image. I also like to live with an image on my studio wall before releasing it for sale to ensure that I am 100% happy with the final outcome.
VP: To date what is the most challenging location you have photographed?
Shooting out of the door of an aircraft at 200km/hr and at 3000ft although exhilarating, can present a number of challenges. Last year, I was fortunate enough to fly over Lake Tekapo and around Aoraki National Park at altitude, hunting out aerial compositions.
The main challenge was dealing with the blistering cold of shooting out of a Cessna at the peak of winter, and at an altitude above the peak of Mount Cook. Along with trying to keep your hands functional, communicating with the pilot to position the aircraft in steep valleys, was the biggest challenge. I remember at one point in the flight we made a sweeping turn at the head of a valley surrounded by towering peaks. I actually put my camera down in my lap in earthbound fear, thinking to myself, “geez I hope we’ve got enough room to make this!” There was a cliff face of what felt like less than a kilometre ahead. After pulling 6Gs — probably more accurately 1.1, we made the turn and it was back to business — along with a fresh dose of adrenalin. It was the first time that I had been concerned shooting from the air. Except for that flight I took with an ex-crop dusting pilot in the back of a Piper with the door off… :)
The Mount Cook flight was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Flying around the summit at eye-level and staring into the oblivion of deep crevasses in the terrain far below, is just surreal and something I cannot recommend more highly, as is flying over the Shark Bay region of Western Australia.
VP: You are a full-time fire-fighter in Western Australia, is it easy to mix photography with work or do have goals to make photography your number one career?
I have been fortunate enough to benefit from the hours outside of shift work which has afforded me the time to develop my passion for photography. It has been the ideal focus away from the Emergency Services and I feel that it is vital for everyone to have a passion outside of work, as a means to alleviate the stresses that accompany the role.
The hours of study, editing, business development etc to get to this point seem to have taken an eternity. I take my hat off to those that develop their photography careers with a regular 9-to-5 job.
Long term, I would definitely like to make photography my full-time career. At the core of this drive is the ability to run a business from anywhere in the world. For years now, I have had the ambition to give my children a global education in a range of cultures through immersive travel. Luckily, photography is the perfect pursuit to maximise on the opportunities that would present themselves through such experiences.
I feel that it is important to diversify your business as much as possible to reduce the impact of downswings and changes in consumer tastes. You see this a lot even amongst some of the most highly regarded photographers. They are out and about running workshops and photo tours, opening associated businesses or supplementing their print sales through selling high-quality stock images. Personally, this diversification is also important for me to maintain my motivation — the drive to constantly try new things and expand my knowledge and skill set. I am always seeking to maximise opportunities wherever I can — if I can’t get away and travel at some period of the year, then I am at home looking at developing collaborations, business or skill development.
VP: Where have you travelled the last few months and what are your plans for 2018?
I recently returned from driving with my wife and kids — 1, 3 and 5 years — from Busselton, WA to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland for Christmas. The trip was essentially a family adventure with a bit of an exploration of the East Coast and South Australia. I managed to fit in several aerial shoots during the trip that will feature in some new collections and releases later this year.
I am excited about the year ahead. I will soon be assisting Seng Mah of Venture Photography, with a photography tour to the South Island of New Zealand in April this year. Along with some travel through the goldfields and north of WA, I will be travelling to South East Asia towards the end of the year for some long exposure work. I am also planning an exploratory trip for a future workshop to Japan at the start of 2019. I will be looking for two clients to join me for the trip who will benefit from the experience and personal instruction.
Time in-between shoots and travel will be focussed on growing my business, photography education offering and social media presence. I also want to concentrate more on local captures. I feel that I often get caught up planning photography trips to exotic locations, that I overlook my amazing backyard for daily opportunities that grew my initial passion for photography. I am currently in the process of applying to the AIPP and NZIPP, where I hope to gain insight into my work in the form of peer review and competition at a National and International level.
VP: How can we see and purchase your work?
WEBSITE ONLINE STORE INSTAGRAM FACEBOOK