For over 40 years, Scott Tansey has been taking photos. Also a practicing lawyer, Scott is starting to re-emerge as a professional photographer and has begun sharing his work with the public once again. Using the Leica S-System, he prefers to shoot panoramically. You can read about Scott’s beginnings in photography in part one of our interview. In part two of our interview, Scott reveals more about his passion for panoramic images and how he achieved his images taken in Patagonia.
Q: How would you describe your photography?
A: I like the panoramic format with images at a 2 to 1 ratio or greater. I see panoramically. As I stitch the images together, the panoramic format enhances the composition. Many of my panoramic images do not have much depth of field. That makes them different from many of the panoramic images I have seen. At the same time, with the help of the S2 I can capture details that give the image depth even if there is a flat perspective.
Q: What does photography mean to you?
A: I go with my own muse, and photography is my calling. Photography puts me in the zone. Many times I work on different projects for weeks or months. To show how important photography is to me, someone once offered to take me to Europe if I left my cameras at home. I turned it down. To go to a location with tremendous photographic opportunities without a camera is complete torture to me.
Q: You mention that you see many scenes in terms of panoramic images. Do you think this has something to do with the physiological nature of human vision itself, which is kind of like a wide field captured by a normal lens or is it something else, and how do you decide which aspect ratio to use for your panoramic images?
A: It’s true that people normally see panoramically. However, the viewfinder quickly tunnels panoramas. Somehow, I sustain that panoramic sense and frequently I am anticipating the opportunity to extend the view with additional shots adjacent to the initial framed view. When I first purchased my S2, I discovered that I was instinctively cropping my shots to create panoramic images. When I started processing my images from Patagonia, I noticed that the single images were enhanced when I stitched them together to create a panoramic image. It was as if the panoramic format itself was a compositional element. Since, I have taken panoramic images with normal, wide-angle, and even telephoto perspectives. I believe that my attraction to the panoramic format is more than the physiological nature of human vision itself. Even when I take pictures of my twins, I frequently find my images end up in a panoramic format. Panoramic formats are an important compositional element of my photography.
Q: Among your many magnificent panoramas shot in Patagonia there is a group of three non-panoramic images of Patagonia Grasses. They’re quite lovely in their simple directness. What inspired you to capture these images and what were you thinking as you shot them?
A: Actually, these images are close to a 2:1 aspect ratio, which is considered a panoramic format. However these images are more intimate than normal panoramic images. I was attracted to the contrast between the golden grasses and the green plants. Overall, I was attracted to the delicate nature of the grasses. Finally, I liked the quiet light (a term I learned from John Sexton), where the grasses were photographed in the shade before the sun came up to illuminate the scene. The quiet light can enhance the subtle beauty of the grasses and marshes at dawn. In contrast, you can also see the power of the grasses. I know that sounds silly, but I come from Southern California, where we have deserts, mountains and oceans, but not wild grasses. The Patagonian grasses seemed so powerful and wild to me. I crawled on the ground and took images with a wide-angle lens. Shooting from that perspective accentuated the power of the grasses. It was raining, but the rain seemed to also enhance the colors of the grasses.
Q: You’ve discussed your fine arts images of landscapes concentrating on panoramas and portraits of your family, but have you ever considered shooting something entirely different, like black-and-white street photography with your M9 or maybe architecture with your S2?
A: I have and continue to shoot different projects other than my fine art landscapes. On my website, you can see that I shoot architecture with my S2. One of my favorite website galleries is from a twilight cruise of St. Petersburg, Russia’s canals. Old cars are another one of my favorite subjects. Every year there is a classic car show in Culver City. I like taking images of the cars as a whole and macro images of the hood ornaments. I am also working on a long-term project from a viewpoint 15 minutes from my home. It has the best view of the Los Angeles Basin. I’ve gone up to that viewpoint well over a 100 times to capture parts of the Los Angeles Basin in different lighting conditions. In addition, I am experimenting using HDR for some of my images. I am hoping to create large prints from this project. Finally, I volunteer for two non-profits, where I take images to support their causes.
Q: What advice would you have for an aspiring photographer who wants to create fine art panoramic images of landscapes?
A: Be curious, be passionate and even be a little obsessive. Go out and make images. It doesn’t have to be in a spectacular location. Make the ordinary extraordinary. Also, realize that our creativity can blossom as we get older. Do not let anyone tell you that creative photography is just for the prodigy.
Q: You said that you have attained a sufficient level of confidence in your work and that you now want to share it with the public. How do you plan to do that going forward?
A: Ah, that is the million-dollar question. How am I going to market my images? I have had three shows where I have begun selling images. More galleries, museums, and interior decorators need to see my work. It is always a chicken and egg dilemma: Who is going to take the risk and push my work? I do have a gallery agent and publicist here in Los Angeles.
Q: This image has an amazing 3-dimensional quality and an aerial perspective. Was this shot from a great height, where was it taken, and what does it mean to you?
A: On the day I took this image, we spent most of our time in a boat exploring the Marble Caves and exploring the rapids on the Baker River. However, this picture was taken from an overlook along Lake General Carrera. During one quick stop along the road from the lake, I saw the scene with bright blue water contrasting with the yellowish shoreline, and I immediately took this image. Even in landscape photography, I have to work quickly due to the changing light.
Q: These two pictures somehow capture the ephemeral difference between the feeling of dawn and dusk very effectively. In many cases sunrise and sunset pictures of the same scene look quite similar. How did you manage to convey the difference, what were you trying to achieve or convey by shooting both images, and what is it about the quality of the light at dawn and dusk that you find so compelling?
A: When it comes to the golden light at sunrise and sunset, I am like most landscape photographers. The magical light inspires me to get up earlier than most and stay out later than most. I love taking images during those hours. The clouds turn different shades of pink and orange and the golden light turns grey rocks different shades of yellow and gold.
Q: The above image is almost like an optical illusion, conveying a strong 3-dimensional quality as well as a tapestry-like 2-dimensional quality that seem to alternate as you look at it. Does it do this for you, and can you say something about why you shot it in this particular way?
A: This is one of my favorite images from Patagonia. I do agree that this image has both 2- and 3-dimensional qualities that alternate when I look at the image. That day, the goal for the group was to take images of condors, and it easy to get sucked into your subject and miss other amazing photo opportunities. Fortunately, as I tend to do, I was looking beyond the condors and was captivated by the scenery, and the magnificent birds became secondary. I was on a steep ridge, which provided a much higher perspective on the landscape and the striking fall colors. One thing that really makes this image so special to me is the background that is the Patagonian steppe country instead of the sky. The plain colors of the Patagonian steppe country enhanced the fall colors. Being open and in the moment allowed me to capture this image.
Thank you for your time, Scott!
– Leica Internet Team
To see more of Scott’s work, visit his website.