Continuing our series, Photographer Interviews, Nomads on the Road profiles photographers who share their insights, inspirations and know-how. Here, Dylan Nardini discusses his work and reveals the secrets of what makes a great landscape photograph.
Dylan Nardini Photographer Interview
The depth and thought behind Dylan’s work is clear, he creates beautiful images from the wild and forbidding west coast of Scotland. The weather in the British Isles is a challenge for every photographer, but particularly so when you are exposed to the ravages of Atlantic storms freshly rolling in.
The 43-year-old combines his photography with a job as a freight train driver. But Dylan’s passion for photography goes back to when he a child.
“My first memory of picking up a camera would actually be one Christmas when I was around 11 and my sister (16) was given an Olympus SLR as a present and I was fascinated.
“I don’t remember a particular photo but just picking it up and looking through the viewfinder was enough to fill me with intrigue and envy,” he says.
However, it was when Dylan was 16 and visiting family in Italy that he first remember taking a photograph.
“Taken on my own Praktica BCA SLR with Ilford HP5. I took an image from the Duomo in the little town of Barga, Tuscany looking out across the rooftops and towards the dominating mountain range that shadowed the valley below.
“When I developed this image in my makeshift darkroom/shed I was instantly struck by the composition and it quickly became a favourite of mine and one which first made me feel confident that I could actually take a decent photography, purely by luck or instinct at this point I may add,” he concludes.
Listen to an episode of the excellent Ted Forbes’ Art of Photography on youtube and you’ll learn about what influences photographers. Dylan is a little different, he takes from a wide range of influences but found coming into landscape photography with little knowledge others work allowed him to have an open mind ‘untarnished by opinions or rules’.
“This allowed me to view images from different photographers in books and online with a fresh perspective and take something from the images that I felt a genuine connection with,” Dylan explains.
However, as Dylan become more learned he states his innocence has faded slightly as he found his tastes.
“There are many great photographers,” he says, “to gain inspiration and influence from so it would be wrong of me to single out one or two. Personally my family, from my parents and sister, to my wife and two beautiful girls, influence me the most. Their varying individual strengths inspire and influence how I look at the landscape that surrounds me.”
These influences contribute to what Dylan believes goes into making a great photograph. For an image, whether it is a postcard, multiple exposures, intentionally camera movement, a macro, or simply the faintest of light on a subject, to hold his attention he says there are no set ways to go about this.
Dylan explains; “I want to look at a photograph that makes me ponder, that happens for many reasons. I try not to generalise types of images, as I like such a variation, there are just some that strike an emotional cord with me or draw my intrigue where I search for clues to the photographers’ thoughts in its creation.
“It is always good to remember that everyone is different in this respect and how each image is perceived is subjective to his or her individual tastes and so there is no definitive great image,” he says.
Dylan is a photographer who wants to the best light possible, as he believes it can make or break an image. Yet as shown by one of his favourite images, knowing an area intimately is a crucial factor in landscape photography, returning time and time again to an area. Below is the story of ‘Winters Stand’.
“One image that is a particular favourite is ‘Winters’ Stand’, and shot of a predominant tree on the banks of Loch Chon in the Trossachs National Park.
“This particular tree sits in an area I often visit, being close to home and a stone throw from a relative’s house in Aberfoyle.
“I have photographed this tree on a few occasions in varying conditions but on this morning I had passed it by on my way further up the road to Inversnaid where there were views across to the Arrochar Alps topped with snow.
“It turned out to be a fruitless outing but on my way back I stopped when I saw a passing blizzard approach this tree. I had also realised that the smaller tree that usually stands beside it had snapped in half and laid sadly by its side.
“With a little time I took a few shots with the 70-200mm, I had to shoot wide at f4 and ISO 1600 as it was very dull and being handheld I needed to keep the shutter speed reasonably fast at 1/125th sec. That was it, a side of the road snap and off I went.
“It was when I processed the image I began to feel the real connection the two trees had and the effect of the high ISO and incoming blizzard made to the overall story.
“I took a lasting lesson from this image, it was the first time I really understood that what is important is the feeling of an image, not clarity of focus, perfect exposure, using a tripod and all the rules we are made to believe are the only way to make a compelling image. So this shot has helped shape my photography from this point onwards and another reason why it is a favourite,” Dylan explains.
Like most landscape photographers, Dylan is obsessed with the weather and the weather forecast. Living in the west of Scotland he is used to the fact that the weather can change in minutes. Luckily Dylan is a fan of adverse weather and believes it helps the landscape come to life. He says that not matter how times the forecast has been wrong, he persists on relying on it. But the best preparation for a shoot, Dylan believes, is to recce.
Dylan explains: “I’ve found returning with much more knowledge of the area as invaluable. I am constantly on the look out for little bits of the landscape that may interest me in the future and I often visit these places when I have some time.”
Dylan utilises maps, blogs, magazines, books and watching vlogs to help him research a potential but he maintains that a fresh set of eyes allows him to create his own vision of a place.
The landscape is important to Dylan and it is why he was first hit by the landscape photography bug, one afternoon at Croy Beach in Ayrshire.
“I stood in what was close to a gale with the wind, water and sand battering my face and it was the most exhilarated I have felt in the outdoors,” Dylan explains.
He continues: “I messed about with a flimsy tripod, poor filters and thin gloves, battling the elements trying to capture an image that would represent the conditions and how I felt.”
While Dylan didn’t succeed in his goal that day, he came away with the desire to photograph the outdoors. It was from this point that his landscape photography journey took shape. A journey that has led road a road of researching, reading, watching and listening to his fellow photographer, in an attempt to understand how to capture that single moment in an image that represents what he is feeling.
“It is something I feel I had been looking for within my photography. I do love and feel a connection to certain portraiture work but there appears to be nothing that will drag me from the landscape,” Dylan said.
This approach to his landscape photography has seen Dylan think about the profession may evolve in the future. Trends, Dylan contends, come and go as photographers constantly push the boundaries and try to stand out from the ever-increasing crowd.
In fact, Dylan feels we have perhaps come full circle with more and more photographers going back to film.
“We want a feeling to our image, not just a crystal clear image with perfect front to back focus,” Dylan explains.
“I feel just now is a good time for the resurgence of Film and there being less of an importance in Mega Pixels and clarity and more about feeling and texture,” he said.
New technological advances in photography seem to be announced with every passing week, yet Dylan likes to his photography to be low-key.
“I have a hunch we have hit a peak where photography is concerned. No longer are we desperate for the most megapixels.” Dylan says.
Lastly, Dylan shares the story of ‘Guided’, his first image to be published in a book.
“‘Guided’ was my first image to be published in a book, ‘Outdoor Photographer of the Year’ Portfolio One. To see an image of mine alongside such stunning work was a huge highlight and a moment I will always remember.
“The image itself has its own story, one that confirmed my passion and commitment to capturing images of the landscape. I was at work this Sunday morning in October 2015, with a short window of opportunity to get out in this field that I had never visited before.
“The conditions were gorgeous as they often are at this time of the year with a light mist and the autumn sun gently burning through and I wasn’t going to pass it the opportunity. But there was one major hindrance.
“The week earlier I had run a 10km race in Glasgow where half way round I tore my Medial cartilage on my right knee. Although I did complete the run, unsurprisingly it instantly swelled up to the size of a football and was no better these seven days later. I was literally hopping around but I wanted a shot and I wasn’t letting up. Through some amount of pain and persistence, I managed to wander around for about 30 minutes before the morning mist had lifted completely.
“I hadn’t seen such commitment from myself in just about anything else I had pursued so it was a moment of understanding of how important Landscape Photography was to me and seeing this shot in print only reinforced my will and commitment.”
Dylan Nardini Landscape Photographer: Equipment List
Nikon D80 Infrared converted
Nikon D60 (spare)
Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8
Sigma 70-200mm f2.8
Zeiss Distagon 25mm f2.8,
Nikon 50mm f1.2 Ais
Nikon 85mm f1.8 Ais
Nikon 135mm f3.5
Tamron 100mm Macro f2.8
Lee Filters, 1,2,3 stop ND soft grads