From the Editors: José Ramos, landscape photographer from Portugal. In his photos, the act of raising awareness about Nature and the need to protect the environment is simultaneously linked, through embedded concepts for each image, with existential reflections about the self and man’s place in the world.
I'm a doctor in Portugal's capital city Lisbon. I got interested in photography when I was at the Med School, and nowadays it is kind of a second job!
As a landscape photographer who tries to have as less boundaries as possible on the field, I've been in many challenging conditions, with huge risks to my photo gear and perhaps not as much pre-calculated safety to myself as it should. The most challenging situations will always be beaches with strong waves and slipper rocks, which is a constant in my life, as my country has one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Iceland was also one of the most challenging places ever, due to the unpredictable strong rain and wind, as well as waterfall's intense spray.
Safety and weather conditions aside, the most challenging places to shoot are definitely those where there isn't good light conditions! If the light isn't good, it's almost impossible to get good remarkable images. I can endure any kind of harsh physical conditions, as long as there's good light on the scene.
I certainly do, just like 99,9% of every professional landscape photographer. Post-processing is an absolutely essential step of the workflow. Many people think that I'm some sort of a very advanced connoisseur of Photoshop editing, but I actually use quite a spontaneous and intuitive processing workflow, with little use of layers, using mostly basic Photoshop adjustments and techniques, with an extra help from Nik Color Effex to add extra punch to my images. I'm hoping to streamline my workflow a little more, using more of a non-destructive editing process, but always with the mindset of keeping it as simple as possible. It's true that I can spend three hours editing an image, but that will happen if there are strong stubborn color casts in it or if I enter a dangerous spiral of never being entirely satisfied with it's color balance.
About the classic "editing vs manipulation" debate, I try no to delve too deep into such a subjective issue. In my personal opinion, I put my boundaries in not inserting or removing relevant elements of a photo, which includes not blending images which were taken in clearly different times and light conditions. That would just ruin the thrill of searching for the landscapes at the right light conditions, and witness it with my eyes.
Quoting my borderline cheesy manifesto on my website, you can see that it's mostly about awareness for the beauty and need for protecting Nature, as well as reflecting on our condition as humans and as a part of this fascinating ecosystem.
"In my photos, the act of raising awareness about Nature and the need to protect the environment is simultaneously linked, through embedded concepts for each image, with existential reflections about the self and man's place in the world. When the aesthetic power of nature meets a man's vision of the world, creation takes place and images become the crystalized hybrid product of this encounter. Travelling and endlessly searching for the light, the silence and the lessons of the landscape, here I present you my vision of the world as seen through my eyes and soul, hoping I can at least take you there just for a moment, to the moment which lies so intense in my memory'"
Fortunately "weirdness" doesn't abound in natural remote locations. As a vegetarian for ethical reasons, I had a meeting with an extremely nice fishermen once, who helped me finding a starfish in a gorgeous beach in Portugal. I had this desire to do a long exposure landscape with a starfish on the foreground, and was finally able to do it. He was very enthusiastic about the beauty of the place where he lives, and after showing me the starfish location, he started collecting all sorts of marine creatures to show me. This included another starfish, which I ensured would be put in water again, and a living octopus that he wanted to kill right in front of me. It wasn't easy to tell him that I'd rather not have him do it, as it was quite simply his job!
Even though I'm both a doctor and a photographer, wages in Portugal are low, due to the European economic crisis. As such, I don't have that much of a choice of using top notch equipment. This has taught me to look for the best quality/price ratio and to favour, above everything else, ergonomics and reliability. After shooting with Konica Minolta and Pentax, I went the Sony route long ago, with their first SLT camera. As a long exposure landscape photographer who always uses ND filters, including 10 stop full NDs, I was astounded with Sony's live view implementation, which makes shooting landscapes a what-you-see-is-what-you-get dream. I've been using Sony since then. After a long time of savings, I finally bought a Sony a7R + Zeiss 16-35mm f4 a few months ago, and this is now my photographic weapon of choice.
I guess it already became quite obvious that seascapes are my biggest passion. Portugal has a very strong historic connection with the sea, and our 800km coastline has some incredible spots for landscape shooting.
It depends on the definition of success. With the advent of social media and online photo websites, there was a dangerous fusion of inner satisfaction with external appreciation. Likes, quick comments and features are extremely appealing, boosting egos to infinity. As a psychiatrist, I'm all for a much needed dose of healthy inner narcissism, as long as one doesn't forget the original reason why you started practicing the craft. Unfortunately success most of the times doesn't equal happiness... Still, considering that most art creators want to share their work to the largest number of people, me included, I find that magazines and social networking are incredibly effective ways of achieving that, as long as you put quite a significant amount of work into putting your images right in front of people's eyes.
I will be a bit clichéd on this one. As both a pioneer and man of principles, I have a strong admiration for Galen Rowell, which has been a strong inspiration to me. Ansel Adams is also obviously an incredibly inspiring man and photographer, just as Sebastião Salgado, David Muench or Art Wolfe. Moving on to the new generation, the advent of digital photography has opened the doors to dozens of extremely talented photographers. It would be unfair to cite names, but I can say that a quick browse through any Nature Camerapixo edition will be an extremely humbling lesson to any photographer, me included, as there are so many talented artists producing images right now!
Well, digital photography has actually allowed me to start shooting. I was right in the middle of hectic Med School when I started shooting. I had to study dozens of hours every week and free time was very scarce. Digital photography made it all much more accessible, so I can be very grateful for its appearance. Cheers!
Thank you José for taking the time to do this interview.
We are happy to welcome you on board among other photographers.
Your photography is very valuable in this community and very beneficial for our readers.