Curator/Interviewer: Aspa Tz | Photographer: Ross Buswell
North: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
Ross: I’m the principal graphic designer / art director for my company Atmosphere Graphic Design & Branding based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I shoot under the name of “Atmospherics.” I thought Atmospherics was a natural fit for my photography project to keep it all as one similar branded name. I’m also part owner of a small record label here called “Upstairs Recordings” which I run with a good friend of mine. I do all the creative work for the record label as well. Mainly a labour of love.
North: What is the idea behind Atmospherics and how did it come to be?
Ross: Atmospherics is my creative photography project. Mainly atmospheric landscapes. I’ve been refining my approach more and more over the years. I try to create images that transport the viewer directly into the beauty of the surroundings. I’m trying to capture the mood of the scene I witnessed when I shot it. I also try to evoke an analog depth to my images. Even though most images are shot digitally, a lot of them tend to end up with an analog feel by the time I print them or share them online.
I started photography at a very young age. Developing my own film in a darkroom at home. Shooting a lot of live music in my late teens and early 20s. I still love the depth of analog photography.
North: What is the motive behind this project; would you say there’s a specific philosophy behind why you shoot the things you shoot? And is there any connection with the locations?
Ross: I’m really trying to bring the viewer into the mood and setting of where the picture was taken. I shoot images with flat colour profile then I tweak some toning, contrast, grain to bring out the film/analog feel but I try not to get too far away from the original tones. I envision every photograph I shoot to be viewed as a massive wall print. This is what I’m working towards: a gallery installation of large format images.
Ross: Locations wise I really love large, vast landscapes, inclement weather, storms, ice and snow, big sky starry nights, I’ve seemed to find myself in the right place and right time for several auroras since 2015…not really planning around them, they just tend to happen, just lucky I guess!
I like to shoot night skies different to the usual highly technical approach you see with most astrophotographers. Some of my favourite night sky images I’ve seen have massive imperfections in them. If a “happy accident” works it can make a beautiful photograph. I think it’s good to know the rules, but I also love to bend them.
North: So is it photography and the pursuit to create that makes you travel to all these places, or is it the places that inspire you to create?
Ross: I would say it’s definitely a bit of both. I mainly plan trips to places that I think will inspire me creatively. That said, some places that I wasn’t planning on photographing extensively end up being some of the most rewarding – like, for example, when you see them in interesting light or unusual weather. Also, I live in an area of the world where I don’t have to travel far to find visually inspiring places.
Ross: I really feel you should be able to take interesting pictures anywhere – it’s just a matter of timing light and weather changes correctly. However, travel for me lets me escape the confines of my day to day work life and allows me to immerse myself in photography and really connect with the area I’m shooting without the distraction of my usual graphic design client work.
I find if I can unplug on a trip I can really clear my mind to focus on photography.
North: Could you describe the process you follow from conceiving to creating the photographs?
Ross: When I’m shooting in daylight, I usually try to find interesting areas of light, cloud, mist that are mixing with the landscape. I like shooting later in the afternoon or early in the morning. I’m more of an evening person though, so dusk light into night is my favourite time. I shoot a variety of images: sometimes handheld or monopod, and sometimes long times exposures. I use my Lee Big Stopper quite a bit.
Ross: I really try to do something different with time exposures, something that gives my images a unique look compared to the standard landscape time exposures you see. That said, I think it’s important to learn the basics of time exposures and working with ND filters before you try to go too outside the box with them.
Ross: After I finish a shoot when I’m travelling I do a bit of initial editing in camera raw on my laptop, then I wait until I’m back in my studio to really start selecting and editing my final images. For editing I use Camera Raw and Photoshop mainly, there’s not a lot of extensive editing. I try to zero in on light areas to pull out the main subject area then I work with tones in selective colour and colour balance in Photoshop.
Ross: I do some selective contrast work in levels and curves as well. I don’t use a lot of preset filters; if I do, I use some of the VCSO film presets but this is usually only at the finishing stage and I’ll usually do 2 to 4 different tone versions then stack them together at the end to get my final tonal balance.
Ross: I’m also not in a rush to post all my latest work at once. I constantly go back and forth to my archived images. Sometimes you need to put away pictures for a while then revisit them to see them with fresh eyes months or years later. I do this a lot. I find a lot of photographers caught up on only posting their latest images. As if there’s something wrong with posting old images. I don’t think that way at all. A good image is timeless.
Ross: I think that would be my philosophy: do something different and create your own voice. Try not to just follow what everyone else is doing. I try to express an individuality with my images. There’s an experimental approach to almost all my shots. I’m trying to slowly evolve creatively over time with my images.
North: You mentioned you’re working towards a gallery installation of large format images. Is this the ultimate goal you’re pursuing with Atmospherics? How do you see it growing and changing in the next few years?
Ross: My ultimate goal would be to eventually do photography full time or at least splitting my time and income evenly between graphic design work and photography. In addition to exhibits I’m trying to plan here I should have my website up within a few months and I’ll also start selling prints online through that. Creatively, I just want to keep things evolving. I’m also working on cinematic video projects as well.
I think good photography is timeless but certain photographic styles slowly change over time and sites like Instagram are really pushing things forward rapidly. More than ever it’s important to have your own voice and style and not get too caught up in social media popularity. It’s definitely important for getting your material seen but you can’t be a slave to it.
Ross Buswell is a multidisciplinary art director and photographer with over 30 years experience working professionally in the visual arts. Through formal lighting processes and a keen eye for detail, his photography transports the viewer into the actual mood, silence and atmosphere of the environment he’s shooting. With a deep connection to the natural world, this Vancouver native is interested in combining time-honoured technical processes with the power and flexibility of digital media, to produce work that is both provocative and accessible.
Check out more of Ross’ incredible work on his Instagram and Flickr.
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Check out Aspa Tz’s amazing photography here.