My name is Francesco Gola and I’m a landscape photographer based in Italy. Photography, unfortunately, is not my primary occupation, but it’s more than just an hobby for me. I think that everything started when I found that photography is a way to escape to the “world of eyes” and is an access to the “world of mind”. Even if I define myself a landscape photographer, I’m becoming really keen on long exposures, because they represent the parallel world I told you just above. In a long exposure you don’t freeze just a moment, but an entire period. You can transform your picture in a hourglass, and this is really amazing for me. There is something beyond what your eyes can see, and I try to reveal it.
Well, even if I’m still really dear to the Canon AT-1 of my father, obviously now it’s not the perfect camera for my long exposures.
So I recently bought a Canon 5D mkIII and I think it’s perfect for this kind of photography: even if you use it at 200 or 400 ISO for 4 minutes, the noise is really low. Now I can achieve some results that were just a dream with my old and beloved Canon 450D (but also on my 7D!).
I don’t own a long list of lenses for two main reasons: the first is that I love to travel with a light backpack, and the second one is that on landscape photography, in the most of situations, all you need is just a good wide angle lens. So now I own just two lenses: a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM and a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L IS USM. Yes, I don’t own a “middle range” lens. Even if I think that the 70-200 is a great lens, I’m in love with the 16-35 that I use for the 99% of my shots. I think it’s perfect for me because it has an awesome sharpness, and this is the most important feature that I look for in a lens. If you have a full frame camera and you love landscape, this is an excellent choice. (if you own a APS-C camera, take a look at the Canon EF-S 10-22mm /3.5-4.5 USM..you’ll love it!)
As you know, unfortunately a good camera and a good lens is not enough to take serious landscape shots.
The first thing I need for my long exposures is a tripod. Until some months ago I used a Manfrotto 190XPROB that was a good compromise between weight and stability. But when you’re on the top of a windy cliff in Ireland, you need something really sturdy! So I decided to buy a Manfrotto 055XPROBC (the new one in carbon fiber) and I love it! The choice of the head went to a Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head: quite heavy, but incredibly accurate! Another essential item for my long exposure works are the ND filters. I own a Lee holder set with two slot plus the front ring. After many attempts, I found that this is the perfect solution: on the first slot (near to the lens) I usually put an ND filter (a Lee 0.9 ProGlass or my beloved Big Stopper); in the second slot, I usually put one of my Lee Graduated ND filters. I own both soft and hard edge filters, but I mostly use the hard edge because I love to take seascape shots. Recently I bought a Reverse GND filter by Singh-Ray, and I think it’s great when you have the sun low in your frame. Finally on the front ring I usually put my Heliopan 105mm Circular Polarizer Multi-Coated (Slim). It cost like a lens, but believe me, it’s irreplaceable. In fact usually a polarizer is used to remove the reflections on surfaces like water, but I use it to control the reflection on the water as each case requires.
Finally, another piece of equipment that I use every time is my Canon TN-80N3 programmable remote shutter. I love it because I can leave my iPhone and its timer on in my dry pocket :).
As I travel quite often, I own a 15” MacBook Pro with i7 processor. It’s light but powerful, and I can bring it with me on my trips (Golden trip rule #1: make backups!). When I’m in my home, I use it together with a wonderful Apple LED Cinema Display.
As calibration tool I use a Spyder3 Pro, but it’s not so accurate with LED monitors, so I going to replace it soon.
Finally, some good external HD for backups are essential. (I’m not yet a big fan of “cloud backups”)
All my works are processed entirely in Lightroom 4 that I use together some Nik Software tools: Viveza and Silver Efex Pro. I think that this is really all I need. I’m not a big fan of Photoshop, but probably because it’s too expensive for me :)
I think that for long exposures I’m well equipped, but if I can dream.. ;)
At the #1 of my wish list there is the perfect landscape lens: the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE. I haven't bought it yet for two reasons: it’s expensive and it’s a prime lens. Yes, a prime lens should be a plus, but when you are barefoot on the top of a rock, you’ll fall in love with the zoom capability of your lens!
I must confess that I’m also impressed and influenced by some great Black & White artists like Athena Carey, Joel Tjintjelaar and Julia Anna Gospodarou (hi mates!) and I think that sooner or later the B&W side of my mind will ask for his toll: a Leica M Monochrome.