George Stephens is a photographer who publishes his work under the title gstee. He recently came to Lanzarote, and the incredible results prompted us to contact him to find out more.
How did you get into photography, and particularly aerial abstracts?
I’ve been interested in aviation ever since I was young. I grew up flying with my dad who is a pilot and also flew gliders myself for a while, so when I first came across and brought my first drone I was instantly hooked with this collaboration of my passions and this new perspective.
Being able to position my camera anywhere in the sky above gives me the chance to find these abstract frames in the land or sea, something a handheld camera could never offer. Sharing these often unseen perspectives to people is really inspiring to me.
What most struck you about Lanzarote?
I loved the subtle diversity of the island. To me, all of the different changes in scenery from white beaches, calm coves, breaking reefs, volcanos, vineyards, sandy plains and salt lakes were a playground, and all in such close proximity. Elsewhere it can take hours to switch between those terrains, so it really allowed me to get into a creative flow.
What elements do you look for in a composition?
I am self-taught with photography so I don’t have any rules that I stick to really. I love to explore an area and usually look to discover an interesting point of focus that stands out, whilst effortlessly blending into its surroundings. Sometimes that is waiting for a wave to break at the right moment around a rock, or a shadow from the angle of the sun hitting an object at the perfect point. I love to let nature do its thing and put myself in the right spot to capture that moment.
Are there particular landscapes you’re drawn to?
Being based on the Cornish coast, I am always drawn to the ocean. The ever-changing nature of it allows for locations to constantly evolve with the tide and swell, which always fills me with excitement as it is a moment that will never be repeated identically.
What kind of effect do you wish to have on the viewer?
I hope to evoke a sense of calm through my work, even in the harsh breaking waves and dramatic landscapes. I like the idea that my perspective induces a presentness to the viewer whilst they look deeper into the image. The top-down angle can really make people almost double-take looking at an image, especially if it is a location they recognise but usually from ground level.
What sort of planning and preparation goes into a shoot?
Some of my shots are a case of being in the right place at the right time, so I always have my drone and a camera packed just in case an opportunity presents itself. On the other side of that, I spend time checking over satellite views on maps to hunt for interesting landscapes, as well as checking the weather forecast. Sunrise is my go-to time of day to shoot, the soft low light produces huge shadows across a subject and adds an extra layer of texture to the frame.
Are there any places you’d like to work in the future?
After being pretty landlocked for the last few years, I now cannot wait to get back out and explore new places and cultures and let some creativity flow. I will definitely be heading back to Lanzarote and the other Canary Islands very soon – there are so many places left to discover and I felt so free to create there.
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