Monthly Archives: July 2015

Valsdarkroom: Exploring the Unexplored

Valerie is a photographer and explorer based out of Belgium. She is the queen of taking pictures of abandoned places.

The following is an interview with Valerie where she discusses her photography techniques, working process, and inspiration. The interview has been edited for brevity.

Niaz: Thank you, Val, for taking the time to join us at eTalks. We are thrilled to have you.

Val: Thank you for having me!

Niaz: You’re a photographer and explorer from Belgium. For the people who don’t know about you, can you start with telling us a little bit about yourself?

Val: I’m Valerie, but most people outside my close group of friends call me Val. I live alone in a small flat in Liège, Belgium and I love it there.

Niaz:  You do some complicated and amazing photography works. Before I dig into it, I would like to know how did you get started with photography?

Val: It started at a very young age, my dad is a hobby photographer and we used to have a dark room at our house. I learned to shoot with manual cameras and to develop my own black and white photos. When I was about 20 years old I hung out with a lot of skateboarders and I would take pictures of them. Photography has always been something I loved but it turned into a real passion once I started exploring abandoned places.

Niaz: As far as I guess your favourite subjects of shooting are abandoned places. On one side, it’s very hard to find those places. On the other side, it’s very hard to get access to them. But you have been exploring a lot of abandoned places. I understand it’s very challenging but that’s what you probably love to do. Can you please share us your inspiration of shooting abandoned places?

Val: Before I even thought of taking pictures in abandoned places like I do now, my friends and I loved finding abandoned places and checking them out, exploring without really seeing it from a photographer’s point of view. It is thrilling to find places and walk inside, find things and wonder why they were not used anymore. Abandoned places have something very peaceful about them for me. I don’t like crowded places much, they make me feel uncomfortable. While in a forgotten place you hardly see anyone there, I love that feeling. And I love wondering what happened and why things are left the way they are.

Niaz: Is there any specific book, movie, music, or something else that has been also instrumental for you to shoot abandoned places?

Val: Not really anything in particular to shoot abandoned places. It all came naturally, a next step in my life. I’m constantly inspired by life though, and with this also by music and movies, I used to make music myself, but that’s another passion I’m not gonna get into now :)

Niaz: Share us the stories of finding those epic location as well as getting access to them.

Val: In the beginning it was very hard, it’s sort of a closed off scene, hence why I started doing it alone. I looked at pictures from other people and tried to find clues as to where places were, that’s how I quickly found some classic places everyone gets to shoot when they start. Getting access is always a thrill, you never know what to expect, someone might give you advice, but by the time you get there the access has changed, or you have no info at all and you need to find your way in. Bottom line though: I never break anything to be able to get into a place, if there is no door unlocked, no window open, no basement access, etc. I walk away. As to finding places now, I have a good group of friends with the same passion from not only Belgium, also UK, Holland and France, and we sort of work together, help each other out.

Niaz: What type of cameras do you shoot with and what is your favorite lens set-up?

Val: I shoot with a Nikon D700, and my all round lens is the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G, I also use a Nikkor 35mm f/2G for my detail shots. The bokeh on that one is just amazing. I would love to get a lense that is still a bit wider than my 16-35mm. I also have a little Sony nex5 camera that I always have with me. And I recently got an Instax camera that I have a little project with, a couple of those pictures are on my Instagram.

Niaz: Do you use any additional equipment, accessory or technology that helps for your composition?

Val: I use my tripod, Manfrotto MT190XPRO4, a very sturdy one. Sometimes I’m annoyed with it because I have to carry it and it’s heavy, but my camera is pretty heavy so I don’t have to worry it will fall over.

Niaz:  When did you join Instagram? Why have you chosen Instagram as a platform for sharing your art?

Val: I don’t remember when I joined Instagram to be honest, but I remember when I started my @valsdarkroom account, that was september 2013. I had been on instagram for a little while, but decided to make an account where I wouldn’t post any phone pictures, and it turned out to be pretty much only abandoned places.

Niaz: What are your favorite hashtags on Instagram?

Val: I check the #abandoned hashtag mostly, I used to be part of the whole group thing on instagram, but I stepped away from that, it is nice those groups are out there, but I don’t have enough time as it is, so I leave it to the people that have the passion for it. I did start my own hashtag #valexplores, at some point I might ask people to tag to it if they see something that they think I would like.

Niaz: Can you list some of your most favorite Instagrammers?

Val: Definitely @jamiebettsphoto, he’s a big inspiration, I especially love his post-processing skills. Some others I love are: @trashhand, @black_soap, @_soliveyourlife_, @le_blanc, @hannes_becker. You will notice that these don’t all shoot abandoned places, but pretty much all the people I follow are an inspiration to me on some level.

Niaz: You are very skilled in terms of using post-processing softwares. Your final output is very impressive. Tell us about the software and tools do you use for post-processing?

Val: Thank you. My main tool is Photoshop, I’m a real addict. And I also use the Nik collection and Topaz plugins. I used to process mostly HDR, this is several bracketed pictures combined into one. But nowadays I don’t do HDR anymore, I take several pictures with different exposure time and I mix them with layers in photoshop, until I get the good lighting for the overall picture. Then I start the real process of coloring and adding character to the picture. I spend a lot of time on my post-processing, it can go from 30min to several hours for one picture.

Niaz: What is the one most important lesson that you have learned since you started taking photographs?

Val: I’m not really sure, I would have to say: make sure to check your settings on your camera at all times. Sometimes you get carried away in the moment, and the excitement of being in these crazy places make you forget things. I once shot a whole day with my iso turned up way too high, I was just too excited and my pictures turned out like crap. Must have been one of those days…

Niaz: If you were advising a young photographer today, what words of wisdom would you share?

Val: Keep your eyes open, your eyes are the biggest tool you have, if you don’t see it, you won’t be able to take a good picture of it.

Niaz: Where do people find you to know more about you and your works? (Website, Facebook, Twitter …..)

Val: I have my own website (that I’m not being active enough on I have to admit) valsdarkroom.com. You can find me on Flickr as valsdarkroom. And I am @valdilda13 on Twitter.

Niaz: What does photography mean to you?

Val: That’s a tough question, it’s always been a part of my life and now it’s become the biggest part. If I could only take pictures and explore for the rest of my life, that would be a dream come true.

Niaz: Any last comment?

Val: Thank you so much for having me here! I thought it was gonna be hard to answer all these questions, but everything just flew out. Thanks again!

Niaz: Val, thank you so much for sharing incredible ideas with us. We would like to wish you very good luck for all of your upcoming great endeavors.

Ending Note: You can follow Valerie on Instagram at  @valsdarkroom. The interview has been conducted by Niaz. He is the founder and curator of eTalks. You can follow him on Instagram at @neohumanity.

_  _  _  _  ___  _  _  _  _

Previous Interviews:

01. Nois7 on Limitless Imagination

02. Abel Perez on Capturing the Future

03. iamcued on Unbound Imagination

04. Puji Faisal Nawawi on Behind the Beauty of Beautiful Art

05. Dominic Liam on Capturing the Shadows

06. Sloppystick on Photographing Abandoned Buildings

07. Debra Harder on The Art of Photography

08. Daria Khoroshavina: The Art of Metaphoric Photography

09. Cole Thompson on The Ultimate Photography Manifesto

10. Jeff Haden on Pursuing Excellence

11. Hugh Mac­Leod on Creativity and Art

Nois7: Limitless Imagination

Robert Jahns, known as nois7, is a photographer, digital artist and art director based out of Germany. His wild imagination, jaw dropping creativity and immense skills have made him a legend on Instagram where he shares his art works with over 752,000 fans and followers.

The following is an interview with Robert Jahns where he discusses about photography, inspiration, compositing, post processing and future plans. The interview has been edited for brevity.

A photo posted by Robert Jahns (@nois7) on

Niaz: Thank you, Robert, for taking the time to join us at eTalks. We are thrilled and honored to have you.

Robert: Thanks for the interest Niaz, my pleasure.

Niaz: You’re a photographer, digital artist and art director based in Germany. You’re known as nois7 on Instagram and run a popular account boasting more than 752,000 followers. With your unbound imagination, genuine talent and profound skills, you have become an Instagram Sensation. Before we dig into your art and creation, would you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Robert: You almost said everything haha. Yes my passion is to create images which inspire the people, to create images which make the people wonder. It’s fun to let the imagination run wild and to exalt someone elses imagination with my work. To reach so many people from all over the world is amazing! I’m lucky to have that chance and I really appreciate that.

A photo posted by Robert Jahns (@nois7) on

Niaz: How did you get started with photography and art? 

Robert: I took my first photo when I was 15, that was because my dad bought a new camera and I wanted to test it out. With editing I started even 2 or 3 years earlier. I loved using photoshop and as a teenager I often used it 4-5 hours a day just to see what I can do with it.

Niaz: You have rare kind of imagination and you use it as like as a magician. How do you stay creative? What are the sources of your imagination?

Robert: Thanks man! I always try to challenge myself by creating a new artwork everyday. I see thousands of images a day, listen to hours of music a day and to collaborate with other photographers is a great way to stay creative as well. I also love traveling as often as I can and to meet new people from other countries is so interesting.

A photo posted by Robert Jahns (@nois7) on

Niaz: Each of the your surreal images are the results of compositing different images by using a number of image editing apps on your iPhone. Sometimes the editing takes two hours and sometimes it takes several days to complete. Hundreds of thousands of people actually do compositing. Most of the time they just do it wrong. Can you please tell us about the rules and laws of compositing images?

Robert: Great to see you’re good informed. Honestly speaking it’s a very long process to get there where I am and it’s a never ending process. There are a bunch of things to keep in mind while editing and taking the pictures. Most important is the right lightning, shadows, perspective, temperature and depth of field. That all has to work together to look realistic what makes it difficult and a lot of planning.

A photo posted by Robert Jahns (@nois7) on

Niaz: Your concepts are wildly ambitious. And you finish them flawlessly. What are the very instrumental things that make you a perfectionist?

Robert: Glad you think so. I think I just am a perfectionist that’s why my work looks like it does. I put a lot of time into details and always overthink the concept once or twice to see if it’s really a good one. Often I don’t post a new artwork for months until I think it really is a good one.

A photo posted by Robert Jahns (@nois7) on

Niaz: The thing that fascinate me most about your arts is your composition. There are a lot of things that go into it. Can you please share us a behind the scene story of creating one of these arts? Like from initiation to finalization?

Robert: Well in the beginning I used to even do some scribbles of my ideas. Nowadays I just write new ideas down or add them to the notes. I got a big image archive from all my travels so if I need any specific image of a city I’ve been to I can use those. If I got an idea in mind which I don’t have an image to I get in touch with other photographers to see if they are keen to collaborate with me. Then it’s about editing. That part happens on my phone with different apps. When that’s done I often overthink the final image again, show it to my wife to have her feedback and then I post it up to Instagram and see how the people like it. Community, so the fans are very important to me!

A photo posted by Robert Jahns (@nois7) on

Niaz: If you were advising a young artist today, what would your words of wisdom be?

Robert: Always dream big. That is what I always do. Always think positive about your ideas and try your best to reach your goals.

A photo posted by Robert Jahns (@nois7) on

Niaz: Who are some of your most favorite Instagrammers?

Robert: Always @RaviVora, he is a very creative dude and his image quality is on another level. Always a pleasure to meet and talk to him. Then there is @Wrongrob, he captures NYC in a very unique look. I always feel like in a movie scene while looking through his work. Honored to have met him in person as well, so great to see his passion for photography. Last but not least @chrisburkard who’s life can’t be more adventurous. To follow his journey is such a pleasure and you should all check out his TED talk, so inspiring that it gives you goosebumps.

Niaz: What is the one most important lesson that you have learned since you started taking photographs and creating art?

Robert: I still learn from my faults, as said it’s an endless process and I’m glad it is. It’s important to be true to yourself, just do what you wanna do. I often have to struggle with people who just post or copy my work without any credit which sucks. But many of my images go viral and I can’t get in touch with all of them so I learned to live with it most of the time.

A photo posted by Robert Jahns (@nois7) on

Niaz: Last but not least, what are your current focuses and priorities are?

Robert: My current focus is on my all around the world trip I will start with my wife @galina90 soon. We created a new account on Instagram @Lifeofnois7 to share the adventures so be sure to follow along!

There are many things in line right now, I plan my art gallery in several cities and next year we wanna move to NYC, can’t wait!

Niaz: Any last comment?

Robert: I always appreciate everyone’s feedback and the constant support on Instagram or other platforms. If you got a dream, whatever how big it is, try to make it a reality!

A photo posted by Robert Jahns (@nois7) on

Niaz: Robert, thank you so much for sharing incredible ideas with us. We would like to wish you very good luck for all of your upcoming great endeavors.

Editor’s Note: You can follow Robert on Instagram at  @nois7. The interview has been conducted by Niaz. He is the founder and curator of eTalks. You can follow him on Instagram at @neohumanity.

_  _  _  _  ___  _  _  _  _

Previous Interviews:

01. Abel Perez on Capturing the Future

02. iamcued on Unbound Imagination

03. Puji Faisal Nawawi on Behind the Beauty of Beautiful Art

04. Dominic Liam on Capturing the Shadows

05. Sloppystick on Photographing Abandoned Buildings

06. Debra Harder on The Art of Photography

07. Daria Khoroshavina: The Art of Metaphoric Photography

08. Cole Thompson on The Ultimate Photography Manifesto

09. Jeff Haden on Pursuing Excellence

10. Hugh Mac­Leod on Creativity and Art

Abel Perez: Capturing the Future

Abel Perez is an entrepreneur, computer programmer, world traveler and a maniac photographer. He bends reality with pixels to create futuristic elements and arts.

The following is an interview with Abel Perez where he discusses about photography, gears, inspiration, composition, post processing and Instagram. The interview has been edited for brevity.

A photo posted by Vagabond (@abelperezgram) on

Niaz: Thank you, Abel, for taking the time to join us at eTalks. We are thrilled to have you.

Abel: You’re very welcome and thank you for having me!

Niaz: You’re a photographer based out of LA. But you have been traveling all around the world.  For the people who don’t know about you, can you start with telling us a little bit about yourself?

Abel: It’s interesting you mention traveling and photography, I think I should probably explain how that came about. I’m actually a technology entrepreneur and mostly spend my work time running a tech company I co-founded. I work 100% remote and it’s because of this that I travel so much. The fact that I’ve managed to divorce myself from the office is what has set the stage for my passion in photography. Before I got into technology I was exclusively making Art in various mediums and genres (Ink, Aerosol, Tattoos, Murals) but quickly came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to pay the bills. So I basically parked my artist life in favor of a career in technology. I always held onto the idea of resuming my core passion for being an Artist. When I came across photography, I realized that this was it, a quick way to be an artist and a non-intrusive activity to my career. So to answer your question, I’m a tech dude who loves photography and travel.

Niaz: That’s wonderful. So how did you get started with photography? Did you study it in school?

Abel: I actually have no formal education in photography but I have put a significant amount of time in educating myself. I’ve spent many hours researching different photography techniques across many genres and have definitely taken learning Photoshop very seriously. I’ve also attended several workshops with some very talented professional photographers.

A photo posted by Vagabond (@abelperezgram) on

Niaz: You have been making science fiction and futuristic arts. I really admire your futuristic approach to photography. How did you ended up with this concept?

Abel: I rarely ever plan to create futuristic concepts and imagery but for whatever reasons my brain seems to gravitate towards a futuristic feel. Perhaps it has something to do with me implicitly always being on a constant move forward.

Niaz: How and where do you find your inspiration?

Abel: Inspiration is a tricky thing and very ephemeral. I feel very fortunate to have figured out a way to stay inspired more often than not. Inspiration is random, it comes when you least expect it and disappears at a blink of an eye so the challenge is how to stay inspired. When I run out of inspiration I’ll simply move on to a genre or style of photographer I’ve never seen or executed before. I’ll research it and find the photographers who are really good in that space. That usually takes to me to a place where I’m exposed to new techniques and ways to take reality into the digital. Like a kid in a candy store, I get very excited and run off with tons of inspiration for my next creation. You can actually see this in my Instagram feed, there is zero consistency in my style, clearly a reflection of me chasing inspiration instead of waiting for it.

Niaz: What type of cameras do you shoot with and what is your favorite lens set-up?

Abel: I shoot with a Nikon D600 and occasionally the Sony A7S but I’m not culturally divided by let’s say Nikon and Canon. If you give me a Canon, I’ll run with it. Even though camera technology has come a long way, I think at the end of the day it’s more about the creative process than the technology. I have several favorite lenses simply because I shoot various styles of photography. I love the 14-24mm f2.8 for cityscape, aerial, landscapes and the 50mm f1.8 and 85mm f.14 for portraiture, minimal and abstract shots.

A photo posted by Vagabond (@abelperezgram) on

Niaz: Your compositions are really complex, thoughtful, and innovative. How do you approach composition? How much work goes into it?

Abel: My compositions are usually derived from multiple sources of inspiration. For example, I might come across a photographer who does amazing innovative surreal minimalism and shortly after find myself walking down some alley in Budapest with interesting and unique architecture. Then before you know it, I’m in a coffee shop sketching a surreal minimal style concept of an alley in Budapest. I don’t spend too much time sketching the concept, it’s usually a super rough idea but enough to get me going. Often times all the magic happens when I’m sitting at my computer in Photoshop. My compositions evolve with every element I bring into the frame and often times end up being completely different than the original concept. I’d say not too much work goes into the complete process but then again that’s relative to what I’ve been doing for a pretty long time now. The complexity in the end result is just a reflection of integrating multiple unrelated elements into one cohesive picture that makes fantasy look like reality.

Niaz: How much post processing helps to bring your ideas from composition to final reality? Which software, tools, and apps do you use for post processing?

Abel: Post processing is a big part of my process mainly because I aim to create artistic results instead of pure photography. I know many photographers frown at post processing or should I say “photoshopping” and pride themselves in making all the necessary decisions in camera to yield the perfect shot and that’s a beautiful thing but for me it’s quite the opposite. I’m satisfied with capturing a not so ideal shot because I know once I jump behind the photoshop wheel the image will arrive at an acceptable state. So I would say post processing is a huge part of my workflow.

I mainly use Photoshop, actually almost exclusively Photoshop.

A photo posted by Vagabond (@abelperezgram) on

Niaz: Now there are so many sites and apps to share photographs. Why have you chosen Instagram as a platform for sharing your art?

Abel: I think at the moment Instagram is probably one of the best platforms if not the best to reach massive international exposure in a very simple way. And I say at the moment because we all now how social media sites/apps come and go. If I think back, I don’t even think I made a conscious decision to use Instagram as a platform for delivering my Art. I think like most of us, I just came aboard through curiosity and over time in turned into an extremely useful channel for exposure and connectivity with like minded individuals.

Niaz: How long did it take you to create your own community on Instagram?

Abel: It’s taken me a while even though I’m pretty serious about maintaining constant interaction with my followers and consistent delivery of Art. There’s many variables that go into building a solid community on Instagram. To better answer your question, it didn’t happen overnight and it definitely took at least a year of solid dedication. And of course I’m only speaking for myself here, I’ve seen others have instant fame and others struggle to get recognition despite their hard efforts.

Niaz: What are your tips for beginners on building a community on Instagram?

Abel: There’s a lot of competition on Instagram these days, so many talented photographers, so I would say to focus on being unique and capturing things and places in ways that have not been seen before. This will help set you apart and get peoples attention. Once your photography is on point then I’d say equally important is being interactive. Instagram definitely supports the phrase “you get what you give” so go out there and give people love by liking and commenting on their photos. I would also suggest targeting the aggregators and hubs, they’re a great way to get exposure across many communities of photographers. And lastly, keep your delivery consistent, try to post at least once a day and avoid the occasional selfie and drinking beer at the bar shot.

A photo posted by Vagabond (@abelperezgram) on

Niaz: What is your most favorite hashtag?

Abel: I can’t say I’m partial to any specific hashtags these days. Once in a while I’ll chase a few hashtags related to cities I’m traveling through mainly for discovery of locations and photographers to connect with. I do like hashtags like #TheWorldNeedsMoreSpiralStaircases simply because the majority of photos tagged are highly relevant to the tag and because I love spiral staircase of course.

Niaz: Who are some of your most favorite Instagrammers?

Abel: This changes very often since it depends on what my current mood of inspiration is. I was just recently experimenting with compositing Elephants into cityscapes and abandoned locations and found myself favoriting @nois7’s account simply because he has a few really nice composites of Elephants in his feed.  I also really like @lovepaperplane she has an amazing imagination and extremely well way of expressing it.  Actually everyone I follow on Instagram in one way or another are some of my favorite instagrammers. Everyone has their own style and uniqueness in expressing what they see through the viewfinder.

Niaz: What is the one most important lesson that you have learned since you started taking photographs and creating art?

Abel: Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is that it’s never too late to reinvent your self.  I look back at some of my first shots and edits and it amazes me how far I’ve come. My endeavors as a photographer have shown me that I can do and be anything I want in life.

Niaz: What does photography mean to you?

Abel: Photography is much more than the definition of the word describes. To me it’s a fabric that connects people from around the world through imagination and passion. I’ve met people of all walks from around the world and I’ve seen places that are breath taking all because of photography. Photography is and will forever be a beautiful thing.

A photo posted by Vagabond (@abelperezgram) on

Niaz: How do you see photography as a career?

Abel: Since I’ve established my career in technology I rarely think of photography as a career path. You hear people say all the time that you should work where your passion is but I have a different perspective on that matter. Working where your passion is can be tricky, if you’re passionate about something that doesn’t have a high return on investment then you’re bound to a set salary or compensation. If you find the career path that makes you the most money then what you should do is spend your money in the thing that you’re most passionate about. And this is exactly what I do, technology is where I grind and photography is where I play. Depending on making money where your passion is can quickly poison your passion and cripple the ability to genuinely be creative. I know this too well because I once was a starving artist but this is just my opinion and obviously there are thousands of well-established photographers who makes tons of money and love what they do.

Niaz: What’s your future plan for your photography?

Abel: The only plan is to keep going, move forward and to continue to create and explore and meet great people through the journey. Hopefully and this is very important to me but I want to be able to inspire others the way that I’ve been inspired. It brings me great joy to know and feel that I’m part of a movement, an era, where photography and art are the driving forces that yield beautiful interpretations of our times.

Niaz: If you were advising a young photographer today, what would your words of wisdom be?

Abel: I would say “Freedom is the new money.” Free yourself from any constraints that prevent you from being creative. Materialize your visions, express your individuality no matter what the trends are. Keep going and be consistent, patience is truly a wisdom and mastery will come with time.

Niaz: Where do people find you to know more about your and your works? (Website, Facebook, Twitter …..)

Abel: You can find me on Instagram at @abelperezgram. I post daily so this is probably the best place to tune into my creative outlet.

A photo posted by Vagabond (@abelperezgram) on

Niaz: Any last comment?

Abel: I think I’ve exhausted everything I have at the moment lol.

Niaz: Abel, thank you so much for sharing us your incredible ideas. Your works have been very impressive. We are wishing you very good luck for all of your upcoming great endeavors and enormous success. Cheers mate!

Abel: Thank you for asking such great questions, they’ve definitely evoked self introspecting thoughts that have perhaps helped me learned a little bit about myself. Again thanks for having me and wish eTalks the greatest success!

Editor’s Note: You can follow Abel on Instagram at @abel.psd. The interview has been conducted by Niaz. He is the founder and curator of eTalks. You can follow him on Instagram at @neohumanity. And I am Ava Madigan at @lavatl

_  _  _  _  ___  _  _  _  _

01. iamcued on Unbound Imagination

02. Puji Faisal Nawawi on Behind the Beauty of Beautiful Art

03. Dominic Liam on Capturing the Shadows

04. Sloppystick on Photographing Abandoned Buildings

05. Debra Harder on The Art of Photography

06. Daria Khoroshavina: The Art of Metaphoric Photography

07. Cole Thompson on The Ultimate Photography Manifesto

08. Jeff Haden on Pursuing Excellence

09. Barry Schwartz on Wisdom and Happiness

10. Gautam Mukunda on Leadership

11. Hugh Mac­Leod on Creativity and Art