Anders Bakken aka @andy_bakk on Instagram is an iPhone photographer from Norway. By day he works as a police officer but at every available opportunity will head out into the stunning Norwegian landscape that surround his home city of Gjovik to photograph its beauty.
I have been a fan of the work of Anders for a while now. His photos convey a strong sense of isolation and often feature lone figures which help to give scale to their surroundings. They do a fantastic job of capturing the beauty of nature, the colours and its serenity.
In this interview Anders talks about his introduction to iPhone photography, about his approach to composition and what inspires him to take his amazing photos.
How did you first discover iPhone photography?
I have always been interested in photography in general, and have been using both compact cameras, DSLR cameras and mobile phones to document my every day life. I got my first iPhone in 2013. My interest in iPhone photography boosted in mid 2016, when I downloaded a couple of great editing apps from App Store. This gave me a new insight in the art of image editing. It also opened up a whole new world to me, and since then I have been addicted. Now I only use my iPhone to take pictures, at every opportunity. On top of this comes Instagram, which makes it real easy to share my pics with others.
What inspires you to take photos with your iPhone?
I can find inspiration anywhere, depending on the setting and my state of mind. I am truly a nature lover, hence my predilection for nature photography. Wherever I go, I look for new and interesting places for future photography. I love to explore the amazing landscape which surrounds my home city, and one of my future goals is to travel around more in beautiful Norway to find some epic locations for my iPhone photography. The true inspiration is to get better at what I do, to learn and get inspiration from other photographers and never stop searching for the “perfect shot”.
Many of your photos have a sense of isolation and feature lone figures. How important is it for you to convey this feeling and include a human element in your photos?
I am not quite sure what makes these kind of photos inspirational to me. One thing is that I may be what some people describe as a loner. Not in a physical way, more in spirit and mind. I love desolate places. In many ways, I believe that ones personality truly reflect ones pictures. I am also easily awe inspired, especially when it comes to nature. To be all alone with the elements is truly inspiring to me, both photographically, physically and spiritually.
Through my pictures I may try to convey the connection between man and nature, to express the greater meaning of life than can be measured in physical wealth. Going back to nature and finding the true meaning of our lives. On top of this of course the awe of nature experiences, recreation and pondering about the beauty all around us.
Tell us about your approach to the composition of your photos? Are there any conscious decisions that you make?
My approach to the composition is firstly to take more than one or two photos of the same scene. I usually take at least 10-20 shots of the selected scene, from different angles, height levels and from different distances. I never use the cameras’ digital zoom because of the loss of quality. Before I shoot, I try to envisage what that specific composition would look like inside a photo frame on the wall, and make small changes from one shot to another. I never stop shooting until I am 100% satisfied.
To get the elements versus the figure “correct” is like the sense of taste. When it hits you, you know whether it’s good or not tasty at all. The main focus for me is to get the background elements big and dominating enough, to make the figures look small and “submissive”, if you like.
What apps do you use and is there a process or methodology that you apply to your post production editing?
There is such a large amount of great editing apps out there. I have used several of them, but my favourite apps these days are Enlight and Snapseed. On top of this I have come across the wonderful app TouchRetouch, which allows you to remove unwanted objects from your photos. I would also recommend the Superimpose app if you would like to boost your creative side of photography. This app gives major opportunities when it comes to working with layers.
I don’t have a fixed editing approach to my photos, though I often use the same means in many of them. Depending on what mood I would like the picture to radiate, I use as few editing adjustments as possible. Increase of sharpness, shadows, colours and an appropriate filter are my most used adjustments.
Also, I cannot express how important it is to set the screen lighting on full when editing.
Do you use any iPhone accessories in your landscape photographs?
I have a couple of Olloclip lenses which I have occasionally been experimenting with. I am truly awestruck by all the fantastic macro photos on Instagram that have been taken with a mobile phone macro lens. This part of photography might not be what I am best at, but hopefully I can learn some tricks in the future to increase my photographic skills and capabilities. I also often use a tripod (so that I myself can be the photo model) and a selfie-stick as a Bluetooth remote.
What would be your top tips or words of wisdom for taking better landscape photographs?
I may not be the first person one should ask about the formula for taking better photos. I can only tell what works for me. Firstly, do not be afraid to step on someone’s “lawn” to get your perfect photo. Take as many shots as you can of the same scenery (different angles and levels, with or with foreground elements) and be sure to have a clean lens ( I always have a lens cleaning cloth in my pocket). Try to be outside when the light is different than usual, and always look for good spots (they are easy to forget, so I usually write them down on my phones note app). You can then go back another day when the weather conditions are better or the light is more flattering. Also, last but not the least; don’t forget to have fun!
Are there any photographers that have been a big influence or inspiration to you?
It is difficult to mention influential and inspirational photographers by name. There are so great photographers out there, and I’m being influenced by a number of them each and every day. One of the first iPhone photographers I noticed when first connecting to Instagram was Mariko Klug. Her pictures really made me gasp, and still do today, I often wonder how she manages to create such fabulous atmosphere and mood into her pictures.
Tell us about three of your favourite photos and the story behind them?
It was around 9am in the morning, and I had been driving my youngest to kindergarden. The fog was thick in the area, and on my way back home I decided to drive a small and dusty (in summer) countryside road instead of the main road. The objective was (of course) to check out the opportunities for shooting a real photo masterpiece with my iPhone. When I saw this tree along the road, I knew at once that this could turn out to be a great photo if I got the shot right. The fog gave the whole area a truly amazing atmosphere, along with the snow which had come down a few days earlier.
I didn’t (when I needed it the most) have my tripod with me, so I had to improvise by trying to manouver my car in the right position, opening my trunk, and try to get my phone proper support to be “standing” inside the trunk by using a blanket I had inside my car, setting the cameras self timer on the maximum 10 seconds, and running like a maniac to get myself in position (yes, I am the silhouette by the tree). I repeated this for at least 15 times before I got it right (mostly because my phone would fall flat). I must have looked like a mad man running up and down the road, staring at this tree.
Shores of Mjosa
My wife, my two kids and I were out strolling by Lake Mjosa (which by the way is the largest lake in Norway) just before Christmas. I then saw this location between the treeline which I thought would make a perfect place for my wife to be standing for a photo. It was a couple of degrees below freezing, and the light was very flattering. I was very pleased with the trees, that naturally framed my wife. I knew at once that this picture would deserve its place in my Instagram gallery.
This picture was taken during a holiday trip to Denmark in the summer of 2016. I have seen some pretty nice sunsets during my life-time, but I have to say; the sunsets by the Kattegat ocean were epic! Every evening I was out shooting with my iPhone, and this special evening I was very lucky. I was on my way back to the hotel, when this young couple came by. They walked down to the beach, and when I saw them standing down by the waterline together, I couldn’t help but capture this “lovestory”. Personally I think this is one of my best shots so far.