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Gabrielle van den Elshout: Stillness in Architecture Photography

by Yvette Depaepe 
Published the 26th of July 2021

Gabrielle van den Elshout's architectural photographs, mostly monochrome, are stunning and masterfully processed making visible what is not there in reality.
  She excels in playing with light to show emotions and creates stillness in all of her work.
I was gladly surprised when I recently saw her 1x portfolio and honoured that she accepted to do this interview.  Let's enjoy and discover more about this talented lady today.




Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs, dear Gabrielle.
First of all, many thanks for inviting me for this interview! I feel honoured!
In daily life I work as a music therapist and emotions are an important part of my work. Being able to “touch” someone through music is very special. I play piano and cello, and I always focus on sensitivity in everything I play. When I was able to purchase a camera from a colleague cellist from my orchestra in 2017, I started with photography. Capturing emotions in images became a new challenge.




How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
As a child I was already photographing for a year in primary school and developed the photos myself in a dark room. I did have a little bit of knowledge of photography, but that faded away. When I bought the camera from my colleague, I started full of enthusiasm, searching the internet and trying out camera settings. I soon noticed that long exposure photography in particular inspired me. My photos slowly but surely became more minimalistic and I converted my photos mostly to black and white. I started to combine the long exposure with architecture and I discovered that there was still a lot to learn for me in that area. Just as I often look for emotions in music, I do the same in photography. Playing with light is my most important tool for showing emotion in a photo. I try to create a kind of stillness in my photos by working from dark to light, and I deliberately use low light.


'Provincial house'


Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
Music, art and creativity run like a thread through my life. As a child I drew a lot and made music. The musical parameters can also be found in photography and art. By searching for the essence of an image, I started to omit more and more. A number of “lost moments” in my life have influenced my photography. Loneliness is woven into my photos and enriches them.




What first attracted you to photography?
My enthusiasm for photography started in primary school as I told here above. In the years that followed, I mainly captured pleasant moments with friends and mainly some holiday snapshots. Many years later the idea arose to buy an SLR camera. Going out to make photos seemed nice and literally shifting the focus appealed to me. Then the offer of the digital SLR camera came and I was immediately sold. Playing with depth of field became the first challenge, and more challenges followed.
I divide into it and looked at the photos that inspired me. I tried to match the atmosphere and gradually developed my own style.


'Vesteda tower'


Describe your overall photographic vision
Aesthetics in photography is important to me. I always strive for a certain beauty in a photo. That is also what attracts me to the work of other photographers. My photos are not a reflection of reality. I try to make visible what is not there in reality.




Why are you so drawn by Architecture Photography?
The search for special architecture inspires me enormously. Due to the light of the day, the composition changes every time and I find it a challenge to do a building justice. An imposing building can give me an overwhelming feeling. That's the start of the photo. Usually I also delve into the history of the building and look up information from the architect. Then the photo becomes a kind of small project. Architectural photography offers endless possibilities, that fascinates me.




What is more important to you, the mood, /story behind your images or the technical perfection?
For me, the mood is the most important. Of course, technology cannot be seen in isolation, but I regularly deviate from certain rules. For example, I find blur in a photo at least as important as sharpness. My starting point is of course a well-taken photo with the right camera settings. In post-processing I then have the most possibilities to achieve the best result.


'For praying'


What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
When I go out to photograph architecture, the moment the building comes into view is a kind of gift for me. I often have to travel quite a distance for it and when a building looms up, it feels overwhelming.
Usually I prepare well when I start shooting. What is the best time, can I park nearby, what are the weather forecasts like? But I also shoot spontaneously. Recently I went for a skyline, and behind me, there was a building I thought was special in terms of design. So I also captured this.


'Skyline Rotterdam'



'Staggered light'


What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
I shoot with the Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens, and the Nikon D7100 with 50mm or 18-105mm. I mainly use the D7100 camera for still life.
I also use Nisi filters: 10 stops and 6 stops. I often combine these to 16 stops for slow shutter speeds. I also often use a polarizing filter (Nisi).
In addition, my tripod is indispensable: Benro TMA47AL with geared head GD3WH. This tripod head is crucial for me in architectural photography because the composition can be determined very precisely. Finally, I use a lowerpro backpack (flipside 300). This is always filled with the niche filters, cable release and camera so  I can immediately go on the road and not have to pack my bag every time.

What software do you use to process your images?
Lightroom classic and Photoshop are the programs I work in. In addition, I use two plugins: Artisan pro and Silver Efex Pro. These plugins are indispensable for me for converting and editing to monochrome.


'Light reflections'


Can you tell us something about your workflow?
The first step is to import the photos into Lightroom. Then I look at exactly what I want to show in the photo. I do this by drawing a radial filter over the photo, inverting it and underexposing it. This makes me see for where I want the light. When I know this generally, I export the photo to Photoshop. Then I select all parts in the photo and edit these selections with the Artisan-panel after I convert the photo to black and white. Then I fine-tune the photo in Lightroom. And the most important thing: sleep on it overnight and then see if it is okay. That night's sleep works wonders. I immediately see what still needs to be adjusted.





'Martinus Nijhoff bridge'


What is your most important advice to a beginner in Architecture Photography and how do you get started?
My advice is to do it yourself. See what appeals to you in the photos of others. Try to find out what is special for you. And ask other photographers for advice or go with someone to shoot. It is educational and fun to share knowledge.

Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
There are many photographers who inspire me, but I would like to mention a few explicitly:

- Graeme, what a fantastic use of light and gray tones in excellent compositions!
- Olavo Azevedo for his wonderful use of light.
- Joël Tjintelaar because of his excellent view of monochrome images.
- Greetje van Son because of her beautiful photos  AND because of her during a lecture she gave a few years ago, I discovered 1x!

Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?
The work of Graeme inspires me a lot. His use of light and dark and the chosen buildings are fantastic.
The use of light in this photo is so beautiful and excellent applied! The subject is sober and the light makes it very special.


'Bennelong Restaurant' by Graeme


Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I want to delve even further into architecture and other forms of photography. Recently I tried to edit in fine art colour. A very intensive, but fascinating way of editing. May be once in a while for a change?



Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why is it special to you?
I wanted to photograph the basilica in Oudenbosch when bad weather was predicted. The basilica against a dark cloudy sky seemed perfect to me. But the storm came earlier than predicted and it was raining cats and dogs. The weather forecast kept changing in more rain, and after waiting for more than an hour, I took the photo sitting in the car, from the open window. It was only one photo I took, but I went home very happy!


'Basilica minor'


Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1x as a home base for your work?
When I discovered 1x, I was amazed by the incredibly high level of photography. What a beautiful and amazing photos! I was inspired and became more critical about my own photos.
A few months ago I took the step and posted my first photos. The photographers I admired for their work commented on my photos, I was so surprised!
1x keeps me critical, the contact with the photographers all over the world is great and I can learn a lot by looking at their work! 1x is an enrichment for my photography!

Gabrielle van den Elshout




Van harte proficiat met dit artikel Gabrielle. De manier waarop je met licht speelt is een bron van inspiratie voor ons allen. Bedankt Yvette voor het brengen van dit artikel :-)
Hartelijk dank Luc! Ik was compleet verrast en ben erg blij met deze waardering!
Excellent work I would say and I am always very impressed what skills can be achieved in such a short time after starting with photography! My full respect! Thanks for the interview to you, Gabrielle and certainly also thanks to Yvette for the editoring!
Thank you very much for your nice comment! Much appreciated!
Architecture presented in a minimalist way. Accentuated by islands of light. An art that you have mastered to perfection and that inspires me.Congratulations!
Thank you very much Stephan for this comment!
Truly exceptional are your architectural images, intricately designed with a lot of effort in grayscale, also powerful and distinctive. Congratulations dear Gabrielle.
Thank you very much for your comment, much appreciated!
Dank je Gabrielle om je visie te delen!Heb aardig wat tips kunnen lezen waar ik wat aan heb.Gefeliciteerd met dit artikel.
Dankjewel Ruurd! Mooi dat je er bruikbare tips uit kan halen! Ervaring en kennis delen blijft leuk!
Thank you so much, dear Gabrielle, for this very inspiring interview and for your excellent splendid works. And thank you, dear Yvette, for another your impeccable article. Have a happy new week . :)
Thank you Francesco! My pleasure!
Thank you Francesco ;-)
My pleasure, dear Gabrielle... :)
My pleasure, dear Yvette... :)
Bravo! Very special architectural photography. Thank you for the introduction.
Thank you very much Dorothee!
Very nice article Gabrielle, love the story but above all, the images.
Thank you very much Maurice, and thank you for some inspiring photo moments!
Thank you Gabrielle for your very inspiring story and magnificent photography, architectural photography is my passion too! And thank you too very much Yvette for your incredible effort in organising and presenting this excellent feature.
Thank you very much Wayne!
Thanks, Wayne !!! It's my pleasure to present our talented members in the magazine, believe me !
Geleficiteerd Gabrielle met dit mooie artikel!
Dankjewel Elisabeth!
Thanks for the interview Gabrielle and Yvette. Very enriching. Excellent photography and mood creation Gabrielle. My compliments. And the night's sleep I also agree.
Thank you Marc! :-)
Thanks for your appreciation, Marc !
Thank you for your view!