Meet Gabe Taviano, Landscape and Travel Photographer from Columbia, South Carolina.
Gabe, how were you introduced to photography? Why did you decide to pursue it professionally?
My grandfather always had a camera hanging from his neck. Whenever I would visit a new place with him, I remember him always capturing the moment. His passion for travel inspired me. I decided to pursue photography because I have creativity in my blood. I initially experimented with sketching as a child, in design as a teenager and college student, but photography has always been the one creative practice I have never let go of. Three things that continue to fuel my photography are: the mastery of composition, the adventure of being at the right place at the right time, and the creative mystery that today's post-processing allows us to experience.
What is the image that you’re most proud of creating?
Why are you most proud of that image?
When someone tells you that you created the Norman Rockwell style better than he did, you just take it as a compliment and move on. The admiration my fans and friends have given to this photo has made me smile many times. I love the challenge that HDR brings to photography. Capturing the broad range of shadows and highlights in a scene. Controlling the light within a composition and making it look like the moment you remember seeing yourself. I am proud of this photo because I do not practice (or really enjoy) street photography much. But after learning the Khmer (Cambodian) language, I was able to interact with the barber in this small alley in the capital city of Phnom Penh, and create a piece that I truly believe is a very fine work of art.
What is something photography or business related you've learned that has impacted you recently?
I see each day as a new opportunity to capture a portfolio-worthy moment. It is so easy to believe the lie that we have possibly arrived as a "professional". There is no such thing as arriving. A true artist will be fueled to practice their craft until they are physically or mentally unable. I have been near death a few times in life, so I have huge appreciation for each new moment I get to experience.
What’s the story behind this incredible image?
I just returned to the USA, after living in Cambodia for 5 years. I lived 10 minutes from Angkor Wat, the world's most photographed location for a sunrise. I have many memorable photos of the infamous temple. But Phnom Krom is a small mountain, in a poor / rural community 15 minutes south of Siem Reap. I always enjoyed hopping on my motorcycle and leaving the bustling tourist city behind. Tourists and expats are allowed to visit this temple for free after 5:30pm. The perfect time for beautiful sunsets, which happens at least 10 out of the 12 months. My guess is I made the trek to this village over 250 times in 5 years. I made lasting friendships there. Just thinking about it brings me joy today. I photographed sunsets there every time, but the color in this sunset takes my breathe away every time I look at the photo (or put the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle together now that I sell those). The rainstorms that roll in, as you see on the horizon to the left, always provide the country the rice they need to get through the year. And the sunset that the rainstorm is trying to push away is not easily defeated, which I believe is a picture of the character and relentless spirit the Cambodian people have after millions of their own people were killed during the Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 1970s. The picture is definitely not my best, but it is by far my favorite. No critique or dollar amount can add or subtract from the value this photo has to me.
Have you ever done a social media photography challenge? Which one?
I think the best challenge I have been a part of is going through Project 365 for two consecutive years (capturing a new photo every day). Out of the 730 photos I was able to create through it all, some of them created unique moments. Millions of people have photographed Angkor Wat, but I am most likely the first to have photographed it from over 2 miles away and 500 meters high, thanks to my drone. When you shoot every day for two years, you learn to always have a camera with you. You never know what opportunities will present themselves.
Is there anything else important, fun, wacky, or practical that you'd like to share?:
My book that I have made available on DarkSunsets.com has allowed me to take my passion for photography and share my life's story with others. I was fortunate to live through a massive heart attack and the following years of struggling with my mental health (anxiety, depression and even suicidal ideation). When life gives you lemons, make photos. Your story is just as unique as mine, and I strongly encourage you to allow your craft to share your heart with the world that needs to see it and hear it.
To see more of Gabe’s images, check out his portfolio here.