Maximum inventiveness, a wild spectrum of colors, and sky work worth falling in love with - these characteristics show up in every image that Ravi (@guardiansoftrance) creates. There is a certain mood that he manages to weave in to his work that produces a sense of awe and wonderment. We first encountered his work as he would participate in various rounds of the @mexturescollective and his style has only gotten better, so naturally we wanted to hear more about it! We had a great conversation with him and learned heaps of information about him and his approach to creativity. Read along now!
I’m originally from the UK but I'm currently in the US. I have lived in Boston and Washington DC and now I call San Francisco my home. My work is very consuming but I do make time for friends and family and usually there’s a bottle of wine to go along! As a wine aficionado living close to Napa has been a dream come true. There are world class wineries and the landscape is beautiful and inspiring as well. One thing that always amazes me about the Bay Area is the dense rolling fog piling up against the city in the summers. It is truly a sight to behold. In my free time I make music in my studio. And as you’ve probably guessed from my Instagram handle it’s trance music. I usually work on music at night and frequently find myself suddenly looking at the sunrise and wondering how the time flew by so fast. I appreciate and respect what other producers have done in the past and collect classic trance music pressed on vinyl. I’ve been digitally archiving these tracks and posting clips on Instagram. However, I do have an eclectic taste in music and listen to nearly every genre. Recently I’ve been digging deep into early Led Zeppelin.
My entire life I’ve always been attracted to the sciences. As a child I became obsessed with science fiction and as an adult I've tried my hand at chemistry, physics, astrophysics, mathematics, and botany to name just a few! Yet, along the way music and art have always been a part of my life. I have painted, played the guitar (not so well), and studied with the renowned American poet, Robert Hass. I have no other formal education in the arts but am willing to try, make mistakes and learn. Every experience somehow winds its way into the next and they each inform one another. I’ve found the process of editing photos has had a great influence how I approach making music and vice versa. Although music and art are not my full time endeavors I can see a point in the future where they will take center stage in a new phase of my life’s work. And I hope that is soon!
What inspires you to create more than anything else?
The amount of talent on Instagram is astounding. Beautiful and inspiring art amazes and moves me. I wanted to somehow participate in that and so I started editing photos. I love the challenge of working with a raw photo and transforming it into a completely different scene and mood. Editing photos has also changed the way I approach music production. My workflow has become streamlined and much more focused. I'm more willing to experiment and change a track if it isn't working. So in a way I'm inspired to continue creating these edits to improve my music production.
What do you think makes a memorable piece?
That's a difficult question to answer. I've always felt each memorable piece succeeds on its own merits. But I went back to some my personal favorites and found a few common elements. Stand out pieces convey an emotion or a story in the scene itself. They display an interplay between light and dark elements. And I find I'm drawn to ones that suggests motion even if it is just in the colors or light.
What is it that you want to communicate with your work?
I love taking everyday shots and transforming them into magical scenes. So I suppose I'm trying to show that we are surrounded by amazing and unreal places. We just have to use our imagination to see them.
Can you talk some about how you developed your current editing style?
Much of my editing style has evolved over time by learning and using the different features in Mextures. I initially used it as a finishing touch. But now it acts as a brush to shape and bring out those special elements that may be hidden in the picture. I think it’s important to be willing to try different techniques, explore new themes and also move on from a specific style. If you look through my gallery you’ll see a progression. Imported 3D objects in some, glitch work in others and edits with altered landscapes. Although stars and space objects have been in nearly all of my edits from day one, I’ve recently become obsessed with using galactic clouds and stars not just as an object or part of the sky but as a layer over the whole picture. They add a wonderful coloration and light that works really well with Mextures.
I must say that participating in the Mextures Collective rounds has helped evolve my style. I love to see what others do with the same pictures. Not only is it inspirational but also a great opportunity to learn, incorporate different techniques into my own edits and connect with other artists.
What have you found to be your biggest challenge in developing your work?
I think it's myself. I'm always struggling to get out of my comfort zone. And every once in a while I hit "writer's block" and am stuck staring at my iPhone for hours on end wondering if this is the end. But I keep experimenting and pushing myself to work harder and eventually something gives.
What does your editing process generally look like?
It's fairly simple. I use a lot of different effects apps but all of my edits start in Union App. I'm a fan of the 5:4 portrait so I first audition the original picture in that format. If it doesn't look good I'll extend it by adding one of my sky shots. Once I have the basic composition down I then start experimenting with different overlays and testing them in Mextures. Sometimes I'll desaturate a layer to give Mextures some room to add color and enhance the dramatic elements in the original picture. So back and forth for a while until the scene feels right. Then I go back to the pre-Mextures version and add the extras such as clouds, fog, people, and other objects. After the final Mextures export I try to sit on an edit for a day or so and usually end up making a change before uploading to Instagram.
Can you share some of your Mextures formulas?
IAKMTHW - Garroting Deep - This formula is one of my favorites. It adds a burst of light and works really well with trees or landscape shots with a horizon.
LQXVESR - Forest Magic - This particular formula accentuates contrasts in forest scenes and adds a golden overlay.
AMMJQYV - Winter Lake - This is my secret sauce for cold winter scenes (I used this and modified versions on all of the edits in my Winter Series).
WQUSAII - Jakku - This is one of the formulas I use to test my edits. If it looks good with this formula then I know I'm heading in the right direction. Depending on the original picture it adds a dusty, sunset vibe.
What do you feel like Mextures uniquely offers to your editing process?
I use Mextures on every edit and as I had mentioned earlier it has become an integral part of my editing process. I love the way it can completely and almost magically transform the look and feel of a scene. This gives me a lot of flexibility while composing. I experiment with formulas and spend quite a bit of time going back and forth between Mextures and Union app. If the edit doesn't look good in Mextures I'll keep making changes until it passes muster.
Is there anything in particular that you would like to accomplish via your work in the next year?
All of my edits so far have been on my iPhone and use mostly other photographer’s pictures. I think using my own pictures will give me a bit more creative flexibility and get me of my comfort zone. So over the next year I'd like to learn how to properly use my camera, experiment and have some fun getting out and taking pictures.
What has been your favorite image to create so far?
It's an edit of @neohumanity's original picture - his seaside shot - I added the starfall and woman with lights on the outcropping. It's a simple piece but the overall balance and stark contrast between the light and dark and small and large elements works really well. I wanted the starfall effect to look powerful yet delicate and that took a lot of time to get it just right. When I added the woman and the small lights the edit felt complete. I feel it speaks to our place as humans, though we face a universe that dwarfs us we can make ourselves feel meaningful.
Who are the people that have most inspired your work?
After joining Instagram some of the first people I followed were @israelsanchez91 and @prahaboy. I was just amazed at their talent and editing prowess. I found @natehill through one of the Mextures Collective rounds and became an instant fan of his work. @eleathar, @ionsounds, and @gosleep_ each have their unique style that I admire and they've always supported my work with their wonderful comments. When I first started editing I received a lot of encouragement from the @surreal42 community and its founder Steve. Much credit goes to him for making me feel a welcome part of Instagram.
Through Mextures I've found quite a few photographers that I've become huge fans of and find inspiration in their work - @_cantus_, @arclesscurve, @kateesmith, @kevyn.kurpiers, @barctic78 and many more. I wish I could list them all!
But I must say that my number one source of inspiration has been @jaxsonpohlmanphotography. His work with night scenes and starry skies is just absolutely breathtaking, a constant source of wonder and delight.
Sift through more of Ravi’s work here!