Travis Gadsby Finds His Synergy
By Libby Peterson
PHOTO © TRAVIS GADSB Y
a 6-foot white reflector on
Editing: Adobe Camera Raw
and Photoshop CS6
Other: Radio Popper Jr. and
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/8 s
Lighting: Photogenic heads
powered by a Paul C. Buff
Vagabond Mini, a Larson 14
x 48 soft strip on the left and
a bare strobe bounced into
One afternoon last March, portrait photographer Travis Gadsby was thumbing through a fine-art photography book at photographer Steve Richard’s studio in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when he turned to photos
of people playing with baby powder. A lightbulb went off and
he immediately called up Salone Page—a recent high school
graduate and dancer he had previously photographed—to
tell her about a portrait idea he had. Three months later,
Gadsby, Page and the rest of his photography team were
buying bags of flour and laying down tarps in an abandoned
building on an Air Force base at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats
for a unique shoot.
Years ago Gadsby would have thought this idea crazy.
“I had myself confined in a tight little box that was fairly
boring,” says Gadsby, who now owns Silverlake Photo Accessories in Twin Falls, Idaho, with his wife and business
partner, Paula. But he got himself out of his creative rut by
playing around with self-taught photographers, who made
him realize that the very ideas he had previously thought
too risky or even impossible were just a start.
Gadsby and Page spent three afternoons at the Air Force
base trying out concepts and addressing some concerns—
first and foremost being what kind of substance to use
so that the dust particles wouldn’t spontaneously burst
into flames. They considered corn starch, but after some
research Gadsby discovered it can be highly combustible.
Flour, however, is less prone, especially with proper ventilation. They threw about 25 pounds of it onto the tarps and
ran around with lighters in the air to make sure: No explosions. But they quickly discovered that 25 pounds of flour
was only enough to layer the floor, not enough to make
those “nice, poufy clouds in the air.” So they went back to
the store and bought 50 more pounds.
Gadsby tried using ambient light, but strobes were better
at creating heavier contrast. So with eyes closed and face
relaxed, Page threw herself into poses, tossing flour as she
went. Of the 30 to 40 images he shot, Gadsby captured
seven or eight “rock solid” images, including the vertically
cropped “Synergy” (shown at left).
“It’s something I’ve never done before,” Gadsby says.
After enthusiastic feedback from Page and her peers,
Gadsby says he looks forward to trying this and other
concepts for future portraits, possibly something with steel
wool. Whatever the material, Gadsby says he is relieved
to be getting out of his comfort zone. “My eyes have been
opened significantly to what’s possible,” he says. RF