Interview for Photography Cool website
Q: What is it about Landscape Photography that you enjoy so much ?
I really enjoy the outdoors but I suppose like many people I always needed a reason to get out and experience the coast and countryside. Photography gives me the perfect excuse to get out there and breath the fresh air! Whether it is standing on a cliff top or deep in a forest, there is nothing as good for the soul as being in the great outdoors. But landscape photography doesn’t just get you outside your front door; it takes you to the most beautiful natural locations at times when the landscape is going through moments of wonder. Standing on a mountain top at dawn looking down onto a sea of morning mist, watching the first rays of rich golden sunlight illuminate the countryside, or watching waves crash onto a deserted beach late in the evening when all the day trippers have long since gone home to bed. It is having a reason to experience these moments that makes landscape photography special for me, as well as the chance to take a little bit of those moments home with me.
Q: Do ever get bored waiting for hours for the light to be right sometimes in the cold and wet ?
It would sound right to say that every moment spent waiting for the light is part of the magical experience of photography. But in truth, yes I get bored. Often! People looking at my pictures often remark that I must have wonderful patience to capture such fleeting moments of light. But my wife would suggest otherwise! Truthfully I am not the most patient person, and sometimes this can be my downfall. Occasionally I will give up on a location, only to see the elusive light appear while I am trudging back to my car. But thats all part of the experience of landscape photography; its about being a good decision maker as much as being a good photographer. Fortunately for me, I am a very adaptable photographer; while I’m on location waiting for the light I am continuously evaluating the conditions and calculating which alternative locations may work better with the weather. Sometimes I make the wrong decision, I pack up and leave my original planned composition only to subsequently regret it. But more often than not I change plans for the better and put myself in a position to photograph something entirely different. I think thats a very important skill for a landscape photographer; we are always told to wait for the light, but being adaptable and flexible are equally important skills.
Q: You have done what most people dream of and quit your job to follow a passion. How does that feel ?
Turning professional was a gradual approach for me, my work at the time were extremely helpful in allowing me to go part-time which enabled me to build up my business as well as my confidence. I went from a 5 day week, down to 4 days and then 3 days before finally making the jump to full time professional. So becoming a professional wasn’t a sudden change, but never the less it was still a scary yet exciting time. Even after 6 years I could still use those words to describe it, but the difference is I am used to feeling that way now! Many people dream of becoming a professional landscape photographer, I know as I get emails every single day from aspiring photographers who want to make the jump. But it can be a dangerous thing to wish for; my hobby is now my job, and that changes things quite drastically. You look at things in a very different way, and place pressures on yourself which you simply do not have when photographing as a hobby. When I first turned professional I found myself obsessing about the fuel gauge in my car, constantly watching it dip as I drove here and there on shoots. You see, with landscape photography its quite rare to get paid up front for the pictures you capture. More often than not you shoot speculatively, in the hope of picture library sales 3 or 4 years down the line. So I found myself worrying about how much I was spending in order to take photographs, not knowing when, or if I would ever recoup that outlay. In the end of course you just have to try and forget that and go anyway, but it can be difficult. Following your passion is a very rewarding thing to do, but its important to be realistic at the same time. Would I have it any other way? Of course not!
Q: Was there one moment in your career when you felt – I’ve made it ?
When you are self employed I think it would be a dangerous thing to ever have that thought, the industry is continually evolving and new talented photographers seem to be springing up everywhere. However there are moments when I have felt that I am making real progress. Ironically, one of the first of those moments was before I had turned full-time. I was running my photography business part-time back in 2007 when I won the landscape category of the Wanderlust travel magazine Photographer of the Year competition. It was one of the first competitions I had entered and I only did so because the prize was a trip to Antarctica, a location that I could only dream of visiting. I was completely gob smacked when the announcement was made, and very proud also.
Q: Is there somewhere that you haven’t photographed which you really want too ?
There is a huge list of countries that I would love to photograph. Now that I have a young family my chances for visiting some of these places are limited for the next few years at least. But when the opportunity allows, I would be very keen to visit more of Scandinavia, as well as explore North America in more depth.
Q: You are obviously famous for landscapes, are there other genres which you have a passion for ?
In a word, no! I love photography for the reasons mentioned in my first answer, above. I have no passion for simply being a photographer as such, but for what photography helps me to experience. I hope that makes sense!
Q: Do you have a favourite image of yours ? and why is it your favourite ?
I get asked this question fairly often, but I am afraid I never have a suitable answer. I have many pictures which I do consider special, but I don’t have a favourite as such. I suppose if I were to be pressed on the subject, I would say the photographs I enjoy the most would be my latest pictures. These are the result of what I am currently working on, and therefore what is currently motivating me.
Q: Do you have an image which you wish you had taken ?
I see many landscape images of incredible scenery captured in some very special moments. With the internet and in particular social media, you are constantly bamboozled with imagery at every turn. It always seems that these pictures materialise when you are having a bad run of luck yourself, and it feels like the rest of the world is out there shooting amazing sunsets while you are not. I see pictures all the time which I love and often wish I could have been at that same location with my camera to capture my version, but I can honestly say that I have never seen a picture and wished it was mine.
Q: A common but important question, what advice would you give to budding landscape photographers ?
There is way too much I could say to answer this question, so I will keep to the obvious but never the less crucial high level points. Above all, a powerful landscape photograph is about capturing light and composition. The subject matter can be important, but it doesn’t have to be. It seems that today photographers are seeking to outdo each other evermore, going further and further afield, camping out on mountain tops to capture extreme landscapes. The results can be amazing, but at the same time a picture captured in a roadside lay-by of an everyday scene can be equally beautiful if magical light and a strong composition are both evident. The same can be said for equipment; many photographers get hung up on needing the best equipment, but your camera doesn’t take the picture, you do. Far more important than having a £5k camera is the dedication to get out of bed at 3am and on location, ready in the anticipation of just 2 minutes of spectacular light. If you have this dedication to get out at the right times, and the passion to enjoy what you are photographing you will become a great photographer!
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