I often recieve requests for advice and information which I try to respond to if I can but more often than not I am unable to provide a detailed reply, so I have collated the following common queries which I hope will provide you with an insight to me and my work.
What got you started in landscape photography?
I got into landscape photography by accident really.
I have always enjoyed being outdoors and usually go somewhere with great landscapes for my holidays. Some years ago, I was in Yosemite and they were staging an Ansel Adams exhibition in the visitor centre. I think seeing these great images of the landscape I had just passed through really caught my imagination. I wanted to be able to share the places I had seen with other people and, after seeing these photographs, somehow the 7"x5" holiday snaps just didn't seem enough anymore.
As soon as I got home I hold of a second hand Minolta and started playing about with it. The more time I spent out with a camera the more I wanted to do it and before I realised it I was hooked.
Where were you born?
I was born in Goole, Yorkshire, England in 1967.
When did you start taking photographs?
Like most people, I suspect, I had been taking 'holiday snaps' for many years. I started taking 'photographs' around 1998, after my Yosemite epiphany!
What photographic qualifications do you have?
I have never had the benefit of any formal photographic training. That's not to say I think formal training is a bad thing, on the contrary, it's just that I never had the time. I had to fit in photography trips around a full time job and other commitments so taught myself through trial and error and reading as many books and magazines as I could find.
Which photographers have inspired you?
Ansel Adams was the first photographer I took notice of, but over the years I have found that I am more drawn to the likes of Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite and David Noton. Their style appeals to me greatly and I have learned a huge amount from studying their work. That said, I feel it is important to develop your own style and take the images that feel right for you.
What camera are you using at the moment?
I'm currently using a Nikon D700 paired with a Sigma 28-70mm f2.8. I like this package as it's flexible and produces excellent quality while allowing me to travel 'reasonably' light. If I am out on a landscape shoot I always, and I mean always, use a tripod. Currently a Velbon carbon fibre model, again because it keeps the weight down. When you have to carry what use weight becomes a big consideration. I used to use medium format film in a Bronica ETRS and while it was a lovely camera, once a wide angle zoom and a metered prism were attached it was a lot to lug around.
The D700 gives me high enough quality to get accepted by commercial stock libraries so I don't think I will be going back to film. Having said that I still keep an eye on the secondhand ads in the magazines, just to see what Bronica kit goes for these days. You never know, if I have the spare cash I may pick one up. Just for personal use.
What camera would you recommend?
This is a tough one. I have used Nikon cameras and lenses for many years and would happily recommend them to anyone but I recognise that other manufacturers also produce excellent kit. I debated for some time moving to Canon for their 5D mkII before finally going for the D700 and it was a very close call. My advice would be to do your research, look for the best your budget can support and spend some time in your local retailer handling the actual kit. The final choice often comes down to something as simple as how comfortable it feels in your hands and how easy it is to use the key controls.
What's the best thing about being a landscape photograher?
I often get asked why landscapes? Why not weddings or portraits? It's quite simple really, I get to spend my days in some of the most beautiful places, breathing fresh air, just listening to the birds or the wind and 'sometimes' feeling the sun on my face, and I can actually get paid to do it!
Sounds like a pretty cool job to me.
What do you think about digital photography?
I have no problem with digital photography. At it's basic level it is just a means of capturing an image. The key benefit to me is the flexibilty it brings, such as being able to adjust ISO and white balance settings for individual images. I started on film and still abide by the principle of 'getting it right in camera'. Too often the temptation with digital is to machine gun away at a subject on the basis that it can be 'fixed' later on the computer. Photoshop is a remarkable bit of kit but it's not a miracle worker.
The thing I do object to is overt post capture image manipulation. By all means be creative. Use your lenses. Use your filters. Use Photoshop. But never, and I mean never, mash together a foreground and a sky from a different image. It's ok to clone out the odd crisp packet that you couldn't reach to pick up on the day, but never clone out a whole tree or import an object that wasn't there. If the light or the sky isn't quite right, go back another day. Show the scene to it's best advantage, but above all things be honest.
Do you use filters?
Yes, but sparingly. I mostly use just neutral density filters either graduated to balance the contrast between the sky and the ground, or solid to reduce the shutter speed for moving water. I have been experimenting with a 10 stop neutral density filter recently which has provided some interesting results.
How long do you spend taking each image?
It depends on how familiar I am with the location. If I have been there before I may already have a shot in mind and will set up for that straight away. On that basis I may only spend around 15 minutes checking the composition and camera settings. If I am new to a location I may spend a few hours, depending on the time of day, just walking around looking at the viewpoints on offer before making my choice. If I am looking for a sunset I will often set up a composition and then stay with it as the light changes until it goes dark, taking a number of versions of the 'same' image to make sure I have caught the best combination available.
How much time do you spend using photoshop?
I only do the most basic adjustments in Photoshop so on average about 10 to 15 minutes per image.
Which of your images is your favourite?
That's like asking someone to choose between their children! Plus it changes as I take new images, but if I had to pick just one right now it would be Evening, La Corbiere Lighthouse. I love the contrast of the 'soft' moving water against the 'hard' rocks and the pastel colours of the evening light.
What advice would you give to beginners?
Learn how to use your camera, don't just leave it on automatic or programme. Understand the basics of composition, depth of field, aperture and shutter speed and then play around with them. Don't be afraid to experiment. Practice, nothing improves your photography like taking photographs. Look at the work of others for inspiration and ideas. Most of all, take the photographs you want to take and enjoy yourself.
The chances are you are not going to get rich as a landscape photographer so if you are doing this it should be because you love being outdoors and you love taking photographs. Keep that in mind and you won't go far wrong.