How did you get your start in photography?
As a child I enjoyed coastal walks and visiting nature reserves, and always had a camera with. My high school had a darkroom and my art teacher was a passionate photographer who always encouraged me to pursue my hobby and was a huge inspiration to me. He allowed me to use the darkroom during breaks and at lunchtime and put me forward for GCSE Photography, which ended up being my best grade in school. The portfolio I had built, was strong enough to secure me a place on the prestigious diploma course at what is now called The Arts Institute in Bournemouth. I graduated in the early 90’s and then worked in various photography roles including having a High Street photography shop, studio and darkroom. Weddings and portraits never really made my heart sing, but during that time I bought my first computer, scanner and printer and began my restoring old photographs (with Photoshop version 2) and printing digitally for the first time.
What type of photography are you shooting and what motivated you to focus on that genre?
I eventually found my true passion when I started shooting landscapes more seriously. This was at the time I made the switch to digital photography and learned RAW processing in the first version of Adobe Lightroom. I really loved the freedom and creativity that digital processing allowed and I became more hooked on photography than ever.
What has been your biggest achievement or obstacle along the way?
My first big milestone was winning a category of International Garden Photographer of the Year in 2012. I went on to win the overall title of Landscape Photographer of the Year in 2015. These achievements, and others since, have spurred me on to keep doing what I do, and have motivated me to teach others about all aspects of photography, processing and printing.
Who and/or what inspires you most?
I’m constantly inspired by the weather, dramatic scenery and the ever changing landscape. The shifting colours throughout the year fascinate me. With the increased demand via social media image consumption is at all all time high. I take inspiration from the breathtaking work I see every day from friends and total strangers alike, but my own style and direction is fundamental.
What is your approach? Is there anything in particular you try to achieve during a shoot (for example triggering certain feelings, etc.) or are there any specific techniques you use?
My number one objective is to create some kind of emotional response to my images. I strive not have a formulaic approach and switch techniques to suit the conditions, making the most of the light and the location on any given day. It is important to be sympathetic to the scene, in terms of how to convey it in two dimensions. Because I print, I often considering how the scene might look on paper right from the outset, which may influence how I compose and capture.
Why is accurate colour important within your workflow?
Even while I was studying at Arts College I was fastidious about colour and really enjoyed getting things ‘just so’. I’ve found Spyder products to be extremely useful here. I’ll use Spyder Checkr which has an HSL-Preset I can load and apply to my entire image series, via Lightroom and use SpyderX to color calibrate my monitors. When processing RAW files, being able to have an accurate colour managed workflow is massively important to enable me to create the right mood for my final image. Importantly, having custom colour profiles for the papers I print on, allows me to ‘soft proof’ my images accurately, reducing wasted ink and paper.
Any tips or advice for photographers just beginning their career?
I would suggest learning the basics first. Use manual mode and fully understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Study some of the images that first inspired you to pick up a camera. Reverse engineer what it is about those images that excites you. Is it the location, light, season, weather or composition?
Seek those elements and plan. Use Apps to determine what time of day and time of year will give you the best chance of bringing those components together. Scour weather forecasts and get out exploring. No matter how good your editing skills become, you need strong compositions and good light. You’ll thank yourself later as your processing improves that you have old images to go back and re-edit as you improve.