Interview with 'Art of Essex'.

29th October 2014
1. What is the greatest challenge you have faced in commercial photography?


I think the greatest challenge any commercial photographer faces at the moment is making any money! Company marketing budgets have shrunk and increasingly they will use good amateur photographers, who get a kick out of seeing their photography in print (but don’t charge commercial rates), instead of pros.
The photo-libraries have also contributed to the death of the commercial photographer in my view. There is so much imagery out there now that even good photographers who spend their lives photographing stock are struggling to make ends meet.
Most landscape photographers make their money from workshops, teaching others how to do what they do which, in turn, means that they are generating more competition!

2. Why does landscape photography hold so much appeal?


That is difficult to define. It maybe a primeval thing about man and his natural environment, I certainly enjoy being outside during a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or it may appeal on a creative level I’m not sure. A great landscape always holds my attention when going through photographic websites so I suspect it is an unconscious connection to the landscape. I was brought up in the countryside and I can guarantee that I will feel relaxed if I spend a couple of hours outside walking in it.

3. How early do you go out to set up a sunrise shot?


That’s an easier question to answer! I am always on location an hour before sunrise so everything works back from there. I have to factor in the walk from the car park to the location I am working in, then I have to work out how long the drive will be and finally I need to give myself 30 minutes to wake up, have a shower and a cup of coffee before setting out.
In a typical November morning for instance, sunrise may be at 6.30. So, if I am going to the Naze it takes 10 minutes to walk to the beach from where I park the car, its 40 minutes drive from my house in Colchester so I would set my alarm for 4.10am. The night before would involve charging batteries, cleaning filters, checking CF cards etc so that everything is ready. I leave all of my gear by my porch so that I don’t have to think too much first thing in the morning!
The earliest I have got up for a shoot was when I went to Happisburgh, in Norfolk, which is two hours away by car. I left the house at 2.30am!

4. Has your photography changed over the decades?


My photography is constantly changing. I am very reflective and self critical, I learn lots about my technique as I go. Composition wise I think I have pretty much stayed the same in what I look for over the last 10 years but I am always keeping an eye on trends, software and gear that might pique my interest. A major example of this was when the first ‘stitching’ software came out. That is software used to create panoramics from many photos. Nowadays most smart phones and cameras will do this themselves but when I first saw some examples of pans taken I jumped straight in to try the technique with landscapes, not something that had been widely done at the time.
Nowadays, I love the accessibility of using my iphone and apps like Instagram. I use this more and more actually.

5. Any views still on your ‘to shoot’ list?


In Essex, I still haven’t made Hadleigh Castle into a decent image. Wider afield places include the Cornwall beaches in the UK. Definitely on my ‘wish list’ are countries including Iceland, Antarctica, Norway, Canada. I would also love to photograph the Grand Canyon and the deserts of Namibia.

6. Why are you so drawn to that pill box in the Naze?


They are really good focal points! Landscape photography, to me, is about creating and capturing ‘depth’. For that you need some interest close to the camera and something in the distance to lead the eye through the image. In Scotland they use mountains for this but finding a mountain in Essex is difficult so we tend to use whatever we can find! The two pillboxes on the beach at the Naze give me that.
I do also secretly admire the fact that they have survived the war, a slide down the cliff face onto the beach and two tides every single day. They would still do the job for which they were intended!

7. How can a beginner most improve their photography?


Find out everything you can about the aperture, shutter speed and exposure. Find out what affect a small and large aperture can have and also what affects you get using a slow or fast shutter speed.
Spend time on the basics until it is second nature and you can then concentrate on trying to ‘see’ an image. It’s also a brilliant idea to look at as many good photographs as you can. Ask yourself how a photograph you admire was created, then go and try and copy it.


8. What is your proudest moment as a photographer?


Difficult. Probably between organising a series of exhibitions with 7 fellow ‘landscapers’ to raise money for St Helena Hospice (I got to make some great friends and we raised money for charity at the same time) and having ‘Happisburgh Fireworks’ being commended in the ‘Landscape Photographer of the Year’ competition a few years back. The image was used in the book of the same name (volume 4) and appeared in an exhibition at the National Theatre in London on the banks of the Thames. My joy was only slightly dampened by a gentleman who was looking at the exhibition and declaring, when he came to mine, that it was ‘All photoshopped mate’. He wasn’t aware that it was my photograph but I put him right!

9. Is photography sociable?


Landscape photography, you would assume, is not but I have some very good photographer friends who I have met through my landscapes. Chris Shepherd, a fellow exhibitor with Art of Essex is someone I met through our mutual love of the landscape. We have exhibited together several times now and spent many a morning on an East Anglian beach. Photographers are very willing to share their knowledge, I’ve yet to find one I don’t like!
Commercial photographers and portraitists have to be very good with people. If you are not you will rarely get what you want and the job, and getting commissions, will be harder.

10. Is auto-focus wrong (technically or morally)?

No and no! Anything you can use to make things easier and give you more time to concentrate on whatever is in front of the camera is fine in my book!










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