Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography?
Like many children I was given a Kodak Brownie, when I was around seven or eight years old, I think, and I happily cut off peoples heads and sloped my horizons burning through film at an alarming rate. When I was about twelve or thirteen my step-father gave me a Russian Lubitel Twin Lens Reflex medium format camera, a Rolliflex knock off. He taught me the basics of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and I was hooked. I think it was this camera that also made me fall in love with the square format. In the early years of married life, like so many, photography had to take a back seat but as digital cameras began to emerge my interest was reawakened and an anniversary gift of a digital SLR from my wife, Elizabeth, opened my eyes to all of the new possibilities that digital opened up.
At that time, I was working as a sales and marketing manager in an industrial manufacturing company but I started getting opportunities to make some income from my camera; selling prints, shooting weddings and portraits (which I hated!) and then teaching workshops. This gradually grew until I was only working part time for my company. When the recession started my MD wanted me to return to my role in the company full time, something I felt I couldn’t do. So, I pushed the company car keys across the table to him and walked away to become a full time professional teacher, writer and photographer. It was a huge step, but one I have never regretted.
As for my style of photography, I find myself in a strange position. I know in so many books and articles we are encouraged to develop a personal, identifiable style, but I just can’t. I have no style. I can’t shoot just one way, or with one technique. This is why I don’t describe myself as a ‘Landscape Photographer’ or an “Outdoor Photographer’. I am just a ‘Photographer’. I see things all the time, wherever I am I want to photograph and when I see things I visualise the image in different ways depending on the light, weather, the mood, my mood. I look at photographers websites who have a distinct style with envy – they are so slick and flow so beautifully. But I just can’t be like that. I just take pictures and present them in the way that I feel suits the subject, light and mood best. Perhaps having no style is my style?
Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?
I lead workshops all over the world and needed a high quality camera system which would stand up to the rigours of professional travel but would be light and inconspicuous. I was impressed with Fuji’s investment in lenses and also they way they were responding to users feedback rapidly. To me they were clearly a company dedicated to producing a customer focused system. My first body was an X-Pro 1 and within a couple of hours of using it I was astounded by the results and delighted by its usability. Since that day I have hardly used my DSLR system at all.
I now use a full range of prime lenses for my personal work and when travelling light can manage with just the 18-55mm and 55-200mm zooms in almost all situations. Although I do find myself lusting after the new 10-24mm!
Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?
I believe we should shoot images for ourselves, not to impress others or to conform to rules they would try and impose upon us. There are no Photography Police. Then if others like our work, that is great, but if we are satisfying ourselves creatively it shouldn’t matter to us what others think.
Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?
I have a number of photographers who inspire me, in fact, I list them all here.
But there are some particular ones I would mention. I love the quiet beauty of Michael Kennas work and would also encourage people to look at the extraordinary work of photographer Valda Bailey whose images truly bridge the gap between photography and painting . Another English rural documentary photographer who has had a huge effect on me is Chris Tancock and especially his long term project Beating The Bounds. I would also point to another major influence as being Chris Friel, a master of alternative techniques who sees the world in extraordinary ways through his camera
Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?
When I started using the Fuji system I tried to use it in the same way as I used my DSLR and found it soon frustrated me. I soon realised it is better to work with the system, not to fight it. So rather than working in Manual as I was used to, I switched to working in Aperture Priority. I also found it much easier to use auto focus on the Fuji than manual focus as I did on the DSLR. For this I manually selected which auto focus point I wanted active so I was still in control of my depth of field. I have always only shot in raw on my DSLR, but as with so many Fuji users, I fell in love with the jpegs and so I now shoot in Fine Jpeg + raw. I use the jpegs for social media, my website and so on but then process the larger raw files as my master files for client work. And for anyone wondering if you can print large images from the Fuji sensor, yes you can. I have clients printing well in excess of 2 meters wide from Fuji X-Pro 1 raw files and the quality is stunning.
What’s next for you?
I am patiently awaiting the launch of an X-Pro 2. I am sure Fuji will have some special for us when it comes out. In the meantime, I am already planning locations for 2016 and 2017 and have personal projects ‘on the boil’. Gnawing away at me is a huge backlog of images which need processing too. One day, when I am ready, I would love to produce a book, but I don’t feel I have a suitable body of work yet, but I enjoy writing for photography magazines and leading photography tours and workshops.