I started out with photography when I was seven years old, when my dad gave me a Cosmic Symbol 35mm film camera to use on my first trip to London. Dad had been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. It was fascinating watching him in the darkroom printing his black and white images. As I got a bit older, he passed on one of his SLRs to me and taught me the basics of balancing shutter speeds and apertures. ISO (or ASA) was less of a variable back then as, unless you were really clever, it was determined by the film you used and remained the same for the whole roll.
I tried a bit of printing in the darkroom myself, but I didn’t have the resources to practice enough to become really good at it. Certainly not to the level that I wanted to achieve. As a result, I virtually gave up on photography, other than family snapshots, for more than twenty years. It wasn’t until I saw how good digital cameras had become that my interest was reignited. I’m now shooting on Sony mirrorless full frame bodies and a Canon 5D Mk III with lenses from Canon and Lensbaby.
I was recently asked the question: ‘What are you curious about?’ My photography journey has continually been prompted by my curiosity, starting in my early days with ‘How do I...?’. I have never had any formal photographic education; I learned hands-on from my dad and, more recently, by watching many hours of YouTube videos of varying quality. Along the way, I have experimented and I continue to ask that question, although, now that I am more confident about the ‘how’, my curiosity leads me to delve deeper into the ‘What if I...?’
I started out on a path that might be familiar to many landscape photographers: trying to achieve the sharpest, most faithful reproduction of the reality of a scene in the image. I gradually upgraded my cameras and lenses in search of that sharpness. Constantly challenging myself and pursuing the notion of ‘what if’ led me to explore long exposures in order to create dramatic skies and smooth water, and also shoot with the idea of converting the finished image to black and white.
One of the common statements that you will hear from many landscape photographers is that the only times of day worth shooting are around sunrise and sunset. For me, as a family man, that’s not always possible, especially as here in Scotland the sun rises at about 4.30am and doesn’t set until after 10pm during the summer months. You might also have heard that the weather doesn’t always play ball here too! So, ‘what if’ you don’t let that idea restrict you and you go out and do your photography at whatever time of day (or night) you like, and in weather that would keep most people indoors? I find that the images I make under cloud, wind, rain, snow and fog conditions are often far more memorable and rewarding than just another perfect sunset.
The thing about taking photographs in these kinds of conditions is that the weather itself often results in an image that is softly lit, where front-to-back sharpness and contrast can be severely reduced. So ‘what if’ instead of trying for sharper, I actually tried to use this softness to...