“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Elliott Erwitt
I became aware of photography as a child. Holidays with my parents would always involve the obligatory photo of me with my mother or father. The days of the Kodak Instamatic and a single role of 36 exposure film. Looking back on those photos today and you see the typical snapshot – the subjects are small in the frame and there is a mass of distracting background. As Robert Capa said: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Ours were definitely not good enough, but still evoke clear memories of those times. Moving forward to my twenties and my decision to buy an SLR camera, a Pentax MX.
Digital had not been thought of, so I became the owner of a camera that used film, had no fancy features and was very much a manual camera. The strange thing though is that you learned how a camera takes pictures. You have the most basic set of controls at your disposal, but they are sufficient to capture an image. With digital cameras today, I look back and wonder how taking a photograph became so complicated. After all, you just need to set the right exposure, focus the camera, decide on the depth of field and work out how to handle moving subjects – what are the rest of these digital controls for?
I love teaching people about photography – it’s the look on their faces when they see that they have taken a photograph that they previously would not have dreamed was possible. I always start with the basics of the camera and those same controls that I had when I was using my first SLR. If you can master them, the rest start to fall into place. I always think that the instruction manual you get with your camera is like the one that comes with a new car – they both tell you how the thing works, but they don’t tell you how to photograph or drive a car. That’s where an actual instructor comes in handy.
I learned my trade with that Pentax MX and like all beginners I wasted a lot of film in my experiments. I started photographing local rock groups in Birmingham and began my forays into abstract that I still love today. I also learned how to develop black & white film and colour slides, so began to appreciate the complexities of post processing. My mother cursed as I converted the family kitchen into a dark room, emerging only late at night. It was all good experience, as I sit here today with Lightroom and Photoshop on my iMac, enhancing photos in a way that would have taken hours back then.
Work sort of got in the way as I got older, left the family home and got married. I still had cameras, but they saw less use, just documenting the locations I visited whilst travelling the world trying to see as many bird species as I could (the feathered type, of course). I curse now that I did not take my photography more seriously at the time. The places I visited were amazing and I am eagerly looking forward to going back there, especially Chile, Japan and Armenia.
The arrival of digital, as for many of us, was a game changer. At last you could get instant feedback on your photos. Add to that the advantages of the digital darkroom and suddenly you had the power to create the sorts of images that you could only have dreamed of. Suddenly the complexity of cameras increased exponentially, but, with trial and error, I found that these new features were actually a quite useful addition to the camera’s arsenal.
Over the last ten years I have become a photography holiday junkie, regularly travelling around the world taking photos of amazing places, wonderful people and the sorts of things that only photographers could love: rust, doorways and windows. I have grown to understand the sorts of things that are needed to make a successful photography holiday. “Location, location, location.” If you don’t get that right, then you fail instantly. Light is also essential – you need to know how to use the available light and be in the right place at the right time to make the best of the light. If that means an early start or finishing late, then I will suffer it if I can come back with a camera full of great shots. The other great thing that a photography holiday offers is the chance to meet people with the same passion.
I have never wanted to be an award winning photographer or win competitions – I take photos for myself. If others like my work, then I am pleased, but my greatest fan and critic is me. If I come back from a shoot with a good set of images, then I have the material for a new photobook. Instead of printing single images las I used to do, I have grown to enjoy the art of creating books; this has become the end point for my work. The chance to design and structure a book is a challenge in itself – what layout to use, how to sequence images, how to add text and captions to enhance the reader’s experience. I have now produced countless books and feel that is something that photographers should do – it is about creating something tangible, rather than leaving images languishing on a hard drive.
In my spare time I run a photography group in my local area in order to share my passion with people who have become friends, as well as fellow photographers. They are on their own photographic journey. Some have only just started out on that journey, whilst others, like myself, have travelled some distance, faced obstacles, enjoyed great views and are hungry for more. I view the company that Hamish and I have created as a means to help more of you on your own personal photographic journey. If we can help you to develop your art, create better work, then our job as guides will have been successful.
Having the opportunity to sit down at the end of the day and look at each other’s photos is immensely valuable in developing your ability to see and recognise new photographic opportunities. Throughout this page you can see some of my work. I hope you like it, it’s quite varied. I don’t have a favourite subject as you will see, I just enjoy seeing what the world looks like photographed. I hoped you will want to join us on one of our tours and photograph some amazing locations; or come along on one of our classroom training days when we can help you develop your skills.