I first studied photography as part of my Design Diploma at College. I learnt how to develop film and prints in the darkroom, and this pretty much got me started. I got my first SLR as a present for my 21st Birthday, and soon after I enrolled on a GCSE in Photography. Upon passing I then took my A Level and passed that too. Although useful, I feel I’ve learnt far more simply by doing, and reading lots of books and magazines.
Eddie Ephrams was an early influence, especially as I was shooting black and white. His book ‘Gradient Light’ was the yardstick by which I measured all my early efforts in the darkroom, although I have to say I never really got close in those early days.
One of the earliest influences on me has been my friend Grant Pritchard. When he returned from a trip to New Zealand in 1994 and gave us a slideshow I was blown away. I resolved there and then to make it to NZ myself, it only took me the 9 years but I did eventually make it! New Zealand had a profound effect on me that has lasted to this day, and changed my whole perspective and outlook on life.
Without a doubt though, the single biggest influence over the years has been Joe Cornish. His book ‘First Light’ was like a Bible to me and was the standard to which I aspired to for so many years.
flickr has been great over recent years for making me aware of others’ work, and been instrumental in my own development. Seeing others’ work is inspirational and constantly drives me on. Anthony Spencer has been a great inspiration to me, and I think he paved the way for many others. Adam Burton was another early influence, and more recently the work of David Baker, Finn Hopson, John Finney and Peter Hulance.
There are many wildlife photographers that are a true inspiration, but probably the greatest of all is Vincent Munier. His atmospheric shots set the bar that every wildlife photographer should aim for, placing as much emphasis on the surrounding habitat and conditions as the subject matter itself. Munier is one of a number of European photographers that for me are leading the way at the moment. Michel Doultremont, Marcel Van Oosten, Jan Van Der Greef, Stefan Gerrits, Rob Blanken and Felix Wesch are all producing ground breaking work that continually inspires.
I remained loyal to Minolta over the years, and when Sony bought out Minolta and it came time to go digital I bought a Sony Alpha 200. It was the increasing interest in wildlife photography that pushed me toward Canon. Sadly, at the time, Sony didn’t have the great variety and quality of zoom lenses that Canon have, so I bought a Canon 500D along with a Canon 100 – 400mm L series lens and 1.4x convertor. After receiving Runner up in Classic View in the LPOTY Competition I spent my winnings on a second hand 7D, and sold the 500D body on ebay. I’ve recently upgraded to the 7D Mark II, which brings with it a greater degree of clarity and sharpness, and of course, a few more megapixels. But if you ever needed proof that great photographs have little to do with the kit you use, the shot I got the award with was taken on the 10MP Sony a200, a very modest (but perfectly capable) piece of kit.
I read a quote in a book called ‘One Man and His Bike’ by Mike Carter that struck a chord. I’ll repeat it here in the hope it may be useful to others –
“You can’t rely on the attainment of goals or journeys, no matter how big or small, for your happiness, because the attainment of that goal will only bring a temporary gratification. If you want to be happy, then you must enjoy it all, at whatever point you are at, from beginning to end. Because ultimately happiness is the acceptance of the journey as it is now, not the promise of the other shore.”
Another from Charlie Waite:
The voice you have is the only voice you need.
Wise words indeed.