I’m an amateur and, predominantly, landscape photographer who, at 60, still has a day-job in London. However, I am more and more driven and fixated by my photography and, as well as giving me that creative ‘fix’ I crave, it also gets me out into the nature and wild places I so love.
Having previously been into art and then having dabbled a bit over the years in photography, it didn’t really kick-off with me until about 2003 I guess and my first digital SLR came along in 2005.
There’s no doubt that my interest in photography came initially from my Grandad (those so-cool B&W photos of Southend-On-Sea & Norfolk) and then from my Dad and the slide-shows of the photos he took on my childhood holidays to Scotland and Europe. It all sank into the young Dougal brain somewhere and mixed with the art stuff as well.
Getting better at photography is, I’ve discovered, a long road and it still pains me to look back at my efforts of more than about six years ago although, to be fair to myself, I realise that I was gradually learning even if it didn’t always seem that way at the time. I think, as with anything in life, that a high degree of self-criticism is important as well as that sheer will to always want to improve and improve.
So, you may ask (or not!), what have I learnt about photography in the last 13-odd years? Here’s my top four:
- Fundamentally, take photos for yourself and photos that, in whatever way you choose, you find satisfying and make you a little bit proud of yourself. Whilst it is undeniably extremely nice, and very flattering, to think that someone else can look at one of your photos and go ‘wow’ or ‘I’d like that on my wall’, the chances are that, mostly, you won’t know about that and, ultimately, so as long as you think they are good then that is surely enough?
- For God’s sake, remember it’s not actually the ‘gear’ that makes a good photo. Mostly, apart from when it’s massive luck (it can be; right place, right time), it’s about composition, imagination, balance and, of course, the light. Maybe in my case how you move the camera about as well. Who cares how big your lens is or how many megapixels you’re packing? I’ve had a good number of people over the years who, on seeing me teeing up a photo, have wandered over and their very first question is about the size of my equipment (so to speak) which absolutely drives me nuts!
- If you want to take it a bit seriously then try and be different in some way, don’t be part of the crowd. Thousands of people taking millions of photos and, to varying degrees of skill and quality, probably about 80% of them will be essentially the same. Mostly the same landscapes taken in the same way. Up until around May 2018 I was, I admit, very hung up on sharpness and clarity in photos. I became virtually incapable of taking a photo without both a tripod and a shutter-release cord and, dear God, it is a colossal pain in the ass constantly lugging that stuff around as well as setting it up. Also, incredibly limiting in terms of spontaneity and creativity. Then I changed; what I took and how I took it (I’ve explained in my Essex albums so I’ll not bore you again here) and, for me personally, that’s made my photography both more satisfying and, I’m fairly confident, different from the vast majority…which I confess I like the idea of.
- Following on, if you want to be a bit different from the masses then be prepared to put yourself out a bit; for me, the best photo opportunities have come via a willingness to get up at ungodly hours of the morning, drive fairly long distances, walk for miles, scramble, wade, clamber and get extensively scratched, cut, bitten (Scottish midges – vs – tropical mosquitoes) and covered in mud into the bargain. So far, touch wood, the worst things that have happened to me, apart from the cuts and bites, are sinking thigh-high in mud and falling backwards off of a rickety walkway (bruised ego) but it does help to have a heightened sense of danger and risk…especially if, like me, you should ever happen to be in the Northern Territories thinking of going anywhere too close to rivers, creeks or Billabongs!
That last point brings me neatly to my final word here: I’d like to dedicate this site to the memory of Elizabeth (Liz) Thomson who tragically lost her life in a fall whilst trekking on Arthur’s Pass, South Island New Zealand in 2006. I used to work with Liz and, although I didn’t know it at the time, I understand she was, like me, an avid photographer.
I’ve heard speculation that Liz may have fallen whilst trying to get a photograph.
That’s very poignant to me and so, whether the speculation is right or not, I hold the thought of Liz with me when I’m possibly tempted to go that one step too far (as I almost can be) to get ‘that’ photo and I always try to remember that no shot is worth paying that high a price for.
Thanks again for looking and please email me if you’d like to know any more or leave feedback.