How I Got Into Photography
It only took a single photograph to make me want to buy an SLR camera and learn photography.
It was a clear and crisp morning in the winter of 2000 on the edge of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand. I was holidaying with friends to go skiing, and the view over the lake, with snow-capped mountains in the background, bright yellow trees in the foreground, and a deep blue sky above, was breathtaking. I set my little APS Point & Shoot camera to P (panorama) and took a photo of the glorious scene before me.
When I received the prints back and saw that photo, I knew photography was something I wanted to pursue. Looking at it now it can be difficult to see exactly why: the bottoms of the trees in the foreground are cut off and the image is the polar opposite of sharp. However something of the beauty I experienced in the moment managed to make its way into that image for me – even if it has faded over time – and I believe it was the desire to capture the beauty I saw that inspired me to buy a Canon EOS 300 for myself for Christmas that year.
It wasn't too long before I ditched the kit lens and bought a Canon 24mm f2.8 and 50mm f1.8 instead, which was later joined by an 85mm f1.8. These lenses were my staples for many years, not only in my days of film photography, where I fell in love with slide film such as Fuji Velvia and Provia, but extending well into my years of digital photography, which began with the purchase of another Christmas present: the Canon EOS 350D in 2006.
When I first bought my SLR I really didn't know which aspect of photography would grab me, as I’d originally bought a Point & Shoot to take photos of family and friends – something I did prolifically. But within my first year of learning photography it became clear that landscapes were where my heart lay, with a trip to Canada in 2001 cementing it.
A Defining Image
Since New Zealand was where I was first inspired to learn photography, it was fitting that it became the location where I took the first landscape image I was really proud of. It was in March 2004 and I was travelling around the South Island of New Zealand by myself before flying to the UK for what would end up being an 8 month backpacking holiday while I tried to work out what I would do with the rest of my life.
It was getting towards the end of my time in New Zealand, and the last place I visited was the Golden Bay area on the North-West tip of the South Island. I read about an out of the way spot called Wharariki Beach that sounded perfect for sunset, so grabbed my camera gear and headed there a couple of hours before sunset.
The drive was down a dirt road, then it was a 1km walk through some hilly paddocks to get to the beach. On arrival I discovered that not only did I have the place all to myself, but I was also the first person there since the tide had gone out, so the only footprints in the sand were those of birds.
I wandered along the beach, exploring different locations, admiring the ripples in the sand, taking some photos and waiting for inspiration to take me for a spot to set up to photograph the sunset. As the sun began sinking towards the horizon I spotted some sand dunes behind the beach that looked like they might offer a good view. I trudged through the sand to the top of one and discovered a lovely view of the beach, setting up my tripod and placing a grassy bush in the foreground of the shot. Then I waited.
It was such a peaceful and beautiful spot, with the only other people a couple walking along the beach in the distance. I took several images of the same composition as the sun got lower, with a shot just before the sun reached the horizon turning out to be my favourite. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, however there was a nice purple glow, which the magnificent Fuji Velvia 50 film translated beautifully.
It turned out to be one of those images where everything worked perfectly together, including my footprints in the sand towards the dune, which wonderfully traced the edges of a shadow and lead the eye into the image. I wish I could say I planned it that way, but I must admit that while I can take credit for the selection of location, composition and exposure, the footprints were simply fortune smiling upon me.
This was the first image I’d taken where I felt truly proud, and where there wasn't a thing I wished I’d done differently. And to this day it's still an image that I love, and that continues to remind me why I do landscape photography: not only to attempt to produce beautiful images, but more importantly to experience and truly appreciate the wonder of nature.
Sharing the Journey on YouTube
Over the years landscape photography is something I pursued in fits and starts. I got stuck in a rut whilst at home of thinking that conditions needed to be "perfect" in order to go out, which unsurprisingly resulted in me not getting out very often. The only exception was on holidays, when funnily enough I’d not worry at all what the conditions were, excitedly being out every day to take photos no matter what. That all changed when I started a YouTube channel.
Creating videos of my photography adventures has transformed the world for me. I now get out there in every sort of condition, and find myself enjoying them all. I now love exploring close to home, finding beautiful scenes in places that aren't the obvious, go-to photography locations. In particular, I've discovered a great love for photographing trees and woodlands. In some ways this shouldn't surprise me, as I've always felt most at peace amongst trees. However woodland photography can be quite a challenge, particularly in Australia with our messy and scrubby bushland, or crowded and tangled rainforests, so unconsciously photographing woodland was something I'd put into the "too hard basket" for far too long.
Along with being inspired by talented woodland photographers like Simon Baxter and Adam Gibbs, the act of creating videos has helped open my eyes to many more subjects than I was previously aware of. Some of my favourite photographs over the last couple of years have come from local areas with a much more subdued beauty, and creating videos has a lot to do with my discovery of that.
For Christmas 2022 I received a DJI Mini 3 Pro drone from my awesome partner Danny (more about him soon!) which is making me love creating videos even more! Flying this little drone is one of the most enjoyable things I get to do, enabling me to tell the stories of the places I visit in ways I was never able to before.
My intention with my videos is to share the beauty of the places I visit so people who will likely never get a chance to visit themselves can still experience them. I want my videos to be a place of peace for the viewer, and I hope that they can inspire people to get out there taking photos too, whatever the conditions may be!
If you've not seen them before, I highly recommend watching my annual videos below, where I look back on some of my favourite photographs and moments over the previous year. These videos never fail to make me feel happy and inspired, and if you've not seen any of my videos before they're a great introduction to my channel.
My Partner Danny
I can't talk about my YouTube channel or my photography without mentioning my awesome partner Danny! While Danny isn't a photographer he's still a creative soul, and one of his talents lies in the world of music. Not only is he a great guitarist but he can also play the keyboard and drums.
In 2017 we went on a holiday to Scotland. Back then I knew nothing of videography and Danny was the recorder of our holidays using a little camcorder. Unbeknownst to us though, the audio in the camcorder wasn't working. We got home and Danny sat down to assemble a video of our holiday only to find it was all silent!
What was initially a problem turned out to be a massive boon for me a few years later when I started my YouTube channel, as Danny decided to write and record his own music as a backing track to fill in the silence. For our holiday to Germany in 2018 and a second holiday to Scotland in 2019 Danny wrote more music, so when I started making videos in 2020 I already had a collection of Danny's music I was able to use as backing tracks. Some of my favourite and most used songs come from these holiday songs, such as "Alba", "Rocks & Sky" and "Echerntal".
Danny has continued to write music specifically for my videos, and there are always songs that fit perfectly for the feel of the video I want to create. In fact I think his music adds so much to the videos I make I can't imagine my videos without his music!
The other thing I need to mention about Danny is his abundance of patience for my photography. While he doesn't normally come out with me on my landscape photography outings while we're at home, on holidays he loves exploring the outdoors as much as I do, and will happily sit and read a book or just soak up the atmosphere in an amazing location while I'm taking photos. As long as there's a pub with a beer or two at the end of the day, he's happy!
I absolutely couldn't ask for a better partner for me than Danny!
If you enjoy my work and would like to offer some support there are a number of different ways you can!
- Share - if you love a video why not share it on social media or directly with people who might enjoy it too? Just click "Share" in YouTube.
- Affiliate Links - most of the links to products on the Gear page and in my video descriptions are affiliate links, which means if you use them to make a purchase I may get a small commission without costing you any extra.
- Donate - make a one-off or monthly donation towards the cost of petrol.
- Shop - purchase something from my online store. Every year I make a calendar of my favourite images, and I regularly have prints for sale (though these tend to only be for limited time periods). You can also get copies of Danny's music, as well as an inspiring little gift book I made back in 2008. I'm working on a new photography book too, see keep an eye out for that!
All your support, including kind words and likes, is sincerely appreciated! 🙏