In the second Interview of our new blog series we spoke with Wildlife photographer Richard Peters. Richard is an award winning photographer whose work has won many international awards, including European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015. He has travelled the world photographing animals in some amazing locations and boasts an incredible portfolio of work. We sat down with Richard to talk about his practice.
How and why did you first get into Photography?
“I’ve always been more creative than academic, so when I was at school I loved art and design, hated maths and english. Anything creative I’ve always enjoyed and I used to love drawing as a kid. A friend of mine lent me an old film camera when I was about 17 and I loved playing around with it, adjusting the aperture and shutter speed and seeing how it would affect the outcome of the picture. At the same time, I’ve always loved natural history documentaries. As a kid I watched all the BBC documentaries and the two things fell together really.”
What is it about Wildlife Photography that appeals to you?
“I like being outside! I was born in London but I’ve never been a city person really, I enjoy going into London occasionally if I have to, but I’ve always liked being outside in the fresh air and countryside. Again, through watching these natural history documentaries, I’ve had this kind of obsession with animals and wildlife. I love cats, I love dogs, I’m just an animal person basically. For me, spending time out in the field watching animals go about their business is lovely. It is just nice to watch sometimes without even taking any pictures.”
What would you say is the most important quality or skill for a wildlife photographer to possess?
“You need a lot of patience. So much patience! A big problem with wildlife photography is that animals don’t perform on cue. The amount of times I’ve spent maybe 8 hours waiting for an animal to turn up or do something interesting and it doesn’t happen. Sometimes I haven’t even bothered getting the camera out of the bag. You need to enjoy your own company and have tons of patience, those are the two most important qualities.”
How do you go about planning a shoot that relies on a subject that you can’t direct or control?
“Later on this year I’ll being going back to Skomer Island to photograph Puffins, so you are kind of guaranteed they are there. You know they are going to be there, but you are at the mercy of what the animals are doing, what the weather is doing, what the light is doing. There is always an element of luck to a degree, because no matter how guaranteed you are to be in a location where an animal is, you just don’t know it is going to do what you want. You very much need to be in the right place at the right time. The more time you spend with a subject or at a location the more chance you have of getting the picture. Someone looking to get into wildlife photography shouldn’t think ‘I’ll just pop out to this location, I’ll get some amazing pictures and go home’. It very rarely works like that and you have to repeat and repeat until, in the end, you are there at the right time, because 9 times out of 10 it won’t be the right time, so it’s just repeat and repetition.”
How much time do you spend observing and studying animals before you then go and do a shoot?
“The thing for me is that I’ve always approached photography from a creative aspect. For me it’s always been about creating something, first and foremost. So I vary slightly to a lot of photographers in that I’m not as interested in the subject, I’m more interested in the conditions that subject is in. So I would quite happily take pictures of pigeons in my back garden in amazing light, than a Lion asleep under a tree in the shade in Africa because that’s pretty boring. If you are in Africa for example you can just kind of see a pride of Lions, drive up to them and you might get lucky and get the picture in a couple of minutes. Whereas I’ve done a big project at home in my back garden over the course of a couple of years and some of the pictures from that have taken 6 months or more from initial idea to finally capturing the picture I had planned in my head. So yeah, it can be 30 seconds to 6 months or more really.”
How would you say your style and craft have evolved over the years?
“Ooh, that’s a good question. The thing with style is it’s one of those things you need to develop organically. If you try and force a style on yourself it’s just never going to come across, it’s never going to work. If you see pictures from another photographer that you like and think ‘I’m going to copy that’ it’s just not going to work as well because you’re not coming up with something yourself, you are trying to repeat something that somebody else has done. For me, my style was an organic process and I didn’t even realise I had a style, as such, until someone once sent me an email and said ‘I’ve seen this picture of yours and I knew it was yours straight away because of the style of it’. For me, it’s use of light, so I’m really into dramatic lighting and backlighting, rim lighting and that kind of thing. I’ll take more standard photos but, for me, if I see the light is doing something interesting I get really excited. If I see the light is doing something really cool, that’s when I really sort of pay attention and think ‘right, I need to make the most of this’. I definitely feel style is an organic process, without a doubt.
I’ve found over the years, when I first got into photography, especially taking photographs of wildlife, I would hold the shutter release down and take a burst of 20 or 30 pictures of even a static subject, because I was so excited to see it and take a picture I would over-shoot. Over the years, I shoot far less but think more about what I’m doing. So rather than just taking a photo for the sake of it, I’ll think about the composition and if the lighting is not quite there, I won’t take the picture. So I shoot less, but shoot smarter.”
You have won a number of awards for your work, what do you think makes an award winning photograph?
“Another big question. It’s hard to say. The thing is, competitions are so subjective. There are going to be a panel of judges, they are all going to have different opinions and tastes. There have been times in the past where I have entered a competition and put in the full selection of 20 photos and it’s one of the ones I put in last, as a filler, just to fill up the spaces, that is the one that actually did something, got somewhere. It wouldn’t be one of the pictures I had hoped would get somewhere. They are just so subjective. I think really the key things though are just looking for something that is quite [different], it has to stand out. If someone was to show you 50 pictures printed out and you went through them quickly, it would have to be the one that for some reason, whatever it is, makes you stop and look at it longer than the others, rather than just keep flicking through. What that secret ingredient is, it’s a mystery, even to me now. You know what pictures stand out above others, the lighting or something quirky about the subject, but it is so subjective that you can’t say it’s any one thing really.”
What are you favourite places to shoot wildlife, and do you have a most memorable shoot that you have done?
“I would say my most memorable location is Yellowstone National Park in America. It’s a few years ago now that I went there, but I went in the winter. It was minus 40 on the coldest day, I have never been anywhere like it, it was just phenomenal. The landscapes, the wildlife, everything was just incredible. That’s probably my most memorable location and I hope to go back there again at some point.
Africa, everyone says Africa really, it’s kind of the default place for wildlife photographers to go. It really does get under your skin and until you go you don’t really appreciate the saying that ‘Africa gets under your skin’, but it really does.
But, like I’ve said before, I’m happy shooting any subject in good conditions. So some of my most rewarding photos, for me personally, have been taken in my back garden at home. No-one else can take pictures there, it’s unique to me. You don’t have to travel to take good photos and that’s something that I try to get across to people. Wildlife is accessible to anyone, it doesn’t matter where you live, even if you live in a city. It’s important not to get hung up on ‘I have to go and take photos of iconic species’ and that kind of thing, because you don’t, you can take good pictures anywhere really, as I try to show with the series I did in my garden at home.”
What do you think are the biggest challenges for emerging photographers today? Do you have any tips or advice?
“With wildlife photography especially it’s a very competitive industry, there are a lot of people in it, it’s really hard to stand out. Back in the film days, not many people were taking wildlife photos full time or even as a hobby, it was a lot harder to get into. But now, it is so accessible with cheap digital cameras. There are a lot of good photographers out there and not all of them are full time, some of them might be hobbyists or amateurs, but they are very good. It’s a very crowded and competitive market, you have to really stick with it and if you get rejected by magazines or whatever you have to keep plugging away at it and hope that at some point someone is going to take notice of your work.
It’s what has happened with me really. I’ve always, even now, still taken photos for me. I’m trying to satisfy my own creative urges when I take photos, I’m not taking them for magazines, competitions, social media, I’m taking them because I want to take them. It just so happens that people like what I take, and that’s handy! I’m always behind the camera first and foremost because that’s where I want to be. If you really believe in it and really enjoy it, then I’m a firm believer that if that’s the case, then your work will be good and the rest will follow.”
We just want to say a massive thank you to Richard for taking the time to speak to us! Be sure to follow him on all of his social media platforms for up-to-date information on his current and future projects.
In the first of a new interview series we have coming to the blog, we spoke with photographer Tariq Zaidi. Tariq is an amazing travel & documentary photographer whose work has won multiple international awards along with featured articles published by the BBC, National Geographic, LA Times and CNN. He even occasionally gets a chance to teach on our Advanced DSLR Photography course when he is not out shooting! We sat down with Tariq to discuss his photography career to date, current and upcoming projects and what inspires his practice.
How did you first get into Photography & for those who don’t know, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice as a photographer?
“As a kid I got my first camera when I was 14, a Yashika FX3. I was just taking snaps, wanting to become a photographer and work with National Geographic. I also started going to exhibitions and looking at books from a young age. I then went to university and did all kinds of different things. I was an English teacher for a long, long time, I went through all kinds of different jobs, including the corporate environment as well.
Over the years I used to travel a lot, my aim was to see the world, as many places as I could. Travelling with a small backpack and just going. I did that for many years and fell in love with looking at different cultures, languages, falling in love with the world. I didn’t take my camera with me all the time, but my friends & family saw my photographs and said they’re amazing, but you just say ‘yeah yeah’, obviously they are going to say that.
I thought the best way to test how good I am, if at all, is to enter a competition pretty much anonymously, it was an international competition. I won first prize and was like wow ok, is this a fluke?! So I entered another one and won first prize again and was like ok, maybe I’m not that bad?! So I entered another one and another one and I kept on winning first, second or third prize and I thought ok, giving that the jury is anonymous, they don’t know me from Jack, I must have something going. I started to believe in myself. It’s always good to get family support, but the only way to really get a judgement call on you photographs is through other photographers and entering competitions. When you do well you have something nobody can take away from you and that gave me tremendous confidence to the extent that I quit my job in January 2014. I was so sick of the corporate environment, it was just killing me and I felt like I was going to die if I kept doing this, I need to live, do what I love and give it a shot.
A friend of mine who is a professional photographer, who is very successful said to me ‘Do you know how hard it is to become a professional photographer? Because just in London alone there are something like 22,000 photographers who are trying to make a living, you are just not going to make it, its just so hard. Before you quit your job make sure you have enough money to somehow survive for the next three to five years because you are not going to get anywhere for at least 5 years and thats if you are damm good & lucky’. You know what, I just said ‘perfect’ I love that challenge and I’m going to go for it irrespective of what you say. I set myself targets and financial budgets, like I can only spend this much this year as I need to buy a computer, I need to buy software, I need to buy a camera, it all costs a lot of upfront money. I knew I needed to sell my photographs so at least I’m not loosing money. The last thing I wanted to do is lose a job I can probably never go back to and get into debt. I wanted to make it a successful business and my idea of success was not loosing money for the next five years.
I was very lucky, I had a tremendous amount of success for a beginner in my first year. I was involved in multiple assignments, I was lucky enough at that time to be teaching for PCL and at UCL, people were buying my photographs, I was getting published and things just flew! Even though my target for year one was not too loose money, I actually made some money, enough to try another year and then another and well, here we are now”.
Amazing! So what is your favourite place to travel to and why?
“Africa, as many parts are not photographed. It’s also physically challenging. A lot of places I go to in Africa, its sleeping in tents, theres no water, there are no toilets, you are out in the middle of nowhere. But, the people you meet, the environment and generally the images that come out of that environment can be amazing.
Given that south Sudan is slightly on the dangerous side, there aren’t that many photographers rocking up. There are some quite remarkable people who live in that environment, but its not documented that well. This is what I love to do, try and take pictures of people in environments that are not that well documented. Another reason is that I am drawn to disappearing cultures, environments, people whose cultures are fighting to survive with modernity all around.
I’m not a teacher or trying to be a wise person or anything. But through my photographs and through the stories I end up showing people quite amazing things. That is a wonderful driver and motivator to my passion. Occasionally somebody comments on one of my Instagram’s or Facebook posts saying ‘Thank you for sharing these images. I never knew this culture existed, it’s amazing’. That is a massive driver for myself. We can be out in the middle of the jungle, the forest, the desert to try and capture these environments. Most photographers who do end up in these environments are looking for that one iconic image and then that’s it. Well, hang around for a week, two weeks, three weeks, a month, it’s very different. That’s what I prefer to do”.
Be sure to check out the links below for full Articles on Tariq’s work.
Everyone in the office loved your project from Mongolia on the Eagle Hunters. Can you tell us a little bit more about the trip?
“I’ve been to Mongolia many times. The first time was in my travel phase as it were. I hitch-hiked across Mongolia in winter, which was definitely not the smartest thing I’ve done in my life! While I was hitch-hiking I saw an Eagle Hunter on a horse and I was completely blown away. When I saw that I told myself, I’ve got to come back and find out more about these guys. I then went back in 2014 and spent about a month there. In 2015 I spent another month there. I try and go every year, this project is a work in progress. I’ve lived with different families of Eagle Hunters each time I’m there.
All the projects I do are work, are ongoing. I don’t know when they will stop, when I think I’ve got enough for a book or a large exhibition maybe. But it’s all ongoing and I try to go back to these communities as much as I can. I get closer to the communities each time. I can only afford & physically handle about a month out at one time, its pretty hardcore being in these environments. But then I go back again.”
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
“Yes. Whenever I see something or read something, I jot it down. Sometimes something comes out in the press that is fantastically done and I think, you know what… that person has photographed it or videoed it fantastically, I’m going to let it go because they have done a wonderful job. Sometimes I see things that have been done a few times, but it’s just not good enough and I think, maybe I can do it better, hopefully I can do it differently, if I’m very lucky I can do it better & differently. That’s how I look at the choices for my projects. The other thing that happens as well is, in life there are things that happen, completely serendipitously. It can be people you meet or catalysts and I think it’s the time to do this now. I’ve been thinking about it for the last year or two years, I need to do it now.
Sometimes I get assignments and I generally work with a lot of NGO’s specifically. The work I did in the jungle in Indonesia, Uganda, Siberia, Russia, was with an NGO. I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I love the work they are doing and I try to document what they are doing”.
You have taught the Documentary & Photojournalism module of our Advanced DSLR Photography course, what advice do you have for aspiring Travel / Documentary photographers?
“You need to research. What has already been done, what are you going to do differently, what are you going to do better. I spend a hell of a lot of time researching what is out there already. Either about the countries, the people or the subject matter I want to tackle. You need to plan your trip well, logistically, factors like: is someone going to help you, do you have enough money, who are you going to meet with, who would you like to meet with, what story do you want to tell. Everything will most probably change when you are there, but it’s good to have a thought, an idea, a dream in your mind before you even start. One of the most important things is whatever you do, you have to be humble to the people you are working with, no judgment ever. If you are humble and respectful they will allow you to get closer to them, closer into their lives. That is where amazing images come from.
There is a quote by Ansel Adams – ‘Photographers don’t take photographs, they make photographs’. A lot of time is spent waiting. I don’t tell somebody, ‘why don’t you walk across there and stand right in the middle of those two cows’. There are a lot of photographers that do, but that’s not what I do. I wait for it to happen and that sucks, because it may happen or it may not happen. But, when it does happen you think to yourself that I absolutely nailed it. A lot of time is spent waiting for the right moment. You need to know what you want to happen. Making a photograph is about seeing something and having an image in your head and then running around to get the right position, light, components to make it happen.
You really do not need lots of equipment. I basically use one body and one 24-70mm lens, that’s pretty much it. To give you an idea, my total stuff that I take on a trip for a month, clothes, sleeping bag, camera, lenses, batteries, laptop weighs less than 10kg. If you want to take a good photograph it’s about the moment, it’s about the light, it’s about something special. It’s got nothing to do with your equipment.
The other thing I would say is study the masters, there are lots of them. A good place to start are the Magnum photographers. The older guys are quite remarkable, there is so much to learn from them. Another thing is when you’re working on a project and it’s just not happening and you are not happy with your images, don’t give up. The next day will be better or maybe something amazing happens right in front of you.
If you are doing a photo-story then you need to keep going back and stay around for a long time to develop that relationship with communities and places. When you have your set of 50-100 images that you absolutely love about the story that you want to tell, find an editor to have a look at the images with you. One thing myself and a lot of my colleagues do is get too involved with the photographs. Too involved with the story, rightly so. They are the only one who can say this doesn’t fit, this is rubbish. You have to get an editor to help you cut it down to 20 or so images that you can send out and hopefully get published or printed. It’s very important and a big lesson that I have learned in the last three years.
I would recommend that people look at the winners of the Photographer of the Year competition and the World Press Photo competition. You can learn a lot from them, you can get inspired. I also recommend the Time Magazine ‘Lightbox’ and the New York Times ‘Lens Blog’, both have amazing storytelling from around the world.
But most importantly, keep it personal, keep it honest and keep it you”.
Are there any projects by other artists or photographers that you particularly like or can recommend?
“On the travel side I recommend Sebastião Salgado, a Brazilian genius. He has amazing black & white travel photography, it will blow any human being away.
The god of Documentary is James Nactwey. His images are iconic.
To prove my point about equipment, that a smartphone is enough, look at David Guttenfelder. He has almost a million Instagram followers, all of his images are taken on his smartphone and they are amazing photographs. He is trying to prove a point that you don’t need a DSLR and tons of equipment to take great photographs and he has proven it”.
We want to say a massive thank you to Tariq for taking the time to speak to us and good luck with all of your projects for the rest of 2017! Please make sure that you follow him on his Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. To see more of his work head over to his website.
If you are interested in our Advanced DSLR Photography course, some more information can be seen here.
Apple introduced the ability for its users to capture RAW images with iOS 10, which coincided with the launch of the iPhone 7 & 7 plus back in September 2016. Both phones were upgraded with 12MP sensors, with the 7 Plus boasting two cameras designed specifically for wide angle and telephoto shooting. There were various other minor improvements made to both cameras and when I recently upgraded to an iPhone 7, I was keen to test it out. I took the iPhone 7 to sunny Sutton on Sea to capture some images and see what the phone camera was capable of!
Before we get into the photographs it is important to understand the file format and the many benefits (& occasional drawback) of shooting in RAW. Using the standard camera application on the iPhone, images are captured and saved as JPEGs. The JPEG file type is extremely common and all cameras (including most DSLR’s) will be set to this by default. Because the file type is so widely supported it’s great for sharing images over the internet on websites & email etc. However, JPEG images are what’s known as lossy compression files. When a photograph is taken the camera compresses information into the file. The major drawback to shooting in JPEG is that every time the image is opened, edited & saved file data is lost, potentially leading to the loss in image quality over time.
When shooting in RAW photographs are captured directly from the cameras sensor, however the camera does not apply any form of processing to these images. In turn this means much more data is recorded and stored within the file. RAW files can’t be shared straight away and need to go through a conversion process in a program like Lightroom or Photoshop. Once this process has been completed the file can be saved into a variety of different file types, including JPEG. When using a program like Lightroom any edits are not applied directly to the image file. Meaning any changes can be easily reverted or changed and there is absolutely no loss in image quality.
Due to the amount of data recorded, editing RAW files is incredibly powerful. Below you can see an example of the basic conversion process in Photoshop.
In this example the beach-hut is silhouetted while the sky is fairly well exposed. I was able to simply pull up the shadows slider in order to reveal all of the details that were previously unseen. To do something like this with a JPEG file would be incredibly difficult and time consuming, but in a matter of seconds you can make a huge difference to RAW photographs. It is for reasons like these RAW files are so popular with photographers.
Unfortunately, RAW images can’t be captured through the iPhones default camera application. In order to shoot RAW images you need to buy a third party application from the App Store. All of the images seen in this post were shot with ProCam. £4.99 (as of 21/02/17) – Although I’m pretty sure I managed to pick this up for cheaper in a promotion.
Shooting with the app is great and it has a variety of different modes, including a program mode, Aperture priority and Shutter Priority modes. It has many more features than the standard camera application and displays the white balance, aperture, shutter and ISO while shooting. Playing with these settings gives you much more creative control over your photographs, especially when shooting in RAW.
I was pretty happy with some of the images I was able to capture and shooting in RAW definitely helped me salvage some photos that would have been unusable. I was away and shooing with my phone for 5 days and rapidly filled up my internal storage space. The files are saved as .DNG’s (Digital Negative Files) and had an average size of 10-12mb for each file. This is up to 5 times as much space that an average iPhone JPEG would use. You definitely need to be aware of this when shooting in RAW as you will find your storage space depleting at a much faster rate than normal.
It’s a shame that Apple have not implicated the RAW feature into the default camera application as it is such a powerful feature. Fingers crossed this will be added in future iOS updates, but for now I would definitely recommend downloading an app like ProCam if you are looking to try out shooting iPhone RAW.
If you’d like to learn more about editing your RAW photographs we have some really great Lightroom & Photoshop courses available. If you would like to start shooting your own RAW images we also offer Beginner DSLR courses & bespoke One to One tuition.
Post by Office Administrator Tom Dumbleton.
We are very pleased to introduce to you all to our lovely new office in Printing House Yard.
Our new space is split over 2 floors. Downstairs we have the waiting/break area (complete with snazzy hanging bar) and bourgeois style bathroom.
Upstairs is of course the all important classroom where most of our courses take place! We are still running our Darkroom and Studio Lighting courses over a Holborn Studios
Check out more photos below:
We even have some fancy new wall mounts for our studio lights!
We are super happy with our new space and we hope you will all be too!
Just a reminder of our new address:
7 Printing House Yard
15 Hackney Road
And phone number:
020 7729 1936
See you very soon!
As some of you may be aware we have recently moved to a new studio! After 5 years on Provost Street we have moved into an amazing new space in Printing House Yard. The new space is really lovely and is just a 10 minute walk away from our old office!
We are just putting the finishing touches in place, so expect to see a lot more of our new office in the coming weeks!
We have been a little quite on our social media for the last few weeks due to all of the craziness that comes along with moving. We took a few photographs during the move & we wanted to share these with you as we bid goodbye to Zeus House!
We hope to welcome you to our new space soon!
Our new office address is: 7 Printing House Yard, Hackney Road, London, E2 7PR.
We also have a brand new telephone number – 020 7729 1936.
Congratulations to Tim Laman, winner of the 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
Congratulations to Tim Laman who wins the main prize of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award 2016, now open at the Natural History Museum, for his stunning series ‘Entwined Lives‘, having scaled a 30m tall tree to get up and close with the orang-utan.
Tim Laman was selected from over 50 000 international entries, for his series of 6 images which tell the story of the plight of the critically endangered Bornean orang-utan in the Indonesian rainforest.
Special congratulations also to London-based photographer, Gideon Knight, who won ‘Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ with this stunning image ‘The Moon and the Crow’.
Here are a few of our other faves…
‘The Sand Canvas‘ by Rudi Sebastian.
‘Wind Composition‘ by Valter Binotto
‘Star Player’ by Luis Javier Sandoval
View all 100 selected photographs at the National History Museum. Open until 10 Sep 2017.
Congratulations to PCL tutor Tariq Zaidi who has won 1st prize in the Professional Editorial category of the 2016 International Photography Awards. His photograph of rural life in South Sudan was previously featured in the Los Angeles Times, and is a great example of his ability to sensitively capture people in their natural environments. Tariq also won 3rd prize in the same category with this stunning image of pilgrims in Lalibela, Ethiopia.
We are very inspired by Tariq’s success, as a self-taught photographer who gave up his senior corporate role in 2014 to focus on his passion for travel photography, it is brilliant to see how much he has achieved in a short amount of time.
We hope this encourages you all to get out there shooting!
William Eggleston is known as a pioneering portrait photographer. Currently the National Portrait Gallery is showcasing the most comprehensive display of his work ever, from the 1960s to the present day.
The exhibition includes never before seen vintage black and white prints, his earliest work from the 1960s. Also a range of his colour photography, which is celebrated as being pivotal in the recognition of colour photography as a contemporary art form.
The exhibition showcases 100 of Egglestons works. Here are just a few of our favourites:
Of this last photo, Eggleston said, “Some kind of pimply, freckle-faced guy in the late sunlight. And by God, it all worked.” He regards this as his first successful colour image, the first frame he shot.
Although small, the exhibition is perfectly curated and a really stunning collection of Eggletsons work. An exhibition you could walk around again and again. A definite must-see show!
It is on at the National Portrait Gallery until 26 October.
Tickets cost £8 or £6.50 for concessions. Book yours now here – www.npg.org.uk
Firecracker Photographic Grant 2016 is now open for entries
Firecracker Photographic Grant is an annual award for female photographers, born or residing in Europe, who are pursuing documentary photographic projects. The award offers £1000 plus £1000 towards printing/ mounting/ framing.
The winner of the 2015 Firecracker Photographic Grant was Spanish photographer Lua Ribeira. Ribeira won the award for these stunning images from her series, ‘Noises in the Blood’, exploring British Dancehall culture.
More details about the application process can be found online: www.fire-cracker.org
Good luck! We’d love to see some PCL students in this year’s line-up :)