20 January 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Chris Shepherd

Chris's Biog
I first became seriously interested in photography when I was given a digital point & shoot in the summer of 2002. To me this was a complete revelation, the power of digital immediately allowed me to see my pictures and mistakes. No more waiting for pictures to be developed and forgetting what it was I had in mind when I pressed the shutter release.

Within a few months I was producing results I was happy with, but wasn’t able to control exposure as much as I would now wish. So I then upgraded to a Fuji S602 which gave me plenty of control and allowed me to capture the beauty I saw in the world everyday.

In a fit of optimism I then booked an exhibition space a year in advance and planned to document a year in the life of our local nature reserve. To be honest I didn’t have a clue how big a job I had made for myself. The reserve is not the most photogenic place I could have chosen, so I really had to teach myself how to create images rather than just snapping what was there. The exhibition went well and as a bonus, I also made some sales to the public. Since then it has been a case of more photos, more equipment, more exhibitions and more sales.

In 2006 I was invited to join The Painting with Light Society www.painterswithlight.com a group of leading Landscape photographers based in the South East of England. I am also a moderator and the locations editor for the online photography magazine ePhotozine.com

My main areas of interest are Landscapes/Cityscapes and Abstract work.

The British Landscape and its nature is my first love. In the early morning light, much of the British countryside has a magical quality that is sometimes difficult to capture; but very rewarding when you do. I always feel a sense of pride in my work when people who have travelled all over the world ask “is that Britain?” It’s great to be able to show people the magic that is on their doorstep.

Cityscapes are a relatively new area of work for me; I have an ongoing project "London Light/London Life" documenting what I see in the city. I live very close to London but it’s not one of my favourite places at all. I am much more at home in the countryside than a busy city. However, I find it extremely challenging to find and produce good images of the busy city streets and architecture.

BLAB: What's your best bit of advice for a new photographer?
Forget about the technical stuff, learn to see first. You can spend hours fiddling with the controls on your camera or massaging an image in Photoshop but if the scene you are trying to capture doesn't express what you want you are wasting your time.

Try to develop the process I call “Active seeing”. This involves not just passively looking at a scene, but constantly evaluating even the most mundane scene from all possible angles, to find a composition that works as a stand alone image. Whether it actually represents the place you took the shot is not as important as producing an image that works on its own.

Spend a lot of your time drawing frames around a scene in your mind, ask yourself "what would I include in this scene if I shot it". Photography is all about the stuff you leave out, so identify what shouldn't be in there. Do some reading on composition, then take a look at loads of professional images and ask yourself does it work? what makes it work? and how you would have shot the same scene.

Once you know what you are trying to achieve it's time to start understanding the technology that allows you to achieve it.

BLAB: If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?
I'm not really much of a gear head - though that doesn't seem to stop me spending a lot of money on it!

I think that I would spend £5000 touring my very favourite locations: New Zealand, The Canadian Rockies and Iceland. The other £5000 would cover my bar bill in Iceland - I'm not a heavy drinker but Iceland can be very expensive.

BLAB: Rucksack or shoulder bag and why?
Oh, err, um. Can I have both?

For landscape work it's the Lowepro Rover AW2 with room in there for 5 lenses, heaven knows why, I'll only use 2 of them at most, but it's always best to have the option. The top contains Lee filters and a nice thermos of steaming coffee for those cold mornings.

In the city it would have to be a shoulder bag or smaller, in these days of a war on terror (or the war on photography as I like to call it). The more inconspicuous you can be the less hassle you get from security and police. I often only use a Powershot G9, in the city - you can still get the shot but you also have the fun of watch photographers with tripods being hassled at the same time.

And finally...
BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?

Oh, Lime Green I think maybe with orange wheels, whitewall tyres and a nodding dog in the back. It's important to make a statement

Chris has also selected three of his favourite images to show on Blab:

Blea Tarn
I visited the Lake District twice last year. The first week, in the summer consisted of me opening the door every morning to be greeted by a solid wall of rain. The second started the same way. But finally after 3 days of solid rain the skies cleared. The rain had washed all the dust from the atmosphere creating vibrant colours and mountains that looked over sharpened to my eye. Looking at the resulting shot I think it was worth the effort.

Snow & Gate
Last winter I was really hoping for snow. So I was real chuffed when a huge dump of snow was forecast. Getting up before the dawn allowed me to have the pristine snow of my local nature reserve to myself (well just me and the Long Horn cattle who live there).

This is one of my favourite trees, I love it's big broad shape and have photographed it on many occasions.

I spotted these vibrant painted stairs on London's South Bank one afternoon. I simply waited till some feet appeared in just the right spot.

BLAB: Thanks for your time and images Chris. The lesson to look around close to home and see what you can produce is a good one. If people are anything like me, they feel the need to head off to foreign climes and take travel pictures, but that completely ignores the beauty we have to hand. Not taking what we have on our doorsteps for granted is a lesson we should all learn.


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