An Interview With Myself

Introduce yourself

Hello, I’m Brian. I like to take pictures. I nearly always have a camera in my hand, but I’m not a professional photographer. I’ve used lots of different makes of cameras over the years, but now I’m very much a Canon man.

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So what do you do for a living?

I work for a company called Capgemini as a Solution Architect, specialising in the Salesforce platform. Most people don’t understand what that means, so to make it easier I just say I work in IT.

How and when did you get into photography?

I’ve been taking pictures since I was a child, so most of my life. Digital photography wasn’t around when I started and my parents didn’t have much money so I couldn’t photograph as often as I would have liked. I remember borrowing their cameras when I was little, and learnt about exposure, shutter speed and aperture using a Zenit-EM. When I started working I bought myself a 35mm Canon SLR, then digital came along and I was delighted to switch over. I have taken many thousands of photographs since then.

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How would you describe your work and what are the ideas behind your images?

I have tens of thousands of images in my archive, some good, some not so good! In terms of genre I tend to switch a lot and have tried landscape, beauty, fashion, portrait, street, and documentary photography. Some of those are single images which stand-alone, while others are groups of images that work together. I usually start off with an idea of some kind, either for a single image or a project, and try to construct my pictures around that idea. However, they are not deeply conceptual and things don’t always come out exactly the way I intended!

Some of my images feel a bit safe, and I really have to push myself to produce more gritty, edgy work. Interestingly, the type of camera I use can make a difference. If I’m going for a snapshot aesthetic, using a compact point-and-shoot seems to help me achieve that. If I’m looking for something more crafted and painterly where quality is essential, I’ll use a DSLR. That’s not always the case, but it’s often a starting point.

My work is often described as quiet, calm, and peaceful. These are actually personal qualities of mine so perhaps it’s true that photographs are really a reflection of the photographer.

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What do you think of genres in photography? Do you consider yourself a documentary photographer, street photographer, or portrait photographer?

Probably a combination of all those things, so essentially just a photographer.

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Which photographers inspire you?

So many! William Eggleston, Garry Winogrand, Stephen Shore, Martin Parr, Alec Soth, David Bailey, Mario Testino. That’s naming just a few famous ones. Of the less famous contemporary photographers, one who has inspired me for a very long time is Stefan Bourson. I adore his beauty work, it’s exquisite!

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Would you describe your body of work as consistent?

Probably not, because I like to try different things. I do struggle with this at times, as everyone says to make it as a photographer you need to specialise. However, in my defence I recognise that I don’t need to be a professional photographer to make good pictures. Actually, I think it’s probably easier not to be a pro, so you can keep experimenting and shooting in any direction you like, free of commercial pressure of any kind.

I have noticed that my work is frequently pictorial, and often moody with lots of contrast, depth, and layers. Perhaps that’s where some consistency starts to come in, but I do mix things up and change my style quite a bit. I have been known to go minimal!

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Do you prefer single images or projects?

I like both, but there’s something incredible about the project work of photographers like Alec Soth. When you get a great series of images the whole collection adds up to so much more than the sum of the parts. Synergy!

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How do you stay motivated?

I don’t really have to because my livelihood doesn’t depend on it. I sometimes go through dry spells where I’m uninspired and don’t feel like making pictures, but I always come out the other side. Taking my cameras on holiday usually helps to unblock my creativity.

Advice for people getting into photography?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to be a pro. You can make beautiful images in your spare time and have a tremendous amount of fun, stress-free, while doing so. Also, don’t get too hung up about only shooting one thing. It’s so easy to get stuck in a pigeon-hole as a street photographer or horse photographer or whatever. Just be a photographer and shoot whatever you want to!

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Casting Call – 2019

Next year (2019) I’m looking to create some romantic and emotive portraits of people with horses. See my ‘Portraits with Horses’ Pinterest board above for some wonderful examples of the sort of image I want to make.

In order to make it happen, I need volunteers who would like to have a go at being a model for the day and have access to a horse (either their own or a friend’s). No prior experience of modelling is necessary, and this casting call is open to adults of any gender.

If you’re interested, please get in touch – but please note I am UK-based.

I’m a keen rider myself, and ride twice a week, so I’m used to being around horses.

Featured in British Horse magazine

One of my images from the BHS Northwest Dressage Championship at Bold Heath Equestrian Centre was featured in the November edition of British Horse, the magazine of The British Horse Society.

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It was only a small feature, but it’s been a while since any of my photographs have appeared in magazines. The last one was a hair and beauty editorial for 69 Magazine, which was a long time ago!

I hope to get some more features in British Horse next year.

Rediscovering my Canon G9

Ten years ago I bought myself a Canon G9 compact, and absolutely loved it. Me and that camera went everywhere together, but inevitably when I got my Canon 6d the G9 was relegated to ‘The Drawer’, where it has resided ever since.

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I recently rediscovered it, charged it up, and tried a few test shots. I’ve been working in London recently, and couldn’t be bothered to take a heavy DSLR with me along with my luggage, so I decided here was a perfect chance to slip the Canon G9 into my bag and give it a workout in the city.

 

I was delighted with how the little camera performed, and loved the way it was so small and discrete, attracting virtually no attention as I snapped away. It feels great in your hand, small but substantial. I’m not about to sell my DSLRs and lenses, but I am convinced that the Canon G9 still has a place in my arsenal of photography gear.

One of the things I found I could do with it was produce images that had more of a sense of urgency and immediacy than the ones I create with my DSLR. I can get similar images if I attach a flash head to my DSLR, but there’s something raw and honest and rough-around-the-edges about the on-camera flash of the G9 that makes for a grittier vibe.

 

In terms of limitations, the Canon G9 has a few that the Canon 6d doesn’t suffer from. The biggest one for me is the fact it has a tiny sensor vs. the 6d’s full-frame – which means you seriously lose out on depth of field, and the quality of low-light shots is also severely limited. The G9 is also noticeably slow compared to the 6d – there is a lag of a few seconds between switching it on and being able to take a picture, and then you have to wait until the picture is saved to the card before you can take another one … delays like this inevitably lead to missed shots.

Overall though, I found that as long as I worked within the G9’s constraints, it was possible to get some great pictures with it – far better images than I can get with a mobile phone camera.

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From now on, I’ll be making sure my G9 is always fully charged and ready!

What pumpkins do when Hallowe’en is over

I went to the Hebden Bridge Pumpkin Festival last weekend. A trip to Hebden Bridge is always something I enjoy, as it’s such a pretty little town with a wonderful vibe.

This time I noticed quite a few changes since my last visit. Some of the old shops had closed and quite a few new cafes had opened, some with a definite hipster feel, making me wonder if Hebden is becoming a little too gentrified.

One thing that hasn’t changed though is the creativity of some of the folks who live there, as these pumpkins show. This little collection made me chuckle, and wonder what pumpkins do when Hallowe’en is over!

BHS NW Dressage Championship

I spent the day photographing The British Horse Society NW Dressage Championship at Bold Heath Equestrian Centre. Here are some of my favourite images from the day.

 

This is the third event I have photographed for The British Horse Society and was a little bit different to the Aintree Summer Camps I’ve photographed. Shooting with the backdrop of Fiddlers Ferry Power Station made for some interesting and moody shots.

I used my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lenses for the shoot, and it was great being able to switch between the two based on a creative decision. It should be fairly easy to work out which was used for some shots.

I’m looking forward to helping out with many more events next year.

Ribble Valley Mod Weekender, 2018

The annual Ribble Valley Mod Weekender has came around again. Once more the streets of historic Clitheroe, Lancashire, were taken over by scooters, Fred Perry polo shirts and Dr Martens boots.

I love the smell of the two-stroke exhaust from the scooters as they ride into the town. Everyone is so proud of their wheels, and there is real effort to dress and act the part. At times the event can be busy and it’s tough to get good pictures, but I came away with a few I’m very pleased with.

For anyone interested in participating in the event or viewing more pictures, there is a Facebook page and an Instagram hashtag. It takes place every September.

Happy Childhood Memories

Today I went back to my old home town of Great Harwood, and walked around for half an hour with my camera. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years.

It’s grim up north, but it’s where I grew up, where I spent many a happy summer day playing in those backstreets as a child, befriending stray cats and scraping my knees climbing walls. Great Harwood the town has changed, but turn a corner and you instantly go back in time. The red bridge is still there, as you can see in the photos above. I remember climbing through that same gap in the railings, and going down onto the little pebble shore. There was – and still is – a dreadful chemical smell rising from Hyndburn Brook, but when I played on that beach, skimming stones across the water, in my mind I was on a beautiful desert island in the middle of the pacific.

Happy memories.

The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre Open Day

Today, I spent a few hours photographing the Open Day at The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre. The BTRC is a British Horse Society Approved Retraining and Facility Centre, and is one of the most immaculate yards I have visited.

The BTRC hold an Open Day every year, and I can heartily recommend a visit if you are a horse lover like me. It is truly heart-warming to see what they are doing to retrain beautiful racehorses like these, who have reached the end of their racing careers.

I took the photo opportunity as a great chance to try out a new toy, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. I’m used to shooting at focal lengths of 50mm and above, so opening out to 24mm felt very challenging and unfamiliar to me first time around. However, I do like the results – as in the shot of ‘Fizz’ above.

If you want to find out more about The BTRC and their work, please visit The BTRC website.