Who Am I?

I’m an Englishman, educated in England and have mostly worked in the Oilfield services sector for my professional career. That career is documented at Linkedin, but my passion for photography has been with me since I was 14 years old. I’ve occasionally put the camera down for extended periods as other interests and projects dominated, but I’ve always been in love with the camera and the ability to create unique images.

From developing Black and White film and printing it on an old Zenith enlarger using fixed grade paper, huddled inside an old wardrobe, to full digital processing and printing using a top of the line photo printer or Lab, I’ve been constantly learning. I did get an “O” level in photography in the early ’80’s  – which taught me the basics of the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and ISO, depth of field, and some other esoteric stuff, but that was my only formal photographic education. The rest I’ve picked up along the way, buying and reading books and magazines, but most importantly, shooting. In the days of film, I didn’t shoot enough to become even remotely competent. I got lucky occasionally, but I didn’t have the skill or bone deep knowledge to consistently produce images that were more than snaps. I did learn, and got better, but slowly. In the mid 90’s when I became more avid, I went back to Nikons with a F50, which I rapidly grew out of and replaced with an F90x. I bought a 35-70 f2.8 – my first “pro” lens, followed by an 80-200 f2.8 AFD – which I still use today.

Being single, with some disposable income, I graduated to an F5. I loved that camera, and expanded my lens collection to a 20mm f2.8 and a 60mm f2.8 Micro. My photography was still very hit and miss, but I could miss a roll of 36 in 4 seconds! The F5 was (and still is) a fantastic film camera. After I got married, I was given a Bronica Etrsi system. This was fun, and a revelation. It taught me to slow down and consider. I had to meter with a light meter, focus manually, set the controls individually and shooting 120 film was expensive, so slow was the order of the day, making each frame count. This probably did more to improve my photography than the preceding 5 years of frantic running and gunning.

In 2003, I made the switch to digital. I saw the writing on the wall for film and was seduced by the digital siren. I sold my Bronica system and the F5 before the bottom dropped out of the market and put the proceeds to my first DSLR – the Nikon D100. In hindsight, this was a dog of a camera. A non existent buffer, noisy as Notting Hill Carnival, quirky controls, tiny pixel count, miserable flash control. That camera got dropped in a river, down a mountain and was abused mightily. What it did allow me to do was shoot and shoot and shoot. I could rip off a load of frames, chimp and try again. I learned how to compensate for the noise characteristics, the different exposure characteristics and got deep into digital processing (which I dislike). I became familiar with Photoshop and digital asset management. I did get some images I liked from that camera, but my problem was no direction. I’d shoot everything and anything. I was a jack of all trades, master of none and it showed in the images I was producing. I set up my first website, which showcased a selection of my work from both film and digital, but I was really not moving forward.

On my 40th birthday in 2006, I got a Nikon D200. This was the digital camera I’d been waiting for. It could shoot fast, meter accurately, great controls that fit as a Nikon should. A decent pixel count and at last, proper flash control. Noise was fine to 400 ISO, but I rarely shot above 200 anyway (habit from the D100). For me, this was the camera that finally fulfilled the digital promise of equalling film. I shot a ton of frames with this camera, and as my eldest daughter was doing Tae Kwon Do, I used it relentlessly in TKD competitions. I entered some of the pictures in local competitions in Alaska with great success and life was good.

In 2008 my wife and I won the Lottery. Not a cash lottery, but the lottery to go to McNeil River in Alaska. With this in mind, we upgrade our cameras – her D40 and my D200 to a pair of D300’s. This was a new dimension as for the first time, ISO hopping became practicable. This camera could shoot up to 800 ISO with minimal noise reduction, 1200 with utter care and still get lovely publishable quality images. I rented a 200-400 AFS (when I win the real lottery, this is high on the list), a 70-200 AFS VR and a teleconverter. The 70-200 wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but the 200-400 was amazing and the old 80-200 was a workhorse. Of course, it helped that we could get up close and personal with the bears – centimeters away from a sow grizzly with cubs!

I shot thousands of frames with this camera, then in 2009, a surprise birthday gift in the form of a D700. I nearly took it back to the store. I loved the D300 and for telephoto work, the D300 was great with the Dx sensor giving me more effective range. I had the 18-200mm for travel and the 12-24mm for wide angle – so did I really need the D700? It took me a few weeks, but when I started to get back into the swing of using the full frame lenses again, I was hooked. A 20mm was a 20mm. The old 105 F2 DC worked as it should. Ultimately, going back to pro glass and the sensor performance sealed my commitment. I sold the D300 and now the D700 is my weapon of choice. I have it matched to a 14-24mm and a 24-70mm and the technical quality of the images is astounding. Even the old 80-200mm gives excellent results, and this camera is a joy to use. Shooting up to 3200 ISO with controllable noise is a freedom unmatched. This camera has made me change my shooting style to be more flexible. Now, I can choose a fast shutter speed and a small aperture with a high ISO – the ISO being the variable that gives me more creative control and I exploit this ruthlessly. I love this set up and it makes image making very much fun. After over 40,000 images from this camera, I’m getting to the point where I don’t think about the camera, just about the image, which is the state I feel I need to be in to push my image making further.

This may seem like I’m a techno geek into shiny cameras and technology. While that is true, I love shiny new toys, it’s also incorrect to assume I’m just another camera geek. I see lots of people with amazing equipment, much better / more expensive than mine that make horrible images. For me the equipment is a gateway to expression. I want to use it to fulfil my vision, whether I’m trying to capture McNeil river bears, or cityscapes at dusk, ultimately I want to capture an image that is unique and uniquely me.  I shoot a lot of lousy images, but I learn and get better (I hope). I’ve found a better focus with personal projects and want to do different things. I’m enamored with the Strobist philosophy, doing things cheaply but going after amazing results. I’ve managed a few images that have worked for me using what I’ve learned from David Hobby, enough to appreciate the skill of people who are really good at it and to aspire to make better images because of it.

I’m on a journey. That journey ends with me and has no destination. I am, however, enjoying the ride.


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