With current Covid restrictions limiting much of what we’re able to do, our daily exercise is one slice of normality most of us are holding onto tightly. Getting out for a walk, run or cycle is the highlight of many a day!
At first, many of us discovered local hidden gems minutes from our front doors. The sun was shining; we went out with enthusiasm and excitement.
However, Winter arrived, the rain started pouring and the dark nights arrived. The enthusiasm waned for many of us, and getting out for our daily exercise took a lot of effort.
If you find you’re bored of wandering the same streets over and over, adding a purpose to your daily exercise can provide a much needed motivation boost! Which is why we’ve come up with some daily exercise photo ideas for you to try out on your next run, walk or cycle.
Don’t forget to share and tag us in your daily exercise pictures!
Our first daily exercise photo idea involves colours. This is definitely more of a challenge in the Winter months when the trees are bare and everything looks, well… grey. But if you look hard enough, you will still be able to find every colour of the rainbow. Plus, Spring is on it’s way!
Why not pick one colour for each day, and try to find and photograph 5 things of that colour on your daily walk/run/cycle? Or, you could see how many colours you can incorporate into one image! Sunrise or sunset is a perfect opportunity for this.
Alternatively, for an even bigger challenge (unless you photograph an actual rainbow, which technically wouldn’t be cheating…), try and capture something interesting for all 7 colours of the rainbow in one walk!
Nature provides an abundance of photo opportunities! On your next walk, run or ride, take inspiration from the different areas of nature and you’ll be sure to end up with some beautiful pictures.
Have a play with some of the ideas below or come up with some of your own:
Different types of leaf
Different ground types (eg. grass, sand etc.)
A range of terrain types
Different types of trees
Another idea is to document the impact that humans have on nature, both positively and negatively. For example, litter (bonus points if you pick it up and dispose of it correctly after photographing!), tarmacked pavements weaving through fields, factories billowing smoke. On the other hand, bird boxes, litter picking groups and recycling are some positive things that can be found locally.
Wildlife can be tricky to photograph but with some patience it can also be super rewarding.
Visit your local pond and take some snaps of the ducks. Look up into the trees and see how many varieties of bird you can photograph. Silently stake out in the hope of spotting the more elusive wildlife such as rats, badgers or hedgehogs. If you live in the countryside or nearby to a farmer’s field, you can get some brilliant pictures of farm animals like cows and sheep.
An idea for a fun ongoing project is to photograph the alphabet! With 26 letters this can be a fun idea to spread out over a month.
You can allocate one letter per day and try to snap 5 things beginning with that letter. Alternatively, you could do a couple of letters each day. If you’re planning a long walk or ride, why not try to photograph the whole alphabet in one go? Now there’s a challenge!
A for apple tree, B for bicycle, C for car…
We’ve created a bingo card with a range of ideas that you can photograph on your daily walk incorporating all of the ideas we’ve discussed above. Cross them off as you complete them and don’t forget to shout “BINGO!” and let us know if you get a full house!
Running your own design company, while making time for your own photography can certainly be a challenge. One that photographer Faye Dunmall handles so very well.
Achieving a Commended award in the Your View category of the prestigious Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards with her awe inspiring drone image Gaia, we wanted to catch up with Faye to find out more about her photographic journey so far and what might come next.
‘I have run my own design company for 10 years. After graduating nearly 20 years ago I settled into agency life however, during the last big recession redundancy hit and it was then that I decided pursue my ambition to become freelance. Part of the design process is choosing imagery from stock sites for brochures and magazines or to conceptualise, so I suppose I have been exposed to a lot of photography over the years – just without really realising it.
‘My interest in landscape photography began on a trip to Jordan back in 2016. I was obsessed with seeing Petra and when a trip with friends fell through last minute I decided to go on my own. Except I didn’t want to go alone!
‘I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled across the Canadian company I booked with (Discovery Photo Tours) but when I saw their pictures and itinerary I was instantly hooked. I had wanted to learn how to take better holiday photos so combining a guided tour of the country with a photography class seemed like the perfect solution. I bought myself a little compact camera (Sony RX100) and taught myself a few basics, including how to use manual mode, before I set off.
‘I will never forget arriving and being surrounded by professional photographers with a multitude of camera bodies and G.I. Joe style tool belts for lenses and accessories. To this day we all still joke about how I turned up with just my “mini” camera!’
‘The trip was everything I had hoped it would be and more. It was life changing. Jordan was magnificent, I made lifelong friends and discovered a passion for photography that doesn’t show any signs of letting up.’
‘I am entirely self-taught via YouTube and online tutorials although I have been lucky to have had the support and mentorship from the incredibly talented Ken Kaminesky and Patrick DiFruscia who led that life-changing trip to Jordan.’
Your landscapes have a definite richness to them – what draws you to a certain landscape? Many images involve water – is this a particular interest?
‘That’s an interesting question! These days I am drawn to more unusual landscapes, like the volcanic plains of La Palma, and to more intimate and abstract scenes. I love working with colour and I think subconsciously I seek out vibrant scenes.
‘I gain a lot of satisfaction from photographing water and some of my fondest memories are from being thigh deep in a stream in front of a waterfall or up high on a cliff with the waves crashing down below. But I prefer to be well away from the sea and the salt water! I love how different shutter speeds capture water and can take the look and feel from slow, silky veils to fast, frozen chaos.’
Have you managed to carry on shooting this year with the dreaded Covid? So many people have sought solace in the outdoors. Obviously with travel so limited this year, what have you been working on? Any lockdown projects?
‘I have always travelled a lot. I grew up living in Africa, Holland, Indonesia and Singapore and I have been fortunate to have travelled to many more places besides. I usually head abroad every couple of months and so Covid has been quite difficult for me in that respect. I was planning to take a sabbatical this year to travel around America and Australia for 6 months but I have had to put those plans on hold for now.
‘However, I have used the time at home to expand my processing skills and explore other genres of photography. I bought a 90mm macro lens at the beginning of the first lockdown and dipped my toes into the world of macro – a steep learning curve but a lot of fun.
‘I have also been learning to shoot wildlife. Whilst I don’t think I have the patience or tenacity to be a true wildlife photographer, I have enjoyed days out in hides and stalking the baby swans at our local nature reserve. My most recent purchase is a light pad to use for flat-lay photography which will hopefully give me a creative project for the darker, winter months!’
It’s quite unusual to find an accomplished female drone pilot. How did you get to this from photography? Was there a specific task/shoot which led you to this, or was it simply to achieve an alternative perspective?
‘That’s very kind, thank you. I was interested in drone photography right from the beginning but at that time the cameras on them weren’t great and so I held off buying one until the DJI Mavic 2 Pro was released. I love the different perspective they afford me and finding pictures within pictures from up in the air. One of my favourite past times is scouring google earth for sections of land that have interesting colours, patterns and shapes.
‘The big dream for the drone work is to drive across Africa, from Namibia through Botswana and Zambia up into Tanzania. It’s a pipe dream but one I hope to achieve one day. For now I am exploring locally and working on my flying skills as well as diving into the realm of videography.’
Tell us about your image Gaia which was commended in the ‘Your View’ category of LPOTY. Where was this taken and what drove you to enter the awards?
‘Gaia was taken along the Northumberland coastline. I was up in the area last summer visiting the Farne Islands to see the puffins. I had spotted a particular area on google earth that appeared to have detailed sand patterns and so on one of the less favourable weather days I took a trip out to see what it looked like in reality. Thankfully it was even better than expected. With the tide out, what remained were intricate sand rivets and veins of algae which, from the air, formed the shape of a tree. I took several other images here and am hoping to return to expand on this series once we are free to travel again.
‘It was my first time entering LPOTY. A friend sent me a link a few days before the deadline and said I should give it a go. I felt that my sand series was quite unique and might stand out from the crowd a little, so this is what I entered.’
There’s lots of exciting ‘coming soon’ on your website, including launching a range of fine art prints. Do you plan to move into photography as a job/career or continue to simply enjoy it as a hobby?
‘I think often when a hobby becomes a career it’s easy to lose passion and motivation. For me, photography is my downtime and relaxation and for that reason I plan to keep it as a hobby. It might naturally evolve into something more and if that happens then I will see where it takes me. I’m open to the idea of leading tours and workshops and I will be opening a print shop on my website very soon.
‘My initial exposure into the world of landscape photography was with Canadian photographers and so I suppose I have been heavily influenced by the recent American style of photography and post processing. Marc Adamus, Alex Noriega, Albert Dros, Erin Babnik and Michael Shainblum are some of my inspiration.’
We couldn’t help but notice you’ve achieved a huge following on Instagram with over 17k followers from just over 100 posts. What’s your secret?
‘No secret really. It’s all been organic, I refuse to pay Facebook any money! I only post my best images – I’m not into posting every day like some people are. I also try to make my captions a reflection of my personality rather than just descriptions of where I was etc.
‘I think the main thing is I’ve been very social on Instagram over the past few years. I talk to a lot of people and make connections; I interact beyond just liking a post or dropping a comment. I always read the captions on other people’s posts (so important) and I spend a lot of time getting to know people via DMs. I try to remember things about people (birthdays, good/bad things they are going through in life) and check in on those that are struggling.
‘I support other artists as much as possible by sharing their posts and buying the odd thing here and there. I answer any questions about settings/photography honestly and in detail. I guess I try to treat everyone I come into contact with as a friend.
‘I now have an extensive network of people I can call on for advice or even just to show me around their part of the world if I’m travelling abroad. It all comes down to using the platform as “social” media and not just an online portfolio.
‘Unfortunately it’s much more difficult to grow on there these days and I think the platform is in decline. So anyone hunting for likes or followers will have to work really hard. I find it far more enjoyable and rewarding long-term to forget about the numbers and focus on the human aspect instead.’
‘What’s important to me in photography is creating from the heart and staying true to yourself – which can be difficult in the modern day world of social media trends.’
‘In a world where we spend more and more time distracted, staring at our screens, getting away from technology and outside into the natural world has never been more important. Photography, for me, is a pastime that encourages this.
‘I also think it can be extremely helpful for those with mental health difficulties. I suffer with complex PTSD which affects my sleep and general day to day living. Photography helps to alleviate some of the anxiety I feel on a daily basis and being out with my camera is often the only time I ever feel at peace.
‘There is something compelling about being completely caught up in the moment – time disappears, you forget yourself, and you become a part of something much larger, something deeply rooted and connected. I think that if you go beyond just using photography as a way to gain popularity, make money or win competitions, it can be incredibly healing.’
To find out more about Faye’s work, check out her website or have a browse through her Instagram.
2020 has been a challenging year to say the very least – and one that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. As once again many of us face (or are already in) a further period of ‘lockdown’, we wanted to share a glimmer of positivity and hope.
During this difficult time, one in which many people are facing numerous challenges, our gardens and open spaces have been one area where many of us have sought solace, joy and quiet.
As well as the benefits of being outdoors, gardens can be beautiful and inspiring in every season – helping guide us through the winter, with sparkling frosts and colourful foliage, until the first shoots of spring emerge.
With this in mind, we wanted to share a virtual celebration of colour and positivity, from one of our very own Wilki Ambassadors, Clive Nichols.
The spring and summer of 2020 saw some of the best British weather, pollution free skies and misty mornings ever – and in turn, the UK saw a massive surge in the popularity of gardening, growing our own edibles and generally appreciating the outside space we can access.
Clive (considered Britain’s best garden photographer by PhotoPlus Magazine) talked us through how 2020 has, creatively, been one of his best years and the positive impact his stunning imagery has had for so many people.
‘I’ve been shooting mostly big country gardens on dreamy mornings, or when the evening light drips into them. It’s definitely been a mental release for me and people seem to love the pictures we put on Instagram – it’s pure escapism,’ said Clive.
‘I know I am in a very privileged position because gardens are one of the few photographic genres where you can work totally alone. So during lockdown I was able to continue working and photograph some really gorgeous gardens, which were completely empty of people, save for the odd gardener or owner.
‘You were allowed to go to work if you couldn’t work from home and as I don’t have much of a garden at home, I was able to go out to shoot private locations.
‘The weather was also amazing – day after day of gorgeous sunshine and with few planes and cars around the light was just incredible. I noticed when processing my pictures that I didn’t have to add any colour saturation to my RAW files even in the Raw Converter which was almost never the case in the past with garden scenes. It reminded me of the light you get in Greece or Provence where there is little or no pollution, so I shot some of my best images ever!’
‘People are realising that gardens are a sanctuary where they can get away from all the mainstream media nonsense and get some sanity back in their lives. It’s also a perfectly safe environment because you can potter about on your own and socially distance easily.’
‘Of course some locations remained closed and all of the gardens that I shot during lockdown were country gardens – but these are the gardens I like shooting most anyway.’
In your world it’s almost like Covid hasn’t happened – we’re just transported to a beautiful, peaceful place: perfect escapism. Do you think people have found solace in your images?
‘Instagram is my primary social media platform and I wanted to give people a really positive message during lockdown, so I posted pictures every day that I hoped would show people that they could still have some beauty in their lives – and that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Since the pandemic started, my Instagram following has almost doubled, now with over 90,000 followers.
‘I must say the response from my followers has been fantastic, with many of them saying that they looked forward everyday to seeing my feed because it cheered them up after all the gloom in the news.
‘I am a half full kind of person and so I tend not to dwell on negativity – if you want to run a successful business then you have to stay positive, especially when economic conditions are difficult.
‘We saw a huge surge in followers – and interest in garden photography generally – with people looking to learn which gardens are good to visit and looking to gain a deeper knowledge of garden photography, gardens, flowers and veg!’
What were your favourite locations from this time and do you have a favourite image that really stands out for you?
‘There is a beautiful garden in my village called Pettifers and the owner, Gina Price, always plants thousands of tulips, which were at their peak during lockdown. I made several visits in April and May and they were some of the best photos of tulips I have ever taken.
‘I also visited a wonderful garden near Redditch called Morton Hall which I have been photographing for the past five years and I took some amazing shots during those beautiful spring days.
‘My favourite image was a shot of blue camassias beneath blossom at Pettifers.
‘I also heard the other day that gardening is now the UK’s most popular hobby – not surprising as people have found such sanctuary in their gardens this year.’
2021 Gardens Calendar
‘We are about to bring out a 2021 Clive Nichols’ Gardens Calendar that will feature some of the gardens featured on my Insta feed – it will be out very soon, more details to follow! Keep an eye on my Instagram (link below) or Wilkinson Cameras’ own social media platforms.’
‘Unfortunately, one of the projects that has been delayed is the launch of my new book which features some of the finest gardens of England – this has now been pushed back until Spring 2021.
‘The current plan is to launch it on Instagram first around next spring – with physical launch events and books signings at some of the garden venues after that – Covid permitting!’
And finally, we’d really like to thank Clive for sharing not only his beautiful photography, but also his positivity in these difficult times and his daily dose of visual joy!
Many of us are still stuck in lock-down and self-isolating. But this will not last forever – hopefully we will be back out with our cameras before we know it. Whilst it feels like our lives have been put on hold, the natural world has not stopped.
Wildlife is still going about its daily routines as normal albeit under less pressure from humans. My favourite time of the year has not been put on hold: the return of the seabirds to our cliffs. At this time of year, many will be busy collecting nesting material in preparation for the upcoming breeding season.
In the post below I will set out to share 5 tips to help you improve your seabird photography – ready to be put into practice once we are all free to visit these amazing places!
The biggest mistake people make when working at a seabird colony is not stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. I understand photographers may get excited when seeing a beautiful subject such as an Atlantic Puffin and rush to shoot as big and bold in the frame as possible. But please, just for a second, slow down, step back and look at the bigger picture: seabirds live in some of the most stunning habitats in the UK. Look to combine the two, the beauty of the seabird and the dramatic coastline.
Shooting wide is a little more difficult in terms of composition, when using a long telephoto the bird is the main focus of the frame. When shooting wide the landscape is the main focal point but with a bird in the frame.
Many years ago a good friend once told me, ‘if the habitat adds to the image include it, if not exclude it from the image.’ This quote has stuck with me ever since.
Use Light Creatively
Wildlife photography is one of the most difficult photographic disciplines when it comes to using light, as we are often exposed to the elements on windswept mountains or rocky sea cliffs. We don’t have the luxury of studio controlled setups. One of the biggest assets a wildlife photographer can possess is how too understand light and the qualities it possesses. Once this is understood you can then begin to use light to your advantage.
Yes, summer sunrise shoots mean an early alarm, but sadly that’s part of the job when shooting wildlife. Being on location for first light allows you to shoot in the most exquisite light – the same goes for the evening light.
My favoured style of photography is back-lighting. This is when the sun is in front of you, lighting the back of your subject. Birds can look fantastic using this technique, as the light shining through their feathers looks almost translucent. Ideally, this should be tried earlier, or later in the day when the sun is close to the horizon. These times of day are also known as the golden hour and will create beautiful light with low contrast perfect for back-lighting.
Think Outside The Box
Seabirds are one of our most photographed subjects and for a very good reason. They live in beautiful habitats, are stunning birds and, for the most part, are accessible to the public. The issue with accessible subjects means they will have been extensively photographed. For example, just look at the number of puffin images that appear in our social feeds each summer.
You need to look at these images and think “what hasn’t been done” – the bar has been raised higher with these species than no other. But always remember however well a species has been documented there is always a new shot to be had.
I’ll share an example of when I was working on Shetland last summer. It was 1 am and I was walking back to my tent after a session shooting the amazing gannets colonies at Hermaness NNR. It was a clear night and the moon was rising out over the sea. I thought to myself, imagine a puffin silhouetted against the moon – that would be unique. A few moments later to my surprise a small group of puffins were resting on a ledge looking out to sea. I then had to manoeuvre myself, lining one of the puffins up against the moon, with very little contrast manual focus was needed. It was difficult in near darkness, but by framing the head of the puffin against the moon I was able to shoot a unique image of a well-photographed species. Yes, I’ll admit the opportunity to shoot a silhouette of a puffin against the moon doesn’t happen every day, but always keep your eyes open because you never know when the next opportunity will arise.
Embrace The Weather
Typically with the British Summertime, if we decide to wait for the golden light we could be waiting a long time. Cloud, rain, fog – this is the norm – but don’t get downbeat when the weather isn’t in your favour, embrace it. Often the best images can be achieved in the worst weather.
Shooting in wet weather can come with its own challenges, such as keeping yourself and your kit dry. Keeping yourself dry and warm in these conditions is vitally important once you get cold and wet, well in my case you’ll be thinking about that hot cup of tea and not the photography at hand. The longer you can stay out in these conditions the more chance you have of producing unique imagery.
A few years back I headed North of the border to Shetland, the aim of the project was to photograph Northern Gannets in the autumn gales. Yes, this trip was tough, working on the cliff tops in gale force winds was a bit sketchy, but the results were stunning. The weather was wild, but these were the conditions I was after, the power of the sea crashing over the rocks as the gannets soared below. The point is getting out in these extremes of weather can lead to dramatic shots, whilst other photographers may have packed their bags. Stay out and experiment – once your home and processing your amazing images all those cold and wet thoughts from earlier will be a distant memory.
Slow Down Your Approach
Seabird colonies are bustling habitats stacked with activity, whether it’s puffins reaffirming old bonds, gannets collecting nesting material, or skuas hunting for prey. If you are new to seabird photography, arriving at the colony can feel a bit overwhelming, so when you first arrive, take a moment, step back, and just watch.
Doing this will allow you to slow things down.
This allows me to simply watch the birds: see what flight paths the gannets are taking, which puffins are bringing sand eels back to the burrows etc. By operating a so-called bull in a china shop mentality you will miss the action around you – don’t be blinkered to the one opportunity, take it all in. Enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of the colony – only by doing this will you massively improve your chances of capturing unique imagery.
Looking For Inspiration
Whilst we are all stuck at home, review your archives, assess what works in the images and what doesn’t, so next time you’ll know how best to work the situation.
If you need further inspiration why not check out my Clowns Of The Sea image library, which documents the lives of the ever comical Atlantic Puffin across the U.K coastline – from the stunning Skomer Island to the most Northerly point of the British Isles, Hermaness NNR.
I’ve recently set up a Facebook group titled Coastal Worlds. This group aims to explore your connection with coastal nature and landscapes through imagery, video, stories, and conservation.
If you would like to join this fast-growing community, please search for Coastal Worlds and start sharing your favourite seabird shots.
Wilkinson Cameras ambassador James Rushforth has written four guidebooks in the past decade covering photography, ski mountaineering, rock climbing and via ferrata. He is currently finalising his next project, a photo location guidebook to Iceland for publisher fotoVUE.
Recently home from Iceland and writing from quarantine in Worcester, we asked him to share his experiences with book publishing and talk us through the process.
What you read and the images you see next may just have you reaching for your credit card and booking flights as soon as lockdown is over!
Ten years ago I agreed to write a rock climbing guidebook to the Dolomites for British publisher Rockfax. Shelling out £390 for my first camera (I paid less for my first car – were photographers all mad?) I bought a little Canon G12 and have never looked back. Which is not to say it has always been plain sailing, but it has been an experience.
I’ve tried to keep the following as succinct as possible, glossing over some of the more mundane economic considerations and focusing on the photographic side. I hope the article gives a little honest insight into guidebook writing, both the good and bad.
This stage is key and there are some essential questions to ask before making a start in earnest.
• Are you going to work for a publisher or self publish? • If the guidebook is a commercial enterprise is there a valid market? If so, will the market still exist by the time the book gets finished? • Do you have time? • Can you afford it?
Obviously the answers to these questions will vary depending on personal circumstances and the proposed project. For my part I’ve always worked for a publisher, which provides a certain level of security while alleviating some of the printing, advertising and shipping responsibilities associated with self publishing.
Certainly in my experience, writing a book always takes much longer than you think: come up with a timeline and then double it. For example, this current guide to Iceland contains 150 locations, with each location requiring an average of 4 images. That means I have to get 600 unique high quality images before I even consider the introductory material. Even if I were to average one print-worthy photo a day (which is nearly impossible – especially given the weather in Iceland), it would mean two years full time work before making a start on the text.
Then there are the finances to consider. My current expenses for Iceland are in the region of £20k, and that’s living out of a van and living as frugally as possible. Depending on the success of the book this can mean you’ve got several years to wait before you break even. In my experience guidebooks are profitable, but only in the long term. When I first started I took out a loan to cover the expenses, and now previous guidebooks cover the costs of the new ones.
Considering all of the above, it’s worth creating a quick mockup of how you envisage the pages looking. This invariably raises more important questions and allows a rough page count to be determined. Thought needs to be given to the book size, shipping costs and binding strength.
Then it’s time to start gathering the content, always the best bit of any project! The key is to be organised and methodical from the start.
• Record everything – You can never have too much information. Voice notes are an excellent way of recording exactly what you see; these can be typed up or referred to later. Geotagging images with GPS data is really useful for later reference. Many cameras have this function built in, or if not a GPS unit can be added, or the camera can be paired with a mobile phone.
• A map is a great visual reference – I create a custom google map and log locations I’ve visited, colour coding them according to chapter and quality. This allows me to see if I’ve under-represented any areas and helps plan the next day’s photos according to location. It also makes driving and navigation easier.
• Organise your images carefully using cataloguing software of your choice. Be sure to keyword your images and use a logical filing structure. A quick and efficient method of finding a desired image will save so much time in the future.
• Plan your locations – Maximising time and stacking the odds in your favour for a desired shoot location is important for maximising efficiency. Use software such as the Photographer’s Ephemeris, PhotoPills or SkySafari to plan for the best light and important celestial events.
• Scout the locations in advance – There’s nothing worse than stumbling about in the dark looking for a foreground as the aurora goes crazy over your head. Get to locations early or use bad weather days to do some location research before the stars quite literally align.
• Mix it up – Today the potential audience for anyone reading your books is broad, leading to a very eclectic range of photographic tastes and preferences. Try and mix up your image styles, techniques, subjects and processing to reflect this. If nothing else it might inspire someone to try something new.
• Think in three dimensions – Love or loathe them, the advent of drone technology has fundamentally changed the way we perceive photography. What would previously have been a £8k helicopter flight in Iceland can now be achieved multiple times with less than £1k worth of equipment. The technology is particularly good for guidebooks as it allows you to capture orientation style shots to aid navigation. Writing the Dolomites climbing guidebooks I frequently ascended mountains on the opposite side of the valley to get the crag shots I needed, whereas now you could simply fly a drone up from below. What took weeks would now take days.
• Buy a van – Okay, so you don’t have to buy a van, though it definitely helps! The ability to travel, cook and sleep under your chosen location makes getting the images you need much easier and that sunrise start becomes considerably less arduous.
Book Design and Layout
Some publishers will request the written text and images before laying out the book for you. Personally I much prefer doing this myself, then you’re involved in all stages of production. For all three publishers I’ve worked for, Adobe InDesign is the software of choice as it links so well with Lightroom, Photoshop and Illustrator for cataloguing, image editing, map and symbol creation.
Much like photography, designing a book is all about colour palettes that work together, interesting compositions, symmetry, variety and juxtaposition.
I won’t go into all the tedious details of writing except for the following quick tips:
• Try to avoid leaving all the writing until the end as it becomes a daunting task. Better to chip away at it slowly.
• Find yourself a good copy editor.
• Be patient: don’t think of the project as a whole as it’s daunting and instead take it one page at a time.
• Try and keep social media interest going. Schedulers like Planoly for Instagram are great as you can spend a day organising your social media posts for the next three months and then largely forget about it.
A few frequently asked questions…
Do you recommend guidebook writing as a career?
It’s lovely work, you get to travel frequently and spend time fully exploring beautiful corners of the world. You also get something tangible to show for all the hard work at the end. But you also have to make sacrifices. I’ve spent the last 10 years living out of a van, which is great when the weather is good, but less enjoyable when you’re stuck in a 2x5m area on the eighth consecutive day of rain. Or digging yourself out of yet another snow drift. Such a transient lifestyle also makes for a tough social life – you build up a great friendship network only to move on again. Of course, the dream is to write a guidebook from your home address!
Is guidebook writing an economically viable career?
A good question that’s difficult to answer. Certainly in my experience it’s a good supplementary income but I’d personally struggle to live off the royalties full time. I also lead photographic workshops, sell prints and do some guiding. I’ve found that to be a good combination that keeps me on my toes and gives me good work variety.
What camera equipment do you use?
I’ve never got particularly excited about camera gear, I like taking photos. Some of the best work I’ve seen on my workshops have been taken by guests using mobile phones. Artistic creativity and a good eye will always trump expensive equipment. Working in Iceland the Arctic and at the top of mountains frequently my primary consideration is durability, it doesn’t matter how good the image quality is if it doesn’t take pictures when I need it to.
I’m currently using:
Nikon D810 with Kirk BL-D800 L-Bracket Nikon D850 with Kirk BL-D850 L-Bracket
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
I’m interested in writing a book, where do you recommend starting?
I think creating a photo book of one of your recent trips is a great place to start. If you enjoy the experience of whittling down your images, editing and creating a visual story then you can think more seriously about a bigger project.
If not, you’ll still have a nice photo book to show for your efforts!
Wilkinson Cameras has an excellent range of photobook options that are available to browse if you’re feeling inspired and want to get started with creating your very own photo book.
Enjoyed this feature?
If you would like to know more or get in touch with James you can visit his website.
James also has one of the most inspiring Instagram feeds we’ve seen – though we warn you it may give total wanderlust frustration at this time of temporary lockdown!
James was the overall winner of the Digital Splash Photographer of the Year Award 2018. He also won the Digital Splash Landscape Photographer of the Year and Digital Splash Sports Photographer of the Year categories in 2018.
Our kit is in order, our creative juices are bubbling over and we’re primed to get out shooting pictures in our gardens, within our homes and even getting the kids involved for some fun home portraits.
But, do you still have that niggling feeling of knowledge gaps or things we simply could do better?
If you have extra time on your hands, now is the time to upgrade those skills – and with many training businesses, software companies and pro’s offering to share their expertise for FREE, go for it!
We touched on magazines and reading material in our previous blog – but now’s the ideal time to revisit those photography books on the shelf or support your favourite pro photographer by purchasing their publications.
Many pro photographers are finding themselves in a zero work/income situation, with commissions cancelled for the foreseeable future. Many are still selling their books though – directly or through the likes of Amazon (other book sellers are available!). Consider supporting your favourite photographers if you can – and gain a beautiful book at the same time.
Intimidated by Photoshop? Baffled by Lightroom? Always fancied taking the time to create your own presets? Need to improve your workflow? Yep, you guessed it – now is the time!
Many of the software providers are running special or free offers – changing regularly, but here are a few available at the time of writing this:
Professional Photographers of America has opened up all of its online tutorials for FREE!
Adobe offers 7-day free trials on all of its software – from Photoshop, Lightroom or full Creative Cloud/All App packages.
Affinity, by Serif, is a more recent competitor to Adobe. They now offer a range of options including Affinity Photo, their PhotoShop alternative.
You can trial it free of charge for 90 days and if you like it, you pay a one-off fee of £48.99 (though at the time of writing this is 50% off at just £23.99).
While you’re honing your creative skills, it may be a great time to improve your editing workflow setup too. Adding a graphics tablet will give you more flexibility when it comes to editing. With a little extra time on your hands, now is a perfect time to learn how best to use one too.
Wacom tablets start from as little as £69.99 for an entry level option such as the Wacom Intuos Small. Browse our range of Wacom editing devices and see why other photographers use them in this video:
Sell Your Images
Websites helping you to sell your photography are constantly running offers of up to 40% off (varies depending on package) for example, check out one of the most popular providers: Zenfolio. And once you’ve honed those skills, for those of you with websites, strike while the iron is hot. Do those updates now, add your best images, add new work and blog about the projects you’ve been working on. More people than ever are likely to be looking right now!
Use this time to really evolve and develop your unique style – showcase your own work and try new things.
And finally, we all need to dream during this difficult time! Planning your next trip not only gives you something to look forward to, but also gives you plenty more to do.
Whether it’s researching your next exotic location, or revisiting a place within the UK (doesn’t everything feel just that bit more precious right now?!), sit back and imagine yourself there.
Logistically there are plenty of apps available to help you plan your next trip too, including sunrise/sunset times and info, tide times, moon phases and astro related planning tools just to name a few.
For landscape photography, Baxter Bradford has been kind enough to share his go-to Apps for planning locations. Baxter has an extensive collection of stunning landscape work, also available as prints – so, if you’re spending time at home improving your interiors, check out his gallery of images!
For general weather conditions I use several, including BBC, Met Office Apps, plus two free Apps which I find really useful:
WeatherRadar, which gives forecast, but I mostly use it to track predictions on cloud cover. Saved me a few journeys, does change pretty rapidly at times if weather systems are unstable.
Also really useful is Clear Outside, you can save locations, gives detailed weather information in tabulated format, incredibly useful to see high, medium & low level cloud percentages. If fair amount if high level cloud, then colourful sunrise/sunset is coming. Also gives humidity & whether mist present. For Surf predictions I use Magic Seaweed.
I also use my iPhone compass feature to check bearings on location.”
All this planning (and a lot of time and dedication) goes into making Baxter’s awe inspiring landscape images.
For night sky fans, Wilki Ambassador Alyn Wallace gives us his recommendations for the best smartphone apps, when it comes to Astro photography. Check out this vlog where Alyn walks you through his night sky favourites.
Never before, as photographers, have we been able to enjoy such an extensive range of (mostly free) resources. So enjoy your planning, stay safety tucked up at home for now, and hopefully we will all be out in our beautiful great outdoors again very soon.
In the meantime keep an eye on our social media channels for the latest photography news and special offers.
Clive Nichols is one of the UKs foremost garden photographers and with over 95,000 images in his collection was named ‘Britain’s Best Garden Photographer’ by PhotoPlus Magazine.
With more than 30 years experience photographing gardens worldwide, we’re proud to have Clive as one of our Wilkinson Cameras ambassadors.
And as spring finally emerges from one of the most challenging winters on record, we caught up with Clive to see what this year holds and to find out more about his career to date and his enchanting garden and flower photography.
How did you get into garden photography?
I studied Geography at Reading University and worked in a restaurant whilst doing it so I thought I would be a chef – within 3 years I became head chef at an Italian restaurant but the hours nearly killed me!
So, overnight, I decided to become a travel photographer, as I loved taking pictures on my holidays. I just phoned up tourist boards and they gave me press trips – in the first year I went to Malta, The Falkland Islands and Japan but after a couple of years I realised that to make a living I would have to do something closer to home.
So again, I switched overnight to photographing flowers and gardens and never looked back. In 1994 I was asked to write and photograph a book for the Royal Horticultural Society on how to photograph plants and gardens and that really put me at the forefront of the genre.
After more than 30 years shooting flowers and gardens (and still going strong!) you must really love what you do – how do you keep your work fresh and evolving?
Actually quite easily – I love getting up early and getting to gardens for dawn or sunrise when no one is about – it is literally like being in heaven. Increasingly, I am travelling to gardens abroad as well – last year Greece, Morocco, Spain, France – and many of the gardens there have not really been photographed so they are new and exciting.
You have a very strong following on Instagram, with more than 65,000 followers. How have you grown (no pun intended!) such a lovely, engaged community?
Simple really – consistency – we’ve posted an image almost every day for the last two years. With each image I like to give a little information regards the location, the planting, opening times (where appropriate) for the gardens featured etc Many of the images featured are published in the key home and gardens magazines – so I include those details too in case people wish to read the full features.
We have the advantage of being able to draw on my vast collection of images to keep things fresh and seasonal. We’ve grown Instagram entirely organically – and that’s something we’re really proud of.
Do you always shoot in natural light, or do you use any lighting?
When shooting gardens I only use natural light – which is a challenge of course. A lot of photographers don’t realise how hard it is, landscape photography is easier believe me, because it doesn’t really move, whereas flowers blow around in the slightest breeze so you have to pick and choose your days.
If I am shooting plants indoors then I may use lighting – I have a very good lighting technician called Neil who is great because he has all the kit – tungsten and flash – so I can concentrate on the composition. Stephen Johnson of Copyright Image sometimes comes on shoots with me and I can tether my camera to his laptop so that the client can see the shots as I take them. I’m lucky to have a great team.
You run your own garden photography workshops and work closely with International Garden Photographer of the Year. What can guests expect from a garden photography workshops, are they suitable for all experience levels?
I am a judge as well for IGPOTY and yes, my workshops are good for anyone who owns a digital camera – I am not a particularly technical person so I use simple techniques really. I try and do as little post processing as possible and try and stay true to my subjects. Flowers are like humans really, they have character and personality, so the skill is to bring those out in the photograph. On the workshops we have early access to some amazing locations, so we can focus on capturing the best images in the best light possible. I’m always on hand to offer advice and help guests achieve the best images they can and my partner Annette usually helps out too.
You’ve photographed some absolutely incredible gardens, home and abroad, do you have a favourite and why?
My favourite is usually the one I am in at the time! But seriously, there are some amazing gardens as you say – in the UK I would have to say gardens like Malverleys, Wynyards Hall, Morton Hall and Pettifers, which is in my village. In Europe, I would say some of the French gardens are just mind blowing – Marqueysaac in the Dordogne for instance.
The garden I would most like to photograph – that I haven’t yet – is The Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. From the photos I have seen of it, it just seems to sum up what Moorish Paradise gardens should look like.
A little bird told us that you’re working on a new book project at the moment – what can you tell us about that project or is it under wraps?!
Well it’s a book featuring the brilliant English Gardens that I have photographed in the last few years – there are over 30 in the book and it will be a big, coffee table book with loads of big pictures, which I think is what people want to see. The book is due to launch later this year.
I’ve also been working on a project with Woodmansterne – they are one of the best card producers in the country – we have just launched a new range of my images on greetings cards which are now available in store at John Lewis, W H Smith and Sainsburys.
You’ve been involved with International Garden Photographer of the Year Awards from the very start and the competition has really highlighted our beautiful landscapes and gardens worldwide. What advice would you give to anyone considering an entry?
I have, my wife Jane was one of the original founders of IGPOTY. I would encourage anyone to enter as long as they have an image or images that are top class – remember the competition is intense these days. There is now a really wide range of categories – so entrants should select their images carefully and as well as the creative elements should ensure they meet the brief for each award.
Another great thing about IGPOTY is there is the option to pay for an ‘Entry Review’ – where one of the judges looks at your images and gives specific feedback. This is very valuable for aspiring garden photographers and can provide valuable insight as to how to improve and develop.
The weather has been horrendous this winter – what would you say to aspiring garden photographers who want to get out shooting now and don’t want to wait until spring?
Winter is very difficult – I usually wait for frosty or snowy days and target gardens that look good at this time of year – generally one that have strong structure – hedges, statuary, walls, gates, topiary etc.
But there are also a lot of flowers at this time of year and increasingly the bigger gardens are planting areas that have good flower, stem or bark colour in the winter months.
What are your top tips for those just getting started?
Look at the very best photography of gardens and plants in magazines and books etc and try to understand why the images are being used. In most cases it is the light and composition, which works. (Clive’s Instagram is a great place to start!)
Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise
Trees or flowers? Flowers
Formal gardens or natural? Formal
Favourite flower to photograph? Tulip
Bluebells or Poppies? Poppies
Do you have a ‘go to’ set up, or a favourite ‘must have’ piece of kit or accessory?
My go to lens is the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8, or if I am shooting flower portraits then my EF 180mm F3.5L Macro – all Canon lenses. Another absolute essential is a sturdy tripod in order to keep the camera still and maintain perfect sharpness in photos.
FREE Screen Wallpaper
Clive has generously added several images to his shop as ‘free wallpaper’– so for a daily burst of garden photography inspiration, pop on over here and download yourself a beautiful view!
To find out more about Clive’s beautiful photography, workshops and books, visit his website or check out his Instagram!
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