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.’