In case you don't know, Mark is one of the most famous landscape photographer live in North Yorkshire, England. He is also the co-founder of the local landscape photography workshop, Natural Light Photography Workshop.
Mark is also a traveller and his works are published in different magazines and books. He is also highly commended in the BG Wildlife Photographer of The Year competition for Composition and Form.
Here is Mark's story:How do you first get into photography and how long have you been doing landscape photography?
I used to watch my father developing black and white photographs from our holidays when I was a child and was fascinated seeing the images appear in the developer tray in the darkroom. This first sparked my interest and I started taking photographs myself when I was eleven, so that's forty years ago!Do you start photography as a landscape photographer, or you later changed into one and what do you like most about landscape photography?
No, I started off taking photographs of just about anything – family and friends, towns and cities and landscapes. I started to explore my photography a bit more in the 1990s and eventually realized that colour landscape was what I wanted to concentrate on. I love the way that the landscape changes with the light through the day and with the seasons through the year.
What inspires you to take landscape photography and how do you find new location to photograph?
It's all about capturing the beauty of the natural world for me. That fleeting moment of perfect light that suits the subject I have selected to best effect. I like to get out and explore on foot as much as I can. I'm based in North Yorkshire in Northern England, with the Yorkshire Dales on my doorstep, so there's no shortage of locations to explore.
When I go to a new area I try to do my research first with maps and the internet to get a few ideas together and plan a walk taking in some specific subjects but I'm always looking for other viewpoints and often will find these as part of the walk, maybe during the day when the light's not best for the subject I've found, so then it's a case of making a note of that and returning to it at a later date when the conditions are right. So it's a slow process!
What equipment do you use now? And what do you start with?
My first camera (at age eleven) was a Kodak Instamatic! I got my first SLR for my eighteenth birthday, an Olympus OM-1N which I loved to use, and I stuck with the OM system for many years, until I moved up to medium format with a Pentax 67 and ultimately to large format with an old Deardorff 45 Special and a set of Schneider lenses which was the last film camera that I used seriously.
When I switched to digital in 2004 I chose Canon cameras and currently shoot with an EOS 5D MkII and a set of L zoom lenses (17-40, 24-105, 70-200) which gives me pretty good coverage for landscape work. I chose the f4 Canon lenses to keep the weight (and cost!) down as I don't fancy lugging heavy f2.8 lenses around on long walks. I also have an Olympus OM-D E-M10 which I acquired as a backup recently, and I'm very happy with that, though I tend to use it for hand-held urban work mostly. I can see myself moving to a completely mirrorless setup up in the future though!
Do you have any formal training in photography?
I'm largely self-taught, though I did a black and white photography short course in 1992 which introduced me to Ansel Adams' Zone System and opened my eyes a bit to understanding exposure. In the mid 90s I started taking landscape photography workshop holidays in the south-western USA (mainly led by US based British photographer Nigel Turner) instead of regular holidays from my then IT career which taught me a great deal about exposure and approach to landscape photography. I think working out in the field with a professional photographer whose work you admire is the quickest and best way to learn.May I know why do you start Natural Light Photography Workshop?
I used to exhibit prints of my Yorkshire landscapes locally and people would often ask if I ran workshops, so I knew that the interest was there, but it wasn't something I'd really wanted to set up on my own, so when my colleague Sam Oakes suggested running joint workshops based around walks in the Yorkshire Dales I was keen to get involved and Natural Light Photography Workshops was born as a joint venture.
Any challenges in running the workshop?
The Yorkshire weather has to be the biggest challenge! Though we've tried to work out walking routes with a good mix of subjects along the way so there's always something that will work regardless of the conditions, so our participants have always been able to get some great images on the day, which is pleasing, and we've only had to postpone one workshop in our five years so far due to heavy snow (unusual in late March) on the morning of the workshop. Apart from the weather, finding good walking routes that have that mix of subjects is quite a challenge, as we like to get out and experience the landscape rather than drive from location to location.How do you prepare before going for a shoot?
I plan a route and some ideas using Ordnance Survey maps of the area I'm going to and keep a keen eye on the weather forecast the night before. I try to have some alternative subjects in mind in case the weather changes. I pack my bag differently depending on the shoot and walk I'm doing. I've recently started using a walking/hiking backpack for my landscape shoots, with a couple of camera inserts for my gear, rather than a specialist camera rucksack, which is much more comfortable for a longer walk.
Do you have a post-processing workflow?
Yes, I still use Photoshop and am stuck at CS5.1 as I'm not a fan of subscription based software! I select the images I want to process in Bridge and then I use actions in Photoshop to create and modify a standard set of adjustment layers, and have the actions palette in button mode so I can adjust most images in just a few clicks, which I can then fine-tune if necessary. I save my master copies as layered Photoshop documents so I can return to the edits at a later date should I need to. Because I supply a lot of stock libraries, I have my own system which then uses the Photoshop API to create JPEGs to each library's requirements ready for upload and records the details of the submissions in a database.
What is the most important thing you think of before you press the shutter?
Well, assuming I've got the camera set up on a tripod and have composed my subject well, I'll be thinking “is the light right?”, especially in rapidly changing conditions, and I'll press the shutter when that moment arrives.
Lastly, what tips/advice do you have for other aspiring landscape photographers?
Get to understand exposure and how to tell your camera to get what you want from it first, and practice this so that it becomes second nature. This will free you up more out in the field to think about subject selection and composition. Then plan your shoots around the weather forecast to get in the right place at the right time – planning ahead will get you most of the way to producing some good images, then add a little luck with the light when you're there and you'll get some great ones!