David, tell us a bit about you and how your passion for photography started.
I first became interested in photography while living in London in the UK. Every street corner seemed to be a photo opportunity. I bought a 3.2MB digital camera which I loved and photographed anything and everything as much as I could. My three children are now teenagers and I photographed them a lot when they were younger. Photographing people was my first passion and photographing landscapes came later on in my journey.
I have been photographing landscapes for the last five years. I am very fortunate to live close to a number of Auckland's west coast beaches and that is where my landscape photography journey began. I have slowly built up my skills and I have learnt a lot from photography friends who share the same passion.
Today, I would call myself a people and landscape photographer and have been working as a part-time freelancer for the last several years. I have a challenging full-time day job and working as a photographer is a great way to balance the other work I do.
How would you define your photographic style?
For landscape photography, I like to focus on a key element within the scene and I build the composition around that. I use the rule of thirds in terms of defining space. Long exposures and use of reflections are key aspects of my work. I also like to focus on the sky and I attempt to get a good balance between the sky and the subject/space I'm photographing. Coastal scenes are my favourite type of landscape photography.
Do you follow any particular process when taking your landscape photos?
When I'm working on a landscape commission I like to have clear plan of what I am going to do. This will often involve visiting a place during the day to take test shots of the scene I'm going to photograph. I can then work out my composition so that I do not waste time when I want to take my shots later. I will then go back to that place at sunrise or sunset depending on when the best potential is to get redness in the sky. Sunrise and sunset are so fickle. You have to be ready so that you don't miss it. That often means getting up very early in order to catch the first light when the redness so often appears. Having a good understanding of the tides is also important. Working out when low tide coincides with either sunrise or sunset so that reflections can be part of the scene takes a bit of planning.
Do you use any extra equipment or post-processing techniques?
I have been using neutral density filters for the last several months and that has taken me to a new level in terms of the way I photograph. In terms of post processing, in Lightroom subtle tweaking of the red and orange luminance and saturation sliders can really enhance the redness in the sky from sunrise/sunset. I also use the graduated and radial filters to make scenes more dynamic.
What is the hardest part of taking landscape photographs?
You are always at the mercy of the weather and conditions. You can go to a place 10 times in a row and the conditions just don't work for what you are trying to do, or you can go randomly and then you get an amazing red sky. Getting the conditions right what with what you are wanting to achieve would be the biggest challenge for me.
Do you have any tips for amateur photographers wanting to take better landscape photos?
- Practice, practice, practice. Keep going again and again to the same place so that you get to know that space well.
- Try photographing the same space from different angles.
- Get down low close to water to enhance the effect of reflections (but don't drop your camera into the water which is what I did. Most landscape photographers have the odd horror story to tell!).
- Get a good balance between the land and the sky. Photos that have the horizon line in the middle of scene are not as pleasing to look at. Try and put the horizon line on a dissecting third of the image and the composition will be stronger.
- Join a camera club and learn from more experienced photographers who can help you to get better.
- YouTube is amazing and has so many tutorials by landscape masters who cover all aspects of their workflow.
- Invest in post-production software to take your photographs to the next level – Lightroom and Photoshop are the most common, however, there are many others and there are also free options available online.
From your point of view, what makes a good landscape photo?
As with any type of photography, a good landscape photo tells a story of the scene or space that is being photographed. A good landscape photo also needs:
- A good balance between land and sky.
- Use of leading lines - a powerful tool to draw your eye to the main subject of the scene.
- Use of the golden hour – the time before and after either sunrise and sunset gives more subtle colours and makes a scene for dynamic compared with being shot in the middle of the day when the sun is harsher.
Do you have any favourite photos you can share with us?
My favourite places to photograph are Piha, Whatipu, French Bay and Cornwallis beaches. They are all dynamic places and invoke an emotional connection to so many people. In each of these images, I was fortunate enough to get great conditions. I love to capture dynamic skies and I think they really add to the essence of each image.
What else should we know about you and your photography?
I love people photography as much as I do photographing landscapes and I photograph a number of weddings each year as well as family portraits and events.
Where can we find you online?