Interview with On Landscape magazine

At the start of the year I was invited by Michéla Griffith from the On landscape photography magazine to be interviewed as their featured photographer. As I am an avid reader and gain great wisdom in landscape photography from their outstanding content I welcomed to be their next featured photographer (now in issue 132).

Luckily I wasn't asked the interview questions on the spot and had time to think about how to answer the questions and reflect on my past, my motivations and the directions ahead.

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.
— Ansel Adams

When taking a picture I believe, well for myself my sub-conscious mind works hand in hand with the forefront orchestration of subjections and parameters. Sometimes the reason is sourced in the psyche so it was nice to put 'pen to paper' and write down step by step the fragments of answering the big questions of why?  

An online subscription is required to read the magazine but on this occasion I was kindly allowed permission by On Landscape to display the contents of the interview on my blog,  so have a read about my journey in landscape photography, enjoy...

 

Would you like to tell readers a little about yourself – your education, early interests and career?

My favourite subject at school was art as I love being creative for the sake of it, and used to draw and paint after school. Childhood holidays involved being immersed in the great outdoors going to places such as the Lake District, Snowdonia, West Country, as well as my local countryside in the Hampshire Downs; my parents are keen outdoor walkers come rain, wind or shine and this seeded my passion for being outdoors. When I left school I didn't really see art as a working career so took on engineering, as it was still practical but it is technically demanding in the field I am in (of highly precision production work for the aerospace and oil industry). In adulthood I continued to have an interest in art, painting as a hobby, whilst outdoor walking turned into mountain biking to provide my outdoor fix.

RogerVoller-3.jpg

 

How did your relationship with the camera start, and how much time are you now able to devote to photography?

It really started when my neighbour showed off his new toy, an entry level DSLR Nikon D3100 with the kit lens. I was allowed to borrow it for a few hours in program mode of course which led me to buy the same model so I could have a proper play. To justify purchasing what felt like a beast at the time compared to my previous basic compact set in auto mode, I took on a much more considered approach to taking pictures, trying to improve myself every time and utilising its functions. Since I have a background interest in visual art and the natural environment it just fell into place that I could channel those two passions into one through landscape photography, combining both is my core motivation and enjoyment and my appreciation of the art in the landscape really kick-started with the camera. I quickly found having the opportunity to be outdoors and creative as well, and then having the anticipation of going back home to discover what I have taken, greatly appealing. 

Like most, I would like to spend more time pursuing it but having a full-time job and home commitments it's left to when I am free. Time can feel very precious and far between so the appetite builds up to go outdoors and create and maybe the cumulative urge could be a blessing in disguise. When I'm out on family walks I've recently started to enjoy using the iPhone to satisfy my creative needs, just taking phone snaps on the go freely and instinctively upon impulse can reveal interesting pictures in their own right.

polarizer

polarizer

 

On the day that I got in touch with you, there was a lengthy conversation on social media about the widespread use of the term ‘photographer’ and whether the term had been devalued (if indeed it ever had any meaning other than to describe the process used). I know you saw this, and wondered if it might have been a factor in prompting you to say that you don't call yourself a photographer – do you want to explain why?

Well my comments are loosely based, the definition of artist and photographer are often separated and my motivation channels down to not photographing just for the sake of the functional process really but all the benefits that come with it like the meditative process of slowing down in the natural environment, expressing oneself through the picture and the emotional connection when viewing a desirable picture, that's why I photograph. The technical side is just a means to an end for me and perhaps as I am always working around a technical framework in my daytime job, I tend to enjoy resting my mind more on the artistic and outdoor aspects of landscape photography. If I was to be remembered I would like it be for my artistic merits rather than just as a photographer, though I would happily accept being called a landscape photographer, that's closer.

As with the devaluation of photography, yes I believe that process exists but I also think that the subject of devaluation will be as big as one allows it and the latter is important, there will always be up and coming talented photographers and artists from all walks of life, rising out of the sea of conformity regardless of the climate.

 

What opportunities do you have to make images locally and to what extent do you need to (or choose to) travel to your preferred locations?

"MY LOCAL AREAS DON'T OFFER A FLAVOUR OF VAST WILDERNESS BUT IN RETURN OFFER SO MANY FOOTPATHS AND BRIDLEWAYS GENERATED BY A LARGE NETWORK OF A LONG HUMAN ACTIVITY,"

Personally, I think opportunities can occur anywhere, they are not entirely made up by the sum of the landscape but what the photographer can see and get out of the landscape. The intimate local area is where I am most productive, just by walking I see pictures and potential areas that I can go back to in different seasons and being local I can react to favourable weather conditions. My local areas don't offer a flavour of vast wilderness but in return offer so many footpaths and bridleways generated by a large network of a long human activity, so the opportunities of different viewpoints are multiplied by a considerable amount in any given small area. The character of the landscape may be tamed here and heavily shaped by man but I think there are still good design elements to be had and that is what I look for.

I keep travelling to a minimum, my Hampshire Downs work is very local and my New Forest work is only made in very small areas when visiting family. Since there are fewer 'tripod holes' I have really enjoyed having most of my local views to myself and perhaps my less recorded area has given me a chance to breathe on a spiritual note and find my own creative path.

0.3 nd grad sky

0.3 nd grad sky

 

How do you like to approach new places – do you research them and pre-plan, or do you prefer to head out with an open mind?

"...I THINK I CAN PERFORM BETTER JUST BY BEING RECEPTIVE TO MY SURROUNDINGS AND IN A STATE OF ENLIGHTENMENT; A CHILDLIKE CURIOSITY."

I like to have an open mind and be mentally very fluid when finding a picture and don't put myself under pressure with plans as I think I can perform better just by being receptive to my surroundings and in a state of enlightenment; a childlike curiosity. If it is a new area I will at least briefly look on a map to find paths to explore, and even then when I am on foot I tend to walk where my eyes take me rather than having a pre-planned route. If it is a particular view I like I will go back, several times if necessary, and slow down to get the picture I can see in my mind's eye. I don't tend to study existing pictures online to find viewpoints, for me the fun is exploring on foot and having independence in creativity. I enjoy using the tripod most of the time but also enjoy handheld shots; it depends on the picture I'm taking.

No filters.

No filters.

 

Who (photographers, artists or individuals) or what has most inspired you, or driven you forward in your own development as a photographer? I know you list a number of ‘giants’ whose work you admire on your website but perhaps you can pick out a couple who have especially inspired or influenced you?

Where do I start? The online network has really helped me discover so much talent, to be inspired, which has helped me develop as a photographer. If there was an 'epiphanic' moment, where my journey felt a bit clearer by someone, one would be when just by chance I heard Charlie Waite's Silent Exchange exhibition was being displayed at a local small gallery in Bosham. I had already seen the full display at the National Theatre previously which was excellent but found it took me a second viewing to be really absorbed. In the very intimate small room I was deeply moved by his beautiful prints in the flesh surrounding me on the four walls, the emotional connection really transcended with me this time and his description 'conveys a spiritual quality of serenity and calm' is how I felt. I left realising how much calibre and emotion a landscape photography print can hold.

I also love the work of Doug Chinnery and Valda Bailey, their artistic talents are astonishing and I can really connect with their style, having a background in painting before I took up photography. I find their high creative output very encouraging. The rule of thirds, front to back sharpness and wide angle lenses shouldn't be taken too regimentally and could constrain one's creative boundaries.....finding your own voice is really the true path to take.

0.9 ND gradient

0.9 ND gradient

 

I believe you like collecting prints and books relating to photography?

Yes, I enjoy collecting inspiring prints and books so my camera gear investment is subject to compromise. A photography book or print allows the picture or group of pictures to rest and be fully absorbed, enabling me to go back to them and look again, which is a fairly absent process when scrolling online given the continuous feed of pictures on display. I find the print easier on the eye and perhaps this mentality came from my roots in painting with physical materials on paper.

No filters, lens hood

No filters, lens hood

 

Would you like to choose 2-3 favourite images from your own portfolio and tell us a little about them?

Unveiled: When I first looked at this picture after a local trip out it didn't really appeal to me greatly, perhaps the familiarity of the location reduced its impact on me so I left the image in my maybe pile. It wasn't until a year later that I went back to the image after a long rest and gave it a touch of split tone, its warmth somehow lifted the mood and now I really like it. Time can still be a powerful commodity in the digital photography process.

 

Mist in Beech Trees: This picture occurred from an unfortunate event. I accidentally broke one of my tripod leg segments and it got lost when exploring a new area of local woods. The next day came, very grey and dull, and I went out to try and find it in low spirits. When I turned a corner there was an unexpected low mist hanging in the vibrant beech trees and it looked wonderful. I managed to prop up my tripod with a stick and then started shooting, my mood quickly turned to joy taking pictures of beech trees in the mist. And I did find my tripod leg eventually.

 

Last Light: When the sun is very low the atmosphere can be hazy down south and taking distant pictures on a clear evening is rare. On this occasion the clarity was good which made it more refreshing for me when the sun lit the land through a small gap between a bank of cloud and the horizon. The smooth rolling pastoral downland can offer an excellent light modelling effect with an integrated patchwork of fields to further enhance the design.

 

How important is post processing in realising your vision? Would you like to tell readers a little about your typical workflow?

I think the post processing is very important and can affect the emotional impact of the picture; however I like to remain enlightened when out with the camera and try to keep my landscape pictures fairly faithful to how I saw it naturally and process what's needed and no more. I use Lightroom for processing and organising images. My vision can operate more clearly when I allow the image to rest and look at again fresh after a few breaks and hope I can be more intuitive with editing as my experience grows. I’m also looking forward to exploring other workflows such as using Lightroom mobile and Snapseed with pictures taken on the phone to fulfil my creative needs.

 

How important is it to you that your image making results in a print, and do you have a preference for how you do this and what materials you use?

The final destination and goal for an image would be a print and it is part of my motivation to continue to build up a collection of pictures for wall print and/or book format. I print my own work because I enjoy the creative aspect and use an Epson R3000 A3+ printer with Fotospeed papers and profiles. Printing is a dark art for me and I would like to go on an advanced printing course to get the best out of my print process. I don’t print as much as I would like due to time and budget and would love to own an A2 printer someday; it’s still a continuous, evolving process.

 

You’ve displayed a number of your prints at the New Forest Open Art Exhibition. To what extent do you gain inspiration from seeing how artists working in different media portray the landscapes that you know and photograph?

Even though I am a photographer, I can find any art as inspiring and moving as much as a photography print, it doesn't make a difference to me what the media is really to be enlightened. I have still painted for more years than photographed so when I saw the paintings at the New Forest exhibition I felt they captured the characteristic essence of the area and they made me really want to go back out again and do the same with the camera and perhaps 'see' a little bit more clearly with my vision. A variety of art can enrich the nurturing process of the creative being.

 

Do you have any projects or ambitions for the future, or subjects that you would like to explore further?

The main thing for me is to keep enjoying the process and let my portfolio mature. The enjoyment will keep me motivated and learning. I would love to cover many projects over time, for one I would like to create a series of pictures location related, printed and assembled in a handmade book. I would also like to explore the process and benefits of film photography.

 

If you had to take a break from all things photographic for a week, what would you end up doing? (i.e. do you have other hobbies or interests)

I would still enjoy and have an appetite to go outdoors like I did before photography such as walking or cycling, get my dusty paint brushes out for some creative release, and spend more time in the kitchen cooking good food.

 

Which photographer - amateur or professional - would you like to see featured in a future issue?

One of my very first influences was the local landscapes of Slawek Staszczuk based in neighbouring Sussex and also the contrasting pictures of Ben Horne look amazing from far away Zion.