on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Full Time Photographer, A Pipe Dream?

Richard Childs' reality check on being a 'Pro'

Richard Childs

Richard Childs

Richard trained as an Orchestral Percussionist in the 1980's but his true love has always been the outdoors and particularly mountain environments. Throwing in his drumsticks to become a full-time photographer in 2004 he continues to work with a large format camera alongside digital equipment and exhibits his work in solo and group exhibitions as well as at his own gallery in the Ironbridge Gorge. Links to Website and Facebook

Well, this month I was going to be writing about remote graveyards and burial grounds that I have discovered or researched and visited on my wanderings. however, having closed the doors of our gallery for the last time on the 31st of December it has had the last laugh by keeping me tied up for a further three weeks just relocating the office, framing and printing equipment.

Driving back and forth to Oban with car loads of gear, paperwork and rubbish I have plenty of time to ponder whether I will ever find the time to do what I actually moved to Scotland to do and the time to wonder exactly what that 'to do' was!

My first love has been and always with be the outdoors, landscape photography my way of expressing how I feel about mountains and valleys, woodland and coast. Having started hillwalking on family holidays to North Wales aged four, Britain's mountains have occupied much of my recreation time over the years while the OS maps around all my previous homes are covered with the marks and notes of my footpath bagging obsession. Ten years ago when I took up photography, travelling at weekends into The Peak District, walking still took a lead roll with most days averaging twenty or more miles in order that all paths and routes were covered. While this is hardly compatible with large format photography I still hanker after those days of multiple summits, descending exhausted at twilight with the thought of a long, hot shower and a mug or two of tea spurring me on. I still get as much if not more satisfaction from travelling on foot through the landscape as in making the images themselves.

I think Joe wrote in Outdoor Photography a few years ago these words of advice, 'Get out more, and take less pictures'. Sound practical advice that I believe is paramount to successful landscape photography since only by immersing myself in the subject matter do I believe I can fully understand what it is I am to say in response. Nature and the landscape provide the inspiration for my work but I need to have spent time in the hills before I can relax enough to make sense of what I am seeing. The difficulty comes when you only get the odd day here and there to get out and therefore don't get to pass through the invisible door in to the creative zone, images are made that perhaps show this lack of connection.


"As you sit on the hillside,or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens." Stephen Graham.

Perhaps the answer is to fill a few weeks of time with photography as Christopher Burkett does and then return to the office or in his case darkroom to continue the work there. I rather suspect that he derives as much pleasure from the printing of his images as he does from the taking the original photograph since this is the completion of the process. I don't know if he has to do the more mundane administration tasks too but these are an inevitable by product of running any business and cannot be avoided if you need to earn a living. Anyway, I couldn't stand being cooped up for most of the year waiting for a few precious weeks outdoors.


The question is, are there any landscape photographers here in Britain for whom the act of photographing, being out with their camera accounts for the Lions share of their working week? Personally I find it impossible to get any more than 50% of my time with my camera, if I spend five days out, I need at least that many again to manage the images made and to catch up with day to day admin. I suspect that in reality I'm doing OK even though it doesn't feel that way when I'm stuck at my computer aware that the clouds are colouring up nicely outside. I can remember when Joe was travelling up to photograph for Scotland's Mountains there were numerous occasions when trips were postponed due to deadlines for proofing, meetings, lectures and other commitments. None of us it seems are completely free to follow our dreams but given the need to earn a crust perhaps I need to accept that 100% of my working week, every week spent out in the field was never going to be the reality.

So, what am I going to do? Well, to expand on Joe's wise words I intend to get out more but be more discerning about the images I commit to film. To seek inspiration from my peers, from nature and from art, music, books and film. But most of all to chill out a little, enjoy my photography and worry less that others out there might be getting more than me, after all they're probably not.

"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." John Muir

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