Inside this issue
"Marc Elliott is one of Cornwall’s most notable landscape photographers. His life has been devoted to the landscape. Studying its form, gentle changes and subtle beauty that Great Britain has in abundance. Marc is a passionate landscape photographer keen to share his knowledge to others on his informative, relaxed, and enjoyable workshops and tours.”
Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.
Can you tell me a little about your education, childhood passions, early exposure to photography and vocation?
My education was somewhat random, my attendance was sporadic. At the age of 14 I had this wonderful notion that I was going to be the world’s best rock climber subsequently, I spent most of my school days climbing in the local quarries.
I left school with few qualifications. I returned to education, in my early 30’s as a mature student at Sheffield Hallam University, to do a degree in Ecology and Conservation.
Two years ago, I decided to take an A level course, in Photography using film and Darkroom techniques.
What are you most proud of in your photography?
What gives me the deepest sense of satisfaction and pride, when my visualisation of a scene finally appears as I want it in print. This is a two stage process; Firstly, getting the exposure correct with as much input from myself, and secondly making the correct and ‘only’ needed adjustments to the picture prior to printing.
When this all comes together in a print I quite literally lose myself in the experience (or process). It is this which allows me to marvel at the wonderful detail’s, transitions of tone and colour that is in my work – It is then, that I feel a sense of pride In my work.
In most photographers lives there are 'epiphanic’ moments where things become clear, or new directions are formed. What were your two main moments and how did they change your photography?
I wouldn’t say I have had any sudden epiphanical moments, more of a gradual realisation, or clearing of the mist where the path ahead becomes clearer. With being relatively a newcomer to photography, my initial reason to take pictures wasn’t to concentrate on landscapes despite my past mostly being spent in the outdoors. I experimented with various different styles; I completed a year course in documentary photography.
Documentary photography did, and still does inspire me, but found it a rather stressful genre, and took me completely out of my comfort zone. I think, because of this I slowly drifted back into the environment I feel comfortable in, which is, a rural landscape, places which have been battered by the weather , it is this which I completely enjoy. With time I realised that beautiful, dramatic, wild , lonely Landscapes are in my soul, feeling this, was a moment that I knew my direction within photography.
Tell me about why you love landscape photography? A little background on what your first passions were, what you studied and what job you ended up doing.
Landscapes, natural beauty, an appreciation for the elements, have grown up beside for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is a family holiday in Glen Coe, our family holidays were always at a beautiful scenic part of the UK, we would spend a great deal of time outdoors, come rain or shine.
This naturally led me to have a driving desire to be in this kind of environment. At 10 years old, took to cycle touring, as a way of exploring my local countryside around Leicestershire. This developed further to one of the pinnacles of my life which occurred at 13 years old. I caught the train to the Peak District from Leicester, Just me, my bike, tent and a small camera. I cycled to Edale, and set up camp for a week.
I recall my first camera, it was a small interchangeable lens Pentax and a stack of film, I spent the week cycling, walking and taking pictures. With no thought to light or composition, just documenting what caught my eye. Looking back now this trip must have deep rooted itself into my subconscious.
Since then, I have spent all my life pursuing the outdoors mostly as a rock climber, always documenting my trips and surroundings with a camera of some kind. But life changes, things happen that can turn our life as we know it upside down. For me, this was a breakdown, for want of a better word. I now pursue a daily fight with depression and anxiety. At a particularly low point, something said ‘go and get a camera’. Why? Where that idea came from? I don’t know but in a rather rash manner and without too much thought I did, and came back with a Nikon D90 and a couple of lenses.
From that day on, I have never looked back. I now have a motivation for photography, a thirst for knowledge that I haven’t experienced since I was a child. My love and respect for the landscape has grown deeper than I ever imagined possible. Beneficially, I find myself at peace and solace taking pictures on the days which are difficult for me and in need of time alone.
Strangely, I feels like I have gone full circle, that passion which took me to the peaks district at 13 years old, in the Peak District has returned, I am enjoying the landscape and taking pictures of things I love and catch my eye - and just enjoying that for the pure pleasure of it.
Could you tell us a little about the cameras and lenses you typically take on a trip and how they affect your photography.
My camera is the Nikon D800, it is obedient and does everything I tell it too. The lens’s I use the most are the Zeiss 21mm Distagon, and Zeiss 35mm Distagon. The quality of these lenses are just lovely, not just in the optical quality, but in the pure tactile pleasure - there weight, the feel of metal, and the precision in focusing makes my workflow experience more satisfying.
Along with these I use a Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, I use this more for situations rather than landscape, not that is isn’t a great lens, it’s just, I don’t get the same feel as I do when using the Zeiss. I also have an older Nikon 105mm DC, I brought this second hand from Ebay for photographing the kids, but increasingly find myself using it for more intimate landscape work, as well as some open scenes.
The quality of this lens is wonderful, and produces a very sharp picture. I place the camera on top of a Zone VI wooden tripod (which I was lucky to find second hand), and Manfrotto 3D head, again I just find these a real pleasure to use, and love the stability that the wood gives me.
What sort of post processing do you undertake on your pictures? Give me an idea of your workflow..
I’m always aiming to the least amount of processing, and very much try to follow Joe’s philosophy of ‘Do as little as possible, but as much as is needed’. This is sound advice, as I find I now look at the picture, more closely for some behind before making any corrections, instead of aimlessly moving sliders and dragging curve lines, as I have in the past.
I do the most of my work in Lightroom 4 with the usual, spot and CA removal, lens corrections ect.. I then can concentrate on achieving the correct white balance, contrast and colour correction. I will usually then take it to Photoshop (CS5) to refine colour and contrast further locally, and perspective correction if needed, before saving that as a Tiff file for future use for the web or print.
Occasionally I do some exposure blending, if a scene is too tricky grad effectively, and focus stacking. If I can’t, get the desired depth of field. For this, I use Photoshop exclusively (after some lightroom preparation) and blend with the use of masks, the paint brush, and luminosity masking to aim to achieve a well-balanced and believable picture.
I do all my own printing on an Epson 3880, and after a shaky start, I appear to be getting results that I’m quite pleased with now. This is an area, I’m continually trying to further develop.. I print mostly on fine art papers, and for me this gives a look I find very pleasing.
Tell me about the photographers that inspire you most. What books stimulated your interest in photography and who drove you forward, directly or indirectly, as you developed?
Joe Cornish and David Ward, alongside many of the large format landscape photographers. What I admire the most about Joe, is his ability to produce naturally beautiful balanced timeless pictures, but also, for his enduring devotion and enthusiasm to landscape photography. Joes, philosophy and knowledge has been a true inspiration for me.
David’s unique style has inspired me, his vision that makes me really look deep into his pictures, I love his writing. It’s deep, and challenging - and has allowed me to think about pictures and photography in a way I hadn’t before. I’m currently reading,‘Landscape within’ once again.
Pretty much, anyone who is taking pictures on a large format camera inspires me, I admire their motivation to carry heavy equipment, the slow methodical, considered workflow, and the gorgeous pictures this medium can create - I could be very easily swayed into the world of large format landscape photography! Other than that anybody who is taking pictures that makes me stop for a moment lose myself in the picture and ask questions about it is an inspiration to me.
Tell me what your favorite two or three photographs are and a little bit about them.
This is possibly my favourite picture, for two reasons. Firstly it was one that made me confront my own fears, it challenged me to approach this man in a busy city centre, who I had never met, and ask to take his picture.
Fortunately his was most obliging, and honoured that I would wish to want to take his picture, still a scary experience for me. Secondly I love the way it has turned out. His pose, his wonderful gaze, and smart dress. And also asks me about his life, who is he, what is his story, what is the meaning of placing the hand on his heart? Taken with a Nikon F2 with a 50mm f1.4 lens, using Ilford HP5 film
This picture is of Bedruthan Steps that I took this on a night when I didn’t have the energy to wander very far. I spotted this scene, set up and didn’t move for over an hour and half. In that time I focused on, just refining the comp, studying the light, the shadows, the change in colour and tones as the light intensity began to fade. This was the last picture made that evening. Just as the light was about to leave, the thrift and feel because I took the time to study the scene for a length of time, for me came out exactly as I had visualised it.
I took this picture shortly after a day with Joe in which we spent some time exploring these woods near to me. Joe allowed me to view these woods with different eyes and this picture is a result of that. It’s a picture I have printed and one I can lose myself in. I really like the way it almost has this infrared feel to it too. I would like take more pictures like this.
If you were told you couldn’t do anything photography related for a week, what would you end up doing (i.e. Do you have a hobby other than photography..)
Put my feet up with a cuppa, some biscuits and a good book - photography related of course, or is that still photography related? In that case... err , mmm I don’t know what I’d do! I’d get more work done, see my family more and get some desperately needed jobs done around the home.
What sorts of things do you think might challenge you in the future or do you have any photographs or styles that you want to investigate? Where do you see your photography going in terms of subject and style?
I consider my main challenge, is finding the unpressured time to devote more to my photography. To be able to have the funds, and time to travel, not so much abroad, as I really enjoy exploring this wonderfully diverse country that we live in. I’d still like to do some documentary work, and possibly undergo some kind of project that would bring to light a local issue within Cornwall.
In the future I would hope to continue developing my craft and vision as a Landscape Photographer, and to bring more meaning and depth to my pictures, and begin to produce a body of work along a theme, I think could be a useful and interesting learning tool.
Who do you think we should feature as our next photographer?
Glyn Davis is a photographer from North Wales who I have admired for some time. Glyn has a wonderful use of light and shadow to create some beautiful and dramatic pictures.