Inside this issue
Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.
Full time dad, police officer and keen landscape photographer.
John Irvine is only a recent convert to landscape photography but he's been producing some wonderful work and in the last few months has, through external constraints, found a passion for his local area.
Can you tell me a little about your education, childhood passions, early exposure to photography and vocation?
My educational background is one of engineering, however, I did not pursue that for long, and joined the Police Force when I was 21. I do remember being very fond of drawing, design and creating things and although I was competent, I would never have been talented enough to pursue any kind of educational major or career in the Arts.
I can recall being interested in taking images and if I had a disposable camera in my hand, I'd try and catch the most dramatic image I could. However, for one reason or another, it never progressed from that. My earliest photographic memory was taking an image of a crashing wave near to where I grew up in Northern Ireland, and like any special photographic moment, whether it be with a disposable or an IQ260, I can still remember it well.
What are you most proud of in your photography?
Probably my ability to self educate. I've never attended any kind of training/workshops/ or hands on assistance - I've learnt it all by myself. Not that it's been an easy journey, far from it. I started taking photography seriously in 2010 when I got my first full frame DSLR however that doesn't mean I haven't taken a poor image since, there's been loads of them. I suppose the encouraging thing that the poor to good ratio has got smaller and I take fewer frames to achieve what I want to create.
In most photographer’s 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?
OK, the first one isn't very 'Holywood,' however, it was my realisation that fuel prices were crippling my location hunting and exploration. Coupled with time constraints, I had to make a conscious effort to shoot locally. Although I resented it at the time, it has actually improved my photography no end and I'm happier than ever. I would be lying if I said that I didn't want to visit Wester Ross again, however, I'm not craving it like I once did.
The second moment was when I had travelled to Elgol for the night in my old classic mini. It had been raining quite heavily in the journey and water and old minis don’t mix well. Not well at all. The troubles didn’t manifest until I was 5 hours from home and out of mobile phone coverage. I was in a fairly wild place, in off season with a broken mini. But I didn't care. I was happy. The conditions were glorious and I set off to see what I could find. In those 4 preceding hours, I didn't once think about how I was going to get home - I was just content to be alive and witnessing what was occurring in front of me. (I got home safe after a lot of swearing and strikes with a hammer - and some WD40...)
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
I grew up in Northern Ireland and still considerate it my home. All my family still live there however my wife is Scottish and won't move back. Plus the job is a little different back home for various reasons. As much as I love the Scottish landscape, my first memory of wonderful scenery were the regular trips my family and I made up the Antrim Coast road to the north coast. This is such a beautiful and dynamic coastal area and every single time I visit I feel an overwhelming sense of inner energy come over me.
I have always been interested in a vast array of activities, sports, athletics, sailing, canoeing etc however I never concentrated solely on one. I suppose that's when I knew landscape photography was very special to me, as I focused so heavily on it and being better at it. I'm a Detective in the Police, which brings its own pressures, like any job. Most definitely my interest in photography was a direct result of me trying to 'de-stress' from work, no doubt. Especially with the role, I'm in now. My job role is guided by laws, general orders and various rules, leaving little room for creativity and spontaneity. I think this is why I enjoy my photography so much, it's completely opposite to what I do for a living.
Could you tell us a little about the cameras and lenses you typically take on a trip and how they affect your photography?
I'm not a gear driven photographer at all. I have a decent body in a Canon 5d mk2, however, most of my lenses are second hand or are non Canon models. The only equipment which is a must have accessory are my LEE filters. All my images are individual RAW files, no blending, so near correct exposure balance is a must for me. I rarely shoot wider than 24mm, although my widest lens does let me go to 17mm. Most of my woodland images are taken with the Canon 50mm, 1.8, which is the best 80 quid I've ever spent. And you may notice, I rarely keep an image in 6x4 format, I just find it too narrow. I tend to see things in large format, although would probably faint at the sight of an Ebony 5x4 as I wouldn't know what to do with it!
In the near future, I'm about to take receipt of a lovely Mamiya 645 and lenses which I will probably use mainly on the woodland and industry work I am concentrating on. I have never used medium format and have no clue about metering, scanning or taking the shot – however I had no clue how to use a DSLR a few years ago, and I got there in the end...
What sort of post processing do you undertake on your pictures? Give me an idea of your workflow..
99% of my processing is done in Lightroom, although I do prefer doing cloning, sharpening and curve adjustments in Photoshop. In my eyes, which is just a personal thing, if I can’t edit the image within 10 minutes of turning on the computer, then the image has gone beyond what the scene meant to me. The LEE grads used are to give more accurate tonal details, meaning less time stuck in front of a computer. Although my subject matter and approach to images has developed, my post processing hasn't. Like my camera gear, the computer I use is about 6 years old and feels like it's running Windows 95...
Do you get many of your pictures printed and, if at all, where/how do you get them printed?
In my view, if you want to sell prints, you will sell them. I pushed it for a few months last year and sold quite a few. However, as soon as I realised that it was more effort than what it was worth and that I wasn't making any profit from it, I stopped promoting that side of things. As soon as I did that, the sales stopped. I have a brilliant printer and framer on hand, so I know that if I'm asked, I can produce a quality piece of work. It's nice to have that.
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?
Well for obvious reasons that have been explored time and again, Joe Cornish was pretty much my sole influence. There wasn’t some obscure photographer, it was pretty much down to Joe's publications that I got better. However On Landscape has educated me no end, and I now appreciate the work of many people on this site. Although I have only met a small number of them – I consider a lot of them friends. My awareness of other photographers continues to grow every day and I try to promote other peoples work as much as I can.
On a side note, I wouldn't be anywhere photographically without the support of my work of my wife and two sons, Kian who is 5 and Elijah, 2. My wife also works shifts alongside me, which makes me wonder how I take any pictures at all. A vast number of the pictures displayed here, probably about as much as 90%, were with one of my sons by my side. I hope they have enjoyed the journey too...
Tell me what your favourite two or three photographs are and a little bit about them.
Yikes, thats difficult. If you dont mind I will choose a favourite from a recent outing, one from early 2013 and one from before then.
First, we have this image which was taken in the last week of September 2013, in an unnamed wood near my home address. The wife was working, the oldest one was at school, so the little one and I decided to go for a walk with the camera. I hadn’t been out for weeks so I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. We walked about (well I walked whilst carrying Elijah) for about 20 minutes before I noticed this scene. First time there and I knew straight away that I wanted to make a picture out of it. The light mist was just enough to diffuse some of the detail. We actually made another nice image no less than 5 minutes later. We were very happy.
The second is this image from a local shale bing in March 2013. If I remember correctly, I wasn't going to go out however decided last minute that I would go for a run out in the car. I walked into the centre of this shale bing that I hadn't explored before. I loved the leafless birch trees and the sunlit slag heap all around them. I spent a little while composing and took this frame.
Lastly, we have this. This was probably one of the most magical displays of colour I ever witnessed. It was taken in June 2012 whilst camping with Kian, who was 4 at the time. We had pottered about in the shallow pools of water, waiting to see what would scene would develop in front of the lens. I had no idea the light would be this good. I actually made 4 images that I was proud of that have featured previously on On Landscape. It really was a moment that my son and I will never forget.
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..)
Well apart from family time, it would be something car related. I'm quite into motorsport and I have a love for the classic mini :)
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?
Commitments and their restrictions on time. You may notice that I have very few images from winter as I struggle to get out at all. I hope that I do something about it this year however it might be the same old story. Living 2 hours away from the Highlands and not getting anywhere near it is as frustrating as being in Cornwall and not getting up there! Although this annoys me greatly, it has most definitely improved my photography. It makes me focus on the image more than the location. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to pull off a great winter image of Rannoch Moor, but to me the creation of an emotive woodland image at the edge of an industrial estate in the central belt of Scotland is far more fulfilling.
I have two ongoing bodies of work right now. The first being 'Woodland Mood' which features work in the woodlands around West Lothian. Again, this approach was indirectly forced upon me due to not being able to get out often, however, it is something I enjoy immensely. The second being 'Forgotten Industry' which focuses upon sites of vacated industry in the UK and the regeneration of flora within them. This started out at the local shale bings, but has developed over time. To be honest, I doubt I will ever truly finish these, as I hope to continue to add to them for some time yet.
Who do you think we should feature as our next photographer?
I would love to see you feature Ben Horne. I love his approach to his 8x10 work and would be interested in seeing more from him.
You can see more of John's work at http://www.john-irvine.com/