About The Photographer

It all started here

Way back in the late 1960s when my age was still a single number I was given a Kodak roll film camera by my parents before I set off on a school trip to Colchester Zoo.  So began my first love affair with photography.  I can still recall the absolute joy I got from taking pictures of my friends, teachers and as many of the animals as I could.  The age of instant result photography was still many years away, but I was hooked.  I look back at those pictures now with some happiness, not least because most of them came out.  Some didn’t of course, and that was down to me not really knowing what I was doing.  That got me interested in finding out what the faults were.  The fire was lit.

Old school photography

Digital photography in the mid to late 60s would have been seen as a marvel, something of science fiction.  Everything was analogue.  The only was to see the results of a photoshoot was to print the film.  I am so glad I lived in that period because it taught me how to value an image.  Back in those days, good wedding photographers would take two rolls of 36 exposure film and that would be it for a complete wedding.  72 photographs of the whole day, no more.  At least one roll of film would be black and white, not all photos would be colour, and even the colour shots were of variable quality.  Today some photographers will take over a thousand shots at a wedding and they will be proud of it. I don’t understand how taking that many images, many of which will be very similar, adds value to the day.

A snapshot of history

The photos I took and the prints from them were few and far between.  For me, that alone increases their value.  I can hold in my hands something that took around 1/160th of a second to capture.  There is something magical about that.  I think it’s similar to the memories I have about music in my youth.  Back then it was all on vinyl.  I had three elder siblings, and got a lot of joy listening to their singles on a portable Dansette record player.  Listening to music then was a total experience.  Not only was there sound there was also a smell and a feel to each record.  Different labels and sleeves only added to the experience.  Contrast that to today, with soulless downloads or .mp3 files.  It’s not the same at all.  Living through the age of prints is why I value them so much.  I always urge my clients to get prints so they can get the same experience and not be left with thousands of digital files that will never be seen.

Then life got in the way

I worked my way through a few cameras, and roll film to cassettes.  Improvement was questionable but the fascination never lessened.  When I left school, life got in the way and my photography was put on hold for a while. I joined the RAF and greatly regret that I never had a camera constantly by my side.  Access to places I cannot get to now went unnoticed at the time and aircraft that currently sit in museums or are piles of rusting scrap were within touching distance  I was stationed mainly in the UK, but got the odd trip to Cyprus and Saudi Arabia.  My work in Saudi gave me access to places well off the beaten track for most RAF personnel and I saw some magnificent places.  They have a reef which is as grand as The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, but with very limited tourism few get to see it.  No camera.  What a wasted opportunity.  The Falkland Islands also provided a magnificent opportunity for wildlife photography, but I only took snaps.  If I knew then what I know now my photos would have been so different.

Doing what you do

I spent all of my 20s and 30s working at my career in the RAF.  It was a fun time, but hard work.  The old adage of work hard, play hard was extremely accurate.  I had also become a serious motorcyclist.  I had a bike since I was 16, and still have one at 64.  Most of my money went there, along with wine, women and song, so my photography became almost non-existant.  That was to change again come my second trip to the Falklands.

The end of my first career

I was due to leave the RAF in November 2000 and in preparation for that I bought a house in 1995 and started to put down roots.  I wanted to buy in my home town of Felixstowe but for various reasons that wasn’t possible.  I purchased a place in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, and I still live there, nearly 30 years on. The RAF, in their wisdom, decided that the time was ripe for an unexpected posting and sent me to Northern Ireland for two years in 1996.  I had only been in my new home for about 6 months.  I came back in 1998 at the end of my tour, and lived at home for a year.  Once again the RAF showed its sense of humour and sent me down to the Falklands for my second trip in 1999.

The Army experience

I realised when I got my posting notice that this trip to the South Atlantic would be my last.  I wasn’t unhappy about that, I was approaching 40 and I didn’t want to keep travelling.  What I was unhappy about was the knowledge that the main base at Mount Pleasant was joint forces.  Anyone who has been in the military will know that joint forces means ‘management’ by the Army.  My first tour back in 1985 was to RAF Stanley, and it was a good tour.  4 months of mind-numbing boredom with nothing to do but work, but at least we could get on with things.  Not so the second tour.  The Army have a different way of doing things.  It would be fair to say that there was a culture clash with Army on one side and the Royal Navy and RAF on the other.

The birth of digital photography

Luckily for me, the trip coincided with the advent of digital photography.  I was determined to get some pictures, but didn’t want to rely upon sending film back to the UK and waiting for it to return.  I bought my first digital camera, A Fuji MX-400.  It had a massive 1.4m pixel resolution, which was huge for the time.  It was convenient to use, but I soon found its limitations and moved on to DSLRs on my return home.  The camera did give me something to do down there though, and helped keep me sane when dealing with our Army overlords.  Once again the photography bug bit me hard and it became serious very quickly indeed.

The dream became a reality

The chance to not only take the pictures but develop them too was so appealing and I found myself upgrading my Canon cameras, buying tons of lighting gear and taking on more and more work.  I was lucky that was all funded by my second career as a civilian working for Cambridgeshire Constabulary.  What became evident very quickly was my love of working with people and that formed the major part of my business.  I do enjoy popping out and taking landscape pictures, but wildlife photography escapes me.  I do not have the specialist kit I need for it, but perhaps one day I will find myself on a safari holiday somewhere in Africa.  For now, I will content myself with some of the wonderful locations that being a portrait photographer offers.