ARTisan: The Film Photographer
Hugh Sun is a freelance photographer who still shoots to film. Pictured here in his London Gallery with his trusted 1936 Leica, a camera that shoots to a four shot film. “It’s all about the colour”, he tells me, “and the old manual lenses with fewer elements are so sharp. When it takes 20 minutes to change the film and you only get four shots on each roll, you really focus on getting the shot right first time. Every shot has to be perfect.”
Hugh specialises in landscapes and cityscapes and his work can be found exclusively his gallery near Covent Garden or online at www.hughsgallery.com.
ARTISAN: a long term project by photographer Chris Davies documenting the work of real craftsmen and women - those who retain traditional techniques and skills in an ever modernising world.
Shot whilst out riding a Santa Cruz Heckler in the snow last week this shot has been selected by Let’s Be Wild (the World #1 Online Adventure Travel Magazine) as their Photo of the Day
It’s been a year since I took the ultimate plunge. I’d been thinking about it and planning it for a while but it’s still been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve learnt so much along the way and continue to do so, every day.
Rewind a few months earlier and during the summer of 2011 I got asked to step in and take a photography course for some children at a community centre. The kids were 8-10 and over five weeks I took them from making pin-hole cameras to talking about framing, basic camera settings and the importance of lighting. A month later I got a call inviting me to the local library. The kids were exhibiting their work! This was my inspiration to go pro.
So I took redundancy from my job as a Police Intelligence Analyst which meant I had a couple of months grace paying the bills without having to worry too much about relying on the photography. My main concern was to get my portfolio up to date, organised in a way I could pitch to potential clients. I figured that the most important way to do this was on the Internet so the first job was to build a website. Quite early on I set out my genre as ‘Travel and Adventure Sports’. I think it’s important for a photographer to have an identity, sure most photographers can shoot anything once they have the skills, but I’d decided that ultimately I wanted to work in print, shooting for magazines and catalogs and brands with an artistic style. I also decided that I would embrace every technology available so that meant twitter, facebook, tumblr and 500px accounts. In a world where digital media is unravelling at an alarming rate it’s important to get your pictures out there and to be seen.
For the last five years I’ve used Smugmug. Their basic service let me archive full resolution photos and share them easily. Upgrading to Pro I could customise my site, customers get to order prints using the best labs across the world and the integration with Adobe Lightroom is great for me. Their customer service is the best on the planet and I love their ethos.
To build a professional website on their platform you need to know quite a bit of technical web language, html and css. I learned a lot and took a course but was still struggling and couldn’t afford to pay an expensive designer when Markham Bennett got in touch. Markham, (VP for Business Development at Fundly now) was working for Smugmug at the time and set me up with Joey Washburn who helped me build my site. Markham and Smugmug also picked up the bill. My site now gets on average 10,000 photo views a month. I don’t think I’d be where I am now without this single act of kindness and generosity and I owe so much to Markham and the team at Smugmug for supporting me. Sometimes you’ll see me representing them at events - if you do, come along and say Hi!
I’m very lucky that I have a bunch of friends who put up with me always carrying a camera. I shoot them, I shoot at sporting events I go to and play in and I shoot on holidays. You can’t take great photos without first taking a lot of photos. You need to learn how your camera works, what shapes work, how lighting affects your images, what changes to shutter speed, ISO and aperture do to the images. My basic rules for a photo follow:
These are in order of importance too. So many people take their subject first but when I’m explaining why a picture looks better than another it’s always because the photographer has considered the background first. If you’re taking a beautiful natural looking landscape you can’t have an electricity pylon in the frame can you? Photographers need to understand the constraints of lighting. Our eyes are very clever and sophisticated pieces of equipment, way better than any camera on the market which is why we can see fine in a dimly lit church but why your camera leaves the shutter open longer and creates a blurry image or cranks up the ISO giving you a grainy finish. Ultimately you need to appreciate that sometimes you just can’t take the photo that you want to. Some photos need planning, getting the timing right for the best lighting or waiting until there is no one left on the trail.
This is one of my favourite pictures of the year. I planned it weeks before and then one night, driving back home the sky looked right so I loaded the bike and set off for Clee Hill. It’s also the reason to always have your camera packed and ready to go!
Part of the big plan was to increase and professionalise my portfolio. I singled out a few events I wanted to shoot at, some trips I wanted to go on and ultimately to get to the Olympics before I stop and review.
One of the first events was the Schwalbe 4x Event at Leamington. Blessed with amazing weather I was able to get some great arty pictures and met some useful people. I did an ad-hoc shoot with Lec from Z-Axis aerial photography (he flies a drone and films!) but also chose to shoot all of the riders and see if I could sell the images. I shot hundreds, gave them all an edit and loaded them to my site. I publicised widely and my stats told me I got thousands of views.
I got zero sales, not even downloads. I didn’t let it bother me, but it was a valuable lesson. I never really wanted to do event photography, preferring the arty style I get from my travel photographs.
I try and combine some of the work with trips I want to enjoy myself. My best mate is a ski instructor and we’d not skied together for years so we took a cheap week in Austria to hang out, drink beer and get a few shots.
I’m lucky to have a supportive girlfriend who never complains at my constant need to ride bikes and take photos. During a relaxing break in Spain we broke away for a day to ride the Sierra Espuna.
I published an article in Sidetracked Magazine who I owe big thanks to the Editor John Summerton for supporting me the last couple of years and showing my work in his awesome mag.
When you travel you bump into all sorts. In the summer I managed to hook up with my amazing Polish friends I met in Hong Kong in 2010. I needed some shots of Rome for my portfolio and we happened to cross over for a few days in the summer so I got some free models!
One of my dreams for the year was to see some of ‘Le Tour’. I’m a bit of a psuedo-roady during summer months and booked a trip to ride back from Belgium with the Right To Play Charity. First though, we went to Liege and watched the Tour de France prologue.
I got to do it with Jimmy Brammeier, Pro-Cyclist Matt Brammeiers Dad, so we got professional commentary and loads of insight into pro racing.
I also got to shoot the riders individually. I’m really grateful to Bloggist John Orbea (@cyclopunk) for giving me massive exposure by publishing these on his blog. John picked up on a few of my galleries this year, the traffic it drove to my site was unbelievable, he has a huge following on his wonderful blog.
I always planned to see as much of the Olympics as I could but I could never have imagined I’d get to be a small part of it. England Hockey asked me to write a fans Blog for their website which I supported with pictures. You can read some of the blogs on here or search their site www.englandhockey.org.
I shot the GB cycle team training at the Velodrome which was an awesome experience:
And also went to the road race where we cheered Bradley Home:
I was also lucky enough to meet TC Johnson at the Mountain Bike venue and provided some shots of the amazing Adrien Niyonshuti for the promotion of the forthcoming film Rising from the Ashes - a story all about Rwandan cyclists. At Hadleigh Farm I also bumped into Chipps from Singletrack Magazine. We had an interesting chat and I ended up sending some photos for him to critique. His kind words and support have been really helpful.
One of the best trips I managed to get along on was to Andorra. A week downhill mountain biking. I’d always wanted to visit the ski resorts in the summer to see what they looked like but it was a great opportunity to document a load of lads having fun. They were a little apprehensive at first (I only knew one of the six) but after the guys saw the first days shots in the bar on the first night their attitude changed and they all started posing!
The shots I got were amazing, the scenery was stunning and the bikes were unbelievable.
Twitter has turned out to be quite an experience too. Not only have I had chats with some of the photographers I always looked up to (Dan Barham in particular), We’ve met some great biking folk who’ve taking us out on rides all over the country and again, been willing models.
I rounded off the year in style by hanging with the Austrian Youth Snowboard team in Kitzsteinhorn again. I met them the previous year here and these guys really know how to have a good time.
So that was my first year since going pro. There’s probably many things I’ve missed but every bit of advice has certainly been taken in. Also, by shooting and shooting and shooting you learn what works, what gear you need, the essentials and the way to look after stuff. Twelve months ago I was nervous, anxious, a bit excited and I thought I was prepared for what was about to unfold. As an individual I think I’ve learned that tenacity is a great virtue. I need to be more patient and not worry about criticism and certainly have more faith in my work. One of the most important things I was told this year and I certainly stick by it: Network, network, network.
The next twelve months look to be equally challenging. I’m more clear about the type of work I want to be doing and that means pitching to editors and to cycling brands for catalog and promotional work. I’ve got a few personal projects that I’m working on and have some leads that look very interesting. Keep an eye out for #miniadventures as there’s going to be quite a few of these and hopefully a few bigger ones too!
Be under no illusion, to turn photography into a full time job isn’t easy. It’s not just about great photos and there are a lot of people out there, hobbyists, who give their work away from free just for the kudus and we have to compete against this.
To all those mentioned in the article and to all those who’ve taken time to talk to me, to comment on my work or to stand on the other side of the lens for me this year my heart felt thanks. You’ve helped me live my dream and long may it continue.
Wishing you all a very happy and successful 2013.
Travel and Adventure Sports
Klaus rocking a huge flip off the kicker half way up the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier this afternoon. These guys are crazy!
(Source: chrisdaviesphotography.com )
Shooting the guys who build ramps in the fun park in Schmitten. I convinced the snowcat to pose for me!
When I was fourteen, this man took me on my first skiing lesson in a tiny ski area called Glenshee in Scotland. Eighteen years on we’re skiing together again.
He’s my dad.
Bike (Taken with Instagram)
Well that was a nervous end to a game wasn’t it?!?!
With the risk of tonight being the last men’s game I arranged with a few of the team to meet at the club and watch there. As with most best made hockey plans the usual excuses crept in but Cav, Ryan, Jimmy and Ash showed up. Now our club is part of a wider sporting facility in Stourport which sees cyclists, athletics and netball teams all using the clubhouse. Tonight there was a big cycling event going on that meant we were overrun with lycra, leading to the best comment I’ve heard in ages…
ASH: I really hate cyclists.
ME: But I cycle Ash?
ASH: Yeah but you play hockey so you’re alright.
So that’s it then, if you play Hockey you’re alright! Glad we got that sorted :)
Jimmy had arrived early and sorted the TV channel but we soon found out you can’t convince everyone to watch hockey despite the excitement of the game. I took the opportunity to chat with the guys about what the thought of the games. Jimmy had been down on Friday to watch from the RIverbank and delighted in showing me his photos and telling me about the noise that was coming from the velodrome. In all he was overawed by the atmosphere surrounding the sport he loves so much. Ryan and Ash were just loving the amount of hockey on the TV whilst Cav, opinionated as ever, commented on every single umpiring decision and actually thought video referrals had been successful (I don’t). He even said how well he thought the umpires were under pressure - a rare compliment towards officials I can tell you!
So the game. Well GB only needed a point but certainly made hard work of it. I didn’t think they played badly but the Spaniards saw an opportunity and went for it. GB were the stronger in my opinion and we have to be grateful for some excellent umpiring in the final ten minutes. I can understand the complaints, a lot was at stake, but I think the right decisions were made. Thankfully the second umpire overturned some decisions at the end which could’ve seen a very different result.
In all, a great result for GB Hockey, both teams progressing to the semis and on a personal note…. I’VE GOT TICKETS TO THE MENS GAME ON THURSDAY!!!! So expect an extra detailed, if not slightly hoarse sounding, report after the game.