Hi Chris! Tell us about yourself in two sentences - who are you?
I'm a microbiologist by trade, but my passion lies in wildlife and wildlife conservation. Initially this was born under the surface of the ocean, which led to me spending a number of years as a Scuba instructor, but later developed on land. My interest in photography mirrored this pattern, initially as a medium for recording the sights I'd discover while diving, and later as a means for recording all sorts of wildlife encounters. I am by no means what I would consider a professional photographer, but more of an enthusiastic amateur, and I never would have dreamt about marketing my photos until I found Picfair!
QWhat's the weirdest situation you've found yourself in while taking a photograph?
AI've travelled a lot, either as part of my Scuba instructor role, or more recently to indulge my wildlife conservation interests, and have found myself in some 'odd' situations - inching towards a resting Komodo dragon wondering how close is really wise, or standing amongst a herd of elephant in the Thai forest - but for those situations where you stop to think 'what am I doing here?' I guess I'd look closer to home. I recall sitting in a birding hide in the depths of winter in Wales, freezing for what seemed like hours, waiting for a Bittern to emerge from a reed bed so I could get a shot, or laying flat in a particularly large puddle of mud just to get the perspective I wanted of a passing toad - attracting some strange looks (and the odd comment) from passers by..
QWhat do you shoot on? What's your favourite set up?
AI've been through a number of sets of kit over the years, my first was a 35mm sea-and-sea Motormarine II back when I was diving a lot. Once my interests in terrestrial wildlife developed I moved to an entry-level Nikon DSLR, with a Tamron 300-500mm zoom lens - eventually I managed to lay my hands on an second hand underwater housing to go with it. However, all this kit was very bulky - particularly for travelling abroad so I eventually changed it out for my current gear. I now use an Olympus OMD EM-5. It's a micro four thirds system, and the biggest benefit for me is it's portability as both the body and the lenses are significantly smaller than it's DSLR counterparts - the image quality is comparable also (particularly to those SLR's in my budget). I like to hope that some of my work may inspire those who are developing an interest in photography and/or may not be able to afford (or indeed justify) expensive professional kit. It is far more important to understand whatever kit you choose to shoot with, both it's abilities and it's limitations, and to develop a personal style within those parameters.
QWhat's your number one tip for an aspiring photographer?
AI've never been particularly technically minded, or overly 'serious' with my photography (I don't even shoot in RAW format). I have learnt pretty much by trial and error, so I guess my number one tip would be don't be afraid to fail - get out and try something new, and if it doesn't work you've still learnt something. After all, if we are afraid to experiment a little, we'd never use anything but the 'Auto' settings on the camera. There are a number of sources of sound advice for budding wildlife photographers, but the best advice I was given was just to get out there, even if it's just a spare half hour in your garden shooting garden birds or butterflies. While reading books and websites can provide no end of tips and tricks, it's practice that makes perfect..