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SunartMedia

Interview with Simon Willis

Interviews

17 April 2015

Posted by Sally Hart

Hi Simon! Tell us about yourself in two sentences - who are you?

I work in Scotland as a freelance TV cameraman / producer specialising in adventure travel, having previously been a BBC correspondent. My business SunartMedia.com makes sea kayak coaching films and photography is just part of what I do.

QWhat's the weirdest situation you've found yourself in while taking a photograph?

ALike most snappers I've taken shots in situations other people might consider weird; while hiking 2,600 miles from Mexico to Canada; during first ascents of four Alaskan peaks; driving the Karakorum highway and while dangling from a helicopter. Yet to me the weirdest was fairly close to home, lying prone under the carriageway of a bridge, vehicles thundering above my head, with a boiling sea beneath me… that felt pretty weird. One of the featured shots below was taken in the same place but this shot shows my location.

QWhat do you shoot on? What's your favourite set up?

AIf I see a shot I'll shoot on whatever is to hand, often my iPhone, although my main cameras are Canon. Video for broadcast is usually my XF305. For large-sensor video and still photos I prefer to use my 5D mk 3. However, if I'm backpacking and low weight is important it's my EOS 1000D. Finally I have an ancient EOS 300D, which I'm not afraid of wrecking, so I can use even in rough water when kayaking.

QWhat's your number one tip for an aspiring photographer?

AI hesitate to offer advice because I don't consider myself a technically good photographer, I'm more of an opportunist who gets himself into interesting situations. So perhaps that's my advice - get yourself into great situations!

'I was backpacking in Utah, planning to write articles for hiking magazines for which I'd need images. I knew this waterfall would make a great shot with someone stood undernea... Read more

'I was backpacking in Utah, planning to write articles for hiking magazines for which I'd need images. I knew this waterfall would make a great shot with someone stood underneath but I couldn't ask one of our group because it was too dangerous - small rocks are occasionally washed over the edge. I decided to risk it myself. I set the camera on my tiny tripod, gave the infra-red remote to the group leader, and when I was in position I yelled "now!". I ran back and reframed the camera several times, trying the waterfall off-centre left and off-centre right, then dashing back underneath the cascade each time. In only one shot did it occur to me to raise my hands in the Y position you see and I'm delighted I did because it adds a huge amount of energy to the shot.' Read less

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Simon Willis

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'Scotland's west coast offers superb sunsets to sea kayakers camped on remote beaches but by the time it happens most of us are usually relaxing after dinner. My wife Liz and I... Read more

'Scotland's west coast offers superb sunsets to sea kayakers camped on remote beaches but by the time it happens most of us are usually relaxing after dinner. My wife Liz and I launched again just before sunset specifically to get this shot. Put aside the difficulties of keeping camera kit dry or staying balanced while both my hands were on the camera, my main challenge was composition because the sea and wind were moving both kayaks independently, both up and down and side to side.' Read less

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Simon Willis

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'Liz and I hiked the GR20, the classic high-level route across the island of Corsica. Somewhere on route (I forget where) I spotted this background, and asked Liz to walk up th... Read more

'Liz and I hiked the GR20, the classic high-level route across the island of Corsica. Somewhere on route (I forget where) I spotted this background, and asked Liz to walk up the stairs, turn around, and walk back down again. It looks like there's a real story in this photo but there isn't, it's posed.' Read less

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Simon Willis

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'I run a podcast website (<a href="http://seakayakpodcasts.com/" target="_blank">SeaKayakPodcasts.com</a>) offering interviews with interesting paddlers. While on holiday in It... Read more

'I run a podcast website (<a href="http://seakayakpodcasts.com/" target="_blank">SeaKayakPodcasts.com</a>) offering interviews with interesting paddlers. While on holiday in Italy I contacted a company offering kayak tours of Venice and asked if I could record an interview with their founder. Naturally we took their tour and it was a superb way to explore this amazing city. I snapped this shot on a Pentax Optio, not my favourite camera but waterproof.' Read less

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Simon Willis

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'I live in north west Scotland and wanted to capture the feeling of cycling our single-track roads. To get this shot I could have built a saddle mount or chest harness but the ... Read more

'I live in north west Scotland and wanted to capture the feeling of cycling our single-track roads. To get this shot I could have built a saddle mount or chest harness but the reality was much simpler. Liz pedalled slowly while I walked quickly alongside and thrust the camera under her chest. I pressed the shutter release three or four times, quickly reviewed my shots, then repeated the performance until I had the shot.' Read less

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Simon Willis

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'A friend was shooting video of highly skilled sea kayakers playing in the Falls of Lora under the Connel Bridge near Oban. I'm not sure I ought to admit this: I climbed the br... Read more

'A friend was shooting video of highly skilled sea kayakers playing in the Falls of Lora under the Connel Bridge near Oban. I'm not sure I ought to admit this: I climbed the bridge barrier, worked my way down an access ladder, then crawled into a space under the carriageway while the falls started to boil below.' Read less

Camera outline

Simon Willis

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'On a road trip in our camper van we were driving from Venice (see above) heading for the Pyrenees. Somewhere in the Maritime Alps we were caught in this sheep jam. I grabbed ... Read more

'On a road trip in our camper van we were driving from Venice (see above) heading for the Pyrenees. Somewhere in the Maritime Alps we were caught in this sheep jam. I grabbed the nearest camera, leaned out of the window, and took a series of shots.' Read less

Camera outline

Simon Willis

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'Kayaking with Liz in the Firth of Lorn near our home in Scotland. This is one of those shots which you only see through a camera. The sea was flat and rather boring, yet it t... Read more

'Kayaking with Liz in the Firth of Lorn near our home in Scotland. This is one of those shots which you only see through a camera. The sea was flat and rather boring, yet it takes on a totally different atmosphere when viewed through the wide angle lens and framed in this way. Thinking about it now, it's reminiscent of the poster for the movie Jaws!' Read less

Camera outline

Simon Willis

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