Landscape Photography Discussion with Brian Northmore

A seascape of a pebble beach at sunset.
In this interview, Brian Northmore tells us how he first discovered landscape photography and gives us an insight into how he plans, shoots and edits his images. It was first published in Issue 32 of Light & Landscape.

How did you become interested in landscape photography?

Landscape photography crept up on me really. It wasn’t my first passion. I started photography in 1987 visiting local airshows with an old Practica Super TL SLR, cheap fixed 200mm lens and really bad film! Exposure (excuse the pun!) to photographic magazines was the way most people learnt. Photography clubs were not as caring and sharing as they are now, and social media was still a long way from being invented. Through these magazines, I developed my interest in photography, and 'landscape' was the most accessible genre. Gradually I started going out exploring the landscape and developed a passion for not just for landscape photography, but being out in the landscape.

How much research and planning is involved in your photography?

Not a huge amount actually. I have a list of locations to visit and ideas pinned to the wall beside me, I try and match weather conditions, available time, time of day and light direction and pick a suitable one. The weather is very unpredictable in the SW of England, so I generally make the decision to go and just go for it and see what unfolds on the day, I try and capture what inspires me about the landscape at that moment in time, and I can always go back if it doesn't work out.

A seascape photograph of St Michael's Mount Island in Cornwall, UK.

What equipment do you typically use when taking pictures?

I carry my gear in a rucksack specially designed for photographers and hikers so I can accommodate all the gear needed for a full day out in the countryside. I try and keep my camera equipment simple carrying: One Digital SLR, 10-20, 18-55, 75-300 lenses, ND / ND Grad and polarising filters. I always use a tripod with a cable release. Most important a flask of coffee, its become a key element of my workflow!

Do you prefer standard or long exposure photography?

I like to be led by the subject, and what I want to communicate through my photography. A lot of my photographs are about the study of contrasts between light and shadow, textures, still and moving elements in the landscape. So I often use slow shutter speeds to create movement in flowing water. I like to retain some texture in the water though so normally avoid extremely long shutter speeds.

A black and white long exposure photograph of a stream on Dartmoor, UK.

What is your approach to editing photos?

I would say I edit my photo’s very little. This is true in one aspect in that they remain faithful to the scene that I captured, very little gets removed or added, maybe a little cloning out of stray grasses etc. But I do work hard on controlling the shadows highlights and tones in the image to create the feeling that I am looking for and to also exaggerate what I want the viewer to focus on.

What is your most memorable photographic experience?

That’s one very hard question! There have been many but nothing really leaps out as outstanding I think one of the problems with photography is that most of us are searching for the next best image. Photography for me is a process so the whole thing is memorable, I’ve had some great days out walking in the lakes but haven't come back with a single usable image. Maybe tomorrow will be the most memorable photographic experience!

A golden hour landscape photograph of Bamburgh Castle on the Northumbria Coast, UK.

What advice would you give to budding photographers?

Enjoy the process, don't pay any attention to Instagram and Facebook likes, what’s important is creating images you like and are proud of. There will always be some people who like your work and some that don’t. Find a friendly club with a good mixture of activities, and talent. Joining the RPS (Royal Photographic Society) has been very beneficial, it’s allowed me to listen and draw inspiration from some great photographers.

What in particular do you try to achieve artistically through your pictures?

I see my photography as a medium through which I can connect my subject with anyone who is looking at my photographs. It’s difficult to achieve as we all see the same thing, but understanding what we are seeing is based on our own experiences - we have our own filters. So I use photography to try and simplify my message, I use exposure, texture, form and composition to hopefully lead the viewer to what I want them to see.

A landscape photograph of a rocky stream on Dartmoor, UK.

What do you look for when arriving at a location you wish to photograph?

Somewhere to sit and have a coffee! As I said I enjoy the whole process, so first of all on arriving at a location I pour a coffee from the flask and just stop, look, listen. I try and make a connection with the landscape and the ideas come to me, it may be the way water flows around rocks, the light falling on a hill, there will be something that I am attracted to and that’s what I like to capture. It gets hard when you have walked a few miles, arrived and can’t make that connection, then I will explore with the camera, handheld shooting various compositions and bit by bit focusing on the one thing I want to share.

What are your future goals as a photographer?

I want to become more creative. As I said earlier going to the RPS has exposed me to lots of new influences, so I’m kind of on a journey developing new styles of work and taking different subjects. When I find time I will pursue the RPS distinctions path, but I always seem to be so busy! I currently give photography talks in SW England, I judge and critique competitions, and run Workshops on Dartmoor all of which I would like to do more of, whilst pursuing personal projects.

A long exposure black and white seascpae image of waves hitting a beach.

What are the greatest challenges you face as a photographer?

I try not to be too hard on myself. I think my challenges are no different to the challenges facing photographers globally. We are now bombarded by imagery everywhere we look. The internet has made everything so accessible. It’s important to stay focused on your own creative path, and not become distracted by trying to gain acceptance for your work by modifying it to fit global social media trends. Everything on Earth has been photographed so stop looking chasing unique imagery. Every image is unique you can’t capture the same moment in time twice! Hitting creative blocks and comparing your work to what you see on social media can often be very discouraging. As I’ve said before, enjoy the whole process not just the result and your images will have more meaning, stay true to your message, and take delight in sharing what you see with others.

A bio photo of landscape photographer Brian Northmore.
I am an outdoor photographer based just inside the Dartmoor National Park (United Kingdom). Having a National Park on your doorstep is a huge bonus for a Landscape photographer. I have an alarming 30 years of experience as a photographer and have shot on film, processed and printed my own work, and now work digitally. I get great pleasure from being able to share that experience through my workshops, and talks. I am a keen and active member of various social media groups so why not look me up.
Brian Northmore Landscape and Outdoor Photography
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