Without a doubt, my passion for photography is born from a love for and fascination with the natural world. It has also shaped my professional life, has been working in nature conservation for almost three decades. Working for various international NGOs has taken me to some fascinating and beautiful parts of the world and, when I started on this path, it seemed only natural to try and capture some of this beauty. Photography was an obvious format to use and so, about twenty years ago, I bought a Canon EOS 300 camera (a film camera which I still have but, sadly no longer use) and began trying to translate the world around me onto film.
I stuck with that camera for about 10 years and there is a cupboard in my parent’s house that is full of old slides and negatives. However, when I met some photographers (far better than me) in Malaysia, I was persuaded to go digital and so, sticking with Canon, I bought a Canon 50D and a 100-400mm lens. Since then, I have upgraded to a Canon 6D (which was stolen last year from the base-camp on Mount Kazbeg, in Georgia) and then, about a year ago, to the impressive (but pricey) 5D Mark IV. Most of the images here were taken in the mountainous region of the Caucasus where I lived and worked for eight years.
Currently, I find myself taking some time-out from work in order to build a portfolio and evolve my photography skills. This hiatus from a regular income cannot last forever (or, indeed, much longer) and I am looking for ways to bring photography into my professional life in a more formal way; a way for my photographs to become a tool for helping biodiversity conservation. Any suggestions are welcomed.
Sentinel (Post Image)
Vashlovani Protected Areas, in the southeast region of Georgia, was one of my project sites for several years. It was established as a protected area whilst the country was still part of the Soviet Union and, primarily because of the wild pistachio trees that grow there and that feature in this image. They have a beautiful shape and each tree occupies its own space on the landscape and here, the single tree is illuminated by the low winter sun. I used a Canon EOS 50D with a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens at 400mm. A fast shutter speed of 1/640 second allowed me to shoot directly into the setting sun whilst keeping the aperture open at f/7.1, ISO 320.
Another example of using my work to capture stunning landscapes. This is high in the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan I was there to design a human-wildlife conflict mitigation strategy for a mining company operating in the area. At an altitude of more than 4,000masl, the light is incredibly clean and crisp and the landscape seems to take on an ethereal, almost painted appearance. The image was taken with a Canon 6D and 100mm, f/2.8 lens. I hadn’t brought my tripod with me and so I used a fast exposure of 1/320 second and an especially small aperture of f/22 (ISO 200), to emphasise that painterly look.
Still in the Caucasus, in Armenia and another protected area; the Caucasus Wildlife Reserve, the regions’ first (and, so far, only) privately-owned protected area. I had taken my family to stay at the reserves’ field centre and, as we explored the mountains and valleys one evening, we were rewarded with this beautiful sunset. The low orange light of the sun turned the red rocks of the region a deep purple, teleporting us to an alien landscape. As I didn’t need to capture much detail, I opened the aperture up to f/5.0 but, with the heavy 100-400mm lens (at 100mm), needed a relatively high ISO (500) to allow for a 1/160 second shutter speed. I also underexposed the image by 1/3 of a stop so that I could include the sun.
Just on the other side of Armenia’s western border is the Northeast Anatolian region of Turkey where you can find the ruins of the medieval city of Ani. Originally part of the Armenian kingdom, the site now lies in Turkey and offers some incredible examples of ancient stonework and architecture. This image was actually taken as we were leaving the site and I have no idea what the archway was once a part of but its’ disconnected nature struck me. The structure was quite a distance from the road and so I used a tripod to mount my 6D and 300mm lens, with a 1.4x extender, to give it the gravitas it deserved. As it was the form of the ruin I wanted to show, I opened up the aperture to f/9.0 and lowered the ISO to 160 for a silhouetted shot. If you want to see more of Ani, I recently posted a two-part blog featuring photos of the many structures at the main site.
Back in Georgia, this time in the northern region of Khevsureti, where the shallow valleys are often shrouded in a thick envelope of mist. This scene grabbed my attention because of the dirt track that seems neither to come from or go anywhere. I used a 28mm, f/2.8 lens with a 1/50 second shutter speed at f/14 and, despite the conditions, ISO 160. The scene had to be black & white so that nothing could distract from the slither of hill lost in the grey mist, or the subtle folds of the ground that give it the appearance of a heavy coat protecting a sleeping giant from the cold.
This and the next two images were all taken relatively recently, near my current home in France. Strolling around a nearby lake, with my dog, I was immediately drawn to this scene which hinted at the dynamic nature of winter. The eye is first drawn to the stones in the foreground which seem to be forcing their way up and out from beneath the suffocating ice. It is then led along the line of the cracked ice on the lake, to the dark forest at the back. This was an early foray with the Canon 5D Mark IV, with a 16-35mm f/4 L lens. I used an aperture of f/11, to keep the detail of the forest alive, and a shutter speed of 1/100 sec, on such a sunny winters day, ISO 100.
Something that I have begun to experiment with is long-exposure photography and, whilst on a short family break to the Mediterranean coast of France, I took the opportunity to further explore its possibilities. Here, I had the sun setting behind me, beautifully spotlighting the main submerged rock in a golden glow. I used a circular polariser to really intensify the blue of the sea and sky and the effect is augmented by the silky-smooth surface of the water, facilitated by a 10-stop ND filter and 120-second exposure. The golden rock and red & white lighthouse act as a balance to the otherwise intensely blue scene.
Holding the peak
Returning from a visit to my cousin, just over the Alps in Italy, we elected to forego the convenience of the tunnel and drive over the mountains at the Col du Mont Cenis. It was an incredibly windy day and even the clouds seemed to cling to the mountain as they tried to avoid being swept away. With the 5D MkIV mounted on a tripod, I used a circular polariser to bring out the detail of the rock and water whilst shooting into the low sun. The wind dictated a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/20 second, at f/11, with the 24-70mm f/4 L lens set at 33mm.