Today’s interview comes all the way from Dunfermline, Scotland and features an extraordinarily talented landscape photographer named Ross Barclay. What first caught my about about Ross’ photography was his use of low light and color. I’ve rarely seen anything like it before. In the interview, Ross explains some of his history and a few of his techniques that assist him in getting this type of photography.
1. Can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I’m 36 years old, a full time mechanic/part-time photographer who loves landscape photography.
2. Where do you call home?
Home is in Fife, Scotland. I’m originally from Kirkcaldy, but I’m now staying in Dunfermline with my soon to be wife (I’m getting married on the 1st of August) and her son. I work in Edinburgh, so there are plenty of photographic opportunities.
3. When did you first realize that you wanted to get into photography and how long have you been involved with it?
My first interest in photography stemmed from my love of cars. Back when I was in my late teens, I remember buying a few disposable cameras and taking pictures of my and my friend’s cars. That’s about as far as my photography went in my younger years, other taking general family pictures during special occasions. I restarted my photography journey in 2011 when I bought a panasonic bridge camera for going to the F1 grand prix at Silverstone. I managed to get a few good shots, but I soon got very frustrated with the slow auto focus (it didn’t have a manual focus on it). I bought my first DSLR in early 2012 and went on a photography walking tour around Edinburgh. The tour was mainly about getting you to use your camera in full manual mode, rather than being about the Edinburgh locations. This gave me the confidence to get out and experiment with the camera. I was still mainly focusing on motorsport photography, like the Scottish Rally Championship and the British Touring Car Championship, but this soon changed after joining a photography meet-up group. I started shooting landscapes and I haven’t looked back since.
4. Are you self taught or formally taught?
I am mainly self taught. I found it very useful to get out with other photographers and just use the camera. That was the best way to learn.
5. Where have you found the majority of valuable information along your journey?
I think I found that most of the valuable information was from learning from other people as well as from learning online. The online side of the learning was mostly about the editing side of photography. I always try to get my images correct in camera by the use of filters, rather the the digital editing. I would much rather be out with the camera, rather than spending ages sitting at a computer and basically creating an image.
6. Are you satisfied with your choice of getting involved with this industry? Is there anything else you would rather be doing?
I love being involved in photography and the outdoor side of landscape photography. The only other thing I think I might have been doing would have been a F1 or rally car driver.
7. From your website galleries, I noticed many skilled photos where you took advantage of the “golden hour.” What is it about that time of day that draws you towards this type of photography?
The golden hour gives a less harsh light and hopefully it adds a bit colour to the sky. This tends to help get a picture that pops out at you.
8. What is your favorite part of heading out for a photo shoot?
When going out for a sunrise/sunset shot, I think its that feeling that you don’t really know what you are going to end up with. You can plan as much as you can by looking at the weather forecast, tide times and applications like suncalc, to see where the sun will rise and set, but you never know what can happen.
9. When you’re out photographing, what do you find most challenging?
The most challenging part of photography is getting the camera to capture the same image that your eyes are seeing, if there is a huge difference between how bright the sky and foreground is. When this happens, you try to use filters, but then you may get an obvious filter line in your image. When this happens, there is no choice but to use a bit of digital manipulation to blend the two pictures together. The hardest part then is getting the picture to look natural.
10. Your use of light and color is truly exceptional. Is there a secret you can share that may help explain how your photos look so vibrant and interesting?
I think my pictures are quite vibrant because I get to a nice location at the right time after a bit of planning by looking at the weather forecast, tide times and sun calculator apps. For me, its all about the planning.
11. How do you stay motivated to keep learning about photography?
I’m always striving to get that perfect shot, which means getting out and experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t. There are so many different shots that I still want to get.
12. What advice can you share with someone who would like to break into the photography scene?
I would say to do your homework about locations and then visit them, even if the weather isn’t great, just so you can plan what you will do when the conditions are perfect for you. Also, just get out and learn about your camera. One thing I also do is to always make sure that my photography gear is ready to go because that perfect bit of light will not wait on you.
13. What type of camera(s) do you shoot with? What’s your favorite lens?
I have a Nikon D800. My favorite lens is my nikon 24-70mm f2.8. I’ve got my eye on a few wide angle lenses just now, but I’ll need to wait until after my wedding.
14. What is your favorite photography accessory?
I dont think I have a favorite, but my most used accessories are my hitech filters or my tripod. That is essential for low light photography.
15. How important is Photoshop or other image editing software in your final images?
Unfortunately, I think image editing is important. As I said earlier, I would rather be out taking pictures than editing them, but the way photography is going, you need to do a bit of editing now and again.
16. Are there any areas of photography that you have yet to pick up on that you’d like to learn?
I’m quite happy doing landscapes just now. They give me the most enjoyment. I might get back into motorsport photography at some point, but it will never replace the landscapes.