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Photography enhances my life

Ian BramhamHaving discovered photography late in life, former architect Ian Bramham explains his love for photography and share his thoughts on the use of colour.

How do you feel about having started photography at such a late stage?
It\'s a bittersweet feeling as I\'m so happy to have finally discovered photography even though I am now in my late forties. However there is also an element of regret that I missed so many opportunities to develop my skills while I was a lot younger. I often feel a great sense of frustration at the slowness of my progress in photography - part of that is due to the fact that I have a greater sense of the value of time and my own mortality as I have got older.

You have gained such a good hold of photography in less than a year. How has the journey been?
It has been a delight and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to train their way of really "seeing" the true beauty of the world in which we live. Photography for me over the last year has had little to do with the technical side of the craft and everything to do with trying to develop the way in which I use my eyes.

I believe that my training and work as an architect has strongly influenced the speed at which I\'ve been able to make progress in photography - the process would certainly have taken a lot longer without an already developed vision and way of seeing the world. Applying that vision, and training it within the medium of photography, has been a very frustrating process when I haven\'t been adequately able to express my feelings with my camera yet so rewarding on the occasions when things have worked out the way I want.

My Photoblog at Aminus3 has also been a big factor in enabling me to keep improving as I find it really helpsCottam Power Station me to look objectively at my photos when I see them published online and also get the feedback of the many generous members of the photographic community who spend time there.

In less than a year you have changed your camera model; was this because you wanted to try a new model or because your knowledge had increased?
It was the advent of digital photography and the Internet that got me started in photography.

I bought my first digital camera, a compact Fuji F31, after seeing the photographs of Hong Kong-based photographer Hugo Poon on the Fujitalk forum at DPReview. I honestly couldn\'t believe that anybody could produce such beautiful images with such a cheap and tiny camera.

After about six months of posting my own photos with the Fuji to DPReview I was persuaded by some of the other members there to get a DSLR as they felt that a more flexible camera would better suit my style of photography. The Nikon D40 DSLR that I now have is again a very cheap camera in its class but it has allowed me to try true wide angle landscape photography which is something I\'ve grown to love.

The standard of my images has improved dramatically since getting the D40 mainly due to the increased freedom of expression that I feel it gives me and the opportunity to try different things such as long exposure photography which can be a frustrating experience with a compact camera.

In most of your photographs the sky has been captured beautifully, is that what interests you?
Marmalade SkiesThe natural landscape and the effect of man\'s influence on it are subjects that I love to explore with my camera. In that respect I\'m extremely lucky and privileged to be living in the north of England as it is a paradise for landscape photographers; particularly our extensive coastline with its constantly changing weather and light. The sky is a fascinating feature in the UK landscape as it so unpredictable. When the sky is changeable, as it usually is, I can take two photos of the same landscape only minutes apart and get two totally different images.

What is it that catches your eye when shooting?
The things that I truly love photographing are landscapes, towns and cities, and the architecture of individual buildings and other man-made structures that catch my eye.

Most of your photographs are black and white. Do you prefer black and white over colour photos?
I have very strong feelings about black and white versus colour in photography and started a thread on the subject over at DPReview a few months ago: Black & White v Colour

I believe that black and white can distil the essence of a good photo into its core values of composition, subject, tone, texture, shape and line etc. and I tend to only produce photos in colour if I feel that the colour is adding something fundamental to the quality of the overall image.

Here\'s an edited extract from what I said at the start of that discussion:
"Good composition and an interesting subject are the foundation stones of all good photos. Building on those basics we have issues such as quality of the light, texture, tone etc.Liverpool Cathedral

It is possible to easily control all these qualities in our choice of subject and in our decisions about when and how we take a photograph. Control of colour however is much harder and it can prove to be a major distraction to all those other qualities if we don\'t get it right.

Painters do not have the same problems with colour as photographers as they have complete freedom over their choice of colour combinations.

In painting, you will commonly find that artists either use colours that lie next to each other on the \'colour wheel\' to create a feeling of harmony or else they will go with colours that are opposite each other on the wheel for something bolder.....what you will see little of in art galleries are paintings with a scattering of different colours from the whole spectrum. Good art usually shows careful control over colour.

In photography, it is much harder to gain control over colour in the same way as a painter. For most photos that I see on the web there has been no attempt at all to control colour.

There are, however, some exceptions. The biggest one is the classic \'golden hour\' photo around dawn or dusk when colour is tinged by the yellows, oranges and reds of the rising and setting sun. It is this golden tint (and mellow light) which gives photos taken at this time their feeling of harmony.

If we are careful with our composition and consider colour as an integral part of the overall photo\'s balance then it is possible to Le Pont des Artsproduce absolutely stunning colour photos.

The reason however why black and white or mono-toned photos have stayed so popular is that, without the distraction of colour in a photo, it is possible to produce equally stunning photos that have the inherent harmony of greyscale and allow us to appreciate the core values of the image - composition, subject, tone and texture.

The other thing that I love about black and white is the opportunity it gives us for personal creative expression. Through the digital equivalent of traditional techniques such as dodging and burning, contrast control and tonal adjustment I find it is possible to express my feelings far more in black and white than with colour."

Do you plan to formally educate yourself in photography at a later stage?
I\'m smiling here :-)

I\'m forty-eight years old and have spent more time in formal education than I care to remember in order to qualify as an architect. Life is too short for me to worry now about a getting a formal photographic qualification.

I\'m simply enjoying my photography as a way of enhancing my life. I photograph the things that I most enjoy looking at and if I need to learn a new photographic technique then I look for information on the web or in books and simply apply what I\'ve learnt through practice and trial and error until I get something I\'m happy with.

I photograph for my own pleasure and self-fulfillment alone. That others have shown an interest in my photographs is very flattering and a real pleasure but not the central driving factor in my photography.

Have you held exhibitions of your work? If not do you plan to? Will it have a theme?
I participated in my first two community art exhibitions in my home town of Crosby near Liverpool last suWasdale Headmmer as part of the city\'s celebrations for its acclaimed year as "European Capital of Culture". The theme for one of the exhibitions was \'The Coast\' which happens to be a favourite subject for my photography.

In preparing for the exhibition I learnt a lot about the technical aspects of printing my 6mp D40 photos at large sizes up to 75cm x 50cm and also about presentation. The feedback that I got from visitors was really great so I was delighted to have participated.

What was your field of interest before you started photography? Do you still pursue your passion for it?
When I was fourteen I decided that I wanted to become an architect and I was lucky enough to have been able to qualify professionally after many years of formal study. As you can imagine, it is a very creative job and one which I love. For the last twenty-one years therefore I\'ve been working as an architect. The last ten years of those were at a company called NJSR Architects where I share ownership of the practice with my three business partners.

Photos by Ian Bramham | Fotosocial