Antony Spencer

From sleeping in his car to running workshops with Joe Cornish, this landscape pro has come up the hard way. He only started in 2006 too, as Geoff Harris discovers Landscape photography will always be a hugely popular genre, and while magazines like Digital Camera carry plenty of tips on the technicalities of scenic shooting, what skills do you need to prosper as a professional in 2012? Indeed, with the internet awash with free imagery, can you make a living at all? According to Antony Spencer, an award-winning landscape professional based in the west country of the UK, you can still thrive —but not without an almost priest-like level of commitment and sacrifice. not at all easy to make money, and you have to be hard working and extremely motivated at all times,”Antony explains from his studio in Dorset. normally doing something photography-related from seven in the morning until eight in the evening, and thatjust when Iat home.”Fortunately, for Antony, and most other successful landscape pros, itvery much a labour of love. in the lucky position where I can afford to bring up my young family by doing something that I love. Inot sure this would have been possible without a few big decisions going my way, but Icertainly not complaining.

Antony SpencerLATE STARTER

Despite winning the prestigious Landscape Photographer of the Year award back in 2010, Antony is relatively new to this type of photography. first digital SLR was a Canon EOS 5D, which I bought when my son was born in 2006 so I could get some decent family images. A few weeks later I came across some of the top landscape websites in Dorset, where I live, and was blown away. I instantly fell in love with their images and decided to embark on the long journey, which Istill on. Ialways been an outdoors person anyway.”Antony is entirely self taught —havenfelt the need to obtain any qualifications and donthink I ever will”—and very much learned landscape photography by being out in the field. Literally. was obsessed, spending every minute I could outdoors, learning to do things my way and learning from my mistakes. Of course there were plenty of those early on, and I have a handful of files I constantly look back on, wishing I had known what I was doing at the time.”The Landscape Photographer of the Year title changed Antonylife for the better. this big break, I was just about making enough money from photography to pay my fuel bill. I would sometimes leave my house at bedtime and drive through the night to travel up to Northumberland or somewhere, shoot a sunrise, grab a couple of hours sleep in the car and drive home again. It was the only way I could get to photograph locations further away from home. winning the competition, everything changed. Going back to work full-time wasnan option because there was just too much to be done, particularly when it came to processing my images to sell to stock libraries.” Antony is very much a believer in learning through trial and error, particularly at the beginning of onephotographic career. took a fair while before I was making half-decent images, and with new developments in all aspects of photography I donthink any of us will ever stop learning. Inot sure I have a style really, I just head off attempting to do my own thing as best as I can.” AVOIDING CLICHES Creating original images is also really important. the last few years Idesperately tried to create images that are different. Turning up to the big iconic locations to take pictures is all well and good, but if all you do is the same as the last dozen or more photographers before you, itimpossible to stand out. The location doesnneed to be epic, itunderstanding and using the conditions to your advantage that creates the best images —along with great composition, of course.”So how does Antony go about avoiding cliches in his landscape work? trying to create something new, which is very hard, but a challenge I love,”he says. easy to go out and photograph a scene as itbeen done a hundred times before —all you need is the right light and youaway. You see so many photographers making a living using these methods, and itpretty sad really. One successful unique image is better than any amount of replications.”


Antony is a big fan of fellow photographer Joe Cornish, and shares his belief that great landscape imagery is as much about emotional impact as technical prowess. , I think the emotional content of an image is more important than the image being technically perfect. While I do everything I can to achieve a technically sound image, ultimately itthe atmosphere and ’of the scene that holds the final image together. I certainly wouldndiscard an image because it has minor imperfections.” That said, Antony reckons he has accumulated relatively few real ’. five years I think Ionly made around 30 images that I know will stand the test of time —from my perspective anyway.” Antonyalso in demand as a teacher and workshop leader, and is currently a tutor for Light and Land, rubbing shoulders with Charlie Waite, his hero Joe Cornish and other big names. photographer will learn one way or another, but I believe that good technique and compositional approach can be taught. Improving technically is the easier aspect, but what good can come from technically perfect images if the subject matter and light doesnwork? about working on all aspects together. Teaching composition is challenging, but rewarding. I love watching photographers grow, and often just small things like simplifying composition will drastically change the results. Working in extreme conditions such as the Arctic is where having a tutor with knowledge of the subject matter, conditions and the landscape makes the biggest difference. Ita very unforgiving environment, and every opportunity has to be taken advantage of.”Antony had very limited experience with SLRs before he started using digital cameras in 2006, but has no regrets about missing out on their film predecessors. is a hassle when shooting digitally —you can experiment as much as you like and the instant results can teach so much. Having a histogram and the 100% zoom function makes life so simple. I did shoot film for about a year with a Fuji GX617 panoramic camera, but now find that itfar easier to stitch multiple images digitally.” Hecertainly not reliant on digital crutches to support his imagery though. do very little to my images with software, except for minor adjustments using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop. Ialways tried to achieve as much as possible in-camera, and not rely on processing to pull the image together. Anyway, itoften the most basic adjustments that make the biggest difference.” WORTH THE SACRIFICE Antonyfull of passion for landscape photography, and is very grateful to be able to make a decent living from it, but he doesnplay down how tough itbeen on family life. have three young kids, and at times I have pushed my wifepatience to the limit. Ibeen spending more and more time away taking pictures, and life has been difficult for her. Ialways had her full support though, and that has been crucial to my success. am so lucky at the moment. In a couple of months Iheading off to the Canadian Rockies before spending half the winter in Scandinavia chasing the Northern Lights. By spring next year the big tours begin —the Pacific Northwest and another storm-chasing trip will be the highlights, followed by two major Light and Land tours to Spitsbergen and the Colorado Rockies. Everything is so exciting right now... I have no regrets about going into landscape photography!”

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