JEREMY WALKER

landscape photographer

Many professionals will identify closely with Jeremy Walkertraining as a photographer: an art college graduate, he moved to London to work as an assistant, then ran a studio for five years before going freelance. But rather than establishing his own studio, Jeremy prefers the windswept locations of Iceland, the Scottish Highlands, Snowdonia and the Canadian Rockies...

Did you always want to be a photographer?

Yes, absolutely. I was really thick at school. Academically, I was hopeless at everything, and it wasnuntil I picked up a camera-a Yashica FX-3-that I found something I was interested in. I would talk photography all through maths class with another pupil who was keen, and he went on to become an editor of a photography magazine!

What were the key things you learnt during your four years as an assistant?

I assisted various photographers, but I hated London: so many people working crazy hours, so expensive, and I had hardly any money. But being an assistant was a great experience and I learnt a lot. You learn all about photography at college, but working as an assistant you learn how to deal with people, how to handle the clients, and how to behave professionally.

What made you decide to leave and become a full-time photographer?

I think you know when the time is right to leave, and at the time I thought I couldnlearn any more. So I left and joined Grosvenor, a commercial print, design and photography business in Northampton. It was a brilliant set-up. They did everything from photography to the design and printing. There were about 40 employees and I was the head of the photo side. We shot everything from Formula 1 engines to fashion and shoes, and bespoke brochures.

So why did you give up working in a successful commercial studio to become a freelance photographer?

My father thought I was mad to give it up!

I was five years at Grosvenor, and I was earning good money, had a house, car, holidays. It was a good job. But the clients were saying they kept coming to Grosvenor for my photography. They said whether I was here or elsewhere they would keep coming to me. So I thought, now was the time to set up on my own. And thatwhat I did. I had a list of 37 clients, approached ten, and within a month six gave me work. Also, I didnwant to get to age 65 or 70 and think back, if...?”

Panoramas have become your signature format. When did you first become interested in them?

I tend to see the world in a letter-box shape. Not long after arriving in London I saw one of the advertising photographers shoot in that format using a Fuji 6x17cm camera he had hired for the day. I really liked the results. Then, when I was in Northampton and didnhave any commissions, Igo and shoot landscape and stock images, often in panorama, for Tony Stone Images. Later, when I had earned enough while freelancing, I actually bought one. Ita brilliant camera.

What is it about the panorama that appeals so strongly to you?

I just love the shape of it. It suits the way I see the world. I dongo in for landscapes that are always shot with a wide-angle lens with a rock in the foreground. I see the landscape in layered sections with little or no foreground.

When did you first start shooting digital panoramas, and how has it changed the way you work?

March 2008 in Canada. I was using a Nikon D2x and travelling with a friend of mine. He showed me how to stitch images together in Photoshop and I gave it a try. We were on the Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefield in a howling gale.

I couldneven set up the tripod-it was just blowing over, so I wedged myself against a Jeep and took the pictures handheld, then stitched them together using Photomerge in Photoshop. It was a revelation to produce such a high-quality image from three horizontal frames.

I shoot three frames horizontal for most of my panoramas. Three frames horizontal is quicker than five frames vertical, and if the light changes rapidly, it can mean part of the landscape going into shadow that was well-lit the frame before.

Do you have a favourite image, or one that youproud to have taken because of the challenges it presented?

Yes. But sadly, it was not shot on a Nikon!

I used to shoot with a Hasselblad XPan alongside the D2x. It was 2006 in Greenland, above the Arctic Circle. I was there for three weeks, shooting icebergs in Disko Bay. I was with a party in a little fishing boat and we had left Ilulissat to visit a little Inuit village. The bay was frozen and the skipper rammed the ice as far as he could until the boat became stuck. He then put the ladder down over the edge and told us to walk the rest of the way across the ice to the village! Well, it had freshly snowed so you didnknow where the cracks in the ice were, and no-one wanted to be the first down the ladder. Eventually, we went out onto the ice and the sky was filled with this very heavy, low, thick cloud. I looked back to the boat and just for a moment the clouds parted, and there was this bright shaft of light. I took one frame with the XPan and then the light was gone. Because this was film I had no way of knowing if I had got the shot, so you can imagine the relief when I got back, processed the film and saw the result (opposite, bottom left).

Whatyour best shot taken on a Nikon?

My favourite on a Nikon was in October last year in north Wales. I was using a D3x and 70-200mm lens. Ita picture of a big storm, looking out to sea (above). We had a string of very stormy, rainy days, and in this shot I was in the rain, shooting these streaks of rain from the storm hitting the sea. It was not pleasant!

What s your island lens’, the one you could never do without?

It would be the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. I like the fact that Nikon has kept it to a sensible range because the quality at all focal lengths is stunning.

Whatin your kit bag on a typical day?

There will be a D3x and D700, 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm Nikon lenses, loads of Lee filters and a Gitzo tripod with an Area Swiss ball-and-socket head. That all weighs enough for me.

Whatthe most unusual thing that you pack in your camera bag?

A leather chamois and a bulldog clip to keep spray off the camera when Ishooting on the coast. I also use it to cover up the focus distance window on the 24-70mm lens because itthe source of a light leak. Ihappy for someone at Nikon to prove me wrong, but it doesnhappen when I cover it with the chamois. Apart from that, I always carry tablets of Imodium with me. Being on location with an upset stomach is not much fun!

Which Nikon cameras have you owned in the past, and which do you use now?

My first was a Nikon F2A at college. It was awesome and I regret selling it. After that I got an F4s, which was quite a jump. It was Nikonflagship, and had autofocus and built-in motordrive, which made life so much easier. With that camera and the SB24 flashgun and 35-70mm f/2.8 lens,

I thought I had everything I ever needed to shoot all my commercial work. I had an FM2 to run alongside it as my mechanical backup. The D2x was my first digital camera. With the switch to digital I actually toyed with the idea of changing from Nikon to Canon, but I stuck by Nikon because all the kit felt right. Even though the D2x wasnfull frame, the quality was still

landscape photographer

damned good. I absolutely loved it. I sold it for the full-frame D700, which I now use mostly as a backup to the D3x.

How many pictures do you take in a week?

Normally, I donhave a clue, but last week I was in the Yorkshire Dales for five days, so if I use that as an example I can tell you now that I shot 13.35Gb of images, comprising 279 RAW files.

What percentage of those shots do you think youdelete?

I reckon of those 279 frames I will end up with about 25 finished images. They wonall be panoramas either, and some of those will be dropped too. So, in this particular case, itless than 10% that will survive.

How important is it to stay on top of image workflow, and how do you do it?

Itvery important. I like to look at an image when I first download it, and then leave it for two or three days. Quite often I find that a picture doesnlook as good as I thought it was at the time, but when you come back to it, you see it with a fresh set of eyes, and you can see it properly for its merits. So, within a week I like to process the images and then get them out there earning money.

Could you shoot a wedding if you had to?

Last summer I shot three weddings for friends. Itone of the areas where money can still be made. I consider myself a photographer, not just a landscape photographer. I love portraiture and I believe I can turn myself to anything.

One woman saw my landscapes and asked me to shoot her wedding so that she is a part of the overall scene.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Up to the time I went freelance, my early inspiration came from the guys I was assisting: Jean-Paul Froget, Peter Lowry and Chris Overton. When I was doing a job I would often ask myself, would Jean-Paul do? How would he handle it?”Now, my inspiration is from looking around and looking at magazines, newspapers, and books. I love looking at other peoplework, and chatting to them, finding out where they have been and what theyup to.

How do you relax?

I just like pottering around in my garden, mowing the lawn. Ino gardener, but I like to sit out there and watch the wildlife. Whenever I go out, 99 per cent of the time I am looking for locations, so Itake a camera with me. When Iediting I like to listen to Test Match Special.

Whatthe worst thing about being a landscape photographer?

During the summer, it has to be the early morning starts. My alarm went off at 3am this morning! Once youon location itokay waiting for the sunrise because thatpart and parcel of it, but getting up so early I absolutely hate. Autumn and winter are my favourite times of year.

What type of assignment presents the biggest challenge?

One where the client wants the results

BUILDING THE BULLRING. BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND Flijffllm GX617, Fujinon 18mm f/5.6,1 sec, f/16, IS050 (Velvia)

the next day! So often they have had six months to think about it, but then want the picture tomorrow, straight after the shoot. As a landscape photographer, thatnot always possible, but so many clients just donunderstand why thatso.

Whatthe biggest change youseen in your profession?

When I was shooting film and got my pro kit together I thought, donneed any more.”Then digital came along! Okay, itsaved me a fortune in film and processing costs, but thatbeen offset by the cost of the cameras and having to upgrade every three to four years, or less.

What has been your greatest moment as a photographer?

Apart from seeing three American girls strip off in front of me at Mt Cook?

Er, really? Tell me more...

Well, I was in New Zealand, travelling around the South Island, and I was near

Mt Cook (New Zealandhighest mountain). It had been raining for six days solid and this was the first clear day, so Isetting up the camera on this jetty with Mt Cook in the distance and these three girls appeared. They walked onto the jetty, started taking everything off and dived into the water! When they got out they said they were stripping off at all the tourist spots, and their next stop would be Milford Sound. I jokingly said, see you in Milford Sound then.”

And did you?

Yes! Six days later. I was there with my camera and bumped into them again. They were fit-looking girls and I asked if they were going to take their clothes off again, but they said theyalready done it.

What s been your worst or most embarrassing moment?

I have shot a group of 120 people and had no film in the camera. I have also shot a group of one hundred plus at entirely the wrong ISO and underexposed the film by three stops. Perhaps I shouldnshoot groups! More recently I shot a superb sunrise on the Isle of Skye: snow, golden light and a two-hour hike up a mountain, only to shoot everything at IS01600-it never occurred to me why I had fast shutter speeds and small apertures. I have also been out with no tripod, believing it to be in the boot of the car.

If the young Jeremy Walker was starting out today, would there be anything he would do differently?

If I could start again when I started, I would just shoot stock images. I would not have bothered assisting. I caught the tail end of the stock boom, so I wish I had shot more. However, if I was starting out today, go to college first, then work as an assistant because you pick up so much about people, how to speak to them properly, and treat them with finesse. It opens your eyes to the world and helps you build up contacts, which is very important. ?

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