‘Using Adobe Photoshop’ Workshop at Westmorland Hotel Tebay, Friday 10th October 10 am to 1 pm

Sunbiggin Tarn

This time Focus on the photographer is about an opportunity to improve your photo editing skills!

Due to four unavoidable cancellations there are 4 places available for this Friday morning’s Photoshop workshop at Westmorland – please let Catherynn Dunstan know if you would like a place asap.


‘Using Adobe Photoshop’ Workshop

Westmorland Hotel Tebay – 10am to 1pm  Friday 10th October

The workshop is aimed at a beginners level.

Cameras don’t ‘see’ how we see so sometimes, looking at our images after, they don’t look how we remembered. We can use PhotoShop to compensate for the cameras limitations and adjust the image accordingly.

  • The difference between RAW and jpgs
  • RAW image proccessing
  • Basic editing techniques using Levels, Curves, Hue and Saturation, Colour Balance, Shadows and Highlights
  • Cloning and Healing,
  • Basic use of Layers
  • Cropping and Resizing
  • Sharpening for web and for print
  • Saving for web and for print

To book your place/s on this free workshop please email catherynn@cumbriachamber.co.uk  call 0845 226 0040.

Cumbria Rural Women’s Growth Network is part of the Cumbria Business Growth Hub aiming to help businesses in Cumbria unleash their potential. It is an exciting community for professional women based in Rural Cumbria to connect, contribute and grow. Whether employed or a business owner, being a part of the Rural Women’s Enterprise is where you want to be. To find out how you can be involved and start benefitting, have a look online at www.cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk or join us on LinkedIn Cumbria Rural Women’s’ Growth Network or on Twitter @CumbriaWomenHub


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Cumbria Business Growth Hub
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Brougham Hall – treasures and treats for visitors to Cumbria

The Tudor Hall and main gate at historic Brougham Hall

The Tudor Hall and main gate at historic Brougham Hall

“Andy Luck and I looked into historic Brougham Hall last weekend. Andy was testing some rather fine digital cameras for technical review articles in Cumbria for Outdoor Photography and Black and White Photographer magazines.  You’ll have to read the magazines for his reviews and technical insights, but can view some of his images on wildopeneye blog.  From photographing wild flower meadows and dry stone walls in the Westmorland Fells and a sweeping vista of cotton grass framed by Scots pines at Cliburn Moss we had a big appetite for the tasty smoked chicken and mayo baguettes and elderflower cordial at Brougham Hall’s Fusion Cafe.

Delicious smoked Chicken baguette from fusion cafe at Brougham Hall

Delicious smoked Chicken baguette from Fusion Cafe at Brougham Hall

I’d been a few times before, on one occasion to see a fine performance of Romeo & Juliet here, it’s an excellent theatrical venue and the nicely mixed G&Ts added to the enjoyment!
Brougham Hall is open to the public while being lovingly restored and is host to an artisan community of potters, photographers and a jewellery designer. It is also home to House Martins Delichon urbicum. There’s a very pleasant atmosphere and lots of nice photographic subjects.


It was a great lunch. Elderflower cordial is, to my mind, the quintessential taste of English Summer and the tender, juicy smoked breast of chicken in freshly made crusty granary baguette went down very well indeed, they are a nice combination of flavours. Helpful, friendly staff too. Thumbs up for the Fusion Cafe!
Andy Luck of Wildopeneye photographing Martins at Brougham Hall

Andy Luck of Wildopeneye photographing Martins at Brougham Hall

One Martin coming, one going, both carrying construction mud. Odd!

One Martin coming, one going, both carrying construction mud. Odd!

House Martins collecting mud

House Martins collecting mud

It was lunch with a show, thanks to the Hirundines. If our lunch was interrupted a bit, by the bird life, Andy and I certainly weren’t complaining, and we didn’t suffer hiccups despite our repeated attempts to capture images of the graceful Martins, swooping in flight over our heads between bites and swigs. They were impossible to resist.

Andy was using an enormous Nikon with a lens like a bazooka. The sight seemed very apt to me, considering that Brougham Hall had been a secret base, developing specialist tanks with giant search lights in weapons testing that took place here during the Second World War. I wonder what Mr. Churchill would have made of Andy tracking the birds with his giant telephoto zoom?

Andy Luck and Nikon with enormous telephoto zoom lens

Andy Luck and Nikon with enormous telephoto zoom lens

Punctuating our meal with attempts to photograph these charming and very agile aerodynamics was rather fun. The Martins and some swifts were busy in the process of nest building, at the same time a young restoration builder was at work mixing cement, these birds were landing just in front of us and picking up mud in their bills to apply to the stone walls in a constant relay.
The industrious avian efforts delightfully coincide with Brougham Hall’s human restoration project. In tandem, the respective structures are being rebuilt. The people have achieved a lot since my last visit. Cobbles have been revealed in the courtyard and the Chancellor’s office is much further restored.
Brougham Hall’s high castle walls rise sheer above a great brazen beast mask door knocker (a replica of Durham Cathedral’s famous sanctuary knocker). The Hall began life as a medieval fortified manor and was updated over the ensuing centuries, witnessing the bloody civil war battle of Clifton Moor below its ramparts.


Ramparts reputedly haunted, I should add. Like every good castle, Brougham Hall has its ghost stories and its treasures.
Unlike other good castles, Brougham Hall has treasures that you can take away with you. Treasures from the artisan community that works within the castellated walls.
There’s silver and golden jewellery here, created by contemporary designer and maker Susan Clough. She and Professional Photographer and writer Simon Whalley were enjoying a coffee on a bench outside her studio cum shop Silver Susan. We struck up conversation, initially about the Martins.
She noted that the birds had been busy for a while on their nests but had little to show for it. The photo above may explain why progress wasn’t as advanced as she expected, as one bird goes in with a beakful of mud, another can be seen emerging with a beakful, presumably carrying it off to build a nest elsewhere!
Silver Susan flanked by Chimaera  in her studio at Brougham Hall

Silver Susan flanked by Chimaera in her studio at Brougham Hall

Talk then turned to the distinctive spiral pendant around her neck, one of her creations. Susan explained the appeal of crafting jewellery “I find working with metal very satisfying,” she says “I love the quality of the metal. Silver, gold, even brass. In my designs, I try to bring out the essential character of each metal ” It’s a love that shines through in the fluid designs, we discovered, as we looked in on her studio shop and admired her craft work.
Silver Susan at work in her studio.

Silver Susan at work in her studio.

The striking silver necklace of rings pictured here is an exemplar of the collection. In keeping with the quirky surprises that Brougham Hall offers the visitor (the ice house, knocker, the chapel accessed by bridge and a sculpture of Christ in crucifixion) the doorway to her craft work shop is flanked by an extraordinarily buxom pair of  stone Chimaera excavated from the woods nearby. The craft community also assist in the reconstruction. Susan has helped excavate the cobbled courtyard.
Silver treasure at Brougham Hall,by Silver Susan

Silver treasure at Brougham Hall,by Silver Susan

Before departing to the Lakeland Fells for our own photography, we looked in on Simon Whalley’s photographic gallery.
Simon Whalley, Writer and Photographer at ease in his lovely studio at Brougham Hall.

Simon Whalley, Writer and Photographer at ease in his lovely studio at Brougham Hall.

Simon Whalley is a photographer and writer. In his gallery, Simon’s explorations into Man’s connection with nature and harmony are displayed in lovely surroundings. Simon’s writing and photographic work focuses on the relationships between landscape and human interactions.  We saw an exhibition there featuring his Spirit of Hartside project, the resulting book Spirit of Hartside captures exactly that. If you are familiar with Hartside you will very likely enjoy it, and for those new to the famous viewpoint, it makes a good introduction. It is available from his shop and can also be ordered from his website http://simonwhalley.org, which you might also find is worth an exploratory visit.
 Simon is currently working on a book about the Settle Carlisle Railway that promises similarly to capture the spirit of the line and how it connects with the landscape.
His gallery is open from 11 am to 5 pm.
We moved on from Brougham Hall, refreshed, inspired and fond of the place and the people there.
Watch out for images of Brougham Hall from Andy Luck’s visit in Outdoor Photography magazine

Focus On The Photographer: Andy Luck – The Man With The Wild Open Eye


Andy Luck's Derwentwater

Andy Luck's Study of Derwentwater

Andy Luck’s art celebrates the wildlife that he loves. I haven’t placed many images in this article, as it is far better to view them full screen  here

Andy Luck, short film producer and travel and wildlife photographer loves visiting Cumbria. Here seen above Sunbiggin Tarn putting a Pentax 645D to the test for a technical review article in Outdoor Photography Magazine.

Andy Luck is an award winning film-maker, he produces short films for the BBC. He’s an insightful photographer and writer, specialising in nature, environment and travel.  “Passionate and committed to the natural world, it’s beauty and how to preserve it”, he is also an environmental photojournalist regularly contributing to leading wildlife and photography magazines in the UK and environmental organizations around the world.  He has a wealth of technical expertise and experience at his command and he shares the knowledge that he’s mastered along with images of such outstanding quality that some could rank as World Heritage in my opinion. He’s modest enough to talk about excellent equipment and luck playing a part, but to catch a wild Sparrowhawk, Osprey or Chameleon in mid-kill you need more than good luck on your side, you need Andy Luck!” Not surprisingly for a Nature photographer, he enjoys visits to Cumbria. He’s been kind enough to share some insights into his photography and some useful tips with us today for our own photographic excursions in Cumbria!

My first thoughts when I saw some of his images were, thank God, he’s on the side of biodiversity conservation. Andy Luck is the sort of man who would be an absolute terror if he were hunting his wildlife through the sights of a gun rather than through a viewfinder behind a high powered telephoto lens. Thankfully though, Andy’s trophy shots are the kind that you see in prestigious wildlife, photographic and in-flight magazines – and not the sort that diminishes the ecology, or that require any taxidermy. Andy’s work celebrates the wildlife that he loves through the media that he loves.

Describing himself as “passionate about imaging” Andy’s love has blossomed over the course of almost twenty years of work with the BBC making short films. Wildlife great and small is conveyed in each frame to full glorious advantage whatever size it may itself be. There’s as much passionate care given to detail in his portrait of a humble mouse or garden bird as there is in his treatment of African elephants and birds of prey  – from micro and macro to wide angle and telephoto – he captures the majesty and grandeur of wild places  and wildlife relative to their own scale. That’s talent. A tiny ladybird running amok amongst aphids would bring joy to every gardener – but he shared with us the aphids’ eye view, it looms over them as a great, bright, armoured angel of death.  I never thought I’d empathise with a herd of peacefully grazing greenfly! You may too, when you see them pin-sharp and glowing with colour at full screen size! Andy Luck’s Wild Open Eye galleries have certainly opened my eyes – wide. If there’s a wild gleam in them too, it’s probably due to recent exposure to his fantastic images of the natural world. Shot after shot shows Luck’s genius talent and devotion to capturing the nature of Nature, – you’ll probably join me in wondering “How on earth did he get that shot?”and “How does mortal man get that close to such a creature?” and “Where the heck was he standing when he took that one?” and in making exclamations like “Mastery of optimising depth of field!” and “talk about capturing the climactic moment!”and simply “Phwoar!”

Andy Luck Kite

Fast Wings Over Woolly Backs! Andy Loves Photographing Raptors.

His images speak volumes. There’s an exemplary study in vulnerability – dusty and naked, a human foot planted inches away from a sandy brown viper that’s perfectly blending in with the sand of their shared habitat. Each could kill the other, but both would be the losers. One of my favourites is part of his Autumn gallery – it depicts a snail negotiating the saw-toothed rim of a ruby-veined leaf. He says “I’m passionate about imaging”. It really shows, time and time again. No creature’s commonplace when viewed through the WildOpenEye!

Andy' Luck's Study of a snail in Autumn

Study of a Snail in Autumn

His is an art where patience, determination and consummate skill with good equipment pay off. Skillful and dedicated, you can count upon Andy to get his beautiful representative shot, whether he’s freezing his shutter finger off in a camouflaged hide in the Scottish Highlands in pursuit of the ultimate Osprey on Salmon kill, or whether he’s been roasting for hours in the Namibian wilderness to show the world a privileged view of the rhythmical folds in the great red dunes there, or of a Himba girl, noble, beautiful and complete.

Andy is a photographic phenomenon. Enough of my prattle, let’s hear what he has to say!

I asked him how he first became interested in photography. “I spent much of my early life abroad and my parents noticing I was fascinated by the world around me bought me a little toy camera when I was about seven, I think they thought it might stop me asking questions the whole time! The camera was Japanese I think, it was entirely plastic, the body, lens, viewfinder, strap, everything! You wound the film on with a little ratcheted wheel on top while you viewed the numbers on the film inside line up through a little, round, red window that I suppose was designed not to fog the film. The prints were not much bigger than postage stamps, but it was a way I could share what I was seeing in a fascinating and extraordinarily beautiful world and I loved it!”
“Once when I was under a lot of stress with my finals at university, I took off one day with my camera, an old OM2, to photograph some woodland scenes around the campus.  The peace of the natural setting helped me to switch off completely as I became absorbed in the photography. It was quite a revelatory moment really, I felt for once totally whole and connected. I wondered why I had forgotten this link with nature that was naturally there as a child.  I was amazed by how if I was still and calm, wildlife would carry on around me and animals would even come to me. I realised from that moment on that there is a restorative magic in natural, wild settings that we humans need and can benefit hugely from. I knew then that this was to be a major theme in my life although at that stage I wasn’t quite sure how it would manifest itself long term”.

Windermere from Kirkstone Pass Copyright Andy Luck 2010

Windermere from Kirkstone Pass Copyright Andy Luck 2010

He would have been thrilled as an undergrad to see himself now! How does he see himself as a photographer now, I wondered?

“Currently most of my work is, I suppose, photojournalism.  I am always thinking how the viewer will make a connection with my subject. I try very hard to make some space for the viewer in my photographs while I attempt to capture some essence of the beauty and mystery, particularly of wildlife and environmental scenes that I am seeing. I hope it will open eyes to the importance and value of the wild to all our lives.”

Andy wants to continue and develop this mission further, he goes on to say “I very much want to develop my photography further and use it to raise awareness about the wild and the importance, duty really, of protecting it for future generations.”

This is precisely what he’s good at – he’s an award-winning short film producer for the BBC. His film Changing World- Life (BBC Worldwide 2007) is beautiful, poignant and very pertinent to our time, it concisely examines the global environmental changes that we are experiencing today, realistically and redemptively balancing the threats with the opportunities, persuasively questioning the necessity of our human activity systems’ destructive impacts in the broader context of biodiversity. It’s impressive to see someone who’s talents and ambitions are so closely aligned,  finely tuned and well directed.

“It hasn’t all been plain sailing,” Andy explains with a modest laugh, “there is a lot of technique to master and it can be an expensive occupation, sometimes with little reward. Nature can also bite back sometimes and its not just wild animals you need to be aware of. Once in Scotland I slipped off a rock while trying to get to a waterfall I wanted to photograph and landed up a bit closer to the scene than intended! I found myself, camera and all in the freezing cataract with two broken vertebrae in my back.  It taught me that you need to be aware and prepared when in the wild, stay in touch with your surroundings and prevailing conditions and not be so absorbed in the photography that you don’t take proper care where you step. It’s a lesson learned, but I pass it on as a cautionary tale for other photographers!”

Evening Falls near Grassmere Copyright Andy Luck 2010

Evening Falls near Grassmere by Andy Luck

That’s an important lesson to heed. What does Andy enjoy most about photography in general? “I am constantly amazed and delighted how scenes I have pre-visualised can come about. Nature somehow provides.  True, it is usually after a lot of research and interminable waiting, but the wild usually comes up trumps.  It always favours the prepared photographer though.  This is part of the pleasure of the pursuit, knowing where things are likely to happen, having the appropriate equipment ready, in working order and knowing how to use it. Finally, having the instinct, competence and right intention to react when the decisive moment arrives. This is the essence of the still photograph, it is the embodiment of a special instant in time that the photographer has chosen to share. A photograph is unique.  It can contain so much information, so much emotion in one frame. It is still a very powerful medium, despite all the advances in other media like film and television.  The intention behind that still image sets it apart from say, a still grab from some video footage for example. I know I have a long way to go as a photographer and could hang a gallery with the ones I’ve missed, but something keeps me trying to capture some of that magic that’s out there for all of us.”

Loving every minute in the field

Very true, there’s important wisdom in that. I turned the topic towards things technical. Andy Luck writes technical review articles on equipment that is fresh out and/or ‘state of the art’ and photographic techniques (check out his site’s Archive page and Articles page, his article on Colour infra-red photography is fascinating). Could he tell us a little about the equipment and film stock that he likes to use or the digital kit when he uses that?

“I used film, usually fine-grained transparency stock, all the time until about 5 years ago, when I started to shoot digital as well. I still love the look of film, and shoot colour and black and white whenever I can, even if it is more complex and expensive than digital capture. Digital has seen a step change in photography, it is much easier and more inclusive resulting in a huge increase in the number of people taking photographs. It is liberating to be able to instantly see what you have produced and being able to make corrections on the fly.  I have learned a lot from digital and if anything, it has made it even more of a pleasure to load a roll of film into my old, fully mechanical Olympus OM3 when I feel like getting back to basics.”


Another lovely view of Derwentwater

Does he have a wish list in regard to expanding or exchanging his equipment? “One of the downsides of digital is how quickly equipment becomes obsolescent or is superseded.  This can make it very expensive for the pro’ or serious enthusiast to keep up. I test and review a lot of modern equipment and despite the ever increasing bells and whistles, I am still surprised by how much bigger digital SLR cameras are than their old film counterparts. The high quality 35mm compact cameras of yesteryear from the likes of Olympus, Rollei, Contax, Ricoh and others, were also a lot smaller and more portable than modern micro-four-thirds and APSC hybrid cameras, even though these modern, ‘small’ cameras have sensor areas around half that of 35mm film.  When someone can make a high quality digital camera with a proper, built- in, optical viewfinder, a high quality, fast aperture lens and a full-frame, (35mm film equivalent) sensor that will genuinely slip into a trouser pocket, (like the legendary Ricoh GR film compact), then I will be first in the queue!”

There’s the challenge for all camera manufacturers out there! We know you can do it! Think what Andy could achieve with such an instrument. Please bring it on!

Is there a particular image that Andy’s especially thrilled to have captured? Yes. “I was delighted to finally get a shot of an Osprey catching a Salmon in the Cairngorms for a Raptor article I was writing, after 5 days at dawn and dusk in hides, in mostly appalling weather and with hardly any useable light. It wasn’t the best shot and because it was distant, needed some cropping, but proved that persistence pays off and I have learnt a lot about Osprey’s habits. Who knows, maybe the weather might be better next time I am back in Scotland to see these magnificent birds! ”

Andy Luck's Osprey taking a salmon

Andy Luck's Osprey taking a salmon

How about the one that got away?  “Once I made a fascinating trip to a tiny island off the Mexican coast to photograph great white sharks underwater. On returning to the UK, I immediately took my underwater films in to process and returned to the lab a couple of hours later, jet lagged, but happy and expectant. The lab technician was ashen faced – a cog had broken in the processing machinery and someone had tried to open the machine to see what was wrong, without ensuring the surroundings were light-safe. All the films that had bunched up pre-developer like mine were ruined!  I’ll probably never quite get over losing those underwater films, but such was the power of the experience that I have thousands more shots imprinted directly on my brain and those will always be with me!”

That must have been a heartbreak, as they would have been cracking shots. One day, I’m sure, Andy will find himself in a shark cage again and next time, what would he do differently? Check out his article on the subject to see how he’ll avoid a similar developing room catastrophe.

So how does Cumbria fit in with his photography? “Cumbria is my natural stop off point on my way up to Scotland where I often go to visit family and it’s the first place where I feel I am back in the wild again.  As soon as I see those magnificent lakes and fells, it feels like I’m home from home again, somewhere to relax, breathe and just be!”

Cumbria's Drystone walls are very distinctive

Drystone wall near Castlerigg, by Andy Luck. Cumbria's Drystone walls are very distinctive

Cumbria offers specific opportunities and peculiar challenges, as Andy explained next, “I often head straight to Borrowdale first. With Keswick, that great rambler’s town not far away and Buttermere just around the corner, I find this one of my favourite spots for moving easily on foot from one photo location to another.  It always seems to rain while I am there! This is not a problem in itself as bland blue skies are not really what Cumbria is about in my opinion, but it does pay to be properly equipped with waterproof gear and decent boots that don’t leak.  I often take a small folding brolly too to protect the camera gear when it is on a tripod.”

Yes! All good points. He continues “There is still so much to explore and so many places I have yet to experience in Cumbria and I haven’t really even scratched the surface yet, but particular memories are the reflections in Derwent Water, those gorgeous rolling hills often lit by beams of light. Also near by I can wander over to the landing stage to see the geese amongst the boats, or amble through the woods to the Lodore falls which can be pretty spectacular when water cascades down from Watendlath Tarn after heavy rain.”

View from Kirkstone Pass Andy Luck 2010

View from Kirkstone Pass by Andy Luck

He remembers once ” standing in a deserted Castlerigg stone circle in the gathering dusk, just hearing the sheep munching in the field beside and the occasional rook heading to roost, nothing else, just me, the mysterious stones and a gentle pattering of drizzle on my hood. I remember trying to imagine how the surrounding scene would have been to the megalithic builders and decided it was probably just as beautiful as this, a testament to the enduring power of nature!”

Cumbrian Fells by Andy Luck

Cumbrian Fells and Fell Sheep by Andy Luck

How does he prepare himself for, and sustain himself when in the field?

“I couldn’t visit Cumbria without picking up some Kendle mint cake now could I!
I usually make sure there’s some room in my pack for a flask of hot, sweet tea, it is amazing how restorative a swig can be after a brisk hike.  All the camera gear is well protected and I won’t venture out without a proper weather resistant camera rucksack. The one I currently use has a pull out foul weather cover that has so far survived the worst the Cumbrian weather can hurl at it!  As I am often out alone at dawn or dusk, when not many people are around, the other thing I won’t go out without, is an Ordinance Survey map and a compass for navigation.  I don’t want to be wasting the hard pressed resources of mountain rescue because I couldn’t be bothered to keep a track of where I am!  I often carry a whistle and a torch too, in case of accidents.”

” Mobile phone coverage can be patchy in parts of Cumbria”, he advises,  “so you need to check your coverage rather than rely totally on the mobile being the life line if you get into trouble.  It is therefore a good idea to make a practice of telling someone at the guest house, hostel or wherever you are staying, where you are going and roughly what time you expect to be back. Other essentials I believe in are decent supportive boots; trainers or light foot-ware are a complete waste of time and may even be a liability when out walking the fells. Layered clothing, is also de rigeur, there is no point in being too hot or too cold when out in the wilds and at least with layers, you can peel off or add as necessary.”

Very good advice, all this, and he offers us some more, “As has been said, there is no such thing as bad weather, only different types of weather!
If it looks cloudy, don’t despair, instead try to think of ways weather features can be added elements in your composition.  Look out for those magic ‘fingers from heaven’, the searchlight-like beams that can break through the clouds to transform sections of the fell into almost fluorescent life!”

“Many digital cameras tend to burn out the highlights when metering for the large areas of sky you are likely to encounter in Cumbria.  For this reason I tend to shoot RAW files rather than Jpeg, as there is more latitude in post to deal with problems at either end of the dynamic range. I also tend to underexpose by one to two thirds of a stop as a matter of course with almost all digital cameras to help prevent blown highlights.”


Exquisite View of Rydal Water Copyright Andy Luck 2010

Swan Lake - exquisite View of Rydal Water by Andy Luck

“Graduated filters can be useful to control wide variations in exposure between sky and foreground, though these days many people are bracketing exposures instead and combining later in software as a way of extending the dynamic range of the camera. In colder weather, watch out for apparently fresh batteries suddenly failing, so carry spares close to your body where the heat will keep the current high when it comes time to replace the one in the camera.”

“For landscape, I would always advise taking photographs from different positions rather than just the first one that occurs when you arrive.  Walk around a bit, look for different aspects and if your lens isn’t wide enough, step back a bit for some natural, free wide-angle coverage!”

“For Wildlife, you don’t need to go the full camo route, neutral colours are fine, plus perhaps some way of breaking up the outline of the human face, such as a scrim scarf which can be draped over the head when necessary. Birds of prey will also notice pale white hands waving around, even through the slit of a hide, so it is worth wearing gloves.”

"Enjoy the surroundings," Andy Luck's Pier on Derwentwater

“Above all, I’d say enjoy the surroundings, it’s part of the ‘therapy’ that photography is to me.  I’m still shocked by how many photographers seem to feel they are in a race to ‘hoover’ up as much as they can using the camera like a digital vacuum cleaner! It’s one of worst habits brought about by digital capture, spraying the camera around in the hope that by the law of averages, something will turn out ok later on the computer. Unless the light is changing rapidly, what’s the hurry?  Maybe better to try to get a feel of the place and consider what it is you want to convey that Google Earth can’t or that Tom Nikon, Dick Canon or Harry Pentax haven’t already submitted to all the usual picture libraries! Sadly, in the digital era, yes it has all mostly been done before, so all the more reason to relax and do your own thing, give it your own personal take. So I prefer to take a bit of time to absorb the scene for a while, breathe it in, try to be at one with it, before even setting up the camera.  What’s my relationship to this place, what does it mean to me, how does it affect my mood, what do I want to draw attention to and why? Take time and perhaps shoot less pictures but take each with a little more love and affection!”


Kirkstone Pass - Sunset Over The Struggle Copyright Andy Luck 2010

Kirkstone Pass - Sunset Over The Struggle Copyright Andy Luck 2010


For more on Andy Luck and his incredible images of the wild please see WildOpenEye.com, a showcase for a selection of his stunning photography and writing and a pleasant gateway between the photojournalist and the world of professional publishing and photographic enthusiasts. You might also be interested in reading his articles in Outdoor Photography Magazine and Black and White Photography Magazine by clicking here.

As you can imagine, Andy is often busy in the field and making films for the BBC, but he can keep in touch via his WildOpenEye weblog

For further information, prints or commercial inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact Andy through his website and its related blog .

Focus On The Photographer: Steve Hollier

Steve Hollier Travel Photojournalist

"the most enjoyable thing about photography is being able to speak through pictures" Steve Hollier Travel Photojournalist

Welcome to Focus On The Photographer, the first in our series of interviews with notable photographers with diverse interests and lifestyles who share a common love of photography and Cumbria. Photos by Steve Hollier, text and interview by Charles Paxton.

The series kicks off with an interesting insight into the photographic work of Steve Hollier, the international travel photojournalist. Steve’s very extensive travels range from Southern Africa, through Europe and the Middle east and he currently resides in Baku, Azerbaijan where he’s writing for a journal and an excellent blog entitled Steve Hollier’s Blog – Slowly Around The World.  I have greatly enjoyed his writing and would like to direct you to two of his articles that I particularly enjoyed Lahij village of coppersmiths and Time travel does exist.

There’s a refined selection of his images to view on Flickr. Perusal of his Picasa Web albums, will take your breath away too, and because there are fifty-one up-loaded so far, and because anoxia is bad for the brain – it’s best to take them in stages. His shots are pin sharp and picture postcard perfect and taken from perspectives that testify to his powerfully cultured intelligence.

Steve says “When you look at a photograph, it tells you more about the photographer than the subject. That means that when people look at your images, it is a way of communicating something about yourself and your world view. All art is a means of communication and for me, the most enjoyable thing about photography is being able to speak through pictures.”

 Steve has captured the hardy Black Face Fell sheep

Steve has captured the hardy Black Face Fell sheep

When asked how he first became interested in Photography he explained, “My first camera was my Father’s 1927 Pocket Kodak camera that had been a gift to him from his brother. It had been hanging, disused and unloved on a hook in a cupboard at home so one day in 1970, I just picked it up, bought a film and started snapping away. I wanted to make images of the world around me, especially those things that seemed to be fading away like local shops, the countryside around my part of West London, old people and the like.”

How does he see himself as a photographer? “I love to travel, so travel photographer seems to fit the bill these days. I write for a lifestyle magazine in Baku, Azerbaijan and illustrate my pieces with my own images.”
The big breakthrough in his development as photographer  “was the advent of digital photography. Once I bought my first digital [a 4 mega pixel Fujifilm s5500], I started using it to aid my work as a garden designer in the UK, documenting environments. That got me hooked. I took it to Jordan, Ghana and Cyprus before upgrading, then regretted that I didn’t do it early enough. ”

There’s a sentiment that many of us would share, I’m sure!
“Over the past few years, I have been travelling and working out of the UK and this has caused me to broaden my range. I’ve photographed deserts and swamps, cites and townships, exotic animals and family friends! Next month I have a travel piece coming out, illustrated with photographs of the Caucasian mountains, village life and a portrait of a blind harness maker [taken with his permission, of course].

These days he’s moved over to Nikon, but still uses an old D40x camera with a 55-200 mm zoom and another general purpose lens. “I think I have everything I need, with the possible exception of a good portrait lens. Once you start buying cameras, there is no end to the upgrading process. I will certainly upgrade my camera body in the next year or so and get something like Nikon D90 but at the end of the day, once you have committed to a particular platform, the rest is down to the person behind the lens rather than the latest gadget.”

Hollier then identifies his influences and motivating factors in his development as a photographer. He trained as a potter originally and has always had an eye for design. “I think that this formal training has stayed with me as a photographer, as I always try to “edit in the can” as far as possible. I tend to compose my shots in the field rather than sitting in front of a computer screen with photoshop open in front of me. Not to say it isn’t a useful tool!”

There are plenty of photographers that he admires from Mann Ray to Tony Figuera and Olwyn Evans but, he explains “eventually, you have to find your own way and develop your own style.”

Every photographer enjoys moments of triumph and Steve was kind enough to share one of his. “Animals are always a challenge. You don’t know from one moment to the next what to expect. I was fortunate enough to visit Amani Lodge just outside Windhoek in Namibia where a family of orphaned cheetahs was being raised, before release into the wild.  They were very lively while they were being fed. They kept grabbing pieces of meat then running off before I could take a shot. I was desperate to get one good shot of a brother making a warning cry to fend off his siblings. I was shooting and shooting and kept missing the exact moment. I was about to leave when he did what I hoped. He stood his ground and rumbled. I had him in focus, my finger was on the trigger and I finally got the image I craved.”

The Cheetah stood his ground and rumbled by Steve Hollier

"He stood his ground and rumbled" by Steve Hollier

“I think a lot of photography is like that. You need patience and you need to keep trying. Don’t be satisfied with five shots when you really need fifty to find one really good one.” That ties in with my experience that it’s so often that last, extra 10% of effort that yields the best results.

Is there a particular image that Steve is especially thrilled to have captured? “Yes. I was particularly excited to have captured an image of a priest at Lalibela in Northern Ethiopia, holding the ancient cross of this monolithic church beside him.”

Powerful portrait of a priest at Lalibela in Northern Ethiopia, holding the ancient cross of this monolithic church beside him, by Steve Hollier

Powerful portrait of a priest at Lalibela in Northern Ethiopia, holding the ancient cross of this monolithic church beside him, by Steve Hollier

How about the one that got away?
“My partner Sandra and I lived in Namibia for two years but never got to the northern part of the Skeleton Coast to photograph some of the five-hundred or so wrecks that lie there. ”

The interview then went on to discuss his plans for exciting projects. “I was fortunate to visit Ethiopia in 2008-9 and shot many stunning images of that beautiful and mysterious country. I plan to turn the best of them into an exhibition. Other than that, on my doorstep are the Caucasian mountains which are just as unknown as Ethiopia to most of us in  Europe. I look forward to getting to know them and their people properly over the next couple of years.”

Wind ruffled water

Wind ruffled water of Windermere by Steve Hollier

So what is it about Cumbria that appeals to the photographer? “Apart from the combination of rugged green mountains and broad stretches of wind-ruffled water, it’s got to be the light.” Any  places or themes that have featured in his Cumbrian photography? “The light, always the light. Clouds over Buttermere, sunrise over Kendal.” The principal challenge has been “Taking photographs in the rain!”

Superb play of colour in rock and water by Steve Hollier

Superb play of colour in rock and water at flooded quarry near Ambleside by Steve Hollier

He fondly reminisces about ” a breakfast of wild mushrooms taken with my Cumbrian friend Derwent Dawes [yes, his real name!] outside the art gallery in the woods at Ambleside, followed by a good long walk with views down on Windermere.

Skillet of wild mushrooms

Breakfast, gathered by Derwent. A skillet of wild mushrooms by Steve Hollier

So how does Steve prepare himself and sustain himself in the field? “It sounds trite but I always make sure I’ve got decent boots on and have a slab of Kendal Mint Cake in my pocket!” That’s sound advice and here’s some more for all those of us who plan to head out into the Cumbrian Fells:

“Bring a spare battery and a memory card when you are on a shoot, slip a compact camera into your pocket when you’re not.
You can get some great effects shooting toward the sun but never look through the view finder to do so, always use the view screen!”
Also “If you get the chance, have a pint of Jennings at The Kings Arms, Hawkshead.”
Last but not least, “When photographing cows close up in Cumbria don’t forget to wear wellingtons! You won’t be looking at your feet…”

I understand that Steve Hollier’s images are available for licensed commercial use at various higher resolutions and publishers are encouraged to contact Steve via his blog about the possible use of his images and also about the possibility of associated story text. I’d like to thank Steve for the opportunity of learning more about his work on Better Cumbria.