©Image, Steve (Wirefox)
In conversation with... Mike (Clactonian)
Location: Essex Sunshine Coast
Website: Under construction - as they say!
Rob: Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us today.
Mike: I'll let my fingers do the talking. Time will tell if it's been a pleasure!!
Perhaps we can start by you telling us something about your general back-ground. What about your work history – anything interesting?
I trained and qualified as a Chartered Quantity Surveyor and started my working life in Soho ... a very colourful experience, and a great time in my life. It was a fairly large office and there were so many jobs about in those days that there was always somebody leaving on a Friday, so it was all round to the Swiss Tavern in Old Compton Street for a wee drink, and a meal afterwards at La Bastingo the French restaurant next door. The guys that daren't go home to Mum used to sleep on my floor in beautiful uptown West Harringay!!
I was lucky enough to work with some very well known architects and on some very large and prestigious projects including Hyde Park Cavalry Barracks, Glasgow Airport, British Embassy Rome, London University and many others, which was quite inspiring for a young chap. It was whilst working there that I discovered my commercial acumen. My office overlooked the roof of the Nell Gwyn strip club and the girls loved to sun bathe in the all together. My newly acquired binoculars proved extremely popular, even at two bob for ten minutes.
I shared an office with an old boy who was a Fellow of the Honorary Corp of Stewards at the Royal Albert Hall, and he was given two comps in their special box every time he was on duty. He would come in on a Monday and give me first pick. I saw some great acts including Pentangle, Dionne Warwick, John Mayall, Ginger Baker's Airforce and many other top bands of that era.
I then got married, moved out to the provinces and ended up in contracting for twenty years, travelling all over the country, before taking on the role of theatre administrator ............ and that's another time consuming story.
And what about your family life?
I have been happily married for 40 years and have a son and daughter both of whom have long since flown the nest to London, first to University, but now where they both live and work.
If you were staying in tonight, what would you choose as one of your favourite books and/or films to keep you entertained, and what you be having as a favourite meal?
Probably an Ian Rankin 'Rebus' book, although I think I have read them all now; any film, although I love French films - no, not for the reason you have in mind!; and to eat ... Foie Gras, Venison or Duck, a bottle of Gigondas, the Cheese Trolley, Tarte Tatin, Coffee, and a glass of Armagnac (but not every night, you understand!)
OK, photography is a given, but what about other hobbies or personal interests?
Travel, wine, cycling, computing, music, theatre, life in general ..... just don't blink because you're bound to miss something interesting.
Let's get on to photography - how long have you been a photographer, and what got you interested in the first place?
How long I have been a 'photographer' is debatable, but I've been messing about with cameras for 50 odd years or so. My late uncle used to stay with us and he had a Leica. I was smitten. When he died he left it to my cousin who was a year older than me. I was very jealous. I built my first darkroom in our loft when I was in my early teens, and fiddled about with the very limited resources my pocket money allowed. I was never very good but kept trying.
A levels, college and work then intervened until I got married, and it was the birth of my daughter that re-awakened my interest. That's when I bought my Pentax. It was £117 with the 50mm lens. I couldn't afford the Nikkormat which was £130!! I went off the boil again once the kids grew up, but the digital revolution recaptured my interest. I bought an Olympus 3040Z, and the rest as they say is History.
What type of photography are you interested in, and why?
Anything and everything 'cos I'm a student of life, but in truth, most of my photography is done on holiday, which is the only occasion that I seem to get any time. I do get the opportunity to take some stage shots in the theatre, but my current kit is not good at high ISO, which is somewhat limiting. I Would love to buy some studio lights and learn portraiture but too many demands on my cash in the foreseeable future!
Any particular photographic influences?
Photographic Exhibitions, The Sunday Magazines (Times in particular), fashion mags, untold photo mags and web galleries. I think you can learn so much from taking a critical look at other peoples photographs, particularly those which are good enough to be published; the composition, the lighting, and even the processing are skills to observe.
I was lucky enough to catch an Ansel Adams exhibition in London a few years back, and was fascinated by the example of the print process he used as demonstrated by the straight print from the negative and the final published work.
I spent many hours reading and browsing the wonderful book 'Pictures on a Page' by Harold Evans, the former editor of The Sunday Times.
What do you think of CiC? Any way it could be improved? Where should it go from here, in your opinion?
I'm here!! I browse many fora, and far too many are infested by smart Alecs and would be experts who are quick to criticise in an unnecessarily rude fashion. Others seem to be inhabited by boffs trying to out-knowledge each other. CiC impressed by being photo based, by its friendly atmosphere and helpful criticism from knowledgeable people. Long may it last, and that's going to be down to the moderators!
Getting more personal if you don't mind...what keeps you awake at night, apart from Photoshop?
My work and my bladder!
I have to ask this…. What photographic gear do you own, and what software do you use for editing?
I still have my first 35mm camera, a Halina 35X, bought with my savings when I was about 10; my first SLR a Praktica Nova, bought when I was about 14; a collection of 10 other SLRs and lenses that I have either bought or accumulated; a Polaroid SX70; and now use a Nikon D70, Nikon D2Xs, Tokina 12-24, Sigma 150mm macro, 35mm f2, 50mm f1.8, 85mm f1.8, 180mm f1.8, 24-85 f2.8-4 and 70-30VR Nikkors.
I currently use a Nikon SB800 flash and a Manfrotto tripod and monopod.
Whilst I clearly have been fortunate enough to accumulate some very decent kit and avidly read the reviews of all the new releases, I think I've now realised that it is the person behind the camera that has the biggest influence on the final image. So whilst I would love a D3s with it's high ISO capability, I suspect I shall still be using my D70 and D2Xs for many years to come.
I use Lightroom as my main cataloguing and editing programme, together with CS4, and also have Portrait Professional and Photomatix Pro3, and the free version of NeatImage.
It’s a tough one to answer, but how would you rate your photographic skills and ability?
Improving. I still am far too much of a holiday happy snapper, partly because of family pressures, ("why are we always hanging around for you?"), and as a result only glean the odd one or two shots per trip that I'm really satisfied with. I rarely get the opportunity just to go out with photography in mind. Digital has helped me think harder and longer about what I'm doing, because I can so readily see the results and what I could have achieved with more time and effort.
I'm not sure if it's a help or hindrance that I enjoy the editing ( the rescue) process.
What will the digital camera be like in 2020? And will you still own one?
Awesome, no doubt. I will just be grateful to be alive in 2020!
Are you in a position to help or encourage others in their photography?
I would dearly love to take a photographic course to improve my skills but time is still the enemy here. I think I've reached the stage where I can be of help to the few that are less knowledgeable, and certainly get plenty of calls from friends for help with technical issues, but I am no expert by a long chalk, and don't have the confidence to even publish my website.
Another tough one for you…do you consider photography to be art?
Yes, I think it can be an art form. People are very quick to dismiss photography, but one only has to look at the work of truly great photographers to see that they had an eye every bit as good as a classic painter. It is the same with modern editing using Photoshop. In ignorant hands it is a useless tool, in skilled hands it can create wonderful imagery, much as the highly skilled darkroom printers achieved, and the artist that knows his materials and techniques.
How do you feel about having your own shot taken?
What single piece of advice do you think is most useful to someone starting out with photography?
Don't be hoodwinked by the advertisers, buy what you can afford and then go out and take photographs, hundreds of them. Let others see your work and take their advice.
Can we have a shot or two of your that is of special significance, and could you say why?
I think I would choose my 'Dark Days'
I am pleased with the final image primarily because it sums up my feelings on the day that I shot the image, so well.
The First World War cemetery at Tyne Cot evokes strong feelings ... futility, despair, anger, sadness, and gratitude, nor only to those poor souls that gave their lives but also to the War Graves Commission that see to the upkeep of this fitting memorial. It is a thought provoking place.
I still find that image haunting and it will always remind me of the day that I wandered amongst the graves, and the emotions that I felt.
Finally, can you give us one interesting/weird/silly thing about you that we probably don’t know?
I'm a drunk, not an alcoholic. Alcoholics go to meetings!
That's all we have time for, Mike, but I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us. It’s been a real pleasure, and I'm sure others will enjoy it. And keep up that excellent photography that you produce.
As I said at the beginning ... time will tell. C&C welcome.