Landscape photographer, Philip Bedford, is well rehearsed in capturing stunning imagery of the South Downs and the hills around Sussex. A quick look at his portfolio will tell you that he is in a league of his own as a photographer. As well as producing stunning landscape images, Philip also works as a highly regarded wedding photographer.
In recent years Philip has run photography courses that have proven to be a huge success and he hopes soon to release a book titled “Sussex in Photographs “. In this interview we discuss his approach to landscape photography and the story behind the image (pictured below) that was highly commended in the Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards.
What got you into landscape photography and how long have you been doing it for?
I sort of always wanted to be a landscape photographer, ever since I studied photography at college in 2003. That same year I had arranged a trip with a friend of mine to the Lake District as a summer holiday. I got up early one morning and drove to Castlerigg stone circle to create my own version of a shot I had seen on the cover of a copy of Amateur Photographer I was inspired by. I subsequently went on to study photography at university and was always drawn to shooting landscape, my final project was based on landscapes surrounding the M25 around London.
I found that I had a bit more time on my hands in 2015 and had always wanted to try my hand at local landscapes, so I committed to going out once a week to build up a portfolio. I’ve been shooting landscapes on and off like this for a few years now.
What I really love about it, is the tranquility of being outside in the early morning and the relaxing approach to photographing something for a long period of time, considering a shot and the changing light for an extended period of time. It’s completely different to the fast pace of my wedding photography!
Tell us a bit about this image, where was it taken and when?
This shot was taken in April 2016, at around 6.00am, next to a country lane near Telscombe village in East Sussex, just north east of Brighton. The weather conditions were quite cold, but mild and I had been looking for some rising spring mist from the frosty start to create an atmosphere in my photograph that morning.
What is the story behind this image?
The South Downs in the distance are part of the Ouse valley, an area I had been photographing for a while, and my primary goal was to find a location that overlooked this valley from a new perspective. I arrived around 30 minutes before magic hour, to scope out the location and find my composition. Using different focal lengths, I shot a couple of warmer pictures before the sunrise, when the sky had a stronger hue of orange.
As the sun rose further, just behind the hills, some blues started to show in the sky, so I used a wider angle and some careful positioning of the tree in the foreground to capture this photograph. I really like the tones of blue and green in the sky and hills, and the layer of light frost on the ground gave the hills some rich pastel colours. I was surprised and grateful to find this track in the field just next to the road that created the strong, meandering leading line through the photograph.
What is your approach to capturing landscape photos like this one?
I tend to have a location in mind, usually based on the contours of an OS map (Google Maps Terrain feature has also been very helpful) or what the tide will be when I’m shooting the coast. I always check the weather forecast, but you just never really know what you’re going to get! I had visited Telscombe cliffs on numerous occasions, but I had never actually visited the small hamlet of Telscombe itself and the South Downs that surround it.
What kit do you rely on most and what did you use to capture this shot?
I use a Canon 5D Mk III, and either a 24-70mm or 70-200mm lens for most of my landscape work. I use a Manfrotto tripod, and Lee filters – The Big Stopper, ND hard grad filters and a Circular Polariser. For this shot, I used the 0.6 hard grad filter for the sky and the polariser.
In your opinion, what makes a great landscape photograph?
I think the simpler the photograph can be in terms of composition, the better, and even the most complicated of landscapes can usually be simplified using some kind of structured composition. For me, it’s all about minimalism, trying to condense the key factors of your shot and cropping out anything else that’s unnecessary to the image. Of course, you need interesting light and/or weather conditions and the lines and form of the image need to really stand out to grab my attention.
I didn’t quite appreciate this image until I was home and going through the contact sheet. I knew I had been lucky with favourable light and weather conditions, but I didn’t quite think this image was the one that would be the front cover of my portfolio! My faith in the image was only really solidified when it was shortlisted for the Landscape Photographer of the Year award later that same year from my submission to the contest.
What sort of image editing do you usually carry out on your photos?
I import my RAW files into Lightroom, processing their metadata and applying some basic adjustments, and export them as TIFF files. Then in Photoshop, I’ll go through the image in detail to spot out any dust picked up on the sensor or lens and ensure that every aspect of the image looks good. I then tend to enhance the image a touch further using local adjustments and check the colour balance before finally doing a bit of sharpening. I want my images to stay true to life, so I don’t want to heavily edit my work, but I find that sometimes you need to dramatically adjust some images shot at a longer distance and bring in heavier blacks and shadows.
Have any other photographers inspired you?
So many! But to name a few specifics; Mark Power, my university professor helped give me a stronger structure to my work and taught me some of my key post-processing techniques. Finn Hopson, who is a local Brighton based photographer creates some unbelievable work, and I love the simplicity of his images. Thomas Heaton, who creates some fantastic YouTube videos really inspired me to get out and shoot more when I started to shoot landscapes more seriously, and so many others.
What advice would you give people that are just starting out in landscape photography?
Be prepared to get up early! But embrace it, some of my work I can shoot before most people leave for work and in the summer, you can squeeze in an early morning shoot before getting on with the rest of a normal workday. Try and figure out your own compositional style, and pay attention to the edges of your shots, cropping out anything that is distracting or spoiling the tidiness of your image. And wrap up warm, layering clothing is essential and I’ve found that even in summer, it’s still cold in the mornings.
What does the future hold for you as a photographer?
I’m actually working on my first book, with Amberley Publishing in the UK. It’s due out next year and will be called, Sussex in Photographs. I’m also starting to run some photography workshops for the Royal Photographic Society later this year too!
If people want to purchase a print of this image where can they go?
For prints, you can visit my website (www.philipbedford.co.uk/prints) to order limited and unlimited editioned prints. Limited editions are larger, framed photographs and signed in editions of 20. You can also see what workshops and courses I’m running on my website and at http://rps.org/events