Featured Member: Alf Bailey
Each photographer has their own story about how they ended up interested in photography. Coming to photography later in life, Alf’s journey started with inspiration from a single image taken and has become a passion that I suspect he could have hardly imagined. That passion has turned into an outstanding compositional eye and some striking landscape images. -J
Alf Bailey: Landscapes
Who are you and where do you live?
My name is Alf Bailey, I live near Chester, England UK.
My location is very central to the UK and within 2 hours of driving I have huge amount of choice of venues for my favored Landscape Photography.
How (and when) did you get started in photography? In short, tell us the story of your photographic journey.
My early attempts at photography were, in short disastrous, my results included cut off heads in group photos, fingers or thumbs over lenses, and out of focus shots being the most common results. These were the photos that I attempted as a husband, father, the holiday snap photos, the family shots, and the occasional landscape shot. All of them had one thing in common, they looked pretty terrible! So I swiftly gave up further attempts and left it to others to take the photos.
Then at the age of 55 I saw a photograph of a landscape that changed how I viewed photos forever. The image was taken by my son in law of whom I will talk about a bit more later. But suffice to say, I liked the image so much it made me want to create something similar. I then acquired a small point and shoot camera, but soon became aware that I needed more control over the various aspects of the image, light sensitivity and processing being the most obvious at this time. I was also aware that my large hands were really not made for the tiny point and shoot. I then decided something larger with more control of the settings would be a step in the right direction and bought my first DSLR a Nikon D40 with a 18 – 55 mm kit lens. I took the photo “Perch Rock Lighthouse” with this equipment and promptly posted it on Photo.net in June 2009
I was absolutely amazed at the response and feedback it received, which spurred me on to take more and more photos. In short, I was now hooked and my previous hobby of fishing took a back seat whilst my passion for photography grew with every click of the shutter! The next years to the present have been the pursuit of perfection within my favored Landscape Photography genre, the seeking out of new locations and the return visits to the old locations to see if I can improve on my previous attempts. I have won numerous competitions and been placed on 2 occasions in the Sony World Photography Awards. Photography for me is a like a bottomless pit of knowledge, I never tire of learning, but I’m very pleased I will never know everything, and therefore the journey will never end.
Who (or what) have been your main photographic influences and inspirations?
Your Photo.net portfolio has many portrait images, many of which seem to strive to convey a story or emotion. How did you get started with this type of photography?
My first and most influential encounter with photography came from my Son in Law “Gary McGhee” whose photographs I mentioned earlier and whose work can also be seen on Photo.net. His work not only inspired me to try to emulate him, but he was kind enough to help me with the basics of photography. I think that photography “jargon” can put a lot aspiring photographs right off before they even get started, but having someone with knowledge and patience on hand that will provide the right information with some encouragement is priceless. Gary was that person for me and so I have tried to repay the debt to other photographers in the process of learning the basics by providing the same kind of advice and practical help.
I have also been influenced by the likes of Marc Adamus, Chip Phillips and Adam Burton and many others that produce outstanding work. And not least by various members of photo.net who not only provide great examples of a wide range of photography but will also selflessly impart valuable information just from being asked.
Your Photo.net portfolio includes wide-ranging subject matter. From animal images to architecture to landscapes and more. Do you have a favorite? Is it something that has evolved over time?
My love of photography covers a wide range of genres and subject matter, but as I work full time some 50 – 60 hours a week, my time is limited. And so I dedicate my free time to what I consider the most enjoyable subject of Landscape Photography. The love of the countryside has grown up with me from a child. I was born in the City of Liverpool UK and from a relatively poor background. I didn’t get my first true glimpse of the countryside until I was 11 years of age, and this came about as a result of a school trip to Scotland. I was absolutely mesmerized by the wild rugged beauty of the landscape. So much so that on the first day of being there I wandered away from the camp, followed a river and it wasn’t until it was pitch dark, that I considered going back. I found my way back with no problems, but as you can imagine I wasn’t the most popular of pupils with the teachers who had by then had called to police to report me missing! To a large degree I haven’t changed in that respect, when I am out with my camera the time just disappears, with the only indication of it passing being that of the changing light.
I also love street photography, and on the rare occasions I manage to get time to visit my home city of Liverpool, I really enjoy finding a position from which to observe and photograph the many characters, street performers and just everyday people that are present.
Explain how you see your body of work and what draws you to do the photography that you do?
I see my work partly as a recording of the beauty I see with my own eyes and partly as how I would like others to see it. The magic light at dawn and dusk, reflections, silhouettes and colors, the solitude of the open countryside and the nature that resides within it, all combine to draw me like a magnet. The absolute thrill of every sunset and dawn, the unique clouds and color configurations, and not knowing just what I might find around the next corner! The very same things that previously attracted me to fishing, attract me to photography, but with the added bonus that I can now go home having captured something worthwhile, much more frequently than when I was fishing! I also now get the chance to actually create something! By using what nature provides plus a camera, filters, light, long exposures and settings, I can paint a picture.
Have you ever worked as a professional photographer? If “no”, why not? Is it something you would like to do? If “yes”, do you wish you could do more of that work? What does it bring or take away from your photography?
I have worked as a professional, but never full time. I have tried Wedding Photography" and although it was for the most part successful, I didn’t find it enjoyable, and in all honesty it was incredibly hard work and long hours. In fact I take my hat off to all professional wedding photographers, I think they earn every penny! I have also worked as a product photographer for various industrial companies. This appealed to me a lot more as I could be more creative with light and using compositions and arrangements to “sell the product” I have considered working as a full time professional, and people have often encouraged me to do so. However I am still unsure how much enjoyment could lost when there is the pressure of earning a living added to the equation. I fear I would lose the thrill, the passion and the immense enjoyment I currently get from photography by making it a task!
What do you enjoy most about photography?
I enjoy the peace and serenity of the countryside, the fresh air, the elements and weather of all kinds. I just love being out there when that light is so special and I capture it with a click! The excitement of seeing the image materialize before my eyes and then seeing it come alive later on my PC screen. ( I hasten to add at this point that I always leave a gap of at least 3 days from taking the photo, to uploading it to my PC. This is something I do in order to try and view the image in a more objective way, with hopefully enough time elapsed from the shooting of the images to remove at least some of the influential emotion. I then enjoy immensely the feedback I get from posting images to social media site. But the question was “what do you enjoy most” and my answer is, just being there at that critical moment when the magic happens, nothing can beat that thrill and excitement!
What was the most recent photographic technique that you learned or mastered? And what is the next photographic technique that you would like to learn?
The most recent technique I have learned is related to product photography and involves the use of simple and inexpensive items to help produce a well lit image with a seamless background. It was a free tutorial video which was featured on a photography web page that gave a real insight to understanding , light, simple filters and reflectors. The good thing about this, is that the technique and principles involved could also be employed when engaging in portraiture, still life or studio photography. Certainly one of the most valuable techniques I have ever learned.
The next photographic technique I would like to learn is “panning” and photographing fast moving objects like birds, and motor sports etcetera. I have seen some amazing examples of panning and would dearly love to master this technique. The 80 – 400 mm lens I recently acquired has a VR feature that reduces “camera shake” and in addition to this has an “active” mode which I think is primarily designed for this type of technique
What was the most recent piece of truly useful photographic equipment that you purchased? What is the next piece of equipment that you are looking to acquire?
The most recent useful piece of photographic equipment I have purchased has to be my Nikon 80 – 400 mm 4.5 – 5.6 G ED lens This replaced a Sigma 150 – 500 mm lens and a Sigma 70 – 200 mm Ok there is some compromise with the focal range, but the weight reduction more than makes up for it, and the VR is a great bonus too. It is without doubt a most versatile lens, and is used to capture both landscapes and wildlife as well as the more infrequent street shot. Although I have to add, my most useful piece of photographic equipment ever, was a good quality sturdy tripod! I found this to be an absolute must, particularly in low light. My next piece of equipment will be a carbon fibre version of the aforementioned tripod! These are just as strong but much lighter to carry.
What is in your camera bag on a typical day?
Cameras: – Nikon D810 , Nikon D7000,
Lenses: – Nikon 14 – 24 F/ 2.8 lens, Nikon 24 – 70 F/2.8 Nilkon 80 – 400 mm
Filters: – Cokin ND4 soft Grad, Cokin ND8 Soft Grad, B & W 77mm Polarisor, Haida 77mm 10 stop filter B & W 77mm 6 Stop Filter
2 x Spare battery, Cleaning cloths, cotton buds, cleaning spray, torch, spare memory cards, compact flash cards, foldaway waterproofs, pen, business cards.
What is your typical downloading/storage/sorting/processing procedure? Where do you store/backup your images? What programs do you use for post-processing?
I usually upload images directly to my PC, they are stored in a RAW file then in a sub folder and given the name of the location along with a date. This way they can be found relatively easily in the future. They are backed up on a separate hard drive. I then upload the images to Lightroom 6 where they are also backed up again.
I like to keep processing to a minimum and invariably find that the images I like the best are the ones where I have very little to do in post processing. I start by going through a selection process checking sharpness, exposure, aesthetics before choosing any to be fully processed. After initial processing in Lightroom (white balance, sharpness, clarity, exposure and vibrance) I export the Jpegs to Photoshop C6 where I add contrast, copyright, and resize the images as necessary.
The finished full size Jpegs are stored in yet another file on my desktop called “Jpegs Various” the subfolders within this file are then separated by name, “Full Size, Competition Images, Web Site” etc that just help to locate them relatively quickly.
What words of advice or encouragement do you have for anyone just starting on their photographic journey?
Obtain a basic understanding of your camera and it’s settings. Try and get someone to explain the photography “jargon” and do not be put off by people talking about Apertures, Shutter Speeds and ISO. All these things have simple meanings, you just need an interpreter to start with.
Joining a local photography club may help. But also check out photography web sites and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If it all seems a bit intimidating, just remember this one thing, every single photographer started out knowing nothing about photography, no matter how great you might think they are now, they all have one thing in common with you, that is they had to learn from scratch!
Without wishing to sound patronizing in any way, I think photo.net outstrips any other photographic forum in terms of feedback and the wealth of knowledge that is available from it’s many excellent photographers! So take full advantage and ask the questions.
But the best advice I can give, is to get out there and enjoy your photographic journey! Once you look at the world through the viewfinder of a camera, you will never look at it in quite the same way ever again!
A favorite image…
Camera: – Nikon D800
Lens : – Nikon 70 mm F/ 2.8
Shutter Speed 1/250 sec @ F/ 8
Focal Length 70 mm
I chose this as a favorite first and foremost because of the light. Nature sometimes provides the most wonderful light filters, and the mist on this occasion did the trick beautifully.. The location is in North Wales, a beautiful tranquil lake called “Lyn Dinas” I had to get through a field of wet marsh grass to reach the desired position to take the shot, the mist was burning off quickly, and the sun was warming the tree tops and background mountains. I managed to get about a dozen shots before the light became too harsh, but I really liked the composition of this one.
The image was also chosen by the photo.net “elves” as being worthy of discussion, and this proved to be one of the most enlightening forums I have ever encountered. I really obtained a great insight of how others seen this image, how it could be improved, and the perceived imperfections that are present. As a result I looked at it in a whole new way. But one thing didn’t change, it’s still my favorite.