Q. How did you get into photography?

A. I was taking photographs underwater and won “best newcomer to underwater photography” in the Camera Beneath The Waves photography competition in 1981.

 

Q. Did you study photography at university?

A. No, I have no formal photographic training and I am entirely self taught.

 

Q. When did you realise that you wanted to become a professional photographer?

A. I discovered photography when I was 23 and it rapidly became an integral part of my life. Until that point I had no real idea of what I wanted to do with my life and in finding photography, I found myself.

Little Cayman diver gorgonia by Colin Prior
Q. How do you make a living as a landscape photographer?

A. Whilst I am known as a landscape photographer, I have always worked as a commercial and advertising photographer and with the corporate world. My landscape work is my personal work, which I began to develop ten years into my career when I had established myself as working professional.

 

Q. Which photographers have inspired you?

A. Probably the photographer with the most significant influence was Galen Rowell who was a prolific photographer, mountaineer and writer and who tragically died in an air crash in 2002. The work of the Japanese photographer Shinzo Maeda also made a great impression on my mind, as did the black and white work of Ansel Adams who masterly blended his technical skills with those of an artist.

 

Q. What cameras do you use?

A. I recently began working with the Leica S system, which is perfectly suited to my work and have a long history with the Canon EOS system. In the past, I used the LinhofTechnorama and the Fuji GX617 panoramic cameras solely for my landscape work.

 

Q. How do you choose your projects?

A. I identify subjects, which I’m passionate about and then research them intensivelywith a view to creating a portfolio of images that will later be published in a book. My goal is to communicate my passion of the natural world through the medium of photography.
Q.How long do you spend in the mountains waiting for the light?
A. Surprisingly little. Occasionally, I will camp on a mountain summit to shoot at sunrise but it is a bit like a military strike. The first part is the most important – reconnaissance, so it is essential to have been there previously to establish where you will shoot and when. Preparation of both photography and camping equipment is the next stage and then it is simply a question of waiting for a break in the weather.

 

Q. What’s your favourite image?

A. I have several favourites – the first image I ever shot from a mountaintop at dusk of the Glencoe peaks from the summit of Ben Starav in Glen Etive remains one of my favourites. Also, a recent panorama of Marsco and the Red Cuillin shot from the summit of Blaven on midsummer’s eve captured my imagination and finally an image of Trango Towers in Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains, I captured with a 5×4 Ebony camera.

 

Q. How much post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop do you use?

A. Shooting RAW files demands a certain amount of post-processing to bring the image as close to moment at which the shutter was released. My philosophy about photography is simple – it is about getting it right in the camera. This, for me is essentially what photography is about. The resulting images can then be imported into Lightroom and graded. If you find yourself having to crop, then you need to consider that you didn’t quite get it right in the camera and that’s where the skill is. So, post-processing is an integral part of image creation but it is about making judicial use of the tools to prevent what I refer to as ‘landscapes on steroids.’

 

Q.What project are you currently working on?

A. I am working on a four-year project to document Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains, which will culminate in a book and exhibition in 2017 and am also about to begin work on a new project, which explores the relationship of the elements within mountain environments.

 

Q. Why did you choose to shoot landscape?

A. I believe that landscape photography, is the ultimate expression of photography. The elements are all there in the landscape and it is up to the photographer to identify and interpret to reflect the way we see the world. The fusion of landscape and light can create moments that will never repeat themselves exactly.

 

Q. Do you work with assistants?

A. No. I have never had an assistant, although in the earlier years my father accompanied me on some of the high mountain shoots to help carry equipment. I consider my work to be a personal journey and when I am alone the mountain speaks to me and I connect more easily with the elements. Success demands this single mindedness.

 

Q. What is your advice for someone who wants to become a landscape photographer?

A. The challenge is to create an authorative body of work in which a distinctive style – your ‘thumbprint’ is evident. There should be an obvious synergy,which links the work together and if you have ambitions of it to be published there needs to be a story under-pinning it. What a publisher is looking for is your unique interpretation of a subject that appeals to a broad church.

 

Q. What do you consider to be the most important factor in landscape photography?

A. Simplicity. Most landscape images fail because the photographertries to get too much in. In photography, less is more. You need to ask yourself ‘What do I need to subtract from the scene before me to make it stronger?’

 

Q. How would you define your approach to landscape photography?

A. Each day we are exposed to millions of images from the three dimensional world in which we live. The challenge as a photographer is to recognise the juxtaposition of graphics, colour, texture and light and to distil images, which communicate in the two-dimensional world of photography. The challenge ultimately is to make order from chaos.

 

COLIN PRIOR January 2015