Philip was born in Bexley, Kent, England. After he left school, he took an apprenticeship in motor engineering and in 1980 started his own business in motor repairs. He was a keen amateur photographer and had his own colour darkroom permanently set up in an outbuilding. In 1988, he was diagnosed with a severe rib/sternum problem and advised by his doctor to only do light work so as not to aggravate the problem further. In 1990, he sold the car repair business and decided to try turning his photographic hobby into a photographic living. Because his health problems meant he could not guarantee keeping appointments he felt that ethically he could not undertake weddings, or in fact anything that involved peoples ‘treasured memories’ or tight deadlines.
He bought some second hand lighting kit and converted a spare room into a small studio, doing still life for sale as prints, some advertising pack shots and a little food photography for local companies. In 1996, he moved to the far west of Cornwall where he decided to try his hand at coastal and landscape photography. After many months of practising this new discipline he approached a well-known postcard and calendar company, who bought 6 of his shots on the spot and commissioned him to update their library the next year. Because of his particular style, he was also commissioned to start a new range of atmospheric images and some studio-style advertising shots. In 2000, he applied to the Royal Photographic Society for LRPS distinctions.
Gaining this distinction gave him the confidence to expand into coastal and landscape stock photography. He now supplies images for use in many promotional, corporate and retail calendar markets, magazines and books, and the tourism industry; through which he has had his work exhibited at the NEC Birmingham and the OXO gallery on the south bank in London. Surprisingly, he feels that his health problems are one of the best things that has happened to him, despite the fact that he still can’t work as often as he would like due to pain, he says he greatly prefers being outdoors photographing the natural landscape to being in a workshop repairing cars. Philip is unsure whether working with light was exactly what his doctor had in mind when he advised that he do light work only, at least it meant he had no difficulty thinking-up a business name, it had to be – Lightwork.
Although I think Digital technology is incredible, I will stick to film as long as it is available. This is a personal thing; I like the feel of transparencies, I like being able to view images on a lightbox and scrutinize them with a loupe. To me they are just more real that way. Besides, big cumbersome cameras slow me down and make me do the job properly. On the odd occasion when I have used a digital camera, I tend to run around like a lunatic taking pictures of everything I see, often not very good ones. I had the same problem with 35mm. I find a slower more considered approach produces better results and I work with bulky, tripod-mounted, medium format cameras for this reason; in fact, I am contemplating upgrading to a large format system. Besides, photography is about light not about what equipment you use to capture it [whatever technique or equipment you use they all demand the same creative eye for the right results]. It’s the end product that matters not what gizmos you used to get it. In landscape photography very little is repeatable – especially the light – so even logging the shutter speeds, apertures and any filters used doesn’t really matter. However, sometimes this information can be useful when trying to discover what went wrong. Finally, on the subject of capturing the best light, the finest piece of kit I have ever invested in is an alarm clock.
Mostly I use an old Mamiya RB67; these cameras have no automation whatsoever, not even a light meter.
I only use prime lenses and try to carry only the ones I am likely to use on that day’s shoot; frequently a 50mm wide angle, a 90mm standard and a 180mm short telephoto.
I don’t use effects filters but because I use transparency film I do use a variety of ND graduated filters to balance the light. I also use warm up filters to take the bluish hues out of the shadows and occasionally a polarizer to help with colour saturation.
Minolta digital spotmeter F; in my opinion spot meters are the best for landscape photography because they allow you the freedom to place the tones you want in the place you want them on the characteristic curve.
I use a heavy Manfrotto studio tripod; most outdoor photographers would sensibly use a much lighter one. My reason for using this heavyweight monster is ballast. Some time ago I was working from a cliff top in Somerset when an unexpected gust of wind lifted a much lighter version, complete with an expensive medium-format camera, high into the air and deposited it somewhere mid-ocean.