One of the real joys for photographers in Argyll is that we are fortunate to have such diverse wildlife all around us, but creating images to be proud of can be very challenging.
Keen to improve my wildlife photography skills I booked a place on “The Loch Visions Experience” with award winning Argyll photographer Philip Price. As well as spending the day with Philip he very kindly agreed to an interview with Photo Argyll so I could find out more about his work, his kit and what motivates him.
The One Day Experience
Loch Visions is situated on the shores of Loch Awe close to the village of Kilchrenan. For those travelling from further afield Philip has added a comprehensive list of local accommodation to his website.
The One Day Experience is suitable for beginners and the more experienced photographer wanting to improve their skills. After introductions and coffee Philip gave a brief talk about the equipment and some basic settings before heading out on foot to the nearby wildlife zones. We spotted some deer on the path only minutes after leaving the studio. Most keen photographers tend to be observant but one of the really important things I learnt on the day was to open my eyes and really appreciate my surroundings. Studying a small area of the meadow without my camera I noticed so much more than if I had just “dived in” and started clicking away. Philip’s advice and guidance makes perfect sense!
Aside from enjoying a fantastic day in a stunning location two things stick in my mind – Philip’s immense and infectious enthusiasm for wildlife and the delicious homemade picnic lunch which we enjoyed looking over Loch Awe.
Afterwards we retired to the studio to look through our day’s work and go through some basic image editing techniques. Finally with Philip’s assistance we selected our shot of the day which was printed out and is now proudly displayed on my wall. The remainder of our photos were given to us on a disc.
I can strongly recommend this course. It was a well structured day with some great tips and advice which I have continued to use since. I am already thinking about one of the Advanced Experience days.
But what about the man who created this fantastic business?
Having spent time with you on the Loch Visions One Day Experience we know that you have such great enthusiasm which makes the day all the more enjoyable but what came first for you – the love of wildlife or photography?
Most definitely wildlife, I did a product design engineering course at the Glasgow School of Art and my final year project was designing a tagging system for studying great white sharks. It was the first time in my life that work was not work anymore. I loved all the research I had to do about sharks even getting to do a cage dive with great whites, although I never saw them under water as I was seasick everywhere and had to get out before the shark got within sight. I have toughened up a little since then I hope!
The year after my shark project I then randomly got a job in a white back ground portraiture studio which introduced me to photography. And a couple of years later I managed to combine the skills learnt there with my fascination for wildlife and start Loch Visions, which I have now been running for ten years.
What was your first camera?
It was a Fuji S2 Pro and a sigma 70-300mm macro lens. I still have both although the Fuji does not take a rechargeable battery so it never gets used. The studio I worked in was using them so I stuck with what I knew. I have subsequently moved over to Canon for my pro work but also own Nikons and soon might be getting the wonderful Panasonic GH4.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photographs?
I wish I had done a marketing degree and a web design and Google optimisation course!!! In terms of wildlife and photography that just takes field time which I love and it has been a real pleasure building up my knowledge over the years.
Were you influenced by any particular photographers when you started out?
Yes Laurie Campbell – genius at getting his pictures published and a true nature photographer, his work is all about field craft and understanding the animal. I now also keep an eye on Pete Cairns as he is always coming up with great new multimedia ideas and projects.
Something everybody likes to know – what kit do you carry in your bag when heading out into the field?
- Camera body – Canon 1D Mark III (had a Mark II but it drowned in a rather ill-fated time lapse so will be getting a new pro body soon) and a Canon 60D for filming on.
- Lens – 500mm f4, 70-200 f2.8 Mk2, 1.4 x converter. 2 x converter, Tamron 180mm macro lens (used to have the sigma 150mm macro which on reflection is a better lens but I drowned that too in Loch Awe). 17-40mm Canon.
- Tripod – Gitzo, Gimbal tripod head and a ball head. My most important tripod though is my bean bag.
- Filters – set of Lee ND grad filters.
- Flash – cannot remember its name – used with a white plastic bag to diffuse.
- Camera bag – I tend to use heavy duty boxes with padding and old rucksacks that I line with padding.
Do you have a favourite lens?
Yes the 500mm f4 is a master and unbelievably sharp – a treat to use.
Amongst your work do you have one favourite shot – and if you do can we see it?
I have two – one is the shot of a red squirrel with Loch Awe behind it and the other is a vole jumping. I love photographing animals in their environment as living up here the location is generally a major part of the experience of doing wildlife photography, and why the animal is even there. I think I got it right with this squirrel shot. I have photographed many rare and wonderful animals but getting a really special picture of an animal that is about as common as it gets is probably my favourite thing to do in nature photography. My new website is to be launched shortly and you will find the two pictures here when it is.
You are obviously a skilled and respected wildlife photographer but how do you push yourself to develop and improve further?
Very easy, every time I am in the field I see some behaviour that I have not seen before or an animal, bug or fish that I have never seen and therefore my head is constantly spinning with shots I have witnessed but not taken yet. If wildlife is your preferred subject you will never be short of inspiration. I could spend a year photographing chaffinches and never have a complete portfolio. In fact this spring I saw too chaffinches dancing in a mating ritual. It was one of the most enchanting things I have ever seen and I am dying to capture that on camera.
If you were only allowed to give a new photographer one piece of advice what would it be?
Spend time researching your location/animal without your camera and plan your shoots before you even touch the shutter button.
Where do you think photography will be in ten years time?
Ah that is very interesting. At the moment the big leaps forward are in the video SLR market which is hugely exciting for film makers. The stills had a revolution about five years ago with incredible ISO and low light performance coming on the market which really did push forward photography to a whole new level. That is now more incremental again. I think the next big thing will be flexible lenses so you can get pin sharp telephoto shots with very small lenses.
The up shot to all this is that in 10 years time I think photography will be all about your talent in the field, wildlife craft and compositional ability rather than how good your are technically with your kit.
Thank you Philip we appreciate your time.
Find out more about Philip’s work and his wildlife photography tours by visiting the Loch Visions website.