I always wanted to be a photographer. In my early teens I converted my bedroom into a makeshift darkroom and would spend hours, and all of my pocket money, making prints from my cheaply developed film. There is no doubt that most of these pictures (and few have survived) were poor. However, I persisted, and became quite adept at classic darkroom techniques.
Despite my desire to become a photographer the school careers adviser, perhaps very wisely, suggested that I carry on studying the subjects I was good at and photography was temporarily forgotten while I pursued undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in biochemistry. However, an academic career was not for me and I fell into the mainstay of all science graduates of the 1990s – IT – helping to grow a small start-up scientific software company from 6 to a couple of hundred employees.
The birth of my first son in 2004 gave me the opportunity to escape the rat-race, become a part-time house-husband and spend my spare time pursuing my childhood dream of being a photographer. Ditching my analogue camera and transparency film I bought one of those new-fangled DSLRs and haven’t (often) looked back to film. Feeling the need to gain at least some sort of qualification in the subject I loved I completed both City & Guilds and A-Level photography courses at Swansea college where I fuelled my interest for more abstract means of photographic expression.
For many years I spent a lot of my time finding potential retail outlets for my prints and greetings cards, attending craft fairs, doing child portrait work, amassing a library of stock images and carrying out the occasional commercial commission. Realising that many of these activities actually took me away from the photography that I enjoyed I now do very little of this, and instead spend most of my time walking in the Welsh landscape and actually taking pictures!
My prints can currently be purchased in Sable & Hogg Gallery in Brecon and a few other places, in addition to this website. I am extremely humbled whenever anyone buys one of my images to hang on their wall - it is the best feedback I could have.
My Approach to Landscape Photography
I strongly believe that taking pictures and learning from the results is the best way of improving my images. I am the first to admit that my approach to landscape photography has sometimes been haphazard. While many landscape photographers will tell you they study the weather forecast, pick the perfect location and time of day and then only expose a few frames when they visit, I am not that single-minded. The weather forecasts are notoriously unreliable, especially here in the hills of the Brecon Beacons, and if everyone chose the same location and only photographed at sunrise or sunset all our images would look the same. Of course I do look at the weather forecast for safety reasons (and tide tables for costal trips), but I often go out into the landscape on days when other photographers would stay at home and that is partly because I am happy just to be out in the hills. Sometimes I get lucky too, and serendipity plays an important part in photography where the weather is involved.
I am extremely lucky to live where I do. I can easily be out on the hills within a few minutes and at the summit of Pen y Fan in less than an hour from leaving the house. Being out in the landscape often is what gives me the best opportunities to capture new and interesting images.
I don’t like clutter, not in my house and definitely not in my images. If there was one common style across my landscape images it would be simplicity, sometimes bordering on minimalism. However, I don’t like being constrained by one style and I endeavour to produce new types of image whenever possible. Every year when I look back at my images I can’t believe how poor they were a few years ago and I hope that I always feel this way, because this will mean that I am always improving. Above all else I simply enjoy being out in the landscape, even if I’m not taking pictures.
There is a certain type of person who is more interested in the equipment used to obtain an image than the final result, but for me the camera is just a tool and I would happily use any camera brand as long as it did the job.
When I bought my first modern electronic SLR it just happened to be a Canon and that’s what I have stuck with even since. For the record I currently use a Canon 5D MkIII & 6D plus a 5D MkI converted for infra-red photography along with a selection of Canon lenses (15mm, 50mm, 100mm f2.8 L macro, 17-14mm f4 L, 24-70mm f2.8 L, 24-105mm f4 L, 70-200mm f2.8 L plus 2x converter). If you use a Nikon and think they are better….good for you. I also use some other bits of kit that you would expect of a landscape photographer….but then I also shun others that you might think essential!
Of course I shoot in RAW and as a consequence my images are processed in Lightroom and Photoshop to some extent. I’m not a great fan of HDR, mainly because it never seems to produce images that I like. However, it seems to work for others and I only tend to judge images by how they look not how they were produced.
A lot of nonsense is spouted by photographers on the internet (facebook, twitter, flickr) and I advise you to take their views with a pinch of salt. Many people spend more time talking about photography than actually doing it so unless you specifically ask for someone’s opinion it’s best not to get too obsessed with their comments.
I try not to get involved in these conversations, primarily because I recognise that my views are no more than that, my own, and no more right or wrong than other photographers. It is for this reason that you won’t find me blogging all the time about the general state of photography, as I don’t think people should care very much what I think. Just judge me on my images. If you like some of them great, if you don’t then maybe my style of photography isn’t for you. Either way I’m grateful that you had a look.
If you want to follow my excursions into the Brecon Beacons (and elsewhere) then please “like” Matt Botwood Photography on facebook. Not every image posted here will make it to my website as a print, but I hope they will give you a feel for the landscape in which I work and a preview of some of my images as they are captured. You can also find me on Twitter, trying hard to stay quiet when other photographers say ridiculous things.
To learn more about my approach to photography and recent projects I encourage you to listen to the Ffoton Wales podcast recorded in 2015 and read the extensive 2016 interview with me in On Landscape magazine.