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An interview with Landscape Photographer Charlie Waite

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Category: Professional Interviewed

Charlie Waite - Seeing Scotland exclusive - ePHOTOzine members Martin Pettinger (mipettin) and Adam McCormack (ajm) met Charlie Waite and key members of the production team at an exclusive launch of Seeing Scotland

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Seeing Scotland is a brand new series to be broadcast on Grampian and Scottish TV which will also be available to Sky viewers in England and Wales. Presented by one of Europe’s leading and world renowned landscape photographers, Charlie Waite. The first episode of “Seeing Scotland” will be televised at 17:45 on Sunday 11th September.
An interview with Landscape Photographer Charlie WaiteePHOTOzine members Martin Pettinger (mipettin) and Adam McCormack (ajm) met Charlie Waite and key members of the production team at an exclusive launch of Seeing Scotland at Kings College, Aberdeen on 1st September 2005.

(Photo, left to right: Adam McCormack, Charlie Waite and Martin Pettinger)

At the launch Martin and Adam spoke to members of the production team and Charlie Waite. The following article describes what they observed during the launch, as well as Charlie Waite's responses to questions at the event and those sent in by ePHOTOzine members.

The Launch
Charlie Waite was introduced to the 100 strong audience by Derrick Thomson, Managing Director of Grampian TV. Derrick described how he met Charlie two years ago. “When I met Charlie I knew he was the man for this programme.” Keen landscape photographer, Derrick, felt that recent television programmes on photography hadn't done the still image justice. He hopes that Seeing Scotland will be the start of a new genre of programmes on photography.

Charlie's welcome speech reinforced what Derrick had said, in that television had struggled to deal with the still image, which was somewhat odd, as photography is televisions big brother. He also said that recent programmes had been left wanting and were somewhat stodgy and hence did not invite viewers to understand photography. He described how huge photography is and how most people in the UK own, or have used, a camera. "However the humble camera is often underused or an abused tool", said Charlie and he hopes to convey “what the camera can do” in Seeing Scotland.

“We all have a streak of creativity whether it is in cake making or embroidery. It's part of the human psyche,” states Charlie, who stresses how a camera, indeed any camera is capable of creating a work of art. “It is a matter of expressing oneself artistically, an endeavour and most of all it is about making and not taking a photograph”. Charlie explains how many photographers talk about "taking an image" when it is really about "making the image". "Like poetry, music or painting there is an art in thinking about what one is trying to create and then using the camera in an attempt to make the image."

An interview with Landscape Photographer Charlie WaiteIt’s about Light
Before showing us a preview of the forthcoming seven part series Charlie Waite stated how “It's all about light” and described how his daughter, Ella Waite, who produced the series, was nick named “The Weather Witch” by the production crew. "Although Scotland is notorious for its fickle weather, fine weather and wonderful skies seemed to arrive when Ella arrived!"

Charlie stressed how much he loves photographing landscapes in Scotland. Even though he is extremely well travelled, Charlie feels the big open skies and drama of the Scottish wilderness puts other wilderness areas, such as the African plains, into the shade. Charlie described how wonderful the Scottish people were to the crew and that the glorious Scottish landscape, especially the soft light and beautiful hues of moor land heather, must permeate itself into the natives, as their disposition was always happy and helpful. Unsurprising he feels, when as a local you are subjected daily to, and hence drink in, such breath taking scenery.

The one regret Charlie has is that so many people have yet to discover Scotland. He quoted a statistic whereby 70% of people from the south of England had never visited Scotland and for Charlie a lot of Scotland is an absolute undiscovered gem. He personally wishes he could have spent more than the seven to eight weeks it took to make the series and hopes to return next year for a follow up series.

Reach the spot
Charlie Waite feels strongly that photography is going to be the next buzz word. The rapid emergence of digital technology including camera phones has seen photography extend into many peoples lives. Whereas many camcorders are gathering dust in attics, still images are still revered and enter our consciousness and move us.

"This doesn't mean we should snap away aimlessly though," exclaims Charlie. “Twelve a year is what Ansel Adams a famous American landscape photography used to say. Yes, one strong image a month that reaches the spot," said Charlie. He went on to describe the lovely feeling when the light is just right or a cloud moves into the right place, as if the landscape is “Just for me.”

Charlie finished his speech with advice for someone interested in landscape photography. Spend a couple of days in the landscape with your camera with its film or flash cards. You will return enriched. The Scottish landscape is “full on” even compared to Timbuktoo or Lake Titicaca. Indeed “It's bloody hard to beat Scotland and its beautiful landscape,” remarked Charlie at the finale to his speech.

Audience questions
After a 12 minute preview of the forthcoming series, Seeing Scotland, Charlie Waite invited questions from the audience. A selection are printed below:

An interview with Landscape Photographer Charlie WaiteHow did you become a photographer?
"Originally I was an actor ­- a very wooden actor. Unlike my wife, who is a wonderful actress (Charlie’s Wife was in all 92 parts of “The Onedin Line”), my initial interest was photographing other actors and shows, then the outside world began to appeal to me, the isolated shed, the lone cloud, a single tree. Then, one day, I was looking at a house when the owner asked what I did for a living. I lied! I said I was a landscape photographer and a part time actor. The owner was a director of a publishing company and asked to see my portfolio. That weekend I made a portfolio of four or five prints and I was commissioned for my first book with the late Adam Nicolson and here I am 27 books later."

Did you notice a difference in the quality of light across Scotland?
"There's a difference between the west coast and the east coast. The West has a clarity of light and more atmospheric light with the passing of Atlantic fronts and storms, the East is more serene though - lovely soothing and more liquid light."

Will there be a DVD of the series?
Derrick Thomson and Ella Waite were pleased to announce that there has already been interest from several companies in making a DVD of the series, before it has even been shown on terrestrial television.

Are you interested in digital photography?
"Certainly. Both are valid formats. The skill is still in getting the image right. Photography is difficult whether it's film or digital. The silver halide crystal is probably a whisker ahead of digital but that's today! Tomorrow who knows!"

What is your favourite location from the series?
"Glen Coe - it's so exciting and dramatic - the landscape is awesome. Plus the lighthouse shoot, the hospitality of the owners at one in the morning is something I will remember and treasure."

ePHOTOzine questions
Martin and Adam interviewed Charlie directly later that evening and a selection of ePHOTOzine exclusive questions follows:

Who are your favourite photographers?
"Elliot Porter, an American photographer, and Cartier Bresson. Charlie said how he enjoyed Bresson's physical and intellectual approach to photography."

Who are your favourite Scottish photographers?
"Laurie Campbell and Colin Prior. Colin is a good friend of Charlie and he admires that Colin isn't territorial and is happy to share the locations of his photographs."

Is there a location in Scotland where you have not managed to get the photograph you want?
"Glen Strathfarrar near Inverness and Glen Etive. Charlie feels there is a sensational landscape to be had in Glen Etive but it eludes him."

Has photography ever got you into trouble?
"Once I was photographing for the National Trust and I accidentally tore some William Morris wallpaper - a blob of blue tack put that right Charlie joked.

"Also when photographing Fountain Abbey I was about to make a picture - a cloud was floating into place when the wife chose that moment to fall in the loch. My daughter, Ella, still berates me today for waiting and making the shot before going to rescue my wife."

Do you carry any photographs in your wallet?
"My mother and an early photograph of my wife at a pantomime (Jack and the Beanstalk)
at Salisbury."

What is the one single piece of advice you would give a landscape photographer wishing to turn professional?
"Do not try and be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none – specialise solely on landscapes."

Does he envisage shooting digitally shortly – i.e. using a digital back?
"I have been trying a Hasselblad Digital Back. My intention is to compare two 1x1m large format prints one taken on film and drum scanned versus one taken on the digital back. I.e. I am going to stand back six feet and use my eyes to compare the two. I also carry a digital compact which is ideal for impromptu photographs as you will see in the forthcoming series."

Do you do your own printing?
"I haven’t done a wet print for over a year now. I print all my images on large format Epson and HP printers. The competition between Epson and HP is great for photography as is the competition between Canon and Nikon – the products just get better and better. The quality today of large format printers is amazing."

Conclusion
Having seen a preview of the series and met Charlie Waite. Martin believes this could be the start of a whole new genre of television programmes. Charlie Waite is a real gentleman and to spend time with him either in person or on screen is a wonderfully enjoyable and relaxing experience.

It is a shame that the programme will only be available on Scottish TV and not nationally, though he expects this will soon change. The series is a great advert for Scotland and landscape photography. It's wonderful viewing, in part, because of Charlie's mellow and laid back manner and due to the excellent direction of his daughter Ella.

To conclude, if your not in a Scottish region please tune in via Sky or find a friend with Sky. For photographers this is an absolute must view and light years (pun intended) ahead of recent attempts at photography television series.

How to view the series on Sky
The series will be shown in Scotland. To view outside Scotland if you have Sky please find details below:
You add extra channels by pressing the "Services" button on the Sky Remote,

choose option 4 "System Setup"
choose option 4 "Add Channels"

There are Four things you have to enter
Frequency 10906
Polarisation V
Symbol Rate 22
FEC 5/6

Once you have entered the parameters select "Find Channels"
After a while a list of ITV channels will appear mark the ones you want using the Yellow button on the Sky Remote Control and press Select.

NOTE - To access additional channels press "Services" and choose "Other Channels"


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