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MattB1987 Interview - Matt Balls is a Nikon user that takes stunning atmospheric photos. We find out more.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am born and bred in Norfolk, and have spent my working life in various roles at Lotus Cars. I have always needed hobbies to keep myself occupied, usually centring around my love of cars, which lead me towards photography. I really like seeing new places and meeting new people so now I have the money I spend as much of my free time as I can exploring, whether it is in the UK or further afield.
How did you get into photography?
I have always liked taking photos, but when I was bored looking for a new hobby I bought a cheap compact to take some snaps and instantly got hooked.
I started to take more and more photos and had a trip to Cuba booked and thought I would buy a new camera so I did my research to find the best new budget SLR within my price range and it steered me toward the Nikon D3100.
After shooting in the 'auto' setting for most of the time I then bought a 35mm prime and tried my hand at some more manual shooting. I was starting to take photography more seriously but I felt the need to save up and get some more serious kit to drive me to try and improve, so I did my research and the Nikon D7000 came out on top.
When I joined ePHOTOzine, it seemed to fuel my enthusiasm massively, and made me realise that I was no where near as good with a camera as I thought I was. This realisation coupled with my competitive nature fuelled me to try my hardest to learn more and hopefully get better.
Another turning point for me was when I had a completely honest and helpful comment from the member MalcolmS, which helped me greatly to really look at how to improve my photos.
You have quite a varied portfolio - do you have a favourite genre of photography and why?
I have always been drawn towards more outdoor photography, whether it is landscape, seascape or architectural work. I like to travel around and this genre gets me out and about, whether it's in this country or abroad, taking landscape shots has put me in places that I otherwise overlooked. I think I prefer landscapes because they seem to catch my eye, it seems to feel more natural to try and capture the natural beauty.
I chose Nikon initially because I was after a new beginner SLR and after some research the Nikon D3100 came out on top. I have always liked the feel of Nikon cameras ever since, they seem to fit my hands better.
Since my first Nikon I have then gone on to buy a further two, making a leap in each purchase, I went from the D3100 to the D7000 and then onto the wonderful D800. By staying with Nikon I found it a lot easier when changing as the menu systems are largely the same and the controls seem to be in similar places, not to mention I already had the lenses.
Your pictures of the black Jaguar are really atmospheric. Can you talk us through how you set up and took those?
The black Jaguar photos were really spontaneous really, I was driving around Norwich and the Jag, sat on its own, just caught my eye (it spoke to me both as a car fan and an enthusiastic camera wielder). I really admired the work of Tim Wallace (Ambient Life) with his car photography, and wanted to have a stab at something similar (but obviously no where near as impressive). With it being a spontaneous shoot, I had no flash lighting to try an attempt Tim's effects that way so I captured the car to the best of my abilities with a view to try and get the desired effect in Photoshop. Luckily I had my girlfriend on hand as I was sprawled out in the middle of the road trying to get every angle.
In Photoshop I played around with the photo for hours, playing with saturation, levels, curves and endless layer masks. After deleting many versions I ended up with what I wanted. I started by desaturating the surroundings whilst darkening them, trying to remove a bit of the contrast to focus the attention on the car. I then focused on the car, trying to make it stand out so I increased the contrast and lightened the silver/ chrome parts to make them pop a bit, whilst only retaining saturated colour in the lights and number plate. To finish it off I brought the colour back on the double yellow lines to try and draw you in.
What do you have planned for the future photographically?
My dream would be to make my living using my photography, so then I will be doing what I love as my profession but I'm not sure how far I will pursue that. I have done a couple of commercial shoots for friends and really enjoyed it but whether it is viable career move I don't know.
The next challenge I have set myself though is to learn flash photography in more depth so I can play with light a bit. My biggest attraction to photography is its endless possibilities so my future is to try my hand at as much as possible, I don't want to stick to just photographing one genre.
Do you have any tips for those starting out in photography?
One tip from my point of view is to try anything, I once thought I would never be interested in taking photos of people, but I now have tried it and love it, I feel being diverse has kept my interest in photography fresh.
Another tip I think would help is to listen to people's comments on your photos, sometimes they aren't helpful but every now and again you get great advise or at least a point in the right direction.
The only other tip I can think of that helped me was to not take your photography too seriously. I used to get really frustrated if I hadn't got a photo I was happy with, but once I relaxed I felt I worked better and was able to enjoy it a lot more. At the end of the day it's my hobby, I'm meant to be enjoying it!
To find out more about Matt and his work, take a look at his portfolio.