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Member Feature: John Parminter - John Parminter is about to release his latest book, 'Scotland's Fifty Finest Mountains - A Photographic Exploration'. We find out more about him.
John Parminter is about to release a new book; 'Scotland's Fifty Finest Mountains - A Photographic Exploration'. Here we chat to him about his photgraphy, and just why he loves mountains so much.
How did you get into photography?
I am a relative newcomer to photography; I treated myself to a digital SLR as a Christmas present when I turned forty, I’m now 47. I have walked and ran in the fells and mountains of the UK since I was about 11 years old. I have had many experiences whilst spending time outdoors and so just thought that it was the right time to buy a camera, learn how it worked and see if I could take a few pictures of my activities.
Tell us a bit about the kit you use.
My Christmas present to myself was a Nikon D40 with kit lens, a fine beginners camera which I sold quite soon after I learnt a few basics. I replaced it with a D200 which I still have but seldom use now. I have though, for the last five years been using a D300 in combination with Sigma lenses ranging from 10mm to 200mm focal length. The 10-20mm lens hardly gets used and the 70-200mm even less. The lens I use the majority of the time is the Sigma 17-70mm f2.8. I use combinations of Lee and Hitech ND graduated filters and a Heliopan polariser for various filtration requirements. All the above equipment is mounted on one of several Manfrotto tripods in various states of disrepair. I haven’t upgraded any of my equipment since buying the D300, I find it and the lenses are a perfect combination of reliability, portability and image quality requirements for my needs. Although, I have recently bought a Nikon P7100 compact camera, perhaps for a different approach and style in the future.
What draws you to photographing mountains?
They are the reason why I took up photography in the first place, I suppose. I simply wanted to try and portray my passion for them, to somehow record how they look, how I feel about them and how they make me feel. I’ve been passionate about them for a long time; before I even took up photography. Most of my spare recreational time will involve mountains, either walking or running up them or reading guides and maps about them.
Talk us through how you'd find, set up and take a shot.
For the last four years, I have almost exclusively taken images of mountains for my book so my typical routine has been as follows:
- I did much research to determine what are considered to be the finest mountains in Scotland; I polled walking forums, spoke to friends and outdoor-club members and sourced from my own knowledge until I had a list.
- Working from my list I would then refine how I could best photograph a particular mountain, choosing the optimum season, position of sun and most favourable weather conditions etc.
- Armed with my list, map and my camera, I’d set off and try and capture the images that I had pre-visualised. Two things would happen at this stage, either I’d capture a shot that matched or exceeded my expectations or I’d be disappointed with conditions or my planning. On these occasions I’d make a return trip or plan a different approach depending if it was a weather or geographical issue.
- Taking the shot would be a relatively simple process. Fine tuning composition, deciding exposure for my creative intent, focus and filtration etc. are the easiest aspects of making an image in my opinion. Choosing a worthy photogenic subject, deciding when and where to photograph it, maintaining the enthusiasm and commitment to carry out plans are much harder I think.
What tips do you have for those aspiring to take mountain photos that are as stunning as yours?
Passion – I think a healthy dose of passion for the subjects is fairly essential. A knowledge and understanding of the subjects and a strong desire to portray them goes a long way to achieving good results.
Commitment – If you want to photograph mountains other than easily accessible road-side scenes, then I think you need to be committed and willing to spend a lot of time and effort. Mountains, by their nature, require accessing and usually climbing to capture good results. If you then choose to photograph them at either end of the day then this requires further commitment. Of course, if you have a passion for them in the first place then this shouldn’t be too hard to summon up…
Tell us a bit about the inspirations behind your new book.
Foremost, the mountains are the main inspiration. I simply wanted to photograph them and present them as best I could in print.
Secondly, there are a number of photographic books depicting the Scottish Highlands and its mountains, notably ones by Colin Prior, Irvine Butterfield and Hamish Brown/Alan Gordon that inspire me. I am also inspired by some of the photography within walking guide books by the Scottish Mountaineering Council and Cameron McNeish, photographs simply taken by walkers who spend a lot of time out in the hills.
I knew that I wanted to photograph the Scottish mountains and produce a book and that I wanted it have a theme and be different to the ones that inspired me. I was intrigued to know what are regarded as the finest, the best to climb, the most photogenic or ones with the best views etc; so I set about researching them. I then photographed them, resulting in my book which I believe is a fair representation of Scotland’s fifty finest mountains.
What have you got planned for future photographic explorations?
At present I don’t actually have any future photographic plans. For three years I was solely dedicated to taking images for the book. At the moment I don’t have the desire to photograph anything until another project arises. I can’t take pictures unless I have a particular desire or unless for a specific purpose.
I do though have two ideas I might explore this summer. I bought the P7100 compact with the specific aim to be able to travel very light and fast over the mountains with the ability to take pictures on the hoof as it were, a refreshing alternative to the previous method I used. I may try a more abstract and less literal approach to my pictures.
The other avenue I might explore is my other passion, fell-running. I would quite like to cover a few fell-racing seasons and attempt to portray the effort and emotions associated with racing over the hills. I must first try and master the most fickle of subjects though – people!
To see more of John's work, take a look at his ePHOTOzine portfolio, and you can buy his book on his website.