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ePHOTOzine Chats To Steve Bright

ePHOTOzine recently chatted to Steve Bright, who takes stunning cityscapes of London's skyline.

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Steve Bright

City sunset, July 2014. Viewed from 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf 

Hi Steve! Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into photography?

My father has always been an avid hobbyist photographer and after trying a roll of film in his old Box Brownie at the age of nine, he gave me my first camera – a Kodak Instamatic. I generally shot colour slide film, although sometimes used black and white negative film, printing it the school darkroom. Later influenced by my school friends I bought my first SLR, a Praktica, at the age of eighteen, replacing it with a Minolta X700 a few years later. I joined the Basingstoke Camera Club in 1992, and encouraged by them I applied for and gained my Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society (ARPS) in 2001, after submitting a panel of fifteen prints for critical review. I shot slide film with a range of Minolta film cameras up until 2003 when I made the switch to Canon digital. Since then I’ve never looked back, apart from with a slight tinge of nostalgia.

 

When did you decide photography could be a career for you?

Although I’ve thought of becoming a professional photographer many times, it’s remained a pipe dream. I gained a University degree in Computer Science and have maintained a career in the world of software ever since.

Steve Bright 2

Paralympics Closing Ceremony, September 2012, viewed from 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf 

What draws you to London's skyline for your photos?

In June 2012 I started working in one of the high floors of 1 Canada Square in Canary Wharf, Britain’s second tallest building. The views were incredible and varied all the time as the light changed and different weather passed over. I’ve always been a fan of high vantage points, so this location was perfect for me.

I’ve always liked to get out of the office at lunchtime to explore new or familiar places with my camera, rather than sitting at my desk eating sandwiches. Around the beginning of 2013 I started becoming quite active on Instagram and started making connections with more and more people there. Through Instagram I’ve met lots of people from all walks of life who share a common passion and interest in photography. All of these things acted in concert and ramped up my enthusiasm for photography which had been in the doldrums for a few years.

There are many great photographers on Instagram and Flickr, a lot of whom are actually comparatively new to photography, but have a keen eye for composition and great ideas for shots. You have to really raise your game to try to keep up with them. It’s never too late to learn new techniques.

Steve Bright

Commuters at London Bridge Station. This image won the LPOTY Network Rail 'Lines in the Landscape' Special Award

 

Is there a particular area in London you find yourself drawn to?

Anywhere high! But also low down too: I love shooting the underground, although mainly use my iPhone for this. I love modern architecture and find myself drawn to the City and Canary Wharf, as well as almost anywhere along the Thames. There is so much to choose from in London, you are short of something to photograph.

Steve Bright ‚Äč

Fog over Battersea. The St George Wharf Tower and Battersea Power Station rise over the fog at sunset. As seen from the Shard

Tell us a bit about how you scout out locations and set up your shots.

I can get inspiration for locations from many sources: other photos I see on Instagram, Flickr or TV shows, as well as what I see when I’m out and about, exploring new areas or reading event listings. If I get an idea for a shot I’ll try to work out when to shoot it based on blue/golden hour times, sun angles and weather conditions. I do love shooting in blue hour whenever I can, although a great many of my shots are taken in the harsh light of a lunch break!

Steve Bright

The Shard at Sunset, October 2013. Viewed from 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf

You recently won the National Rail 'Lines in the landscape' a special award in the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I’ve been aware of the Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition for a few years although I’d not entered before this year. I rarely shoot classical landscape shots so I’d never really considered it. However, I saw the 2013 Exhibition at the National Theatre and was surprised to see that there were quite a few shots that were broadly similar in subject matter to some of my photos. This spurred me into entering, and I was thrilled to discover that I’d won the National Rail “Lines in the Landscape” Special Award for the best image of Britain’s modern rail network. It was a great honour to have had my photo chosen for this Award from all those that had entered and to be featured alongside so many fantastic winning photographs.

The winning photo is a view looking almost straight down to the platforms at London Bridge station from the viewing gallery at the top of The Shard (shown further up the page). I went there with a friend shortly after it opened, in March 2013. When I’m presented with a view as spectacular as that it’s hard to resist the temptation to photograph anything and everything, and at all focal lengths! As well as the view to the distance, it pays to look closer to the base of the building too. My eye was drawn to the curve of the tracks and the commuters waiting for their evening trains. I didn’t have to wait long before a couple of trains stopped at the station, the curving carriages all adding to the composition. Unfortunately, tripods are not permitted in the viewing gallery so you have to be prepared to be imaginative. Having said that, this particular photo was shot handheld at ISO 3200 as I wanted to freeze the commuters.

I had another image accepted into the LPOTY Exhibition, that of the setting sun striking The Shard: it's one of many photos shot from my office (shown above). There was spectacular light that evening as the sun was setting. I’ve often bracketed photos although had rarely done anything except use the best exposed image; I’d dabbled with HDR in the past but I’m not keen on the surreal grungy effects that are still popular in many arenas. Only a couple of hours after shooting the photo I attended a lecture on HDR photography at my Camera Club and was inspired to download the HDRSoft Lightroom Plugin to try it out. The lecturer had shown a comparatively easy way to use HDR techniques to subtly enhance a photo in a way that suited my style of image processing. By midnight, I had produced this image.

Steve Bright

O2 Arena masts emerging from the fog, December 2013. Viewed from 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf 

What kit do you use and why do you like it?

I have a fairly extensive collection of Canon gear. I’ve been accumulating items for eleven years and somehow find myself unable to part with any of it! I now have 5 DSLRs at least two of which I never use and which are worth almost nothing. My award-winning image was shot on a Canon 5D mk2 with a 24-105mm f/4 lens. My other successful image was shot on a Canon 40D with a 70-200 f/4 IS lens. It’s a newer photo than the award winner, but I didn’t have the 5D with me at the time. You have to do the best you can with the equipment that you have with you, even if it’s only a phone.

For more information on Steve Bright and his work, take a look at his website

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