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Urban Landscape Photographer Nicholas Goodden Interview

Nicholas Goodden is an established urban landscape photographer who's recently discovered the art of cinemagraphs.

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Nicholas Goodden is an established urban landscape photographer based in London. As well as holding down a day job Nicholas has recently discovered the power of cinemagraphs, which are discussed further down our interview in more detail. Find out more about Nicholas and his work on his website, this is London.


Nicholas Goodden

Image © Nicholas Goodden

Tell us a bit about yourself - how did you discover photography?

I’m born in the UK, raised in France until I moved to London at the age of 21. I’ve been here ever since and love it. London gets my creative juices flowing, it’s a constant source of inspiration.

I can’t really say I discovered photography at any point. I always thought I got into photography around 2008, but then I recently found an award for best photographer in my little village’s competition when I was 11 years old. Totally forgot about that tiny achievement!

I think like anyone else, I’ve always had an interest in photography and I’m yet to find someone who doesn’t enjoy taking photos even if just with a phone.


What draws you to it rather than any other artistic medium?

I’m interested in photography first but also lots of other stuff. I was a techno DJ for 10 years, I’m a classically trained chef in a catering school in France and consider cooking to be artistic, I did stone sculpture, I like to draw. Photography I’d say is what I’ve been sticking to the longest and with the most passion.

Photography’s beautiful as it is not a costly hobby. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s accessible to anyone and anyone can become reasonably good at it if they have passion, a good eye and drive. Actually, that’s the beauty with arts as a whole.


Nico Goodden

Image © Nicholas Goodden

Why did you decide to focus on London?

I guess rather than a choice it’s rather instead circumstances. I live in London so became a London focused photographer. If I had moved to the country, I may be a landscape photographer. I did, however, make the choice to stick to shooting London primarily and all that makes it, in my eyes, the best city in the world. I could have decided “let’s shoot weddings” but I didn’t. I love London.


Your urban landscape photos are pretty fantastic - how do you come up with the concept for your images?

I don’t think I ever set out to shoot anything specific. My view is the more you construct an idea in your mind, the more you restrict yourself, make it hard for yourself and set yourself up for disappointment and frustration not to have reproduced what you envisaged. I prefer to go with the flow, to let improvisation rule.

For that, I walk a lot. I observe a lot.


Nicholas Goodden

Image © Nicholas Goodden

How do you set up for and take the image?

Each photo is a different set-up and a different set of circumstances so it’s not easy to make a one size fits all rule book. Some require a tripod, some don’t. Some have in-camera filters used, some are post-processed. Some are long exposures, some aren’t. You have to adapt I guess and be ready. Landscape photography requires carrying a lot more with you than street photography (which I do a lot of) does. With street photography, you can go out with your camera and one lens without worrying too much. Landscape,s on the other hand, can require more gear. You may want to take your tripod with you, a remote shutter release, you may want to carry ND or Infrared filters. And then lenses, fisheye, wide angle, the list goes on.


Nicholas Goodden

Image © Nicholas Goodden

Tell us a bit about the kit your use and why you like it.

I shoot with Olympus cameras since 2011, I’m actually an official Olympus Ambassador. At the moment although I own an E-M1, I only really use my E-M5 Mark II. In terms of lenses, I use mostly two. The Olympus 12-40mm Pro and the Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95. The Oly gives me versatility and great IQ, whilst the Voigtlander is excellent for shallow depth of field, IQ and shooting in very low light. To be honest, I don’t really shoot urban landscapes so often these days. My main focus for 2015 is to take a little break from them and street photography and keep learning. So I focus on cinemagraphs which I’ll discuss a little further below.


You work in both black and white and colour - which do you prefer and why?

No preference really. I think each has a place and I decide that when I frame my shot. I never convert a shot to black and white in post, it’s always decided when I shoot it. A great photo is only the sum of all the decisions you have made in the preparation up to the point you press the shutter. Then of course you have post-processing, but you can’t really make what started as a bad photo look stunning. Well, some people may think you can, but trust me, you can’t.


Nicholas Goodden

Image © Nicholas Goodden

Tell us about your cinemagraphs - how are they created?

I am always interested in learning new techniques. I see some photographers who spend their life shooting the same things, I don’t get that. I’m curious. Curiosity is the most important thing to drive creativity.

So to answer your question, there are many ways to make them. The general idea is to shoot a short movie, and mask the area you want to remain still and then work on finding a perfect look for the element that remains in motion. There are many photoshop tutorials out there or alternatively some apps exist that can make it easier. But cinemagraphs, like a photo have to start with a great concept and composition which no software or app will hand you on a silver platter.

When I started seeing cinemagraphs I knew I had to get on it too. I am completely absorbed and in love with them. I happen to also be Head of Sales and Marketing for a company (yes I keep my day job still) and I know the potential they have to increase and drive engagement on social media, boost digital marketing campaigns and make websites look even sexier.


Do you see photography moving more in this direction as the technology gets better?

There will be an increase in people producing them that’s sure and in the demand for them. But I think Photography, cinemagraphs and video all have a place and none will replace the other. They are 3 very different things. Just take mags, photos are the only that can be printed for a start. But my opinion is that video is too much of a commitment for people to watch online. You know, people are busy and have a very limited attention span, so asking them to watch a 3-minute video can be tricky. A cinemagraph instead can really capture audiences and has an almost hypnotic effect. It’s a photo with extra depth.


Nicholas Goodden

Image © Nicholas Goodden

Who are your inspirations in the photography world?

I’m actually not too interested in what others do. What I mean is that the more I look at other people’s work, the less I focus on mine. Of course I love to interact with people and I promote others whose work I enjoy. For example I founded and run the Street Photography London collective, a collective of London’s top street photographers. The blog on our website also features the work of all sorts of talented international street photographers. But all this doesn’t change the fact that I have to focus on my own work and not pay so much attention on finding inspiration in others, it’s a distraction and a waste of time.


If you could give 3 top tips to someone starting out in urban landscape photography, what would they be?

  • Be driven and work hard. While others sit on their couch watching TV, be out there shooting. If you work more than the rest, you’ll learn more than the rest.
  • Be kind and network. People will not just remember you for the photography you produce but also the person you are.
  • Get some good walking shoes.
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