Landscape Photography with Tom Peters (Photo Ninja)
To capture what you love is the sole reason we are photographers. From portraits to landscapes, the passion is the same. I recently came across an extremely talented landscape photographer by the name of Tom Peters (Photo Ninja) and knew immediately that I wanted to connect with him. His YouTube channel and passion for landscape photography have fuelled the interest of over 1000 subscribers across the globe.
With that being said, I wanted to bring some added value to the landscape photographers who have been keeping up with these posts. In this piece, I ask Tom various questions revolving around the craft of landscape photography and his passion for it.
Q: Peter McKinnon released a video last year documenting the capture of his “Bucket Shot”. He went and photographed Marine Lake’s ice capped mountains and calm silky water. What is your landscape “Bucket Shot”?
A: Wow what a question! I think my bucket list shot would be to photograph on the Isle of Skye up in Scotland. There's a location called Old Man of Storr, it’s a very iconic location on Skye and probably puts the island on the map.
Q: Landscape photography is a beautiful way of reminding viewers that the world is a beautiful place. I’ll never forget visiting Banff for the first time and being absolutely stunned by its mass and beauty. What location(s) have you shot at that took your breath away?
A: I'm lucky to have family up in Wiltshire which is famous for its rolling hills and I always try to get out and shoot when we are up visiting. I can remember two mornings in particular, one when the light was incredible in the early morning with dense mist and the other being in winter with a 2ft coating of fresh snow. Both mornings life stood still. Closer to home...Bude has a breakwater sheltering the bay from the elements and when the sky kicks off with colour and the tide rolls over the cobbles I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Q: When capturing landscape photos, what are the things that a photographer needs to be (mentally) focusing on?
A: Personally for me my thought process always starts with trying to replicate what I can see with my eyes. A lot of the time I'm at the coast and it’s windy and cold so mentally I'm thinking I want this to come through in the image and capture the atmosphere. I think if you have that mindset when approaching a scene you will come away with a better shot and it adds value to the shot for memory sake if nothing else.
I can completely relate to Tom’s answer here. When visiting Banff, surrounded by the white capped mountains, all I could think was, “how do I photograph this in a way that truly captures the beauty I’m surrounded by right now”. I felt this incredible sense of awe, and wanted anyone that viewed my image to feel that as well. Tom is phenomenal at conveying that sense of emotion in his shots. I got lost staring at his image of the Vale of Pewsey for 10 minutes, just imagining myself there.
Q: I, alongside many others, constantly vocalize that equipment shouldn’t act as a clutch, but there is no doubt that it can benefit an image from time to time. What equipment do you find landscape photographers need to/should have in their camera bag?
A: I don't believe the latest camera or lens will make you a better photographer, but I do believe there are certain pieces of kit that help the whole process of taking a landscape image more enjoyable. For me I'm always on a tripod taking my time and crafting the image I want. I have brought flimsy tripods in the past and spent many hours sat at the computer afterwards looking at soft images. I think my tripod is the most important piece of kit I carry to get sharp images, you wouldn't build a house on poor footings so why put your camera on a flimsy tripod and expect to get consistent results.
Q: Based on our earlier conversation, I discovered that you also greatly admire lifestyle/landscape photographer Andrew Kearns. What specifically about his work draws you in?
A: Andrew Kearns is one of those photographers that make it look easy, you get that spontaneous raw feel about his images. I love the way that comes across in his photography and YouTube videos, he seems to capture the moment very well and you can see exactly how the atmosphere was at that moment. That's extremely hard to do and I think that separates the good from the very good photographers.
Q: I know I asked you about your “Bucket Shot”, but I am curious to know what your favourite shot so far has been, and why.
A: Now this is a tough one because I have taken so many images that I feel have captured the mood and feel at the time, it's hard to pick just one. If I had to pick one it would be the morning back up in Wiltshire, when I had some incredible light and fleeting mist which the Vale of Pewsey is famous for. It was such a chilled peaceful morning to witness and to capture it on camera was just a bonus.
Q: I’ve always had a deep rooted passion for films and found that it transferred over to my love for photography. In lifestyle photography, I greatly enjoy setting the scene and directing my models in order to drive a point/focus. What about landscape photography fuels your passion?
A: For me I have always had an interest in photography in general and I have always had a strong passion for the outdoors. We always used to travel to the Lake District or Scotland to climb the highest mountains when I was a kid. The great outdoors and landscape photography just go hand in hand so when YouTube came along all 3 passions just came together. The early mornings for a sunrise shoot is my main fuel, getting to a location and witnessing the sun coming up and being in that moment is priceless.
Regardless if you shoot landscape, portrait, lifestyle or street photography, shooting a sunrise is special. There is something about getting to a location before the city has lifted an eyelid, and witnessing the sun rise amongst the earth’s horizon that is absolutely magical.
Q: What was the first landscape photograph that you took and thought, “damn… I am super proud of this”?
A: Now then...I am very critical of my work but I recently went through my Instagram feed getting rid of the dead wood and came across an image from a few years ago. I dragged my partner out for the morning onto Dartmoor National Park which is large boggy moor with lots of waterfalls and ancient woodlands scattered about. We had to trek down steep slopes and through bracken up to our ears, trying to find a hidden waterfall. Needless to say we found it all to ourselves and I captured the first shot that I would be happy to sell as a print.
This answer gets me so excited. Maybe that sounds weird, but Tom trekked through thick and thin alongside his partner to get an image he REALLY wanted to get. The result of that was an image that he is still extremely proud of today. Sometimes just putting in a bit more effort for the shot makes all of the difference.
Q: You’ve been posting videos on YouTube for 2 years now, and have had some success in building an audience. What kinds of things do you think influenced your growth, and what do you think needs to happen next to ramp it up?
A: YouTube is such a hard profession, people think that it's easy and it's far from it. I think just putting out lots of videos these days isn't enough to gain traction, you have to stand out somehow. I think I'm slightly younger than a lot of the competition (landscape vlogger based), which helps me to appeal to a younger audience and people have to like you and I think I'm a likeable bloke. My videos are chilled and laid back but I think that helps me stand out. Oh and I’d like to think that my photography is okay to. Moving forward I know I have to raise the bar to keep growing, I believe collaborations, increased production quality and travelling to different locations in different seasons will push my growth.
Just to correct Tom here, his photos are better than “ok”. The thing to pull out of Tom’s answer is that his personality fuels the character of the channel, and that is what draws people in. Although I respect Peter McKinnon greatly as a creative, he has influenced an abundance of what I call “second hand Kinnons“. I’m seeing far too many new creators brewing coffee in the intros while repping snap backs and completely replicating his editing style. What I appreciate about Tom is his lack of desire to fit the mold. His content is authentic and it comes across as so. In summary, as the kids say, keep it 100.
Q: Lastly, what would a dream collaboration or gig be for you? (ie. Equipment, YouTube Creator, etc. )
A: Collaborations have and will be a massive part of my photography/YouTube past and present. I have recently joined up with Firework app which has been very exciting and have been working with Kase filters with the aim to be a part of their team. So things are going really well but I would love to work with 3 legged thing tripods just because I love their gear and its British made. My ultimate YouTube collaboration would have to be with Adam Gibbs, his work is outstanding and he has won the landscape photographer of the year 2019. His videos are just seamless.
There are a few things to take away from this post, but here are the two I want to focus on.
Create what you love: Don’t shoot portraits because it’s the sexy thing to do. When Friday kicks in, what are you giddy about shooting over the weekend? Shoot that… like all the time.
Stay authentic: Be unapologetically yourself, because overall transparency is better received and no one wants to watch a ‘second hand Kinnon’.
What I love about this creator series is that it has allowed me to reflect on my own work and creative drive. Andrew Kearns taught me to edit to the photo, not to the instagram feed. Jamal Burger reminded me to create relationships within the industry without the shallow expectation that I will get something in return. Chris Hau taught me to ALWAYS prioritize the client’s vision and needs.
And Tom Peters? Well, Tom has shown me that staying authentic is always the best approach. With a bright YouTube career ahead of him, the best is yet to come. I can tell you one thing, I am definitely looking forward to seeing that Old Man of Storr video when it pops.
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