Winner, Best Single Image in a Portfolio – Wild Stories
Travel Photographer of the Year 2013
You can buy this and other Travel Photographer of the Year prints online here.
Pete Downing runs his own Chartered Surveyors practice and is an enthusiastic amateur wildlife, travel and landscape photographer. Now with increasing image sales and recognition, he plans to turn professional in the next few years. He also has a portrait studio in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire and has been known to photograph the odd wedding with a colleague who is a suave French photographer; “he keeps the bridesmaids happy!”
He has been dabbling in photography since leaving university in the late 70s but in the last five years or so it has become an obsession, with a particular emphasis on wildlife. He has travelled extensively in search of elusive creatures but is also focusing attention on a project to create exciting wildlife images in his own back garden in the Cotswolds.
You can see more of Pete’s work here www.petedowning.com
2. What first got you into photography and how old were you?
My wife to be bought me my first SLR camera, a Pentax ME Super, just after we both left university together. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed at first with the prints that were coming back but when I discovered Fuji Velvia slide film I realised what this little camera was really capable of. I used to love slide film photography and was extremely nervous when I forked out for a Canon 10 D, a new computer and an Epson printer, it really had to work after that much investment. Whilst the quality is nowhere near that of the latest gear it was a massive relief to see the first print come through looking almost like a Cibachrome print.
3. How do you look to approach and capture your next best shot?
Before I travel I build up a memory bank of preconceived images. In the case of wildlife in particular I study my potential subjects comprehensively and always try to look at as many photographs of them as I can that have been taken by other wildlife photographers. My aim is always to capture an image that hasn’t been made before. One thing that I now take for granted is that I rarely, if ever, end up with any of the images that I had pre-visualised before I had arrived, but my favourite images are almost always ones that I come upon entirely unexpectedly. Despite that I still believe in the discipline of forward thinking as it concentrates the mind. That aside the absolute 100% key factor is the light, if the light is not going to be right I don’t even get the camera out of the bag, it really is that important.
4. What has being involved with the Travel Photographer of the Year done for your photography career?
It puts you on the map, it’s as simple as that. It is an incredibly prestigious competition and I’m extremely proud to have won an award. I will most certainly try to win some more!
5. Tell us the story of your profiled picture
Ironically there was not a lot of travel involved in this picture as it was taken near Droitwich in Worcestershire. However it was part of a portfolio of pictures with others taken in Mexico, Kenya and Hungary. It was taken at a hide specifically constructed for the task by Mark Hancox a hugely talented bird photographer who I jokingly refer to as the ‘Brummie Bence’ (after Bence Mate). Inevitably it was one of the last pictures I took after a marathon session (but 12 hours in a hide is my idea of heaven). It was taken with a Canon 1D mk4 and you really needed the fast frame rate that camera delivers to capture the action. One poor chap a few days before had spent all day photographing with a Canon 5DMk 2 and didn’t manage a single image (great camera, just not fast enough for that type of work).
The perfect shot after a marathon session in a hide | © Pete Downing. You can buy this print online here.
6. Where is your favourite place you have visited, and why?
Undoubtedly South Georgia, an unbelievably wild and remote place. Despite the growing number of visitors there were still times when, walking through the landscape, you really felt that other feet had probably never touched the particular piece of ground you were on. The scenery and birdlife were sensational. Being on a beach with 250,000 King Penguins is life changing.
7. What piece of advice would you give someone starting out on their photography ‘career’?
The most apposite quote I have ever heard (and I can’t remember who it is attributed to, must be an age thing!) was ‘Show people a hundred of your images of which 12 are great and the rest are good and they will think you are a good photographer, show them only the 12 great ones and they will think you are a great photographer’. So as the old mantra goes ‘Edit, Edit, Edit’ and just show the images that set your own pulse racing, don’t compromise on that.
8. What do you most enjoy photographing?
Wildlife and remote landscapes. There is nothing more relaxing than being away from the constant torrent of emails, texts and phone calls that are a part of my day-to-day business life. I am intent on expanding my portfolio considerably so I have trips planned to Brazil’s Pantanal and Cerrado regions, the Pyrennees in Winter (for Lammergeier, other Vultures and Eagles), Spain in Spring (for Lynx and Bustards) and Svalbard in the summer. Hopefully the next 12 months will be very productive indeed.
For more information on Travel Photographer of the Year or to enter, visit www.tpoty.com
For more information on Pete, visit www.petedowning.com