Tony Howell Photography
64 Penwethers Crescent
Tony in 1982 with Rolleiflex 2.8F
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Tony Howell is a professional photographer with over 40 years experience based in Truro, Cornwall. He has written three Photography books and his images have been used in countless other books, calendars, magazines, on television, in a Hollywood Movie, billboards, brochures, catalogues, greeting cards, posters, postcards, websites, national newspapers, fleets of vans and much more. He also does photography tuition
Clients include National Geographic, The BBC, Christies, Royal Mail, The Tate, The National Trust, Penguin Books, Unicef, The Forestry Commission, & many more (see Client List) Tony is represented by various photo libraries; Getty Images, Flower Photos and National Trust Photo Library and has work on sale in various galleries
'When I started using a camera in 1977, I really started seeing the world properly for the first time. I take photographs because I'm interested in anything beautiful, but particularly the natural world. I just love nature; I love the creative process, and tuning in to my own interpretation of the subject; trying to express my feelings about what I see. I hope to get my message across in my images: - peace and joy through beauty. Concentrate on beauty and it infuses your life. It can be a spiritual experience that lifts me higher; mostly when I'm photographing, but also when I make a great print and relive being there. Taking photographs makes me seek out beauty, which then uplifts me. I'm not just doing it for myself; I've received many thank you messages from people over the years. My work has uplifted them too, and many say it inspires them. This is surely the greatest compliment, and spurs me on to to capture more fine glimpses of this ever-changing world'.
'The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera' - Dorothea Lange
Why did you take up photography? First of all my father gave me a Kodak Instamatic at age 17. I took sunrises and sunsets, then a friend showed me a photography magazine. I looked at some of the images and thought 'I could have taken that' - so I got a better camera, and suddenly I saw the world with new eyes. I was hooked right from the start
Where were you born? In Plymouth, Devon, England in 1960
When did you start? In 1977, then I bought my first proper camera, a Pentax K1000 35mm SLR in 1979.
In 1982 I bought my first medium format camera (Rolleiflex 2.8F, 6x6cm) and was bowled over by the quality of bigger transparencies. Next I bought a 5x4" camera - I've always wanted the best image quality. Now I use very high quality digital cameras Camera Gear
What qualifications do you have? None. I'm self-taught, entirely trial and error starting with ideas from books and magazines in the 1980's. What has made me into a photographer is simply this - a real love of the natural world, plus plenty of practice and dedication. I also happen to be something of a perfectionist, which means a lot of my images are discarded. I found I had a natural eye for composition from the start; I never had to study or even think about it much, I knew when it was right instinctively
When did you first exhibit your work? I had four images in an exhibition in Clifton, Bristol in 1985
Was it easy to make it as a freelance? No. You need plenty of patience and more marketing skills than photographic ones. You need to find your market. I spent several years on a low income. It was a difficult time for me, but I worked hard with real determination to succeed, driven by a passion for photography which remains undiminished to this day. Taking photographs is a real joy, and the business side of being a freelance I also enjoy, but it is hard work. Overall though, I love my job
Who are your main clients? Book, Calendar and magazine publishers, Design Agencies, Corporate clients
plus many print sales to business and the general public
Which photographers have inspired you? Ansel Adams and Paul Strand, both legendary black and white photographers inspired me at the start. I don't believe the life of anyone parallels another though, and I found my own style and stay true to myself. 'It's what you see, and what you have to say about life that's important' - Paul Strand. People say I'm a talented photographer, but the truth is, I've just worked hard. Photographers tell me I inspire them, and that's the greatest compliment, but you have to find your own voice - don't try and be like someone else. What do you have to say about the world?
What cameras do you use now? I don't think the camera you use is as important as your 'vision' - it's what you see that counts - and plenty of practice, but I use high end digital cameras which allow me to do very large prints, which some clients demand. My preferred settings are Manual exposure with f/8 aperture using the best lenses I can buy, capturing images in RAW (with no sharpening done to the images), which I later make a master Tiff file from in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop
What camera would you recommend? I get asked this all the time, and it's not easy to answer. The best camera for you depends on so many factors. These days I prefer Sony mirrorless cameras; great resolution, dynamic range and light to carry around (after years of lugging heavy camera gear everywhere!). I used to be happy with both Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras if you're looking for a digital SLR. Canon have the best range of lenses for professionals and I still use them on my Sony. Buy the best camera and lenses you can afford. A good website where photographers review their own cameras may be useful to you: Fred Miranda - please don't contact me about it as I'm too busy!
What is it about nature that you love? Everything; the peace, the sounds, the air, the flora and fauna, but most of all the beauty
What do you find so interesting about creating images of natural scenery? I'm expressing the way I feel about nature in a personal way that has made a lot of people happy, as they've shared in the beauty I saw
What types of photos do you personally enjoy creating? Great scenes that make the viewer wish they were there, that are technically excellent, that show a rare moment that not many see, and that are among the best I've ever seen of that location
What's the best thing about your job? I really enjoy the challenge of doing a great job when commissioned, love meeting new people, love making superb prints that I know my customers will also love, but my favourite time of all is when I have a few spare hours, and I can then set off to take my own photographs
What does a typical day consist of? If the weather report looks promising, I may get up before dawn and travel to somewhere local to photograph. Then I work in the office from 9am and reply to emails which normally takes an hour. I may then have to send a few images to clients, and then start printing my orders. This could easily take the rest of the day. I always have a backlog of images to process, so if I have time I then start working on my RAW files. When I'm on a commission, I'll spend a few hours preparing my camera gear and researching how to go about the work, ready for the next day. One day I may spend 9 hours on the computer and hardly leave my seat. Another day I may be driving for several hours, then do lots of walking under pressure to fulfil a clients brief. Other times I could be on a beach, taking my own photographs, feeling exhilarated
Do you use filters? Hardly any. I use a polarising filter to reduce reflections and glare on water. I also use neutral density filters to reduce the shutter speed for moving water and clouds. Everything else is done in Lightroom/Photoshop.
You seem to like Abstract images - why? Abstracts make you think more about texture, lighting, colour and other aspects that are easily overlooked with a 'standard' view. Abstracts enable you to concentrate the viewers attention on one aspect, like the texture of a leaf for example
Is your work affected by political or social issues? Not political, but nowadays I may consider ways of showing climate change in my images, but I try to make my landscape images as good as possible, so that people who like them may care a little more about our planet
Do you feel there is a deeper meaning to your photographs? For instance any significant landscapes containing personal memories or emotions? Most of my images contain personal memories and emotions of the joy and challenge of photographing them. As for deeper meaning, I try to do justice to God's incredible Creation and express peace and tranquility, to hopefully move the viewer into a peaceful state, more appreciative of the beauty in nature, and maybe even spiritually uplifted
What are you inspired by? beauty and great light What inspired you to do landscape photography? Beautiful scenery. I've always loved pictures that make you wish you'd been there. I have been there quite a lot!
How long do you spend photographing each landscape? anything from 5 minutes to several hours, then often I'll return several times in different lighting conditions
Do you spend a great deal of time using photoshop? Yes, from 20 minutes to 2 hours on each image
You also like flower images - why? I've always loved flowers, plants and trees, and enjoy gardening when I get time. Gardening is a bit like photography in that it gets you outdoors more often. When I first bought a macro lens, my flower photography really took off - the range of colour, form and textures in the plant world is amazing, and easily overlooked, which is why photographing plants has given me so much pleasure. It really opened my eyes to the smaller details in life. When I first photographed flowers I really looked at them for the very first time
Do you take pictures of people or animals?'I like doing portraits in natural light, but landscapes always take priority. I particularly like photographing cows and sheep Animals
Do you travel abroad to work as well as in the UK? I specialise in photographs of the South-West of England, and there are more than enough pictures here for one lifetime. I went to Ireland this year commissioned by Royal Mail, but rarely go abroad to work
What is your favourite image of the ones you've made? No one favourite, but I've always liked this one from 1980 (click for larger version): -
All of my pictures remind me of where and when I took them,
so they're like a document of my life.
My memory isn't too good, but my visual memory remains sharp thanks
What advice would you give to beginners? You have to do what you love, and be true to yourself. Specialise in your chosen subject, get plenty of practice, know your camera well - then learn about marketing if you want to succeed as a freelance. Read books and magazines for tips, but put it all into practice. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect, and I learned more from mistakes than successes, which is why practice is so important. Practice builds your experience and confidence to greater levels. Be realistic. Being a landscape photographer is the best job in the world, but it doesn't make much money. If you want to make money, do fashion, wedding or advertising photography, or if all else fails, get a proper job
Would you recommend a career in Landscape Photography? Only if you absolutely love it and are
prepared to earn low wages for a few years. It is hard work, but to me, it's the best job in the world; however, it doesn't pay well, so if you want a big house become a doctor or a lawyer. It may not make you happy though, and I'm happy
How would you recommend someone to market their photographs? Oh dear, not an easy one that. Perhaps start small, selling at Art/Craft Fairs? Doing work for low pay to get a foot in the door? I think specialising is probably the key. Too many people want to take landscapes or flowers but the market simply isn't big enough. Flowers particularly have been overdone, and most libraries don't even want them anymore. Specialise in something you love, and if you can't do that, just do photography for fun
Any other tips? There are thousands of good photographers out there. You have to do something different or better than them. Also, learn all you can about technique - but break the rules sometimes. Strive to be different, and specialise in a subject you're passionate about See also Photography tips
What are your future projects? I'll always love photographing the South West of England, so will do that until I can't. If I ever get the time, I'd like to do a series on old people. They deserve much more respect than they get from todays society. They're just us in an older form - wouldn't you want to be respected?
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