I have interviewed Ross Hoddinott a couple of times. This young nature photographer has made his mark in his chosen genre and has also written several books. This is the text of the second interview written several years ago but still worth reading.
When I first interviewed Ross Hoddinott in 2005, he was about to have his first book published. Now, he is awaiting the delivery of his second book which for a young fellow not yet 30 is an impressive record.
But not a surprising one. After all, he had won his first photographic competition at the age of 12 and went on to become the British Gas BBC Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year five years later. He has since been highly commended in the adult section in 2005. He had also decided at 17 that he would be a wildlife and nature photographer — this at an age at which many young men are still debating whether to be a professional footballer or a racing car driver if they are even thinking about the future further ahead than the next weekend!
“Ever since my parents first gave me a small compact camera for Christmas, when I was 11, I wanted to record wildlife on film. A year later, in 1990, I won BBC Countryfile’s junior flora and fauna category in their annual photography competition with a photograph of paired dragonflies. By the time I was awarded the British Gas BBC Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 1995 I had already decided my future profession — I wanted to be a natural history photographer!
“I guess my passion and enthusiasm for the natural world was obvious from an early age. My free time was regularly spent peering into ponds and exploring the meadowland near my parents’ home in North Cornwall. I find nature and the countryside inspirational. I know I’m very fortunate to enjoy a career where I spend most of my time outside walking and witnessing wonderful sights. I’m grateful that my interest has developed into my profession. I could never be stuck in an office all day. I love being outdoors too much and, although I’m a very social person, I also enjoy the solitude of being alone with my camera away from anyone. I enjoy capturing images which I’m able to share with people not fortunate enough to witness them for themselves. I also hope that, in some small way, my images might help highlight the beauty and importance of nature and our environment and, as a result, help the public learn to respect and care for it. I guess it’s also an ego trip having your images published and knowing people are looking at and, hopefully, enjoying your work. I’m sure any professional snapper would tell you the same.”
And, from that passion for photography, has developed a passion for writing about photography.
“I soon realised that my images alone wouldn’t earn me enough money to survive, so I began writing text to accompany my pictures. I’ve found that offering a complete package of words and images has greatly enhanced my pictures’ marketability to editors. I really enjoy writing anyway and I’m now a regular contributor to several magazines like Outdoor Photography, Photography Monthly and Organic Life. The biggest problem with being a youngish professional photographer is financial stability. I still do not have a large enough stock library of images to earn a consistently good monthly income. My income can still fluctuate wildly from one month to the next and this can prove quite scary at times.”
I asked how the commission for his first book came about.
“I wanted to write a book on photography, but I honestly didn’t expect to have the opportunity at just 27. Photographers Institute Press, which is part of the Guild of Master Craftsman (GMC) publications, approached me and invited me to submit a book proposal. Happily, it was accepted and I wrote Digital Macro Photography (ISBN 1-86108-452-8) which was published in 2006. I’ve always enjoyed shooting close-ups, especially insects and wild flowers. The book begins by giving an overview on digital technology and progresses to look at the equipment needed, various close-up techniques with practical guidance, and lighting. It also covers some handy post-processing skills. Hopefully, it will appeal to both beginners and enthusiasts.”
And, how did sales go and has it brought in any obvious business?
“Sales have been really good. Being my first title, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but the first print run sold out relatively quickly and Digital Macro is now due out as a paperback later this year. I have had some very kind comments and feedback — mostly via email — from photographers who have bought the book, which I’ve found encouraging. The book has also helped raise my profile generally. I have had more enquiries about my close-up images, as publications and potential clients now more widely recognize that macro is one of my specialist areas.”
Ross’s new book is The Digital Photographers Guide to Filters (ISBN 978-0-7153-2654-1) to be published by David and Charles in October in the UK. I was intrigued as my expensive Lee filters have lain dormant since I went digital and began relying upon Photoshop to do its best to simulate on-camera filters in post-capture processing. So, where did the idea for the filter book come from?
“I have always used filters. My interest in close-up photography began after I bought a set of close-up filters and, despite now exclusively shooting digitally, I still use a wide range of filters on a day-to-day basis. However, I recognize that digital capture has replaced the need for some traditional, optical filters — for instance, White Balance has greatly negated the need for warm-up and cool-down filters. For this reason, the book is split into two defined sections, concentrating on both in-camera filtration and replicating filter effects post capture. The concept for the book wasn’t actually mine. David and Charles approached me directly with the idea. They had previously published a book about optical filtration, written by Lee Frost. It is an excellent title, but they wanted an updated version that would be relevant to today’s digital photographer. I think it is a common misconception that filters are only a scenic photographer’s tool. So I have made every effort to demonstrate that filters, or filter effects, are useful in all areas and disciplines of photography. Hopefully it will prove an almost exhaustive reference for filter users of all abilities and experience.”
I have been sent samples of two chapters by the publisher and can tell you that they are full of information about the use of the filters and an explanation of what effects the filters have — in the chapters I received, the polarizing filters and the neutral density filters — numerous examples of with filter and without shots, and, most usefully, boxed tips from Ross’s experience. In the polarizing chapter he covers the standard polarizer and goes on to explain about warm polarizing filters, red-enhancing filters and cross-polarization. He finishes with a discussion on some of the polarizing problems. If that sample chapter is anything to go by, this will be a most valuable book on any photographer’s bookshelf.
I would have liked to have seen a chapter on one of the post-capture Photoshop simulations of on camera filter effects but will have to wait until I get my copy of the book. In the meantime I shall have to dig out my filter system and remind myself how effective on-camera filtering can be even in the digital age.
To see some of Ross’s superb photography have a look at his website at http://www.rosshoddinott.co.uk