My Interview with Nick Jenkins, Welsh Photographer of the Landscape

Some years ago I interviewed a number of photographers with the results being published in The Countryman, a popular UK magazine. This is one if them.

“So much beautiful landscape — so little time!” Nick Jenkins smiled as he said it and then added, “What really drives me is the total love I have of our landscapes and the desire to share that with folk through the medium of my work.” In a few words this company executive turned landscape photographer summed up his passion for our countryside and his photography.

When the company that Nick had worked in for twenty-seven years was taken over he found himself ‘surplus to requirements’ as he so succinctly puts it. At an age that is, in employment agency speak ‘difficult’, he took stock of his talents and interests and decided to have a go at converting his ten years experience as a hobby landscape photographer into a business.

It is often said that fortune favours the brave but it is often forgotten that fortune tends to come to those who make an effort. In Nick’s case, he sought advice from a fellow photographer, Steve Day, who, as Nick said, “not only provided plenty of sound advice but put me in touch with a very prestigious possible first client! This worked out well and my first big commission was under way within five weeks of setting myself up as Freespirit Images in August 2002. Sadly, Steve died of a brain tumour shortly after we made contact but his generosity and help were very instrumental in the successful launch of my business.”

I wondered what it was that had attracted Nick to landscape photography of all the genres of photography available to a professional and one that is not easy to make a living from.

“I had always been a keen hill walker, spending many hours in the hills and fells of England, Wales and Scotland (and Iceland and Nepal too) with my brother-in-law. My camera always accompanied me but when I had my results back from the photolabs they were so uninspiring and failed utterly to capture anything of the moods and emotions I had experienced ‘out there’. Put simply, I had little or no knowledge of compositional technique and all the major elements of my shots were so far away in the middle distance of the image as to be rendered meaningless! Consequently, I resolved to correct this and joined a local camera club to try and learn how to take decent and meaningful landscape images.”

And, learn he did. Before he turned professional, Nick had won a number of awards and had his first book published, Beacons of Light, the first photography book in colour that covered the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Then I asked where were his favourite spots for landscape photography.

He thought briefly and replied, “Oh blimey, I really hoped you wouldn’t have asked that one. We are so lucky in the UK to have so many superb locations! If pressed, I would have to say that my preference is for either upland areas (my favourite) or remote and windswept coastlines (not Blackpool or Margate!). I tend not to be drawn to what I call flatlands, which precludes the areas around Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire.

“Actual locations where I spend most of my time (and, by definition, secure some of my best work) would have to include the Lake District, Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons. Latterly I have been exploring the Isles of Scilly as they have enormous potential, together with the Welsh coastline along Cardigan Bay. This rather short shortlist does not preclude other locations, however, as I am also strongly drawn to the north west of Scotland, especially Skye and the Torridon area.

“I love the sense of elemental ruggedness these places offer, with their lack of people. It probably sounds clichéd, but they offer a ‘landscape in the raw’. I get more satisfaction from having to explore and then photograph these more remote locations than I would if I just pointed a camera over a hedge into a rape field, say (although I do that sometimes!). I feel that the harder I work to secure that sense of drama and remoteness the more satisfying becomes the end result. Man-made landscapes come nowhere near the beauty of nature’s construction work.

“Dramatic lighting is always important. This is generally more prevalent in Autumn and Spring (winter too) but only in the early morning and late evening during summer. I look for an image that portrays a sense of awe — that makes my jaw drop. The wonderfully clear light in the hills just after or before a storm always affects me profoundly. Having found this light, the elements of the shot have to somehow come together to show it off to best effect. Charlie Waite, the eminent British landscape photographer, talks about his landscape becoming a theatre and he will wait for and watch the performance to the point where he feels it is right to press the shutter. I confess I did think this was a little fanciful at first but now I totally subscribe to his viewpoint. If I am not completely inspired by the view in front of me (dramatic lighting and clear, dominant elements) it would be unreasonable to expect others to be inspired by my photograph.”

Here speaks a man with a passion for the British countryside. That his images do inspire those that see them is amply illustrated by the fact that he has just added another book to his one on the Brecon Beacons. This one covers the Moods of Mid-Wales and he is working on the Moods of Cardigan Bay and the Moods of Kilvert Country, covering the haunts of the Reverend Francis Kilvert, a Victorian curate and diarist. Nick has also contributed a chapter on the Isle of Man to Call of the Wild, a celebration of the British landscape published by the Rucksack Readers with a foreword by Sir Chris Bonington.

And, does he have any regrets about his change of career in mid-stream?

“No regrets at all.”

And what would be a perfect day for him?

“A blue-sky autumn day in Mid-Wales where the larch trees have all turned to a beautiful deep orangey yellow and the low raking sun is throwing long shadows off the mountains (and the pub is open down the road, and the beer is free!!)”

To see more of Nick’s photographs, go to his website

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