Interview with Ian Plant, A Nature Photographer
Ian Plant is one of the most fascinating and inspiring Nature Photographer I have come across. His photography and articles have been published in various magazines, books and other media. He also holds many photography workshops ( at-least one I intend to attend in the coming months), if you are looking forward to one as well then you can check out his website.
KK: When you look at a photograph ( your own or your fellow photographer’s) what are the first 3 things (or more) you look at?
IP: The first thing I look at is composition. Composition is the primary aspect of a photograph that is under the creative control of the artist. The second thing I look at is the mood of the moment captured. Photography is all about capturing, as Henri Cartier-Bresson put it, the “decisive moment.” Because of the nature of the medium, photographers must react to the world around them. The mark of a great photographer is recognizing when there is a pleasing convergence of elements in the natural world. The third thing I look at is color and light. Although these are important to nature photography, they are usually more a product of the efforts of Mother Nature than of the artistic vision of the photographer!
KK: When you compose a photograph, are you always sure that this composition would be the best or do you take multiple shots from different perspective and decide later when you download it to your computer?
IP: I try to take as many different compositions of a promising scene as time allows. There’s no such thing as the “best composition” for most scenes; rather, there are often several or many different interpretations that have merit. Digital cameras give one the freedom to easily experiment, so my advice is to take advantage of this and shoot as much as possible. Sometimes I am convinced I have found “the one” when looking through my viewfinder only to be disappointed when I review the image more carefully back on my computer. It pays to take the time and explore other possibilities!
KK: Being a Nature/Landscape photographer, you need to be at the right place at the right time. How do you figure that out?
IP: I find it is important to develop a “weather sense.” Checking weather forecasts and satellite images helps, but nothing beats spending a few days or more on location observing the local weather patterns. Sunset and sunrise are always good bets, but developing an understanding of the local patterns can really help fine-tune one’s timing. Weather is extremely important to nature photography, as it adds mood, drama, and light. Learn the weather and you will have an advantage.
As for being in the right place, scouting a location looking for interesting compositions is the best thing to do. I spend as much time on the ground exploring as I possibly can in order to find the best opportunities, in order to return when I think conditions will be best to bring a scene to its fullest potential. There’s also something to be said for dispensing with a “right place/right time strategy,” and rather just wandering about reacting to changing light as it happens. I often do this, chasing the light rather than sitting on a specific location waiting for something interesting to happen.
KK: Do you have a favorite quote about photography? taken from others or your own?
IP: I guess I have two quotes that I often repeat, one from Ansel Adams and the other is my own. The Ansel quote is: “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” Developing a clear artistic vision and learning to effectively convey that vision to others is very important. The second quote, my own, is: “Don’t have rules, only tools.” There are lots of so-called “rules of composition” out there. Never forget that they shouldn’t be treated as ironclad rules, but rather as tools that should be at your disposal. If you need to break a rule to make a great image, then do so!
KK: Are there any photographers you are inspired from? If so, please could you share their name and how do they inspire you?
IP: “Growing up,” photographically speaking, I studied the work of many of the latter-day film-era landscape masters, such as David Muench, Jack Dykinga, Tom Till, andCarr Clifton. The most significant influence on my work probably comes from my good friend and Arizona legend George Stocking. My discussions with him about composition, use of light, and all things related to photography has had a profound influence on my development as an artist. Of course, for most of those conversations we were completely drunk, so I’m not sure if it has been an entirely positive association!
KK: What is your advice for the new folks trying their hand at photography as a hobby or planning to go pro?
IP: My advice is simple, whether photography is a hobby or a profession: immerse yourself in it completely. Take photographs of everything that inspires you or catches your eye. Study the work of others you admire, and think critically about their work and your own photographs. Get out and shoot as much as you can. There’s only one way to see how deep the rabbit hole is: just plunge in and go for it!
Thank You Ian for your precious time answering my questions.