Neil Barnes, Shed Artist of the Week.

With this current crop of stormy weather, it’s interesting to for me to know that it was the East Coast storms of 1978 that gave me my break into photography, I just happened to be around with a camera – right place, right time.

And that’s the key, being in the right place at the right time. You can plan ahead, you can identify possible scenes and scenarios but there’s no better feeling than coming across something and being able to capture it to its full glory. Equally though, getting an idea and working to create a picture can be just as rewarding.

I often take a wander out with my cameras not knowing where to go or what I’m going to shoot but that’s the fun of it. I may identify places that when the weather is different I may return but on the whole I invariably come back with something. That’ll be the newspaper background I have, being taught to always get a usable picture no matter what, so you didn’t incur the wrath of the Editor.

Nowadays, its much more laid back with very few of those pressures. In fact it was only last April (2013) that I decided to try my hand at landscape photography, never really having felt the need. Well I guess having a natural aptitude and 35 years experience as a photographer does help but also living in one of the most beautiful parts of the country also has a distinct advantage.

The picture that set it all off was the one that was recently sold in the The Shed winter exhibition. On my way back from photographing some electric buses in Dorchester for a transport magazine, I took a detour towards Eggardon Hill having noted an unusual sight of the sun streaming through the clouds.

Eggardon Hill sunbeams by Neil Barnes

Eggardon Hill sunbeams by Neil Barnes

Over the space of about 15 minutes I captured around 75 frames each of which would be eminently saleable.

This one shot ignited the fire and I started seeing things in a different light so I set myself a personal goal to get a decent portfolio of landscape pictures in twelve months.

10 months on and I have achieved this quite comfortably and even produced a calendar of my work in time for Christmas. My images are being sold in the Post Office in Bridport (the people from the PO actually approached me) amongst other places and I continue to look for new opportunities whenever and wherever possible.

What first drew you to photography?

Right place, right time – I studied Typographic Design and Photography at college and happened to be around with a camera when the river in the town overflowed, flooding and displacing many of the residents. I took lots of pictures. Those pictures led to my first job as a trainee photographer with the Peterborough Evening Telegraph. In the 35 years since I’ve been fortunate to have had a myriad of people and events through my lenses, from Prime Ministers to royalty, celebrities and sports stars and of course hundreds of the obligatory retirement and cheque presentations.

What is your favourite photographic memory, and why?

I spent several years working as a photographer on the local newspaper where John Major was the MP and built up a very good rapport with him. Years later I had risen to the lofty ranks of Chief Photographer with British Gas and he as Prime Minister. Our paths crossed one day on an official event I was photographing in Lincolnshire, he spotted me in a crowd of photographers and we spent a while reminiscing. The Chairman of British Gas was quite astounded that I was on first name terms with the PM.

Who is your favourite photographer, and why?

I admire the work of Hockney and Rankin, Hockney because he has grasped the use of computers in his work and continually stretches the boundaries and Rankin for his incredible unfailing creativity.

What would be your ideal camera, and where would you take it?

My ideal camera is the one that helps me take the picture I’m looking for and the one I have to hand. Any half decent photographer will tell you that virtually any camera can be used to take a reasonable picture, in fact my Facebook business page and my website feature pictures taken not just on my pro Canons but a Panasonic point and shoot and an iPhone and no-one has been any the wiser which one the pictures were taken on.

If I were to choose one camera though, it’s one that’s already in the place where I would take it. The Apollo missions left 12 Hasselblad cameras on the moon after their exploration. I’d like to use one of those right there.

What do you enjoy most about your own work, and what has inspired you recently.

I enjoy creating something that people like enough to want to hang on their wall. My most recent inspiration came from observing the rocks and pebbles on the beach and I am in the process of creating a picture using them but as yet it’s unfinished. I prefer creative photography over waiting for something to happen in front me, that’s too easy. I try and make it happen if I can, although that’s not always possible.

What are the most important elements of a successful photo?

Composition, focal point, a different viewpoint and commerciality.

Tell us about your favourite photograph, either your own or someone else’s.

Broadchurch the return by Neil Barnes

Broadchurch the return by Neil Barnes

This one turns heads, it questions, it draws the eye. I watch people looking at it, you can see them thinking is that real? How was that done? It has symmetry and is a familiar view in West Dorset but with a twist.

I’ll leave you with my favourite analogy. Frequently I’ve had people say ‘ooh that’s a big expensive camera, it must take great pictures’. My response generally is would you say to a writer ‘ooh that’s a nice keyboard, bet it writes great novels’….?