r o b i n   s o m e s   .   p h o t o g r a p h e r

Things that inspire me include the night sky, moonlight, landscapes, plants, sunsets and mountains, rainforests and deserts, and the sea; architecture, especially old architecture, weather-beaten and dilapidated buildings, streets and signs. I'm rarely awake to see sunrises; if I am, I'm in no mood for photography. I'm not much of a photographer of people - I'm usually more than happy just to admire others' work in that respect. Most of the photographers whose work I regard as classic worked (or work) in B&W; from a very long list of possibilities, I would randomly choose 3: Ansel Adams, Yousuf Karsh and Martin Chambi.

Mostly, I shoot hand-held, using natural light. I tend to take a hundred snaps when one carefully-considered shot would do just as well, however, I like the accidental little gems one sometimes gets as a result. I also like to portray familiar things or places from an unfamiliar stance, and to make the best of a bad situation - to see what can be salvaged from being in the wrong place, in bad light, with the wrong lens.

The photos which give me the greatest pleasure ... are most often the simplest, the most classical in their composition, the closest to what the camera first captured, and very often, completely accidental.
For what it's worth (in reality, very little), I've used Nikon cameras for nearly 30 years now; I've found them consistent, reliable, and very good quality for a comparatively modest outlay. I would guess the same is true, however, for most of the other well-known brands. I'm a bit of a late adopter. For 10 years or so, I used an old Nikon D70s, however, I recently got hold of a D810, which is superb, albeit heavy, with Nikkor 24 - 120 and 75 - 300, and Sigma 150 - 600 zooms. As well as the zooms, I also use a 50mm prime lens and 200 mm macro, both Nikkor. I appreciate the way the prime lens forces and constrains the type of shot that can be taken. Finally, for nightscapes and Milky Way pictures, I've been playing with a Samyang 14mm ultra-wide, which calls for a completely different approach.

When I can't be bothered to carry all that around - which is most of the time, because with the bag and various peripheral bits, it's getting on for 25 kilos - I use my phone; some of those results are visible on Instagram. I've had good results with the Nokia Lumia 1020, not quite such good results with the Samsung Galaxy S7. The Lumia was good enough that, when I spent three weeks in Iceland in 2014, without a DSLR at all, I used the phone, and didn't really miss the DSLR. I like the Instagram app, but in my opinion, it's outclassed by Hipstamatic Oggl. Shame the latter isn't produced for the Android OS, and no longer supported for Windows phones.

I like ... to make the best of a bad situation - to see what can be salvaged from being in the wrong place, in bad light, with the wrong lens.
For over 15 years, I used a Nikon F801 film camera; in 2006 I got the D70s, put the old film camera down, and I've rarely touched it since, other than to take the batteries out. That's a shame, because I think film still has a lot going for it in the quality of its results, but predictability, versatility, speed, cost, convenience and the Delete button have all won out. It, and an ancient Russian Lubitel mid-format camera I bought for £20 some time in the 1980s, did get an outing to Iceland in 2014, though, which proved worthwhile, in a rather retro kind of way.

Finally, and completely differently, I have been experimenting with cyanotypes. Perhaps a throwback to learning photography and developing at art college in the 1980s, and some B&W printing I did in the early 90s, I like the immediacy of cyanotypes, the less rigorous nature of the process (and fewer toxic and stinky chemicals), and the air of complete mystery over what the result will be. Many of the original photos for the cyanotypes were taken in Iceland, and I also found that the medium suited the starkness and austere beauty of the country well. A few modest examples can be seen here.

I shoot JPG format, not RAW; I tried for a while, but it ate up disk space at 100 MB per image, which was ridiculous. I also don't have the time for the endless tweaking that RAW allows. Mostly I limit my use of software to cropping, resizing, sharpening, brightness and contrast. The exception is Milky Way photography, which is a little more demanding, but even then, my view is that less is generally more. I primarily use PaintShop Pro, version 7 (old, but does almost everything I need), Photoshop CS2 and the Google Nik Collection (late adopter, again).

So far as I can recall, I have never, ever, used layers to combine two photos; this isn't a boast, simply an observation. I love others' work in that vein, when it's skillfully done - for instance my friend Asia Pracz's work. For myself, I just don't have that kind of patience. The photos which give me the greatest pleasure, of which I am most proud, are most often the simplest, the most classical in their composition, the closest to what the camera first captured, and very often, completely accidental.