DPChallenge: A Digital Photography Contest You are not logged in. (log in or register
 
Jon Lucas

Imagineer

Joined DPC: May 22, 2003
Awards
Landmarks
Pride of London
Free Study VIII
Doom Watch
Naturally Framed
Viewpoints
Hot
Dune de Pyla
Backlighting IV
'Food for the Heart' | director's cut: reel 1 [frame 253,584; timecode 1:28:05:009]
Travel Guides
Go With the Wind
Book Smarts
Autumn Leaves Quietly
Interview Details
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Interview Listing
A DPChallenge Interview with Jon Lucas

by John Rummel (strangeghost)
Aug 27 2006

Background

Where do you live?

London, England.

Tell us about your family/friends?

Not much to say really, my friends are dull and you can't choose your family.

OK. I have a 'lovely wife'[TM] and three very lively, funny little boys aged 7, 4 and 9 months. To be brutally honest, my family is all I need for all manner of entertainment, but I do really value my friendships and can't go too long without a party. I'm not one of those blokes who needs his space though, since the times I most enjoy are sharing in my boys growing up.

That said, I have partaken in a spate of stag weeks and weekends which have taken me to such salubrious places as Majorca, Bodrum in Turkey, Barcelona, Vilnius in Lithuania and Tain in Scotland. The days of the traditional stag night are well and truly over amongst my friends, that's certain.

My friend circle is structured as follows:-

-a small inner circle of close, loyal, long-term friends who have stuck with me through everything and I've known for at least 15 years;

-a much larger circle of drifters who tend to be people I have a great time with and then don't see for a year or two but then when we get together act as if it was yesterday;

-and finally the outer perimeter of acquaintances who I see infrequently every 2-6 years with whom I swap small talk, suggest that we get together soon and then wait for the next 6 year cycle to be completed.
There is also a wafer thin 'Oort Cloud' of digital friends with whom I have never met.

My mum is sadly not with us and that hurts when I see my little menagerie, because she died before seeing any of my offspring. I see my Dad frequently and my brother (a very best mate) now lives in San Francisco.

What do you do for a living?

I am Creative Director (Managing) of a long-established design business in Shoreditch, London. It's successful, great fun and always offers something of interest on a daily basis. My team are my friends and we have a formula that works well for us. I keep it small and real - in my view the only way to stay hands-on instead of shuffling papers - and it helps me hone my skills and stay in tune with movements in the design business along with soft- and hardware developments.

How long have you been involved in photography?

My photography interest was rekindled at about the same time as I joined DPC. I briefly studied photography while in college during the 80s (yes I am that old) but never really gave it serious thought and really only took jumped-up snapshots with an old Pentax K1000 and my late Mum's old Olympus OM10.

The immediacy of digital instantly grabbed my attention and suited my somewhat hectic lifestyle, not to mention the odd business requirement such as packshots. It now forms quite an important part of my work, though not so much that I no longer enjoy it on a personal level.

Have you won any photographic competitions outside of DPC?


"Switch-stance 180"

I don't submit to any other sites for competition, although I have won a few Betterphoto.com 'medals'. However that site has diminished in appeal since it changes its automated pic processing code (causing chromatic aberrations) and the winners structure was vast and confusing. I have just about enough time to submit the odd pic to DPC let alone compete in yet more time-robbing quests. In any case it's not what I do photography for, although I do have the distinction of having one of the most faved shots on flickr which is fun. (It's a shot I entered into the Feet challenge here at DPC.)

What's your favorite movie?

Oh - just impossible, but because it came to mind:
Don't Look Now (Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie)
and perhaps equal first:
The Shining

Also rans:
2001
The Omen (1 and 2) - original of course
Funny Games (just sick, warped and impactful)
Microscosmos
Koyannasquatsi

What kind of music do you listen to?

A wide variety (from pop to classical) but my iPod is normally playing the likes of Chemical Brothers, Fluke or J. Sibelius (5th symphony).

What is your favorite food?

Probably Thai, with Tapas, Italian and Greek close runners up.

Do you have a main source of caffeine? If so, is it Tea, Coffee. Chocolate or Other?

Coffee junky I'm afraid. And Horlicks - 'tis the Devil's work.

From where does your nom de plume "Imagineer" derive?

A tacky phrase from the advertising industry as a euphemism for brainstorming. I'm also aware that it was a description for Disney animators, but I've never liked Mickey Mouse (Donald Duck's the man).

Do you have your own website, if so can I list it here?

Yes, jonathanlucas.com, but I don't currently use it or publicize it. Currently it's just a slideshow.

Indulge us in a bit of "polarizing" personality typing: Coke or pepsi?

Pepsi - hands down, but normally water or beer.

Mac or Windows?

Mac of course.

Boxers or briefs?

Boxers and sports briefs - mostly sports briefs.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl, unless up for a shoot in which case I relish an early morning. Sometimes I can barely sleep during summer due to lengthy daylight hours. I can't shed the feeling that sleep is a waste of time.

Hardware

Take us through a history of your camera purchases, both film and digital.

My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic 100. There was a drought of photography for me until my college education during which I purchased a Pentax K1000. This was my first experience with a 'real' camera and I loved it. At this time I was lucky to be able to develop and print my own photos - a greatly satisfying process and one which required much attention and skill to get the desired results - especially at the film processing stage.

When my mum sadly passed on in 1989 she handed down her Olympus OM10, which was a very good camera and was responsible for getting me foot back in the door of photography.

After college my social - then business - life took priority and I barely touched a camera until recently, when the advent of digital really grabbed me and I purchased a Sony F717. I then found DPC and haven't stopped since, moving up to a an EOS 20D only when I felt I had fully explored the Sony and needed more flexibility, resolution and control.

How happy are you with the 20D?

My 20D comes with me almost everywhere which, considering its size is not always practical. The trouble is I can't bare the thought of missing a shot, which so often happens when I don't have it, so sometimes I just choose a lens, stick the camera in my bag and hope I've got it covered.

Tell us a little about your lens collection: favorites, most and least often used, etc.

I have the following Canon lenses (as listed in my profile):
28-105mm
17-85mm
10-22mm
75-300mm

I find the 17-85mm very versatile, but I do carry my 75-300mm more frequently now. It tends to draw me into my subject more, but this may well be the current phase I'm going through.

I have also just bought the excellent 250D close up lens which is simply amazing. It's turned my 28-105mm and 75-300mm zooms into superb macro lenses. I love the minute details we rarely see so this is a cheap way of entering the microcosmos.

What size memory cards do you have?

1 x 4GB, 2 x 1GB and 1 x 256MB. I'm never too far from a computer, but I do tend to fill up those 1GB cards very quickly when I'm on a roll ('scuse the pun). I'd rather not encourage myself to fill yet more hard disk space though so I'm trying to be disciplined and go for quality rather than quantity.

Do you shoot in JPG or RAW mode?

RAW always, unless in snapshot mode or if I'm running desperately low on memory.

Do you have a home studio setup?

No, I have no home studio. I do however have a small set-up at my office for some basic packshot photography and portraiture. It consists of just a couple of tungsten lights and umbrellas, 2 IR head-mounted flashes (master and slave) plus a cube which is great for glass and metal objects by reducing unwanted reflections.

Software

Do you use any software for organizing your digital pictures?

I've just started using Apple's Aperture. It's heavily flawed but still good, and I now process all professional work using this. The next upgrade will hopefully resolve some basic problems and some glaringly conspicuous absences such as barrel distortion tools, effective noise reduction and RAW vignetting to name a few. It is memory-insatiable though so I won't even attempt running it on anything but my G5 quad, so I hope this is something else Apple will resolve in future versions.

Do you use Photoshop or an alternative? If so what version?

Photoshop CS2.

What Photoshop skills do you consider to be essential to digital photography?

I use Photoshop in so much of my work anyway, but in digital photography it's essential to bring emphasis to a photograph where the camera is unable to. I like to achieve the main appeal of my shots in camera through subject, composition or technique, but some need a lot of work to make them feel special and befitting of the original 'mind's eye' view. However, there is a fad for 'mega processing' that's been going strong at DPC for some time now and Photoshop has facilitated many people to achieve an off-the-shelf, storm-laden, grungy grittiness but without really thinking why they want it. The images I prefer possess an indefinable, subtle x-factor that separate them from the mundane or formulaic.

Of your own entries on DPC, what photo had the most post-processing?


"Doom Watch"

I can barely recall them all, but I think it was 'Doom Watch'. This was mainly because Baldrick was shot with a wooden fence backdrop which prevented the shot from feeling as atmospheric as I had envisaged it. I didn't do a drastic amount to the vulture himself but I did work into the shot to enrich his feathers and create more drama from that which was already present in his stance which, for me at least, was what made the shot. I wanted this to look good as a print too.

As a rule my shots are taken in a very short space of time and I don't have much space to dedicate to fiddling with photos for a photo competition. If an entry is what I consider to be an appropriate piece of art however, I will work on it for its merits alone.

Do you use any other software in relation to digital photos? If so, what?

I don't use any extra software although I do sometimes use filters like Neat Image (sparingly!!!) for noise reduction and Focus Magic which is quite handy for blurred shot fixing where necessary.

On the whole, do you prefer a minimalist approach to post editing, a no rules approach, or somewhere in between?

To be honest, I loath the trend for heavy editing on DPC and it's made me lose interest in the Member's challenges to some extent. Dodge + burn frenzies are to photography what stonewashed was to denim!

I actually prefer the Open challenges now because the playing field is more even and the shots from the open challenges are normally much less effected leaving the emphasis more on the subject, composition, etc. To me, it's odd how so many people go for the glossy choc box eye candy, when the imperfections of our world, and flawed artistic interpretations of it, yield so much more interest.

Do you feel that DPC is trending toward digital art and getting away from its photography roots?

Yes, generally I think that many of the top-rated images owe their 'specialness' to post processing which begs the question: who does DPC benefit really? Is it the Photoshop expert or the person with an average camera who wants to get the most out of it and learn how to make better photos? I think there are many users [voters] at DPC who still fall for the eye candy of super-smoothed, sumptuous saturation and thunderous mega, super-cell storms that seem to have materialized from a bland, overcast sky. I ask myself 'why?'. Is it because it's a lazy form of art where the prettier the world looks the better? Or is it down to smoke and mirrors - an attempt to pull wool over the eyes of those who don't know how to spot the signs that all is not what it seems? It's why I favor photojournalism. It's real and yet presents a creative interpretation of familiar subjects. It's tough to get impact this way but when it's done well, it can be mind-blowingly powerful.

That said, I know it is important for people to get used to the fact that post processing is essential to the art of digital photography and it takes much skill to know which image to adapt in order to win a competition, but I don't feel that extensive editing is assisting people with taking better photos per se. When the purpose of the edit is to disguise a poor image then no one has gained.

I'm also opposed to the extreme use of filters and NeatImage type noise reducers - it seems a shame to cover images in syrup and sickly sweet NeatImage goo just to get a few more votes in a prizeless competition. Of course it's useful sometimes but more often than not it is abused and applied with a trowel.

Often it's the imperfection in life that intrigues me most. To look at a scene before you and to bring out of it what no one else saw, or to make special a subject that initially seems so devoid of interest – that is good photography, not downloading Photoshop actions and filter profiles from web portals. While I couldn't partake myself, I was impressed and infinitely more satisfied with the images from the Out of Camera challenge - so much more useful to everyone to know how to achieve some quite sumptuous results.

Photography

I'd like to ask you about a few of your DPC images, both challenge and non-challenge shots. You've submitted a couple of images that I consider to be "DPC Icons:"

Viewpoints.
"Viewpoints"

You say in your photographer's comment that you don't consider it very original, but I think it's highly original, and very striking in its visual appeal. Take us though your thinking behind the composition and the post processing.


"Pride of London"

Firstly, thanks for the compliment and it pleases me that you see some originality in the shot. My comment on it was based on an assumption that someone, somewhere simply must have shot something similar. Perhaps it's difficult for me to see, in a digital world where so many photos are taken and shared, that there can easily be genuine originality on show. When the world was much more disconnected than present photographers could be more certain that their work would be authentic and lacking in pre-conception. The internet has brought a mass of visual information to billions across all shores and now it's easy to presume that originality is the rarity and plagiarism the norm.

Like most of my challenge entries there is not a great deal of pre-meditation and this was no exception. I was at the South Bank aiming to shoot some traceurs (free-runners) and found this team of acrobats doing their thing in front of the Shell building. I instantly knew what I wanted for the challenge just then and settled myself nearby to get a shot of this guy doing no-handed cartwheels. In the end we got chatting and he obliged by positioning himself precisely where I could fit him in the centre of the Eye.

I didn't have as much time for a set-up as I'd have liked as I had to shoot fairly quickly. In so doing I didn't get to experiment much with exposures which meant that my original was a tad too overexposed in the sun area.

The PP was quite simple. I combined two exposures - one standard but over ex., one under ex. to enhance the sky (although I could have got by with just one exposure really but it was quicker) and composited them both, masking out the relevant portions of the image. I then applied a gradient map filter to remap the tones to the familiar warm, orange hues. I tried black and white to start with but it just lacked some of the punch that the subject matter deserved. The warm hues also brought some tone into the rather bleached sun area.

As mentioned, the original did not impress me (apart from being content with the composition and subject) but I became happier after some processing. This was though, I have to say, not one of my most fulfilling shots.

Obviously many others have shot this London landmark, but your shot seems to have a coherence that seems so easy or effortless. It also has such a steely blue look. How did you arrive at this particular interpretation of these London icons?

This photo was different, as I knew from the outset what I wanted from this view. I hadn't been biased by previous photos and in fact I'd hardly seen any from this angle before taking the photo. I'm fond of St Pauls and its iconic status in London, but one thing that has always bugged me about city night shots is the light pollution, so I wanted to create an image that removed the familiar blight from the scene and allow people to see this great landmark in a more flattering light. Shot with a tripod and cable release, it transpired that the shot had everything I wanted in the original: a good tonal range and plenty of detail, so all I had to do was clone out some ugly scaffold and work on the colour. As alexsaberi probably found out with his winning 'Deja Vue' entry, achieving this is not as easy as it might seem. It took me a lot of experimenting with gradient maps to get the right balance of blues so as not to alienate the main subject with an artificial colour cast. I chose a hue that complemented the cool stone of St Pauls and the satisfying silver and rust of the Millennium Bridge and its pillars. Working around the structures' lights and their reflections with my masks was the main obstacle in maintaining a 'natural' looking result. I hope it works for most people and I still get a strange sense that there's something wrong when I look at the ordinary tungsten-cast shots of St Pauls from this or similar angles.
---
I suppose there's a theme in these landmark shots in that I believe to make a shot memorable, colour can play a key part. I'm normally in favour of purity as I've mentioned prior but in these cases, particularly ' Pride of London', it can lift the focus away from the normal perceptions and present the structure, shape and ambience with fresh vibes.

And two non-challenge images:


"M 4"

M 4

This is a shot that has been imitated a few times on DPC but your original is a tough act to follow. How did you arrive at the idea? What types of contortions did you subject your model to while perusing this shot?


"~ The Last Breath ~"

This one was rewarding because my model was not a typical beauty, but still attractive and very striking. She asked me to take some portraits of her so I obliged since I was happy to experiment with portraiture, not having done any before this. We tried a variety of stances and poses, but this one stood out.

I think the reason it works is because it turns the normal method of assessing facial features on its head, literally (although the bodily features are still quite simple to judge!). It's actually more difficult to form an opinion on her this way round - and most people who've seen this simply look at this photo and say that she looks great. In fact I think most people instantly find her pretty this way round which may be down to the fact that visual cues like expression and attitude are more difficult to read. Whether or not the same people would echo the sentiment if she were the normal way up is debatable. One can see that her features are appealing - immediately so - but if this were normally posed I don't think most people would react the same way.

She's actually quite mischievous and the quirky pose reflects some facets of her personality. In this stance, to my mind, she seems quite saucy and sensuous -however she's actually my close friend's sister, and he'd probably gag if he reads this!

I'm embarking on an adventurous series of shots (inspired by some of Chris Cunningham's brilliant work) in the near future that confront the human obsession with beauty and perfection, so I'll keep you posted.

Disqualified but I'm not sure I understand fully why. What's the story behind the shot and the subsequent DQ?

A shame this one really. The shot was definitely legal (you have my word) in that it was shot within the challenge deadline but my camera had inexplicably altered its date settings. I still have no idea why, and I noticed that other users had experienced a similar problem but with no real conclusions, and it came down to the 'rules are rules' principle. Quite. It's a prizeless competition after all and I had an unblemished 100+ challenge record so I did think it was a bit pedantic to DQ it. I'm not in the habit of taking pictures of myself like this unless I have a purpose, so all in all it was quite disappointing to meet with such rigidity when the whole thing is supposed to be a bit of fun. The red mark next to the shot basically registers confirmation that it was decided (despite my explanation) that I had cheated - no two ways about that. So much for the values of being a community I thought.

Regarding the photo, I'm often thinking about death, mainly because I've had people very close to me slip away far too early, but also because I've got to do it sometime (die I mean) and I don't relish the idea of it. Life is just too enjoyable most of the time! I'm not religious, so for me when people die they are truly gone, if only simply left behind on the timeline. My shot conveys the fleeting last moments of that latent, inexplicable source of energy leaving the body as I see it - assuming that I'm lucky enough to die lying down peacefully! A simplistic idea really, but I enjoyed doing it nonetheless despite the difficulty of keeping my head still for so long. The DQ did take the shine off it mind.

As mentioned above in the discussion of M 4 and Pride of London, other DPCers have attempted to copy your work. Who among DPCers have you found inspiring and worthy of copying -- or at least drawing inspiration?

With respect to the first part of the question, I'm honestly not aware of any who've copied me unless within the Deja Vue challenge, but if they have then I'm flattered and intrigued to know what they liked about, or gained from, my photos.

As far as other DPCers as inspiration - no one really. I am the pinnacle of excellence and I have nothing more to learn or aspire to.

Right. There are just too many to mention really, but I suppose those whom I admire tend to be masters in areas in which I am weak or inexperienced. I would like to be more learned in portraiture, so librodo, skiprow, jjbeguin and steinar immediately spring to mind. I would like to improve my powers of observation and shape recognition so e301, arngrimur, zeuszen, JPR and xion are good reference. For sumptuous rendering and lighting I would look to Dax, grigrigirl, Joey Lawrence, moodville and Dustin03. To be honest I've probably missed loads so I apologise if you're not on this list and deserve to be. I'll add some if they occur to me!

The following are particularly potent reference material for me: Texas Star Hibiscus by labuda (for subject, lighting prowess and editing), Venus & Seagull by kirbic (I'd like to get into astrophotography but I'm afraid to dabble. I love the cosmos though - totally fascinating), The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test by grigrigirl (portraits like this are priceless. Raw, sexy and oozing style), and Girl with Scooter by zeuszen (sensing shape and form) although this is a composite I understand, but no less interesting.

Perhaps copying is too strong a word, but I was thinking of the following, with respect to your M 4: Peaceful, Lost, and possibly even B...ra. True, none attribute inspiration to you, but the similarities are unmistakable.

The shots you've mentioned do show elements of similarity but I'm really not arrogant enough to suggest that my shot was the source of inspiration! It would of course be interesting to hear what those photographers say about them.

I realize this is probably asking the impossible, but name your top five favorite DPC images (shot by others) and why they speak to you.

Yes, thank you so much for that question. That is of course extremely stressful - it's like asking to name your top 5 songs or movies. I'm never decided and it always depends on my mood. A quick scan of my favourites will give you an idea of my eclectic taste though, and every one of those shots in there I really like intensely for so many reasons. This one, for instance, cracks me up every time I see it (No More Viagra From Chernobyl by kadac00) - despite its technical failings.

top 5 is harsh, but I'll try (in no particular order):


"Seaside Arabesque"
by jjbeguin

simple beauty. Effortless.


"Contrast courtesy of The Heavens"
by Firstrich1

this because it's simply nuts! How one captures a shot like this beats me - sheer luck perhaps - but I've never seen one like it.


"Sydney Harbour Bridge at Sunrise"
by andrewlr

this captivates me. I've never seen light quite as clear, defined and thoroughly satisfying as this. It's the one shot I've always wanted to emulate with any early rise I have. No luck as yet....


"Connections"
by moodville

no dodge or burn required. Brilliant observation.


"scrap"
by jus6681

it's just presented as it is and yet it seems to speak volumes about the state of human nature. I'd happily hang this one.

Are there any type of photographic styles/techniques that you don't like?

I have come to loathe sentimentality of most kinds – you know, the blatant, brainwashed, faux patriotic flag-waving stuff; the gratuitous kiddie snapshots which do no more than entertain direct family and friends – and I glaze over at the uninspiring landscape which has nothing fresh brought to the party and would look picturesque whoever stood there with a camera at that same moment; the lenticular water drop frenzies; the wine glass studio reflection shots; the hyper-dodge/mega-burn shots of any genre; the quirky humour studio set-ups; over saturated shots of silhouetted acrobats in front of landmarks – erm sorry, no they're great - anyway, phew!

Having exposed myself as a grumpy old photographer, I will add that I acknowledge how useful it can be to experiment with many of these things in the learning process. I just wouldn't choose to hang them - and now that I store terabytes of images now, it's more important than ever to be discerning about what I shoot.

It's also healthy for DPC though that the site changes rather than stagnates with the same old aesthetic. It would be nice to see a bit of journalism or reality win through sometimes.

Of all the shots in your DPC portfolio (challenge and nonchallenge), what is your favorite, the shot that even today, makes you feel most satisfied?


"Wilderness"

'Wilderness' is special in so many ways. The Lake District is totally fulfilling for me and my family. It blows away the materialistic hang-ups and pressures of business and brings me back to my natural state: insatiable for natural wonder and landscape dynamics. I can stand in places here and gaze forever. If an image had to endure in my mind until I die then I'd like it to be this scene from the Lakes. The photo feels non-digital to me and I really wanted to achieve that Ansel Adams like timelessness with it.

... and the 'also rans' [I just struggle too much with this 'one image' business!!]...


"Venetian Glimpse"

I just loved the depth here in the reflections and it was a special time in Venice. I got no sleep - up at dawn shooting, late to bed drinking/talking...!


"The Shadow"

It all went like clockwork and Daniel is a star in the making. I knew this shot would be special when I clicked the shutter.


"Sir John Mills"

A great actor - and a privilege to have met him and to take this.


"Boy to Man"

My best mate in Scotland - I was his best man and these were special days, seeing where he grew up and his childhood haunts. This bridge is now familiar to me as it was to him. A sentimental shot for me but one which I hope still reaches out to an unknown audience.


"A World Discovered"

A special photo for my son and me. It was a big climb at an intimidating rate (to reach the top just in time for sunset!). He got there keeping well up with my pace and was really chuffed to have done it. The view was amazing and he's got an exploring bug from this one experience which I hope he'll keep with him forever.

... and the 'also rans'...


"Pride of London"

Special because it was at the end of a great day out with my Dad, walking around the proximity of Fleet Street and St Pauls where he was a journalist. It's also a shot I'm largely content with.


"Thirsty Leaves"

These darn butterflies were tough to catch (handheld in the wild) and I was very happy with this lucky moment. It's not really anything to shout about but I think few people seemed to notice what they were in the challenge and it frustrated me a bit.


"My Way"

My son is very magnetic to my camera but this one will remain a fave for me - it's him all over. The empty swimming pool he's walking across was just great for a backdrop and it was dynamic enough to reach out beyond my personal connection with him. As a graphic image it works and as an unconnected observer it has enough interest to not feel exclusive. A perfect, satisfying photographer's moment.


"Overcast at the Harbour"

I just felt that this achieved the desired result - and I like it where it hangs in my house. It's impersonal so attracts a variety of reactions from "what? - why?" to "that looks just like a harbour", etc. I much prefer it when my photos receive mixed reactions.

I think your choices reveal a lot about your preference for "found" shots (in nature, candids, etc.) rather than the elaborate studio setups that are often higher scoring in challenges. What would you say really motivates your photography?

I have two distinctions in my work, and DPC is really a separate, third one altogether. The first is that I personally favour a journalistic approach to photography where I try to document scenes in a way that either is a fresh viewpoint, a meaningful one or an unusual take on a scene. I like to find something different in things very familiar to me, since my life can be formulaic most of the time: same rail journey; consistent scenery; repetitive family situations, etc. It's economical photography where I don't have to worry about extensive editing; the subject does most of the work.

The second is my professional work where the object can often be to create a multi-layered piece of digital art for a particular client's needs.

DPC though has been motivational for me in putting my lateral thought processes to work. The trouble is I don't like the set-up shots that are simply created to win a ribbon. I much prefer producing a piece that I'd feel happy hanging on a wall somewhere or displaying outside of the confines of DPC. This is not the way it's always been though (I've failed spectacularly most of the time!) and I've done plenty of silly set-ups for challenges. They have been very useful at times to explore different techniques but they don't interest me beyond DPC. Of course, winning the ribbon is the point of the exercise but I'd rather win with an image that stands the test of time and removal of competitive context.

I was originally going to ask you to name your favorite DPC photographer, but that seems a bit cruel. Instead, tell me who, among fellow DPCers, you'd most like to sit down with, or go shooting with, or pick their brains - from a mentorship perspective. Who would you like to have a chance to learn from?

Julia Bailey (grigrigirl) is someone I've admired since joining. Her work always offers a fresh viewpoint and she's never afraid of trying something new. Her portraits a fresh and invigorating and she's a great visionary, not to mention observationist [is there such a thing?]. I'd love to spend time with her (if you know what I mean!) but possibly as a fly on the wall so as not to cramp her style.

Ed Clarke (e301) is great too - a fantastic eye for an oddity or quirk in the matrix. I've met with Ed a few times but would always relish more time with him. He's humourless and had a personality bypass but hey, not everyone's perfect. :)

The enigmatic Jean-Jacques Béguin (jjbeguin) would make a fascinating experience (for me at least!), and I think I could be actively pursuant of my current goals if I were to team up with someone like skiprow for his photojournalism or Joey Lawrence for his gritty ventures (I prefer his less overtly processed material) and compositions - he does over-do things sometimes and he seems quite conceited to those of us who don't know him, but he's good at what he does and I think he'll go far. He's only a silly little kid after all! :P

steinar and arnit (don't ask why I've grouped them) seem quite explorative, using fill flash and lighting to dramatic effect - something I don't experiment with much (mainly due to time and demands).

I'd like to dissect Dax's processing too - she's a master of rich, well balanced pieces that are a feast for the eyes. In fairness, I don't normally go for that kind of 'perfection' but she does it so well it's difficult to take your eyes of her work.

I like movieman's work too - quite underrated I think, as is messerschmitt. I'm also impressed with your own skills with astrophotography (sunspots and –Milky Way) - something I'd love to be able to do but don't have clear skies nor the set-up for it.

What are the 5 favorite shots that you have taken, and why?

Apart from my 'also-rans' above, these are my most satisfying for different reasons:


"Nightstalker"

I'm really happy with this one because it all just happened as I had hoped - a lone figure in damp, foggy gloom. No extra software fuss required. Grainy, gritty and dirty looking - a bit like film I think so I like the fact that it doesn't look like a digital shot.


"Maybe It's Because..."

This shot, just because it's one of those timeless moments, where an eccentric, happy local simply locked into the spirit of my taking a photo of our beloved River Thames! He just naturally played to the gallery and I've warmed to the shot ever since. Looks much better large and in isolation.


"Queue Jump"

Yes, another black and white, but the monochrome helps focus on the expressions of the youths and the adult 'trying' to join in. My first foray into parkour, I like this shot large and isolated, where it feels more interesting to absorb.


"Switch-stance 180"

Because I got the desired result exactly as envisaged and it took so much perseverance.


"Release"

Release is exactly what I felt on taking this as it snapped what my son was experiencing and a moment of satisfaction at getting a shot I knew would look good to 'outsiders' and connect personally with me.

What do you feel is your most underrated shot?

This one without a doubt:


"Foul"

Sound composition, social comment and detail. Subject was spot on, but some people are just so idealist. This is the shot, for me, that defines DPC's profile at that point: scared to find favour in the unpleasant; afraid to step away from the embodiment of the 'perfect' neat image; 'pixelist' - DSLR obsessed - no grainy flaws allowed. I pity those with the low-res cameras who want to make headway here - they have a long way to go and may never get there.
... Notwithstanding the great comments on the shot - and messerschmitt has my eternal respect!

What do you consider to be important aspects of photography?

Observation. Light. Timing. Lateral thought. Attitude. These five elements are essential for a good shot for me. I have to be aware of them simultaneously (and subconsciously most of the time) to get that photo that ticks all my boxes.

Observation is key to finding the right subject and the element of interest aside of it that may tip the balance from simply 'good' to 'extraordinary'.

Light is fundamental to a great photo. Often I'm subjected to poor exterior light in England – so going for a dawn or dusk shot where light can be golden and create definition is my choice . Making good use of flat light is also useful - it can sometimes be very potent. I had a grey day on a visit to St Pauls and used flat light to useful effect when shooting underneath the Millennium Bridge. Too much definition would have spoiled the effect of the shapes. Artificial light is obviously important too, which is why experience in studio shots can help so much if you intend to make a career of photography. I like time exposures too, and seldom tire of messing with movement of light through time.

Timing is everything – at least in street and action photography– just like comedy. If you've got your wits about then that's going to help you find that unique opportunity.

Lateral thinking opens new avenues of creativity when presented with a scene. What else is there visible? Is there negative space? Is there a dead bird on a window sill? Is there an angle, or supplementary object, that will create irony or contrast with my subject?... and so on.

Attitude is fundamental to getting what you want from a photo. If it's journalism then persistence, imagination and a thick skin are essential attributes. If it's portraiture then a demeanor that relaxes your model is good, while making it clear what you want too. If it's quick-fire action work, then being assertive and confident can settle your subject and place them where you want them - sometimes with little time for set-up. Patience too is useful, but something with which I'm not normally blessed but have learned where photography is concerned. Predicting what may happen with a subject and waiting for it is often what is needed to get the desired result. It's stating the blindingly obvious though, so I won't go on. I waited a long time to get the right motion-blurred shot of some falling sycamore seeds in a challenge once. I was happy with it even if the voters weren't!

Some critics still don't think photography is a form of art. What is your response to this?

Ah yes, the can of worms. I don't much care for the categorisation of art. By answering the question it would mean I accept a definition of art which I think is impossible due to the inherent subjectivity of the viewer. If art is to be defined as creativity or an expressive interpretation then photography is, without doubt, an art form. A photograph is to visual communication what poetry is to language – sometimes potent and understood, at other times full of nonsense and unintelligible. A photo can have rhythm, pace, light and shade, noise and quiet – it's very similar.

Most forms of creative output are likely perceived as artistic to those who produce it. If the image that is produced expresses uniquely the vision of the originator then it's an interpretation of the mind's eye and in my view it's 'art'. A caveman's scrawls could not necessarily be perceived as technically perfect or even well composed representations of what they saw. Did one caveman look at another's work and grunt unhappily at the poorly defined shapes? Did a caveman earn the right to draw in the first place by proving himself to the majority? Perhaps there was artistic snobbery back then as there is today, but the perception now of those visual ramblings is globally accepted as art, so is it a matter of time and place too?

One of my favourite publications is VICE magazine. It's an eclectic mass of gritty, disturbing and sometimes subversive photographic material - but it is emotionally powerful and definitely a creative vision – if not typically so. The content frequently reveals a bizarre, less seen, but still normal, human condition in states that one rarely witnesses. The photos are challenging and therefore have a proactive effect on the viewer – and I have no hesitation in stating that they're art. I've found that simply placing an image in heaps of space elevates it from the mundane and demands more consideration of the viewer. A shot which, when surrounded by clutter, may be perceived as ordinary can sometimes be lifted into a new realm of meaning simply through being given visual breathing space.

Like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder, so certain forms will find favour more than others. It's really a question of whether it is good or bad art which, of course, is also subjective.

Are you planning any photo trips in the future? If so, where?

Everywhere I go is a photo trip! Sadly the camera is almost glued to me. Special trips though are normally spontaneous as is much of my life. I don't like plans. If they go according to it then you got what you expected, but if they go wrong then you've wasted time expecting better!

Do you have any photographic projects outside of DPC?

My life can become very unusual at short notice due to the creative business I work within, so sometimes I may be producing extensive illustrations in 3D or Photoshop, designing a book, perhaps photographing the residents of a retirement village or shooting parkour afficionados. The latter is a genre in which I feel very comfortable and I'm developing my sources and repertoire in this field. I have some more parkour shoots on the horizon and I intend to push the boundaries with technique to get some remarkable images of some remarkable feats.

The other distinction of my photographic work is heavy-editing compositional work. I will shortly be embarking on a detailed series of compositions requiring the use of models, location shooting and a huge PSD! This is going to be taxing stuff calling on all of my skills (and some new ones) as a photographer and digital artist, so it will be very fulfilling and my first real foray into marketable photography. I have been strongly influenced by the video techniques and stills work of Chris Cunningham and hope to do my concept justice when I finally make the time to start work on it. I'll be firing off some test shots before too long hopefully.

DPC

If you could change one thing about DPChallenge, what would it be?

A tough question because it's not perfect but I wouldn't change anything! I like it as it is. I requested an increase in portfolio space and that happened so there's not much else - just minor details.

If there is anything I would alter it would not be the site per se but the DPC aesthetic. There's too much focus on perfection, sentimentality and super-clean images.

What is your earliest recollection of perusing the site as a visitor? What made you decide to join?

My first impression was of greyness, with a bit of bluey blackness. Actually, a quite serious looking interface, so therefore a meaningful looking competition. At the point I joined I had no real purpose for my shots – not professionally at least – and I like to compete so the decision wasn't tough really. But I do regret perhaps not giving more consideration to my early entries - they were very flippant and not consistent with the addage: 'If a job's worth doing it's worth doing well.'...

If you could offer some advice to somebody who is new to DPC and submitting to DPC challenges, what would it be?

Don't be afraid - it's a game. Take a plunge. The challenges I've enjoyed most are the ones where I'm totally happy with a shot but most people don't get it, or see what I intended later when it's finished.

Since challenge entries are pretty much a part of your "permanent record," in retrospect, are there any pictures you wish you hadn't submitted to a challenge?

To wish I hadn't submitted a shot would be to wish I hadn't learned from it too, so yes - I wish I hadn't submitted some! But I don't look before I leap at times.

How do you decide which challenges you are going to enter and which ones you'll skip?

It's decided for me most of the time – because of time. Sometimes it's a lack of interest too. I can really only get down to a challenge if I have some brain power to think about it and very often – and the entirety of Spring this year – I'm way too busy with work and family life.

Do you ever seek assistance outside of the DPC community in trying to determine which of your photos you should submit?

Very rarely – and never with other DPCers. If ever, it's with the family.

What other DPCers have you met? Any you get together with on a regular basis?

I went to one London GTG (I'm away for the next one) and met quite a few, but too many to list. I think Manic took some shots of the occasion. I also met with Skip Rowlands for a brief London tour one evening last year when he was over from the US. I still meet up with e301 (Ed) for a beer or two when possible. The DPC socials have been a bit scarce because of - guess what - time or bad timing.

If you could personally ask Drew & Langdon for one new site feature or enhancement, what would it be?

A top 100 site fave photographers - still a top 15, but with a button to view the other 85. That would beat an automatic exif data form-fill by a whisker!

Final Question

Why photography?

Because I'm impatient! I like to see results of things almost immediately otherwise I lose interest. My mind works at a fast pace and it's the only medium that can keep up with me. Apart from that I just love photos of all kinds. The true masters such as Brandt and Arbus really inspire me, but I seldom find space to produce my innermost photographic desires, thus I stick with accessible genres like street photography and photojournalism. It will come though and then I can finally unleash what I feel I'm capable of.

Thanks for sitting down with me Jon, and where's that beer you promised before we started!

It's on ice awaiting your visit and the exhaustive tips on how to shoot to the stars.

Thanks though for your time too John - it's been cathartic and made me think about things a little harder – and I hope it's given everyone else a long, well deserved chance for a snooze. : )

 



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