Photographer interview: Damian Shields
I could photograph Scotland happily till the end of my days.
How did you get into photography?
The progression to photography seemed a natural evolution for me. I was immersed in the arts from an early age, my father is an artist as was my grandfather on my mother's side and I found I had inherited a similar aptitude for drawing and observation. My earliest influences were impressionists and artists like Caravaggio and Vermeer, who seemed to take an almost photographic approach in their representation of light.
What was your first serious camera?
I bought a Miranda 35mm film camera from a friend in 1992 and slowly picked up the basics. A couple of years later I had my first experience of darkroom processing and printing. I remember buying an early Nikon Coolpix, I think it was the 700. Having struggled with film throughout art school in the mid 90s, digital combined with early versions of photoshop was an exciting taste of things to come.
How would you describe your style?
I am always striving to evolve my 'style', although I do gravitate towards a particular aim in my work. The important aspect of this is trying to convey emotion in an image - my entire life experience and tastes feed into this. I want to create images that engage you on more than one level and make you want to go back and look again.
What is your favourite aspect of being a photographer?
The anticipation that builds in planning a trip, the rich sensory experience of standing in the landscape, the intense joy when elements align as you had pre-visualised, and sharing your visions with the world. Landscape photography has become a drug I am hopelessly addicted to and I frequently suffer withdrawal symptoms when I'm not shooting.
How do you try and find an edge within a competitive industry?
You shouldn't think of yourself as being part of an 'industry', or in any 'competition'. Concentrate on honing your skills and the most important of these is your eye, the thing that is unique to you. I do what I do out of passion and if I sell a few prints along the way that's a nice wee bonus.
Do you have a favourite area to photograph?
My favourite place is the one I haven't discovered yet - exploration is key to constantly challenging yourself. There are plenty of 'rite of passage'
locations like Glencoe and Skye that are fantastic for a fledgling photographer, but you should also be looking for different takes on these classic views. (I would personally love to walk more of Assynt and Torridon, the North West always calls to me.)
Do you know when you have taken a special shot?
I sometimes get the hairs standing on the back of my neck when I feel I've nailed a shot, but I've also had plenty of occasions when I thought I had something special but been deflated later on.
I'm uncomfortable with having favourites as it feels a bit like having favourite children. Some are planned, and some are happy accidents, but I love them all.
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
I currently shoot with a Nikon D800 - it was an upgrade from my Canon 7d. The D800 is more tailored to static shots and gives me bags of detail and tonal range to work with.
If you had to choose one lens, which one would it be and why?
If money were no object the list of purchases would go on and on, but I'm happy with the standard 24-85mm kit lens that came with the D800 as it covers most of the range I need. I also carry a 50mm and sometimes a 200mm, but I don't like carrying too much kit with me. Aside from the extra weight, it can hamper reaction times, too much faffing around in my bag.
Is there anything you would love to photograph that you haven't yet?
There isn't anything specific on my list. Sometimes the best shots come from the most unexpected situations or locations. I do have some 'bucket list' destinations around the globe, but I could photograph Scotland happily till the end of my days and probably wouldn't even scratch the surface of possibilities. It's my home, I love it dearly and through my work I hope that shines through.
What photography services do you offer?
Always open for commissions and all work available as prints on my website.