Tell us a little about yourself (who you are, where you are based, what you shoot, etc.)
My name is Kieran Russell and I live in Waterford on the South Coast of Ireland. I shoot mainly seascapes and landscapes. Photography for me is just a hobby and something I enjoy when the opportunity arises.
How did you get into landscape photography?
I originally bought a camera to just capture family moments as my kids grew up. With a view to learning a bit more about my camera I joined a local club and the easiest thing to practice the craft was landscapes and it soon grew into a passion.
I really enjoy the outdoors and particularly the sea shore. I don’t think there is anything better than being at the shore in an isolated location waiting for the sun to rise.
What do you wish to convey with your imagery? How do you make sure your images convey this properly?
Trying to capture the beauty and atmosphere of the landscape around me is what I try and portray in my images. If something catches my eye and I want to try and portray it as best I can with as little distraction as possible. These distractions include color in many cases and also I try simplify the image as much as possible when working out the best composition. Techniques such as long exposures also help with simplifying the image.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography for me is a creative outlet. Like so many people the day job doesn’t allow for much creative thinking in many industries and photography can be a great outlet for this. It is also a great reason get into the outdoors and explore and get a bit of alone time. Escaping a house of 3 small kids for an hour or two once a month is also a benefit (albeit generally escaping while everyone is still in bed).
What’s your favorite camera/lens setup? Why?
Not particularly attached to my gear, but the set up I use most is my Canon 650D with the 18-135mm kit lens. It’s what I’ve used for about 4 years and it works well for me. I did get a Fuji X100s last year as a small camera primarily to bring out on family trips and days out, and I have to say I really enjoy shooting with it. There’s something about the design of that camera and usability that really makes shooting enjoyable. I know there seems to be a lot of Fuji fanboys out there but I think there is something in what that company are doing in terms of designing for people who enjoy photography.
I will also mention a recent dive into the film photography which has grabbed my interest (using a Yashica Mat 124G). It’s the slower and more deliberate approach is what I am enjoying. Worth noting that while I had been pondering getting into film photography for a while now, it was watching a video by one of your previous interviewees that finally convinced me to give it a try.
What do you value most in a photo? (emotion, composition, light, etc.)
For me it is probably composition. If you see a very clever image that just works it is what really catches my attention. If you can marry great composition with a little magic light, that’s what really makes a great image. Having good composition is however critical and all the better in my eyes if it is somewhat original.
How do you recommend getting over G.A.S.? (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)
These days the differences in cameras is very minor; all cameras have the capacity to produce good image files and any inadequacies can usually be overcome with a bit of creativity, which in itself can help with creativity. I think as people get further down their photography journey they realize this and the need to upgrade wains. If I need new piece of kit I really weigh up whether it will allow me to capture something new and will I use it enough to warrant it.
For example, I was considering a fast-wide-angle lens to capture some astro-photography, but on consideration for the amount of occasions you get to use it in Ireland would probably be a handful of times a year. Consider spending the money on travel and experience instead as getting to a new location will probably broaden your experience and your portfolio more than a high pixel count on a camera sensor. I would suggest buying good equipment as you generally get what you pay for in most cases (says me on my 4th tripod!)
How do you go about getting noticed?
The age-old question!
If you are taking images for likes, you are doing it wrong in my eyes. It is however naive to say it’s not good to get your work in front of people. The usual strategies are easily accessible everywhere on the internet so I won’t go into that, other than saying that the mindless following of people to try and garner the follow back just to achieve numbers is mindless in my view.
Having a few real admirers of your work is so much more valuable. I always appreciate a comment from a photographer I admire so much more than a few hundred likes.
A few points I would make is that I would recommend having your own website, a place where you have control over rather than the passing phases of some social media platforms. A blog can be a good idea and I really admire your dedication to putting out so much content on your blog, it shows real dedication. I used my blog just to share images that were in my mid OK but not portfolio worthy. I also share a lot of information on the locations where I shoot.
I think if you can develop a style or theme that you enjoy, a like-minded audience for the work will always find their way to you. It’s critical that you shoot for yourself and not pander to what’s popular. Just because oversaturated sunsets or the clichéd zombie figure (with a bright Red jacket) looking out in wonder over a landscape are popular is not what I consider meaningful photography.
At what point do you feel a photographer is experienced enough to run workshops or teach other photographers?
These days making a decent living from selling prints is just not possible and I do see a lot of photographers offering workshops as a means of income, and I can’t fault them for that. I think a photographer really needs to know their craft and have something to offer. I also think some people are just better teachers than others and that really helps. I’m not going to give out about people trying to make a few dollars.
How do you stay unique in a world where (almost) everyone has a camera in their back pocket?
Being unique is very difficult and something I try very hard to accomplish (and fail more often than not). It’s something I am constantly striving for, be it getting a scene I haven’t seen photographed before due to its isolated location, or unique conditions during the shoot. I think it’s all about putting the effort in and trying different techniques.
What can hurt this originality is looking at too many other images I feel. People are definitely influenced by what you see and somebody like Cole Thompson and his policy of photography celibacy (avoiding looking at other work to try and keep his vision his own) is to be greatly admired and is probably a really good idea.
What makes you choose color or black and white for your photos when editing?
I usually decide when taking an image whether I will be processing it in B&W or color. If I feel there is something interesting in the color or light present in the scene then it will probably stay in color, but for me that’s probably fairly rare. And when it is in color I tend to mute the colors rather than the other way. I just prefer black and white.
Tell us about your photography techniques and the post processing of your photos.
As you can see from my images, I currently enjoy long exposure photography mainly, to isolate the subject as much as possible. The more minimalistic I can make the scene, the better, just by composing it with as little in the scene as possible. In terms of processing, I do most of my processing in Lightroom manually, with the rare voyage into Photoshop to remove the odd distraction if need-be. I would like to do more in Photoshop as I think the edits can be done a little more subtly which I think is key. The end goal for me is to make the image look as natural as possible and black and white images allow a bit more leeway with that.
Is there any other form of art that interests you?
I enjoy listening to music particularly and actually processing images is usually one of the few occasions I can properly sit down and listen to some. Recently I have really started to notice and enjoy really great cinematography.
Do you have any opinion on art galleries? Should young artists strive to be in an exhibit?
The fine-art world is very difficult to get into; however, exhibiting your work is a very worth-while experience. The process of formally curating your own work and going to the trouble of printing and presenting it correctly is a great learning experience.
I would suggest something as simple as asking local businesses or premises if they would allow you to put up a few pictures for a period of time. That might be a good place to start. Many businesses would be all too pleased to have some free décor up. Galleries could be something that you can aspire to but start small and build.
If you could only take one more picture, what do you think it would be of? How would you begin to make that decision?
It would be a family picture, taken as candidly as possible and trying to capture a moment of joy. They are very difficult to get but it helps to have a camera on me as much as possible.