It’s all about light for County Durham photographer Mike Ridley, and it has been for the past few years. He started taking photographs when he was young with a 35mm SLR, but it wasn’t until he started walking in the Cumbrian Fells with his family that he found his niche.
‘I began to appreciate that the same routes were different every time depending on the season, time of day and weather conditions,’ he explains. ‘That’s why snaps turned into a passion for capturing the amazing landscapes I saw whilst out.’
Next he discovered Flickr, which he sees as an ‘online community’, encouraging and supporting one another. That led to him regularly meeting up with other photographers, visiting different locations together. And so Mike’s aspirations grew.
‘I discovered the local coastline in County Durham and Northumberland,’ he tells us, ‘And now I have a real ambition to capture the perfect light and the dramatic effects of sunrise and sunset – it’s a lifelong ambition, due to the ever-changing nature of the environment, but I always try to make the best of the conditions as they develop around me.’
He bought his first digital SLR in 2009, having been inspired by a picture he saw of Newcastle’s Millennium Bridge. As soon as he got it he headed out to take a shot of the bridge himself, not really knowing how to use the camera or how it would turn out, but he was amazed by what was possible with the relatively cheap camera and a tripod.
‘That single image spurred me on to keep on trying to get to grips with photography and it’s still there as one of the first images on my Flickr photo site,’ he says. ‘Funnily enough I still enjoy photographing the same scene more than six years later.’
Mike is now an award-winning photographer whose work has been exhibited in galleries in the North East and published in newspapers and magazines. Several of his images will also go on display at the Lookout café in Seaham Marina this June. Meanwhile, if you’re at a North East beauty spot this summer, you might see him seeking the perfect light.
• Use a tripod as it opens up another side of your camera, due to the ability to use longer exposure times that can’t be done handheld.
• Don’t get too hooked on the best camera gear, use whatever you can afford, but learn how to get the best from the camera you have.
• Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, its all part of the learning experience. Experiment with different settings and learn how they affect the outcome.
• A little preparation goes a long way. Once you have chosen a location check out the sunrise and sunset times and angles, then plan to arrive about one hour beforehand to catch the best light conditions. The website www.photoephemeris.com is a great resource in planning outdoor landscape photography.
• Take a look over your shoulder occasionally, especially at dawn and dusk. Sometimes the sky will light up behind you giving a better picture that the view in front of you.
• Learn how to compose a shot, sometimes moving slightly lower, left or right can give a much different result. T take your time to find just the right angle. Don’t rush.
• First and foremost enjoy photography. Take the picture for you, and how you want it to be. Yes, draw inspiration from others, but if possible try to put your own twist onto a scene and therefore develop a style of your own.