Know your ProMediaGear Ambassador - Simon Philips
Simon Phillips is a talented photographer based in Perth, Australia. He is self-taught in photography and started shooting film when he was 4 years old. Back in 2017, he was diagnosed with autism and photography helped me move forward.
We asked him a few questions about his life and work.
Tell us about your first introduction to photography?
I was first introduced to photography from a early age of 4 years old when I was gifted my first film compact camera, That came out with me pretty much everywhere I went. The camera came out with me when I went on outings with my family in the English country side, I still have some of those photos I had taken all those years ago in my trunk in the office area at home.
When did you decide to become a photographer?
When I decided to become a photographer was at a early age but I never thought of where it would take me and how seriously I would take it.
I always enjoyed having a camera in my hands like when going to Germany to see my family over there for holidays. I would always have a camera on my hip and be the main person to take the photos, this is when I was only 8 years old and looking at the photos I can’t believe how good my framing is as it is on par with what I would do today.
When I was in 12 years old I saved up my birthday, Christmas and pocket money to buy myself a film SLR camera a Canon 3000n in a twin lens combo at this point I knew I was getting more serious with my photography as I wanted to get more creative with settings.
Ever since then I have been keen to learn as much as possible mainly on my own through trail and error.
How do you choose or prepare for your projects?
How I choose and prepare my projects is I use google maps to scout out locations to photograph then it is onto Instagram to search those locations seeing when it is best to go for the end result I want to achieve.
I used to use PhotoPills a lot for planning my sessions but today I hardly use the app, mainly because I found myself getting disheartened when I had put so much planning into a shoot and not have the conditions line up.
In the past year I have changed my approach of being more open, I mainly focus on the weather to see what the clouds are doing using Clear Outside - a wonderful app and best of all it is free.
Some of my projects are a few years in the planning waiting for the conditions, experience and gear to line up with the image I have in my mind. Most of the time before I leave the home I already have a general idea of what I want to achieve in the digital darkroom and then I work backwards from there on what to achieve.
What differentiates a good image and an iconic image?
I think what differentiates a good image from a iconic image is atmosphere and a strong scene. I only have a few images out of the thousands of images I have taken that mean a lot to me.
I also think this is subjective to each person because what someone might really like others will not get, but that isn’t a bad thing at all as it makes us to create something that is special to us. I find if a image gets you thinking and you feel in aw of it then the job is done.
What is your favorite photograph?
It is really hard to choose my favorite photo, but if I had to choose it would be this one taken at the top of Bluff Knoll at the Stirling Range National Park.
The reason why it is so special to me is that I climbed this mountain with chronic pain and it jump started my physical and mental strength to push on.
Before that I would give up easier but since that day I have climbed that mountain twice, climbed 4 other mountains and most of them I have climbed multiple times and this was all in the space of less than a year.
It is one of the images that will always have a strong connection with me as I also know it has jumpstarted my drive once again.
What do you consider is your greatest achievement so far?
I think my greatest achievement to date is that I have been at this so long, I am soon to be 32 in 2022 and I have been doing this for 25 years, I feel that in itself is a achievement.
The reason why is there where so many times I felt like giving up on my passion and doing something else, but I didn’t I stood in there despite the roller coaster of a ride.
The struggles with depression from not feeling like I was producing work I was happy with and also getting used.
I did try photography clubs but I just found them to restrictive and I don’t really like others judging my work unless I ask a friend or someone I consider to me worth their opinion.
So to tie this all together my greatest achievement is that I am still doing this and that makes me feel nice thinking about everything I have done and experienced.
Where does your creativity come from?
My creativity comes from a little bit of seeing what others do. I look at what other photographers that are out there and I look at their work to see how I would do it differently and then I research the location.
Just this gives me the boost of encouragement to get out. Some other cases is just to hit the road and see what happens from the unknown, being able to test myself and trying to go with a open mind is what gets me going. Of focus the more you shoot the more you get inspired as nothing is better than basing it off of lived experiences rather than going through someone else’s shoes.
Who is your photography inspiration?
Who my inspiration for photography actually changes a lot as time goes on depending on how my style and interest change.
I have been following Thomas Heaton for about 4 years now I take notes from what he does but only lightly but the biggest one is the train of thought to get the composition.
Another one is a aerial photographer here in Western Australia called Scott Jon McCook, I have been able to chat with him and soon I will meet up with him to plan some aerial photography trips.
I like it when people are in it for the love of photography and don’t have this strong ego that’s off putting, I myself just create because it what I love to do and I will do it until I move on from this world.
How has your work evolved over the years?
How much work has evolved over the years is I started off in landscapes and then went into motorsports for 7 years and now I have come back to landscapes as I really enjoy getting out into nature with my camera and seeing places I wouldn’t do if I had no camera to inspire me.
In the past few years with my landscapes I used to shoot wide and colorful but now I listen more to my inner voice and express how I see the world through my imagery.
I like intermit scenes that have a story, having isolation or using open spaces to allow the subject speak.
In the past year I have found I like to take photos more in isolated places than in built up areas.
There is nothing better than arriving on location and firing up the JetBoil to make a drink and experience the surroundings before grabbing my gear and heading out. In a built up area you don’t get the same experience at least for me.
What is your photography workflow?
My photography workflow is actually pretty simple as I used to plan a lot but I found myself getting more disheartened when shoots didn’t go to plan.
Now I spend possibly 20 minutes checking out a location using social media then going onto google maps to check out the terrain.
Sometimes I will go onto PhotoPills to see what is going on with the moon, sun and stars depending on what I have in mind.
Some locations I find just key areas to go to and don’t plan anymore, if I plan I will only shoot from that one spot most of the time and not venture further.
Do you take a lot of time editing your work?
Most of the time I don’t spend a lot of time editing my work, I use mostly LR and then if I need to remove distracting elements from the scene that is when I open up PS. I can spend anywhere from 2 minutes on a photo to 1 hour depending on how much needs to be done.
What is your best memory as a photographer?
My best memory as a photographer is the day I started getting more serious with my passion, I can still remember how I felt that day with the nerves of excitement knowing that my creativity will open up to more opportunities. I don’t think anything will ever top that experience as it meant so much to me.
What photography mistakes should novice photographers avoid?
Speaking from experience when it comes to starting out in photography as a novice is not to rely on the gear to get the shot, working with your gears limitations will teach you far more than hoping a expensive camera will get you the shot.
I have gone full circle now and I love what you can do with a basic entry level camera. I have sold work using gear that most think you can’t earn from it.
Knowing how to use the gear and understanding the science behind what is happening when you change settings and what different environmental conditions do.
I own both a medium format camera and a cheap crop camera. Both have different jobs but both will earn me money and get the shot.
What photography advice would you give to someone who wants to get into photography?
Do it for the right reasons, don’t do it thinking of earning money from it as that will be your drive and when you fail over and over again you will not gain the love for photography.
I got into it because I loved photography and to this day I still love it no matter if I am earning or not.
Photography groups and workshops are not always the best way to learn, I found with workshops it restricted me very early on and just getting out on your own or going out with friends you will do far more and become more creative.
With most workshops I have found there is this benchmark and you don’t branch out from that. Also send messages as well to other photographers in the field you’re interested in to chat with them about, most are nice but don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back as most are really busy.
What is your funniest moment while taking a photograph?
I think my funniest moment while out taking photos is when the conditions are brutal and nothing works for you and all you can do is laugh about it.
I remember those days more than the days that went smoothly. It is important to not take it too seriously as you need to have a laugh in this industry otherwise it just eats you up inside.
What are your other passions?
My other passions are listening to music I can’t play but I certainly like to listen to a variety of music from trance to blues and jazz.
My other passions are camping amongst nature that is a wonderful feeling and travelling in my car.
I would love to travel around the world one day as I have got a few places in mind I would love to go to experience.
My main big one is adventure just pushing my limits to see where it takes me, I think this is why I enjoy my landscape photography is my passions go hand in hand with my art.
I also like watching action movies on my home theatre system in my room, nothing better than relaxing at home and being immersed in someone else’s creativity.
If you are not a photographer, what would you like to be?
If I wasn’t a photographer what would I be… well that is a hard one to think about. What I did want to be once was a landscape gardener because when I was in England at the age of 10 I had over 80 plants in my small 2x3 meter room, I loved watching ground force on the TV. I enjoyed watching the plants develop over time and transform, I think if it wasn’t for moving out to Australia when I was 11, I would have possibly gone down that path as in Australia the job is so different. My other one was becoming a sound and audio visual technician for big concerts and I once wanted my own recording studio to work with artist, I can’t remember why I didn’t go down this path as I really enjoyed learning about sound, using gear and lighting… I think I got distracted and was focused more on my photography. Maybe one day I will have a go at both as I would like to or combine it with my photography.
What equipment do you use?
The equipment I currently use is a Hasselblad X1D-50c with 4 lenses and then I have a Canon M50 with 3 lenses and a collection of other cameras and mics for sound as I am getting into YouTube to share my passion.
The ProMediaGear products I use in their setup combinations are the TR424L with a levelling base and the BH1 ball head - this is when I want a rock solid setup for my medium format camera so I have next to no movement.
My next one is the TR344 with a BH50 ball head for when I want to travel more lightweight. I also have the center column for it and also the smaller apex that can be purchased for any for the 34 series tripods to give you a narrower form factor.
I also have a collection of plates and L brackets and some other accessories. I have some portable studio lighting that doesn’t get used much made by Elinchrom.
I own two Ranger RX Speed AS kits with S heads and a Elinchrom monolight that puts out 400Ws plus light modifiers and stands.
What is your favorite ProMediaGear product?
My favorite ProMediaGear product would have to be my trusted and loved TR424L with the levelling base and BH1 ball head.
It might be a heavy tripod at 4.5kg all up but it is worth it for what I do. I’ve owned it for 4 years now and it is still going strong like I pulled out out of the box just this morning.
It has battle scars on it from when it has been dropped, rubbed on rock faces when climbing through, down and over narrow areas. I can see this gear lasting many more years with the correct care and maintenance.