Photography : "Live and Uncut" - Episode 63 with Neil Buchan-Grant

It was a great pleasure to have on my show this week Travel and Portrait photographer, Neil Buchan-Grant. 

His first recollection of a camera at about the age of 12 would be a Kodak 126 then moved onto a Polaroid camera. It wasn't until the age of 16 hat he found photography. Mainly by reading the great magazines that were out at the time, these got him interested in the beautiful colour photographic work. It was the gadgetry side of photography that interested him. So with a couple of friends he used to get up into the hills close to his home in Edinburgh Scotland and make some landscape photographs. The first camera he bought was a Cosina SLR with a couple lens. Soon after this he got a job working for Dixons and whilst working there was able to get a Canon AV-1 and Canon A1 on the then 'New' and popular interest free credit that was on offer. With his new gear he continued to concentrate on landscapes and make a few portraits of his family. Although he left school early he decided with a friend that maybe it would be a good idea to study art and photography at the local college. But they needed to get the qualifications to get into that college! The exams went well and they both passed but Neil realised that he wouldn't be able to afford to go on studying at Napier College and so unfortunately he took a sales job. It's amazing how we get these life turns, as photography really then took a back seat as work developed and marriage came along.

It wasn't until the year 2000 that Neil got back into photography as the digital age made its mark. It's amazing how many photographers I've spoken to that have found this particular year '2000' is when they got back into making images. Neil bought a Canon IXUS then, but it wasn't long before he bought a Canon (DSLR) EOS D30 and a few lenses. 

Neil by this time was living in Devon and making some landscape photos. He had sold some prints and written some articles plus doing a fair bit or travel. He made a great trip to Southern Italy (along the Amalfi Coast) and made some 'reasonable images'. He came across a competition for Travel photography in the Independent on Sunday in co-operation with 'Insight Guides'. He entered the competition and Won! The Prize? A commission to shoot in Northern Italy on the Ligurian Coast. The publishing house liked his work and he kept the contract for the next three years!

Travel photography was it. He carried on this path for a while but later it intensified, when he started to develop his career by moving into portraiture and later still workshops. Looking at the screen-share we can see Neil's work and you realise how and why he won that competition. Sharp, clean, superb compositions and descriptive image making all ideal for the travel photographers portfolio... Plus some 'street' photos which was great to see. As not all Travel Photography is just about superb beeches, sunsets and Marina's! We also see his great composition work on portraits. It took some time for him to break the ice and develop the approach the stranger style and make the portrait shot. Its all about making contact and talking to people. Many will respond and say 'Yes' and you'll get the picture very few will say 'No' and by the way don't worry if they do! Of course you can make an image without your subject knowing which does lead to some great candid shots but you don't get that Eye-Contact. An essential part of the true portraiture. When you have mastered the approach and discussion for an image and you get that 'Eye Contact' it is such a great way to spend the day on the streets talking and making images.

Very few photographers that I'm talking to these days are editing their images straight after the trip or street walk. I've noticed that many are now downloading, leaving the images, then going back to select the best and making some form of editing, still later, sometimes a few days later, they then to make the final edits. This is typical of Neil's workflow using Lightroom and the Nik software group of plugins Silver and Colour Efex in particular. Interestingly after editing if Neil decides to make a print he doesn't use the LR print module, instead he uses Zara. Thats one to think about, if you're not happy with LR printed results.

Neil is now part of the Olympus Visionaries list of photographers. This all came about when Neil was asked by Inside Guides, to make a book on Sicily. He had sold all his Canon gear to move toward the Leica range because of the quality of the lenses, all he had was his Leica M9 plus a couple of focal lengths which he didn't think would suit the trip to Sicily. He also had an Olympus pen. So, he approached Olympus to ask if they would lend him some gear for the commissioned trip. The images proved to be so successful that he decided to get more involved with the Olympus 4/3 system. This was about 4 or 5 years ago. More work followed with commissioned work for promotions and advertising for Olympus and work became more regular with a formalised deal, although still on the sidelines he is proud to be involved with Olympus. One thing to mention here Neil and I discuss the sensor size of the Olympus compared to the Full Frame cameras ie. Nikon, Canon and Sony. Its clear you will find today that the 4/3 sensor produces images that are in no way inferior to full frame and can produce some excellent A4 and A3 prints, and sometimes larger!

His inspiration in photography are the likes of David Bailey and Irving Penn but recently he came across of a woman who used to work in the studio for Irving Penn as a print worker but later she developed her own style of fashion photography, Lillian Bassman. She photographed for the likes of Vogue in the 1950's. Neil doesn't have a favourite photographer, but recognises there are so many good photographers out there now, that you can see on Google+, 500px, Flickr and other social photo sites and its not the gear that makes them quality photographers; It's their eye for composition and photo ideas.

His is involved with a number of workshops with Olympus along the lines of travel photography with set targets. A workshop thats sounds really great to get involved with is the one to Berlin for 3 days for an intense itinerary for landscape, street and city shooting with a fashion bias. Neil will be working along side Steve Gosling for this workshop. They'll be reviewing photos, editing workflows and general photo making guidance - sound's like a great work shop to get involved with.. Here's the link for that... Berlin 2015 a workshop with Neil Buchan-Grant and Steve Gosling 

Another workshop closer to home that you might be interested to note down is in Winchester with Neil is here its in September, so you better get onboard quick.

It was great to talk with Neil who has had such a great career to date and long may that continue.

Thank you Neil. 

Until next time "Leave your camera bag at home"...


The all Important links

Photography 'Live and Uncut' - Episode no. 63 with Neil Buchan-Grant


The Neil Buchan-Grant website and Workshops here.

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