1. Who are you? Please give a brief background information.
My names is Pete West and I am now living in Valencia, Spain, after emigrating from the UK 2 years ago. I live a very full life and try to do as many things as time allows. I have a lovely wife who supports me in all I do, as I support her. After a very successful career as an amateur athlete I now utilise the time I spent training on a variety of activities. At 52 I still play football regularly and keep myself fit playing all sorts of sports. I play the Saxophone when I can and enjoy all types of music. I am currently eating and drinking my way around Valencia as well as enjoying the countryside and seeing the different wildlife here.
2. How long have you been doing photography?
I have only been into serious photography for about three years, after buying a digital SLR for a trip of a lifetime to Brazil.
3. How did you start doing photography? What got you interested in it?
I always liked the idea of taking close up shots of wildlife but could never afford the reams and reams of film I would have needed to perfect the skill. With digital I was able to make numerous mistakes and just delete them, so the trip to Brazil presented the ideal excuse to buy a DSLR and zoom lens. Unfortunately I should have had much more practise before going as many shots were disappointing. Thats the beauty of digital however, I still got quite a few good shots, (to go with the hundreds of bad ones!!) As I´ve improved I find I need to take less and less shots to get the really good ones but without digital I probably would not have started.
4. Do you earn living from photography or you do photography as your hobby/ your half time job?
I am purely an amateur. I would like to be able to supplement my income at some stage but think thats probably a long way off.
5. What’s your day job?
I teach PE and Maths to 11-18 year olds in an International School. I have been teaching now for about 20years and still enjoy it.
6. Do you have special education? Did you take courses or go to a school learn photography?
All that I have learned about photography has come from books, magazines, online articles and trial and error.
7. Are you specializing in a particular area of photography? What are your favorite places/objects to shoot?
I love shooting Wildlife and Sports action shots. Unfortunately I don´t have the expensive lenses necessary to do as well as I would like in this area.
8. Who are your big photographic influences?
I have to say that I don´t have a specific photographer in mind, the photographs in National Geographic magazine are what really fired my interest.
9. How do you educate yourself? Do you read special literature, visit photography galleries? What photo books/magazines do you have on your bookshelf?
I am self taught from the many articles and sites available on the internet. I would avidly read all the free advice and then print off the interesting stuff for future reference. I have also used websites such as this one to invite critique on my own photographs and hopefully learn from it.
I visit any photo exhibitions that are in my area, and when in the UK I buy all the photo magazines I can. Personally, however, I have learnt most by looking at other peoples work and analysing what makes it good; composition, lighting, dof etc. Then I try to get the same techniques into my shots.
10. What equipment and software do you use (camera(s), lenses, film, etc.)?
I have a Canon 400D with standard EFS 18-55 lens and a 70-300mm IS USM zoom lens. I also have a X2 extender which I rarely use as the quality suffers unless the light is perfect. I use Photoshop Elements software to process the images, but really need to spend more time perfecting this area.
11. What is your opinion on post-processing, especially enhancing pictures?
Maybe my previous answer gives this away, but I think that you should get the shot right without the need for post processing. I always shoot in RAW now and the good shots need very little doing to them. The one that won this competition was virtually as shot.
Apart from anything I really don´t have the time for post processing. Thats not to say that if I had the time and the training I wouldn´t use it but I get more satisfaction from getting it right first time.
12. What advice would you give someone who is interested in photography and wants to improve their photography skills?
Visit as many websites as you can, look at other peoples work and then get out and try things. Then choose your best shots and get as many as possible to critique your work, accept the criticism and then act on it.
13. What’s the most challenging aspect of photography for you? What’s the best part of it?
The hardest part for me is seeing the shot before I have taken it. I generally have to take loads from all different angles and decide after which one looks the best. When taking action shots the hardest part is getting the timing right and it really helps to know your subject and anticipate what will happen. Getting the timing right is the best part.
14. Could you please attach or send links to 3 favourite photos you took?
A tough choice, apart from the two entered in this competition these are probably amongst the most satisfying, the two wildlife shots for the timing and the pciture of Rio for the memories and because it was one of my first successful shots