As one of our newer leaders, we thought it would be good to find out a little more about Carla and her background before joining Light & Land, now that she has completed her first tour with us in Cornwall! You can read our interview with Carla about that particular trip here.
Please can you tell us a little about your background as a professional photographer.
I originally studied Animal Science and came away with a BSC Hons, so not a very photographic start I’m afraid! Jobs in that field were hard to find at the time - and as my partner is a chef, and I worked as a waitress for many years while studying, I knew we could run a business together. So we ran a pub in Wiltshire for four years before moving to Cornwall a few years ago to open a café/restaurant called Seadrift.
Working and living in Cornwall sparked a photographic obsession for me. How could you not enjoy it and want to capture it? So three years into our new Cornish adventure, while juggling my full time work at Seadrift, I started attending a few workshops abroad with fellow photographers and began building my knowledge and thirst for photography.
I’m completely self-taught – with the help of Light & Land’s great photographic leaders of course! I’ve always had work for sale on the walls of the café, and they sell very well, so due to the demand for my images, six months ago we opened up the space above the restaurant and created a Gallery. Then in February 2014, the Cornish coast experienced massive storms, and Porthleven was hit very hard. Throughout the storms I was able to shoot scenes of the massive waves crashing around the iconic clock tower and coast, and these pictures did very well – boosting my photographic career, with a placing in the Epson International Pano Awards. I came 11th, as one of the top placed female photographers in the UK.
Then very recently another of my storm images, ‘Porthleven Washout’, won me first place in the British Life Photography awards at the Mall Galleries in London in the ‘weather’ category. I was absolutely thrilled to bits to get recognition, and it was very exciting going up to London for the awards. I had an interview with Radio Cornwall, and on TV with BBC spotlight, so the press coverage from the awards was fantastic.
I understand you have just completed your first tour with Light & Land as a leader, how did that come about?
One day I received a call from Charlie out of the blue. I will never forget that call, I was and still am blown away by the offer to join the Light & Land team. You could have knocked me down with a feather! Doing this is a photographers dream.
Charlie had paid me a visit to the café a little while before, and apparently he’d really liked my connection with others and how I look after my customers - and he wanted someone who would look after his Light & Land clients with the same manner. He also liked the way I knew my area very well, as this really helps a tour to run smoothly. If you have to change plans at last minute due to weather (or when there are no boats in the harbour you want to visit, as was the case in Mousehole recently!) then the local knowledge really helps you to change plans quickly, and often the last minute location can be the best! On that occasion we ended up in St Ives and got some fantastic shots of the tide coming in and reflections of the lighthouse in the wet sand.
So that’s how it started. A call from Charlie, followed by a trip to the Light & Land offices in Dorset, a massive chocolate brownie, and the rest as they say is history! Five months later I have just finished my first tour for Light and Land and I’m already planning the next few.
You mentioned previous Light & Land tours, can you tell us a little more about those?
My first trip was actually when I met Charlie for the first time, on a one day workshop in Dorset. I remember it well, as on this day he told us about a trip they were running to the Arctic, to stay onboard a ship and to photograph polar bears, walrus, birds and of course the stunning landscape. As I was driving home I remember thinking ‘How can I get on this trip?’ And how can I get my partner to say yes, and how quickly can I get home to look it up!
Well my partner happily agreed, and a year later we were off to join others on what was a trip of a lifetime. This then pushed me to start thinking seriously about equipment and learning, and since then I’ve been to America, the Lake District, France, Norway and back to Dorset. Being on tours is a great way to meet new people, and it really helps your photography progress, even if you only come home with picking up one new thing!
The America trip was after I’d had the conversation with Charlie about becoming a leader, and so it was a bit of practice for me. I was there as a client, but also as a new leader. The requirement for this type of familiarisation becomes apparent very quickly. when I had to drive a hire car on the first morning, on the other side of the road (which I’ve never done before) down Las Vegas strip!! An excellent first adventure.
Light & Land caters for all ability levels - how do you manage this variance as a tour leader?
With a group of clients all at slightly different levels, it is of course important to ‘juggle’ myself between the opposite ends of the spectrum. Those who are quite competent with the camera and its functions sometimes just needed some pointers, and this is often more about composition. Turning the camera sideways into ‘portrait’ format to see how it really changes the composition, or thinking about lead lines and curves, or asking them to consider how they would crop the image afterwards to most enhance the shot.
Others need more help and often come on a tour to get their photography ‘off the ground’ so to speak, so they need more time from me. We work in locations with many photographic possibilities, and often those who are more experienced will go further afield, and I catch up with them as they change locations. Whereas the less experienced can often be found together nearby, so it makes it easier to keep an eye on them - helping to give them ideas and compositional thoughts, as well as technical support, to allow them to take the next step. This makes it easier to spread my time between the slightly less experienced members of the group who are closer at hand.
Can you tell us what you particularly enjoy about being a tour leader?
I really enjoy meeting new people, and this was a key factor for me. Working in the hospitality industry for many years has allowed me to engage well with guests. It’s great to look after clients in the same way I would if they were in my café and try to fulfill all of their requirements - while at the same time pass on the experience and knowledge that I’ve had passed onto me. It wasn’t that long ago I was in the same situation as some of them.
I really enjoyed my first Light & Land tour and I’m looking forward to meeting familiar and new faces on the next one. I always aim to be out with my camera as much as possible, helping clients to understand theirs, and to learn new techniques – so they can go home with a set of images that they are genuinely pleased with. Living on the Cornish coast is superb - you do get a bit obsessed with ‘chasing the light’, and I’ve now realised when you are finally happy with an image, you notice new ways to photograph the area and the light chasing starts all over again!
Post By Charlie Waite