Interview with photographer Paul Coonan

Interview with a photographer

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Interview with a photographer


Each month I interview a different photographer and ask them about what makes them tick within the world of photography, their influences and how they came about doing what they do.
This month I interview Paul Coonan of London.

This month I spoke to Paul Coonan, a 37 year old Chef who’s originally from the South coast of England and has been living in London for the last 7 years.
He has always been fascinated with photography, but has been serious about it over the last 11 years and pretty much consumes his life. His words were “Photography is something that I’ll do for the rest of my life as I think that it is something that you can never peak at and it’s a constant learning curve. If you keep looking at older pictures, you will always see that you have improved on them”.
Besides photography his other activities would be generally keeping fit by snowboarding and running and in between all that he spends time with his family.
Here’s what Paul had to say at the interview, with really interesting answers to my questions.

Q1. What or who inspired you to do photography in the first place?
A1. I can’t really say it was one thing or a person, from a young age I always owned a camera and always enjoyed taking more of the unusual shots (taking pictures out of my dads car window while he drove down the motorway was one of my favourites as it captured the movement which I found really captured my attention). Obviously when I first started it was with a 35mm camera, it was the most exciting thing ever going to the chemist and picking up my film that I had dropped in a couple of days before and see what I caught. It was a buzz that just made me want to continue, and that feeling hasn’t changed today.

Q2. What kind of gear do you use?
Camera body – Canon 6D
Lenses -17-40mm F4L, 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS USM, Canon EF 50mm f1.8 MK2 (I have others but these are my main ones that are usually attached to my camera
Tripod – Three Legged Thing – Jack
Filters – Hoya 77mm HMC NDX400 Hoya 77mm Pro-1 NDX32
Flash – Never use one!!!
Camera bag -trusty old Lowepro one that desperately needs replacing but these days I usually go out without it, camera, lens and tripod and away I go.
Mention others, if any.

Q3.What inspires you generally when it comes to photography?
A3. This is a tough question to answer as there are so many answers, but because I love landscape and street photography I would have to say good light and ideal weather conditions (“ideal” depends hugely on what kind of mood I am in….stormy, cloudy beautiful sunrise/set etc), if the weather is good or there is amazing light then I can be instantly inspired and have no concept of time, I could be out all day and only realise the day has gone when I notice the light has drastically changed!

Q4.What does photography mean to you?
A4. Well I honestly can’t walk down a street without examining every detail about it, or stand in front of a beautiful landscape without thinking “if only I could see it from that angle”. It is pretty much always in my head so I guess I would have to say photography is everything! There are inspiring and interesting images all around us, most of the time, it’s just about finding the right angle to shoot it from. That’s what I love about it, making everyday/ordinary things look extraordinary when captured on camera-it’s a challenge but an extremely rewarding and fun challenge.

Q5. Which is your favorite lens? Why?
A5. 17-40mm F4L In my opinion it is a great wide angle lens, it can capture great depth of field and really open up an image. For a photographer into landscape or street photography a wide angle lens is a ‘must’ bit of kit, the 17-40mm is a great lens at a reasonable price……..well reasonable in the land of camera lenses anyway!
Q6.What is your biggest accomplishment in this field?
A6. Accomplishments are measured in many different ways financial, awards, recognition etc for me though I would have to say my biggest (or maybe should say my most proud) accomplishment is simply the day I got to photograph the son of a Maasai Chief in his home when my wife and I were the only two people in the entire village (or for miles around) not from that village. It was an extremely rare moment when we entered the village and I thought I could get some amazing shots in a place where not many people ever get to, but first I need permission and some courage as the easiest thing to do was just leave as it was an extremely intimidating situation. But we tried to communicate (very difficult as my Swahili is a little rusty) and eventually was invited into the Chiefs son house where I got to take a great portrait shot. I felt that it was a great achievement as not many people will ever find themselves in that situation & if you do it’s difficult not to get intimidated and not take the shot.

Q7. Whose work has influenced you most?
A7. In landscape photography I would have to say the legendary Ansel Adams, his landscape images are just amazing and extremely inspiring. I would also have to say though I get inspired everyday by photographers “trying to make a name for themselves” and can find their work very influential, that’s the great thing about photography- there’s ALWAYS a new, talented photographer on the horizon. But it is not just photographers that have influenced me there are others such as Banksy (famous street artist) who has influenced me massively, as the vision to see things that others just couldn’t imagine is something I will forever strive for in my photography.

Q8. Do you have a favorite time of year for photographing?
A8. It would have to be winter. Although be outside in freezing weather for hours on end isn’t necessarily the nicest thing, I think it is the season that lends itself best for photography (in my humble opinion). Various conditions, weather, lighting, and losing light earlier in the day has its benefits, if you like shooting light trails from traffic – getting dark earlier means you are able to shoot trails during rush hour for great effects. It is not just traffic that produces some cool effects, fireworks, LEDs, fairground attractions- all produce amazing images and as it gets dark earlier you can get out earlier therefore giving you a longer time to get these great images.

Q9. What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
A9.How much patience is required, patience is not one of my strong points but is something that I have learned to develop (excuse the pun), you can plan a shot and think you know exactly how you will execute it but things happen that are outside of your control i.e weather, lighting, people walking in the shot etc you may not get what was in your head. It could be sometime before you get a chance to take that same shot again if you are depending on weather, or a clear starry night for star trails etc. But be patient and eventually it WILL pay off!

Q10. 35mm or Digital? And Why?
A10. 35mm produces great physical images, you can’t beat film, a bit like listening to songs on vinyl…it just sounds sooooo goooood (may be I’m a bit of a romantic….something I’m sure my wife would disagree with). But when it comes down to it, I would have to say Digital, being able to inspect your images instantly, rectify mistakes, make adjustments and then shoot again is invaluable.

Q11. Twitter or Facebook? Why?
A11. For me- Twitter for my Photography, this may sound silly, but twitter ‘feels’ more global, you commonly have people following you from all corners of the world where as Facebook I feel is a great meeting place for friends and family and it is usually these people that frequently make comments and I like to keep things separate, twitter for photography and Facebook to socialise.

Q12. Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why? (Please supply the photo in low resolution)
A12. This is an imploded Volcano in Tanzania called the Ngorongoro Crater, a truly epic and beautiful place, in my opinion should really be a ‘Wonder of the World’. I was lucky enough to visit the Crater 5 years ago, it takes around 2 hours to drive from the summit, which is almost 2000 metres above sea level, where in the image, in the distance you can see the clouds rolling over the edge of the crater. The crater is 100 square miles and has over 25,000 large animals (elephants, black Rhino, Zebra, Lions). I took this shot about 1 hour into driving into the crater (so only about half way down), the scenery is just stunning and I wanted to try and capture the ‘feel’ of the crater.

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