The BPS Interview
Len Pugh DPAGB
30th May 2017
What is/was your full time occupation?
For 33 years I worked in the Aerospace industry as a CNC machine programmer. I’m now retired.
When did you first become interested in photography?
It was May 1981 to be precise. I had spent 10 years in rifle shooting as a sport. I competed at County and National level and travelled all around the UK. At that time we had a baby daughter and I decided I didn’t want to travel so much and sold all my rifle kit and bought a camera. Initially it was to take just family photographs.
I joined the Redditch Camera Society and took college courses. I realised that I could make some money doing photography and started up my own part time wedding photography business.
I bought medium format equipment so as to be able to compete.
Is there a photographer that inspired and influenced you and you would have liked to have been able to spend a day with?
This has to be Charlie Waite. I have met him several times. His books inspired me. It was his landscapes in square format that interested me. His books showed me where I was going wrong with my pictures and I was able to make improvements and sell my work.
Is there one photograph by anyone in the past that you especially admire?
There is a portrait called “Afghan Girl” by Steve McCurry a famous American photojournalist. The girl’s eyes are just stunning and bore right into you from out of the picture.
What was your first camera and how did you come to buy it?
It was a 35mm Chinon with a “K” bayonet lens mount. I read in Amateur Photographer that the lens that came with the camera wasn’t very good and so I bought a Pentax 50mm f1.7 lens for it. I still have it all now.
Which camera have you owned that you have a special affection for?
It would be a 5” x 4” Wista Field camera. This has a cherry wood frame and takes a single sheet of film each time. The film is kept in a light tight box which is attached to the rear and each one can carry two sheets. On a day’s outing I often took 5 boxes and so at about £5 per sheet at the time, it was £50 for 10 exposures.
What is your current camera(s) and lens(es) set up and how long have you had it?
I have a Canon 50D (cropped sensor) from 2010 which is with me most of the time. However, my main camera is a Canon 5D MkII (full frame sensor) from 2012. I have battery grips for both. A Canon 400 EX Flash Gun, 3 tripods, one carbon fibre, several camera bags and one aluminium case.
Canon 50D = 17 – 85mm, Sigma 10-20mm
Canon 5D MkII = 16 – 35 L, 24 – 105 L and a 70 – 300mm
What is your typical kit set up for a day out?
My 50D is always with me as a backup for the 5D MkII. I carry the 16-35mm and the 24 -105mm, a carbon fibre tripod and a set of NISI square filters for landscapes. Sometime I also take the 70 – 300mm.
What camera would you currently like to own if it was possible?
A Canon 5D MkIV or if money was no object, the new Fuji medium format digital camera.
Do you find it difficult to resist the temptation to buy the latest equipment?
No, not really. I buy both new and second hand as long as it’s very good quality.
Do you have a particular number of genres that you favour and concentrate on?
Landscapes mainly and travel photos. When doing the wedding work I did a lot of portraits but not so many now. I like still life but don’t get much time to do it.
Is there just one favourite photograph that you have taken which you are really proud of and why?
There are a couple. They are heavily Photoshopped but it’s not possible to tell, which is why I’m proud of them.
- This would be one of Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland.
- This is “On the Morning Tide” at Lam Lash Bay on the Isle of Arran. I particularly like the mist that I put on it which works despite the fact it was taken at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon.
Have there been any amusing or memorable incidents when taking photographs?
There are two.
In Northumberland, I had heard there was a waterfall called “Lin Hope Spout” that was a long walk to get to. I chose not to take my heavy tripod so took a lightweight one instead.
When my wife and I got to the waterfall, I took a few shots from the bank of the river but realised that the best place was the mid river. I managed to get across to a small rock sticking out of the water in the right position. I set up the flimsy tripod and still had difficulty as it was slipping on the wet rocks. I became grumpy and took the camera off the tripod and set the tripod down beside me. I was then able to take some hand-held shots and moved to the left forgetting that the tripod was there and tripped over it. I instinctively held the camera up in the air above water. I was in a very bad mood by now and my wife on the river bank was clearly not impressed. I picked up the tripod and threw it a distance in disgust it disappeared with a splash into the river never to be seen again. We have a good laugh about it now.
The second was when I was doing a wedding. My wife always accompanies me. She helps set up the shots and is another pair of eyes for me. We were shooting a group and I was just about to press the shutter when my wife shouted out, “would the Bride’s Father like to do his flies up”.
Is there a difficult image that you would still like to capture?
I would like to try aerial photography. I once took some photos from a Hot Air balloon.
What made you start to work towards obtaining photographic awards and distinctions?
I attained my first distinction, LMPA, in 1988 for wedding photography. This was to reinforce my credentials for the work I did.
In 1991 I scaled down the weddings work and went on to landscapes, I needed a challenge. I obtained some acceptances in PAGB exhibitions and so went for CPAGB in 1999 as my first one. 12 months later in 2000 I received the DPAGB.
I’m still selling pictures in stock libraries and Fine Art America.
Did anyone help and influence you on the way to attaining your goals?
Not really. Being in a club was helpful. At first as a landscaper I was in Solihull Club. Bob Moore was helpful in setting high standards.
Are there any tips you can pass on to members considering starting on the path to an award?
Go to as many exhibitions as you can. Study what is going on and the images being accepted and winning. If you enter you still get a copy of the catalogue back showing winners, even if you don’t win yourself.
From my point of view, the pictures I sell are not competition winners but I get a lot more satisfaction now with the pictures I can sell. Saleable pictures are not necessarily those that judges would pick for competitions.
What computer, monitor and editing software do you use?
I have an Acer laptop, a Dell 17” monitor. Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC with loads of plugins. I have Topaz, On One Creative Suite, some Nik software including HDR and Photomatix.
Do you do your own printing, if so what printer do you use?
Mostly no but I do have an A4 printer for various things. For important work I use DS Colour Labs and Simlab.
What was the best picture you failed to get and why?
I tend to go out a lot without a camera. If the light isn’t very good I leave the camera in the boot and regret it in the next half an hour. In Cornwall in 2016 the evenings had some great sunsets and I thought that one evening I would get a great shot from the beach. On the day I was free to take one, it was dull and cloudy so I stayed at the caravan three miles away. Just before sunset, the clouds went, the Sun came out and it was a great sunset but I was too late.
If you were a professional photographer for a day, who/what and where would you like to photograph?
I would like to photograph the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, you don’t need to be pro, just loads of cash.
What do people say about photography that makes your hackles rise?
Someone, I think Sam Haskins, once said, “If I was invited to a very nice meal and it was delicious, I wouldn’t say to the host, you must have a great oven” It’s the same with photographs. It’s not about a great camera.
What piece of photographic wisdom would you like to share with BPS members?
Always take a camera with you although I don’t always practice what I preach.
Do you have a photographic philosophy that keeps you going?
To take the pictures I enjoy and not copy what others do. I have more success and pleasure that way. I ignore the judges.