Shoot locally and be creative!

My name is Kevin Hugo and I live in a small town in the Wiltshire countryside in the UK.

I started taking photographs when I was given my first camera as a child. This was a simple Hanimex 35mm point and shoot which I enjoyed using to fill albums with pictures of my family, captured mainly on days out and holidays. It wasn’t long before the photography bug bit, and I learnt that I needed something that offered more control if I was to become a ‘proper’ photographer (whatever that was).

I saved money that I earned through paper-rounds, and studied photography magazines to decide what I should buy. What I really wanted was the Olympus OM-4Ti but there was no way I could afford one of those; eventually I settled on the Pentax P30n. This was a fantastic camera, and I learnt all the basic concepts of photography using it, such as exposure, focus and depth of field.

As I got older and moved away to go to university, I rather lost interest in photography, only resurrecting it a few years later when, looking for something to do to fill my time, I decided to enrol on a short part-time college course. This gave me the opportunity to try out different genres of photography as well as developing film and producing my own prints in the darkroom but I still didn’t have any clear direction in which to take my photography.

One day, my brother, who had recently bought himself a new camera, mentioned that he was thinking of booking a place on a photography workshop – a few days away with a professional landscape photographer in the Lake District. This sounded fantastic, and we both signed up.

That trip was a real eye-opener. It really taught me the difference that lighting conditions can have on the landscape. On one particularly memorable morning, I remember standing overlooking Derwentwater towards Catbells as the sun rose, producing the most beautiful colours in the sky. That moment really captured my imagination and I knew that this was the type of scene that I wanted to be capturing. I’ve still got that image, captured on Fuji Velvia 50, and it’s an image that I am still fond of.

By then, I was using a Canon system, having traded in my Pentax, which was past its best; the lens had become saturated with sand from the days when I’d take it to the beach during family holidays!

I followed up the Lake District trip with further workshops, both in the UK and overseas, and enrolled on another part-time course, mainly because I was keen to have another go at developing and printing in the darkroom.

By this time, digital cameras were becoming popular, but I was reluctant to move away from film. I enjoyed being in the darkroom, developing and printing black and white images. I continued to shoot colour film too and was always amazed at the quality of the Cibachrome prints that would come back from the lab.

Eventually it was clear that digital photography was the way forward and I bought my first digital SLR – a Canon EOS 40D. I’d also amassed a large collection of lenses, filters and other equipment and would carry it all around in a huge backpack.

Despite my love for the landscape, most of my photography was done whilst I was away from home. I’d rarely shoot images locally. I always felt that Wiltshire was lacking in photographic opportunities; much of the area is agricultural farmland where access is limited to the network of public footpaths, and the most photogenic sites are often within private estates or in tourism hotspots.

Things changed after I got married and we started a family. Having young children, I was keen to document their first few years with a camera. As it wasn’t really practical to be carrying the vast amount of equipment that I’d amassed with me on family days out, I decided to invest in a smaller system for this purpose, intending to continue to use my DSLR whenever I was able to get away on landscape trips. Having looked at the various options, I eventually purchased an Olympus OM-D E-M10, which was incredible. It gave amazing results in such a tiny package, and was also reminiscent of that OM-4ti that I always desired.

In reality I found that, with young children and a full-time job, I rarely had the time or inclination to get away for landscape trips. Instead, I found myself shooting locally whenever I had an hour or two to spare. This might be first thing in the morning, later in the evening or in the middle of the day, so not always during the landscape photographers’ preferred hours.

I also found that it was the Olympus that I tended to take out with me. It was perfect for my needs. No longer did I want to carry a heavy load around with me. Its small size made it easy to explore different locations. Shooting locally allowed me to visit locations again and again, really getting to know and appreciate them. I came across beautiful locations within a short distance of my house that I never knew existed.

It didn’t matter that I couldn’t capture the large vistas, mountains and coastal views that other areas might offer. A simple woodland scene, or even a macro shot of a wild flower could look good.

I upgraded the E-M10 to the E-M5 Mark II, and then to the E-M1 Mark II, gradually adding more lenses to my collection too. The playful nature of the Olympus system really helped me to experiment more and adopt a different approach. I broadened my horizons beyond traditional landscape scenes, shooting street and architectural images in towns and cities and, really, anything that caught my eye.

In recent years I’ve continued this approach. Restrictions imposed during the COVID pandemic meant that shooting locally was the only possible option. During this time the fields around my house became my playground. I actually found myself shooting more during the lock-downs and think that my photography improved because of this.

I believe that beautiful images can be captured anywhere. Even things that could be regarded as blights on the landscape, such as buildings, electricity pylons and telegraph poles can be fantastic subjects. Whilst I love witnessing the beauty of a sunrise or the drama of a sunset, with the right subject it is possible to shoot at any time of day, even in harsh lighting conditions.

I think it is important to remember that photography is an art form and should be a creative pursuit. Sometimes, it can be too easy to capture an image in a classic location, re-shooting a scene that has been photographed many times before. Don’t get me wrong, I love to shoot the well-known locations too, but my favourite images are always those where I’ve captured something a little different.

Kevin is husband to Catherine and Dad to Callum and Toby, his two football-loving sons. He works full-time in the IT industry as a Software Developer and likes to spend whatever spare time he gets out with his camera, exploring and trying to capture something unique.

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