Hugh Hastings

At the weekend I dropped in at the Photography Show at Birmingham NEC where I went along to a seminar by Hugh Hastings about landscape photography.

Hastings has an impressive resume including being an official photographer for Chelsea Football Club for more than 10 years. He mentioned a number of projects he has worked on including photographing the people he met in hospital when he had an operation, creating badges of a deceased relative for their funeral and giving single use cameras to the homeless.

He has a real affinity with the outdoors having been inspired by the photographs on Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother LP. Although most of his work these days is architectural he believes them to be landscapes with building (or rooms) in them.

He is a Leica ambassador, shoots solely with Leica cameras and travels around giving talks on behalf of Leica. He said that we would pay for a Leica, financially and physically, through lugging it around, but that its quality was unsurpassed.

He has released a number of books and is currently working with a publisher on a book of photos of Cornwall for which he requires around 300 photographs. The publisher, Ron Johns of Mabecron Books, would like traditional blue sky, postcard images but Hastings has other ideas. He wants to find some some new angles and is negotiating with the publisher about what he can do. For example he showed us an image of St Michaels Mount taken with a long lens from a distance, at sunset. Although this particular image is a little too abstract for the publisher, these lesser seen views are what he wants to take. Now he is simply using a 30-90mm lens so that the photograph will portray what you might see with the naked eye.

Hastings urged us to check out lay-bys! He showed us an view of daffodil fields that he came across after parking in a lay-by and walking just a few yards.

We were also urged to consider health and safety. Hastings had a piece of rope with a carabiner clip attached to the end which enables him to hook onto something and lean out when photographing cliffs or steps and get that angle that others can’t.

When photographing the sea, Hastings says that he could take the traditional 15sec exposures but would rather see gritty photos that show the water as it really is. He likes to take photos on 50/50 days when there is both sun and cloud as he says the clouds give interest to the image. He mentioned Kilian Schoenberger as further inspiration for his work.

When asked about how much post production he does he explained that he turns down the contrast in the camera so that the image is very flat. This gives him the opportunity to increase the contrast in post production. He usually shoots jpeg images as the quality of the jpegs from the Leica camera he uses is better than any RAW conversion he has seen. He will shoot RAW images at night though where there is some uncertainty about the final image. He does add a small amount of HDR effect using Aurora software.

Hastings said that he likes to see people in his landscapes telling us that he is inspired by Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, by Casper David Freidrich. It gives a sense of scale and introduces something new and different to the landscape.

Finally Hastings urged us to get out there and take photos of the landscape as it is changing so quickly. Solar and wind farms are appearing at an incredible rate and we need to record what is unspoilt so far. To help us, he recommended an app called PhotoPills that helps you plan any photoshoot, anywhere, giving information about where the sun or moon is, depth of field, exposure and location tracking.

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