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An Interview with Photographer Christiaan Partridge

Christiaan Partridge creates beautiful images, from stunning flower macro photography to beautifully composed countryside landscapes, varied and interesting pet and portraits and vintage aircraft photography.

Christiaan is clearly devoted to his photography. Born in Ipswich and brought up in Haughley, near Stowmarket in Suffolk, Christiaan studied Medicine at the University of Dundee, before returning to his home county. Christiaan is now based in Mellis in North Suffolk, near to the Norfolk border, and enjoys photographing the wild flowers on his doorstep – the village common. Christiaan is also a member of The Wildflower Society, plays for the village cricket team and runs a local village football club. He had a successful exhibition of his wildflower images at the Beyond the Image Gallery, in nearby Thornham Magna, last Summer.

Check out his work on his website

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What is your favourite genre of photography and why?

My favourite is macro, especially wildflowers and the natural world. To me, it is about being able to show such details in colours and patterns, that the naked eye just can’t see. The reproduction in the natural world is amazing. I do enjoy looking at other people’s work, especially portraits that capture someone’s personality.

What equipment do you use for your macro photography?

My camera bodies are both Nikon’s, a D810 and an F5. My workhorse lens is the 105mm f2.8 macro and a full set of automatic extension tubes, though I confess that I often use all three of them together. I have a focusing rail on my tripod, which allows me to make finer adjustments to focus. On my phone, I have the Met Office app, tide tables and a sun position calculator. I don’t carry a flash as I prefer to use natural light and photograph in the natural environment. I carry a reflector, which comes in handy as a windshield, and a clamp also handy on windier days.

Can you talk about how you plan for your macro photography shoots from start to finish?

Wildflower shoots are often only a few minutes’ walk from home and most “scouting missions” are actually when I take our dog out for a walk. I make note of what is flowering, where, time of day and time of year. The position of the sun, where the light is and where it is going are also important, as these change over the year. I carry a wild flower key for formal identification and, through the society, also get information on what plants are flowering and where. For coastal images, the tide tables are invaluable, you do not want to get caught out and risk losing your equipment.

When I’m out, I actually work in a very small area, concentrating on the composition and framing of the image I’m making. I try to visualise the finished print and try and get as much right on the camera as possible. I will take a test shot using the metering within the camera, but I use manual settings all the time, so I have complete control, even focussing. I have a planned workflow on the computer that is very quick as I’d rather spend more time outside than in front of a screen. That means I may take as long as 90 minutes to 2 hours getting one shot right. It also means I’m not as prolific as some of my contemporaries, but quality is better than quantity. At the end of a shoot, I may leave the images a few weeks and then go back to them, to process them more objectively, rather than whilst I’m still in the moment.

Coastal shoots are reliant of the sea, the tide tables are absolutely invaluable, getting some shots can be more rushed compared to when I’m taking pictures of the flowers.

Please talk about your photographic education…

I started off with an Introduction to Landscape Photography course, with The Digital Dawn, in the Yorkshire Dales in 2008 and have never looked back. Despite being quite apprehensive at first, my photography really developed in the field. Garry Brannigan, who runs the courses, and I are now friends, I go back with him once a year to spend time out with my camera and a few like-minded people. He has an 85% rebooking rate, which says a lot, and many of us have become good friends. I have both a Diploma of Photography and a Diploma of Professional Photography, which I achieved through distance learning and submitting practical assignments. I am a member of The Royal Photographic Society, but as yet do not have a distinction. I do feel that the societies have become a little prescriptive in how they would like images presented. I feel that practical experience and my willingness to experiment have been key in developing my own style.

Whose work do you admire and why?

A few years ago, my answer would have been Michael Kenna. The simplicity of his Black & White images is astounding, his ability to use contrast to pick out detail is second to none. Having seen his work at The Photographer’s Gallery, I have to say now Edward Steichen’s work for Conde Nast strikes a chord in me. He was using film, had access to some of the very famous early film stars, and produced some very candid portraits. The other photographer is not well known and is a friend I met on a Digital dawn workshop. John Higgs was late getting into photography, never read the magazines or photography books, and manages to produce quite abstract work of everyday things and landscapes, completely uninfluenced by others.

What goals do you have for your photographic future?

I think any photographer’s aim is firstly enjoyment, and for me recognition is second. If I’m not enjoying my photography, then I don’t produce pleasing images. I have my own small studio in which I do some portrait photography, though very different from wild flowers, I have found working with people enjoyable, so I am looking to develop that side of my photography further. Rules of lighting are actually very similar, trying to connect with your subject is actually much the same too. Last summer’s exhibition was quite successful, and I would like to do that sort of thing again. It would be nice to think that one day my name might be mentioned in the same conversation as Joe Cornish or even Ansel Adams, you have to have hope and a dream.

I have recently developed a liking for film, as it helps slow down the photographic processes and makes you think, so developing my own pictures in a dark room is also on the list.

 Christiaan Partridge

Christiaan Partridge

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