Interview: Daniel Alford
An interview with Cardiff based travel and landscape photographer Daniel Alford. Daniel speaks to us about his favourite locations to shoot, his essential camera gear and his recently published article in issue 6 of Ernest Journal.
Photography: Daniel Alford
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the industry?
I’m a travel and landscape photographer from Cardiff and my background in studying geology and the arts led me to where I am today. I studied Geology from GCSE to first year university level, I then changed my degree to study Creative Sound and Music. I had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places while studying the earth; places like Iceland, Sicily, and Stromboli. However, I changed my study path after feeling like I needed to do something more creative. Creative Sound and Music really taught me how to think about creativity in a professional context. Off the back of my degree I started a video production company with a friend. After buying myself a Pentax K1000 to learn the ropes, I began to take photography a little more seriously. After that I worked for a few years as a freelancer and received funding to start my business from the Princes Trust; in which I also spent time as an ambassador.
I have been very lucky that my passion within video and photography, which is natural history, has become the soul focus of my professional work. I had my first job as a travel and landscape photographer around two and half years ago and the rest as they say is history!
What professional work or personal projects have you completed?
I have worked for a range of clients covering a large range of subjects over the years as a freelance cameraman and photographer. Most recently you can find my travel and landscape work in Ernest Journal, LOST magazine, Wherever Magazine, The Guardian, The BBC, The Huffington post, and for the adventure gear brand Millican. I have a few exciting collaborations with companies in China and Japan at the moment too; Brownie Photography based in Shanghai sell my artwork in galleries and online. A company called Graniph based in Toyko are printing my work on T-shirts for the first time, I’m really excited about that!
What is your favourite travel destination?
That’s a tough one, but the place that blew me away consistently was Greenland, I had such an amazing experience there. It was my first travel assignment and I felt incredibly lucky to be there to photograph the southern part of the Country.
What is your favourite location to shoot?
Locally I would have to say Snowdonia National Park or the Highlands of Scotland; I try to reach both at least once a year. Scotland has a real strong pull on me. Further afield it has to be Iceland, I’ve visited twice so far and there’s a reason why it has become such a popular destination in the last few years. The place is insanely beautiful and fascinating geologically, and in most other ways as well to be honest.
What is your favourite style of photography?
I’m really inspired by landscape and travel photography that has an emotive and cinematic quality as well as a beautiful simplicity. I love photography that captures the wilderness as honestly as possible (if that exists anymore). Saying that, there are so many different types of photography that interest me, as long as the narrative takes me somewhere.
Which images would you say have been the most significant for you in your photography career so far?
The first project that got me some attention was my first trip to the highlands about 3 years ago. I walked the West Highland way for a week on my own carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, all of my food and a camera. I was quite inexperienced doing such a long and strenuous trip alone but it taught me a lot of lessons and I came back with some unique images; it was a real adventure.
More recently, the images I shot for Ernest Journal in Greenland have been the most significant to me. It was my first assignment for a publication and my first cover.
How would you say social media contributes to your work?
Social media plays a big role. It has really helped me get my work out there and meet lots of other photographers and artists. It’s important, however it isn't the most important thing to focus on.
Where would you like to travel in the future?
Everywhere! South America would be the dream; heading south down the west coast to Patagonia in a camper van.
What places would you like to photograph in the future?
My ultimate dream place to photograph would be Antarctica.
What camera do you use?
I use a Canon 6D and my trusty K1000, and many other film cameras, you know how it is.
Which is your favourite lens?
It has to be my 35mm 1.4 Art lens, although I’m quite fond of my Canon 24-70mm 2.8 too - it’s a real work horse. I think using a fixed focal length lens fine-tunes your compositional skills, it forces you to work for it. Instead of zooming into a subject, use your legs and get closer. 35mm is wide enough for me, I’m not too fond of super wide lenses. >>>
What is your favourite gadget or must have travel accessory?
I invested in some good camping equipment last year; an ultra light tent and down sleeping bag, my pack is now so much lighter on multi-day treks while I’m on a shoot; warmth and comfort go a long way after a day in the mountains.
As far as gadgets go I don’t take much with me apart from my camera, and phone for emergencies; I like to keep it really simple. Saying that, I have just been given a solar panel USB charger. I haven’t used it yet but it should come in handy.
What kind of tools do you use for post processing?
I just use Lightroom CC.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
I’m self taught so I’ve kind of found my own way. I have always enjoyed drawing and painting and recently invested in some compositional theory books for landscape painting and sketching. This was in order to get back to basics with my composition and make sure I’m still learning and challenging myself.
Perfectionism is a bitch, but it really pushes things forward (most of the time).
Among your works, which one is your favourite?
I managed to capture the Northern Lights illuminating the skies of North Wales while I was camping in the mountains there last year. That was amazing. I wrote a feature about it which will be in Ernest Journal Issue 6 which is printing right now. I’m really proud to have seen them in my own country and having my first written feature published about it is really special.
Whose work has influenced you the most?
I get inspired by the people around me here in Cardiff and beyond. I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many driven and super talented people, seeing how hard they work and their commitment to their craft really inspires me.
The BBC Natural History Unit are a constant and unbelievable source of inspiration for me too. If I’m watching TV it’s something made by them. I dream about working with them one day.
The photographers I'm loving at the moment are; James Wright (@jamwrights), Dan Tom (@dantom), Jack Moriarty (@jackrmoriarty) and Ruairidh McGlynn (@ruairidhmcglynn). You can find them all on Instagram.
What advice would you give to another travel and landscape photographer?
Keep doing what you’re doing - keep traveling and taking photographs that inspire you. If it’s going to take you somewhere, you need to live and breathe it. So give it everything you have, and then a little more. And good luck, of course!