PROFOLIO: Aaron Northcott
In this PROFOLIO, we catch up with UK photographer Aaron Northcott for some wise words on documenting wildlife, exploring the unknown and making a career in the world of photography.
1. What are your basic stats?
I'm a travel, wildlife and landscape photographer from Colchester, UK. My name is Aaron (pronounced Ehren not Arran) I'm 28 and already worrying about how I'll fit everything I want to do into just one lifetime!
I've been working as a photographer and retouch artist for the last 7 years. I also write articles and content both for my own website and others, and teach photography and post-processing in private sessions and group workshops.
City of Arts - Looking across the water from Copenhagen Theatre to the Opera House at night. A combination of several exposures to achieve perfect balance throughout.
2. When, why and how did you get into photography?
I've always had a huge interest in wildlife and adventure - raised from a young age to pick up everything that moves and explore anywhere even vaguely unfamiliar. I'd spend days exploring local woodlands and abandoned buildings, considering how I might find a profession that incorporates the things I enjoy most in life.
I was gifted a camera at age 14 and for years it was only used as a point-and-shoot on family holidays. Only after realising that people were actually getting paid to take the incredible photographs I grew up seeing in magazines like National Geographic and BBC Wildlife Magazine did I start to take more interest in my camera and the potential benefits of a career in photography.
My first paid job was shooting a Christening. Several weddings, parties and formal functions later I realised that this was great for money but it didn't satisfy my need to explore new places, get closer to nature or help me to shoot images similar to those I'd been in awe of as a child.
I chose to step back from shooting these sorts of events. Instead I dedicated time to honing my skills in the field; looking instead to commissions, freelance projects and stock imagery to fund the career I dreamt of.
Reflections - Mandarin Ducks are beautiful just in themselves, but capture them in a shot with incredible reflections of the green canopy above and the resulting image is breathtaking.
3. You run photography and post processing courses, can you tell us some more about that and how it started?
I initially started teaching photography and post-processing simply because I needed to prepare my course syllabuses and content for the travel photography workshops that I'm in the process of setting up.
It gave me a chance to spend time with a diverse mix of people, all passionate about learning photography - some just out of personal interest and others aspiring to turn professional. The experience has given me a great opportunity to not only improve my own teaching methods, but also helped me to develop clear and concise methods of teaching different aspects of photography to people of all abilities.
Teaching was something completely new to me in the beginning and there was a steep learning curve, but I've loved every step! I started teaching larger workshops in the last couple of years both in the UK and abroad, and I'm currently in the process of setting up a regular itinerary of travel photography workshops annually - watch this space for the official launch!
Parisian Sunset - A spectacular cityscape oCitf Paris, France as the Sun sinks slowly toward the horizon and lights are turned on in the city streets.
4. What have been your most memorable projects and trips to work on?
A project photographing some of Sri Lanka's endemic wildlife was one of the most exciting experiences I've had in my photography career so far...
I was out well before dawn every day exploring the ancient forests of Sinharaja and even after returning to the lodge from a full day of shooting, covered in leeches and dripping with sweat - I'd be out again after nightfall in search of snakes soaking up residual heat from the day of sun on jungle paths and access roads. I'm not sure I've ever been to a place with so many endemic and fascinating species!
Recently I worked with an eco-travel company and Visit Wales to produce content that will encourage eco-tourism to the country. A part of the project meant working with a filmmaker to create a 3-part video series about what it means to be a wildlife photographer, breaking into the professional photography industry and advice on gear and equipment... it was my first time in front of the camera (instead of behind it) and probably once of the most nervous moments in my career - and most memorable!
Emerald Forest - Green Forest Lizards are relatively common in the forests of Sinharaja, Sri Lanka, but that doesn't detract from their beauty and striking colouration.
5. What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Put as much time into learning how to properly market and run a business as you are putting into taking photographs and editing. The images you produce need to be high quality and consistent of course, but so many incredible photographers simply don't put enough time into promoting themselves and ensuring that the work they are doing is efficient and productive and that's what holds them back. It's easy to lose hours in post-processing, so always make sure you're setting aside enough time to manage social media, advertise and build relationships with clients.
Stick Fishing at Sunset - The traditional stick fishing that takes place along the shores of Koggala, Sri Lanka is a reminder of ancient skills that have long-since been lost in many other parts of the country.
6. What have you learnt from photography?
Initially I only wanted to work within natural environments but photography has taught me to appreciate beauty in man-made environments as well, and now some of my favourite images are of sprawling cityscapes or the special places where man-meets-nature.
Being a photographer changes the way that you look at the world around you; noticing changes in the light or photogenic strangers in the street. You start to look for beautiful and unique compositions and envisage the images you could capture - even if only walking to a nearby restaurant or grocery store!
I've learnt that especially within the genres of photography I work in, the best images are often already composed for you and you're just the one lucky enough to capture them.
Stockholm Stories - Residents of Stockholm, Sweden meet on a sleepy Sunday morning in city squares and parks to play games together, such as petanque.
7. You specialise in several different genres. What appeals to you about each one? Do you have a favourite?
I'm not sure that I have a favourite genre, but certainly each one has a different appeal. I enjoy many different types of photography and that's probably the reason that my portfolio is so varied.
Wildlife photography is where I began and is still a genre I love to shoot. It brings me close to nature and allows me intimate time with incredible creatures. It also provides a unique opportunity to share the beauty of the animals and wildlife around us with people all across the globe.
Travel and Landscapes are always going to be a real pleasure - because who doesn't love to get away and explore new places? It is always so exciting to take a commission in a place I've not been before, and every step of the process from the research to the exploration and shooting is a real joy for me.
Low-light photography is a style that I probably spend too much of my time on; purely because I really love the post-processing and how it allows you to create spectacular images of scenes that really draw people in. There is only so much that you can capture with a camera, and then you have to rely on post-processing to bring your image as close as possible to the vibrant reality that you experienced when shooting an image - I find that this is always most exciting when working on low-light images, especially in cities with bright lights and a beautiful sky (and if there's reflections over water too, even better!)
Japanese Bride - A beautiful Japanese bride emerges from her wedding ceremony at a temple in Tokyo, Japan, wearing traditional white robes and with immaculate hair decoration.
8. Any exciting projects coming up in the future?
The most exciting thing coming up at the moment are the travel photography workshops that I mentioned earlier.
Having received such tremendous feedback from the workshops that I have run so far, I am incredibly excited to launch a regular itinerary of dates and trips. People will be able to join me in spectacular destinations to both improve their photography skills and capture images of breathtaking locations at the same time.
I'm also going to be collaborating with a travel company in early 2018 to produce a portfolio of images for sustainable travel in Nepal - a project I'm extremely enthusiastic about and can't wait to get started on!
Sunlit Stag - This impressive Red Deer stag paused for a moment to consider my presence, before continuing to graze wearily in a frosty meadow not far from London, UK.