Few photographers have a seascape portfolio as impressive as British photographer Mark Dobson. He’s mastered the skill of capturing the raw power of waves and it’s my pleasure to announce him as this month’s featured photographer. In this interview, you’ll learn more about Mark and his journey through photography, as well as get some useful tips on how you can capture better seascape images.
Start by telling us a little about yourself
I’m a UK photographer based in the far south-west of Cornwall.
Photography is a full-time passion and career. My professional career started in February 2018 and so far my images of the ocean have been widely published in national photography magazines, exhibited in a London gallery, and awarded in a national competition (Coastal View Winner 2019 – Shipwrecked Mariners Ultimate Sea View Awards)
You’ll always find me close to the sea and I organize and lead photography workshops around the coast of Cornwall here in the UK, and further afield in different parts of the world. At present, I’m currently working with other UK seascape photographers and expanding the photography workshops.
How would you describe your style of photography?
The main style and focus of my images are always trying to capture the mood rather than the scene. This is often easier said than done, especially during stormy weather, which is my preferred shooting conditions.
People who have viewed my work often comment on the energy captured within the image, and that’s always my main incentive when out on a shoot.
Most of your portfolio consists of seascape photography. What is it that fascinates you about the ocean and why has this become your main focus?
The ocean is fascinating, and coastal scenes are a personal preference. The many different moods of the ocean, from the calm and serene, to the dramatic and powerful, the coast always inspires.
Most of my inspiration comes from the ocean. Especially, when the Atlantic weather systems produce powerful storms, the thrill and excitement far outweigh the prospect of heading out and battling against the elements. No two waves are the same, each wave being totally unique, and this is particularly attractive from a photographic point of view.
Another appealing feature is the ever-changing aspect of the coast itself, many locations are constantly changing from tidal movements. A recent example of this is a location called Porth Nanven, where all the sand has been washed out into the ocean exposing some really fascinating bedrock. I know this won’t last long before the sea hides these secrets again with an incoming tide.
What do you look for when approaching a scene? How much of your photography is pre-planned?
There will often be an image in mind before heading out to a location. It’s just a case of incorporating the vision into reality. This will often be achieved using creative camera techniques, like the creative use of shutter speed and capturing the right motion that works well within the image, this is always the main priority. Everything else is then based around that.
Getting the correct perspective of the wave is also very important. Like many photographers, I use weather apps for predicting conditions (however, putting all your faith into these apps can often prove to be unreliable). The best option is to head out regardless of the weather, you’ll always be grateful you did rather than wishing you had. Swell charts for wave forecasts play a huge part in my photography and are generally far more accurate than weather apps.
What are the biggest challenges photographing oceans and what do you do to overcome them?
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge in my photography career is sea-spray. If you’re not careful, sea-spray will ruin an image, oh, and camera gear!
Share with us your best advice for beginner photographers who want to capture the ocean
The most useful advice for wave photography is to spend more time watching the waves rather than taking actual photographs. Learn how waves interact, and the patterns they create. It will be more rewarding when you are ready to click the shutter.
The ocean is very unpredictable and you need to respect it from an early stage because it will catch you out. Always shoot from an area that you deem safe, and then move back 10m. Rogue waves, sometimes called ‘Sneaker Waves’, happen on every tide.
What do you hope people will take away from your photography?
I guess we all want the viewer to experience the emotion we experienced when taking the image.
Not everyone lives close to the coast, so my images try and capture the mood, the drama, the calm, and inspire people to visit the coast as much as possible.
Your images are widely shared in photography magazines. How important do you believe this type of exposure is in order to succeed as a photographer today?
We live in a digital world, a technological era of screens. But, there really is the importance of printing and getting your images printed. Magazines are still read by millions of people worldwide, and showcasing your work through this medium has benefits. People connect more with your images in magazines, it’s a physical connection. They’re also more likely to read the accompanying article supporting the image. Some magazines allow you to submit your images for future publication, so, what are you waiting for, share your work.
What is your best advice for someone considering going fulltime?
The market is saturated with fantastic images and of course, photographers, finding your own particular style is not something that can be forced – but will come naturally and fall into place before you realize it’s actually happened. If a photographer’s work inspires, be sure to understand and examine why their work is so appealing. Finding your own particular style will give you the extra edge in a highly competitive industry. But the most important advice can simply be put into just three words – never give up.
What’s one piece of equipment you always have in your camera bag?
Business cards, you never know who you will bump into.