Photographer of the Month Interview: Timothy Poulton | Aperture Academy

Featured Photographer, September 2016:   Timothy Poulton

We are delighted to present Timothy Poulton as our featured guest photographer this month. We appreciate his time and generosity in sharing his world and work with us! Please visit his links to see more of his work, and to let him know you enjoyed this interview.

:: How did you get your start with photography?

I've been a graphic designer operating my own business out of Sydney, Australia for the last 20 years, so my photography came about as a by-product of this. It was only natural to pick up a camera and create the images I needed for the business. Back in these days it was all product photography for Nokia, Primo Smallgoods and various fashion labels, and as I began to become more familiar with the camera, I naturally started using it a lot more for my own love of it.

:: What was it about the genre of landscape photography that drew you in most?

Some might say that this was serendipitous, but it happened by being in the right place at the right time. I was leaving a shoot for a client in Bondi Beach, and, as I crested the headland, I saw the most spectacular storm cloud out to sea, dropping tens of lightning bolts per second. I set up my gear and fired off a few shots. From then I was hooked.

:: What is OOAK (One Of A Kind Photography Adventures), and how did it start?

One Of A Kind Photography Adventures (OOAK) started because the groups I was a part of at the time weren't game to shoot anything but seascapes. I yearned for more, and others did as well. Eventually myself and my mate, Tim Donnelly, formed OOAK and the adventures began from there. We started with domestic trips in Australia and New Zealand with friends and those who heard about us, and went from there. Today it has become a great company with dedicated team members around Australia and the world. We're really very proud of the company we have become.

:: Tell me about the OOAK app. What is the purpose of this app, and what drew you into making it?

The Oneofakind APP is literally one of a kind. Available for both Apple and Android, it's any photographers' black book of locations - for whatever you want to do with it. It's both a guide book, a weather station, a GPS unit and combines all the knowledge of photographers from around the world to contribute locations and information. It can be used as a planner, a research tool and a wishlist. It's really very powerful for anyone anywhere with a phone to get out there, and start exploring. Some might say it's similar to others out there, but we use reliable photographers, locations and geodata to create a guidebook of any location in the world with tips and tricks for shooting it, selecting a time to go and how to get there. Combined with the power of a phones' GPS and Google Maps, there is no limit to what you can do with it.

:: There seems to be various camps of thought in whether or not the locations of certain photographed areas should be shared. Why are you sharing these locations? Do you have any criteria on which places should be shared and which maybe shouldn't?

Anyone who thinks that they 'own' a location is kidding themselves. If it's publicly accessible land, then they have no right to state who does and who doesn't go there. It's that simple. You can never truly get exactly the same shot day after day - there will always be variables. Those who are worried about these things need to find a different genre. We live in the world of information, and while a place exists and someone has photographed it, those places will be found and re-shot. It doesn't matter who does it or why. Don't they always say that imitation is the best form of flattery?

:: Why do you think the field of landscape photography seems to yield such passionate discussions on ethics and integrity?

There's many reasons that I will never know about, but it appears to be as simple as marking a matter of territory - or that a place can't be intellectual-property copyrighted. While this isn't the case, fighting harder to keep these places a secret will only make them less so. There's big figures in every genre, but there has never been more money in photography tours - especially landscape photography tours, and I think that is the basis of all this fighting. It's as simple and as raw as dogs' marking their territory. I wish it wasn't so, there's room for all of us here. In the end, if you don't laugh, you'll cry. With all the positivity in the community, there's an equal weight of negativity coming from some haters, and it doesn't have to be like that. Hating takes up too much energy.

:: Why do so many of those discussions tend to go down a darker more unproductive road do you think?

This is the age-old debate, don't you think? I don't think this one is unique to landscape photography in any way - at least not with what I and the rest of the OOAK crew is doing. It's almost always driven by ego underpinned by financial motivation. It's the only reason that kind souls turn sour. People will project whatever image they have of you, onto you, so it is important not to sink to their level. It's sad that it often goes this way, I only ever wanted to show the rest of the world, how beautiful this planet is before we all destroy it with greed and hatred.

:: Knowing where so many of these discussions end, and that so many of them seem to start on the 500px website the question then becomes; is what you get from 500px worth the negative side effects?

With every positive comes a negative. It's unwise to expect 100% positivity because invariably someone is going to get offended - even on the base level that you picked a better day than them. In the end, I, like every other photographer on 500px, loves to share what we capture when we venture out into the world. It seems that sometimes I can just say 'Hello' and it'll turn into a debate about whether I've comp-stomped someones' work. There's always people out there who will try to bring you down. Don't let them. Just keep being awesome.

:: hat is your personal standpoint on the processing side of things? How much is too much? Is anything off limits with the art of landscape photography?

If I were a photojournalist, this would be an awkward question. Processing is the other 50% of what happens in the lifecycle of a photograph. The other part of it is the 'art' whereby almost anything goes. That said, I've neither the time nor the patience to go making images so false that they barely represent the effort I took to get them, so why bother? My images are as I saw them in my minds' eye when capturing the frames. The pixels on my sensor are what I manipulate, nothing added, nothing removed!

:: What is the scariest thing that has happened to you on a photo shoot?

I ran out of beer. Seriously though, it's the things that you can't control - freak storms and irresponsible people in the world. There's things that can go wrong and could have gone wrong. The importance of being a tour leader is keeping your wits about you and making sure the scary things don't happen.

:: What advice would you pass on to folks looking to get into this business?

Don't let the little things get you down, there's always going to be haters. Taking tours is no easy-street to instant fortune. It takes dedication, time away from family and friends. It's not just about the chance of getting out to take the photos, the administration takes some serious effort. The world is one exciting and amazing place, so make the most of it.

:: What do you see in the future of outdoor photography both good and bad?

This planet is changing on a daily basis around us. Certain locations are going to disappear, glaciers are going to calve until they're gone, forests are going to be knocked down for civilisation. It is our duty to preserve this place, to make records of what it was about for generations to come. I only hope that in the future, people realise the error of their ways and start being a little more lighthearted and less selfish with their attitudes to sharing.

The good of it is that I think travel will become easier, but the flipside is that it will expose some of these fragile ecosystems that have never had to deal with the traffic that they'll now be getting. It will be interesting to see how governments and tourism bodies handle such things in the future. Maybe not in my lifetime but I already have future plans for tours on the Moon and Mars for the next OOAK generation.

:: When places like Iceland, Norway, and Patagonia have become such 'must-see' photographic locations what still keeps them interesting do you think? Do you think these locations eventually fade out?

I don't think so. I think these places will still hold their intrigue and allure. After all, we all live in different climates, so my backyard is interesting to you? The same goes with anyone who doesn't live in these amazing places, they're still attractive and desirable. It's just like clothes, different styles will come and go, but I don't think certain places will fall out of fashion on their own.

:: What is your favorite piece of non-photographic gear and why?

That's a toss up between a great jacket and a Kapiti ice cream. Jackets can double as toboggans, givers of warmth and sleeping bags. Don't knock the choice of Ice-cream, if you've never had one of these babies in the dead of winter in New Zealand, you haven't done your tastebuds a favour.

Timothy Poulton

"It is our duty to preserve this place, to make records of what it was about for generations to come."

Timothy Poulton's Links

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