As the 2019 Digital Splash Awards are in full swing, we thought you might like a little more inspiration from another of our past winners. So if you’re looking for a little encouragement to enter this year’s competition, read on!
Mike Martin won the Portrait award in our monthly competitions, plus went on to secure 3rd place in the overall Digital Splash Photographer of the Year awards.
We caught up with Mike to find out more about is photography, what drives him, his creativity and his prolific competition spirit!
How did you first get into photography?
I’ve had a camera since I was a kid for holidays and the like. Whilst at University I relied upon photography to share my then love of potholing; it was the only means of sharing the experience with my parents. Fast forward to 1991 on relocating to Bristol, I joined a camera club and that started me on my photographic journey.
What was your first camera and what were you first interests in photography?
My first camera was a Boots Beiretta, followed by a Fuji SLR. This was soon followed by a succession of Pentax cameras until I switched to Olympus in 2016. Photography started with the usual holiday snaps, then a bit of cave photography followed by the obligatory family shots when the kids came along. However, my first serious interest came when I joined a local camera club and started entering competitions. About the same time I had the opportunity to photograph farms, farm animals and equipment for an agricultural agency and that covered some of my costs as far as buying gear and film.
How have your photographic interests & style developed over time?
From my first contact with camera clubs I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of image subjects and styles; this encouraged me to experiment with different approaches and techniques. From the early days I used Photoshop creatively, scanning 35mm slides.
I’ll give anything a go really, or as I say “if it moves, shoot it, if it doesn’t, shoot it anyway”.
I love wildlife, though struggle with that genre (other than macro insects) and enjoy fantastic landscapes – though I lack the patience to wait for the right light. I’m not a fan of travelling to a specific location on the off chance that the light may be OK. Photographing people is much easier in that respect as they come to you or vice versa. Additionally, I used to do a lot of street photography; commuting to London frequently, I always carried a camera (even if just a simple compact) and would often take photos walking between the station and the office. This also spurred my interest in architecture and night photography.
Whilst I take and make images for myself, I do enjoy entering competitions and find they are a great way to gauge how good you are and provide the impetus to think and try something new. Similarly, workshops are a great way to develop your skills.
You won the Portraits category of DSA and obviously celebrating 3rd in the overall DSA annual awards – with a fabulous portrait image – are portraits your main interest these days?
My main interest: photography! Whilst many specialise in a particular style or genre, I enjoy looking at most subjects and even those that I don’t particularly like, I can appreciate the skill demonstrated by the photographer.
I do take a lot of people photos – but I’d say the key driver for me is the creativity…. my portraits provide an opportunity to shape an image. When I’m lecturing, I say to people, every time you press the shutter, there must have been something that motivated you to do so. Sometimes you have to work harder to “find” the picture, the mood, the concept, that inspired you to take it and that’s where my creativity comes in.
There’s a strong creative/art theme in your work – how does this manifest itself – do you visualise what you want to create, so you have a theme, or how to you start your projects/shoots?
There’s no single answer to this. Sometimes I have an idea or concept in mind, either my own or that of the make-up artist or model, and although that is a start point, all of my images are a collaboration by everyone involved. Some are very elaborate requiring planning outfits, location, accessories, though these still rely upon me to interpret and capture the mood, others are entirely freestyle, winging it on the day so to speak and relying upon a bit of luck to be successful. Because I shoot for myself rather than clients, I’m not afraid to fail so don’t have to play it safe and am free to experiment. That said, I do believe in stacking the odds in my favour, so regularly take a random selection of bits and pieces in case they may be useful.
Your ‘created images’ gallery has some really interesting images and themes – what do you use to create these? In camera features, photoshop, a particular App? Always a camera, or phone too?
I always use the best camera I can – the one I have with me! Then, I’ll use any or all the tools available to me whether in camera features (image stacking, intentional camera movement, long exposure), specific lenses, natural and/or artificial lighting, etc. I’ll then play with the images, using Lightroom, Photoshop, OnOne perfect suite, Nik Silver Efex depending upon what I’m trying to achieve, be it to simplify the image, make the most of what you’ve got or adding bits from my vast library of images (over 90 thousand images in my main catalogue).
How did your winning image come to be? It’s technically excellent and beautifully lit. Tell us more!! Did you have this image in your mind and make it happen?
Paul (the model) and I have worked together many times – I’m not sure really where the idea came from. He asked Bridget (the make-up artist) and we got together with the studio owner and two other models and just messed about with some ideas; loads of ideas. For the shoot, Paul was painted black and the girls painted white. We took it in turn shooting them individually, in groups, etc – not sure where the idea of the white hand-print came from – but the “wreath” was a simple Christmas decoration lying in the studio that we just wrapped around him, look carefully and you’ll see the LEDs too. For those interested, its lit with a single beauty dish above then processed in Lightroom / Photoshop / Silver Efex. Kit wise it was shot on: Olympus EM1 Mark II, 40-150mm f/2.8pro, at 55mm (110mm equiv) 1/200th sec at f/13.
What do you find as your biggest challenges? What are the most difficult aspects of photography for you?
The biggest challenge…. people – they are busy, they have lives and finding time can be difficult. The most difficult… trying to photograph birds in flight – I rarely get them in the viewfinder let alone in focus!
What would be your next ‘dream’ shoot (any genre, any location!)
Something monumental like an extravagant over the top designer fashion shoot with top models across a number of epic locations in Iceland… Miss Aniela hosted one three or four years ago and I still get fired up every time I see the behind the scenes video. Going to have to keep fingers crossed for the EuroMillions win for that one though!
How did you hear about the Digital Splash Awards and what made you enter?
A friend suggested I give it a try. Why did I enter, because I thought I could win!
Competitions & awards are obviously a big interest for you (See this page on Mike Martin’s website)! Does this kind of recognition drive you – does it inspire you to do more? Tell us more, as you’re quite prolific!
Competitions are a big part of my photography, I am competitive and I like winning. But it’s also about stretching myself, trying something new, trying to be better. The best way of learning is to surround yourself with people who are better than you. And, it’s about giving back too – sharing how you did something and trying to encourage others to give it a go, trying to inspire others.
Learning is a big part of the Wilki ethos – is there anything new you’d like to try – kit, genre, technique etc?
Given the chance – I’d like to have a go at underwater fashion shots. Somewhat more realistically, I’d like to finally nail bird photography!
If you could shoot with any other photographer for a day, who would you spend your day with & why?
Von Wong… he does so much over the top photography! Everything is 100% adrenaline fuelled. In total contrast, perhaps a day with Tesni Ward photographing hares? Or, a day with Lindsay Adler on a high fashion shoot (she was inspirational with her global Creative photo challenges in 2016 – it was awesome to be shortlisted in seven of the eight challenges and to win one!)
You have recently retired, which must allow you much more time to enjoy photography?
After graduating I joined Lloyds Bank… after 34 years, 30+ commuting to/from London I thought it was time to give it a break when offered early retirement. Yes it does give me more time for photography, and more time for the family too (although grown up). Photographing people is still constrained by their availability too. And, the reduced pension has diminished my spending capability.
However, it has given me time to join and get involved in another camera club, give time to volunteering assisting photographer with disabilities, do a spot of judging and top of the list, time to give some photography talks to camera clubs….
I’ve already visited quite a number of clubs, approaching 20 bookings for 2019-20. I get a real buzz from these, inspiring people to have a go and sharing how easy it is to create some of the images. (See link below if you’re interested in booking Mike for a camera club talk)
Any big plans going forward?
Big plans – to have my own studio – but got to keep buying the Euromillions tickets and crossing my fingers for that one!
Slightly smaller plans – see how the summer workshops go!
I’ve still got some dates available for camera club (or other group) talks on creative portraiture so it would be good to fill those slots.
Thank you Mike for your time and for allowing us such a fascinating peek behind the scenes!
Find out more:
Mike has a huge collection of very inspirational mages, a selection of which can be seen (together with contact details) on his website Mike Martin Photography, or you can follow Mike on Photocrowd (community members only) or on Instagram @mikemartin247!
Could you be next years Digital Splash Awards winner? Visit the Digital Splash Awards website to find more information and enter the monthly competitions!
All images featured Copyright Mike Martin Photography.