Aunty Rata Interview with Richard Young

Alpine Light, Mt Tongariro
Alpine Light, Mt Tongariro – Richard Young’s award winning photograph

If you regularly come along to Club nights or the after match debriefs at the Welshie then Richard Young probably needs no introduction – he’s the tall, skinny enthusiastic guy who is into photography. Richard is a sparky by trade and this is a good description of his personality as well. Practical, enthusiastic , diligent and determined he has spent the last few years learning as much as he can about the hobby he is passionate about, applying his learning as he goes. As he handed in another photography assignment to complete another course I caught up with him for a progress report.

How did you get into photography?

I got into photography when I first came out to New Zealand in 2004, the landscape just inspired me to try and capture it. After being here for three months I realised I could take okay pictures with my little compact digital camera but I wanted to improve. So I brought an old manual film camera and signed up for a black and white darkroom course. Nine months later I found myself back in England digging up the garden to lay water and electricity to my outside shed for my own darkroom.

What do you most like taking pictures of?

Wild places. I am currently starting a new project documenting the wild places/wilderness of New Zealand. Hopefully some of these pictures can be used for education and conservation to help preserve what we have left.

You have done pretty well in a couple of competitions and gained quite a bit of recognition for your work, what has been the highlight so far?

I have been lucky over the last twelve months or so. The highlight has to be receiving the award for Best Mountain Landscape at the Banff Mountain photography competition in Canada. My picture, titled Alpine Light, Mt Tongariro, is going to be used in the advertising posters for Banff 2011 so it will be seen all round the world by outdoor film buffs. The Banff is one of those prestigious competitions from which you see the winning images every year and think maybe one day… but as I said the Judges have been kind to me lately. I managed to achieve an honours and an acceptance for a couple of my photos in the NZ Alpine Club national photography competition this year and I was judged second overall in this year’s NZ Alpine Club Wellington Section photo competition with a category win and about five other photos gaining acceptance from the Judges. (Acceptance means the photo has particular merit and is effectively shortlisted for award consideration). I have picked up a few wins as well as placings in the past in Alpine Club and WTMC photo competitions so maybe I have had more than a year of luck!

You organised an exhibition of your photos. The exhibition was called Alpine Light. Your photos were on show at the Bay Gallery in Plimmerton in June this year and also at the Mountain Film Festival in Wanaka in July. How did the exhibitions go?

The exhibitions went really well. I decided I was sick of having all my photography under my bed or on my computer. It was time to display some of my work so hopefully, some other people could enjoy it too. I sold a large number of prints and got some really nice feedback and it was great to see the result of three months of preparation in the final prints. For those that missed it, the pictures can be seen at under Alpine Light but these images are meant to be large prints, so it’s hard to fully appreciate them on a computer. I’ve also got five prints on display in the Recovery Room Café in Newtown.

You went down to the NZ Mountain Film Festival in Wanaka in July, what was that like?

A bit stressful, mainly because of last minute logistical problems associated with flying 48kg of framed prints to Queenstown. But the Festival was really good, and there was a great vibe down there and I saw some amazing outdoor films, (as well as a few that were not so good). I managed to get a day on the slopes as well.

Are there any photographers whose work you particularly admire?

New Zealand landscape photographer Andris Apes for the moods and feelings he manages to capture in his photography and American Ansel Adams who made his name with his black and white photographs of Yosemite National Park, for the detail in his prints.

Can you foresee a day when you make a living out of photography or will it continue as an enjoyable hobby?

To make a living from photography would be nice but it would be hard to fund all my tramping trips from selling prints alone, I would have to diversify a bit so for now I will have to keep working as well.

In your day job you’re an electrician, does this help your photography or vice versa?

It’s been helpful for my current documentary project. I have been photographing the recent rail works. I was doing some work wiring the new substations for the tracks, which gave me my ticket in for access, and I suppose I have a bit of extra knowledge of lighting due to my job, which is often helpful.

Any tips for would be photographers?

If you are shooting landscapes, use a tripod. I know they are heavy to carry up a mountain (you can also improvise), but they make such a difference in low light as well as slowing you down a bit to make you think.

Think of the light. Sunny days are the best for swimming in alpine tarns, but not always for photography, this light is often too strong and flat. So don’t put your camera away if it’s a bit moody out there.

Take control. If you can, take your camera off auto and learn to control the exposure of the image yourself, instead of relying on a computer to get it right for you. Computers are often poor mind readers and therefore a little slow to figure out what you are trying to achieve. If you start to exercise control you can also start to put your own creativity into your photography.

What is next?

I’m doing another course with James Gilbert from Photo Space Gallery in Courtney Place and another one with John Williams to further develop my photography, especially project photography. The plan is to shoot Fiordland because it’s the epitome of wildness, hopefully Fiordland will be the start of my new wild places project. I am currently trying to plan an adventure down there for after Christmas funded with my Banff prize winnings.

Incidentally, Richard is helping judge the WTMC photo comp this year. I asked him about bribes, and he mentioned that he would love a Sherpa or three to carry all his camera gear to the top of mountains for him…

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