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An Interview with Adam Firman, Landscape Photographer

Jul 10, 2020

Since the start of lockdown in late March, one of the more encouraging changes to day-to-day life in the UK has been our greater appreciation, as a society, of the outdoors.

Existing enthusiasts have been more eager than ever to get out and explore, while plenty more people have become new converts. The benefits are clear, for the body but more importantly for the mind.

That said, as adventurous as we’ve become, it’s safe to assume that most of us have also become more digitally active during the pandemic – scrolling through Instagram and seeing, among other things, plenty of places we’d rather be.

Landscape photographer Adam Firman knows a thing or two about wanderlust, being a source of it himself. Regularly travelling the length and breadth of the UK in search of otherworldly scenery, as well as venturing much further afield, his Instagram has become a source of travel inspiration for thousands of intrepid Instagrammers.

We caught up with Adam to see how this ‘unprecedented’ [*groan*] year has treated him so far.

So, being a globetrotting landscape photographer, how have you found adjusting to lockdown life?

Surprisingly good! I’ve had a part-time job on the side of my photography work for five years since starting out, which acted as a safety net. Being furloughed has given me my time back and allowed me to focus solely on photography. 

It was the push I needed, and despite the last few months being a tough time for everyone work-wise, I have lined up jobs for interior shoots as well as travel-based commissions and sold a fair few prints. I’ve chosen to see the whole situation as an opportunity to focus on my own goals. I see a lot of others doing a similar thing, which is very motivating! 

What have you been watching and listening to over the last few months?

I don’t watch a lot of TV, although I did get on that Netflix doc. about Michael Jordan, The Last Dance. If you haven’t seen it, you need to! The grind and drive that guy has is really inspiring. 

Music-wise, I listen to so much. I love ambient music to edit to, stuff like Boards of Canada, Khotin, Gigi Masin, Yves Tumor, Amon Tobin, Mark Pritchard, Hania Rani, Hector Plimmer, DJ Python, Leif, Leon Vynehall. The list is endless, really. Then weekly radio shows from Gilles Peterson on Radio 6, to Bradley Zero on NTS, to Ceylan Göksel on Worldwide FM. My fave new finds of this year would be Blanco and Pinty – both killing it and pushing things forward in their fields.

Have you picked up any new hobbies during lockdown?

I’m getting into film. Learning how to take my landscape photos and curate the same feels with film really excites me; I’m currently learning how to use Premier/DaVinci to help further this. I’m thinking I will combine short video clips with some of my fave artists’ music to make short stories through film. 

What have you been photographing recently?

In the last few months, while lockdown was at its peak, I took to walking the streets of London to find stories that portrayed the changes in day-to-day life.

Having not really shot people before, I found the whole process new and exciting. I wasn’t really out just looking to take pictures of people with masks on, but instead wanted to actually find the poignant moments depicting a new way of living while restrictions were in place. I have around 300 photos from seven separate trips out into the city, and have consolidated them into three sets of 10 images that can be found on my IG (@adamfirman). 

I’ve also had five images accepted into an exhibition with Italian-based Roma Fotografia called “Life in the Time of CoronaVirus”, which will be touring throughout Italy and then around the world.

When and how did you first become interested in photography?

Like a lot of people nowadays, I was drawn to photography through Instagram.

Going back four years or so, my mate Lewis Hackett (@lhackett) showed me some very inspiring photographers accounts – namely @dpc_photography_, who blew me away. If you haven’t checked out his work, you definitely need to; he’s a very talented and lovely guy who has since become a good mate. 

I became obsessed and so started going out around the UK with Lewis, visiting a lot of places for the first time and taking photos on my iPhone, editing with Snapseed and VSCO before uploading onto IG. 

This went on for a year or so before I took it seriously and bought a Canon 500D. From there, I started doing solo sunrise missions around the UK, often staying in my car and visiting an ever-growing list of National Parks and AONBs. 

Now, it’s become second nature: any free days I have are usually spent either editing, doing a day-trip or hiking around the Peak District, Lake District or Scotland.

What were your very first photographic subjects?

Anything that was quintessentially British. Thatched-roof houses in Thaxted (Essex) and the red telephone box in Shell Bay (Dorset) come to mind. 

Did you always plan to make a career out of it?

Not at all. I started landscape photography because I loved the whole process: going out on explorations and capturing moments (sometimes in extreme conditions), while training my eye and learning how to frame, and understanding the role that natural light plays – and then coming back to edit over a cup of tea.

I never had a vision of career prospects in photography; I’m pretty short-sighted that way. The career is something that has followed as a fortunate by-product. 

At what point did you start to focus on travel photography?

From the beginning. However, when I started, I don’t think I really understood that what I did was “travel photography”. I really just loved taking photos of the UK and having a reason to explore more of the country. 

When people ask me what I do, I say I’m a “landscape photographer" – although this often throws out dodgy connotations of huge lenses, long exposures and tripods, all of which I shy away from. 

What was the first foreign country you travelled to specifically for photography?

The Faroe Islands around three years ago, a place very close to my heart. The Faroes have such a unique and distinct form to their landscapes, which I often describe as “the bastard child of Norway, Scotland and Iceland”. It cultivates such an epic mood for photos and always offers up stunning colours for photographs. 

The Faroes are considered to be the new Iceland, but I truly hope they don’t get as over-swept with tourism, because there is a raw and unchartered feel to the place that would be a real shame to lose. 

What's been your longest stint working abroad so far?

I would say the Pacific Northwest. That was a three-week road trip from San Francisco, heading north up Highway 101, through Oregon and Washington state, finishing up in Vancouver, Canada. 

It’s still one of the best drives I’ve ever done, and covers such a vast array of landscapes, from mountains to lakes, waterfalls to sea stacks, all covered in a layer of mist for the most part. Super atmospheric. 

I was supposed to be going back this year, but after all that has unfolded with Coronavirus, we’ve now had to postpone it to next year. 

Which single place, worldwide, have you yearned for the most during the pandemic?

The Lake District. My home away from home! I was set to do a two-week trip, just before lockdown hit, with my mate (and Lake District native) Simon Turner (his IG is @simon.wandering). 

We often do trips to the Lakes together, and he takes us on hikes through the lesser-explored areas, often finishing up in the Kirkstile Inn for a pint of Loweswater Gold (if you know, you know). He’s coming up to completing the Wainwrights (214 peaks in the Lakes) for the second time over, so if you have a question about anything Lake District-related, he’s your guy!

Once it's safe to travel around freely, which five UK nature spots would be top of your to-visit list?

Buttermere, Lake District:

 Loweswater, Lake District:

North Devon Coast:

 Ouse Valley Viaduct, Sussex:

 Glencoe, Scotland:

Do you have a favourite time of year for photographing landscapes in the UK?

Both the deep greens of summer and the burnt oranges of autumn get me moist. I would say time of day is more appealing to me than either, though. The ‘golden hour’ before sunset or after sunrise always brings magic to photos, so I try to consider time of day when out shooting!

Your work has likely inspired quite a few people to take up photography themselves. Is there a particular camera (or type of camera) that you'd recommend for a novice?

Any camera phone is a good starting point these days. My advice would be to start with this and hone your eye, while considering the rule of thirds and figuring out what subjects you are drawn to. Once you have this sussed, you can then look at investing in a proper camera. 

I started out on a Canon 500D, with its standard 18-55mm lens, but it really comes down to preference. I watched a lot of YouTube reviews on cameras before choosing my first, and that was helpful, so I’d suggest doing that.

One more thing... You must come across some challenging weather conditions, given your job. What are your waterproof and/or insulated jackets of choice?

My go-to jacket for the last four years was actually an old Peter Storm raincoat. It wasn’t very practical (or waterproof) but more sentimental, because it had been passed down to me. I’ve finally hung her up and moved on to a North Face Quest DryVent Jacket. It’s wicked! It’s warm and well-insulated, with a robust hood – and most importantly, keeps me very dry!

Follow Adam on Instagram for guaranteed intense wanderlust (also Twitter and 500px), and take a look at his online shop for breathtaking prints that would look great on your wall.

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