JC: Do you ever get stressed out when doing a photo assignment?
SC: Only with Ben, ha-ha. It’s only ever short lived, I guess we are both trying to make sure we get the best out of ourselves, sometimes tempers fray, but we soon get over it, usually over a beer. The key to avoiding stress at a shoot is to do as much preparation beforehand as you can. Know your subject matter, your location and the lighting for that location and how it changes through the day. Have a plan, but accept that the unexpected will happen and be prepared to change plans and roll with the conditions you are given. It’s too easy to stress over things way beyond your control.
JC: What’s the best and worst part about being a photographer?
SC: The best is the travel and doing what I love. I get to meet some great people from different countries and now have some amazing friends all around the world. The worst parts are packing, check-in, damaged baggage claims, missing bags, long hours, low pay, like many self-employed people I’m sure. I actually get less than the minimum wage for what I do, sometimes that can be really tough when the bills come in.
JC: What equipment do you use?
SC: ‘Canon’ bodies and lenses, ‘3 Legged Thing’ tripods, ‘Aquatech’ housings, ‘Profoto’ lights, ‘Think Tank’ and ‘Peli’ luggage to keep it all safe.
JC: If you could only have one lens to use for the rest of your life, what would it be?
SC: Probably the 16-35mm and fish eye for shorebreak shots. Wait, that’s two, can I have two? I’m having two!
JC: If you were new to photography, would you spend your money on a better body or better lenses?
SC: Lenses every time, they will have the greatest influence on your images.
JC: Do you shoot in ‘Manual’ or do you allow the camera to do all the work and use automatic modes?
SC: The two modes I use most for action are ‘TV’ (shutter speed) mode and ‘Manual’. I use ‘AV’ (Aperture) for portraits.
JC: What ISO do you use the most?
SC: ‘AUTO’, with a safety shift feature in my custom functions menu. I’d rather get the shutter speed and aperture I want and allow the shot to have more grain. If it’s too noisy, then I accept the shot I wanted just wasn’t possible.
JC: When you travel do you allow any of your gear to go in the hold?
SC: Only my housings, chargers, tripods and accessories. I squeeze all my cameras, lenses and lights into my carry on. That sometimes involves wearing cameras around my neck and filling all pockets with lenses and batteries (modern lithium batteries are no longer allowed in the hold!).
JC: Can you make money from just shooting windsurfing?
SC: No. I only know of one photographer in windsurfing that can do that and he’s the hardest working photographer I know, I’m amazed he is able to do it. (Editor’s note, Si is talking about our very own John Carter!) I used to work as an IT security consultant and built up savings to support my transition into photography. I have to supplement the windsurf photography with other commercial photography work and the occasional wedding and portrait session.
JC: Can you make an average photo look great with Photoshop/processing?
SC: Not really. You can’t polish a turd, I know, I’ve tried ha-ha. If the in camera shot isn’t right, move on, it won’t be a good enough foundation for any editing to lift it to a standout image.
JC: What is the most you have ever sold one photo for?
SC: I took a shot of someone famous once in a very compromising position, the PR group looking after them paid to suppress the picture, effectively buying out all rights to the photos. They paid out an undisclosed fee and I’ve been living off the proceeds ever since. Ha-ha, just kidding. I sold one windsurf picture commercially for more than £1000 once. I think that’s incredibly rare these days.
JC: What is your biggest photography disaster?
SC: I drowned a camera and lens on a commercial shoot once, totally dead, £6500 of damage. I had to go to my backup camera, house that one up and get straight back in the water. That was a scary moment, not knowing if the housing would flood again or not. As it happens, it didn’t, the original flooding was due to my error. The second body was a shoot saver, the client was still very happy with the results of the shoot.
JC: How do you stay competitive when every Tom, Dick and Harry has a camera these days?
SC: I rely on image quality and the ability to get the shot, it’s only experience that can give you that edge. If a company is serious about getting top grade images reliably, they will book a pro. They could of course risk using amateur images, but I think it shows. If they cut corners on images of their products, where else would they cut corners? I think it says a lot about a company and its products and work ethic if they are booking professionals for their media and promotional needs.