Josh Harrison is a wildlife and landscape photographer based in Nafferton. An ardent traveller to boot, Josh is never more at home than when abroad, capturing images that can’t fail to take one’s breath away.
Here, in an interview with “Pulse” author Steve Rudd, Josh chats candidly about what inspires him the most…
Q: How old were you when you first picked up a camera, and was it a case of ‘love at first click’?
A: I think I was about twelve or thirteen when I first got a camera. I had irreparably damaged a remote-control car by driving it into a river, so I dried it out and sent it back saying it had stopped working. I exchanged it for a basic film-camera.
Q: As a youngster, what attracted you so much to the art of photography?
A: I honestly don’t know what the initial attraction was; I think it was just fun taking photos if we had a family trip up to Dalby or the Lake District. I was always interested in wildlife and nature. As I got older, my friends and I spent most of our time riding BMX bikes. I started doing more sports photography because we all wanted to see how good (or not so good) the tricks we were doing looked on the camera. I think I was always better with a camera than I was on a BMX.
Q: Did you always hook designs on the idea of becoming a professional photographer?
A: For many years it was just a hobby. I didn’t really want to study it as I was afraid I’d just be taught to take photos the same as everyone else. So I just took photos that I liked, and if other people liked them, then great. If not, I wasn’t too bothered. Eventually, people started asking me to photograph things for them, and then it just evolved into a business.
I think I have been lucky to have met some very good local and international photographers over the years who have always given me great advice regarding my work and making a living from it. In a way, I still just do it because I enjoy it, but making it into a business has given me more opportunities and new challenges that help me improve my work and help me learn.
I like to think I have managed to keep my own style with my work as I always try and keep any editing to a minimum. I prefer to get the image right on camera; after all, that’s the challenge of photography.
Q: As much as you love photography, you love travelling. Which places have had the most impact on you?
A: It’s difficult to say. I didn’t actually start going abroad until I was twenty-two, but ever since then I have been hooked. I think every place you go to has an impact on you, but the Arctic has probably had the biggest impact because it’s such an incredible and unique place. I decided it was somewhere I had to visit in 2009. I rang up a company called Aqua-Firma that organised trips there and asked them for a price. They told me how much it was and I said I would ring them back next year. Consequently, I worked pretty much non-stop for six months to get the money together. In 2010 I went to Spitsbergen for the first time.
The first time you see it is something you will always remember. The landscape can’t really be put into words. Even photos do not do it justice. It is just endless, and it is hard to even comprehend the scale of what you see because there are no reference points like trees or buildings. You can be travelling on the ship towards something that looks a few miles away, but it could be three or four times that distance, if not further.
If there’s a trip you have always wanted to do in life, I would recommend doing it sooner rather than later.
Q: As a photographer, is it possible for you to go about your day-to-day business without a camera on-hand at all times, or do you prefer to take your camera practically everywhere with you?
A: It depends on where I am heading. If I don’t take a camera, I usually regret it. If I am going somewhere scenic, or somewhere I know there is wildlife or extreme sports, then I always take my camera. I usually try and have a bit of time away from the camera as well, though, because I think if you do something “all day, every day”, you can lose your creativity a bit, so it’s nice to have a break and come back to it with some new ideas to keep pushing yourself to create original work.
Q: What kind of camera are you currently using, and what’s the easiest way for amateur photographers to get a handle on which kind of equipment will be best-suited for their needs?
A: I currently use a Nikon D3s which is great for sports and wildlife. I would say the easiest way to find the equipment that’s right for you is by doing research, so go to trade shows and try the equipment, and find online reviews and samples of images taken with that equipment. Don’t get too caught up on getting a camera with the highest megapixel count; it’s how the camera works overall that matters. The highest megapixel count doesn’t always translate to the highest quality image.
Q: You have spent a considerable amount of time in countries such as Norway and Iceland. Why is it that you feel so drawn to ‘working’ in cold areas?
A: My first trip in 2007 was meant to be to Africa for a safari, but when the professional photography guide had to drop out, everyone else on the trip cancelled, even though I was still happy to go. As a result, I booked the first trip I could find: a week in Iceland.
I think it is just the crisp serenity of the cold places that attracts me to them, as well as the surprising abundance of life in places like Spitsbergen. Nothing compares to being out in the middle of nowhere on a snow-covered landscape where the only sound you can hear is the snow compacting under your feet as you walk. I just feel very free and relaxed.
Q: Which kinds of wildlife do you most enjoy “shooting”?
A: I enjoy photographing the bigger mammals when I can. They are amazing to see up close. With species like polar bears, you don’t really imagine them to be as big as they are. Seeing them face-to-face gives you a completely new understanding of the animal and how it behaves, as well as that individual’s character. Having said that, I am happy photographing almost any wildlife. A lot of the time, I won’t get the shot I am after, but if I have spent the day outside and got to observe wildlife (or just nature) doing what it does, I would never consider that a wasted day.
Q: At the back end of last year, you presented a selection of your most striking images in an exhibition at York Theatre Royal. What kind of feedback did you receive, and are you planning on staging any more Yorkshire-based exhibitions in the near future?
A: The York exhibition went well and I got some good feedback. I’m in the process of arranging my next Arctic exhibition in Hull towards the end of the year, and then I will possibly look at displaying some different work after that as I have been concentrating more on British Wildlife this year.
Q: As we speak, you are in the throes of organising a return trip to Norway. What’s more, you are openly inviting people along should anybody wish to join you in order to glean expert photography tips and tuition on what is destined to be a breathtaking four-day trip. What made you decide to invite fellow photographers along for the ride, and how can folk find out more about what could very well be the trip of a lifetime?
A: Yes, I will be heading back to Norway in January to spend some time photographing sea eagles, killer whales, and hopefully the Northern Lights as well. I decided to invite people along because it’s always good to travel with like-minded people who are there for the same reason as you. Over the past year, people have been asking if I would be arranging any trips, so this one seemed like a good start, with three or four places available at cost-price, and great locations for wildlife and landscape photography. For those that want any tips on photography, we can go through anything you want to know; for those who are already confident with their photography, it’s just a great place to take photos. If anyone wants more information, they can visit my website.
Q: Finally, how can people learn more about - or, even better, actually see - your wonderful photography?
A: Visiting my website at www.joshharrisonphotography.co.uk is the best way. You can also keep up-to-date with my latest photos on my Twitter page or my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/InnovationPrints