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Member spotlight: Mark Chivers talks about his lifelong love affair with photography

Photocrowd winner Mark Chivers talks about his childhood obsession with photography, trying to master time-lapse, and finding that one perfect shot.

In this edition of our weekly interviews with Photocrowd members we speak to Mark Chivers, who won the Expert Vote in our Urban Landscapes contest with his image Six Towers.

How did you get into photography?

From as young as ten, I remember going to family weddings and, given the chance, I would disappear with the Kodak disc camera or a 110 film cartridge camera, and have the most fun snapping away at literally anything that moved. Funnily enough, I can never remember seeing any of the results, so I can only imagine that my first attempts at photography were edited out by my mother when she had the film developed.

It wasn’t until I was 15 that I was looking through a careers book at school that I first remember actually wanting to be a professional photographer. I spent the rest of that year pestering my parents to buy me a 35mm film camera for Christmas.

My persistence paid off and they scraped enough money together to buy me a Miranda MS-1. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and from that moment I was hooked and didn’t want to do anything else.

How often and when do you take photographs?

As a professional I shoot usually two to three times a week for work - sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on my work load. If I haven’t shot anything for about a week, I tend to get a bit cranky and start thinking up ideas of what I can shoot. I might find a still life or a food shot I can do at home; or I might get out early in the morning to look for that perfect landscape or cityscape shot.

My favourite time to shoot is at dawn or dusk when the sunlight has that rich golden glow.

What is your technical set-up?

Currently I’m using the Canon 5D mk III with the 24-70mm F2.8L and the 70-200mm F2.8L. It’s an awesome camera and perfect for what I shoot. I bought the Canon 5D mk I back when it first came out and was so happy with it, I’ve upgraded with each new model. It’s almost the perfect camera for me.

For software, I use Adobe Bridge and Photoshop CS6. I sometimes use Lightroom and Capture One, but I am most comfortable with Bridge and Photoshop for editing and re-touching.

How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

When I see an image, either in print, online or in a gallery, that stands out to me, I can’t help but analyse how the photographer created it. I think about each component - the composition, the lighting and the subject matter and how they work together - and try to incorporate the same considerations into my work.

I am currently trying to master time-lapse photography, which is new to me. I find that in photography we never stop learning.

Whose work has influenced you most?

When I was young it was the likes of Ansel Adams, John Sexton and Bailey, but I find now that I am not really influenced by individual photographers, but more by a certain look and feel of images, or a body of work.

Though I must say I am a big fan of New York-based photographer Andy Gott, and British landscape photographer Charlie Waite - both are phenomenal photographers.

I constantly strive to improve my skills and to capture images of that quality.

Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?

That’s a difficult one - it changes regularly, sometimes on a weekly basis as each new shot becomes my favourite. But if I had to choose one, this one has been consistently high on my list of all-time favourites:

It was taken in Nepal, at a village meeting, which I was attending when working for a UK NGO. I spotted a village Elder, his head wrapped in a scarf, intently studying the younger people who were running the meeting, but not saying a word.

I shot him with a long lens from across the meeting, just at the moment that he glanced in my direction. He never looked my way again. It was one of those split second moments that make the photo. I love the intense look in his eyes, the light emphasising the deep lines of wisdom on his face, and the contrast of the white beard with his sun weathered skin.

What do you get out of being a photographer?

The absolute joy of knowing that you’ve got the shot in the bag. You might have spent an entire day standing in the same freezing cold spot (my girlfriend will attest to this!) just waiting for the right light. Or you might just be very lucky and at that split second have the camera in the right position for the right moment.

There is a fulfillment and pleasure I get from knowing that I have got a good shot that I don't get from anything else in my life. It’s like a drug that drives me on.

As a career it is tough and competitive, but I love it! Every new job is different and I’ve had access to some amazing places and people I would have never come across otherwise.

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