- July 17, 2021
- 12 min to read
An Interview with Ian Plant - World-renowned Professional Photographer
A world-renowned professional photographer Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to many leading photo magazines and one of top 50 travel photographers by Photolemur. Follow Ian on Facebook and Twitter.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
I wish I knew how much it was going to take over my life. Photography quickly grew from an interest, to a serious hobby, to a passion, and finally to a profession. If I had known ahead of time how important photography would become for me, I would have started doing it sooner!
Why do you take photos? What inspires you?
I am inspired by the incredible, yet sometimes hidden, beauty of the world around us. Photography is the art of seeing something special emerge from the mundane things we see every day. I love seeing something that others do not see, and capturing it with my camera.
Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
Early on, I was influenced by the great film masters of landscape photography, but over time my interests broadened to include other types of photography, and to art generally. Surprisingly, the great masters of painting — people like John Singer Sargent and J. M. W. Turner — have had more influence on me than any photographer. The great painters are masters of composition, mood, and creative expression, and I think every photographer should study their work for inspiration.
What do you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?
I’m looking to reveal the hidden side of reality, and to show people something that is unexpected. To get photos that show people things they don’t typically see with their own eyes, you need to have a lot of patience. Every now and then, the random events of our world come together in a coherent, meaningful, and visually powerful way. A good photographer learns to recognize these decisive moments, and is ready to trigger the shutter when they happen. But it is not just the ability to react that is important; the photographer must impose his or her artistic vision on the scene or subject, by creative use of perspective, exposure, focal length, composition, light, and color. The photographer is not just a passive documentarian, but rather an active artistic participant.
What technology/software/camera gear do you use?
I shoot with Canon cameras, and a variety of lenses, mostly Canon and Tamron.
How do you choose what you are going to shoot?
I’m looking for scenes, subjects, or moments that bring together strong composition, mood, light, and color. I’m looking to tell stories with my photos, so I always keep an eye out for interesting stories that emerge from real life.
What kind of tools do you use for post processing? Explain your work flow.
For image processing, I use Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop. I prefer to process my photos with a light touch, and avoid the extreme photo manipulation that is all too common these days. For me, photography’s connection with reality is an important aspect of the art form, so I avoid using the digital darkroom to create magic in my photos. I prefer patience, camera technique, and lots of time in the field waiting for amazing—and real—moments to occur.
Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?
This is a tough question to answer! Although, in truth, I have no hesitation about my answer: my favorite photos are usually the ones that most people don’t like. A good photographer sees things that others do not, so almost by definition, your best work will likely go unappreciated by others. Some might consider this to be a cruel irony, but I’m happy that my personal favorites are typically not appreciated by others.
What was the most curious story behind your photograph?
The best photos tell a story, so I try to have an interesting story behind each of my photographs. Of course, the story the photo tells to the viewer and the real story aren’t always the same. And sometimes, the story the photo tells is more interesting than the real story. A recent example is an aerial photo I took while flying my Phantom 4 Pro drone over Yasur Volcano in Vanuatu, when I realized I had an evil-looking face (formed by ash-dusted ridges framing twin pools of lava) staring back at me from my controller screen. The shot tells a great story, even though the real story is much less interesting.
Three new things (names, places), you learned in the past year about the photograph?
I recently traveled to the island nation of Vanuatu to photograph active volcanoes, three of them in particular: Yasur, Benbow, and Marum. I was able to photograph Yasur Volcano, which has magma eruptions every few minutes. Unfortunately, because of non-stop torrential rains, I wasn’t able to photograph the lava lakes found in Benbow and Marum craters. I suspect I will travel back to Vanuatu at some point soon to photograph these three incredible volcanoes again!