Richard Staniford Photographic Landscapeist

Tell us about yourself…

My name is Richard and I am a baseball fanatic, baking enthusiast, Father, Husband and infinite lover of Black and White photography. I know that’s a really corny introduction (which is also in the ‘About’ section of my website), but it describes me perfectly.

I am a Black and White Landscape photographer and I live in The Catlins region of New Zealand with my wife and two daughters. Photography isn’t my day job, in fact I make hardly any money from my photography at all. I work as a part-time Teacher Aide at my local school with children aged from 5 to 10, although my main responsibility is to look after a young boy who has Type 1 Diabetes.

Living in The Catlins region, there are always opportunities to get out and feed my photography obsession. There are rugged seascapes, lush rain forests and (my favorite) wonderful flowing waterfalls…I often say that I’m in photo heaven and I hope that my photography does justice to the region. My photography has definitely improved to another level since moving here and my eye for black and white photography is as good as it’s ever been.

Question: Do you remember the first time you visualized a photograph before you made it?

That’s a really difficult question! I am one of the world’s great thinkers, although my wife would say that I’m a procrastinator, so I think about a photo long before I ever go out to make it. I envisage where I’m going, what lens I’m going to use, what filter (if any). There’s planning, then there’s over thinking!

I would say that the first time I saw a photo before making it was the image looking straight up into the tree canopy, taken about 3 or 4 years ago. I knew exactly the kind of image I wanted to make, but the location had to be right. I’d been looking at Ansel Adams and how he incorporated trees into his landscape photography when I found some tall, uniform trees…it was kind of a ‘eureka’ moment! I had to lie on my back to make the shot and I’d have looked quite silly to anyone looking on!

I tend to see potential images everywhere I go. As a photographer, once you understand the compositional elements like leading lines and texture etc, that’s it, it’s with you for life and there’s no turning it off!

Question: What pulled you to shooting landscapes? Do you consider yourself a straight landscape photographer?

It really was pure luck. I went back to college to study photography after my daughter started school, I’d been a stay-at-home Dad with her and thought it was a perfect opportunity to do that. At the end of the course, we had to submit a portfolio and I wanted to have mine in a Black & White theme. However, my photography tutor said I needed to be more specific, I couldn’t just say B&W…he suggested B&W Landscapes.

I had never properly made a landscape image before that and it took me a little by surprise, Macro photography had been my ‘thing’, but that had ultimately got quite boring. So much that I had even sold my macro lens, I wanted nothing more to do with it!

I looked into landscapes and researched it quite heavily. Looking at the likes of Ansel Adams and Sebastião Salgado’s ‘Genesis’ project really inspired me and I took B&W landscapes under my wing and really ran with it. I’ve dabbled in portraits, but I really don’t enjoy doing it and find working with people quite hard…I’m an introvert, after all!
Landscape photography is definitely where I see myself now and in the future, incorporating it with my love of B&W, I can be as creative as I want to be.

Question: Are there any technical principles you adhere to when making your photographs?

Although I learned the principles of photography at college, it’s really only been in the time since that I’ve put those skills into practice. Most of my B&W and landscape skills have been learned out in the field or reading books on the subject. YouTube is also a great source of education with photographers such as Thomas Heaton and Peter McKinnon willing to open up their worlds to massive YouTube audiences.

If I can pinpoint one particular technical principal, it’s something that I do before I even leave the house. Most of my images are shot at ISO 100 and f/11, I occasionally go to f/8 or f/16, but only to control my shutter speed with more precision and it does, of course, depend on what I am shooting. If I make sure that my camera is set to ISO 100 and f/11 when I leave the house it’s one less thing to think about out in the field and one less thing that can go wrong.

I like to get as much right ‘in camera’ as I can and this has led me to invest in a set of ND and GND filters. I know that other photographers like to bracket their images and see no need for filters, but as I am a B&W photographer 100% of the time, I spend enough time in front of my computer screen without adding more unnecessary time to my post-processing workflow.

Question: If you could go back and give yourself any advice about photography, what would it be?

This is something that I’ve thought about for many years and talked about with my wife quite recently. If I did have my own flux-capacitor and the ability to go back and give the 18 year old ‘me’ some advice it would be to go to college and learn all about photography. We’re talking about 1996 here, so it would be film and the darkroom!
I think there would be no better introduction to photography than that. I hate talking about regrets because I really don’t have any. I traveled the world so that I didn’t have to talk about ‘what ifs’ years later, but not getting into photography in my teens is definitely one.

Richard’s Gear 

Publishers Note: I asked Rich to list some of the workhorse gear that helps him transfer his creativity into a photograph . These are the current tools of his trade:

 

Camera: Nikon d610
Lenses: Nikon 16-35mm f4 ED VRNikon 70-200mm f4 ED VRNikon 50mm f1.8G

My camera system hasn’t changed in a few years, although I have been tempted by Sony I am yet to win Lotto. I don’t think changing to mirrorless would benefit me at the moment, I’m happy with my Nikon. As far as lenses go, the set up I have is almost perfect for me. I’ve chopped and changed my lens choice quite a lot in the last 3 years, from primes to zooms and from Nikon to Sigma (and back again)! I now have a good range from 16mm all the way up to 200. My 16-35mm f4 is on my camera about 90% of the time, although I do use my 70-200 a lot more than I thought I would. Landscape photography isn’t all about the wide vistas, details matter too and that lens is perfect for that.

Filters :

NiSi V5 Pro 100mm filter system
NiSi 10 & 6 stop ND
NiSi 3 & 5 stop Soft Grad ND
NiSi 3 stop Hard Grad ND
NiSi Enhanced Landscape C-PL
Breakthrough Photography 77mm 15 stop X4 ND

Apart from my camera, my filters are my most precious possession. I love playing around with them and how they affect the light. I have NiSi and Breakthrough Photography filters and I don’t really have a preference, both give me brilliant image quality and very little color-cast.

Other pieces in the arsenal: 

Sensei Pro 67-77mm Aluminium Step-Up Ring
Vello ShutterBoss II Remote Switch for Nikon with DC2
3 Legged Thing Albert with AirHed 360 Tripod Head
L-Bracket – 3 Legged Thing QR11-L
Mindshift Gear Filter Hive 
Mindshift Gear Filter Nest

I love, love, love my tripod…did I say I love my tripod? I had a Manfrotto tripod for years and (for no particular reason) I decided to check out 3 Legged Thing. I have some advice for everyone, get a 3 Legged Thing. It’s light (for its size). it’s stable and best of all, it looks awesome!! Albert is definitely the best tripod that I’ve owned and he goes everywhere with me.

Gear Bag:

Manfrotto Off road Hiker Backpack 30L

Camera bags are the bane of my life. I’m sure that camera bag manufacturers aren’t actually photographers. Most of them think that all photographers are the same and fit into only a couple of categories. I had a Lowepro, but that gave me very few options to carry more stuff than just my camera gear, I then switched to F-Stop, but that was geared too much to the adventure hiker and wild camper. After much research (I told you I was an over thinker), I settled on the Manfrotto Off road bag…I can fit all my camera gear plus everything I need for a day hike. It also has a removable camera insert which allows me to put my camera gear into a larger bag for multi-day hiking…perfect…for now!

Parting Words from Richard…

It’s difficult to say what my style is, but I do love playing with longer exposures and airing on the darker side of the zonal range. I think it’s very important to find your own style. It’s so easy in 2018 to look at other photographer’s work on Instagram or other social media and it would also be easy to fall into the trap of making images that are comparable to those photographers. I talked in my blog about success and being happy. Being happy or successful doesn’t come by copying someone else’s style, it comes from making your own images and developing your own style. Whether people want to buy my prints or not, making them makes me happy.

Publishers Note: I’ve known of Richard and his exceptional black and whites for sometime. To date, he is the only photographer from whom I have personally acquired a print.

Please visit Richard at and his work at the links below:

richardstaniford.com
facebook.com/richardstanifordphotography
instagram.com/richstanphoto

All images are wholly the property of the original photographer, Richard Staniford, and are used with permission.