Today I have the the honor of presenting an interview that comes from Ayr, Scotland. Stephen Cosh is an internationally published landscape and street photographer whose photography takes him all over the world. Stephen excels at capturing his landscape shots with a true understanding of light and long exposure skills. In contrast to Stephen’s connection to the natural world in his landscape photography, his street photography is darker in nature and conveys a connection to the streets and the human element.
Stephen, thank you so much for all your thoughtful responses. It’s not every day we get a behind the scenes view of someone with such a unique and creative approach to photography.
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
I am a 47-year-old photographer and designer from Scotland. I run my own design agency and photography is about 50% of what I do.
Where is home?
Ayr in Scotland. Ayr is a little town on the west coast with fabulous sea views and only 30 minutes from Glasgow.
After browsing through your bio, I see that you are truly immersed in the field of photography. What is it that led you towards photography and how long have you been working in it?
I’ve been into photography since the age of 14, but really only got into it heavily because it became a part of my work.
I actually gave it up for about ten years, but it was street photography that got me back into wanting to shoot about 15 years ago.
Is Photography your Full-Time Career?
Not full time but certainly a major part of it. I guess I fall under the professional photographer banner as I earn from it but I hate the term. Amateurs tend to create the best work as their vision is not led by clients, so it’s important to me to keep doing a lot of my own projects.
Are you formally taught or self-taught? And what has been the best source of information along this journey (workshop, online forum, classroom, mentor, etc)?
I’ve never had a lesson or read a how-to book in my life. The only training I’ve had was darkroom training on YouTube.
I think that you learn best from your mistakes, so the real way to learn anything is by giving it a go and sticking with it.
Are you satisfied with your choice of getting involved in this industry? Is there anything else you would rather be doing?
I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m a creative guy and as a designer, it can take a while before you really see the finished result, but in photography, you see your creativity almost immediately. The rush I get from nailing an image in camera is unbeatable.
What has been your most memorable session and why?
Honestly, I enjoy every session I do. If I’m doing paid work, just having delight clients is enough for me, but if I’m out shooting my own projects, be it street work on landscapes, I need to get in the zone before I really enjoy it. There has been plenty of times I have gone out to shoot and packed it in in an hour because I know I’m just not going to get in the zone.
Probably my favourite session/trip was to Jerusalem. I went out there to shoot street and it was just amazing to be so immersed in history and culture.
What is your favorite part of being a photographer?
Seeing the final image. End of story!
What is the most challenging part of being a photographer?
Working with film. End of story!
What do you do to keep your photography fresh and how do you stay motivated?
For non-commercial work, I try and work primarily with film. I can’t really put my finger on it, but shooting and developing black and white film just makes it feel more like I am completing the photographic circle. There’s more planning in film, and you need to be deeply aware of your kit.
Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?
Light, music, and people.
Share with us your favorite image and why?
My favourite shot is a street shot called “Sketchy.” It’s by no means my best image but it took it with my favourite camera and lens which I no longer have and shot it on film. The lens was from 1963 and produced a natural glow on the whites and I just love the effect it has given the girl sitting on the floor sketching.
What type of camera do you shoot with? What’s your favorite lens?
Haha, how long have you got?
I shoot with 2 film Leica M’s, 2 digital, Leica M’s, two old medium format Hasselblads, one new medium format digital Hasselblad, and a large format Alpa with a medium format film back.
I have a range of lenses for each camera ranging from 21mm to 90mm.
I suppose my favourite kit is the Leica M7 with a 50mm Summilux on it and the Hasselblad 500CM with an 80mm on it. And as long as both have Kodak Tri-X loaded then I’m a happy bunny.
What is in your camera bag?
Right now, it’s a Hasselblad SWC loaded with Ilford PanF 50.
How important is Photoshop or other image editing software in your final images?
I never open Photoshop unless I’m doing serious editing for a client. For my own work, I only ever use Lightroom and Silver Effx.
Editing is super important. Not editing a shot is like turning up for a formal dinner wearing flip flops.
Since the very early days of photography, editing has been a good half of the process. You need to fix things you can’t get right in camera, like cropping, dodging, burning etc…
However, it is really important to get the shot as perfect as you can in-camera. No amount of processing will make a bad shot good.
Was there a point in your journey when you started to feel really good about your work? If so, what did it feel like to get past that ‘tipping point’?
Not really. I am my own biggest critic by far. I constantly push myself to get better, especially in my own work.
Are there any areas of photography that you have yet to pick up or that you would like to learn?
Right now I’m happy shooting street and landscapes but I’d like to explore street photography through other photographic mediums, like large format and pinhole.
What do you think the future holds for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I don’t know where I’ll be next weekend and I don’t want to.