Landscape Photographer Julian Elliott

A couple of weeks back I contacted France based Landscape Photographer Julian Elliott from Ethereal-light.com to ask him a few questions about stock photography. What I wasn’t expecting was just how warm and genuine he would be. He is a real inspiration, gave me some fantastic advice and shared lots of his opinions and thoughts freely. I was refreshed and intrigued by Julian as I had recently left my job to embarked on my life as a professional photographer and drew quite a few parallels to some of his moments in life before he turned his hobby into a living. I thought I would take the opportunity to ask a wonderful and prolific Landscape Photographer a few questions for my photography people section here on lumusphoto.com. He happily obliged – I hope this gives you an insight as to just what it takes a long with the level of dedication, commitment and passion you need to succeed in this area of photography. Thank you again Julian, it was an utter pleasure talking to you, and I owe you a beer next time you are back in the UK! :)

landscape photographer

How long have you been a professional landscape photographer?

I made the transition from being just a guy with a camera to a professional at the end of 2010 when I moved from Britain to the Loire Valley in France.

What did you do before photography? And what made you give it all up?

Before I went down the road of being a photographer I used to work in an office doing pension administration. Believe me, if you do that all day it’s enough to drive you insane.

The one thing that I do miss about being in the office with other people is joking around. Some of the people I used to work with were fun to be with and it helped pass the time of day.

That said, it was very frustrating having to look out of the window and you can see gorgeous skies passing you by as you’re having to tap away at a keyboard looking at someone’s finances.

Landscape photographer

Stunning dawn light over the vineyards near Radda in Chianti

Where did it all begin for you? What first sparked your passion for photography?

This is very easy to answer…Paris! Before meeting my wife in the middle of 2005 I used to visit Paris every few months. For the first couple of trips I had a small Fuji point-and-shoot camera. One of the things I really wanted to be able to do is photograph the city at night. If you’ve been there you’ll understand why as it is a photographer’s dream with the mix of both modern and medieval architecture.

One day when I was having my snaps processed I got talking to the guy who owned the shop. He was explaining things such as if I wanted to do nighttime photography then I needed long shutter speeds and other such things.

I went home and started researching what I needed to get in order to be able to take long exposures. My research led to a bridge camera or a DSLR. Don’t ask me why but the DSLR seemed the choice to go for and it’s been that way ever since.

From there, I started reading books by Lee Frost about the use of filters and night photography. I got what he was talking about when it came to the night photography but just didn’t seem to grasp how to use grads.

It took a meeting with Charlie Waite and Phil Malpas at a Light and Land Discovery Day that helped solidify the knowledge. Phil had written a book called “Capturing Colour” that gave the best and clearest example of how to use grads.

This all happened at the end of 2009 and that really set me off on a renewed passion. In the intervening years I would pick up my 350D but get frustrated at not being to get the results I wanted. Thankfully they set me on the right path.


Where do you seek inspiration?

In the beginning it was Lee Frost. His early books really gave me food for thought on what could be done with a camera.

Over the years the usual suspects like Charlie Waite; Joe Cornish and David Ward came into play. Another pivotal moment came through the work of David Noton.

On one of those frustrated days I came across an advert for his Chasing The Light DVD. I ordered it and was opened up to another area of photography. David’s work also gave me the impetus to get up early in the morning to catch the dawn light. Before I was always after sunset but now for me it’s all about those early morning rays of sun.

Who has been the biggest influence on your photography?

I’m not sure that there is one single “biggest” influence as it has been a culmination of a number of things. Each has played their part in influencing what you see today.

Tours, France, Denis Dupont after winning the Nascar Whelen Euro Series Tours

Julian can also turn his hand to shooting people as well!

Best piece of advice you have ever received?

That if you want to be a professional photographer you have to be ruthless with your time. Standing around talking will get you nowhere and you have to work at the grindstone to get anywhere.

Best bit of advice you would give to any aspiring photographers out there?

Make sure that this it is something you absolutely want to do before setting out on this path. It looks like a lot of fun and games travelling and shooting various countries but at the end of the day this is a job pure and simple.

I would also emphasize aspiring photographers to make sure they have solid funds available to them should things be slow for a few months. Working a “normal” 9 to 5 job you have the security of a wage packet. Working for yourself you often wonder how you can buy a loaf of bread.

Learn to diversify a little if you can. If you are doing stock photography it’s not necessarily those pretty landscapes that will sell and make you the money.

Places you love to shoot the most?

Living in France, and in particular in the city of Tours, I have easy access to Paris. Even after all these years I still like going there as there is so much to do.

I’m also gaining a passion for Italy as there are some exceptional places to be seen there. I’ve been 5 times already this year with another trip in August 2014 to Bologna and Florence, which I can’t wait for.

Do you see your photography as having a style?

You know I have no idea. I do remember a couple of years ago talking with someone on the phone who was looking at my work. He slowly muttered the words “very interesting style” but beyond that I didn’t go into detail with him on those remarks. I’m not sure how I’d label my work apart from travel photography. My Ethereal Light website isn’t really an indication of where I am now either. I keep meaning to add some new stuff to it but never get the time.

I’m sure the all-seeing eyes of the internet would come up with something but I’m happy doing what I’m doing without worrying too much about how to pigeon-hole what I do.

Take us through one of your shoots – Pre visualisation, finding locations, how you set up, how long do you spend at a certain location etc.

When it comes to my work there are two streams to it.

1)      The off-the-cuff shots. I go somewhere and will be walking around when a shot comes into play. Sometimes they just happen and through the experience of shooting frequently you can just see it.

2)      The planned shots. I might have been reading a guide book; seen a magazine spread; already been on the ground OR I have seen an image within an image I’ve already taken. With each of them I’ll first use the Photographer’s Ephemeris to determine the direction of the sun. Next up the crucial hours of daylight and knowing how many hours of daylight you have during a given day. Then it comes down to the being there side of things. If at all possible I like to have been there before so that I have an idea of what to expect. If not, I will have worked out how long it will take to get to a given place, and in the case of dawn, try to make sure that I’m there at least 30 minutes before so I can get to where I need to be. Finally, you just hope and pray that it all comes together so you can get on with the next thing.


Downsides to being a full time photographer?

There are two downsides in my own situation. First and foremost is spending time away from my family. You might be travelling away somewhere and you are on your own and cannot share it with someone else or your family.

The hours that you work can leave your nearest and dearest frustrated too as there is always something that needs to be done.

Remember too that being a full time photographer also means being an accountant; salesman and marketing man too. The latter I’m not that great at either!

Which do you prefer cityscapes or natural landscapes? And do you approach these two differently in your photography?

Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Cityscapes advantages – amazing architecture in cities such as Paris; Florence and Venice.

Cityscapes disadvantages – having to be doubly aware of your possessions. There are many scam artists operating the cities who will stop at nothing to relieve you of your gear.

Landscape advantages – I love being outside and there is nothing better than when you are in an inspirational landscape. Seeing the morning light sweep across Tuscan hills or cool reflections of mountains in the Lake District is certainly inspiring and thought provoking.

Landscape disadvantages – if you’re working on your own personal safety becomes paramount if you start walking off into the hills. It can be helpful if you have someone with you but at times this can be a hindrance as you want to be able to do your thing while being aware of what the other wants to do.

Approach wise there is no difference really. At the end of the day I’m trying to produce an image that I think will sell somewhere and so have to make sure that all elements of that final product come together.

How many days a year do shoot professionally?

Depends on funds really as to what I can and where I can go. So far as of 2014 I have been out 57 days. There are possibly 40 or so more days of shooting to go. All this equates to roughly 3 months.

Don’t forget that once you have been out shooting you still need to find time to process and send off everything. And it is that element that really takes up your time.

Oh and Canon or Nikon??? Lol

I am from the Canon stable of shooters. It isn’t through gear watching or anything. I started with a Canon 350D and just went from there. I just stuck with Canon as I had already started accumulating Canon gear and it just made sense to stick to that.

Hardest aspect of shooting stock?

The amount of time you have to spend doing all of this. Shooting time + processing time + keywording + blogging + whatever else can eat away at you at times.

What’s in your camera bag at the minute?

Canon 5D Mark II plus 17-40L; 28-70L (it’s the forerunner to the 24-70L); 70-200 F4 non-IS plus a 50mm Sigma macro. Lee Filters grads both hard and soft along with a Heliopan polarizer. Finally, it’s all held up by a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod with a 410 head.

Any piece of equipment that you could never be without?

My tripod as a lot of what I do and the light I tend to work in requires it. I want my shots to be shake free and the horizon level. I do occasionally work without one but it’s very rare. What’s the occasion? If I happen to go hunting after news or a little sport photography.


You’re going away, only room for one camera and one lens – which would you choose?

Canon 5D mark II and the 28-70 f2.8. You can do a heck of a lot what those two.

Favourite image/images?

That’s a tough question as there are a number of images that I’ve taken that I like for one reason or another. Here’s a selection of recent images illustrating three different aspects to what I do:

See photo below: This is a planned photo in every sense. I had been to the Old Man of Storr in October 2013. I wanted to go back to have different light on the place. What I didn’t want was the sunrise directly in front of me. The sunrise is coming from over my shoulder in the north-east.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris had been used to calculate the angle and time of the sunrise. All it meant was booking the trip; waiting a few months before I could go and the hoping that dawn would actually come up trumps. Luckily it did as the weather in Scotland can be very fickle.

First image: Vineyards in Radda In Chianti. This shows very much what you might call my “style” of photography. Soft, early morning light sweeping across the landscape. The trip had been planned but this location wasn’t at all planned. I took a shot at going to the Chianti area to see what I could get. I just happened to be there at the right time and place for this moment.

Second image: Taken at the American Tours Festival Nascar racing here in Tours, France. This was an event that I went to as an accredited photographer. The winner, Denis Dupont, shows his absolute elation at winning. You can’t plan this it just happens and you have to be there at that moment.

Landscape photographer

Beautiful sunrise over the Old Man of Storr


Bestselling image/images?

Paris always sells for me every month. I have worked hard though over the last few months to seek out images that are not necessarily available to the public. This has helped a lot as Paris is photographed to death and you need to find something just that little bit different.


Money no object what camera/lenses would you invest in?

Apparently, Canon has a new 5D coming out next year so that would be nice. Tilt shift lenses too would be a welcome addition in the bag. Maybe an extender such as the Canon 1.4 Mark III would be nice to have.

I would like the 70-200 F2.8 IS mark II and I do use this focal length a lot even in the city.

The Phase One system would be interesting to use but would it be too bulky and too hassle to cart around on shoots?

What’s next for Ethereal-light.com and Julian Elliott?

If I, ever, get the time I’d like to revamp my original website and have it merged with my blog on WordPress. This in turn would be renamed to Julian Elliott Photography and a new logo would have to be sought out. In the latter case I do have a designer that’s been recommended but it all comes down to having the time to do these things.

Trip wise, I’m still having ideas for my ventures between September and December 2014. There are two definite trips to the UK; one possible road trip in France and a final unknown destination.

For 2015 I am working on a recurring theme for the year. I’m hoping to get the finances together to carry it out. If I can, it should produce some magical images.

National Newspaper Interview with Julian Elliott Beautiful Britain: Photographer captures rolling hills, chalk cliffs, fiery sunsets and frosty meadows showcasing the UK through the seasons

Huge thanks once again to Julian for taking time out of his hectic schedule to answer these questions. If you get chance head over to Ethereal-light.com and check out more of Julian’s beautiful images.

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