You don’t have to be Graeme Purdy to recognise an incredible moment when you see one. But actually capturing it, and capturing it well, now that’s a whole different story altogether. But that’s exactly what World Photography Day is all about. Whether you’re an aspiring photographer or simply trying to collect moments you never want to forget, this day is about celebrating the art, craft, science and history of photography -- and who better to sit down with than our very own photographer, Ryan Winterbotham, who has been with us since the very beginning.
From hearing how Ryan first became interested in photography to his most memorable shoot yet, to his top tips for beginners, here’s what happened when we sat down with Ryan Wintherbotham to discuss all things photography and his journey to the here and now.
When did the photography journey first begin?
“On a trip around America, actually. I used to be a sponsored BMX rider and I was across the pond with some friends and our bikes, and it was then that I bought a GoPro. I’d always been interested in photography, especially with BMX, mainly because I used to have friends that were into photography and we would go on these day trips to cool places and they would shoot photos, or shoot photos of me on my bike -- and I would always be intrigued by how they caught such epic shots and what cameras they had. That’s when I decided to buy a camera and learn more about photography and videography.
But, strangely, I wasn’t into shooting BMX. It was more the landscape aspect of things, probably because we were travelling around. That’s when it all started to click. I could use the camera to actually shoot the awesome landscapes and the interesting places that we passed through and just little moments.
Was there a particular photograph that made you think, “this is what i want to do”?
Yeah. Before I had my DSLR, on a previous trip to America, at a time when I still didn't understand the fundamentals, we were riding around in an RV when we broke down after running out of fuel. Anyway, we found this kind of abandoned fuel station and there was a big sign that said, “Need gas, call this number.” And I just remember taking a photo with both the sign and the RV in shot, and the light was cool and the composition was good, and it told a lot about the story of us running out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
Once you were into it, did you ever do a course or degree to learn more about the fundamentals?
No. Not really. I mean, I started a college course but dropped out pretty quickly and instead just shot as much as I could on my DSLR. That’s how I’ve always been. I've just got this thing in life where if I have an interest in something I just want to delve as deep as I can into it and figure everything out. And being in this day and age, there's so much information available online so it was more a case of teaching myself.
That’s how it started. I’d see cool photos online, or on my feed, and I’d wonder how the photographer created that effect. So then I’d Google it, find an example and then go out with my camera and learn. I actually remember the first time that I figured out how the aperture works. I was sitting on Brighton beach with my feet out in front of me and I took a photo of my feet on the beach in, I think, F1.8 and then I changed it to a higher aperture. That was the moment I figured out that, when you change the aperture, the depth of field changes and you get less or more blur depending. Since then, that’s been my philosophy.
When did it go from being a hobby to your full-time profession?
When I came back from the trip in America, I just wanted to get stuck in with photography. I had a little bit of money to keep me going up to a certain extent and then, on a whim, I just put a status on Facebook about looking for paid photography work or something.
That’s when a friend of mine, well, a Facebook friend that I didn't actually know at the time, said he had an opportunity every Saturday, for a couple of hours, in a nightclub. I asked if there was anything I might need and he just told me to get a flash. So I did. I went and bought a flash the day after and that was what kick started my working life as a photographer. It was a chance to get paid regularly while also learning more about how my camera worked and what techniques caught the eye. It was great.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
I love the whole process of it. I love the shoot, getting back afterwards and going through all the photos, finding the shots that really stand out to me, seeing how strong the images look, the colour grading and then using them all to piece together a story at the end. I absolutely loved that process.
Can you remember the first shoot you did for a brand?
Funnily enough, it was Stubble & Co. I remember being super-nervous, obviously, but also really excited. And then when I got off at the train station and met them, I remember all those nerves just disappearing. They were the nicest people, so amazing to be around.
As for the shoot itself, it was a really good shoot actually. We did it on the streets of Wandsworth and it was more of a test shoot, before the brand was actually launched just to see how the bags looked in photographs and to see how we worked together. And it just went really well, until about an hour before we were due to finish my camera broke and I didn't have a spare camera because it was still so early on.
That’s when I remember thinking, “ what have I done?” And I got back on the train, absolutely gutted. Luckily, we got everything that we needed to get, but that was a huge learning curve for me.
This was stuff I was never told. Because I taught myself, no one ever said, “make sure you have two cameras on you, cause you always need a backup.” It was just something I had to learn. But luckily, the Stubble team were really happy with what we did on the day and it kind of just flourished into what it is now, which is incredible.
Since then, you have done so many shoots with Stubble & Co, but we’re curious, do you have a favourite?
Oh that's a hard one because I don't think I can say I've got a favourite shoot ever. But that’s mainly because each shoot we do almost becomes my favourite. That’s definitely the case with the last one we did. The Frensham one, probably because I got to incorporate two passions of mine, photography and motorbikes, which added a whole new dynamic to the images.
We were in the middle of nowhere, on dirt tracks and there were dust clouds everywhere and the sun was setting, and it was raining like crazy, and in the middle of it all were the bags, the focal point of everything. That was a special shoot, and I was surrounded by people doing something that they enjoy too. That, for me, makes it incredibly easy to just do my job.
It wasn’t without its challenges though, was it?
Haha. Like I said, the sun was setting and it was raining sideways and then there were people in the way, and the sun was actually going to drop and all I could think was, “We need this light.” But that light actually made the rain look really cool and it all just kind of worked out.
But it's so hard when you're trying to get specific shots with moving bikes that you need to be in the perfect position with regards to the light and the dust, because the focal point is the bag, so that has to be at the front of your mind every time the shutter closes. But, yeah, I'm super proud of those shots and the direction we took the brand.
Was that your most challenging shoot or do you remember there being a tougher one?
Isle of Skye. The one we did in the Isle of Skye for the Adventure Bag. That one was one of my favourites, because again, that was a super hard shoot. I remember the first morning we went out to shoot and the weather was just absolutely terrible. Like it just wasn't, we weren't able to get anything and I just remember Ben looking worried about what we’d be able to capture on camera, especially with the logistics involved in planning that trip. But the reason why I like that one so much is because the images turned out to be really amazing. And, again, some of my favourite shoots yet.
That’s what I’ve learned most. To utilise what’s on offer in the moment. The nature of shooting on location, and the nature of my work, everything is quite fast paced and we don't have loads of time. So when we get to a location, I start thinking about what we can do with what we've got.
It doesn’t matter what may have been originally planned, once you get there, you need to setup as quickly as possible and then use the location to our absolute maximum advantage with what we have right here right now. That can be tough to start with, but the more you do it, the more you kind of just become familiar with, um, what you're looking for.
What do you try and get across when you’re shooting Stubble & Co’s bags?
Oh, that’s a difficult question, but I think it’s the real-life durability and the... the incredible quality. That’s what I always try to capture. I want to shoot true to performance photos that will inspire people to get outdoors and travel and use these bags. I want people to see that you can use them in any sort of conditions and it, and it will just thrive.
I want to be able to push out the performance and functionality part of these bags and show people that they’re not just for when the sun is shining and that they can get outdoors regardless. You can use these products anywhere, anytime and they have multiple purposes.
The other thing I’d love to catch on my camera more is the customer service. That’s what makes Stubble & Co, what separates it from the rest of the crowd. Every business has problems with their products. There will always be some rare issues, but it's the way the Stubble team handles those. They will literally solve anything the best they can as quickly as possible, and that I’d love to focus more on moving forward.
Thank you for saying that and for noticing that side of our business. As for our last question, what tips would you give a beginner?
Ummm, what tips would I give a beginner? First off, use the internet to your advantage. There's so much free information, you know. There's literally free information everywhere so use it to learn and improve as much as possible.
Another piece of advice would be to shoot as much as you can. Take a camera with you everywhere and shoot whatever you enjoy shooting. Take photos of your friends, landscapes, your pets, anything and just have fun with it. Don't do it for any other reason. And use Instagram and the internet for inspiration. Don’t copy per se, but be inspired, learn techniques, the rule of thirds, how to edit and keep practising.
Oh, that's another piece of advice: put it in manual mode and don't take it out of that. That's the quickest way you're ever going to learn how to adjust the settings based on the environment you’re shooting in.
Thanks for reading. To see more of Ryan’s photography, follow him on Instagram.