People: Interview with outdoor adventure photographer James Vincent
Hi James, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Give us a little run down, who are you and what do you do?
Hi guys, great to talk to you! Who am I? That totally depends what day it is - from Monday to Friday I run Vincent & Bell, a graphic design agency in Carlisle (www.vincentandbell.com), and the rest of the time I’m a cycling and outdoor adventure photographer.
If you could sum up your portfolio in three words, what would it be?
Have an adventure!
Whats your favourite subject to photograph?
Bikes, bikes and more bikes! I love everything cycling, and while I’m never going to be the fastest or most talented bike rider, I’m always up for an adventure. For me, that involves anything from getting up way before dawn and carrying my bike for over an hour to witness sunrise from a mountain summit with some friends, going for a spin in the local woods, or a big multi day epic across Scotland. I get a massive kick every time someone comments on one of my photos, saying it makes them want to take up mountain biking or carry their bike for hours on end (ha!). It’s that sense of inspiring people to get out into the wild and have their own adventures which I absolutely love.
What are you currently shooting with?
A Nikon D7100 and a range of lenses from 8mm to 150mm: A Tokina 11-16 f2.8, Sigma 18-50 f2.8, Sigma 50-150 f2.8. My latest toy is a dirt cheap 8mm fisheye I picked up on eBay as a bit of an experiment, and fortunately it worked! One issue with photographing mountain biking is that the camera can flatten features that in reality are sometimes very steep and exposed, and the fisheye can really bring out this steepness - particularly on big rocky ridge lines that are characteristic of the Lake District. Having said that, it’s definitely not something you can use all the time, but it’s a great tool to have in your bag. I was on a shoot with Singletrack Magazine earlier this year, and I chose not to bring the fisheye because I didn’t think it fitted in with the magazines aesthetic, only to find myself lying in a ditch cursing that I couldn’t get wide enough, knowing that the fisheye would’ve been perfect - lesson learned - I’ll always bring it now, even if it doesn't get used! Because most of my shooting is done on the go I need to keep my kit pretty light, so that’s also a big consideration - as much as I’d love to go full frame, it would add a load of weight and I’m not sure the trade off is worth it, particularly as the quality of cropped sensors is so good.
How did you get into photography?
I've always played with cameras - I remember my dad teaching me how to use his old fully manual Nikon FM2 on holidays across France when I was younger, but it was only in the last couple of years that I started taking it seriously. Back in 2012 I had a photo printed in the now sadly defunct Privateer magazine and promptly forgot about it. Fast forward a few years and I was on an evening ride in the middle of summer with a group of mates, and as we were descending this trail into the setting sun, the light was just perfect. I’d started carrying my DSLR with me on rides, and I went nuts with my camera and they were some of the best photos I've ever taken, so I sent them off to a couple of magazines and managed to get some published. That was the point when I realised that I could actually do something with this, and find a way to combine my two passions of cycling and photography.
Who has been your greatest influences?
Oh man, there are so many amazing photographers out there at the moment, it’s crazy! Sterling Lorence needs no introduction, and I love the way he mixes strobes and natural lighting - that’s something that I really want to develop in my own work. On the flipside of that, Laurence Crossman Emms uses strobes in a really creative way, firing them through gels and smoke machines to make it look like the trail is on fire! Jared and Ashley Gruber take the most amazing photos of road cycling - their coverage of the Classics (Paris - Roubaix in particular) and the Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro D’Italia and Vuelta a España) is unreal, their composition and processing is just perfect and really captures the struggles of the athletes! Outside of the cycling world, Jimmy Chin is a world class mountaineer and adventurer who has been developing an outstanding photographic career. The thing that inspires me about Jimmy, is that he’s a mountaineer first, and photographer second. “The success of the expedition and safety are the priorities".
What can we expect to see from you in 2016?
I’m just going to keep riding and shooting, and see what comes along! As for specific projects, there are a couple of big adventure races in New Zealand and the Alps that I’d love the chance to document, but nothing is confirmed yet.
Our recent publication explored individual’s motivation behind their creative practice, can you give us an insight into yours?
My good friend Andy put it to me rather succinctly one Sunday evening when I was struggling to focus on a sermon in church. I was buzzing after a particularly epic ride through the snow on Helvellyn, and he just said to me, ‘get up there and tell them about God’s creativity, witnessed today’. So I guess my motivation comes back to wanting to inspire other people to get out, have their own adventures and to experience that for themselves. If I can become a better photographer at the same time, then that’s an added bonus.