March 5, 2008
Andy Rouse is a man of many talents: Wildlife Photographer, Writer, Workshop Leader, Blogger, and Champion of Charity. Those who saw his demonstration of the Nikon D3 at Focus on Imaging 2008, will know he’s also a very candid and witty speaker. I’ve emailed and spoken with Andy before about Lightroom, but meeting him at Focus gave me a chance to get an interview with him for Lightroom-News readers.
Q. Andy, I’ve been familiar with your work through many magazines, books and of course your blog. Your blog is an especially great resource for both wildlife lovers and photographers. What made you start blogging?
I just wanted to improve my communication with those amateur photographers that have followed my work since the start of my career. I have always been fortunate to have a good following and I wanted to be able to have a vehicle to show my latest work, share some of my thoughts on photography and also advertise any events that I am participating in. I am not sure if my BLOG would even win any awards for style or content but I just try to keep it real and to show inspirational pictures that encourage photographers to escape their workstations and to start taking pictures again.
Q. You were very involved with Pixmantec and subsequently began using Lightroom to process your images. What is the key reason you use Lightroom?
When the acquisition happened I was spitting fire as I was effectively sold up the river by the two directors. So I did not use Lightroom for a while. But over the past year I have come to depend on it more and more and I am happy to see the feature set keeps evolving. When I first looked at LR I evaluated it against other competitors and my primary test was to see the quality of the TIF conversion from a RAW and how the particular product dealt with different types of images; wildlife shots can be in extreme conditions with extremes of colour too, often in low light. From my testing then, and recently against a new competitor, I can say that in my opinion the LR conversion is streets ahead of the competition. It produces sharp images with good highlight and noise control and I feel that I am getting a true representation of what I shot. Of course I use the Compare functionality a lot to cut down my images to a working collection and have also started to use quick collections and virtual copy, but in truth my usage of Lightroom is quite basic. But it does accompany me on my MAC on all of my travels and I use it in some of the most remote locations in the world to perform an initial edit of my work and to rate the best images for priority processing when I get home. I have just used this to good effect in Rwanda where I spent a week with the awesome Mountain Gorillas; one week after returning I have about 150 TIFs processed and ready for clients, which trust me is amazing for someone as disorganized as I am!
Q. Where’s your favourite local shooting haunt? How about your favourite foreign location?
Very difficult to nail it down as I just love being out and about. My favourite UK subjects are deer and hares and for the exotics it has to be tigers, bears and gorillas. But I am just as happy photographing anything really.
Q. Along with shooting wildlife you also run workshops, both UK based as well as places like Africa and the Galapagos Islands. What was your most favourite recent trip? Do you have any special workshops planned?
Recently I took 7 clients to experience Mountain Gorillas for a week and that was a really special experience. I love taking people out of their normal lives and showing them something special and the Mountain Gorillas are certainly that. I also get a kick from helping people to improve their photography, which I do on a trip by pulling my work apart and analyzing what makes it work together with positive critiques of my client’s work. This month I am heading off to India for 2 months working with tigers, a bit of an indulgence really, and I am so looking forward to it. I realise that I do live a charmed life, some people have described it as a rock star life, which in terms of travel I guess it is…, just with a lemonade budget!
Q. You also do a lot of public speaking. You’ve done some talks recently with Joe Cornish. The money from these talks is donated to the Aspira Fund which supports small conservation and humanitarian projects worldwide. Tell us a small bit about Aspira.
I have always done a lot of charity work but always behind the scenes without getting my name involved. Traveling so much I see a lot of small wildlife and humanitarian projects worldwide that are desperate for funds but which are too small to attract them. So with Paramo Directional Clothing (an ethical manufacturer of outdoor clothing that I use) I set up the Aspira Fund to try to help these small projects. To support the fund we brought out a special range of tough, outdoor garments, and the profits from them are ploughed straight into the fund. In addition I donate a proportion of my print sales and this year I have started the Inner Visions talks with Joe that make a sizeable donation too. Last year we made donations to help the conservation of the Capercaillie in Scotland and to a youth project in Rwanda to help child victims of the genocide. Of course the cynics say that I just do this for PR, what they fail to realise is that all of the money for the Aspira comes from my pocket and my profits. This year we have some grand plans for the Aspira donations and I will be visiting a project in India that we think we can help out. It is such a good feeling to do something like this.
Q. You managed to find time to write a book about RAW, called Understanding RAW Photography. What inspired this?
Simply that so much hot air and bluster surrounds RAW that is was frightening off most photographers from trying it. So I decided to write a book for the average amateur wildlife photographer out there rather than the geeks that constantly slag me off on dpreview. So the book is undeniably basic and at a very simple level because RAW is not difficult at all, the only problem is looking at all the different workflows and working out what is best for you. The book is now reprinting after only 2 months so this, and the reviews from the photographers that it has helped, makes me think that I have the level just about right. My next book is due out in May and is entitled Concepts of Nature. It is a coffee table book, packed with the best pictures of my career to date, and hopefully has some inspirational things to say. Check my website in May for signed copies.
Q. A final Lightroom question before we finish: what feature would you most like to see added to Lightroom?
Actually this is a strange one. I use the Compare function and in version 1.3.1 it has been changed and no longer works as it should, so please Adobe just fix this as we all depend on it! I guess what everyone wants is for LR to be able to do localized corrections in the same way that Photoshop can and I am sure that I would use this if it were included in the product at some future date.
Q. And finally, you’ve recently changed to using the Nikon D3. I’m a Canon user personally, but I was very impressed with your demo at Focus On Imaging. What’s the biggest thing that made you change systems?
Simply because the D3 is the tool that I need to do the job. It’s autofocus is reliable, high ISO performance incredible and the images are ready to go almost straight from the camera. In fact my workflow time has been reduced and I feel that my work is now of a slightly higher quality. So it was a pure business decision that was incredibly hard to make and has so far cost me 15k in new gear. Contrary to the silly rumours on the internet, Nikon have not paid me to change and they have not given me any discount on gear, they have played it cool and I think that was the right thing to do. My first big shoot with the D3 was the gorillas and you can see the results on my BLOG and I am really excited about shooting in India with it for two months.
Thanks again to Andy for giving the interview. He’s incredibly busy preparing for his trip, so it was great that he could fit this in!