Storytelling is intrinsic to the art of photography and nobody does it quite like Jack Anstey. This UK-based outdoor and adventure photographer has taken his craft high into the mountains, capturing life in the midst of some of the harshest conditions in nature.
Jack's photography is oftentimes stark with contrasts and clever use of the human element within dramatic surroundings. His portfolio encompasses a range of commercial shoots for world-renowned brands, including Adobe, Audi, Hasselblad, National Geographic and The North Face.
This week, we were lucky enough to have a chat with Jack about the meaning of photography, what he enjoys shooting, an upcoming online course in which he teaches photography and post-processing, as well as what he has planned for the rest of the year.
Jack Anstey is an outdoor and adventure photographer from the UK. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
Hello Jack! Thank you for joining us today. For our readers who may be unfamiliar with your work, can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? How did you get your start in photography?
I’m a 28 year old outdoor and adventure photographer from the UK and I spend most of my time travelling around in a van, searching for the next adventure. I first started taking photos back in my early teens of me and my friends skating and BMXing. Over time, this mingled in with my passion for the outdoors, adventure and discovering the beauty of the world. This developed over time until I took the plunge into freelance photography and I haven’t looked back since.
Jack has mixed his passion for the outdoors with photography. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
What does photography mean for you? How do you use it for storytelling purposes and what kinds of moments or atmospheres do you try to capture in your work?
To me, photography is about much more than a single image. I like to capture the whole essence of the scene and environment, trying to transport the audience to the location and take them along for the ride. I love the feeling of searching for the next amazing location and the next set of images but in some ways, I hope I never achieve total satisfaction with photography. I want to always be hungry for the next adventure and next experience.
Photography is about much more than a single image. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
Do you prefer to photograph close to home or do you find faraway places more inspiring? Are there any special places that inspire you the most to create new work?
It’s very mixed for me. I love travelling and experiencing the more remote and harsher environments, like Iceland and Norway, but I also get a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment from photographing in Scotland and across the UK as well.
Jack is inspired by nature. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
Generally, I find I’m more inspired by the elements and the power of Mother Nature, which is why I’m naturally drawn to harsher climates and rougher weather conditions.
You have an incredible portfolio of images, oftentimes taken in cold and harsh conditions. What makes your photography unique is your particular style. Can you describe for our readers how your style differs from that of other photographers?
There’s something about being out in the elements that really resonates with me. I guess you could say I’m not a sunny day kind of guy; I like to feel the full force of the landscape and environment. By spending so much time in Scotland, I’ve grown accustomed to shooting in wetter, windier and colder conditions and learnt to love working within them. It’s these experiences in nature that I love sharing so much.
Jack loves to share the conditions in which he works. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
Locations and weather conditions are a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors, particularly when you are travelling and have a limited amount of time to capture a particular place?
You’ve always got to make do with what you get in photography but I find that I love taking photos so much that I’m always inspired and shooting in all weather types – even if I never actually process the images from certain locations. It’s great when everything comes together and the conditions are just perfect but I think you have to be prepared to work with whatever you get. In the summer, this might mean getting up at 3AM to shoot when the light is warm and soft, or in the winter going out in the harshest rain to really experience nature.
Be inspired to shoot in all weather. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
In terms of post-production, what programs do you use and what is your aim with the final result?
All my images are edited within Lightroom and Photoshop, and I try to retain certain natural qualities to my images. I find it’s best to try and remove distractions and try to focus the audience\s attention, without modifying the original composition too much.
Jack tries to retain the natural qualities of his images. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
What challenges you most these days with shooting? From the world of photography, what keeps you motivated or inspired?
I love the challenge of a difficult project to work on. A lot of the time, I shoot for myself, where I get to dictate where, when and what I’m shooting. But being presented a difficult product to shoot and finding a way to get creative and good results is a challenge that I relish. I’ve got a few interesting things I’m working on at the moment that are getting all my creative juices flowing – thinking of different and captivating ways to shoot products that can be relatively static.
Jack is challenged by creative shoots. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
For photographers who are trying to get their work seen and to establish a portfolio, what advice would you give?
Work hard, have passion and be patient. It takes a long time to gain recognition and build up a professional portfolio, but the shining light through it all needs to be your passion for what you’re doing. I spent a long time working 9-5 in the week, whilst side hustling photography. Every evening, I’d spend 4-5 hours editing images and then at weekends, I’d drive all night to get to the mountains for an adventure. It takes time and effort but the reward is there if you want to seize it.
Passion is of the utmost importance in photography. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
What are your biggest marketing tools and how did you harness them to create a successful photography business?
Instagram to me has always been the main marketing factor within my business. Over years of travelling, shooting and posting, I built up a healthy following that enables businesses to find my work. I like to post a whole series of images, rather than a single image, which means I have a bit more freedom to show some diversity and context within my images. Posting images that tell a story and that brands can see their products in is going to help a lot.
Instagram is one of Jack's biggest marketing tools. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
You’ve worked with a number of very well-known brands in the adventure industry, including Arc’teryx, The North Face and National Geographic. Which assignment has been the most exciting or interesting for you? Where would you like to take your collaborations in the future?
The most interesting and stimulating project might have been a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos I did last year – it’s so far out of my comfort zone of the mountains and harsher weather that it really challenged me and opened up my eyes to a whole different experience in the world. Spending some time out in Chamonix with Arc’teryx last year was also really great. We spent a lot of time hiking, climbing and mountaineering, which lined up perfectly with the hobbies and passions I love. In the future, I’d love to work on a few more climbing and mountaineering projects – maybe looking for more documentary style shooting and work.
Climbing and mountaineering is something Jack would like to do more of in the future. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
You currently have a preset collection for sale on your website. How can our readers benefit from purchasing these? Do they have to already have a particular style of image for the presets to be effective?
My presets have always done well within the market, I work hard to create them and make them applicable to a wide range of images and within them, I also include a tutorial of how I apply and use them (which helps a lot). Presets are a great starting point for any edit and I really wanted to create a set that can be used in a manner of different conditions, so I worked hard to achieve that.
Jack's presets are applicable to a wide range of images. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
Do you have any plans to expand into photography education, such as running workshops or making a YouTube channel where people can learn from what you do?
I’ve just finished shooting and editing a full online course, helping people to learn Lightroom and photography, right through from beginner tutorials up to advanced techniques. This will be going live at the end of July 2020 and will be available through my website. I also take part in hosting a Sony Photography Workshop in Scotland alongside Jack Harding and Kai Grossman. On this, we take a group of guests around the Scottish Highlands, working with them to enhance their photography skills and letting them get to grips with the latest Sony Alpha equipment.
Jack has an upcoming course available in which you can learn how to shoot and edit online. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
With the advent of social media platforms such as Instagram, some locations are being destroyed by visitors and the preservation of the environment is becoming a bigger concern. As photography is an influential medium, do you use the power of your photographs to promote conservation and environmental awareness? Do you have any thoughts about how photographers in general can become more involved in this important matter?
It’s definitely an important thing to consider. Personally, I’ve seen the way that it has impacted the landscape within Scotland and it’s a very difficult subject for me. I think it’s important that people consider their environmental responsibility when they’re out exploring and aim to leave a place tidier and better than it was when they arrived. Usually, I come back from a day's walk with my bag’s side pockets rammed full of bottles and cans that I find when I’m out on the trail. To try and reduce footfall, I don’t often disclose the locations of my images – I’ve seen first-hand how landscapes can be damaged by tourism and I want to try and do my part to help protect it.
Consider nature and the environment when you are out shooting. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
What sorts of things do you think might challenge you in the future or do you have any photographs or styles that you want to investigate? How do you see your photography evolving over time?
I’d love to push my photography higher into the mountains. I spend a lot of time climbing and hiking and I’d like to set out on some more elaborate and grander trips. It’s something I’ve been working on a lot recently, I’m now just waiting for the right opportunity.
Jack would like to push his photography higher up into the mountains. Photo by: 'Jack Anstey'.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today. Tell us a little bit about what you’re currently working on and what’s in store for you in the coming year.
It’s been an interesting year so far to say the least! After a busy and fun-filled start, I’ve been grounded for the last four months due to COVID-19 but with the rules and restrictions lifted, I’m looking forward to getting back out again and travelling more. The lockdown has made me appreciate the outdoors in much more detail and I think it’s going to change my outlook on life as we move forward. I think this will start by slowing down my pace a lot more, travelling less and working to spend more time in nature itself. I also want to make sure I’m getting the most out of every experience, so I’d love to spend more time wild camping and climbing over the coming months. A lot of my travels for the rest of the year are going to be based within the UK, as it seems like the safest and most sensible option moving forward. With some exciting projects and plans coming up across the UK, I can’t wait to get started.
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