James Grant is a landscape photographer who lives just outside of Peak District National Park in England. James has gotten to know his local area very well and has every written a very exhaustive book detailing the area: Peak District Through the Lens. James also photographs other locations throughout the UK and beyond. In addition to his book, he also leads photography workshops in the Peak District and other areas.
I recently had the opportunity to interview James about his work.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in photography.
I’m almost 30 and been photographing since 2008 although I only got into it really seriously from 2010. I first bought a camera to accompany me on my hill walks to treasure the memories when I was probably too old to remember them! It was a Sony a200 and at the time it ticked every box in what I wanted and needed as a budding photographer and I seem to have stuck with Sony ever since!
I then went on to win Trail Magazine’s ‘Action Photography Competition’ in early 2009 from an image I had taken of a rock climbing friend on boxing day. One of the prizes was a photography workshop. At this point I was just happy taking pictures as I fancied but on the workshop it became quite apparent people were interested in my photographs and at the end of it, the tutor sat me down and said I needed to make more of it. I started going out for sunrise and sunset, getting more photography orientated and gone from strength to strength from there on in.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I’d like to think of myself as a mountain photographer, which probably isn’t 100% true because I have a mixture of subjects but it’s certainly where my heart lies and I hope to continue and improve on the subject.
What draws you to landscapes rather than other types of photography or subjects?
Landscapes really draw me mainly because of my hill-walking background and I have a real love for them. I’m a bit of a believer in if you love your subject it will shine through in your photos and this is why I don’t venture into other areas as i’m really poor at it! Leave it to those that can.
How has writing and publishing a book impacted your photography career?
Publishing my book was my greatest photographic achievement, not only because I got a book published but because it was crowd-funded and self-published. This was great because it showed people had a real belief and interest in me and it also gave me full creative control over the content. It helped me establish my name more but I think for me, what I liked to see most was the reviews and recommendations. People may not even associate the name so much with the book, almost as if the book is its own brand and that’s fine with me.
Can you tell us about a few of your favorite spots in the Peak District?
I have a few favourite spots in the Peak but the two areas that springs to mind are ‘Chrome and Parkhouse Hill’ and ‘Kinder Scout’. The former used to be a quiet spot, seldom photographed but has surged in popularity in recent years, with good reason. These two hills are two of only a few real peaks in the Peak District and rise sharply out of the Upper Dove Valley. They are so unique and distinctive and have such a great feel to them as well as being very photogenic.
Next, Kinder Scout is Derbyshire’s and the Peak District’s highest mountain (or hill if you prefer) and with that comes effort in getting up there, which in turn makes it a little quieter. Being so large, the area has so may different viewpoints to photograph and can keep you going forever. The views from the edges down to the valleys below are sublime and it has a wild and rugged feel to it, despite being sat being Sheffield and Manchester.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received from another photographer?
I think the best advice from another photographer was from that workshop just spurring me on to give it a go and take if further. 8 years down the line and now i’m a professional photographer, loving what I do and helping to teach others.
What software do you use for post processing?
I use Adobe Lightroom to process most of my images with the odd jump into photoshop where needed, mainly for cloning flare out etc. I like to keep it natural if possible but of course processing is as much of an artform and learning curve as using a camera!
What are some common mistakes that you see new photographers making?
Everyone has to start somewhere. Over-processing has got to be the most common mistake, although it’s always subjective of course! I think most people tone their photos down over the years.
What tips or advice do you have for others?
For me my two biggest factors in photography are light and composition. Get them right first before anything else. Learn the technical last but it is also important to know that of course.
Aside from photography, what hobbies do you have, or what do you like to do for fun?
Recently I’ve started to get into mountain biking. For me, I always like to have something that is a no-pressure hobby. I still love and enjoy photography but it’s also my job and like any job I need a break from it, so that’s my new past time. Just hope I don’t fall off too much!
Connect with James
If you’d like to see more of James’ work or get in touch with him, please use the links below.
All photos in this post are © James Grant, used with permission.