Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

I have had a most wonderful time recently viewing the photography of British photographer/artist Angela Harburn.  I hope you will enjoy Angela’s work and this interview as much as I did!  You can view some of Angela’s amazing photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/kit10.

Hello Angela, please tell me when did you first get into photography?

My love of photography really only began in 2002 when my husband bought me my first digital camera as a birthday gift.
From childhood into my late teens I tried my hand at drawing and painting but the results never came close enough to the real thing to satisfy me artistically so I began to look for other ways to capture the images around me.  I dabbled with various film cameras over the years but found the cost of film and development expensive and felt conscious of wasting film on experimental shots which were not always successful. The move to digital photography was a creative revelation for me; the ability to edit and improve a shot with a computer and my beloved software programs was so rewarding.  I have just recently upgraded to my first DLSR: a Sony Alpha 700, which is an absolute joy to use.

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

That’s fantastic Angela! So tell me, what inspires you artistically?

It probably sounds a bit of a cliché, but I find everything around me a source of inspiration, from everyday items at home, my family and animal companions to the stunning surroundings in which we live here in the North East of England.

Additionally I am a complete addict of the CGI work in films! While the family are enjoying the storyline, I am soaking up the special effects and ‘green screen’ work like a sponge.  I guess in another life I would have loved to be a ‘matte artist’ and help to create the backdrops that were painted on glass for the film industry!

I have also been inspired by the wealth of talent and creativity from my fellow members of Redbubble (www.redbubble.com).  In fact, it is since joining the site a year ago that my photography and artwork has developed in so many different ways, from viewing others’ images and techniques, and receiving such amazing encouragement from them on my work in return.

Please explain the techniques you use to create your fascinating photo compilations and other photo styles?

For my ‘fantasy’ images I start by browsing through my photo collection; sometimes with a specific theme or message in mind, but not always…until one catches my eye.  Using Photoshop CS3, I create layers and begin to work my way through my favorite filters, manipulating color first, changing the light and contrast until I achieve a good background with which to work.  Next step is to ‘set the scene’ by adding ‘cut-outs’ from other photos or brushes to give it a story line.  Once I am happy with the result I try to build up from the 2D image to produce an element of depth with additional layers of texture and color, using opacity and mode to adjust the strength and impact of each layer’s effect on the original image.  Finally, I add lighting effects using Photoshop’s onboard filters or Auto FX Dreamsuite to add that extra glow or light ray where it is needed to get as close as I can to the ‘perfect’ end result!

I do ‘tweak’ my other ‘straight’ photos very slightly to bring out their best, but my aim is always to improve them without overly processing the image too much.  Again I mainly use Photoshop’s tools, but also find Paintshop Pro particularly good as a companion program especially for accentuating details.  For me, the end result has got to look real and not too contrived…if you can tell what I’ve done to it, then I’ve done too much.

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Please share with us what kind of camera and lenses you currently use? (Can you be specific about the models, etc?)

I have just recently upgraded to my first  DLSR, a Sony Alpha 700 with a Tamron AF 28-200mm Super Zoom Lens (with which I am completely over-the-moon).  I previously had a Nikon Coolpix 8800E which was a fabulous bridge camera that did me proud for a number of years, but I eventually outgrew it.   I spent a long time researching before I chose the Sony, taking time to go round all the shops and try out many models.  I knew it was the one for me as it felt right, and made a satisfying ‘click’ when it took the shots!  Eventually I would love to own a longer range telephoto lens to capture wildlife, but I guess that will have to go on the ‘wish list’ for now!

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Also, what kind of tripod, if any, do you use?

My tripod is a bit of a joke, it is a very compact model that I got as a free gift with my lighting tent kit.  You could request any color, and I asked for anything but pink (as I go out in the countryside and wanted to blend in as much a possible).  Well, as you’ve probably guessed, I received the shocking metallic pink one!!!  I do intend to get a better tripod eventually, but for now I like to be spontaneous with my shots; the process of setting up the tripod is a bit too laborious for me, although I have achieved some great results when I make the effort to use it.

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

If there was no limit on your budget for photography equipment, what would you buy (include name brands and models, etc.)?

The new Sony Alpha 900 with 24.6 mega pix resolution would definitely be at the top of the shopping list…with a full selection of lenses to go with it of course! If I could add an Apple Mac Pro with 30 in. Apple Cinema HD Display and the latest versions of Photoshop and Paintshop Pro, that would be my dream kit!

What, in your opinion, do you think has contributed to making your photos excellent?

It is extremely generous of you to say that Zoe, thank you!  I guess my style is quite eclectic and my love of experimentation with combinations of filters and brushes never gives the same end result.  Quite often an image ‘just happens’ as I work with it, possibly because my knowledge of the software I use is self-taught and non-conventional, but the end result always has to have a story or convey a message.  If it makes someone stop and think…or better still, makes them feel uplifted, then I feel it is has been worthwhile.

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Do you have any favorite photography books, and also favorite photographers?

I’ve squirreled away a great many wonderful photography books over the years…far too many to mention in fact!  I love ‘coffee table books,’ those oversize publications full of glorious images; be it landscape, wildlife, architecture or travel, I can spend hours pouring over them, and often do!

For Digital Art:  The ‘Ballistic Publishing’ D’artiste series of books (http://www.ballisticpublishing.com) are amazing and an unending source of inspiration and delight.  I received ‘Matte Painting’ some years ago, and am continuing to collect their other publications whenever I can.

As for favorite photographers, again, there are probably too many to list.  I would like to draw attention again to the wonderful world of Redbubble…the people that contribute to the site are outstanding, and they are my inspiration and my aspiration.  I can honestly say that every day I see work that makes me realize I have much to learn and a long way still to go.  That is the great thing about photography…its possibilities are endless.  I can never imagine a time when I will have mastered it completely or have ceased to search for that ‘perfect image.

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

Lots of Layers: Interview With Photographer/Artist Angela Harburn

What is your ‘real’ profession, or is it art/photography?

My actual professional life was spent ‘behind a desk’ in industry for 21 years.  I had wanted to go to art college and study Interior Design when I left school, but that didn’t happen for a number of reasons.  It was only when I was fortunate enough to ‘retire’ early, thirteen years ago, that my lifelong love of art and digital photography was able to blossom into the obsession that it is today.

If I had to come down on one side of the fence or the other between calling myself a photographer or an artist, I guess it would have to be the latter choice, that of an artist.  Truthfully, I regard the photograph as just the first stage of the image…I take the shot with a view to what it might become, rather than what it is. That process is the exciting part for me…capturing a moment in time and using it to create something extraordinary!

Thanks so much for your time today Angela, it’s been a fascinating journey you’ve taken us on!

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