Jeremy Walker has been producing eye-catching award winning landscape and architectural imagery for advertising, editorial and design clients around the globe for over twenty years.
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Starting out in the film era, he has used Nikon kit all his working life, but it was with the advent of Nikon's full-frame cameras that he hit his digital stride, first moving to the D700 and now using the 36-megapixel D810, his eye-catching panoramic stitches earning him a reputation as one of the UK's leading landscape photographers. He is a regular guest speaker and lecturer both at home and abroad, as well as a popular contributor to the UK's top photo publications, and a highly experienced workshop leader. Recently named Nikon UK's new Landscape Ambassador, Jeremy tells us about what the Ambassador role means, why it's no surprise that the Lake District has been voted the country's favourite photo location, and what his own top spots are… and also makes a rather surprising confession…
You don't take it for granted; it's very gratifying and nice to be recognised. I've done work for Nikon PR in the past, including the Nikon Df brochure. As an ambassador I'm supplying images, doing social media and advertorials, and I'll be speaking at conferences and shows. I'll also be working with Nikon School running workshops in Dorset, Skye and Iceland. I'm happy to support Nikon in any way I can. And I've already started doing things I wouldn't have done if I wasn't an ambassador – like a recent 'official ambassador' visit to Grays of Westminster, where I also got to see all the incredibly rare collectible cameras. I was like a kid in a sweet shop. I handled a camera that is so rare it's for sale for £125,000. Grays has equipment that even Nikon doesn't have!
Not really! Windermere is so well known, and easily accessible by road and train, and it's a great starting point for exploring the Lakes, along with Ambleside and Keswick. Castlerigg stone circle, Loughrigg Tarn, Blea Tarn and Langdale Valley are all particular favourite places of mine to shoot in the Lakes, while Coniston Water has some great locations without the crowds. Autumn is my favourite time of year to be there, with the fall colours and a hint of the coming winter in the air, but it's a great place to visit whenever you get the opportunity.
One of my favourites, and I am slightly biased as it's right on my doorstep in Dorset, is the Jurassic Coast. I never tire of it – it's not the most rugged, but there's always something to shoot. All coastal areas have a certain light, but the Channel weather and the ebb and flow of the tides always make this one so interesting. And there's so much variety, including the sea stacks of Old Harry Rocks at Purbeck, the fossils, the military ranges, the lighthouse at Portland, the lost village of Tyneham that was taken over by the army during the Second World War, the Cobb at Lyme Regis, Corfe Castle – it's more than just landscape, there's so much human involvement over the years. There's also a great café at Kimmeridge called Clavell's – in fact, it must be the best tea shop in the world! Good tea shops are always a bonus for locations, as anyone who's ever done a workshop with me will know…
Then there's the west coast of Scotland and the Highlands, especially Rannoch Moor and Glencoe. They're the best mountains in the UK. I love the drama, they're great for open spaces, extreme conditions – that's what I find appealing. And there's a particularly good tea shop near Glencoe at Ballachulish… I also love North Wales, particularly Snowdonia – I'm drawn to the industrial heritage, the slate mines, the railways, the castles – it's one of those landscapes that pulls you in.
It was the F2A – Peter Lowry was a Nikon user, and he told me that Nikon was the best 35mm brand. And he was right, of course; it's fabulous kit. I then worked my way through the FM2, F4S and D2X, but I used to use 6x12 and 6x17 format for my panoramics until the full-frame D700 came out. The D700 really opened up the potential for shooting stitched panoramas. With its big pixels and very low noise it was an ideal tool for producing large files from three or four frames stitched together in post-production. Combined with its relatively small and lightweight body and good weather sealing, it was ideal for lugging up hills, too!
I still use the D3X occasionally, which I like a lot, but I'm now mostly using the D810 – I've got one of my own and one on loan from Nikon. The pixel count is fantastic; you can crop in and in and in and you still have a 40MB file that's good enough for a double-page spread. I love the fact that it has an electronic front curtain shutter for reduced vibration – what a great idea – and the rear screen split, where you can have an image at 100% and normal on the same screen, is very useful. And the little metal shutter on the back of the eyepiece is inspired – it stops light from leaking into the viewfinder when you're working with long shutter speeds and slow exposures. I just love this camera – the size, the build quality, the high ISO and low noise, the superb battery life, the cost… it's good value and so versatile, and it's capable of so much.
I've got the 'standard' landscape NIKKORs – the 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 – but my favourite lens at the moment is the 45mm tilt-shift Micro NIKKOR. I bought it for a commission to shoot the New York skyline last year; I needed a lens with a rising front, and the 45mm suited what I wanted. I used it in New York every single day for a week, and now it's always in my bag. It doubles as a macro lens, too – I used it in Yosemite on a workshop earlier this year for close-ups, and they were stunningly sharp. It's a great versatile, all-round lens. I've also got the 105mm f/2.8 Micro and the 50mm f/1.8, which I use as a 'walk-around' lens when I'm checking locations in a city – not only is it lightweight, it's also very unobtrusive.
My latest acquisition is the 200-400mm f/4. I'd known I needed a long lens for a while, and it was really brought home to me late one afternoon on my way back from a commission when I saw a deer with a fawn in a meadow, beautifully backlit, but only had the 14-24mm with me. Anyway, not long afterwards, I was at a photography show where a friend was thinking of buying the 200-400mm and asked me to check it for him. I liked it so much that I ended up buying one myself from the same dealer. I've reconfigured my camera bag so I can keep it in there permanently. I can't believe how sharp it is at either end. The ironic thing is, I've been mostly shooting flowers with it – if you use it wide open, the depth of field is about one inch and the bokeh is incredible.
I actually failed O level photography at school. I misread the practical brief – it was all about reflections and water, and I'd done some that weren't reflections in water. It certainly taught me a lesson – read the brief properly! In my defence, the school didn't actually teach O level photography – we were doing it by ourselves in the sixth form. I was taking it as an extra to get a couple of additional points, but then I really got into it, and for the first time in my life there was something I was really good at.
So I ended up going to see Peter Lowry, who is based in my home town of Frome and just happened to be one of the country's top social photographers, to ask if I could be his assistant; he said no, but when he saw my work said I ought to go to art college. I got offered a place at Somerset Arts College, and from there went to Gloucester and Cheltenham College of Art. I then spent four years as an assistant in London, then moved to Northampton to run a commercial studio for a print-design company for five years, before going freelance. It was then that I really started to get into landscapes, shooting stock for Tony Stone Images. Eventually I decided to move back to the West Country to concentrate on landscapes and travel full time.