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Nick Shepherd - Photographer
“My wife calls it a military operation,” smiles Nick Shepherd over coffee. “Every time I have to go out to get an early shot everything has to be ready the night before – even the thermos!”
We are discussing how he manages to capture the amazing images that have graced the front cover of the vast majority of By The Dart magazine over its four-year history.
The amount of organisation and planning that go into each shot is, frankly, mindboggling.
To get the right light the former finance professional works out the position and angle of the sun or moon (depending on whether it is a night or day shot) in his chosen place, checks the weather reports in detail and of course spends hours walking to find just the right location – it’s all very impressive.
Nick has, in nearly 40 years of photographic endeavour, achieved a huge amount: a Licentiateship of the Royal Photographic Society, won best Spring Photo for the International Garden Photographer of the Year and been a finalist in the Landscape Photographer and Weather Photographer of the Year competitions. His work is also on display at Kew Gardens.
So for someone who has clearly achieved so much at a discipline that is still just a hobby, what keeps Nick getting up in the middle of the night to capture these beautiful pictures?
“I’m chasing the perfect shot I suppose,” he says, “I want to make the most of each location and each shot so it looks its best. I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of the same places, but I’ll always keep looking for something new, slightly better, more satisfying for me as a photographer.
“A good shot does not simply require good planning, good equipment and good timing: it needs luck and that extra something that turns a good shot into a great one. I remember taking a picture on Bayard’s Cove recently - it was just after dawn, the sun was rising between the castles, a light mist was curling off the water. But the shot I took was so much better because a trawler happened to be sailing out of the harbour and a bird flew overhead at the right time. Those two things, which I could never have planned for, made the shot.”
That begs the question: is he often disappointed?
“I’ve left the house at four in the morning to get a shot and there was too much cloud cover, or a particularly pretty house was covered in scaffolding, or the fog was too thick,” he says. “There’s nothing you can do in that instance – you just pack up and go home. But when it works and you get a great shot it was worth all the planning, the early mornings and even the failures – it’s just a great feeling.”
Nick found his passion for photography when he was just 16. Now 55, he focuses on landscapes, expressing his love of the South Devon coast and the high moorland.
“I walk a lot and do enjoy being on my own, and I wanted a way of keeping that special feeling of being the only person to see a beautiful landscape, and share it,” he smiles. “I enjoy being in these breathtakingly beautiful places and just soaking up the view. We are incredibly lucky to live where we do and I feel privileged to be able to document it in my photographs.”
Nick’s wife and two children fully support the work that he does, but point out that he doesn’t display much of his work at his home in Strete.
“I don’t have a great many pictures on my own walls, it’s true,” he says. “The greatest buzz I can possibly get is for other people to see my work, to have it on the front of a magazine, or hanging in someone’s home, that is the most wonderful feeling. That someone has chosen my image to be something they love to look at each day, it’s a feeling that cannot be beaten.
“This is not my business – it’s my passion. I wouldn’t do it unless I loved it, and I do.”
Nick’s Photos can be viewed at his new website: www.southdevonphotos.co.uk. This features galleries with over 1500 photos. It is primarily aimed at businesses that need to promote the area as well as anybody who simply wants to enjoy the beauty of the South Hams. You can contact him to ask about prints and commissions on 01803 770659
Interview by Phil Scoble.
First Published May/June 2012 By The Dart