“Then suddenly, I discovered something amazing … “: Meet Paul Iddon, a self-taught photographer and Calvendo wall calendar publisher whose big passion is macro photography. Here, he tells us why, talks about his technical equipment and gives some good advice for Calvendo newcomers.
I found an interest in photography 20 or 30 years ago, back in the days when 36mm film was the standard. After trying a few film cameras, I decided that I wanted an SLR, and my first SLR was a Canon EOS. I never had any training on using a quality camera, and so became self-taught, but in retrospect I was limited in my abilities. I did landscapes and people, much like everybody else. I suppose, looking back, all my photos were pretty average – even if at the time, I thought they were good myself!
How would you describe your style and approach as a photographer?
Since the arrival of digital SLRs, the options for different genres have grown and when I eventually moved to digital (after a 3 year sabbatical having sold my film camera to fund a holiday), I stayed with Canon and began to experiment with various lenses, especially zooms, which broadened my interests into animals and birds. I found my portraits were merely OK, and landscapes were passable, but wildlife was more interesting and kept me going for many years, but only to satisfy myself and my growing collection of jpegs.
Then suddenly, in December 2008, I discovered something amazing … the Sigma 105 macro lens. A new world slowly opened up before my eyes and I discovered a style of photography that I really enjoyed more than any other, and still do to this very day.
Let’s talk tools: What type of camera are you using and why?
I started on the dSLR trail with an EOS 300D, and moved slowly through newer models – the 400D, 450D, 550D, and even played around with full frame on the 5D MkII, before getting my current camera, the Canon EOS 70D. I just find the screen and live view to be a fantastic tool for macro work, allowing me to get to angles I previously couldn’t do. As with cameras, so too did I allow myself to work through macro lenses – the Sigma 105mm being the first, before moving to the Canon 100mm lens, and that was updated to the Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS. This is one of my current “go to” lenses, the other being an amazing piece of kit – the LAOWA Venus 60mm 2:1 Super Macro lens. The quality of this glass is excellent and lets me really get into the detail of tiny creatures, especially with extension tubes added for good measure. The problem with this lens is getting sufficient light on the subjects – being two inches from a tiny bug means flash is crucial and with up-close flash comes plenty of other problems …
What makes a good photo for you?
A good photo is personal. It has to appeal to the viewer, and needs to have sufficient impact. Luckily, with macro, impact can be created by putting the subject really large and up close, showing detail in eyes especially. For landscapes and portraits – they need to make you want look at the personality or wander through a scene.
Do you have favourite photographers that inspire you?
In the world of macro, I enjoy the work of a gentleman called Brian Valentine and from the famous Thomas Shahan but since Facebook came on the scene, along with so many forums on the internet, there are many excellent macro togs who take stunning close up images.
You’ve got quite a wide portofolio – macro, animals, landscapes, people. Which type of photography and motives do you like most?
Macro will always be my favourite photographic genre. Discovering a new world under our noses that we normally never see, and the thrill of the chase when something flies around the garden that I know I have to capture in camera always inspires me to keep my macro lens working!
You’ve so far created three wall calendars with Calvendo. Why did you decide to give our publishing platform a go and how do you set about the process of choosing themes and pictures?
My first creation was the ‘Ladybirds and Bees of the UK’, which was selected for the ‘Made in the UK’ calendar range, but I realised the subject matter may have a more limited appeal than many others, so I began to examine my back catalogue to see if I could find anything else suitable. Then my second selection was the ‘Birds and more Birds’ calendar for which I found quite a decent amount of usable images stored on my hard drives, and I figured that our feathered friends may bring some success.
Then, as I was searching, I of course found my landscapes, which looking back upon, suggested there were probably sufficiently pleasing numbers to allow me to find enough to show in a calendar – and maybe prove to myself that there may just be more than one string to my bow. I wanted to produce a bit of variety. Maybe my next calendar might be more specialized – macro subjects of things that only the enthusiast might want on a wall … Spiders anyone???
Do you have any specific tips for Calvendo first time user?
Read carefully the help and advice on the website. My first attempt needed quite a few tweaks until I got it to a good enough standard for it to be included in Calvendo’s range. Take your time, and be sure to weed out images that are not going to make the grade before you submit anything.
Last but not least, what are your general comments on Calvendo as a self-publishing platform: Anything you particularly like? Or things that need improving?
I think that being able to make something like this is enjoyable and honestly, it not so difficult to do. The templates are well structured, but I would like to see the option of a bit more space on the A4 and A3 calendars so that those who do buy them will be able to make notes on dates. My wife jots all kinds of things on our calendar, and for that they need a bit of extra room, but this must not be at the expense of losing too much of the photograph.
Thanks, Paul, for taking the time to answer our questions! And we’ve got good news for you :-): Calvendo actually offers so-called organiser templates that users can choose in the online editor for their calendars and they offer more space for notes on the calendar grid. Blog post with more info here.
Paul’s website: www.pauliddon.co.uk