Interview With Colin Prior

Colin Prior is one of the pioneers who brought large vistas to the public through the panoramic photographic format. He is a highly acclaimed landscape photographer and businessman and known world wide for his unique style

Many people find climbing mountains before dusk and staying at the top for a dawn shoot a bit extreme to say the least. However, not being young and fit myself any longer (none of us is getting any younger), I should like to know one thing: how on earth do you manage it? What still drives you to get up there?

It’s simply the opportunity to capture rare moments to which only I am the witness, and also the simple satisfaction of having overcome the mountain and myself. I believe also that, as the standard of photography has improved exponentially amongst recreational photographers, professionals need to be achieving more than the endless repetition of the same kind of picture that has turned so much nature photography into cultural wallpaper.

I believe you used the Fuji GX617 film camera. Are you still using this beautiful beast or have you fallen into the temptation of digital captures stitched in software?

I continue to work with both the Fuji GX617 and the Linhof Technorama as they create an aesthetic not possible by any other means. Photography, for me will always be about capturing a moment in time. The idea of stitching a series of moments together has no personal appeal and I continue to work with these cameras because I can. In the not too distant future the demise of film is inevitable and the panoramic archive I have created, not just in Scotland but in many parts of the world, is likely to become a unique resource.

Can you tell us a few things about the rest of your gear and why you chose it?

I have worked with a DSLR since 2004 and still shoot with that original camera. I have been waiting patiently for the next generation of digital cameras, which we are beginning to see in the Nikon D800, and I suspect that we shall see professional versions of these in the not too distant future. Professional cameras with 36MP or greater will become the future platform for working professionals which, despite their likely high price, will be an option considerably cheaper than medium format platforms.

You have mentioned elsewhere that you use colours and shapes to provide a graphic image. Can you explain this a bit further please?

The key to all good photography is subtraction: you need to ask yourself, “what can be subtracted from the scene before me to make it stronger”? Simplicity is the other key. I’m willing to bet that most of your all-time favourite images are really simple, and I mean really, really simple. Most photographs are too complex.

It is obvious that you still have a great love for ‘Big Landscapes’. Can you tell us how it all started?

It was the appeal of the 617 format. Back in the mid-eighties, few people ever shot with these specialised cameras and when I saw an advertising campaign for UPS by Harry de Zitter, shot on 617, it just fired my imagination and made me realise that ...

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