PHOTOGRAPHER, Army cadet volunteer and community radio DJ — Shaun Bennett is such a busy man it’s amazing he has time to hold down a day job, too. We caught up with Shaun, of Swinton, in a brief break in his busy schedule to talk about producing top-class photos and riding the airwaves.
Q: How did you become interested in photography? Were there any particular photographers — either famous names, friends or family members — that sparked your interest?
A: I became interested in photography as a youngster and it has been an on-and-off kind of affair over the decades, from my very first point-and-shoot camera given to me by my dad to the first SLR that he bought me as a teenager — through to the Digital SLRs and 360 degree panorama cameras that I own today.
I still have that camera and it now resides in my display cabinet of camera bodies and accessories.
Q: How have you built your skills? What is your “go-to” camera? Do you use particular equipment to enhance your photos?
A: Over the decades, I have developed my own pictures and slides, bought more pieces of editing software than I really dare to confess, attended courses, both in person and online, and simply gone out and taken photographs that I like, or feel I will like at the time.
My “go to” camera these days tends to be my mobile phone, actually. It is always there and Apple have developed an excellent piece of technology with the three lens system.
It will never beat the modern DSLRs but you don’t have to look hard to find professionals rating it very highly against even the formidable Canon EOS pro cameras like the 5D and 1D.
Enhancing photos tends to be a halfway house between the iPad for quick results and a PC with Lightroom and Photoshop for the real detailed enhancements.
I must confess, though, that I am far from fully conversant with the Adobe suite. It has a steep learning curve, but I am still learning.
Q: What would you describe as being the core aspects of your work? Do you prefer portraits, landscapes or other scenes?
A: The core aspects of my work have recently shifted from people to places.
I love to experiment with lighting, like the Peroni glass, illuminated by my smartphone’s torch or by light sculpting and creating features from spot colours in a black and white image.
I have recently begun to focus on aerial photogrammetry shots and the panoramic images as these offer so much creative flexibility, even more so in shooting videos in “360” (panoramic) mode.
Q: One of your notable styles could be described as the circular panoramic view — how would you describe this, when did you begin to focus on this and how is it achieved?
A: I started experimenting with the “tiny planet” and “rabbit hole” style of images as they are by-products of the panoramic pictures.
Changing focus points and effectively wrapping the image around in one way or another exaggerates the scene you create.
It’s a bit like painting an instant caricature with a photograph and with video the simple analogy for 360s is “shoot first, point later” because you can literally change the point of view as often as you wish and sometimes you realise that an aspect of the image you weren’t actually looking at in the first instance creates an even better shot, or angle, than your original idea.
Q How and where have you showcased your work so far? Do you enjoy showing it off to other people?
A: Artful Online (a showcase by Artful Make it Happen) is the first time I have showcased my work.
I have a classic case of the imposter syndrome; thinking my work isn't as good as “his or hers”, but I take my photographs first and foremost for my own enjoyment, or for a paying client.
Provided that I do them justice and I am happy with my outputs, I tend not to worry too much about seeking accolades from others.
I’ll share an image I am proud of on my social media now and again but I’ve never before had it showcased so I was quite humbled to be selected by Artful as a featured creative.
Q: How do you combine your love of photography with working with the Army Cadets?
A: My day job is in waste management but I volunteer with the Army Cadets and hold the role of County PR officer for Derbyshire ACF.
When the opportunity arose, it was a no-brainer to apply as it combines my love for photography with the opportunity to share knowledge with and to help develop the skills of young men and women (aged between 12 and 18) who, without even realising it, have already set themselves on a path of personal development that will put them head and shoulders above the competition.
Q: You recently co-founded Rockingham Radio. Can you tell us a bit about the process and the reasons behind this? Where is the radio station based and what does its programme involve? What is your DJ style like?
A: I helped to bring the idea to life. It was the brainchild of fellow director, Annabel Vernon, to create a community interest company that delivered community radio to the region as the most well-known local radio stations in our region were being consolidated into a single station by one of the two major media companies in the UK.
I saw the huge potential that this has to help maintain a true local identity, to give local people an opportunity and a voice in their region and I have worked tirelessly to deliver something, undeterred by the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, and we launched on target in May.
We will eventually be based in the grand surroundings of Wath Hall, which was recently bought by a preservation trust from the council to provide a long-standing place for the arts, local heritage and small businesses.
Well, I'm a laid back Libran if that's any clue and my shows are currently called Slow Down Saturday and Slow Down Sunday.
They run between 11am and 1pm and are meant to help ease you through to lunchtime with a mixture of easy listening and a few love songs to put you in a happy place.
Q: You’re the latest creative to be featured by Rotherham Creative Network. How did you come to join RCN and what do you get out of it?
A: I actually stumbled across the Artful Online page and noticed they were calling for creatives to submit content for consideration.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not usually one for self-promotion like that, and compared to musicians and artists questioned whether I was actually a creative but thought to myself “Well, if you don't try, you'll never know” and I took the plunge.
On that basis, I’d rather like to think that Artful Online actually found me and that's why I followed it through.
Q: What advice would you have for any amateur photographers who want to develop their talents?
A: Shoot what you like as often as you can and don't worry about what camera you are using.
I have seen plenty of shots with a £50 camera that have inspired me as much, if not more, than with a £5,000 camera.
If you see beauty in a scene, a person or an object then take your chance and take the shot.
As for developing skills, there is so much quality content available online these days that you cannot fail to find something that both appeals and helps you improve.