A chat with Alex Treadway
Driven by a passion for travel and remote cultures, and specialising in the Himalayan mountains, recent travel photography signing Alex Treadway has wowed viewers with his dynamic and colourful travel photos. Four-times finalist of Travel Photographer of the Year, his work has graced the cover of National Geographic and been published in The Guardian, The Times, Action Asia and many others. We caught up with Alex to find out more about his career and travel insights.
A Nepali girl bungy jumping at The Last Resort in Nepal, Asia
Where are you from and where do you live?
I’m from Cornwall. I lived in Kathmandu for four years and now I’m based in Stoke Newington, London. I bought a wreck last year and did it up. I’m thankful to have finally moved in!
How long have you been a professional photographer?
15 Years. I was a graphic designer before that and studied graphic design and photography in Denmark.
A trekker stands among prayer flags beside the holy lakes at Gosainkund in the Langtang region, Himalayas, Nepal, Asia
How did you first get into photography?
My Dad was a good photographer and I remember the kitchen wall in the house I grew up in was covered in little black and white prints he had taken over the years. Some of them were really creative, others were just family photos, but that wall was a real inspiration to me. I wanted to have my own wall one day. When I went to school Dad finally bought me a proper SLR camera. It was a Chinon with a Pentax lens.
Where are you now and what are you shooting?
I’ve been commissioned to photograph a book this year about iconic treks around the world. I just returned from Greece having finished the first trek in the Taygetos mountains in the Peloponnese.
The crystal clear Shyok River creates a mirror image of sunrise on Karakoram peaks beyond the Khapalu valley near Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, Asia
What are your favourite destinations/subjects to photograph and why?
I’ve spent a lot time working in the Himalayas and the allure never goes away. I was fortunate to travel through northern Pakistan and Afghanistan while I was shooting a book. I reached some very remote little villages in the mountains where there would never be anywhere to stay, but the locals were always so generous with their hospitality.
They would re-arrange their entire home so I could sleep in my own room, and always cook far more food than I could ever eat. The mountains in Pakistan are like nowhere else in the Himalayas; brooding and menacing and towering above like gothic cathedrals. There was a genuine old-world feeling in Pakistan that made me feel like I was discovering travelling all over again.
A girls face is decorated with henna in an unusual pattern, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Asia
How would you describe your style?
Spontaneous and real (I hope). I tend to work fairly free and light. I prefer to work with fixed lenses and keep things simple. I find that too much gear and technology is clutter in the mind as well as in the bag.
Can you recall a favourite experience on your travels?
All the mountain regions in Nepal have something very different to offer, and no two trips ever feel the same. I had a great experience trekking the Manaslu circuit. It’s a relatively undiscovered area which is going to change fast, but for now it remains a very special place.
Painted face masks on display in the historical Newar city of Bhaktapur, Nepal
Can you recall a particularly challenging experience while taking photos and travelling?
I got hit by a big landslide while driving across a pass in Ladakh. I managed to jump out of the jeep just seconds before a bolder the size of a fridge-freezer hit the roof and destroyed the car completely. I then ran through a bombardment of flying stones and spent the night sleeping in a hut at 4500m. It had rained all day while driving and Ladakh is particularly dangerous when it rains. The earth is dry, soft and sandy and turns into a mudslide pretty quickly causing landslides. I pay a lot more attention to weather forecasts since then.
A Nubra woman wears traditional dress to attend a gathering at a local monastery in the Nubra Valley, Ladakh, India, Asia
What camera/s and equipment do you use? Do you have a favourite piece of equipment?
Most of my gear is Nikon. My main camera is a Nikon D800. I generally shoot with prime lenses. I’ve always got a 50mm 1.4 on me. Gitzo tripod and head – LowePro bags – MSR tent – Lavazza coffee!
What are your tips for taking a good photo?
When it comes to photographing people, I always make the effort to find some common ground before I start pointing a camera in peoples faces. I like to work close to the subject and feel my way into a situation rather than jumping in and jumping out.
A girl plays in the waves at Palomino on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, South America
What advice would you give for young photographers starting out?
With social media and the internet I see young photographers spending too much time browsing. It’s not the same as absorbing images in an exhibition. It’s too transitory to have a lasting impact and stimulate the mind. I would urge them to get out and practice as much as possible. Beautiful locations won’t make them a good photographer. The challenge is to make the ordinary something special. If you can do that then when you do find yourself somewhere special you’ll do something different.
What are your future plans?
This year I will devote most of my time to the book. I also have an assignment in Japan later in the year which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve never been.