A chat with Karen Deakin

Scottish photographer Karen Deakin – a recent signing at robertharding – shoots breathtaking landscapes and stunning wildlife shots, with an eye for bold, uncluttered compositions and a mastery of light. We caught up with Karen to find out the roots of her passion for travel and photography.

Stock photograph of a Stag in Scotland

Where are you from and where do you live?

I am a landscape and wildlife photographer, born and raised on the outskirts of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh. I currently live 20 miles from the city in the small market town of Haddington, East Lothian. At the present time I work in financial services to pay the bills and allow me to travel to beautiful places around the globe with my camera.

Stock photograph of Amsterdam canal at twilight
Lights of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe

How did you first get into photography?

I have a passion for travelling and have been fortunate to explore some wonderful destinations throughout the world. A desire to capture my travel memories in pictures led to my passion for photography. In the early days I used a point and shoot compact camera, always set to auto mode so the camera did all the thinking. In October 2011, after an incredible trip to the Canyonlands of South West America, I decided to get more serious about taking the kind of photographs I always enjoyed seeing from others. So I ventured into the realms of DSLR photography and started teaching myself all I could, mostly from reading books and lots of practice out in the field. Fast forward 6 years and photography is now part of my everyday life.

Stock photo of mountain top, Canary Islands
Tiede National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, Europe

Where are you now and what are you shooting?

I have just returned home from Umbria and Tuscany in Italy where I was shooting the beautiful rolling landscapes of the region. My next trip is in September to the Isle of Harris in Scotland for some seascapes, then Kenya in November for a safari.

Stock photo of Isle of Mull sheep, Scotland
Isle of Mull sheep, Scotland, United Kingdom, Europe

What are your favourite destinations to photograph and why?

Despite travelling widely, I love to photograph Scotland best, my home. There are many beautiful landscapes and seascapes on offer, but the most formidable offering has to be the Highlands of Scotland for its dramatic mountainous ranges. Glencoe is a particular favourite of mines and was where my husband proposed!

Stock photo of Buchaille Etive Mor, Glencoe, Highlands, Scotland
Buchaille Etive Mor, Glencoe, Highlands, Scotland, United Kingdom, Europe

How would you describe your style?

I mostly shoot in vivid colour and have a style that I strive to be impactful, often bold and dramatic, without the final image being too far removed from reality or reflective of the scene as I saw it.

Stock photo of Herd of elephants in the dust
Herd of elephants in the dust, Chobe National Park, Botswana, Africa

Can you recall a favourite experience on your travels?

In Botswana in 2016 with my husband watching herd after herd of wild elephant make their way to one of the few waterholes around. It was the height of the dry season. To see the excitement of the elephants as they approached the waterhole, their enjoyment as they drank well, and then the amusement as they frolicked in the water giving themselves a good mud bath before dusting themselves off and moving on for the day. The third place image I won in the 3rd CEPIC Stock Photography Awards was taken at this time and it is a memory I will never forget. Magic!

Stock photo of Autumn in Glencoe, Highlands, Scotland
Autumn in Glencoe, Highlands, Scotland, United Kingdom, Europe

Can you recall a particularly challenging experience while taking photos/travelling?

Too many to mention! Being a landscape photographer means that more often than not the conditions are not at their best for photography. Coming home from a shoot with no photographs happens often, but I have slowly learned that less is more in this game and one good shoot more than outweighs ten bad ones.

Stock photo of Dawn at Lismore Lighthouse, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
Dawn at Lismore Lighthouse, Inner Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom, Europe

What cameras and equipment do you use? Do you have a favourite piece of equipment?

I use a Nikon D810 as my main camera body for Landscape work, and a Nikon D500 as my main body for wildlife work, along with a range of lenses, including the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 G AF-S ED Lens, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 G AF-S ED Lens, my work horse lens, Nikon 70-200mm AF-S f4, Nikon 300mm f2.8 VR11 and s Nikon 50mm f1.8 D AF Lens. I use various filters, and a Gitzo GT3532LS Series 3 6X Systematic Tripod. My favourite item of equipment is my Nikon D810 which I wouldn’t be without. The quality and resolution of the images it produces is second-to- none.

Stock photo of Sleeping lion cub, Chobe National Park, Botswana
Sleeping lion cub, Chobe National Park, Botswana, Africa

What are your tips for taking a good photo?

Take your time! Compose carefully. Check camera settings are at the optimum. I have been caught out many times by leaving ISO’s too high from previous shoots, for example. Take a test shot and check it – not just on the back of the screen but the histogram too for blown highlights. Expose to the right to retain as much detail as you can, and if the dynamic range of the scene is too high, bracket exposures to give you the best chance in post process of reflecting the scene accurately.

Stock photo of windmills Kinderdijk, Netherlands
Kinderdijk, Netherlands

What advice would you give for young photographers starting out?

Never stop learning and never get disheartened. Photography is a journey and you can travel are far as you wish with time and effort. Be happy with your work and try not to compare yourself constantly against others. Most of all, enjoy it – sometimes the most wonderful scenes will unfold in front of you and whilst it is nice to capture it in camera, don’t forget to step away from the camera and just enjoy the moment.

What are your future plans?

More of the same and maybe, just maybe, one day photography will become my full time profession.

See more of Karen’s work

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