Meet Michael, one of our favorite photographers, whom we often collaborate with. Together we have done layouts for top sports labels such as Adidas, Sky Ports, Shimano and Le Col. Our shared love for art and sports have made the collaboration a smooth sailing experience.
Just recently, Michael launched his book Mountains: Epic Cycling Climbs. It’s a collection of breathtaking views of some of the most challenging cycling routes, you will love it for it’s raw beauty and intricate detail. We were delighted to have made the animated book preview.
Michael Blann, born on the south coast of England, has been a photographer for over 20 years now. He was always good at art but never really considered doing photography until after his degree. At his university, he was doing a lot of printmaking using found photos in his prints and then decided to actually start taking the photos himself. He took his “real photos” when he took a trip to Bulgaria. When the photos got the attention of a few different quarters including the Guardian Newspaper and the BBC, it gave Michael the confidence to pursue photography as a career.
Pre-Production and Post Production
Before being a photographer, Michael worked for ad agencies as an art buyer so he’s used in organizing shoots, instructing, retouching, etc. He’s taken the skills with him so he’s quite happy to take on preproduction as well. For him, photo retouching and photo manipulation really depends on the job. Some require a lot, others very little. Generally, he likes things to look like they could be “real” so he has a light touch when it comes to retouching. He can do the retouching if the job is simple but he prefers to hand it over to a retouching house if the budget allows such as Paper Boat Creative.
When you start out a career on photography, you want to try everything and use a lot of lights. His biggest challenge was getting to grips with the new digital cameras and also the lighting which seemed like a dark art at the time. He also went through phase of sing special effects in my shoots which usually consisted of blowing things up or using crazy lights, etc. But as Michael grew older, he realized that the best things are invariably simple. “Photography is very much about composition and light and you can do so much with these two elements,” he said.
He likes all sorts of photography but his heart is actually in landscape. As a professional photographer, he gets asked to do all sort of shoots and he also covered many genres when he worked for Getty Images. But in more recent years, he has come back to landscape time and time again. Majority of his commissions involve photographing people. He thinks photographers pick up a camera to satisfy a creative need within so it’s a case of trying to meet a brief while feeling creatively fulfilled. He said he’s been lucky that in his commercial work, jobs have often been something he’s personally interested in. Usually, art directors pick photographers for your personal work and offer briefs that match them.
As a keen cyclist, he was always interested in athletes and movement so he did a lot of sports shoots. He even did a shoot recently in the Dolomites in Italy where the client asked him to shoot while riding. He also like to take photos of Mountains and Landscapes but he does like to include a human element in his work though.
Some of the countries and places Michael visited has given him a great deal of satisfaction.
Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago 500 miles from the North Pole is one that stands out for him. It was minus 20 and there was the threat of Polar Bears but the scenery was something else.
He also did a book on European mountains a few years ago which featured the famous cycling climbs. This is a project he keeps adding to and every year he visits a few more mountains to shoot.
For Michael, much of the advertising is going away from the traditional platforms such as print and so the nature of the work is changing. He said that what appeals to a 16-year-old is totally different to what it used to be so marketing is targeting them in a language that speaks to them and on platforms that they connect with. With print dying, he thinks even stills advertising might incorporate small amounts of movement which last a split second. He also thinks CGI has its place but it’s harder to replicate chance and the unexpected things that happen on shoots. People also tend to make things too perfect and try to create a utopian world
Message for the Readers
For young photographers, Michael says to be true to yourself and don’t follow trends. Create your own style. As for the business owners, “Good Creativity is core to building a good business, Michael added.