Photographer Judith Conning

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Judith Conning is well-known for her amazingly beautiful wildlife photography, but her passion behind the lens has also extended to contemporary portraiture and weddings over recent years. Judith’s eye for composition and her skill at taking photos that bring out the best in her subjects is apparent … her new work speaks for itself!

Hi Judith. We’ve spoken to you at FOCUS in the past about your beautiful wildlife photography, and you’ve just come back from another trip to Canada. What were the highlights of this latest journey?

Wapusk National Park in Manitoba, Canada is one of three major polar bear denning areas in the world and the most accessible. I use the word accessible loosely, as it is an extremely inhospitable environment to humans – frozen tundra, temps below -30 and the ever present north wind. A limited number of people, mostly photographers, are able to spend periods of 6 – 9 days in a small lodge in this challenging place.

Naturally the absolute highlight was seeing two families – mothers and their twin cubs. I was mentally prepared for the possibility of no sightings, so we all considered ourselves truly fortunate. The cubs spend hours crawling over their mother, seeking feeds from time to time and just being energetic babies. Watching them, I felt an incredible sense of desperation as to the fragility of their future, so hope my images will inspire people everywhere to take good care of our planet.

How close were you able to get to the magnificent polar bears on this trip … Did you ever feel as if there was an element of danger with photo shoots of this kind?

There is strictly enforced 100 metre distance between the bears and us, and we are to do nothing that will stress or disturb the bears. The mothers are too occupied with their playful cubs and would not expose them to danger by charging unnecessarily, unless the cubs were threatened.

The main element of danger was the very real risk of frostbite, so every bit of skin needs to be covered and multiple layers of clothes are essential.

Your passion for photography has taken you into a new direction of late, and you’re focusing more on family and contemporary portraiture. What do you feel are some of the key elements to capturing a fantastic portrait?

I have been “dabbling” in portraits, weddings and baby photography for some years and have found myself drawn to taking it seriously as a business in the last couple of years. My desire is to create images that people will cherish for years to come.

Most people are very uncomfortable about having their photo taken, but at the same time would love to have attractive images of themselves and their families. It’s important to relate to your subjects, get to know them, find out how they want to be portrayed. The session should be relaxed and fun, giving rise to beautiful natural expressions and smiles.

My particular passion is photographing newborn babies. Like weddings, it’s a never to be repeated occasion and a very important time to document. Newborn sessions are relaxed, and my studio is well set up for baby photography. I have a selection of rugs, wraps and bonnets for parents to choose from and aim for a classic, timeless and natural look.

I like to encourage parents and siblings to be part of these sessions, as this is a family affair.

What options do you offer families and individuals for portraits – e.g. indoor or outdoor shoots? Are you available to travel for your photographic work?

Photo sessions can be occur indoors and/or outdoors depending on people’s style and how they see themselves. The local beaches also make the most fantastic setting – just wish I could encourage people to come to the beach nice and early (sunrise) for the opportunity to create amazing images.

I have a studio at my home in Diamond Beach, which has been especially furnished with photography in mind, and the garden is being developed as an alternative setting. Outdoor surroundings can provide an amazing amount of artistic possibilities.

Given that I sometimes travel 10,000 km to photograph a particular subject, I am more than happy to travel locally. Sometimes people want their session in their own home or garden; others have a favourite spot or somewhere at a particular time of year that appeals to them – what is often called a “lifestyle” shoot. There’s no limit to the possibilities!

How would you describe the term “contemporary portraiture”; how does this differ from more traditional portraiture in your eyes?

I use the word “contemporary” for those portraits that are mostly shot in the studio, using natural or studio light and being about the person – subtle background, few, if any props, muted colours and in classic and timeless style. These portraits can often form part of a portfolio for someone who is considering modelling or acting, or as something striking to display on a wall. This type of portraiture can encompass all ages.

You’ve also been fortunate to shoot some beautiful weddings recently. What do you most enjoy about this type of photography, and how can you help make a bride and groom’s big day just that little bit extra special?

Weddings always pose a special challenge – it’s a portrait shoot multiplied by 50+, it’s a special and unrepeatable days in a couple’s life, it’s an incredible mix of personalities, and it’s often at the mercy of the venue and the weather. I love that challenge of trying to create the best possible story through images of that amazing time. I know it has been said so many times before, but it is the opportunity to capture the love, emotion and joy of that day.

It is so important to meet with the couple before the wedding so we can get to know each other a little and to tease out what sort of images they are hoping for. It also provides me an opportunity to explain how certain shots might be achieved and the need to allot some time for those intimate images of the couple.

Your business’ website: is simply stunning. How much of your time as a photographer is actually spent on the post-processing side of your work, as opposed to the framing and shooting phase?

I do spend considerable time on the post production, as it is something I enjoy. It is extremely satisfying to see a special image emerge from something that’s a little ordinary at the beginning. Having said that, there is the mantra of getting it right in camera, and I work hard on that so the routine post processing is fast, but there is more time for the creative aspect.

What plans do you have for developing your photographic business over the next year or so?

To date I have been working a non-photographic job full-time and working on my business every other minute I am given. I did take eight weeks leave to develop the business side and now will be reducing my hours to give me more time to build my business. With hard work and happy clients, I aim to make this a full-time venture.

I want to explore what people want from their photographs, look at different ways of capturing and presenting and be flexible and responsive. I also want to provide people with the opportunity to see their images in “hard copy” – prints, canvas, acrylic, aluminium and photobooks, as well as receiving the all-important digital files. It’s not just about pixels – there are so many ways to bring your images to life. It’s great to have those images on your phone and share with your family and friends, but it’s important to preserve those memories in a more tangible and lasting form.

Where can readers see more of your work, or contact you for further information?

Apart from my website I have two Facebook pages, so please have a look and search for Jude Conning Photography for my wedding and portraits and Wonderfully Wild Photography for wildlife and landscapes.

Final say …

Whatever you do, don’t put off having those special photos taken.

Thanks Judith.

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