A Professional View by Paul Harcourt Davies

A Professional View by Paul Harcourt Davies

PHarcourt_thumbnailSome self-appointed style gurus have criticised the Sigma digital cameras for their rather angular appearance when, in fact, the basic shape has been subtly morphed in the SD14 to produce a body that fits very well in the hands and feels surprisingly solid – why the surprise well, having used Hasselblads, large Mamiyas, Nikons and others over many years I am a slight plasticophobe.

Being surrounded by nature is where I am at peace and the way I work now is a fusion of my wonder at the design and pattern in nature with the technical possibilities afforded by digital photography.

© Paul Harcourt Davies

I have used digital SLR’s since 2000, immediately loving the fact that I could immediately see the results of my experiments, make any small changes necessary and be in complete control. This feedback is wonderful since I often think up challenges– such as using raindrops as lenses to image flowers or capturing reflections in the eye of a horsefly…I can recall being bitten as a child by a fly with bright green, reflective eyes not knowing (before I squashed it!) that it had a subtle beauty. Much later I thought about how I could capture those reflections with my camera.

To date, I have written sixteen books, the last seven of them on aspects of photography such as close-up, flower and travel photography. In addition, I have penned numerous articles on photography, flowers, wildlife and travel…given  lectures in the UK, USA, Italy and Cyprus and mounted exhibitions. Over the years there have been radio and TV broadcasts too and for a couple of years I presented items for BBC2’s Tracks. Perhaps naively, I have always been committed to putting something back and trying to open eyes to the beauty of what is around us: I did stints as chairman of both the Hardy Orchid Society and of Butterfly Conservation South Wales and ran extra-mural courses for both Cardiff and Swansea universities.

© Paul Harcourt Davies

My twin passions for orchids and butterflies have never abated and now, in Italy too, I am becoming more involved as my Italian improves and I meet people who share my passions – I steer clear of local politics(in Italy you are born to the system)but as an outsider I can say and do things others cannot… In Cyprus I helped found the Cyprus Biological Society and here I hope to work with local naturalists produce a series of guides as a start.

In 2003 my partner Lois and I left Britain and moved to Italy where we began restoring an old farmhouse as home and a base from which to work. The time was right, we had the chance and we had long stopped feeling the UK was home …a long story.

© Paul Harcourt Davies

Much of the house (and studio) is now complete and although a lot of each day is still taken up by being a builder/carpenter/electrician, it does gives me time to think about shots I want to take. The land around us is unspoiled with lots of nesting birds, butterflies and wildflowers – an open-air studio. I hoped that when we move from the UK that this would be my inspiration and it is – from the little owls nesting in our roof to the orioles and nightingales in the trees and bushes (as well as foxes and porcupine in our old Etruscan tombs)…it is a paradise where we can run our photographic courses (www.hiddenworlds.co.uk) and nature comes to us.

I use a Sigma SD14 for all my current professional work and possess a wide assortment of lenses, many of them Sigma, with assorted others collected over the years (eg a set of Olympus bellows macro lenses) and fitted via home-made adaptors. The Sigma does me proud whether hand-held or mounted atop a thirty-year old Zeiss Tessovar my much-prized macro system.

My background makes me fanatical about sharpness and resolution in lenses (a bit of a pedantic perfectionist I am afraid) and the Sigma optics are first-rate rivalling and also exceeding the capabilities of Nikon and Canon macro lenses I have owned.