For the few that are unaware, London-based Howard Kingsnorth does any skyline justice with his electrifying aerial photography. Being around long enough to know the ins and outs of the industry, he discusses how it used to be in pre-digital shoots and how there is no secret to success.
Production Paradise: You’ve had a long and successful career already, but you’re still innovating to this day. What’s the secret to the undying motivation to capture such beautiful images?
Howard Kingsnorth: There is no secret to motivation, just a desire to succeed and a need to survive.
Production Paradise: Is there a particular photographer you look up to?
Howard Kingsnorth: I’ve had many influences in my career. Many photographers that I have admired, possibly referenced, and even envied at times. One that stands out for me and has ’stood the test of time’ is Sebastião Salgado.
Production Paradise: With such a varied range of past and present clients, would you be able to tell us your favourite project you worked on? Why does this one come to mind?
Howard Kingsnorth: That’s a tricky one, there have been so many. Most jobs are absorbing and enjoyable, but I can recall few that were not. Pre-digital, the automotive shoots were the most enjoyable. We had a good crew, usually a great creative, a good budget and a nice location, what’s not to like? Also, the lack of communication (no mobile phones) made it a dream job with only a few of us in the loop with the total trust of the client and agency. More recently my aerial work with United Airlines and the agency mcgarrybowen have been particularly enjoyable.
Production Paradise: In your last interview with us you spoke in detail about the process of taking aerial photographs from the helicopter. When you’re inside and the side doors are just about to open for your shot, what are you thinking about?
Howard Kingsnorth: By that time most of the work has been done. We should be over the spot we need to at precisely the planned time. Final check on safety is paramount, just triple check on leashes, harnesses, tape on lens caps, all zips closed, all spare kit secured. We then slow down the helicopter and… open. Constant communication with the pilot on precise positioning, and then shoot. It’s almost an anti-climax, through the lens you are just working and are focused entirely. If we need a sunrise shot then I find the moment before take off the most stressful, as it has to be timed to perfection.
Production Paradise: Apart from your famous aerial shots, you also have an extensive portfolio of portraits. What are you looking to capture in the subject when taking their portrait?
Howard Kingsnorth: Requirement. I am a commercial photographer and have worked across many genres during my career; photographing people has always been part of my repertoire. Usually, I am working to a brief from a client, so we will be looking to extract that precise requirement. If I am photographing an artist or creative person (Ron Arad for example) I will try and incorporate an aspect of their work into my interpretation of how I see them, either as we are shooting or in post production.
Production Paradise: What is your favourite gadget you own as part of your shooting gear? What about something you regret buying?
Howard Kingsnorth: This is constantly changing. Like most photographers I know, I love gadgets! My favourite is usually the last thing I bought that worked really well. I’ve just bought some extending carbon fiber tubes and loads of wires and leashes to enable me to hang my camera from a helicopter without attaching anything to the airframe, that’s my current favourite.
Regrets… Hasselblads and WiFi devices that don’t connect.
Production Paradise: After being with Production Paradise for over half of your 25+ year career, would you say it has helped you reach new clients and showcase your work in an effective way?
Howard Kingsnorth: Production Paradise has been a constant for me. Agents come and go, clients, the same, and trends change. I usually experience a spike of interest in my work after a publication on the Showcase, measurable by stats on my website. I’m sure it has helped new clients find me.
Production Paradise: If you weren’t a professional photographer, what do you think you’d be?
Howard Kingsnorth: Haha! No idea. I’ve been at it too long to consider what might have been.
Production Paradise: For all the young, aspiring photographers out there, what is the one piece of advice you would give them?
Howard Kingsnorth: Put in the hours, suck up the knowledge, prepare for disappointment and have confidence in yourself.