Published on June 5th, 2018 | by Alison Barclay0
Pro Team: Chad Gordon Higgins
Our Pro Team are a fantastic group of talented photographers, many of whom have used 3 Legged Thing tripods and accessories for several years. Over the coming months, we will be introducing you to the different members of the team, using short Q&As to give you some insight into how they work, what equipment they use, and how they became professional photographers.
Next up is Chad Gordon Higgins, a time-lapse photography expert who has worked with the BBC’s Natural History Unit and the European Space Agency amongst others.
What is your earliest memory of handling a camera?
“My earliest memory of handling a camera would have been around 1984 on a holiday with my family. My mother always had an old German camera to hand, the make I forget but in a distinctive brown leather case which folded open – a sort of huge lens cover. I had no idea what I was doing at the time but either my mother or father would set it up and I’d click the shutter. You could normally tell who’d taken the photos on holiday as one of us would be missing from the picture! Back then, it was a week or so before we’d see the results after it was processed.”
Was there a single event that made you decide to become a professional photographer?
“I’d spent the majority of my life training as a musician (tuba and piano), touring around Europe and the States with various bands and orchestras before my classical music degree. On all of these tours, I’d take a stills camera and a video camera to document everything. Most of the stills were bog-standard and nothing other than a collection of teenage memories but returning from a trip to Paris (and after waiting for processing) a picture of the Eiffel Tower looked like nothing else I’d ever taken. I’d even go as far as saying postcard quality! I’d only ever take a handful of film with me away on trips and with 24-36 exposures per roll, it gave me the confidence to strive for better pictures!
“After my degree, I was unsure what to do in life so I took the obvious route of travelling for a while, coming back home to work for the BBC and a few varying roles in the television industry until in 2010, I saw a gap in the market for timelapse photography and jumped right in. I wouldn’t say there was a specific moment that led me to becoming a pro photographer, more of a collection of winding roads and events that all linked together to bring me to where I am today.”
What is your favourite location to capture?
“That’s a toughie. I travel a lot, the majority through commissions and the remainder through curiosity. I’ve pretty much shot all the cliché tourist places for various films and tv programmes but I still have a huge list of places to tick off. There’s not a specific place but anywhere where I can lay under a completely dark sky and capture the milky way and watch the universe roll by. La Palma in the Canary Islands was great for that, along with Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Scotland and a list as along as my arm of small islands I’ve visited. Throw in some decent Aurora and I’m in heaven!”
Social media – love it or hate it?
“I have a genuine love hate relationship with social media. On one hand I know it’s great for business and I do enjoy keeping in touch with people and checking out their work. On the other hand, I get so busy sometimes I barely have time to think (or sleep) and I have to take a step back. Other times, I can be in remote places with zero signal or access to any kind of internet so I can’t get any sort of fix!
“Social media is nothing new though, it’s just the old ways wrapped in a different cover. When I was travelling I had to earn a living and started building websites for people as well as bar work and taking on the odd photo shoot. I printed some business cards and went canvassing for work door to door. Small business websites were a hard sell at the time with a lot of people asking why they needed it (as it was relatively new) and they were comfortable with advertising in local papers etc. Those that took up my offer saw dividends whilst the others faded into history. Fast-forward to now and it’s the same story – if you’re not present on social media, you’re not present! I remember spending hours and hours perfecting my myspace page (for those that remember!) only for Facebook to come along and wipe it out. Times will always change so it’s best practice to change with them.”
Favourite camera you have ever used or owned, and why?
“I’m a big film fan and still own a huge collection of strange and standard cameras, most notably, my old Canon AE1 which is still going strong. That being said, my absolute favourite camera is the Canon 5D II. Not my first digital camera but it’s the work horse that built my timelapse career into what it is today. I’ve still got my first one with just over a million clicks with no servicing and the beast is operational apart from a few stubborn spots on the sensor! That camera never let me down in either the -43C we had on a nippy night in Svalbard or the punishing +52C we barely survived in Ethiopia!”
What’s in your kit bag?
“As a timelapse photographer I can cover anything from landscapes, astro, and plant growth to events, constructions and everything in between so there’s not only a lot of variety in my shoots but also what I’ll need to take with me, be it short shots or super long-term shots.
“If I were to average it out though, the majority of my work is shot on Canons – 5D IV or 5DsR along with Canon glass – the 11-24 and the 16-35mm being most used. For long lenses, it’s the Canon 70-300mm and the Sigma 150-600mm. I carry at least three bodies and intervalometers with me as well. For commercials and film work, I carry a set of Cooke Anamorphic lenses.
“There’s also all the stuff that doesn’t fit in my bag as well. I’ll always have a motion controlled slider with me, 12v power for that and also a variety of different rigs I’ve built myself. Albert is my tripod of choice and I’ve normally got two of those and a Billy to hand!”
Name 5 essential items in your photography bag.
“As well as the camera gear, I can’t do without the following:
Snacks – I often find myself clinging to a cliff, on a roof or just in the middle of nowhere. Once I’m shooting, I’m trapped for a few hours so having something to eat eases the pain.
Wet Cover for Camera / myself– I tend not to shoot in the rain but there are times when there may be a short downpour during a shot so it’s best to be prepared!
Compass– I’ve got one on my phone but it’s not always reliable and when you’re trying to work out where the sun will rise or the milky way will appear, it’s most needed.
Flask of hot water – If there’s not a high percentage of tea or coffee coursing through my veins I’ll probably die.
Book / Film – although I’m always actively monitoring my cameras, there’s often a lot of downtime during a timelapse so it’s good to keep on learning or watch something inspirational!”
Are there any strange/unusual items in your photo bag? Household bits?
“I wouldn’t say there’s anything particularly strange in my camera bag but I do carry an old wind-up alarm clock which gives me a near-heart attack when it goes off. I very often run into strange sleep patterns due to the nature of what I do and can easily sleep through my phone alarm. This is a guaranteed wake up after a couple of hours sleep.”
How would you describe your style of photography?
“I’m not sure I’ve got a style as such. Timelapse as a technique is unique as it’s a crossover between photography and video and although it’s not a new technique, it’s difficult to pin down a specific ‘look’ as my work is so varied. That being said, I’m influenced by films a lot. Camera movement, framing, pace and natural lighting all play a part in what I produce and a keen eye will spot similarities between my work and some of the classics.
“If I were to pin a style down for personal projects, it would have a moody and isolated feel.”
What is one question you’d like to be asked and never have been?
“We’re going on a ten year shoot around the world – wanna come?”
Check out Chad’s latest showreel below…
All photos: ©Chad Gordon Higgins