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Sophie's Guest

Charlie Waite


Photo courtesy Sophie Martin-Castex


SMC:  Where do you live?
CW:   I live in Dorset, in an old mill house by a river.

SMC:  How old are you?
CW:   Iím 53!

SMC:  Background
CW:   I started as an actor, then I photographed actors and then went into photography

SMC:  What are your current and future projects?
CW:   My current projects are to promote landscape photography more as an art form and to continue to do that.  As much as I can do, and all the time.  And to do limited edition prints for corporate clients.

SMC:  You are running very well known workshops, what is your main motivation for doing this?
CW:   To introduce to other people the joys and the rewards of photographing the landscape.  Which can be very considerableÖ itís a very enriching experience.


SMC:  Lotís of people regard you as a master of landscape photography.  Do you feel motivated to do more and better?  Or are you scared of being disappointing?
CW:   Very interesting!  I have got such a long way to go, a long long way to go.  I know everybody says that.  And they say you are only as good as your last photograph.  And thatís absolutely true, many many more years of trying!  

The Manger, Uffington, Berkshire

SMC:  Because you mainly shoot landscapes did you have to acquire different virtues to achieve your results, such as patience?  Humility?  Or something else?
CW:   No luckily I am extremely patient.  I was very very bad at school, bad at concentrating.  And I spent a lot of time just looking up at the sky out of the window.  So I already was very patient and could wait days for what I wanted.  So no, no.  I think Iím qualified to do what I do because I can hang around for so longÖÖ.anyway my name is Waite!

SMC:  Along your photographic career did you go through different phases, different styles?
CW:   Yes photographing first when I finished acting I assisted advertising photographers.  I went into their studios and I was very impressed by all the work they did with wine photography, bottles of wine cars pack shots and all of that.  Very impressive, so I thought about that then it made me think about lighting.  Then I photographed my actors, but all the time in the background was a need to be outside photographing the landscape just looking at it, being in the natural world.

Rapeseed fields, Wiltshire

SMC:  What is the strangest thing you had to shoot?
CW:   The strangest thing wasÖÖ..goshÖ.good question.  The strangest I ever had to photograph was a quarryÖ other words a great big hole in the ground where they get stones and rock out of the ground.  Where they dynamite it!  The quarry was completely opposite to the sort of landscape that I love.  I like to see things alive, things growing, something really fertile and this was digging aggressively into the earth and that seemed like an unpleasant thing for me to have to photograph.  So emotionally I found it really difficult.  Yep!

SMC:  Do you have a routine in your work?  Or do you make your routine as you go along?
CW:   Itís very haphazard.  I donít really have a routine.  In fact Iím going to France without a map for three weeks.  That will be nice just to drive without a map.

SMC:  How do you research new locations for your work?
CW:   I do look at a map then and I look for elevations.  I look for a little bit of height.  Iím not very good with really completely flat areas, although they are wonderful for skies.  So yes I do need maps.  But do remember I Ďm free to do anything I want.  So I can go anywhere I like really.


SMC:  As we said, photographing landscape is your first choice.  What would be your second?
CW:   I think to develop my writing, because I really do like writing and I admire writers and the  construction they create.  The way they work with words.  I would love to be able to just pull the words out of the sky just the ones I need.


SMC:  Your equipment, what type of medium do you prefer
CW:   Velvia!  Usually, everybody likes it because itís quite a glamorous film.  Thereís a new one Kodak have just produced, itís called VS, very saturated.  Thatís quite nice!

SMC:  You are very well known for your colour work, do you also work in B/W?
CW:   I do!  Surprisingly!  Yes I do.  Itís not a new thing for me because Iíve always been doing it.  But Iíve never published a book in B/W.  So that IS a new thing for me.  

SMC:  A lot of your work is printed digitally, do you do this yourself?  What method do you prefer?
CW:   I did it all myself, every one here I did myself and Iím very proud of it.  I had to learn a little bit, but as long as my transparency is good then itís not really a problem.  The only thing I need to be concerned about is a little bit of contrast, maybe.  Depending on the paper I might have to alter a little bit of contrast but otherwise I donít make any changes.


SMC:  What made you decide on a photographic career?
CW:   Because I was a failed actor, not very good on the stage.  The relationship that I have with landscape reminds me of being in the theatre, because any theatrical setting I always find very appealing.  Anything that involves lighting, obviously, is going to be appealing.  Also the landscape gives a lot back to me.  Itís all we have, so itís an emotional thing but also itís a dialogue I have with landscape, a quiet silent dialogue I have with landscape.

SMC:  What is your favourite picture and why?
CW:   My favourite is of a little shed in Aix-en-Provence where Cezanne painted.  Itís simply a little modest shed with a mountain behind and sky above.  It was probably the first photograph where I felt a tingle in the hairs on the back of my neck.  I suddenly thought ďMy GodĒ! This is incredible!  I was elevated by it.  I went into a whole different dimension.  I thought ďmy word this is the most wonderful thingĒ.  When I got it back I couldnít stop looking at it, all the time!  I had a Polaroid of it on my dashboard of my car and I kept looking at it and said to myself God Iíve got to do more like that!

SMC:  Are you the type of photographer who just takes one shot on a subject?
CW:   I used to do a trial and error thing.  Everything possible, I tried this and tried that.  But now I know whether itís going to be a success or a failure.  Itís a bit like cooking you donít mix it and put it in the oven and hope.  You know because youíve done it before.

SMC:  Do you like to show your pictures?
CW:   Yes!

SMC:  Do you think you have a fair opinion of other photographers work?
CW:   Iím learning much more to be appreciative of other disciplines, most especially wildlife photography, which I have huge admiration for.  Photo-journalism, people like Sebastion Selgado completely ÖcompletelyÖ.I canít think of words to describe this master.  Also I have great admiration for still life photographers who just work in a studio nobody ever hears of.  Itís because they are artists, I saw a shower catalogue the other day and I thought the catalogue was just so brilliant with these showers so beautifully done, the water, the lighting I thought wow these people are so good and they are!


SMC:  Do you keep all you photographs?  Even the crap stuff?
CW:   No because I donít have a great collection.  Only about 2000 - 3000 photographs.  I meet a lot of people who say they have 300,000 and I think are they awkward?  How can you have 300,000. I have got hardly any.  Itís pointless!  I bin the old ones, If they donít do anything for me why would they do something for someone else?  Itís only the ones I think are remarkable that I keep.  Not very many.

SMC:  Your biggest disappointment in photography?
CW:   My greatest disappointment is not so much a photograph, itís that I still havenít really had enough time to do my own photography.  Which is something I feel completely fine about.  I feel Iím 10yrs behind.  I need more time.  I need more time.  I donít want to be heroic and go up mountains, I want to go back to France, which I think I love more than any other country in the world, for all sorts of reasons.  I havenít had enough time to spend in France.  Another disappointment is that I need to have the car.  Itís very hard to reconcile those two things.  That you need a car to go to and photograph beautiful places.   In a way I wish I could walk but thatís completely impractical so thatís a disappointment.  Another disappointment is that I am unable to work in England as much as I would like to.  It doesnít awaken anything in me anymore, I donít find the form that I look for, other photographers still do like England.  I like the Lake District, Scotland, Cornwall and Wales but other places just donítÖ my buttons.

Selestat, Bas Rhin, France

SMC:  What is your favourite ďingredientĒ for a good photo?
CW:   A shed, a little shed. I want to live in it!  Just like a hermit!

SMC:  What is the difference between a good photo and a beautiful photo?
CW:   A good photograph is usually uncluttered, usually will inform the viewer of something more than what it actually is, so itís not a literal interpretation.  A beautiful photograph would be something that isÖ.Rather a difficult question really because a beautiful one would be, a lot of people would say, would be a scenic photograph which is not ordered or planned. You just come across it, a lovely blue sky, pretty pretty.  But doesnít have actually any pathos.  No gravitas!


SMC:  Are you just suddenly inspired?  Or do you plan a project?
CW:   I think my inspiration comes from a deep desire, usually, to discover.  And an element of surprise I really like very much, so I hardly do any planning

SMC:  Who is your favourite photographer?
CW:   I really like Henri Cartiere Bresson because of his order and when you look at these peoples work they havenít done thousands.  Just a few, a few classics!  Same with Ansel Adams, and I do like Ansel Adams, because of his discipline.

SMC:  What is your favourite subject?
CW:   Water!  Landscapes! Water and landscapes

SMC:  What are your favourite spots?
CW:   France and the Ardenne, up in the northern parts and where is some water, some of the Canal Du Midi, down that way.

SMC:  What are your favourite moods?
CW:   SubduedÖÖsometimes subdued, but still with light.  So subdued light, yes subdued light!

SMC:  How did you discover Wiltshire as a good location for landscape
CW:   I live very nearby!  



SMC:  What do you think about contemporary photography?
CW:   I am a bit dismissive of it because itís often what we call the Emperors New Clothes.  The curators of galleries have to be seen to be breaking new ground.  So they have to be seen to be embracing this new contemporary photography, and presenting it as exceptional work, but usually itís quite slack in my opinion.  And the more out of focus it is, apparently, the better.  The more scratches, the more developer stains, the more people spit on it and then a lot of people in America regard this as exceptional work, very interpretative and conceptual.  I think itís slightly anal.

SMC:  What changes has fame made in your life?
CW:   Itís made me more insecure.

SMC:  Can you describe yourself in three words?
CW:   Hesitant, unsure, inspired.

SMC:  What would be your advice to a beginner in photography?
CW:   To produce an exceptionally high quality portfolio of no more than ten photographs that you have total confidence in.

If You Would Like To Buy These Books By Charlie Waite Simply Click The Link

The Making of Landscape Photographs

In My Minds Eye   

  Seeing Landscapes