Pete Elliott with The North Face: Comfort in any Storm

Pete is a photographer from the south coast of England that specialises in outdoor lifestyle and sport work. He has always loved immersing himself in the great outdoors and taking in all it has to offer. Driven by exploring new places and meeting new people he has accrued a wide range of photography experience since turning freelance at the start of 2020, and loves to capture authentic moments and tell inspiring stories with his work. 

 

You can see more of his work here: www.pete-elliott.com or he regularly posts about his trips over on instagram www.instagram.com/pete_ell

What does the outdoors mean to you?

The outdoors has always been an important part of my life. It has also provided a sanctuary where noise of everyday life falls away and I can focus simply on the experience you have when you’re there. This can breathe new life into you, and give you a chance to evaluate other things going on in your life that you’d perhaps overlooked before. 

 

The feeling of exploring a new place, climbing a new mountain or simply sharing good times with friends outdoors can provide such a visceral feeling that you struggle to get with other activities. There aren’t many days when I won’t make it out for a short walk/run or cycle in my local area, I don’t think the therapeutic benefits of the great outdoors can be overlooked. 

 

Finally I see it as a way to test myself and learn new skills. There’s some beautiful places out there that need to be explored, but this often requires a level of planning, fitness and mental strength to overcome all the outdoors can throw at you. Expeditions to wilder parts of the country that provide beautiful backdrops for adventures, also serve you with a sense of accomplishment when you achieve your objective. Some of my most fond memories have been formed exploring the great outdoors, and I’m sure there’s still many more to be made. 

How would you describe your lifestyle to someone that doesn't already know you?

When I’m home I’m a pretty average guy. I like to eat healthy (most of the time) and train at the gym to maintain a good routine. I see my friends on the weekends to watch sport or head to the local pub. I’ve also become a ‘lockdown cyclist’ after receiving a road bike as part of a photoshoot last July. Since then I’ve clocked up plenty of miles, exploring parts of The New Forest I’d never previously seen despite growing up here. 

 

There aren’t many days that pass without me planning a photography sunrise mission locally, or wondering what photos I could make in other areas local to me or that I've cycled past in the last week. My lifestyle completely changes when I visit places like Snowdonia or the Lake District. 

 

When I visit those places it tends to be all go, all the time. I struggle to simply relax and find more pleasure in getting up as many peaks as I can and seeing as much of the area as possible in the often short time I’m there.. Living on the south coast means long trips away from home often require a lot of planning, so when I’m there I don’t like to waste time pottering around valley floors or driving to viewpoints. Having to work for a view or a photo makes the experience much more enjoyable for me. It’s not uncommon to find me living off dehydrated meals for days on end and using any lakes I can find to wash. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

How did you transfer photography from a hobby to a career?

Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this question. Photography is an extremely saturated industry and to try and stand out is one of the most difficult things I’ve done (and still continue to do).

 

I think the most important point is to figure out if photography is simply a hobby or a passion for you. For me photography enveloped my life and it became all I wanted to focus on. It was something that I thought about all the time and soon realised it was what I wanted to try and pursue as a career. 

 

From there began the steepest learning curve of my life. There’s so much more to photography than simply taking photos and the business side of it can be a little daunting at first. There have been so many setbacks along the way that are all part of the learning experience. This is why its important to figure out if it's a passion or not, as the editing time, rejection, being ignored, companies expecting you to work for free and other downsides of the job can really get to you. You have to be willing to put the work in.

I think for anyone starting out in photography these would be a few useful tips:

 

  • Shoot anything and everything, what you enjoy shooting may change over the course of your career so be sure to figure out what’s best for you.
  • Build up a strong and diverse portfolio of work. This may take time but it’s essential for pitching to clients to show you are the best person for the job.
  • Have a solid pitch document and really tailor each pitch for that company. If you spend a whole day on an idea that will really resonate with a company and their audience this is a much better use of your time than sending 10 generic emails to a load of companies. Spending extra time and showing you’ve really thought through your work will give you a much better chance of getting a response.
  • Up your social media game, are you posting regularly on facebook/twitter/instagram? You never know who will see your work and be interested in hiring you. I’ve been hired through all sorts of mediums.
  • Plan plan and plan. If you do land a job be sure to do a location recce, think about the light and what shots you want to make. The best photographers you see are very rarely rocking up at locations and winging it. Under promise over deliver. 60% of the time, it works every time.

What's been your favourite adventure to date and is there anything you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?

My trip to The Dolomites in 2019 certainly stands out. The Grandeur of The Italian Dolomites is a pull factor so strong that adventurers from all over the globe descend upon this impressive mountain range. With some of the most mesmerising scenery one can witness,  this mountain range is no doubt one of the most spectacular alpine destinations on offer. In early July 2019 I travelled to this part of the world with my good friend Heikki from Finland, staying in his dainty red VW transporter aptly named Cherry. 

 

After a few days roaming around we hired Via Ferrata gear. A Via Ferrata, Iron Path, is a route with fixed protection, that aids travellers in moving safely through the mountains. For those with a strong sense of adventure and a head for heights, they are a superb way of exploring the Dolomites and gaining access to more remote limestone peaks that are characteristic of the area. Via Ferrata date back to the 19th Century, but were particularly pertinent during World War 1 as the Dolomites experienced some very intense fighting.

 

After taking on two beginner routes we planned a much harder route that took us up Cima Cadin on Via Ferrata Merlone. We packed our camp stuff and planned to sleep on the summit, to witness an incredible sunset and sunrise in the mountains. Although exposed the route is very secure, there were few sections that got the blood pumping so it’s not for the faint hearted. After an hour or so of exhilarating (for the average hill walker) climbing, we reached the jagged summit of Cima Cadin just as golden hour began. After witnessing an incredible sunset we turned in for the night, sleeping right on the precipice of the peaks with heart wrenching drops either side. 

 

At around 3am I was woken up abruptly. Even with my hat tucked tightly over my face, there came a brilliant flash that flickered, illuminating the night sky, so bright I witnessed it with my eyes closed. Barely awake and with groggy eyes, I slowly peeled up my hat, and that was when I first witnessed it, my jaw wide open. Lightning came, a brilliant  shock of white in the graphic sky. It was not a bolt, but more like an almighty camera flash that blanketed everything simultaneously, casting a spotlight on the most famous peaks in The Dolomites.

 

Heikki was awake too, so I immediately jumped out of my sleeping bag, grabbed my camera and tripod and went and sat next to him, in awe of the show mother nature was putting on for us. We never heard the thunder, and as predicted the storm was around 80 miles away on the border and moving away from us. Therefore there was no sense of impending danger. We simply got to witness one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen, as the flashes of light illuminated the instantly identifiable peaks of Tre Cime Di Lavaredo. 

 

There are a few treks in Peru I’d love to do, and it’s always been a dream of mine to visit the Himalayas. Most of my dream locations are remote mountain ranges, as going to the mountains for me has always been about getting away from it all. Some of the better-known locations are often so busy that it detracts from the feeling of really being out there in a wild place".

Do you set yourself goals and targets with your work?

I think it’s always useful to have goals as something to work towards. I think as I progress into my career it’s important to build up an idea of what your dream job is, something you’d never get bored of shooting.

 

However at this early point in my career I’m still taking any opportunities that come to me to build up that experience. At a later point in my career I’d like to find my niche, hopefully in extreme sport/outdoor photography and then become known for being good at that craft, rather than being a ‘jack of all trades’. 

 

However over the last year the pandemic has taught me that often things don’t go as planned. I’m currently doing something I didn’t expect to be doing not so long ago. This tells me I shouldn’t look too far into the future. If I do something fun and productive everyday then I’m going to have a good life because everyday has been fun and productive (or that's the plan).

 

With the year we’ve just had I’m more excited to get away in the van to some remote places around the country and simply enjoy life for a bit.

Where is the one place that you keep going back to (to explore and/or photograph?)

This would have to be the Jurassic Coast. This was the area that made me fall in love with photography in the first place back in 2019.

 

It’s an incredible photogenic piece of coastline with a vast array of coastal features from soaring cliffs to jutting sea stacks with turquoise blue waters characteristic of the Carribean. It’s just a landscape photographer's playground and with conditions changing all year round it’s never the same as the last time you visited. I’ve been visiting for 3 years now and there’s still a few spots left to explore. 

 

For photographers I’d recommend visiting outside of summer, perhaps November/December or January/March. In summer the sun rises and sets inland so you don’t get dramatic sunrises/sunsets where you watch in awe as the setting sun paints a canvas across the dusk sky and the cliffs glow a deep red as the last rays of sun fall on them.


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