Lifestyle

Meet Canberra’s passionate outdoors and landscape photographer – Scott Leggo

The Scott Leggo Gallery opened up earlier this year on Jardine Street in Kingston, but it's not the first time we'd heard of Scott's name or seen his fantastic works of art.

A passionate outdoors and landscape photographer, Scott has been all around Australia to photograph the many breathtaking places we could only dream of seeing with our own eyes… that is, until you step foot in the gallery and purchase one of the perfectly framed and high-quality prints.

We sat down with Scott to ask just how he started his career in photography…

Tell us a bit about you and how you became a landscape photographer.

My journey is a little unconventional in that I haven’t had what many would describe as a traditional journey into photography, art or even retail business. I spent ten years in the Air Force before moving to the public service and then working here and overseas with Foreign Affairs and Trade. Following that I worked as a management consultant in the public and private sectors. None of this career progression could be described as particularly ‘arty’ or ‘creative’ as pursuits. However, during my time in the public service I travelled a lot and my work-life balance was somewhat ‘out of balance’. Having always enjoyed the outdoors I was looking for an avenue to get outdoors and travel more, but on my terms. I saw landscape photography as a way to do that. I never set out to turn it into a business, but it rapidly evolved once I started taking photographs. I quickly realised I relished the business aspects as much as the excuse to get outdoors and travel. Early on, I was fortunate to win some high profile awards and from there I had the confidence to really grow the online business. Now having just opened the Canberra gallery, it’s great to be able to more readily showcase the photographs with a wider audience in person.

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How long prior to building your Australian Landscape Collection had you been taking photographs?

The business has existed for well over a decade now, and for all of that time it has been an online business. But the start of the business and selling photos commenced only a few months after I started taking photographs. This as on the back of getting a lot of positive feedback about my early photos from friends and colleagues who suggested there might be something more to my shots than just a hobby. With their encouragement I started turning my thoughts to business aspects as well. I had never been into photography previously, so had no nothing to draw on from prior. The collection has steadily grown and been refined over the years, but I started out with only a few images from across a few states of Australia and have slowly grown that over the years. These days I’m constantly adding new photographs to the collection and always looking forward to the next trip away.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career?

I’ve been fortunate to win some awards here locally such as ACT Professional Photographer of the Year and Landscape Photographer of the Year but opening of the new gallery here in Canberra is easily the biggest highlight. There’s no point experiencing the harsh weather extremes and challenges I have to capture photos if you don’t then have them printed large for people to enjoy as you intended. Being able to have the public come in and physically see the photographs, in big formats is what I think most photographers ultimately seek, so opening the gallery is without doubt the main highlight. Having the people of Canberra respond in the way they have and support the business makes it all worthwhile. Knowing that more and more people are getting to experience my photographs as prints in their homes and workplaces is a great reward for the hours of effort to get to this point.

What has been the most challenging experience you have faced?

I think this is two fold. One aspect is the capturing the photographs and the other is growing an Australian owned small family business.

Many of my snow photographs are the result of enduring some of the worst weather, but this often leads to the more moody photographs. I’m often camped out in the backcountry for multiple nights. In many cases this means ensuring some pretty chilly conditions but also some wild weather along the way. The extreme conditions can be very isolating. For instance, to capture the photograph ‘Kosciuszko Dawn’ I had been camped out for a few days, not having seen anyone since I headed out backcountry. The weather had been horrible, consistent fog, snow with high winds and poor visibility, not to mention the below freezing temperatures. My morale was low having captured only a few photographs and the weather forecasts bearing no resemblance to what I was experiencing. After enduring a night of buffeting high winds I awoke on this morning before sunrise to relatively clear skies. After walking out in the pre dawn dark I was greeted by an ever changing light show before me, with dramatic changes in colours and constantly changing cloud formations due to the high winds. The waiting game and frustrating days prior had finally paid off as I enjoyed this scene and the view around me.

The second aspect is most definitely the business side. Making the move from the safety and security of a full-time job working for the government and then the private sector to step away and be soley reliant on a small business is a big move, and not without risk. More recently, we opened the gallery a few months after having our first child. I’d be lying if I said it’s always been straightforward and easy. That said, it’s been very rewarding and a great learning experience when it does come together. I’ve had my fair share of business challenges and lessons learnt, but I do think that it’s part of business as long as you’re learning and continuously improving. I’m a big believer in the notion of test and adjust. This means being prepared to take some risks to trial and see what works. You have to however quickly move on when something isn’t working and try something else. If my time in the Air Force taught me anything it’s in the value of planning and preparation and how this actually enables you to be more agile and flexible as the situation demands it.

Where is your favourite place in Australia to shoot?

The Australian Alps. I’ve been going to the snow and the mountains since I was a kid and am always drawn back. Some of my favourite photos have been captured in the Victorian alps while based in the town of Bright. My wife Phillipa is a ski instructor and loves the snow too, so it’s a great match. Living here in Canberra makes getting to the snow very easy, and you can wait and see what the weather is going to be like before heading down.

Did you always see yourself opening up a gallery dedicated to your work?

Deep down – yes, it’s something I’ve wanted since I got into photography seriously. This has been an online business for more than ten years, from the early days of ‘online retail’ and having people be able to see the quality of the products images has always been a challenge. I’m also aware that many don’t have an immediate need for wall art in but can still come in and appreciate the diversity of the Australian landscape we have. In this way, it’s more than just a place to sell my work, but a place where tourists and others can simply come and appreciate the diversity of the Australian landscape.

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What does balance mean to you?

I often say “find me a 90 year old in a rocking chair that says they wish they had spent more time in traffic, more time at work, less time with their family. Balance for me, is making to 90 (or beyond) and being comfortable with the choices I’ve made throughout my life on the breakdown of what I’ve spent my life doing. For me, that’s plenty of time doing the things I love and less of the ‘mundane’ office type work. Plus, I want to know that I’ve had a meaningful impact on the world in same way and hopefully improved the lives of the next generation. None of us our getting out of here alive, so we need to make the most of every opportunity and every day. Having come close to death a couple of times, I think you get a fresh perspective on what really matters in life – and it’s definitely not more time stuck in traffic or behind a computer screen.

Who inspires you?

Since I was kid I’ve loved David Attenborough documentaries, and that hasn’t really changed. Those documentaries, and many similar modern BBC productions, continue to inspire me. Many of these documentaries feature amazing locations, captured and portrayed with brilliant cinematography, all wrapped up in a package that educates. So for me, I find these shows incredibly inspirational in terms of places I want to travel to, but also the desire to photograph these amazing locations and share images of the beautiful world we live in with others that may not be fortunate enough to be able to some of these locations. Additionally, I get inspired by the prospect of being able to help educate people about the planet on which we all share and the environmental challenges the globe faces.

What’s next for Scott Leggo?

Having just opening the new gallery the focus is naturally on establishing our retail presence here in Canberra. We still learning, growing and about to be bringing on staff, so there’s plenty to keep busy and focused on. However, come next year the focus for will shift back to more travel to bring people new photographs and images they’ll love in their home or workplace. Plus with a new baby, my wife and I are keen to travel with her as much as we can before she starts school and start introducing her to the great outdoors and all Australia has to offer!

Scott was also nice enough to lend us some fantastic tips from a blog he wrote.

1. Be prepared

Like most photographers, many of my photos are often the result of much planning and preparation, and often involve braving the elements too. Photographing many of my winter images is a good example. I researched many of these photographs well beforehand – during summer in fact. For many of my photos in the alpine regions I visit the area in Summer when there is no snow around. I look for scenes and subjects that I know will look great in Winter. It’s much easier to hike around and find subjects to shoot when there’s not two metres of snow around! That way, come winter I know where I want to go and how to get there. In those back country areas during winter when you’re away from any tracks and facilities and the inclement weather comes in you really need to know your stuff and have some good local area knowledge and familiarity.

In this sense there’s often a lot of pre-visualisation and prior planning, but equally some photos are the result of me being in a location and the weather conditions and thus light being just right. Either way, you have to be prepared and out there when it happens. The famous Scout’s motto of ‘be prepared’ applied to landscape photography means that you are always ready to do what is necessary as situations evolve or present themselves, from dealing with inclement weather to spectacular rainbow after a heavy storm has just drenched you to the core. It also means you are ready, willing, and able to do what is necessary in any situation that comes along. It also means that as someone who is spending time outdoors, you are prepared to live a full and worthwhile life, being a physically fit, honorable citizen of strong character.

2. Have courage, tempered with common sense

Landscape photographers often find themselves in remote wilderness areas with no modern luxuries, in extreme weather, on the edges of cliffs perched precariously in sub zero temperatures with little to no visibility, or any combination or variation of these situations at once. The dangers of working outdoors are many, making it necessary to exercise caution and good sense, but when those requirements are met find the courage to push your personal comfort zones and proceed. Equally, it can require great bravery to make creative decisions that are risky, to experiment with new ideas and locations, and to release the results to the world at large.

3. Respect the planet and use your photography for good

The natural world is under ever greater pressure from man’s impact. The more I travel it’s hard to miss the impact of mankind on the state of the environment and the pressures that an ever growing population place on our natural world. Use your landscape photography to promote the beauty of the natural world, but don’t trash the environment in the process. With nature as our subject, landscape photographers have a special duty to respect it. Common sense dictates that we should protect whatever is essential to our own goals, but respecting nature goes beyond conservation and advocacy, as important as they are. Respecting nature means viewing it as a partner rather than as a trophy or a realm to be conquered, and achieving this level of respect allows us to see and to understand nature in ways that not only lead to great personal experiences but ultimately benefit the creative process as well. With a deep empathy for the natural world, use your landscape to convey in part what you no doubt already feel very strongly about: that we need to preserve the few wild, untouched places remaining in the world and protect our precious wildlife and natural resources.

Check out the full article here: https://www.scottleggo.com/blogs/scott-leggo/becoming-a-landscape-photographer

www.scottleggo.com

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