Environmental Portraits of the Multi-talented Richard Pardon
At about the age of eleven, Richard Pardon was given a film camera by his grandfather in Dorset, U.K., who also taught him to develop his own film. Turning professional about a year ago, Pardon has realized a lifelong dream. “For me, it’s more than a job or a career. It’s like a lifestyle or a passion,” he says. He credits no two days being the same as making photography a rewarding career.
Although his grandfather gave him his start with film, Pardon has learned everything about digital photography by teaching himself. With books and DVDs, a trial-and-error approach has helped him not only develop his technical knowledge, but his own photographic style. He credits his autodidacticism with enabling him to work in different areas of photography, including portraiture, automotive, landscape, and stock work. The road hasn’t been easy, but the work is worth it, he feels.
“Because I am self-taught, I’ve taken a lot of effort learning how to do these things, and I try to put my own take on all of them. I guess I’m mainly an editorial and commercial photographer in the U.K. My style is heavily on location lighting. I like creating scenes and theatrical pictures,” he says.
Being self-taught has also helped Pardon develop his own approach to planning a shoot. Often starting with a germ of an idea, he then adapts and adjusts when he gets to a location. “I think you always assume in the back of your head what you’d like to achieve with the end result,” he says. “However, I think you have to be flexible in your approach to how you get that. So even if you had an idea in mind, you could travel to a location and due to other factors it might not always be possible to replicate what you first thought of. For example, if the room is smaller than you’d hoped for, you might need to think about the size of your light modifer, or the positioning of people. It’s always good to be flexible and work on your toes.” Being location-based and not operating from a studio, Pardon shoots throughout England.
Photographing everything from sports to products, there is one genre Pardon enjoys above the others. “In terms of editorial and commercial work, I like environmental portraits,” he says. “I think there’s nothing better than creating a themed and theatrical image that really captures the view as intentioned. You can convey a lot more in a single image by including the surroundings. My love is photographing people. That’s my number one thing. I’ve always been interested in photographing people.”
Things have changed since the eleven year old Pardon’s grandfather got him started. His first camera was a Minolta Dynax 300si, which he still owns. Being a child with no income, film and processing chemicals were hard to come by, limiting his photographic output. Also deeply interested in cars since childhood and an active racing driver himself, his photography of the sport got him noticed by magazines, which wanted some of his images. At about age 17, digital cameras became more accessible, and his transition out of the analog art began. Although he only considers himself a full-time photographer for the past year, Pardon no longer shoots film, but would like to dabble in it again in the future.
Pardon has a few mandatory practices. “I’m always using location lights, whether it’s speedlights or a head,” he says. “My second love is low aperture, so I use a lot of prime lenses. I use a lot of low F-stops [wide open] so you can throw the background out [by blurring it]. That’s one of the reasons why I shoot with the PocketWizard Flex and Mini system. When you shoot low aperture, obviously you’re letting a lot of light into the camera. If you want to use location lighting as well, it means you have to use neutral density filters to stop the light from getting to the sensor. But with the PocketWizard Flex system, obviously you can use the HyperSync system, which is absolutely brilliant. That’s why I wrote the blog post, just saying how great the gear is.”
The PocketWizard FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 trigger Pardon’s Canon 580EXII and 430EX speedlites. A PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller and MM6 Electronic Flash Sync Cable are also employed. He uses Manfrotto tripods and heads. Pardon’s main camera is the Canon 5D Mark II with the following Canon lenses: 50mm f/1.4 USM, 17-40mm f/4 L USM, 70-200 f/2.8 L IS USM, and a Canon 2x II EF Extender.
In keeping with his strong love of environmental portraits, Pardon has unveiled the ongoing project I Am…, which is the very definition of such work. Pardon travels to locations almost anywhere to chronicle individuals doing what they do every day: their jobs. His portraits have documented, among others, an Olympic athlete, a chef, a recording studio manager, a baker, and, of course, a race car driver. For these location-based portraits, he has been relying on an “Elinchrom Quadra kit with a deep octa, my favourite light modifier,” he says. “They are fantastic for my I Am… series, considering it’s entirely location-based. Again, these are used with the PocketWizard triggers so I can still utilize my speedlites and HyperSync functionality.”
Not limited to the British Isles, Pardon’s partner Hannah is a travel junkie and professional photographer as well, and together they’ve traveled and worked in Europe and Africa. He now lives in Hertfordshire, and works wherever clients need him. With a portfolio showing accomplishment from moody landscapes to saturated environmental portraits, this young photographer has shown talent across a wide swath of photographic subject matter. I am, indeed. Watch him.