Tony Mearman, of Willington, born in Brandon

Who or what inspired you to take up photography?

WHEN I moved to the United States in the 1970s, the pound was strong against the dollar and everything was very inexpensive compared to prices in the UK. I had always wanted a nice camera so I bought a Minolta SLR film camera to take pictures of my family and the beautiful scenery around the city of Chicago. My wife saw an ad in the local newspaper so I applied for the part-time job with a wedding studio company and enjoyed photographing weddings in and around the Chicago area for five years.

Your first camera?

A MINOLTA SRT 202 film camera with 50mm f1.7 lens. When I began shooting weddings, I had to have two cameras and flashes so I bought a second camera, Minolta XE7 and 2 Sunpak 611 hammerhead type flashes.

What do you most enjoy photographing and why?

I GET a kick out of photographing people. There is nothing more fascinating to me than a beautiful or interesting face. On my travels, if I see an interesting person I will often stop to have a chat with them before asking if I can take their picture. More recently, I have taken to wildlife photography and enjoy going to Florida to photograph the exotic birds, the Alligator Farm at St Augustine is a particular favourite for bird photography.

Your favourite picture?

WHEN I lived in Wokingham, I was a member and chairman for two years at Wokingham and East Berkshire Camera Club and a photo competition judge for the Southern Counties Photographic Federation. On becoming a judge, I realised that I needed to gain some street cred and spent a couple of years applying for photographic distinctions. I started entering international photo competitions to gain a FIAP distinction and the first salon I entered was at Cork, Ireland where I managed to get my first gold medal for the image entitled “Special Girl”. The picture is a composite of an old car taken at Old Car City in Georgia, with a young girl photographed at an RPS event in Lacock, Wiltshire, positioned in the passenger seat using Photoshop.

Your go-to kit at the moment?

I’VE just returned from Florida photographing wild birds with my Canon 5D Mk IV and Canon EF100-400L Mk2 lens and just love this combination.

Do you spend much time in post-production and what software do you use?

I SPEND probably too much time in post production using Lightroom Classic CC and less frequently Photoshop CC. My favourite plug-ins are from Topaz and I enjoy using the new Topaz Studio with the Impression plug-in.

Any advice for budding photographers?

START doing a photo project such as "100 Strangers", improve your skills by getting involved with a club or activity that you enjoy taking photos of such as football, boxing, horse racing, enter more photo competitions, go for a photographic distinction, photograph something interesting, shoot in the best light, and seek out photo workshops, studio days and photo walks.