Behind the lens: Finn Beales

The photographer discusses the humbling power of landscapes and why it’s important to remain open to new experiences

Words by Patrick Tillard | Photography by Finn Beales

You get the impression that Finn Beales doesn’t shy away from adverse weather. In fact, he appears to revel in it. While much of his photography depicts the raw power of nature – crashing waves, black cliffs battered by violent winds, volcanoes spewing smoke and lava – he manages to instil an ethereal serenity into even the most dramatic of scenes. Delve deeper into his work and you realise that in fact he’ll take any conditions he’s given; as long as he’s outdoors, learning, exploring, trying new things, preferably with the familiar weight of his camera to hand. Whatever the weather, the resulting images carry a unique synergy and agrestic narrative.

His deep-rooted appreciation and respect for nature stems from its unpredictability and immense energy, and the way in which it inspires stories amongst travellers. His images offer a sense of perspective, as lone figures are dwarfed by towering rock formations and waterfalls – it reflects his belief that we humans are merely fleeting visitors in these vast landscapes; that our presence pails into insignificance when placed alongside natural forces and the world’s wildest regions. Moreover, his work highlights that there is still so much untouched beauty to discover and experience.

Finn lives in a quiet valley of the Welsh Black Mountains, and his creativity is receiving the acclaim it merits. Airport stamps spill from the pages of his passport, his Instagram following is closing in on 600k, and he has worked on several global brand campaigns. We caught up with him to chat about his inspirations and the countries that have left him speechless.

How did you first get into photography?

My grandfather gave me my first lesson in composition on a family holiday when I was about 10 years old, but it wasn’t until the early digital cameras came onto the scene that I started shooting properly. I then began to use photography more within my design work when I worked as an Art Director at a design agency.

How much planning do you put in before heading to a new place?

There’s a great quote by Franklin that goes: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. I spend a good few days researching locations before I visit and recommend Pinterest as a great resource to visually search a new location. However, one must not be blind to serendipity – often things will happen on a shoot that you can never prepare for. I’ve learned that remaining open to the world and to new experiences allows me to capitalise on such opportunities.

Often things will happen on a shoot that you can never prepare for

What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your travels?

Underneath we’re all very similar, but I think we have so much to learn from each other. Fear and anxiety results from the unknown. Travel brings us closer together, and as a result breaks down these negative thoughts. I love meeting new people, seeing new places, new ways of thinking, new technologies etc. Some of my best friends have been made through travelling overseas and our life back in Wales has no doubt been enhanced by the relationships made and the ideas I have brought home.

What do you find most humbling or powerfully-inspiring when on location?

The weather and the surrounding natural landscape. It’s so infinitely old and will long outlast myself. There is nothing more humbling.

Other than your camera, what essential do you take on every trip?

Dried fruit, nuts and chocolate energy bars! I’m often up early and out late. Mealtimes don’t generally coincide with good light.

Where’s next on your bucket list?

Thailand, Bali, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Five places everyone should visit?

1) Camp at Crane Flats campground in Yosemite NP and rise early to watch dawn break over Half Dome Mountain.
2) Travel the ring road of Iceland when there is a new moon and marvel at the Northern Lights dancing above you.
3) Climb Mt Stromboli (a volcano off the coast of Sicily) in time for sunset and watch the eruptions light up the Mediterranean far below.
4) Enjoy the craic at Matt Malloy’s bar in Westport, Ireland.
5) Barter with the traders in the Souk in Marrakech. They will drop their price in the end, but you have to work hard, and they’ll love you for it.

What cameras do you shoot with?
• Canon 5D MkIV
• iPhone
• Hasselblad 500
• Leica M10

What are your go-to lenses?
• Canon 24mm 1.4
• Canon 35mm 1.4
• Sigma Art 50mm 1.4
• Sigma Art 85mm 1.4

Follow Finn Beales on Instagram at @finn or see more of his work at madebyfinn.com

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