I evoke passion and mindfulness via coast photographs

Mark Cornick

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 100, F8, 1/160s

What photography equipment do you use and how would you describe yourself as a photographer?

Throughout my career as a photographer, camera bodies have come and gone, but one thing has remained a constant – SIGMA lenses have always been attached to the front of my cameras. I currently shoot with a Sony α7R III and a selection of SIGMA lenses that cater to a wide range of situations and subject matter. This covers everything from the extreme wide angle SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art, to the telephoto SIGMA 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Contemporary

I am an abstract and contemporary landscape photographer, specialising in coastal, botanical and documentary style images. My aim is to create visually striking images, utilising the colours and elements of my subject to capture the energy and atmosphere of the environment around me. The goal: for the viewers of my work to feel the same emotions as I did when I was taking the image. A sense of calm, peace, and tranquility.

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 160, F8, 1/200s

What is your impression of the new SIGMA I series lenses, in particular the 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary?

When unboxing the SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary lens from the I series for the first time and holding it in my hands, I was happily surprised to discover how compact and light the lens was, even compared to other I series lenses that I have used. This SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary has to be one of the lightest wide-angle primes that I have seen, and this was confirmed when I attached the lens to my camera for the first time, the lens effortlessly compliments my camera body, giving it a sleek and stylish appearance.

As with other I series primes, the addition of the manual aperture ring is one of the most welcome features, not just for the ability to easily switch settings, but also as I find this a far more absorbing photographic experience. I was looking forward to shooting some new images with this lens, and there was no better way to do so than by heading to the coast for a couple of days of mindful photography.

One of the things that really impressed me about the 17mm was its minimum focusing distance of 12cm. This helped me to compose some unique images by getting really close to my subject and keeping all the details sharp. This created some really interesting photographs, especially whilst I was photographing fishing boats and equipment and one of my favorite coastal locations, Dungeness. Using a wide angle prime for the first time at this location enabled me to see the location through fresh eyes, and capture images I hadn’t considered when photographing here before.

* The images without photograph data have been created with lenses other than SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 100, F11, 1/400s

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 100, F8, 1/100s

Can you tell us about your experience as a photographer? How did you come to be working in this field?

I have always been intrigued by visual media, having studied cinematography at university. I was fascinated by modules that dove deeper into the process of composing a pleasing frame, and the range of techniques used to tell a story through imagery. 

As time passed it became evident that my passion for creating stills images was far greater than that for making films. As with most photographers when they begin their journey, I experimented with many different genres of photography, and spent a number of years photographing the city of London, mainly from an architectural viewpoint. This work was important, as it taught me fundamental technical and compositional skills, but it left me unsatisfied, and many of the images I took were unoriginal and lacked any signature style. The fast pace of the city, the noises, and the amount of people on the streets led to me coming back from shoots feeling stressed and tired.

I was starting to appreciate being outdoors in nature more and more, enjoying solitude, especially when photographing at the coast. This is how my love for landscape photography was born. I wanted to find a way to capture the sights and colours of the ocean at sunset, but in my own unique style, which also led me to become absorbed in the world of abstraction and ethereal effects of long exposure photography.

This was the “light bulb” moment for me. By using a mixture of techniques, I was able to produce images that could portray my thoughts and feelings of how I feel when I am by the coast, with the blurring of water, and vivid colours creating an almost alternate reality. 

What I find amazing about photography is the feeling that it can give you when you truly discover your path and passion for documenting a subject. The initial feeling of excitement and joy when I first started taking images of the coast is something that I still carry with me today, and motivates me to keep going out and taking pictures. When people view my work and find the same joy as I did when creating the images, it is something else entirely!

After finding the locations that I was passionate about, I have spent the past few years experimenting and using different camera techniques to create a distinctive style of image, which rely heavily on the use of colour and abstraction.

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 160, F8, 1/200s

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 100, F8, 1/100s

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary,
SONY α7R III, ISO 100, F11, 1/250s

What role does photography play in your life and career? How do you find your inspiration? What is your passion in photography and life?

As I have progressed through my photographic journey, the role it plays in my lifestyle and career has grown vastly in importance. What started as a hobby has evolved into a growing career and a life-long passion. Photography has also started to play a new and vital role in my life, which is one of mindfulness. Nearly all of my work now focuses on creating images that aim to evoke a feeling of calm, tranquility and escape. It is a way to express the way I feel, and the time spent taking photos has become a very personal experience. I am at greatest peace when out on location by myself or at least at a location that is not heavily populated.

This is why the coast plays such a pivotal role in my photography. Just the experience of being outdoors, walking along the shore, whether that be in mid-winter or mid-summer energises me, and fills me with a sense of pure joy. I can easily spend hours just observing or taking in my surroundings before the camera even comes out of my bag and I start looking for compositions. When the camera does then come into play, I am in the right mental space to absorb myself fully into the process of composing my images.
When I am in this state of mind, I find that I make my best work. These images often go on to be the ones that are well received.

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 200, F11, 1/100s

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary,
SONY α7R III, ISO 320, F11, 1/160s

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary,
SONY α7R III, ISO 320, F11, 1/160s

So why is the coast such a special place for me to make images? As mentioned before, being at the beach was where I made that decision that landscape photography was going to be my focus of interest as a photographer. The elements found at the coast produce the most wonderful sights – the crashing movement of the waves, the intricate patterns in the sand that are revealed only at low-tide, hidden faces in ancient cliff edges, and of course the never ending and always changing canvas of the sky. Bringing all these elements together is for me, the ultimate in satisfaction.

What is especially magical about the coast, is that no two days will ever be the same. Images made on a summer evening will be totally different to those that are made in mid-winter, the feelings and emotions you experience when making them will also vastly differ. When I look back on certain images, I can relive the experience of taking the image. The feeling of a soft gentle breeze blowing through the dunes and walking barefoot through the sand. Or struggling to manually focus the lens with numb fingers, standing in freezing cold waters that splash against the legs of my tripod, threatening to spill over the tops of my wellington boots. It is all worth it when I’m look back at my images, feeling nice and warm with a well-deserved cup of tea. 

When I’m not out in the field capturing images, I use as much of my spare time as possible to edit my images, research locations, ideas and techniques, and view the work of other photographers. This is all part of the process of maintaining inspiration and commitment to photography. 

I am an avid fan of print media, and I think there is no better way to enjoy the work of others, (or your own) than in physical printed forms. Social media is also a fantastic way to discover new photographers. Taking the time to sit and view their work through a book or exhibition is a truly rewarding experience. Instead of a double tap and scrolling on through your social media feed, viewing a photobook is how the photographer intended their work to be seen – as a whole, enabling us to find common themes between images and enjoy a visual story.

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 320, F8, 1/100s

How do you create your own style? What’s your suggestion to people who are exploring their own style?

It is often said that as photographers we need to develop our own “style”. This is one of the main ways that we can distinguish ourselves from other photographers, and make recognisable work that stands out from the crowd and grabs a viewer’s attention. 

Developing a personal style is certainly something that cannot be achieved quickly or easily, but instead attained by studying and practicing the craft of photography over many years, and by viewing the work of as many other photographers that you can. When you have seen what has come before you, it provides the opportunity to go out and create something new and meaningful. It is important to draw inspiration from other photographers, and to see how different people may approach photographing a similar subject matter to yourself, allowing the creative mind to flow. When you are out in the field you can build on this knowledge, experiment, and find your own approach to documenting an area or subject.

It took me nearly a decade to develop what I would call my “style”. Within this time frame I practiced many different genres of photography, but it was not until I immersed myself more in the world of abstraction, and techniques such as intentional camera movement and multiple exposure in an outdoor environment that I finally felt like I was creating work that was true to my own taste and vision.

The most important thing that I learnt and discovered as I was developing my style was that I am very much a project-based photographer. I like to create distinct bodies of work, with titles and statements of intent, so that viewers of my work can get a full understanding of what the image is about. A project can be a full body of work, or it can be something as simple as creating a triptych of images from one day at a location. I have found it invaluable to work in this way, as I always have a clear goal in my mind when I go out to shoot, and know that I have an end goal for the images that I will be making on that day.

If you are at the start of your photographic journey, or in the process of developing your own style then my advice would be this – photograph the subjects you are truly passionate about. Only then will you make your best work, and slowly but surely find a way to document things in your own characteristic way.

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 200, F11, 1/160s

SIGMA 17mm F4 DG DN | Contemporary, SONY α7R III, ISO 320, F11, 1/160s

Why does the I series suit you so well, and which three words would you choose to describe your experience of using these new lenses?

SIGMA I series lenses have become a vital element in my photography workflow, particularly due to their compact size, superior build quality and stylish aesthetic. 

When I’m shooting at the coast I need to be prepared and be able to react quickly to changing light and weather conditions, which is why I always travel with a selection of I series lenses. I may come across an unexpected scene or intimate detail, and having a choice of lenses readily available means I can do justice to a scene and come away with the best images possible.

I am safe in the knowledge that these lenses will always perform, and enable me to bring my vision to life. Having that peace of mind means I can spend more time in the field being creative, seeking out compositions and creating photographs. And as a bonus, being able to travel light is particularly important to me, and knowing that I can fit a selection of I series lenses easily into one bag means I am always prepared for a full day of shooting at the coast, and prepared for a range of situations and styles of photography.

Three words that come to mind when using I series lenses: Stylish, Confident, Free.

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