Ian Middleton has taken some amazing photos of the beach in Ćunski, on Lošinj island, the base for our Croatian Language School summer school. Ian has managed to capture the beauty and ambiance of this very private, hidden-away, locals’ beach, although that’s no great surprise really, given that he is an accomplished professional photographer. We tracked him down in Pula and he kindly agreed to share a few more secrets with us.
1. I see that your wife comes from Slovenia. Could you tell us a little more about your roots and how you came to be in Ćunski?
Yes my wife is Slovene and she comes from Ljubljana. Lošinj island was her family summer holiday location, so one year we decided to spend ours there. I was searching for apartments in Mali Lošinj, but as it was for August everything was horrendously expensive. I was on the verge of giving up when I found one located in Ćunski. I saw on the map it was just a few kilometres north of Mali Lošinj, so made that my last attempt. We would have a car, so it was not a problem to be outside the town. The owner replied with an offer of 50 euros per night. We jumped at it.
Upon arrival we knew instantly we had made the right choice, as the apartment and family were equally lovely. After checking in we took a walk through the village and followed the signposts down the path to Zaosiri Beach, just a 5-minute walk away.
When we emerged at the beach my photographer’s eye immediately took in the scene, and I knew I was going to be busy here in the mornings! I fell in love with the spot there and then. As soon as I saw the boathouse view, and also worked out that the sun was going to rise just behind it, the image started forming in my head.
2. I read your blog – Patience and perseverance – How I Got the Shot [https://blog.ianmiddletonphotography.com/2018/03/26/patience-and-perseverance-how-i-got-the-shot/] about the photo of Ćunski’s Zaosiri beach. Do you spend as much time getting exactly the right shot on all your photos? And do you always know what shot you want before you click the shutter, or do you sometimes just “snap” like the rest of us?
It very much depends on the location. Sometimes, like for this photo, I can visualise the kind of image I’m looking for immediately. Sometimes I need to spend some time looking around. For the boathouse photo I visualised this kind of image and worked each morning over two visits to get it, I took other versions which were good, but not quite what I had in mind. However, for the rest of the area I scouted each morning trying different compositions. More often than not the light, weather and conditions dictate how I will compose an image. I can sometimes see a composition very quickly, or most often need to spend a lot of time looking. When I have one or more compositions in mind, these are usually adjusted or adapted slightly by what is happening around the scene or in the sky. Clouds feature a lot in my photos, and I nearly always make fine adjustments to fit in a particular cloud pattern. One morning at Zaosiri I arrived just as an overnight storm was moving off to the east, and the cloud patterns and lightning over the big island of Veli Osir was the determining factor for this shot.
Sometimes I have to be reactive, but I never just snap. While I may have to work fast, when the light or conditions are changing quickly, each shot is still taken with a lot of thought. There is no point in rushing and snapping a shot, as you will most likely make a mistake. It’s better to miss the shot, than mess it up. I think that is where skill and experience play a part, like with everything. It can often be said that you are lucky when you capture a great fleeting moment, but while you may be lucky to be in the right place at the right time, without the skill, knowledge, and eye for a composition, you will likely miss it, or not capture the moment perfectly.
3. Your wife sounds very understanding! Do you ever go away on holiday, or even out for a short time together and leave your camera at home?!
Ha, I never go on holiday without my camera equipment! We have a small car, and now we have two kids it’s getting a bit of a squeeze with boot space. This year my wife cautiously suggested that maybe we won’t have enough room for my camera backpack. I made room!
In all seriousness though, she is very understanding and supportive of my work, and is far more patient than many would be. But like anyone who isn’t into photography her patience has a limit. I don’t blame her, because it can be very boring waiting, and of course the kids get impatient too, which doesn’t help.
It’s a fine balance between the two. And it’s getting harder now we have two kids. When we were in Ćunski, we only had the one boy, and he was 2 the first time we went. I would get up early and go down to photograph, take a quick swim afterwards and by the time I got back up they were still asleep. Now my boy is older he sometimes wants to come with me and bring his own little camera. So I’m training him to take over the family business!
I do sometimes leave my camera at home, but mostly when we go on a family hike or outing, I just take my main camera but not the whole backpack. It’s good to have it because you never know when a moment is going to present itself. While I accept that when I’m on an outing with my family I cannot put the time and concentration into waiting and searching for the perfect moment, but in one respect it has taught me to think and work fast when I see a moment about to appear. This can be a critical skill because even when out on my own when I have time and no distractions, light and conditions can change fast and sometimes I might be setup with a particular composition waiting for the light, when somewhere to the left or right I’ll see a potential moment about to happen and will have to work fast to move my camera, recompose and change my settings to capture a fleeting moment.
Mostly though, I try to go out on shoots on my own. This way I can focus more on what I’m doing without any distractions.
4. Do you speak any Slovenian or Croatian and what are the challenges?
I don’t speak any Croatian, but I do understand a little because of the Slovene I have learned. While I don’t speak Slovene very well at all, I do understand a lot more than I can speak. I travelled for many years in Spain and Latin America, and learned Spanish well. I thought Slovene would also be relatively easy to pick up, but sadly that has not been the case. Slovene has cases, and therefore the word endings change so much that I confess I am completely lost when trying to speak it.
5. Do you have a favourite place in Croatia? And Slovenia?
We have only really explored Lošinj and Istria, but so far I’ve found Ćunski to be favourite, along with Bašanija in Istria.
In Slovenia, my favourite places are of course, Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, but two other great viewpoints are of Saint Thomas Church and Jamnik Church.
6. How did you initially get into photography and do you still enjoy it or has it become more of a “job”?
My main profession is electronics. I got into photography, and writing, after a 4-month backpacking trip around Mexico back in 1997. I realised after that trip that my head was filled with so many pictures and stories that I needed to write down the stories, but also in future learn how to take better photos on my trips. It soon evolved into a profession.
Yes I still enjoy it. As with all jobs, there are aspects of the job that are a bit boring and laborious, but that is part of any work. What’s important is that you are doing what you love. However, I haven’t made it my full time work, as that would involve having to do other types of photography like wedding or commercial photography. This would take the fun out of it, so I still do a lot of other work alongside it to keep the money flowing.
8. I’ve read your free ebook which has some great photographic tips and I see you have a number of workshops. What do you enjoy most and least about teaching photography to other people?
I enjoy everything about teaching photography, and would be out running workshops all the time if I could. There’s something special about helping others to realise their potential, and even better to see their faces when they capture a
great shot. When I first showed a student how to capture silky smooth flowing water effects at Vintgar Gorge, her face lit up like a child when the image came up on her viewfinder. It’s also nice to show people how not everything is done using
Photoshop magic, as many think. Another student was surprised when I demonstrated this and exclaimed, “Oh, I thought that was all done with Photoshop!”
8. How can readers find out more about you and your work?
My websites: http://www.ianmiddleton.info/
My YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/ianmiddletonphotographytravel
Photography blog: https://blog.ianmiddletonphotography.com/