Profile

David Noton

Villa Casanova and the Val d'Orcia at dawn, Tuscany, Italy by David Noton on a Canon EOS 5DS R.
Villa Casanova and the Val d'Orcia in Tuscany, Italy, photographed by Canon Ambassador David Noton at dawn. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 1/13 sec, f/14 and ISO100. © David Noton

With a portfolio of jaw-dropping landscape and travel photographs, Canon Ambassador David Noton has been leading his field for over three decades.

David's archive is stacked with hundreds of thousands of images that have appeared everywhere from posters published by Athena to A-Z Landmarks stamps, created on commissions for the National Trust. He's won an array of international awards, including prizes in three BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitions, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. He's written articles, compiled books, produced videos, organised exhibitions, run photography workshops and even developed his one-of-a-kind photography roadshow. "Essentially my mission is to communicate, however I can, how the stimulus of photography enriches life – no small task!" David explains.

Canon Ambassador David Noton.


Location: Dorset, UK
Specialist areas: Landscape, travel
Favourite Kit:
Canon EOS 5DS R
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Although born in England, David grew up in Canada where he put the camera he received for his 13th birthday to good and regular use. His passion became all-consuming when he circumnavigated the globe with the Merchant Navy in the late 1970s, pushing him to go to college in 1982 to study editorial and advertising photography. After graduating, David became a freelancer based in Bristol, where odd jobs for local businesses blossomed into high-profile campaigns for international brands and he was quickly snapped up by the Telegraph Colour Library (now part of Getty Images).

David spent the 1990s photographing the world and by 2000 he was licensing in excess of 100 image sales a month to the worlds of publishing, advertising and news media. "Portraying a destination, its people, culture, architecture and my experience of being there is a challenge that I find endlessly rewarding," he says. "My pictures are all about the places and experiences rather than style or photographic technique. I strive for simplicity, subtlety and restraint, but also mood, drama and the capture of that moment when the light and composition fuse perfectly."

Mount Chicón and the Cordillera Urubamba in the Andes, photographed by David Noton on a Canon EOS-1DS Mark II.
Mount Chicón and the Cordillera Urubamba in the Andes above the Sacred Valley, near Cusco, Peru. Taken on a Canon EOS-1DS Mark II at 1/10 sec, f/11 and ISO100. © David Noton
The Milky Way over Durdle Door photographed by David Noton on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
The Milky Way over Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast, Dorset, England. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens with multiple exposures ranging from 18 seconds and 120 seconds merged, f/2.8 and ISO12800. © David Noton

In 2001 David found his flair for writing, going on to produce monthly columns for Practical Photography for almost a decade. Since then, he has penned editorial material for a wide range of photography magazines, including Outdoor Photography, PhotoPlus, Amateur Photographer and Photography News.

In 2008 he launched his first book, Waiting for the Light, and first film, Chasing the Light. Later that year he kicked off his programme of photography courses, which have since run all over Europe. Also touring the continent is David’s innovative Chasing the Light Roadshow – a multimedia experience designed to inspire and motivate fellow photographers, which has been running since 2009.

In 2010 David's second book, Full Frame, was published alongside his second film, Photography in the RAW. In 2012 he created the online f11 Photography Magazine. "It has become the main focus of all I do," he says. "It’s where all my accumulated passion for the joy of photography and over 32 years of professional experience gets channelled, and it's where the best stuff gets published."

David's third book, The Vision, was published in 2013 and he’s currently working on one that celebrates his career. He says, "Photography captivated me 40 years ago and it's dominated my life ever since. There's always a new horizon beckoning."

Loch Rannoch at dawn, Perthshire, Scotland, photographed by David Noton on a Canon EOS 5DS R.
One of Scotland's best-known mountains, Schiehallion, reflected in Loch Rannoch at dawn. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at 1 sec, f/16 and ISO100. © David Noton

What do you think photographers new to the genre overlook?

"The photographic world is rife with plagiarism. Landscape photography is particularly prone to this, as the discovery of locations with strong photographic potential is the hardest part of the process. But the artists who stand out the most have dug deep to the core of their imagination. Be original – it's not easy, but so much more rewarding."

Your work has become synonymous with the expression ‘Chasing the Light’, but what’s the lesson here?

"The light can make or break a shoot; an innocuous subject in sparkling light can make for a stunning capture, while even the Grand Canyon under uninspiring illumination struggles to impress. In fact, I often feel I'm shooting the light as much as the subject – hence the catchphrase."

When you arrive at a location, how do you decide where to set up?

"I always have a plan of what I'm trying to shoot, why and how. Few plans survive first contact with Mother Nature, but far better to start with a plan and adapt to circumstances than to aimlessly walk out the door hoping to stumble across opportunities. Preparation is key, but so is flexibility."

Can you reveal your shooting process?

"I'll arrive on location well before the optimum time. I virtually always use Aperture Priority mode and Evaluative Metering. I compose first using the eyepiece, then scrutinise using Live View. I'll do test shots as I'm waiting. The decisive moment when the light is just right often lasts just a few seconds."

What's your secret for success in post production?

"The scope for enhancing images is enormous, but so is the potential for ruining them! Simplicity is the key. If in doubt, don't do it. Most of my images require only a few minutes' attention, just an adjustment of black and white points and a few selective tweaks of contrast and brightness."

Facebook: @davidnotonphotography
Instagram: @notonphoto
Twitter: @DavidNoton
Website: www.davidnoton.com

A foggy autumn morning in Everlanes Wood, Somerset, photographed by David Noton on a Canon EOS 5DS R.
A foggy autumn morning in Everlanes Wood, Somerset, England – David's favourite landscape photo. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 1/5 sec, f/11 and ISO100. © David Noton

One Thing I Know
David Noton

"When you're shooting landscapes, remember that it's all about the light. Be original, but keep it simple. It's about being in the right place at the right time, which sounds easy but rarely is. Finally, always go for quality over quantity. These tips can also be applied to travel photography, though give yourself enough time to get beneath the surface of a place. Never walk past an opportunity for a captivating portrait; better to ask and be rebuffed than live a life regretting the missed chance. Travel less, see more, be sensitive and ultimately portray your own unique vision of a place."

David Noton's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs.

Canon Ambassador David Noton's kitbag.

Cameras

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Featuring a 30 megapixel CMOS sensor, this flagship DSLR has a maximum ISO sensitivity of 32000. "A versatile and robust full-frame DSLR camera that handles so well and combines excellent low-light capability, fast auto-focus and impressive image quality," says David.

Canon EOS R

The flagship full-frame mirrorless camera for pros. As David puts it: "low-light focusing and a compact size make this mirrorless gem the camera to pack when I need to keep the load on my back to a minimum."

Lenses

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM

A workhorse telephoto zoom lens designed for professional use. David says: "A fast, long and versatile zoom lens that has earned its keep time and time again around the world, when I'm shooting everything from portraits to landscapes."

Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L

A tilt-shift lens with low distortion and excellent edge-to-edge sharpness. "This lens is an indispensable tool for my travel and landscape work when I need ultra-wide coverage yet parallel verticals in a tight spot," David explains.

Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

A tilt-shift lens permitting maximum creative freedom. "A lens that has proved its worth many times when I need a textbook image with all lines parallel and ultimate depth of field," says David.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

A professional short-telephoto lens, precision-made for low-light shooting. "My lens of choice for travel portraiture due to the distinctive look it produces when used at its incredibly wide maximum aperture," David says.

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

A precision-designed ultra wide-angle, L-series lens with a rectilinear design to correct distortion. "A small, fast and portable ultra-wide prime lens that has proved its worth for me, particularly when shooting the night sky," says David.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

A compact, high-performance zoom ideal for shooting sports, action and wildlife photography. "With its long focal length, useful zoom range, compressed perspectives, relatively portable size, incredible sharpness and impressive Image Stabilization, this lens has become an indispensable tool," enthuses David.

Accessories

Compass

"Yes, I know, we all have compasses on our phones, but sometimes – in fact most times – you can't beat low-tech simplicity that doesn’t require a battery or signal," says David. "And a compass is an essential tool for a landscape photographer."

Apple

"Landscape photography is all about waiting for the light, and that can often mean loitering by the tripod for hours, so something to nibble never goes amiss," says David. "I've included an apple, but a pork pie and chocolate are often packed too. I know how to live!"

Keys

"The bigger the set of keys you carry, the more important you are, right? Actually, I have no idea what most of the keys on my ring are for," says David.

Gloves and hat

"I carry both in my bag, even at the height of summer," says David. "The best locations always seem to be in the most frigid, exposed places, such as windy hill tops."

Penknife

David says this is "useful for changing quick-release plates, tightening things, slicing the pork pie and pulling the cork back at the campsite."

Business cards

"Well… you never know who you're going to meet on a clifftop at dawn!" says David.

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