You may remember a few months ago I asked my friend Cheryl (from fashion blog Business Chic) to take some photographs of me my riding to work on my bike. While we were shooting in Flinders Lane, a swarm of people carrying telephoto lenses came across us. The group was on some sort of photography tour – and their teacher asked whether it was ok for him and his students to take photos of me. Golly, I’d been papped!

Cheryl takes a photo of the paparazzi

Anyway, it transpired that their tour leader and teacher was Richard I’Anson, a reknowned travel photographer based in Melbourne. I have several of his books at home! Seizing the opportunity, I asked Richard whether he’d be interested in doing a little HOT Chat for this blog in time for the launch of his new book, India: essential encounters. Thanks Richard!

Richard's photo of me

Richard, tell me a bit more about your background and how you got your start as a professional photographer?

I was an avid (some might say tragic) amateur from the moment I got my first camera for my 16th birthday. After a couple of years at college studying photography, film and television I left to work in a camera shop. A year later I quit and set up my own business shooting weddings, which I did for 5 years, during which time I also starting travelling.

To establish myself as a travel photographer I did lots of trips all over Australia plus two overseas trips. The first was a seven month trip which was a lot of fun but covered far too much ground in too short a time. I now regard that trip as my apprenticeship, as the results were patchy to say the least. However, after a couple of years at home and lots of reading and looking at the work of other photographers I set off on a two year journey through Asia with the goal of building a substantial image collection.

After I got home I went knocking on doors and fortunately my pictures suited the needs of a few companies, including Lonely Planet and World Expeditions, who I’m still working with 20 years later.

What do you think is special about photography as an artistic medium?

Photography has the ability to allow the photographer to capture realistic, yet unique moments in time, by combining a series of technical and creative decisions in order to select and organise elements into a visually cohesive composition.

What are some of the most interesting or challenging shoots you’ve done?

Every shoot is interesting and almost all of them have challenging moments, mainly due to the fact there is never enough time and the vagaries of the weather.

I’ve done a lot of work in the Himalaya. When you’ve got to get up in freezing temperatures, walk for a couple of hours up a great big hill to be in position for when the first rays of sun light hit the mountain tops, it’s always both mentally and physically challenging.

Equally so are the really big festivals in India when millions of people gather to celebrate. The massive crowds, long days and the distance that I end up covering on foot make for very, very intense experiences.

Where are you travelling next for your photography?

At this stage the trips planned for next year include China, Czech Republic and India –  where I’ll be escorting a 22 day trip to  Ladakh and Zanskar in the Indian Himalaya (see www.worldexpeditions.com).

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a professional travel photographer?

Understand right from the start that travelling to take photographs is very different to taking photos while travelling. Nothing gets higher priority than being in the right place, at the right time, all of the time.

It’s a competitive, challenging business and if you want to be successful you will have to work hard and do it full time. And, you have to be prepared to commit time and money to building a collection that you can licence to image buyers as well as show potential clients what you’re capable of.

Finally, what are your HOT tips for Melbourne where you like to take your camera?

Melbourne’s lanes with their graffiti covered walls are a favourite place and not just for the art, there is always something happening – cafe workers taking a break, kids hanging out, music being played, wedding groups being photographed and tourists wandering around with their cameras – all great subjects to shoot in front of the colourful walls.

Federation Square is another place where there is always activity and the architecture itself is a wonderful subject.

Finally Southbank is a great place to be at dusk for the classic city view.

Richard is launching his new book India: essential encounters in Melbourne next Tuesday 23 November at POP Restaurant, Hardware Lane. To purchase drinks, canapés and a signed copy of India: essential encounters, click here.