Devon through the lens: Malcolm Snelgrove

Internationally published photographer Malcolm Snelgrove is based in Devon, and has a deep love for his county – and Dartmoor in particular. His passion and enthusiasm has allowed him to develop a unique contemporary documentary style, which he often uses to capture Devon’s landscapes, wildlife and people, to great effect. We spoke to Malcolm about his inspirations and fascinations.

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What inspired you to become a photographer?
I grew up exploring the wildlife around me, from the garden to the open countryside, spending as much of my spare time in the outdoors patiently watching and observing what was naturally happening before me.

With this passion for wildlife came my interest in photography, and at the age of ten my parents gave me my first camera  – a Miranda 35mm.

I became fascinated with capturing everything in the natural world, and this was only increased by my first trans-Atlantic trip to Vancouver Island at the age of 14. Here I saw my first bald eagle majestically soaring in the sky and then perched in a tree close enough to watch, along with killer whales passing in the distance dodging the logging booms..

It was then seeing the work of nature photographer Thomas Mangelsen that inspired me to become a photographer.

 

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What do you love about Devon, and where in Devon did you take your best photo?
I love the diversity that Devon has to offer the photographer. Whether your interest is in coastal or scenic landscape, people, culture, sport, or outdoor & adventure photography, Devon holds a huge list of special places to perfect your camera skills and capture stunning images.

As an ambassador for Visit Dartmoor with a huge passion for the moor I am rather biased in saying I love all 368 square miles that Dartmoor has to offer. All my favourite images are taken on Dartmoor capturing images of outdoor enthusiast – whether they’re riding out on horses, on mountain bikes, kayaking, rock climbing or hiking in some of the most dramatic yet accessible locations the UK has to offer.

My current favourite locations which offer wide diversity for the photographer are: Dewerstone Rocks – fabulous for rock climbing and landscape images with Dewerstone and the valley as a backdrop. I’ve had many a fab time sitting up on The Needle and Ravens capturing images of rock climbers; and Bench Tor looking out across the Dart Valley – in my opinion, one of the most stunning locations for the landscape photographer on the moor, with great accessibility for the walker and rider with some rock climbing routes if you’re interested.

 

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Which of your photos particularly makes you smile?
The jockeys racing with Adventure Clydesdales on Devon Day, a yearly event which occurs at Exeter Race Course, brings a huge smile to everyone’s faces, whilst raising money for the Devon Air Ambulance – a charity dear to my heart. The jockeys faces say it all!

 

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Why do you think we have so many photographers and creatives in Devon?
The words of Steven Spielberg during the making of War Horse while filming on Dartmoor best capture why.

I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor and, with two-and-a-half weeks of extensive coverage of landscapes and skies, I hardly scratched the surface of the visual opportunities that were offered to me.” Steven Speilberg

The spectacular scenery and light that Dartmoor has to offer runs throughout Devon, offering photographers a hugely diverse range of photo opportunities. Whether your interest is coastal, moorland, forestry, castles and ancient ruins, Devon is simply one of the most stunning counties to work in for any artist.

What do you use your photography for? 
I’m an equestrian and active lifestyle photographer (see www.malcolmsnelgrove.com) based in Devon, with a huge passion and enthusiasm for photographing adventure and equestrian sports. It’s this passion that has allowed me to develop my own unique contemporary documentary style of photography which is proving immensely popular in the worlds of adventure and equestrian sports.

I capture images for professional athletes and commercial companies, from those wanting to update their websites, to those needing help with their branding, as well as individuals who simply want to record their love for their sport in a series of photographs.

These commissions range from commercial clients covering corporate events, to products, and to magazines delivering inspiring images.

My approach to photography is completely unobtrusive, which means I never dictate, prompt, move or direct a subject, but rather work in such a way that lets me capture the passion that they hold. ‘Observation not Orchestration’ is my mantra.

I also run photography workshops in Devon encompassing many outdoor adventures and equestrian sports, from workshops at Bicton Arena International Horse Trials as well as those on Dartmoor.

 

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If there was one Devon event or place you would recommend budding photographers photograph, what would it be?
Dartmoor, Dartmoor, Dartmoor! There are few superlatives that can really do Dartmoor’s stunning and spine-tingling scenery justice, with its 368 square miles of land (that’s more than one for every day of the year).

From vast and precipitous outcrops of granite that make up the numerous tors, to the extensive expanse of mires that are criss-crossed by pony and sheep paths. Streams run into rivers and liberal tracts of forestry are there to explore; you’ll find ancient clapper bridges, stone crosses, and ancient Bronze Age settlements or hut circles, where folklore and myths shroud each place in mystery.

It’s an incredible location for the photographer to have all this as a backdrop, whether you’re looking for formal portraits or great images of the Dartmoor landscape.