Q&A

A Brit's take on California

#SoCalMoments: A British photographer gives us her take on photographing life in LA

Reader Nicola Buck charmed the SoCal Moments team with her captivating photos that capture a glimpse of life in California.

Growing up, the native of England had always admired California from afar, dreaming of the sunsets and palm trees that the movies always flaunted. Since moving here four years ago with her husband and two daughters, she can't imagine a better home for developing her photography.

"In England the tendency is to downplay your talents," she said. "'I take photographs,' I'd say, when asked. In Los Angeles, you are who you say you are."

Below, she tells the Los Angeles Times about her experience as a full-time photographer in the land that she had romanticized for so long.

How would you describe your style of photography?

A photographer friend of mine described my work as having magical realism. I think that's exactly what it is. There is an element of something away from reality, but at the same time, the subjects are true to themselves -- a perfect combination for me. 

My aesthetic is no accident -- that was set in me a long time ago. The perfect image for me always has an energy, lots of personality and tells a story. The colors are bold; the expressions too. The California light is pretty much my ideal studio, so as soon as I walk out of the door it's inspiring to me.


What's your favorite California landscape?

I love Joshua Tree. I love it. I just think it's really unique, and it's not too far or isolated. I think I just love the spiritual feel of the desert at Joshua Tree, though I haven't been to Death Valley yet.

The mountains are really impressive as well. We're in the Pacific Palisades, just at the root of lots of hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains. It's a great site for taking photos with my daughters. 

But really, I like any California landscape. Living here really is a dream come true, and I take full advantage of my iconic surroundings -- desert, mountains and ocean with the added bonus of being the outsider who has seen it all from a distance.

Has coming in from the outside affected the way you see the city in terms of photography?

I think it has to an extent, but I also think that there are so many outsiders here who feel the same. That's what makes L.A. fantastic.

I think it's really an advantage to come from somewhere else when you've already got an impression of the place before you come, just from all of the films that have been set here. Everybody knows L.A. -- the palm trees and Venice Boardwalk. For me, shooting here is kind of a cross between the reality and the cliche. I've always been interested in how we view places from afar versus from where we stand. California has always been so romanticized through film and photography, so it's interesting actually being here. Even though I've been here a while now, I think I still have a romantic view of this place.

What have you learned along the way?

Lots of practice and keeping it one step at a time. Try not to run before you can walk. Keep learning from others but always be true to yourself. That's the key. Talk about what you know and don't try and mimic what others are doing -- that's just going to lead to frustration and disappointment. It has to be from the heart. If you don't know what that is yet, it will come. You can tell when someone photographs with connection. Elements of the photographer shine through in the image.

I've found out that all of the many jobs I had when I was working in London have finally all jelled together to form my life experience and help me do what I do now, and I actually see my real career is just beginning. It's almost like everything before now was the pre-run for my big one. Even the parenting. All of it counts. This is such an exciting time for me.

What do you carry in your bag?

I've recently upgraded from a Canon 5D Mk II to a Mk III -- which is brilliant -- and have a 24-70mm zoom lens and a 50mm prime lens. I've got my iPhone as backup, but it disappoints me at times. 

I had a Nikon 70D for years, but we were broken into and it got stolen. So I indulged and bought the camera that I've always wanted to have, and it's made a huge difference. I think having professional equipment kind of gives your photos a different, refreshing look -- you can tell. I'm definitely pro-camera. That doesn't mean I'm anti-iPhoneography, but I think quality is always noticeable in the end.
 

Follow Ebony Bailey on Instagram and Twitter.

Each week, we're featuring photos of Southern California and California submitted by readers. Share your photos on our Flickr page or tag your photos with #socalmoments or #californiamoments on Instagram and Twitter. Follow us on Twitter or visit latimes.com/socalmoments for more on this photo series.

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