Alister Benn was born and raised in Scotland, and coming from an outdoor family, grew up with a profound interest and respect for the natural world and the environments around him. It was somewhat inevitable that he would end up traveling the world in search of wild places, foreign cultures and fuel for his wanderlust.
By pure chance he met his wife in Beijing in 2000, and since then, Juanli Sun has joined Alister in his travels. By 2005 however, they had settled in the mountain town of Lijiang, in SW Yunnan, not far from the Tibetan border, and for the next 7 years dedicated the majority of their time to extensive exploration of this region; it’s landscapes and the Tibetan people.
To me, the landscape is my place to be me; I can walk for hours along an ocean shoreline, on mountain ridges, or through delicate forests, and not just with the purpose of making images. The environment is a fluid and fascinating place, with it’s animals, birds, insects and plants, each one a little micro-system just waiting to be experienced. In truth, I am drawn mostly to the landscape by night – when the solitude, quiet and isolation allow me to just exist, almost as if in a vacuum.
For many years, I would measure my experiences of the wilderness by the images I produced, and eventually would become disappointed if the shots did not happen, or the light failed to wow me. I soon realised that this was wrong, and I learned to simply appreciate these experiences for what they were. In time, my images improved, as I became more eloquent in my expression of how I felt about the landscape; simply, if photography is a visual language, I had decided what I wanted to say.
Technical ability is my passport to allowing myself freedom of expression – when I encounter a landscape that screams at me to make an image, I am not limited by my camera or lack of technique. I can focus 100% on my compositions, my emotions and messages, letting much of the technique flow by on a purely subconscious level. Art is not about f-stops and metering, it is a release for the soul.
2007: A3 Gallery opened in the 798 Art District of Beijing The A3 Gallery sold large fine art architectural abstracts created by Alister Benn and inspired by the modernisation of the Chinese capital and the juxtaposition to its past. The limited edition prints, some up to 3.5m, now decorate homes around the world.
2009-2012: Seeing the Unseen – How to Photograph Landscapes at Night Alister first started taking images by moonlight in the autumn of 2004 and for the following few years spent a lot of time developing his craft and an understanding of the difficulties involved in creating images at night. The desire to collate this into a complete “how to” guide was very strong, and these years were dedicated to travelling from Tibet and the Himalaya, to Spain, Indonesia and Thailand to create the images necessary to illustrate the book. The eBook was finally published in March 2012 – details of Seeing the Unseen – How to Photograph Landscapes at Night
2011: The Foundation of Whytake.net – The Global Community of Nature Photographers Some time in 2009 Alister Benn and Rafael Rojas met on a Nature Photography Forum website and found out they shared a lot in common. For over a year they discussed the possibility of working on a project together with their partners, Juanli Sun & Anca Minican. In the Spring of 2011 they met and founded Whytake.net and designed a website that allowed Nature Photographers around the world to INSPIRE | CONNECT | EXPLORE
2012: The Sacred Mountains of Tibet The couple have lived in the Tibetan region for over 7 years and in that time developed a deep love for the area, it’s people and landscapes. To celebrate this they published a free eBook in November 2012 – Download The Sacred Mountains of Tibet FREE
The Sacred Mountains of Tibet
A free eBook representing a series of images taken of the Tibetan Region during our 7 years living in the area. Illustrated by Alister Benn and with poetry by Juanli Sun – this is our tribute to this remarkable area.
Seeing the Unseen
How to Photograph Landscapes at NIght, is a complete guide on the subject of shooting between sunset and sunrise. Only US$15-00.
As someone who specialises in night/low light photography, I will freely admit that contemporary DSLR cameras and state of the art processing software allow me to create images that were impossible only a few short years ago. Our cameras are tools that allow us to create expressive images that represent not just the physical structure of something we have seen, but also how we feel about it.
Gitzo 6x Tripod
RRS-BH55 ball head
Vixen Optics Polarie Star Tracker
Adobe Lightroom 4
Adobe Photoshop CS6
Nik Silver Efex Pro
Nik Color Efex Pro
Tony Kuyper Luminosity Masks
In my eBooks I express a very clear opinion that our camera equipment is there to allow us to Harvest Light – recording the available light at the time, but not relying 100% on our cameras to make all our creative decisions for us. Cameras are increasingly sophisticated tools, but they do not know how my eyes are perceiving the scene – more often that not, what the camera produces left to its own devices, is a compromise.
All images are processed – even the image that comes straight from the camera. In my forth-coming Harvesting Light series of eBooks, I will be detailing the creative process from start to finish, teaching that photography is made up of multiple disciplines that often run simultaneously, rather than some linear process that is so often taught.