The Pro In­ter­view

Hav­ing spent the last three years get­ting drenched pho­tograph­ing Europe’s At­lantic coast, Theo Bos­boom has a new book to show off. He tells Keith Wil­son why he thinks Shaped by the Sea is his best work yet…

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Enig­matic pro land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher Theo Bos­boom talks about his love of the sea

Theo Bos­boom has ev­ery rea­son to feel ex­cited

when we speak. He is off to the print­ers to­mor­row where his new book, Shaped

by the Sea, will roll off the presses, and al­ready one of his im­ages from the book has been highly com­mended in the Creative Vi­sions cat­e­gory of this year’s Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year com­pe­ti­tion. To round it all off nicely, he’s fly­ing to Ice­land three days af­ter this in­ter­view to lead a photo tour. Talk about rea­sons to be cheer­ful: one, two, Theo!

Con­grat­u­la­tions on your new book. How do you feel about the pub­li­ca­tion of this work?

I’m pleased! It’s prob­a­bly the project I worked on with the most pas­sion and the most plea­sure up un­til now. It’s some­thing that’s very close to my heart and I ab­so­lutely loved ev­ery trip.

When did you be­come in­ter­ested in land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy?

From the start, it has been a mix of na­ture pho­tog­ra­phy and land­scapes. It all started in 2003 when I took two months off

work­ing as a lawyer trav­el­ling through South Africa, Tan­za­nia and Namibia. It was my first trip where I took a de­cent cam­era with me. It was also the first time that I re­ally I fo­cused on pho­tog­ra­phy while on va­ca­tion and that’s when I re­al­ized how much I loved it. Also, by look­ing through the lens I started notic­ing things that I hadn’t no­ticed.

I was much more aware of de­tails, light­ing and other im­por­tant as­pects. Of course, I was al­ways look­ing for an­i­mals in the land­scape too. It was an en­rich­ment for me.

What were your first land­scape pho­to­graphic sub­jects?

I started in the Nether­lands, ob­vi­ously not as rich as the na­ture in Africa, but I was pleas­antly sur­prised that even a very crowded coun­try like Hol­land has beau­ti­ful spots – if you go at the right time and are a bit lucky with the con­di­tions. I did land­scapes but also a lot of macro – a lot of de­tails. There’s a na­tional park near where I live with heath­land and old oak trees, in au­tumn and win­ter it gets quite nice. Later on, I dis­cov­ered the Wad­den Is­lands, a small strip of is­lands in the north of the Nether­lands that has re­ally broad beaches with pat­terns and rough weather.

So, those were my first proper sub­jects.

You were born and raised on the North Sea coast of the Nether­lands. What mem­o­ries of the sea re­main strong­est for you?

One early mem­ory I have is swim­ming in the sea on a day with a lot of wind and my mother not notic­ing; she had three kids to di­vide her at­ten­tion. Sud­denly I no­ticed that I couldn’t swim back eas­ily be­cause the wind was com­ing from the land in the wrong di­rec­tion, so it took me a lot of time and ef­fort and stress to get back to the shore. It was the first time I re­al­ized how pow­er­ful and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous the sea was. There was this po­tent mix of fear and at­trac­tion.

Later, I vis­ited the sea with a friend and we dived with the waves. Th­ese are very strong mem­o­ries from my youth and I still feel a fas­ci­na­tion for the sea.

It’s a dan­ger­ous thing that you should al­ways re­spect; but also very beau­ti­ful and in­ter­est­ing. Th­ese are things you eas­ily for­get when you’re liv­ing in an­other part of the coun­try, but once you re­turn to the sea and smell the salt you’re im­me­di­ately back to the early days.

Were th­ese mem­o­ries in­flu­en­tial in de­cid­ing to work on your book?

I think when I started this book three years ago, I didn’t re­al­ize that my con­nec­tion to the sea was so strong.

I have very strong mem­o­ries from my youth and I still feel a fas­ci­na­tion for the sea

The sea’s fas­ci­nat­ing for pho­tog­ra­phy as there’s a lot of move­ment, it’s very dy­namic

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing for pho­tog­ra­phy be­cause there’s a lot of move­ment, it’s very dy­namic, the weather plays a big role and th­ese are in­flu­ences I al­ways like to use in my pho­tog­ra­phy. But when I was about half­way through the project I re­al­ized that this goes deeper than just the fas­ci­na­tion from a pho­to­graphic point of view. I felt it was deeper in me and ev­ery time I started a new trip and ar­rived on lo­ca­tion I dis­cov­ered a deep joy and also a feel­ing of home­com­ing.

How did you go about choos­ing the lo­ca­tions for pho­tog­ra­phy when you con­sider that the Euro­pean At­lantic coast is so ex­pan­sive?

That was one of the chal­lenges of mak­ing a book that would do jus­tice for the va­ri­ety of coast­lines and beaches you can find along the At­lantic coast of Europe. From south­ern Por­tu­gal to north­ern Nor­way, I had to make it pos­si­ble for one per­son to pho­to­graph in three years.

I took a lot of ad­vice from lo­cal pho­tog­ra­phers; I read a lot and stud­ied the in­ter­net; some­times I was just go­ing out of the blue. Ice­land is a very pop­u­lar, and places like the Gi­ant’s Cause­way in Ire­land are great, but I tried to find lo­ca­tions that hadn’t been shot to death.

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