Guest Pho­tog­ra­pher Maya Beano

This UK-based sci­en­tist slash pho­tog­ra­pher shows us how in­tu­ition and logic col­lide.

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Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Am­man, the cap­i­tal city of Jor­dan and home to al­most 50 per cent of the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of Jor­dan. I feel like a tour guide when I’m asked to de­scribe Am­man be­cause I get all worked up and ex­cited about it. It was orig­i­nally built on seven hills, which I al­ways con­sid­ered very po­etic. I grew up liv­ing in the hills only a few min­utes away from my best friend. My most pre­cious mem­o­ries are of us walk­ing to the shops to get ice lol­lies and le­mon­ade then sit­ting in the mead­ows to have pic­nics with our neigh­bours. Why are you drawn to shoot­ing land­scapes and na­ture? I like to shoot where I feel at to­tal peace with my­self and with the world. I am quite in­tro­verted by na­ture and find that go­ing out into the wilder­ness on my own or with a few friends is the best way to recharge.

Tell us a bit about your last trip out in na­ture? I vis­ited the Swiss Alps with my brother last Au­gust and it was ab­so­lutely mag­i­cal. My favourite part of our trip was the train jour­ney from Lucerne to In­ter­laken. I must have used up about three rolls of film on this train [trip] alone. The skies were roar­ing with thun­der and there were wa­ter­falls trick­ling down the misty moun­tains that we passed through. It was all very at­mo­spheric. Af­ter a few hours in In­ter­laken, the weather started dry­ing up and a rain­bow ap­peared just as we made our way up to the top of the Männlichen.

Where and why did you buy your first cam­era? When I was lit­tle I had a Ko­dak film cam­era that my mum brought back from one of her trips to the USA. My first pho­tog­ra­phy sub­jects were my broth­ers. I used to get them to dress up and pull off silly poses next to our col­lec­tion of toys, mainly their favourite ac­tion fig­ures. I was also into cre­at­ing ‘photo sto­ries’ at fam­ily gath­er­ings and show­ing ev­ery­one the re­sults weeks later. I guess this sparked my in­ter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy, but it wasn’t un­til 2009, when I was 18, that I bought my own cam­era and started shoot­ing land­scapes.

What kind of science re­search do you do in your day job?

I work in drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment. I spe­cialised in

chem­istry for my mas­ters, but my cur­rent re­search project is keep­ing me busy learn­ing novel bi­o­log­i­cal tech­niques to as­sess the safety of po­ten­tial can­cer medicines.

Is there cross­over be­tween science and art for you? I think so, yes. There is a ten­dency for peo­ple to group science and art into dis­tinct cat­e­gories, one ra­tio­nal and the other emo­tional. To me, they have al­ways been two sides of the same coin. Whether I’m work­ing in the lab or out tak­ing pho­tos, I use my ra­tio­nal judge­ment and my gut feel­ing to pro­duce mean­ing­ful re­sults. I've never really un­der­stood the di­chotomy be­tween logic and emo­tion. I’m very tempted to draw a Venn di­a­gram to il­lus­trate what my thoughts are on this, but I think I might have to save that for an­other day!

Art is gen­er­ally viewed as the cre­ative dis­ci­pline, but I think science can be just as cre­ative as art. Com­ing up with a novel way to solve a par­tic­u­lar sci­en­tific prob­lem re­quires a lot of imag­i­na­tion, just like pro­duc­ing an orig­i­nal pho­to­graph does.

When did you first dis­cover the ef­fects of light leaks and

ex­pired film? Dis­count­ing my child­hood years, I only started us­ing film last year. I first came across pho­tos with light leaks when I be­came ac­tive on Flickr, but I didn’t have the time or the money to ex­per­i­ment with film while I was study­ing at univer­sity. I al­ways had a lit­tle plan in my head, though, to truly go for it once I grad­u­ated. I took a year out and taught my­self all the ba­sics from scratch as I felt that, af­ter years of hav­ing used a DSLR on au­to­matic, I needed to brush up on my ex­po­sure con­trols, aper­ture, shut­ter speed and ISO. My mum gave me a 20-year-old Canon and I had some ex­pired film from years ago, so I started to ex­per­i­ment with ex­pos­ing the film to light to pro­duce light leaks.

What’s the last thing you broke? Oh what is life but a con­tin­u­ous cy­cle of make and break! Se­ri­ously, though, I broke a lit­tle glass vial in the lab the other day, but it was all very an­ti­cli­mac­tic be­cause it only had dis­tilled wa­ter in it.

What makes you feel all warm and fuzzy? Win­ter! Those days when you’re just curled up un­der a blan­ket watch­ing your favourite movie or hav­ing a cup of tea with your loved ones. I also love watch­ing na­ture time-lapses set to epic sound­tracks.

What makes you an­gry? I don’t know about anger. It takes a lot to make me an­gry, but I do have a strong emo­tional re­ac­tion to dishar­mony. I re­alise that con­flict is a nat­u­ral part of life, and that it can be a force for growth and change, but at this rate, I think the world would be in­fin­itely bet­ter with­out it. I greatly dis­like watch­ing the news, un­less it’s happy news about baby pan­das or some­thing.

Most use­ful tip for pho­tograph­ing na­ture… Look out for the weather, I would say. It’s best to go out on cloudy or partly cloudy days to avoid glare. This also helps cre­ate a more dra­matic mood which I pre­fer in land­scape pho­tos. For days with a lot of glare, in­vest in a sim­ple neu­tral den­sity fil­ter. If you’re try­ing to in­tro­duce light leaks, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is key. I like ex­pos­ing my film to light from my mo­bile phone as op­posed to daylight, but that’s purely a mat­ter of pref­er­ence.

Most use­ful tip for pho­tograph­ing peo­ple… Use film! I can't pin­point ex­actly what it is about film pho­tog­ra­phy that makes peo­ple look great. I think it must be a com­bi­na­tion of the tones and the soft­ness. Ko­dak Por­tra 400 and Fu­ji­film Su­pe­ria 200 are both really good.

What ex­cit­ing things have you got com­ing up? It makes me ex­cited just think­ing about this ques­tion! I’m look­ing into trips to Ice­land and to Scan­di­navia with a couple of friends, so fin­gers crossed it all goes to plan. I will be up­load­ing the pho­tos I take on th­ese trips to Flickr and to my per­sonal pho­tog­ra­phy web­site.

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