Coinciding with our re-launch as LS Productions, and our recent foray into Wales for Running Wild with Bear Grylls and other projects, we felt it was about time that we had a Welsh Instagrammer of the Month.
Introducing Finn Beales…
Occupation: A pro freelance photographer with a background in design and digital marketing. He ran a web agency for 10 years before switching to photography full time.
With nearly half a million followers on Instagram, it’s fair to say that Finn Beales has carved out a niche for himself. He lives on a farm in remote Wales, balancing busy family life with a schedule of international travel and work with some of the world’s best-known brands. His photography is bewitching; harnessing a sense of tranquillity amongst overwhelming landscapes, a focus on movement, detail, depth and raw energy. And he’s self-taught.
Here we chat to Finn about where the movement started, his favourite adventures and the influence of film on his work…
LS Productions: Hi Finn. Tell us about your life in Wales! Where are you from and where do you live now?
LSP: Do you think being raised/living in such a remote part of Wales has shaped the way you see landscapes?
FB: It has certainly given me an appreciation for the mountains. I’m fairly adapt at living/working in more extreme environments too.
LSP: Let's talk Instagram. When did you start using the app?
FB: Around 3 years ago… maybe a year or so after it was launched.
LSP: How do you think it compares to other social media tools?
FB: I think it works very well for those of a visual persuasion. It’s also much easier for an end user to peruse content than say Facebook or Twitter. Images are much quicker to ‘consume’ than text.
I treat IG as I would a portfolio, but also include some personal imagery. I think it helps art buyers and commissioning editors get an idea of the person behind the lens. Personality is as important as a portfolio especially when you’re working on bigger campaigns as part of a wider team.
LSP: You’ve now garnered a large and loyal following. At what point did you feel things changed for you and it really ‘took off’?
FB: Signing to Tinker Street * was a turning point for sure. Commercial recognition for my work feels good. I also have a great relationship with my agent, Jesse Miller, and am friends with many of the other photographers on the roster.
LSP: Commercial recognition is definitely important. Can you drop any hints about what you’ve been working on recently?
FB: I’ve been working on back to back campaigns over the summer in Newfoundland and Labrador for Destination Canada and in Hong Kong for a Real Estate developer. I have also continued to work with Cereal Magazine with a recent commission to shoot Big Sur NP in California.
LSP: You’ve cited film as a big influence on your work. Can you expand on that?
FB: I love epic, cinematic landscapes found in a lot of dystopian sci-fi films. I also really appreciate the cinematography involved in lighting a scene to develop atmosphere.
LSP: LS favourite films for their cinematography are varied: Tracks, Out of Africa, Salt of the Earth, Darjeeling Limited, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Memoirs of a Geisha and Paris, Texas. If you were to choose three films for their fantastic cinematography, what would they be?
FB: This is such a hard question!
1) I think Blade Runner would take pole position. I love that film. So well realised especially when you think it is now over 30 years old!
2) Drive comes in second. Great lighting and a mix of traditional composition vs unpredictable shots. Highly visually stimulating.
3) Alien. Again, so well realised. I love the art direction and attention to detail in this film. It’s exactly how I would envision future long haul space travel to be.
LSP: Do you direct as well as shoot stills?
FB: Yes. I recently directed an entire advertising campaign for the light shaping company Profoto - from establishing the creative, production, right through to the final campaign shots.
LSP: On your website you have a feature called '72 Hours In', in which you’ve showcased Colombia, India, Mexico and Denmark, amongst others. We love this idea! Where is next on the 72 hour journey?
FB: I’m pleased you like! Next on the list are Norway, Ecuador and the Faroe Islands.
LSP: If you had 72 hours in Scotland what would be featured?
FB: I’d very much like to drive the North Coast 500. Maybe we should work together on a campaign :-)
LSP: We like that plan. Have you ever come across a particular British location – urban or otherwise – that you instantly thought might be perfect for a film or stills shoot?
FB: Yes. I shot some work at an MoD facility at an old Propellant Factory near Caerwent in South Wales. The site was created for use by the Royal Navy in 1939 and was used right up until 1993. It’s now a maze of over 400 abandoned buildings and bunkers as well as an operating railway. Super atmospheric in a dystopian sense. It has been used in several Hollywood movies as well as BBC productions such as Torchwood and Doctor Who. I would love to shoot a fashion/portrait series down there.
LSP: Although you travel extensively internationally, how often do you manage to go on trips around the UK?
FB: Some of my favourite trips with the family have been to West Wales. Especially to Fforest near Cardigan. Run by some friends of ours it’s a really special place to disconnect for a bit.
"I love epic, cinematic landscapes found in a lot of dystopian sci-fi films."
LSP: What are your thoughts on Scotland’s scenery and architecture, and how it compares to Wales or other landscapes you’ve seen and photographed?
LSP: Tell us about one of your favourite trips, jobs or travel experiences.
FB: Climbing to the top of an erupting volcano for sunset in the middle of the Mediterranean has to be up there. I was commissioned by the mobile company O2 to Instagram from a remote location to illustrate what can now be achieved using a mobile phone.
I think they were a little surprised when I came back with the volcano creative! It was an incredible experience.
LSP: In the production/photography sector we can be away for days or weeks at a time, on set in the middle of nowhere with little to no phone signal, or staying late in the office organising shoots. How do you settle on a good work/life balance?
FB: I live on a farm in the mountains of Wales. Time at home with my family is the perfect counter weight to a busy professional life.
LSP: Instagram users seem to fall into two camps; ones who are iPhone puritans and would never dare use photos from their camera, and those who are more flexible in where their photographs come from. Where, if anywhere, do you sit on the debate, and what do you use?
FB: I think the device used is irrelevant. Some of my favourite images have been made using my iPhone but at the end of the day I’m all about the creative and the story, regardless of how it has been made.
LSP: We couldn't agree more. Let’s talk about editing. How do you go about editing your photos? For editing on your phone is there a filter or editing app that you particularly like?
FB: I’m very much enjoying the Darkroom app at the moment. Particularly the ability to manipulate curves. I think it’s one of the only photo apps available right now that give you such control.
LSP: Passenger seat or behind the wheel? Alternatively: motorbike, sports car, 4x4 or feet?
FB: Behind the wheel… of a Land Rover… despite the fact it’s harder to shoot from there! I also ride a 1979 vintage motorbike around the farm.
LSP: That sounds pretty idyllic. What do you think about when you’re at the top of a mountain?
FB: I try to stop thinking! It’s almost meditative for me… a quiet time.
LSP: Do you have any adventuring essentials?
FB: Scout Seattle lock knife, Petzl Head torch with flip down red filter for night shoots, Domke F-2 Camera bag and a hip flask filled with good quality scotch. Essential in cold climates.
LSP: Hip flask filled with scotch? You're on for the NC500 plan... Have any campaigns really caught your eye this year?
FB: I liked Apple’s Shot on an iPhone6 campaign. You could hardly miss it!
LSP: Are there any brands, magazines or photographers who you would love to see coming and shooting in Wales or Scotland? What would their brief be?
FB: Land Rover. Brief: I’d like to shoot a series of photo essays documenting the lifestyles of different Land Rover owners throughout the British Isles. Say a day in the life of a: Farmer’s Defender, Gamekeeper’s Defender, Forestry Defender, Fireman’s Defender etc. I think it would make a great series showing off the fantastic landscape we have here and also the versatility of one of Britain’s most iconic vehicles.
LSP: Name some photographers (on Instagram and otherwise!) who really inspire you.
LSP: How would you set yourself apart from other photographers?
FB: Check the @SocalityBarbie account for things not to do ;-) (LSP: Finn, we love that Instagram account!)
LSP: You've said in past interviews that you attribute much of your success to the Internet. Do you agree that the Internet and social media have enabled a greater wealth of creativity in the UK over the past few years?
FB: Pre internet artists needed outlets to display their work and get it in front of people: magazines, TV, art galleries. The Internet and apps like Instagram make it very easy to create your own channel.
I think it’s the ease with which I can get my work “out there” and develop a following using the Internet that has been so helpful.
LSP: Do you have an all time favourite Instagram shot?
FB: The erupting volcano is up there for sure. The sheer physical effort that went into capturing that image returns every time I see it!
LSP: It definitely encapsulates everything that we like about your work. What would you say to someone wishing to improve his or her Instagram page, or garner a following?
FB: I'd say work on building a consistent grid of images. Focus on quality content over quantity. A small number of killer images in the area that you want to work will land you more jobs than an unfocused, image heavy folio.
LSP: Any final words?
FB: Thanks for having me :-)
It was a pleasure, Finn. See you on the NC500 soon!