Just 10 years ago he had never taken a photograph in his life, but now a local driving instructor can lay claim to being a bonafide world champion, whose images are recogised amongst some of the most accomplished in the photographic world.
That’s the story of keen amateur photographer Phil Cooke, a member of Kirkcaldy Photographic Society, whose astonishing talents behind the camera, and his eye for the perfect landscape, are being brought into focus with a string of internationally recognised awards.
Now rubbing shoulders with the best in the world of landscape photography, Phil had the honour of being a member of the Scotland team that recently scooped theDe L’Art Photographique World Cup of Photography competition held in South Africa, seeing off entries from over 100 other countries.
You may also be interested in:
All a far cry from the onetime golfer who decided to take up a new hobby after illness a decade ago.
“I’d never really taken a photograph in my life but enjoying the outdoors and looking for something a little less sporty, was persuaded by a friend to join Kirkcaldy Photographic Society as a complete novice just with a view to learning a new hobby,” Phil told the Press.
“It was all film rather than digital photography back then which shows you just how much it’s changed in the last 10 years.
“I’d bought myself a cheap entry level camera and have loved every minute since.”
Phil’s love of the outdoors and the Scottish countryside soon developed into a passion for capturing that perfect landscape.
“We’re are so lucky to have such stunning and dramatic landscapes here in Scotland, either on our doorstep or just a couple of hours drive away.
“It’s just about getting out there and discovering what will make a great picture.”
But far from it being aspur of the moment thing, Phil explains how getting the perfect image might actually take a year of maticulous planning and preparation.
“It’s not unusual to me to do a recce of a potential landscape then go back months later when sunrise and sunsets, high tides and weather factors to coincide to make the image as good as it can be.
“For example, I take a lot of coastal photographs so study when the high tides and wait for the sea to go out leaving completely clean and pristine beach.
“I’d actually visited the spot three times before eventually getting the desired photograph of the tree at Llyn Padarn in Wales; I sat there for three hours just waiting for the best light for that shot.
“And after all that I only had around 30 seconds in which to get it then the light was gone.In fact a friend missed the shot because he was changing a filter on a lens when the opportunity came.
“That’s how fine the margins can be, but then that’s also the beauty and it is the reward for the preparation and planning.
And on location, the wonders of nature are never far away.
“One morning waiting for a sunrise on the Isle of Skye I was witnessed a family of otters feeding on their catch just yards away, while on another occasion a pod of whales swam past as I waited for a particular shot.”
The level of planning Phil puts in is no better illustrated than in his shot of the Manhattan skyline in New York.
Invited over to visit friends, Phil chose the date of September 3 to make the trip because the perfect sunset and tide would only be on that one day of the year.
And now Phil’s eye for a great photo is earning many plaudits and a string of high-profile awards.
His picture of the blocks ‘zig-zag’ pier at St Monans, won a Scottish Photographic Federation Gold Medal in the Scottish International Salon for the Best Monochrome by a Scottish resident.
It was also selected as one of the top 60 images in the UK last year in the Masters of Print Competition and earned Phil an entry into the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, his picture of a sculptured figure entitled ‘Still - St Fillans’ landed Phil the prestigious Nikon International Competition, selected ahead of a staggering 52,000 other images.
You can see a selection of Phil’s photographic work yourself at www.philcookeimages.com