Bristol Photographer Spotlight: Chris Hill

Chris Hill is a photographer who caught our eye thanks to his amazing shots in and around Bristol. Hill amplifies cityscapes through his use of reflection, creating imagery that is captivating, surreal and sometimes otherworldly.We caught up with Chris a little while back to find out what his life in Bristol is like, how he got into photography and the importance of puddles.

chris hill photography bridge

Chris Hill

FC: How long have you lived in Bristol?

Chris Hill: I’ve lived in and around Bristol for most of my life, it’s a really important place for me and my family and I can’t imagine leaving. I did end up having an on-off fling with Barcelona for a couple of years though; commuting from Bristol to Spain each week seemed pretty extreme way to beat the Bristol traffic. It was fun while it lasted though; in the end the long-distance relationship failed last year and my heart stayed here.

chris hill photography Birdcage Walk

@chill1983 Birdcage Walk

FC: What does Bristol mean to you? 

Chris Hill: Bristol means everything to me, I’ve made so many good friends here. The spirit, humour and kindness of Bristolians keeps me smiling (mostly). I love the diversity of architectural styles throughout the city with new juxtaposed with old. It feels like a physical representation of the attitudes and diversity of our population.

 FC: How do you go about capturing Bristol?

Chris Hill: I’m lucky enough to live on the Harbourside so I have opportunity on my side for the sunset/sunrise shots, that said I’m of the belief that you should be able to go out in any condition, at any time of the day and get a photograph that you can be proud of. It’s not just about waiting for the golden or blue hours. I tend to take phone shots of places around the city as if it were a notebook before coming back and photographing it again properly.

chris hill photography St Nicholas Market

@chill1983 St Nicholas Market

FC: What are you listening to at the moment?

Chris Hill: Very much into the Fleet Foxes album Crack Up at the moment.

FC: Where are your favourite places to chill out?

Chris Hill: Royal Fort Gardens is a bit of a sanctuary in the city, especially at weekends and when the students go home. That’s gotta be up there for me, certainly to chill, and I generally get it all to myself it seems. Recently I’ve discovered the refurbishment of the Old Vic theatre bar, and that is an incredible space.

Other than that, the Tobacco Factory in Southville is a kind of Mecca for me. So much so that I’ve just realised that the furniture in my flat is orientated in the direction of it.

chris hill photography St Nicholas Market

@chill1983 Seamus O’Donnells, St Nicholas Street.

FC: What’s your favourite meal?

Chris Hill: Got to be Sunday Roast, cooked by someone else, preferably in a pub, on a crisp Autumnal day, with a pint of beer.

FC: What kit do you use?

Chris Hill: A slight bugbear of mine about photography is the emphasis on kit albeit I accept you need at least a camera. And a lens. For me it’s a little like asking a writer what laptop or pen they use.

If you shoot digital then a RAW file is a RAW file regardless of what you shoot with. What you see on screen after you take a shot is your camera’s interpretation of that raw image of 1s and 0s, and when you import it into your computer you get the editing software’s interpretation of that raw image (which is slightly different). I could use whatever brand of camera and it wouldn’t necessarily make me a better photographer. A sense of composition, good technical awareness of achieving a perfectly exposed photograph, and skill in editing the raw files to bring out the best in your image is the three biggest tips I can give.

That said I use a Nikon D750, a Fujifilm X100F and edit everything in Lightroom….

FC: Fair enough! You might not like my next question then…. What kit is in your wish list?

Chris Hill: Probably a macro lens. Ever seen bug photography? That shit is freaky. Other than that, I’m happy with my lot.

chris hill photography Bristol

FC: Any plans for the year?

Chris Hill: Can’t say a great deal about plans for the rest of the year. Other than it’s a night-time project that involves legs. I’ve said too much.

FC: When you’re taking photos, what stops you in your tracks?

Chris Hill: The great and frustrating thing about being a photographer is that you notice so much more, it feels like I’m really seeing the world anew which is wonderful. And I say frustrating because it seems to take me so much longer to get anywhere as I’m always stopping. I annoy myself.

Bit of an aside one thing I’ve noticed recently, and I find really interesting, is how eyes interpret colour differently. My left one sees colour more vividly than my right, which sees with slightly warmer tones. Try it for yourself on a sunny afternoon in Autumn by covering each eye in turn – hopefully you’ll see what I mean otherwise it’s just me and I’m talking crap. And if my eyes see colour differently, then everyone else’s interpretation of colour must be slightly different. It’s made me more sympathetic when it comes to saturation of images.

I’m also a sucker for a well-placed puddle.

FC: How would you describe your photography style?

Chris Hill: I tend to go one of two ways; either I go minimalist, or I try and fill the frame (maximalist I guess). Either way I’m all about effective use of negative space in images, and I believe that your eye should rest naturally when looking at a picture. Reflections feature heavily in my Instagram images as these seem to be quite impactful and popular, but my love is working on black and white day time long exposures. For me photography is a bit of an escape and often solo, so I enjoy the process of creating a considered image and then trying to bring out its full potential.

chris hill photography Mont Saint Michel

@chill1983 Mont Saint Michel

FC: What advice would you have for budding photographers? / any top tips? / secrets?

  • Don’t get hung up on kit – see above rant – and work on your composition first and foremost, the technical can always come later.
  • But speaking of the technical – learn how to read your histogram. To give you more range with editing then the more information contained in the file the better. I tend to expose images far to the right of the histogram (without blowing out highlights). Why? Because the more information you have in the dark areas the easier it is to pull detail out of the shadows if you need it without them becoming noisy. And you can drop the highlights if you need to as that will never create noise.
  • Consider your shots rather than shotgun them
  • Bracketing is your friend
  • Don’t get sucked into buying UV filters. They are a waste of money.
  • Your ability to edit and your vision is what will set you apart.
chris hill photography port

Chris Hill

FC: what’s your absolute favourite thing to photograph?

Chris: My 1-year old boy Jack is my muse and I’ve recently promoted him to be my creative director. He’s also super cute to boot. Predictable I know, but happily for everyone else my Instagram feed doesn’t contain 1600 baby photos…

FC: Favourite quote? 

Chris: ‘We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here, and we want them now!’ Withnail and I.

Not the most inspirational, or wittiest, or indeed helpful. But something I find myself quoting a lot especially on a Friday night.

Cheers Chris, you can check out his stunning Instagram account here or follow @chill1983