Steve Hawker, creator of the Big Bear Photography Instagram page, enjoys photographing Bournemouth’s natural scenery and turning fleeting moments into pieces of art. “Don’t chase your dreams, catch them,” says the aspiring photographer…
Last December, Steve Hawker, 37, from Bournemouth, started posting his nature photographs on social media sites and created the Big Bear Photography Instagram page. Within weeks, his following grew to over 2,500.
Taking advantage of the eye-catching Bournemouth beaches, Steve’s work stems from his passion for nature, the outdoors, and its artistic interpretation.
“I’ve always lived by the sea, and I love outdoors. If I’m on a walk, I like to see what’s about in nature or wildlife,” Steve explained. “I don’t use a camera to take photos. Most people are quite surprised that I use only my phone. I have my phone all the time, and it’s easy to get a quick snap.”
Equipped with Huawei p40 mobile phone, Steve’s unplanned journey into the world of photography has been an instant success.
“It just happened. I would take photos when out walking with my partner, and it progressed from there. I would post pictures on Facebook, and my friends thought they were really good. After that, I upgraded to a different mobile, which had a better camera.
“My partner’s dad said the images were magazine quality. Instead of using my personal Instagram page, I decided to create the Big Bear Photography Instagram profile in December.
“I’ve always been quite arty and creative. I get inspiration when I’m out walking or cycling, and I see any locations that might look good as a photo,” Steve said.
Despite the sudden success on social media, Steve insists that his interest in photography has developed over time.
“I wouldn’t say that I had a massive interest in photography. My ideas developed over time. More and more, I look at wildlife or nature and think it will be a good picture. After seeing people’s comments on my photos, I felt that I was onto something.
“It progressed from there, really, and it’s just been very spontaneous. I live in Kinson, and we have a nature reserve just behind the house. You can get some great shots of the wildlife there. We also often go to the beach. I’ll take pictures every day of the week — I don’t like to sit still. I like being outdoors and especially now, because it’s good for my mental health, exercise, and general well-being.”
While Steve’s photography has managed to flourish during the lockdown, he has faced some challenges.
The photographer explained, “I’m quite limited to where I can go in Bournemouth because of lockdown. Before lockdown, we would go off to places like North Dorset and over Devon way in summer.”
As Steve’s images began as a passionate hobby, his success through social media has also provided possible business opportunities.
“I’m in contact with a guy from Ocean View Marketing company, and he’s been using my images on his page for the last couple of weeks. I’ve also had some suggestions about getting in contact with the council to put my name for working on business and commercial photography.
“I may have to wait for more photography opportunities until after lockdown because everywhere is shut.”
ADOPTING NEW EQUIPMENT
To further develop his photography skills, Steve has begun using new equipment that has benefitted his work.
“I’ve been using my new lens ball a lot, which I got for Christmas,” he revealed. “It works well with sunlight and shadows. I think I’ve made the Daily Echo four times since December, and a few of those published pictures were taken using the lens ball.
“I’ve had quite a few messages from people around the world saying that I’ve inspired them. I also had a message from someone the other day thanking Big Bear Photography for inspiring them to use the lens ball, something that they wouldn’t necessarily use.
“I like the idea of having a camera, and I have thought about buying one. But then you have to drag the camera around, the tripod, and all your lenses. Now I just have my little bag with my lens ball and a few other small things. The camera on my phone is 52 Megapixels, which is better than some cameras. My phone is always in my pocket, and I can quickly set it up for a shot. With a phone, you don’t have to sit for hours. You can also get right up close to the waves at the beach. It has all the features that a camera would have, but it’s all on one device, so you don’t have to change constantly.
“My friend thought that I’ve been using an editing room, but I hardly use any editing features apart from the filters on Instagram. Sometimes, I might play around with the saturation and the warmth, but only if it’s an image taken on a nice sunny day. You can just make the sun look that little bit warmer. I play around with those two little things, and sometimes I don’t even need to because the lens ball creates its light, which looks amazing.”
THE ADVANTAGES OF SOCIAL MEDIA
As a relatively new photographer, Steve has been able to use social media to increase the number of people viewing his images.
“Social media has been very important for me,” he said. “I think a lot of people like pictures of the beach, and a lot of people that follow me on Instagram don’t live near the beach.
“I try to take more photos of the beach so my pictures can get more likes and more interaction between other people. Using hashtags helps people who search for the beach to see my photos.
“I was completely oblivious and a newbie, so I used some tips given by my partner, who works in marketing. She helped me go that bit further and get my images out there.
“Social media creates a domino effect, and it has happened to my page since 1st December 2020. Someone sees your picture and comments on it, which leads to another person seeing it. People share the photos and might come back to see more of my images. It’s been really good for me.
“I did try Facebook, but I prefer Instagram. It’s amazing for my type of work, and it’s a lot easier to communicate with people than on Facebook. I also use a page on Facebook called the Echo Photography Club, where you can upload your photos. That’s where someone from the Daily Echo saw my images and put them in the paper.
“Using different hashtags creates a bigger audience. It leads to another domino effect that will generate around 15 or 20 followers a day for me.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Alongside Steve’s spontaneous wildlife snaps, the photographer has already begun to plan his next few destinations for when lockdown ends.
“I have a list of places to visit that I want to tick off. When the lockdown is over and the weather is warmer, it would be nice to go out to the Rings to see the poppy fields. I’d love to get some snaps of the Sculpture by the Lakes in Dorchester. I think that’s probably on top of the list at the moment,” he said.
One unique aspect of Steve’s work is his ability to notice potential images most wouldn’t think to look at. When most people pass a puddle in the street, they likely step over it to avoid dampening their shoes. But for Steve, a puddle can be an unavoidable photography opportunity.
“I cycle to work in Poole every day, and I often see my reflection in the puddles. I cycled past this puddle one day, and I thought, ‘Hang on a minute, that could make a good picture’. So I cycled back, put my bike down, and took a picture on my way to work. That picture made it into the Daily Echo. “It was just a spontaneous thought, and any other day I would’ve probably just cycled past it. But because it was still dark and had the lights reflecting from the subway, I thought it would look good.
“Those thoughts are always in my head. I know that if I don’t do it, I’m going to regret it. I knew I’d be sitting at work thinking that I should’ve taken the photo. It ended up being one of the most popular posts on my Instagram.”
ADVICE FOR FUTURE PHOTOGRAPHERS
While most people may think that taking up photography requires equipment bags, Steve believes that different factors are far more critical.
“If you have an eye for it, then you’re going to spot things that will look good as a photo. Just try to be different. I would say have some fun and don’t be afraid to post a picture out there even if you think it’s not that good. It might not be that good to you, but if somebody else likes it, then that’s great.
“Don’t just chase your dreams. Go and catch them.”
To see more of Steve’s work, visit the Big Bear Photography Instagram page. For more local Photography stories, click here. And don’t forget to follow HQB News on our social channels. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.