Had Dave Zdanowicz stood his ground, life could have turned out very differently. Three years ago a colleague at the school where he works as a technician in the performing arts department announced that he was selling off some of his old camera equipment.
He reckoned that Dave had a natural eye for photography and wondered if he might be interested. “I wasn’t so sure, I’d never really picked up a camera properly, but he was very persuasive and in the end I caved in. Besides it was a good price and I am a bit of a sucker for a bargain.”
It proved to be a life-changing decision and as his hobby grew into an obsession it has taken over most of Bradford-born Dave’s weekends and holidays.
“Once I started taking pictures, I found I just couldn’t stop and my partner and son have been very patient. My dad has always been interested in photography and over the last three years together we have pretty much visited every corner of Yorkshire.
“It’s been a bit of an odyssey, but it’s also been a great way to see the county and I now know more about the people and places than I ever did.”
As Dave’s collection, which spans not only north, south, east and west, but also the seasons, began to grow he knew that it was a waste to allow the images to languish in computer files. Encouraged by friends and family, he approached the publishing company Amberley and the result is the collection Yorkshire in Photographs.
“In some ways, they did the hard work for me. I sent them 180 images and they chose the final 120 which went into the book. I’d have never dreamt three years ago that I would see my name on the cover of the book, but I guess it just shows you that life is full of surprises.”
While Dave has picked up some tips from his father, he is largely self-taught and the final collection has been a work of trial and error, plus a lot of very early mornings.
“The best time to take landscape photographs tends to be as the sun is rising or just setting. In the summer that has sometimes meant setting off at 2am just to get to a particular location in time. However, it’s also a privilege being alone at that time in the morning in some of the most beautiful spots in the country.”
Dave’s collection also showcases the diversity of the county’s landscape. The Dales is well represented, as is the North York Moors, but those are contrasted with cityscapes and other urban views. The power stations of Ferrybridge, the stark architectural design of The Deep in Hull and the wind turbines on Ovenden Moor, near Halifax, might not be the most obvious choices to showcase Yorkshire, but they are as much a symbol of the county as Malham Cove or Whitby Harbour.
“To me they are just as beautiful too,” says Dave. “I could have filled the book twice over with images of rolling hills, but that’s just one aspect of the county and I wanted to try to represent all of it.”
The book is divided into seasons, with Flamborough’s North Landing captured in spring, Barden Moor at Skipton caught in the summer and then as the leaves begin to change Dave turned his lens on the likes of Whitby pier before finally capturing wintry scenes around the likes of Denby Dale.
“There were a lot of cold days, a lot of striding over snowy moors in wellies, but I never once returned home feeling disappointed. Sometimes I might not have quite got the photograph I wanted, but just being out there experimenting brought a huge amount of satisfaction.”
While Dave still works full-time, he has already provided images to the likes of the BBC, ITV and Sky TV and his pictures have been published internationally in magazines and newspapers.
“I would love to be able to make a living out of landscape photography, but it’s hugely competitive and only a handful of people can earn enough money from it. I am quite picky at what I photograph. Commercially, I could look at doing weddings, but that’s not where my heart lies.
“I have learnt so much in the last three years and if I learn the same amount in the next three years, well, who knows where this might take me.”
Yorkshire in Photographs by Dave Zdanowicz is published by Amberley, priced at £15.99.