Jack Tompkins’ photography journey began during his childhood. His father was a professional photographer for the early part of his career and growing up there were always cameras around the house that he would play around with. But it wasn’t until his 16th birthday when he was given a very simple digital camera. He says “I took it along on my first ski trip a few years later, during that trip I really fell in love with photography”.
After that first ski trip, Jack spent two summer seasons and one winter season working abroad in Greece and Canada respectively. In the summer he would take photos of his friends windsurfing and skiing in the the winter.
He gained a place at the famous Loughborough University, world-renowned for its sporting brilliance so in his own words “there were infinite opportunities to photograph sports teams and athletes”. He spent three years taking every opportunity to take photos and after graduating went on to work in-house for a London sports agency headed up by former Olympic gold medallist Lord Sebastian Coe.
Fast forward several years and Jack is now freelancing not only as a photographer but also a filmmaker. He says “I’m now very lucky to be working closely with incredible filmmaker Ben Marlow on several projects. One of which is our sports content company Southpaw Sport. We also run a free videography and photography YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/sixtysecondfilmschool) sharing our experience and opinions in sixty-second videos”.
Jack, where are you from?
I’m from Maidenhead in Berkshire, England.
Where do you currently live?
I now spend the majority of my time in the UK. In the past, I’ve based myself in Austria for the winter season.
What genre of photography do you specialise in?
Sports and action photography are my main disciplines.
Describe your style of photography?
Simple and striking, I love photos where the subject is large in frame and the photo can be quickly understood. Being a sports photographer you’re always looking to capture that one frame that communicates the real drama or emotion of the activity being performed and any big key moments in the competition.
What are you working on at the moment?
Although winter is just coming to a close I still do a lot of snow-sports work, either in the UK or out on the glaciers in Europe. Spring is always a very busy time in sports. I also regularly shoot tennis and netball events as well.
What is your next project or assignment?
I’m currently working with a competitive paddle boarder trying to capture some really cool imagery as she trains and competes at inland locations around the UK.
Are there any photographers whose work/style you admire?
I’m very lucky to have the pleasure of regularly working alongside a whole range of incredibly hard-working and talented photographers. They are definitely the people who’s work I admire most and aspire to shoot like. People such as Ed Pereira, Jordan Banks, Raj Dhesi, Jay Rowden and Kate Addison, all have a real diverse mix of photography styles. But there’s so much I love about each of their work individually.
What is your favourite memory of your experiences?
In 2017 I volunteered to go along and take photos on a Charity Ski Week for wounded servicemen and women designed to kick start their rehabilitation into civilian life. The work the charity did was phenomenal and seeing the impact it had on the veterans was the best part of the week. But being able to give them photos to remember the experience with and to enable them to share these photos with their friends and family was a special feeling.
What’s the biggest photographic challenge you overcame?
A lot of the time the biggest challenge is the environment, particularly in ski photography. There’s the cold for the camera to cope with and anytime it’s snowing it brings a whole load of equipment challenges. Often coordinating with the skiers to be in the right place at the right time can be the main challenge in getting a good photo.
What’s in your camera bag?
I like to keep all my equipment in a camera rucksack so I can carry everything on my back as I often need to be moving (and usually skiing) around when taking photos. I try and stay as light as possible whilst taking everything I need.
I always have my trusty 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm f/4.0 and 70-200mm f/2.8. zoom lenses which are essential for sports photography. Those two focal ranges pretty much cover everything you need.
I’ll always take a Canon 85mm f/1.8 to use for specific shots of people and a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 for super wide or landscape shots.
What photographic equipment would you never leave home without?
It’s really not that exciting but lots of batteries! When you are on the slopes, the cold weather means you go through them far quicker than usual. Due to the nature of places that you are shooting at, it means most of the time you’ll be far away from somewhere you can plug in and charge up. So it’s essential to have plenty with me.
What advice you would give anyone who is starting out?
Find a subject matter you love. Work hard, take every opportunity in front of you and be nice to everyone. If you are polite, diligent and deliver great photos you’ll be surprised who will be emailing and asking to work with you.
Any pitfalls they should avoid?
Getting an ego, complaining or expecting to get anything. Also never forget how lucky you are to be doing this job.
Lastly… if you weren’t a photographer what would you be doing?
I would probably be working in sports marketing, so I would be the one hiring the photographers rather than taking the photos.
To see more of Jack’s work visit www.jacktompkins.co
All images by Jack Tompkins. All rights reserved. No usage anywhere online or in print without permission.
Interview by Kav Dadfar.