Photography talents of a driving instructor and a blacksmith from Fife, whose landscape pictures has attracted international acclaim and a string of major awards, are to be brought into focus with their first public exhibition.
Just 10 years ago Phil Cooke, a driving instructor from Windygates, had never taken a photograph in his life.
Now, having ditched golf for a more leisurely hobby, he can lay claim to being a bonafide world champion, whose images are recognised among some of the most accomplished in the photographic world.
Rubbing shoulders with the best in the world of landscape photography, Phil, 60, had the honour of being a member of the Scotland team that recently scooped the De L’Art Photographique World Cup of Photography competition held in South Africa, seeing off entries from more than 100 other countries.
His friend, Glenrothes-based blacksmith Arthur ‘Spud’ Mitchell, has a similar talent for spotting a great picture and his work is attracting similar plaudits and high profile awards in recent years.
Now the pair, both members of Kirkcaldy Photographic Society, are about to throw open the doors to an exhibition of their photographs, the first time.
And it’s something the pair agree is long overdue.
“Both keen landscape photographers, we’ve become good friends often travelling away together across Scotland in search of that next great image so the exhibition is that next logical step,” Phil said.
“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.
“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.”
For Arthur, 64, it was a return to photography after years of restoring classic cars and racing old bangers on the stock car circuit in his spare time.
“Plus, having recently had some of our photographs in a club exhibition also held in Kirkcaldy back in September, which was really well received by the public, it spurred us on to get this collection together,” he said.
“After years of tinkering with cars I was looking for something a little more relaxing and just a little less costly too.
“I’d always had an interest in photography and travelling all over Scotland and being confronted with stunning scenery on a daily basis, it was the obvious choice to buy a camera.”
In just a few years Arthur’s change of hobby has developed into a firm passion for landscape photography which recently saw one of his photos chosen as the Scottish Landscape photograph of the year.
And the pair are the first to admit they go to extraordinary lengths to capture that all important shot.
Researching high and low tides, sunrises and sunsets and taking account of the varying light conditions at different times of the year are just some of the factors that Phil and Arthur take note of in their decisions of where to go and when.
“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,” said Phil.
“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.”
The pursuit of the perfect picture can also prove costly as Arthur is loath to recall on one trip to Berwick Upon Tweed.
“I lost one quite expensive camera to the sea on one occasion, and while I didn’t go in after it, it’s certainly an incident I don’t want to repeat.”
Their forthcoming exhibition, which takes over a former retail unit within the Mercat Shopping Centre in Kirkcaldy and featuring 60 of Phil and Arthur’s favourite and most notable photographs, opens for five days from this Thursday.
“We are very proud of them and what they have achieved and this a fantastic opportunity for Fifers to see a selection of the breathtaking images that they have very skillfully captured,” said Cathy Davies, Kirkcaldy Photographic Society’s syllabus secretary.
As well as being able to purchase limited edition prints of some of the images on display, every person who views the exhibition will also be entered in to a draw to win one of two day-long masterclass photographic workshops with Phil and Arthur.
The free to enter exhibition runs from November 28 until December 2 at the former Shopmobility unit, Mercat Shopping Centre, Kirkcaldy.