Nick Mason: Mountain and Documentary Photographer

Thank you for visiting my website and I hope that you enjoy looking at my photographs as much as I have enjoyed creating them.

I am an outdoor and documentary photographer based in Cardiff, UK. When not taking photographs, I work as a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. From my very first steps into the mountains of Wales as a teenager I have always taken a camera with me. Initially this was to record the places I visited and the routes I climbed with my friends but increasingly I found in photography the medium that I needed to express my love of the mountains and wild places that have been so central to my life.

I have been privileged to visit some indescribably beautiful parts of our planet, but more and more I find that I have been drawn to the hills and valleys of my local Brecon Beacons National Park. This unique landscape, carved from Old Red Sandstone, with its barren broad rolling ridges and flat-topped summits presents unique challenges to the landscape photographer. I frequently uses the panoramic format which is ideally suited to the Brecon Beacons’ long escarpments and deep valleys and once lockdown is over I am looking forward, once again, to make my way to a summit ridge before dawn, or linger long after sunset, to capture the best light in which to show the effect of the changing seasons on this distinctive and strangely beautiful landscape that I have come to make my mountain home.

As I have grown older however I have felt that there are even more important things to photograph than the beauty of the moutain landscape. Through my work as Chair of Trustees for the International Porter Protection Group UK (IPPG) I have used my photography to bring attention to the plight of mountain porters in Nepal and IPPG's work at the two high altitude rescue posts in the mountain villages of Machermo and Gokyo not far from Mount Everest that it ran in partnership with Community Action Nepal until they were recently forced to close as a result of corrupt Nepalese politics. Most recently I have been photographing the impact of COVID-19 on the Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Gwent Hospital where I worked during the pandemic's first wave and which resulted in me receiving the 2021 AP Power of Photography Award, one of the UK photography industry's most prestigious awards.  

Photography Equipment

"The challenge to the photographer is to command the medium, to use whatever current equipment and technology furthers his creative objectives, without sacrificing the ability to make his own decisions.”  -  Ansel Adams

There is a preoccupation with equipment brands among some photographers which I do not fully understand and which risks placing the importance of equipment above the creative process. The reality is that the majority of top end cameras and lenses of today are capable of producing superb quality images. The important thing is to find and develop a system that works well for you, for the type of photographs you are taking and in the environments in which you operate.

I have been using predominantly Olympus (now OM Digital Solutions) equipment since switching to digital capture over fifteen years ago and for the last decade the Olympus Mico 4/3 system. When travelling in mountainous terrain, particularly on skis, weight is at an absolute premium. The OM-D Series has proved itself to be the ideal camera system for me: small yet robust; completely weather-proof; excellent ergonomics; very fast autofocus for skiing or wildlife shots and capable of capturing the highest quality images with a stellar collection of lenses.

My main set up consists of the excellent OM-D EM1 Mk3 camera used in combination with a number of Olympus lenses. The seemingly small changes from the OM-D EM1 Mk2, with which many of the photographs on this site were shot, have resulted in the best camera I have ever owned. The main lenses that I use with my EM1s are the:

Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Pro

Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro
and MC-14 1.4x teleconverter

Leica DG 8-18mm f2.8-4

Olympus 8mm f1.8 Pro fisheye

Olympus ED 12mm f2

Olympus 45mm f1.8

I have also frequently used the small but feature packed OM-D EM5s which are the perfect cameras for travelling light in the mountains, especially on skis. Many of the photographs on this site were shot using the EM5 Mk1 and Mk2 and the following lenses:

Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6 lens

Olympus 14‑42mm F3.5‑5.6 II R lens

Olympus 40-150mm f4-5.6 R lens     

Despite being labelled kit lenses I have been able to produce large, pin sharp prints from the images captured with them. The key, as always, is to know your gear and how to get the best out of it.

The majority of images in my COVID-19 project were shot on the latest iteration of the EM5, the OM-D EM5 Mk3, frequently in combination with the stellar Olympus 25mm f1.2 PRO lens. I am looking forward to trying the EM5 Mk3 out in the mountains in the near future in combination with the remarkably small Olympus 12-45mm f4 PRO lens which I think could render my well-used kit lenses redundant.

I much prefer to be out taking photographs than stuck in front of a computer and so use Lee Filters to keep post-capture manipulation to a minimum.

A good quality tripod and ball head is almost as important as the camera and lens for capturing high quality landscape images. I use a Gitzo 3530LS tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head or a Gitzo G1228 Mountaineer tripod with Kirk BH3 ball head when I need increased portability. Both of these tripods have now been superseded but, despite receiving years of abuse, continue to be unfailingly reliable For shooting panoramas I use a Really Right Stuff Panning Clamp and a MPR-CL II Nodal Slide. 

Everything is carried in either an F-stop Loka or Satori exp back pack. F-stop make genuine mountain camera back packs and are the best camera packs that I have used.  

If you have any questions about my equipment, please feel free to email me through the contact page.  

All images and content of this website © Nick Mason. No part of this website may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form without permission.