With her camera in hand, Hazel Simcox becomes a child during the golden hour of dusk and dawn. Chasing lights throughout forests, she is desperate to capture that perfect shot.
Ever since she participated in photographic work experience during her time at secondary school, photography has been Hazel’s passion. With the help of her mother, Hazel became the talented photographer that she is today.
“My mum decided I should do something fun and she hooked me up with a photography studio so it was kind of her doing in some ways,” Hazel told The New View Magazine.
During her degree, Hazel came across a man who would become her biggest photographical influence, Joshua Thomas Cooper. Cooper was a photographer, who not only founded the Glasgow school of art, but also has the same mindset regarding photography: having the need to explore and photography is a tool that follows.
Shortly after Hazel finished her degree, she decided she would need a job, and decided a teacher was perfectly suited to her due to her love of talking about photographer.
“I was only 21 at that point and within a few months, I went from teaching an evening course to having a full time job without really realising what had happened.”
However, it wasn’t all plain-sailing for Hazel as she panicked two years into her career, unsure about whether teaching was what she should be doing. “Because I hadn’t chosen it is a path, I did panic and after two years of teaching, I took a year out and did my masters because I felt like maybe I wasn’t in teaching for the right reasons.”
During that year away from teaching, Hazel realised that she loved teaching and returned.
“I didn’t find it, it found me,” she explains. “It enables you to get up and do what you love every day.”
Nowadays, Hazel is teaching photography at North Warwickshire and Hinckley college and in her spare time, she’s an explorer and amateur mountaineer.
Despite not doing much landscape photography during her time at university, it is now her favourite subject to photograph.
“I think that my degree was very much focused on social documentary and portraiture. Landscape is often seen as the poor relative to be fair. It’s just pretty, isn’t it? So does it have any concept? Does it have any reason?"
“It’s only really been, I’d say, the last five years since I’ve started climbing and doing winter walking. It became a passion, and now it has a purpose for me. Other than just being beautiful, it’s my way of seeing the world.”
Hazel’s newest adventure has been winter walking, which is walking in the winter solely because it is too cold to climb. Hazel says you have to be much more prepared when exploring during the winter months. She advises crampons, which are spikes you strap to your shoes, and an ice axe to help with stability. Hazel also warns that it is a scary activity.
“It’s frightening! It’s really frightening, honestly. Whenever I’m out on ice, it’s really unpredictable and I like control so to be in an environment where you can’t be in full control is quite challenging.”
Not only does Hazel need to remember to pack her ice axe before exploring, she needs to plan out what equipment is absolutely essential.
“I was borrowing the D800 which is the full-frame Nikon camera. Now, it’s very heavy and it had quite a large, chunky lens on it. I think I worked out it was about two kilograms. So I was carrying that on a shoulder strap and if I would do two walks back to back, you’d notice on the second day I’d have like a huge bruise on my back where the camera had been like basing around.
“Thank god for EBay, it was an absolute saviour,” Hazel says as she sold her old kit to afford a lighter yet great quality camera.
“I bought a Nikon D610, which is a smaller, lighter, full-framed camera. The lighter the kit, the easier it is for me but it was just trying to get that compromise where I really wanted quality. I don’t take anything else. I don’t use a tripod. I don’t use any external flashes. It would be a hindrance for me, it would slow me down. It would be more things to carry.”
Other than making sure her back and shoulders stay intact during an adventure, Hazel must also plan ahead. Hazel says the most important aspect to be aware of is “the weather. The weather, the weather, the weather.
“I am obsessed with checking the weather. Location-wise is important. The time I’ve got available is important and the weather is important. On top of all that, where can I stay? If I’m driving three hours, I need to sleep overnight somewhere and make the most of being in that location.
“In the summer, we sleep in the car, so it’s cheap, it’s free. In the winter, you’ve got to find somewhere to stay. Preferably, with a meal included.
“Weather wise, I actually like the bad weather days because they benefit in terms of atmosphere. I suppose daylight hours are also important.”
Hazel’s go-to location is Snowdonia, North Wales, specifically her father’s sofa. She says she has a bit of nostalgia when it comes to Snowdonia due to her childhood and her father’s family being from there.
“I’m not from Snowdonia by my dad’s family is and I feel a pull or a connection towards the landscape. We always went on holiday there as kids so that links to as it as well but it kind of feels like my second home. My dad just moved there in February of this year so he’s actually given me a sort of base there which is really helpful. His sofa is my go-to.”
While Hazel’s passion sounds exciting, adventurous, and fun, it is also very hard work according to her, especially if you’re exploring with the sole intention of photographing your travels. “Explore first, photograph second,” Hazel advises. “You can’t go into the environment to photograph.
“You’ve got to go out for another reason and the photography will follow. I think it’s quite difficult to take on the endurance if the endurance isn’t something you want; it’s physical hard work. You get a sweat on, you get exhausted, you get hungry, you want to cry. If you want to just do photography, you might as well just stay on the lower grounds.
“Find a passion first and then the photography will tie into it, definitely.”
Not only is photography her passion, it is her life.
“It’s all I know,” Hazel says, acknowledging the cliche nature of her words. “A day doesn’t go by where I don’t talk about photography. We fight. I’ve fallen out with photography and we make up and it’s just another part of me that I have a really awkward relationship with.”