A photographer from just outside Hay-on-Wye has reached the finals of a UK-wide competition with his snaps of horses and dogs.
Chris Norton, who runs the Tails of Wales Dog Photography website specialises in pictures of man’s best friend, chickens and our favourite equine companions.
The 49-year-old has an array of photos which are being considered in the Finals of Xperience Awards 2021 in the Me & My Horse, Me & My Dog, and Dog – location categories.
Xperience is picky about what photos makes its finals as they need to be a a high quality to be considered.
Chris, who lives with his partner and their Cavapoo dog Annie in Clyro, said: “It is a very high quality of photos that get submitted.
“At the moment, I’ve got quite a few in the final judging stages. The winners will be announced in November.
“The overall winner of each category – the owner will win a large framed print of the winning picture which is worth £500 and I would get recognition from winning as it is a national competition.”
The awards are only open to full members of the Xperience Photography Group and must be entered by the photographers and not the consumer or photo subject.
Other categories in the competition, which will announce its winners on Saturday, November 27, include Boudoir, Child Awards (4-12), Family, Little Miss & Little Man, Open, Dog – Studio, Dog & Equine Creative, Teen, Baby & Toddler (0-3), Newborn and Dance.
Already a multi-award winning photographer, Chris said the national awards are run by the Xperience Group which offers training for photographers and well as photography business skills and advice.
He said: “Photographers join the group to learn more about how to run a photography business in the day and age and how to provide the best experience to their customers.
“Photographers all over the UK join the group and photographers all over the UK are joining the competition.
“Anybody within the Xperience Group can enter – we’re all professionals in an area of specialty of work such as dog or horse photography.
“Photographers can enter through the year – I know that six of my pictures are through to the last judging stages. It is the best of the best that get put through to the final stages.”
All of Chris’s finalist photos were taken in the Hay-on-Wye area of different people with their beloved pets.
Multi-award winning Chris said that despite warnings throughout his varied career not to work with children or animals, he always loved doing both.
He said: “Everyone always says ‘you’ll never get a picture of my dog’ but I love a challenge.
“I have lovely photos of children with their dogs playing with each other.
“You’re always told never to work with children or animals but I do and there is a lovely outcome of picture of kids with their animals.”
One of Chris’s favourite things to photograph is the members of a company called The Calvary of Heroes who has special stunt horses under the steady control of Marc Lovatt.
Chris, who is due to turn 50 this month, said Marc is a stunt horseman who performs feats such as riding two horses at once and holding a sword in the air on a rearing horse.
He said: “Sometimes they’re used in films. It’s one of my pictures of him that has become a finalist.
“He and his wife run the company in Clyro, they’re a team and they do thinks like jousting as well.
“Marc has some of the best control I’ve ever seen with a horse – they’re trained so they’re not bothered by things like gun shots or cannons where must horses would spook. It’s incredible to see him with the horses.”
Chris, who has worked in different areas of photography for more than 35 years, said there is still time for dog and horse owners to get in touch for a chance to help him through the competition.
Those who take part will get a photoshoot with Chris, the opportunity to buy their photos at the end of the shoot – although there is no obligation to do so – and participants are in with the chance of winning the grand prize of a print of their furry friends worth £500.
The photographer said: “There is still time to enter before the final judging stage.
“You can still contact me to take part for the chance to win a photo-shoot and the photo.”
To contact Chris, visit his Tails of Wails website or lternatively, you can reach Chris by calling 07942 006600 or by emailing email@example.com.
Chris has officially been a full-time self-employed photographer for ten years, however he has only been specialised as a dog photographer for the last four years.
He said: “I just love the genuine friendship and love between an owner and their dog. To capture that in a photo and capture the character of that persons pet in a photo is incredible – it’s hard to get with a phone.”
Chris, who also loves location photography, uses on-scene backdrops which he says it’s difficult to capture on a phone – especially to get a quality picture of the scenery and the dog or horse.
He said: “It’s a big picture to get with the dog and love between the dog and it’s human and capturing that into a photo forever. It’s the same with equine – I love landscape photography and so I photo horses within landscape.
“You can capture somebody with their horse and you can capture it in a beautiful landscape.”
Chris first developed an interest in photography and taking photos when he was 12-years-old after discovering a jelly crab while he was on holiday in Kidwelly.
He said: “When I was a young child, about 12, I was looking for pearls in mussels while I was on holiday.
“I was told that you can find a pearl – usually the size of a pin head – so I opened a mussel up and found a tiny, tiny little jelly crab.
“It was the same colouring as the inside of the mussel. I found that it’s a natural thing where a baby crab becomes trapped and evolves so it doesn’t need to have a shell or to grow.”
Chris looked for the crab, also known as a pea crab, in his encyclopedia where he discovered they co-exist with shell fish like mussles and oysters – they are not very common.
Young Chris decided he would attempt to get a photo of the tiny crab with his 110 camera which he described as a “tiny little camera, the same size as a phone with the film half in and half out.”
Aiming for a photo like he had seen in the encyclopedia, he said: “I looked through the view finder and took the picture. I didn’t realise that what I could see through the view finder would be different to what I captured.
“I didn’t realise I was too close because I was only about three inches away because I wanted it to look like it did in the encyclopedia – there was no way it could focus with this cheap little camera.
“When I got the photos back, it was just an orange blur – that’s when I started to learn photography.
“From a long story, I started leaning how to get all of these lovely photos from photography magazines and I got a proper camera for Christmas and books. Nature photography is where it all started.”
Chris has spent most of life working photography jobs – more than 35 years – including as a holiday camp photographer in West Wales, a cruise ship photographer, a newspaper photographer, a celebrity photographer, wedding and fashion photographer as well as family photography – he has even worked as a medical photographer.
He revealed that while he was a holiday camp photographer at the age of 18, he took a photo of a young boy who had auditioned for a band earlier that day.
It became apparent later that day that he had photographed pop star Robbie Williams, famous for tracks like Let Me Entertain You, Angels and Rock DJ, on the same day he found out he had been accepted into boy band Take That at the age of 16.
The Something Stupid singer is not the only celebrity who has been the subject of Chris’s photos as he has also snapped Gloria Huuniford, Ruby Wax, James Coburn and Edward Woodward – just to name a few.
Originally from Pontypridd in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Chris studied photography in school and then in college.
He worked as a press photographer while he completed his A Levels , Chris also worked in professional printing and a mounting laboratory and he said he learnt photography through film cameras – before digital cameras were introduced.
Chris also specialises in chicken and feline photography and offers a range of photo packages on his website for animal loves to get pictures of their beloved pets.
Head to our Facebook page to see all the finalist photos by Chris.