I am an amateur photographer based in Cambridgeshire. Wildlife was my first passion, but the realities of a day job and family life mean I don’t have the time to dedicate to getting closer to wild animals, so nowadays landscapes and the natural world in general are my most common subjects of choice.
Aside from photography and the natural world, my main interest is martial arts. I first trained in Kickboxing from the age of 15 and then also trained in Aikido for a time, achieving brown belt in both. I then spent about a year out of action from Aikido with a persistent shoulder injury and afterwards never really got back into it for various reasons. I did however always retain a keen interest in the martial arts and eventually after finding the right treatment for my shoulder decided to get back into it and took up Kickboxing again, achieving the long standing ambition of earning my black belt in 2012. I then trained in Escrima for a couple of years before changing my focus to reality based self defence systems, joining the FRACT Tactical Fight System coaching programme and qualifying as a level 3 foundation coach in February 2016. I also started training in Ju-jitsu in 2018.
I first got into photography in Autumn of 2006 after a friend and I spontaneously booked a holiday to Africa and I decided to pick up a digital camera with a long zoom to enable me to get shots of the wildlife out there. At the time I never really expected to take it too seriously, just buying a decent all in one camera that would serve it’s purpose for the trip, but no sooner did I start to get to grips with the thing than my interest in photography snowballed and 6 months later I was buying my first DSLR. The rest, as they say, is history, my array of gear has grown and evolved over the years (From a bridge camera, to DSLR, to micro four thirds) and I have attended many photography workshops at wildlife parks around the country to improve my skills and compensate for the lack of time and funds to see so many of earth’s more exotic creatures in their natural habitat.
None of my main work is heavily ‘photoshopped’, I personally feel that too much post processing diverges from the realms of photography into digital art, which I have absolutely nothing against, but it’s just not for me. I have occasionally dabbled with creative editing for a bit of fun, but no such images are on display here. So aside from some minor things (e.g. cloing out a red dot from a photo where I was using a laser pen to catch the attention of a playful kitten), my photos are generally ‘as shot’, I rarely do much more than cropping and RAW conversions to balance exposure and bring out colours where needed.
I have used Adobe Lightroom since it’s inception as my primary photo processing tool as I had neither the funds or the knowledge to utilise Photoshop, while Lightroom provided the perfect workflow tool to manage and quickly edit batches of photos. I have dabbled with Photoshop Express, and full Photoshop when I had it as part of the Adobe creative cloud package, but never used either to any extent and have always stuck with Lightroom for 99% of my processing. I have since migrated to the Lightroom CC environment, as while Lightroom Classic still has the edge in sheer number of features, CC serves my current needs better. Between cloud storage negating the need for manual backups, the ability to go directly from camera to processing photos on my tablet, and the native ability to share albums to the web, all without having to find time to sit at my office computer, the workflow is just significantly more convenient when trying to process photos and update a website around the responsibilities of daily life.
As a non professional photographer, I didn’t build this website to try and sell my work (although if anybody out there fancies paying me an exorbitant fee for use of any of my work then I’m all ears 😉 ), I built it because people kept telling I should display my work somehow and I decided that, since I didn’t see any point in printing for the sake of printing and wasn’t sold on the idea of camera clubs (I’m focused on the natural world and simply have no interest in a lot of other common themes), being an IT geek and all, a website would be the most logical outlet. Not that I had the faintest clue about website design when I first started, but via various great utilities and several major re-designs, the site has continued to serve it’s purpose and is ever improving as I come up with new ideas or happen upon new additions I can implement.
For anybody who may be wondering about the choice of name for my site, I have no affiliation whatsoever with the famous surfing brand or anything else under the same name, Billabong is simply a nickname I acquired in secondary school which has followed me around ever since, and when choosing the name for my site, after concluding that obvious options such as jamesbylettphotography.co.uk just didn’t sound particularly catchy, I decided that billabong-photos.co.uk did have a certain ring to it and that sealed the deal.
Well, that’s me in a nutshell, if you’d like to know any more please feel free to drop me a line via the contacts page.