Image Above: ‘Playing with silhouettes’.Scott tried these using the Wi-Fi on the camera to link to his phone, turning it into a remote Sony NEX-5R

A Man of Many Arts – Reader Profile – Scott Mills

As a firefighter, mixed martial arts enthusiast and lens collector, how does AP reader Scott Hills find time to take photos as well? Debbi Allen finds out

It can be difficult for most of us to find the time to get out and take photographs, but for AP reader Scott Hills this is something of an understatement. Scott’s busy schedule is taken up first and foremost by his job as a firefighter. ‘I’ve been doing the job for nearly five years now, and for me it’s the best job in the world,’ he says. ‘I genuinely look forward to going to work every day. Well, apart from bonfire night!’ Away from his career, Scott also enjoys mixed martial arts and Thai boxing – sports he’d like to get further involved in through his photography.

When he does have time to spend on his photography, Scott not only switches between genres, but he’s also started to dabble in film as well as digital: ‘I’ve collected a few film cameras and would maybe one day like to learn how to develop my own photos,’ he says.

From The Start

Image Above: ‘Union Canal’. Scott says he went to see the colourful arches,
but they didn’t turn the lights on! 
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

Living in Scotland, Scott believes his passion for photography started when he first learned to drive a car. ‘I was able to get up to the Scottish Highlands on my days off,’ he explains. ‘I couldn’t believe the scenery and atmosphere up there and wanted to share what I was experiencing.’From here, Scott started to teach himself the art. He read books and magazines, joined the AP forum and discovered techniques through ‘trial and error’.

Picking up a copy of AP for the first time in 2012, Scott found inspiration within. ‘The software tutorials are a great resource for me, as are the photographic technique ones,’ he says. ‘I also like the camera reviews and Photo Insight is a good source of inspiration.’

Like most amateur photographers, Scott finds that feedback is especially
important for improving his photography. ‘The appraisal gallery on the
forum has been extremely beneficial to me, and I really appreciate the
advice and critique I get from the other forum members there,’ he says.
‘Essentially, it’s a free education in photography!’

Image Above: Opheodrys aestivus, commonly known as the rough green snake, is a non-venomous North American snakeSony NEX-5R

Taking photos with his phone, Scott soon discovered that he’d need to invest in some new kit if he wanted to progress his hobby, so he bought a Fujifilm FinePix S100FS bridge camera, which was recommended by an AP forum member. From this, Scott has progressed to a Sony NEX-5R compact system camera, as it was able to accept a huge range of old legacy lenses via appropriate adapters. ‘I like the fact I can use almost all the old legacy lenses with the NEX system,’ he says. ‘It helps me get lens quality I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.’

This is a feature Scott is making full use of, having so far collected 14 lenses, including Yashica, Konica and Mamiya models (see below for the full list). ‘My favourite lens has to be an old manual OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.8,’ says Scott. ‘It is sharp, compact and well built. I find myself using this lens more than any other.’

Eclectic tastes

Image Right: Taken at the Edge Martial Arts Edinburgh Open, at Meadowbank Stadium, July 2013Sony NEX-5R

Although Scott cites sport and macro as two of his favourite things to shoot, like most amateur photographers he’ll basically photograph anything he can. ‘I really do enjoy photography and like how I can combine it with lots of other interests,’ he says. ‘I like taking photos ranging from everyday street scenes to abandoned mental asylums. I also like sports and macro photography but find these much more challenging. I’m on a limited budget for lenses, which makes macro and sport difficult as I tend to use old fast manual primes to help freeze the action, and clip on macro filters and extension tubes to 
get in close.’

Scott continues: ‘Even though I find it the most challenging, I’d say macro is the most rewarding for me. Some of my favourite photos are close-ups of spiders or other small creatures because I know the effort and patience it took me to get the shot.’

Talking about his landscape shots, Scott admits he’s pretty lucky to be living in an exceptionally beautiful part of the world, which makes it a little easier for him to take landscape photos. ‘I feel like I am cheating half the time as some of the places I visit are so scenic that if you get the basics right it’s hard to go wrong,’ says Scott. ‘Good light always helps, and I think the fact that I’m usually out climbing Munros or exploring places off the beaten path makes getting interesting shots easier.’

Although he loves shooting near his home, Scott is also ambitious to jet off and document other lands, and says he’d love to visit Bulgaria. ‘I like places with atmosphere: Mount Buzludzha in Bulgaria has an abandoned communist headquarters and monument at the peak, which looks like something from another world,’ he adds. ‘Chernobyl and Pripyat [in Ukraine] are also places that appeal to me. The thought that thousands of people up and left in a matter of days and allowed nature to reclaim the cities would make for some great photographs.’

Scott has this tip for creating great images within cityscapes and tourist areas: ‘If I find something I like the look of, such as an empty lane, a tunnel or stairs, I like to wait for someone to walk into the shot. I’ll usually compose the shot so they are on a third and use them as a focal point.’

Forward thinking

Image Above: Self-portrait
Sony NEX-5R

With a job that keeps him busy and many hobbies to vie for his attention, Scott isn’t too preoccupied with turning professional. ‘I worry that if I had to take photos of something, I might not enjoy it as much,’ he says. However, his lack of desire to achieve professional status doesn’t mean a lack of ambition, as there’s still plenty that Scott would like to achieve with his photography. ‘I would like to get into some mixed martial arts events or boxing/Thai boxing shows,’ he adds. ‘I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get good results with my current set-up, so I think I’d need to invest in some new gear.’

Having already used his photography to gain free entry to the local Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions in return for some of his shots, Scott has had a taste of the commercial side of photography. ‘I’ve also been asked to do three weddings, which I’ve had to turn down,’ he says. ‘I’m under no illusions how much work is involved in a professional wedding shoot, and I know I’ve got a lot to learn before I tackle something like that!’

Behind the scenes

Image Above: Glaswegian jumping spider, Scott says he has taken lots of photos of this ‘little guy’ on his Flickr page (see below) Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

‘Jumping spiders like the sun, so you’re more likely to find them on south-facing walls on bright sunny days,’ says Scott. ‘I found this one on a canal-bridge wall in Glasgow in late August. She was about eye-level on top of the wall when I saw her, but by the time I got my camera ready she had wandered over to the south face. I pulled myself up and hung over the bridge wall to see a 40ft drop on the other side! The spider was still there so I quickly got it in the frame of my Fujifilm FinePix S100FS (with a Raynox DCR-150 lens attached). Because of the Raynox I lost autofocus, but it kept the auto-exposure settings so I could just concentrate on focusing. As soon as she turned to face me, I took a burst of raw images while moving the focal plane across the spider, hoping for at least one sharp shot of her eyes.’

With a strong collection of photos taken in limited free time, on both
the AP gallery and via his Flickr page, Scott is an inspiration to any
amateur photographer who claims not to have the time to take more
photos, and he has this advice to fellow amateurs. ‘Just enjoy it, and
try to combine photography with other interests you have,’ he says. ‘I
always find I take better pictures if the subject is something I’m
interested in. Get posting in the appraisal gallery on the AP forums as
well. That was and still is a huge benefit to me.’

Scott’s favourite photo

Image Above: Somewhere I shouldn’t be, Shots like this show how good the Sony is in low-light situations 
Sony NEX-5R

‘I took this photo
in an abandoned Second World War air-raid shelter near where I grew
up,’ says Scott. ‘I didn’t plan it out very well as I forgot to take a
torch or a tripod. I had to wander through some pitch-black tunnels
using my pre-focusing light to see. There was a dead sheep that I had to
navigate round, but I got the shot I was after even though it was

Scott’s lenses

Scott uses his Sony NEX-5R with the following new and legacy lenses to achieve his photos.

  • l Sony 18-55mm f/3.5
  • l Konica Hexanon 28mm f/3.5
  • l Konica Hexanon 40mm f/1.8
  • l Yashica ML 135mm f/2.8           
  • l Yashica ML 50mm f/2
  • l Yashica DSB 50mm f/1.9
  • l Helios 44M 58mm f/2
  • l Mamiya Sekor 55mm f/1.8
  • l Super Takumar 135mm f/3.5
  • l Zuiko 50mm f/1.8
  • l Tamron 28-70mm f/3.5-4
  • l Hoya HMC 75-150mm f/3.8
  • l Jupiter 8 50mm f/2
  • l Raynox DCR-150

To see more of Scott Hills’ images, visit
or follow his Photo Blog

Image Above: Scott took this photograph using a Konica Hexanon 28mm lens at f/5.6 with his Sony NEX-5R

Do you want to see your pictures in print and share your photographic
journey and experiences with other readers? Send up to ten
low-resolution JPEGs and a short covering letter on an email titled
‘Reader Profile’ to, or post a CD/DVD to
Reader Profile
at the usual address, and you could see your work
published in AP. 

Image Above: ‘This is an example of mixing legacy lenses and my Sony NEX-5R,’ says Scott