Interview: Portsmouth aerial and seaborne photographer Shaun Roster

If you follow Team Locals on any social media platform — Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook — you’ll have seen his work. We feature it a lot. And for good reason: Shaun Roster’s photography is fantastic, and he often gets a unique aerial vantage point above Portsmouth.

In a continued effort to tell the stories of Portsmouth and Southsea’s creative individuals, I spoke to Shaun about his work, his love for Portsmouth, and how he came to be working with the likes of Land Rover BAR during the America’s Cup World Series.

Tell me a little about your current work and how you come to be flying over Portsmouth on a regular basis.

I am currently a serving member of the UK Armed Forces, on loan to a civilian aerospace company who carry out the ‘Depth Maintenance’ of Military helicopters. My day-to-day job involves managing a Ministry Of Defence helicopter landing site to facilitate helicopter operations on-site.

Additionally, as qualified aircrew, I augment the helicopter crews during the day-to-day flying operations conducted from the site. I am extremely lucky to not only live in the Southsea area, but to also regularly have the opportunity to fly around the local area and out over the Solent.

How did you originally become interested in photography, and how has your passion for it grown over time?

I have had an interest in photography since a very young age. At around 10 years old, I bought myself an old Russian-made 35mm film camera, and through reading books from the local library (the Internet wasn’t around in those days!), I taught myself the basics of photography.

My second passion was sailing, and from around the age of 12, I used to race small yachts across the Irish Sea from North Wales. This gave me the opportunity to photograph other yachts amongst the racing fleet, and after an event, I would send my film off to be developed, and excitedly await the results (and often failures) of my efforts.

If I captured anything decent, I would track down the yacht at the next race event, knock on their door, and sell them copies of the photos to boost my pocket money.

I joined the military in 1984, which has subsequently allowed me to travel a great deal of the world, seeing many amazing sites and providing me with opportunities to capture them on camera.

I started becoming more serious about photography with the inception of the modern-day digital SLR camera. When I moved to the Portsmouth area, I found myself in an area of amazing photographic opportunities, be it amidst the great many city landmarks and attractions, on the water amongst the summer sailing scene, or in the air across the whole of the Hampshire countryside.

Strangely, some 30+ years later and more by luck than judgement, I find myself having gone full circle, and can now often be found out on the Solent chasing down high-performance racing yachts in my RIB.

Of course, a recent pinnacle has been supporting and sometimes working with Land Rover BAR in pursuit of the America’s Cup, and working as an official photographer for the America’s Cup World Series over the past two years.

What’s something unique that you see from the air which we might not be aware of from the ground?

There are a number of things, depending on the area. Over Portsmouth, I would say it’s the density of housing, and the symmetry of so many narrow terraced streets and roads laid out in parallel.

Over the sea, it has to be just how busy the Solent waterways become, especially through the summer months, including the considerable amount of shipping and cruiseliners heading into Southampton waters.

In general, along the coast, the most unique observation must be the changing weather conditions as distant weather fronts and storm clouds track down the Solent or the low sun burns through pollution and haze layers drifting over from the continent.

How does the city inspire you to be creative on a regular basis?

Firstly, it has to be the prolific number of hobbyist and semi-professional photographers we have in the area, all of whom are regular social media users providing their followers with a multitude of angles, styles, perspectives, and their own unique individual artistic flair.

Also, the incredible number of events and shows that come to the local area, providing new and different opportunities to capture everything from unusual situations, large-scale concerts, public gatherings, and high-profile sporting events.

Where are you favourite photographic haunts around Portsmouth and Southsea?

I love heading down to the Camber and Old Portsmouth areas along with Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Hot Walls, Square Tower, Round Tower, Spice Island, and the views across to Gunwharf Quays, the Spinnaker Tower, and the dockyard all provide incredible photographic opportunities, especially at night or during more unusual weather conditions.