Tell us a little about yourself (who you are, where you are based, what you shoot, etc.)
I’m a husband, father and full-time landscape photographer that live in Te Anau on the South Island of New Zealand. I was born and raised in Wollongong, on the south coast of NSW Australia but at the end of 2017 I made the move to New Zealand for a lifestyle change.
I love the outdoors, coffee, my family and being humbled by the forces of nature.
My photography is landscape and wilderness based, and I have a passion for photographing lesser known locations.
I’ve been shooting full-time since late 2014, hosting my own photography workshops in New Zealand and various places across the globe.
How and why did you get into landscape photography?
I’ve always had a creative side and grew up skateboarding and filming my friends.
As I got into my 20’s I was skating less, so during a weekend skate trip I decided to try take some still-shots of my friends. I was just mucking about with a basic DSLR I had at home but I found it really enjoyable and mate of mine who shoots professionally gave me some kind words on one of my shots.
I was battling some mental health issues and just those kind words and getting outdoors really meant a lot.
After that trip, I searched for a photo-sharing app and stumbled across Instagram, which was relatively unknown at the time. I was the one guy that didn’t use Facebook but Instagram appealed to me, being a different and more inspiring outlet.
Initially I just used the iPhone but I began to see some DSLR images of landscapes and thought it looked like fun. I dusted off the DSLR camera and went down the beach to watch the sunrise one morning.
I was hooked immediately.
Landscape photography got me outdoors and looking at the world differently, through new eyes. I needed this so much at the time and from there I just became obsessed.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is so many different things.
For me, it’s a creative outlet. It’s my way of expressing my experience within a place and given moment in time.
How do you further your photographic education?
I’m self-taught in every aspect.
I don’t really keep an eye on what others are doing or what’s trending. My growth mainly comes from pushing my ability to explore and pursue the visions in my mind as well as experimenting in post processing.
It’s all about experimentation really, both in the field and in post. This could be experimenting by going somewhere new or trying different techniques to achieve a desired result. As long as I’m able to get the result I’m after then I’m happy.
At the moment I don’t feel that I’m being held back technically, it’s more just time and resources to explore.
How often do you go out shooting?
For my first few years, I was shooting almost daily. I could shoot the sunrise before heading to work, so the number of hours I built up behind the lens really escalated fast.
As time has gone on and I now do this professionally, I’m not spending as much time shooting sporadically. Trips are a little more planned now, so maybe every month I’ll commit a few days to create or go out somewhere.
There’s still always spontaneous moments where I’ll head out to pursue a weather event or I might even take some shots when running workshops.
On average I’d say I’ll try pick the camera up at least every fortnight, otherwise I get a little grumpy.
Do you believe there is a way for photographers to help the world become a better place? How so?
It depends. We all have a role to play.
Photographs are incredibly powerful in sending a message. Almost all campaigns, advertising, conservation projects etc. all incorporate visual art.
As photographers, we can share and expose elements of the world and society to help spread a message.
Outside from photography, treating others as you’d like to be treated is a good place to start.
Do you travel far from home or stay close more often?
I travel a couple of times each year to Iceland, Patagonia, Australia, and Norway for my workshops.
I’d rather stay home in New Zealand.
Most of my images are created there and the landscape rivals the best in the world. It’s also nice being closer to home.
What is your current favorite photograph? What do you like about it most?
I’m quite a harsh critic with my own work, so there’s not really any that I absolutely love, as I can always find areas of improvement.
For me, it’s more about looking back and remembering being in that exact moment, how I felt and what I was thinking.
I have a photo called Deliverance that I made on my first solo wilderness trip where I scouted a location and was heli-dropped in the area to explore. The weather was closing in one evening and after finding a composition which I liked, I only had the sunrise to shoot before flying out.
I’ll never forget peering out of my tent early the next morning to see how things might play out. An hour before the sunrise I could see that something special was going to happen with the light, everything just came together so beautifully and just as I’d hoped months earlier when looking at maps. I was beside a raging waterfall that plunged off a cliff, surrounded by mountains that framed the rising sun above an alpine lake.
Whether I really created a photo or not, I knew during that time alone in the wild that it would be something I would try and pursue for the rest of my life.
There’s nothing quite like it.
Tell us about your photography techniques and the post processing of your photos.
I’m not really a stereotypical landscape photographer.
I shoot handheld most of the time and like to get close to the action. When I’m on location, I love just scouting around with my camera in hand, exploring and following my instinct. If the light isn’t right yet, I’ll often try a few test shots for composition in preparation for when the light or atmosphere might improve.
A lot of my work is reactionary so this can be quite fast paced, thinking in the moment. Shooting handheld means I’m limited with my shutter speed and how slow I can go, so I’ll often need to open up my aperture to get my exposure bright enough and then need to focus stack for depth of field. I also like to be close to my foreground, so hand-held focus stacking and exposure blending is common in my workflow.
Night photography is generally the only time I’ll dig out a tripod.
I don’t use any ND or grad filters, just a polarizer when I occasionally shoot a waterfall or cascades that have glare.
My post-processing is essentially balancing out tones, revealing details in the right areas to guide the eye through an image. I’m not into ‘composites’ so generally with my work you know that it’s all from a given moment in time; however, I’m liberal with manipulating the light in files and creating some atmosphere to express a certain mood and emotion.
What is more important: social media presence or in-person interactions?
This depends on your goals as a photographer.
Some people just want a big number next to their name and are quite introverted; others love working with people face-to-face but can’t stand the online world.
For myself, in-person interactions are way more enjoyable and a little more important than a social media presence. As social media has boomed and infiltrated every part of our lives, I’m definitely enjoying it less.
At what point do you feel a photographer is experienced enough to run workshops or teach other photographers?
This is subjective.
If you have knowledge that you can pass on to someone and they’re happy to compensate you for your time, then I guess that’s all that matters, regardless of experience or credentials. With running landscape photography workshops, the photography and teaching are only one element; the other is guiding.
With guiding people to locations and teaching in the field, it’s important that host is experienced from a safety and conservation stand point.
There’s locations that I refuse to take people because it’s too dangerous or the landscape is too fragile.
In New Zealand, photographers have to obtain permits to guide and run workshops.
In Patagonia, a licensed local guide must accompany a group.
Wherever it is, there’s legal requirements that should be met and respected; if not then I don’t feel that a photographer should be running workshops.
How important is having a good website?
It’s not essential, as many professional photographers make a living just from social media. For me, my website is important for properly displaying my work as well as the workshops I offer.
I think it’s quite important with what I do.
What advice would you give to yourself if you could turn back time?
Not much really.
I’m grateful for the journey I’m on and anything that’s happened in the past has only allowed me to learn and grow.
I’d probably say don’t waste money on filters and too much gear. All I use now is a camera and two lenses. That’s it.
What message do you wish to send with your imagery? How do you make sure your images convey this properly?
Reverence and awe for nature.
I’m at the point where I’m quite selective about what I shoot and the images I publish, so a lot of planning and time outdoors goes into the work I create.
If I’m not moved by a moment, then I won’t take any photos. I just have to keep putting myself in situations that move and inspire me, and this will naturally be conveyed through my work.
If you could only take one more picture, what do you think it would be of? How would you begin to make that decision?
I spend a lot of my time going over topographical maps of areas I think will be amazing to explore, mostly in New Zealand.
For many of these wilderness areas, there’s no existing imagery. In many cases, little to no humans have even set foot there.
This inspires and motivates me greatly - the pursuit of the unknown and seeing something for the first time without being influenced by someone else’s ideas.
The planning, scouting, hiking and then reacting to the light are all a part of the creative process, before even picking up the camera.
At the moment I have several areas in mind that I’m waiting to shoot. One of which is a series of towering waterfalls that plunge into the sea. I have scouted this area already so I’m eager to return and try do the place justice.