In early 2017 I was asked to write some words about my career for an online Magazine called "Chasing the Light" which is run by renowned travel and landscape photographer David Noton and I've decided to share what I wrote on my blog as well.
My love affair with the developing world started back in 2003. I was two years into my photography studies at RMIT University, Melbourne and I decided it was time to explore the world. What started as a year break turned into two as my adventures in Latin America and South East Asia spurred a yearning for adventure and a life of discovery.
I returned to Melbourne in 2005 to complete my degree and my focus was to build a portfolio of travel images. My early years were influenced by my RMIT lecturer John Hay and Richard I’Anson from Lonely Planet Images who both encouraged me to pursue my passion. A friend at the time was based on Thursday Island and a two week trip to the area to develop my portfolio only cemented my ideas.
On completion of my degree I had built up a strong enough portfolio to be accepted as a contributor to Lonely Planet Images and I spent the following years in Melbourne working for suburban newspapers before once again hitting the road in 2009. My first stop this time was Bangladesh and I spent two months crisscrossing the country and pushing my skills. I quickly realised that the best images came in the low light and I was often up and walking the streets well before sunrise as I hunted the light.
From Bangladesh I continued on and spent 6 months snapping away as I travelled through Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Iran. After almost a year on the road I was exhausted and I headed to London where I divided my time between editing my huge collection of travel images and working as an assistant photographer.
After 18 months in London though I’d had enough of the cold and I was lusting again for the charms of the tropics and the way of life in the developing nations that I had grown so fond of on my travels. I decided my next trip would be more of a permanent move.
I was keen to broaden my experience and work on more meaningful imagery. Inspired by an experience that I had back in 2003 while working at a wildlife refuge in Bolivia and also Patrick Brown’s Trading to Extinction series I was interested in working on stories related to the wildlife trade.
With this in mind I headed to move onto Hanoi, Vietnam, as it seemed like the perfect destination to start my investigations. After talking to NGOs working on the issues, I started to concentrate on the bear bile trade. Over the next few months I visited bear farms in the region and also a number of restaurants in Hanoi known for selling the bile. The images that I produced at this time awakened me as a photographer: they were not only artistically strong but they were also powerful and I was proud of them. The series is one that remains unfinished and it certainly deserves a lot more time and I hope to get back into it soon.
Vietnam grabbed me for many reasons, I loved being in the tropics again and I quickly fell in love with the mountainous northern Vietnam region. The remainder of South East Asia was also on my doorstep and ready to be explored. I also connected with some fantastic Vietnam-based photographers in Justin Mott, Aaron Joel Santos and Quinn Ryan Mattingly who had all been living and working in the region for a long time before me. Through meeting them, and listening to their experiences, I soon realised that Vietnam was a location where I could push my documentary, travel and landscape work and where I could use this background to push into the world of destination weddings and also commercial photography and video.
It’s now been 4 and half years since I arrived in Vietnam. I’ve developed so much as a photographer and video has also become a huge part of what I do. I’ve worked and travelled in almost every country in the region. My most memorable trips include documenting the rice Harvest in Northern Vietnam, the Songkran Buddhist New Year Water Festival in Chaing Mai, Cockfighting in Bali and photographing the many festivals and gorgeous temples of Myanmar.
My philosophy with my imagery doesn’t change no matter what I am shooting. I favor strong compositions and I love to shoot from interesting angles. I work hard to fill the frame with what is important and I think as much about what is in the background as to what it in the foreground. I try to frame my images so that the eye leads naturally to what I want the viewer to be looking at and I’m careful to watch out for stray objects at the edge of frame.
I’m also constantly looking for decisive moments and I’m after images that evoke emotion. I’m always looking for subjects that are emotive through facial expressions or body language. If it’s a landscape that I am photographing then emotion comes through the way that light passes over my scene.
No matter what conditions I am working in I will always walk around my subject and location and look at how the light is hitting my subject from different angles. I love to shoot with sun or my main light source in the background as this creates drama and bring things like silhouettes or shadows into play.
When photographing people I like to work with wide lenses and I love to get in close. This means that my subjects have to be comfortable with me and this can take some time. I don’t like to stage my images and I instead prefer to spend time with people and watch and develop my picture and my composition as things get interesting.
Finally I try to be creative with my equipment. When shooting landscapes or architecture, I’ll always carry a tripod and shoot them on mirror lock up mode so as to ensure my image is as sharp as possible. I also carry Lee Big and Little Stopper filter, Lee Soft Graduated filters and Circular Polarisers so that I can control my exposure and create blur when desired. If there’s a chance that I’ll want to be under water then I’ll carry an underwater case. I’ve work with Ewa Marine and Outex underwater cases which have allowed me to capture some of my favorite images.
At the moment I am in a transition phase from Canon to Sony mirrorless cameras. I’m currently working with a Sony A7RII and a Canon 5D MK III. My Canon lens kit consists of a 16-35mm F2.8L, a 24mm F3.5L II Tilt Shift, a 24-70mm F2.8L II, a 50mm F1.4 and 70-200mm F2.8L IS II. Since purchasing the Sony I’ve sold off some old Canon lenses and I’m now shooting with the Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art (with the Sigma MC-11 adapter) and the Sony 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS. I use a Gitzo leveling tripod which is great for both photography and video work.