Your Margaret River is a photographer’s paradise. Stunning coastlines, beautiful bushland and stunning vistas combine to offer even the most amateur photographer the chance to capture the shot of a lifetime.
But how and perhaps more importantly, where? Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll tap into the creative process of some of the regions best photographers to offer a few tips on how best to capture the shot of a lifetime.
This week, we visit Margaret River based professional photographers, Martine Perret and David Dare Parker of 34° SOUTH Photography.
Could you tell us a little about how long you’ve been a photographer and what it is you like about the region?
David: I have been a photojournalist for over three decades, covering stories throughout Australia, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. I balance that ‘way of life’ with the need to make a living by working as a film set photographer on such productions as Cloud Street, Underbelly Razor, Underbelly Badness, Bikie Wars, Love Child 3, Redfern Now, Kill Me Three Times and most recently Blue Dog. Martine and I spend way too much time away working, so when we decided to set up a base we both decided on Margaret River as the place we would want to come home to. One of the world’s best-kept secrets, this region has it all, a pristine and rugged coastline, stunning, food and creative company. We have made some inspiring friends here and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Martine: Before coming to Margaret River I had spent a decade working as a photographer for the United Nations, documenting life in conflict zones such as South Sudan, Timor-Leste, DR Congo, and Burundi. Even though those years spent in the field with my camera were truly rewarding, the nomadic lifestyle had taken its toll. I craved the open spaces and rugged natural beauty that had brought me to Australia in the first place, as a 27 year old seeking adventures far from my European homeland. Margaret River fitted the bill perfectly. One of the first things I decided to do on my arrival to the region was to get a bird’s eye view, from a helicopter cockpit. It would be the first of many aerial photography trips that formed the basis of the book I just published “ Margaret River region FROM ABOVE “, and evolved into a true passion project. My husband and I have set up a business running photography workshops which has been a great way to explore and discover the region.
The region is bursting with photographic potential, what advice could you give to someone hoping to capture that special image?
Learn some basic photography techniques then head out and experiment. Have fun with what you are trying to achieve. Carrying a camera is a great way to give you reason to explore wherever it is you happen to be. When shooting the landscape, slow down and consider that sense of place you feel before bringing the camera to your eye. It’s like learning how to drink wine – taking that time needed to savour the taste.
When shooting people or events, work on the skills needed to up the pace. The camera should feel like it is an extension of you, allowing you to work quickly and naturally in order to capture the ‘decisive’ moment. Honing your craft will assist in developing a sense of purpose that will help make you a stronger and more creative photographer.
And what about camera gear, what could we expect to find in your bag?
Martine: I use the Canon 1D, especially during my years in the field with the UN in remote places. The body is tropicalised and can stand tough weather condition and I also use the 5DMark3 for its beautiful image quality with larger file size. I recently bought a back-up Canon 6D; I love the Wifi capability that I can use for my Instagram shots. I carry lenses like the 70-200mm F2.8, 24-70mm F2.8. I also carry in my bag my 50mm F1.4, 100mm F2.8 macro lens, 16-35mm F2.8. During a recent trip to the outback, I tried the new Canon 5Ds and really loved the files.
David: I use Nikon. (I am fortunate to be one of Nikons Ambassadors). My camera body for most things is a Nikon D4s — built to take a beating it never lets me down. I have also recently started using a 36mp Nikon D810, providing a larger files than the D4s, yet still highly capable in low light. These cameras produce natural skin tones and are perfectly sized for shooting the landscape. They also benefit from quiet shutters, which is useful when working on a film set. My carry everywhere camera is the retro styled Nikon Df. I am pretty sure it has the same chip as my much-loved D4s, although in a smaller package. I also have a solid collection of Nikkor glass. My most used professional lens is the 24-70mm f2.8 zoom – as it covers most of my favourite focal lengths. When working light I carry a 35mm f1.4 and 58mm f1.4 primes. I also use the Nikkor 14-24mm f4, 70-200mm f2.8, 70-200mm f4 and a recently acquired Nikkor 70-400mm f4-5.6. In the end, what I use is what is required to get the shot at any given moment.
If someone only had an hour or so at perhaps not the ideal time to take pictures (midday in harsh light for example), what advice would you offer?
David: As a photojournalist, I have never returned from assignment and had the luxury of saying to a commissioning Picture Editor that ‘I could not get the picture because the light was not right’. An old saying of mine is “nothing bad ever happens in great light”, so as a news photographer, you really do need to just get in close and shoot. A classic quote I always keep in mind is “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” by the late, great Robert Capa. National Geographic often had the enviable budgets that allowed their photographers to return to a place in order to capture it at the best time of day, at the best time of year. For the rest of us, my advice would be, if something is happening and you need to get the picture, shoot. There are tricks you can learn to help control contrast and still come up with a usable image in bad light. Ideally, if the pressure is not on, then go grab a drink and come back when the light is right. Just remember F8 and be there, and you will eventually get around to building up a decent body of work 😉
Martine: I agree with David, unfortunately we do not always have the luxury to work in ideal conditions. I remember those years working in the field in Africa where events would always happen at midday when light was at its worse. I always had to come back with images so I had to adapt and find either an angle, or a way to shoot that would bring the best out of the worst situation. It can be a matter of repositioning yourself, lowering your angle or finding a higher viewing spot, using a fill-in flash or waiting for that sudden magical moment to happen! Whichever way, you got to use your creativity and skills to bring out the best.
Margaret River Mouth – @Martine Perret
And at most of these spots, you will always find a plethora of phones being used to take photos, what do you think about that?
David: Ultimately the best camera to use is the one you have on you when the moment presents itself, but for me it would be the stuff of nightmares to think that my best ever image was shot on an iPhone and not on one of my trusted Nikons. Phones are fine for the simple Insta-snap you might want to share with your friends, but nothing beats the quality of a well-engineered camera designed to preserve and capture the shot. Use your phone to call ahead and book a well-deserved table for a well-deserved meal (and glass of wine or beer) after using your dedicated camera to contribute to building a body of work you will be proud of.
Martine: I find the iPhone small and practical for my fun shots but certainly limiting and not my first choice for high quality work. When I need to produce a beautiful body of work, I use my camera with the dedicated lenses for the situation required. Ultimately as Marc Riboud once said: “Taking pictures is savouring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”