BEN MACKAY OCEAN FEELS @benmack_
Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Sydney boy and a family man. I spent most of my life here on the east coast. But I am a traveller at heart, and I’ve spent a few years out of Australia seeing the world. I love the ocean, and I continuously find myself being drawn to it.
Can you give a breakdown of the equipment you use to create your images?
From an aerial perspective, I’ve used DJI products from the Inspire range to the Mavics. Currently, my go-to is the Phantom 4 Pro. I also shoot Sony Alpha cameras for everything on the ground.
How would you describe your current photographic style?
I am partial to seascapes and beach culture photography. But I also love portraits and other travel type photography, it just doesn’t all make the Instagram feed, unfortunately!
What would be your favourite lens, and why?
This is a hard one. I love the 50mm 1.2, but if I have to choose it would be a travel zoom, like the 18-105mm f4 paired on my Sony A6300, I use it all the time. Something simple to get me by in all situations.
Most of your work is drone-related what it is about aerial photography that you enjoy so much?
I initially loved it because it was so unique. It wasn’t the usual ground photography, and it wasn’t the heli photo’s, it was the space in between. No-one else was shooting from this perspective.
However, now that everyone has a drone, it’s more about shooting a heap of different shots from a range of different areas or altitudes. It’s something that’s not possible with a camera in your hands.
What inspired you to capture the ocean and what continues to motivate you?
I often discuss with friends about the science of the ocean. How I believe it goes back to when we are in our mother's womb. The sounds and the flow are so similar; it takes us back to that place of security. It’s an excellent stress remover. I think images of the ocean can work similarly. I get motivated by the ever-changing textures and colours of the sea and the sunlight, as well as seeing other photographers doing the same. We all push each other to new heights.
Do you have a favourite travel destination to shoot you have been to over 30 countries so this may be tricky?
I have favourite places, and then I have favourite places to shoot. For me, Grenada in the South of Spain has magic that nowhere else has. But to shoot, I am happy as long as it’s around the water, I love places like Fiji, Thailand and the Philippines.
Is there somewhere you would love to shoot but haven’t had the chance yet?
Indonesia and Western Australia. There are so many amazing photographers shooting such incredible images over there. I’ll be in Bali early next year, although, I have so much travel planned, WA isn’t on the list just yet.
Among all your work, what is your most memorable capture?
Bondi Icebergs. This one is memorable because it reminded me of how different people perceive photographic work. This Bondi Icebergs shot meant little to me personally. I have seen this spot captured from so many angles, every day, by so many people! But it seems my take inspired literally 1000’s of people who enjoyed it so much that they’ve reached out personally to let me know or ordered it as a print on my website. It’s so strange because at first, I didn’t even want to post it on social media.
What methods do you use for editing? Can you explain your workflow?
I usually start by importing images into a catalogue in Lightroom and sorting/marking through the photos I am going to edit. If I am not manually editing, I’ll use a preset, either my own or someone else’s, depending on the type of image to give it a general start point and to speed up the workflow. From here, I then complete my creative edit. If needed, I’ll jump over to Photoshop to clean up anything that is distracting in the image, like a telegraph pole or similar. Then I bring it back to lightroom to export. I’ll try to export one for social media and one for use as a print or just a larger wider format like landscape.
How do you educate yourself to become a better photographer?
I think places like Instagram are indirectly great for this, I learn best, from seeing something I like and I then reverse engineer it to work out how it’s done. I love the learning process and I am constantly looking to refine my skills. Both in camera and edit.
Who would you say are your greatest influencers and inspirations?
I’d have to say my greatest influencers are some the people around me. My family, including my dad @thewoodenpotter, who travelled for 15+ years well before the days of Lonely Planet or Facebook. I grew up hearing stories of his travels. It certainly inspired me, he’s an award-winning wood sculptor artist also, so he always has a creative way of looking at life.
However, from a photographic point of view, a bunch of local photographers inspire me. I can’t name them all or praise them enough.
Where is your favourite destination to shoot?
Byron Bay, NSW. There’s something about the way I feel when I am up there. I am always inspired to create, but also so relaxed as well.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a photographer?
Probably the weather, then managing family life around shooting and editing! It’s about trying to find that perfect balance.
You have just started doing podcasts, can you tell me about these?
I am a self-confessed tragic for photography and filmmaking. This prompted me to speak to exceptional people, artists, creators, and travellers to discuss creating memories, art, tech, the environment, relationships and a bunch of other stuff.
You can subscribe here to stay up to date with the podcast.
Lastly, what is one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in photography?
Be open to not just learning but enjoying the learning process. Don’t compare yourself to others, instead compare yourself to how you were and strive to be better than yesterday. Encourage others and find others who are at a similar level to you. Like anything, it can start to become business like, so work hard to keep the passion alive.
If you would like to learn more about Ben see his website www.oceanfeels.com