How would you describe your current photographic style?
Well, this is a tough one. I think it would have to fit into the wildlife documentary genre but as each day and each encounter passes I have started collecting visions of what I would like my photo to encapsulate and it’s more than merely documenting a visual moment in time or documenting a subject. I most certainly want to capture a moment in time but its more of a journal entry of the subject and of me. I hope to show/represent the character and personality of the subject and its space/environment/activity and layer my/ our experience of being able to witness it on top of that. I hope to bring the entirety of that moment or experience to the surface and make it tactile, real and genuine to the viewer. These animals and locations are so multi-faceted, and dimensional far more than just 2D.
What inspired you to capture life underwater?
Ever since I started scuba diving and watched other divers take their photos, I wanted to. But I never thought it would be possible, it just looked so cumbersome. Back then, to me, it would have been the most significant way of answering all those WHY questions. A lot of people thought I was crazy, wanting to dive and spending that time under the water. I.e. why do you want to dive? There’s nothing there, its so dangerous, it’s just a few fish. I could never put it into words just how amazing, strange and soothing it was. It’s the sensation of being in another world, the serenity, the feeling of flight over various orbs of life. The weightlessness and relief as you leave the stresses of the above world behind when you dive, the silence, the chatter, the awe of seeing the creatures of the unknown, the unicorn creatures that you think you’d only ever see in books or behind the glass at a distance.
Have you had any unpleasant experiences in the ocean while shooting?
NOPE, I haven’t. Absolutely none, it has all been fortunately filled with awe, excitement and wonder.
Can you give a breakdown of the equipment you use to create and why you selected it?
The camera is a Canon 5D mark 4, an incredible sensor, reaction time and the size is essential as I need to be able to have a housing that I can use and not too heavy for travelling.
I use a Nauticam housing. I find that it is the most ergonomic for me and I can actually reach all the buttons. The design of the water housing also allows you to have full function controls if required.
What steps have you taken to develop your imagery over the years?
It’s really become a personal adventure for me. Initially, I was so anxious and terrified about what people would think and especially of what people would think of my boss, Mr Darren Jew, having such a lackey on the team. And then I was so anxious about being apart of his team and compared to him. I was so so concerned that my photos were not good enough to represent such an incredible experience with such beautiful animals. I am a very private and non-disclosing person, so putting myself out there in view was extremely challenging.
I still get very anxious about it today, especially now that I’m expecting more of myself and that I have more concrete self-expectations about how I would like to deliver what I see and experience. I have managed this anxiety by being true to myself.
I take inspiration from photography greats, design concepts, paintings, textiles, architecture and even locations. This inspires me to create a list in my mind of hopeful images that I would love to capture in case we cross paths. What I’ve learned about myself is that - what I hope to achieve relates to an emotion, an idea or a message, it is not just subject driven. It also keeps me scouting, on the hunt, so to speak for these images. I have no idea if they are at all possible, but I’ll definitely keep my eyes open. Having a vision also helps (kind of) with time management under the water. You have to be slow, steady, patience but quick to see, to react or that moment for capture could be forever lost.
Which photographers inspire you?
Oh my, there have been so many pioneers that inspire, like Adam Ansel, Annie Lebovitz, Helmet Newton, Albert Watson, David Doubliet, Steven Meisel, Richard Avedon, Art Wolfe my goodness there are too many to name. Additionally, the people I meet on our trips and workshops. They all inspire me in one way or another. The quirkier, the better. But it’s not just photographers that I draw inspiration from. It’s also friends, family, nature, textiles, lines in everything, architecture, poetry, conversations, attitudes and even daydreams. All these things spark inspirations for ideas and thoughts and continually keeps my imagination flowing.
Have you had any notable mentors?
Darren Jew undoubtedly is the strongest ingredient to my shooting. His images are undoubtedly the most consistently awe-inspiring photography I have seen. I often get back to the processing and wonder if we were really on the same dive, looking at the same amazing thing. He has such an eye talent in creating a sense of awe and connection to the viewer in his photos, no matter the subject or conditions. He’s so annoying lol
He knows everything from capture to print, this is extremely rare these days in a photographer. He is genuinely proficient in the entire process and the concept of photography.
What has been the most challenging aspects of your photography journey?
Sticking to my beliefs, staying true to how I feel and then expressing that. Being ok with opening up, trusting in my vision with what I would like to share and how I would like to represent these fantastic creatures. Igniting the emotion that, in turn, generates the connection and want to help, to save and to protect the subject is not something that can be forced. Viewers can see right through that. I don’t ever want to manipulate or coheres people in that way, the community will save and protect what they love and what they feel connected to. So that’s another aspect of my work, to introduce them, to show them why and to create awareness.
What has been your most memorable experience to date?
I have been very fortunate, and there is such a long list, and each has their own uniqueness about them. The first 2 that come to mind are Heat Runs in 2018. I was so incredibly lucky to be able to experience the heat run of a lifetime from 7:15am to 1:30pm with 60 drops.
Last year there was also an incredible heat run encounter where they all spun around and came back to encircle us. It felt like a washing machine of foam with 8-10 humpbacks so so epically thrilling.
Last year with the Orcas circling and being able to observe them for over an hour while they did their thing was just incredible, and this year having experienced what I call an underwater aurora was just magnificent. Nature is just, and nothing seems impossible for her. An underwater aurora, just reliving it in my mind makes my jaw drop.
And on a more personal growth side, assisting with National Geographic assignments, guiding wildlife photography mentors in whale swims, getting the cover for Wildlife Australia Magazine and being exhibited along 99 other Australia’s Best Female Photographers as part of the Loud & Luminous National Photography Exhibition has been so memorable and such personal #unicornmoments for me that I cherish.
Can you talk about your photography workshops with Foto Frenzy Events?
Sure thing. Darren’s Foto Frenzy creates a comfortable and safe space in which to learn about photography. It is an honest forum, where we want to re-establish the knowledge required and steps needed to be a successful photographer. The workshop’s program is not just an experience, but we aim to help educate and offer the technical abilities required to capture professional images right up to the printing process. We aim to create those light bulb moments and show you - what you didn’t know, you didn’t know.
What can people expect when they book one of your Whales Underwater Workshops?
An experience of a lifetime! You get what you put in, you have to swim! These are wild animals, people these days with IG and FB and loads of photos tend to forget that. So you do have to be patience and understanding that the whales are not trained. Darren’s crew really is the best in the world with regards to their respect for the animals, their methods on how to interact with the whales to get the best interaction possible, knowledge of behaviour and on top of all that his photography knowledge above and especially below the water. We have so much fun on our trips, it truly is amazing.