Interview with Amber Jones Photographer and Filmmaker by Katherine Nielsen

Amber Jones is Photographer and Videographer from the Hawkes Bay of New Zealand. A surfer, morning lover, self confessed introvert and adventurer.  Ambers work is captivating and her love for the ocean and what lies beneath is evident in her imagery.


Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself? 

As potentially the biggest introvert in the world, my imagery is my own dialogue of communicating these epic things to the world instead of using words, which I’d fumble the shit out of in front of a crowd ha ha.

What would you say inspires your current vision? 

The ocean is the lifeblood of Earth and many incredible shows happen within it on a daily basis. It is the perfect training ground because it’s never the same conditions - Especially here in NZ.

It’s super volatile and easily affected by winds, tide & swell so it’s a constant photographic university!

How would you describe your photography style? 

Evoking emotion out of the viewer is usually at the forefront of my work, no matter what the subject. I want them to feel the same way I felt as I clicked the shutter and so far, the feedback has been spot on so I’m on track with my mission.

What drew you to capture the ocean the way you do? 

As an underwater photographer/videographer. I am treated to these spectacular shows put on by the water and it’s inhabitants on a daily basis. I wondered if I were to share this imagery around people would resonate with it and end up respecting it the same way I do, and ultimately wanting to protect it.

It’s really easy to look at a beach in New Zealand and think how ‘clean’ and ‘pretty’ it is compared to say, our neighbours over in Indonesia and the Pacific but if you look really closely at the sand you’ll see thousands of micro plastics which is really only the beginning of our problem here. If people learn to value something they’ll want to protect it so it’s there tomorrow and that’s the mission with my ocean based photography.


Can you give a breakdown of the equipment you use to create your work? 

I keep things really simple with a Canon 1Dxii and a two lenses - a 50mm and a 16-35m, and of course the Aquatica housing which lets me take my kit in the water at depths of up to 100m!

What would be your favourite lens and why? 

Hands-down the 50mm. I’m obsessed. It can shoot down to 1.4 so the depth is insane. It means I can really put my own unique take on the surf & wildlife stuff which are a fairly saturated market these days.


What are your go to settings when you shoot in the ocean? 

Never, ever the same! The ocean is completely different one day from the next - even hourly - so my settings are always completely different, which makes it all the more exciting!

Do you have a favourite location you prefer to shoot? 

It may be biased but home in the Coromandel for sure. Against the stunning white sand beach and mountainous backdrop we have an abundance of sharks and waves. It’s not called ‘Paradise Coast’ for nothing!

Interview with Amber Jones Photographer and Filmmaker

Is there somewhere you are dying to shoot but you haven’t had the chance yet? 

Tahiti! I can imagine it has natural elements similar to NZ but a thousand times warmer!

You can spend hours in the water what keeps you motivated? 

The personal evolution. I always leave the water having learned something or have a newfound respect for someone/thing.

Interview with Amber Jones Videographer and Photographer

Have you ever had an experience in the ocean that really scared you? 

I have had much more scary moments in big waves than with the sharks I like to photograph that’s for sure! It’s all about feeling comfortable in your environment and you achieve that by spending the time to learn about the specific activity. For me, I feel completely helpless in big swells because I haven’t spent much time doing it, but thanks to my partner Riley & the knowledge he’s shared I feel completely at ease swimming with a 12ft pregnant Mako shark.

Can you tell me about any unpleasant encounters with marine life? 

To this day I can honestly say that the most unpleasant encounter I’ve had is with seasickness. I just can’t shake it no matter what I eat/drink/think!


What do you enjoy most about your career as a photographer? 

Telling stories and giving people a window into a world they wouldn’t usually get access to and convincing them to cherish the ocean as much as we (partner/shark scientist Riley and I) do. Most humans aren’t ignorant or malicious people - they just haven’t had access to the information about the conditions of our oceans and wildlife, so if I can aid in that process using a natural gift then that’s what I’ll do, because the biggest mistake we can make is to think ‘someone else will do it’!

When you are not in the water what are your other passions?

My dog, Kona - The other love of my life ha ha.


How do you continue to evolve as a photographer ? 

The internet is both a blessing and a burden with the plethora of information out there. I watch a few tutorials and vlogs by people who I think are pushing the envelope of content and then inject my own spin and style on them. I also try and shoot a lot of passion projects to keep the fire ignited.

Interview with Amber Jones

Among all your work what is your most memorable capture? 

So hard!! I have two events which really stick out; One was purely because it was my first ‘hands on’ shark dive with my camera. Riley had made me sit on the boat for the first few sessions so that I could watch the behaviours of the Blue Shark from the safety of the boat, then after hours of studying his Go Pro footage we went out one morning, chummed up, and found the ‘dream’ shark to work with.

He gave me the all-clear to jump in with this relatively large, but chilled out Blue shark and I will never, ever forget that moment. The water was uncharacteristically clear and calm and as soon as I entered the water it was like the entire universe stood still. I was full of adrenaline yet blanketed in this unexplainable calm, watching this peaceful creature weave itself through Riley and I.

Interview with Amber Jones Videographer and Photographer

the second was producing my first documentary “Hinemoana” this year which is a celebration of female surfing in New Zealand. It was a passion project with a script that had been sitting on my hard drive for almost three years when the opportunity came up to work with an American production company (Triglass Productions) to bring it to life. After a few Skype calls I completely trusted their vision for the film and they flew over in March and we smashed in out in a week! Mother Nature delivered the goods to both coasts over the course of the week so we have one incredible film currently being cut in the USA for release hopefully by September! Watch this space!!

Interview with Amber Jones

What is something you wish you had known when you first started your journey in photography?

To stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and stick to my own mission.

How do to keep yourself physically fit to be able to do what you do? 

My dog Kona will NEVER let me sleep in past 7am so we’re up and at ‘em every morning for a walk or run. In Summer, my life consists of running, surfing & diving so I don’t have to consciously try and keep fit but in Winter I unfortunately have to rely on our little gym here and make sure I commit to at least two days a week among the dog running.

Interview with Amber Jones Photographer and Filmmaker

What methods do you use for editing? Can you explain your workflow? 

I use the Adobe creative suite simply because all the controls translate within each other and its easy to navigate once you get the hang of only a few things. There are so many tutorials out there which keep me on my toes and learning new tricks!


Who would you say are your greatest influencers and inspirations? 

Cristina Mittermeier (photographer/speaker/Sea Legacy) - is an incredible advocate for the environment using her storytelling skills to make a difference, I love everything she stands for. Danielle Clayton (owner/founder Salt Gypsy) - Danny introduced me to the world of sustainable fashion and really opened my eyes to being a conscious consumer. She really empowered me to use my storytelling capabilities for brands doing good shit in the world & I’ll be forever grateful for our paths crossing. Riley -  He’s always pushing me to be a better person, in and out of the water and is my constant source of underwater inspiration.

Brands like Toms, Salt Gypsy & Patagonia for lifting the lid on traditional surf wear and challenging the market to be better, both environmentally and socially.

Lastly do you have any advice you would give someone starting out in photography? 

Stick to your own aesthetic and shoot things you’re most passionate about and it’ll shine through in your imagery.