Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself?
My name is Scott Ruzzene, and I live in Wollongong on the NSW South Coast. I grew up playing just about every sport you could try in my area, but loved bodyboarding and skiing the most. I’m happiest when I’m in either environment and have been attempting to shape my life around those things as much as possible. I have a degree in Exercise Science which I love, but found photography to be my real passion which is where I find myself now! @scottruzzene
What equipment do you use to create your images and why did you select it?
I use a Canon 5D MkIII and mostly Canon L series lenses. I’d started off with a basic Canon like 15 years ago when I first began taking photos and after trying a few different mirrorless brands came back to the full frame DSLR. It’s just a personal preference, but I love the colour the Canon gives plus it’s built like a tank. When I’m in the water, I have my gear inside a Salty Surf Housing. I’ve spent the better part of 15 years chasing waves and taking photo’s with Matt, and he’s developed an excellent product right here in Wollongong.
What would be your favourite lens and why?
That really depends on what I’m shooting, but I rarely leave home without both the 16-35mm 2.8 and the 70-200mm 2.8. Lately, I’ve been loving the long lens more and more.
What inspired you to get into photography?
It started off as a creative outlet when I started high school and a way to take photo’s of the surf mostly. I put the camera down for a few years through Uni but about 4 years ago picked up a second hand Olympus in Tokyo to get some better shots of my friends and me on our ski trips in Japan. I realised how much I loved it and missed it and then really haven’t put the camera down since.
Which photographers have influenced you?
There’s a few! Ken Duncan is an obvious one, I learnt to shoot using a film back in school, and his landscape imagery was an inspiration. Rach Stewart from NZ has an excellent eye for landscapes also. Ocean-based, I love Darren Jew’s work which inspired me to follow the Humpback Whales to Tonga and Warren Keelan, who is never short of encouragement and stoke to get in the water or to let me know there’s a rainbow I’m missing while I’m at work! Another photographer who’s skiing and mountain photography inspires me is Reuben Krabbe. He provides plenty of inspiration and ideas that I want to try when conditions allow.
What are three life lessons you have learned in the past year?
1: Buy the warm wetsuit. I’ve never been as cold in the water as I was last winter and I realised how much colder I get shooting than surfing. 5mm of rubber and a hood is up there with my best investment ever!
2: Make it a priority to do the things you love as often as you can and model your life around that. Easier said than done but I rarely find myself unhappy.
3: Get back to nature. My solution to being aware and content is to listen to the environment around you and act accordingly. Animals and environments can teach you a lot if you’re observant.
Can you tell me about your new website?
www.scottruzzene.com is a slightly more professional front than my previous effort. Daniel Geen from Concept & Design was the talent behind it, and he’s done a great job I think. I still have lots of content to add which I’m learning to do myself, but it’s much nicer pointing clients to a website than an Instagram page.
How do you continue to develop yourself as a photographer?
For me personally, it’s about having an idea of the images I want to create and critiquing myself each time I shoot. Knowing what elements combine to create specific images and then identifying how to capture what I see in my mind. Sometimes I will shoot hundreds of pictures in a session, and other times I may barely hit the shutter 10 times. Think outside the box and capture what you want to, not everyone will like everything an artist creates and that's ok.
How would you describe your current photographic style?
I’m not too sure, inspired by nature? I love to shoot when the light is at it’s most dramatic whether it be colourful or dark and this is when I get the best results, like most photographers who love shooting the outdoors really.
What has been your most memorable place to photograph?
That’s a tough question, Japan and French Polynesia are right up there, but the most memorable experience was in Tonga last year, spending a couple of weeks swimming with Humpback Whales. Tropical water, thriving coral, untouched islands and photographing one of the largest animals on the planet, it doesn’t get much better. Anyone who has done it will know but it really is hard to put into words what spending time interacting with the whales does to you. I was definitely outside of my comfort zone at times, but it’s so worth it when the whales want to spend time with you.
Have you ever had an experience in the ocean that really scared you?
I’ve had scary moments but on reflection haven’t been as bad as I initially felt, it’s all about staying calm. In saying that a mate and I almost got blown out to sea off Jervis Bay about 10 years ago when our rubber ducky died, and the wind changed, we paddled the boat for around 6 hours before managing to get to land near Point Perpendicular where we were rescued by Helicopter. I learnt pretty quickly the importance of emergency equipment when going out to sea after that!
What do you hope people feel when they look at your work?
I hope that people see my love for the environment and that it provides some wonder at something beautiful they may not have seen before or sparked a need to get out and see or do something for themselves.
Do you have any advice for anyone interested in getting into photography?
Take photos of things that interest you. Work within the equipment you have on hand. Don’t force anything and keep editing to a minimum. You’ll soon know if it’s something you’re passionate about and from there you can take it anywhere you want!
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring ocean photographers?
If you didn’t grow up in the ocean and aren’t particularly comfortable, get out in the water with more experienced people without a camera first. Knowing how the sea works and being comfortable is necessary; otherwise, you won’t have fun. Stay within your limits until you know you can handle more and learn how to read the weather and understand what it will cause at the location you want to swim at. Get to a decent level of fitness, floating around with several kilos in your hands when conditions are harsh can really drain you and it’s easy to make poor decisions when you’re fatigued. When you’re starting out it definitely helps to have someone with you who can watch your back. And then learn your camera settings like the back of your hand so you can make changes quickly while keeping an eye on your surroundings. Oh and be prepared to lose all your equipment to salt water as chances are you will flood a housing at some point in your life, it’s not fun!