INTERVIEW WITH TRAVEL AND LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER @debc_nz
Deb Clark is an incredible landscape, seascape and tourism photographer, based in Hamilton, New Zealand. Her work is published in various publications, and she is a featured Nikon NZ Photographer as well as a Nisi Ambassador, Adobe partner and Staff Pro for F-Stopgear.
Deb’s images are so breathtaking it is like being right there with her. With over 60,000 Followers on Instagram. Deb’s images showcase the incredible beauty of Aotearoa, New Zealand perfectly.
Can you tell me about yourself?
I picked up a camera three years ago. It’s probably a natural progression as my other working life has always been in a creative industry, mostly as a trainer. I have hairdressing and barbering Academy and am very passionate about delivering quality education that changes peoples lives.
I can honestly say photography has saved my soul on more than one occasion. Everyone needs something that takes them away from the curve balls that daily life throws at us. Photography does that for me. I’m someone that has to be outside, so landscape photography is perfect. And when I’m out there, scouting locations, setting up, visualising the outcome and taking the photo, there’s no time to be thinking about anything else. I’m totally in the moment. I enjoy hiking, skiing and the beach in equal amounts so love the seasons changing.
How would you describe your current photographic style?
My style is most definitely moody in saying that it depends on the environment. I prefer wide landscapes. I rarely shoot if nothing is happening in the sky and hardly at all during the day. I’m looking for a clear focal point. A sharp foreground or feature that draws you in like something dramatic happening in the sky. Light is everything.
Sunrise gives natural soft light and sunset is perfect for colour but my favourite time to shoot is in the near dark of pre-dawn. It almost always throws up surprises.
What inspires your vision?
The diversity of nature: How lucky are we to live in such a beautiful world. Before I started taking photos, I guess I was looking but not seeing. How incredible nature is to give us beautiful shades, and mysterious shadows, hazy light and glowing skies, clouds of every description and the clearest of stars.
New Zealand: It’s a world-class destination with spectacular scenery and a photographers dream.
Other Photographers. It’s important to shoot with others on occasion. There’s always something to learn. Some little thing that you might try. I’m also continually analysing photos that jump out at me.
What keeps me motivated is the last photo I took and loved. It makes you want that next one.. but with better light! It’s that challenge. Always it could be better or different or both. Every location offers something. The impact of weather, time of day and seasons gives incredibly different results.
Landscape photographers work hard. We hike for miles, get up in the middle of the night, stand for hours in freezing temperatures and all for that one shot. But that for me is fun!
The people that let you know how much they appreciate your work. I post on Instagram mostly and have built up over 60000 followers in just two years. It’s good to have an outlet for your photos and to interact with photographers that inspire you.
Can you give a breakdown of the equipment you use to create your images?
Nikon D750 I am totally in love with this camera. I shoot a lot in low light and never have any problems with noise. It’s completely reliable, easy to use and light. Weight is essential when you walk for miles with a backpack of gear.
Nikkor f4 16-35mm Lens
Nikkor f2.8 70-200 Lens
Nisi Filters: I never leave home without them. I believe using filters gives so many more options and that they can take an image from average to epic.
I cart it all in a Fstop Kashmir backpack. Lightweight and designed for a Women's smaller frame.
What would be your favourite lens, and why?
I would have to say the 16-35mm because it’s incredibly reliable in all conditions, has an impressive dynamic range, zero noise issues at night and captures the perfect sun star!
What are your go-to settings when you shoot?
I don’t have to go to settings. It depends on the situation. I shoot mostly long exposures, so start with a 30-second test shot whenever possible due to light. I take it from there. I use the exposure metre but never completely rely on it. I check the histogram after every shot.
Where is your favourite destination for photography?
Mt Aspiring and Mt Cook National Parks in New Zealand. They have everything from majestic mountain ranges, crystal clear lakes and fjords, incredible hikes and some of the darkest and brightest skies in the world.
Among all your work, what is your most memorable capture?
It was in my first year shooting, and I was in Milford Sound. It was such a gorgeous night, and I didn’t want it to end. As I was walking back out, I turned for a last look at Mitre Peak, and it almost took my breath away. I set the camera up and went and sat in the reeds and just took a moment to enjoy it. Was only one click, about 2 minutes long but it remains my very favourite image and is the only one I have ever printed for myself. In the dark with just outlines of the peak of the mountain and me sitting there in a red jacket.
What methods do you use for editing? Can you explain your workflow?
I use Lightroom. I think that editing has taken on a life of its own. That it’s become almost more like graphic design and that’s not me. It’s essential for me that my final image enhances what happened and doesn’t turn it into something it wasn’t.
I can appreciate the skill of blending images but I prefer an image that is ‘real’ This includes colour as well. There seems to be a trend of oversaturating. That’s not for me. However, I am a believer in minor editing. One of my favourite landscape photographers recently said ‘a photo is what comes out of the camera, but an image is created when you personalise it’. I think this is true and critical to developing your unique style. You have to have something that makes your image stand out from the rest. Particularly true for well-photographed locations.
How do you educate yourself to become a better photographer?
Often I will take a photo over and over on different occasions, at different times of the day and from different angles until I’m happy. I get a bit fixated. I have a clear picture in my head of what I want am I’m not satisfied until I get it. Online tutorials and magazines are invaluable.
It’s important to shoot with other photographers on occasion as well. Some little thing that you might try and discard or find useful. The key is to be open to learning. I’m also continually analysing photos that jump out at me.
I tend to push the boundaries a few accepted techniques. It would likely come from not being formally trained. Surprisingly things work out more often than not. Sometimes my biggest mistakes are also my biggest triumphs.
Who would you say are your greatest influencers and inspirations?
Initially, it was Brent Purcell. He taught me the basics, and we shoot together a lot. He answered the thousands of questions, many of them repeat, with patience. He encouraged me to do my own thing, as well. Interestingly now, when we shoot together, we never end up with the same shot. He’s strong on composition and taught me to think this through especially in new locations. What’s in the foreground, what do I want to stand out, what are the clouds and water doing, what’s happening with light and colour, do I need to be high or low? I’m naturally drawn to landscape photographers, and as time has moved on I have some favourites.
I like the work of Max River. His compositions are excellent, but it’s the mood he portrays. I love dark, moody images. Elia Locardi is the master of the camera and drone. I’ve been lucky to be in a week-long workshop in Spain with him. What he doesn’t know about cameras and editing isn’t worth knowing. I recently came across New Zealander Jonathon Suckling. He’s an extremely passionate, incredibly talented and hugely fun photographer. I’ve only ever bought one image from another photographer, and it was his.
You offer some spectacular photography workshops, can you tell me about these?
Photography workshops are enormous fun. They cover a bit of everything but with a focus on long exposures. Working with filters, compositions, light and astrophotography and include editing. They range from 1-7 days. Workshops happen all around New Zealand with the longer ones based in the South Island. You meet the most beautiful people and make friends for life.
Lastly, what advice would give someone starting in photography?
The best piece of advice I was given was to shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Every image we take gives us experience, and we can only improve by experience.
Go out shooting with others. People new to photography are so passionate and working with that more experienced help fine-tune our skills. If you’re posting on Social media, find your theme and stick with it. Your page should work together, and it helps people to learn to identify your work.
Remember why you started taking photos in the first place. Because of its fun!