Travel photography is a difficult thing to master. I’ve tried my hand at it with some mildly decent results but nothing to jump up and down about. When I came across Paul’s work I knew I just had to find out some more about him and how he gets things done.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I am NZ born and bred. Number one love is travel, seeing new places, emerging myself in new experiences and cultures, making new friends. Travel keeps me humble and by being exposed to third world and developing countries I have become more cynical of life in materialistic western countries like my own. I feel most comfortable emerged in nature and roughing it, living very simply, although I also do enjoy the modern side of life and being immersed in cities humming with people. Last year while putting together a surf travel article, a friend and I stayed for two weeks in a simple beach hut on a remote Sumatran island. There was no electricity, no bathroom and a boy on a bicycle would bring us 20 litres of water in a plastic container whenever we ran out. That was for showers. For food someone would come from the village on a motorbike twice a day and bring us lunch and dinner. Other than that we had to walk 30 minutes to the village to buy snacks. Not one other tourist in sight for the whole two weeks. That’s my idea of having fun and being alive, or any other kind of adventure where I’m forced to adapt and live without modern comforts. Usually it involves spending time with the locals who are often very poor, yet usually generous and friendly. That’s what keeps me travelling and taking photos.
What made you get into photography?
I had finished a business degree but at such a young age I think I was too immature and too much of a restless spirit to be caught up in a real job in the real world. I was really into surfing and travel. Digital was still over a decade away and I think photography back then was more romantic and less accessible. I just decided I wanted to start taking surfing photos on my travels.
How did you get started?
I purchased a Minolta SLR and a couple of lens and just started taking outdoor photos on slide film. I took some surf photos in Indonesia and then just returned home to NZ and began taking travel type photos in my spare time over the next couple of years. I was self-employed to make sure I could take photos whenever I wanted to. It was just trial and error, slowly improving. In those days every time you took a photo is cost close to a dollar (film & processing) and there was no immediate feedback, so of course you had to be more selective, instinctive and therefore improvement was much slower but perhaps it resulted in more feeling in the photos. During those early days I contacted a photo library and soon began making small royalties off my photos, enough to pay for a bit of film. I also began sending photos to surf magazines. Realistically though my camera gear wasn’t up to producing publishable photos. Then I made a couple more trips to Indonesia before moving to London where I met some guys who gave me my first break and entry into working as a photographer. They made me invest in professional equipment.
What sort of photography do you mainly do?
Travel mostly. Travel is a wide branch of photography and covers multiple subjects such as nature, people, portraits, landscapes, festivals, extreme sports, food and many others. I also shoot surfing at different times and surfing certainly falls into the travel category.
What gear are you using?
Canon 5D II
The above are all Canon and quite new and I also have the following which are getting quite old now – 12+ years. Also both Canon.
plus an Aquatech underwater housing that I also need to replace as it is circa 1999 and had been modified by myself to suit different camera bodies.
Whats your favourite lens and why?
Canon 135mm f2. This lens is great for portraits, sports, details and is amazingly sharp, so I much prefer using it than my 70-200mm f/2.8 because I think the image quality is often noticeably better.
How are you marketing yourself?
That’s probably the hardest thing for many photographers because it’s half the job. Really I’m not a great marketer. I rely a lot on my photos in the Lonely Planet Images library for ongoing royalties. I’ve always pursued photo libraries because I’ve always liked the idea of having photos work for me years after I’ve taken them. My strongest selling photo is one I took over a decade ago. Besides that I’ve been involved with surf magazines and guidebooks over the years and had my name out there which led to sales, but I’ve backed off that a little and it’s imperative to remain active to keep your name in the loop. I also have my website, which I will soon attach a blog to as I begin travelling again in June. Personally I think being in the field meeting people while working is one of the best way to forge relationships and create new work and sales. I’ve had some good commissions over the years but they have been too sporadic, no doubt partly due to not being a true full time photographer as I’ve relied on making money in another self employed area. However I am now ready to give freelance photography my undivided attention for the next few years and hopefully being out in the field more will result in finding more commissions.
Whats your favourite photo you have taken?
I don’t have one particular favourite but I like this panning shot as it was a difficult photo to achieve.
Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?
With digital, photography is now far more accessible but also highly competitive. So I’d say you need to try and find your own path and niche in the photography world. By specializing and developing a style or viewpoint that is unique perhaps you will stand out from the competition. I’d also recommend continually viewing other photographers work. This exercise is usually humbling, but can also be inspiring and clearly illustrates the standards that are out there that you have to strive for if you are to realistically compete.