Steve Parish is probably to blame for the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on cameras and related gear over the last 10 years, but I’m okay with that.
The first time I saw some of Steve Parish’s prints, I wanted to take every last one of them home with me. Unfortunately, I was saving for a 3 month stint overseas at that point and couldn’t justify the spending.
That only left me one option – I had to dramatically improve my photography skills, in order to decorate the house with my very own nature photos.
I’m not claiming that I’ve quite achieved the dramatic improvement I was hoping for but, thanks to the inspiration from Steve, I’ve now taken a bunch of photos that I consider good enough to grace my walls.
Steve Parish is much more than a nature photographer though. He’s also an author, teacher, naturalist, and speaker. After being introduced to photography at 16, in the early 60’s, Steve quickly became immersed in the natural world. First as an underwater naturalist with the New South Wales Underwater Research Group, and then as a nature photographer employed by the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service. He went freelance in 1981 and has spent the last 23 years working for a whole range of publishers and clients, as well as publishing his own books.
The project currently igniting Steve’s passion is a series of Australia-wide photography workshop tours he’s created, where participants not only get to visit some of the most beautiful places in the country, but spend time photographing them with Steve’s guidance to help them hone their skills.
I managed to catch Steve in between tours, to answer a bunch of questions by e-mail.
You’ve been my biggest photography influence over the last 10 years or so, Steve. Which photographers have influenced you throughout your career?
If you had asked me this two years ago I would have mainly had professional photographers on the list, but these days I am being inspired by my workshop participants. I learn so much from them and have gained a great deal. Art Wolfe is one photographer I admire a lot and have done so for a long time. For the most part I have been inspired by the natural world and its inhabitants.
What’s your favourite setup for nature landscape photography?
I don’t have a favourite; it’s which kit will give me the image I am after that I choose. Here is a list of my current road kit, but you can check out my website for some more info…
Small format digital SLR kit
- 2 x Nikon D3 , 1 x Nikon D3s, 2x Nikon D800 and 1 x Canon DX1 camera bodies.
- AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED wide angle zoom lens
- AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II (often used with AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III)
- AF-S NIKKOR 50mm F1.4G Lens
- AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G
- CANON EF 200-400mm f/4 IS USM telezoom with built-in 1.4x extender
- AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
- Nikon 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6 lens used in conjunction with Nikon Close-up Speedlight Kit
- AF Micro 200mm f/4D IF-ED
- AF Fisheye 16mm f/2.8D
- Speedlight SB-90 x 5 units
- Underwater I use the Aquatica D3s Housing system and Ikelite flash units
Medium format SLR kit
For all the majority of landscape, botanical and images requiring major enlargement I use the Hasselblad HD4-50 camera body.
- Hasselblad HCD 28mm f4
- Hasselblad HCD 80mm f2.8
- Hasselblad HCD 120mm macro
- Hasselblad HCD 300mm f4.5
- Also in this kit the H1.7x Converter, a tilt and shift unit and extension tubes.
Do you have a favourite nature landscape photo from your collection? Can you please tell us how it came about?
My favourite landscape photos are the aerial shots of Lake Eyre and Lake Frome. I love the pattern, colour and abstract nature of the shots. They came about as I was travelling through the area after the big rains, when Lake Eyre flooded, and stayed in a hotel nearby. I met an abstract artist from Adelaide who was following the journey of the water as I was. We went up in a plane and I got these shots.
What motivates you to keep taking photos?
Nature Connection. The fundamental concept of nature connection is the single most important issue of our time. To connect people to nature so that we may wish to protect and cherish it. Why is this an issue? Nature connection is a state of mind. Accepting that we are intrinsically part of nature, rather than the apex species on the pyramid, will result in empathy for the remaining ecology surrounding us. For without the basic elements of sun, air, water and soil we would cease to exist.
Do you usually have a picture of the end product in mind when you set out to capture a landscape? Does the final result usually reflect your intention?
If I am on a specific trip say for commercial purposes then yes, timing, season, camera kit, weather will all be accounted for beforehand but expectations can be a challenge to manage when on a photoshoot. I spend much time pre-visualising what it is I would like to photograph and enjoy the challenge of representing what is in my mind in an image.
You must have done a bit of hiking over the years. Do you still get out for a hike often?
With up to 6 or 8 locations per day on a photoshoot, I am usually interested in finding the accessible places where other people go to enjoy nature. People like to see what it is they have experienced and most travellers drive to a well-known spot, have a look then move on. Saying that, I will hike far for a view of something that is beautiful or a sunset from a particular angle.
Do you have a favourite hike or a favourite place that can only be accessed by foot? What makes it your favourite place?
There are too many to list here. My book 50 Years Photographing Australia catalogues my favourite journeys. My favourite wander is in the Stirling Ranges National Park in pursuit of wildflowers. I can take my first photo at 7 am then wander ’til darkness paying tribute to flower after flower.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
What would happen to the photographic world in the future. It is so exciting now with major changes occurring every week and new photographic achievements and standards being set.
Thanks so much, Steve. I’ve loved reading your answers, and particularly love your answer to my question about what motivates you to keep taking photos. You’ve nailed one one of the major reasons why Bushwalking Blog still exists, and why my life is better for the bond I’ve formed myself with the natural world.
Are you a fan of Steve Parish? Got anything to say about the interview or Steve’s work? Let us know by commenting below.