Q & A with photographer - Angus Benham

What’s your favourite place which you have shot or have planned to shoot?

Having grown up in a small town with only one set of traffic lights the view of Sydney Harbour at dusk never ceases to inspire me. The Vivid light display in Sydney each winter is also a lot of fun. In terms of the Sydney northern beaches, I enjoy experiencing the power of a huge ocean swell at Curl Curl Beach, shooting sunrise at North Narrabeen pool can be magic, as is the postcard beauty of photographing Freshwater Beach under the hot sun in summer. The peace of being in the mountains is another experience that most of us don’t get enough of.

Panoramic photo of Sydney Harbour at dusk.

On the south coast of New South Wales at Jervis Bay the clarity and calm conditions of the water against bright white sands can be very special. To the north of Sydney, Port Stephens is a special location to me. Our first photography print sales were made in this area 11 years ago. Highlights include the beautiful views from Tomaree Headland, to the idyllic beaches of Fingal and Shoal Bay, to quiet sunset harbour scenes of yachts and boats at Nelson Bay and Soldiers Point, hidden gems like Boat Harbour and the seemingly endless sand dunes of Stockton Beach. Of course exploring wilderness areas such as the Blue mountains and further afield in locations like Fraser Island is always fantastic for landscape photographers.

A sunrise photo captures a pair of surfers as they hesitate as big surf rolls in at Avalon Beach on Sydney's northern beaches.

Tell us about one of the best moments when you were out in the field?

One of the best was an experience photographing dolphins on Bennetts Beach, Hawks Nest. We had no plans to shoot dolphins that morning. A group of us were cooking a bbq breakfast on the sand at about 9am when all of a sudden someone noticed dolphins surfing the waves. I grabbed a Canon 10D camera and 70-200mm zoom lens and chased the group of 15-20 dolphins up the beach for half an hour and in the process captured a beautiful photo of the action that I’ll always treasure.

Photo of dolphins jumping in waves at Bennetts Beach, Hawks Nest

How much has the newer technology and advancement in post processing helped you in creating your imagery?

At first when shooting film, I found the beautiful richness of colour and character of film was lacking in the digital format. The wow factor of a perfectly exposed slide was non-existent in the new digital age. Over the years I've sought out to harness use the advantages of digital photography and embrace the scope for creativity in post processing in order to really bring back that impact that good film gave to photography.  Part of that was simply using image editing software to recreate that film 'look'.

"Creativity is a messy process...Sometimes it's best not to let that little voice in your head tell you that you're doing it wrong, even when you're going against received wisdom that you truly respect." Erin Babnik

How much processing goes into your images?

All images have been taken with high quality digital cameras, lenses and filters using the techniques I have acquired over the past 12 years. Certainly the professional workflow involves using Photoshop as a tool for development and preparation of each photo for print. Filters are often important for my work. A polarising filter is almost always used under full sun for beach scenes. However, even with today’s advanced technologies, the camera is a relatively simple machine when compared with the capabilities of the human sensory system. While a graduated neutral density filter helps to control dynamic range at sunrise, the dynamic range of today’s professional camera is still not capable of rendering details in both the highlights and shadows of many scenes. Due to this limitation, images are often created using several exposures of the same scene and then carefully combined using techniques such as luminosity masking. Note that these challenges are part of what I enjoy about photography!
Ultimately, I strive to illustrate the feeling of being at the location. Alongside the visual component, experiencing a landscape involves other senses such as the smell of the sea, the delicate sounds in the bush, and the warmth of the sun on your skin. It’s these components that I’m also trying to convey in my photography. We shoot landscapes in pursuit of capturing the dream of the perfect place for the viewer. At the very least, I hope my photography makes your day a little brighter and helps you forget about your troubles for a short while.

Crystal clear wave breaking at Dark Point, Hawks Nest, Australia.

What sort of preparation do you do before you head out to any shoot?

I usually like to know of the key angles but prefer to have no itinerary. I believe it’s often better to shoot to the current conditions of weather and light, and simply get inspired by the location rather than investigating images that other photographers have taken. Trying to recreate great photos made by other photographers can often lead to disappointment and your audience wants to see fresh angles and compositions anyway. 

Which artist/photographer inspired your art?

I certainly have been inspired by the amazing work of Australian landscape photographers Ken Duncan and Peter Lik. These guys have been at the forefront of making photography a legitimate art piece to decorate homes and commercial interiors. Today, as we experience the social media revolution, there is so much photographic talent and creativity being shared online that has become very easy to be inspired to get creative.

A sunrise photo captures reflected colour at Queenscliff near Manly in Sydney, Australia.

How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph? Are you planning every step or is it always spontaneous?

Particularly at new photo locations I find you just need to get out there and put yourself in the elements being ready with your gear to capture what you experience. However, of course, technique is important, for example, if a photo is not properly focused, it cannot be used other than perhaps to share on social media. Also the very wide, high resolution panoramics that I specialise in do take preparation, practice and attention to various details in order for the scene to be captured at its best and in the short time span that the conditions may present.

Sunset over Killick Creek bridge at Crescent Head

What other interests do you have in your life besides photography?

I have a beautiful, supportive wife and two young boys that I enjoy doing life with. I relish the challenge of building a small business and spend too much time pursuing this goal! On Friday night you can expect me to be enjoying a game of footy (NRL) and the State of Origin series is more important to me than any new camera release! Physical health is important but I believe in the search for spiritual truth to keep all things in perspective too.