Welcome to the Fourth Series of Through a Photographer’s Eye. In this latest series, we continue to learn about Australian photographers (or in this case a visiting photographer) and how they use FUJIFILM X Series Cameras to photograph their world around them. Our second featured photographer is Felix Mooneeram.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what drives you as a photographer to capture images?
I am a professional photographer from the UK, but these images were captured for FUJIFILM Australia whilst on holiday there at the start of 2018. I mostly shoot architecture back at home, but making travel images is one of my favourite things to do whilst I’m away. I find that experiencing a new place with my camera opens my eyes to it makes me take it in more than if I didn’t have my camera.
I think quite differently when shooting on holiday compared to my professional work. It’s a lot freer; a lot looser. Sometimes I shoot blind; sometimes I go to higher ISOs that I wouldn’t in my regular work. I don’t worry much about getting perfect exposures – the images are more about the moment or the feeling at the time, and I find that liberating.
You visited Australia to document the country, where did you travel within Australia and what gear did you decide to take with you?
We stayed in Melbourne, spent four nights on the Great Ocean Road in a van, and had a long weekend in Sydney. I took my full set minus one lens. This kit consists of the FUJIFILM X-T2, XF50-140mmF2.8, XF35mmF1.4, XF10-24mmF4 (listed in order of which I like to use most for anyone wondering). I often look ahead or try to isolate elements in my frame, so I love the F2.8 zoom. The range is so versatile for this kind of photography, but the size of the lens can be a little cumbersome for travelling, it has to be said. For me, it’s totally worth it, and if ever leave it at home, I always wish I’d bought it. These three lenses give me a vast range of focal lengths to work with and cover most situations that I want to shoot in.
Your photos look unique, what was your workflow? Did you use any advanced techniques like HDR to overcome Australia’s harsh light?
Thank you! I found the light in Australia an absolute joy to work with. In the UK it often feels like you are struggling to get enough light onto the sensor because the weather is usually pretty poor. In Australia, I was shooting at speeds my dial doesn’t get anywhere near back home which was fun. It meant I could quickly capture things that caught my eye, all handheld, and at the lowest ISOs. Because of the amount of editing, I do through my professional work [link to my https://felixmooneeram.co.uk/Recent-Commissions%5D, I hardly shot any bracketed exposures. I wanted to keep the editing down to a minimum, so I created a preset in Lightroom that brought out the vibrant colours and the warm, sunny tones from the Australian summer and applied it to most of my edits. That usually involved dropping the highlights, bumping shadows, and a bit more yellow and green in the temperature/tint.
What was the story behind the photo featuring the Koalas?
For four days we had a van kindly lent to us by Awesome Campers to travel from Melbourne down the Great Ocean Road. This was probably our favourite part of the trip. I was so amazed by how you can be on beautiful beaches one minute and 15 – 20 minutes later in thick, super tall woodlands that felt like you’d be several hours inland.
We had always hoped to see some koalas in the wild, and as you drive down the Great Ocean Road, you can often tell where they are because other campervanners were parked up ahead aiming their cameras into the trees high above. With this shot, we got so so lucky as not only did we see some, but we saw them at ground level and up close.
My girlfriend spotted them out of the window on the roadside one morning, and we parked ahead so as not to disturb them. We got out of the van and walked back towards them and were so pleased when we saw it was actually a mother and her baby. It was a fantastic experience to see them like this in their natural habitat and was a real high point of the trip. They stayed by us for a few minutes as I made some images of them with the XF50-140mmF2.8 zoom lens (we didn’t want to cramp their style), and then they climbed away up a tree. We had smiles on our faces the entire day after that.
Do you have any tips for anyone who is thinking about visiting Australia to photograph Sydney and the surrounding suburbs?
We only had one weekend in Sydney, but we had a great time there. The Botanical Gardens are a must see. When you get through them to the viewpoint on the coastline and look back on the city in the background and beautiful, lush, gardens in the foreground – it’s hard to believe that it’s a real city.
That whole area around the harbour and the opera house is really photogenic. The city/business district itself is quite oppressive, and the architecture isn’t all that interesting. Stick near the water, and you’ll see the best of the views. The walk from Bondi to Coogee past all the small coves and beaches is a must do.
Can you share some insight into what you look for when photographing architectural design?
I love to play with geometry, symmetry and leading lines when shooting architecture. This is why I’m often drawn to more modern architecture. I sometimes like to use people in the frame to not only give a sense of scale to a building but to show how people interact with it. If you’d like to know more about how I shoot architecture, I have another FUJIFILM blog post here.
If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?
Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot as much as possible. Take your camera everywhere. This is the beauty of FUJIFILM and their mirrorless systems. They’re small enough and light enough to carry around, and the rangefinder style design means you make really strong connections between the functions of the camera and what results come from changing them. This is one of the main reasons I switched to FUJIFILM in the first place. I feel that using these cameras deepens your understanding of aperture, shutter speed and ISO like no DSLR could.
Swapping my Canon gear for FUJIFILM also opened up a new world of focal ranges for me. I was able to afford three lenses for the price of one Canon lens, and this changed my photography for the better. I could start to capture spaces from the details right back to the wider, covering shots. It helps to tell comprehensive and rich stories of a place.