We’re excited to be sitting down with Dylan Fox — a young, award winning landscape photographer based in Perth, Western Australia. His stunning body of work consists of images from around Australia as well as from the United States, and his work is easily recognizable with its perfectly blended exposures that make the viewer want to teleport immediately to whatever beautiful location they were taken at.
With a camera in his hands for as long as he can recall, it wasn’t until a year 12 photography camp on Rottnest Island, 18km off the coast of Western Australia, that landscape photography became his true calling. With Australia’s breathtaking coastline to practice on, he’s honed his talents since then into an art form that we’re thrilled to share with you!
Even though you’ve been interested in photography since early childhood, you’ve said that your passion for landscape photography began during your final years in high school, during a sunrise shoot at Rottnest Island. Tell us more about the emotions and thoughts that you experienced on this trip.
I had studied the work of Christian Fletcher, who at the time was shooting on panoramic film cameras. I think the panoramic look helped entice me into landscapes, as I simply hadn’t seen photographs of that format. However it was seeing locations that I knew well, look so bloody amazing! Something about the familiar locations looking so brilliant really got me excited to give it a crack. That first sunrise with my year 12 photography teacher and a few other class mates was amazing! We shot a few locations as I tried to find similar viewpoints to Christian’s. My teacher Mark and I ended up splitting from the group as we stayed out longer and I was already hooked! After sunrise I had already planned to capture one of the beautiful blue bays during the day. I found a viewpoint and then decided to return at midday. It turned out (to my surprise) that this photograph (my second ever landscape photograph) would sell a number of times at my high school’s art exhibition later on in the year. I was so amazed that people were giving me money for something that was something I did for fun!
What is really cool is that Christian is now a mate of mine and Mark still is too!
Do you believe that your trip to Rottnest Island was crucial to your current career choice, or do you think you would have eventually ended up as a landscape photographer? Prior to landscapes, what did your portfolio primarily consist of?
I really don’t know…. I was until that point still purely taking photos of anything for fun. I have never been interested in studio work, fashion, or weddings so maybe I would have ended up at landscapes at some point. I love to travel and love the natural world so it made sense to put the two together. I guess after seeing landscape photographs for the first time there was an attraction to that genre before I had ever even tried it myself!
Although you were accepted to RMIT University in Melbourne to pursue a Bachelor of Arts, you ultimately decided to study Marketing and Advertising at Curtin University. Tell us about the thought process that led you to decide to abandon photography as an academic course of study.
Like I mentioned previously, a number of different areas of photography really didn’t appeal to me. After traveling to Melbourne for the orientation and introduction to the course I knew it wasn’t for me. Being taught an art seemed odd. The idea of being told what is right and wrong in photography was something that worried me and turning photography into assignments and work, instead of it being purely for the joy of the art really didn’t appeal to me. I know that there are techniques and skills that certainly can be taught, however I felt most of what the course offered simply didn’t interest me.
I guess I am also quite certain with the direction I want my photography to go. I only follow and really admire the work of a handful of other photographers. So to be taught by someone who’s work didn’t inspire me or had a completely vision to mine didn’t seem right. Even at this early stage I remember thinking ‘I can teach myself!’ I am still kind of that way… I really don’t do a hell of a lot of reading on photography; rather I just study the work of photographers I admire. If I ever come across or have an idea of a certain look for a photograph I simple work at it on my own until I nut it out. I do find however most photographers are very willing to share ideas.
So I took a year off after high school knowing I wanted to be a professional photographer but not knowing how to go about it. I actually heard of some great photographers who unfortunately were not making a living from their work and was told it is because they did not know how to market themselves. I had no idea what marketing was! So I quickly applied for a position at Curtin University to do a Bachelor of Commerce with majors in Marketing and Advertising, which I completed in 2011.
Ultimately photography is an art. The camera is a relatively simple tool, which purely captures the photographer’s visions. I knew my way around a camera, so all I really needed was to practice seeing the details in photographs before I captured them.
Would you say that your love of travel inspires your photography, or that your love of photography inspires travel?
I have never thought about it. That is a tricky one, but I feel like now, my photography inspires my travel. I love traveling, but now often any travel I do has photography in mind. I don’t ever go on a trip without my camera equipment, and often have a photograph planned out ahead of time, even when I have never visited a location before, I just search for what I have in my head!
During a previous interview, you reported that your longest time “in the wild,” without the comforts of home, was five days. Is being in nature for extended periods of time intrinsically enjoyable, or rather something you partake in for the sake of getting the perfect shot?
5 days is by no means a long time, however I haven’t really had a chance or needed to stay out any longer. I enjoy it though. I absolutely love getting out of the city even if it’s for a night! I really enjoy camping and have some very memorable camping trips in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in particular. I am sure though that if getting the shot meant an extra night or 2 I would be happy to wait!
It is second nature to me now. Simply excluding more than I include in a frame makes all the difference, cluttered photographs are very difficult to make look good in my opinion (not saying it isn’t possible). I simply avoid anything that will draw any attention away from what I am actually trying to capture. If it does not benefit or add to the photograph, I try to avoid it. For example, often when I photograph along the coast, I do not include the beach itself. This, to me, makes the scene appear like it could be anywhere. This can make a popular beach that is anything but remote, feel remote secluded. It is hard to explain, but I am constantly thinking of what is important in a certain frame when I am composing it.
That is still true! I am fairly regularly refining my ‘style’ and sometimes it takes a whole new direction. Just last week I photographed a truly spectacular sunset at one of my favourite beaches. It is about a 30-40 minute drive from home and when the conditions are right it is stunning! This particular shot is called ‘The Reward’. I had actually captured an almost identical composition not long before that I loved. Last week however it was very warm and clouds were building. There was talk of a storm but it was only a slight chance, which usually means that nothing will come of it. I arrived at the beach and couldn’t resist but to set up that same composition again with a couple slight tweaks, just to see if I could capture it under what looked to be a promising sunset. It meant being very low and facing waves rushing in and breaking over the rocks. At times my whole tripod was submerged and water was rushing out to sea around 10cm below my camera. Needless to say I was nervous but certain it could pay off. Right as the colours started to appear and the clouds were glowing, lightning started striking perfectly at the end of the channel I was photographing. It was so perfectly placed and was occurring regularly. I could not believe my luck and desperately wanted to capture it. I did manage to! But that main bright strike was pure luck. It occurred far closer to shore than the rest of the bolts and actually happened during a short 4/10th of a second exposure that was intended for the foreground. When I saw the strike on my camera’s screen I could not believe it!
So as you may have gathered I exposure blend. I far prefer the accuracy of this technique in comparison to the use of graduated filters. Being able to perfectly expose different areas of a frame is brilliant and allows me to be more creative and have greater control. Although it is a very common technique I am sure some purists still cringe. I should note that I have never made a ‘composite’ image however.
So capturing ‘The Reward’ I exposed for the sky, for the water rushing over the rocks on the left and for the water rushing through the channel. I wanted to create a soft, bright and peaceful frame that seemed to be somewhat interrupted by the dramatic lightning bolt.
I named this photograph ‘The Reward’ simply because of the very risky spot I was working in with every wave carrying the potential to write off all my gear! I have always photographed with a ‘no risk, no reward’ mentality, and this time I felt truly rewarded.
No gear was damaged!
You’re clearly passionate about what you do, and your photography reflects a clear appreciation of nature. Are there any environmental or conservation issues that you feel strongly about, or any particular message that you try to convey with your photography?
I unfortunately can’t say that I am someone out their rallying for our environment however I do hope that my photographs assist the efforts of those who are! I just really hope when people view my work they gain a little more appreciation for the natural world that they may have otherwise not considered. Getting out of the concrete jungles and out into nature is what it is all about and hopefully preserving those amazing locations for future generations.
How does your own emotion affect the final composition or quality of a shot? Does your mood or level of inspiration affect the outcome, or do you let the landscape speak for itself?
I generally have a pretty good idea of how I want a shot to feel before I capture it, but that is not to say that I don’t change my mind after capturing it sometimes. I think having your own vision is so important because simply adjusting your exposure time is ultimately ‘editing’ the scene and can dramatically change how it looks. So knowing what you want to achieve and how to go about it is very important.
It depends on each individual location. Some may simply require the click of the shutter, while others may require a bit more thought of how best to capture them and also how to make them reflect what you felt.
One of my greatest motivators how ever is returning from a shoot without a photograph I am proud of. Usually it simply comes down to a poor location, poor conditions or a combination of the two. Its times when after a number of weeks or more without producing a new photograph that I get really anxious and NEED to get out and see and capture something awesome!
Upon discovering landscape photography, you stated, “there could not possibly be anything else in this world that I want to do with my life.” Are there any unforeseen challenges to being a landscape photographer, or anything that you inherently struggle with as a photographer?
I guess the greatest challenge would be making a living from your art. It is far more difficult taking this route than finding a 9 to 5 that I would sort of enjoy, and call work. However I still can’t see myself doing anything else and since the start have been so committed to my photography. As far as the photography goes however I have never really felt any struggles. It has remained something I still do for fun. I still love getting out and taking pictures and there is still nothing more exciting than capturing that next shot, and nothing worse than missing it! I am consistently trying to produce something better than my last piece!
When people now ask me what I do, I am so proud to tell them that I am a photographer!