Many of us enjoy getting out and about and shooting landscape photography. It is a fulfilling and relaxing genre that gets us out of the confines of our lives and explore the countryside.
But what if you found yourself witnessing the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters on record. A situation that has resulted in the destruction of 17 million hectares of land, thousands of homes lost, too many lives destroyed and over a billion native animals wiped out. It all sounds very bleak and surreal. But nature has a way of starting over and even after one of the worst culminations of bush fires in Australian history, the rebirth of the land doesn’t take long.
Fortunately for us, as photographers, we have the unique capacity to witness and document both the harshness of the earth and the joy of its rebirth. Our very own Fuji X Aus member Murray Lowe, a landscape photographer, found himself with the opportunity to photography the beginning of new life after so much destruction. While most of the fires are now out – thanks partly to another extreme weather event – the regeneration of our bushland is already taking place. Murray was able to capture some incredible images thanks to his Fujifilm X Series gear. What’s more, he had them projected onto one of the worlds biggest exhibition spaces.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, your work and your photographic journey?
I originally had a serious look at photography in 2003 when my wife and I took a trip to Canada with Scenic Tours and I had a newish Canon N300 film SLR, and for the trip, I purchased a Canon G3 compact for my wife to use. After our trip, I was amazed at how good 4 megapixel and 4 X optical zoom really was, and from that time I had become excited about digital imaging and joined Ryde Eastwood Leagues Camera Club and started my journey with that very same camera.
After achieving 25 years with NRMA as a Vehicle Inspector / Valuer, they gave me $1,000 towards something I wanted, which turned out to be my first DSLR, a Canon 20D with 17 – 85 mm lens. This allowed me to advance my photography abilities.
After retiring, my wife and I moved up to the Central Coast from Eastwood to Terrigal where I still reside. I quickly found a group of like-minded togs of various ages and became engrossed with sunrise and sunset photography at many beaches up and down the coast, (really spoilt for choice up here), and learned so much more about my favourite pass time.
In 2015, my wife and I embarked on a 2 month trip to the UK and Europe, and I armed myself with a Canon 7D MK II with 15 – 85 mm lens and captured some amazing travel images. After our return, I had some health issues with my neck (old war wounds from misspent youth) and decided my BMW K1200 RS motorbike needed to go, so I quickly reused the money to purchase my first Fujifilm XT-2 with 10 – 24 mm and 18 – 135 mm lenses, and I have been very impressed with the products ever since. This led to me also grabbing an X-E3 with 27mm pancake lens for my kit to exploit walk around handheld imaging. Today, that body is coupled with the 18 – 135 mm all the time and the results I am achieving is very remarkable.
We have all seen examples of your amazing landscape photography, what is it about the Australian landscape that you find so compelling to shoot?
A couple of my tog friends and I these days try to head inland away from the beach influence, to capture “different” instead of the same old mundane sunrise/sunset images that have been our go-to for so long now. In the hinterland up here, we have bush-covered rolling hills and creeks with waterfalls and so much more to break the boredom and provide renewed interest.
The Australian countryside provides plenty of opportunities to capture moody, colourful, vibrant, and stormy landscapes and further out, away from light pollution, the ability to capture the night sky and general astrophotography which is a whole new aspect to get your head around.
If you had the chance to travel any in Australia purely to photograph the landscape, where would you go? And the same question but for a trip anywhere in the world?
Being a born and bred Kiwi, I do enjoy getting back across the ditch as often as I can because it offers a very different aspect to landscape photography you won’t find in Australia, Especially the lower Sth Island where I came from. I have a great affection for the mountains and lakes and sounds.
I have a love of old historic buildings in disrepair and would love to venture out west further and spend time recording those kinds of places of historical significance. I did have a ball in the UK and Europe with all the old castles and cathedrals and all the ruins which have real history associated with them, in contrast to Australia and New Zealand which are very young countries in comparison.
Australia has just been subjected to one of the worst fire seasons on record. Can you tell us what that experience was like and how you coped with such an extreme situation?
When the horrendous fires started coming our way through December and early January, I became a little housebound because of the huge amounts of constant smoke in the air, and the fact we weren’t going to see the sun for days on end and there was very little to capture. It was not possible to get out to the fire grounds when the fires were at their peak due to the inherent dangers.
Once you could venture out to investigate your nearby area, what was that experience like?
After the intensity of the fires eased up here, in early January, a good friend (Mary Voorwinde a Nikon user) and I headed out to Kulnura to see what we could of the fire grounds and if we could capture anything relevant. We found a location where the fires had swept through on the edge of a National Park and wandered out into what was once lush bush, and stopped dead. Gobsmacked at the obvious intensity of the fires here. It was deathly silent, no birds, no rustling of leaves in a gentle breeze, just ….. nothing. As we looked around, we noticed little pops of colour here and there, so we set off in different directions to see what we could capture.
Amazing news and congratulations on having four of your projected onto one of the biggest canvases in the world – the Sydney Opera House! How did that come to be and what did it mean to you?
That evening, at around 10pm, I posted a set of 7 processed images on my Facebook page, and instantly, comments started coming, so as always, I started to reply, but after an hour, the queue was getting longer, not shorter, and the counter at the bottom of my post had reached 485 odd shares, so I shut down my PC and went to bed. When I arose in the morning, the shares number was in excess of 8,000 and so the road to becoming known around the world began. Over the next 3 days, the number of the shares stalled at around 43,000 and I had media outlets worldwide wanting my images, because they struck a chord everywhere. With all the sad news of the horrendous fires consuming Australia, here was a sign of hope, that the bush was already regenerating even without any rain up to that point, and it was bringing joy to so many internationally who didn’t understand that the Australian bush needs fire to renew itself.
During the week before Australia Day, I was approached by an NSW government official, who was in charge of producing the Aus. Day celebrations and he asked if he could use 3 of my images blended, to project on to the Opera House on the evening of Australia Day, to which I certainly agreed, on the condition I could access a position where I could capture this momentous occasion for myself. He duly made sure I and my daughter had media passes to allow entry to the top deck of the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay. This has been the highlight of my journey, to be able to say that my images have been seen by millions, projected on to the Sydney Opera House on the 26th of January 2020.
After this, I had 10 of my images printed and framed in A1 size. These were put on display in Teds Cameras Gallery in Pitt Street Sydney. And only just recently, I was invited to do a radio interview with CBC Radio Canada. You can listen to that interview by clicking here!
What is your typical Fujifilm kit that you would take on a landscape shoot?
My regular kit for most of my shoots these days comprises my XT-3, with 10 – 24mm lens, and a 50 – 140 f2.8 lens with 2X adaptor attached, and always my trusty little X-E3 with 18 – 135mm lens mounted, and this fulfils most of my needs. I also have a kit of Haida filters and polariser with a 6 stop and 10 stop solid grey filters as well. I have been able to get down below 1/10 sec shutter speed handheld on the X-E3 very successfully on occasions, so can’t say enough about the quality of the Fuji products.
If people want to check out your work on a website or your social media, where can they find it?
I do not have a web page, but you can find me on: Murray Lowe https://www.facebook.com/murray.lowe.54
Or simply google @MurrayLowePhotography