Capturing an individual’s personality – their true self behind the masks we all wear – is a key element of photographer Dave Robinson’s work. Dave is able to relate well with people of all ages, including children, so he produces portraits of amazing quality …
Hi Dave. What’s your association with the New England area … and how long have you called Uralla home?
I moved to the New England area with my then wife and four children in 2007. I have been in Uralla since 2011 and made a home on a few quiet acres just out of town for myself and my four year old daughter.
Who/what first sparked your interest in photography?
In 2002 I took a few holiday snaps on the family compact camera at Cape Byron that looked half decent. I entered them in the landscape section at the local show, winning a first prize with my first entry, from memory. My then wife, Angela, encouraged and generously supported me to explore photography as a hobby away from the demands of running our mechanical workshop in Peak Hill. I bought my first SLR in 2003 and became engrossed in all things photographic.
What are some of the ways in which you’ve honed your skill behind the lens over the years?
I’ve studied lots of photography magazines, there has been lots of trial and error and note taking, and then assessing the results. I was a member of both Parkes and Dubbo camera clubs, having my work reviewed and helping with the judging of national competitions. I was mentored early on by Rolly McDonald and have had support and guidance from my mate Simon Scott.
What inspires/motivates you most as a photographer?
Being able to capture and isolate moments in time or parts of scenes, times in people’s lives and something of the real person – the person behind the mask that we’ve all been taught to show and wear. To capture some of the beauty in the world around us.
You’re often out and about photographing local events … what are some of the ones you’ve enjoyed shooting most in recent times?
Opera In The Paddock, the Uralla Lantern Parade, Armidale Street Arts Festival, Bobby Jack’s Festival and also the Guyra Pipeline sod turning.
What do you find is the most rewarding thing about shooting weddings … and conversely, what are some of the challenges weddings present you with?
I love capturing the highs and lows of the day, the emotions that make us human, and getting the couple away from everyone else after the ceremony is over and standing back with a long lens to just allow the couple to have a little time just with each other – after all, that is largely what getting married is about – each other! I often get great intimate, romantic, candid photos like this. Couples will often forget that I’m there and just enjoy some quiet time together after a hectic leadup to the ceremony etc.
I’m generally pretty calm and patient, so I don’t have many challenges, but dealing with the adults who are trying to get children to smile and be “perfect” can have its moments. Sometimes a young child will have four or five adults, all at the same time, trying to get them to smile. It’s really not fair on them. Having had five children, I am usually able to connect with and meet kids on their level, so after I have asked the adults to let me take care of things, I capture the children as they are – children.
I find a similar thing with family portraits. I will often join kids on the ground to gain their trust and connect with them before I even bring a camera out. After one session, I was told, “You have the patience of a saint”. I don’t know that I agree with that, but I am pretty easy-going and don’t try to set things up too much. I usually bring some toys or balls and catch the kids having fun. The adults usually can’t resist joining in then.
I try to make the occasion as much fun as possible and take the focus off the camera or people having to sit or stand or be a certain way. Basically, I help people to be comfortable in front of a camera. I never ask people to smile or say “cheese”; I have other techniques I use to get people to relax and be themselves as much as possible.
I have heard so many people say things like, “I don’t take good photos”. I suspect this is a throwback to when they were told “sit still”, “behave”, and “smile” as children; why would you want to? That doesn’t sound much like fun. Having said that, I am quite OK with and capable of “formal” portrait and group photos.
Getting back to weddings, Jo, if I could mention a few things to couples who are planning on getting married?
Once you’ve set a date or dates and shortlisted venues, check out and preferably book your photographer before you nail down the details like times etc. This is because you are likely to spend more time with your photographer than anyone else on your big day, and whoever you choose should be able to give you practical advice like what the best times are likely to be for shots of things like the bridal party at that time of year for where you’ll be. Also, chances are that unless you have been a bride or groom before, there will be things you haven’t thought of that a good photographer will be able bring to your attention and give advice on.
You should also feel comfortable with your chosen photographer as a person and as a professional, in order to have the best chance for some great photos. Their prices, whether they be low or high, may not be a great indicator of whether they will be a good fit for you and your special day.
And of course, many of these things apply to any photography.
What are your preferred camera/lens combos to shoot with – and why?
Pentax K-1 Digital SLR and Pentax lenses; 24-70mm f2.8 my workhorse for general use, 70-200mm f2.8 for candids and isolating parts of scenes, plus other Pentax lenses. I find that although less well known amongst professionals, top of the line Pentax gear is very comfortable and ergonomic to use and produces very clean, clear images. You can see the individual hairs on a person’s head in some of their portraits using this gear.
What/who is something you’d love to shoot one day?
What? – the perfect sunset! Who? – my soul mate! And, I’d like to capture more photos of newborn infants – they are so amazing with their tiny perfect features.
What advice can you share with someone who’s interested in photography as a potential career?
Experiment, experiment. Shoot lots of whatever catches or takes your eye and look back over what you’ve captured. Don’t be disappointed with your results – I don’t know of any person who picked up a camera and was instantly a great photographer. Like any skill, it takes practice and time to develop. Develop your own filing system to keep track of your images – do this now, if you haven’t already!
Where can we find out more about your work/contact you?
But honestly, the best way is to simply give me a call and have a chat. Ph. 0435 171 509.
Interview: Jo Robinson.
Photo of Dave by Simon Scott.