Photographer Profile: Murray McCulloch

Into the small world with local photographer Murray McCulloch this month.

Murray is a finalist in the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the year 2018, so don’t forget to give him your vote. 

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Name Murray McCulloch
Photography Awards/Honours Otago Wildlife Photography Competition 2014 – Overall winner, New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the year competition 2016 highly commended in the wildlife section, New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the year competition – Winner of the People’s Choice award 2016, D-photo 2017 – Winner of the Macrophotography category,  New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the year competition – Runner-up People’s Choice award 2017, New Zealand Geographic 2018 – current finalist
Current Camera Nikon D7000
Favourite Camera you have ever used/had I had an old 600-polaroid that I acquired for our wedding day, which was certainly a bit of fun and something different.  I’ve had my trusty Nikon D7000 for a while now and it does everything I need (Though I say trusty, it is my second body as I flooded the first one (as well as the house!).
Which do you prefer? Digital
And why? I’ve always envied people who are adept at using film and think that it must be much harder to be able to review your photos on site and not have as much freedom to really experiment as much, or have the liberty to go out and take a couple hundred photos.
With digital photography you can keep doing more and more, and photographers keep coming up with exciting new techniques.  I do a lot of focus stacking with my macrophotography which just wouldn’t be possible with film.
Which medium do you prefer? Print
And why? I think nothing beats the feel of seeing a printed image, nicely displayed and in good lighting.  Projected images do have some great advantages such as being able to shoot a photo through to friends, family and the wider world, and all at the flick of a button.
How did you get into photography and when? I was introduced to photography mainly by my Dad, Bruce, and my older siblings all do some amateur photography too.  I bought my first camera in 2009 when I was at University – a small Canon “point-and-shoot” which I had fun playing around with.  Then in 2011, when I started working, I purchased my first DSLR (Nikon d7000) and a “do-it-all” 18-200 mm lens.  It was a year later that I got my first macro lens (Nikon 105mm) and flash unit.  It wasn’t until then that I really started to get into macro photography.  My kit has then evolved from there with new lenses, a tripod and macro slider.
Photography is a very personal thing for me and I tend to just shoot photos in a way that that I like and don’t really worry too much what other’s think of my work.  I am very self-critical about my own photos, and it’s often small distracting things in the photos which push me to improve the images.
What keeps you inspired with your photography? I take inspiration from looking at other’s photography, as well as just getting out in nature and being creative.
I actually have a list of ideas and techniques that I want to try out, several of which when tried will likely not be technically possible to do, but that will then spark another idea, which is then added to the list!
Do you have a particular theme that would summarise your photographs? I suppose my theme would be getting up close with nature. I’ve always been interested in more unusual creatures, and it wasn’t until I started macro photography that I developed an appreciation for how amazing these smaller animals are.  With the degree of magnification that you can achieve you really can see these creatures from a new perspective.  Often they appear as an alien-like species and you can simply step outside and observe a whole new world in your own backyard.
Where is the best place that you have been to take photos? Last year my wife and I were lucky enough to travel to the Galapagos Islands where there were many unusual and wonderful animals to take photos of, most of these being non-macro shots, however. The diversity of the wildlife there is breath-taking, and the animals are not as frightened of humans, making taking closer images much easier to achieve.
That said, some of my most successful photographs have been taken in my backyard or at the local park, the great thing about macro photography is that you don’t have to go far to discover a whole new world.
What piece of equipment could you not do without in your camera bag? Probably my Nikon 18-200mm “do-it-all” lens, though it isn’t the sharpest or have the greatest optics, it’s a great all-round lens that will always be in my bag.
Do you have any advice for your fellow photographers? Just get out there and experiment, take heaps of photos…  You don’t need the fanciest gear or big expensive equipment. I’ve seen some pretty amazing photos taken with some pretty simple equipment.
Take aspects from other people’s work, and try to be creative and original.  If I see another photo of a log on a beach, or that tree in Wanaka I might stab my own eyes out!
Do you have any favourite photography related websites or web resources that you’d like to share with us ? (this includes your own) Here’s my own
Also there are plenty of Facebook groups for all different types of photography

Guest Speaker: Rod Morris

Meeting: Monday June 27th

Rod Morris, who is a well known and award-winning natural history filmmaker, author and photographer, was the guest speaker on Monday night.  His talk titled ‘ Pinch of Salt – Seashore macro photography’ was based around his most recent work, producing a field guide to the New Zealand seashore, in conjunction with Sally Carson from the Portobello Marine Science laboratory.

Accompanying his talk, were many photographs of the wonderful and weird sea life that inhabit our shores.   There is, in fact, a huge variety of life in the sea that exists and is not that well known.  In fact, about 96% of animals live in an aquatic environment; the rest are terrestrial.  Rod urged us to go out and explore the inter-tidal environment.

Photographing these animals presents several challenges.  First and foremost are two factors that are enemies of the camera – saltwater and sand.  Rod recommended placing a finger near the end of one’s camera lens to provide a warning that the camera is getting close to the water surface.  Rod also uses a point-and-shoot waterproof camera which can produce some pleasing results (particularly cameras that have a tilted screen).  In more sheltered rock pools, it is possible to shoot through the water surface, particularly when using twin flash units.

Another challenge is that many of the animals tend to quickly burrow themselves in the sand if they sense danger. In this case, Rod often took these specimens back to the laboratory  and placed a sheet of glass between the animal and the background sand so that it could not burrow.  After photographing, he would then return the animal to the sea.  He has also used water filters in the laboratory to move sediment and water around the tank, in order to stimulate some activity in the animals (such as barnacles which may close up as a defence mechanism).   There are also various tidal rhythms that can influence the behaviour of the animal so it is important to have a bit of background knowledge of these animals.

Rod’s talk has certainly inspired us to head out to the seashore and explore.  We  look forward to the publication of his field guide.