Christchurch photographer Paul Daly won Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year at the 2015 Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards, held in April at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland. He took away the title and top prize for a trip for two to Switzerland, and more fantastic prizes by winning two other categories, Best Travel image taken outside New Zealand, and Best Travel Image with People.
The ethos of the awards is to celebrate travel photography published in an editorial context, and Daly’s portfolio of 12 images did just that, his winning photos taken in Turkey and published in D-Photo in April–May, 2014.
His strong background in landscape and architectural photography is evident, but he also nailed the street scenes, locals in everyday life in the backstreets of Istanbul taken from a fly-on-the-wall perspective.
The three photography judges — commercial photographer Chris Coad and New Zealand Herald and lifestyle photographer Babiche Martens, both previous Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year winners, and Rob Lile, owner of photonewzealand — were obviously impressed with Daly’s portfolio.
“His images are constructed in such a way that the viewer’s eye is led around the photograph, revealing layers of detail. It was his ability to capture context in his photographs that provided the narrative that kept us coming back.”
Hot on Daly’s heels as runner-up for the overall prize and for Best Travel Image with People category was freelance travel photographer Amos Chapple. His portfolio was of images in Siberia, Spain, and India, half of them taken from the unique angle obtained via shooting using a drone.
Fay Looney received Highly Commended recognition for her portfolio of 18 images, all of them taken in New Zealand from Cape Reinga to as far south as Aoraki Mt Cook. She was also runner-up and winner of the Best Travel Image taken in New Zealand.
The top three portfolios photographed by Paul Daly, Amos Chapple and Fay Looney take the viewer to very different places, delivered in very different styles, from different perspectives. But the common thread expressed through their imagery, apart from being travel images, is a sense of place. They transport you to their destination, communicate elements that leave you shuddering in the cold, smelling the damp, and tasting the smoke on your tongue.
What is it about these photographers and their different approaches that makes their photography outstanding?
Daly, specializing in shooting commercial landscapes, started travel photography in 2008 after he did some work in the Himalayas for Sony.
“Back then I was mainly concentrating on landscape and scenic-type imagery. But as time has passed, I have become more interested in all facets of travel photography.”
Daly travels to capture imagery for print, stock, and magazines like New Zealand Geographic, and through his company Nomadic Planet, he leads guided photography tours. For the last few years he’s taken expeditions to Turkey, and is now expanding to other corners of the world, like Cuba and Iceland.
His approach to travel photography is to do a lot of research, particularly when time on the ground is limited, although he says, “Be willing to throw all the plans out the window and just go with the flow.” If he hears something is going to make an interesting shot, then having the flexibility to investigate and put some creative time in makes a difference.
For his winning portfolio Daly hung out in the backstreets of Istanbul, away from the usual tourist traps. In addition he hired a vehicle giving him the freedom to scope out different scenes and angles. He’s travelled to Turkey three times in recent years, staying for about three weeks at a time.
It’s Daly’s love and fear of the unknown that draws him to travel photography.
“I love the way photography can take you anywhere, so long as you have the courage to book the air ticket, and get on the plane. Photography can allow you to enter peoples lives, even if it is only for a brief moment. It’s a passport to digging deeper beyond the glazed surface, that most tend to see.”
It was a commission about nine years ago to cover UNESCO World Heritage sites that got freelance photographer Amos Chapple hooked into travel photography. Except for one short spell to Australia, he’d never been overseas, and it was on his first assignment to capture the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland that he realized, “The world is a cool place.” He’s been travelling ever since, mostly to remote, challenging places, risking it all to produce never-seen-before shots.
While he does do commercial work, it’s only on the proviso that it doesn’t divert him from his self-motivated travel assignments to get positive stories into mainstream media. Chapple is no stranger to the Cathay Pacific Travel Photography awards, a past overall winner and many-times category winner and runner-up. His images are popular in photo libraries and appear in magazines and newspapers spanning the world, like Smithsonian magazine, Washington Post, The Independent, and The Guardian.
Chapple is driven to shoot fresh and relevant imagery. It’s a desire that has him outside in -40 degrees during Siberia’s winter, until his gear protests and eventually shuts down. Always seeking new perspectives, when drones arrived about two years ago he jumped at the opportunity and started experimenting in Latvia. Realizing he was onto something special, and it wouldn’t be tolerated for long, he’s busy shooting from this unique angle for as long as he’s able.
He does a bit of research before reaching a destination, but says, “My best research is done there at the pub, by talking to people I get snippets of information, gossip, hearsay, and follow up on it, that’s what makes travel exciting.” To keep it real he stays at backpackers, and usually travels alone.
A photographer very familiar with her own backyard is Looney. She’s previously won Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year. Her travel photography was influenced by her career working as a school photographer in the late 1970s.
“My work covered the whole of the North Island and the top of the South. New Zealand was my workplace as I travelled to capture the landscape.”
Looney’s Highly Commended portfolio, a collection of photographs taken within the last two years, appears in her latest book — published last year — called The Real New Zealand. It is her fifth published photography book, and at 75 years old she proves age is no barrier to achieving your goals. While she’s been a sport, wedding, and portrait photographer, it’s her iconic images of her home region, Taranaki, with which she is synonymous.
Always enterprising, she has an ongoing exhibition of three super-large landscapes printed on acrylic, propped up in timber frames, in her front paddock near her studio in Oakura.
“They bring a lot of interest. I changed two of them for my last exhibition during Garden week [Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival] and invited artists to join my Art Grazing Exhibition: it was great fun.”
It’s driving through New Zealand that Looney loves most about travel photography, and it’s good light which motivates her. A lover of sunrises, she’s up before daybreak to capture glorious moments like her winning shot of the early sun on a lone sheep outside the Whangamomona Hotel. Only Looney and the sheep were about.
She says she doesn’t do any research prior to heading to a destination, and none of her shots are predetermined.
“I like new discoveries, and you can’t plan the surprises that happen.”
She ensures that she always has her camera at the ready beside her. Looney shoots with a Nikon D300S with two Nikon lenses, an 18–200mm and 300mm. She also uses a Canon G1X. As well as a drone, Chapple carries a mirrorless Panasonic Lumix GX7 with a variety of fast zoom lenses. In Siberia he uses his Canon 5D Mark II in conjunction with prime lenses. Daly currently uses a Canon 5D Mark III, with a variety of zoom and prime lenses. Part of his kit includes a fisheye zoom 8–15mm, a flash, and a tripod.
Their advice to budding travel photographers is as strong and as varied as their portfolios. Daly suggests, “Get to know the locals, interact with them, stay in their homes, do what they do. Photographically do your research, shoot morning, day, and night. Get in close, fill the frame, push your boundaries, and emotion is key.”
Chapple urges photographers to do what makes them unique as a person, make the most of their attributes to get an edge and don’t worry about the technical aspect. “Make sure you push your photography as far as you can. Get something different, don’t take stuff that has already been done.”
Looney says, “Do it — but do it with skills learned from experience and inspiration, mostly value your work and educate others by charging a fee at all times. Always own your work and never be afraid to challenge your ownership.”
This article was originally published in D-Photo Issue No. 66. Missing this copy from your collection? You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: