With his magnificent wave photography, Australian photographer Ray Collins has turned his passion for the sea into a vocation. We’ve been following the colorblind photographer’s progress for years, initially with his Seascapes series and most recently with his collaborative cinemagraphs.
Collins has worked with National Geographic, Vogue, Patagonia, Apple, and Nikon since purchasing his first camera in 2007. He abandoned a career as a coal miner to follow his love. His picture captures the unique force of water in all stages of life, from serene and languid to harsh and clamorous. His photography’s beautiful images have allowed him to dabble in both the commercial and fine art realms.
Collins is continually promoting his work by going throughout the world to capture waves in photographs. Water & Light, his second book, travels from Iceland to Tahiti in the name of capturing the water, and he was recently included in the Netflix documentary Fish People.
We spoke with the renowned photographer on what piqued his interest in the water and how he captures the soul of waves. Continue reading to learn more about our exclusive interview.
How did your relationship with the sea develop as a result of growing up in Australia?
It’s pretty much everything I’ve ever known. We’ve always lived near the coast—as do most Australians—and as a kid, you’re naturally curious about your immediate surroundings. Beaches, cliffs, and coves dot the terrain where I reside, thus this was for me.
In my life, the ocean has been the one constant. It is there for me at any stage of life, at any moment, and at any emotion.
You got your first camera to take pictures of your pals surfing. How did it come to be that I was only interested in the waves?
In retrospect, it was the starting point for waves. The “human” feature was simply used to give the wave size and calmness in my early work.
As my career progressed, I became more aware of how fragile and lovely water can be. The texture, the form, and the overall “feeling” of it.
What is it about waves that inspires you?
They’re actual energy waves that travel across water and never repeat themselves! There will never be a re-shoot! There will be no rewinding or second chances. All of this, as well as the pure beauty of the place, inspires me every day.
What role does colorblindness play in your work as a photographer, and how does it assist or hinder you?
It helps me concentrate on contrast, tones, textures, and compositions by removing the “distraction” of color. Maybe my work wouldn’t be as unique if I constantly saw things the same way everyone else did.
What is your go-to method for going out on a shoot?
Three-quarters of the way down the list is generally the actual procedure of pushing the button to capture the image. Before anything else takes place. I attempt to learn as much as I can about the place. To comprehend the wave, I’ll examine a variety of weather maps, keep an eye on anticipated tides, and keep an eye on high- and low-pressure systems—all of these must be studied first.
However, sometimes it’s as simple as getting out of bed and going for a swim.
Is there anything specific you’re looking for in terms of weather or lighting?
The early and final light of the day are my favorites. I’m using horizontal light that’s either front or backlight, and I’m a huge fan of clouds. In my studio, they act as a large softbox.
You’ve worked on Elemental with Armand Dijcks, which kickstarts your project. What was the most pleasurable aspect of working together and how did that partnership come about?
Part luck, part destiny. He is the finest at what he does and also a wonderful human being. I believe we are virtually pioneers in the times we live in (i.e. the digital medium, the ability to share, social media). Even a few years ago, none of this would have been conceivable. The same may be said with Armand’s Cinemagraphs. It’s a cutting-edge technology. As a human and an artist, I’m always wanting to grow. It just seemed appropriate with these moving visuals.
We started small together, found we liked the end results, and it grew into a fantastic collaboration over time. By trusting the other person, we’ve increased both of our skills—a it’s very amazing cooperation.
What do you want people to get out of your photography?
It is viewed differently by various individuals, as with all art, but my primary goal is to make the spectator “feel” something. It doesn’t have to be a pleasant sensation, just anything.
In terms of the influence of what’s being watched… The ocean becoming a floating rubbish patch would be my greatest fear. It makes me nervous to think that our grandkids may be unable to enjoy the natural beauty that we take for granted.
Although my photographs show a lot of strength and energy, the ocean is really sensitive, and it’s dealing with one of the most pressing issues of our time: pollution.
I hope that the spectator is encouraged to choose nature above convenience when it comes to plastic, so that we can preserve the ocean as clean as possible.
What comes next?
Being present, and being a better version of myself than I was yesterday.