Go­ing to any depths for a story

The Bulletin - - 2013 Newspaper Of The Year Awards: Photography - Richard Robin­son By Sarah Home­wood Photography awards spon­sored by Canon

MOST would be ner­vous about div­ing into the ocean to pho­to­graph the world’s largest mam­mals, how­ever The New

Zealand Her­ald’s Richard Robin­son says he has had more close calls with hu­mans as a news pho­tog­ra­pher than the an­i­mals on the other side of his lens.

“Like ev­ery­thing you have to plan for the un­ex­pected and I have to try and elim­i­nate the pos­si­bil­ity that th­ese things will hap­pen,” Mr Robin­son said. “I pho­to­graph a lot of mega fauna. It’s very im­por­tant to plan care­fully and have es­cape plans. How­ever, Mr Robin­son says that it is more likely that he will get into a sticky sit­u­a­tion with peo­ple rather than with an­i­mals. “It’s ex­actly like that work­ing for the pa­per; over the years I’ve had more close calls at the of­fice.”

Photography is in Mr Robin­son’s blood. His grand­fa­ther, Richard Mar­shall was part of the busi­ness for 30 years, as chief pho­tog­ra­pher at the

Daily Tele­graph in Napier. Yet it wasn’t his first choice as a ca­reer. He started study­ing sci­ence at the Univer­sity of Auck­land, but the lure of the cam­era proved too much.

“I was at univer­sity do­ing a sci­ence de­gree and didn’t re­ally en­joy it but all my friends were in arts school and I just al­ways had a cam­era and ev­ery­thing just fell into place,” he said.

“Even­tu­ally a job came up in Hawkes Bay and I moved back home and with the Hawkes Bay pa­per be­ing a part of the APN group I was able to move to the

Her­ald in 2000.” Af­ter six years at the Her­ald, Mr Robin­son de­cided that he wanted to take his pas­sion for photography one step fur­ther,

“Prob­a­bly in the last six years I started to con­cen­trate more and more on un­der­wa­ter photography,” he said.

“Grow­ing up in Hawkes Bay, which is right by the sea, I al­ways was a keen sailor and surfer. One of the things work­ing for the Her­ald was I wanted to tell th­ese sto­ries around the ocean but ev­ery­thing kind of stopped when you got to the wa­ter’s edge. So, I got my­self an un­der­wa­ter house­man so I could tell the sto­ries go­ing on un­der­wa­ter just as well as above.”

While you don’t have to deal with peo­ple un­der­wa­ter you do have to deal with a myr­iad of other chal­lenges when pho­tograph­ing in the ocean. Mr Robin­son ex­plains.

“Shoot­ing un­der wa­ter straight off you lose the colour spec­trum, so you start to lose your reds, yel­lows and or­anges as you start head­ing un­der the wa­ter,” he said.

“Once you’re down re­ally deep you just get a monochro­matic blue. So we need to use big un­der­wa­ter strobes to get the colour back into it, to light up what’s there. Even the clear­est wa­ter isn’t that clear, so when you start us­ing strobes you start get­ting back scat­ter.

“Still the big­gest prob­lem is you’re al­ways at the mercy of com­pres­sion lim­its and your amount of air. That can mean even if some­thing re­ally good is hap­pen­ing you may have to bail out, even if you want to stay.”

Mr Robin­son says that his work as a news pho­tog­ra­pher with the Her­ald helps his un­der­wa­ter photography be as pow­er­ful as it is and vice versa. He says it’s all about be­ing quick on your feet re­gard­less of the en­vi­ron­ment or the job.

“In one in­stance, we had just come up from a cou­ple of hours dive and my mem­ory card was full. I had no strobe in my flashes and no air in my tanks and a big pod of a re­ally rare type of whale came past and I had to make the few frames on the cam­era I had left re­ally count.”

This year Mr Robin­son took out the PANPA Award for Fea­ture Pho­to­graph of the Year for his photo es­say en­ti­tled ‘The Great Mi­gra­tion’.

“PANPA is a great com­pe­ti­tion to win. The es­say was shot up in Tonga in the breed­ing sea­son. I was up there for a cou­ple of weeks,” he said. “It was re­ally ex­cit­ing to be in the wa­ter with th­ese beau­ti­ful mam­mals some of the nice beau­ti­ful shots were mother and calves so they were re­ally calm and serene photography.”

In­stead of feel­ing daunted by the size of his sub­jects or the sheer vast­ness of his work­ing en­vi­ron­ment, Mr Robin­son feels thank­ful for his op­por­tu­ni­ties and the teams that sup­port him.

“It’s a real priv­i­lege. At the time it’s ex­cit­ing, but at the end of the day I’m just re­ally lucky that I am able to get in th­ese po­si­tions and get in the wa­ter and pho­to­graph. It’s a great team at the Her­ald that backs me but I also have a great team that ac­com­pany me on the dives.”

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