Growing up Charles used to borrow his brothers’ camera and take photographs. Photography was for fun and not seen as a possible career pathway. Charles would go to the beach and take images especially landscapes and then play with them on Photoshop.
In 2006 as part of his graphic design course at Auckland University Charles started doing architectural photography. He liked being behind the lens and his lecturer said he had a good eye for photography. This encouraged Charles to do more. So he borrowed a camera from university and went go down to the Coromandel and took some shots. As soon as he got back from this trip he invested in some basic photographic gear and a tripod.
Charles comments, “I love the landscape and being alone in the landscape. It’s that Zen moment, just you and the camera. Capturing what I see and putting it into an image. I was into media design and I decided I would do more photography as a hobby. This was the year of the Tsunami and I came back home I didn’t finish my course.”
In August Charles is going to Budapest to do a course in photography. The course is for three years. Charles has been a professional photographer for the past two and a half years although photography has been his passion for five years.
What excites him about going to Budapest is the “wide spectrum of opportunities and people he will meet there. He comments, “I want to engage with and to learn more about the commercial and studio side of photography. I look forward to working in a dark room. Film is still the best way to get an image using a medium format camera and processing it in a darkroom. A digital image is binary you just put the image together. With film you feel the image as it is developing.” Last year Charles travelled to Budapest where he found many arty places and a growing community of photographers and filmmakers. Hungary will provide opportunities to shoot images in many diverse landscapes and settings. The proximity to other European countries will also offer more amazing photographic opportunities.
Charles explains that every artist tries to balance their personal creative artistic desires with the need to earn money by doing commissioned works. “The problem of commercial photography is that after a while professionally you start to do less of what you like to do and less what you want to do. You need a balance of your passion and the commercial side of photography”
Every artist needs good equipment if they are to be serious about their professional development. Charles uses a Canon 5D Mark 3 that is perfect for landscapes and he doesn’t need the expensive lenses necessary for portraiture photography. He states, “It’s possible to have a lot of fun with quite basic gear.” The main computer programmes Charles uses are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
Editing and the sorting of images are essential to get the best pictures. After a photo-shoot he looks through all his images and moves them into various folders where he will later change the contrast, lighting and vibrancy of each image of needed. This process is exacting and very time consuming.
Digital photography has changed the way wedding albums are presented to the bride and groom. No longer dozens of photographs and fancy albums. This makes it far easier to work for international clients. Charles gives his clients digital images electronically and they get their photographs printed overseas.
Communication between the photographer and client has to be good so you can cater for the specific needs of the client. Charles has sold photographic images printed onto canvas and people have been willing to pay for these prints. The photographs on canvas are printed overseas and Signs Studio in town.
At present Charles loves trying to capture sunsets and sun rises. “I prefer rocky terrain, you see so many photos of nice beaches but rocky areas are more dramatic. I drive out to Luatuanuu at 4 am and sit there with my torch and get my shot ready. After I have taken my shots I speed back home to have a look at what I have taken. I love joining the surfing boys and also photographing them – Plum Pudding Rock is a great place. Surfing and the landscape there is great.”
“I am currently practicing night photography - I am waiting for the next new moon so I can get a nice starlit sky. I went to Coconuts and there was zero light pollution and so I want to capture the sky reflecting on the pool. This will need practising.”
Charles still works for his family so commercially he averages one to two jobs a month. Most of the commercial work is weddings and mid year he photographs small palagi weddings and towards Christmas he is shooting large Samoan weddings. “The weddings keep me busy and really pay for everything.”
After his course in Budapest Charles hopes to work in Europe. “Ultimately I may come back here and I hope in five years time things will be different for professional photographers in Samoa.”