WHEN SELF-TAUGHT SHOOTER FRANCOIS FOURIE SWAPPED LIFE IN ONE OF THE WORLD’S SUNNIEST CLIMES FOR A NEW START IN ONE OF ITS WETTEST, LITTLE DID HE KNOW THE LIFE ALTERING ADVENTURE THAT LAY AHEAD OF HIM.
When most backpackers set out to see the world few imagine that their journey of self-discovery will result in a long-term partner, four children and the embryo of a new career.
But that is precisely what happened to Francois Fourie when in 1997 he set off from his native South Africa, eager to explore the world.
He anticipated the journey would take around six months after which the information technology specialist would hang up his tramping boots, place his universal adapter in a drawer and slip back in front of his computer.
But it seems once wanderlust took a grip there was little Francois could do to contain it and eight years later he finally wound up his international travels after washing ashore in Tasmania.
He fell in love with both the place and its people and now has five of them to call his own – fiancé Erin and children Claudia (8) and Lia (7) as well as stepchildren Elliot (8) and Oliver (7).
A self-confessed “obsessive” when it comes to taking images but yet to turn his hobby into a fulltime career, Francois’s interest in photography began in the late 1990s when he purchased his first camera just prior to absconding abroad.
Having taken literally thousands of images with the point and shoot camera while overseas, most of which are stored in a shoebox under his bed, it wasn’t until around eight years ago that the 38-year-old really began to take his shooting career seriously.
As far as first clients go Francois’s was a beauty, having been commissioned as an event photographer for Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).
“I didn’t undertake formal training but am self-taught from library books, online video tutorials and poring over old photos,” he says.
He was advised to purchase his first Nikon (a D50) shortly after and has been a loyal devotee ever since. In recent years he has added Nikon D7000, and D800 camera bodies to his collection, together with a broad selection of lenses including a NIKKOR AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. Francois’s experience at MONA led him to undertaking a number of wedding commissions to supplement his income and fine tune his craft.
Slowly but steadily he has developed a reputation for his night shooting with his work gaining critical acclaim after featuring in publications including Australian Geographic magazine and Aurora Chasers. In 2015 he took out the overall photography prize at the Tasmanian Night Sky Photography Awards with his entry ‘Tasman Island’ and also received a silver award in the Epson International Pano Awards that showcases the work of panoramic photographers worldwide.
However it is when shooting in the open amongst the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area when he feels most at home.
“Landscape photography that’s where my passion lies. I enjoy being out in nature, going on extended bushwalks. A landscape doesn’t demand anything from you in return.”
It is here where he can truly be himself and it was also here he first made the acquaintance of fellow photographer Ben Wilkinson, also from Tasmania, also a keen outdoorsman, and also a devoted Nikon fan with whom he has formed a casual professional alliance.
Having found themselves at the centre of the small but passionate collective of landscape photographers based in the Apple Isle, the pair have shot weddings and events together and were recently invited to work together on a special shoot for Tourism Tasmania.
The project saw the pair hike four days and three nights along the recently reopened Three Cape Track, capturing the epic beauty of the surrounding landscape through their lens, which Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife intend using to promote the 47-kilometre trek domestically and internationally.
Forced to postpone an earlier expedition because of poor weather, the pair eventually completed the trek in September but still had to endure inclement conditions.
“Probably the most challenging part was making sure we got the shot the client wanted no matter the weather. It’s challenging, you have a goal, and you have to deliver. But perhaps the best part about it [from a professional perspective] was that we also had lots of freedom on the types of images we were able to take.
“I love just walking around until an image jumps out at me. You have to be in the right frame of mind yourself and really feel the photo before you take it.”
He is fastidious in his approach for preparing shoots such as this, double and triple checking his gear, cleaning his sensors and ensuring he has spare batteries, memory cards and equipment should any fail.
“I can’t do much about the weather, but being prepared for the rainy days with waterproof covers helps. I was pretty happy with the outcome [we achieved on the Three Cape Track]. We were well prepared and delivered on what we needed to.”
While unsure of what form his next project will involve “another bushwalk is on the cards for sure”, Francois has plenty to ensure he is never too far removed from his favourite pastime.
Offering light room workflow workshops where he teaches amateur photographers how to organise and categorise their digital images, he is also one of the key photographers behind “Photobomb Nights” where local snappers are encouraged to get under the night sky and learn more about both the craft and their camera.
Francois’s tips for budding landscape photographers:
- Get familiar with your camera, so that you can operate it without thinking. Do this by taking lots and lots of photos.
- Leave no trace when doing landscape photography. Let’s keep special places special so that others can enjoy it too
- Be adaptable and willing to change your plans/vision
- Don’t worry if it’s raining because after the rains comes the rainbow
- Enjoy it! Having passion for what you do will show in your work. This goes for everything, not just photography.
Words: Tracey Porter