SA heaps good photographers #014 – James Fitzroy

As a fellow desert lover, James Fitzroy’s work is a pleasure to peruse. I get the sense that James knows the desert pretty well. He loves the Flinders Ranges, as many do, but he has his own consistent style and subject matter.

He is also a true wanderer, who keeps an open mind on location and doesn’t rush the process. The end result is that James captures the essence of what it means to be in the desert with grace, elegance, and originality.

I urge you all to check out more of James’s work on Instagram at @outbackbackwanderings_jfitzroy or on his website

1) Can you tell me the story of how you first became interested in photography?

I had been working out in the outback and overseas for most of my life and always loved the landscape and how it changes all the time, no one day is the same as the last.

I stumbled into photography… I was at a point in my life where I needed to do something other than work/sleep/work.

I bought my first DSLR camera in late 2012 with no real idea about taking anything more than happy snaps. After a while, as I learnt a few more of the technical aspects of landscape photography I started to see how to compose and set up a shot that reflected my emotions at the time.

2) Tell me a little about your photographic tours and how or why you specialise in outback tours?

I officially started my outback photography tours last year with the aim of providing a personalised experience for clients, where the time spent outback is all about what they want to achieve in the time that they are out there.

I felt that a lot of passionate photographers that would love the opportunity to go out and explore the Flinders Ranges beyond the well-known locations and do not have the equipment to do so. I provide all the gear that is needed to go off the grid, from a deluxe off the ground swag set-up to a great off-road trailer from Patriot Campers.

When setting up the outback tours, I looked at what I like to have on hand and what would make it a unique photography experience. I set up the new vehicle specifically for what a photographer needs for an off-grid tour.

Satellite phone, power sources for keeping everything charged, super comfortable swag setups and the all-important espresso coffee maker. I’m a firm believer in investing in the right equipment for the task.

What I really love about this is when I see the same passion and affinity with the outback that I get. To share my passion of not only photography but the unique environment that South Australia offers for photography.

3) Have you got any interesting stories of disasters, near misses or tales of outback survival?

I never take anything for granted when preparing for an outback adventure over many years of outback travel and work. I do rely on my instincts and if it doesn’t feel right I don’t go through with it.

It wasn’t located in the outback as such but in the Canadian Rockies a few years ago. I was back there for a friend’s wedding and I was taking some photos in the Banff National Park.

Hopping across the rocks in the river to move for a shot, with my camera still on the tripod I slipped and the camera went for a swim…

Needless to say the 2 tour groups close by learnt some new Australian phrases that day.

My camera survived luckily enough…

4) What is one piece of kit that you absolutely cannot live without?

That’s a hard one, I do like having new shiny things… I would have to say it would be my Patriot X2 trailer.

It has been the best investment I have made. It is a perfect base camp set up with everything that you need for a few days off the grid. With fridges, Weber Q, and stove it allows for some little luxuries whilst waiting for that moment.

I think that would be it, the espresso coffee percolator comes a close second though.

5) I’d love to know what it’s like venturing out onto salt lakes such as Lake Gairdner? Can you describe the experience?

The first time that I ventured out to Lake Gairdner via Mount Ive Station was in 2014 during summer, a lucky break that the weather wasn’t so hot.

When I walked out onto the lake late in the afternoon, I was the only person out there and I still find it difficult to describe what I experienced. There was no wind and all that I could hear was the crunching of the salt under my boots, peaceful… to me, that was a moment that defines what I hope to achieve.

Being out on the lake under the stars really does make you feel how small we really are in the universe.

That trip has always been one that I remember as one of my best and I make a point of heading back there a few times a year.

6) Who are some of the photographers/videographers you admire, and why?

I first met Pete Dobré at a photography exhibition in Port Noarlunga not long after I started taking photos.

His passion for photography is truly infectious. How he is willing to spend time with a person and show his support for their development is something that is what I find amazing and inspiring about Pete.

Another photographer that has been an amazing person and mentor is Jacqui Bateman from Robe in the South East.

I first met Jacqui through the “Soldier On” organisation when she approached me with an offer for veterans to visit the town of Robe and relax in an environment away from town.

The director mentioned that he knew a veteran that loved photography and Jacqui being someone that doesn’t take no for an answer “persuaded” me to go beyond my comfort zone and learn more styles of photography.

Jacqui has not only been a mentor in photography and the business of being professional in all aspects but has become a great friend along the way.

7) What importance do you place in location familiarity? How can photographers find new compositions in places they’ve visited hundreds of times?

When I find a location that I like (or see that it will be a place that in the right conditions will make an image that will reflect my style) I do frequently return to that location.

Given that the weather will always be different each visit is great but when I am there I go for a walk all around the area and keep an open mind on my intention for how I will shoot the location.

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