Interviews

Luke Tscharke

Sydney based  landscape and nature photographer Luke Tscharke has been fascinated by the natural environment ever since he was a child.  Merging his love of bushwalking with photography, Luke has been able to document some of Australia’s most stunning natural environments spending his time in exotic locations and wild places to fuel his love of the wilderness.  His work has graced the cover of Australian Geographic Magazine more than once, and he has been awarded numerous photograph awards including the prestigious International Landscape Photograph of the Year.


Welcome to intrepid.photos Luke!   Being based in Sydney you are spoilt for choice with respect to mountains and amazing coastline.  How long each year would you spend outdoors chasing the perfect shot?            

Yes I am certainly spoilt in Sydney, we have amazing beaches and world heritage listed national parks at our doorstep. I try to get out and photograph at the beach most mornings, especially if the weather forecast looks good for great sky colour. During astrophotography season I also keep an eye out for clear skies and will often head out until all hours of the morning until I have captured my milky way shot. It’s hard to say exactly how much time I spend chasing the shots but I certainly know I’d like to do more of it!

What does a local photo expedition involve?  How does this compare to an extended photographic adventure away from home?

I would refer to a photo expedition as a multi day hike or sometimes a ‘photo mission’! An extended photographic adventure away from home is more of a roadtrip. For a multi-day hike there is many more considerations than a roadtrip. As we carry everything we need to survive on our backs, we spend a considerable amount of time working out what we need to take with us. Food is especially important. We check the weights of everything to make sure we are not carrying items that are heavier than they need to be. For a roadtrip I tend to pack quite heavy as I know I won’t need to carry everything very far. My approach here is quite different as I’ll pack everything in case I need it, whereas with the multi-day hikes only the necessities are packed.

Do you have an overriding philosophy on life and if so how does it influence your photography?

I must admit that I don’t have an overriding philosophy in life that transfers to photography, however there are two sayings I’ve said to myself that has certainly helped on my journey:

  1. The quality of my images should speak for themselves
  2. Make and take every opportunity

You are well known as a passionate trekker and bushwalker, and talk frequently about your love for Tasmania.  What is it about the wilderness in general that draws you to it and why do you think Tassie is so special?

I absolutely love to get out into the wilderness. I really think it’s one of those things where you may not understand it until you experience it for yourself. I love the feeling of connection to the environment you get while you are out there. You are out there witnessing what the environment has done for thousands and thousands of years with no interference from humans, it’s spellbinding.  I also enjoy the feeling of remoteness. Whilst it may feel disconcerting it is also very liberating. Tasmania is particularly special to me because it is so close to my home, just a 1.5 hour flight, but has some of the most beautiful natural environment you could ever expect to see. There are many fantastic multi day hikes to explore the wilderness there, enough for a lifetime.

Did you have a passion for photography from an early age, or is it something you developed later in life?

I can remember enjoying photography since I was a child. I was initially very interested in wildlife and most nights would read books by the photographer Steve Parish, and wonder if I would ever be able to capture images like that one day. I didn’t shoot much early in life mainly because I didn’t want the cost of developing film to be a burden on my parents. When I was a bit older and could afford equipment I muscled up the courage to buy my first DSLR, a Canon 450D, and it all developed from there.

Where do you get your photographic inspiration from and do you have any specific photographers that you particularly admire?

There are many many photographers I admire, however the photographers that have had the most impact on my landscape and Nature photography include Peter Dombrovsksis,  Ken Duncan, and Christian Fletcher. I was very inspired by the work of Andy Lee which got me into Infrared photography. There are also many great astrophotographers who inspire my astrophotography with notable mentions here of Michael Shainblum and Michael Goh. I am on Instagram and Facebook a lot which is a seemingly infinite source of inspiration. This consumption of content of course has to be balanced between actually creating content, which I find can be a tough balance at times!

You have been featured in major publications such as the iconic Australian Geographic Journal and Australian Geographic Adventures magazine along with walking guides such as the Great Walks of Australia.  Is publication something that you have actively pursued or has it developed as a natural consequence of your work?

Publication is something that seems to have evolved. I have created work which I have felt could readily be published and was fortunate to have some of their publications approach me for content. I have been developing these relationships and consider working in this area one of the  most rewarding pursuits I have.

Which photo is your most popular photo and why do you think people like it?

My most popular photo is photograph is an Infrared capture I have titled “Barossa Bolt”. It is an image of a tree in the middle of a field with a storm overhead, where I was lucky to capture a lightning Bolt to the left of the tree. I think people like it because of the impact the image has. It’s a very simple composition but has a lot of power, with the lone tree standing almost defiantly  in the centre with large storm looking overhead.

 


Which photo of yours means the most to you personally?

The image that means the most to me personally is probably a capture I took on the first day of my first multi-day hiking experience. I was walking Australia’s iconic Overland Track, a 5-6 day 65km walk across Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. At the time I had never done a multi day hike before and had very little experience being out in the wilderness, it was all new to me. We set up at a location on Cradle Cirque looking towards the summit of Barn Bluff, the fourth highest mountain in Tasmania. We ended up getting a spectacular sunset where the cloud encircling the summit of the peak turned a vibrant orange colour. I remember being completely dumbfounded by the experience and from that moment I was hooked on photographing the Tasmanian wilderness.

What would you like your viewers to take away from your work?

I would love viewers to appreciate the beauty in nature from my work. With so much anger and troubling things happening in the human world, nature continues to do what it always has done.  I try to keep my edits as natural as possible and don’t do any compositing or manipulation. Viewers can see in my work an interpretation of an actual place as it is in nature, and that’s important to me. I really hope my work inspires people to experience the beauty in nature themselves, and realise the importance of protecting these places for future generations. These days with a plethora of attention grabbing devices an escape to nature is more important than ever.

If you could pass on one critical tip or technique to someone, what would it be?

The most critical tip is “you have to be there”. It’s obvious of course but if you don’t put the effort to get to the right location at  the right time  then you’re not going to get the photo. Some of this comes down to great planning and some of it comes down to luck, but one thing is constant – you put the effort in to get out there, and of course some times this sounds a lot easier than it is!



Are your compositions pre-meditated or developed on the fly?

This is a bit of a mixture but for the most part it’s on the fly. I study the compositional elements of my images and determine which angle they look best at. I then refine the positioning of my tripod to get this as close to my vision as possible, especially to get the right separation of the elements. In some cases I’ll come back and reshoot a composition I’ve found in better conditions or just because I found the place so beautiful the first time around.

What clichés in photography do you try and avoid?

I don’t really concern myself with shying away from cliches to be honest. I try and make the most beautiful, impactful image I can and if this happens to tread on a cliché then so be it.

Your shot “Barossa Bolt” which won 2015 International Landscape Photograph of the year in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition, was taken with a specialised infra-red sensor.  What advantages do you think IR photography has over traditional black and white?

IR can be useful to see through smoke and haze. I find it very useful to have my IR camera with my and if the conditions seem right I’ll get it out for some images. IR is fantastic at accentuating clouds in the sky, really making them pop. It also turns foliage a brilliant white colour, which works really well with certain trees like palm trees. Perhaps the biggest advantage is the very unique look it has, and always seems to provide drama and impact.

What equipment do you normally take on a shoot?

I usually take my Sony A7RII camera, a metabones adaptor, Canon 16-35 f/4L, Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II, Sony 70-300mm, Sony 55mm f/1.8 mounted onto my Sony A7R infrared camera. I use a Sirui tripod and an fstop backpack.

Can you elaborate on your post production workflow?

I do the bulk of my editing in Lightroom, where I try to get the image looking as close as possible to the final result. I then import into Photoshop where I finish off the file.

What locations are on your wish list for an extended photographic adventure?

I have many locations and there is a combination of local and international here. Local: South Coast Track – Tasmania, Karijini, Thorsborne Trail – Hinchinbrook Island, Lord Howe Island, Kimberley WA. Patagonia, Zhangjiajie, Namibia, Yosemite, Faroe Islands, Scotland. I clearly still have a lot of places to travel to!

How important is social media in your strategy of deriving an income from photography related activities? What recommendations would you have for someone starting out in the industry?

Social media is really important as it provides a platform to share my work and let people know of my services. I also get tourism work from Social media from time to time. If you’re starting out I’d recommend you to only post your best work and times of the day where people are active on the platform. Use your hashtags well and become a part of the community.

You work closely with a photography group called Focus Photographers?  Can you elaborate or your history and relationship with the group and why you think groups such as this are important?

Groups like Focus are really important as they are great social outlets where you can make new friends. You also learn a lot from each other as well. I have been a member on the committee before and I think it’s pretty rare to find a group that is so dedicated to help each other improve in their photography. I’m now on the education subcommittee and am enjoying finding opportunities for our members to learn more.

Where can people go to look at your work and get in contact with you ?

You can find out more about me and the photo workshops that I run at luketscharke.com  .  You can also follow me on social media at Facebook and Instagram.

All photos in this article remain the copyright of Luke Tscharke and have been reproduced with permission.

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