Matt Blakers is an epic photographer and more importantly, a really nice bloke
I contacted Matt for this interview without knowing him at all, but i just had a feeling that he was a good dude.
He proved this to be very true, not just for taking the time to do the interview, but by doing it between bouts of waking up to tend to a new born baby boy!
Between work, chasing slabs and whales and… oh yeah, a new baby, most people probably wouldn’t have even responded. But Matt was super friendly and grateful and even apologised that it took him a little longer than expected.
Then there’s his photography
With a true eye for light and shape, he has dedicated countless hours of time chasing some of the most incredible slab waves Australia has to offer, and has a beyond enviable portfolio of images to show for it.
He refers to solitude and peacefulness as drivers for seeking out remote wave locations.
While it’s common these days to hear people blaming modern life or social media as unmanageable causes of busyness or stress, Matt’s path shows that everything is a choice.
Your view of the world depends entirely on where you choose to look, and if you choose to turn off the TV and go and seek out natural wonder and beauty then your view of the world is probably going to be pretty great.
Please dive deeper into Matt’s extensive gallery of amazing images after you read this interview.
As always the links to his social media and website are at the bottom, plus i’ve also included links to a couple of videos he had a large part in creating called ‘Chasing Slabs’ - some of the most stunning footage of breaking waves you are likely to have seen.
The south coast of WA.
Was photography always the plan or how did you get into it?
I originally got a 3 chip film camera with an old custom made water housing when I finished school. It was so much fun shooting little clips of mates. The amount of times that housing flooded though! haha. I then moved in to photography not long after that. Initially just because it was so much less hassle than working with footage (capturing, editing etc.) Photography just clicked with me. It was a great way of capturing those moments that you could relive over and over. From there I have just been chipping away at it over time.
What is the mindset you need to take into the situation of shooting large heavy surf in offshore locations where additionally there is most likely ‘sea life’ nearby at any point in time? Do you have any on shore mindset practices that assist when you are in the moment?
When it comes to sea life I try hard not to think about them. Sometimes it’s easy to get a little on edge though. Especially in WA! Haha. I just do my hardest to block out the thoughts and just enjoy being in the water. In the moment. As far as preparation goes I am a bit OCD. I always check my equipment to make sure that its all working properly. Nothing worse than getting to a location and realizing that you forgot something. I’m usually pretty methodical with that kind of stuff.
With photographic skills, knowledge and equipment becoming increasingly commoditised, Do you think the differentiator, more than ever, is the effort taken, to get a shot at a certain time or in certain conditions, or to get to a location that most won’t make the effort to go to?
Yeah I think effort is the big one. Getting up in the dark, the cold, wet wetsuits, sharks etc. I guess most people don’t really find that very fun! Haha. So there is some differentiators. Also experience. Knowing different conditions for different waves etc.
Your website describes your work as an “expression of the oceans raw and diverse conditions”. What is it about slabs and these raw moments that inspires you?
I think with slabs it is just the power of them. They are just so wild. Almost like seeing a wild animal like a lion or tiger. It’s also something that a lot of people don’t get to see. Being out in the ocean alone with them. It’s just those memories that you make. Even things like the sounds that they make. Or the locations. Sometimes you are over 20km out to sea in the middle of nowhere. That solitude is something that is harder to get these days but chasing slabs means you can still find that space.
Do you pre-visualise certain shots before you go out to shoot or are you adapting to the conditions that are presented?
A bit of both. I definitely pre visualise sometimes. That might mean getting up super early to try get different lighting etc. Sometimes though you just have to be in the moment. Like if a bird flies across the wave face, or a dolphin arrives, or a whale. Sometimes you might go down to shoot surf, then the next minute you are swimming around shooting photos of a whale. The ocean is so amazing and unpredictable.
You must have a tonne of incredible images that never see the light of day. What elements are required in an image for you to choose it as one to publish?
I do have a pretty big photo vault! haha. I try to get through it. Sometimes it’s just difficult with time. You might have an amazing session shooting waves but next minute you are back at work and the thought of sitting in front of the computer for hours after work is not very appealing. haha. So I just slowly chip away at it. Choosing photos is hard though. I always think of 2 things though. Shape and light. If one of those elements is in the photo then usually it is a keeper.
What does the rest of 2019 hold for you photography wise. Any specific plans or goals?
My wife and I just had a little boy! Super excited. So I will be taking a lot of photos of him! Baby spam will be off the charts. haha. I had an amazing Autumn this year and got a great collection of images. Hoping to get some more swims with whales during the year too. Some of our best friends also just moved to Samoa so maybe a family trip there next year. That would be amazing.
If you were given a round the world plane ticket tomorrow, where would be the first 3 waves you would go and shoot?
Tahiti would be number one. That looks pretty crazy and has been on the bucket list for ages. Maybe skeleton bay. Probably would just want to ride waves there though! Lastly, maybe not a wave but I would love to get back to the Great Barrier Reef. That place is amazing for photography and is under threat so would love to spend more time there before it goes any further down hill. Hopefully we can save it though. :-)
Any parting advice for aspiring wave and ocean photographers?
Just make sure you are having fun. Do it for the love. Don’t let it stress you out. So many people get caught up in keeping up with the Jones’s with everything in life and that includes photography. I think it’s just cool to do your own thing and do it for fun. Then you will look back with great memories. Time in the water, out in nature and with friends. So many people around the world don’t get opportunities to do that so it’s important to appreciate it.
Dive into Matt’s world further here
Chasing Slabs films - https://www.mattblakersphoto.com/pages/biography
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