Friendly Faces of FUJIFILM NZ: Ira Swales

With a strong interest in nature photography, our own Ira Swales loves to travel the globe capturing spectacular photographs of some of Mother Nature's finest work. He gives us the inside scoop on the processes he uses and what inspires him in his work.

1. How did you first become involved in photography?

I always enjoyed taking photographs, but I really got involved with it when I started with FUJIFILM. Which is about 3.5 years ago. I never went to school to learn about photography, but working at FUJIFILM, I was able to get my hands on a range of different cameras and learned about the three points of the photographic triangle: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. 

2. What do you find most challenging about photography?

The thing I find most challenging is to look at a scene and know what the right settings are to change the camera to. Quickly changing the aperture, shutter speed or ISO to the right position for the scene is a tough skill to master.

3. If you could take your camera anywhere in the world for a day, where would you go and why?

I would love to go to Antarctica. The landscape down there is very different than the ones I’ve been able to experience so far.

4. Can you tell us about your favourite photo that you’ve taken?

In my most recent trip to Africa we went to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and I managed to capture a photograph of the big silverback gorilla yawning. I actually had my camera on the wrong setting when I shot this photo. I had it on a setting with a high ISO to take photos in the bush where it was quite dark, and I didn’t have enough time to change the settings for the circumstances. Even though the photo is a bit grainy it’s still my favourite photo so far.

I choose to take the Fujifilm X-S1 on this Africa trip for two reason: Big zoom, as you cannot get out and walk closer to the animals, and weather resistance as it’s very dusty. Further, when it started raining in the Virunga National Park (Rwanda) I didn’t miss a shot of the Gorillas when everyone else was shielding their cameras from the rain.

5. Can you walk us through the process you follow when setting up a shot?

It is all to do with thinking about the effect that I want to achieve. So, if I want to convey motion in my photograph, a river for example, then I know that the shutter speed needs to be slower. This way the shutter stays open longer and captures that motion. When I want to freeze a frame, I need to have a fast shutter speed. In addition to that, I also need to think about how much light is coming into the camera - the width of the aperture.

Lion Kill: Big zoom needed here. The X-S1 camera was perfect for the job.

6. Do you have a favourite photographer? What do you like about their work?

I don’t have one favourite photographer in particular. It is like when hearing a song; you listen to it and know if you like it or not. The same counts for photography with me. I like to look at an image and feel whether or not it does something to me. We have some really great New Zealand photographers that we work with, I really like the scenery and wilderness shots that Craig Robertson captured while hiking down in the South Island.