Photographer Ray Collins’ Ocean View

Photo by Ray Collins.

by Lex van den Berghe

posted on 06-08-2018

Australian photographer Ray Collins spent the majority of his career as a coal miner. One day while mining, he stepped into a hole and buckled his knee under the weight of all his tools and breathing apparatus. He was unable to walk or drive for some time after the injury, forcing him to slow down in life and take time to reflect on old learnings. Little did Ray know, this injury was an unexpected blessing in disguise.

During this time, Ray reflected on his passion for the ocean, drawn from “the fact that everything is ephemeral.” His deep connection with the water answered his question on what was next: ocean photography.

Since Ray’s injury, he has risen to photography fame, most notably in Patagonia’s film Fishpeople. Collaborating on the project helped Ray bring awareness to the beauty of the ocean and dispel fears. While some may look at the ocean as a dark, mysterious force, Ray finds the ocean to be his sanctuary.

In honor of World Oceans Day, we caught up with Ray to talk about his photography journey and passion for the water.

Photo by Ray Collins.

From mining to photography

Ray took a leap of faith when deciding to leave coal mining and make ocean photography his full-time career. He explains, “One is so rigid, so dark, unclean, and dusty — in a confined space. The other is its polar opposite in every way. The similarity is that you must acknowledge risk. You must minimize risk to a level you find acceptable.”

The transition was gradual, and Ray’s jump from mining to photography happened over several years. “I needed to grow in maturity as a person, and I would have self-destructed if the timing were any different. It got to a point where I could no longer do both satisfactorily, so the momentum pulled me away from the mines at the same time that I was ready to grow,” he says.

Photo by Ray Collins.

Capturing emotion and light

Through his lens, Ray sees the ocean as more than a body of water: “The ocean is a living, breathing entity, and I want to make portraits of it, the same as any other living thing. I want to show its moods. It’s not always palm trees and white sand, you know? It’s a immensely powerful mass of energy.”

Photo by Ray Collins.

Ray takes the ocean head-on, waves thrashing around him, swells pulling him under the water — these challenges don’t hinder his photography, but make Ray’s work that much more meaningful. In his images, one is able to detect the immense beauty he sees in the ocean, and his intent focus on the light and pattern of the waves.

The work environment isn’t the only thing impacting Ray’s photography. He attributes the interesting compositions and textures of his work to being colorblind. When asked how his color blindness affects his work, Ray explains, “It’s hard for me to give an unbiased answer as I have no ‘before and after,’ but the two fundamental elements in every moment I’ve ever captured in the ocean are water and light. They are my biggest source of inspiration and guidance.”

Photo by Ray Collins.

Typical day in the office

“Imagine you’re in a studio with expensive camera gear. Now imagine the walls and ceiling are crashing down and the floor is lurching up and down. You are swimming for survival, but you need to focus, compose, adjust your metering — shutter speed, aperture and ISO — without a single water droplet affecting the shot.” That’s a typical day in the office for Ray. He admits that he fails more than he succeeds in overcoming the challenging environment, but it makes the successes that much sweeter.

Advice for other seascape photographers

Ray Collins is an inspiration, and an advocate for the ocean. His advice to any aspiring seascape photographers: “Shoot what you want to see, not what you think others might like. If you follow trends, your work will date. If you follow your imagination, your work will always be unique because, after all, we are all unique. Also, if in doubt, don’t go out. It’s not worth risking your life for a photograph.”

To follow Ray’s work, check out his website and social channels listed below.

Website | Instagram | Facebook

Topics: Creativity, Photography

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