With glaciers on his doorstep, South Island landscape photographer Petr Hlavacek has discovered the perfect pictorial playground...
Where are you based?
Whataroa on the West Coast of the South Island, just under the Southern Alps with glaciers on my doorstep.
How long have you been a photographer?
Since always... and then when I was eighteen I got my own camera to play with. But it really wasn't until about 10 years later that I returned to my passion and started to take serious photography steps.
Tell us a little about your style of photography.
I'd like to think it's clean, fresh and crisp with a strong composition and focus on the subject. Being predominantly a landscape photographer, I love those magic moments when the landscape dresses itself in the pastel colours of twilight and the contrast of other wild moods Mother Nature can throw at us. All of that I try to render in an honest capture, where Photoshop serves as a tool to bring the best out of the image without altering it. Nature doesn't need help from us - it is our challenge to convey its spectacles in the most sincere rendition.
What have been a few interesting recent jobs you've worked on?
A while ago I got together with travel writer Sarah Bond to form a "mini team" to cover some interesting stories, usually relating to the West Coast. One of those stories is about recycling. Living in secluded South Westland, basic things such as recycling, which are normal for people in populated areas, can become quite a challenge. Luckily there are some inspirational and in a good way stubborn people who don't just let things go by, instead taking matters into their own hands. And that's exactly what happened in Glacier Country. The story will be out in the July issue of "GOOD" magazine - it is a really interesting read which I covered with images.
What originally attracted you to photography?
One of my aunties used to be a professional photographer shooting weddings, events, portraits etc. She used to have a dark room where I would often go to watch the magic happen. It was and always will be the excitement and privilege of being able to capture one moment or subject in time and share the joy of it with others, to leave some legacy behind... Yes, this is the main drawcard of photography for me.
What is/has been your greatest challenge as a photographer?
The pace! The pace our lives roll through. Due to the incredibly fast moving technologies in photography it is extremely demanding not only to keep up with all the developments, but also the pressure that if you slow down a bit, there is an endless queue of other great photographers fighting to take your place. But I guess that's what we have always been doing; trying to really break through, only the pace has changed...
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
It would have to be a feature for NZ Geographic. Well, it wasn't exactly an assignment as such because I already had the material ready but it was privilege for me to be included in an issue devoting the majority of its space to global warming and its consequences for New Zealand. Being able to contribute with my icy images to this phenomenal world issue, to show what we, as a human race are destroying, was really special for me.
If not a photographer, where would you see yourself?
Well, I'm a very visual person so I believe I'd be in some field where I could employ my visual senses.
If the chance arose, who or what would you most like to photograph?
The list is long, but definitely the Antarctic Peninsula, glaciers in Patagonia, Alaska and Iceland.
What tips or advice do you have for budding photographers?
Distinguish yourself from the masses, find your niche and become an expert in it, learn about it, study your subject. Try to copy great iconic images and learn from them, as it will help you to find your own style.
Has the advent of digital been beneficial or detrimental to professional photographers?
Without any doubt beneficial. Photographers today have an unprecedented and complete control in image making from initial capture to final output. Digital has totally turned the world of photographers upside down. No more need for sending film to the lab for developing and risking losses and scratches, no more scanning, retouching, pre-press costs etc. One is now able to create all that work for a client from start to the final application, in house. This complete freedom and control over images and their final output has a downside in a photographer's workload though. He now has to take on work which used to be done by retouchers, designers and printers, putting an extra pressure on finances and requiring never ending education and adjustments to constantly emerging new technologies. Nevertheless, these are absolutely astonishing and exciting times in image making, as well as incredibly demanding in this fast paced world of photography.
Can you see clients moving from stills to video, with the advent of HD video capabilities in digital SLRs?
Well, we can certainly see an increased demand from clients for moving images. While video capture definitely has its benefits, there are broad areas where video simply doesn't suit. Very likely these two media will just merge together in a way of supplementing each other. Therefore, it is my opinion that still imagery will definitely have its irreplaceable field in photography. Let's not forget, it is that magical moment captured in a single frame, which evokes our emotions and memories, and conveys moods. People will never want to lose this.
Are you a fan of using a flash in photography?
No but if there is no other better option to light the subject, obviously I'd resort to it.
If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
Wow, I don't want to even think about it... how about "first meal after being castaway"? Here I would confidently say - lamb shanks or a nice rib eye with cheesy mash potato and a nice bottle of merlot. And... yes, cheesecake to finish it off and a good coffee...
What do you do to get away from the grind/to de-stress when things get too hectic?
Pick up my camera and head off to the mountains. Very few things give me greater pleasure than exploring glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox in particular, roaming the wilderness in search of the perfect image. If I can't go somewhere, Pink Floyd or a nice meal will take me away from the buzz.
What is your ideal automobile?
Something emitting only harmless gases, quiet to travel in and not too demanding on the pocket. It would also have to be able to take me a little bit further off the road but not so far that I wouldn't be able to walk back when stuck.
Check out Petr's website here!