Brendan Ray – Skyview Photography

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Creating breathtaking images that are individual and stand out from the crowd is no mean feat, but Brendan has managed to incorporate the art of long cherished techniques to capture images that possess an iconic, retro, yet distinctly Australian feel.

What (or who) kick-started your interest in photography?

I was about 20 and I found an old Pentax K100 film camera sitting in the back of a cupboard at home. I bought some black and white film and started taking photos of anything and everything. After I had the photos developed, I was hooked. From that point on, I spent all of my money on film and processing.

As chance would have it, a friend’s father was a photographer at the Australian National University and he gave me several months of work experience and helped me develop my technical skills. I soon became confident with my style and direction.

He then put me in contact with a photographer by the name of Rob Little, who at the time was regarded as one of the top 10 photographers in the world. While working as an assistant for Rob, he taught me all the old school tricks and techniques – most of which I still use today. He told me that if I ever wanted to work in the industry, I would have to go to TAFE … so I did.

What professional training/courses have you completed?

I have a Diploma of Photography and a Diploma of Screen in 3D Animation.

Tell us about the history of Skyview Photography … how long has it been in operation, and what types of photography does it specialise in?

I moved to the Coffs Coast in 2005, and soon after started working as a photographer at the Coffs Coast Advocate. While working at the paper, I was commissioned to do some private commercial photography; as demand grew, I realised there was a niche in the market.

While researching the viability of starting a photography business, I decided to invest in an elevated camera system and imported it in from the UK. Having the capability to take unique elevated photos from the sky … Skyview Photography was born!

Seven years on, and the business is going from strength to strength. I have a strong and loyal local client base, with new clients and opportunities presenting all the time. I undertake all types of photography, but specialise in commercial, advertising and fashion.

Given a gorgeous fine day on the Coffs Coast, with camera in hand … where would we be most likely to find you?

To be honest, on a weekend, you would find me at a park with my wife and kids! As a full-time photographer, I relish the chance to put down my camera and spend as much time as I can with my neglected family.

This being said though, if the weather is fine, I usually have a backlog of jobs to shoot.

What equipment would you never be without on a photo shoot?

My flash units; they’re the main tool I use to create the feel of my images. It’s amazing what images you can create with a change of light. Most of the time I am in battle with the sun, so I do work those little guys hard.

Describe the work you do for Volkswagen … your posters are sold internationally and have achieved a fair amount of success! 

A few years ago, I took a photo of a restored Kombi at Mullaway Beach. The photo went on to win an international award for advertising photography, and this brought the photo to the attention of Volkswagen agents in London.

After some long and lengthy legal negotiations, I was offered a contract to shoot images under a Volkswagen licence. Under that licence I have had the pleasure of shooting some amazing cars, and most of them are shot at local Coffs Coast beaches.

When the first Volkswagen poster was released, it became the second highest selling poster in the world (second only to Justin Bieber!) It’s really amazing; I see them everywhere, from websites in the USA, to eBay, and Kmart in Toormina. I have around 10 images in print as posters at the moment, and they seem to be doing really well.

I also shoot under licences for Ford, Shelby, Chrysler and Mini.

The cars are generally rare, beautifully restored and the locations breathtaking … what more can you ask for!

Given a lot of the photos you shoot for these posters showcase the Coffs Coast landscape … why do you feel people around the world are so drawn to these images?

The images are iconic and appeal to a wide audience. I try to make the photos look timeless and have a retro feel. Most people associate Kombis with the ’60s, the beach and surfing. I am always looking for locations that have an open, unpopulated background – and you can’t go past the Coffs Coast. I often get emails from around the world asking me where the photos were taken, as they were so drawn to beautiful landscapes.

You’ve also recently been involved shooting for the Mercedes Benz Coffs Coast Fashion Gala. How much have you enjoyed this experience?

The Mercedes Benz Coffs Coast Fashion Gala is a fantastic showcase of a myriad of Coffs Coast talent. I have been working with a great team of makeup artists, hair dressers and stylists. I’m amazed at the quality of the models, and their work has been so professional, both in front of the camera and on the runway.

I have been really happy with the promotional shots for the Mercedes Benz Coffs Coast Fashion Gala (as featured on the front cover of the August issue of FOCUS). It has been great working with John Logan Entertainment and 400 Management, as they have provided me with Mercedes cars, models, crew and complete creative autonomy.

The organisers have really put together a fantastic showcase of what our region has to offer.

Any upcoming plans/projects/exhibitions in the pipeline you’re particularly excited about?

This year I started teaching photography and Photoshop at the Coffs Harbour Educational Campus through TAFE. I am really enjoying myself, especially working within such a supportive environment. The TAFE gives me the opportunity to pass on the skills and techniques I have learnt over the years. I have students of varying ages, backgrounds and skill levels. I get the opportunity to make the classes fun and enjoyable. My aim is to instil my passion for photography into them.

It also allows me to keep in touch with the next generation. A lot has changed throughout my photographic career. Who would have thought 20 years ago, a camera wouldn’t need film, and you could take photos and make videos via a mobile phone?

Where can people contact you?



or you can call me on 0401 048 461.

Thanks Brendan. 

Interview by Jo Atkins.

This story was published in issue 24 of the Coffs Coast Focus

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