Wildlife photographer Steve Parish on location.
Wildlife photographer Steve Parish on location.

In focus: a photographic master

KING of nature photography Steve Parish opens up about his amazing career, why he left high school halfway through the first year and the secret to taking a cracking photo.


Q. What impact has your photography had?

My books have taught Australians about the animals basically in their back yard. Children from 18 months of age know the names of these animals, they know their habits and they get excited when they see 'their animals'. That's had a pretty major influence. The internet has taken a lot of that over but the online world is vast and confusing and a lot of people don't know what to Google to find the answer. That's why people enjoy my workshops. My career is in the past tense (now), I'm interested in other people fulfilling theirs.


Q. You left school halfway through your first year of high school … why?

I found school very difficult. Teachers used canes and there was a lot of agro. I started my working life as a jackaroo on Kangaroo Island and joined the Navy as a diver. Having a formal education was not the issue we've made it today.


Q. What sparked your interest in photography and nature?

My story began at the age of 16 in Adelaide. I developed a relationship with the South Australian Museum fish curator and went on fish collection expeditions. I was 16 when I met my mentor, Igo Oak, Australia's first underwater nature photographer. He handed me his camera and I pointed it at a fish. I had ordinary self-esteem and I saw that photo and realised for me it was a pathway. In 1963, I enrolled as a diver for the Royal Australian Navy. While undergoing training I joined the New South Wales Underwater Research Group, collecting and photographing specimens for the Australian Museum. I joined the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1975, as a photographer. That was the birth of my photographic career.



Birds are among Steve Parish’s favourite animals to photograph. Photo: Steve Parish
Birds are among Steve Parish’s favourite animals to photograph. Photo: Steve Parish


Q. What subject do you most enjoy photographing?

My pet wildlife project has been birds, possums, bats and fish but I photograph all animal groups. I've had love affairs over a long period of time - macropods and kangaroos. Kangaroos and wallabies have a lot of character. Birds are the ultimate challenge for photographers but new technology with auto focus and focus tracking makes it easier. When I first started, just getting a bird in focus was a challenge.


Q. How has digital photography changed the way you work?

I recently bought a drone and am interested in re-photographing Australian ecosystems. Most of the photos I have done have been at high altitudes. With a drone, you can take off and take pictures very easily.



Q. Name a place in the Moreton Bay Region you want to visit and photograph.

A. I was only driving down to Caloundra this morning and seeing Moreton Island on the horizon, I was thinking I'd love to go back. It's been over two decades since I was there.



One of Steve Parish’s amazing photographs.
One of Steve Parish’s amazing photographs.



1. Don't overthink it, relax

2. Look for things that give you texture, form, pattern and colour

3. Play with the way you want to interpret it in a single frame with light and composition

4. What do you want to say? Write something to put with it

For tips, workshop dates and online resources, visit steveparish-natureconnect.com.au