If it is the human condition to be trapped inside the ever-changing now that comprises day to day life, the photographer’s role is to select random moments from this succession of fleeting instants and preserve them as the unique and precious jewels that they are. Steen’s gift is the ability to find such jewels – some of them entirely unexpected – in his own experience and present them in terms that allow us truly to see the world from his unique perspective.
A native of Wollongong, Steen has a relationship with the camera that goes all the way back to the youth he spent surfing his way up and down Australia’s East coast, through his extensive travels abroad and continues now as a mature and insightful expression of his creative drive. With a folio including landscape, seascape, action and portrait work, the acclaim he achieves both at home and abroad is well deserved.
Tell us a little about yourself, where are you based and how did you get into photography?
Hey guys, wow thanks for getting in touch with me, I am totally honoured and very humbled, to say the least. 😊
I am located in the heart of Wollongong and have grown up on Wollongong City Beach (South Beach to the locals). We lived with my grandparents for a little while growing up, and their house was located directly across the road from Wollongong Harbour & South Beach, the perfect location as a keen ocean lover to get my daily fix of salt water. Every day of our lives growing up here involved the ocean.
Wollongong has an incredible coastline, pure beauty of the mountains right on the sea. For such short stretch of coast, it would rival almost any place for variation of waves, beaches, lifestyle & scenery. We have a lot packed into a small area so to speak. 😊 Yes, I love it.
I started shooting images at a young age and looked up to guys like 70s & 80s surf photographer Mick McCormack (who is also from Wollongong). Other early influences were just guys I grew up with that also surfed and had cameras, as we would all try to emulate what we saw in the surfing magazines. Some of us seemed to do this quite well.
I used whatever camera was available via my family in the late 70s. It wasn’t until the early 80s that my parents got me a Minolta A-110 Waterproof camera followed by the Haminex Amphibian in the mid-80s. These point and shoot waterproof 110 film cameras are what got me hooked. I was always pumped on showing my friends the images I would get of them in the surf; they would always be stoked and say “that’s sick Steen” hence this is where the business name that I use today “16images” comes from….haha cheesy I know, buts it’s me.
I am 51 years old today and have a beautiful and incredible wife Jacqui and two amazing young boys under 8 years old that keep me on my toes, I also run an interior design business that has been in my family for 80 years and I run www.legless.tv with two mates, its an alternative surfing web page about kneeboard surfing. I don’t have very much spare time at all lol.
You have a fantastic collection of line-up images, do you have a favourite and why?
Thank you, that’s means a lot coming from you, cheers.
Lineup images have always made me froth growing up. I would always dream of the surfing lines that I would be drawing on the waves while looking at these images and their accompanying scenes. It gets me pumped just thinking about it. This is why I like lineup shots.
Looking at Iconic lineup images over the years that I had seen in magazines is what got me visualising my pieces, I always remember a Peter Crawford image of Desert Point stacked up beautifully, it was so good.
Wollongong has some amazing setups, so I would picture our beaches, reefs etc. lined up with perfect conditions and their scene happening.
My interior business is very busy, so I don’t have much time to shoot all day. I have to pick my moments carefully when the conditions would align at their best. I have always been into chasing swells around the coast surfing when I was growing up, so it seems pretty natural for me to turn up for half an hour when the conditions are pumping, then take some images and then go back to work or family commitments.
I have a few favourites, mostly they are all local and within walking distance of my house. Check them out and let me know what you guys think.
What is the most challenging part about being a photographer for you?
Time is my biggest challenge, I have minimal amounts of it, and my challenge is making the most of the small amount of time that I get to shoot. Making sure I am in tune with the weather, tides etc. and its movements, means I can be in the right place at the right time.
Don’t get me wrong I will make the small amount of time happen when all the stars align.
How often do you travel and your favourite place away from home that you have photographed?
I have travelled extensively over the years chasing waves and the Surfing lifestyle, from year-long trips living in vans in Europe, to moving through all of the continents and many many Pacific Islands. I love travelling, and I have just returned from four weeks in the USA road tripping with my family.
Australia is hard to beat in my books for easy travelling and taking images, but I have to say having been to New Zealand 4 times, wow that place is out of control, I would love to go there again for a few months in the right season and just wander around the coast on my own. One of my favourite line up shots is from NZ.
What would you say is your most significant achievement to date?
Personally, that would be meeting my wife Jacqui and having a family so late in my life; it had to be planned for us, it was a massive challenge with amazing results.
Professionally my Design business employs seven staff, and we get the most amazing high-end residential work, it’s a total buzz working with the best of the best in this creative field design field.
Photography wise, I have captured some very beautiful elderly people in their environments, and it made me feel as proud punch to capture these moments. If it feels good, I like it.
Surf Photography wise, appearances of my images in all major surfing magazines worldwide, all major websites etc. including two cover shots on “The Surfers Journal” in the USA.
Also and not forgetting, giving back what kneeboard surfing has given me, bringing images of my kneeboard surfing to the world via www.legless.tv the best kneeriders around the globe in excellent conditions, this is a massive love/time project, but highly rewarding for me.
What have you been working on recently?
Mostly my recent trip to the US, I came home with 3000 images, and I am always plugging away at legless.tv and working on my design business Instagram page @barnesinteriors
What equipment do you shoot with currently?
I shoot with a Canon 1DX mostly, 15mm, 50mm, 16mm -35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 100-600 Sigma tele zoom ( I love this lens). I always shoot daily with my trusty iPhone X 😊
I have a custom www.saltysurfhousings.com with a custom camo paint job for my water work. This is a very cool piece of work.
If you could only take one camera and lens on your next job, what will be your go to set up to get the job done?
I must say my Canon 1DX is a big unit, but I am in love with it. I am happy and do drag it around the world anywhere. If I had the choice, I would like to mix it with the new 100-400 F2.8 Canon lens. I would be rolling in green fields for weeks with this combo; I love zoom lenses.
Your dream project?
I find any project I am given a dream project; I love taking images. Why where are we going? 😊
Your biggest inspirations?
My biggest inspirations are my wife & children; they inspire me to be creative, they inspire me to think outside of the box, they test me lol.
I have always run my own businesses and have never relied on anyone to supply me with sick pay, holiday pay, long service leave etc. My family inspires me to make my living and to be responsible for putting food on the table. This is an empowering feeling and something I am very proud of.
Best photography advice/tip that you have been given?
That’s sick Steen (16images) The excitement of sharing my images with people, as simple as that.