BIRDSPEAK: Matt Wright (Faunagraphic)
"One needs to be patient, you always need to distance yourself and keep yourself away from the animal as best as possible for it to exhibit natural behaviours" - Matt Wright
WELCOME TO BIRDSPEAK, INTERVIEWS WITH BIRDERS...
Matt Wright is fast becoming one of Australia’s most respected and recognised wildlife photographers, tour operators and birding figures. An expert and experienced photographer, he recently launched his photography, wildlife rescue, touring and workshop company Faunagraphic, which has quickly become a much-respected establishment in the birding community. We are thrilled to have Matt as our second ever guest on BirdSpeak, and appreciate him finding time in his busy schedule to answer our questions
*All images provided by Matt Wright & Faunagraphic
*All images provided by Matt Wright & Faunagraphic
THE BIG DIP: Thanks for joining us on BirdSpeak! Let’s start by introducing yourself, tell us all about Matt Wright!
MATT WRIGHT: My name is Matt Wright, I’m a 30 something male who resides on the Gold Coast, in South-East Queensland. I’ve lived here for nearly 10 years since relocating from Sydney. Ever since I can remember I’ve always been interested in all walks of wildlife. Growing up watching Nat Geo doco’s with my nan and visiting local zoos and wildlife sanctuaries was always a highlight of growing up. Around 5 years ago I found myself in a dark place and needed something to take my mind off things so picked up my first DSLR. The rest is history so to speak. I now find myself with a particular interest in Owls and Nightjars and I’m also a qualified raptor carer.
THE BIG DIP: So, what is Faunagraphic and what inspired you to start it?
MATT WRIGHT: Faunagraphic essentially started as a watermark on my photos to hide my own persona. You often see peoples names on images but I am a very quiet person generally, so wanted to hide behind a name so to speak. I only photograph wildlife so tried to come up with something that was catchy. Faunagraphic was born. After a year or so of using this and dozens of requests of people asking to come on “adventures” with me I decided to use my knowledge and passion to turn it into a business!
THE BIG DIP: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced with running Faunagraphic?
MATT WRIGHT: As a start up guiding and photography tour business the biggest challenge is just that, getting business! Word of mouth has been good, I am finding that is where most of my business is coming from along with posting my own images from little adventures I’ve taken gets potential customers asking me to show them as well.
The second challenge is juggling this with another full-time job as Faunagraphic is not financially viable to just pack up and leave. One day I hope this is the case.
THE BIG DIP: How did you get into wildlife and birds? Are you a birder in the traditional sense?
MATT WRIGHT: I’ve always been into wildlife for as long as I can remember. My nan taught me to draw at a young age and I only ever drew animals. From there came watching documentary after documentary, visiting zoos and wildlife parks. Had some point and shoot cameras in my teenage years but was never serious about the photography aspect til a few years ago. I was always just happy to be out in nature.
THE BIG DIP: Let’s talk about photography. Both bird and wildlife photography involves a myriad of technical skill and a good eye. How does one help achieve this balance?
MATT WRIGHT: It’s extremely difficult to achieve a balance I find. It’s one to thing to be able to find a particular animal but always another to get that “shot”. I think the reason behind my “limited” success is focusing on particular species and learning their habitats and behaviours. Repeated visits are a must to be able to have the chance to see a particular animal in that spot that will provide a great photographic opportunity.
THE BIG DIP: How important is it to understand a birds behaviour in regards to getting that perfect shot? Any tips and advice?
MATT WRIGHT: Not just birds but any animal. Patience is always key. One needs to be patient, you always need to distance yourself and keep yourself away from the animal as best as possible for it to exhibit natural behaviours. Standing under a perched bird, whistling, making lots of noise are not ways for allowing animals to do this. By returning to the site of a particular animal at various times of day and season will always allow you to achieve a better holistic understanding of the animal. I believe that a lot of photographers that take photos of wildlife are not passionate about the animals enough to learn about them and once that image is taken, that is it. I am the opposite in that regard.
THE BIG DIP: Your images are renowned for being crisp, dynamic and appearing very natural, whether at day or night. Can you talk about image processing and how you use it to edit your photographs?
MATT WRIGHT: I think the maximum amount of time I have spent on editing a particular image would be 10 minutes. My workflow is fairly simple. I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Most of my minor adjustments are done in Lightroom where I play with exposure, sharpness, white balance and red eye reduction when photographing nocturnal species. I then import in Photoshop where I add my watermark, remove objects that are not visually pleasing such as a stick or something floating in the water and if the image requires it I will use luminance to reduce noise on the background. I then save a high resolution image for my website and a low resolution one (longest side 1200px) for social media.
THE BIG DIP: People probably best know you for your owl, nightjar, frogmouth, nocturnal critters etc shots. Can you give our readers some advice on getting into and succeeding in nocturnal photography?
MATT WRIGHT: Get out at night! (haha). I really mean it! You don’t know how many times people ask how do I photograph and find these critters. My answer is always simple; to find nocturnal animals you need to be out at night! In terms of the photography aspect. A good flash and better beamer (for animals 20m or more away) is required. A strong torch to help find the animals and most importantly a red light to view animals without stressing them. In terms of camera settings my two most important tips are utilising a wide aperture and not being afraid to bump that ISO up!
THE BIG DIP: For the gear nerds out there, tell us about your set up and equipment.
MATT WRIGHT: I’m a Canon user. My gear list is fairly simple. I have two camera bodies. 1DX and 7Dmk2. In the future I may be looking into a 3rd. My lenses for my wildlife photography include a 500mm f4 Prime, the 100-400 mk2 and a 100mm f2.8L macro lens. One day I will also purchase a wide angle lens for example the 16-35 f4L. I have multiple Canon Flashes and softboxes for diffusing items with macro photography.
THE BIG DIP: As mentioned, you’re also a wildlife tour guide? What can people expect from a tour with Faunagraphic?
MATT WRIGHT: First and foremost, an educational experience. I always try to tell people about the animals they are seeing whether it’s a fact about their seasonal movements, diet, predators etc. My tours are skewed towards photography so I also offer photographic tips and tricks whilst out in the field. Extended tours such as FNQ or Western Queensland Tours I also show people how to edit photos if they bring their laptops. Seasons also give me the ability to not just showcase birds but mammals, reptiles and amphibians as well. My partner Jasmine is exceptional when it comes to herpetology subjects.
THE BIG DIP: After all the amazing experiences you’ve had over the years, what aspect of being a photographer inspires you the most?
MATT WRIGHT: I just enjoy sharing my images. I am far from being the best photographer but I enjoy letting people see wildlife that is right in their own backyard! I am extremely self critical of my work and generally stay away from any forums or groups they are reliant on feedback of others because I’m my own worst critic anyway, so I don’t need anymore, ha! If my image/s inspire just one person to get out there and volunteer to help with wildlife rescue and rehab or just to get out an enjoy what our home has to offer with or without a camera, my job is done!
THE BIG DIP: To wrap up, would you mind sharing some of the highlight bird experiences you’ve had?
MATT WRIGHT: A lot of them revolve around the rescue side of birds. I have had some great rescue and release experiences with White-bellied Sea-Eagles, Goshawks, Eastern Osprey and a few owl species. In terms of birding, I don’t think anything can beat locating owl hollows and re-visiting to see owlets emerge months later.
THE BIG DIP: Finally, have you ever twitched something? Can we expect you to become a full-blown twitcher and lister someday?
MATT WRIGHT: I can’t say I’ve ever twitched anything! You need lots of money for that right? Haha! I don’t think I will ever become a twitcher so to speak although, I have started an Australian bird count list. I have only been “birding” for 2-3 years and only in my home state of QLD. I just recently cracked 400 and I sit on 402 species for Australia.
THE BIG DIP: Where can people find you? Website? Social media? Tours?
MATT WRIGHT: My website is Faunagraphic.com.au, social media I try to keep it simple and basic. I have my Facebook page Faunagraphic (www.facebook.com/faunagraphic) and instagram account @_Faunagraphic
Thank you Matt Wright for joining us on BirdSpeak!
PS. Don't forget to leave a comment! What are your questions for Matt Wright and Faunagraphic?
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Matt Wright is a 30 something human based on the Gold Coast in sunny Queensland, Australia. He is the coordinator of Faunagraphic, a wildlife photography, rehabilitation and tour operating company. Matt launched into his passion post a trip to South Africa, a trip that would reunite him with a passion for photography, wildlife, education and conservation. You can learn more about Matt and Faunagraphic by visiting www.faunagraphic.com.au