User of the Week: Brendon Gilchrist

Brendon Gilchrist is an exceedingly talented artist from Dunedin, New Zealand. As an active member of our community, he contributes inspiration, warmth, and support. Because of this, we'd like to highlight his breathtaking photos and show you another gorgeous side of New Zealand. We hope our interview with him becomes a new source of inspiration for you.

Please enjoy Brendon's wonderful work.

Please introduce yourself to the community!

My name is Brendon Gilchrist. I would say that photography is a tool to help me heal from what I went through. It's more of an outlet of emotion that has evolved from when my wife Ester passed away from cancer in 2012. I never owned a proper camera until after she passed on. It was the moment I was sitting on the couch with my Dad and this thought came to me: a vision to create something in memory of what we were and what Love is. I decided to go to the camera shop and buy a Sony a57, which was my first camera. I have always had a huge passion for the Mountains, Hiking, sitting in beautiful spots staring at the land and wondering how it all formed, how long it took and what it has been through to shape it. Ester and I used to go walking in the hills out the back of Lower Hutt when we lived up north. In Dunedin we would go walk the hills and the beach for hours. It was good, even in the rain it was refreshing. My photography ESB Photography consists of ES, Ester's nickname, and B, my nickname. The 2 fit perfectly and the story I know helps people, and I know it helps me too.

I started time lapse a few years after when the church I go to - Arise - asked me to so I said hmmm ok, and started creating movies. It sort of made sense, since I like to know how everything evolves and what is created. A time lapse showed me new options, new ideas and also new visions on what I see and how I see the world. It also shows what we can’t see being formed in front of us. It is basically time sped up, 30 minutes into 10 seconds of time. It amazes me still.

You travel to many picturesque locations in New Zealand. What has been your favourite adventure so far?

This is a tough one. There are so many memorable locations I have been to, but the one that stands out would have to be the purest lake in the world, Blue Lake in Nelson Lakes National Park. It takes 2 days to walk there. We spent 2 nights there to take it all in, explore the area, and also walk over to lake Constance. It's one of those places where when you've been walking up the Sabine valley for a few days, and then come out of the bush and see this, you really are taken back to something very special. The water taste is just amazing, it almost feels like it refreshes you on the inside. I drank a lot over the 2 days we were there.

What do your shoots typically involve?

I have 2 cameras, the Nikon D810, which is my road trip camera, big panoramas and short day walks of up to 6 hours (not that short). The Nikon D750 is my mountain camera, long walks, hiking, mountaineering, astro and time lapse camera. It's a pretty awesome camera and perfect for everything I do. My time lapse gear is the Sypr Genie long and short tracks. My lenses are Nikon 24mm 1.4G, Nikon 50mm 1.4D, Nikon 80-200 2.8D Push Pull and a Helios 56mm f2 from the former USSR, a fun lens. I have 2 tripods, one is carbon, the other a road trip one and both are broken but I work with it.

I find these amazing locations by topo maps, Google earth and Google images and general knowledge of NZ landscapes, many are by accident. It's hard to not make something look good in amazing locations. One reason I love my tent is that I can camp anywhere in the mountains, my support from Macpac is amazing, Most of my gear is outdoor equipment. I don’t have a lot of photography equipment, only the essentials and no more, there is too much gear to list.

To get the right shot most of the time, depending on the location, I would say 10 to 15 minutes: take photos, see what it looks like, get all the settings right, move to a better spot, and to make sure it's perfect on camera before it is on the computer is key.

Is there anything specific you wish every photographer knew?

I wish everyone would not only take photos but also respect everything and everyone around you, to enjoy nature, I find you have to understand the environment. I would never go to a location and start shooting straight away. I always wait and look, see what is happening, how the clouds are moving, the water, the wind, and take a mental picture of what I want to see on my camera. Sometimes this happens before I have been there or am going back and know what to do better. Basically, it's more than a photo, it's a documentation of time. And always take a selfie at really epic locations to make people jealous.

If you are walking in the hills hiking, never trust the sign posted times (unless you know for sure). I have had one of the worst experiences on a knife edge ridge, gale wind. I thought I was not going to make the night and be blown off the ridge. It was windy, it was raining, it was cold, it was dark. I could not pitch my tent but used it as a bivvy bag. Everything got soaked, I had no sleep and was alone. It is something to never underestimate. The places I walk to are beautiful but are not always pleasant. I have no trust in the mountains but understand my skills to overcome that mistrust which I have learnt to understand and deal with.

Fitness is different in the mountains. You can say you're fit, but walking with a pack over mountains with no paths is not easy. You need energy to create some magic on your camera and that where fitness comes in.

How has New Zealand affected your creativity?

New Zealand is one magical place, we are lucky to have almost every landscape you can think of in 2 small islands. Some are easy to reach but the more majestic places are harder to get to and seen by less - it is these places that get my feet itching and wanting to create a path to walk to these incredible locations.

My creativity comes from my heart. I try to create a story from my photos, to relate what I saw with something that can relate to life itself, to motivate and make people feel positive about life. There is so much negativity and destruction in this world. Sometimes, if a few words with a photo can help one person see the light then that photo has been worth every bit of strength for me to capture it. It is not about me for photography, it is about showing the world how stunning NZ is and how hard it can be, but yet there is LIGHT. It always inspiring when I sell photos to people, to have a piece on the wall means a lot, and everyone I have sold my work to has always been happy with what they've seen and how magical New Zealand is. It helps me to get out there more.

You can find more of Brendon's work on Facebook and Excio (@ESB Photography).

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