Based in the rural city of Benalla, Rene Martens is a photographer with a profound appreciation for taking in his surroundings.
His recent collection, Sunset over Benalla Lake, captures an astonishing depth of colour and contrast. Whilst Martens is regularly on the lookout for outstanding colours in the evening sky, he almost dismissed this magical sunset until his wife encouraged him to check it out from the Benalla Monash Bridge.
Marten’s collection somehow shows off almost every colour of the rainbow, a feat he attributes largely to the quality of the sunset on that particular evening. All five photographs in Sunset over Benalla Lake were taken at the same location but from different perspectives.
Whilst the sunset was amazing, there is something absolutely magical about the mood and atmosphere in Martens’ photos. Curious, we caught up with him find out exactly how he makes the moments he captures look so outstanding.
The atmosphere in your collection is breathtaking. What equipment did you use to shoot it?
“For all these photos I used a Canon 6D camera and a Sigma 24-74 f2.8 lens.”
Tell us a bit about the evening, how long did the sunset last, how far were you from the lake when you noticed?
“Well, it was funny actually, I do kind of know when there is a possibility of some colour in the Sunset or Sunrise so I generally look outside to confirm this.
“On this particular afternoon, it was my wife who noticed a touch of colour, and when I first looked at it I thought that the colour had been on the out cycle and said I might just pass on this occasion, but my wife persisted and said I should go and see how I go. I did and I was able to capture these (and a few more images) on the afternoon/evening.”
What is your approach to editing your work? Do you have a particular style, or vision for each collection?
“All my landscape photos are taken as High Dynamic Range (HDR) and I use seven images to merge into what you see in my photos. I do this because a camera does not capture as much dynamic range as the human eye sees. Therefore you wouldn’t get the shade and light that I do if I didn’t take them as HDR.
“Of course this works well if there isn’t anything really moving in the photo like a car passing while I am taking the multiple photos. Now I do know that there are quite a few people out there that feel this is manipulation and therefore not the real photo or the scene that I saw that at that time, but it actually is because I am able to capture just about what I see.
“Mind you, I do feel it loses some colour of what I saw but not as much as if I was to have only taken one image and tried to manipulate it to get something as close as this. I also seem to see things fairly quickly so I don’t really spend too much time in thinking about what I want to capture.
“I know this is not what other photographers say as they think you need to look at what you are to take and make sure you have everything in the right place and with the right light and using all the supposed rules everyone seems to want to tell you about. I just see some spots that I like to grab a photo from, and usually have some backup spots just in case that spot isn’t working.”
Do you have a favourite location to shoot?
“Well, my favourite spot is actually Winton Wetlands. I do like that area as it does allow me to grab some landscape, wildlife, macro, astro, etc. photography at different locations in the actual wetlands. I also have access to areas that most public need to walk to (which would be difficult with some of the equipment I might want to use).
“I do like Benalla Lake as well, as this does allow me to shoot photos in any direction at any time of the day without spending to much time driving to the different spots.
“I also have spots that I know would look good for different types of light. For example, rainbows in the afternoon need to be taken on the south side. Even with the natural vegetation coverage around the lake, my photography is not impeded.”
How would you describe your approach to photography, are you trying to say something about the environments you capture?
“I’m not so sure that I am trying to say much with my photography, except that we humans need to look at our surroundings and I mean really look at it. I see a lot of people around the area just walking, riding or driving around but they don’t ‘see’ what a lovely place we all live in.
“The Wetlands is the best indication of this as I see people driving through the wetlands at 50kph without actually seeing anything. Why you ask, well if they travelled at 5kpm (or walked) then they would see, hear and then enjoy the surroundings.
“Try it some time – look and listen to the sounds and your surroundings. We do live in a magnificent world and in a wonderful part of it as well.”