Globe-trotting ocean photographer George Karbus shares some of his near-20 years of experience in photography, including how he found using the new Nikon Z fc, and what advice he’d give to those looking to turn professional.
Karbus has come a long way since scraping together enough to buy his first point and shoot in the 90s. And it was his move to Ireland that really fueled his fire for photo-taking, as he began spending time snapping along the coastline, before eventually purchasing his first DSLR, Nikon’s D200. Fast-forward to present day, and he’s now trying out the Z fc.
Digital photography changed the world. All of a sudden, you could instantly see the results of your work, the framing, the composition.
Describing the advancements of the Z fc and the mirrorless age as “perfect” for someone who is as visual as he is, Karbus says such technology helps him capture exactly what he’s striving for.
For those unfamiliar with his work, his accolades include being recognized as Outdoor Photographer of the Year, British Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and from his portfolio, it’s easy to see why. He has even befriended a dolphin. “It sounds crazy,” he laughs, “[but] there’s no other word for it.” Repeated trips to the Irish coast with the aim of improving his underwater skills saw him strike up an unlikely bond with the animal. Crediting her as a source of inspiration, he admits: “Because of her, we’ve traveled around the world — to the arctic and back — seeing and photographing other dolphins and whales. She’s a friend to this day, and has been hugely important in shaping my professional career.”
His outstanding underwater imagery was a large part of the reason he was selected to be among the first to try out the Nikon Z fc upon its release. Karbus admits that due to the new camera’s portability, being smaller and lighter than previous models, various members of his family also felt comfortable using it, compared to other gear of his they had tested. He says his wife, who, admittedly, is “not a technical person at all,” has been able to develop her filmmaking skills over recent years, benefiting from some quality footage of their son surfing. The Z fc has only helped document his surfing progress, with Karbus claiming the fact it is so compact can be utilized, as he and his wife clamber over rocks filming their son in the sea from different angles for the purpose of him being able to analyze his performance later. His daughter also made the most of the autofocus feature, including the Intelligent Eye-Detection Autofocus that Karbus says helped her automatically capture the eyes of people and animals in both stills and video — even when the subject was moving.
One day, we shot our son at a skate park and found the high-res vari-angle touchscreen monitor ideal for capturing different shots at different angles, while its impressive speed helped capture the fast action.
Karbus says his go-to bodies are the Nikon Z 7II and Z 6II. As far as lenses, he cites the AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED as his all-time favorite, which he uses when photographing both people and landscapes. The AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED and AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR also get special mentions as essentials he couldn’t be without. Meanwhile, the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S is the best 50mm lens ever made, in his opinion. It also goes without saying that the Z fc will be making an appearance on future family outings, too. He adds: “Its compact shape and size, not to mention its beautiful body, make it the ideal camera to take with us on our everyday adventures so that we can savor the special moments of our time together.”
So, what advice does a photographer with so much experience and such a vast portfolio have to offer to those aspiring to turn professional? That above all else, passion and determination will see you prevail:
There’s always space for creativity. Even if it feels like everything’s been done before, it hasn’t. In my industry, for example, there are some amazing Australian photographers taking pictures of waves — going deeper, with more extreme angles, than ever before. There will always be new light, new angles… the opportunities are endless — that’s the beauty of photography. From my experience, I’ve been photographing the same cliffs I've lived by for years, but every year, I capture three or four brand new shots of these cliffs that are unique to what’s gone before.
Images used with permission.