From Rugby League player and Fireman to award-winning Ocean and Lifestyle photographer, Russell Ord found his passion through adventure and the discovery of the untouched/unseen wilderness.
Russell’s photos blend the environment with real-life storytelling, his work has been published in magazines and books throughout the world, was awarded the 2016 IPA International Sports Photographer Of the Year at the prestigious Lucie Awards and exhibited in Germany at Photokina 2016 and Tokyo Japan 2017 for Fujifilm.
His life and work have been the subject of the documentary “One Shot” which was broadcasted nationally by the ABC in a seven-part art series and internationally through Film festivals and Garage Entertainment. (www.oneshotdoco.com)
“Its more than just moments in time, its about the connection with people and the environment, creating content that reflects this very essence” – Russell Ord.
Following a knee injury in 1999, devoted surfer Russell Ord swapped the board for the camera and began a career creating some of the most remarkable surfing imagery in the world. His award-winning photography has appeared on the front covers of numerous surf magazines and his images of the seas have captivated audiences the world over. For this project, Russell took the FUJIFILM GFX 100 into the unforgiving environment of the Indian Ocean on the back of a jet ski to capture the majestic power of nature.
As photographers, we all like to think we would go to great lengths to get the shot, and most of us do. However, Russell Ord takes it to the extreme. He can be often seen bobbing up and down amid some of the most dangerous breaks in the world, inches from a careering surfer and risking his life for that perfect angle. “I love Robert Capa’s quote: ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough,’” chuckles Russell, whose experience as a surfer made ocean photography the natural next step to take.
“Surfing had become quite competitive and crowded, so being reunited with that feeling of freedom especially when you’re swimming out alone was more of an incentive than jostling for waves,” he reveals. “The learning curve was steep, especially at the start being self-taught and using film. I gradually progressed my camera skills and I was lucky enough to have 20 years of ocean experience to call upon, which I have always said is the hardest skill to learn regarding surf photography,” he explains.
Russell wanted to see how the GFX 100 would fare in a truly alien environment for a 102-megapixel camera and for that he had only one place in mind. “I took the camera where I feel most comfortable and where I like to get away from the daily grind – the remote Indian Ocean,” he tells us. “I think dealing with all the ocean’s elements is a great challenge for any camera. It’s not where one would expect to put a camera like the GFX 100 to the test.”
He paired the camera up with the GF110mmF2 R LM WR and GF250mmF4 R LM OIS WR lenses for this shoot and, as an existing FUJIFILM user, felt right at home. “The camera was easy enough just to pick up and use like all FUJIFILM cameras; very similar aesthetics,” he says. However, despite this familiarity, the shoot was not without its challenges.
First and foremost, the ocean is an unpredictable place, so trying to work around the weather was a challenge before Russell even set off from shore. “My job description for the shoot was to photograph the ocean on particular dates, which sounds easy enough, but the weather plays such a huge part,” explains Russell. “During the shoot, we had to make calls on the run to get the very best of the conditions and locations. In the end, it turned out great and that comes down to experience and local knowledge.”
However, even when conditions are perfect, the challenges that come with photographing the crashing waves are abundant. With sea water, spray, and wind hitting him from all sides, Russell was glad of the GFX 100’s 95-point weather sealing. “I just had to do my best to protect the gear by shielding it with my body and shooting quickly, pulling it in and out of a Pelican case before taking on waves,” he recalls.
Once he overcame these two huge obstacles, the biggest challenge remained: getting into the right place at the right time. “It’s not like studio work where you can control the environment and lighting, it’s all about being there at the right times and hoping the environment plays its part in creating the image,” says Russell, going on to tell us that the GFX 100’s In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), hybrid phase detection AF, quick processing speeds and dual batteries all came together to ensure the camera didn’t let him down.
“I was using the GFX 100 with the GF110mmF2 R LM WR lens shooting from a jet ski, while driving and avoiding wayward waves. With the effort of just being there at those times – spending five hours at sea waiting for 15 minutes of photographic gold – it’s truly rewarding when it all comes together,” he beams.
Back on dry land, it is safe to say that Russell was impressed with the resulting images. “The image quality is mind-blowing to say the least,” he exclaims. “I am not one of those photographers that likes to spend hours on post-production, however, I do like blowing up an image to 100% and seeing minute detail, which I know will translate well into massive, beautiful art prints.”
This image quality, combined with the FUJIFILM Film Simulation modes means that, for Russell, this camera is perfect for his commercial work. “I already have the GFX 50S and most of my clients that still use print for advertising are blown away by the quality of files. I can only imagine how they would feel receiving files from the GFX 100,” he tells us. “Plus, I like to spend time outside, not in front of a screen, so the fact that the Film Simulation modes allow me to shoot RAW/JPEGs and then use those JPEGs for clients directly from the camera is incredible.”
Overall, Russell tells us that file quality and ease of use were the factors that really made the GFX 100 stand out for him. “I am not a technical camera junkie; I like a camera that is very easy to use in the hand and produces quality files, and the GFX 100 has this in spades. Being able to print my ocean images at wall-filling sizes is a dream; every tiny detail looks remarkable,” he reveals. “Anyone that really believes and sees the quality of the printed image will certainly be jumping on board.”
Russell Ord is a compensated FUJIFILM X-Photographer. To see more of Russell’s work, visit his website.