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Capturing Australia on film with photographer Sean Scott

Sean Scott talks 'that' shark photo, Australia's naturally photogenic nature and what it's like to live the life of a travelling nature photographer. 

By Stephanie Denman & Jessica Wilkinson
Published: July 21, 2017

Sean Scott is an ocean landscape photographer based in Burleigh Heads, Queensland where he owns and operates his own coastal lifestyle gallery. Having had his galleries for more than 12 years, Sean has become a household name in South East Queensland and now finds himself travelling to destinations all over Australia and the world. 

With projects from outback Australia to fishing boats deep in the fjords of the Arctic Circle, Sean has been described as the real life ‘Walter Mitty’. With a social media following nearing 300,000, Sean's passion is to share his experience of Australia through his photographs.

Most recently, Scott has gained media attention for a photo he took of sharks feeding off the coast in Western Australia. With over 26,000 likes on the post to Instagram Scott's photo has placed a spotlight on the beautiful coast of Western Australia.

Sean Scott on Instagram

Q&A with Sean Scott, Photographer

Your photo of the sharks feeding in Western Australia has gained a lot of attention lately – did you expect it?

I thought the video I took would get a lot of attention but was not expecting the shark photo to go quite as far as it has.  When I first showed my little boy Reef this image as he was standing next to me when I took it, he jumped up and down so I think I am going to run my images past him in the future as he seems to be in tune with popular images.

You’ve said in a previous interview that you hoped the footage would show a different side to sharks – can you explain?

I didn’t feel concerned at all this day about being in the water.  There were so many sharks, over 300, but only a few hundred metres away there were 20-30 people surfing and even right next to the sharks.  The sun was out and the water was crystal clear and you could see that the sharks were not interested in us.  The ocean was so alive and healthy that you just got that feeling that it was nature doing what it has always done and we were not really a part of that cycle.

You took the photo in WA – what are your favourite spots in Western Australia?

I have been doing so much work in Western Australia and I totally love it. However, from an ocean landscape photographers perspective that loves to camp and travel with my family, the big four for me is, firstly, Lucky Bay near Esperance.  Now this place has got to have the best beaches in the world.  I have worked in the Maldives, Tahiti, Cook Islands but on its day the Cape LE Grande area is simply stunning and camping at Lucky Bay camp ground is nothing short of spectacular.  

The next location is now Red Bluff in Kalbarri where I took all these shark images.  The waves are incredible as well and in winter the place is perfect.  It is quite remote and kind of like where the desert meets the sea but it’s beauty to me is so different to anywhere else in Australia and we now all love it.  

Number three would have to be Karinjini National Park. The gorges and walks though this area are awesome.  I have travelled to Zion National Park in the states to photograph similar locations but there are thousands of people.  Here in Karinjini you can camp right there and walk stunning gorges all on your own.  

Number four on my list is Cape Range National Park in Exmouth. Being able to swim straight off from where you are camping and being able to swim on the beautiful Ningaloo reef is definitely right up there.  Add to the experience that you can also swim with whale sharks, manta rays and humpback whales all close by makes it one of my favourite places in WA.

What inspired you to start taking photos professionally?

I have always loved telling stories and photography is a great way to do this. Living and loving the coastal environment of the Gold Coast I started showing people how I see the environment. I was encouraged by their responses and soon decided to start making art work that I could sell at beach front markets.  As that started to take off, I started selling to galleries and also set up my own gallery that has now been open for over 13 years.

How does Australia compare to other places around the world? What makes it unique?

After spending a solid few years travelling the world I am really excited to be staying home this year and looking around my own backyard. The one thing I keep telling everybody is how lucky we are to have such diverse things to see but also how you can feel like you’re out discovering these things for yourself. You can be on the most amazing beaches and not see another person. Or you can hike pristine wilderness trails totally on your own. I saw some awesome things overseas but more often than not it was accompanied by thousands of other people. With so many locations and points of interest to see here, I think I could extend my one-year road trip to 10 years and still only scratch the surface. Travelling Australia is as big as your imagination wants it to be.

What is on your Australian bucket list you are yet to tick off? 

I have been lucky to see a lot of our beautiful country and I'm really excited to get back to locations that I got to visit for just days and further explore like The Kimberley, Esperance, Fraser Island, Cradle Mountain and many more. However, one place I have always wanted to visit is Cape York in a 4WD and I'm hoping to do that next year.

What are your hot tips for aspiring photographers?

My biggest tip to aspiring photographers is to be in the right place at the right time – you need to always be putting yourself out there. You’re not going to get the most incredible sunrise pics if you choose to sleep in each day. I don't care if I get up and it's a bad sunrise. I don't care if I do that 10 times in a row because I know my odds of seeing a good one is getting better each time. It's also important to understand how to use your gear so when you are in the right place at the right time you know how to capture that moment without thinking about your settings.

Which is your favourite Australian animal to capture on film? Where is best to see this?

Well, I think I now have to say a baby wombat, and that, of course, is on Flinders Island in Tasmania. I also love the wombats at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania. The Kangaroos in Lucky Bay Western Australia and Cape Hillborough in Queensland are pretty incredible as well. Most national parks have their resident kookaburras and in the south and west I love seeing the emus. But then you have the seals in Tasmania and South Australia that you can swim with and the turtles on Lady Elliot Island, Queensland. It's all so incredible and worth spending the time to photograph.

Can you tell us a bit about your galleries in Queensland?

I now run my flag ship gallery in James Street, Burleigh Heads. It has changed into a coastal lifestyle gallery selling all my artwork along with clothing and everything we love.

And favourite places to go around the Gold Coast?  

My favourite places around the ‘GC’ would have to be Burleigh Heads. We are located in about the middle of the coastal strip. Burleigh still has a bit of a country town feel about it and with a world class surfing point break along with a growing number of great restaurants, bars and cafes it really is becoming one of the places to see. I also love going down to the southern point breaks and that's where I take a lot of my photos in the water and surf.