Steven McArdle: Paying tribute to SA through pictures
As a kid growing up in the country, Steven McArdle was in love with two things - the mesmerising natural beauty of South Australia and the magic of photographs. On reaching late twenties, Steven bought a good camera, learnt to drive, became financially independent and decided to merge his two childhood loves and become a landscape photographer. The 27-year-old media coordinator with a renowned news channel is one of the more exciting photographers from Adelaide to watch out for. And, Steven through his venture, smcardlephotography and minimally edited photos - in the quest to stay true to the original image - is paying tribute to the state he calls Home.
“The brilliant sights, the unpredictability involved, and the vagaries of nature that one has to deal with while being a landscape photographer excited me about this genre,” says Steven as he settles down to talk about his passion. “Also, the fact that you can take landscape photos anywhere - accessible and convenient - played a role. Then there are the inherent challenges; how do I translate what I see (the colours, shapes and textures) into the final picture? How can I be faithful to the original image? The ability to find answers to these question thrills me," he says.
He adds, “landscapes change more often than we think – not just the big ones, but smaller changes like the lighting. One can return to these landscapes after taking a picture and be surprised to see something different every time. For me, the image serves as a reminder to go back again, and see if I can take a new improved view of the same place."
Steven points out that this type of photography has also made him more patient. “If I see something I like, I'll make time to grab my camera and photograph it. If it doesn't come out well, I'll take it again and again, till I get it right. And, if multiple efforts fail to capture a photo that truly does justice to the image I am seeing, then I give up. But, one needs to be patient to get the right image. Afterall, so many factors have to be considered; waiting for the sun to be in the right place; ensuring tourists get out of the shot, etc. I spend a good deal of time in post, mainly playing with levels and altering framing,” he says.
A growing passion
As a child, Steven never thought of venturing into the field of photography, but pictures- stationery and moving – always attracted him. "I didn't think about photography until I bought my first camera. I was originally going to use the camera (Canon 600D, an amazing beginner's DSLR) to make short films. As I started learning more about the basics, I was taking more photos than moving pictures. I was still doing a bit of filming on the side, but there was so much more satisfaction in standing in one spot for 30 minutes to try and get that perfect shot," says the University of South Australia alumnus
Steven credits movies and television show that he binged on while growing up for his love of photography. “I love movies and watching TV! I think the appreciation for photos and a fondness for the moving pictures are intertwined. However, my interest in the outdoors also played a role. I enjoy walking the Morialta trail and the 'second fall' pitstop of that hike is one of the more calming and invigorating views in SA. The first time I took the 600D up to that spot was when I had the epiphany; not only can you capture these moments of wonder, but can also make others see it through your pictures!” adds Steven.
My father my inspiration
The cinephile considers his father to be his biggest inspiration. “My dad isn’t a photographer, but he has a photographer's eye. If he thinks something will make a great photo; it usually does. I also draw inspiration from the works of some amazing photographers I have chanced upon on social media and the Internet. Instagram and Reddit's "itookapicture" subreddit is always teeming with people at my skill level demonstrating what they can do," says Steven, who uses a Canon 7D mkII as his primary camera with an 18-135mm lens capped with a polarising filter.
Taking photos of nature in its full glory can be an emotional experience, and Steven has had a couple of them. “For me two moments on my fairly short journey as a photographer stand out in my mind. The first was about a year after I started photography. My dad and I went for a drive around the mid-north, from Balaklava to Pt Wakefield to Lochiel. Out the back of the small town of Whitwarta are salt flats. My dad stopped in the middle of the road, pointed to the west and said, "that's a photo!” he says.
“When I looked up I saw this massive wave of cloud approaching the salt flats. The landscape was well lit, and the vibrant colours were popping. It was such a fantastic picture! That incident was also a great bonding exercise – a beautiful father-son moment that is forever etched in my mind. The second emotional moment occurrent on my first solo trip to New Zealand. I was behind the camera for two weeks, driving around the South Island. There were a couple of photos I took there that, for me, summed up the excitement of the travel and helped me understand the craft even more," he adds.
As an amateur photographer, Steven has had to deal with his share of challenges. “It is an expensive art! Camera gears are costly, and there is a reason for that. If you buy a big brand starter DSLR, nine times out of ten you aren't going to be disappointed with the quality of gear and photos, but it might leave a big hole in your pocket. Add to that a couple of extra lenses', and a decent tripod and the cost starts to tally up. Upgrading this gear is another level of expensive," he points out.
But, the young photographer is slowly overcoming the hurdles. "As of today, I have earned one US dollar on my Shutterstock profile, so I'm going to use that to technically pretend that I am a "pro-togger." I've started delivering my photography to a broader audience in the last 12 months. Instagram has been a fantastic medium as a starting point; the local audience is accepting and supportive. And, I recently started my website as a place to display all my photographs," he adds.
The reception, Steven adds, has been great! "Audience reaction certainly isn't why I do it, but it builds enthusiasm and encourages me. It is hard to garner a reaction in a congested city like Adelaide, especially when there are so many better photographers out there. The trick is to keep producing content that generates traffic. I get a lot of kind feedback and constructive criticism from friends, family, and an occasional random follower on social media. And, at the end of the day, I hope to keep taking pictures that capture the beauty and spirit of SA," says the amateur photographer.
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