Ray Alley: Internationally Known Marine Photographer And Real Estate Photographer

February 19th, 2014

RayAlleyRecently after sending Ray Alley, of Port Stephens, NSW (2 hrs north of Sydney), a new download link for Lighting Interiors, Ray showed me some of his marine wildlife work. Pretty amazing! Port Stephens attracts $10M from 50,000 whale watchers a year so this is what got Ray involved in shooting marine wildlife until 2009 when a series of surgeries forced Ray to find a less athletic form of photography. He moved into real estate photography and now shoots for 6 of the main real estate agencies in the Port Stephens area.

Ray’s also done wedding photography for twenty years and has been a DJ. Here is Ray’s description of his marine wildlife shooting:

When I started photographing the humpback whale migration in 2000, no one was doing it professionally. It took four years to get a really, really good picture. It just happened to be a shot of three adult humpbacks breaching at the same time. First time it was ever captured worldwide, on a still camera, All of a sudden I had an agent, and that one photo went around the world, appeared on front pages of newspapers and even got a double page spread in the Australian Geographic Magazine. Overnight I was transformed from this lowly little backyard photographer into what the newspapers called “an Internationally re-known wildlife photographer”. I milked it for all it was worth and the  newspapers couldn’t get enough of it. I think the best sale came from the London Daily Mail with a front page picture of what I called a sequapanagraf (a hi speed sequential panoramic photograph) A breaching sequence of a 50 tonne humpback whale, shot with a high frame rate Nikon D2x then composed in Photoshop. This humpy had a pattern on it’s belly that looked like the Batman logo, it netted me 8000 euro, the pommies called it ,” Batman flies Down under”. So over the next 9 years I got heaps more of amazing whale photos and that’s where my website name came from. That all came to an end in 2009 when I had to have major surgery on shoulders, elbows, knees etc, five operations in 18 months to repair the damage I had done from holding Nikon’s with 200-400mm lenses at eye level for 6-7 hours a day, seven days a week for nearly 9 years. You can’t use a tripod on a boat, it’s as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. This was done during the winter months. I remember lying in the hospital bed after the last operation when the surgeon who operated on me came into the room and said, ” whatever you are doing on that boat … STOP IT”. You have so much plastic in you now that if you were to die, I don’t know whether to cremate you or throw a Tupperware party! So I took his advice reluctantly. I sold my share in the whale watching boat, had a tear or 2 and moved on and am now landlocked doing Real Estate Photography and loving it. Its not as exciting as capturing a breaching 50 tonne humpback, but it pays better and I’m not so sore when I wake up in the morning! I have published two small books on Humpback Whales that have sold out!

And here is Ray’s description of his move into real estate photography business:

…as with most things in my life, I have sort of stumbled into them, developed my own style and marketing and pushed them to the boundaries that I was capable of. If you don’t push you won’t know how far you can go!

I don’t have written contracts with the agents. Its all verbal and good will. Or should I say Great will, the guys I work for are great. I can do anywhere from 2 or 3 homes a week up to 50 a week. I do all my own photography and post processing using mainly Photoshop CS6 and a really great program called ACDsee pro 7, similar to Lightroom.  I am not the only ” Kid on the block” and have some pretty fierce competition. I would love to have crack at some of the old style buildings you guys have in the states. But alas it’s a bit different in the land down under. I have had to cull only a couple of agents, bad payers etc.

My young son, Matthew flies a DJI phantom for me with a Black Hero3 GoPro and he is awesome at flying this new fangled device. I only do still, no video. I love flying it in the back yard, I have 2 acres of rural property, but his young eyes are better than mine. Once its gets more that 100 feet away I can’t tell which way its going, so for safety sake and economic security he is my pilot.We don’t charge for this , but incorporate it into the coverage. I just direct the show. I love aerial photography in helicopters and have done that for over thirty years. I did a couple of years working for what we call in Australia the DPI ( Dept. of Primary Industry) A Government department . Awesome job, flying up and down the east coast of NSW in a Robinson 44, 4 days a week over the summer period photographing Great White sharks and really whatever is in the water, and beach usage of the beaches that are in the Shark Meshing Program. I have images of 4-5 meter Great White Sharks within 50 feet of bathers . Now that was a real eye opener of a job.

The Agents I work for now do push me though, for deadlines and quality etc, which I thrive on because its keeps me out of the comfort zone. I see people get into these comfort zones and will not accept change.

Ray lives on two rural acres in Port Stephens with his wife, 6 border collies, 3 cats and 3 goats. One of the goats has his own FaceBook page… probably the only goat with going on 1000 likes!

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One Response to “Ray Alley: Internationally Known Marine Photographer And Real Estate Photographer”

  • Great story! But I must admit after reading it…I did expect to see a whale breaching in the ocean on that real estate photo.

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