Jay Collier

Based in Melbourne, Jay’s a long-time photographic professional with a passion for African wildlife.
Photograph by Jay Collier, Canon Collective Ambassador
The Canon Collective is a group of passionate photography Ambassadors dedicated to helping you grow your skills in relaxed, down-to-earth environment. In this article Jay Collier — one of our Melbourne-based Canon Collective Ambassadors — shares a bit about what makes him tick. 

Portrait image of Jay Collier with two women in Africa

Tell us about your photography journey so far:

I got my first camera at 13, and knew early on that photography was the career I would pursue. 
Having worked in the Australian photographic industry since 2002, I’ve worked with many of the major photographic companies in Australia. I’ve been at Canon for over ten years.

I worked in Canon Professional Services for the first eight years, over that time I developed a strong connection with many of Australia’s leading professional photographers across every field of photography. This enabled me to learn many photographic styles, from studio to wildlife and everything in between.

My true passion as a photographer came after a trip to Africa in 2004 where I’ve since returned year after year, working as a professional photo-guide with one of the world’s most respected photo travel companies. 

Share the story behind one of your most memorable photographs:

landscape image of African elephants

This photo was taken in Botswana, Africa in a private reserve called Mashatu. I had the opportunity to work in some newly installed photo hides a few years back. These hides were essentially 20-foot shipping containers buried in the ground near the last remaining water source during the dry season.

Entering the hide at first light, everything was very still and very quiet as I peered out, waiting for the elephants to arrive. It was a cold morning, and the tail end of a 14-month drought. This was the first morning in over year with signs of rain. The cloud cover provided perfectly-diffused light, which enabled the detail to be retained in the highlights and shadows, creating the perfect conditions for this image. 
Explain your go-to gear and why you rate it so highly:

A typical photo safari kit for me would contain:
In wildlife photography I’ll always work with three bodies and three lenses: a wide-angle lens, medium zoom lens, and telephoto lens. By covering all focal lengths it helps build a series of images that tell the full story rather than just shooting everything close up. Wide shots are very important to show the wildlife in its environment and works as an establishing shot. 

What's your favourite part of your job as a Canon Collective Ambassador?

For me it’s sharing everything I’ve learned over 25 years of photography. 

I learned everything on film — and in the darkroom — where the learning curve was a much longer process.

When I was learning we didn’t have the Internet, YouTube or social media to learn from and connect with like-minded people. The only way to learn was to practice.

Having the chance to help others exceed their own abilities and grow as photographers is by far the most rewarding aspect of my job.

If you weren't a Canon Collective Ambassador what would you be doing?

I’m 100% certain I’d be living and working full-time as a guide in Africa, far away from the cities.

What's the first thing a new photographer needs to learn?

They need to fall in love with light. 

To understand and be obsessed with light is by far the most important aspect of photography to learn.

Even without a camera I’m drawn to changes in light and I’m forever alert to what the light’s doing — even in general day-to-day situations.

Who inspires you?

It’s less about certain people, and more about the image for me. I could list a very long list of photographers who inspire me but in today’s age — with such a high volume of images appearing online — that list grows daily. You don’t always have to be the most amazing photographer to produce an amazing image, so for me its the image that inspires me and not the individual.

Where’s your favourite location to shoot and why?

Africa! It’s so rich in wildlife, people and landscapes.

You can create one more image before you die – what’s it of?

I don’t have any single image in mind. I like to shoot the unexpected. As a wildlife photographer you have very little control of the situation, so planning a perfect shot is hard to come by.