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Darrell Raw Interview

Darrell Raw talks to us about his Pentax kit and shares his top tips for macro and insect photography.

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Darrell Raw Interview : Darrell Raw

Image © Darrell Raw

Hi Darrell. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into photography?

I was born in South Africa, and my family has always had a deep interest in the natural world. I spent my childhood running about barefooted in wilderness areas and on farms, and I would explore any natural space exhaustively. From a very young age I've caught and kept amphibians, reptiles and even a few invertebrates.

My father owned (and still owns) quite a few Pentax bodies and lenses which he used to photograph reptiles and amphibians, and my interest developed from using his equipment. My grandfather eventually gave me his Ricoh camera (I can't remember the model) which took Pentax lenses so I've essentially been a fan of both brands from early years. I moved to the UK in 2001, where I obtained my first Pentax digital SLR, a rebadged Pentax *istD2 sold by Samsung, then moved on to a Pentax K5 about 3 years ago - still using an old SMC Takumar 100mm f/4 M42 screw mount lens and a Pentax-A 50mm macro lens I picked up on Ebay (possibly one of the best lenses I've ever used!). I then moved onto a Pentax K5 IIS coupled with a Pentax D FA 100 Macro WR lens, and most recently a Pentax K-3 I won in one of Ricoh's competitions.

Darrell Raw Interview : Darrell Raw

Image © Darrell Raw

Have you always wanted to be a photographer or is it something you discovered?

I've always enjoyed photography; it allows me to document my passion for nature. I still remember the day I became hooked - we (the family) were at a wedding reception, and my father finally allowed me to take his beloved Pentax ME and a roll of film and go off unsupervised with what was at the time very expensive equipment. I'm fairly sure he gave in just to get some peace and quiet! To cut a long story short, I spent the day taking pictures of anything that interested me - and when the film was developed, the pictures weren't half bad. More to the point, I hadn't broken anything - so I had much more access to equipment after that! As for wanting to be a photographer, I don't think that's ever crossed my mind. Photography is an extension of my interests, and I don't consider myself a photographer in the sense I think you mean. It is a tool to me, a tool I very much enjoy using and that I sometimes use just for fun.

Darrell Raw Interview : Darrell Raw

Image © Darrell Raw

You take beautiful macro images of flowers and insects - what draws you to this kind of photography?

I find all aspects of the natural world fascinating. Having purchased a really good macro lens for use with my snakes, it's only natural that my focus became the miniature world - it is after all the best lens I have. I suspect if I still lived in South Africa, my profiles would also be filled with larger animals and birds.

Talk us through the Ricoh Pentax kit you use to achieve these images.

My kit bag consists of the Pentax K-3 and K-5 IIS bodies, battery grip for K-5 IIS (I haven't got around to getting the K3 version yet), several spare batteries and the Pentax-A 50mm Macro and Pentax D FA 100mm Macro WR. I also carry a Sigma 18-250mm DC Macro HSM as a walkaround lens, but I'm hoping to replace that with a DA* 60-250mm soon -  and if I'm expecting bad weather I take the Pentax DA 18-55mm WR and 50-200mm WR.

Darrell Raw Interview : Darrell Raw

Image © Darrell Raw

What makes Pentax Ricoh kit ideal for these kinds of photos?

Build quality and weather resistance. Doing macro work involves a lot of crawling in the mud and balancing bodies/lenses on rocks, twigs - whatever is around really - to get sharp low-light shots. In many cases, even a gorilla tripod may not allow you to get low enough to get the angle you want (mushrooms are a pain with this) and I've sometimes had my bodies buried up to the lens in forest floor mulch. Humidity and random water from leaves etc. would destroy many other brands, but the Pentax just keeps on going, and despite some very rough treatment, doesn't even have scratches. I love the fact that I can wipe the D FA 100mm lens clean in the field without damage, and no matter how inclement the weather, I will always get the shot.

Your images use really poppy, bright colours that make them stand out from the bunch. How and why did you settle on this style?

I’m not sure, that’s just how they turn out. I was experimenting with muted backgrounds and vibrant subjects and liked the look of the end result. It can be difficult to get sufficient depth of field when taking macro without creating busy backgrounds. This was a way to make the backgrounds less distracting. The upside to it is the subjects seem to have a more 3D feel to them.

Darrell Raw Interview : Darrell Raw

Image © Darrell Raw

If you could give 3 top tips to someone wanting to take macro photography more seriously, what would they be?

1. Get a good lens. I recommend the Pentax D FA 100mm Macro WR, it's a lens that should have the * or Limited designation, it's that good.

2. Get dirty. You won't get good shots if you are afraid to muddy your knees or lie down on wet moss! A WR camera and lens is extremely useful when doing this.

3. Get a wireless remote. Most macro shots will be low light, which would normally force you into higher ISOs and thus more noise. With a remote, you can shoot in lower ISO and not worry about camera shake (provided you've placed the camera on a stable support!). I have the Pentax O-RC1 waterproof remote and it lives in my pocket.

Darrell Raw Interview : Darrell Raw

Image © Darrell Raw

Do you have any future projects lined up?

I am planning a trip to South Africa next year, where I will hopefully have the Pentax DA* 300mm F4 lens to play with. I also plan on doing a series on the South African dwarf chameleons, something a little less "documentary" style.

What other types of photography interest you?

I suppose you could say all types of photography interest me. Getting up at the crack of dawn doesn't however, so it is unlikely landscape photography will become my thing anytime soon!

Find out more about Darrell Raw on the Ricoh Imaging K-3 Ambassadors page.

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