Interview: Travel Photographer Robert King

Parsing through an archive of more than 40,000 images, King reflects on where he's been and how he's produced some of his favorite shots

Throughout photographer Robert King‘s professional career, he’s notched mile after mile bouncing between remote locations and more familiar destinations. Working with brands (including Lululemon and Chevrolet) between building up his immense portfolio, King has scaled Arizona’s Upper Antelope Canyon, perched inside a treehouse over the ocean in Tulum, snapped the breaching of a humpback whale in Mo’orea, and much more, all for the perfect shot. While that travel has—unsurprisingly—halted for now, we revisited some of King’s images and spoke with the photographer about his favorite works and where he’s yearning to go next.

Tell us about a particularly difficult shot that ended up being successful?

I’d say a story that comes to mind most recently would be being quarantined in Australia. I come back here a few times a year and rarely “shoot” because I grew up here. We always get these crazy summer storms in Australia and I’ve never thought to photograph them—also, I didn’t bring my tripod home with me so it added an extra level of difficulty. I ended up stacking a few pieces of outdoor furniture on top of each other and started blindly exposing and trying to catch the lightning. It wasn’t the most traditional shoot for me, but the photo ended up being one of my favorites I’ve ever taken. The next day, the clearest, most defined rainbow I’ve ever seen was shining down on the Palm Beach headland. So, after chasing beautiful destinations the last few years I almost feel like the universe was telling me I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

When you’re out photographing, are you eyeing for a shot the whole time or have you scouted a place and know when the moment’s right?

I’ve always done some homework before visiting a location, and I feel like light and timing is everything but it doesn’t always pan out exactly how you plan it. If you travel to awesome destinations then you don’t have to get as lucky with the conditions. I find waking up early and getting golden hour / early morning light at a destination makes a big impact. You can capture the location with fewer people (which is always nice) and in its best light. Apps like PhotoPills give you a really good idea of how the light is going to hit a certain landmark and can really help make sure you get the shot you’re doing for.

Do photographs help you hang onto places you’ve visited?

Absolutely. I’m actually currently going through an archive of over 40,000 images. I’m going to try and edit and archive at least 10,000 images. It’s crazy how nostalgic this process is. Photos I didn’t like then I’m starting to love now and the way I edit has really changed.

When you travel somewhere, are you aiming to get a photo of an iconic spot but in your style or are you trying to find obscure places to showcase their beauty?

That’s a great question. My favorite photos are ones that are truly unique. I got into photography through travel so I’m often shooting a landmark/city or hike that’s been photographed a million times. I always try to put a unique spin on it but sometimes it’s hard… I can use my equipment to try to mess with my perspective.

Where haven’t you been?

A lot of places. Africa and Antarctica, if we’re talking continents. I hadn’t been to South America until around five years ago, and, since going to Brazil for the first time I’ve been back to different South American countries year after year. I really can’t wait to see Africa.

Where are you yearning to revisit?

Last year I got to go to French Polynesia to photograph humpback whales, Oceanic white tip sharks, pilot whales. It was the most amazing trip I’ve ever experienced. I’m hopefully doing that again in September. The marine life was just so abundant that I hope I can do this every year for the rest of my life. It’s such an epic experience swimming around with 80,000 pound giants.

Any tips for aspiring photographers on taking photos? 

Definitely get up early and try to beat the crowd. I used a GoPro for a really long time before upgrading to a camera. Anyone who reads this is more than welcome to DM me on Instagram. Great photographers like Chris Burkard and Alex Strohl always helped me out when I was getting started so I’ll always do the same for young photographers.

Images courtesy of Robert King