Bondi Vet shares passion for photography

ICONIC Australian vet and passionate photographer Dr Chris Brown has joined the ranks of Steve Waugh, Lisa Wilkinson, and Guy Sebastian to become a brand ambassador for Canon.

The Bondi Vet's  love for animals is widely appreciated, however his passion and talent for photography is not known to many.

The images he captures tell emotive stories from his unique perspective.

To kick off his ambassadorship, Dr Chris Brown will be a judge for Canon Light Awards - a monthly competition by photographers, for photographers - setting September's brief as Pet Personalities.

APN asked him to share his passion for photos with our readers.


Fishing with the dog in the Cook Islands.
Fishing with the dog in the Cook Islands. Dr Chris Brown

What do you look for when taking a pet photograph?

The first thing is trying to work out what makes that pet special, talking to the owner is the best way for working that out.

Every pet has a personality. Getting inside their mind and working out what it is that really stamps them being different is the key.

It is all about working out the best way to capture this in just one frame, whilst minimising all the distractions, and being patient.

You have to get everything in your favour as much as possible, in terms of lighting, body position (being nice and low at their eye level) and being patient enough to wait for it, then when you see it - grab it. 

Iceburg in Iceland.
Iceburg in Iceland. Dr Chris Brown

Patience is the number one secret - I've gone to places and sat for hours because I know that the light is going to be a certain way if I stay in a certain position.

I've sat up the top of a mountain for four and a half hours waiting for a sunset and fell asleep, just waiting for the perfect light to capture that moment. Patience is a big thing and light is such a huge part of any photo.

I also think getting a shot that no one else has got before is the way to go.

There's always those postcard shots, but I think people need to find different angles and their own interpretation because you're always more proud of a shot that is uniquely yours - and there is a real sense of achievement with that.\

A lion in Africa.
A lion in Africa. Dr Chris Brown

I have two loves when it comes to photography, one is animals. I think it's best to photograph an animal in their natural habitat, if its wildlife or a pet in their home.

If you get that, then you generally see more of their personality. If you want to shoot a picture of a dog for example, the best time to capture this is when they are doing something that they love. 

In terms of landscapes, I do love landscapes involving water. I opt for long exposure shots that gets you that smoky appearance of the water.

Shooting in really low light, not just sunset but past sunset by just an hour, That captures that last glow in the sky which makes for the perfect shot.

Giraffe silhouette Africa.
Giraffe silhouette Africa. Dr Chris Brown

I am also a bit of a star geek, I love looking at starry skies. I would love to go to Western Australia for the rock formation and the big dramatic skies as well as anywhere that is untouched natural beauty - this is pretty hard to beat.

In terms of places away from Australia, I went to Greenland a few months ago and saw a side of life that you never experience in Australia, especially when you're having to navigate icebergs and to work around the personalities of sled dogs. It's something unique and you learn a lot as a vet and well as a photographer.

Stubby the piglet in country Queensland.
Stubby the piglet in country Queensland. Dr Chris Brown


How do you get a picture that is out of the ordinary?

When I arrive at a location, I have a really good look around and usually there will be a dominant feature that is the obvious one, sometimes getting a shot of that is important.

However, I have a rule where if I am shooting something, I will only take a few shots of that and then I turn around and sometimes is it that light behind you that's so much better.

Where the sun is setting can be great, but the sun and the light right behind you is always amazing. So don't be stuck in your viewfinder, actually stand up, and if you have your shot, then great, move on to it. Challenge yourself to get something new and different, look around and go exploring and go off the path.

Icelandic dog.
Icelandic dog. Dr Chris Brown

Social media gives you that accessibility, that instant moment of being able to share exactly what you are seeing. For me obviously being a pet lover, I can show people exactly what crazy things my pets have done.

When your pets are relaxed they will show you who they are.

What's your favourite camera for taking pet photos?

I love the Canon 1D-x  but it's whatever camera that I have in my hand at the time. Often if you go on with a plan you become frustrated because they work on their own agenda, and that is the key with taking animal photos - working with their mood and their focus at that particular time.

If I am going to the park or the beach I will usually have a camera very close to me, and that's really important otherwise you can lose that moment.

I love shooting in low light with pets as it gives a warmth to the shot, you don't get any harsh shadows, and you will always get a warm light.

Cricket the cat.
Cricket the cat. Dr Chris Brown

My feeling is that we have so much warmth towards our pets, so the light should match up - once you have a warm light, your pictures feel loving.

I generally try to shoot mid-range, on an AV mode of around 5.6-8/9 range, so that you are not having that really shallow depth of field that makes it very hard to see anything else apart from one feature. 

Lots of people shoot pets photos with their phones, do they really need a 'proper' camera?

Some of my favourite pet photos have been taken on my phone because it's that immediate thing when I don't have a proper camera on me.

However, for the truly best shots, that have that beautiful quality where you can capture that warmth, I think it's hard to do that off a phone. Again, it comes down to the light, and for me shooting that beautiful warm light is usually a lower light. Phones don't handle that well, so you do need a better camera in those situations.

To get involved in September's Canon Light Awards competition, where Dr Chris Brown has set the brief on Pet Personalities, go here

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