Interview with South African photographer Jon-Erik Munro

Dalene Ingham-Brown 07 January 2013
Part of the South Africa Safari Collection
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Jon-Erik Munro is a South African photographer living in Cape Town. With a keen interest in photography for as far back as he can remember, Jon-Erik's passion was sparked by his grandfather who was a keen photographer and artist.  After finishing matric he went on to study photography at City Varsity.

Now, years later, having worked for well-known lodge photographer David Rogers, he has gained invaluable experience in the realm of managing image libraries, colour correcting images, and of course, taking brilliant photographs. Jon-Erik has also worked on numerous design projects for various well known organisation. Cape Point, Two Oceans Aquarium, and most recently the Waterfront Boat Company are to name but a few.

Meet Jon-Erik Munro in the interview below

1. What sparked your interest in photography?

I think it was my grandfather.  I remember when I was much younger watching him work with his slides.  He used to paint a lot and would go out and shoot off a roll of film so that he would have a reference for his paintings.  I remember his study was always full of albums of prints, and other photographic equipment. Once he heard that I was studying photography he would send me all his old equipment for me to use.  I still use most of it.

2. What kind of photography are you most passionate about?

I thoroughly enjoy landscape photography; I also enjoy interior photography.  One of favorite spots to practice my landscape photography would be up in the  Karoo.  Our family has a house on Touwsberg Private Game and Nature Reserve and it’s a great place to work on some landscape.  You get fantastic sunsets there and paired with those iconic windmills is a recipe for some stunning images. 

I always carry my camera around with me.  You just never know when a great photo opportunity will present itself, and you can walk away with a brilliant shot.  I have taken some great landscape images just simply walking around Kalk Bay harbour in the evenings.

3. What is the simplest thing that has ever inspired you?

Sometimes something as simple as good light can be the perfect bit of inspiration for a great photo, and gets the creative juices flowing.  One thing leads to the next and before you know it you have a great image or even a great series. 

4. If there was one African destination you could photograph, what would it be?

It probably will sound a bit cliché to most, but I would love to take a trip to Kenya and take some time to photograph the migration and the Masai.  From what I’ve seen it looks like the migration is an amazing event and there are plenty of photographic opportunities no matter where you look.

5. What’s the dumbest question anyone has ever asked you about photography?

I always get asked how many megapixels my camera has and then when I give them an answer they seem amazed and tell me it must take some amazing photos!  Then you have to go into a brief explanation telling them it’s not really the megapixels that make a great photo!

6. What is the most unusual thing you’ve taken a photograph of?

I think one of the more unusual and interesting things I have had to photograph is an oilrig being towed out of Cape Town harbour, up to the Congo.  It was one of those last minute jobs, where the client calls, permits are organised and you have to be there within the hour.

Earlier last year I was also asked to photograph spare parts that this engineering firm creates for generators and air compressors!

I don’t think any job could be classified as boring, but definitely unusual.

7. Why do photographers need Photoshop?

I would say many photographers over the last few years have moved over to Lightroom.  Lightroom is a powerful archiving tool, and it also lets you do all sorts of adjustments to your images.  Over the years Lightroom has become more and more powerful.  The latest version of Lightroom has a book-making module where you can create a coffee table book and upload your book straight to Blurb.com.

I do think though that photographers can’t use Lightroom alone, and using Photoshop to make your final adjustments to an image is a good idea.  Some of the features in Photoshop are a bit more sophisticated than Lightroom, which gives you a bit more control.  So I think photographers can use Lightroom and Photoshop together to create some fantastic images.

8. Complete this sentence: Because of photography…

Photographers have been able to bring certain subjects to others who might not necessarily be able to see them otherwise. 

I would also say because of digital photography, being able to take a photo has become more accessible for people who might not have had access to resources like a film lab in the days prior to digital photography.

9. Are there any websites or online communities you upload your photos to?

I upload quite often to 500px, an online community that is relatively new. There are some amazing photos on the site.  I also upload to my Facebook page, Jon-Erik Munro Photography, as often as I can.

10. Any tips for taking a good photo on a safari with an average camera?

Yes! Get to know your camera back to front and inside out.  No matter what kind of camera you have, whether it is an advanced SLR or a simple point and shoot, learn the settings and familiarise yourself with how to access them.  There is nothing worse than missing that once in a life time shot because you don’t know how to set up your camera correctly. 

One suggestion that was given to me was to put your camera in a black bag and practice setting the ISO, the aperture etc. without looking.  Also, carry your instruction manual in your camera bag.  You never know when you might need to look something up.


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