Imagine a life where you travel to every region in New Zealand every three months. You get to experience living in a luxury hotel for some of the time, while also sleeping in the back of your car in gorgeous locations, ready to capture a perfect sunrise. Sounds like a dream right? Well, it’s also Talman Madsen’s everyday life. The self-described photographer, adventurer, and storyteller says he’s embracing this lifestyle and couldn’t be happier with how everything’s going so far. And it’s not too hard to see why, when you hear Talman talk about just a few of his favourite experiences that he’s experienced with his Sony α7R II and Sony α7 II in tow:
“A few of the highlights have to be a sunrise doors-off helicopter flight around Tititea Mount Aspiring, climbing Mount Ollivier, spending 65 days on the road shooting in preparation for my book, exploring Milford Sound via helicopter, getting lost off-roading in a Trekker Adventures Land Rover Defender, coming face to face with Hoiho (Yellow Eyed Penguin), spending two months hitch-hiking around New Zealand sleeping in a tent, dancing under the strongest Aurora in over 10 years, spending countless nights under the stars, climbing Mount Ruapehu…”
From this abbreviated list of highlights you get the gist that Talman is quite the nature enthusiast. A quick scroll through his Instagram feed showcases an abundance of gorgeous landscape and scenery photographs to get the travel bug biting pretty hard. Nature is something that Talman truly enjoys and where he has many fond memories from his childhood, so it’s something that transpired in his photography.
“[From] a young age I have felt a connection to the land. I grew up camping, fishing, diving, hunting, climbing trees, hiking — the typical Kiwi kid stuff. As I got into photography it was only natural that I continued to photograph where I felt most at home — nature.
“I love that every sunrise is different, that each and every time I head to a location I discover something fresh. There’s nothing like exploring a new area and uncovering what makes it unique — is it the plants, rock formations, land contours, or the way the colours complement each other? I am constantly challenged by trying to communicate the raw emotional power of natural New Zealand landscapes through my photos,” Talman explains.
However, the plan wasn’t always to become a photographer. Initially, Talman’s competitive nature and sense of adventure drew him to the business world, seeing him turn to university to study a BBS in Management and Small Business Entrepreneurship and Management at Massey University. He got a job, settled in, and then decided that that wasn’t the type of adventure he was craving.
“My interest in photography started after a road trip from Auckland to Queenstown via the West Coast of the South Island. I became consumed with seeing the rest of New Zealand, and trying to capture the beauty I saw through a camera lens,” Talman explains, and so the adventure began!
Since then, Talman’s travelled all over the place and turned his interest in photography into a full-blown career. Then in 2016, something pretty incredible happened. He was awarded the title of NZ Geographic Young Photographer of the Year.
“This was huge for me… Winning this award gave me a level of credibility I didn’t have before — as well as boosting my confidence and self belief. I remember on the awards night being surrounded by so many awesome photographers, many of whom I’d been following for some time. It was a feeling I won’t forget in a hurry.”
During Talman’s time shooting, he’s racked up quite a series of favourite shots. For many of the shots it’s both the resulting image itself as well as the story behind it that make them memorable. Here’s a rundown on Talman’s top three and why he likes them so much:
“Earlier this year I linked up with Kiwi photographer Rachel Stewart for a South Island roadie. The main event was hiking up to Mueller Hut for the night. We left late in the afternoon and underestimated the hike, not arriving until well after dark. Instead of staying in the hut I’d decided to continue hiking up to Mount Ollivier to sleep in my bivvy bag. I had just photographed the moon rising over Mount Cook Village and was getting into my sleeping bag when one of the zips broke and the whole side split open. I was now atop a mountain on the only flat-ish patch of rock in sub-zero temperatures with no real way of keeping warm! I barely slept all night and resorted to doing press-ups and star jumps to keep warm.”
“Around 3am, a layer of inversion cloud rolled in, hiding the valleys below. I was now surrounded by some of the highest peaks in New Zealand, listening to constant avalanches echoing around me. Due to the full moon I could see everything as if it was day, and way up above there was a smorgasbord of twinkling stars looking back down at me. I was calm. I was also worried I was going to die of exposure, so it made for an interesting night. As the sun rose I managed to capture just one shot of the Alpenglow on Mount Sefton before the inversion layer of clouds surrounded me, blocking any chance of capturing Aoraki Mount Cook and the incoming sunrise. A memorable night that could have ended very badly had I not been aware of the risks.”
“In January 2017 I made the crazy decision to photograph every single sunrise and sunset for the entire month — each from a different location. It sounds easy, but I dare you to write a list of 31 sunrise and sunset locations in Auckland — or rise at 3:30am most mornings! It was a hectic month that challenged me creatively but helped me to push through many barriers. This sunset shot was taken on day 6 at Whatipu, and summed up the month for me. I wondered what was at ‘spot x’ on a map and decided to go and find out. I was treated to this epic view and awesome sunset!”
Talman’s story is already amazing, but it’s going to just keep blooming. Earlier this year he was approached by a book publisher and has recently published a hardback landscape photo book. He’s started blogging about his adventures and his Instagram account boasts a whopping 38,000-plus followers. Talman is definitely a photographer to keep a very close eye on.