Q&A with Phillip Norman, July PhotoPiller of the Month

By Rafael Pons

We're happy to introduce you Phillip Norman, the July PhotoPiller of the month, the Sunmaster and the winner of $100 in the PhotoPills Awards.


Also, a Big Congrats to the other two winners:

Congratulations guys!

And again, thank you to all the PhotoPillers who are sharing all these legendary photos with the whole Tribe via PhotoPills.


Congratulations, you’re the July PhotoPiller of the Month, how does it feel?

It feels great. I love the Photopills app so it’s great to be supported by something I use regularly. 

Tell us a little bit about you. What’s your story?

I am husband to Jocasta and father to Oliver (7) and Zoë (4), I devote most of my time to them, they are my life and the biggest part of my story. I love to travel and photography has always been a part of what ever I am doing, although Jocasta says I never take enough photographs of the children! I have recently started to look at where I can be more creative with landscape photography, although it is something that doesn't seem to come all that naturally to me. I really enjoy working with other photographers and giving them opportunities to expand their own photography adventure.

What’s your favourite beer?

At the moment my favorite beer is Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale.

What’s your favourite PhotoPills t-shirt?


Where are your headquarters?

I live in Melbourne, Australia. But I travel all over the world with family and for my photography.

Why photography?

I can’t imagine why not! Photography has been something I have been interested in for as long as I can remember. As a child I went on camping and hiking trips with my family; my Father always had a camera and was always taking photographs. I was always asking if I could carry the camera. When I was 14 he bought me my first camera. A second hand Pentax I think.

What’s the story behind your legendary shot?

My Panther Creek Sun image was inspired by the work of Marc Adamus. Shooting directly into the light and keeping the highlights in check was the key. The essence behind the image really is about several things. First was knowing where the sun was going to be early in the morning and how the creek was aligned. Using the Photopills Planner and Google Earth helps getting everything lined up.

Next was finding a great composition in the right part of the creek that aligned best with the sun and the trees. I just walked up the creek above Panther Creek Falls till I found those nice cascades. Then it was a matter of exposing for the water and forest, and a second exposure at f/22 for the sunstar. I then processed the raw files in Lightroom and blended them together in Photoshop. Working with the existing light and detail to accentuate flow and depth from front to back helps to really put the viewer there in the forest with me.

What PhotoPills tools did you use?

For this image I used the Planner tool, the Sun tool, and the Exposure tool.

What equipment and settings did you use?

My main camera at the moment is the Canon EOS 5D MK III, for this image I used the Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM set at 16mm. Main exposure was 0.3sec, f/16, ISO 100.

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?

The Canon EF24-70 f/2.8L USM. This lens is a real workhorse, and it’s image quality is simply outstanding across the full zoom and aperture range. If I had to rely on just one lens this would be it. 

How would you describe your style?

My current style is probably ‘natural landscape’. My journey right now is one of creative discovery, but it’s not easy for me to change my thinking from a very technical approach to a much more creative approach. 

How important is planning in your photography?

Planning is critical and Photopills is a huge help. When travelling I may not have a lot of time at a certain location so doing some planning before I even leave home can help to maximise my chances of success with limited time. Researching the best time of day and using the Planner to check sun and moon times and angles all help to pre-visualise the general composition. Then it’s just a matter of finetuning on location and waiting and hoping for some good light.

How important is editing in your final images?

For me image making is not defined but one individual step or process. I believe there are many steps involved, and camera capture, or raw editing or Photoshop processing are just parts of a much bigger picture. So editing for me is a very important part of a much bigger process. 

What inspires you and gives you such a great ideas?

I am inspired by those special places in the world that have incredible natural beauty. I am particularly drawn to mountain landscape and water falls. I have spent many years climbing mountains all around the world.

A photographer that inspires you?

What just one! There are so many. I’m going to have to name a few sorry...

Marc AdamusAnsel AdamsAdam WilliamsRicardo da CunhaHillary YoungerPaul ZizkaMax RiveMiles MorganRyan DyarTed GoreMarcio Cabral

A book that has inspired you.

I don’t read enough, nothing comes to mind.

Say the first word that comes to your mouth and what you do, when bad weather ruins a legendary photo you had previously planned months ago...

“Aargh, shit balls!”. I can’t control the weather, I’ll just plan to try again another time if I can.

Did you go to school to study photography?

No, I did do some photojournalism for my high school magazine. Basically I’ve taught myself. I get lots of help from some of my good friends whose work is inspirational to me.

Something you’re still learning?

Everything... Creative Concepts.

Can you briefly describe for the PhotoPillers your photographic workflow?

In the field I try to get the best composition, that is key. Then I work to capture the raw light as best I can or as best as it is presented in the moment. Photopills is a great help with much of the technical and planning stuff. I use Adobe Lightroom to do the raw processing, then I usually use Photoshop to do layering, blending and other ‘light’ work.

What would you love photographing before you die?

The Great Barrier Reef before it’s all gone.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?


Are you a Mac or PC lover?

I’m bilingual, but for photography I prefer Apple.

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

Honestly, my wife! Corny I know but that’s it. I guess photographically I’d love to get Marc Adamus, Hillary Younger, Paul Zizka, Max Rive, Miles Morgan, Ryan Dyar, Ted Gore, Marcio Cabral all around the same table! 

Your favourite film (movie) of all time?

The Last of the Mohicans. 

If any, what music do you listen when shooting?

I generally don’t listen to anything other than the natural sounds of the landscape. If anything it would probably be Coldplay.

First thing you would do if you won the lottery?

Buy a house or three. And a Red Epic 617 28K. 

What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?

Running a sustainable photography business.

Could you share one final piece of advice with the PhotoPillers?

Composition combined with creativity win every time!

And the last question, if you had one wish...

To be perfectly clear about what it is I want to do with this life! 

Oh, one more... Where can we find you?

Check my website.


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