Explorer and photographer, Conor Moore isn’t afraid to go off the beaten track (or into a spooky lake) to find adventure. We chatted to him about his favourite snaps and adventures.
JT: So what’s your current camera set up?
CM: I’ve got a Canon 6D Mark II and a whole bunch of lenses depending on what I’m shooting. For my underwater stuff, I’ve got an Ikelite housing, Ikelite strobes, and a Tokina fish-eye lens, a go-to in the industry. I’ve also got a Canon 7D, an old Canon 5D, a Mavic Pro. Yeah, all the toys.
What would be a go-to lens of yours?
I pretty much shot with the Canon 24-70mm f2.8 all of last year, it rarely came off the camera. It’s sharp, versatile, and unless I was shooting underwater stuff or had a particular scene, it was my go-to. I love that lens so much.
Do you remember what sparked your interest in photography and when you realised you wanted to pursue it seriously?
Well, I’ve always been interested in photography and the arts in general. Funnily enough, what really sparked it was my girlfriend’s brother. He was looking for some money to go to Stereo and had this old Nikon D5100 he was trying to get rid of.
He said, ‘Look man, I’ll sell it to you for 200 bucks because I know you’re keen on photography.’ So I thought, you know what, I’ll buy the DSLR and have a bit of fun with it. Then my interest in photography just exploded from there. I’ve always been keen on hiking, camping, and fishing, and being able to bring a camera with me and shoot all of it definitely sparked a little flame in me. So I think it’s always been there, but that one instance really set the ball rolling.
Stereo. Now that’s an excellent genesis story.
Yeah, I always get a big laugh whenever I tell that one.
So you’ve submitted some pretty amazing photo essays in the past year, the two that come to mind are the shots from Devils Marbles and Lake Eacham. Which of those trips sticks with you more and can you tell us a little about those adventures?
Oh, that’s a tough one. Devils Marbles was awesome. Travelling through the Northern Territory was so different to what I’ve always been used to, living here in Cairns or down in Brisbane. You’ve got no line of sight here in terms of landscape photography because there are trees everywhere. Having space between you and the subject was very different, so having that element to play with was really cool.
However, I love my underwater photography and diving up at Lake Eacham was really incredible. The visibility there was about one metre, so if you don’t have a strobe on, all of your images are just green.
It’s a big volcanic crater, there’s no current, and it’s all freshwater. So after a big heavy rain, it’ll be a bit clearer, then three to four days after that algae will build up and you can hardly see a thing.
People actually do freediving courses there, and I’ve tried freediving there too, but as soon as you get down to 10 metres it just gets so cold. When you’re at the top in your wetsuit, you think it’s not too bad – but then it just gets cold! The gradient is so much worse than out in the ocean because there’s no current. So it’s a challenging environment, but also a very cool scene.
And what about those little toys you found down the bottom there? I had a good giggle at those.
They do police training down there and they go down to 30-40 metres. There’s a whole bunch of stuff set up just below where they go, just to piss them off. It’s really funny. There’s a community of local divers who jump in there and lay some little toys down, but since there’s no current, we have no idea how long they’ve been down there for.
Do you have your eyes set on anything that you want to shoot, be it on land or underwater?
Well, I was really keen on diving the Yongala wreck. It’s one of the worlds best dive sites and I can’t wait to get down there. My mate did it just before the coronavirus hit and said if you go out to the reef, everything is twice as big as you’d expect, and it’s all concentrated around this wreck.
There are also plenty of hikes around Cairns that I still haven’t done. The one thing that I really like about where I live is you can always find new things to do. I walked my dog the other day and found a path that leads up into the rainforest. So I went for a stroll up there and ran into a fella that was building a path right up to the top of the hill. He’s got all his tools and stuff set up there.
So there are people just constantly making new hiking tracks, and there are plenty of shipwrecks around here that aren’t marked. It’s like a little paradise.
If you had choose your favourite hike in your area, what would it be?
My favourite hike would be Cannabullen Falls. Up on the Atherton Tablelands, you go up the mountain range and the temperature drops right off. So it’s a really different environment up there, compared to the wetter rainforested area down in Cairns.
It’s about a couple of hours to get to the top of the falls, and you have an amazing view looking over the valley to where the falls dropdown. The really tricky part is going down the ridgeline on the other side.
It’s really steep and wet, so it’s basically just a mudslide into the valley. And then you have to hike back up to the base of the falls. It’s really tricky and I love that. As soon as I’m allowed out there, I’m heading out to Cannabullen Falls and setting up my hammock there.
What’s one tip you’d have for someone who’s starting to get into outdoor and wildlife photography?
The one major thing would be to try and find a group of friends who do it as well. Go and bounce ideas around and learn from them. You can watch YouTube tutorials and do courses all day, but nothing compares to actually getting out there and doing it.
Being able to go out and set up your tripod, go to a location with your friends and just talk about how you’d shoot what’s in front of you, is by far one of the most valuable things that I’ve come to appreciate. Just go out there and have fun with it. You learn so much more when you go out and enjoy what you’re doing.
Who’s a photographer that’s influenced the style that you shoot or edit?
The two that first come to mine are Jason Futrill and Kieran Stone. They’re very landscape photography orientated, which is what I was interested in initially with photography. So I think a lot of my adventure stuff comes from a landscape background, where I’m trying to capture the scene, and the person is just an addition to the scene, as opposed to vice versa. They’ve definitely been my major influences from day dot.
What’s your favourite photo you’ve ever taken?
Well, it might be a bit biased but I do have a photo of the S.S City of Adelaide which was taken up on Magnetic Island that blew up on social media.
The backstory to that shot is probably why I like it so much. My girlfriend and I headed down to Magnetic Island on Australia Day. One morning, I headed out to one of the jetties for sunrise but it was pretty cloudy and miserable. We made ourselves some coffee and I was shooting the scene but I just wasn’t feeling it. Thank goodness Kate suggested we go check out something else.
The next beach around was Cockle Bay, which is where the shipwreck is. When we pulled up to the bay, we couldn’t even see the wreck, but I got the drone up to have a look. As soon as I got the drone up, we saw the shipwreck tucked around the backside of some mangroves and the wind whipping across.
As I was flying the drone head-on directly into the wind, it was hardly moving anywhere. I took some shots and didn’t really think too much of it at the time. Even when we got back home I didn’t pull up the photo for a couple of weeks. When I finally got around to editing and posting it, Australia ended up reposting it and it exploded.
Over time the more and more I look at it, the cooler I think it gets. The composition of it sort of removes the rest of the island that’s nearby and it just looks like a shipwreck in the middle of the ocean with mangroves growing out of it. So that’s probably my favourite photo because of the story behind it and the fact that it’s growing on me over time.
It’s aged well like a fine wine. Let’s move on to the photo you took at The Lost City during your trip through the NT.
Going back to the start of 2018, my girlfriend and I were on a big trip of Australia in our Troopy.
We went down the east coast, camped in Kosci for a month, drove through South Australia and up to the Northern Territory. We figured we’d go through Limmen National Park, which is on the border of Queensland and the NT. If you think of the most stereotypical Australian bush, that’s what’s there. You’ve just got dirt, heaps of buffalo and feral cows hanging around.
We arrived at the Rangers House and there was no one there. They had big buffalo skulls and all the information we needed. So we grabbed the keys we needed to get into the national park and went 4WDing for half a day, just to get down to the Lost City.
I can’t believe it’s not more advertised that there are these crazy rock formations out there that are the Lost City. It’s nothing like anything I’ve seen in Australia. I feel like it should be on the same level as the Bungle Bungles, it’s absolutely crazy over there. Obviously it’s harder to get to than a lot of places, but I like finding the hard-to-get-to spots.
We timed it perfectly, as at that time of the year, the morning glory clouds were rolling through. Around September or October, they form in the gulf area.
On that morning I was flying the drone around and there was heaps of mist. As the mist cleared, the morning glory cloud was ripping across from horizon to horizon. It all just fell into place right there and then. How good?!
Shooting The Lost City // Limmen National ParkPLAY VIDEO
How tall would you say the rock formations are? It’s hard to tell from the drone angle.
I would say some of them would be 25-30 metres, they’re enormous. You’re an ant walking through there. There’s a walking track that goes all the way through them and they go for kilometres. You’ve got so much room to explore in there and there’s lots of wallabies hanging out amongst the rocks.
It’s an awesome place and if it was more accessible I dare say that it would be up there as one of Australia’s major attractions. But in another way, I’m glad that it’s more remote, so you can go and experience the whole thing by yourself.
Truly an off-grid paradise.
You’ve nailed it.