Murray Fraser is a surf photographer who has seen more sunrises than anyone we know. Every morning he wakes up early to catch pixels as the sun rises over the Tasman Sea. As the sky begins to mottle Murray explores Manly Beach for angles and subjects. The first shards of light reveal waves and the waterline. Things that washed up overnight. The other early birds who run and walk, or stretch on the beach before paddling out.

In between close encounters with water creatures of both the human and cetaceous kinds we managed to catch up with Murray for a quick chat about surf, photography, life and light.

Hey Murray, how’s it going? Tell us about your day so far…any good photos this morning?

“the light is definitely different in winter and I’m sure that difference is exaggerated at dawn”

This morning was pretty amazing. There’s something really nice about the quality of light in winter. I’m no scientist, or meteorologist for that matter, but there’s something about the colder weather that keeps the air clearer. Perhaps it’s a lack of humidity, or the lower path the sun takes across the sky, but the light is definitely different in winter and I’m sure that difference is exaggerated at dawn. So in short, the light was beautiful this morning and we had some great waves.  I think there’s some really nice pictures from today’s session.

We saw your recent dolphin shots featured in some pretty major publications! What are some of the highlights you’ve had since joining Sprout Daily?

Oh you saw that.  Was pretty cool to get a picture published on page three in The Australian! I guess getting pictures published is always a highlight, but the real highlights are the experiences. This year I got to spend about 45 minutes in the water having a very close encounter with a 5 metre Southern Right Whale! That was amazing! Also I think the travel is the other standout highlight.  Travel is such a privileged experience.  I mean it’s a very small minority of humans get to hop on a plane and take in beautiful locations, different cultures and meet people living a different life to you.

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You must get asked this all the time, but how do you get up early every day of the year?! Do you still need an alarm clock?

I usually sleep with the curtains open so I wake up when the light starts to change outside.  Although, this winter has been particularly cold in Sydney and my bedroom is surrounded by windows so I’ve been shutting the curtains for insulation.  But yeah, I still need an alarm clock sometimes for sure.

Who in the photography world inspires you?

“Light has a tendency to do amazing things but those moments can be rare”

I guess the photographers I really dig are the ones that have an affinity for capturing light and life and representing them realistically.  Light has a tendency to do amazing things but those moments can be rare.  Life’s the same; little moments will present themselves that can be funny, profound, emotive. So the photographers I really love are the ones that can see those things, whether it be light or life, and be in the right place to capture them.  Documentary photographers such as Andrew Quilty, James Brickwood, David Maurice Smith and Garry Trinh are forever capturing moments.  Ray Collins and Trent Mitchell really see light and water.  All those guys create pictures with depth. They take a bit of time to digest.  My friend Carl La Maitre who shapes surfboards is making captivating pictures because he’s into the world.  It’s cool!

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Which song or album most accurately matches the essence of your photography?

I have to say I’m a bit hopeless with music.  I don’t really get into it that much so I really only listen to what’s on the radio or what other people have on.  I’ve always liked live music so Paul Simon’s Concert In The Park is my go to album.  I guess I love the experience that live music recordings bring, plus Paul Simon is a great story teller.

Beyond photography, what are your other passions?

I like food and coffee.  I love cooking and I love eating.  I think it’s a time my brain switches off and I can just get in the moment.

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What are the three best things about living in Manly?

In a totally random order:

  1. Community.  Manly’s a small village in a big city.  It doesn’t take long to realise it’s a special place in that way. Down the beach, at the fruit shop, drinking coffee, drinking beer, you see the same faces and I reckon that’s really cool.  Suburbia can be a barren, isolating place and I like people, so village life is my kind of life.
  2. It’s beautiful.  Manly is really beautiful! The ocean, Cabbage Tree Bay, North Head, the Harbour, Queenscliff Lagoon. If Manly wasn’t in Sydney, it’d be a National Park that people would travel the world to come and see.
  3. Sydney.  We might be in a village but Sydney is just a short boat ride away and there’s cool shit happening in Sydney! Art galleries, performing arts, street culture, environmental culture, cultures from all over the world – you can go and soak it up if you want!

Favourite food and drink?

Coffee – I like the taste, I like how it makes me feel.  Haha.  But yeah, I do enjoy a good coffee.  I also love mangoes.  I’m not talking about those ones with names like R2E2 or B74, I’m talking about the good old Bowen mangoes!  Get a good one and it’s about as good a thing as you’ll ever put in your mouth!

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Favourite piece of camera gear?

“Get in the water and you’re in the game!”

Underwater housing.  I love being in the water shooting.  It feels much more authentic to my experience of surfing. Shooting from the beach is like being on the sidelines. Get in the water and you’re in the game!

For sure… and finally, do you have a mantra that you live by or any words of wisdom that keep you motivated?

No.  I kind of wish I did actually, it might give me more forethought.  Right now I just get into the day and see what it presents.

How can people connect with you and find out more?

If people want to find out more, get on the SproutDaily subscriber list or maybe follow my instagram account – @sproutdaily.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to chat.

Thanks Murray, let’s have a beer in Manly sometime soon!

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