Jackie Ranken: The Woman Behind the Lens


Jackie Ranken is a stand out Landscape photographer that grew up in Australia and eventually move to New Zealand with her husband, whom she is the co-director with for the Queenstown Centre for Creative Arts. She has over 30 years photography experience and started her long career by capturing greyhounds at the local race track at just 16yrs old. From here she went on to study Fine Arts and began capturing life around her. We asked Jackie a few questions about her career and this is her story:

Lets start from the beginning, what inspired you to get into photography?

My father was the first person who inspired me to get into Photography. He was a keen amateur photographer who had his own darkroom and made prints from black and white silver gelatin prints from negative (Film). I remember standing beside him watching prints magically develop before my eyes. I was hooked. I still get the same buzz from printing my digital files, now with my Canon Pro1000.

Photography played a big part of my growing up. From an early age I was documenting my friends at school and photographing the family holidays. It seemed like a natural thing to do. At the start I had the equivalent of a simple point and shoot camera without much control of exposure or lens choice. I was sixteen when my Dad bought me my first 35mm SLR film camera. Straight away I was learning how to use aperture and shutter speeds to not only get correct exposure but to help me communicate how I felt about a subject. Three weeks later I had my first weekend job photographing the local Greyhound dog races. After three weekends training I had to get it right on my own. Correct focus, exposure, panning and correct framing of the shot were what was required. There was twenty two races each Saturday afternoon so I had twenty two chances to get the dog on or near the finish post and then sell the image to the owner. So I became a photographer without really knowing about the history of photography or the art of photography. It wasn’t until I began teaching ‘Black and White Art Photography’ at TAFE in 1998 that I really started to appreciate it’s depth and history. Jon Lewis was a photographer who at the time inspired me to shoot more projects for myself. I think that this is of prime importance.

What do you take with you to a shoot these days?

I have spent over thirty years as a professional photographer now when I go out on shoots it is for personal pleasure and or to teach others the skills that I have learnt over those years. Mike Langford (my husband) and myself run photography workshops based from Queenstown –New Zealand.

If I have a car to help carry the gear I like to take it all so that I can share some gear with others if they need it.

I will also take a few props with me to work with in the landscape. It depends what series of images I am working on at the time.

My favourite kit is my Canon 5DS,

  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM
  • Canon EF TSE 24mm MKII f3.5L
  • Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L USM
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM 
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
  • Canon EF 100-400mm II F4.5-5.6 L IS USM (on order)
  • Induro Gtt204 Tripod with BHM2s head
  • ND and polarizing filters
  • Remote switch

My travel kit is a little lighter (highlighted in Bold).

You have travelled to some unbelievable places in the world, and we can only image that you have experienced some incredible things. Is there one in particular that stands out to you?

 I am very lucky to have travelled to many exotic places. I think that the best experiences are the ones that are unique on a personal level. Something tugs at heart and the world becomes still.

The experience of being ‘on top of the planet’ in Tibet, with the air so thin and the sky is so blue, felt heavenly. Tibet is a landscape full of colourful people who have a deep connection with their culture.

On another level the experiencing of being in Antarctica was amazing. This is an incredibly quite place full of majestic landscapes that emerge with the play of light. Antarctica is famous for it’s abounding amount of wildlife. I think that this is because the wildlife have no fear of human’s. I had an experience where I was sitting beside the waters edge and a penguin jumped out of the water beside me a waddled off down the shoreline. On these occasions it is best to have two camera’s ready to shoot. One with a long lens and one with a wide angle.


Deception Island – Antarctica

Understanding that ‘Aerial Abstract’ was what highlighted your ability to shoot landscape, did you have any inspiration for the series?

My series “Arial Abstracts’ 2003 came about by flying late in the afternoon with my father. I mentioned my father (Richard Nell) earlier he not only was a keen photographer he was also a pilot and had a biplane called a Stampe. (This is much like a Tiger Moth). On this occasion I had been commissioned to make an aerial photograph of the country around my home town of Goulburn, NSW. Australia.

Shooting late in the day made the landscape look more interesting because the low angle of light enhanced the contours and made the shadows more expressive.

As we were flying around looking for suitable subjects I noticed that the shadows on subjects directly below me looked fantastic. They were ‘abstracts’ I had had a few year’s at art school and I guess I was reminded of the abstract paintings that I made. Later I became familiar with the work of those who had come before me, like, WA photographer Richard Woldendorp (he photographed mainly in colour). In recent year there has been an explosion in the amount of aerial images out there.


Image from ‘Aerial Abstract’ series

You are a Canon Master and have been for some time now, what has been your favourite part of that journey?

I have had a great relationship with Canon since winning Canon AIPP Photographer of the Year in 2002. It’s been great having a company that has been prepared to back our business and our photography and likewise Mike and myself are there to help Canon too. In fact many of the Canon team have become our friends. We believe in their product and they believe in us. By us I mean Mike Langford and myself. We think that we have an all round winning situation.

You are a multi award winner for your photography, is there one in particular that stands out to you?

Winning the 2002 Canon AIPP Photographer of the Year has been one of the highlights because it came at a time when I was transitioning from shooting film to shooting digital. The winning prize was a Professional Canon DSLR Kit. This experience was the first one that introduced me to the Canon Team and in particular, back then, it was Stewart Poignand who was General Manager, Marketing and Consumer Imaging. Getting to know the people at the top has its benefits.

Stewart was a visionary and he helped Mike and myself create our ‘”Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography Workshops” where people could learn to use the early Canon DSLR cameras. Time has moved on and now there are many other company’s running photography workshops . We still offer the use of current DSLR Canon cameras to our clients and now we have support from Canon New Zealand and Rochelle Mora.

You and Mike, are both co-directors at Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography, is sharing your knowledge in photography always been a dream?

Mike and myself have been running photography workshops based in Queenstown (New Zealand) for over ten years now. It has been a great journey and very rewarding. Just the other day a senior member of a regional photography group rang us to congratulate us for up skilling many of the members in his club. We feel that we have a knack for teaching and as we teach we continue to learn. That has to be a dream job, especially now that many of our past clients are wanting to come with us on our international travel workshops to places like Tibet, Antarctica and Japan.


Photo taken on 2014 trip to Tibet

Would you have any advice for aspiring photographers?

My advice to aspiring photographers is to practice as much as possible and to practice at the types of photography that inspires you. Learn about the history of photography and reference the past. As photographers we don’t live in isolation. We learn and in some ways we steal ideas from each other. So why not reference those that we appropriate from and celebrate the ongoing cycle of learning.

I would also recommend that as soon as you start to think about being a Commercial Photographer think about joining the professional photographic organizations like AIPP or NZIPP. Enter the awards system and have your images critiqued by others. Be prepared to be a photographer for a life time and never stop learning.

What is on the horizon for you Jackie?

On the horizon for Jackie is more time to keep learning and experimenting with new techniques while referencing he old. I want to push my photographic boundaries as much as possible.

We all have a dream? Have you fulfilled your’s or is there still more to come?

There is definitely more to come. I will purchase more books by women photographers.

So what book’s do you currently own by woman photographers?

The books that I have by women photographers in my book shelf are Ruth Bernhard, Annie Leibovitz, Tina Madotti, Joyce Tenneson, Sarah Moon, Deborah Turbeville and in more recent times Anne Geddes and Rachael Hale. The printed image is my favourite way of experiencing photography.

Lastly, who is your favourite photographer?

My favourite photographer is Mike Langford because we inspire one another to constantly improve and think about what we are doing photographically.


Thank you so much for your time Jackie, and if you want to view Jackie’s incredible photography you can visit her website.



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