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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Resign yourself...

Putting together today's post I was looking through images I took in Africa and the most common thought going through my head was - gee it's easy to take boring animal pictures!

Ever since I was a little kid I'd dreamed of visiting the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Names that roll off the tongue and documentaries that showed incredible scenes of action and adventure. And when I finally got there I just went crazy and got a lot of really, really.....ordinary pictures.

In fact I saw so many sleeping lions that I just had to take a shot of this lioness because for me it was rather comical that I'd flown half way around the world to get a shot like I could have taken at my local zoo! Sometimes you just have to resign yourself to the fact that the natural world doesn't necessarily have the same photographic aspirations as we do.

Apart from the world being against me, I made a couple of critical errors of my own. One of them was my film choice - which has largely been rendered irrelevant with digital but just to let you know anyway. I spent 9 months in Africa during which time I carried 145 rolls of Kodachrome 64 slide film. This was before I was doing this for a living and it was the cheapest film (and had the cost of processing included!)

Anyway to cut a long story short, it was way too slow for all the great stuff that happened early in the morning and late in the afternoon. I would love to show you all the slightly blurry pictures I have of animals taken just after sunrise. :) Maybe I'll save them for the family slideshow night as revenge for all those years of socks for Christmas.

The other one was going on safari with other people who weren't as interested in photography as I was. The kind who can't understand why you want to sit around watching two cheetah brothers for a couple of hours to see if they initiate a chase.

This cheetah was looking very intently at the horizon and our guide was sure he was eyeing off prey but others in our group decided that it would be much more productive to go and look for leopards.

(9 months in Africa and I never saw a single leopard by the way)

Anyway one conclusion I rapidly came to is that in any photographic speciality to really get great images and reach the pinnacle of your game you need time.

Whether it's camping for a couple of weeks to get great light over the Great Rift Valley, or sitting in a hide for a couple of months to capture an elusive animal, great photography really does take time.

And time is something that we travel photographers often don't have. For reasons of budget, editorial timetables and a myriad of other excuses we often end up in a place for a lot shorter than we would ideally like. Much like any keen amateur photographer on holiday.

So how do we get over this? We resign ourselves to the fact that we have to concentrate on getting as good as nature provides us with, as opposed to what we think we deserve because we've paid so much money for our air tickets.

Oftentimes we might not get the weather we want, the iconic statues might be covered in scaffolding and the lions might all be asleep. But that's no excuse for not getting great images. You have to think, adapt and come away with your own version of your reality - not what you see in the postcards.

And if serendipity is going your way you'll come away with a couple of keepers and a lot of good memories. And just for the record my sleeping lioness has been published in five different countries. Go figure. I guess one person's reality can be something that other people can relate to even if it's not perfect.


Of course for every sleeping lioness you're bound to get a little bit of luck and gorgeous afternoon giraffes. Savour the giraffes and you'll learn to appreciate the sleepers.

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