Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Pam's Place, Cooktown. A wonderful little hostel right at the northern end of Australia. Run by an incredibly friendly guy named Scott and his horde of equally friendly parrots. I was here to do a story for Backpacker Essentials magazine, the official YHA magazine. As I walked past the front desk one morning Scott pulled me aside, looked me in the eye and said, "Mate I've just got off the phone with the head of YHA Queensland and he mentioned that there was a travel photographer up this way. I said I didn't know anything about a photographer but there is a travel writer up here. So which are you? A writer or a photographer?" If you read last week's blogs you'll undoubtedly know how much joy I had in replying that I was both!
The confusion had come about because Scott had seen me head out each day armed with notebooks and pens as well as copious amounts of camera equipment. A writer doesn't need camera gear, and a photographer doesn't need pens. But I'm a travel photojournalist and I'm going to show you how a work assignment for us differs from that of either a writer or a photographer.
My assignment was to drive from Cairns to Cooktown, stopping off in beautiful Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation along the way. I had an itinerary of some things that they definitely wanted covered, as well as a request to get some material suitable for a front cover and photographs of their properties for use in advertising. The trip would take about a week and they needed the article package a couple of weeks after I got back. So now I had the brief it was time to start the research.
The first thing I needed to do was look at recent issues of the magazine. I was looking for a couple of different things. The first was the photographs. How many did they use? What were the subjects? What did the front covers look like? I quickly discovered that the front cover always runs to a formula. It has to be a vertical portrait of a young person (often female but sometimes couples) enjoying themselves in the great outdoors. The shots accompanying the articles also often feature young people enjoying themselves in various activities, but there were also landscape, wildlife and local people shots as well. In other words I had to make sure I ingratiated myself in with a group of young, happening twenty somethings and also take lots of scenic photos.On the writing side of things I needed to know what style this kind of road trip article took. I discovered that because such large distances are covered in such a short period of time that no particular emphasis is given to any one place. Instead each attraction usually rated a paragraph or two before the author moved on to the next spot, working on creating an overall feeling of the area as opposed to any one particular feature.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Well one particular trip to a certain bookstore in Bangkok changed my life. After killing sometime with my wife at the movies (don't forget to stand up for the National Anthem!) we came out to find it still pouring with rain.
So we hit a bookstore with quite a good collection of English books - seeing as our Thai isn't so flash hot. And I came across a book by a guy named John Shaw. An American nature photographer, his latest book back then was on the subject of running a nature photography business. Aptly titled The Business of Nature Photography it's quite a large hard-covered book. A quick flick through it and I knew I had to buy it and carry it around the world with me.
You see my wife and I were just starting out on a twelve month journey around India, Nepal and South East Asia. I was taking photographs with the dream of becoming a professional travel photographer but had no idea how to get there. John's book put me on the right track.
It taught me about how to approach magazines, how to create a catalogue of my images, how to store my images... basically everything I needed to get started. It also taught me the very important point I made last week about learning how to write to really get ahead in this field. So even though it's a bit old now (nobody uses DOS computer systems anymore!) many of the things he writes about are still very pertinent today.
Nature and travel photography are a different beast from large-scale commercial and advertising photography. You're working in a small, niche market where everybody seems to know everybody. This is a great introduction to how it all works. Not only that but it is full of some of the sharpest, most beautiful images you will ever see. I don't know if there's a sequel coming out, but even if there isn't I would definitely recommend you take a look at this great book. It has pride of place on my shelf and a little inscription I wrote on the inside front cover:
Bought in Bangkok Thailand
August 10th 1998
In the hope that one day I too will be able to make a living doing what I love.
To all those who have the same dream I wish you the best of luck!