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

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shooting without a tripod

Before I left for this trip to Singapore I really ummed and aahed about taking my tripod. Which is really unusual for me because I religiously take it everywhere with me.

And in the end I did this time too - but I found that I didn't have it out all that much. Which is even more unusual because a lot of the places I seemed to end up were dark and needed long exposures at lower ISO settings.

But instead of my tried and true tripod I had a bit of an experiment with high ISO's. Take this shot here taken in the Underwater World aquarium on Sentosa Island. ISO 1600 and even then I ended up with only a shutter speed of 1/10th second wide open at f3.5. That's pretty damn dark!

I was a bit worried about the noise levels and how they would look and discovered a few things when it came time to post-process the RAW files. The first thing was that the grain (ah Freudian slip - that's the film photographer in me coming through!) - noise - wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Yes it was there but not at really horrible levels. There certainly was hardly any of that horrible blue and red splotchy colour noise to be seen. It was mostly the black specks of Luminance Noise.

Secondly I found that if I had underexposed a shot and had to brighten it then that really brought out the noise to an unacceptable level. The right exposure was absolutely criticial, even being too bright was preferable. I found that by reducing the exposure level and the brightness and darkening my blacks (all in Adobe Camera RAW) the noise virtually disappeared! So for those pictures where I had shot it a bit brighter than necessary and needed to darken the picture I had virtually noise free images.

So I have pretty much been convinced that I can shoot at at least up to ISO 1600 - I was a bit too scared to go beyond that being the big chicken that I am. :) As long as I remember to expose my picture so that it is a lot brighter than I need (without blowing out the highlights) then the pictures are really, really good. I want to experiment a bit more with the apparent sharpness levels at these settings but from what I saw in my few days of shooting a lot of dark places I'm sold.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Do travel photographers ever take a holiday?

We've all heard the stories about the architect who has the kitchen that needs major renovations. Or the mechanic who never fixes all the little problems with their own car.

Well travel photographers can be guilty of a similar crime. We tend to be so intent on focussing our cameras on the local flavour around us that we forget to look back at those travelling with us.

And for many that is our families. This trip to Singapore was a bit of a first for me. I went with absolutely no plans of what to shoot. Usually I plan everything meticulously so that, even when I'm travelling with my family, I have plenty of time to get out and get the shots I really want to. In other words I'm always working even when I'm supposed to be on holiday.

This time all the planning involved as many fun activities as possible for the boys. Elephant rides, orangutan photos, shopping for souvenirs in Chinatown. And you know what? It was all really photogenic. Just in a way I never expected. I found myself shooting my family and their excited reactions to all their new experiences. I did photograph things I came across that really struck me but tried as much as possible to concentrate my lens on those closest to me.

Part of it was probably because it was such a short trip and we had such a full schedule but it actually took a lot of the pressure off. I didn't have a client to fill image needs for (and usually the client is me) and so could shoot whatever I wanted. So now I have a 1000 or so images of my boys involved in a whole bunch of activities that they've been talking excitedly about ever since we got back.

Whilst I certainly don't recommend you all go to a foreign country and neglect to photograph anything but your travel companions I would definitely recommend you concentrate a bit more on capturing images of how your friends and family interact with the cultures you come across. I'm certainly not planning to open a portrait studio in a hurry (!) but I hope I've learnt to not get so caught up in 'work' type images that I miss those around me having fun in their own way.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday's Link

Hi there everybody,

just in case you thought I'd dropped off the face of the planet - I was on holiday! Well as much of a holiday as a travel photographer can be on when they take their camera with them anyway. It was my first time back to Singapore for a number of years and we all had a great time. I'll post some images as I get them processed.

Anyway for today's link I thought I'd send you to the winners of the 2009 AIPP (Australian Institite of Professional Photography) annual awards. A big shout out to my good friend Charmaine Heyer who won the 2009 Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photographer of the Year

That's a pretty amazing commendation and thoroughly deserved.