About Me

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday




Welcome to Fantastic FNQ photo Friday, the regular day of the week where I pay homage to the sights of beautiful Far North Queensland - or FNQ as we call it locally.

As a Cairns photographer perhaps more well known for my jaunts to foreign lands it's nice for me to be able to show pictures of the place I call home, and remind everybody that I photograph locally as well.

At the recent Queensland Tourism Awards in Brisbane this place, the Daintree Discovery Centre, won the Qantas Award for Excellence in Sustainability. I've been in here a few times over the years and it just keeps on getting better and better.

This image is of the giant aerial walkway that leads to a 23 metre tower that lets you get up above the rainforest treetops. It's a spectacular view and one usually only seen by our feathered friends.

If you make it up to the Daintree then this is definitely one place you should put on your bucket list. And if you come during the wet season make sure you bring your umbrella - or handy plastic poncho as these folks have! Click on over to my website to see more of my photos of the Daintree.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Woe is me.....no, really just confused.




There is a lot of negativity in the world of professional photography. And probably a lot of it is justified. I mean rates haven't gone up in decades, many clients are demanding if not your copyright then at least unlimited rights. There are more photographers than you can poke a stick at (that's 'a lot' in Australian!), many of whom have no knowledge about how to run a photography business apart from the fact that they know where the ON button for their camera is.

But I don't like to buy into all this negative bullshit. Photography has always been a hard business, competitive and full of people who think that it seems like an easy way to make a living. I can only control how I run my life, not how the world around me does. But one recent phenomenon has got me a bit baffled.

And I've only really noticed this in the last few years - mostly coinciding with the introduction of digital capture. Potential clients (and I use the term very loosely!) honestly seem aghast at the thought that they have to pay me money if they want to use my photographs.

Maybe I'm just naive but isn't that the way business is supposed to work. You provide a product or service, customers pay you money to use what you're selling and the world goes on its merry way. Yet for an increasing number of people, it seems that making money should only be an option for other kinds of businesses.

Maybe it's because photography is perceived as fun. Maybe if we enjoy our jobs we don't actually have the right to get paid for it? I'm pretty sure Brad Pitt loves what he does, and last time I checked he gets paid pretty well. Lady Gaga looks like she's having a ball out there on stage. I don't think she's doing it for free? So it can't be that people expect it for free because I enjoy creating beautiful pictures.

Maybe it's because digital is free. After all I only have to buy expensive digital cameras (every two years!), lenses, fast computers (that also need to be upgraded every couple of years), thousands of dollars worth of hard drives to back up my precious images on to. And let's not forget all the time and money invested in learning how to be my own personal photo lab. Digital is a hell of a lot more expensive than film ever was so it can't be that.

Maybe it's because if I give all my work away for free I'll get really good publicity. Hell, everybody knows that a credit line is the road to fame and fortune. Hate to burst your bubble but I don't really know anybody that has had a credit line on a free photograph lead to anything other than more requests for free photos! Actually here in Australia it's now federal law that if I want a credit line the client has to put it in there anyway. I took some tearsheets in to my bank the other day and asked the manager to pay my mortgage with those. You can guess what his response was! Then I went to my accountant and proposed to him that if he did my taxes for free I would make sure I told all my friends what a great accountant he is. He wasn't playing ball - bugger.


You know what I think it is. A plain old lack of respect. For both photography and the photographer. A thought process that says "I have the right to promote my business and make as much money as possible. I have the right to use beautiful pictures (because I know they are the first thing a potential customer sees of my business) but if I can get it for free than why the hell should I have to pay anyone?"

I don't know that this is always the case because I've met a lot of seemingly really nice people who just don't understand why they should have to pay for photos. So I guess I'm stumped as to why businesses understand that they need to pay for: their electricity, their printing, their graphic design, to place ads in magazines, to advertise in the Yellow Pages, to build a website. So why do they have to pay for all this stuff, and yet not comprehend that they should pay for the glue that holds it all together - beautiful pictures that show their business in the best possible light.

I gotta say...it's beyond me! I have no idea whatsoever. I'm just really confused. The only thing I'm not confused about is my answer to requests for free pictures - 'because it'll be really good exposure'. Sure I could get snarky and mean and abusive but who would that help? I've got better things to do with my time, and the last thing you need is to be abused for what might be an honest mistake.

Just be aware that if you come to me looking for free pictures, it ain't gonnna happen. There will be a charge for all uses big and small. The fees won't be astronomical but they will be respectful. Respectful to me that is. I don't set my prices according to your budget, I set it according to my bottom line. I'll try to be flexible and help you out when I can, but going to zero isn't in my vocabulary, or my best interest. And at the end of the day that's why we're in business - to make a profit so that we can do what we love for the rest of our working lives. Forgive me if I put my family's needs before yours but that's the way it's gotta be. My wife has a big stick!

PS I'm not talking here about donating my time and services to charities whose cause I really support and I know get no external funding, or have tiny budgets. I love to help grassroots organisations doing good work in the community when I can. Compassion makes the world go round. My compassionate streak just doesn't stretch to those running businesses for profit at my expense. Sorry but them's the breaks.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday




An old primary (elementary) school friend of mine was up here from Melbourne the other week for a holiday with his fiance. They asked about must-sees while in town and I couldn't not mention my favourite little piece of rainforest in this whole area.

Mossman Gorge is a little north of Port Douglas, just off the main highway from the town of Mossman. It's a magnificent stretch of pristine rainforest with a beautiful swimming hole and a 2 hour or so walking track on the other side of a swing bridge.

I could spend hours in here with or without a camera, just walking around and enjoying the tropical lushness. So if you've only got time to visit one bit of rainforest whilst you're in far north Queensland this would be my pick.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday




A friend of mine is up visiting at the moment and headed out to Green Island yesterday. The weather was beautiful and it reminded me of this image I took of Nudey Beach on nearby Fitzroy Island a while back. There's a reason why people choose to holiday here and this is definitely one of them!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The difference a few minutes can make.





When we first arrived at the giant Merlion on Singapore's Sentosa Island it was early evening and the setting sun had lit the giant statue up lovely and golden. The light was certainly lovely but the statue lacked a certain zing.

So I decided to go and take a look inside the lion. There's a lovely view out over Singapore from between those lovely fangs.

By the time we looked around, bought a couple of souvenirs and just generally enjoyed ourselves 45 minutes had passed. The sun had well and truly gone down and this is what we found.

Same statue, totally different light.

We often think of light in terms of contrasty, not contrasty, soft, harsh, golden, blue.

But often we don't realise how such a short period of time can have such a huge impact on the look of our subjects. With the mouth and eyes lit up it is a much more dramatic image and all it required was killing 45 minutes.

Don't just assume that because something looks really nice in the light that you see when you first arrive that it's not going to look even better at a different time of day - even the same time of day on a different day!

Whenever possible try and explore photographic subjects that enthrall you again and again, in all different types of light. There's no way of knowing which light you'll prefer unless you try and experience as many different varieties as possible. Oh and I'd love to admit that I totally planned to photograph the Merlion when it was lit up at night, but to be honest I was on holiday and just happened to be there at the right time! Nothing like a bit of Merlion serendipity. :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday




I don't get down to Townsville as much as I'd like. It's got a different atmosphere to Cairns, and heaps to see and do - especially for families. One of my favourite views is one that I got thanks to the wonderful staff at Townsville Jupiters.

Right down on the waterfront, I was there on assignment for a magazine and really wanted a lovely shot out over the marina towards Castle Rock. The management kindly let me go up to the roof one early morning to capture this beautiful view. If you never ask you never know!

Go to my website to see more Townsville photos.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trekking in Nepal



Trekking in Nepal - Images by Paul Dymond

I guess I must be in a photo mood! When I cant think of anything deep and philosophical (!) to say then I think it's just better that I shut up and let the pictures do the talking. This slideshow (FLASH based I'm afraid for those of you on an iPad) is of a month I spent trekking in the Himalayas - a truly life-changing experience as I'm sure anybody whose done it can attest to. One of my goals in life is to take my boys trekking in Nepal and show them this beautiful country.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hokkaido - so much more than the cranes!



Hokkaido - Images by Paul Dymond

A friend just sent me a link to another photographer running wildlife photography tours in Hokkaido. The scenery up there is truly beautiful and the wildlife indeed stunning. But the island has so much to offer at any time of the year. I just thought I'd offer up some pics that show different facets of my home away from home.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why mastering a technique makes us masters of precisely nothing.




I've seen a few cover bands over the years. What is it about music and photography? Many of us photographers also seem to have an affinity for music - in all its wonderful forms. Anyway I'm a pretty big fan of a lot of sixties music and the only chance I will ever have to hear that music played live is to see somebody else playing it. All the greats seem to have been taken by drink, drugs and other excesses way before their time. Janis, Jimi, Jim Morrison.

But I've been able to see some pretty impressive impersonators over the years. Good enough that they really made me believe that I was seeing the real thing. Only I wasn't. And it wasn't because their technique wasn't any good. They all had the guitar licks, the drum beats, the vocals down brilliantly.

So what's the difference? The cover bands didn't write the music. They didn't get the flash of inspiration that created the intro to Foxy Lady. They didn't write 'the scream of the butterfly' after seeing a marquis for a porno movie of the same name! (The Doors in case you missed that reference.)

All the best technique in the world still makes them nothing more than pale imitations, no matter how good their technique may be. And it's the same with our photography. Buying an 85mm f1.8 and travelling overseas doesn't make you Steve McCurry. Buying 50 SB900's doesn't make you Joe McNally. And perfecting some post-processing method don't make you Chase Jarvis.

And that's a good thing. Because there's already one of all those folks in the world. We don't need any more. Just like we only needed one Jimi Hendrix, we only need one of each of us. If we want to be more than photographic cover bands we have to use our technique to create something that only we can. To inspire the world like only originals can.

So practice your off-camera flash to your heart's content. Create an image with 52 layers in Photoshop, all with some funky effect on it. And buy all the 85mm f1.8 lenses you can carry. But then do something magic with them. Wow the world. Amaze us all. And let everybody else follow us.

Oh and you're welcome to imitate this shot above but you're going to need a model as beautiful as this one!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday




One of the thing I often lament about 'travel photography' put out by some tourism bodies and PR agencies is that it's often 'tourism photography'. Which is understandable I guess. Getting people to invest in spending their money on attractions and tours when they arrive in a destination helps keep the local economy alive. But I often wonder whether pictures of models pointing at fictitious birds in trees with big cheesy grins on their faces is the only aspect of a region that people want to see before they decide to visit.

Frankly I don't give two hoots about whether a pretty blonde looks good sitting on a rock on the side of a pristine rainforest stream! I'd rather see the local pub owner, toothless smile and all, as he welcomes people into his friendly watering hole.

Take this image above. I was on assignment for the Mercedes Magazine covering the southern Atherton Tablelands. I'd come to Lake Eacham looking for something interesting to photograph when I noticed this young man, with another, jumping into the lake with joyful abandon. Not only did it make me want to join him, but I knew it would make a great photo. So I went down to introduce myself and found out that he was a young man with autism who was with his carer.

They were having a day at the lake and he was more than happy to do a couple of extra jumps for me to take his photo. Up until that point he'd just been doing his regular bombs but I think the attention must have inspired him because he opened up his hands to the heavens and jumped in with this fantastic pose.

Sure he'll never make a male model but he's the real kind of character I love to discover and photograph. For me the major interest in a destination is the local people and culture, and the only real way to discover that is to get out on your own and meet them.

Whilst I can value the importance of tours and attractions to keep a local economy viable, especially one that is so reliant on it as is far north Queensland, if this is all you see of this beautiful region then you're missing out on its greatest asset.

So rent a car, a bike, get out and walk. Take the time to meet and photograph the locals. You'll come away with a far better understanding of your holiday destination, create wonderful memories and even better portrait images of the people you meet.

Oh and if you're looking for some blog posts on how to photograph strangers just do a search in the little box at the top of this page. And on my website you can find more images I photographed for that story on the southern Atherton Tablelands.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday




As I look out from my back yard patio I can see my little creepy-crawly pool cleaner doing its thunka-thunka dance as it makes its way around the pool keeping it nice and clean. Heading towards summer and the rest of the nation is getting ready to head to the beach - all except for those of us here in the tropics.

Our beaches are indescribably beautiful. Pristine, tropical stretches of sand lined by picturesque palm trees and crystal clear blue waters filled (during the summer months) with deadly jellyfish and the odd crocodile! The Chinese may have their water torture but this is ours. You can look but not touch.

Only during the summer months mind you. With a balmy winter we all head to the beach while the rest of the country is freezing their bums off in sleet and snow. And in the summer? We all head for the swimming pools, freshwater creeks and croc-free lakes.

Sure we have stinger nets designed to keep the bigger jellyfish out. Last summer a woman at one of our local beaches shared her early morning dip in the nets with a crocodile! I'll stick to the pool and the creek during summer and leave my beach trips to the winter thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Show a newbie the ropes.




This is Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. An amazing place at any time of the day, but to see it at its best you need to be there at the crack of dawn for the giant tuna auctions. Why this picture today?

It kind of ties in with my post on Monday about how to earn a fortune in travel photography. Up-and-coming photographers need to know this stuff. They need to know about proper business practices so they don't make all the same mistakes that we made.

My cousin lives in Tokyo and is a photographer. Not a professional one at this stage but he's working on it! Laurence was born in LA and his Mum is my wife's mum's sister. So he's half Japanese and technically my wife's cousin not mine. Neither here nor there. He's a great guy and a really keen photographer. You can see his website here. Anyway he sent me a long email the other day asking for some advice on how to move his career forward and I penned a big, long reply with a whole bunch of tips.

More importantly I put him in touch with a mate of mine who's a  well-established photojournalist there in Tokyo as well, somebody I know will give him some sage advice about working as a foreigner photographer in that amazing part of the world.

If you're already established as a professional it's really important to show a newbie the ropes if they come looking for answers. Showing them how to price themselves properly, license their images and keep their copyright, and why they need to do so to survive in the industry, will help them stop undercutting you. Look what happened with stock. Digital created a whole bunch of eager photographers who wanted to license their images the traditional way. The big agencies wouldn't let them in and Microstock was born - and look where that's got us!

It's not about price fixing. It's about giving people the knowledge to make good business decisions based on more than just the fact that they have a passion to take pictures. I'm about to head off to have coffee with a local real estate and architectural photographer who's graciously agreed to meet me to give me a few pointers. Hopefully I can give him a few on travel photography.

It's all about passing it forward and trying to make sure that we all end up competing on skill level and style, as opposed to the current method of seeing who can charge the least amount possible and still eat more than a single meal a day!

So if you're an established pro in any art form I would encourage you to reach out to aspiring professionals. Take them under your wing a bit and show them what a great, long-term career this can be if you play your business cards right.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Do you want to make a fortune as a travel photographer?




I've seen this headline on the internet a few times over the years and it always makes me laugh. In travel photography, simply put the best way to make a small fortune is to start off with a big fortune! Many travel photographers take the editorial route of combining their travel photography with writing about the places they visit. Their main clients are still magazines and newspapers, with the occasional foray into writing for online sites such as Yahoo and NineMsn.

But here's the clincher. This kind of travel work, which many travel photographers of my generation grew up on, won't have you rolling in clover financially. In fact of all the friends I have who still make a living this way, all except for a bare few are either single, have a second job, a spouse with a job, or another business to help support their love of travel.

In other words if you're thinking you're going to be supporting your family of four with a mortgage and a couple of cars living in a major capital city then you might want to think again.

But for many of my colleagues this doesn't worry them in the least. Because they get to travel for free. When you write articles for major publications your travel expenses are usually covered by companies that work within the travel industry - for the most part PR companies and state and national tourism bureaus.

Getting your name in print gives you legitimicacy in their eyes and a few well-timed introductions can lead you to the inner sanctum where you receive emails and phone calls out of the blue asking if you'd like to go here or there.

If you saw my Facebook Wall you'd see my friends traipsing everywhere from PNG to Antarctica, Japan to Europe. And that's just this month! Next month they'll all be on the opposite side of the globe having more adventures.

Sounds pretty glamorous doesn't it? But the reality is that it is of course very competitive, a lot of hard work to meet deadlines and pull interesting stories out of sometimes very uninteresting places, not to mention the fact that you actually need to be able to craft a feature article! And of course there's never a guarantee that what you write will get published.

 The reality is that you often stay in hotels and take part in tours the likes of which you could never actually afford in your 'real life'. The gap between the luxury you enjoy with work and the frugality you survive at home can be huge.

Add to that the fact that in this modern age of cost-cutting and budget constraints the fact that many magazines are now refusing to pay for all those beautiful photographs you take (why bother when they can get them for free from the aforementioned tourism bureaus?) and you might get a bit frustrated to discover you've become a writer and not so much a photographer any more. If you love writing then you'll be more than happy. If you write as a way to get your photos published you might not be so content.

Licensing stock images from trips used to be a good way to help pull in extra passive income to help balance the books but thanks to Microstock and a general collapse in the state of the stock industry that's not such a viable option anymore.

This all sounds like I'm trying to dissuade you from following your passion. Far from it. If you're young and single or a bit longer in the tooth and the kids have left home, and you don't mind being away from your friends and family for a large part of the year then go for it I say. Not all of us need a big paycheck to be happy with our lot in life and you will have more adventures in a year than most people will have in their entire lives.

Just have your eyes open going in. The headline of this blog post isn't very factual for the vasy majority of travel photographers. It's a lifestyle choice. A fantastic, adventurous, wonderful lifestyle. But with as little as $300 being paid for a travel article you are going to have to publish a hell of a lot to break even, even with free travel.

Oh, and what was the second option I was talking about. Shoot other work that pays a lot better and use the profits from that to go and indulge your passion for travel photography. In other words make enough money from other photographic ventures such as commercial work, photography tours or workshops to be able to pay for it yourself. You can still claim your travel expenses on your tax if it's a legitimate work trip and you can prove that, but you won't be so worried about how much money you're spending while you're away.

Documentary-stule travel photography is a passion. A beautiful, exciting, often spine-tingling passion. And it is a wonderful way to live your life. I honestly can't imagine doing anything better for a living. But beware snake charm sellers telling you you'll be the next millionaire as you sell your travel photos all round the globe. It ain't gonna happen. Love it for what it is, just don't do it because you want to be on the next Fortune 500 list.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday



Sometimes you have to accept the gifts the universe throws your way.

This shot was totally unplanned until about 3 seconds before the plan flew overhead.

It was taken on the main drag leading into Cairns from the North - the Captain Cook Highway. And this is Captain Cook himself. The statue has been there for decades and looked like being demolished at one point. But on it lives, constantly pointing to the sky.

Anyway I was sitting on top of my car waiting for a young guy on a pushbike to come along the road. A Swedish tourist whose name escapes me, he was riding his bike for charity, or at least planning to when he got home.

Anyway while I was waiting I looked up to see a Qantas plane coming in to land. I saw the red in Captain Cook's vest, the red in the tail of the Qantas phone and my little brain synapses yelled out 'picture'.

I had a brief instant to bring my 28-70mm lens up to my eye and snap the shot. Sometimes all the planning in the world can't provide you with as good a photo opportunity as pure serendipity.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Final Photographer's Intensive for 2011




Well the dates are set for my final Photographer's Intensive for the year and things are all ready to go for a November of intensive photography immersion here in Cairns.

Over the period of a month we’ll have a series of four hour lectures, running two days a week at Hambledon House in Edmonton. The days (Wednesday and Thursday for 4 weeks) are:

9/10 November
16/17 November
23/24 November
30 November/1 December
and the lectures will run from 10-2.

The cost of the full month’s tutorials will be $550 (incl GST).
In between lectures there will be an online discussion group and area to post pictures so that you can get critique from the other members of the group as well as full access to myself. I will be available all month to answer questions and personally guide you to improving your photography.
With a small number of students (maximum 10) we will be able to tailor the course so that you get the most benefit out of your four weeks. To really learn what you need to to improve your images. We’ll concentrate on the technical side of things to the extent that it helps you improve the creative side of your art. To create photographs that share your own vision and way of interpreting the world.
Starting with topics such as lenses, light, flash, photographing strangers and developing it from there we will definitely cover a lot of ground. And this is where the inspiration for the intensive came from.

I received a lot of feedback over the years from people that they enjoyed my weekend workshops but wanted something that lasted longer and helped them keep up the momentum and enthusiasm. This is it.
For those who don’t know me I have been a professional travel photographer for more than a decade. I am represented by Lonely Planet Images and my pictures have been featured in more than 50 of their guidebooks ranging from Thailand to Tokyo, from Nepal to Southern Africa and lots of places in between. My images have been published in magazines such as National Geographic Traveler and TIME (US) and I have been teaching photography workshops for most of that 10 years.

What past students have said:


Hi Paul
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the photography course we have just completed.  I must say at first I was a bit worried about the length going for 2 days a week over four weeks but in the end I found myself wishing it went for longer.  Not only was it most informative but you made it very interesting.      Your passion for photography is quite infectious and your willingness to share your extensive knowledge made it a pleasure to be a part of.   

I now have reinvigorated my love for photography and I look forward to being a part of another one of your courses sometime.  Thanks again.

Kind regards

Warwick Bourguignon

'Paul's course is well worth doing, no matter what your interests are. 
It was really enjoyable and a great learning experience.  He is an
excellent teacher and had plenty of time for individual queries and
critiques.  We covered so much, including flash photography which I'm
now hooked on!  The spread of the sessions over a month worked really
well, allowing time to practice in between.  This course has opened up
so many new photographic opportunities for me - I am so glad I did it!'
Jackie Hammer, Cairns


So if you think you’d like to improve your photography and really delve into your creative possibilities and would like to find out more please contact me at info at dymond dot com dot au  or check out my website .

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday



Deep in the heart of the Aurukun Wetlands, in Cape York, I could hear them calling in the early morning breeze.

The only problem was that we were on a charter boat in the middle of a river and they were somewhere on the land.

So it meant getting the speed boat out and going searching for them. And then needing a very long lens because there was no way we would be able to get anywhere near to this warbling couple.

Whenever I can't get close enough to a wild animal to fill the frame I always look for an interesting place to put them within the frame.

I was watching them as they walked across the plane towards the distant trees and was hoping against hope that they would walk towards this strand of really interesting looking melaleuca gum trees.

Fortunately for me they walked to exactly the right spot and then proceeded to raise their heads to the sky and call.

There is nothing quite like the call of wild brolgas and it's even more special in the early morning in the wilds of far north Queensland.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday



Today at my sons' school they are having a heap of activities to celebrate NAIDOC day. NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee and is a day to celebrate the culture of Australia's indigenous people.

Growing up as a kid in Melbourne I honestly didn't have much to do with aboriginal culture at all. My school was mostly caucasian with a healthy smattering of Greeks, Italians and Vietnamese immigrants.

Up here in Cairns my children get the wonderful opportunity to get more in touch with our indigenous culture. They both have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in their classes and get the chance to learn all about their cultures.

Of course Cape York, to our north, is home to many indigenous communities that retain strong ties to their traditional cultures and every year they host the wonderful Laura Dance Festival, where this image of the Mornington Island Dancers was taken.

Wherever you are in the world I am sure you are surrounded by people of different cultures, both indigenous and imported. I've always found my cameras provide great access to people and places I otherwise would never have had the chance to explore. Why not take the time to photograph a culture different from your own? You'll improve your photography skills, meet new people and discover a side of your own community that you may never have known existed.

Click on over to my website to see some more images of indigenous culture from Cape York

and come over to Facebook and join me on the Have Camera Will Travel page.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Watering dead grass


Today's post comes from the sick bed! A dreaded flu has come to render me basically useless for anything other than lying down and doing not a hell of a lot of anything. So for today's post I'm going to hand you over to the always acerbic, painfully truthful, no holds barred Kirk Tuck. I've got a couple of Kirk's books - one on lighting and one on the businesss of commercial photography and they're both great reads. But I love his blog because he says what many of us are thinking.

So hop on over to his blog to find out why we might all be watering dead grass.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday


People often forget that the road north doesn't stop at Cairns, or even Cooktown for that matter. In fact it goes all the 
way to the very tip of Australia. The pristine wilderness of Cape York is truly spectacular and one of the most amazing 
sights up there are these giant termite mounds on the flood plains. This beautiful mound was deep in the heart of the 
Aurukun Wetlands, on the banks of the Archer River.
 
Cape York is one of this country's last wild places and if you ever get a chance to drive off the bitumen north of Cooktown 
then I definitely recommend you do it. Click over to my website if you'd like to see more photographs of
the beautiful Aurukun Wetlands.
Oh and if you'd like to follow me on Have Camera Will Travel's Facebook fan page come on over! There's plenty of tidbits
that get posted there that don't make it to the blog and it's an easier place to have lots of great conversations
about photography. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It doesn't have to be flashy to be good.




Last week I had a couple of editorial portrait assignments for the latest edition to the Cairns' magazine world - Cairns Life magazine.

Just like the boy scouts I always like to be prepared - and when it comes to photography that usually means being able to light your images.

Often relying on natural light just isn't an option unless you happen to be blessed with some really good luck! And that rarely happens indoors.

So I come armed with a bucket-load of speedlites, light stands, umbrellas, gridspots, snoots, gobos. Lots of paraphernalia that fortunately all fits into one long sausage bag that I can fit over my shoulder.

And I'm always ready to do something dramatic with the image. Tight beams of light, dark backgrounds. Creating contrast where none exists.

And the danger in that is you can let your desire to play with your gadgets take over the purpose of the picture - which is to bring out the inner quality of your subject. As soon as I met Joann Pyne, the Director of the Tropical North Queensland TAFE I immediately knew that her gorgeous outfit and the fabulous artwork on the wall was way better than anything I could artificially create with dramatic lighting.

So this is an homage to great portrait subjects and simplicity in our lighting. One speedlite through a see-through umbrella and the rest natural light. Sometimes we don't need to be fancy to produce flattering portraits. The geek in us hates it but our clients love it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Phottix Strato II Radio Triggers


I don't tend to do gear reviews. One because I'm not really a gear head. I tend to buy equipment and use it as it was designed, a tool to help me create images that I love. And two, I'm not particularly technically minded when it comes to that equipment. I don't read DXO charts when evaluating lenses or cameras. I give them a whirl and pick the ones I like the best.

But every so often I come across a piece of gear that intrigues me and I lay down some cold, hard cash to figure out if they're as good as they seem. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I get it wrong.

In this particular case I definitely got it right. As long-time readers of this blog will know I fell in love with off-camera flash a couple of  years ago after being converted by David Hobby over at Strobist. Not much revolutionary there - many of us followed the same path.

But I was always a TTL guy. Before I really knew what I was doing I bought the Canon infrared trigger (known as the ST-E2) and have been using it pretty successfully for a number of years. Sure it has its limitations but Syl Arena's book  Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon  Speedlites showed me what I could do with a long TTL cord from Flashzebra.com. (Wow I think I've just mentioned more gear in one paragraph then I usually do in a whole year!)

Anyway for the most part I was managing to work around its limitations. But I had an environmental portrait shoot the other day where I needed to light the inside of an ambulance whilst the portrait subject was outside the ambulance. And I found it really difficult to get line-of-sight with that interior flash and ended up having to put it in not-quite the optimum position. It still worked OK in the end thanks to a bit of ingenuity but I thought 'there's got to be a better way'.

But I didn't want to sacrifice the advantages of TTL and run everything manually off radio triggers. And I couldn't justify spending a small fortune to have a whole series of Radio Poppers. I sat down and worked out what I really needed, and that was a TTL fired key light and fill, with the option to manually trigger background lights in awkward places. But I couldn't find anything that would let me do that.

Until I stumbled across these. Again, I'm not the most technical of photographers so forgive me if I mess up the mechanics of how these babies work but in a nutshell they have some sort of TTL pass-through system which lets you place the trigger on the hotshoe of your camera and the receiver on a remote flash. The remote flash will be fired in Manual mode by the radio signal from the trigger. No biggie there - that's how all radio triggers work.

But here's the thing that I fell in love with - the trigger (which is on my camera) has a hotshoe on the top of it into which I can then plug a TTL flash or a TTL trigger. So I can fire my TTL flashes the same as I always have, whilst at the same time firing hidden flashes manally. A beautiful combination of TTL and radio trigger technology.

It's enabled me to pull a couple of Canon 540EZ flashes (which don't work in TTL on digital cameras) out of my cupboard and bring them into my speedlite line-up. And it works brilliantly. I've tested them successfully up to about 100 metres or so through walls not a problem. I can't wait to think of new compositions I can make now that I'm not limited to only using line-of-sight flashes but still having the convenience of using TTL for those flashes that are close to the camera.

Oh, and the triggers can also be used to remotely fire the camera. I haven't thought of a way to utilise that function yet but believe me I've got the thinking cap on!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The real value of beautiful photography




What is our motivation for photographing something? More importantly what is our motivation for photographing something well? I think it's all about love and respect. We want to show all those positive emotions we feel about a place, a person, an event. I'm sure there must be people who photograph things they hate but I photograph things I love.

And I'm not satisfied until I produce an image that shows my subjects in the best possible light. The kind of image that when people look at it they'll understand how wonderful I think it is.

I think that snapping a mediocre image of something is akin to showing a lack of respect for it. You don't have enough love for it that you can be bothered to make the effort to create a fantastic image. And let's not beat around the bush here. Fantastic photography takes a fantastic effort. You can't just expect to get up at 10 and pop out and take landscape photographs that are going to wow people off their seats. And you can't just walk up to a loved one standing in harsh midday sunlight, push the shutter and expect to come away with an image that does them justice.

So why are we surrounded by so much mediocrity? If you look at your own pictures and you don't well up with emotion when you remember how beautiful it was, chances are a judge looking at your pictures isn't going to be moved either. If you're a company and you look at your own advertising material and it doesn't make your heart skip a beat when you see how beautiful it looks...well I don't think your customers are going to feel anything either.

Photography has never been easier or more accessible. Point and shoot and something will turn out. But like newspapers that have a life of one day, how many of your 'snaps' will stand the test of time. How many of your cheap photos will increase your bottom line? To get the supreme photograph you need to make the supreme effort. And it might take more sweat and cost more money (though probably less sleep!) but at the end of the day you'll have created an image that truly shows the love and respect you feel for the things that you want to share with the world.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Night time festival photography - it's a breeze!




I love photographing festivals. The light, the colour,the action. And one of the great things about photographing at night is that it's often easier than shooting during the day! A lot of people think that it must be harder but using a couple of tricks can set you up to concentrate on catching the action without having to worry about your camera settings.

Because you'll be shooting with a flash the first thing you need to do is match the light coming from your flash with the surrounding ambient. Many festivals are lit by the kind of lights that show up orange under a daylight white balance. But the light coming out of our flash is a cool blue colour in comparison and looks really unnatural. So the trick is to put a little bit of orange gel (or cellophane) over your flash head to get closer to matching it to the surrounding light. That way your flash won't look so unnatural. The trick is find the right shade of orange - too strong and your subjects will look like oompah-loompahs! But find the right shade and your night time flash pictures will look great.

Speaking of that ambient light - there's nothing worse than gaping black backgrounds. As much as possible you need to let that ambient light burn into your exposure - which means that you'll need a slow enough shutter speed for the background to be bright enough, without being so slow that your subjects are blurred. To do that you'll probably need to bump your exposure up as well.

But once you've found the right settings for the lighting conditions here's the great thing - they often don't change. The same lights are used for the whole festival so, once you've found the right ISO and shutter speed to give you a nice bright background, if you then put your camera into Manual Exposure and dial those settings in they'll last you the whole night. I often dial in an ISO of 400 and an exposure of 1/60 second or so and and aperture of about f8 and that lets enough light in to capture the background.

So you've gelled your flash, your ISO shutter speed, aperture and ISO are set and you're ready to go. Unless you suddenly find yourself in a much brighter or darker place you should be able to use those settings all night and all you have to worry about is your composition and look for those great moments.

Pop over to my site to see more of my festival photographs.

And come on over and follow us on our new Facebook Fan Page

Friday, September 2, 2011

Let's hang out on Facebook!




So I tried the Twitter thing and it just wasn't me. I'm just more verbose than 140 characters and I find it hard to have a conversation when anything you post gets swamped by other stuff in less than 5 minutes.

But I wanted somewhere I could talk with those of you who bless me by reading the blog. I've been using Facebook for years but only to keep in touch with friends and family. Now I've finally got around to setting up a Fan Page for Have Camera Will Travel.

I hope that this can be a place where the discussions will flow freely, my postings will be hilariously funny and photographically informative and I'll be able to share great tidbits I find on the web much easier than I can with the blog. So come on over to the Have Camera Will Travel Fan Page and join in the conversation.

You can see what my son thinks of the whole idea!

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday




Mossman Gorge is one of my favourite rainforest spots in the whole of north Queensland. Located just north of picturesque Port Douglas, Mossman township itself is a quaint little country town with a pub or two, sugar train tracks and some lovely trees that form a giant botanic guard of honour over the road out of town on the northern side.

But for nature lovers the real appeal is just outside of town in the beautiful Mossman Gorge. Many brave souls take a dip in the water even during the winter months when it has to be one of the coldest bodies of water in the country! I was looking for a different way to capture the swimming hole when my friend Dave decided to go for a dip. He's Victorian what can I say?

So I decided to photograph him underwater with a slow shutter speed to give a sense of movement and motion to an otherwise static image. If you take a look at my other photographs of Mossman Gorge you can see why I love this place so much.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back up for air!




Apologies for the scarcity of blog posts recently. Things have been very busy for me with assignments, stock sales and just coming to the end of my second Photographer's Intensive course. On top of that throw in weekly baseball games (and practice!) for my two little boys, school parades and regular skate park outings and - where has August gone?

Anyway I will try and be a bit more regular around here so that there's something regular to see and you don't all wander away to the dpreview site for your gear fix. :)

A kind of a theme for me this past month has been passion and practice. I've been exploring multiple flash work with both TTL and radio triggers to light interiors and I'm loving it. I find if I'm not constantly practicing both new and tried techniques I quickly get stale and settle into the known without pushing my own boundaries.

I had a couple of editorial portrait assignments where I got to push my off-camera flash beyond my usual style as well as pushing myself through the challenge of finding something new and interesting to appeal to my students every Monday and Tuesday for four weeks.

So it's been crazy busy but in a really good sort of way. I hope you've all been out practicing and honing your photography and feeding your own passions in life and all is well with the world. Stay tuned for a return to regular programming!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cairns photo course in August




Well the dates are set for my second Photographer's Intensive and things are all ready to go for an August of intensive photography immersion here in Cairns.

Over the period of a month we’ll have a series of four hour lectures, running two days a week at Hambledon House in Edmonton. The days are:
8/9 August
15/16 August
22/23 August
29/30 August
and the lectures will run from 10-2.

The cost of the full month’s tutorials will be $550 (incl GST).
In between lectures there will be an online discussion group and area to post pictures so that you can get critique from the other members of the group as well as full access to myself. I will be available all month to answer questions and personally guide you to improving your photography.
With a small number of students (maximum 10) we will be able to tailor the course so that you get the most benefit out of your four weeks. To really learn what you need to to improve your images. We’ll concentrate on the technical side of things to the extent that it helps you improve the creative side of your art. To create photographs that share your own vision and way of interpreting the world.
Starting with topics such as lenses, light, flash, photographing strangers and developing it from there we will definitely cover a lot of ground. And this is where the inspiration for the intensive came from.

I received a lot of feedback over the years from people that they enjoyed my weekend workshops but wanted something that lasted longer and helped them keep up the momentum and enthusiasm. This is it.
For those who don’t know me I have been a professional travel photographer for more than a decade. I am represented by Lonely Planet Images and my pictures have been featured in more than 50 of their guidebooks ranging from Thailand to Tokyo, from Nepal to Southern Africa and lots of places in between. My images have been published in magazines such as National Geographic Traveler and TIME (US) and I have been teaching photography workshops for most of that 10 years.

What past students have said:


Hi Paul
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the photography course we have just completed.  I must say at first I was a bit worried about the length going for 2 days a week over four weeks but in the end I found myself wishing it went for longer.  Not only was it most informative but you made it very interesting.      Your passion for photography is quite infectious and your willingness to share your extensive knowledge made it a pleasure to be a part of.   

I now have reinvigorated my love for photography and I look forward to being a part of another one of your courses sometime.  Thanks again.

Kind regards

Warwick Bourguignon

'Paul's course is well worth doing, no matter what your interests are. 
It was really enjoyable and a great learning experience.  He is an
excellent teacher and had plenty of time for individual queries and
critiques.  We covered so much, including flash photography which I'm
now hooked on!  The spread of the sessions over a month worked really
well, allowing time to practice in between.  This course has opened up
so many new photographic opportunities for me - I am so glad I did it!'
Jackie Hammer, Cairns

 

So if you think you’d like to improve your photography and really delve into your creative possibilities and would like to find out more please contact me at info at dymond dot com dot au  or check out my website .

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's not about how many mediocre frames per second you take.




Now I'm still in my 30's (by the hair of my chinny chin chin mind you!) but I grew up in the pre-digital era. And while there's a lot of things about the film workflow that have simply gone by the wayside, there's one habit that I've never wanted to shake. And that's placing a value on each individual image I shoot.

I took this photograph on a month-long trek through the Nepalese Himalayas with my wife. We started walking after a short bus ride out of Kathmandu, hiked all the way up to the Gokyo Valley near Mt Everest and back to a little town called Lukla where we caught a plane home.

We went without porters or helpers of any kind - just the two of us with small daypacks on our backs filled with clothes, water purification tablets and film for our cameras. Seeing as neither of us are exactly body builders the amount of film we could physically carry was limited. In my case it was 25 rolls of Fuji Velvia. Think about that for a second. That's a mere 900 pictures for a whole month in the most picturesque place on earth.

But that's the situation I was in and I had to live with it. What it did mean was that I had to be very particular about what I photographed and what I didn't. I didn't shoot willy-nilly in the hope that I would get something good. I stopped, I waited, I anticipated. I valued each and every single time I pushed the shutter.

And I think that thinking has partly been lost in the digital era. Because the individual images themselves are pretty much low cost, and we often have the attitude that we can delete what doesn't work, we tend not to value each individual image as much.

I see it in both the amateur photographic world as much as the professional world. Go to Flickr and you'll see 50 different variations of the same photo. Vertical, horizontal, different focal lengths. There's probably two maybe three wonderful images and the rest is mediocre in comparison.

In the commercial world I see it when photographers offer to supply the client hundreds of pictures from a shoot. But how many of those pictures will ever see the light of day? The reality is not many. If the client has a good eye then they will pick out the best and use those, or they might let their graphic designer do it. Either which way the photographer would be doing their client a much better service by perfecting and presenting only the really fantastic shots and letting the other stuff fall into the virtual trash bin.

At the end of our photographic lives we won't be remembered for how many times we pushed the shutter. We won't be remembered for all the nearly-there pictures we took (at least I hope so!). We want to be remembered for the amazing images we took. Don't be so quick to take as many pictures as you can in as short a space of time as you can. Give situations time to develop and learn to click the shutter when the best of the best appears in front of you.

Just because pushing the shutter thousands of times a day may not be costing you much money it could be costing you a lot more.

Go on through to my Nepal photo gallery to see more images shot slowly and decisively on film.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why the digital photographer should get paid more than the film photographer.




This image was shot on Fuji Velvia slide film. In fact this whole campaign shot for Quicksilver Cruises was shot on film. As the photographer I would pre-purchase the film and then once the job was over I would hand the film into the lab and come back the next day to pick it up. Then all I had to do was take it in to the client with a light box and loupe (if they didn't have one) and we would pick out the best shots to be used in the campaign.

And that was how simple film photography was for the photographer. Of course it meant you had to get your exposures smack on target or else the image was useless, and you never really knew what you had until the film came back so there was always an element of risk that isn't so prevalent in digital photography.

But in terms of handling and charging it was a pretty easy process. You would charge a certain amount per roll shot and developed, which included a small mark-up for profit and also to cover the time needed to pre-purchase, drop and pick up the film from the lab and other incidentals such as the electricity needed to keep the film cold.

Of course the expenses for the client didn't stop there. All those individual little pieces of transparency film had to be put into digital 1's and 0's for them to be printed and that cost a lot of money. Depending on how big you needed the scan you could pay up to $40 per image - more if there was post-processing work needed. None of that got paid to the photographer because we (for the most part) didn't do it.

Now with the advent of digital we do it all. Even though we don't need to provide the film any more we instead need to provide CF cards, computers, hard drives, DVDs and the security of back-ups to ensure that those vitally important files aren't accidentally lost or destroyed. We need to have accurately profiled monitors to ensure the colours are what the client expects. We need to be knowledgeable about colour spaces and gamuts, CMYK and RGB and file formats such as TIFF, DNG and JPEG.

These are all costs that we never had in the film days. Hell if your computer could run your word processing software and get you on to the internet that was enough. All these extra things cost extra money to buy and maintain. Digital cameras need to be replaced more often than film cameras ever needed to be.

And now that we're the lab we need to spend more time in front of the computer to make sure that those files look absolutely amazing for our clients. Not to mention the time (ie money) needed to educate ourselves every time a new piece of software comes out. The days of being able to shoot wonderful pictures and then pop off to the pub for a beer while the lab did their thing are long gone.

And if you don't charge for that stuff you're actually making less money than you would have done shooting film! So before you get into that mindset that it doesn't cost you any money to shoot digital once you've bought the stuff - think again. And explain it to your clients. They'll understand. They're not paying more money over all for digital because they do save on the film and developing costs. All that's happened is that instead of paying their local scanner or graphic designer to do their digital work they're paying you.

So either feed those costs into your CODB and thus your creative fees or add it as a line-item in your quotes so that clients know and understand the costs involved. The choice is yours but if you work together with your clients we can all collaborate to ensure that everybody comes out a winner.

Click on the link to see more of my film images from around the world.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday



I recently had an article published in the latest edition of Mercedes Magazine - a beautiful glossy publication given for free to owners of Mercedes Benz cars.

The story was on the Southern Atherton Tablelands and one of the first places I visited was the tranquil Babinda Boulders. Only a short drive south of Cairns this town was famous for its sugar mill, which unfortunately closed down earlier this year.

But for visitors, of even more interest is the beautiful swimming hole and the national park surrounding it. The waterhole is at an entrance to the Boulders which is a spectacular landscape of giant rocks and steeply dropping rivers surrounded by thick tropical rainforest.

For this image I had my camera in an Ewa-Marine bag. It's like a big plastic PVC bag with screws to keep it tight and you'd think it was dodgy as all get out but it works brilliantly. I always keep this on me when out and about just in case there's an excuse for me to jump into some beautiful waterhole somewhere and take photos.

Pop over to my website to see more images of  the Babinda Boulders.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Are we taking it all a little too seriously?



Taking a few weeks off gave me a chance to read a few photo blogs, take a look at a few photo forums and just generally do some photo reading that I don't generally have time for.

And after a bit of perusing I came away with the overwhelming feeling that there's a lot of really anxious photographers out there.

Sure there's the obvious ones who are turning pro and worried about how to get work. But there's a huge number of amateurs out there who are fretting and gnawing their fingernails about things such as their vision.

I often tell my students that once you attain a certain level of technical proficiency - ie you get stuff in focus when you want to, use the aperture you want to get the effect you imagined and get your exposure and composition good, well everything above that is kinda subjective.

It's art people. It's meant to be subjective. Just because 100 people on Flickr tell you it's great doesn't make it so. Likewise just because that same 100 people might tell you it's crap doesn't make it so. It really is very subjective and at the end of the day the person you have to please more than any other is yourself.

When it comes to vision the simplest path to finding your own is to know yourself. Understand what you really love to photograph and how you like your images to look. You don't need to box yourself into any one particular style though. Musicians, painters, poets. They all change their style over the course of their lives. Why should photographers be any different?

My advice? Get as good as you want technically and once you've got that down then go out and shoot whatever takes your fancy. And I mean whatever. Don't think about whether it's right or wrong, good or bad. Just photograph it and if it's fun, if it makes you happy - well keep on photographing it. If it doesn't then stop and find something else. One of the worst questions I get asked is "what should I photograph?". If you don't know that then you've got a lot bigger problems then finding your vision!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Home Sweet Home




Well I'm back in the land of Oz after a pretty relaxing time in Guam and Japan - well at least as relaxing as it can be with two adrenaline-junkie toddlers! What with waterslides, snorkelling, windsurfing, giant obstacle courses, baseball, video game arcades and other general adventures I think we managed to tire them out pretty well.

I'd show you some photos but I haven't got that far in my post-processing yet. In the meantime I thought you might be interested in the kind of gear I travel with and my workflow. It's pretty much the same whether I'm on assignment for a client, a self-assigned stock shoot or on holiday. We photographers are never really on holiday anyway!

I had a pretty minimal kit (for me) this time around and carried it in a Lowepro shoulder bag. Just a single body, 10-22 wide angle, 24-70 and 70-200. All f2.8's except for the 10-22. I limited myself to one flash as well as an infrared trigger as I always prefer to use my flash off-camera whenever possible. I have a small hard-drive/card reader gadget that lets me download cards during the day if I fill them all up but this time around I didn't need it. It also doubles as a back-up drive for my images. I also had a polarising filter for each of the three lenses as well as my trusty old Manfrotto tripod and a cable release.

These days I travel with a small 10 inch Acer notebook. It's a groovy aqua colour and is just the right size to fit into my little day pack. I don't have Photoshop installed on it because I don't like to do any post-processing whilst I'm away. Maybe I'm just weird but when it comes to the end of the day I just wanna sit down with a good meal and a cold drink and not spend hours looking over pictures. I know when I've got what I need and don't need to start playing around with pictures until I get home.

Which isn't to say I don't look at stuff. I have Expression Media loaded on and I download all my images on to the netbook and then catalogue them. I cull out any obvious mistakes and add metadata to the rest - copyright info, location, any pertinent keywords. I find that if I do this on a regular basis (usually every day), whilst it doesn't take long it saves a lot of time trying to remember names and places afterwards.I then back up those images on to external hard drives just for safety's sake.

When I get home I load everything on to the main computer and start working on them in Camera Raw. I leave the copies  on the netbook and external hard drives until I've finished finessing the images and make permanent back-ups, then they can be deleted from their temporary homes on the netbook and external hard drives.

And that's about as complicated as I like to get! I'm sure if you're on an advertising shoot with a tight deadline you must have to work a lot more quickly and process images on-site but not many of my clients really demand that. So I keep it light, simple and leave myself ample time to enjoy time away from the photography.

Stay tuned for some pictures from Guam and Japan!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Keeping it natural

You'll have to excuse the lack of posts in the last week or so. Between hanging with the kids on the water slides in Guam, and watching them play baseball with the local kids here in Japan I've been flat out having fun!

Today I was out and about doing one of my favourite things - checking out the giant bookstores here in Sapporo.

There's one thing about Japan that we photographers love. They love their photography. There are rows and rows of books and magazines on every aspect of photography. I can spend hours just looking through all the different books and being inspired by the incredible imagery from both professional and amateurs alike.

I'd never really thought that much about what it is about Japanese photography that appeals to me so much but today it kind of hit me.

I was looking through a book which had the winners of an annual photo competition and something immediately struck me. So I picked up some more magazines and found the same thing. It is almost as if Photoshop had never been invented, or at least never made it this far East.

The overwhelming majority of images look like they've never seen the inside of a computer. Which of course is not true because if you look at all the captions a lot of it is shot digitally (although medium format film nature photography is huge over here). But even the images shot digitally are processed to look as natural as possible. A lot of it could have been shot on trannie film and you'd never know the difference.

I was having a look at the technical section in the bookstore and expecting to find a horde of Strobist-style flash tutorials in amongst the thick tomes on landscape photography, nature photography, portrait photography and umpteen hundreds of camera manuals. Nothing. Zilch, zip, nada. I found one book that purported to talk about small flashes but it wasn't very in-depth at all. It seems like the off-camera flash phenomenon hasn't even taken off here. Japanese photographers love their light to come from that great big yellow ball in the sky and they are incredibly skilled at finding it in various shades, form and colour.

And I find that by taking away this element from their photography they tend to concentrate much more on the content of the image. The subject rules. Emotion, moment, capturing a fleeting glance, a smile. You look at the pictures and say 'what a great moment', not 'what great post-processing skills'. And I find that really refreshing and almost nostalgic in its simplicity.

And all the years I've been coming here I'd never really thought about it before but now that I have it's really hit me. So today's book purchase was one of the many fantastic books by nature photographer Hoshino Michio. He was tragically attacked and killed by a grizzly bear in Kamchatka a few years ago now, but he is without a doubt one of my all-time favourite photographers. You can feel his love for nature permeate every single one of his images. And I feel it every time I look through a Japanese photo magazine.

It's nice to remember that not everything has to be put through Photoshop to be a great image.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday




Lake Barrine is one of the beautiful crater lakes up on the Atherton Tablelands, about an hour or so south-west of Cairns. The Tablelands is close in distance but a lot way away in temperature from the tropical coast. At this time of the year when we're complaining about it dropping down to 11 centrigrade they're down to 0 with frosts!

The best time to be at the lake is in the early morning when hopefully you'll get some lovely mists across the water. The ducks are out on the water, the pythons aren't yet awake and it's beautifully quiet.The rainforest walk around the perimeter is simply stunning, although there are only a few places where you get a clear view out over the lake which is a bit disappointing.

The image above is of the teahouse on the shores of the lake. It's been run by the same family since the 1920's and the boat there takes people on a wonderful one hour tour around the crater lake. On my trip out I spotted pythons galore, bearded dragon lizards sunning themselves, a pair of mating black snakes and lots of waterbirds.

I'd definitely recommend a trip up there to see the lake, and don't forget to indulge in the lovely scones, jam and cream!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Finding the balance between family time and camera time




One of the hardest things as a photographer is family vacations. If you've got kids then you'll know what I mean straight away. If you've got a partner who doesn't love their photography as much as you do then you'll be nodding your head in agreement. If you have neither then you're probably not sure what the fuss is all about.

The fuss starts when you start to get shutter button withdrawal symptoms. Mine start usually about two or three days after not having a camera in my hand and creating some images. But you're torn. You want to go off by yourself for a few hours and capture the local architecture at twilight but that impinges on getting the kids fed and to bed, or breaks up the booking at that romantic little local diner down the road.

In other words you have to abandon your family or siginificant other if you want to create anything more than 'been there, done that' snapshots. So here's what I do. I don't know if it's the best way to do things and if other people have suggestions I'm all ears. So far this seems to work for me.

The most important thing I find is to include your family in your photography as much as possible. But it's not enough just to have them stand with their hands held out looking like they're holding the Eiffel Tower in their palm. If you don't put as much effort and creativity into pictures of your family as you do your other 'more important' pictures then they're going to feel pretty left out.

Make it fun. Show them what a blast photography can be. The photo above is me and my youngest son going down a slippery slide at Takino Park, on the outskirts of Sapporo. In order to bribe my way into a little bit of 'me time' photographing the birch trees in the forest I kept him entertained with multiple (multiple, multiple, multiple!) turns down the slide. All the time with me holding a camera and a wide-angle lens above my head and shooting as we went down.

Killing two birds with one stone. Well three really. My son had a blast both sliding and looking at the photos afterwards (let's try that again with a different lens Daddy!). I got some really fun pictures of stuff that I don't usually photograph, and created some great memories to boot. And my wife (at the bottom of the picture) got a break from looking after the kids. Everybody wins.

So whenever I go away on a trip with my family I always try to fit them in to my photography as much as possible. When they can see images that far outshine the point-and-shoot efforts that most family albums contain, and when they can have a blast taking part in the shoot then they're much more inclined to let me go off on my own and do 'work photography' as my boys call it.

One more hint as to what not to do: never try to hold your family up while you wait for the best light, the perfect opportunity, the search for a better angle. If they're not actively involved they'll be bored and no matter how exciting the resulting pictures, all they'll remember is how boring it was for them and you'll be in the doghouse again. Keep them involved, keep them excited, create exciting pictures for them to remember your holiday by and she'll be apples (Australian for you'll be doing well!)

If you'd like to see how I balanced family and "work photography' on this particular day you can take a look at the Takino Park, Sapporo images on my website.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New layout and iPad friendly




I didn't really make a big song and dance about it when I changed it a couple of weeks ago but I hope you noticed and like it. I changed the format of the blog a little bit so that I can show bigger pictures. I also figured out how to link the images here on my blog directly to my Photoshelter website so that if you click on one of these lusciously big pictures you'll be taken to a larger selection of images.

Only thing I hadn't realised was that the photos weren't iPad friendly because the links were embedded with Apple's arch-enemy - flash. Anyway that's all been fixed now. The pictures are low linked with plain ol' HTML so all of you who've been seeing big blank spaces in my blog for the last couple of weeks, well things should be back to normal.

Oh and how did I find out? I was just browsing on my iPod Touch today when I just wanted to see how the new layout looked on the little screen. Needless to say I wasn't too happy with the big blank spaces! Anyway, problem fixed. All of you should be able to see the pictures no matter what device you're browsing on and I hope you like the new layout and bigger pics.

Hot Springs here we come!




Getting ready for a little hot-springs dreaming in a couple of weeks. This is the view from the window of my hotel on the shores of Lake Toya, just south of Sapporo, which is the capital of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.

The area is highly volcanic - Mt Usuzan, on the shores of the lake last erupted in 2000. Lots of volcanoes means lots of hot springs and there's nothing more pleasurable than sitting in a steaming pool of water with a glorious view out over a huge lake. I particularly love the outdoor pools - known as Rotenburo - because you can sit in lovely warmth while all around you the snow might be falling. Pure magic.

This image was taken early in the morning after a rather raucous night with colleagues from my English teaching days. Just to show that even a little hangover shouldn't stop you seeing photos! Another attraction of the area is the nightly fireworks display out on the lake. Fired off a little boat that runs along the shore, you can see the fireworks from the balcony of your hotel and because the show runs the length of the shore it pretty much doesn't matter where you stay because you can see them as they come along. If you'd like to see some fireworks shots as well as volcanoes and the wild deer on the island then you can pop on to the website to see Lake Toya images.

Monday, May 30, 2011

20 minutes a day to recharge your photographic batteries




I'm not sure if this is just a professional thing, although I suspect it might apply to all photographers - and artists in general. Do you ever get caught up in what you think you should be doing, what those around you are doing and what the experts on the web tell you you should be doing?

Do you get so caught up that you sometimes forget why you fell in love with your art form in the first place? I know I do. Don't get me wrong. I love what I do but creating art can be pretty draining if you don't take the time to recharge the batteries, refill the creative well so to speak.

I've tried lots of cross-training exercises. Getting the ol' guitar out. Writing. Drawing. And while I enjoy all those things I never really find that they rekindle my passion for photography. If anything I almost feel like they're taking me away from my photography.

So here's what I do, and if you think it sounds like a good idea then you might like to try it too. Give yourself at least 20 minutes a day and go for a walk with your camera. Shoot anything and everything that catches your eye. It doesn't matter what it is, how good or bad it is or anything else.  You don't even have to look at the pictures afterwards if you don't want to.

The aim of the exercise is just to sink yourself into the world of your own creative vision without worrying about anybody else's influence. If you're a pro don't think if it's going to be a portfolio piece, sell or whether clients will like it or not. If you're a photographer more for love than money then try something new perhaps, a style you've never bothered to think about before.

You'll find that the more into your twenty minutes you get the more in tune with yourself you become and the easier your image-making will become. If you visit a place you've been a million times before you'll find yourself seeing it in a new light. Why 20 minutes? I have to admit to getting the idea from Julia Cameron in her wonderful follow-up book to the Artist's Way - Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance (Artist's Way)

And she suggests that 20 minutes is a good time to spend with your art every day because most of us would find it pretty hard to procrastinate about such a short amount of time. Try to set yourself an hour or so a day and you'll come up with lots of excuses not to do it because it sounds oh so hard. So I work on 20 minutes and if it goes a bit longer so be it.

The above couple of images are from a walk I took along the Esplanade here in Cairns last Friday. Nothing spectacular but just a bit of fun. A lovely piece of sculpture and my brand new bright red Converse sneakers! (Don't anybody say mid-life crisis. Haha) Enjoy and get out and enjoy your camera whenever you can.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday




I took myself down for a walk along the Esplanade this morning. Why? Because I needed to recharge my creative batteries and get re-acquainted with my camera. I find it wonderful to be out in nature and just take a walk somewhere beautiful to see what my eye will find. It helps get you more in sync with your vision and makes you more creative and productive when you get back to work on assignment for clients.

Now this image was taken on Townsville's version of the Esplanade - known as The Strand. I was walking along and saw these great, almost silhouetted palm trees and just sat and waited for a bicycle to come along.

Sometimes all a photographer needs to get the creative juices flowing more freely is to get out for a good long walk and just photograph whatever comes along. And can you think of any place better to do it? Have a great weekend from sunny Cairns, far north Queensland.

Oh and click on the link if you'd like to see what else Townsville has to offer