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

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The year that was...Part 2



It's a funny thing about the photographic industry. Many professionals like to make it look glamorous, exciting and one big adventure. Sure it can be all those things, but the reality for the majority of working travel photographers is that they have a few more strings to their bow. I don't know anyone who makes a full-time living just doing travel photography. Maybe back in the day when travel stock photography was valued a lot higher, but in this day of microstock and free imagery? I have friends who were regularly making a half a million dollars a year in travel stock who would now be lucky to clear a hundred grand a year.

But there's no point complaining about the world and how it has turned. Established pros know that if they want to continue to shoot exciting travel work then they need to do other jobs that pay more money. Which is not to say that they choose any old type of photography that will pay the bills. Some lead photographic tours and workshops, some shoot weddings, some write travel articles (although there's not much money there either!) and some do like I do, specialise in a whole other genre.

One of my favourite parts of travel photography is the opportunity to meet new and interesting people. People living lives that allow them to follow their own passion, much as I have always tried to do with my photography. I love the interaction with these people and the chance to learn something new.

When I'm on the road, however, I don't usually carry much lighting equipment with me. A couple of speedlights and a trigger set is about it. So when I'm here in Cairns I like nothing more than to get on my photographic geek suit and get jiggy with the lighting!

It's a totally different mindset to the documentary style of travel work I do, where I sit around a lot and wait for things to happen. With my environmental portraiture in Cairns I make it happen. I get together with the client first and we discuss who the person is we're going to photograph, what kind of work they do, what kind of props we might use and the type of lighting that will complement the concept. I absolutely love it because it frees me to be creative at a level that often is not possible when you're at the whim of whatever situation you find yourself in.

So this year I've found myself photographing everyone from some of the foremost experts in tropical rainforests in the world, PhD students in conflict resolution and terrorism, turtle rehabilitation experts and people studying the venom of giant funnel web spiders to find a cure for breast cancer! It truly has been a fascinating year and I have learnt so much about so many fields that I knew nothing about.

So below I present to you some of my favourite images from what has been an amazing year with many incredible opportunities to meet, photograph and get to know some truly amazing people.




This is a wonderful lady by the name of Jennie Gilbert. Jennie runs a turtle rehabilitation centre here in Cairns. When I took this photograph she had a few tanks under a makeshift shade cloth in an industrial part of town. Kindly donated by local businesses but not a perfect place for either turtles or photography! I'm happy to report she now has a beautiful facility out on Fitzroy Island.



This is Lance Cochrane. We only had a few minutes to photograph Lance, who had just flown up from Sydney for his graduation from James Cook University. One of their business graduates, Lance had just opened up his own brewery.



Now this was a fun one to shoot. This young bloke is Neerim Callope and he is going to be a dead set superstar. He plays basketball, touch football, beach volleyball, netball. You name it, he does it, and really, really well. At this years National Indigenous Tertiary Education Student Games (NITESG), which I had the pleasure of photographing this year, he just about cleaned up every single award.

For this shot the lovely soft light hitting Neerim is three speedlights on a Lastolite tri-flash firing through a giant see-through umbrella, all held down with copious amounts of sandbags! I'd love to tell you that he did actually manage to throw the ball over his shoulder and get it in but the truth is that it was actually my good friend Kerry Trapnell who'd come to help me for the gig.





Here's a couple of shots from those NITESG games, hosted by James Cook University in Cairns this year. It was a really fun week and I got to shoot some great sports action. For the basketball work I actually had two speedlights on either side of the court lighting it up for me because it was so dark in there there was no other way I could have photographed it. I have to thank David Hobby for his tips on how to do that one!



Without a doubt one of the most difficult things I face is how to make a plain white laboratory look interesting. I mean, they are pretty much all alike. They have lots of white walls and shiny machines. Interesting maybe for people who work in the field, but visually pretty damn boring. In this case the screen and exercise bike were in the corner of a giant empty laboratory! Even more exciting. So what I did was get rid of all the ambient light so that everything not lit by the flash turned to pitch black. I set my exposure to give me a good rendition of the screen, which is showing a section of the Hawaiian Ironman, which my subject Glen Deakin was about to compete in. I had a key light flash on the left which was covered with an orange gel. I had another orange-gelled flash behind Glen giving some detail to his back and the underside of his forearm. And the groovy yellow light in his hair? I placed him in the direct path of the overhead projector to make things even more interesting.



And last of all probably my most exciting shoot of the year! Although a couple of bitter fruit might not look that exciting. Norelle Daly is studying a couple of things to find out if they might provide a suitable cure for breast cancer. One of the things she's studying is these here bitter fruit. Now normally labs are all white, but halfway through the shoot the guys were complaining about how they hate this one little splash of green wall - slightly wider than a person. I nearly jumped up with job when I noticed that the wall was exactly the same colour as the fruit! I know, it doesn't take much to excite me. :) This was lit with one umbrella on Norelle and the fruit, and another on the wall in the background. Not a portrait per se but I love this image.

Oh and the other thing she is studying?



Funnel web spiders if you don't mind! This is David, who works with Norelle. This was taken with a telephoto lens to make the spider look nice and big! It was also macro so it's a combination of two shots - one focussing on the spider and one of David. The spider was so co-operative it stood up like this for a good 30 minutes as we got a heap of shots. I've never had a better model!

So that was my 2012 of envrionmental portraits in Cairns. I hope you enjoyed some of my little projects and enjoyed a different side of my photography. Both an integral part of my vision as a photographer but very different in terms of execution and mindset.

I wish everybody a great 2013 and hope you continue to come back here to see what I get up to over the next 12 months.

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