Friday, August 1, 2008

It's not all models and sunshine

The major tourism boards of most countries would have you believe that their entire nations are full of beautiful people who frolic around in the neverending sunshine!

But we all know that that ain't the case. :) Wet weather, cloudy days, thunder storms. These kind of conditions are sure to send the tourism photographer back to bed, but for the travel photographer they're wonderful.

Inclement weather gives you a great chance to get out and photograph the real travel destination. More importantly you might be the only one doing it!

Take this photo above. I was standing on the side of a major road which runs over a bridge. Below the bridge it was totally flooded out from a recent cyclone. I was photographing cars trying to make their way through the floodwaters.

I could see the bicycle sign below me. Indeed I'd driven past it a million times as it's right next to the skateboard park my boys drag me to every Saturday morning! Usually it's got a bike path right next to it, but on this particular morning it was in the middle of a lake.

So here's me standing on this bridge under an umbrella in the pouring rain. Cars are honking at me as if to say 'Get back inside you idiot!' but I was just sitting around waiting for something to happen. When all of a sudden a couple of guys on bikes came out from under the bridge. And started headed towards the sign. My imagination immediately jumped into top gear. Please, please, please ride near the sign I was mentally projecting.

And sure enough one of the guys slogged through the high waters right past the sign and I got a great shot depicting life in far north Queensland during the wet season. Will it make the next major tourism campaign? Hardly likely? But has anybody else got a shot like it? I was the only photographer for miles around.

So if you want to be a travel photographer, as opposed to just a tourist photographer, get out and about when the weather's really crappy! Anybody can go out and photograph when it's sunny!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Taking your camera underwater

I'm not much of a scuba diver. My wife has her Dive Masters while I merely have an advanced certification. The idea of having to deal with neutral buoyancy and a camera at the same time doesn't sound like my cup of tea.

I do like to get wet though! And living in a part of the world that's hot all year round means I spend a lot of time in and around the water. My photography was always based around land activities but I got hired for a commercial job by a cruise company and they wanted some photos shot of snorkellers just under the surface of the water.

No scuba diving involved, just me being able to swim. So I bought a waterproof housing for my camera. It's made by Ewa-Marine, a German company, and I'm assured you can buy them all over the world. Ever since I've had the what-seems-to-be a giant plastic bag, I've used it to take all kinds of fun pictures under the water.

This one above was taken at a place called the Babinda Boulders and is my young niece Melissa when she was up here on holidays. I tend to put a wide-angle lens on the camera to show as much of the environment as possible and snap away. Shooting digitally means that you can take a lot more pictures than you ever could with film so you can experiment to your heart's content.

It's a relative snap to get the camera in and out of the bag and you can also attach a flash to the top of your SLR. There is a wide variety of housings for cameras available and the majority of them are precisely for this purpose. Shooting around the water and slightly under the water without having to be a diver. Again it all comes back to the finding a different angle on a subject. If you can get your camera to places other photographers can't you're guaranteed a new angle on an oft-photographed destination.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chopping heads off

Don't worry, I'm not going to suddenly change the subject of the blog into one of gruesome surgery or something! If you believe the judges at most camera clubs, it's a mortal sin to have people (or animals) in your pictures but to cut off any part of their body with the edge of the frame.

In other words you either have a whole person or nothing at all. No having the top of their head missing and absent limbs are a definite no-no.

Well I'm here to tell you that that's not necessarily the case. You can chop people up as much as you like but you have to make sure it looks deliberate! It is an oft-used technique of documentary photography when the main subject of your photo is not a person, but you want to show somehow that there are people in the vicinity.

The people almost become a symbolic representation of their job, or activity. As in the photo above. The people here have no heads so we have no idea of what they look like, or whether they're men or women. It's not a portrait. But they are wearing all black clothes, have big black boots on and are holding big hooks. They have become their job while losing their individuality. So it's a photo of the job of buying fish at a fish market.

The trick here is to cut them up decisively. Don't cut the top inch of their hair off at the top of the frame. Or their left hand at the wrist. When you only chop off a little bit it looks like an accident. People will wonder whether you just didn't notice that it was missing. Whereas when you chop them off in the middle of the chest they assume that it's deliberate - after all nobody's that bad a photographer! Or at least if they are they wouldn't be showing the pictures to other people. :)

So when you're attempting to show a scene, and the fact that there are people involved, but you're not necessarily aiming for a portrait, chop your subjects off. The person who's been chopped then becomes a symbol for what they are doing and it's left to the viewer's imagination as to what they look like.