Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sometimes you gotta walk!

Earlier this year I worked on a major stock photo shoot for Lonely Planet Images and a major airline company. The airline is putting together an in-flight touch-screen destination guide to different parts of the world.

When you fly into a destination you will be able to read all about your destination and look at pretty pictures of the place you're about to land.

One of the places on my long list was Wallaman Falls. For those of you who don't know it it's the larges single drop waterfall in the whole of Australia. It's just outside the little town of Ingham, a couple of hours south of Cairns.

When you get to the lookout the view is spectacular. As you can see from the image above it really is a beautiful place, and again one of those situations where it's almost impossible to take a nice photo. The cliches sell. Advertisers like to use an image that when a viewer sees it they instantly know where it is. That's why this view of Wallaman, taken from the one and only lookout, gets used again and again.

But as a photographic artist you feel a need to expand your vision. To get something unique. And in this particular case in order to get that view you're going to have to get hot, sweaty and tire yourself out a bit because it involves walking all the way to the valley floor to shoot the waterfalls from the bottom!

If there was any more proof of the fact that landscape photography is not only weather dependant, but season dependant as well. I visited just after the wet season had finished. The water was flowing thick and fast and, as a result, there was spray everywhere. All over me, the cameras, the lenses! You get the picture.

But seeing as I'd just spent an hour walking down there and was probably going to take another couple getting back up the steep cliff again there was no way I was going back without a shot.

So I would whip my camera out in between bursts of waterfall spray and push the shutter like a madman. And lo and behold a couple turned out OK. This one ended up being chosen by my agent as well as the cliche shot, which goes to show that a little bit of effort won't always be worth it if the weather's not on your side, but sometimes lady luck smiles on you!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

People photography

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the biggest ingredient for people photography is not what brand of camera you use, or how expensive your lens is, or even how good a photographer you are.

The biggest ingredient for people photography is your personality. There's a pretty famous saying that goes something along the lines of 'the camera reflects what the photographer is feeling.' In other words even though you're photographing something else, what appears in the picture is actually your personality and soul.

And I never really understood that statement. I mean I kind of got it but wasn't really 100% sure what it meant. Then I heard an interview with travel photographer Rick Sammon and it all made sense. He talked about how you could look at the face of somebody in a picture and you could imagine what the photographer was like.

Take this photograph here, taken at the Yosakoi Festival in Japan. Now what kind of a face do you think I was making as I approached this guy to take a photo? Look at the faces on the women in the background. Do you think I was frowning? Being quiet and respectful? Hell no. I had a big cheesy grin on my face that stretched from ear to ear and I was laughing along with him. And my face is reflected in the one he gave me for the camera.

To make your travel photography portraits really good you have to empathise with the people you are photographing. You have to want to know them, even if it is only for the briefest moment. You have to be prepared to open yourself up to have them let you in. If they are deliriously happy and laughing their heads off you can't approach them with a frown on your face because you're nervous about asking if you can take a picture. You have to be laughing and in on the joke with them.

And when you can adapt yourself to fit in with total strangers in totally unique situations, that's when you'll be on the road to creating some memorable travel portraits.