Friday, November 28, 2008

It's raining, it's pouring...

and the photographer better not be snoring! Just because it's raining doesn't mean you should put your cameras away.

This post is inspired by the tropical downpour that turned my back yard into a swimming pool this morning. Here in far north Queensland we're headed into the wet season. This means thunderstorms, torrential rain and the possibility of cyclones (hurricanes or tornadoes depending on where you're from.)

Now all of this sounds rather gloomy for the outdoors photographer but it's actually really good news. Wet weather is a great chance to get out and get shots that nobody else has - because they're all hiding indoors in the dry!

Take this photo here. Taken during some recent flooding, there's actually a bike path next to that sign which is completely underwater. I was sitting on top of a bridge looking down and watching as cars tried to make their way through the floodwaters. A car and a bike sign - not so interesting.

Then I noticed a couple of likely lads come under the bridge and, lucky for me, they were on bikes. I held my breath as I watched to see if they would go anywhere near the sign and they did. Hooray. Now we have a great shot with a bit of humour and a lot of insight into what life in Cairns is like during the wet season.

Now of course you need to be prepared. It sounds pretty obvious but firstly you need to keep yourself reasonably dry so you don't catch a cold. But keeping your camera gear dry is just as important. Rather than be changing lenses all the time I actually find it easier to have the camera out and around my neck with a short telephoto zoom on. How do I keep the camera dry if it's out? With a plastic bag.

It sounds silly I know but bear with me. Get a big ziploc plastic bag - one that will fit your camera and lens inside it. Cut a whole (for the front of the lens to stick through) at the bottom of the bag. Put your camera in the bag lens first and poke the front of the lens through that hole then get a rubber band and wrap it around the front of your lens, sealing the plastic bag to your camera. Now your camera is fully rain proof and you can put your hands up through the mouth of the ziploc plastic bag to operate it.

If you have a lens hood you can put that on the lens over the plastic bag to further protect the front lens element.

Works like a charm. Ziplocs work really well but any old plastic bag will do. If you're not really familiar with the controls of your camera you'll want a clear bag so you can see what you're doing, if you know your camera inside out then the bag can be any colour you want.

Doing it this way saves you having to hold up an umbrella every time you get your camera out. For my camera backpack I have a rain cover over it that protects the gear inside. It came with the bag but if you don't have one just go to a camping store and get one for a regular backpack - or for those who like to DIY another big garbage bag should do the trick.

Always wear either big gumboots or beach sandals so that you can wade through water to get to the best position for a photo. Don't worry too much about getting wet and get out there and get some shots that nobody else will have. Just remember that these are all going to be travel shots, not commercial tourism shots. It never rains in tourism ads so don't expect the local government tourism body to come knocking down your door to license the photos!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Using your family as models

No doubt about it - photography is a pretty solo pursuit. We get up at horrible hours of the morning, have our eyes stuck in a viewfinder all day and can be heard to emit incomprehensible rumblings about f stops and shutter speeds.

Which is great if we're on our own, but often when we go on holiday we take the whole family with us. And their idea of fun is not to sit around while Mum or Dad spend twenty minutes setting up a tripod and waiting for the light to change.

So how do you balance the needs of your family with your need to take photos? Bribery is the answer! You need to photograph your kids as much as possible because your other half will never complain that you're taking too many pictures of the precious little tykes. :)

Seriously though, how your children react when on holiday is a story in itself and one that needs to be told. From a commercial point of view kids on holidays are popular sellers, and more importantly from a personal point of view you'll have lots of great memories for the future.

My son is quite used to being Dad's lackey. Stand here, look that way, smile, wave. You get the picture. I really liked the way the fence led off into the distance so used a telephoto lens to compress the perspective. The shallow depth of field from the telephoto also means that my son Mirai is very sharply in focus and everything behind him is blurred. That combined with the lovely backlight putting a halo around his head and you've got instant Mum-pleasing portrait shot. Which then gives you some leeway when you want to go off on your own and photograph.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don't lose the dreams

Travel is a dream for all of us. Although I don't look like it here as I struggle to breathe in the rarified atmosphere of the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro - I'm loving it!

Not only is this my job, it's my passion. It was my love long before it was my profession. Before I even had half a thought of making it a living. If I had to give up either photography or travel I would chuck the cameras in the bin and keep that passport full of visa stamps! Actually I'd sell the cameras on eBay to pay for another trip. :)

Heresy on a photography blog I know. Having said that though, my photographs aren't just examples of what I did and saw, they are records of a fantastic time. They are pictures of wonderful experiences in my life - as are all of our travel photographs.

Where I'm going with this is....the other day my son's teacher's computer crashed. She lost all the images she'd taken of the children in their first year of school. Hundreds of pictures which are such an important record of the life of our kids. She was devastated. As would any of us be losing a hard drive of images.

Which begs the question, are you prepared for your computer crashing? Do you have a second copy of all of your pictures? Do you regularly back up your memories. If you lose all your pictures of Africa could you afford to go back and take them all again? Not if you make as much (little?) money as me!

So I am imploring you to not lose your precious photographs - both travel and otherwise. Have at least 3 copies of all your pictures. One on the hard drive of your computer, one on an external hard drive and one on a DVD. Send the DVDs to a trusted relative so that if your house burns down (these things do happen!) you will still have copies of all your pictures.

Computers can and do fail all the time. I lost 4 laptop hard drives in two years. If I hadn't had a backup I would have lost everything. Even though if I had to choose between photography and travel I would choose travel, the images I've already taken are my babies. Precious as images yes, but even more important as memories of the experiences I've had. Do everything you can to make sure you don't lose that.

If you're searching for a good way to categorise and keep track of your digital pictures I would highly recommend Peter Krogh's book DAM: Digital Asset Management for Photographers. It will change your life - literally. I have no affiliation with the guy, just loved the book.