Friday, December 5, 2008

Watching and waiting

Even when you only have a short period of time it's worth waiting a couple of minutes here and there to complete a picture.

I was in the middle of a mad rush around the Japanese countryside on assignment for a magazine. Because it was a writing as well as photography assignment it meant I had to cover quite a few things in a few short days.

I also had my wife and two young boys along for the ride so it was bedlam all round! One place we visited was an aquarium called Marine Park Nixe. It was a cloudy old day and not much good for outdoor photography but the inside of the aquarium provided some interesting compositions.

I really liked this tank and the contrast between it and the bright blue tanks in the background. I took this shot but one look and I knew without any people in it there wasn't that much life in the image, or any point in having the background tanks. By themselves they weren't much of interest because you can't rally see any fish in them from this distance.

So I hung around for five minutes or so and waited. Sure enough a couple of people started walking through. I already had my aperture, zoom settings and composition set so as soon as this woman walked into the frame I quietly lifted the camera up to my eye and clicked.

When you have people (or any object really) in a silhouette you need to make sure that it's really clear what the object is, otherwise it's just a big black lump.

With people you need to have them in profile so you can see the outline of a human face clearly.

What do you think? I think the second shot is a much better travel image with a person in it. The first one is more a shot of the tanks themselves, whereas the second one is a picture of people interacting with the tanks. A subtle difference that's worth waiting a couple of minutes for.

Oh and in case you're wondering why I didn't use my family as models. If you think they're gonna sit around and wait while Dad takes pictures you've got another think coming! They head off to do their own thing. Saves a lot of tears and arguments. :)

Have a great weekend and don't forget to get your entries in for the photo comp. Scroll down to the kookaburra for details.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Guest Blogging

Here at Have Camera Will Travel I try to firmly place the emphasis on photography and the subject. I'm a hushed voice in the background and I try to give insights into how I work but I'm not the main subject. Well I wasn't until today. I was asked to do a guest blog over at PSI Tutor on how one goes about following a passion to make it a career and this is my effort. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Over the past few months I've made quite a few posts about photographing people in foreign countries, and usually I recommend that you approach people to form some kind of rapport with them first. I find that this often leads to the most pleasing portraits.

But not always. As with everything in photography there's no hard and fast rule. That's why whenever I'm out photographing people I always tend to have a telephoto lens on the camera. It enables you to quickly grab something that catches your eye.

I find that most photographs that require a wide-angle are slower happening, giving me time to change lenses if I need to. The things that require a longer lens are usually fleeting moments where you need to have the camera up to your eye in an instant. That's why I always have a telephoto attached to my camera when it's in the bag as well - so I can quickly pull it out and snap.

Take these guys counting money. Now I could just as easily have walked up to them, had a chat and totally ruined their count! You know how hard it is to count money when somebody's yabbering at you? I decided that his income was more important than my photo and sat back.

It's pretty hard to be inconspicuous in these sorts of situations so they knew I was there but weren't perturbed in any way. As I usually do I gave a quick smile and asked with my eyes whether it was OK to take a shot and they were fine. Originally I thought about focussing in tightly on the three bean counters but then pulled back to include their surroundings, including the two guys at the top of the frame - one fast asleep and the other watching the world go by. I like the contrast between the three so intent on commerce and the other two just lazing a Saturday morning away.

This was taken at the Saturday bazaar in the Nepalese town of Namche, high in the Himalayas. It's a wonderful place to find colourful characters selling everything from chillies to yak's heads. It's quite touristy these days but in some ways that makes it even easier to photograph because the locals are used to crazy foreigners with big lenses.

The main thing you have to be careful of when using the telephoto lens is your shutter speed. If it's quite dark your shutter speed will drop dramatically and you'll end up with camera shake. Keep an eye that you're not going too slow and if necessary bump up the ISO. Photography like this really calls for natural light so you want to avoid flash if you possibly can. It's hard enough to count the day's takings when you've got a foreigner yabbering at you, but even harder if you've just been blinded by the light!

And if you missed yesterday's post we've got a photography competition going - scroll down for details!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An early Christmas present!

I'm actually surprised I haven't posted this pic before now. It's one of my all-time favourites, and one of my most popular prints. I love the cheeky grin on this kookaburra's face and the lovely blue sky.

When I started this blog just a few short months ago I had no idea it would be so well received. I am truly grateful for all those who have taken the time to comment, email me and even stop me in the street to tell me they love the blog. It truly is humbling and, time and health permitting, I certainly plan to keep on blogging away.

As a thankyou to all my readers I want to give you something. Well unfortunately not all of you because that would be a little bit impossible. I've got a gorgeous 8x12 inch print of this beautiful little guy that I would like to give away as a thankyou and early Christmas present.

I figured the fairest way to choose the recipient would be to have a little competition. A travel photography competition. I want you to hit me with your best photos and show me how you've used a technique or an idea you got from the blog. Show me that all my waffling on about the difference between a telephoto and wide-angle lens has sunk in, that you've discovered how to approach strangers for a photograph.

When you've got your masterpiece you can stick it up on the Flickr group (tag your entries kookaburra photo comp) for others to see and enjoy, or if you're feeling shy just email it to me at info at dymond dot com dot au. If you decide to email it to me keep it reasonably small - say full screen (1024x768) size and make your Subject Header Kookaburra Photo Comp.The competition will be open until the 24th Decemeber when I will make a decision and send the lucky winner their print. I'll even sign it if you'd like!

Unlike other onerous photo competitions I'm certainly not going to use your photograph for anything, take away your copyright or otherwise do anything nasty. :) So come on all you 1000 or so readers - hit me with your best travel pics.