Friday, January 16, 2009

Find the natural hams

We've all got one in the family. The type of people who just can't stay away from the front of the camera. They're always pulling funny faces or getting behind Aunt Myrtle when you're trying to get a shot - usually with a couple of fingers behind her head.

Your job as a travel photographer is to find the Kenyan, Thai, Japanese (insert equivalent country here) version of your family ham. And that's who you want to photograph.

I find markets are a great place to photograph people because there's always interesting produce for sale and the sellers are usually down-to-earth types who love to interact with foreigners.

Not all of them of course and that's where your people skills come into it. When I first noticed this stall of octopus for sale at the NijoIchiba markets in Sapporo there were a couple of guys standing behind the display.

When I am out photographing on the street I always put my camera out front where people can see it. It lets people know I'm taking photos and their body language lets me know whether they want their photo taken or not. As I walked along the rows of stalls I was photographing fish and stall holders and I could see these guys at the end of the row.

And they could see me. As I got closer one of the men ducked out behind the stall. Maybe he had something to do but part of the reason could have been he didn't want to be photographed. His friend on the other hand was standing there with a big smile and beckoning me over. He pulled out the biggest octopus and held it up for a picture.

When you're shy about photographing people one of the best ways is to let the hams find you! Have your camera out front and prominent and they will find you. And pose for you. And introduce you to their families. And never let you escape! And the shy ones will turn away or hide somewhere. It saves you having to ask if you can take a picture and be rejected when the locals are begging you to take their picture.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How many Megapixels?

My stock library Lonely Planet Images has recently changed their submission guidelines. They are no longer accepting any film images and their minimum digital requirement is now a 10 Megapixel dSLR.

Which means I'm going to need to upgrade my equipment. Up until now I have been using an 8 Megapixel camera. Why not more you ask?

I work mostly in the magazine and editorial stock world. My pictures get used in books, magazines and newspapers, with the occasional advert. The biggest I usually need to print is A3. This picture above ran as a double page spread in Backpacker Essentials magazine. It was clear, sharp and looked fantastic. What more could I ask for? More megapixels certainly means bigger pictures but it also means the need for faster computers, bigger CF cards, more external hard drives and DVDs for back-ups. And don't forget you have to upgrade to the latest version of Photoshop because older versions of their Raw Converter don't support newer cameras.

There have been so many developments in the past few years that we're now up to 15, 16, 21 and even 24 Megapixel SLRs. That's like medium format quality in a light, portable camera. Pretty amazing really. Just keep in mind one thing. As the great magazine photographer Joe McNally says "Don't confuse a detailed picture with a good picture".

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Monday's link on Wednesday

I sort of got side-tracked with Monday and Tuesday's post and forgot about our regular Monday link. So here it is a couple of days late.

Bob Krist is one of my all-time favourite travel photographers. A keen eye for a great shot, Bob doesn't rely on post-production tricks to get great images. Not only is he a fantastic photographer but he's a really great author as well. You can check out his book list on his website. I have a copy of the Spirit of Place: The Art of the Traveling Photographer (add an extra l in Traveling for those of us in the commonwealth!) and it is absolutely brilliant.

The biggest problem I often have with books on travel photography is that if they have great writing they often have pretty mediocre photography, and if the photography is eye-popping the information often leaves a lot to be desired.

This is not one of those books, it's the complete package. He also has some great multimedia presentations on his site, and if you jump on to You Tube you can see a couple of videos of Bob in action here and here.

Check out Bob's work and I'm sure you'll love it as much as I do.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Image Security on the WWW

One of the greatest synergies of all time happened when digital photography met the world wide web. Suddenly millions of people from around the world were able to upload billions of photographs from their cameras and show them to friends, family and complete strangers all around the planet.

Photo sharing and social networking sites such as Flickr and Facebook evolved and suddenly we can all keep in touch with each other 24/7 and share our photographic masterpieces with the world.

But all this convenience comes with its own problems. The first is copyright and the protection of your images. For the unwary there are attacks on all sides and before you know it you could end up like this little girl who found her face being used in an ad for Australia's Virgin mobile. They didn't have permission (not explicit) but because she had posted her photograph on Flickr under the Creative Commons license they really didn't need it. (Or did they? A lengthy court case will decide).

The first thing you can do when you sign up for these services is to read the fine print. For example Photo Attorney Carolyn E Wright has a post up at the moment (here) about how signing up for Facebook can give them permission to use your photos however they please, including advertising. I would avoid posting any pictures on sites with clauses like this in the fine print.

When you start posting images on Flickr you need to go to the Privacy settings on your account and choose what license to have your images under. If you have them under a Creative Commons License that means that anybody can use your pictures any way they like and you have no grounds to object. I recommend the All Rights Reserved setting for your best protection.

To minimise loss from theft there's not a hell of a lot you can do I'm afraid. Putting a big watermark on your pictures, or having text with your Copyright label on there might deter some people but others will just Photoshop it out without thinking twice about it. Your best option is to keep the images small (say 500 pixels or less on the longest side) and that way they can't be used for anything big. You can also name your digital files with your surname in them. All my files are named Dymond_date taken_camera sequence number. That way if the pictures do show up somewhere and the name of the file hasn't been changed somebody can find you.

As this becomes more and more of a problem and starts to affect big companies with money technologies will come through to help us track down theft of our pictures. One such technology still in the developmental stage is Tin Eye which is a great little tool to help you find your images on the web. Photographers all round the world are reporting infringements that they've found through this. They don't have a huge database of sites yet but they're working on it.

Despite all this seeming doom and gloom I think the benefits of putting your work up for people to see far outweigh the pitfalls. In the last two weeks I've had two bikes stolen off my back patio. One of them was my little boy's and he was devastated. At first I was really upset and angry but then I thought, why should I let some thieving scumbag ruin my day. I'm not going to give them that satisfaction and that is what I recommend you try and do with your pictures.

Prevent it as much as possible but realise that there's nothing much you can do to stop it completely. But continue to post your work and reap the benefits of getting feedback from your family, friends and fellow photographers.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Best 10 photos of 2008

I came across this great post by Gary Crabbe on Sunday night. He talks about a blog project by Landscape and Nature photographer Jim Goldstein where he invites people to submit their favourite 10 images from 2008. What a great idea I thought. I tend to create images and they get stuck on a hard drive and sure they're catalogued but I don't really tend to go back and look through them to reminisce about the great things I've seen. So I quickly sat down in front of the computer and chose my favourites. Some were taken on assignment, some were just personal shoots. Some of them you have seen, some have never been published before. I hope you like them and if you're feeling up to it why don't you post your favourite 10 images that you took in 2008 up on the Flickr group.

The Yungaburra Markets, Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland.

Daintree Eco Lodge Resort, Daintree, far north Queensland

Daintree Eco Lodge Resort, Daintree, far north Queensland. Front cover of Destinasian Magazine

Boyd's Forest Dragon, Daintree Eco Lodge Resort, Daintree, far north Queensland

Aboriginal guide, Daintree Eco Lodge Resort, Daintree, far north Queensland

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas, far north Queensland.

Mossman Gorge, Daintree National Park, far north Queensland.

Cassowary crossing the road, Daintree National Park, far north Queensland.

A couple of bright umbrellas in the rainforest, Daintree Discovery Centre, Daintree National Park, far north Queensland.

Charters Towers, far north Queensland.

And just one more for good luck!

My back yard and my boys playing in flood waters, and what they think of the best photos of 2008!