Friday, January 23, 2009

Paul Dymond live chat

Hi there everybody,

just wanted to let you know that I'll be doing a live chat on Nine MSN next Tuesday night, the 27th January. I'll be filling in for a friend of mine who couldn't make it and would love it if you could pop along.

It will be from 6-7pm Cairns time (so that's 5-6pm Sydney summer time) which is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich mean time.

You can find more info here so if you get a chance to pop along and ask a few questions please do.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Keeping the slate clean

When you live and photograph in a concrete jungle you can pretty much walk and photograph wherever you like without fear of the dreaded footprint!

You know the footprint I mean. The one that magically appears right in the middle of a pristine landscape and totally ruins your picture. The one that transforms your untouched wilderness photo into a degraded vision of its perfect self.

And what makes it even worse is that footprint is often your own! So when you're photographing on the beach, or in the snow, you need to be very careful to walk only in places where you don't think you're going to point your camera.

Remember how I'm always harping on about looking behind you for different compositions? If everything behind you is blighted by big ugly boot prints you won't be a happy camper.

When I'm photographing on the beach I make sure that I walk along the beach as far away from the water as possible. Up in the really soft, dry sand, which is already pretty messed up anyway and my footprints don't really stand out.

Most beach shots happen down near the water anyway so as I walk along I keep an eye out for an area that might be nice to photograph. Then I walk in a straight line down to the water's edge, looking for compositions as I go.

When I've got what I want I walk straight back up the path I took, pretty much stepping in my own footprints. That way I have pristine beach to my left and right and have more options for compositions. (Of course if I turn around and look back to where my footprints came from and see something I like I'm in trouble but we won't worry about that! :) )

Try it next time you go to the beach. Walk along it as far away from the water as you can, up in the dry part, and only head down to the water when you see a spot for a great shot.

Of course if somebody else walks along the beach there's nothing much you can do except hope they have bare feet, a nice footprint, and a gait that will make a nice composition. Happy beach shooting.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Have your camera at the ready

I posted this photo today because as I sit here sweltering in the middle of a Cairns summer it reminds me that in a couple of weeks I'm going to be freezing my bum off in Japan!

I'm headed off to photograph the snow festival in Sapporo before heading to Osaka and Tokyo and it's going to be really, really cold.

But that isn't the topic of today's post. Today is all about carrying your camera with you and making sure you're ready to take a photo at the drop of a hat.

I was walking to the bus stop near my father-in-law's place, heading in to town to photograph the city when I came across this scene. Now maybe if you live in a cold place this doesn't seem so amazing to you but it really surprised me.

I just figured the snow ploughs would fill up at a depot or something, not next to the average joe filling up his sedan. Anyway he was just about full when I rushed over and managed to snap one shot before he put the pump away.

I conveniently had my camera hanging from my neck, as I often do when walking around. Even though my destination was half an hour away on the train I still had my camera out just in case. And in this case it paid off. Japan is a really safe country so there's no worry about theft - my biggest worry was slipping over on the icy footpaths and smashing my camera!

If you're somewhere where you don't exactly want to advertise the fact that you've got an expensive camera you can always carry it under your jacket, or in an easily accessible bag. When I am photographing on the street I often use my Lowepro Off Trail 2 and carry one camera body, a 10-22mm wide angle, a 28-70mm and a 70-200mm zoom, as well as a flash and a couple of polarising filters.

Just remember that when you have your camera in a backpack that will take you at least a couple of minutes to get the bag off, unzip it and then get your camera out - well that lucky shot has almost certainly gone. As the scouts say - be prepared!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When you have no time!

I was in Melbourne for an awards night and AGM for the Australian Society of Travel Writers a little while back.

When you have a whole bunch of travel writers together in the one place the various tourism bodies tend to organise trips for people to get a feel for the venue.

I signed up for a city sports tour that ended with a trip to the amazing Eureka tower with its spectacular views out over the city.

At least the writers were able to write about the fantastic views. As a photographer a pretty cloudy day, with a fair dash of smog meant that I couldn't really do justice to it at all. I tried a couple of snaps through the thick glass but the time of day, combined with the crappy light meant that there was nothing much I could do.

How many times have you been there? Whenever we travel on an itinerary that doesn't have photography as its main objection we end up having to compromise. To resign ourselves to the fact that we might not be able to get the shot we want. The one we saw in the postcard.

So that leaves us to find other compositions. It's really important to not put your camera away until you're well and truly finished. As I found out here. We had our views and were heading back to the elevator when I turned around and saw how the beautiful afternoon light was shining in and silhouetting people, while creating long shadows.

I already had a wide-angle lens on, so I took an exposure reading outside the window so that you could see the city beyond without it being a white blur and let the shadows fall to black. Then I walked around with the camera to my eye while I composed the scene until I liked the look of the shadows and quickly took the shot before heading off.

It isn't a stand-alone photograph that says Melbourne, or even the Eureka tower for that matter. But I like it as a piece of photographic art and it could certainly make it into a photographic story about Melbourne if you combined it with other images.

Remember that postcards are always taken under the optimum conditions - in terms of lighting, time of day and season. Your chances of being there under similar conditions are pretty slim so you need to keep your eyes open for new, unexplored angles and compositions.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday's link

The biggest thing in the world of photography right now is off-camera small flashes. Taking those small flashes that usually live in the hot shoe on top of your camera and using them wirelessly.

Put the flash wherever you want and have the camera fire it! I used this technique to photograph butterfly researcher Darrell Kemp at work.

Presented with a boring old room with equally boring fluorescent lighting I decided to take a small flash and put a piece of orange cellophane in front of it and move it a couple of feet to the left of the camera.

I then put a snoot on it to focus the light on Darrell's face and create the shadow, while dialling down the ambient to make it nice and dark.

All sound like gobbledygook? Don't worry it did to me too at the start but now I love it! To get started in this amazing world head over to Strobist and check out the Lighting 101 tips. Just a word of warning - it's addictive and I take no responsibility if you spend hours on this site!