Friday, October 23, 2009

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

How's that for a bit of alliteration? One trend that I've really noticed lately in the travel photography world is specialisation. I guess it's happening throughout the photography world but with travel photography it seems to be happening in a geographic sense, as opposed to a style. And economic times being as they are travel photographers and writers seem to be more and more turning to their own backyards to discover the wonders on their own doorstep.

It's quite ironic really considering many of us got into this profession because we love the adventure of hopping on a plane and going somewhere exotic. But I certainly am lucky in that I chose to live in a part of Australia that is simply spectacular. And so I've decided to introduce a different part of my local area every Friday. Hopefully it'll give local Australian photographers some ideas of the next place for a photo shoot, and also encourage those of you who've always wanted to visit Cairns to think beyond the Great Barrier Reef.

So hold my hand as every Friday we take a look at fantastic FNQ - or Far North Queensland. FNQ stretches from Townsville in the south all the way to the tip of Australia at Cape York in the north. It encompasses beaches, rainforests, dry savanna country, urban areas, And it's all amazingly photogenic. Dry for much of the year, the landscape is shaped by the huge floods and cyclones we get in the wet season, which we're just heading into now.

They don't like to tell you about this little fact in all the tourism brochures featuring shiny, happy people frolicking in the sunshine.

But our annual rainy season is what makes this place so beautiful, and the cyclones that come along with it are just a part of life.

This image was taken after one of the biggest - Cyclone Larry - went through. Contrary to what CNN in the US reported the entire state wasn't evacuated, although the small town of Innisfail just down the road from us got walloped pretty horribly. Here in Cairns we all bunkered down in our house until it was over, trying to make it as non-scary as possible for our little boys. After it had gone through we went outside to see the destruction and get on with life again. They're a pretty resilient bunch up this way!

The first thing we noticed was the incredible amount of leaves that were just covering the road in front of our house. I used a wide angle lens to get the whole sweep of the street in and show just how green it all was. I placed my little boy Mirai in the foreground and my wife with her colourful umbrella a bit behind him to add some interest. I love the way the colourful raincoat and umbrella contrast against the green and black of the road.

Not that I would suggest visiting here just to see a cyclone but if you happen to be in town when one hits remember to keep your camera with you because there can be beauty in even the most destructively powerful of events.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How safe is your film?

I've been doing some scanning lately. Getting some of my favourite film images up on my new website. And I've discovered something pretty scary - many of them aren't in as good a condition as I hoped.

In this digital age we're always told to back up up the wazoo in case of terminal hard drive/DVD/CD/Blu-Ray failure. But how many of us are looking after our film archive?

After all many of us were shooting film for a lot longer than we've been shooting digital and have some pretty precious stuff in there. Whether it be pictures of family and friends, treasured moments or just holiday snaps.

Now if you live in the Sahara Desert you're probably doing OK but if you live anywhere that's got a bit of moisture in it you could be breeding fungus. Fungus doesn't just grow in the lunchbox of your kids when you forget to clean it out for a couple of weeks. It also lives in camera lenses and eats film. You can see its fine tendrils stretching out over your trannie like an evil spider web.

And that's what I found on this image above and it took a lot of work in Photoshop to clean it up. Now granted I live in a pretty hot and humid part of the world but I take precautions like putting moisture zapping buckets in the filing cabinet etc. I have a friend who has all his film in an air-conditioned, dehumidified room and he still gets fungus in his slides!

So if you're reading this and thinking you could have a problem I urge you to go and pull out those precious film memories and take a look. And if there are any that are looking suspicious take the time to get them scanned straight away. After all you can always back up your scans on 100 different types of media if you want but once that one film image is gone it's gone forever.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quality over quantity - the bad photo tax

One thing about digital is it has led us to take ALOT more photos. I mean when you think about it we used to put a roll of film in the camera with a finite 36 exposures in it. And each one of those pictures was costing us money. So we took it easy on the shutter finger. Not any more.

Digital isn't costing us as much to take photographs. Yeah we have to add hard drives and update computers and buy a new camera every couple of years or so, but leave that all aside. If you're happy chugging along on your current camera with your current computer then it really is pretty cheap.

Which means that we tend to take a lot of pictures just because we can but what do we do with all the duds? In the film days we used to edit them all ruthlessly and bin any pictures which didn't make the grade. Experiments that went wrong, camera firing while in the bag, lens cap on! We used to hope we didn't bin too much because....well it was costing us money.

But now with digital we have a tendency to keep everything and photograph everything whether it's a good idea or not. After all we made such an effort to get up early to go out and photograph so we have to shoot something right? What if I charged you money every time you pressed the shutter? Think of it as a bad photo tax. Or more to the point a lack of a good photo idea but let's shoot it anway tax. Would that cut down the number of photos you take? Maybe force you to really think about the photo you're about to take before you press the shutter?

I was thinking this the other day when I went out to photograph sunrise with a friend and former student Warwick. We headed up to the rocky point at the end of Four Mile Beach in sunny Port Douglas. Only it wasn't sunny. It was cloudy, grey and spitting rain. But rather than running around blindly photographing everything we mainly spent time talking and enjoying the view without feeling the need to push the shutter button.

And at the end of a couple of hours what did I come away with? Some OK pics and only one that really made the cut, which is the one above. One of the beauties of digital is that it allows us to experiment and really push the limits of our photography for exactly the reasons that film made it difficult. It doesn't cost us anything. But at the same time that isn't an excuse to just photograph willy-nilly without thinking about what we're doing. Getting one shot that you're really happy with and want to show people is always a lot better than 100 mediocre pics that will just live in the bowels of your heard drive. Quality over quantity.

Oh and if you think the bad photo tax is a good idea please fell free to send me your tax payments. :)