Thursday, December 16, 2010

February Photography Intensive

Well the dates are set, the price is fixed and things are all ready to go for a February of intensive photography immersion here in Cairns.
Over the period of a month we’ll have a series of four hour lectures, running two days a week at Hambledon House in Edmonton. The days are:
31st Jan/1st Feb
7/8 Feb
14/15 Feb
21/22 Feb
and the lectures will run from 10-2. The cost of the full month’s tutorials will be $550 (incl GST).
In between lectures there will be an online discussion group and area to post pictures so that you can get critique from the other members of the group as well as full access to myself. I will be available all month to answer questions and personally guide you to improving your photography.
With a small number of students (maximum 10) we will be able to tailor the course so that you get the most benefit out of your four weeks. To really learn what you need to to improve your images. We’ll concentrate on the technical side of things to the extent that it helps you improve the creative side of your art. To create photographs that share your own vision and way of interpreting the world.
Starting with topics such as lenses, light, flash, photographing strangers and developing it from there we will definitely cover a lot of ground. And this is where the inspiration for the intensive came from. I received a lot of feedback over the years from people that they enjoyed my weekend workshops but wanted something that lasted longer and helped them keep up the momentum and enthusiasm. This is it.
For those who don’t know me I have been a professional travel photographer for more than a decade. I am represented by Lonely Planet Images and my pictures have been featured in more than 50 of their guidebooks ranging from Thailand to Tokyo, from Nepal to Southern Africa and lots of places in between. My images have been published in magazines such as National Geographic Traveler and TIME (US) and I have been teaching photography workshops for most of that 10 years.
So if you think you’d like to improve your photography and really delve into your creative possibilities and would like to find out more please contact me at info at dymond dot com dot au .

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

It's looking like being a big, big wet season this year in far north Queensland. The forecasters are predicting up to 6 cyclones to cross the coast.

That will mean lots of rain and lots of flooding. Hopefully it won't affect too many houses, but at the same time hopefully it will produce some wonderful photo opportunities.

This photo was taken during one such flooding. I went out into the pouring rain and stood on top of an overpass, which looked down onto a small road which was pretty much underwater.

I was waiting and watching as cars tried to make their way through the floodwaters when all of a sudden a couple of kids on bikes rode out from underneath the bridge I was standing on.

I sent a little prayer up to the god of photography for them to go somewhere near the bike track sign and sure enough she must have heard me. Things like this you can't really plan for - you just have to be out and about with your camera. Even when the weather is foul and everybody else is cowering indoors. Especially during those times.

In a world saturated with images making yours stand out will often come down to putting yourself in front of photographic subjects that other people ignore. Showing the world in a way most people wouldn't think of. Getting out in the pouring rain when every fibre in your body says to stay indoors and watch the Plasma TV.

Sorry about the long space between posts. I have been busy re-evaluating my photography. After being a full-time Dad to my two little boys for the last three years, as of January 24th next year my youngest will start school. That means I'll have from 9 till 3 five days a week to photograph again. I won't be doing much travel stuff that's for sure (unless someone can lend me a teleporter to get me to Tibet and back in a couple of hours!) so I've been searching my soul to try and come up with some subjects that I'd be interested in photographing. Stay tuned for more about that journey!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Calling all travel writers! Wanna collaborate?

For more than a decade I worked as both a travel photographer and writer. And thoroughly enjoyed it. But during that time I also worked on many projects where I just photographed, often working in collaboration with a writer.

And I always really enjoyed those assignments because they took me out of my comfort zone and let me work with interesting people, and often in areas that I wouldn't think of writing about myself.

The photograph here is one example. I worked with a young writer in Sweden of all places. She had been out here to Cairns and worked on a banana farm in a little town called Tully, a couple of hours south. Anyway she'd written an article about the experience and needed some images to go with her piece. So I drove down to Tully and spent a day photographing the workers and the farm in her article.

Collaborations like this work really well in situations where the writer really doesn't enjoy photographing, or doesn't feel they have the skill to do the job justice. Or in cases where the weather doesn't co-operate and they need better pictures. Sure there's plenty of free offerings from tourism boards and other sources, but often they are generic pictures that don't really fit with the story in a neat package.

So here is my call out to all my readers there in cyberspace. Have you ever been, or know anybody who's ever been to far north Queensland - that's ranging from Townsville in the South up to Cape York in the north? Do you know somebody who wants to write an article on the experience - doesn't have to be travel related mind you, I do all sorts of editorial work - but needs photos to go along with it? Would you be interested in collaborating?

I bring to the table a deep collection of stock images from this part of the world and an ability to do assignments locally, and hopefully what you bring to the table is a knowledge of the markets where you live and an idea of where you could publish your piece. I've never tried something like this before, and honestly have no idea if it will work. But I'd like to give it a try. We live in a global community and I'd like to tap into that a bit more and thought this is one way I could do it.

So put your thinking caps on and if you come up with anybody please let them know. Or if you yourself are interested please let me know. Far North Queensland is my main specialty, with my sub-specialty being Hokkaido, Japan. If you want to write a story on either or those places and are looking for images not found anywhere else please let me know. You can comment here on the blog or send me an email at info at dymond dot com dot au.

I look forward to seeing how this little experiment goes! Here's to producing some wonderful collaborative art. Please feel free to pass this on to all your social networks via the Retweet button above or any other way you think might help.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How can you envision photographic respect?

In my last post I talked about showing your photographic subjects respect. And I wrote a bit about tuning in to your own feelings about a photographic subject to help you determine how to show not only your subject respect, but also your own feelings. I thought I should add a little postcript because a lot of talk about photographic vision concentrates on finding your own personal inner way of seeing. By necessity the way you envision a photograph will come from within you and help set you apart from other photographers. We're all individuals and obviously see the world in different ways.

But a lot of those theories don't really point to what I was alluding to - which is that the subject of your photographs deserve just as much respect as your inner vision. After all you could find yourself in some tropical paradise and take a whole bunch of abstract pictures of grains of sand, overexposed pictures of cocktail glasses and landscapes with tilted horizons (because you couldn't think of any other way to make the picture interesting!). And all those would be valid interpretations of how you felt. But would they be showing respect to your subject?

I would err on the side of saying no. That they would appeal as fine art to people who shared your sensibilities, but that true respect for your photographic subject involves thinking about how other people interpret the pictures as well. And by other people I don't necessarily mean photographers.

I live a cloistered life. The vast majority of my friends are photographers. All of them are passionate, some of them pros, some of them amateurs. They all love their photography. And they love their tech-speak and gadgets. But only a very few of them would I trust to a conversation about the merits of a picture in terms of respecting the subject. They can all point to the fact that I should have had more depth of field in this picture, or avoided the lamp post coming out of the subject's head in that one. But sometimes they miss the mark when it comes to talking about the impact of the subject itself. For those opinions I tend to prefer people who have no interest in photography whatsoever.

Because those people wouldn't know an f-stop from a bus stop they can only focus on what's in the picture itself. And they're a great guage for telling you whether your images are hitting the mark or not. So keeping them in mind is one of the first things you can think about when you're trying to show respect to your subject. Would a non-photographer find this an interesting image? Would they be more interested in the subject of the picture or the how (or why) I took it?

Another way of getting that inspiration is to think less about yourself and more about the legacy your pictures will leave. With travel photography one of the first inspirations is 'I will never be in this place again so I'd better take a lovely shot'. That might be all the motivation you need to get up before dawn to capture a landscape in beautiful light. But if it isn't take the focus away from you for a minute.

Imagine that the landscape you want to photograph is due to be strip-mined. Turned into a quarry for the minerals beneath it. And you will be the last photographer ever to capture it. Indeed, depending on the ability of your pictures to move people you might even be able to save it from the mining. Now would that be inspiration enough for you to do more than show up at midday and grab a quick snap? You see how taking the emphasis away from you and putting it on the subject helps provide you with inspiration?

Imagine a beautiful building is about to be demolished. You're there in the afternoon and it's facing east. If you knew that in a couple of days it would be rubble would you be more inclined to come back in the morning when the first rays of sunrise hit it?

With travel portrait photography one of my greatest sources of inspiration is imagining the look on the subject's face when I show them the picture. Do you think they'll be happy with a high-contrast snapshot taken out in the midday sun showing all their wrinkles? Do you think they'd be thrilled if you take the time to move them into softer light and really create a beautiful portrait?

Imagine how happy they'll be when they see the LCD. Imagine how thrilled they'll be if you send them a print. Imagine that it might be the only photograph of themselves that they will ever own. That their children will ever have to remember them by when they're gone. Their one legacy to the world after they depart. In many parts of the world this is by no means a stretch of the imagination.

Don't you think that in all of the above cases you owe it to your subjects to be the best photographer you can be? Without a doubt photographic vision is hugely important. It's the reason we spend so much time concentrating on it and refining it in an effort to remain true to ourselves and (if professional) differentiate ourselves from our colleagues. But just as important in what we do as travel and nature photographers is to consider the importance of paying respect to our subjects. For without them we're just overexposed pictures of blurry grains of sand on a beach. We might appeal to the artsy set and satisfying our inner vision but are we paying enough attention to what our subjects would want?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How can you show your subject respect?

A lot of travel photography is shot in an editorial, documentary style. We travel to places both near and far and attempt to capture with our cameras what it is we experienced. But just showing what we saw isn't enough to move our viewers. We need show what it is we felt, or what we thought about our experiences. And we owe it to our subjects to do it truthfully.

When I say truthfully however, I don't mean truthfully according to other people's opinions. I mean how you as the photographer truthfully felt. Which is always going to be subjective. No matter what you think of how an individual's opinions shouldn't shape a documentary image, the truth of the matter is that in travel photography our opinions will always shape our images.

Firstly we decide where to travel to. That's a subjective decision based on where we think looks interesting. Travel photography by its very nature tends to be of places that the photographer has travelled to because they wanted to. So our subjectivity leads to our first showing of our respect for our subject - we're interested enough in it to shell out dollars to visit. The second way we show respect is by finding out as much about our subject in advance so that we can capture it in the best possible light.

Let's say you'd always wanted to visit the Taj Mahal - a lifelong dream. You get there and discover that it is just as beautiful as you'd ever imagined. To truly respect not only the Taj but your own feelings about it you're not going to photograph it in the middle of the day with its harsh light, millions of tourists and a total lack of emotion. That would be showing a lack of respect for not only your subject but your feelings about it. So you'd come at sunrise or sunset when there are hardly any people around and the light is beautiful. You'd look for different angles to show the beauty that captivated you. You would treat it with as much photographic reverence as the architect who built it. To do anything less would be disrespectful.

But let's say you had the opposite reaction. You were annoyed at all the millions of other tourists, the fact you had to leave your tripod outside. You were disappointed by the greying marble caused by the smog of India's notorious traffic. Basically it wasn't anything like you expected. Whether these opinions could be called petty or not they are yours. Own them. Be true to yourself. In this case I would argue that it would be more respectful to show all the things about the Taj Mahal that annoyed you. Just because you started off with the intention of showing the beautiful doesn't mean you have to let it cloud your photographic judgement. If you chose to ignore what you were feeling you might still come away with 'beautiful' pictures but they wouldn't be yours - they would be facsimiles of other people's cliched expectations.

Who knows, by the time you've photographically worked your annoyances out of your system you might be able to finally appreciate the beauty and think about coming back at sunrise. Or you might not. Either which way both photographic interpretations would be correct because they're both being true to yourself.

The same goes for people as well. I often think that photographers are nervous about approaching strangers to photograph because they're not treating it as a way of showing respect. Sure you might not know anything about the individual you'd like to photograph, but if you've shown respect then you'll know something about their culture. You'll have learnt a couple of greetings in the local language. You'll be able to show that you're interested in them as something more than just a pretty picture, and that you respect them.

Not only that but you'll see the portrait as a gift from them to you (by posing for you) and as a gift from you to them (by capturing the best possible portrait of them). So you won't photograph them in harsh light but will move them into the shade to avoid creating harsh shadows and emphasising wrinkles. You'll attempt to make some sort of human connection so that you can capture an image that captures their spirit. You won't snap and run but will take them time to have some sort of limited interaction - no matter how short or limited. The more you get to know them the more respectful and insightful your portrait will be and the more respectful the interaction will be.

In other words, as a travel photographer to differentiate yourself from the millions of tourist photographers you need to show respect. For not only your subjects, but for yourself and your individual feelings about what it is you've chosen to photograph from the millions of subjects around the globe. The more opinionated you are the more those opinions will shine through in your images and the more they will resonate with others. Don't be afraid to be yourself.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Changing direction in uncertain times

Hi there loyal readers, for those of you who stuck around while I was away thank you. It really does mean a lot to me to know that I can produce something that is helpful to people, and that you appreciate. There's a couple of reasons for my absence.

One is that I've just been plain flat out busy. Like full-on crazy get up at half past five in the morning and get to bed at half past nine at night kind of busy. I wish I could tell you that I've been traipsing around the world on some glamorous assignments for travel magazines but, as we all know, not too many of those jobs are floating around these days!

What I have been doing is looking after my kids, writing a lot and reading a lot. I've mentioned it a few times on the blog before but I've been working through The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I first heard of this book from my personal goddess Selina Maitreya. It's a 12 week course on re-discovering your creativity. Not that I think my creativity had ever disappeared but it was probably a bit jaded, and I was intrigued.

Anyway a big part of the course is something Ms Cameron calls the Morning Pages. It basically means that when you get up in the morning you write three pages of stream-of-consciousness thought. Whatever pops into your head you write it down. That means everything - warts and all. It's the one place to totally get to be yourself. No place for political correctness or worrying about hurting people's feelings. Just write down whatever you think.

It's supposed to help you connect with your inner artist and inspire creative thoughts to pop into your head. And I found it incredibly helpful. I admit to being skeptical at the start but, now that I've finished the course, I'm a total convert and get up at half past five to write every morning. I've come up with thoughts and ideas that really have me excited. I've re-discovered my passion for photography, and many other artistic pursuits that I enjoyed when I was younger but sort of fell by the wayside over the years.

Again, I don't think I ever lost my love for holding a camera and capturing images of the world. But. to be totally honest, the business side of things was wearing me down. I live in a town where a lot of the other photographers don't really understand copyright or usage (or maybe they do but just prefer to ignore it for simplicity's sake). As a result mention 'usage' to a local client and they tend to look at you very suspiciously as if you've just invented a new way to rip them off royally.

Add to that the increasing number of magazines that either don't want to pay for photos, or if they do the rates are so low and they want to take your first born kid and house as well (just kidding but it's not far off) and I was feeling pretty down about the commerce side of things. So you know what I did? I went and did something for somebody for free!

Now any of my colleagues will tell you that I'm the original copyright hard case. I defend my images to the death and demand respect for my work and my copyright. But going through the Artist's Way and writing my morning pages made me realize a few things. One of those was that I'm a generous person by nature. I love to think of really worthwhile gifts for people and I love to see the expression on their faces. I remember when I was in Uni there was a wondeful friend of mine who loved elephants. So I sponsored an orphaned elephant baby in Kenya for her as a birthday present. Needless to say she was pretty stoked.

Anyway I digress. I haven't suddenly decided that there's no money to be made in photography so I'm going to go out and undercut the entire market by shooting everything for free. But I did decide that there were some local groups who are entirely staffed by volunteers, rely 100% on donations to continue their great work and just really need a break. And I figured I didn't have lots of money lying around to donate so maybe I could donate some of my expertise.

So I rang up the people at the Frog Decline Reversal Project. I'd read about them in the local paper over the years and I knew that this was the kind of group that did really great work researching various diseases in frogs and I wanted to help. You know what. They don't really need any photography! Well the kind they do need I wasn't really qualified for - they wanted close-up pictures of very specific species of frogs. But they did need their website images watermarked because they've been getting pics stolen left right and centre.

So this last week I've spent hours individually watermarking, adding copyright metadata and attaching colour profiles to pictures of diseased frogs. Not the most glamorous of work but something that has made me feel more proud of what I'm doing than anything else I've done in quite a while.

And just doing this has gotten me thinking about lots of other possibilities for both donated and paid work. You see I don't want to go down with the sinking ship if the travel photography industry continues to dive. It may come back up again, maybe it won't. Either which way I don't want to be so attached to one photographic subject that prohibits me from pursuing other rewarding projects.

So I'm getting back to basics. Trying to re-discover what I fell in love with before I started taking money to do this. And I'm loving it. I've discovered that I want to be a story teller again. To photograph real people and real places and show people the beauty that exists all around us. And some of that will be travel related and some won't. And I'm cool with that. For somebody who's spent the last 13 years or so saying, "Hi I'm Paul Dymond, I'm a travel photographer" that's a big step. But it's an exciting one.

So, as this blog is my gift to all of you (plus it's cheaper than a shrink!) I want to thank you for sticking with me and I hope to continue to regale you with anecdotes, tips and general claptrap of this individual photographer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The death of professional travel photography?

There's been a bit of flutter lately on the blogosphere about the death of travel photography. First it was mentioned on Andrea Pistolesi's blog - a great post entitled A Requiem for Travel Photography. Then it was picked up by my colleague Bob Krist on his post entitled Is Travel Photography Dead?

Well I don't know if it's dead, and I'm sure the situation varies from country to country, but is is definitely changing and not what it used to be. There's been a lot of talk about the demise of magazines and how they're losing ground to the internet. The younger generation wants everything on their iPad.

I don't know about you but I still prefer to see beautiful photos blown up as double page spreads in glossy pages. But the emphasis has to be on the 'beautiful' part. In this country I see too much mediocre stuff being printed simply because it's available. Rather than sending a talented photographer out on assignment to capture unique, one-off images, the bean counters at newspapers and magazines demand that their editors source free pictures from the tourism bureaus.

Or they publish the images that travel writers submit, not really caring if those are the best possible pictures they can publish, but rather grabbing what is the most convenient. As somebody who has written their fair share of word/photo packages I'm here to tell you that the travel writer's schedule isn't always conducive to great travel photography. You get what you can and submit it. And it gets published. And I don't know about you but I (the travel magazine reading I, not the travel photographer I) feel ripped off.

Why should I spend good money on a publication that doesn't consider me valuable enough to provide me with the best possible content. If I can see better quality images online, pictures that take my breath away, why would I pay good money to look at the same photograph I've seen in a hundred other magazines with articles on the same area?

Personally I think that if the same bean counters are in charge of everything at the (sure to be coming soon) online versions of these magazines and newspapers then we're going to be in for the same problem. How to get people to pay to view images that don't blow them away. How do you compete with the millions of fantastic pictures found on the net if you grab the cheapest, most convenient, least differentiating picture you can? The answer, I think, is you can't. At least not photographically speaking.

So what is the answer? How do we, the consumers, get to see great travel photography whilst supporting the work of great travel photographers? And how do we travel photographers get to have our work published and make a living?

To tell you the truth I don't think anybody has it figured out yet. But I can tell you this, as long as the major publishers continue to run their current course the answer isn't going to lie with them.

For all you budding travel photographers I can give this bit of advice. Unless you want to write articles to accompany your photos the answer is not going to be to travel to as many places as possible and have a small number of images of each place. That's a rapidly dwindling market. As more and more people travel to the far reaches of the globe and capture it on their prosumer digital cameras your chances of selling an odd picture here and there of somewhere you visited for a brief stopover is rapidly dwindling.

No the answer, until somebody comes up with a way of convincing the traditional publishers to go for quality rather than convenience, is to specialise. Know a place, subject, people so intimately and deeply that you will be the only person to go to for photographs in that area.

Use your unique photographic skills and ways of seeing the world to transition across into other areas. Environmental photography. Conservation photography. Cultural photography. Get back to your storyteller vision and jettison the desire to create stand-alone beautiful images. Create a body of pictures that will tell the story of your particular place of expertise.

Find commercial travel clients who love the way you see the world. Hold exhibitions. Think outside the box. Just don't think that you're going to make a living shooting for travel magazines any time soon. Advertising may come back, readership might go up, the web might be the saviour for the publishing companies but if the bean counters still tell their editors to 'get it cheap, take all rights, it's good enough' then we're all doomed to mediocrity.

Just as a little aside before I wrap this rant up. Before everybody emails me and lets me know that there are some great travel publications out there who support excellent travel photographers - I know. And I also know that there are fantastic travel and photo editors who do their damndest to get great photography published and for them I am truly grateful. And that it's not in any way the fault of the frontline editorial staff doing their best to put out a magazine within budget constraints.

I'm speaking in generalisations about an entire industry here. Do yourself a favour, grab your favourite travel magazine or in-flight magazine (or general magazine or newspaper which features travel) and look at the proportion of really fantastic photographs provided by an individual photographer (or stock library) compared to the number of obviously free, cheap or mediocre/convenient pictures. And honestly evaluate whether you think that magazine has done its best to provide you, the reader, with the best possible pictures you've paid for. And then imagine whether that will change when the magazine goes online and whether you'd want to pay for that or not. Yes there are some shining examples of great publications and I wish them all the success in the world because they're the ones holding the beacons out for all of us. But there are also a lot who don't look to be trying to raise the bar very much and I don't like their future behind the coming paywalls.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Photographing stage shows

One of my favourite things to photograph on my trips are stage shows. Yes they can sometimes be a bit corny and obviously put on for the tourists, but they're usually colourful and vibrant and very welcoming of photographers.

If the stage show is happening at night then it's most likely going to be under tungsten lighting - which shows up as quite orange on daylight white balance. If you put your camera on to its automatic white balance or even the Tungsten setting you will get a more neutral, blueish colour.

In situations like these, even if you're regularly a Jpeg shooter, I recommend that you shoot Raw. The reason for this is that, like many things in this art, white balance is a subjective decision. The colours that you capture are supposed to represent how you felt, not necessarily a strict recording of exactly how it was.

Tungsten lighting is the perfect example of this. Here you can see the look I got with a daylight setting (only in this case it was daylight balanced film). It has quite an orange glow to it but you know what? I like it. I think it gives a sense of welcome and friendliness. It adds a nice warm glow to the faces of the children and looks inviting. A 'correct' white balance with tungsten can often look cold and clinical. Anything but inviting. But sometimes the daylight setting can be just too orange. So if you shoot Raw you can look at the images later and decide on a colour temperature setting that you find visually appealing.

If you're like me you'll probably find that you use different white balance settings for different images depending on the look you want. For close-up portraits where skin colour is more of an issue you might prefer a slightly more natural look, whereas for wide-angle shots of the whole stage you might prefer that warmer, orangey glow. At least when you shoot Raw you can pick and choose what tickles your fancy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

Far North Queensland Green - Images by Paul Dymond

Need a bit of green in your life? Well we've got in in spades. If you had to pick a colour to describe far north Queensland then it would have to be green. From the golf courses of Port Douglas to the wetlands of Mareeba. From the parks of Townsville to the thick, tropical rainforests of the Daintree. Throw in some Cooktown mangroves, Port Douglas pizza parlours and Yungaburra markets and you have a world of green. If your day is feeling a bit drab and concrete-like I hope this cheers you up.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why I love stock photography

As photographers we tend to be like sharks. We have to constantly keep moving, keep producing new images. Constantly looking to better our previous efforts. And that's a good thing. Like sharks, if we don't keep moving we tend to die - if only creatively and not physically.

But there's a downside to this constant moving forward. We forget to look back. If you have children you'll know how quickly they grow. You might not notice it every day but an easy way to have it hit you over the head is to flick back through the pictures you've taken of them over the years. Start the year they were born and move forward.

I'm sure I'm not the only parent who has suddenly realised it's way past their bed time as they spend hours flicking (well scrolling these days!) through nostalgic images that bring a smile to the face and a tear to the eye.

But how many of us do this with our 'real' photographs. The ones we make to feed our creative souls. This thought process was partly inspired by the boys over at PhotoNetCast
In their latest podcast #49 their guest is Jim Pickerell, he of the Negotiating Stock Photo Prices book fame. And they were talking about Steve McCurry shooting the last ever produced roll of Kodachrome film. And Mr Pickerell mentioned that a lot of film images weren't commercially valuable in this day and age because they just don't look as sharp or as clear as digital images.

And he may be right. But for me my stock photography archive has so much more value to me than just commercial opportunities. And I hope it's the same for you. Maybe if I was shooting products in a studio the feeling would be different but I'm a travel photographer. And every image, no matter whether it was shot on Kodachrome or Sandisk, no matter whether it was taken yesterday or 24 years ago has incredible value. They are all reminders of amazing journeys, incredible experiences and the events that have shaped my life and my sensibilities.

But we forget that value to us in our constant need to move forward to the next assignment. So take a break from shooting new stuff. Go back and look through your archives. Revel in the joy those pictures bring you. Relive the amazing moments and the feelings that were running through your head and heart when you clicked the shutter. Go travelling vicariously through your pictures all over again.

The photo at the top of the post was taken on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro. It was shot on Kodachrome film. It's probably not as sharp as it could be given that Kodachrome 64 is pretty slow and it was pretty dark. But I look at this picture 24 years later and I can vividly recall the rain, the mud, the smell of the wet forest and the strain of the porters' muscles as they carried our food up the mountain. And that's the real value of this picture. Oh, and it's been published quite a few times over the years but that's almost irrelevant.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The greatest new travel magazine on the web!

Every so often life throws you amazing opportunities and you have to grab them with both hands and hang on. One of these serendipitous snippets happened to me a few months ago when my good friend Ewen Bell 
asked me if I was interested in being the photo editor for a new website he was putting together.

To tell you the truth the first time he asked I said no. What with running a business, writing a blog, looking after two young kids and trying to make sure I see my wife more than once a week I just didn't think I would have the time. And then he asked me again. And I sat down and had a think about it and put my trust in my instincts.

I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for not only Ewen's photographic and writing capabilities but his integrity and drive. The man has his heart in the right place and is always coming up with great ideas. And he was putting the site together with veteran travel writer Tom Neal Tacker, Vice-President of the Australian Society of Travel Writers and all-round nice guy. And I was getting more interested.

And then he told me the name - Naked Hungry Traveller. And I was hooked. And so I now find myself the photo editor of a groovy new travel website which launched today. We plan to tell it like it is. We love travel as much as you do, and hate blatant travel ads as much as you do. And that's why we felt the time was right to put our souls on the line and start this new venture.

So to help us mere minnows in the travel publishing world make a go of it I would like to ask a favour of you dear readers. I would like you to hop over to the Naked Hungry Traveller and read some great articles. And then I would really, really appreciate it if you could leave a comment on the article you like the most. Hell if you like 10 articles leave 10 comments! Or you can Like it on your Facebook account or Retweet it. Whatever you like, but if you could help us get the word out there we might have a fighting chance of making a go of what promises to be a great website for lovers of travel writing and photography.

Oh and the photography is a bit light right now but don't worry we've got lots of plans to integrate more and more images. Just to give those damn writers a run for their money. :) So, in case you missed it before the site is called the Naked Hungry Traveller so tell all your friends - if they love travel then this is the place to be. Plus the photo editor is a pretty cool dude and if you ask me nicely I can introduce you. :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

Here in Cairns we're right in the middle of the annual Cairns Show. Some people call it a carnival, some a fair. Whatever you call it it's a fun place filled with animals, rides, showbags and lots of sugar-filled treats.

The Friday is always a local public holiday and thousands turn out to enjoy the day. In fact it's Australia's largest regional Show and a photographer's paradise.

The hardest thing about photographing the show is having enough equipment to be able to cover all kinds of lighting conditions without weighing yourself down so much that you can't walk! This image was taken late at night using a slow shutter to give that blurred effect, followed by a short, sharp burst of flash to freeze the motion of the people on the ride. Which means that I carried a tripod around all day. No way you can get out of it I'm afraid! This image was featured in the Australian Society of Travel Writers' annual calendar a couple of years back and is one of my favourite pics from one of my favourite events.

My boys will probably be up at the crack of dawn raring to go. You see they came with me the other day to wait around while I judged the photographic competition. None of the rides or anything were set up but the show bags were being laid out and they saw the Super Mario Bros. one and that's all I've heard about every since!

I've judged the photographic competition at the Cairns Show a few times over the years and it's always a great pleasure to get together with a couple of colleagues and express our (often vocal) opinions on which images deserve a gong. This year was no different and my fellow judges Frank Harrison and John Cornwell were great fun to judge with. Frank's a nature photographer so he had strong opinions on that section, me being the travel photographer became pretty opinionated when any image was taken overseas, and John is an expert in portrait photography.

At the end of the day when it comes down to the top few places it's pretty much always subjective. It's not really the judge's job to say categorically whether one photograph is better than another, just which one appeals to them more. So just because you don't get first with one set of judges doesn't mean you won't with another set.

I noticed something about the way I viewed the photographs this year. I've always been a sucker for sharpness in photographs. For me photographers like John Shaw with his rock-solid technique and razor sharp images have always been something to aspire to. So I found it interesting this year that I tended to be attracted to those which struck an emotion with me first and foremost, and very often that was the picture that was quite soft.

I also gravitated to those taken in beautiful light, which is something that has always been appealing to me. I don't care how spectacular a beach is, if you shoot it in the middle of the day it's just not going to appeal to me. Get up before sunrise and show me some spectacular light though and I'll sit up and pay attention.

If you go along to the Cairns Show pop into the photo competition and you can see which ones we liked. It would be great to hear if you agree with us or not.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Forget about the big steps in your photography career

As artists, and I hope you all consider yourself artists no matter what stage you are in your photography learning curve, we tend to the dramatic.

Yes, no matter how sensible and calm we may seem on the outside when it comes to our photography, and in particular our desire to share our work with the world, we can tend toward the melodramatic.

By that I mean that we're often thinking about the 'what if' and letting the fear of what might happen hold us back. For example we might have a wife and kids. We'd really like to work as travel photographers but what happens when a magazine calls and wants to send us away for two weeks to Outer Mongolia. What will my family think? Will I have to give them up to follow my dream? Or will I have to abandon my dream to be with my family?

Or maybe you live in a non-capital city area - even a rural town. You'd like to submit your work to a stock library but if it takes off then will you have to move to a big city to make a proper living. What if you don't want to live in a big city? What if you're happy where you are? How will you ever choose?

Even if those two examples don't ring true I'm sure you can think of some other great drama you've created in your head that stops you doing what you really want to with your photography. Guess what. It's all in your head. I know because it's often in my head as well. That's just how we artists are.

It's that fear of who knows what that's really talking to us. By imagining some diabolical moral dilemma down the track it makes it easier to put off doing something positive today to set us on the right path. Yes some time down the track you might get a call to go to Outer Mongolia, or you might not. One thing's for sure - you'll never get the call if you don't do something today to set you on that path.

The trick is to forget the grandiose plans. The real answer is in the little details. The step-by-step progression that sees your photography improve, your confidence increase and your horizons widen. I don't know anybody doing this who one day decided to become a pro and the next day all their wildest photographic fantasties came true. Instead we all got here over a long period of time, with small boosts to our careers (along with our fair share of setbacks) and confidence that got us to a position of full-time vocation.

So instead of worrying about whether you're going to have to break up your family, move to a new city or shed your current life in some way, shape or form take a deep breath. And make one small, positive step towards where you want to go. Choose some pictures for your portfolio. Order some prints. Look at some magazines to see which ones use similar work to what you shoot. Keep your eyes out for interesting subjects in your local area. Work on your off-camera flash technique. Doesn't really matter what it is as long as it's small and doable.

Then get into the habit of doing it every single day. Don't worry about the big picture, just concentrate on the little details. And before you know it you'll be on that escalator where working towards your dream becomes a part of your persona, rather than just dreaming about what might be and being afraid of it.

Oh and why this picture? This is a sculpture on top of the Asahi beer building in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. It's affectionately known as the Golden Turd. I bet the sculptor in his wildest dreams never imagined something he put his heart and soul into would be named after faeces. And if he did I don't think he would have started to create it in the first place. Sometimes it's good not to know what your future holds!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

Aurukun Wetlands Photos - Images by Paul Dymond

Well this week's fantastic FNQ photos come from a really remote part of Australia. Up on the western side of Cape York, the Aurukun Wetlands are about as far from civilization as you can get. An amazingly pristine area of wilderness that boasts such giant, majestic rivers as the Archer and the Jardine. It's also home to the Wik people, the aboriginal custodians of this beautiful part of the country.

I had a chance to spend a few days with some of the elders who gave us a glimpse into their traditional way of living. From fishing for barrimundi to weaving baskets. From getting honey to cooking our freshly caught fish in traditional pit ovens in the sand.

But for me one of the highlights was the chance to go stingray fishing in crocodile-infested waters! Considering the night before I'd been out spotlighting for crocodiles and had seen more glowing eyes than I would care to remember I don't know what convinced me to get in but there you go. I felt pretty safe with my guide Jasper and figured if he thought it was safe then I'd believe him.

The skill and grace with which he glided through the water before launching his multi-pronged spear into the water again and again until he speared his catch. A large spotted stingray that he quickly dispatched, cut up and put in the fire to cook for lunch.

Afterwards one of the younger women said to me, "Do you know how to tell if there's crocodiles in the river?". Figuring I was about to be let into some local aboriginal secret I was all ears. "If the water is cold there aren't any crocodiles, when it's warm there's a crocodile nearby". I assumed that that meant that crocodiles don't like cold water. She broke into a big grin as she explained. "If the water is warm it means that the crocodile has peed in it!" If I am ever close enough to a crocodile in water that I can feel it pissing on my leg I'm in big trouble!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The fine line between the starving artist and the capitalist money grabber

I'll be honest, one of the reasons I've been a bit quiet on the blog lately is that I haven't been really sure about what to write about. About what I can add to the plethora of blogs out there that would help you all on your quest to be better photographers.

I seemed to have covered so much over the last few years that I was feeling a bit lost. And part of the reason for being lost was that I had forgotten that I'm also writing this for myself, not just my readers.

And then it struck me what I need to write about. What is important to me - photographically speaking that is. You see I'm not the most technical of photographers (I've never even been in a studio! although I use on-location lighting all the time), I don't own the most expensive camera and I don't even really know any famous photographers (although I do like to name drop that Bob Krist and I get along pretty well!) . In short I'm just a regular ol' (well still in my 30's so not that old!) photographer. Or am I?

I've been to a few meetings and weekend retreats of a professional photographic group here in Australia over the years and every one I've ever been to I'm the only travel photographer. Bar none. No others. And every other photographer I meet always says to me "I always wanted to be a travel photographer but gave up because it was too hard/competitive/low paying and went into weddings and portraits". OK so maybe I am a bit different from other working pros. That gives me some ideas.

So here's something I know about being a professional photographer. You need to make money. Don't give me any of this honour of the starving artist stuff. Noble it may be but it won't help you support your dreams. If you want to continue to share your art with the world you need to make money. And the more money you make the better. On one condition.

If you really want to survive long term both financially and spiritually you need to continue following your passion. If your passion is just to photograph anything that moves then you're set. But if you're like me, and can only imagine photographing certain things, then you've got some pretty hard decisions to make. You can either try to follow your passion and then, if it doesn't work out just move into another area of photography (read: more lucrative area of photography) and hope that you become passionate about it. Or you can continue in your day job, night job, part-time job until you find a way to make your area of passion pay - and pay well.

One thing I've always stood on is my integrity. If I don't think I can technically handle a photographic assignment, or put all of my passion into it, no matter how well it pays I always pass it on to a colleague. I never refuse a client outright but I always send them in the direction of a qualified professional I know can do the job brilliantly. And without a doubt that has caused me to turn down some really well-paying jobs at times when the money would come in handy. I'm certainly not trying to be the starving artist here - I've got a family to help support. But I've found over the years that the jobs that have given me the biggest headaches, and the ones I still have nightmares about to this day, are the ones early in my career that I accepted because the money was astronomical but my heart wasn't in it. The photographs themselves turned out fine - I continue to see them pop up all over the place - but they were pretty soul-destroying personally.

I spoke about being Mr Mum a couple of posts back (scroll down to find it) and how that has meant I have to re-evaluate my photography career. Well you can guess where my re-evaluation is coming from. First and foremost my passion. I want to continue to tell stories about people and places that I find interesting. To photograph for companies that have ideals and aims that gel with my views on life. Do you think this is overly-idealistic? Too much dreaming not enough being sensible.

Well I think that being sensible is probably the wrong way to be for an artist. Passion is never sensible. Following your dreams is never sensible. I'll leave sensible to those people who don't enjoy what they're doing but are too scared to try anything else. If I was a 'sensible' photographer I would have learnt to use studio lights or talk to brides. I certainly would make more money. But when it comes to listening to my inner artist I'm just not the sensible type. (When I have my business hat on that's a different matter. I'm all sensible then but that's for another post.)

So here's what I bring to the blogging world. I'm a photographer who has followed their passion come hell or high water. I've managed to turn that passion into a money-making venture without having to sell myself short doing work that I don't feel I can deliver 110% on. And I do that by listening to my inner artist and paying attention to it rather than a pay cheque. We all enter the photography profession because we love the art form. But be careful not to lose that love by walking down alleyways that might be financially lucrative but will kill your passion over time. Money comes and goes, once your passion dies it may never come back.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Where do your pictures live?

Back in the day when transparency film ruled the professional photography world storing pictures was a simple business. You just stuck them in a plastic, 20 slide sleeve in a drawer of a filing cabinet.

Finding said picture again took a bit more work! I used a simple lettering and numbering system. For example all my shots with people as the main subject started with the letter P. The first people person I catalogued was P001. And up it went from there. Mammal shots started with an M, bird shots with a B and reptile shots with an R. Oh and rivers were an RV just to avoid confusion! And I had a computer database to help me find specific pictures and then I'd just go to the cabinet and fish them out.

In those days we didn't have the option of loading pictures into the computer database so you had to have a text description of the slide to find it again. So my description for this picture was: A wide-angle frontlit shot of a woman (Chiharu) in a bikini sitting on a giant swing on the beach, with a family on another swing in the background. And in another column I had details of the location, whether it was a horizontal or a vertical, the year and the season. To find the picture again I just had to do a search on any of the words.

Nowadays the physical location of our digital files isn't so important. It doesn't matter where the picture is, as long as I can find it again. And whereas with my film pictures it was kind of important to have the file names classified according to subject, with digital it's totally irrelevant. Why? Because we no longer need to search for pictures using the name of the file.

Instead we use the metadata embedded in the picture. I'm sure you've all heard of metadata - it's that information that is embedded in all the digital picture files that come out of your camera. Much of it is stuff added at the time you push the shutter button - the type of camera, focal length of the lens, ISO rating, time (down to the second), date and lots of other information.

But for our purposes there is more important metadata and that's the information you put in yourself. Some of it can be put in in bulk. The first bulk metadata you should put into all your pictures is your contact details and Copyright information. Once your pictures leave the safety of your house it's pretty hard to stop them being used here, there and everywhere but at least you can show people whose pictures they are by putting that information in there. Any time somebody opens up one of your pictures in Photoshop the little Copyright symbol will show up before the filename letting them know that the photograph belongs to somebody and they won't be able to use it without permission.

But more importantly for your own reference is the metadata about what the picture represents. Where it was taken - continent, country, state, city - go as detailed as you want. You might also want to include the names of any people in the picture. If you photograph wildlife then you'll definitely want to include the common as well as latin names of any species you photograph. In short you want to put any information in the metadata that you think will help you (or other people if you plan to put the images online) find your picture.

And when you do this you can use any one of a number of cataloguing programmes to search for those pictures afterwards. Want to find all the pictures of your Aunt Mary taken in 2008? Just do a search for Mary and the year 2008 and they'll all come up instantly. Need to do a slideshow on your local forest using pictures taken over the last 15 years? Just type in the name of the forest and they'll all come up.

By using the metadata and cataloguing software it doesn't matter where the physical files themselves are stored, or what they're called. This leaves you free to name the pictures in any way that makes sense to you, and to place them in whatever folder you feel like. All your pictures of one subject don't have to live in the one folder because your software will find them wherever they are. They don't have to be named with whatever the subject is (Aunt Mary 001 etc) because you've already put Mary in the keywords. Call the file whatever you want.

If you're posting them online and want people to find them many sites recommend you name them with basic information type words to help in Search engines. So a picture of Asakusa Shrine in Tokyo might be Asakusa_Tokyo_Japan_001 or something like that. Because I mostly deal directly with clients and my images are often either sent out on DVD or FTP'ed I have a naming system that includes my name so that no matter who is looking at the image they know straight away who the photographer is. I also use the date it was taken and then the camera file number. So a picture taken today might read Dymond_100712_2614 or something like that.

The file name gives you no clue whatsoever as to what's in the picture but that's OK with me. All the information I need is in the metadata of the picture so it's always easy to find again. And most clients are metadata-savvy enough to know to look there first for a description of the picture they're looking at. I also use the metadata area to put in usage terms for the picture as well so the client knows just exactly what rights have been licensed.

So when you think about starting on the giant task that is sorting out your pictures don't get too hung up on where you should put them in terms of folder structure on your computer. Don't worry about re-naming everything either. Just work on getting some really good, helpful-to-you metadata in there so that you can be confident of finding them quickly and easily.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Those damn Mums with a camera - oops I'm one of them!

This is me in the east African country of Burundi. I'm at an orphanage for gorillas and chimpanzees. As a travel photographer and writer you get to do some pretty damn amazing things. It really is a dream lifestyle that, while not always being the most profitable venture around, is always full of adventure and excitement.

And then marriage and kids happen. And things change - sometimes dramatically. A colleague of mine, Daniel Scott, has a new blog over at Daddy Travel Writer. He's only just started but I'm sure he's going to regale us with tales of what it's like to balance being a travel writer traipsing around the globe with trying to raise a couple of kids.

But that's the viewpoint of someone who's still working. What happens when you put the cameras down for a bit and put all your effort into raising the little beasties? Well here's my big secret - that's what I've been doing for the last two and a half years. As you can tell I haven't given up work completely but I am a full-time Dad to my two little boys - 7 and 5 (as of next week!)

This all came about when, after over 10 years of working as a professional travel photographer and visiting more than 55 countries, my wife got an opportunity to work for an airline. As in flying overseas up to five times a month. As in away for six months of the year. Hmmm. So do you stick your heels in and say, "Hang on a minute. I've got the best job in the world. Why on earth would I give that up?" Or do you say, "Go for it honey. I've had a good run and you need to follow your dreams as well'.

I chose the latter. And boy did the shit hit the fan! I had no idea what I was in for. In the blink of an eye I was a DWAC - Dad with a camera. The object of all that hatred on various forums around the world wide web. And I've never really read anything about what it's like to suddenly go from being a busy creative artist to a multi-tasking nappy changer. So here's the reality.

It's really hard. And I don't mean the looking after the kids from 6 in the morning till 8 at night, cleaning the house, cooking all the meals and being tied to a little person 24/7 every day of the year. It goes without saying that that is so hard it's not funny. There are a million books about that. What you don't find written about much is the sudden drop into non-creativity.

Photography is a passion, and when it's your job as well it really is a vocation and can become an obsession. I didn't realise how much photography dominated every aspect of my life until I gave a big chunk of it away. One of the biggest shocks I found was the loss of self-identity that you have as a creative professional. You become your job. You're known as the travel photographer and that's who you are - until you just become so-and-so's Dad.

It's really difficult to give up checking your emails to see what work requests are coming in. To keep up with what's going on on Twitter. To keep tabs on how the industry is changing. But I came to the conclusion that if I kept on looking at my computer/laptop/iPod Touch to check in during the day - well every minute I was doing that was a minute I was ignoring my sons. So, as hard as it was, and believe me it is still incredibly hard, I have to let it go until the kids have gone to bed.

The other hard part is not resenting your kids or wife when an editor calls you up and wants to send you to Tibet for a couple of weeks. Or to Japan for a week-long hot springs tour. To remember that it's no longer about me, me, me but them, them, them and us, us, us.

What I've found really important to me is to stay creative in some manner. It's not like an office job where you can take a few years off and then slide back in again with a bit of re-training. Our creativity needs to be constantly nurtured and used. Our skills need to be honed and improved upon. We need to keep that creative spark alive lest we lose it.

So I write (this blog as well as personal writing every morning), I play music, I read and I caption and edit metadata for my more than 7000 images of the local area. Anything to keep that inner artist active. And I photograph as much as time will allow me. And I've found that the more that I listen to my inner artist the more I am honing in on how I want my photography career to develop. Because things will change. That is inevitable. Next year both boys will be in school and I will be free during the weekdays.

And whilst I won't be jetting off to outer Mongolia in a hurry I will definitely be looking for local stories and people that interest me and photographing them. And I'll continue to photograph this amazing part of the country in a way that satisfies my need to have a camera in my hand. Because I'm not the sole breadwinner any more I'll basically be listening to my heart to judge what projects to work on. I don't need to take the big, well paying commercial jobs if they don't interest me spiritually. I can really concentrate on the work that will keep my inner artist happily fed. But it's still going to be really hard to balance that constant desire to photograph but keep it on the back burner while trying to be a good father and husband.

So spare a thought for those damn Mums (and Dads) with a camera. We're photographers just like any other. Only we've decided to make a huge personal sacrifice and donate a large part of our entire being to help raise our children and let our partners follow their dreams.

And remember that what we're doing is really spiritually and creatively draining. NOT photographing for those who love it is a damn site harder than photographing. Not having a camera in your hands all day every day is a lot harder than it sounds when you're obsessed. And that's something the manual doesn't tell you.

Oh, and I do solemnly promise that I won't dress my kids up in fancy clothes and photograph them any time in the next million years, but I will consent to recording their scootering exploits with a camera every so often. And sharing them on the blog once in a blue moon, with your permission. :) Just to keep that inner artist happy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

Mapoon Turtle Rescue Project - Cape York Photos - Images by Paul Dymond

A while ago I had the rare and privileged opportunity to take part in a conservation project up on the western side of Cape York, near the very tip of Australia. Just outside the small town of Mapoon, a dedicated band of workers tries to save endangered wild turtles from predation by wild pigs, dogs and human pollution. Volunteer ecotourists can take part in this worthwhile programme, and spend a few days combing the beach for washed up nets, monitor turtle nests and help young hatchlings break out, as well as see mother turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. It is a life-changing experience and will reaffirm your belief in the benefits of eco-travel and the things we can do to give back in some small way to the environment. For further information you can find their website here.

Many of these photographs were taken in the dark of night. Some of them were taken at around midnight under a full moon with high ISO and pretty short shutter speeds considering the conditions. I hope you enjoy these images and if you're looking for a place to take your next holiday that's pretty special definitely consider this part of the world.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Your photos are worth nothing...

This little old lady knows the value of her eggs. She sits down at the foot of this sulphur-belching volcano in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and sells her wares. She knows how much each egg costs her to buy. She also knows it doesn't cost anything but time to boil them because she just sticks them in the volcano.

Oh and she charges an extra premium because these are special eggs. Each one will increase your life by 5 years! At least that's what she swore and who am I to argue? She looked like she'd eaten a few.

But here's the thing. Her eggs have a certain monetary value because they cost her money to buy. Our photos are kind of the same, and kind of not. It costs us money indirectly to take photos. We need to buy camera equipment, computers, storage hard drives etc. So in that sense our photos have some kind of value. But if you were to lose your pictures in a house fire, accidentally deleted a hard drive or some other mistake there wouldn't be an insurance company in the world who would give you a red cent for each and every photo lost. They would only pay you to replace your computers and hard drives. So while they might be really precious and priceless in terms of their value to you, monetarily speaking our pictures are worth nothing.

Until somebody wants to use them. Photographs, and all other kind of intellectual property where the copyright lies with the creator, obtain their value when other people deem them good enough to use. And the way in which they use them will determine the value. So for example a small 1/4 page picture in your local newspaper might only get you fifty bucks but the same picture used in a huge advertising campaign might get you tens of thousands of dollars. The actual value of the picture itself hasn't changed - it's the same picture! The value attributed to it based on how somebody wants to use it has changed.

And this is where I personally think Microstock and Royal Free pricing, and subscription based pricing for that matter, get it all wrong. They act as if photographs are widgets. Something that can be created on a conveyor belt and pumped out day after day. And they place their value on the actual image itself. And, as we all know, they don't place much of a value on even that. Which is fair enough, as I've said I don't think pictures have monetary value themselves either.

But what they've then done is taken away the value of the usage. If you can use a picture as many times as you like, in pretty much any medium, for as long as you like then the only thing you're paying for is the picture. How you use it is deemed irrelevant. So in micro-uses, like blogs, personal (non-commercial websites), school projects etc, those small prices might be the right price to pay, and there's obviously a big wide world of people who are prepared to pay small amounts to license pictures for those kind of uses.

Where I think we get into trouble is when we want to use the photographs in situations where the usage is very extensive. In those cases the photographer should be making more money because they're helping the client make money. Quid pro quo. If I produced an image good enough to help you sell lots of your product I deserve a fair share of the pie.The more money you stand to make the more the photographer should get. Hell even the egg lady would get more for her eggs if they helped her clients live an extra 20 years or so!

Of course it doesn't worry the agency. They make their money up on volume. If they have millions of their pictures downloaded every day that's a lot of money in the bank. But how does the poor ol' photographer do if that money is split over a large number of photographers? And how much better would they do if their pictures were actually priced according to the usage? Well the cat's out of the bag so I guess a lot of photographers will never know. But just think about it next time you're wondering which stock agency to place your pictures with.

Will they place the monetary value on the image itself, or on how the client wants to use it?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finding the creative

 Maybe there are artists out there who have creativity just flow through them twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. If there are I've never met one.

For most of us, both professional and amateur, finding inspiration can be both an exciting and a frustrating experience. On the days when you're on the ball great ideas seem to come to you in unbounded succession.

On other days you really have to struggle to produce great work. Good work is a walk in the park. The professional photographer needs to be able to produce a publishable image every single time. No excuses, no failures. That's our job.

But producing work that sings to our own souls is a harder task. And sometimes the muse can leave you and you seem to hit a brick wall. I can't say that's ever really happened to me in a serious way but I am always searching for new ways and ideas to keep the muse happy and make sure she visits me with lots of inspiration.

So just before I went away on my last trip to Japan I bought a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (Disclaimer - I get a couple of pennies if you buy the book with this link. :)) . I figured it would just be another one of those self-help, arty-farty type books that I could quickly flick through in my time over there. But after reading the Introduction I realised that it wasn't going to be such light going and it certainly wasn't something I could do in my spare time on holiday! So I waited until I got back home to dive in.

The book is actually a 12 week course designed to re-ignite your creativity, and show you ways in which you can continue to ignite that creativity long after you've finished the 12 weeks. So here I find myself in Week 4 and it's been quite an eye opener I have to say.

I don't know that I'm a total skeptic in general, but I usually have to be shown pretty good evidence of something before I tend to really believe it. And one of the main premises of the book had my skeptic antenna up from the get go. The author calls it the 'morning pages' and it involves writing 3 pages of long-hand, stream of consciousness writing every morning. The theory being that by this outpouring of thought you get to dump all the stuff that stops you being creative during the day and put it aside so you can get on with creating.

Now firstly for me to take half an hour to write 3 pages of stuff every morning requires me getting up in the pitch dark so that I can do it before my two young boys get up to start their day. Getting up that early is hard for photographers if we haven't got a sunrise shoot planned! But I've been religious about it and have written it every day for the past 3 and a bit weeks. And has it made a difference? I have to say yes.

By writing down all my fears, doubts, things that make me happy and basically anything that comes into my mind it's actually made me more creative. I've come up with some great ideas for the blog, ideas for self-assignments I'd really like to work on. I've also started buying CD's of music that inspired me when I was younger. I somehow feel lighter of heart. I find myself singing out loud in the strangest of places! Not that I was a depressed person before at all but I somehow feel more content.

And strange as it sounds I really do feel like it's this writing that is bringing about this change. And although there are some mornings where I do write about photography and my job, many mornings it's just writing about my life in general. Often it can be positive, but also negative. The key seems to be that as long as you're honest with yourself and write what you're really thinking and feeling then it works.

So wish me luck as I work through the coming 8 weeks or so. Who knows I could be dancing around in my underwear by the end of it! But so far I'm really enjoying the process and the book. Anything I can do to help me stay creative and inspired I figure has got to be good for my photography, and that means good for my clients as well. So if you come across this book in your local book shop or library I would definitely recommend taking a look.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

Daintree National Park Photos - Images by Paul Dymond

One of the most beautiful parts of far north Queensland is our tropical rainforests. And the king of those rainforests is the Daintree. It can be quite a challenge to photograph in this part of the world. It's dark meaning slow shutter speeds. There's a lot of reflections off the surfaces of the large tropical leaves, meaning you need a polariser to cut down those reflections and bring colour back to your image (slower shutter speeds again!) and the damp and humidity plays hell with electronics. Not to mention fungus in your lenses.

But for those who persevere it really is one of the most magical places on the planet. I feel honoured to have it just up the road and even when I'm without my camera just love to go walking here and get back in touch with wilderness. Enjoy this gallery of Daintree photos and as always if you click on the slideshow above you'll be taken to my website where you can see the photos larger.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Is reading killing your photography?

Alright, at the risk of decreasing my blog readership by a huge amount here I'm going to go out on a limb here and try to turn you off reading - at least to the extent that it impacts your photography.

I'm as guilty of this as the next photographer. I mean my bookshelf is literally crammed with books on all aspects of photography - from the business side, to the Photoshop bit to the DAM bit and more. And that's not to mention the giant photo books from people such as Steve McCurry, Nomachi Kazuyoshi and other greats.

But in these days of instant access to so much information on this great art, do we spend too much time reading about it and not doing it?

Over 10 years ago now I spent 12 months traipsing around India, Nepal and SE Asia with my now wife. Half way through the trip we were in Agra, India - about 20 paces from the entrance to the Taj Mahal. We were having dinner in our guesthouse - because there was a new scam in town where local restaurants were in kahoots with the local doctors to poison their customers and get a kickback from the hospitals! But I digress. In the guestbook in the hotel there was an entry from a Japanese guy saying that he'd done his Dive Master training in a tiny little town in the Philippines with a Japanese instructor.

So next thing we're hopping a plane to the island of Cebu, then a tiny bus to the even tinier town of Moalboal so my wife could get her Dive Master qualifications. And what was I doing? Well apart from getting dengue fever and spending a week in hospital, I was reading a book on the business of photography .John Shaw's Business of Nature Photography to be exact. (And by way of full disclosure apparently if you click on the link and buy the book then I get a little bit of change but I would recommend it wholeheartedly anyway!)

As I've mentioned before this book changed my life and I read it over and over again the whole month I was in the Philippines. But looking back at it now, I really don't have many photographs from that month. I was too busy reading to take pictures. I will probably never be there again and I don't have much to show I was there even once. No incisive portraits, no stunning sunrises. Not even a shot of my wonderful hospital bed with its cable Aussie TV! My wife took more pictures than me and she spent most of her day underwater - and no she doesn't have an underwater camera.

The amount of time we spend each day reading about some new technique or piece of software or equipment. And let's not even talk about the number of times we read (yet again) about the basics even though we know them like the back of our hand. Wouldn't that time be much more productive spent working on our art?

So in order to get ourselves away from having our noses stuck in a book (or looking at a screen) and back to a viewfinder I think we should all make a promise. We should all vow to spend less time reading about photography and more time doing it. To limit our reading to the stuff that really helps us right now - not at some imaginary point in the future.

So if you're really into off-camera flash at the moment by all means spend a couple of hours on Strobist - but back that time up by going and spending a couple of hours practicing what you learnt about. And even if you think the Strobist stuff is interesting, if you haven't got the gear or the inclination to follow that path at the moment then don't bother reading about it until you're ready to do it. Your time is better spent reading about what you want to do with your photography right now.

For every hour you spend reading about something, spend the same amount of time, if not more, putting that knowledge into practice. Because just reading about it isn't going to make you a better photographer. It's just going to make you a better read photographer. And goodness knows the world has enough of those already!

As for me - I promise not to read my photography books more than 50 times each. :)