Friday, February 19, 2010

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

This picture was part of a portfolio that got me into a finalist's postion in this year's Travel Photographer of the Year competition.

I don't pretend to understand how these things work but I woke up in the middle of the night late last year after waking up from a dream that told me to submit this picture.

I hadn't even thought about entering (never have before) and didn't even realise they had a section of the competition that this image would fit into. Ironically the section was 'Homeland' which was for images taken close to where you live. Quite ironic for a travel photographer and just goes to show that your own home is a good source of travel imagery.

It was taken up at the Laura Dance and Cultural Festival which happens every couple of years up on Cape York, a few hours drive north of Cairns. In a country which often has a sense of unease in the relationship between its indigenous and 'imported' population, this is an event where people of all races and nationalities come together and just enjoy a wonderful weekend.

Dance troupes from all over Queensland gather to sing and dance. Accommodation is via a tent and your own food is a must. It is very hard to photograph if it is sunny because the dance arena is in the splotchy shade of gum trees. You need to wait for the sun to go behind a cloud to bring the contrast levels down.

This shot was taken from up in a grandstand with a 400mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter. I love the way the bright colours of the floral dresses mix with the otherwise grey arena. Once again a case where a beautiful subject presents itself and I somehow manage to get a nice image that I think does it justice. As for that dream - never ignore those kind of things when they come!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Getting lost and keeping safe.

One of the great joys of travel photography is getting off the beaten track. Searching out little hidey holes and places where the vast majority of tourists don't get and hopefully discovering a bit of authenticity.

Not that tourist areas aren't always inauthentic but sometimes it's nice to get away from the crowds and find your own little piece of paradise.

So don't be afraid to explore and get lost. Arm yourself with a good map, a business card from your hotel and the desire to have a really good explore and you're sure to come away with some great stories to tell.

Just be careful. Now this might seem totally contradictory to what I said above but it's not. Getting away from it all is great fun but before you venture anywhere you need to make sure that you're not going somewhere the locals wouldn't tread if their lives depended on it. Or somewhere they would go, but if they did they'd be very careful.

Now you're probably thinking big cities with muggers right about now but I'm thinking about this beautiful view up above. I ended up here by mistake. I was looking for a track up to a bluff which looked out across the gorgeous Nourlangie Rock in Kakadu National Park. It is famous for turning red at sunset and that was what I was hoping to capture.

Only I obviously took the wrong path because I ended up at this beautiful little billabong (waterhole) which still had a great view out over Nourlangie so I decided to stay there rather than running around trying to find the right path. There were quite a few cars in the carpark but I never saw a soul.

Doesn't look too dangerous right? Not too many muggers out here. Nope but there are things a hell of a lot scarier. You see that lovely body of water in the foreground. The landscape photographers in us would just leap at the chance to get down to the water's edge and put some lovely lillies in the foreground. And as you looked through the viewfinder you'd probably have a heart attack as you noticed a set of giant jaws leaping at you.

This is crocodile country and it's a pretty safe bet that most of, if not all, the bodies of water around here have giant toothed remnants from the time of the dinosaurs. Every so often somebody gets taken and I certainly didn't want to be one of them so I kept a long distance between me and the water's edge.

It might sound like being a bit paranoid but you can never be too careful when you're off photographing by yourself. We tend to put our eye to the viewfinder and have blinkers on to everything around us. Always find out in advance if where you're planning to get lost is safe and whether there's anything you need to be aware of.

Let some other stupid tourist get eaten by the crocs!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An intro and a welcome

Have Camera Will Travel - Images by Paul Dymond

Well how do I follow up from yesterday's tsunami? Seriously, thank you for all the people who passed the post on and I'm really humbled to know that it rang true with so many of you. I'm still waiting for the onslaught of people who totally disagree with what I wrote but it hasn't happened yet?

Anyway I thought the best way to follow up would be to welcome the new readers who've come back and to show you some of my work. As always you can click on the slideshow to see a full screen version. There's an embed button there if you'd like to stick it in your own blog feel free and there's an email button there if you like it enough to send it to a friend.

Feel free to wander through the site and have a look at the posts. You'll see that I don't always post about the business of travel photography but I hope you like what you find enough to stick around. And for all you regular readers out there we'll return to normal (well as normal as I am anyway!) tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When are you good enough to get paid for your photography?

This post is inspired by a recent blog post by my good friend and fellow travel photographer/writer Ewen Bell. You can read the post on The Red Rambutan. With the fantastic title of Hypocritical Bollocks how could you not want to read it?

Anyway what inspired the post is, in a nutshell, the increasing lack of respect for professional quality travel photography. In an age where there seem to be a million people just happy to give their pictures away just for the thrill of being published what incentive is there for multi-million dollar publishing houses to pay for content when they can get it for free and increase the profits for themselves.

But the argument that many newbie photographers make is that they don't feel they can charge for their photography when they first start out. In fact Ewen's post was inspired by a discussion group which was talking about a survey of freelance writers here in Australia which found that some people had been writing for major publications for months but were too afraid to ask for money. Major publications that are part of some of the world's largest publishing groups. Like they can't afford to spare some loose change for content.

Here's the thing. Your photography is not you. Whether somebody likes your pictures or not says nothing about what they think about you. So once you can separate yourself from your art then you can put the objective thinking cap on. If you have a picture (or a piece of writing for that matter) and a publication tells you that they want to put it in their magazine (newspaper, website etc) they are telling you that that picture is good enough to print. It has value. 

More to the point it has value to them. That picture is going to help elevate the status of their publication or product. That picture will help them to make money. Let me repeat that - your picture(s) will help them to make money.

They're not putting it in there because they like you, they're putting it in there because they know that doing so will help sell something. By publishing good photography they will encourage people to look at their publication. Whether it is a paid for publication or not is irrelevant. By attracting viewers they are hoping to turn those viewers into profit. Whether it is by encouraging them to buy the publication, or if it's free by hoping that the reader will be encouraged to buy something from one of the advertisers, which in turn brings more advertising dollars. Great content equals bigger profits.

So when they tell you that your picture is good enough to publish your objective mind should be answering 'great, then it's good enough to pay for.' If you're thinking about offering your work for free in the hope that somebody will publish it, well you're behind the eight ball from the word go. They've already offered to publish it. No need to give the carrot to the donkey that's already walking!

The trouble is that a lot of the money making decisions are taken out of the hands of the editors that we work with. When they tell you they don't have a budget for pictures they're most likely telling you the truth. But it is at this point that you can make a big difference to the way the world works. If you give your pictures away because you like your editor and want to help them, well you're just going to keep the status quo going and actually make it harder for the editor to get a budget for photography. 

But if enough of us reply as nicely as possible (after all our editors aren't the enemy) that we just can't give our work away for free, then just maybe those editors will have enough ammunition to go to the bean counters with a list of all the people who are refusing to give their work away and just maybe things will begin to change.

Mind you I'm not holding my breath. But I have taken a stand and refuse to work with any profit-making publication that refuses to pay for pictures - especially those that will pay for words but somehow deem that photography is not as worthy as writing. It's not my job to support profit-making ventures that don't budget enough to pay their contributors. I'll make up the lost income in other ways that don't require me to sell my soul thank you very much.

Travel writing and photography has always been a low paying business. The age old laws of supply and demand ensure that the publications can pretty much dictate what they will pay you - and you won't be retiring early let me tell you. But we all have to look at our own costs of living and decide what kind of money we need to live and make our working decisions based on that. But I guarantee you that no matter how frugally you live you're not going to get far on absolutely nothing. Zip, zilch, nada. Even baked beans on toast cost more than that.

So just remember - if your pictures are good enough to publish, they're good enough to pay for.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How long does it take for a travel photo to date?

Some kinds of photography date pretty quickly. How many of us are still wearing flared corduroys with fat paisley ties? But travel photography, in particular nature based travel photography, isn't one of them. After all, places like Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in central Australia have looked exactly the same for hundreds of thousands of years. Even if your picture was taken 100 years ago chances are you wouldn't be able to pick it.

Which becomes a bit of a problem with digital photography and publication. Because magazines always like to think they're getting the most recent pictures of everything. Which, when the subject of the photo may change rapidly like a city skyline etc, is quite reasonable.

But what about when the subject of the picture is something that just hasn't changed. Is timeless. Like a close-up of a fern, or a giant redwood, or a wild deer. In that case does anybody need to know when the picture was taken? I would say no. As long as the photographer is sure that the capture date is irrelevant then it's nobody's business but themselves.

A few years ago I had an editor came to me for pictures of a certain national park. Unfortunately I hadn't been there since I was in university (believe me that's a long time ago now!). But I had some images that were timeless. Nature shots, scenic views. That sort of thing. Because the editor was a friend I let him know when the pictures were taken and he didn't mind in the least. They were taken in the park and if somebody had gone there the very next day they could have seen exactly the same thing.

In the last two months I have licensed an image I took in India more than ten years ago three times for a total of close to $1000 US. A generic shot of spinning prayer wheels. Did the client care when they were taken? Not a bit.

So before you go throwing out all your old pictures because you think they don't have any value any more, or don't want to put them out for sale because you think they're too old. Go back and have a second look. Some pictures really are timeless and can continue to bring in income long after you pushed the shutter.