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.