Friday, March 18, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

Just recently the Babinda Sugar Mill closed down. With nearly 100 years of history, and one of the main employers of this tiny community just south of Cairns, the loss felt will be huge.

A while back I had the opportunity to photograph inside the mill. It was hot, dark, steamy and (funny enough) sweet-smelling. I'm sure working there was terribly hard but photographing it was a ball.

I was doing some work for the Canegrowers magazine. This became one of their front covers. With its halogen lighting, steamy machines and intricate pipework it looks pretty Orwellian doesn't it.

Sugar cane is still a big part of what makes the far north of Queensland unique and it is a shame to see such a major part of local history relegated to the scrap heap of history. Hopefully the town can find a new use for the land that will help it to thrive and prosper. In the meantime we photographers can do something useful for our communities by photographing anything and everything as a record of what is now but may not be in years to come.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Photography as stress release?

This little fella is probably very lucky that I'm a photographer. If I weren't he (she?) mightn't be looking so happy.

I like birds, I really do. One of my greatest joys is sitting out on my back patio and listening to the morning serenade of hundreds of birds in the trees around my neighbourhood.

During the recent cyclone we lost our biggest tree and my back yard is nowhere near as noisy as it was even a couple of months ago.

A pity I can't say the same thing for my front yard! This lovely tree is in full bloom at the moment, right outside my bedroom window. Adorned with these beautiful yellow flowers and a (very rare) blue sky it attracts lots of birds - in particular lorikeets and these birdies here. The Noisy Friar Bird.

Apparently they get the friar part of their name from the tuft of white feathers around their neck, giving them the look of a member of the clergy. The noisy part? That comes from screaming at the top of their lungs outside my bedroom window at about 5 o'clock every single morning.

So why are these birds lucky I'm a photographer? Because if I wasn't I'd be a bird hunter for sure! I figure shooting with them with a camera is better than a BB gun. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Photographers aren't charging for their time

I had a shoot last week which really brought this home to me. When photographers charge for their services the time it takes to do the shoot is often one of the least important parts of the quote.

Sure it's important in terms of you need to cover your overhead costs (including wages) for the time involved, but if you purely charge by time you could be doing your clients and yourself a disservice.

Last week I had a shoot for an agricultural magazine up at the Mungalli Creek Dairy on the Atherton Tablelands. We had scheduled an hour there to photograph the founding brothers for the front cover and four or five inside images. I had planned to set up some light stands and lights inside the factory before moving outside to shoot in the fields. Guess what? Life doesn't always work out like we plan.

When we arrived we found out that they could only give us about 25 minutes or so before they all had other appointments. So we had to move quick. And the factory we hoped to photograph in? Well due to it being a highly sanitised area anything we wanted to take in that would touch the ground would have to be dunked in a sanitising bucket of water. Which basically meant with the time limits we wouldn't be able to use tripods, light stands or any other supports. So we needed to shoot with small flashes and people to hold the flashes for me.

The third and final spanner in the works was that it was pouring down rain outside. If we wanted to complete the shoot in 25 minutes, and in particular get the cover shot I had already seen when we first arrived, we would have to try and time things between the showers.

Can you see a pattern here? Firstly the time had been cut short by more than half. Had I been charging merely on time then my fee may have been cut. "Weren't there for the complete hour? That means less money I'm afraid", is something that the budget-conscious client might bring up. Think that's not possible? I've heard it before.

But I had already negotiated a rate based on the entire assignment. The number of images provided, the usage of those images and the amount of time I estimated it would take. I was being paid to produce photographs, or more to the point I was getting paid for the photographs I had published. And more importantly I was paid to overcome any problems that got thrown at me.

A photographer charging only on time might have needed much longer to do the set-ups, might have panicked at the sudden shortening of the predicted time he or she would have to shoot. Might have felt lost at the sudden inability to shoot using a tripod and light stands.

Don't think about just charging for the time you're on assignment. Take into consideration the fact that you are reliable, dependable and professional. In the end knowing that a photographer will come back with publishable pictures is something worth paying good money for. Something far more valuable than the time spent getting the pictures.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Take care Japan

Regular readers of this blog will know that Japan is my second home. Ever since living there for a year as a teenager in the late 80's, doing a university degree in Japanese language, living there on and off over the years and working as a Japanese medical interpreter, my connection with this amazing country and its people has grown deeper and deeper.

My wife is from Sapporo, my kids' first language is Japanese (which makes school here in Australia fun!) and we visit at least once every year, sometimes twice.

The scenes unfolding on the TV and the internet are beyond frightening. The wall of water crashing through the homes and lives of innocent people, the swaying office blocks, the leaking radiation. My heart just weeps.

My wife was in Japan when the earthquake hit. She flew out that night and is home safe and sound. But she flies back to Japan tomorrow with work, staying only a few hundred kilometres from the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. They say the year of the Rabbit is supposed to be quiet. So far we've had a devastating cyclone, followed by floods and now vicariously caught up in an earthquake. Something tells me those Chinese astrologers are playing a joke on us.

For what it's worth I wish everyone in Japan the best of luck in these terrible times and know that the rest of the world is watching and praying to whatever higher power they believe in that you will all pull through this and go on. And of course I hope that my family and friends will all keep safe and well.

I was reading a Japanese photography magazine yesterday and marvelling at the beautiful photos of the cherry blossoms in Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures. May those trees flower once again in the years to come.