Friday, June 3, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

Lake Barrine is one of the beautiful crater lakes up on the Atherton Tablelands, about an hour or so south-west of Cairns. The Tablelands is close in distance but a lot way away in temperature from the tropical coast. At this time of the year when we're complaining about it dropping down to 11 centrigrade they're down to 0 with frosts!

The best time to be at the lake is in the early morning when hopefully you'll get some lovely mists across the water. The ducks are out on the water, the pythons aren't yet awake and it's beautifully quiet.The rainforest walk around the perimeter is simply stunning, although there are only a few places where you get a clear view out over the lake which is a bit disappointing.

The image above is of the teahouse on the shores of the lake. It's been run by the same family since the 1920's and the boat there takes people on a wonderful one hour tour around the crater lake. On my trip out I spotted pythons galore, bearded dragon lizards sunning themselves, a pair of mating black snakes and lots of waterbirds.

I'd definitely recommend a trip up there to see the lake, and don't forget to indulge in the lovely scones, jam and cream!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Finding the balance between family time and camera time

One of the hardest things as a photographer is family vacations. If you've got kids then you'll know what I mean straight away. If you've got a partner who doesn't love their photography as much as you do then you'll be nodding your head in agreement. If you have neither then you're probably not sure what the fuss is all about.

The fuss starts when you start to get shutter button withdrawal symptoms. Mine start usually about two or three days after not having a camera in my hand and creating some images. But you're torn. You want to go off by yourself for a few hours and capture the local architecture at twilight but that impinges on getting the kids fed and to bed, or breaks up the booking at that romantic little local diner down the road.

In other words you have to abandon your family or siginificant other if you want to create anything more than 'been there, done that' snapshots. So here's what I do. I don't know if it's the best way to do things and if other people have suggestions I'm all ears. So far this seems to work for me.

The most important thing I find is to include your family in your photography as much as possible. But it's not enough just to have them stand with their hands held out looking like they're holding the Eiffel Tower in their palm. If you don't put as much effort and creativity into pictures of your family as you do your other 'more important' pictures then they're going to feel pretty left out.

Make it fun. Show them what a blast photography can be. The photo above is me and my youngest son going down a slippery slide at Takino Park, on the outskirts of Sapporo. In order to bribe my way into a little bit of 'me time' photographing the birch trees in the forest I kept him entertained with multiple (multiple, multiple, multiple!) turns down the slide. All the time with me holding a camera and a wide-angle lens above my head and shooting as we went down.

Killing two birds with one stone. Well three really. My son had a blast both sliding and looking at the photos afterwards (let's try that again with a different lens Daddy!). I got some really fun pictures of stuff that I don't usually photograph, and created some great memories to boot. And my wife (at the bottom of the picture) got a break from looking after the kids. Everybody wins.

So whenever I go away on a trip with my family I always try to fit them in to my photography as much as possible. When they can see images that far outshine the point-and-shoot efforts that most family albums contain, and when they can have a blast taking part in the shoot then they're much more inclined to let me go off on my own and do 'work photography' as my boys call it.

One more hint as to what not to do: never try to hold your family up while you wait for the best light, the perfect opportunity, the search for a better angle. If they're not actively involved they'll be bored and no matter how exciting the resulting pictures, all they'll remember is how boring it was for them and you'll be in the doghouse again. Keep them involved, keep them excited, create exciting pictures for them to remember your holiday by and she'll be apples (Australian for you'll be doing well!)

If you'd like to see how I balanced family and "work photography' on this particular day you can take a look at the Takino Park, Sapporo images on my website.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New layout and iPad friendly

I didn't really make a big song and dance about it when I changed it a couple of weeks ago but I hope you noticed and like it. I changed the format of the blog a little bit so that I can show bigger pictures. I also figured out how to link the images here on my blog directly to my Photoshelter website so that if you click on one of these lusciously big pictures you'll be taken to a larger selection of images.

Only thing I hadn't realised was that the photos weren't iPad friendly because the links were embedded with Apple's arch-enemy - flash. Anyway that's all been fixed now. The pictures are low linked with plain ol' HTML so all of you who've been seeing big blank spaces in my blog for the last couple of weeks, well things should be back to normal.

Oh and how did I find out? I was just browsing on my iPod Touch today when I just wanted to see how the new layout looked on the little screen. Needless to say I wasn't too happy with the big blank spaces! Anyway, problem fixed. All of you should be able to see the pictures no matter what device you're browsing on and I hope you like the new layout and bigger pics.

Hot Springs here we come!

Getting ready for a little hot-springs dreaming in a couple of weeks. This is the view from the window of my hotel on the shores of Lake Toya, just south of Sapporo, which is the capital of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.

The area is highly volcanic - Mt Usuzan, on the shores of the lake last erupted in 2000. Lots of volcanoes means lots of hot springs and there's nothing more pleasurable than sitting in a steaming pool of water with a glorious view out over a huge lake. I particularly love the outdoor pools - known as Rotenburo - because you can sit in lovely warmth while all around you the snow might be falling. Pure magic.

This image was taken early in the morning after a rather raucous night with colleagues from my English teaching days. Just to show that even a little hangover shouldn't stop you seeing photos! Another attraction of the area is the nightly fireworks display out on the lake. Fired off a little boat that runs along the shore, you can see the fireworks from the balcony of your hotel and because the show runs the length of the shore it pretty much doesn't matter where you stay because you can see them as they come along. If you'd like to see some fireworks shots as well as volcanoes and the wild deer on the island then you can pop on to the website to see Lake Toya images.

Monday, May 30, 2011

20 minutes a day to recharge your photographic batteries

I'm not sure if this is just a professional thing, although I suspect it might apply to all photographers - and artists in general. Do you ever get caught up in what you think you should be doing, what those around you are doing and what the experts on the web tell you you should be doing?

Do you get so caught up that you sometimes forget why you fell in love with your art form in the first place? I know I do. Don't get me wrong. I love what I do but creating art can be pretty draining if you don't take the time to recharge the batteries, refill the creative well so to speak.

I've tried lots of cross-training exercises. Getting the ol' guitar out. Writing. Drawing. And while I enjoy all those things I never really find that they rekindle my passion for photography. If anything I almost feel like they're taking me away from my photography.

So here's what I do, and if you think it sounds like a good idea then you might like to try it too. Give yourself at least 20 minutes a day and go for a walk with your camera. Shoot anything and everything that catches your eye. It doesn't matter what it is, how good or bad it is or anything else.  You don't even have to look at the pictures afterwards if you don't want to.

The aim of the exercise is just to sink yourself into the world of your own creative vision without worrying about anybody else's influence. If you're a pro don't think if it's going to be a portfolio piece, sell or whether clients will like it or not. If you're a photographer more for love than money then try something new perhaps, a style you've never bothered to think about before.

You'll find that the more into your twenty minutes you get the more in tune with yourself you become and the easier your image-making will become. If you visit a place you've been a million times before you'll find yourself seeing it in a new light. Why 20 minutes? I have to admit to getting the idea from Julia Cameron in her wonderful follow-up book to the Artist's Way - Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance (Artist's Way)

And she suggests that 20 minutes is a good time to spend with your art every day because most of us would find it pretty hard to procrastinate about such a short amount of time. Try to set yourself an hour or so a day and you'll come up with lots of excuses not to do it because it sounds oh so hard. So I work on 20 minutes and if it goes a bit longer so be it.

The above couple of images are from a walk I took along the Esplanade here in Cairns last Friday. Nothing spectacular but just a bit of fun. A lovely piece of sculpture and my brand new bright red Converse sneakers! (Don't anybody say mid-life crisis. Haha) Enjoy and get out and enjoy your camera whenever you can.