Best photos of 2022

I’m on holidays, so it’s time to compile my favourite photos from last year. It’s a wonderful time for me to reflect on the year that’s just past, reminisce about good times…and in the wake of COVID, say ‘Wait…was that last year? I thought that was two years ago…or 6 months in the future!’
As per usual these aren’t in any particular order other than ‘let’s not have all of the beach/band/black and white photos next to each other’. But if there’s a theme to this year’s selection it’s probably ‘trying something new’. Quite a few of these leapt out at me as I was going through my ‘4&5 star’ rated photos in Lightroom, because I remembered trying something new to achieve them.
So if you’re on holiday, sit back and have a read…and if you’re back at work, pretend you’re doing research, either way, enjoy!

GoPro through sunglasses

Not how I expected this shot to work…but still happy.

On the beach at Warrnambool on a stinking hot day I was noticing how much better everything looked through my sunglasses. So I thought I’d put the GoPro behind my sunglasses lens and see how it looked. ‘Chaotic’ is probably the answer. The colours are all over the place, the light is baffling, and I have NO IDEA why there is that weird shadowing around the the arms. BUT, if I had achieved this result on purpose, I would have been super proud of myself, so the next best thing is to claim a mistake as a success…then hope that no-one asks me to replicate it!

Spontaneous surf selfie

A family that surfs together…

If there are two things I usually avoid, it’s selfies and spontaneity. So the fact that this is one of my favourite photos from last year, really does speak volumes. We were down at Sandy Point in late January and after dinner, made an impromptu decision to go for a surf. The sun was sitting low on the horizon, the light was incredible, the surf was great, and for one quick second we were all in the same place at the same time and I took this shot.
If you’ve ever taken a photo of someone, you know how hard it can be to get a genuine smile…and if you’ve ever worked as a photographer, you’ll know how hard it is to get a photo where everyone looks happy at the same time. So as a photographer, this is a great keepsake…and as a parent, it’s everything!

When in Rone

Helen and Rone

I do genuinely think that this is an objectively good photo. It’s someone in a great outfit, striking a great pose, in a great setting.
But for it to happen, visual artist RONE had to have created this incredible installation above Flinders Street Station, and I had to have taken the unusual step of booking Katie and I in for a social event (a trip into the city to see RONE’s work), and while we waited in the queue to be let in, Katie had to have started up a chat with Helen and her son and said that I would take a photo of her inside, and I would have to have a GFX100S in my hands because Fuji had loaned it to me for another project, and while we were walking the around the installation I would have to see Helen and compose this shot, and then with such a great subject, in such an aesthetically engaging environment and with a very expensive camera, I would have to not stuff up the photo. If any one of these elements hadn’t coalesced, this photo would never have happened.
But they did…and I love it!

Trainspotting meets Bladerunner

Coburg station by night

From memory it was raining for most of November, and repeated trips past Coburg station in various forms of precipitation had left me with the thought that there were some good photo opportunities there.
All it would require was; me leaving the comfort of the house on a rainy night, me taking the time to actually set up a good photo, and of course me being willing to be ‘that creepy guy taking photos of a train station at night’.
Needless to say, the chances of this actually happening were very slim. So I was very proud of myself for actually heading out and taking the photos, and really happy with how they came out.
But the real joy was posting it online and hearing from people who had worked on the redevelopment of the station, or had designed the lighting for the station, or were just proud Coburgers/Coburgians/Coburinians?
You just never know what is going to connect with people…so get out there and take those shots!

Rock and/or Roll

Sophie from Body Type

One of my big photographic focuses for 2022 was to shoot more live gigs, with a view to getting proper accreditation to do it ‘for realz’. So when I saw that Body Type were playing at The Brunswick Ballroom, I pulled what strings I could (aka got in contact with Cecil the drummer, who I used to work with) and got myself on the door to take photos.
Having shot photos of John Flanagan a few weeks earlier in the same venue, I was confident I could get a few good shots. And when Cecil told me ‘This could get pretty loose tonight!’, I knew I was in for a great night.
Body Type are a freaking amazing live band, and there was a LOT of energy in the room.
This photo is the one I keep coming back to. It’s definitely not one that jumps straight out at you, but I just love the pose. I had set myself up so I was shooting between to people (that’s why there is so much black around her…that’s actually the people right in front of me blocking out the rest of the picture), and I certainly didn’t plan for the lights to turn red just as she did this pose…but I’m very glad they did!

Black, white and live

John Flanagan live on stage

If I could spend the rest of my days taking photos like this, I would be incredibly happy. Obviously I love black and white shots, and I love taking photos of musicians…but in this case, I had also worked with the band in rehearsals and developed a rapport. Because of this I was able to be on stage to take the photo them as they performed…and so suddenly it wasn’t all just ‘up the nose of the lead singer’ shots, and I was able to bide my time and wait for the shot.
John is a contemplative performer…and his decision to book the Brunswick Ballroom for the gig (and play with a 6 piece band!) was a big swing after two years of no live gigs as a result of COVID restrictions. So to not only see him in his element, in front of an appreciative crowd, but to also be able to capture it, was a real privilege.

Silhouettes and sunsets

Sue Johnson

One of my favourite jobs for the year was shooting some portraits of the wonderful Sue Johnson. Now clearly the vast majority of the photos were ones where you could actually see Sue…but this one, where we had headed to the slightly flooded grasslands of Coburg, was the one that as soon as I set up the shot, I knew was going to be a keeper!
The late afternoon Winter sun just peeking through, the blue sky and the movement of her hand *chef’s kiss*!

Comfort zone


It’s probably a testament to my lack of skill as a videographer, that the whole time I was setting up for this video interview, my main thought was ‘This would make a great photo!’
I love taking photos of people in their homes (and to clarify, I love doing this when I am in their homes with them for the purpose of taking photos…not just lurking outside with a long lens!) I get to see the place with a fresh eye and see the things you miss when you’ve lived in a place for more than 3 months…and they get to sit in a space where they’re in control.
I think there’s a fair bit of relief that the video interview was over in his face…and bemusement that a complete stranger was asking him to stare out a window. If there was a thought bubble it would say ‘If I just do this…then he will leave’.
He was of course wrong…I overstayed my welcome by at least another 3 hours!

Maps and chats

Carol and Lyn

This one was taken as part of the same project as the photo of Phil, where I was trying to capture the essence of Carol’s relationship with her parents. One of Lyn’s favourite memories was a trip she and Carol took to Italy, so I looked to capture that idea of both planning for, and reminiscing about, that trip.
I love the way the maps and travel books tell a story, and I’m so glad I used the vase with the Irises to frame Carol…but it’s the way the smiles look so relaxed, comfortable, and authentic that makes me the happiest.

Can I get a light check?

Lighting test

I had a very specific idea for a portrait I wanted to shoot, and had borrowed a friend’s light to shoot it. So I spent an hour or so doing a practice run, and roped my daughter and niece into posing for me.
I cannot begin to describe how much this was exactly the light I was going for…and how far away I was when I took the actual shot with the actual people. So I’m keeping this photo as a reminder that I can get the light that I want…just not necessarily when I want it.
Also, if this isn’t the album cover for their debut EP, I will be furious.


Post-ride swim

On this day Josh had ridden just over 200kms from Preston to Sandy Point…and this was him getting into the surf for a cool-down. On a metaphorical level, this was a teenager who loves exercise and the outdoors who had just come up for air after 2 years of lockdowns.
To me this is a perfect portrait of relief and renewal.

Flinder’s Street Station

Flinder’s Street at dusk

I’ve lived in Melbourne all of my 47 years… but I reckon I’ve been in to the city to take photos 3 times in my life. If I’m staying in any other city I will religiously take my camera and get some photos. But for some reason I have a blind spot with my home city…probably because it’s always there, so there’s never any urgency to make a trip in.
In December I was due to return the GFX I’d borrowed from Fuji, and so I thought it was probably high time I headed in to the CBD and get some photos.
After about two hours of taking a series of photos that were very nearly good…but were just lacking something. I decided to just embrace my inner tourist and take a photo of the iconic Flinder’s Street Station.
As soon as turned the corner of Swanston St I saw this incredible purple dusk sky. I rested the camera on a the edge of a bench so that I could drag the shutter a little and then waited for a tram to trundle through and give me a snapshot of Melbourne…this city loves me so much, it gave me two!

Thanks for indulging this trip down memory land. Now it’s time to relax, and make some plans for 2023!

Backstage pass – Part 2: The rehearsal

On a recent project for work I was interviewing teachers who had been working for 40, 50 and 55 years. One of the things that really stuck with me was a teacher saying that they got to the end of each year thinking they were getting the hang of it…but that they spent their entire careers with that feeling because they ‘Didn’t know what they didn’t know’. So at the end of each year they knew that they knew more…but that had shown them what they didn’t know and needed to learn.
Shooting this rehearsal was VERY much the same thing for me!
So having told you about the idea behind this project, let me take you through the rehearsal.

What I knew I knew

Shooting in low light environments is never fun. Admittedly, most venues where you shoot live music are low light environments…but they make up for this by at least having lights on the performers. Rehearsal studios on the other hand give exactly zero shits about the insane ISO levels you’re going to have to use to get your photos.


My wide angle is a 10-24mm f4 lens. I normally find that to make sure every shot of a moving musician isn’t blurry, my minumum frame rate is 1/125…but with f4, I was having to go to 1/30 and hope the IBIS did its job.
I shot on all my lenses (50-140mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4 and 56mm f1.2), and when I went back through the photos, it was the 35mm and the 56mm that did the best work. But even then the ISO was often around 2,000 which saw me going to black and white quite a bit to hide the noise.

For the non-photographers reading this, a lens with a lower f number, means it lets in more light. In my case, the 56mm F1.2 lens, which is considered a ‘portait lens’, was the lens that let in the most light.
I can’t say this often enough, the 56mm is amazing for low-light photography!

Politeness vs photography – If you’re one of those people who can walk up to a complete stranger in the street and just take a photo of them, then this next para isn’t for you.
But if you’re someone with even a little humanity, it can be really hard to find that balance between getting the shot you want, and not encroaching on the space of the person you’re photographing. After all, if John had to choose between me getting a good shot, and one of his band members nailing their part…I’m quietly confident my artistic aspirations were going to come a distant second.

This is probably my favourite shot from the day

So I spent the first hour or so just getting wider shots or shooting on my zoom lens. Then as it got less weird to have someone in the room taking photos, I moved in closer and took some portraits.

Musicians are great to photograph – I have no confidence in my ability to get people to pose for a photo…but I do trust myself to capture a moment if they give me one, and musicians always give me one…no…wait…that came out wrong!
Look, all I’m trying to say is that musicians give you shots like this:

What I didn’t know I didn’t know

Trombonists are hard to photograph – If you’re tight enough to get their face, then you’re going to lose the slide…but if you get all of the slide, then it’s a really wide shot.
Plus if you get it on the wrong angle the bell covers their face.
I guess I should just be happy that I’m not taking photos of the 76 trombones in the big parade.

It’s the notes that aren’t played that make good photos – I got into the habit of putting down the camera each time the band would stop playing. But that meant I missed a lot of the collaboration and discussion between the band members. At the end of the day, photos of people dressed casually, playing their instruments in a room with terrible lighting…are going to be, at best, poor versions of the photos I was hoping to get at the live show.
So I had to make sure I got some of the shots that showed the process of the rehearsal as a document of the day.

The end result

I was super happy with the photos I got. I probably could have got up closer to the musicians and really taken advantage of the opportunity of being in the room with them…but at the same time, I was there to take photos at their rehearsal. They weren’t there to play instruments in my photoshoot.
I also wish there wasn’t so much ISO noise in the photos, but outside of setting off a flash at regular intervals or bringing in a light, I don’t think I was going to avoid this.

You can see the full gallery here:

Best of all, John was really happy with them…and the rest of the band all still spoke to me at the gig! Which gig? Well that’s what I’ll be talking about in the next post.

Backstage pass – Part 1: The idea

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always been a vicarious musician. The harsh truth of not having any musical ability has not stopped me from occupying as many music adjacent roles as possible.
I’ve done radio, driven DJ’s to gigs, managed perfomers, made video clips…I’ve even done a University degree in Music Industry. If the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame was to open a ‘Person who has done the most music related things without ever playing a note’ category, I would be in with a STRONG chance of being inducted.
So why do I love working with musicians? Is it partially because I hope that some of their talent will rub off on me, and suddenly I’ll be playing to sold-out arenas? Yes, of course. But also, they act as a constant reminder that there is an alternative to the 9-5 world I inhabit. A world where you start work when other people are going to bed, a world where writing passionately about things that piss you off is seen as genius and not a potential HR issue, and of course a world where each time you finish part of your job, people are obliged to applaud.

But of course, it’s also a world where your livelihood is reliant on cramming as many people as possible into a confined space and getting them to yell and scream. Which is not ideal during a pandemic of an airborne virus.
The sad reality is that musicians have been doing it incredibly tough over the last two years. Live gigs have only just started again in earnest, the 2c per track they get from streaming services isn’t really the same as selling a $10 CD at show, and Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’ on Netflix showed that whether you’re a musician, videographer or stand-up comedian…he’s better at it than you.
Plus the government made it PRETTY clear, that when it comes to showing support for people doing it tough, artists can pretty much get stuffed…they chose this lifestyle anyway!!

Backstage silhouettes

So I was keen to come up with a way to support local musicians. A quick review of my finances revealed that I could not bankroll a series of concerts…but I could take some photos of musicians, that they could then use to promote their shows.
When I saw that local singer/songwriter John Flanagan was putting on a show where he was hiring the Brunswick Ballroom and putting together a 7-piece band, I knew that this was exactly the sort of endeavour I wanted to support.


Wow Chris! You sure are generous! Looking to help musicians, without getting anything for yourself!! Children should be studying you in school!!!
Um, yeah…about that. This was definitely not pure altruism. Having been invited to shoot a few gigs for friends, I had to tried to get a photo pass to shoot the HoldSteady at the Croxton Hotel…and couldn’t even get a response from the promoter. In short, without a magazine or website saying ‘He’s shooting for us!’ I couldn’t even shoot the show for free! And without a decent portfolio of shots, I couldn’t really expect The National to call and say ‘Chris! These shots you took on your phone from the crowd have convinced us that YOU are the one we want documenting our next tour!!’

The crowd at The Hold Steady…shot on iPhone
I’m not bitter…but I have never spent a show saying ‘That would have been a great photo!’ as many times as I did at this gig.

So when I reached out to John to see if I could shoot his show, one of the first things I asked was whether I could have backstage access to get some shots before the show, and could I get some shots from on the stage?
Basically, I wanted the chance to get shots that the audience couldn’t. I wanted to be able to tell the story of the show, and that meant shooting from both the audience’s perspective and from the band’s perspective…and did I dream of getting a shot of the band, with the lights flooding onto them and crowd mesmerised by the performance? Yes…yes I did.

Carrying two cameras and a camera bag meant walking across the stage was an exercise in ‘Don’t knock anything over…and don’t trip on a cable!’

Reaching out

I really should take a step back, because ‘when I reached out to John’ really does make it seem like this was easy. But rest assured that sending a DM via Instagram to someone you’ve never actually met and saying ‘can I come and take photos of you?’ is NOT easy.
But I had a few things working in my favour;
– while I had never met John…Katie (my wife) knew him, so I wasn’t going in totally cold.
– one of my regular dog walks actually went right past his house, so if he said ‘no’, I could train our dog to crap on his lawn.
– he’s a folk musician, and these really are the Canadians of the music world…so he would be too polite to say ‘no’.
– I genuinely felt that this was mutually beneficial. I’ve done jobs where I’ve felt that I had got the better side of the deal…and I’ve done jobs where I felt like I had been exploited. This one felt like a happy medium where we were both going to benefit.

Thankfully John agreed. Not only did John agree to me shooting the gig, he also invited me along to a rehearsal the band were doing…and that will be the focus of the next blog.

John Flanagan at the rehearsal for the show

Live music photography tips

Now I know that at the moment the idea of talking about photography at a live venue with a group of people all crammed in together in a non-ventilated space where they can yell and scream…may seem a tad far-fetched. Who knows, by the end of this year all pubs and band rooms may just have wisened old hipsters looking into the middle-distance and saying ‘Live music? We ain’t see no live music since…well shoot…not since Omicron!’
But I’m an optimist…and I think I’m also now at the stage where I have shot enough gigs to have learnt from my mistakes, but I’m still sufficiently new at the game to remember all of the things I wanted to know when I started.
So I think it’s the perfect time to give some tips on shooting photos at live gigs.

Get out there

A remarkably important part of taking photos at live gigs…is actually being at those live gigs to take photos. So while I have waited remarkably patiently for The National to call and say ‘Chris, we want YOU to follow us around the world and take photos at our shows’, I have also hustled to find performers to take photos of.
Now, admittedly, having the drummer from The Cat Empire as my brother-in-law has opened quite a few doors. But if you haven’t made the strategic decision to marry into the Hull-Browns…then that’s on you.
But in all seriousness, I’m yet to come across a musician who has said ‘Nah, I’m all good for free photos that I could use on my numerous social channels, and I certainly don’t need a new shot that I can send to potential venues, and the venues I am playing at really hate it it when I bring along an extra person who buys a few drinks.’
This is a win-win for you and the artists, so see if you can find a friend/cousin/friend of your kid/local parent/open mic night participant who is doing a gig and get photographing!

The composer at a Darebin City Brass show my daughter was playing at.
My son’s piano teacher at the end of year concert

Spot focus

Ok…this is going to get a bit technical, but I promise the payoff is worth it! If you’ve ever been at a gig, or a kids concert, or anywhere where the person on stage is in the spotlight and taken a photo of it on your phone…you’ve probably ended up with a photo where that person is very bright, and the background behind them is kinda murky. This is because your phone (and you camera will do the same), has taken in all of the light from what is in the photo and found a place where on average everything has the right amount of light. So the person in the very bright spotlight and the background which is very dark…have been evened out. The dark bits are a bit lighter and the bright bits are a bit darker. In a normal daylight shot, this is great…and you will say ‘Thanks phone/camera for doing all of that thinking for me!’ But in a darkened room with with a performer in the spotlight you will be saying ‘Stuping phone/camera! That looks like balls!!’
Fortunately the answer is pretty straight forward. You can tell your camera to just focus on one part of the photo and get that bit exposed correctly…and then base everything else off of that. So in the case of someone in a spotlight, you set your ‘metering mode’ to ‘spot’ and that will make sure that the very bright person is exposed correctly and everything else will become dark. There are other modes you can choose that will vary from camera to camera…but basically the options will be for your camera to see the whole image and balance out the exposure, or take a section of the image (usally the middle of the image) and balance the rest of the picture based on that, or take a specific part of the picture and balance the rest of the image based on that.

Maggie Rigby from The Maes
Gale Paridjanian from Turin Brakes

A really good example is this shot I took of Danny Ross at the Wesley Anne. It was early evening the and the setting sun was coming through a gap in the curtains and hitting the stage. It was so bright, it was even brighter than the lights in the venue, which made taking photos REALLY tricky.

As you can see, that bright light is so bright it blows out whatever it touches

But then also gave some opportunities that I could never hope to replicate without a LOT of time.

But exposing just for that light, suddenly gives you some arty ‘light and shadow’

Get wide, get tight, get outside!

This is my advice for pretty much every photography job…but it’s particularly true for live music, DON’T SETTLE FOR MULTIPLE VERSIONS OF THE SAME SHOT!
Absolutely get the standard photos from as close as you can, and if there are multiple people in the band, make sure you have a good standard shot of each of them. But then…get creative!

Go in as tight as you can

Danny Ross

Get as wide as you dare

Lisa Mitchell and band

Take photos of their shoes

Chuck Taylors: Rock n roll since forever

Shoot from the back of the room

Danny Ross at the Corner Hotel

Shoot from outside the venue

Outside looking in on a gig at the 303 Bar

I can safely say that they will not all be good shots…but I can also guarantee that one of these shots will be your favourite shot from the gig, because you made it happen!


I once presented at a conference and there was a screen outside the room with my name on it…I took a photo of it. Why? Because in one image it showed that I had been at conference, and I had presented…and no-one had escorted me off the premises saying ‘Sir, you have no place being here’.
I think most performers want the same validation.

It’s time to move away from ‘auto’

The ‘auto’ settings on your camera are a far better photographer than I will ever be. They can do calculations that will result in the best combination of f-stop, shutter speed and ISO in milliseconds. BUT they are not set-up to provide the best shot in a darkened room, with a subject who keeps on moving and who has something sitting just in front of their face.
In fact, leaving your settings to auto will almost certainly lead to a slightly blurry photo of the performer (as they were moving when you took the shot), but that doesn’t matter, because the autofocus will have focused on the microphone instead of the singer

So you’re going to have to get comfortable manually setting some of your parameters.

Shutter speed – If you have a guitarist/singer then you’re probably looking at a minimum of 1/125. If they’re just sitting on a stool and singing you could probably go lower, if you’re trying to capture the drummer, you will have to go higher…and if you’re capturing a punk band, I wish you the best of luck.

f-stop – If your shutter is only staying open for 1/125 of second, then you’re going to have to let your aperture do a LOT of the heavy lifting in terms of letting light in. So go the lowest you can go. I have a beautiful 56mm f1.2 portrait lens that is hands down my favourite lens at a live gig as it just lets so much light in. Whereas my wide angle is only f4 and that needs a steady-hand, or a LOT of noise-reduction in post.

ISO – Modern cameras are remarkably good at taking great photos at ISO levels that would have been considered laughable in the past. So don’t be afraid to let it get as high as 5,000. There’s a reason a lot of my live music photos are black and white, and that’s becuase it’s easier to hide noise reduction (a setting in Lightroom that ‘smoothes out’ the crunchiness of a shot with high ISO).
If you’re in a venue with a lot of different lights, then I would leave the ISO on auto, because if a bright light suddenly comes on just before you take the shot, the camera will adjust before you’ve even pressed the button…you probably wont.

Focus – If you have your camera on autofocus, then it will focus on the thing closest to the camera in the auto-focus zone. So if the performer has a microphone in front of their face, and you’re focussing on their face…then it’s going to focus on the microphone. So be brave and try a bit of manual focus!

Ollie Knights from Turin Brakes

Drummers are people too

Look, I get it. When your choice is between the charasmatic lead singer, striking a rock-star pose, with the lights shining on them at the front of the stage…and the person at the back of the stage, moving frenetically, with no lighting and a car-crash of cymbals and drums surrounding them. You’re going to take the photo of the lead-singer everytime!
Just try to get a least one decent shot of the drummer…and the bass player (they’ll be hiding next to a speaker somewhere).

Drummer with Lee Rosser

Something in the way

Part of the joy of any live gig is the people around you. You very rarely get an unencumbered view of a performance, so don’t be afraid to capture this with your photos.
Get down a bit lower and shoot between people’s heads.

The man in the hat

Or ‘dirty up’ a clean picture by shooting through something (in this case it was an ornate hand rail that was about 3cms in front of the lens…but with the focal length set for the stage, actually created some nice shadows and deliniation between the performers)

Managing to get Will and Ryan into a shot of the Danny Ross Trio

Next level stupidity

Looking for something a bit different? Then why not hold your phone under your lens to create a mirror effect?

Lisa Mitchell x 2

Or take a photo through another lens?

Shantilly Clad at The Wesley Anne

Or zoom your lens while taking your photo

I know this didn’t work…but I gave it a go!

If they work, then you’re a creative genius…and if they don’t…the internet never has to see your mistakes (unless you publish them in a blog…as above!)

No flash photography

The standard rules for taking photos at a gig if you’re actually there on business is ‘First three songs, and no flash’. I will never understand why you can only take photos for the first three songs, as I think it’s like the venue selling a recording of the gig, but only including all of the between song banter and tuning of guitars…you know, all of the stuff that happens BEFORE the band actually hits its straps?!
But the ‘no flash’ thing makes perfect sense. No one wants to see their favourite singer stagger off stage having been blinded by some muppet unleashing a flash in their face…and no unseasoned performer wants a constant visual reminder that someone is capturing everything that they’re doing.
Also, if you’re shooting on your phone, just remember that the flash is designed for people about a meter away…so if you’re 15 rows back pinging of shots of a band…you’re really just taking stunning portraits of the backs of the heads of the few rows in front of of you.

Share the love

If you’re taking photos at a gig and you see another photographer…just remember, they’re not the enemy or the competition!
Realistically they are the only other person in the room who is facing the same challenges as you, and most likely the only other person you can learn anything from. So don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation, and like their photos on Instagram the next day. If you’re feeling really generous, why not grab a quick photo of them in action and send it through to them. Just as chef’s are less likely to be invited around for dinner (as people feel increased pressure to make an amazing meal), I can pretty much guaranteed that most photographers have very few photos of them in action (in fact I think the only photo I have of me in action, is me giving a photographer friend the finger while taking photos at a wedding!)

How to deal with pesky onlookers telling you how to do photography.

At the Corner Hotel gig I got chatting to one of the other photographers (the remarkably awesome Samantha Meuleman ) and during the next music shot grabbed this shot of her.

Sam in action

Is it the greatest photo? No. Was ‘here’s a photo I took of you while you were at work!’ an awkward conversation starter? Yes. But do I have any regrets? No!

So there you go…some of the lessons I’ve learned on my journey so far. If you’ve got any tips you’d like to throw my way, I’m always keen to hear them.

My top photos of 2020

As I count down the hours until I have to return to work for 2021, I thought I should enjoy my annual trip down memory lane by putting up my top 10 photos for 2020.
Now I know that in the past I’ve done my top 18 in 2018, and my top 17 in 2017…but there is simply no way I can be bothered doing 20 photos for 2020. I tore the tendons in my ankle, Ruth Bader Ginsberg died…and I’m pretty sure there was something else that happened that wasn’t good. So in no particular order, here are my top 10, and you can just assume the other 10 are screenshots from Zoom meetings where I’m saying ‘You’re on mute’.

National Photographic Portrait Prize

My lanyard and program from the National Photographic Portrait Prize

Impressed with how many times I can work the fact that I was a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPPP) last year into conversation? Well you should be…and you should be glad I now have to devote equal gloating time to this and the Ironman I did in 2015.
This is a photo that acts as proof that it actually did happen. I actually did get to go to Canberra, and see my photo hanging in a gallery, and get a lanyard with that photo so that people could decide if they wanted to come over and talk to me about it, and that the event where it was all going to be announced had to be scaled back drastically because of COVID restrictions…and I thought that this was DEFINITELY THE WORST THING THAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ME AS A RESULT OF THE PANDEMIC!!!
Good times…good times.

Horsing around

Black hats and colourful ribbons

The day after the NPPP, we took my daughter and niece to The Saddle Club where they learnt how to groom, feed, saddle, and ride horses. In my head this was going to be an amazing place to get some photos…in reality, it was bushland that was recovering from recent bushfires and was in full sun that made everything look ‘meh’.
But at the end of the day, one of the instructors was walking along a corridor inside the house and I saw this photo opportunity. So all hopped on the confidence that being a finalist in the NPPP (and also an Ironman) brings, I asked if I could take a quick portrait, and this was the result.
I love the colours, and the light, and the fact that Grace was rocking a hat that I could never dream of wearing.

Opportunities and bees

Abandoned shed on the road to Warrnambool.

The last couple of times I’ve driven to Warrnambool, Google Maps has taken me via Camperdown and past this abandoned house/shed. Each time I’ve seen it I’ve thought “That would be a great photo!” But each time I’ve also thought “I’m already late for whatever it is we’re filming in Warrnambool so I can’t stop!”
But late last year I was heading home from a job (there’s nothing better than driving to Warrnambool, doing a days work and then driving home at the end of it!) and I saw the shed, and I saw the wheat, and I saw the skies, and I realised I had to pull over and get the shot or I would never forgive myself.
So I found a spot where I could park, and waded my way through the waste-high wheat, keeping a keen eye out for snakes. When I got to the shed I could see a small swarm of bees by the door. I’m not particularly worried about bees, and have a strong belief in ‘If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you’. So I took a few shot in and around the shed. But the whole time, there were a few bees flying around my head…then they started landing in my hair, then they started stinging my head, then I started flailing my arms wildly and running at high speed through the wheat back to the car, all the while trying not to drop my camera or get bitten by a snake (although I did wonder if I got bitten by a snake AND a bee at the same time, would I get super-powers?)
Mid-scamper back to the car I looked back at the shed hoping I wouldn’t see a plague of bees coming my way…instead I saw this shot. I took one shot standing up, and then another crouching down to make the wheat the foreground.
I was really happy with the result…and it nearly made up for the long drive home with bee-stings in my forehead.

Just a test

Portrait of my Dad

If there were a theme to the portrait shots that I’m really happy with, it would be ‘people not smiling, but not unhappy, in black and white’. This is a case in point.
On the last day that I had the GFX (Fuji’s Medium format camera) I spent the whole day taking portraits with my softbox. Dad was the first cab off the rank and so this shot was literally a test shot to dial in my settings. The shot was badly over overexposed, but the incredible amount of data in the medium format images meant I was able to pull it back in post-production, and it’s one of favourite photos from the day.
It’s also a fitting tribute to Dad’s ‘Lockdown beard’.

They shoot piers don’t they?

The early bird

As mentioned in the previous photo, I was lucky enough to borrow an eye-wateringly expensive camera from Fuji and play with it for a couple of weeks. During that time we went to Lorne and one morning Josh and I got up super-early to take some photos down on the Lorne Pier. I got some really nice landscapey photos of the pier…but I always much prefer to have a human element in my shots. We were just about to go when this old guy in a bright yellow jacket started walking down the pier, I took a few snaps…and this one with the bird just above him just really clicked with me. I liked to imagine that he was such a wily fisherman that he always got the fish, and the birds knew it…that’s why they were circling him.


An extra from a Wes Anderson film if ever I’ve seen one

In that wonderful time in between lockdown 1 and lockdown 2, we were lucky enough to get to Bright. The place we were staying had a billabong, and so I got up to get some ‘sunrise over water’ shots. I knew that these were going to be purely landscape shots, so I put my wide-angle 10-24mm lens on and trotted down to the billabong. As I stood there trying to work out the best shot, I heard a noise behind me. I assumed it was one of the kids coming to see what I was doing, but when I turned around I saw this fox. Now I know that foxes are pests and eat native animals…and so I shouldn’t have been so stoked to see it. But in my defence…check out that tail!
The problem was, I was stuck on my wide angle lens, so unless I could get really close to the fox, it was going to be a very small part of a larger picture. I walked to a different part of the billabong, and noticed that it followed me the whole way. It always kept a safe distance…but was clearly interested in what I was doing. So I just settled into one spot and waited. Sure enough, it came in a bit closer, and then a bit closer still. If I moved the camera in front of my face it moved back, so this was taken from the hip and with a lot of faith in autofocus.
To be honest I just wanted a memento to prove that this really did happen…I didn’t need to hear ‘Dad’s seeing foxes again’ from my kids.


Sandy Point legend ‘Bones’ on his way to the surf

At the very start of the year, Holly and Josh got surfing lessons from ‘Bones’. He’s an incredible character who has been part of Sandy Point for as long as we’ve been going there.
I was out of surfing action as I had done my ankle and was still in a brace. But after the lesson I asked Bones if I could take a few photos. I was so relieved when he said ‘yes’ that I really rushed through the photos as I was paranoid about taking too much of his time. As a result, the photos were OK…but I didn’t think I’d really captured him as I see him.
Fast forward 11 months and Josh and I are heading out for a surf and Bones is walking in front of us. I had the GoPro with me to take some shots in the surf…so I grabbed this shot. I love the clouds, the green and blue and the leading lines of the fences…but most of all, I had finally captured Bones as I saw him.

Advanced photography in the surf

Josh tearing up the waves at Sandy Point

A good photographer should be able to see the shot they want, compose for it and then nail the execution. What they should NOT be doing, is setting their GoPro for burst mode and taking 10 shots in 3 seconds and simply pointing their camera in the general direction of their subject.
So for the record, I knew that if I took this photo at this exact moment, then I would frame Josh inside the breaking wave as it crashed over me. Furthermore, I was not joyfully surprised when I looked back at the dozens one single photo and saw this.

Caught by the rising tide

Caught out by the rising tide

I know that for someone who spent a LOT of 2020 not being able to travel more than 5kms from my home…I sure do have a LOT of photos from the beach! Actually the majority of these photos were taken during that brief window between lockdowns. At the time it seemed insane to be travelling from Sandy Point for one weekend, then Lorne the next…after all, we had the rest of the year to travel!
Bwah ha ha! Bwah ha ha! Bwah ha ha ha!
I can’t begin to desribe the number of times Katie and I thanked our lucky stars that we travelled while we had the chance!
Anyway, this weekend at Sandy Point was meant to be the starting point of me borrowing the Fuji GFX. But in a magical example of the world mocking my best laid plans, the GFX body arrived in time…but the lenses didn’t.
So I was down on the beach, during an incredible sunset, cursing the fact that I had a $10K camera…but no lenses that would fit on it, when these two guys got caught out by a wave that came up a lot higher than its predecessors and I took this shot.
I was a bit filthy that I didn’t have the big medium format camera to get this photo, as the colours were so amazing…but in reality, this was such an instinctive shot, that I think I would still have been messing with the settings of the GFX as this unfolded before me.
As they say, ‘the best camera, is the one you have with you.’

2020 in a shot

Our protector

2020 was a year of many things for our family. A lot of time inside, a lot time feeling that people outside were having fun and that we couldn’t be part of it, a lot of time walking ‘all of Brighton’…and a LOT of time being super grateful to have our Beagle ‘Marnie’ in the house.
I hope that after the front-line workers get their hard-earned thanks…the pets of Melbourne get some sort of acknowledgment for the work they did keeping us all together during COVID times.
So here’s to the dogs!

My top photos of 2018

If there’s one thing that 2018 taught me, it’s that starting a new job REALLY diminishes your photography! I took about 75% fewer photos this year, but I’m not willing to let this stop my annual list of favourite photos. So here in no particular order are my top 18 of 2018, and as a special bonus I’ve included a music reference in every title…anyone who can guess them all wins a prize!

Sunset studies

Lake Pertobe sunset

I know that a good photographer can manufacture almost any scene…but for the rest of us, we have to just celebrate those moments that you’re in the right place at the right time, and you’ve got your camera…and you get the shot!

You’ve gotta fight, for ya right…to PARTY!

Party boy

There’s a lot to worry about when your kid’s having a party. Will the other kids come? Will they care that there are just basic party games, rather than a unicorn petting zoo or jumping castle filled with Lemurs, or whatever it is that people are paying for now? Katie and I spent the days leading up to this party wondering how we would deal with no-one turning up. This photo let me know that it was all going to be OK.

Dogs are the best people

The Regal Beagle

The big addition to our family this year was this fine looking hound, our rescue Beagle ‘Marnie’. You can read about our journey to get her here but given the Beagle propensity to escape, I wanted to get a good photo we could use for the ‘Missing Dog’ posters.

Uncle John’s lament

Uncle John

My Mum comes from a family of 10 kids and at her Brother’s recent 80th birthday party she asked me to shoot some portraits of the siblings…I love this one because it’s somewhere between Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles and ‘The Thinker’. I also know how hard it was to get a serious pose from him when all of his siblings were looking on and mocking from the sidelines.

The last splash

Last splash in the waves before heading home

We had told the kids they could have one last splash in the waves at Sandy Point before we headed back for Melbourne. I was trying to get some photos of the Pacific Gulls flying low over the shallows when I saw Xavier running towards the waves. No time to compose the shot, just swing the camera, shoot and hope…and this was the result!

Binalong time

Binalong Bay, Tasmania

I had gone exploring during a stop at Binalong Bay in Tassie, and decided I would only take my 35mm, as I didn’t want to lug my whole camera bag around. When I saw this I cursed myself for not bringing a wider lens. But I did have my GoPro, and so I took the photo on that. The best camera is the one you have in your hands…not the one sitting in the boot of the car!

Treat your Mother right


I have photos of my Mum blowing out the candles on a birthday cake with my kids, and photos of Mum at family events, and even a photo of Mum dressed as Ace Frehley from KISS. But I’ve never had a shot that I think actually did her justice…and now I do.

Tasmanian still life

Still life

Metaphors for life people…metaphors for life. Don’t just be part of the dull background! You can stand strong, be vibrant and shine a light in the darkness. But just be aware, that as you do, your mate is vomiting up a gooey yellow mess in the background.
I was really proud of this photo when I took it…but now I can’t help but feel like it’s two daffodils re-enacting drunk people at the Melbourne Cup.

Put the kids upfront

Cradle Mountain part 1

Cradle Mountain part 2

There are thousands of photos of this view, so how do you make yours different? Put a kid in the foreground and let them do whatever they want. Kids don’t take direction well, but they do ‘whatever they want’ remarkably well…and you can’t fake authenticity.

Architecture in Tasmania

Taking in MONA part 1

Taking in MONA part 2

Sooo, that thing about putting a kid in the foreground of a shot that you really like…that works really well for architectural shots as well, especially if you’re at MONA.
Of course putting a child in MONA does come with its own consequences. One of the first things you see as you walk into MONA is a wall of plaster-cast vulvas. Our 7yo who was listening to the audio tour looked up at me and innocently said ‘This one’s called ‘C*nts and conversations‘ Dad…what’s a conversation?’
Yet another parenting highlight.

It’s a soft-box life

Holly & Pebbles

The enigmatic X-man

It’s always a bit of an effort to drag the soft-box and strobe out of the shed, but it does mean that the kids are 23% more willing to let me take their photo. It’s always worth it, plus I get to pretend I’m Zack Arias or David Hobby.

There are angels, in your angles

Evandale in Tasmania

On the final night of our Tassie trip we went out for dinner at a pub in Evandale. There was an enormous sculpture of the word ‘RELAX’. This is Josh with his head in the A-hole…and no, I do not intend to reword that.

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment…

‘All the way home’ playing a gig in the living room

I always love getting a shot that captures an experience. Here ‘All the way home’ were playing a gig in their living room, to an appreciative audience and having a great time.

If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

Deloraine sunset through the blossom

As we pulled into Deloraine, the sun was setting through the blossom and a large family all dressed in some sort of religious clothes were walking together next to the lake. I had dreams of taking a photo of them as it was an amazing scene, but by the time we had done an elaborate U-turn and retrieved the camera from where it was packed, the moment had passed. So I settled for this.

This one goes out to the one I love

Composed, classy and confident.

The stress of shooting a wedding is nothing compared with taking a photo of the person you love. They’ve heard all your jokes, they know all your tricks, and they will make life VERY difficult if you mess this up. There is also the challenge of breaking through 16 years of marriage, 3 kids, numerous ups and downs, and then capturing the person as you see them. So I love this shot.

Top photos of 2016

Sitting at work desperately pretending that you’ve got something to do? Stuck at home with the kids thinking ‘Wait…I’ve got to put up with this crap 24/7 for how many more weeks?!!!’ Holed up at a holiday destination somewhere where it’s too hot/wet/cold/windy to do anything? (if you’re in Melbourne there is every chance that it’s been all 4 of those things in the last half hour). Then fear not, relief is at hand.
No, I’m not going to distract your boss, or look after your children, or sacrifice something to whatever Gods are the controlling the weather in your local area…instead I’m going to present you with my favourite photos of 2016. A year when I adjusted to life with a new camera, shot a wedding in the country, got paid to shoot some portraits, ran some photo workshops, filmed my first ever documentary and travelled through Queensland with the family in a campervan.
Did I manage to take 17 photos that I was happy with? No! So, in no particular order, here are my top 16 photos of 2016!!!

No. 1 – A shed in Daylesford

Blinded by the light
Blinded by the light

Katie was performing at festival in Daylesford with Songrise. We had lunch in someone’s garage/workshop and just as we were about to had off I saw this beam of light coming through from the corrugated iron roof. I scampered over and did a quick shuffle-dance to raise some more dust off the ground and then asked Xavier to stand under the beam. I asked him to stare up at the roof…but as with many times when I ask a child to pose, it didn’t look like a child looking at the roof…it looked like a child who had been asked to look like a child looking at the roof. But then he decided to clap his hands in the shaft of light and I managed to capture the moment he was winding up for the clap (‘winding up for the clap’ may also have been a euphemism for consorting with prostitutes in the 1800’s…but that is not what I meant).
The big photography lesson for me was to get the shot set up…and then let the person interact with it…trying to manufacture a moment is still not a skill I have.

No.2 – Cooling down

Alain Laboile comes to Preston
Alain Laboile comes to Preston

Ok, you know how 6 words ago I was saying that manufacturing a moment is not a skill I have…well here is a case in point. Not even if the local water supply had been laced with peyote could I have said ‘What I want to do is get a shot where Xavier is in a bucket, looking cherubic while he rests his head on his big sister’s hand, who is looking lovingly at the camera, while sitting backwards on a high-chair, dangling her legs over the high-back of the chair…and ideally wearing a bandage on one knee’. But if that moment does unravel in front of me…I am getting better at capturing it.
I’ve mentioned this before, but this shot was shamelessly influenced by Alain Laboile

No. 3 – Adrift on an incoming tide

A boat at Shallow Inlet on low tide
A boat at Shallow Inlet on low tide

Last year I wrote a blog on how keeping fit can actually help your photography. One of the things I mentioned then was sometimes when you’re out for a run or ride you see things that you know would make a great photo, but that you would have missed if you’d been driving (or indeed at home watching YouTube videos about photography). So on an early morning run I saw these boats sitting on the sand at low-tide, and I thought it would make a great photo that could represent futility, or being stuck, or dwindling natural resources. But by the time I actually got to head back there to take the photo, it was early evening. I took a few photos of the boat from the front (or as we nautical types like to say ‘the pointy end’), but it just didn’t work. Then I swung around to the back (or ‘arse end’) and realised that it looked like it was heading out to sea. Despite the fact that my shoes were getting soaking wet…and covered in crabs…I set a long exposure, and this is what I got.

No. 4 – Making the job easy

Cousin Nick
Cousin Nick

I think my dream job would be to take candid portraits of people, where they didn’t know I was there and so I got perfect, unscripted, unprompted moments. Unfortunately, this is also pretty much a perfect description of a stalker. So for the time being, I think my dream job would be taking portraits of people who are as easy to work with as Nick. I had some ideas, he had some ideas and he was 100% willing to commit to all of them. As a result I got some of the best portraits I’ve ever shot. But I think this is my favourite as it actually captures how easy-going Nick is. There’s a genuine smile that’s also in his eyes…and of course there’s that beard…that beard. There are three certainties in life; death, taxes…and me never, ever being able to grow a beard like that.

No. 5  –  Nhillbilly nights

Yurts and space
Yurts and space

One of the things with a long-exposure shot, is that you press the button to open the shutter and then wait 30 seconds for the camera to take the shot…then wait another 30 seconds while it gets rid of the noise, and then after a minute of sitting in the dark and cold an image appears on the screen of the camera and you see what you’ve captured. Sometimes you look and realise that you’ve got the camera slightly tilted, or that you’ve cropped something out (it’s so dark that you can’t see anything on the viewfinder while you’re looking through it) or that the camera has moved during the exposure and everything is blurry. And so you sigh, make a few adjustments and try your luck again.
But sometimes you look at the screen and you see something like this, and you know you’ve captured something special! That orange glow to the left of the frame is the moon rising. That light inside the yurt was so soft, that I could only just see it with my naked eye…but on a 30 second exposure, suddenly it looks amazing. And the fact that the milky-way is rising from the top of the yurt? Well to be honest…that was just good luck…but I’ll claim full credit for it anyway.

No. 6 –  Shaz and Lofty

Shaz and Lofty
Shaz and Lofty

This the the shower block on Sharon and Lofty’s farm. It’s all exposed timber and corrugated iron, and as soon as I walked in I knew I wanted to get a shot here. It had textures and colours and light and shadows…in other words, it had everything a photographer could want. Yet my favourite thing about this photo is that the setting plays second fiddle to the bride and groom. Your eye can look almost anywhere in this photo and pick up little details…but it will always return to how naturally happy and excited the newlyweds look.

No. 7 – The country wedding

The country wedding

I think that this is my favourite photo of the year. I love how Australian it looks. I love the story it tells. I love the lights and the shadows. I love the lady resting her arm on the pram, the boy listening to the speeches but also putting a reassuring hand on the dog. I also love that by this stage I had taken photos of the bride and groom, I had taken photos of people watching the bride and groom, but taking photos of people looking at the people watching the bride and groom…that’s pretty meta.
Upgrading to the Fuji X-T1 was a really big decision. But I simply couldn’t have got this shot on my old gear. So this photo reminds me that sometimes taking the plunge pays off.

No. 8 – Water torture

Autumn raindrops
Autumn raindrops

I’m sure that if I had simply gone outside and snapped a quick photo of a raindrop falling and it looked like this…it probably wouldn’t have made the cut. But I know that I spent at least an hour in the drizzle just waiting to capture the moment one of these drops fell. As you can see from this shot, there were plenty of raindrops to choose from, but by the time you had the tripod set up and you had got the focus dialled in…it would have dropped, so then you would choose another one, but then while you were waiting for that one, three other ones would drop and you would curse yourself for not choosing one of them…then the wind would blow, moving the vine and getting the raindrop out of focus…or it would drop and you were just a split second too late.
Needless to say, I did a lot swearing at rain-drops on that day.
Now let’s never mention it again.

No. 9 – Solar plexus

On the beach in Queensland
On the beach in Queensland

OK this is going to get a tad technical. But on my first attempt at getting this shot I had the camera on autofocus. I got myself in position, pressed the button halfway to arm the autofocus in the middle of the shot, and then got Josh to run and jump off a ledge across in front of the Sun. He was wearing a hat,  and he was doing this awesome ‘airwalk’ with his legs…so he looked like something halfway between Michael Jackson and a skater. Brilliant!
Except of course that I’d set the focus before he was in shot…and so the camera had focussed on whatever was in the middle of the shot then…at best it was that boat travelling through…at worst the horizon. Either way, Josh was completely out of focus and the shot looked pretty crap. So this time I got Josh to stand exactly where I wanted him to be for the shot, I focussed on him manually then got him to run and jump off the embankment again. This time he was in focus…and I was pretty happy with my timing as I managed to get him just as passed the sun. Admittedly I was trying to get him as he blocked the sun…but I think this actually looks better!

No. 10 – The pier at Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay
Hervey Bay

As part of my Lightroom workflow I will add a star rating to all of my photos. Basically a ‘5’ is a photo that I am over the moon about (I probably shoot about 10 of these over the year), a ‘4’ is one that I am really happy with and I know will be a solid photo once I’ve worked on it, a ‘3’ is one that I need to look at again, and if I don’t like it on the second viewing, I’ll delete it…I don’t do ‘1’ or ‘2’ stars as they are automatically deleted.
This photo was a ‘3’. Even on a second viewing I couldn’t decide if I liked it. I took quite a few similar photos, and on this evening the sunset had set the sky ablaze with colour. In this shot the colours were just a bit washed out as I had gone for a 2 second exposure and it was all a bit bright…but I really liked the framing, and I really liked the people on the pier, the footprints in the sand. So this photo lived on my computer as a rare ‘3’ star photo. When I got back home from the trip I looked at the photo again and decided to try it as a black and white…it worked so well that it now adorns one of our walls.
You really need to have some rules about how you cull your photos, or you will end up with a hard-drive full of average photos…but you also need to be able to bend those rules occasionally so that you have time to give photos a second chance.

No. 11 – Family photo

Family photo among the Kauri Pines at Paronella Park
Family photo among the Kauri Pines at Paronella Park

I’m quietly confident that there are more photos of Yeti’s than there are of our family together. I also took a photo earlier in the trip, but I feel that in this shot you can see that we had bonded as a family over the two weeks of camper van life…and our tans are a lot better.
Take that Yetis!

No. 12 – Black and White beauty

Black and White beauty
Black and White beauty

I can boss relative strangers around in order to get a shot that I want, I can tell clients to do whatever they want and I’ll usually be pleasantly surprised by their response, I can tell myself that a photo of a friend or family member doesn’t have to be perfect…after all, it’s just a photo that you’re doing for them.
But I can’t do any of that with Katie. Every direction, every gesture, every request and every reply carries with it the weight of a near 20yr relationship, a 14yr marriage, ups, downs, trials & tribulations, kids, jobs, wins and losses. So getting a photo that captures everything that you love about someone that has been an integral part of nearly half your life, with all of that history between you is no mean feat. But I reckon this one does it, and does it well.

No. 13 – Uncle Jack Charles

Uncle Jack Charles
Uncle Jack Charles

To be brutally honest, I think it would be pretty hard to take a bad photo of Uncle Jack Charles. The hair, the beard, the boundless energy, the infectious laugh, the incredible story, the stagecraft…it’s all a photographers dream. So the challenges become; manufacturing an opportunity and trying to come up with something original. I know I took some photos that were better, but they were photos I felt I’d seen of him before.
This one felt original.
I know this is insanely trainspottery…but it’s actually that tiny reflection in his right eye that I love the most.

14 – Django and the Spotted Mallard

The Spotted Mallard
The Spotted Mallard

One of things I’ve been trying really hard to do this year is to look at the whole frame and make sure everything works. It’s often really easy to see what you want to shoot and simply take a photo of it, then when you look at it later you realise that you’ve cropped out half of a person, or you’ve got a whole lot of unnecessary space at the top of the picture when there was stuff happening at the bottom that would have really added to the story that you were trying to tell. So in this shot, obviously Django is the star. But I also wanted to show the audience watching on (I love the guys hand on the back of the person next to him…it speaks volumes about how relaxed and supportive the room was), and I wanted to show the incredible ambience of the Spotted Mallard (the mirrors reflecting the natural light, the candelabras, the myriad lamp-shades), and I wanted to get all of those sodding ducks on the curtain behind him in the shot. In the end I had to position myself pretty much behind the bar to get the shot…but I was so happy when I got this shot.

No. 15 – BMX bandit

BMX at Fed Square
BMX at Fed Square

If nothing else, I want my photos to be a document of our family. Right now, Josh rides his BMX pretty much every day. In a year’s time he may shooting his own YouTube videos about BMX, or he may have moved on to something else entirely, but I would hate for this year of obsession to have gone undocumented. So Josh and I headed into Melbourne to take some photos of him in action. I really love this photo for a few reasons. One, I realised that the sunlight reflecting off the windows of a nearby building and illuminating the set of stairs would be enough to shoot a fast shutter speed and capture him mid-descent. Two, in order to capture this I had to break with my usual approach of ‘don’t draw attention to yourself’. If the the 10yr old on the BMX doesn’t care who’s watching…then the 40yr old taking photos shouldn’t either. Three, I love that despite being in the city there is only one other person in the shot…and they are looking at Josh. Four, and this is probably most important, we printed this picture onto a large canvas, and Josh has it beside his bed.

No. 16 – The turning point of the 8in8in8

'The pain won't last..'
‘The pain won’t last..’

I’ve written about this photo before…but for those late to the party. The man on the left is Craig Percival. He was my coach for the Melbourne Ironman, and had brought me onboard to document his attempt to become the first person ever to compete an Ironman (3.8km swim/180 bike ride/ 42.2km run) in all 8 Australian States and Territories, in 8 consecutive days (the 8in8in8). The man on the right is John Maclean. John was a triathlete who was hit by a truck while out training and became a paraplegic. He went on to become the first ever wheelchair athlete to complete the Kona Ironman (the world championship race in Hawaii) and was a massive inspiration to Craig.
This was day 6 of the 8in8in8, and Craig had finished the previous day’s Ironman in Canberra so late that his crew had driven through the night to get him to Sydney to start his 6th Ironman. I’m not sure what someone who has done 5 Ironman’s in 5 days and has slept for about 1.5 hours in the car is meant to look like as they stare down the barrel of having to do it all again…but Craig looked like it. He looked broken.
His crew had let me know that they were going to pull the pin on the event, he simply couldn’t go on. But then Craig saw John, and saw that 3 x World Ironman Champion Craig Alexander had come down to join him for the swim…so he reluctantly agreed to do the swim (from memory his words were ‘Ah shit…how can I say ‘no’?’)
This photo was taken just after the swim, when Craig was getting a massage and having his battered feet attended to. John had basically come over to tell Craig that it was OK it he wanted to pull the pin, people would understand…but by the same token ‘the pain won’t last, but the memories will’. I honestly believe this was a turning point for the whole 8in8in8.
I love this shot because you can see the steely determination in John’s eyes, the full eye-contact with Craig, you can see that he was learning to walk again and had left his wheelchair behind to come and show Craig that anything is possible, there’s nothing staged or fake, it is just a moment of honesty.
Tragically Craig died from complications after knee surgery in December, if you’d like to learn more about him and possibly give a donation to help his family, please head to

So there you go…my top 16 photos for 2016. If I could draw any overarching themes they would be; I sure am a sucker for black and white, I take better photos when I’m travelling and putting myself out of my comfort zone, and thank god for kids who are still willing to have their photo taken.

Now onwards to 2017!

8 portrait tips…and a request.

On the 14th of December last year I purchased a brand new camera, on the 30th of December I took a photo of friend who was about to announce to the world his plan to do 8 Ironmans in 8 days in the eight States and Territories of Australia. His name was Craig Percival, and he was kind enough to have me film a documentary about his attempt to become the first person to ever complete what became known as the 8in8in8.

The photo of Craig Percival

On the 14th of December this year I was staring at the at that same photo I had taken of Craig, but this time it was in a booklet that had been handed out at his funeral. At age 45 he died from a blood clot while recovering from an operation on his knee.
Amidst the tragedy and senselessness of his death, the photographer in me was actually really proud that his family had chosen a photo that I had taken to represent the person he was. I felt that in a very small way I had done something to help…and now I’m asking for you to do something to help.
A page has been set up to help the family that Craig left behind, and I would love for you to put some money towards it. But I feel it’s only fair that I give you a little something in return…so in keeping with the theme of 8in8in8…here are 8 tips that I’ve learnt about taking portraits, and how they relate to the photo I took of Craig.

1. Us and them

I’m sure there are people out there whose public persona is actually a 100% reflection of the person they are. For the rest of us we are walking a constant dichotomous tightrope between the person we are, and the person we want people to think we are. We normally keep this bubbling away under the surface, but a portrait photo is a weird time when a single image is going to conspicuously identify who we are, and so as the photographer you have to decide which incarnation of the person you want to capture. If you capture the person they want to project, then you’ll probably miss the chance to capture something honest or slightly flawed…but then again, they’ll probably still want to talk to you after you publish the photos on social media. Alternatively, if you capture something a little more raw or candid, you will probably capture something that will get you a dozen likes on Instagram/Flickr/500px…but you’re probably not going to get that ‘Thanks so much for taking my photo’ email that were hoping for…or perhaps more importantly that ‘I’m going to recommend you to my friends’ email that you were hoping for.

Man in a hat.
Man in a hat.

So my simple answer, is shoot both. Start by getting a few traditional shots of them smiling in a traditional pose…then move on to a couple of shots where you can try to capture a break in the facade. Maybe give them prop, maybe move them into a space where they are really comfortable, but do what you can to try and capture an unguarded moment.

Man with bananas

Craig actually has an easy smile…but he’s not someone who will flash a Hollywood smile on cue. So I made a few jokes and then as I delivered the punch-line on the last one, I snapped as soon as I saw him start to smile.

2. Everything is awesome

If you are taking photos of famous people or unashamed extroverts, then you’re probably not reading this blog. The rest of us are taking photos of people who really don’t want to be having their photo taken…they may want the end product…but they’d rather not go through the process of getting there. So if they’re feeling vulnerable and exposed, the last thing they need is you appearing out of your depth or annoyed.
They will blink just as you take the shot, you will stuff up your exposure or your composition…but they don’t need to know any of that. You just need to keep saying ‘That was great! I’m going to grab another one of those’ or ‘That was perfect. Let’s try something a little different’. If you fill the room with positivity and encouragement, you’re going to get a much better photo.

Photographer, Georgia Haynes

Of all the photos, I think this one carries the most weight.
The first person I ever asked to pose for a portrait, Luke at the Cobbler’s Last.

Shooting with a new camera I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to override the ‘preview’ mode on the EVF. In short, because I was shooting with a flash I had the shutter speed at about 1/160 which was really dark (but when I took the photo the flash would fire and the light the scene). The display on camera was showing me a preview of what the shot was going to look like but it couldn’t account for the flash, so I was basically looking at a black screen. Normally you just look through the optical viewfinder and see exactly what you can see with your naked-eye. But the Fuji X-T1 doesn’t have an optical viewfinder and so I was desperately hunting through menus trying fix the problem…all the while pretending that everything was going swimmingly. I eventually worked it out…and hopefully Craig was none the wiser.

3. Flash

My favourite thing when taking a portrait, is when you just capture a fleeting look or moment. You can’t ask someone to pose and give you that look…it’s just something that happened organically. That’s why I love using a flash for my portraits, it gives you the chance to freeze a moment. Now clearly, I’m not talking about the pop-up flash on your camera, I’m talking about some sort of off-camera flash…and ideally some sort of diffusion like an umbrella or soft-box. And yes I’m sure you can do the same thing with a quick enough shutter speed. But as someone who swore black and blue that I would never use a flash…I love using a flash in portraits, and I know that my best photos have been taken using one.
If you don’t have a flash (and realistically you’re looking at hundreds of dollars to get a flash, and triggers, and diffusers) then just hire one with some equipment for a weekend and have a go. It will only cost about $70 to hire a flash, stand, umbrella and triggers, and you’ll learn a hell of a lot. For bonus points, download the OneLight video from Zack Arias.


Sir James,
Sir James,

I picked up some second-hand strobes and gear for about $200, and the photo I took of Craig was the first time I’d used it.

4. Something to do

One of my favourite things to do while watching the news or current affairs is try to guess what direction was given to the person on camera for cutaway footage. For example ‘OK, just walk over to that book case and take out a book’ or ‘just walk past the camera and sit down at the chair’ or even ‘just walk towards the camera’. If you ask an actor to do this, they will nail it. If you ask a normal person to do it, they will look like a very unconvincing version of themselves doing something unconvincing. Why? Because they’re over-thinking it. If you could look inside their minds there would an inner-monologue yelling ‘OK left foot then right foot…No wait…right foot then…no, I was right the first time…left foot then left foot – OH GOD WE’VE FALLEN OVER!!!’
It’s the same with a portrait shot. Tell a person to ‘just look natural’ and they will spend the next five minutes trying to work out where their hands would be if they were being natural. So wherever possible, give them something to do, whether it’s looking down and then looking up to the camera, or rubbing their hands, or playing with a prop…just give them something that can briefly distract them from the fact that you’re taking a photo of them.

nick-portrait-55 softbox-13

Dad Portrait-33

While shooting these photos of Craig I actually gave him a pull-bouy to throw up in the air and I took a couple of photos of that, which looked pretty cool and really got him thinking about something other than being photographed.


5. Ask

For me the pressure of taking a portrait shot, is nothing compared with the pressure of asking someone if you can take their portrait. To a large extent you are saying ‘If  you give me your time/money, I’ll make you look good’. Which is a pretty big promise. But even in these days of selfies and endless photos on social media…people still rarely have a nice digital distillation of themselves. After all, selfies invariably end up looking everyone else’s (person at an arm’s length away from the camera looking at the screen instead of the camera)…and friends will quite happily post of photo where they look great, and you look like balls. So don’t be afraid to take the plunge and go and ask someone if you can take their photo. You’ve got a 100% better chance of taking a great photo if you do than if you don’t. Oh, and the people who say ‘no’ are probably hiding something 😉

Photographer, Eddie Jim

With Craig, I didn’t ask him in advance as I figured if I’d said ‘Can you come around for a video shoot and then some photos?’ it would seem like too much of an undertaking. Instead I set up the soft-box in advance (if you look in the background of the shot where Craig walks towards the camera you can actually see the soft-box set up in the background), and then when we had finished the video  I said ‘Would you mind if I just grab a couple of shots, so that you’ve got some photos for the website.’ Talking on a video is more stressful than standing and having your photo taken…so he probably figured he had already done the hard yards…and besides, what did he have to lose? If he didn’t like the photos, he just wouldn’t use them.
In the end he used that shot on pretty much all of his web and social media content.

6. Take inspiration

You have so many options at your disposal when it comes to taking a photo. There are endless combinations of shutter speed, aperture and ISO…and that’s before you’ve even started composing the shot, or getting someone to pose or choosing a lens. So don’t be afraid to find something that you like, and then try to emulate it. I’m not saying you should make a career out of ripping off other photographers, but when  you’re starting out…or if you’re in a creative rut, don’t be afraid to experiment and try to work out how they get the shots that you like. A friend of mine (Eli Mrkusich) introduced me to the work of Alain Laboile and I had a great time trying to recreate it with my kids…albeit without the French countryside…or the incredible light he captures…or his endless creativity…or his…look, let’s just say we were not only not in the same ball-park, but not even really playing the same sport. But it was fun, and photography should be fun!


With the photo of Craig I think I was trying to be somewhere between David Hobby and Zack Arias.

7. B&W

Friend, and fellow X-T1 enthusiast, Luke Vesty and I often have the same discussion where we have done a black and white execution of a shot and a colour execution…we feel that the black and white one is better, while our wives think the colour is better. We reassure each other that of course we’re right (and on top of that we’re brilliant photographers…and remarkably good husbands), but I do think that a lot of photographers have a weak-spot for black and white. It’s probably because growing up, the photos that had the biggest impact were black and white and so we are subconsciously trying to replicate them (it will be interesting to see if in 20 years time there are vast swathes of photographers with a weak-spot for the Instagram filter ‘Juno’). Whatever the reason, I love using black and white in portraits…and with a digital camera I don’t even have to be brave and commit to shooting on black and white film…I can just press ‘black and white’ in Lightroom! But going with black and white does also give you a lot of options in terms of pushing the contrast or colour balance without having to worry about someone’s skin tones suddenly looking like an Oompa-loompa.
I also think it adds a lot of gravity and sincerity to a shot. Seeing as I lack that in myself…I like to try to pretend I have it by putting it in my photos.

Boy on train
Boy on train

The photo of Craig actually worked really well in colour (as it was primarily a black t-shirt on a white background anyway)…but as this was the first time I’d used my new flash equipment I hadn’t learned how to angle the infra-red trigger away from the person in the shot…and so there was a horrible red cast over Craig and the wall behind him was a little bit pink. But you know what lets you hide amateur-hour mistakes you’ve made with colours? Black and white! So, black and white it was.

8. Change it up

There have been plenty of times when I’ve found a shot that I like, and then I’ve just fired off multiple versions of that shot. If I have half an hour with a person, I might take pretty much the same photo for 25 minutes, and then try something different for the last five minutes. Yet when I start working on the photos in post, it is invariably one of the photos where I’ve done something different that ends up being my favourite.
So by all means, take the shot that you’re comfortable with, but then change the lens, or shoot from up high, or from below the eyeline of the person, or change your orientation from portrait to landscape. Whatever it is, just think differently and make a change. You may not get a better photo, but you will learn, and you will keep your subject engaged and active.

Uncle Jack Charles

A Daylesford woodland nymph

Motorsport photographer Joel Strickland

Some random beautiful woman in Queensland

With Craig I did dance a little between a 35mm and a 56mm lens…and I reckon while the landscape version of his head and shoulders shot was the winner for the day…this portrait 3/4 shot could have been…if I’d only paid a bit more attention to not cropping out half of his hand!


So there you have it, 8 tips on taking better portraits. If you’ve learnt anything from this post…or if you’re just a decent human being…then please donate to the GoFundMe page.

percivals-5 percivals-4 percivals-2

Over the course of the 8in8in8 I got to spend some time with Lindell, Sam & Sienna and I know the hole that will be left in their lives by Craig’s death. While we can never replace their loss, we can always do our bit to help out.



So tell me about this shot…

At the end of last year I signed up for The Age’s ‘Clique’ photo competition. Basically each month they provide you with a theme and you have to submit a photo on that theme. I was relatively happy with my submissions for the first two themes (‘water’ and ‘building’), but I was really happy with my one for ‘shine a light on what matters to you’. Today I found out that it was a finalist in the competition, and while I didn’t win or get a highly commended it was awesome to have my shot rated so highly by the judges. A really good picture tells a story…but sometimes the story behind taking the picture can be just as interesting.

The Idea

Now the idea was to take a photo of something that mattered to you. Which is pretty much code for ‘take a picture of something that will make you look better by showing you care about it’, so I figured there would be a lot of photos about the environment and about poverty. While these things definitely matter to me…I wanted to do something that was a little more positive.
Seeing as I spend pretty much all of the time that I’m not working, sleeping or being a parent, training for the Ironman, I decided to take a photo of something to do with that. I’ve seen footage of me running, and that certainly isn’t an image I want to capture or share with other people…and taking a photo of myself swimming was probably going to result in the loss of my camera, so I settled on a photo of me on the bike trainer.

The challenges

I wanted to take a photo with a slightly longish exposure so that there would be an impression of movement through my legs being a blur as they pedaled, and seeing as we don’t have any lights in the shed where I train I figured that a long exposure would also allow a lot more light in. So my plan was to set up the shot by getting Josh to sit on the bike so that I could get it framed and focused, then shoot the photo with 10 second timer so that I had time to run over to the bike and start pedaling. But when I got everything set up in ‘Manual’ mode on the camera it would only allow me to set a 2 second timer, which was not nearly enough time for me to get onto the bike.

So I could either use a different mode on the camera and let it do the work…or I would need a camera assistant. Seeing as my main reason for joining ‘Clique’ was to get better at using the manual settings on the camera, I opted for getting a camera assistant to press the button to take the shot. Regrettably the only camera assistants available were a 12 year old Beagle/Labrador and an 8 year old boy. I went with the 8 year old boy (and anyone who uses this quote out of context against me is a terrible person!) Now 8 year old boys have many redeeming features, however sitting next to a camera, waiting for their Dad to scamper over to a bike and say ‘now’, pressing a button, waiting for Dad to unclip from his pedals and scamper back to the camera to review the shot and then say ‘that was good but I need you to do it again’ and then repeating this 15 times when they would much rather just play on the monkey bars is not one of them. Pressing a button on the camera without also moving the camera is also not really in their repertoire…and neither is staying really still while the camera is taking the long exposure.

On the bright side, being brutally honest about whether you should have a top on for the photo is a real strong point. The reality of using these bike trainers is that you do a whole lot of exercise without any real air flow, so you sweat a hell of a lot…so I normally do these sessions just wearing my cycling knicks. But with the innocence that has broken the heart of many a parent Josh inquired ‘Dad, are people going to see this photo?’ ‘I hope so’ I replied…and after a few seconds consideration ‘Well they probably won’t want to see you without your top on’ was his considered conclusion. So ‘capturing the moment honestly’ went out the window and the cycling jersey went on.

After about 10 attempts the shot still wasn’t working. If I pedaled at a normal pace, then my legs were moving so fast that my legs disappeared with the long exposure. And the shot looked really flat. So I shortened the exposure, put my phone with the torch on at the bottom of the trainer and put my laptop in front of me so that there would be a bit of light on my face. After another couple of shots I had worked out that if I pedaled really slowly, then I got the effect of the blurred legs I was after. Unfortunately, my camera assistant worked out that he really didn’t want to do this anymore and so he headed off to do something else. To add some further excitement we were about 10 minutes away from when it was time to put the kids to bed.

There was every chance that the entire night was going to be a waste of time, so I dragged Katie away from the kitchen and asked her to take the shot. Her first shot was almost perfect, so I excitedly made a few minor tweaks and saddled up for the winning shot…only to have my phone run out of batteries and lose the light at the base of the trainer. So Katie grabbed her phone and we went to try again…then the laptop ran out of batteries. So I raced it inside and charged it for a few minutes. Then with children who should be in bed revelling in the anarchy of not being in bed, with a laptop with about 5% charge and a phone with even less, and with any chance of actually doing a training session on the bike completely eviscerated, I saddled up for one last shot…and it worked!

The result

Selfish portrait

and if you want to see the photos that won the competition…head here

Night time photography

One of the things that I love about photography is that there is always something new to try (and of course new gear to wish you had). I have recently been trying a bit of long exposure night-time photography, and figured seeing as I have done it twice, I’m clearly now an expert and it’s high time I started dishing out advice.
I was originally going to do a bit of an explanation of what long exposure photography is and how you do it…but then I realised that all you have to do is type ‘long exposure photography’ into Google and you can find any number of people (hah, who am I kidding? You can find any number of men) telling you how to do it. So instead, I’m going to tell you a few of things I’ve learnt after my first couple of forays into the field.

ISO 400, 17mm, f5.6 30 second exposure
ISO 400, 17mm, f5.6 30 second exposure

What do you need?

Camera – Clearly you need a camera that will allow you to keep the shutter open for an extended period (most DSLRs will let you go for 30 seconds).
A tripod – no matter how steady you think your hand is…taking a photo for 30 seconds without using something to keep the camera steady will lead to an image that looks a little like the last thing you saw before you passed out having consumed ‘snake blood’ on that trip to Vietnam.
A torch – Ideally you will be shooting somewhere that is has almost no light pollution (ie light coming for streetlights, or houses etc), which is great for your images. But it’s not so good for setting your focus or changing settings on your camera…or working out where the hell you put the lens cap.
A torch can also be really helpful if you are trying to frame a shot and can’t see anything through the viewfinder. You can shine a torch to get an idea of where your frame starts and stops.

30 seconds can be a long time

This is particularly true if you are standing alone in a field in absolute darkness, and all you can hear is the heavy breathing of cows and their occasional footsteps. It is incredibly unnerving and you will regret watching any horror movie you have ever watched.
However you will not leave, because the 30 seconds it takes for the camera to take the shot is like a distilled version of Christmas Eve when you were a kid, or that time you spent shaking a Polaroid picture back in the 80’s…for that 30 seconds, the photo you are taking could be an award winner, it could be one of the greatest photos anyone has ever taken, it could be AMAZING!!!
Then the photo appears on the screen on the back of your camera and you realise that you must have moved, or that thing you thought was in the shot actually isn’t, or that you have got the ISO/apperture/shutter speed wrong. And so you reset the camera…and spend another 30 seconds living in hope!

ISO 6400, 17mm, f2.8, 30 second

That photo looks amazing!…on that tiny little screen on your camera.

Unfortunately, while the shot may look fantastic on the screen on your camera…by the time you look at it on your computer screen, you’re going to see a lot of ‘noise’ (this is a photography term for anything in a photo that makes you walk away from your computer and swear). But don’t worry. You can remove a lot of the noise in programs like LightRoom, and if you managed to get a great shot without any noise or movement on your first couple of tries, everyone else would hate you.

ISO 6400, 17mm, f2.8 30 seconds
ISO 6400, 17mm, f2.8 30 seconds

Plan your shots…if you can

While I was driving around Sandy Point during the day, I saw a couple of things that I thought would be really good to have in a photo. So I identified a couple of landmarks that I would be able to use when I was driving at night, with zero visibility other than what was in my headlights. It worked a treat.Having said that, my whole reason for heading out that night was to get some photos of the big wind turbines down there. This would struggle to have gone any worse. In my mind, the spinning blades would create an amazing effect with the long exposure and I would be hailed as a genius. In reality, the blades were spinning so fast that after a 30 second exposure they were invisible…and so I had a brilliant photo of a pole. Needless to say, the job offers haven’t been rolling in.
But on the way back from the wind turbines, I spotted this little shack and pulled over to take the photo. There was a service station across the road about 200m away, and while it was closed there were a few lights on which gave just enough illumination for me to get this shot.

ISO 6400, 17mm, f2.8, 30 Seconds
ISO 6400, 17mm, f2.8, 30 Seconds

Bring a friend

You are going to be doing a lot of standing around in the cold, trying to be very still for 30 seconds and then swearing under your breath…why not share this experience with a friend/fellow photographer (ideally someone who is both). They will probably have different gear to you, so you get to see how it works (and if you should buy it), they will probably have different ideas and approaches (which you can steal and claim as your own), and standing out in a field under an enormous canvas of stars is a pretty amazing experience…but it’s much more fun to be able to share that experience with someone.
Most importantly, if you are stuck out in the middle of nowhere in a field of cows and there is a psycho killer waiting in the darkness…you don’t have to be faster than the killer…you just need to be fast than your friend.

ISO 400, 28mm, f11 & 30 second exposure
ISO 400, 28mm, f11 & 30 second exposure

If you’ve go any tips or tricks I would love hear them…and if you’ve got any questions about any of the photos in this post, I’m more than happy to answer them.