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

Phil

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.

Splashdown

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!

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!

Signage

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.

Fuji GFX

Have you ever seen an older gentleman in a hideously expensive sports car and thought ‘That machine is capable of so much more than you could ever ask of it. That is such a waste of potential!!!’ Well me using Fuji’s Medium Format GFX is pretty much the photographic equivalent. But that didn’t stop me from borrowing one from Fuji try it out. Here’s how it went.

The camera

If you’ve come to this blog knowing a bit about photography, you will already know what a Medium Format camera is…and if you’ve come to this blog not knowing much about photography you really won’t care about pixel counts and sensor sizes. So I won’t waste any time throwing numbers at you.
In short, the camera I normally shoot on (the Fuji x-T1) has a sensor about the size of a postage stamp, and the GFX has a sensor about the size of a tea-bag.
Do I think for a second that Fuji want me making this comparison? No.
Do I think it’s very helpful for people trying to picture this in their mind? Also, no.
But it basically means that each photo has a lot more pixels and therefore a lot more information and detail. When I had my photo (taken on the x-T1) in the NPPP I had it printed as large as I could without it losing any detail…and when I saw it compared to the other photos, my first thought was ‘Why is my photo so small?!’ Part of the answer may have been that the other photos were taken with cameras with a bigger sensor.

‘Soooo…your Dad’s photo is pretty small huh!’

So part of me wanted to see just what was possible with a camera with a bigger sensor…the other part of me knew that I had purchased my entire Fuji kit (camera body and 4 x lenses) for $5K, and $5K wasn’t even going to get me the camera body of a GFX, let alone lenses. So were my photos going to be 4 times better with $20K worth of camera gear? Let’s find out! (Narrator’s voice – ‘They weren’t”)

The lenses

I was lucky enough to be sent 4 lenses; a 45mm, 63mm, 120mm and 250mm. Instead of banging on about them, here’s a snapshot of each:

The 45mm

I REALLY liked this lens. Wide enough for landscapes and architecture, but tight enough for an environmental portrait.

The 63mm

Hey, do you know what’s fun? Maths. So this 63mm on the medium format, is about the same as a 50mm on a full-frame and a 35mm on my Fuji x-T1. So this is a convoluted way of saying that if I could only have one lens on the GFX… this would be it.

The 120mm

The 120mm was probably my revelation as a portrait lens. I’ve never really done portraits where people’s hands are cut off, or heaven forbid, part of their head is cutoff. But I LOVED how some of these shots turned out with this lens, and I’ll definitely be using this in my future portraits…albeit with a LOT fewer pixels!

The 250mm

I added this to my list of lenses because I thought I was going to take photos of wildlife. I didn’t. So this lens didn’t get as much of a workout as the others. But I also took one of my favourite GFX pictures with it, so on average is was probably the best performer!

So what’s it actually like?

You 100% feel like a Pro with this camera in your hands. It feels solid and purpose built, the sound of the shutter is brilliant and it has the same functionality as my x-T1 so everything I needed was at my fingertips. The file sizes are enormous! I’m used to having my RAW files as 20mb files on the x-T1, whereas the jpegs that come out of the GFX are 20mb…the RAW files over 100mb! So on my first day of shooting I went to a skate park where I was shooting RAW+Jpeg on burst mode, and just about filled my entire 32GB card! There are a lot of reviews of this camera where people say ‘It really made me slow down and consider my composition’ which I had thought was a comment on just how much you can fit onto the sensor…but I now realise it was just code for ‘I can’t afford to buy another hard-drive to store these files!’

Boneless
Should have gone on the wider lens!
I missed SO many of these photos where I tried to follow the skater to keep them sharp while everything else is blurred that I almost cried.

I loved the amazing detail in the photos. I loved being able to shoot at f32 for a long exposure and not have to worry about ND filters.

f 32 and 7 second exposure at Kalimna Falls
f 22 and 5 seconds at a Lorne sunrise

I loved that even shots that were brutally over-exposed could be made to look amazing!

This was just a lighting test to set the level of the flash. Did I turn it down after this shot? Damn straight I did. But when I worked on it in Lightroom it actually became one of my favourite shots.
I had been taking photos on the other side of the pier and when I turned on the camera it still had the old settings. It looked so ethereal in the viewfinder that I had to take the shot.

I loved the results I got when using a soft-box or off-camera flash.

But most of all I loved the motivation it gave me to get out and take photos ‘You’ve got $20K worth of camera equipment for a short period of time’ is a VERY strong motivator to get out and shoot!

The photo prior to this didn’t have the bird flying through…the bird really makes it.
Kids in trees…always good.
Families in trees…also good.
Photo of the photographer…with thanks to Katie!

But would I buy one?

Well first and foremost I would like to thank Fuji Australia for allowing me to borrow the camera. Outside of some bizarre ‘You’ve seen this camera in the hands of the best…now see it in the hands of the rest?’ angle, there really was no reason for them to take a chance on me. I can’t imagine there is a huge demographic of my readership with $20K burning a hole in their pocket just looking for a camera to spend it on. So I can’t imagine sales are going to skyrocket after me writing about it. But to Fuji, and in particular Neil, thank you so much for this. You were fantastic to work with, and I really appreciated this once in a lifetime opportunity.
But would I buy one? No. If I had the money would I buy one? Yes. Would I hire one to shoot a wedding or a proper photoshoot? Yes. Is Fuji likely to loan me gear again after saying this? Probably not.
But this is not a reflection on the camera, it’s a reflection on where I am with my photography. When I was training for the Ironman and the 3-Peaks, I could never justify buying a new super-fast bike, or super-light wheels to get myself some ‘free’ speed, until I knew that I had done everything in my power to make myself as fast as possible (train more, lose weight, race smart etc). Not surprisingly I never bought a new bike…because I never got to the spot where the only thing holding me back was my gear. Similarly, there are still SO many things that I can improve with my technique, my discipline, my willingness to approach complete strangers etc that will result in better photographs. I need to get them sorted before I can look to better gear to raise my game.
I have also had my x-T1 for nearly 5 years now. I’ve shot a documentary on it, multiple videos, weddings, award nominated portraits and even a photo where 9 children are all doing what I wanted them to at exactly the same time!
If, in the process of trying to get an epic shot, my camera got hit by an errant skateboard, or fell into the ocean, or was eaten by a surprisingly fast and aggressive turtle…I could live with it. I certainly wouldn’t be happy about it, but I could live with it. And that gives me a level of freedom that simply doesn’t come with holding a camera worth more than a family holiday to somewhere NICE.
Plus, if I take a photo with my x-T1 and the 35mm lens and it’s an abject failure, people think ‘Well, he only has that little camera that looks like it’s from the 1970s…what did you expect?!’ But if I take a great shot, suddenly I’m a genius who may get upwards of 7 or 8 likes on Instagram! Follow me a @sumo_21 ūüėČ But if I take a great photo on the GFX people will think ‘Well yes OF COURSE he took an amazing photo…he has that amazing camera.’ Worse still, if someone sees one the of MANY crap photos I took with it, they’ll think ‘Why does he have such a fancy camera, when his photos are so average?!’
I. DON’T. NEED. THAT. SORT. OF. PRESSURE!!!

Plus, every photographer knows about Gear Acquisition Syndrome, you always need something to aim for, and if I had a GFX 50, what could I possibly have to look forward to after that?! It’s not as if Fuji are going to do a GFX 100 that has a 100 megapixel sensor…I mean that would be insane, and…what? They have made one?!

Oh.

Excuse me…I have to change the entire tone of this blog…and then make a grovelling call to Fuji!

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

Mum

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 8 photos from #8in8in8

The opportunity to document someone attempting 8 Ironmans in 8 days in the 8 States/Terrritories of Australia doesn’t present itself all that often…in fact when Craig Percival mentioned it to me, he also mentioned that he would be the first person to ever attempt this feat. I readily said yes, as it was a very good way of ensuring I¬†wouldn’t be asked to join him for any of the swimming/riding/running.
By the time all of the logistics and financial implications were sorted, we agreed that I would travel to Canberra to see Craig finish there, then travel with the team to Sydney, sleep the night in Sydney, then document all day in Sydney, fly home to Melbourne the next day and then film and photograph Craig’s final Ironman in Melbourne.

Fuji, Canon & GoPro...and it all fits in a backpack!
Fuji, Canon & GoPro…and it all fits in a backpack!

Things got off to a poor start due to the predilection of Melbourne drivers to crash into each other as soon as the roads get wet…despite leaving the city at 4.30pm, my 6.45pm flight had left by the time I got to the airport. So I had to book another flight…and given that there weren’t any more flights into Canberra, I had to fly to Sydney instead. I called Kate Patterson¬†to let her know that I would meet her at the accommodation in Sydney, and I got the distinct impression that things were not going well in Canberra…and that perhaps my¬†throwing another spanner into the works was about as welcome as a cold-sore. In fact, Craig was unlikely to finish the Canberra Ironman until about 2-3am, and so the team was going to drive directly from Canberra to the pool in Sydney to start the next one. Craig would sleep in the car as would the rest of the team…although ideally not all at the same time as that would make driving treacherous.
Clearly this was not the ideal start to my filming and photography…but¬†a little drama never hurt anybody.

But when Craig arrived at the pool the next morning I realised that it hadn’t been ‘a little drama’, and it had indeed hurt him. In fact Kate and Lindell pulled me aside to tell me that during the drive from Canberra they had agreed to pull the pin on 8in8in8. Craig would do as much of the swim as he could…but that was it. It was over. As the guy who was meant to be documenting a triumph…I quickly realised that my day was over before it began.
But then 3 x Ironman World Champion Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander jumped in the pool with Craig and I thought I may as well take some shots…so here, in no particular order, are my top 8 shots from the 8in8in8. These are not necessarily the best photos, or the photos that best encapsulate the whole thing, but they are the images that captured the key moments for me as a somewhat embedded observer.

#1 The before shot

A few days before 8in8in8
A few days before 8in8in8

Traditionally the ‘before’ photo is used to show how much someone has improved in the ‘after’ photo. How much weight they’ve lost, or how ripped their abs are now. But I think that in the¬†‘after’ photo for this one, there probably wouldn’t have been the relaxed smile, the quiet confidence and the ‘let’s do this’ attitude…I also think the t-shirt would have said ‘Ragged’ instead of ‘Jaggad’.

#2 The swim in Sydney

Gotta love the GoPro
Gotta love the GoPro

If you ever want a brutal reminder of just how out of shape you are, let me assure you that donning the budgie-smugglers and hopping into a pool with a 3 x Ironman World Champion and a man who has done 5 Ironmans over the last 5 days is a remarkably good place to start. But I was determined to get some under water footage of Craig swimming, so myself and the trusty GoPro jumped into the pool. After I got the footage I was after I decided to get some photos too. One of the challenges with shooting with this GoPro is that it doesn’t have a viewfinder, so you can’t actually see what you are shooting. You just have to line up a shot that you think will work and shoot. I was shooting on burst mode so that I got 10 shots in 3 seconds. The other nine shots in this burst were rubbish (catching a swimmer mid stroke can either look powerful and fluid…or like they are coming a distant second¬†in an underwater dancing competition), but this one I love. The reflection creates really nice symmetry with both the stairs and Craig’s arm, and more importantly I know I never would have got it if I hadn’t swallowed my pride and jumped in the pool.

#3 The power of words

When John Maclean talks, you listen.
When John Maclean talks, you listen.

As I said earlier, Craig had decided to pull the pin on the 8in8in8 on the way from Canberra to Sydney. He had pretty much done the swim because Crowie and John Maclean were there. But the local Cronulla Tri squad had sorted a masseuse to come and give Craig a rub down, and while Craig was lying there John Maclean came over to talk to him. Sometimes you can see two people talking and just sense the gravity of what they are talking about, and this was one of those times. I knew I had to capture it, but when I took the photo from the side so that I could see both of them, it just didn’t work. So I scampered the other way so that I could see Craig, but that still didn’t work. Then I went behind Craig’s shoulder and realised that I could see John’s wheelchair in the background and knew that this shot would really tell a story. So I framed up the shot, pulled focus on John and waited for him to look up towards Craig…when he did ‘snap’, I knew I had the shot I wanted.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been working really hard on not just taking a shot from one angle, but trying to take it from a variety of angles. In this case it really paid off.

#4 The painful reality

60kms into the 180 ride,and still a marathon after that. Sometimes the only person who can support you is the person who knows you best
60kms into the 180km ride,and still a marathon after that. Sometimes the only person who can support you is the person who knows you best

When I think of some of the most powerful photos I’ve seen, I realise that the photographer hasn’t been trying to help the starving child, or save the people running from the explosion, or stop the horror unfolding before them. They have made a decision that their photo will do more to change a situation than anything else they can do.¬†¬†For better or worse they have had to choose between taking a photo, and actively helping someone, and they have chosen to take the photo.
While of course not on the same scale, I had quite a few moments on my day in Sydney with Craig when I was tempted to take a photo that showed the physical and mental toll the day, and the indeed the previous five days…and no doubt the thought of the next two days, were having on Craig. To show how broken he was. But it just didn’t seem right. I felt as though I would be betraying Craig, Lindell, Kate, Ginny and everyone else who was supporting him.
So when I saw this moment, I knew I had to get it. It showed just how shattered and exhausted Craig was, but it also showed the wealth of support that surrounded him.

#5 Getting ready for the run at Cronulla

'You're still here mate?'
‘You’re still here mate?’

Perhaps this is the reward for not getting in Craig’s face for the preceding 11 hours. It was about 5.30pm, Craig had just hopped off his bike and was preparing to do the marathon along the Cronulla foreshore. I was just waiting to get the right shot of him when he looked at me, laughed and said ‘You’re still here mate?’ As with a lot of the other photos in this blog, this shot serves as a signpost to a turning point. I wasn’t there for the first five days, so I don’t know this for sure, but I felt as though Craig had spent the first five days enjoying people’s support, but not relying on it. But over the course of the day, Craig had let his defences down and realised that if he was going to do this, he was going to have to rely on the support of a whole lot of people he had never met.
So for the next 7 hours he walked the marathon, and people came from all around to walk with him. Earlier in the day he had been worried about what people would think of him if he walked the marathon…but by the end of the day I think he knew exactly what people thought of him BECAUSE he walked the marathon.

#6 The cheer squad at Prahran pool

This group of kids cheered Craig's every lap.
This group of kids cheered Craig’s every lap.

Craig’s motivation for doing the 8in8in8 was to raise money for the John Maclean Foundation.¬†¬†Last year when he told me he wanted to raise $80K from this, I did my best to pretend that this was achievable. But deep down I wanted to say ‘Are you out of your mind?! I think you’re gravely overestimating the generosity of people’
Fast forward three months and Craig is swimming his final swim leg of the 8in8in8, and after the swim he is going to present a cheque to Tommy Le’Au and his family so that he can get a wheelchair. Tommy’s siblings and cousins had perched themselves by the side of the pool and were cheering him every time he went past. I’ve got three young kids and I know how hard it is to keep their attention for the time it takes to swim one lap of a pool, let alone 76. But these kids clearly knew what Craig was doing and why he was doing it…and they wanted him to know how much they appreciated it.

For the record, Craig has already raised over $84K and has now set his goal as $100K…so if you haven’t donated already, every little bit helps…and this is who you’ll be helping

Tommy and his Mum.
Tommy and his Mum.

#7 Midnight in Melbourne

Running on the Albert Park Grand Prix track.
Running on the Albert Park Grand Prix track.

It’s nearly midnight on Sunday, we are on the closed roads of the Albert Park Grand Prix track, there are over 50 people still running with Craig, and he’s just let us know that he’s confident of finishing this epic event. If that’s not worth a photo, then what is? Of course the challenge is that it’s really dark,¬†they’re too far away to use a flash…but that f1.2 56mm lens that you beat yourself up for buying, has just come into it’s own!

#8 ‘You know I’m going to do this!’

'You know I'm going to do this!'
‘You know I’m going to do this!’

Kate Patterson had worked tirelessly in the lead-up to the 8in8in8…and while ‘tirefully’ isn’t an actual word, if it were, then she would have worked tirefully for duration of the 8in8in8. Surviving on smatterings of sleep, taking days off work to be there when Craig needed her and doing all of the media and social media stuff along the way. She was indefatigable.
About an hour into the final run (on the Albert Park Grand Prix course no less…another thing that Kate had managed to organise), I had perched myself at the 2km turnaround point of the run and was giving Kate some photos for her to feed the ravenous beast that is Facebook. When Craig ran past, then doubled back and said ‘You know I’m going to do this!’ and gave Kate a hug. He still had another 4.5 hours to run, but this was the first time I had heard him say this, and the first time he had let his game face¬†slip, and reveal a little bit of the optimist inside.
Technically this is not a great photo. It was really dark where we were so the ISO is ramped up to 1600, I was clearly hunting for focus so the image isn’t sharp, but it captures a moment…and that’s all I ever really want to do.

Now for the movie

For those who don’t already know I’m putting together a short video about 8in8in8. I’m hopefully shooting the interviews next week, and then will be furiously editing it for a couple of weeks. I’ll do my best to write a few posts about this process.
But in the meantime I just want to thank Craig, Lindell and Kate for taking me on for this project. To Amanda, Grant, Ginny, Shrek, Ailie and everyone else who helped me out along the way, thank you so much, it was greatly appreciated. Last but not least to everyone who supported Craig whether it was in person, or on social media, or by donating to support JMF, you were part of something pretty special and I hope it inspires you to do something great.

Fitness and photography

A couple years ago I spent 12 months focussing on being more ‘creative’. I spent more time writing, taking photos and making videos…hell, I even took singing lessons. The net result was that I think I became a happier human being. I had a creative outlet (even if the world probably preferred it when I didn’t), my problem solving improved (although admittedly the ‘problem’ was normally someone asking me not to sing…and my ‘solving’ was agreeing and apologising) and I¬†started to see creative options where I hadn’t seen them before. But for the last year and a half I’ve been training for the Ironman (well admittedly I’ve spent the last 2 months basking in the afterglow of having completed the Ironman) and I’ve been amazed at how focusing on keeping yourself physically fit, can have massive benefits for your creative endeavours.

The basics

Granted, the actual act of pressing the button on your camera, looking at the screen on the back, sighing, and then dejectedly deleting the photo, is not all that physically taxing (the emotional and psychological onslaught is of course another thing). So you could argue that increased fitness won’t make a big difference to your photography. But a bit of cardio fitness may have meant you walked a bit further to get a better vantage point, a bit of endurance work may have meant that you carried an additional piece of gear in your bag that helped make the shot and a bit of muscle may have allowed you to elbow your way through the scrum and get the best shot of your daughter’s dance recital (Oh sorry other parents, maybe if you’d spent a little more time at the gym you would be the one taking this awesome shot…instead of rolling around on the floor moaning ‘My nose, my nose…I think you broke my nose!”).

Dr. Who dance-16

Location, location.

While training for the Ironman (and yes I will continue to drop that into conversation wherever possible) I would often head out on 1.5 – 2hr runs. Now don’t get me wrong, running along main roads and having the local bogans loudly question your sexuality as they drive past is pretty awesome. But eventually you will want to get off the beaten track and run somewhere different, and this will open up a world of new photographic locations. Old buildings, new bridges, creeks, graffitied walls, velodromes, rolling hills- you never know what you will find, but you can bet that it’s not something that many other people have used for a photo.

I stumbled across this one morning while out for a run...then scampered back to get my camera.
I stumbled across this one morning while out for a run…then scampered back to get my camera.

The early bird

Do you know what’s awesome for photography? Early morning light, deserted streets, sunrise, frost and that crossover between late night revellers and those who get to work early. Do you know what sucks? Getting up early to take these shots when on any other day you’d still be asleep. But if getting up early is now part of your daily routine (because it’s the only time you can work your fitness regime into your family life or work schedule), then getting up early on another day to take some shots really isn’t that tricky.

Admittedly this photo wasn't taken superearly...but it was early when we started!
Admittedly this photo wasn’t taken superearly…but it was early when we started!

The people you meet

I’m firmly of the opinion that the most important factor in taking a great photo is not your skill level…but being there. A photographer with basic skills who is actually there, is going to take a much better photo than an expert who isn’t. But the problem is, how do you meet people to take photos of? How do you hear about events that would be great to photograph? How do you hear the stories that would translate beautifully to the captured image? In short you have to get out and meet people and do things, and getting involved in a sporting group or club is a great way to do this.
Plus, if you are actually doing an activity, you will have a much better idea of where the best photos are going to be. Everyone is going to be at the finish line, but where will the race be won? Where will the hearts break? Where is the bike most likely to stack? If you are actually doing these activities day to day, you will be able to walk up to any event and have an advantage over the other photographers.

Footjam Nosepick,
Footjam Nosepick,

Confidence

OK, if you’ve made it this far into this post then you’re probably willing to let me get a little tangential. If you are exercising regularly, you will be happier with yourself physically. When you’re happy with yourself physically, this tends to manifest itself in greater self confidence…and you know what is an incredibly powerful tool when trying to convince strangers to let you take their photo? Self confidence. It makes no sense, but I know that for me personally, knowing that I could run 20kms on any given Sunday, gave me the confidence to approach Luke and ask him to pose for a portrait.

Of all the photos, I think this one carries the most weight.
Admittedly he does look a little like he’s regretting agreeing to let me take his photo.

Time to think

If you’ve got kids, or a full-time job, or remarkably persistent cats, you’ll probably find that you don’t have a whole lot of time to think about your photography. But head out for a swim, ride, run or gym ¬†session and you suddenly have time and space to think, although for the ¬†first couple you will just be thinking ‘Christ I hate running!’ and ‘Why am I doing this?!’ and ‘Who the hell put the Wiggles on my playlist?!!’ But eventually you will be able to do the physical side of things on auto-pilot, while you use your newfound firing synapses and endorphins to come up with some stellar ideas.
The best ideas I’ve had for photos, videos and blogs have been while I’ve been out exercising.

Selfish portrait. ISO 400, 17mm, f3.5 and 6sec
Selfish portrait.

In conclusion, your Honour…

Having swung the pendulum between focusing on creativity and focusing on fitness, I have settled on the idea that I need to have a balance of 60% fitness and 40% creativity…with that additional 20% focus on fitness leading to more than a 20% improvement in my creativity. So go out and try find your balance. Before you buy that next bit of gear, buy a a decent pair of¬†runners instead, before you book a photo-tour, go for a run around your local area and see what you find, and instead of putting your head back on the pillow at 5.30am get outside and break out of your comfort zone…your photography will be the better for it.

My best photos of 2013

It’s been an interesting year. It started with all of us living at my parents’ house, then we spent a couple of months moving into our new home and finishing things off, I also got to apply for my own job (thankfully successfully), battle for 6 months with the local council about building a deck (a Pyrrhic victory at best) and discover that ‘no, it’s not just the light in here…I have some grey hairs!’
So to finish the year on a high note, I thought I’d select my favourite photos from this year and tell you why I like them.

So in no particular order…here are my favourite photos for the year (I’ll be honest, the photo functionality in this WordPress theme isn’t dazzling, so you can always just head here to my Flickr site¬† to see the photos without the reasons why I chose them)

Sun rises over Victoria Park
I had travelled past Victoria Park a couple of times on my way to work and thought ‘that would be a great place to take some early morning shots’. So I got up before sunrise and headed there on a cold winters morning. I really love the way they have made the park open to the public and made it a lot more inviting, while still maintaining some of the elements of the spiritual home of the Magpies…and this photo came the closest to capturing that.

I took this one while I was on a lunch break from a course. I had set myself the challenge of only shooting on the 50mm and was trying to get shots to enter in the Age photo comp which had the theme 'light'. I liked this shot...sadly they didn't
I took this one while I was on a lunch break from a course. I had set myself the challenge of only shooting on the 50mm and was trying to get shots to enter in the Age photo comp which had the theme ‘light’. I liked this shot…sadly the Age didn’t.

 

I was taking some photos after my interview with Geraldine Quinn, and I tend to put my lens cap in my mouth when I'm shooting (if I put it down I lose it and if I put it in my pocket I sit on it)...clearly Xavier thought this was what one does with a lens cap and I couldn't resist getting this shot
I was taking some photos after my interview with Geraldine Quinn, and I tend to put my lens cap in my mouth when I’m shooting (if I put it down I lose it and if I put it in my pocket I sit on it)…clearly Xavier thought this was what one does with a lens cap and I couldn’t resist getting this shot

This photo was taken just before we headed on to stage at an open mic night. I'd never sung on stage before...and may never do it again, so I took the opportunity to grab a shot.
This photo was taken just before we headed on to stage at an open mic night. I’d never sung on stage before…and may never do it again, so I took the opportunity to grab a shot.

 

Luke Vesty and I headed down to St Kilda pier to take some long exposure shots. It was a really good learning experience, and it was awesome to have someone else to shoot with. This photo was the pick of the evening.
Luke Vesty and I headed down to St Kilda pier to take some long exposure shots. It was a really good learning experience, and it was awesome to have someone else to shoot with. This photo was the pick of the evening.

 

On the night our choir (The Septemberists) were performing, I figured this was an excellent opportunity to get some experience shooting photos of bands on stage. I set myself the challenge of shooting everything manually (exposure, f-stop etc). It was a complete disaster...so out of desperation I took a shot of some worn out sneakers, on sticky carpet and with an amp in the background. It said pretty much everything I wanted to say about rock n roll
On the night our choir (The Septemberists) were performing, I figured this was an excellent opportunity to get some experience shooting photos of bands on stage. I set myself the challenge of shooting everything manually (exposure, f-stop etc). It was a complete disaster…so out of desperation I took a shot of some worn out sneakers, on sticky carpet and with an amp in the background. It said pretty much everything I wanted to say about rock n roll

 

Admittedly this is more about the back story than the image...but I do love this shot. About 10 seconds after this shot, a woman walked along the beach in front of me with a child on her back. She had a hat that resembled a bright yellow turban, and it was unfurling in a golden wave behind her. With the white sand at her feet and the blue sea behind her, it would have made an amazing photo! But at the same time, Xavier was tottering towards the sea. I had to choose, the shot or the child?! I went for the child...but I still have a few regrets ;-)
Admittedly this is more about the back story than the image…but I do love this shot. About 10 seconds after this shot, a woman walked along the beach in front of me with a child on her back. She had a hat that resembled a bright yellow turban, and it was unfurling in a golden wave behind her. With the white sand at her feet and the blue sea behind her, it would have made an amazing photo! But at the same time, Xavier was tottering towards the sea. I had to choose, the shot or the child?! I went for the child…but I still have a few regrets ūüėČ

This was taken on an excursion to Footscray. I'm not a massive fan of excessive HDR...but I reckon the balance is right in this one. I also had a weird moment where I had taken some shots down near the the river of a guy in a red hood looking towards the city. When I looked at this photo I saw someone in a red hood and thought 'That guy was following me!' But it was a different person...I think.
This was taken on an excursion to Footscray. I’m not a massive fan of excessive HDR…but I reckon the balance is right in this one. I also had a weird moment where I had taken some shots down near the the river of a guy in a red hood looking towards the city. When I looked at this photo I saw someone in a red hood and thought ‘That guy was following me!’ But it was a different person…I think.

Once a year we make a pilgrimage to my Uncle's farm for a family get together. Under a tarp in a shed lives his beautiful Monaro. It's been a long time since I've heard it tearing up a paddock...but I hope I get to hear that glorious v8 again.
Once a year we make a pilgrimage to my Uncle’s farm for a family get together. Under a tarp in a shed lives his beautiful Monaro. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard it tearing up a paddock…but I hope I get to hear that glorious v8 again.

 

So  many of Mick's songs are amazing stories, told with complete honesty. And I think I came close to capturing the same thing in this portrait. I got some nice ones of him smiling as well...but the eyes on this one catch me every time. I was also pretty nervous taking a photo of someone whose work I really respect, so it was great to get a few images that really worked.
So many of Mick’s songs are amazing stories, told with complete honesty. And I think I came close to capturing the same thing in this portrait. I got some nice ones of him smiling as well…but the eyes on this one catch me every time. I was also pretty nervous taking a photo of someone whose work I really respect, so it was great to get a few images that really worked.

After a drive along a corrugated dirt road and a brief walk you end up at this lighthouse on the Gippsland coast down near Sandy Point. Obviously this shot would have been a lot better with some hefty ND filters and a long exposure...but I don't have any ND filters and I do have 3 children who were running all over the place near the edge of a cliff. So this shot had to suffice, but it's definitely a spot I will return to.
After a drive along a corrugated dirt road and a brief walk you end up at this lighthouse on the Gippsland coast down near Sandy Point. Obviously this shot would have been a lot better with some hefty ND filters and a long exposure…but I don’t have any ND filters and I do have 3 children who were running all over the place near the edge of a cliff. So this shot had to suffice, but it’s definitely a spot I will return to.

It's getting harder and harder to get the kids to sit for even 10 seconds for a photo...and even harder to get a shot where it doesn't look like they're posing. So I will treasure this photo for a long time as it truly captures Josh at his best.
It’s getting harder and harder to get the kids to sit for even 10 seconds for a photo…and even harder to get a shot where it doesn’t look like they’re posing. So I will treasure this photo for a long time as it truly captures Josh at his best.

 

I included this one as a reminder to always take your camera wherever you can...and that if you see a shot unfolding in front of you, take it! I was in a rehearsal studio surrounded by musos and empty Jim Beam bottles and feeling a little self conscious of being the guy with the camera. But I saw the singer from one band having a quick chat with the members of our group through the studio door and decided to take the shot. I'm really glad I did as I think it captured both a moment and a character...even though you can't see her face.
I included this one as a reminder to always take your camera wherever you can…and that if you see a shot unfolding in front of you, take it! I was in a rehearsal studio surrounded by musos and empty Jim Beam bottles and feeling a little self conscious of being the guy with the camera. But I saw the singer from one band having a quick chat with the members of our group through the studio door and decided to take the shot. I’m really glad I did as I think it captured both a moment and a character…even though you can’t see her face.

At age 3 Holly told me to 'Take the camera off your face'...so it's fair to say getting photos of her has been a challenge since then. She had her 5th birthday party at Fairy Fields and in one room the only light was coming through a skylight, I stood up on a chair and asked her to look up and before she could complain I took the shot. If I ever take a better shot of her, I will be a very happy man.
At age 3 Holly told me to ‘Take the camera off your face’…so it’s fair to say getting photos of her has been a challenge since then. She had her 5th birthday party at Fairy Fields and in one room the only light was coming through a skylight, I stood up on a chair and asked her to look up and before she could complain I took the shot. If I ever take a better shot of her, I will be a very happy man.

 

I love this photo for a number of reasons. The shot I wanted (of the wind turbine at Toora) was a disaster, and I was on my way home when I saw this. Actually stopping the car when you're already late, getting out by the side of a road where cars are hurtling past at 100kms/h and waiting for a 30 second window where there isn't any wind or cars to ruin the shot can seem overwhelmingly frustrating. But sometimes, it pays dividends.
I love this photo for a number of reasons. The shot I wanted (of the wind turbine at Toora) was a disaster, and I was on my way home when I saw this. Actually stopping the car when you’re already late, getting out by the side of a road where cars are hurtling past at 100kms/h and waiting for a 30 second window where there isn’t any wind or cars to ruin the shot can seem overwhelmingly frustrating. But sometimes, it pays dividends.

A storm had just come through and the light was amazing. Our deck had just been completed and Xavier was out playing in the residual rain. I got this shot set up while he was playing and then asked him to turn around and smile. He chose to walk off. If he had a speech bubble it would say 'Yeah sure Dad, I'll just stand here and smile while you take a photo. Idiot.'
A storm had just come through and the light was amazing. Our deck had just been completed and Xavier was out playing in the residual rain. I got this shot set up while he was playing and then asked him to turn around and smile. He chose to walk off. If he had a speech bubble it would say ‘Yeah sure Dad, I’ll just stand here and smile while you take a photo. Idiot.’

 

Working for a Govt department that works with a lot of people in crisis, I spend a lot time trying to tell stories without identifying anyone. Clearly that is starting to flow into the photography of my own kids. But I just love Josh's pose and Xavier's clear exuberance at being allowed to roam free. Either that, or Foster's criminal were about to face the wrath of a new superhero and his sidekick.
Working for a Govt department that works with a lot of people in crisis, I spend a lot time trying to tell stories without identifying anyone. Clearly that is starting to flow into the photography of my own kids. But I just love Josh’s pose and Xavier’s clear exuberance at being allowed to roam free. Either that, or Toora’s criminal were about to face the wrath of a new superhero and his sidekick.

Creativity…I want to get me some.

If you’ve ever read the Dr. Seuss story ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!‘ you’ll know about a feared destination called ‘The waiting place’. It’s basically a place where people are waiting for things to happen, a form of limbo if you will…and I think it’s fair to say that 2012 has been pretty much a year of ‘The waiting place’ for me. Waiting for the renovations to be finished, waiting to see if I’ve been successful in applying for my own job, waiting for our eldest child to start going to sleep without 2 hours of coaxing, waiting for our youngest child to just go to sleep, waiting for the chance to get back into exercise, waiting, waiting, waiting.
But the whole point of the ‘Waiting place’ in ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’ is that’s it’s very easy to get stuck there and wallow in your self pity. If you want to get out, you need to put in some effort. So I have decided to break free of my wallowing, and declare 2013 my year of creativity!

So what the hell does that mean?
Good question. I’ve worked with, and been dazzled by, genuinely creative people, and I do not include myself in their number. When I worked in film and TV I was the Producer or a Production Manager, which is basically a nice way of saying I was kept as far away from the creative process as possible. And with good cause, if there were ever a battle between the chaos and anarchy of creativity and the structure and organisation of order…I will be there with my ‘Hurray for structure’ banner.
However, I have always admired the end result of creativity and have always harboured a desire to be more creative. I love music and film and photography and various other things where people have ignored the beautiful structure of order…and just been creative. The challenge has always been to get involved in the actual process of being creative rather than just admiring what other people do. But this is not easy, because to be truly creative you need to have a singular vision and belief in what you do…which is very tricky to have when you’ve never really done it before.

For all it’s ‘Waiting place’iness, this year has actually been a really good year for me creatively. I’ve started really getting into photography, and I’ve started trying to do new stuff with my video work. But I think I’ve treated it as a pleasant distraction from the more mundane work…rather than something to focus my attention on.
So for the next year, I’m going to actively embrace the creative process as an opportunity, rather than an entertaining by-product.

That was sufficiently wanky…what does it really mean?
Well for starters I’m going to do some singing lessons. If I’m willing to be seen in public in a triathlon suit…then I can no longer claim that I refrain from public singing out of a sense of common decency. Plus I really like singing…it’s just that my preferred venue is an empty beach where the only thing that can possible hear me is the unfortunate dog I’m walking.
I’m going to pester O’nev into giving me a photography masterclass…and I’m going to try and take some photos that I can enter in a few competitions…and I’m going to set aside time to go and take photos, rather than trying to fit them in around some other activity.
I’m going to finally shoot my short docos on Melbourne people I admire and get them up on YouTube.
But, most importantly I’m going to start putting my work out there…and wait for the internet to tell me how much they hate it. After all, there’s no one’s advice you should take more sagely than an anonymous loner with a keyboard.
So here are my favourite photos that I took this year, let me know your thoughts.
Unfortunately WordPress isn’t playing nice with ‘media’ at the moment…so for the time being you’ll have to click through to Flickr to see all of them…but here’s five to get you started.

Beechworth streetscape

 

Gippsland sunset

Windfarm

Empire

Scarlett O’Hurta at the Rollerderby

 

Why I love Instagram

As most of you probably know, Facebook recently purchased Instagram for $US 1 billion (which is about $AUS 2 billion if Adobe or Apple are charging…but that rant is for another time). This was disappointing on a few levels:
Firstly I don’t really like Facebook,
Secondly I had hoped that Google would purchase it for Google+,
…and Thirdly because I had offered to buy the company for $85, and that was now looking like it wasn’t going to be enough.

But none of this has been enough to diminish my love of this app. So I’m No Expert But…here’s why I love Instagram.

1. It can make remarkably average photos look sensational.
Allow me to present exhibit A:
Before

After

2. It’s very easy to use
Just download the app onto your phone, then either take a photo with the app, take a photo with the phone’s camera or choose a photo from your library.
Open this photo in the app and start adding filters, blurs and borders.
Once you’re happy with how it looks you can then add it to your Instagram account, share it on Twitter or Facebook… and the photo is saved in your library if you want to email or text it.

3. Filters and blurs
There are about 18 filters available, giving you everything from pronounced black and blues, through to washed out reds and black and white. I personally like ‘X-pro II’, ‘Lo-fi’ and ‘hefe’. But it really depends on the photo you’re using.
The are only two blurs, but they are awesome. There is a circular blur that you can manipulate the size of, and that can used to cheat a depth of field. And there is a straight line blur which can create a pretty cool tilt-shift look.
One feature I’ve been using a lot is the ‘lux’ tool (the little sun like icon in the bottom left of your screen). It basically adds contrast and saturation to the image (the before and after shot above is a really good example of what it does).

4. But it’s not real photography
I can remember my guitar teacher telling me how he had played guitar for a couple of years and then bought his first wah-wah pedal…and suddenly everything he played sounded awesome. But he got so carried away with playing with the pedal that his actual¬† skills deteriorated.
This app can definitely have the same impact on your photography, an average photo can be made look pretty damn good. So you can get a tad sloppy.
But by the same token, I’ve learnt a lot about shooting with the filters in mind and have found that I’ve been getting better results out of Lightroom because I know what I’m looking to do.

5. It ain’t perfect…but it’s free
I discovered Instagram because I was annoyed by the shortcomings of Hipstamatic (limited preset looks, missed shots because the app was ‘cleaning the lens’, inability to apply effects to existing photos etc)…so initially it ticked a lot of boxes. However it would be great if the photos could be saved at a higher res (you can do this by using the camera in the app…but I don’t like that camera as much). I would really like to enlarge and print some of the photos I’ve taken…but the file size is so small that it look pixelated on anything larger than a phone.
I’d also like to have another black and white filter…the one that’s there already is pretty washed out and it would be nice to have one that had more shadows and contrast.
But seeing as I paid $0 for it…I’m not going to complain.

So if you haven’t already got it, then I recommend downloading and having some fun. If you’re using some alternative apps I’d love to hear what you’re using and why…and if you want to follow me on Instagram my use name is @sumo_21

I’ll leave you with some photos I took on a recent trip to Geelong and Warrnambool.

 

The kids on Facebook

When it comes to putting photos of my kids on Facebook I think I’m somewhere between one of those lunatics you see holding up a ‘The end is nigh!’ sign and King Canute.
I still think it’s dangerous, I would rather it didn’t happen…but deep down I know that there is no chance I’m going to stop it. So am I a paranoid delusional madman…or is everyone else just stupid? Well clearly the first option is ridiculous…so it must be the second one.
Sorry.
Now I’m No Expert But…here’s why:

1. Dear stalker, do you need any other info on my child?
I’ve put up a photo of them on their first day of school so you know what they look like and what school they go to. From some of my other posts you know their hobbies, friends and cute stories about them, what my name is and what I do. But have I really given you enough info to go on?

2. Wait, why is my child’s image on that ad?
At the moment you can change your privacy settings so that your photos aren’t used in ads. But an ad for a product that features your own child is going to have a massive impact on whether you buy that product. So companies would pay a lot of money in order to get access to your photos for their ads…and Facebook would really like to take that money.
So as long as Facebook puts a greater emphasis on your wishes than on large amounts of money…you’ll be fine…*snigger*.

3. But people need to know what my child has achieved!
Let’s face it. The minute you have kids, you have pretty much given up on achieving anything impressive for yourself for the next 15 years. So you can’t really post ‘Just remembered to put the bins out’ or ‘Just fed the whole family and didn’t kill them’ because no-one really cares (actually in truth you can and most likely do post these sorts of achievements…but you shouldn’t…you’re ruining the internet for everyone with this sort inanity). But if your child has done anything from losing a tooth, to riding a bike to not asking ‘why is that lady so fat?’ in public…then this is worthy of a post and a photo. Because your child’s achievement is vicariously your achievement. After all they couldn’t have possibly done it without your exceptional parenting.
So by all means put up those photos of your kids…but just don’t pretend that you’re saying anything other than ‘My child is better than your child!’

4. Wow! That’s some impressive paranoia you’ve got there.
Ok, I’ll admit that the chance of someone stalking my child as a result of appearing on Facebook is remarkably slim. In fact the whole idea of stranger danger is a bit of a nonsense seeing as about 85% of all acts of abuse a perpetrated by someone the child knows…and if they know the child then they’re not going to need Facebook to know that they look like.
But then I’m sure that every one of those muppets who leaves their key in the wheel arch of their car while they go for a walk/run and comes back to find it stolen was equally sure it wasn’t going to happen to them.

5. But I’ve got some great photos!
Ah, this is where it gets tricky. In a previous post I talked about the importance of shooting what you know and what is going on around you. For me, pretty much all I know and all that’s going on around me is my kids…and if I had to choose the best 10 photos I’ve taken over the last 5 years, I can guarantee that they would all be photos I’ve taken of my kids. Not being able to show these off via social media is killing me…KILLING ME!!
But given the choice between fulfilling my heart’s desire…and maintaining my ill advised devotion to a poorly thought out idea, I’m going with the latter (I didn’t endure 18 years of Catholic education for nothing!).

So there we go. Parenting is all about choosing the risks you want to expose your child to. I’ll happily let my 6yo son ride around the block on his bike by himself, but I won’t put identifiable photos of him on the internet. A lot of people would do the exact opposite.
I know that in 6-7 years he will be happily sharing photos and videos of himself that will cause him a lot more grief than anything I could post. And I know that my refusal to put photos up is completely useless seeing as my wife happily puts photos of our kids on Facebook.
But like a recipe in a Teague Ezard cookbook, I’m complicated.
I’m also interested to hear your thoughts, so what do you think twice about putting on Facebook?