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!

Self portr-AI-t

Why I’m dabbling in AI

One of the hardest parts of working in the creative arts is being able to make the jump when technology changes. Sometimes it’s a change of software; Final Cut to Premiere or Quark to InDesign. Sometimes it’s hardware; from film to digital, or from big cameras to DSLR’s to phones. Sometimes it’s a change in what audiences want; from website videos to Tik Tok.
The challenge of course is that you never know what is going to be the next leap forward, and what is going to be a jump into obsolesence. Have you learnt to how to make great vertical videos…or are you now the proud owner of a $10K steadicam rig that lies dormant while other people use a $300 gimbal.
These choices are amplified as you get older, as you normally have a number of existing responsibilities, and so following one of these new ideas isn’t so much ‘a chance to learn for the sake of learning’ as it is something that you’re going to have to make sacrifices in another area of life in order to accomodate this new interest.
Listening to Chris Marquardt on his ‘Tips From The Top Floor’ photography podcast got me thinking about Artificial Intelligence (AI) in photography…and wondering if this could be the next big leap.

So what is AI photography?

Ever wondered what an angry avacodo on a skateboard in Paris would look like? Well AI can create multiple versions of that. And if you also want to see what that would look like if Rembrandt had painted it…or if it was in a White Stripes video clip, or if H R Giger had created it while using Ketamine and drinking Pink Rabbits…AI can create that as well.
It basically takes a massive number of images and uses machine learning to create artwork based on whatever prompts you put it.
Clearly the success of this is based on:
a) the images the machine learning has access to,
b) the ability of the user to create prompts that the machine learning understands, and,
c) the processing power and intelligence of the machine learning to create something that is actually what the user is after.
Parts a) and c) are clearly the domain of the AI tool that you’re using…but the ability to write prompts that it can use, is a skill you can learn…and so that’s what I set about doing.

An early attempt where instead of photo of me in the style of Annie Lebowitz or Wes Anderson…it created a composite of me, Annie and Wes. Not great.


The platform I went with was as it was one of the more user friendly options for those of us who can’t code.
I uploaded about 15 photos of me from my phone, from a variety of angles and in a variety of environments, and then let the tool use some of its default prompts to create some images of me.
I think it’s fair to say my expectations were pretty low, most of the examples I had seen to this point were on social media, and were very much of the ‘Ermagerd! What is even happening with this?!’ variety. So I was genuinely surprised when at least three of the images made me think ‘I wish I’d taken that photo!’

Just my usual Friday night attire
From my ‘Dress like Klaus from Umbrella Academy’ phase
When Vivienne Westwood shaved and dressed me

Now, was this because they made me look about 15 years younger and with cheekbones you could juice an orange on? Yes…that certainly didn’t hurt.
But ultimately, I actually really liked the way they looked, and I have to stress, this wasn’t a case of just taking one of my images and putting it in a different context…none of these images of my face existed before, let alone the feathers and accouterments that accompanied them!

But what does this mean for photography?

Once I got past the ‘Machine learning does the darnedest things!’ stage, I started to think about what it meant for one part of photography that I love – portraiture.
At its most base form, when I take a portrait of someone, I bring together a range of elements (the person, the environment, the lighting), capture them with a machine (a digital camera), and then use software to bring that photo to life (adjust the contrast, make it black and white, add a vignette, etc).

Is that really so different from what this AI tool had just done?
What would happen if I entered one of these photos in a portrait competition?
What it the line between ‘digitally enhanced’ and ‘artificially created’?

I didn’t actually know…but it did give me a great idea for a portrait!!

The portrait

Any time I look at the work of great portrait photographer (Simon Schluter…I’m looking at you!) I’m always really impressed by the way they can build an image from the ground up in order to tell a story.
I’m very comfortable just capturing an image of someone and hoping it tells a story, but actually setting out from the get go to tell a specific story with a photo, and building everything around it…that’s really not a strength I have.
But I suddenly had a vision of an image where I was surrounded by the AI portraits of me, as a reflection of what I was wondering about what the future held as a photographer. When I came up with the idea of the title ‘Self portrAIt’…I knew I had to make this happen.

The first step was to get a selection of the AI portraits printed in a way that I could use for a photo. I went with canvas prints with a wooden frame so that I could stand them up, or hang them from something.
Next step was to work out a background. In my dreams it was a big, austere room with the photos suspended around me…given the complete absence of large austere rooms available with a budget of $0, I settled for a white sheet suspended behind me in our backyard, with the photos suspended from the monkey bars the kids used to play on.
Artistically, I was going to shoot with my trusty softbox so that I could make it look dramatic by just picking me and the photos up with the flash, while everything else fell off to black/grey.
Technically, I was going to shoot it on the GFX 100S I had on loan from Fuji for another project…and the GF32-64mmF4 lens (equivalent to a wide angle lens on a full frame camera).

Cool plan…so how did it go?

As you would expect…badly. First of all, screwing little hooks through canvas into wooden frames is about as much fun as it sounds…but perhaps more importantly, securing these frames to monkey-bars via fishing line is a freaking nightmare, and the fishing line just cuts through masking tape, and was slipping through the electrical tape we had. It is only through the patience of Josh (my eldest son) and the wonders of gaffer tape that were were able to suspend them where we wanted them.

The next weird problem was that the wide-angled lens that I had thought would be perfect…was actually too wide, and was showing a lot more of the monkey bars and sheet than I had hoped. Fortunately I also had the GF80mm F1.7 lens to work with…and it was a freaking revelation!

Last but not least, having waited for the sun to go down sufficiently so that the white sheet background didn’t have any bright spots on it, and my flash wasn’t having to work overtime trying to knock out too much ambient light. My flash decided now would be the perfect time to ignore my wireless triggers, and not fire when I pressed the shutter.

* Insert gif from Brooklyn 99 of Peralta saying ‘Cool…cool, cool, cool’ *

So we reset the camera to work with the natural light, and Josh diligently took multiple photos while tried a variety of poses and facial expressions.
It’s a testament to my inability to self-direct facial expressions, and the frankly dazzling file sizes on the GFX100S that we managed to fill a 128GB card with photos that were roughly 5% different from each other!

The result

After going through hundreds of photos that felt like they were exactly the same photo…I came down to these as my faves.
Huge props go to Katie for getting me to actually interact with the pictures in that first one. Where most of my photoshop attempts look like bad photos…thanks to the fishing line, this photo was suddenly looking a bad photoshop. But actually getting my hands on them, showed that there weren’t just digitally inserted.

Option 1
Option 2
Option 3

So now the million dollar question -Which is your favourite and why?

Best photos of 2021

It’s perhaps a good indication of the sort of year that 2021 was, that when I looked at some photos from January, I genuinely didn’t believe they had been in the last year.
‘A photo of Uncle Jack Charles?! Wasn’t that 2 years ago!?’
‘A family camping trip to Wilson’s Prom? Didn’t we got to Narnia this year?’
Time and reality were at best ‘fluid’ for 2021, and at worst…well…2021. A LOT of time within 5kms of the house, and VERY little time feeling relaxed and inspired enough to get creative.
But there were still photos to be had and moments to be captured, so without further ado and in no particular order, here are my top 10 photos of 2021!

Uncle Jack Charles

Admittedly it’s statistically impossible to take a bad photo of Uncle Jack…it’s still awesome when you do. If nothing else, it means you’ve had the chance for him to tell you a story about how being able to read and write offered him protection in Pentridge…or his first ever play at the Pram Factory…or about being a cat burglar.
He’s a genuine source of light, enthusiasm and warmth, and I think this shot captured that.

Uncle Jack Charles

The Prom

The focus for this trip to Wilson’s Prom was our first ever overnight hike…and so I decided to leave my camera gear at home and live or die by the iPhone.
This meant that on one day I was returning from a walk, when Katie and the kids were heading off in the kayaks. The sun was setting over the hills in the background, the kids were my mid-ground…and Katie was the foreground. The moment was only going last a few seconds, but that’s all it takes to take your phone out and take the shot!

Bear and cubs

Shantilly clad

If you’re a ‘proper’ photographer taking photos at a gig, you’re normally only allowed to take shots for the first three songs (don’t ask my why…I don’t make up the rules). Which usually means you’re frantically trying to get as many shots as you can for those three songs. But if you’re taking photos at a venue like the Wesley Anne, you can actually take the time to experiment and get something different!
In this case it was the old ‘hold a lens in front of your camera and take a shot through it’ trick.
Also this is a band called ‘Shantilly Clad’ who sing sea shanties…I had to make sure they made the top 10, purely for their name.

Shantilly Clad at The Wesley Anne

Preston fog

We have the level crossing removal work going on in Preston at the moment (for people outside of Melbourne, we have things called ‘level crossings’ that basically stop traffic to allow trains to go through…and we’re getting rid of them by elevating the train lines so that the trains can travel unimpeded…and cars can be stuck in traffic caused by other cars, rather than by trains). On one night had some really heavy fog, and I had borrowed a friends 12mm Samyang lens…and so I thought I’d put on my ‘street photographer’ hat and get some shots.
I was having some issues working out how to get the lens to focus when about 10 metres in front of me, this guy walked out of his front gate in a long coat and golf-cap. With his collar turned up and the thick fog, he looked like something from a le Carre spy novel and I tried desperately to get a shot. But by the time I’d sorted the focus, he was already too far away and so I took this shot as I walked after him.
I knew the shot I wanted to get, and this wasn’t it…but when I looked back at the photo a few days later…I really liked it.

As close to a ‘pea souper’ as we get in Preston.

Seagulls on the Portland pier

With the exponential improvements in camera technology, the ability to take a great photo has never been easier. So a lot of the challenge is now being there to take the photo…and having the patience to wait for the moment to play out.
I had originally been trying some long exposure shots, until I realised that the whole pier actually moved with the waves, and so getting a non-blurry long exposure was going to be impossible. I saw a few seagulls at the end of the pier under the light, and so I sauntered over to compose my shot, then waited for more to arrive. When enough had arrived I thought I had my shot…but then a few took off and I realised that was the shot I wanted. So I waited a bit longer until this moment.
It’s something that I’ve learnt from years of doing video work, sometimes you have to set up a shot, and then wait for someone or something to populate it. If this means you have to sit on a cold pier for an extra 10 minutes while local teens chuckle at the guy on all fours looking at seagulls…then this is the sacrifice you have to make for your art!

Patience is a virtue

Strike a pose

After years of taking photos, I would say I am very confident in my ability to capture a candid moment. An unscripted, spontaneous moment. But ask me to create that moment…and my confidence evaporates.
Getting people to pose in a way that makes them look good, is really hard!
So I watched an instructional video from Lindsay Adle and dragged Holly out in front of the camera…and this was one of the shots that I got.
There were a number of shots that didn’t work, and it was really interesting to see how a comfortable pose can make for an unflattering photo, while poses that felt terribly contrived looked great in the final product.

Strike a pose

Sunset over sea

It’s fair to say that the wind blows strong at Sandy Point…and usually onshore. So any day where the wind is down and the swell is up has to be taken advantage of. On this day we had arrived just after lunch and spent the arvo in the surf. After dinner I went down to the beach to take some photos and the surf looked so good, I ran back to the house, put the still damp boardshorts back on and charged back to the surf with Josh.
It was magic! The waves were being held up by a slight offshore breeze and the sun was setting through them just before they broke. It was a constant battle between catching the waves and capturing them.
This shot was taken on the GoPro as the last light from sun set over a softening sea.

One of the many advantages to an early evening surf session

Lisa Mitchell at the Corner Hotel

As someone who has attended quite a few gigs at the Corner Hotel in Richmond, it was pretty exciting to get to take some photos there. I demonstrated just how excited I was by taking about 15,000 photos.
I really love this shot because it shows some of the things I’ve learnt over the last 5 years.

  • When an opportunity presents itself…take it! Up until about 10 minutes before this gig I was still trying to sort out a problem for a job the next day, and nothing would have been easier than saying ‘no’ to travelling to Richmond on Thursday night to take some unpaid photos.
  • Try not to take the same photo again and again. Get low, get wide, get tight, look for reflections or interesting framing. I know I missed a few shots changing to get onto the wide-angle lens…but it was worth it!
  • Compostion counts – I was in ‘the pit’ (the fenced off section between the stage and the crowd) with two other photographers, and I had to work to get this position right in front of Lisa and then frame her between the foldback speakers
Lisa Mitchell at the Corner Hotel

Danny Ross

I’ve been lucky enough to have Danny Ross ask me to take photos of a few of his gigs. In a year when live music has taken such a pounding, getting to see Danny play live was a constant reminder of just how important live music is.
Up until this gig, I’d never taken shots of Danny with a proper lighting rig..and the way so much of this shot is blown out and faded but Danny’s face is still exposed properly…lets me know that I made the most of the opportunity.

Danny Ross at The Corner

After the storm

One of my COVID-19 habits has been to walk almost every day past ‘The Tannery’ skate park in Preston. It’s basically an abandoned lot that some local skaters have converted into a skate park.
I was on one of these walks just after a storm had passed the through and decided to duck in and see if there were any photo opportunities. The setting sunlight was diffused by all of the moisture in the air and the in the calm after the storm there was water on the ground and no wind in the air, making for the perfect conditions for a ‘reflection’ shot.
It was then just a question of getting down low and getting the framing right, setting the iPhone to RAW, convincing the dog to stop walking through shot…and then taking the photo.

Reflections and post-storm light

So there you go. 2021 in 10 photos. Three photos of live music, two photos on the phone, one on the GoPro, one on a $10K camera I borrowed from Fuji, and one on a lens borrowed from a friend. Pretty reflective of a year where it was hard to plan for anything, you had to take your opportunities where you found them, and where family and music were the most important things!

My National Photographic Portrait Prize photo

This year I was fortunate enough to be a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPPP), and I thought I might let you all take a peek behind the curtains at how the photo came to be.
Now clearly I’m setting myself up to fail a bit here, if you’ve come to this blog because you’re interested in the NPPP, then you’re probably relatively au fait with photography, and so will be pulling your hair out when I’m explaining why I went with a 56mm f1.2 lens…and for people who are regular readers of my blog, you’ll probably be saying ‘I don’t even know what f1.2 means, and I care even less about why you went with f5.6 for this photo. Just tell me how I can take a similar photo!!!’
But you’re all stuck at home and looking for distractions, and I managed to get an entry into a nationwide portrait competition using a 6yo APS-C camera, so you can all shut your pie-holes and read on…then complain bitterly in the comments section.


Now clearly, what I would love to say is ‘I had a clear vision for this photo. I wanted the rabbit to represent new life / innocence / modern cuisine, and I spent hours on the lighting setup at the studio I hired. Then I said to the model (who was was incredibly excited to be working with a photographer of my calibre) “Give me a look that is simultaneously; strong, vulnerable, stoic, protective and beguiling.” Then I nailed it in one shot, and my team of assistants packed away the gear while I lay on a chaise-lounge contemplating my brilliance’.
But the truth of the matter is that Katie (my wife) wanted a few headshots for a conference she was presenting at, so I set up my soft-box in the kitchen, and when I had finished I asked if the kids would pose for a few photos. Holly (my daughter) asked if she could go and get ‘Pebbles’ (her rabbit) and I thought that could be fun. So I took some photos of the two of them.

Holly and Pebbles

The tech stuff

The light – About 7 years ago I bought some second-hand flash gear. This included; an Alien B strobe, a soft-box, beauty dish, ring light and stands. I think I have probably used the beauty dish and ring light about 4 times in total since then…mainly because I just don’t seem to be able to make people look good with them.
But the soft-box I love! It always makes people look great, and I’ve found a setup that allows me to use a blank wall in our kitchen as the background.

The lens – When I made the move to Fuji four years ago, I used one of Zack Arias’ guides as to what to buy. In the end I went with; the 35mm f1.4 as my carry around lens and proxy ‘nifty-fifty’, the 50-140mm f2.8 to give me some zoom if I’m shooting weddings or anything I can’t get up and close and personal with, and the 10-24mm f4 for anything wide. These three lenses pretty much covered off every eventuality and would get me into and out of as much trouble as I could hope for as a photographer.
So the fact that I also purchased the 56mm f1.2, is very hard to justify! With enough light I’m never really going to need f1.2, and the 85mm focal distance is covered by the 50-140mm. So this really was a vanity purchase. I have always loved taking photos of people, and to have a lens that is almost exclusively designed for this purpose was too great a temptation. Plus, as a 40th birthday present to myself, it seemed a lot cheaper than the Porsche 911 I was also hankering for.
So any time I get to use this lens, there is a degree of ‘See?! I told you I needed it!’

The Fuji 56mm f1.2 on my trusty X-T1

The setup – I basically try to get the light as close to the subject as possible. Given that I’m shooting in my kitchen, and I can’t move the bench that people are sitting at, or the wall behind them, I find that getting the light as close as possible to them gives me the softest light on them, and the best fall-off of the light on the wall behind them. A better photographer would be able to quantify and explain this…but I did NOT win the yr 10 drama prize by being good at STEM!
The light is above and the left of the subject (from my perspective and is on about 60 degree angle. This is due to the hypotenuse of a triangle being relative to Gould’s Law of thermodynamics, and…nah…just kidding, I just like it being there.

In hindsight, it was probably a bit lower and a bit more front on for the actual shot.

Settings – f5.6 (because anything lower and it gets overexposed…and in this case, it also meant I got both Holly’s eyes and the rabbits eye nice and sharp!), ISO200 (because that’s as low as I can get it on X-T1 in RAW) and 1/180 because that’s as fast as I can go and still sync with the flash.

The pose

Having seen all of the finalists in this year’s NPPP I realise how lucky I was to make the cut. I get the distinct feeling that about 90% of them would have been great photos no matter what their subject had done. They have put time and effort into the story-telling part of their photo, and the subject is just completing it. Whereas my entire photo hangs off Holly’s expression. I do pride myself on being able to get people comfortable in front of the camera so that I can catch those candid little moments. But as I said earlier, this was not part of a grander plan, and I can only thank Holly for being such an amazing person to photograph.

The post-production

Any time I’m doing a workshop, or working with people who are new to photography, I see how blown away they are by what a little post-production can do. I’m also regularly dazzled by people who think that any sort of post-production is ‘cheating’.
So if you’re from the ‘post-production is cheating…in the olden days they just relied on what came out of the camera, blah, blah, blah’ school. Then rest assured that I shot this on some Agfa Scala 200x film and then spent time in my dark-room sniffing chemicals and adjusting my exposure times.
If you’re comfortable with a digital world, then I’ll tell you that I used a VSCO emulation of the Agfa scala 200x film in Lightroom and then played around with the colour temp, exposure, clarity etc

The joys of Lightroom

What’s next?

Now that I’ve supped from the NPPP cup and felt the thrill of having someone who isn’t directly related to you saying that they like one of your photos…I want more…MORE!
So I’m already planning a few more extravagant portraits shoots, and would definitely like to have a play with a camera with a bigger sensor to see what difference that really makes.
But with the current restrictions on travel and meeting people outside of my immediate household…it may be time to bust out the soft-box and demand the kids stand in front of it again!

Being a finalist in the NPPP

About a month ago, I was working with one of my videographers on the pre-production of a tricky video we were shooting the next day, when my mobile rang. The number came up as ‘Unknown’ and the location was Canberra, and so I assumed it was a telemarketer. This impression was in no way diminished when my videographer looked at my phone and said ‘Oooh, someone’s about to save some money on their electricity bill!’
So I think it’s fair to say that my tone when answering the phone was dripping with ‘You’re wasting my very important and valuable time…please sod off!’ But then the person at the other end of the line said ‘Hi this is Tara from the National Portrait Gallery, and I just wanted to say congratulations, you’re a finalist in this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize!’

If you’ve ever seen a Hollywood car chase where the driver is flying along in reverse and then does an epic skid while spinning the car around and changing into a forward gear, then speeding off in one fluid move.

via Gfycat

I was now attempting to do the conversational equivalent of this, as I tried to desperately go from ‘Go away telemarketer!’ to ‘Oh my God this amazing, thank you so much!!!’ with the additional degree of difficulty offered by trying to do this while walking swiftly through an open-plan office trying to find an empty meeting room.
I think my response of ‘Oh…that is good’, really nailed it in terms of conveying how excited I was to have been selected as a finalist, and in no way sounded like I was an underwhelmed jerk who was learning English through an iPhone app.
Thankfully, responding to good news like a human being wasn’t one of the pre-requisites for the NPPP, and so I’m still a finalist. Seeing as this isn’t a position I ever expected to be in, I thought I’d take you through how I got here.
BUT SPOILER ALERT – I can’t post the photo that made it to the final 48. So it isn’t in this post!!!

4 generations have worked this farm, and I got to meet three of them.

In it to win it

I never buy a Tattslotto ticket on the basis that I have basically the same chance of winning whether I buy one or not. My approach to entering photo competitions has been pretty similar. That’s not to say that I haven’t had friends and family say things like ‘Oh you should enter that in a competition!’ or just send me links to photo competitions via Messenger saying ‘That photo you took of *insert thing here* would be perfect for this!’.
But these same people say things like ‘No of course the haircut looks great!’ and ‘This is delicious…you can hardly taste that it’s burnt’…so their opinion only carries so much weight.
Plus, have you seen the photos that are being submitted? They’re really freaking good! Who the hell am I to enter a competition and nominate myself as being in their league?
Not to mention you have to spend more money on an entry fee than a lotto ticket…and you have to spend a LOT more time filling in the entry form on a photo competition than you do on a lotto ticket.

My Uncle John, on his brother’s 80th birthday

But this year I made a commitment to actually enter a few more photo competitions, because ‘Oh but everyone else is so good!’ is just another way of saying ‘I’m too scared to enter, but I want to sound magnanimous about it!’ If there’s one thing I wish I’d learnt earlier, it’s that opportunities don’t fall into the laps of the lazy and introspective…they go to the people who actually take a risk and put themselves out there.
It’s also actually a pretty good reality check. In Lightroom I normally rate my photos from 1-5 stars. Any 1-2 stars are deleted, 3 stars are given another look, and if they don’t get bumped up to a four they’re deleted. I think it’s fair to say that my social media feed is pretty much all my four star photos, and I get about a dozen 5 star photos per year. But for a photo competition you need to go through those 5 stars and hope that someone else sees the same things that you see in it.

My first attempt at a long-exposure portrait

The cull

I managed to cull my favourite portraits for 2018-19 down to 20 photos, and this was quite a fun process. You get to sit down and go through all of your photos for the year and pick out ones you really like. The next step is not so much fun, you have to start eliminating photos that you really like, and this is even less fun when you have to start getting rid of photos of family members, or choosing between photos of your kids, or getting rid of photos that you know took a lot of effort to take.
I managed to get the list down to 12, and then took it to my family for feedback. They were of course politely brutal and got it down to 7. I then sent this list of 7 to my Graphic Design, Social Media and Video teams at work and asked them for their top three. Herein lies the challenge inherent in asking people to judge artistic endeavour…people like different things. So seven different people came back with 6 different top threes, which was not super helpful. But all 7 had the same photo in their top 3, which was VERY helpful.
A smart person would have just entered that photo, but because I like to make more work for myself, so I entered three photos (but for the record, the one that everyone chose, is also the one that the judges chose!)

Double exposure portait

The photo

I know most of you are probably just reading this and saying ‘stop talking about your bloody culling process and talk about the photo!’ Well the simple truth of the matter is that the photo that was chosen as a finalist is actually embargoed until the winner is announced in March (so I will be adding it to this blog then…but not before), but I think that I can safely say it was a photo of one of my kids (about 80% of my photos are of the kids, so I don’t think that’s giving too much away).
It was taken on my Fuji Xt1 with the 56mm f1.2 lens, and as much as I would love to claim otherwise, it was not pre-conceived or meticulously planned. I had set up my soft-box to take a different photo, and when this opportunity presented itself, I took it.
I would never claim to have the technical skill to manufacture a great portrait, but I do feel I have the personality required to create an environment where a great portrait can happen.

Man in a hat.


As part of the submission you have to have the consent of the person in the photo (one of the reasons I never entered this photo of Uncle Jack Charles is because even though he was happy for me to take his photo, I’ve never been able to get onto him to explicitly say he was happy for me to enter it into a competition!)

Uncle Jack Charles

It can be really easy to just say, well they’re my child, so I’m sure they’re happy for me to use the photo. But just as I always ask my kids before I post an image of them on social media, I’d asked my kids if they were happy for me to enter the photos.
I won’t lie, it does feel weird asking your kids for permission to do something. But I think it’s really important for kids to have control over how they are portrayed to the world, I would have hated to have had numerous moments of my life documented and sent out into the world to live on forever without my permission. It’s also a good opportunity to show how a single photo can suddenly take on another life outside of your control once it’s in other people’s hands.
So parents, get your kids consent before you post that next photo of them on Instagram, they’re the ones who are going to have to live with it.

I would love to claim I can both do a tie and take a photo…but in truth this photo was taken by Luke Vesty

So now what?

Well now I have to get the photo printed and mounted ready for exhibition. And book a trip with the family to Canberra for the big event at the National Portrait Gallery. And spend a LOT of time working out how I can weave the terms ‘serendipity’ and ‘lyricism’ into my descriptions of my own photo. And retrospectively charging friends and family for any photos I may have taken of them (it’s only fair, and I’m sure they’ll understand).
But most of all I’m going to celebrate the fact that one of my photos is going to be hanging in the National Portrait Gallery, and then going on tour around Australia.
And that’s pretty amazing!!!

Swimming self-portrait

My top photos of 2017

There’s nothing like scrolling through all of your photos for a year to make you realise how much has happened in 12 months; 40th birthdays, 66th birthdays, weddings, first days of school, international travel, trips to the beach, rain, sunshine, surf, posed portraits, spontaneous moments, and best of all…photos that make you sit back and think ‘Man, I’m really happy with that shot!’
So of the 3,447 photos that made it through the culling process of this year, and the 192 that were given the coveted ‘5 star rating’ in Lightroom, here are my 20 favourite photos of 2017.

Josh does his Felix Baumgartner impersonation

Josh jumping off the tower at Blairgowrie

There is a decent period after you’ve bought new camera gear, when you are absolutely terrified of getting it wet/dusty/cold/hot. So you miss shots because you’re not willing to take a risk. Then at the other end of the spectrum is when you’ve had a camera for so long that you’ll wade into the ocean and takes shots not caring what happens to it…but also knowing, that its best days are behind it, so you may not get the shot you want.
But there is also a wonderful mid-point where you a camera will take the photo you want, and that you’re willing to hang over your shoulder as you jump from one rock to another over waste deep water and then scramble up a rock tower to take a photo of your 11yo son jump from a feet-tingling height. I’m at that point with my Fuji XT-1…and it’s a very happy place.
I was also really happy with this shot, as the tide was coming in and if we stayed much longer in that spot we were going to get stranded, and so I knew I only really had one chance to get it. So no pressure…no pressure at all.

Danny Ross at the 303 Bar

Danny Ross at the 303 Bar on the 56mm

My brother in law, Will, was playing drums with Danny Ross for a show at the 303 Bar in Northcote. I will never pass up an opportunity to take photos of a band, because there are always moments in a live performance that give you an insight into who the musician really is, and if you can capture them…they usually make great images. Also, guitars are cool.
Over the course of the night I shot, wide, I shot tight, and shot from up high and down low, from outside and inside (no really I did), but it was this shot that I took between two people that really worked.  The two shoulders provide a perfect shadowy frame for Danny, plus the light is hitting him enough to illuminate his face under that distinctive hat…and he has an ever so slight rock n roll sneer on his face.
In truth, this photo is a mess in colour…but black and white really provides some focus!

Walkerville cave portrait

Beach life be like…

If you’re new to photography and want to try to create a quick and easy ‘arty’ portrait, get someone to stand somewhere where it’s dark but there is a single source of light (a recessed doorway, open garage door, or in this a cave with a hole in the roof), get them to look towards the light, and then expose your shot for their face (or just set your autofocus point for their face) and the resulting shot will knock out the background enough for you to make to their face really  pop…but with just enough ambience to give some context.
Of course you do still have to convince someone to crawl into a dark cave that smells of rotting sea-weed…but that’s why you have kids!!

A440 (there is a prize to the first person who can explain this photo title…it’s GENIUS!)

Songrise singing at Katie’s 40th

If you have ever tried to take a photo of someone giving a speech, you will know that what looks perfectly normal in real-life can look mortifying as a still image. The blink of an eye, the movement of someones mouth, or a gesture with their hand can make them look drunk, psychotic, lecherous or constipated. The same can be said for singers, although to a lesser extent because they tend to hold facial expressions and emotions a bit longer as they hit certain notes…and because they usually want to be singing, whereas people who are making a speech would usually rather be anywhere else doing anything else. So taking a photo of a singer is easier…but then when you add another singer, the difficulty increases exponentially…now you need to capture a moment where two people look great…then you add another person…and then another…and one of them is your wife…and it’s her 40th birthday party.
No pressure…no pressure. Just capture an image in which all four people look great…and DO NOT STUFF THIS UP!

Fire twirling in North Melbourne

Spin those flaming balls…and drag that shutter

You know that feeling when you’re at your best mate’s 40.5th birthday and someone dressed in Polynesian attire starts doing tricks with two flaming balls…and you think to yourself ‘How am I going to get a good shot of this?’ Sure you do. It’s a predicament as old as time itself. Just go for 1/6 second, at f1.4 on a 35mm.
If you’re still saying ‘Wait. WTF is a 40.5th birthday!’ Then I think you and I can be friends.

Can you just sit there while I test the flash?

Lighting test

Any time I set up the flash for a portrait I ask one of the kids to sit in so that I can make sure it’s going to work, my brief is always ‘Just sit there, you don’t even have to look at the camera’. The combo of a photographer who isn’t telling someone what to do, and a subject who isn’t trying to be anything but themselves…invariably leads to some of my favourite photos.

Channeling Alain Laboile

The old take a photo of a reflection and then turn it upside down trick

I shamelessly stole this from Alain Laboile’s ‘Reflexion autour du bassin‘ series where he took photos of the reflection in a pool of water, and then turned them upside down so that the photo looked like a distorted version of the real world. After a hefty downpour here in Melbourne, the lane out the back had some massive puddles…and the kids were dressed in rain jackets and gumboots. So I got may chance to create my own ‘Reflection around the puddle’ series.

Turin Brakes

Gale Paridjanian at the Northcote Social Club

While I’m really happy with this photo, this one made the cut because I only got it by having the chutzpah to call a festival promoter and ask for a press pass so that I could shoot it. So I got to spend the first three songs right at the front taking photos of one of my favourite bands…and this shot further assuaged my guilt about buying the Fuji 56mm f1.2 lens.

In the surf with Josh

Boys in the surf

There are few places I love being more than in the surf. But with young kids, going to the beach becomes more of a ‘let’s build sandcastles and wade in the knee-deep water’ than ‘let’s head out the back and try to catch some decent waves’ experience.
But the body-boarding bug has bitten Josh, and he’s now strong enough to venture out into the surf with me. In this shot we had made the decision to paddle furiously over a wave, rather then trying to duck under it after it had broken. It had been a close run thing, and we very nearly had the wave break right on top of us, but we’d made it and we were both very happy with ourselves…and the GoPro captured it.

Kids, France and trampolines

The best cure for jetlag

It took about 30 hours to get from Melbourne to Paris, and then a terrifying drive for 2 hours in the dark to get to our accom in Normandy. But when we woke up the next morning the kids discovered that there was a trampoline and took to it immediately. So this was among the first photos I took for our trip…and it was probably my favourite! Even though you can’t really see either of their faces…you just know they’re smiling from ear to ear. Because…well…tramampoline!

Normandy beaches

Holly atop one of the enormous walls at low-tide

I would love to claim that I saw this scene and said “Holly, quickly go over there and climb that ladder and then hang off the handle at the top as if you’re in a musical from the 1960’s!” But in truth, I was pretty much waiting for her to get down so that I could take a landscape shot…and stop worrying about her falling off!
But as is so often the case, a landscape looks a whole lot better with a person in it, especially someone who can inadvertently strike a pose like this.

Tuba flamethrower

Just a man, playing a tuba, with flames coming out the top.

It’s a man in a top hat, playing the tuba, with flames coming out of the top, in London…of course it made my top 20!

The test shot

Lady in red, with a blue bag, and blonde hair, surrounded by green walls.

The plan was to get Katie to walk towards me and I would get the shot just as she came through the doorway, so I was just doing a test shot to make sure my focus was going to be right…and it turned out to be a much better photo than the one I had planned.

Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel through a 56mm

It’s pretty hard to get a shot of Mont St Michel that hasn’t been taken a thousand times, so here’s one that hopefully only been taken 995 times. A friend of mine showed me this trick of holding a lens in front of the the camera and then taking a shot of what the lens can see.

A bird and an old man

A bird slowly circles through the fog on the Isle of Skye

We all got up early and made our way to the Old Man of Storr. When we got there we were one of 3 cars in the car park, so we knew we wouldn’t be fighting off the crowds. We were however fighting one 6yo who wanted to make it very clear, that he didn’t want to be there. The weather was also ranging wildly from foggy, to drizzling, to raining and all points in between. I only have one weather-proof lens and that’s the 50-140mm, and I was having to stop pretty regularly to explain to the angry 6yo that ‘No, this wasn’t a stupid idea. No, I’m not stupid. No, everyone isn’t stupid. No, we can’t turn around and head back. No, that’s not stupid.’
So this is a long way of saying that my photo options were limited…but when I saw this burn circling in the mist, I had a vision of a Tolkienesque image and was really happy with how it came up.

Highland coo

Highland cow on the Isle of Skye

I love these cows. The look like the bovine version of the guitarist from a 90’s shoe-gazer band. One of my goals for our trip up to the North of Scotland was to get a shot of one these fine beasts. But our drive from Glasgow to Skye, while offering some amazing potential cow action, was so fraught with traffic issues that the opportunity to just pull over and take a photo just didn’t present itself. Having done a lap of the Isle of Skye and still not got a photo of a Highland Cow, I had pretty much given up all hope. Then on our way to our final stop on the Isle of Skye we came across this fine specimen just next to the road. So I hopped out and grabbed this shot, and all was right with the world.

Steam punk

A steam train backing out of the NYMR yards in Pickering

There is something magical about trains, and I can see why they fascinate people young and old (by which I mean, very young and very old). From a photography perspective they are a dream. Everything is on a massive scale, there is polished metal, steam, light & shade, history, and some amazing faces. This is my attempt at capturing all of that in one shot.

The headless bass player of York

The Hyde Family Jam take to the streets of York

After pouncing on the first coffee place we found at 9am in the morning, we had been traipsing around York all day and by 4pm we were pretty keen on finding another coffee emporium. But despite having seen quite a few in the preceding hours, suddenly there were none to be found. As we left the market in the centre of town we could hear a band playing the opening bars of Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take me out’. It’s a testament to how good these guys were that I actually chose taking photos of them, over getting a coffee (and people who know me, will know that I very rarely choose anything over coffee…least of all complete strangers). But with that late afternoon sun acting as a backlight, and their energy & enthusiasm, I knew I would get something memorable.

The Mae Trio

Maggie from the Mae Trio playing at the Wesley Anne

The Mae Trio’s ‘Take care, take cover’ was my favourite album for 2017…and that’s really saying something when this year saw new albums from The War on Drugs, The National and Iron and Wine. So I was pretty excited about snapping some shots of them when they played at the Wesley Anne in Northcote. Sadly the gig was actually a farewell for one of the band (Anita) and so there was a mix of celebration and melancholy on the night. I feel that this shot captured that. I also know that I manually set the focus and waited for a long time to capture capture Maggie looking up and getting that little bit of light in her eyes.
I got some photos from the night that I was really happy with, and deep down hoped that they might see them and feel so inspired by them that they immediately wrote a modern-day folk anthem called ‘Chris the remarkably good photographer’…but this hasn’t happened…yet…probably because ‘photographer’ is a really hard word to rhyme with.

So there we go. I’ve travelled the world, but taken some of my favourite photos really close to home. I’ve shot a fair bit of music, and clearly love converting them to black and white. I’ve tried new things, and refined some other things. I’ve shot three weddings, and quite a few corporate jobs. I’ve left my day job of 11 years, gone back to working 5-days a week in a new job, and started a podcast project.
So it’s been a big year, and I’d like to thank you all for your support…rest assured, I’ll be back in 2018.

My top 10 photos for 2014

2014 has been an interesting year of photography for me. On the one hand, training for the Ironman has left very little time to get out and take photos. But on the other hand taking part in The Age’s ‘Clique’ photo competition has meant that I’ve been forced to really push myself out of my comfort zone in terms who and how I shoot. Plus I shot my first wedding (there’s a blog on that coming soon). The net result is that I shot a lot more photos that I was happy with this year…so here are my top 10 in no particular order (if you’re having trouble viewing the images you can also find them here.)

#1 X & A

The X-man and Ashy. ISO 100, 50mm, f1.4 1/200
X & A. ISO 100, 50mm, f1.4 1/200

Probably the biggest change to my photography came with my purchase of the Zack Arias video series ‘Onelight 2.0’ It transformed me from someone who swore he would never shoot with a flash, to someone who suddenly saw the opportunities a flash presented. Like capturing that moment when a couple of 2 year olds give each other a big hug. On my normal settings I would have missed this. They would have been slightly blurred…or a little out of focus. But with the flash they were captured in this moment, and they both just look so freaking happy to be in each other’s company.

#2 Lightspeed at the roadhouse

Light speed at the roadhouse. ISO 640, 24mm, f2.8, 8sec
Light speed at the roadhouse. ISO 640, 24mm, f2.8, 8sec

I owe a pretty hefty debt to Luke Vesty for the idea for this one. We were on a two day roadtrip in regional Victoria and had decided to take some long exposure shots. Luke got an amazing shot of a truck driving past so all you could see was a road sign and the trucks red lights disappearing into the distance. Clearly I couldn’t steal his idea…but I could appropriate it! So this is my remix. I set up my shot of the roadhouse and then waited for a truck to come past. When it was about 500m away I took and 8 second shot…and this was the result.

#3 Selfish portrait

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

One of the Clique challenges was to ‘shine a light on something you are passionate about’. So I had the idea of getting a shot of me out on the cycling trainer with a long enough exposure that my legs would look blurred. In theory the idea was pretty straight forward…but it took about an hour of setting up the camera, pressing the button, then running over to the bike and pedalling until the shot was done, then getting off the bike and back to the camera to see if it had worked. Eventually it did and I love the final shot (the light on the back wheel is coming from my phone which I had set up against the trainer)…but was it worth the numerous mosquito bites? Probably not.

#4 Down at the Nieuw Amsterdam

Down at the Nieuw Amsterdam,
Down at the Nieuw Amsterdam, ISO100, 17mm, f2.8 & 1/6sec

Another Clique challenge was to take a photo of someone who worked from dusk til dawn, and you had to use available light (ie no flash). I have a friend at work whose husband runs a restaurant in the city called Nieuw Amsterdam and I asked if I could come in and take a photo, and she said no worries. So I traipsed into the city one Wednesday night and headed down to the cocktail bar at Nieuw Amsterdam, and discovered that while the bar had an awesome ambience…it was freaking dark. So I asked the barman if there was any way of getting some more light in to the bar ‘Will this do?’ he asked and put a brulee torch to a block of sugar. *snap* ‘Yep, that will do nicely.’

#5 Maxim

Maxim, ISO 100, 24mm, f2.8 & 1/80sec

This shot was taken at Josh’s birthday party. My children pretty much refuse to do anything that I ask in a photo…but that doesn’t mean I can’t ask other, more polite children to stand under a skylight and look up towards it. I originally wanted to use as a colour shot as there was heaps of brightly coloured lego in the background…but it worked so much better as a black and white.

#6 Show me the boy at 7 and I’ll give you the man

Josh, ISO 800, 55mm, f2.8 & 1/100

As mentioned in #5, my kids have pretty much decided that my interest in photography is just a ploy to annoy them. As such, I have at best 10 seconds to get any shot of them before they walk off…and, no, they won’t be taking any direction…what you see is what you get. And sometimes that is pretty awesome. There’s nothing special about this as a photo…but as a parent it’s exactly how I see Josh, and how I think I’ll see him in about 10 years time. So I’m so glad I’ve got this as a keepsake.

#7 Sir James

Sir James,
Sir James, ISO 100, 24mm, f2.8 & 1/160 (with flash bouncing off an umbrella)

Another big lesson for this year was ‘Don’t be afraid of autofocus’. I had always assumed that pro-photographers eschewed auto focus and manually focused all of their shots. But having spoken to a few photographers about this, they all had the same reaction ‘Wow, you’re focusing everything manually…I don’t do that!’

For this shot I was in near total darkness and had no scope to manually focus and so trusted the autofocus…and lo and behold the shots came out beautifully.

I had hired some flash gear for the weekend to take these shots, so I was shooting with gear I’d never used, following a technique I had just learnt from a video and I was taking photos of my father-in-law. So the scope for disaster was pretty spectacular, but if this year has taught me anything it’s that the more you push yourself, the bigger the rewards. My challenge with any portrait is to try and capture the essence of the person, and so in this shot I think you see someone who is content, confident, a bit cheeky and incredibly comfortable with a glass of wine in his hand. Which is pretty much exactly how I see James.

#8 The big sister

The big sister,
The big sister, ISO 200, 85mm, f1.8 & 1/200sec

Similar to the photo of Josh, this photo is incredibly important to me as it serves a record of how close these two are. Holly’s patience with Xavier is biblical, and Xavier’s adoration of his big sister is equally epic. In time this may change…but I’ll always have this photo.

#9 Harry Potter

Harry Potter
Harry Potter, ISO 200, 17mm, f6.3 & 15 secs

I can remember in my late teens I was having guitar lessons, and my teacher had given me a series of scales to learn. He explained that I could play the notes in pretty much any order and they would all work with each other as they are in the same scale. I worked on those scales for weeks…then one day I suddenly started to see the patterns in them and was suddenly able to create little solos by using the notes from the scales. It was like suddenly seeing how the magician did the trick. Suddenly things made sense.

This photo was a similar experience for me. I knew what I wanted to do with the shot, but couldn’t get the camera to do it. So I went to full manual mode and realised what I had to do. I changed lenses, I put the camera on a tripod, I manually focussed on the church, cropped the moon just out of the shot so that the overall shot was darker so that I could use a longer exposure, and I got this shot. Suddenly things made sense.

#10 Footjam Nosepick

Footjam Nosepick,
Footjam Nosepick, ISO 200, 42mm, f4.5 & 1/1,000sec

The final Clique challenge was to take a shot using a fast shutter speed, which again was something I’ve never really done before. So we headed to the Edinburgh gardens, and after watching the skaters for about 20minutes, I saw this guy on the BMX doing a few runs. He was pulling off some pretty awesome tricks, and so I decided he was my star. I watched him for a bit longer to work out where was a good place to take the shot (ie where I was close enough to a trick to get the shot, but not in the way of anyone else). Then I shot in bursts of 1/1,000. I got a couple of pretty good shots of him doing airs, and one of him grinding…but this was the hero shot.

I really like photos where the more you look, the more you see, and so if you look closely you notice his tatts, you notice the two skaters in the background watching him, and if you look really closely you see that he’s not using a hand-brake to keep his front wheel from moving, he’s jammed his foot between the tyre and the fork – a ‘footjam nosepick’.

In conclusion

So that’s my top 10 for 2014. I was really stoked to have my portfolio of photos for Clique make the final for the grand prize. But I was much happier with how many risks I was willing to take this year to work on my photography. From approaching relative strangers to be photographed, to taking on my first wedding, to trying new techniques and equipment…every risk I’ve taken has given me some reward. Now I just have to work out a way to get paid to do this on a regular basis so that I can afford to get some of these printed.

Thanks for following the blog this year, I know that it’s been pretty sporadic. But once I’ve got this Ironman done (in March 2015) I’ll have much more time to devote to creative pursuits….and hopefully 2015 will be an even better year for photography.

Shooting portraits

My favourite photography to look at and to take is portrait photography. I love the idea of trying to tell a story, or capture an emotion in a single frame. I recently took a whole lot of portrait shots at a family get together, and I was really happy with some of them. So ‘I’m No Expert, But’ here are my tips for shooting portraits.

1. Light
If you have a studio and lights then you are probably reading this post on an ironic level…so I’ll just provide advice for the rest of us.
Use whatever natural light you have available. So if there is a window in the room, make sure the subject is facing towards it (and obviously avoid placing the person in front of the window, as all the backlight will make their face comparatively dark).

2. Shallow depth of field
A shallow depth of field basically means that one part of your shot is very clear, while the rest is blurred. To me this allows you to make the persons face the focus of the shot…everything else is just background. The lower the f-stop you use, the smaller the area that is in focus. My lens can go to 2.8 so that is what I use. Some lenses can get down to 1.4, some can’t get lower than 3.5.
The challenge with using a shallow depth of field is that while it means that you have one area beautifully in focus…you need to make sure that it is the area that you want. I have a dazzling array of photos where the person’s hair is in focus…or their ear. When in fact what you want to capture is…

3. The eyes
This is where the connection is for me. The mouth can be smiling…but the eyes will always tell the real story…so make them the focal point of the shot.
If you can, try to get some ‘light in the eyes’. If people are looking towards the light you will see a reflection of this light in their eyes, which adds an incredible sincerity to the shot.
Steve McCurry is a great exponent of this.

4. Camera settings
If you have the time and ability, then by all means set your f-stop, aperture and everything else manually.
Personally, I use the ‘CA’ (Creative Auto) setting on my Canon. Then use the following:
Flash: Turned off
Background: Blurred as possible (this is the shallow depth of field I was talking about)
Exposure: Leave as is unless it is really dark or sunny…and even then, just move somewhere else
Picture setting: Monochrome (I really like my portraits in black and white). But only do this if you can work with RAW files on your computer.
File type: RAW+L This will give you a RAW file (in full colour) and a JPG in black and white (if you’re in the monochrome setting). A lot of people will tell you to shoot full colour and then desaturate the image to make it black and white. But I personally like to see the image in black and white as I shoot it…and if I suddenly need a colour version, then I can just save the RAW file as a colour jpg.
Shooting: Continuous (people’s expressions change in the blink of an eye…so it’s worth shooting a whole lot of shots, to get that one moment where you have captured something special).

5. Put yourself in their shoes
Imagine you are sitting in front of a camera, unless you are an extreme extrovert, you are going to be feeling a bit nervous…the photographer takes the photo, then says ‘No, that didn’t work’ or ‘We’re going to have to do that again’. How do you feel? I’m going to guess ‘not so great’. As the photographer you may have meant ‘I didn’t quite get that right’, or ‘I’ve got to change my settings’…but the damage has been done. You are now very unlikely to get a great shot of this person because that are going to be feeling awkward or self-conscious.
So always put yourself in the shoes of the person you are taking the photo of…if you wouldn’t like someone doing something to you, chances are they won’t like you doing it to them. And from a purely selfish perspective, you are going to get a much better photo of someone who is happy to be there and having fun.

I also think it’s worth making sure you get at least one photo that the person having their photo taken will actually want. Yes that photo of them in the middle of yawn ‘totally captured their inner child’ and yes that photo where pretty much everything is out of focus except for their left nostril is a fitting tribute to ‘the look you were going for there’. But you’re going to run out of people who are happy to let you take their photo pretty quickly if nobody likes how you’ve made them look.
So find some work that inspires you (I love cycling so Kristof Ramon , Veeral Patel, and Wade Wallace are a few of my faves) and get out there and try to capture some magic…then upload that magic to the internet…then wait for people to tell you that ‘you’re doing it wrong’.