Saturday, December 19, 2009

Return to beauty (redux) - Trang


Since my February post on beauty (and addiction thereto), I have had the pleasure of photographing Trang, an acquaintance of whom I have the highest esteem.

We met nearly three years ago and clicked almost immediately. In that time I have watched as she has gone through various situations including personal tragedy, career changes and recently, marriage to a wonderful young man, Han.

No matter what the situation there remains a certain constancy about her. She is kind, gentle of nature, funny, caring, generous of spirit, strong and loving.

She is the epitome of beauty in more ways than one.

A couple of months ago she asked me to photograph her wedding. In the ensuing discussion it became apparent that Trang had a distaste for the current in-vogue style of wedding photography practiced by most wedding photographers these days.

Instead, she preferred the images to capture what happens on the day. This fitted in with my own strongly held beliefs on wedding photography.

My personal philosophy is that once the photographer takes charge or 'directs' the scene, it is no longer the couple's day, but the vision of the photographer. My own preference is that the photography should record the authentic happenings of a sacred event on a special day.

Of course that does not preclude making a few formal or semi formal portrait images on the day. After all, weddings are a great opportunity to get images of family and friends who may not have come together for some time.

So a handful of so-called 'setups' may be ok. What I seriously object to is the overwhelmingly staged, contrived, controlled images which are a product of the photographer's idea of how the wedding should be, rather than a genuine, respectful observation of the day.

Now, that is not to decry the very talented practitioners of the other style. Far from it. I am in awe of the talent that some of those photographers possess. It is the style that I detest, not the talent or the photographer.

An analogy could be that while I acknowledge the great talents of musicians, there are obviously, like everyone else, some genres that I cannot stand. Likewise with photography - I can respect the artist, if not the style of the art.

So I was somewhat pleased when Trang voiced the same preferences.

Prior to the wedding day the three of us spent an afternoon in Melbourne as a kind of pre-wedding shoot. Ironically, this involved more 'direction' than the wedding shoot itself. Most shooters have it the other way around - a semi-relaxed pre -wedding shoot and a highly directed wedding! You just got to love irony.

Anyway, to cut the story short - the wedding was a delight. I spent the day with Trang and her lady companions (there's that addiction to beauty again) photographing whatever happened pre-ceremony, the actual ceremony and the reception. It was a joy to witness the event and I am grateful for the experience. It was one of the best weddings that I have ever attended.

As a bonus, they loved the images. Now that is always a relief!

Thank you both.

A little footnote for the photographers. The light at the reception was so low that the ISO was often around 4000 or so, lens at f2, shutter at 1/25th! Low is not the word!
This is where the recent tools such as the D700 come into their own.

The image below was 6400ISO, 1/200th at f2.8 on the 24-70 nikkor (set at 35mm), auto -white balance. Pretty capable little camera!

To Trang, Han and all lovers of beauty -
Stay safe

Monday, October 19, 2009

Random Melbourne


It has been a while since I last posted.

Life gets busy. Sometimes putting stuff on a blog isn't as important as doing other things.

Just to get back into the swing of things, here are a few random images from Melbourne.

Whenever I leave the front door of my home I have a camera with me - always! As Jay Maisel says - "It's hard to photograph without a camera".

So here are a few from various recent wanderings. All found, none staged.

Saw this guy walking through the Tulip gardens at the famous Tesselaars Tulip Festival. Loved the contrast between him and the plants.

Walking down one of Melbourne's alleys my eye caught sight of this RedBull can perched on wood attached to a wall. I just loved the way the paint and the colours of the can were made for each other. An artistic litterer perhaps?

Down another alley is this amazing piece of wall art. 'nuff said.

At my local beach they have been re-constructing the jetty. Most folk just kind of walk by. I like to get an image or two.

Saw this scene this morning. What's a man to do but get the shot? (see my February post about getting the shot - 'you either do, or you don't').
While the young chaps were facing the wall, several police officers were searching their vehicle. It's times like these you have to stand on your conviction to get the shot. The rather large man in uniform did not like to have his picture taken. Tough luck for him I say.
No amount of overbearing approach or attempts at intimidation should put you off doing what you have to do. Funny how they back down when you stand up for your rights. Bottom line - if you're not causing an obstruction to their duties and you are not breaking any laws yourself, then you have every right to make the image.

Note to Victoria Police public relations department - a courteous manner of speaking to members of the public who are going about their lawful business is always appreciated. Bad manners and a surly disposition are not.

Hopefully it won't be such a long time until my next post.

Until then -

Stay safe.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A 21 year old Cat


A very short update.

Today, May 12th,  is the twenty first anniversary of the birth of my youngest child.

When she was about three years of age I overheard a chat between her mother and a friend. They were watching Catriona and me and the friend commented how much I adored my daughter.

Her mother responded "Yes, Catriona has him wrapped around her little finger in a way that nobody else ever will".

She was right. Of course, things change over the years, but there is probably a small element of that remaining. I don't mind.

This first photo was taken when Cat (as she is generally known) was only seven weeks old. The image was made by her mother.

The second image was made by me on a recent trip to Scotland.

Every parent who reads this knows of the joys, sadnesses, laughter and tears of raising kids. You don't need me to remind you.

All I can say is that it is an amazing journey.

So, thank you Cat. Thanks too to your older brothers Will and Stew. To Lynda - thank you for giving me such wonderful children.

More than ever do I mean it when I say, with love -

Stay safe.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Scanning the memory bank


It has been a while since the last post.  You know how life sort of creeps up and steals your time.

Of course, since the last time I was here I have been incredibly busy. After all, walking on the beach, drinking coffee, seeing friends and acquaintances, interstate travel and playing with the cat can keep a fellow occupied for an eternity.

Naturally I have been out and about with a camera too.

One thing I have done since last time was acquire a decent scanner.  So among all the other things that have occupied my time, this week I have been experimenting with said scanner to figure out the best way of preserving images that were captured on film.

I have to say that I reckon this will be an interesting challenge.  It is also exiting to look at images from years ago and recall the circumstances that surrounded their creation. Some of the memories still make me smile.  

Some of the folk that I photographed are no longer with us.  Others are no longer in close contact.  Yet others are still friends. 

People change.  The world changes too.  So does how we view faces and places from the past.

Sometimes it is good to revisit them by means of an image, rather than a memory. 

I guess I have a bit of work ahead of me to digitize my 'pre-digital' photography.  It will be good to finally get it done and have some sort of backup of all the old stuff.

Problem is - I think that I will be too easily distracted when I come across some image that transports me to another place or to another face.

So it may be that I will post the occasional shot from the 'archives' here.  

Here are a couple of characters recorded on film and now captured on the scanner. 

                                                               Alaska Railroad - 1994

                                                                              Vanuatu - 1992

Old woman - 1980
This image was made with the first SLR camera I ever owned - a Ricoh Singlex TLS - ancient design even when it was new. FIlm was Ektachrome 64 (had a famous cool colour cast).  She was someone I met as I was walking down the street. Loved the lines on her face and hands.

Derani - 1995

Me - 1976, aged 17

It will be interesting for me to 'revisit' some of these images.  I have always thought that one of the underlying reasons that I have such a passion for photography is the desire to try to capture life as it passes - to 'stop' it if you will.  The only way I could ever think of doing that was to record a split second on a piece of film or now in a digital medium.

I am glad that I had that desire.

On a slightly sadder note - Carole, a dear acquaintance of mine lost a friend this week.  Her friend had lived with her and her family for almost a year as an exchange student here in Australia before returning home to Canada. Carole went to her friend's wedding last year.  Her friend was in an accident last week and was killed. So now Carole is back in Canada for the funeral.  Her friend was 25.

Why write this?

Simple.  You see, I have signed off every blog post with the same two words.  I started using those words as a kind of nod of respect to Carole.  She always used to say them when signing off from a phone call or when anyone she knew was starting a journey.  She meant them sincerely.

I spoke to her the day before she and her husband left for the funeral.  Even though she was in obvious pain, she still said them again.  

So Carole, for your journey, and to all others who may read this - 

Stay safe.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The dance goes on


Saturday night saw the annual 'Latin America' festival held in Frankston.

It is a colourful celebration showcasing music, dance, food and culture.  Last year I spent from midday until midnight there enjoying all the sights and sounds and photographing everything in sight.

This year I didn't realise it was on until I drove past the closed street where it is held.  So I spent a lot less time at it this year.  Still, I managed to get a few shots of the activities.

I guess that just shows that even if time is limited it is still possible to make images. 

All you have to do is make sure that you have a camera with you, that you are prepared to use it and most importantly, that you are open to the possibility that there are potential images everywhere if you are willing to see them.

Besides, what can be so bad about rocking up somewhere and photographing something?  I reckon it's a pretty good way of passing your time.  You might even get to meet a few interesting people.

Earlier in the week I went to the Cathy Lea School of performing arts.

 Made a few images for the project that I mentioned a few weeks back.  Didn't spend much time there - just an hour or so.  Helps the folks get used to a big stranger with a camera in hand.  
Now that I've been seen around the studios it will be easier to get shots of the students and instructors in a relaxed state.  The more they ignore me the better the images.

Street photography and photojournalism are a lot like that.  If you become almost invisible as a photographer then the chances of getting the shot increases.  That's what I reckon anyway. Ironically when you do blend in like that you still get a lot of people approaching and either posing or asking to be photographed.

Maybe it's because you appear less threatening when you blend in. Maybe they are just more comfortable.  Who knows?

I'm just glad that they do.

Stay safe.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Another perspective


In my experience I have found that most folk tend to have a certain view or perspective on life with which they are happy. Oft times nothing will budge them from their own cherished viewpoint.

(that laughter you hear is some of my acquaintances making thinly veiled references to pots and kettles being black)

No probs. Like everyone else I tend to make decisions, hold viewpoints and stick to them (at least until evidence appears which requires me to make an alteration to my perspective).

Photographers also tend to have a certain perspective on things. They may have a certain way of working that they are comfortable with and which results in images with a particular style. They may hold certain ideals to be true or may have been influenced by other photographers, artists, politicians, religious beliefs or political views. These can all bring a different view or perspective to the final image.

Then of course there is visual perspective in the image itself. This is achieved by a number of means. The most important is of course the camera to subject distance; not as commonly and erroneously held, the focal length of the lens being used.

One major constraint that is very common is the format of the camera. Over the years there have been a number of formats on the market. These include square formats, 'panoramic' formats and the most common which is a 3:2 rectangular ratio format.

It seems fairly common that a lot of photographers shoot with the 3:2 ratio in mind. Some have even stated that they would never crop an image; that it is somehow more truthful to have the entire image as captured by the camera displayed or printed. So the question is - does it have to be that way? If so - why? The image is captured in a format that was designed early last century. Who says it still has to be that way?

Modern digital SLR cameras have such a high quality of resolution that decent crops can be made while still maintaining enough detail to render a high quality image. Sure one can use a purpose built different ratio camera. The option to crop is there however and in the current equipment the quality of results has never been higher.

A couple of times lately this has been in my mind as I have been out and about with a camera. I find that thinking this way actually permits a bit more freedom in shooting. One can view a scene and not be forced to try to capture it in the constraints of the format dictated by the manufacturer of the tool being used.

The images on today's post were all cropped after capture. They were, however, made with the crop in mind. That is slightly different than making an image and deciding later that it would look better cropped.

The black and white image was also made with the camera set to monochrome. This forced me to look at the tones more so than the colours. True, some say always shoot in colour and convert later, thus having both options available. That is a pretty good philosophy. This time though, I decided to try to see the final image as a black and white one in a particular format.

Again it is all about thinking a little differently to one's normal pattern and seeing what results.

So try a little different perspective in your shooting. Look at the scene, not in the ratio of the tool you are using, but in a different mental ratio. I would be interested to hear what results are obtained by thinking just a little differently on this matter.

The final image, below, was not cropped. In a way it is still a different perspective on the scene.
The altered perspective in this instance can only be noticed by me and one other. It will not be readily apparent to the casual viewer. You see, as mentioned at the start of this post, we all have personal perspectives on things. Let me try to explain.

The first time I shot this wall several years ago, there was a friend standing beneath the sign. We had been having a meal one night at a nearby Chinese Restaurant and saw the sign up a laneway as we were walking back to the car. I was carrying a small compact digital and made an image of her standing and laughing because we both thought the words were somewhat appropriate.

I came across this laneway by accident again last week. I looked at the sign, smiled at the memory and made the image. Simple image, complex thoughts. Thoughts such as wondering what the heck happened.

The perspective is different not merely because one image is of a wall and a sign while the original, which I will not post, also had a beautiful woman in it. Rather, this is a different perspective in a symbolic, personal sense because she is in several ways no longer there.

I wish she was.

Stay safe.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The best tool for the job?


One of the most common conversations and questions one hears from wanna be photographers is around the subject of which is the 'best camera'. In fact there is a well known site dedicated to digital photography where the forum section is rife with comments from users of any particular brand of camera attacking other brands.

If half these forum users actually spent time using their equipment rather than talking about it, perhaps the quality of their images would improve.

Does it really matter to an individual which brand of equipment is used by someone else? Who cares what your friends use? Is it of such great importance that Mr. A uses brand X while Miss B uses Brand Y? Who gives a toss?

If the tools that you use do the job that you need them for, why care what anyone else uses? Furthermore, because you don't use another brand, does that really mean that it is inferior to your own choice?

Having said that, does that mean that one can't hold strong views on the ability of certain tools? No. Brand loyalty is a fact of the commercial world. Being satisfied with the purchases one makes and the subsequent ability of the equipment is actually vital. No matter what anyone says, we all have preferences which are based upon experience.

Likewise, the reputation of a company and its products can be severely damaged by just a few unfortunate occurrences.

For instance, the past year or so saw damage done to the reputation of Canon with severe focus problems in the 1D system. Those problems and the response of the company to those problems left a sour taste among many hard-bitten professionals.

Similarly, the length of time it took Nikon to produce its first so-called 'full frame' digital SLR, the D3, left many long time users less than happy.

In both instances many users decided to 'swap camps' and purchase the other brand.

This sort of thinking flows down to the amateur, where serious money resides for any successful company. It is in the realm of those amateurs where a lot of the petty 'brand wars' resides. One could almost be forgiven for thinking that these folk actually have large parcels of shares in the respective companies and therefore their well-being is dependent on the success of the company.

Now- none of that is to say that the tools are unimportant in the picture making process as some would have you believe. One should always try to use the best tool available.

If you shoot sports photography then there would be little point in trying to do so with a compact point and shoot. You would use equipment that aids you in doing sports photography. Similarly, if you worked exclusively in the studio, you would use the tools that best enable you to do so. If hand held low light work is your main area of concern, you would of course choose the camera that performed that function better than its competitors.

Don't get me wrong. I have used a particular brand for the last 28 years.  The brand has served me well.   During that time I have also used (and owned) many other brands and formats of cameras.  So I am fairly well entrenched in that one brand - Nikon.  It is not a blind loyalty, but one based on empirical information.

I do recognise however, that the main competitor, Canon, does have some wonderful equipment, particularly in the lenses.  They make good gear.   End of story.  I would not be confident however, about a lot of other brands.

The past few years have seen the end of some famous brands and serious shakeups in others.

Minolta disappeared to be reborn as Sony.  Sony have done remarkable well.

Just recently the company that tried to save Rollei, (Franke & Heidecke) filed for insolvency. Thus ends one of the all time great cameras.

Goodness knows how long Pentax will be around.

Leica recently announced the end of production of its current R-series cameras.   Perhaps they will replace it with another, or perhaps concentrate on the M-series as well as the larger format S-series.

That alone raises a serious question concerning Olympus.  While all other companies are following the trend toward bigger sensors due to the painfully obvious better quality of a larger sensor, Olympus chose to throw all its efforts in producing a system based upon a smaller format sensor.

Yeah, it may have sounded like a good idea a few years ago, but come on - a sensor with quarter the area of a 35mm image? Expecting that it can hold its own in image quality against larger sensors? Sorry folks. Unless some radical new technology comes along that will dramatically improve the quality, you have to be looking at a dead end format. Argue it anyway you like Olympus, but you're starting the game with a handicap.

Still, their cameras do perform well for certain uses. It's just that for serious blow up work, and especially high ISO work, they are at a disadvantage.

If a company lags in adopting new technologies it will not be long before it starts to feel the adverse results of such tardiness. Furthermore, the economic climate these days is such that even the largest of companies needs to show caution. It is a serious juggling of fiscal responsibility and spending to develop new equipment.

Who will be the major players in a year, or in two years?  Though I hate to say it, I tend to think that there may be more who disappear.   It is not a large stretch of the imagination to think that in a couple of years there will be the 'big three'  -  Nikon, Canon and Sony.  Any others will more than likely be bit players if they have survived.  Of course, there are no guarantees that any of the 'big three' will survive either, but they have more of a chance than the others.

So, what is the best tool for the job? What actually is the best camera?

That's an easy one to answer.  The best camera is the one you have with you that does the job you need to get done.   Simple.

Aside from using Nikon I also use a compact point and shoot camera from another manufacturer, Panasonic.   I rarely leave my front door without a camera on me.  If I don't take one of the more serious tools I will be carrying said compact.

The images on the post today were taken with that compact while I was on my usual evening stroll/run. They are not great works of art. There are obvious limitations to the image quality.

However - plainly I could not have made the images without having a camera with me. Therefore, the best camera for me at that time was my little compact.

I heartily recommend getting a compact camera if you don't already possess one.   Take it everywhere.  Who knows when the opportunity to use it may occur.  Perhaps then you will agree with the above comments on it being the best camera - at that time, at that place.

Oh, one more thing - brand loyalty can be a fine thing. Just stay away from those whose loyalty is a blind loyalty and who are concerned more with equipment than actually using it for its intended purpose.  Get out and make images instead!

Stay safe.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Follow the dance!


In the sixth chapter of 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen, a conversation takes place between Sir William Lucas and Mr. Darcy.

Sir William - "What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy!- There is nothing like dancing after all.-I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies."

Mr. Darcy - "Certainly, Sir;-and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world.-Every savage can dance."

That passage always amused me, as with one simple statement of fact a rather pretentious bubble was burst.

In fact every society has its form of dance - indeed most societies have a multitude of dance forms.

Some folk even refer to the 'dance of life' just to describe normal daily activities.

That's cool - whatever floats their boat.

I guess life is a bit of a dance.  It has its movements, its pace changes, its rhythms and beats.

That's one of the reasons I love street photography and photojournalistic styles of photography.  Trying to capture the rhythm of life in a single instance. Attempting to convey a story in a single image or in just a few images.

This year it is one of my aims to produce a body of work around the theme of 'dance'.  The main way in which that will happen is in collaboration with the Cathy-Lea Academy of Performing Arts. 

For some time I've had a vague idea about working with such an academy and recently had talks with Cathy Lea.  There is a slight difference between this project and others that I have worked on in the past.

The main difference is that there is actually no defined outcome, no defined timeline and no formal project management in place!  Yep - I can hear you now shouting "Recipe for disaster!"

Maybe - maybe not.

Actually it is an intriguing concept for both parties.  It won't cost anything except some time and some petrol money - big deal.  As we see it, the project will actually take on a life of its own in a somewhat 'organic' way.

Basically it will be a visual diary, or a 'year in the life' type of project.  I'll visit the studios to observe classes, watch rehearsals, attend performances and record the minutiae of the workings of the academy. Paraphernalia, equipment, candid portraits, gestures, light, form and movement are what I want to capture.

Eventually we will no doubt get our heads together to try to decide what we will do with the images.  In the meantime hopefully a reasonable body of work will be compiled.

Should be interesting and I am certainly excited by the prospects.

Every now and then I'll post an image or two on this site. These images were made in the backstage area while the dancers were waiting for their stage time at an outdoor performance. I hope you will enjoy the work as it is revealed. As always, please feel free to leave your comments.

Please note that the images on the Cathy Lea Academy site are not my images. All credit and copyright for images currently on that site belong to other photographers.

Whatever your dance is - keep dancing!

Stay safe.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A new day's light.


Sometimes in life we need to look at things a little differently from the way in which we normally view them.

The image of the balloons here kind of sums that up.

I've seen balloon flights over my home town of Melbourne plenty of times. I've even ridden in an early morning balloon flight over Melbourne. On more than one occasion I have gotten an image of the balloons.

This time a few different elements came into play. I made this image when I was on the 24th floor of a large building. The info indicates it was 6.10 a.m. - I'm fairly well known among my associates as one who doesn't get too much sleep. I was up at around 4.15 or so, then a one hour drive into town etc. etc.

I was doing something else when I noticed the glow of the sunrise come into the office. Being what I am, I naturally had a camera with me. So the obvious thing to do was to make an image. I grabbed the camera, went to the window and what you see here is what greeted me. Serendipity.

Of course more than one image was made, but I prefer this one. It's a bit soft due to the very dirty windows, but sometimes there are things we can't change.

That doesn't matter to me because even if I was not the photographer, I would still love this shot because it clearly resonates with me as someone who loves living in Melbourne.

It has the Dandenong Ranges in the distance. It has the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the foreground. It has the Ferris Wheel that was in that location for a better part of a year. It has that glow that often bathes the city in the morning.

Any native of Melbourne would look at this shot and know the place.

I've watched the sunrise over Melbourne hundreds of times. I reckon this was one of my favourites.

Too often we take things for granted. It's good to remember that and to try to enjoy each day and each relationship while they last. It's always good to acknowledge those in your life who hold a special place.

In that spirit, here is a quick grab shot of my niece, Laura.

It was taken a while back and she was unaware I was taking the shot. It's not the world's greatest ever portrait, but nor does it pretend to be so. Just a quick shot at a party.

Without going into too much detail Laura and some other family members have been estranged.

Laura and I have always got on marvelously. Probably something to do with the fact that she has got the same sick sense of humour as I have. She is my niece and I am very fond of her. Indeed I love her as I do my own kids.

So I am glad that we are not estranged and that we still have open communication on a fairly regular basis even though we live hundreds of kilometers apart.

Perhaps one day she will be reconciled with the others. Who knows?

All I know in life is that tomorrow another sunrise happens. What we choose to do or what we choose to feel, how we choose to act or what we choose to say won't affect the sunrise at all. It will happen and the day will bring forth new joys and new challenges.

Whatever it brings, try to enjoy it.

Stay safe.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Return to beauty?


For all of you who place special importance on this date - February 14th - here's an image.

This was taken a few months back while I was engaged in my usual evening walk along the local beach.  I saw the young couple who appeared to be tourists from the Far East.  They walked out toward the water's edge and when they stopped I made the photo.

So, for all of you who are in love with that someone special, or who ever have been - this shot is for you.

In the previous post I touched on what I consider the importance of 'getting the shot'.  I mentioned that we are surrounded everyday by beautiful things as well as things that are not so beautiful.

Kinda gets one to thinking about beauty itself.

My dictionary defines it as "That quality or assemblage of qualities which gives the eye or the other senses intense pleasure; or that characteristic in a material object or an abstraction which gratifies the intellect or the moral feeling."

Does that mean that in the non-beautiful there is beauty if it gives intense pleasure? I don't know.

Perhaps the old adage is true - "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

One thing I do know is that each of us interprets it differently.  Reckon that may be a good thing.

For some, beauty is found in the face of their newborn child.  For others, a glorious sunset or other wonder of creation.  Yet others find their beauty in music, whether it be Mozart or Led Zeppelin.

All of those things bring some sort of joy and pleasure and I always enjoy anything that brings a smile because of some indefinable aesthetic, but for me the holy grail has always been and probably will always be the smile of a pretty woman.

I have known many beautiful women in my time. For each that came into my life in a meaningful way I can actually recall where we met and what I thought the first time I saw her - except for one who left me void of all conscious thought for about ten seconds (and we still laugh about that!)

The thing is, after a while you don't notice the physical beauty. It becomes secondary to their character. Tell me - isn't that a more important kind of beauty?
Then every now and again you might suddenly catch a pose or look or a glance which brings the beauty crashing back upon you.  

Kate Bush sang about "beauty's potency".  How right she was.

 It can be a powerful thing, whether in a person, in Art or in nature itself.

Me, I'll always been in awe of the beautiful things I come across or in the beautiful people I meet or know.  It's just the way it is.  

I guess photographers, along with other visual artists notice the everyday beauty more than those who are not inclined toward an artistic or creative way of thinking. 
 It may be that you simply notice the light.  Or perhaps some overgrown statue or figurine catches your eye. 

It could be the pattern that the receding tide makes in the sand. It could be anything at all.

That's why I love to carry a camera with me at all times.

Perhaps it is a passion - although I think it may have gone beyond that to become an addiction.

Perhaps my attempts at photography are nothing more that a vain attempt to capture it for all time, to prevent it leaving.

Or, perhaps, I am merely one of those whom Leonard Cohen described as being "oppressed by the figures of beauty".

Stay safe.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

You either do, or you don't!


I recently had a brief conversation with a friend who has a very keen interest in photography and a reasonable ability as a photographer.

We were at a picnic with a large circle of acquaintances. During the day another group of young individuals paraded up and down the nearby street, draped in the Australian flag and loudly and proudly extolling the virtues of being a good 'Aussie'.
It was easy to see that alcohol played a big part in their public bravado.
Before too long a couple of police vehicles arrived and the officers conducted a few breath tests on the youngsters. There was no trouble and after a while all parties went their separate ways.

I did take the chance however, to walk up to the group and make a couple of quick shots.

(one of them was a bit mouthy and suggested a little physical confrontation - easy to be a hero with mates around - he woulda lasted about five seconds had he tried anything).

After getting the shots, my young photographic acquaintance mentioned that he admired how I walked up and got the shots. I stressed to him that you either do - or you don't. You either get the shot or you don't. You either are a photographer - or you're not.

If in any situation there is a question on getting the shot or not - go for it.

You don't have to use it, sell it, display it or make it in anyway public if you have second thoughts. However - if you don't get the image - it's all a moot point. You can't do anything.

The same day another member of the picnic decided to take a dive into the water and ripped his head open on a submerged rock. When I got a couple of shots of him being bandaged prior to a trip to hospital - a couple of folk voiced displeasure that I would actually photograph it.

C'mon! You either do or you don't! Simple. Later that evening after his return and with the good news that there was no fracture, just a nasty gash requiring stitches, he asked for copies of the shots. He had no problem with it - why should others.

Last May I was visiting another friend who is a fairly good landscape photographer and who has a small gallery of work in Cheltenham, Victoria.

Also present were his son-in-law who runs a photo studio adjacent to the gallery, and another friend who is a keen photographer.

We noticed a train stopped across the level crossing. Someone said "trains broke".
I replied "Nah - it's a jumper. Someone's gone under it".

Sadly my comment was nearer the truth. A young lady (an actress from a popular Australian kid's TV show) had fallen onto the tracks and been hit by the train. Sadly for her, her family and friends, she did not survive.

Four of us there in the gallery/studio had cameras.

One of us walked over and made a few images. Sure that might stick in some folks throats. It might make some people as angry as all hell.
When I made the shots I got a lot of abuse from bystanders.
One nasty little fellow screamed at me saying I was obscene. I suggested he travel to Afghanistan if he really wanted to see something obscene. Those people couldn't see the hypocrisy of them rubber-necking for a better look and complaining about me getting the shot.

You either do - or you don't.

So - what's the point of all this?

We are surrounded everyday by beautiful things and things which are not so beautiful. Both are a fact of daily existence. You may choose to photograph whatever you desire. You may choose not to photograph something. Each is equally valid.

Whatever you choose, allow others to make the same choice. Non-judgmentally.

Some of the most memorable images ever made are actually of things we would prefer not to have happened. - Brady's images of the American Civil war. The execution of a Viet Cong member in Saigon. Countless other images from that war and a whole host of other conflicts.
Poverty - think the FSA images of the dust bowl era in the US. Famine - how many moving images have come out of Africa in the past 25 years?

The list goes on and on.

Did any of those images have an impact on any viewer so as to bring about any change? Of course they did. Countless millions have been raised in the almost futile fight against poverty. Public opinion in America helped finish the Vietnam war. Again the list goes on.

The few personal incidents I mentioned earlier won't bring about great change in anything. In fact the images are not in same league as the famous images mentioned. However, the attitude is the same.

You either do, or you don't.

Stay safe.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nikon D700 and street photography


Sunday saw the Chinese/Vietnamese Lunar New Year festival being held at Footscray in the west of Melbourne.

Along with friend and fellow photographer Shelton Muller - that's him on his back getting a shot of a martial arts performer - I decided to spend part of the day enjoying the festivities.
It was a perfect opportunity to see how good the Nikon D700 is for street photography. Up until now I have been using Nikon's D300, D200 and D90 coupled to various Nikkor lenses. I had for some time been interested in the alleged benefits of the 'FX' format as Nikon likes to call the mis-named 'full frame' format.
However I wasn't all that keen on lugging a D3 around for street work.
So when the Nikon D700 was released it seemed to be the perfect combination of D3 ability shoe-horned into a D300 body. Just what the doctor ordered!

Let me tell you in no uncertain terms. The D700 is superbly designed, produces awesome images - especially in low light/high ISO situations - and has all the ergonomic benefits of the Nikon D300 with a few extra features thrown in.

There are plenty of other sites where you can find comprehensive reviews of this fine camera, so I won't rehash any of the info that you already know.
Suffice it to say - if you are looking for a capable tool brilliantly designed and able to perform under virtually any situation, the Nikon D700 should fit the bill.

Most of the images made on the day were with the Nikkor 35mm f2 AF-D lens. I find this lens to be wonderfully suited to this type of work.

Oh - with all the horror price rises about to hit in most parts of the globe - get the camera now if you are planning on getting one. Why the heck would you want to wait and pay hundreds more?

Happy shooting and stay safe.