Just Yosemite- Picture Blog

October 09, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Almost a year ago, I embarked on a trip to the USA, and it seems like such an age ago now.

The impact of events in the world this year has blown me away, and so I have found myself peering into old catalogues to update this website gradually, as well as share some of my favourite stories and works in progress. I've failed pretty miserably at updating this website, however I'm just starting to get my USA pictures from 2019 online.

I was totally not expecting Yosemite to have the impact that it did. Casting aside the knowledge of Ansel Adams and every other photographer before me was tough, but I wanted to experience it, instead of hunt down the famous compositions. 

These are all images that are available to purchase in my USA Gallery.

The watermark that appears is an anti-screenshot device and will NOT be in the final purchased print, it is aimed at preventing those that want to take a screenshot then print/use without paying me. 

As I go through my USA/Canada trip images, this gallery will expand for the USA. Also keep an eye on the Canada gallery, as this will be updated too.

 


Quarantine

April 19, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

In my last my last blog (1000 words) I wrote about three images from my peers that inspired me. This inspiration must have rubbed off a little.... because the idea for this image, just came to me in a split-second thought. It's uncanny how sometimes you just get an idea and it works. 

Normally, I'd have kept this image under wraps, held it close and not released it to the world in favor of how it might be received in an awards situation. Instead, I have decided to post it, because we're all in the same situation.

I wanted to mark this crazy time in my life, because as seemably quick as it has become normal, when restrictions are lifted, we may soon forget the sacrifices that we had to make. So for future reference, I want to immortalize it in a blog post. So here we are.

I wanted to have it mentioned in a way that I could look back and say “wow, remember that time that we spent weeks/months on end at home to hide from the virus and the world fell apart a little bit, but it was kind of okay (except for millions of people who lost their jobs) but because we had video chats, Facebook and other technology and were able to stay in touch.”

How crazy is it, that in a modern world with all of our technology that knows who, what, where, when and how, that we’re all relegated to staying inside and suspecting everyone else of having the virus, so naturally we stay away. When we go out, we stay a minimum of 1.5m or “one shopping trolley” apart, and how many times have you done a line dance in a supermarket to adhere to this rule?

We’ve never known a world like this.

Yet here we are.

As a creative, we have a powerful voice to tell stories through images. We can put into words things that people feel but don’t speak about. Right now it feels like I should be documenting the current state that we find ourselves in, that I should be out and about taking pictures of how deserted the streets, shops and public places are; but alas they’ve all been shut down, and the fines for doing said exploration are enormous.

So what then?

I gave myself a Photoshop challenge before the Easter break, it was pretty simple.

“Make an image that depicts the current situation of social distancing, isolation and the constant invisible threat all around us.”

Now lets remember that my key strengths are going out and taking a photograph that's pretty similar to the state that I shot it in. Photoshop composites are not my strong suit, but I'm trying to get better.

Further to this, I said to myself that I wouldn’t use any word in the image of “Coronavirus” “Covid-19” “biohazard” “Social Distancing” or such logos and symbols. The challenge was to speak through pictures.

So how did I do? Leave your comment below.

If this isn't your thing, go check out my "Latest Works" gallery for a preview of what I've been up to on my personal Facebook page, sharing Landscapes new and old to ease the amount of Coronavirus/Covid-19 posts that appear in everyone's News feeds.


1000 Words

March 15, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

A picture tells a thousand words…

Our job as photographers is to capture life's moments. This includes our happiness, sadness, highs, lows and best aspects of all that we do. From the joy of birth, to the amazement and wonder of watching newborns grow, to young and old families enjoying each others' company, laughing and discovering the world around them. Fast forward to school formals, engagements and weddings.... This is what we capture for our clients, it's pretty predictable and can become quite repetitive. 

So where then do awards images sit? Usually quite awkwardly in the middle. An idea that the photographer has is granted permission by the client, and usually a short inclusion in a paid family shoot results in an image that can be used for awards. But only the truly spectacular images reap the Gold with Distinction awards - the 95+ out of 100...

~*~

How many images have you seen in your lifetime that truly speak a whole essays’ worth in simple terms? In a picture?! Ones that convey less popular emotions such as grief, loss, absence or frustration, or simply transport you somewhere else?!

Very few artists can show a world such strength in their narratives, but some of these artists, of whom I am proud to know through AIPP Queensland (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) have done just that; capturing a part of our worlds that we seldom discuss, gloss over or make-seem-normal.

In this blog, I am going to analyse and discuss the images and their impact, and how they have gone beyond “a picture of---“ and used strong visual language, through simple images to display craft and skill to create an image (or series of) into “this is the story of---“ to show you just how accessible an award-worthy image can be in terms of shoot and presentation.

The stories told are common, ones that we can all recognize, but strike us in the heart with their truthfulness and their sadness, and make intangible feelings a reality through photography. Call it what you want, I call it true artistry. 

All three of these images have had an impact on the way I see awards, and the way that I strive to tell stories through my images. These three photographers are also Queensland residents, and people who I am honored to call my friends. They’ve all given me permission to share and discuss their images in this blog.

I still remember the first APPA that I attended, in 2015, and while the experience is a little blurry in my mind, I'll never forget seeing this print be judged. 
 

Colleen Harris - "Dead Baby" 

 

In the AIPP Judging system, we look at live, real prints. Judging is conducted by having a large, plain wall, and a cut-out window containing a triangular turnstyle which holds prints. When a print is spun around on the turnstyle during judging, there’s a second or two where judges stop to look from afar, before jumping out of their seats to get within centimeters of the print, examining its parts, looking at technical aspects and reading its story. 

As each judge read Colleen's print, one by one they were asking the panel chair to step off the print, visibly emotional. Stepping off is when a judge feels like they can't judge the print for whatever reason, we respect their decision to do so. Eventually none of the original panel was left and a panicked panel chair was scrambling to find judges. New judges stepped on and went up to see the print, they too were emotional but held it together. 

From the Audience, a large crowd was gathering, and I could see the image on the audience screen. Wow. I too was speechless. The room was electric with eager eyes waiting for the score on this print, people were gathering behind the last row of seats and blocking the doorway out. I was watching the body language of each judge and each bystander like a game of football. Back and forth. It was seriously something else.

Image Copyright - Colleen Harris  (reproduced here with permission)

So what's the story?!

We are taken on a fast trip through a family's ups and downs , we feel like we're sharing the joy and warmth of the newborn, yet in blank white there's the uncertainty, we too are transported to immense loss. Twelve images of the first twelve months of this baby's life. One, two, three, four, the predictable growth of any new addition to the family. But then an empty, faded fifth, and sixth and seventh. At eight, a tiny coffin and oh gosh.. This poor baby didn't make it. More emptiness, a visual representation of great loss and mourning, and then on twelve, the first birthday cake. A point in time marked, but never lived.  I had never seen judges cry to that point, but a suggestion in the print has resonated with a personal experience and that's all it takes.

The tiny coffin was a clever fabrication that just helped sell the story. Macabre, but a story well told. 
 

Examining the technical aspects, it's a relatively simple shoot. One set, one chair, a client obliging for the use of their images in this way, some flowers, a cake and a tiny coffin. Any one of these images on their own would not have scored as high as this did, and it was the implied narrative that drove this one home. Each image in a series like this needs to hold weight, it needs to be there for a reason, as important as the rest. That's a challenge with an image that uses several parts to form its whole. Each square was a moment (implied) too horrible or too hard to put into words. 

Later, I’m told, the baby didn't actually die. Colleen was able to get the clients’ permission for such a story. I’m sure there’s a whole blog on convincing a client to work with the photographer for a conceptual shoot such as this one, but in both professionalism to get the permission and the visual aspects that made this image such a tear-jerker, this is what we strive for in creating excellent images.
 

Stef Dunn “Help Me”

Anger.

Mental Illness.

Big Pharma.

~repeat~

Image Copyright - Stef Dunn (reproduced here with permission)

Stef’s image captures the desperation of those who are stuck in the clutches of needing a plethora of drugs to survive or recover from a (or a few) medical conditions, but unwillingly get caught in the middle. There are those who are stuck with the addiction to substances that were in legitimate prescriptions who now turn to harder drugs to feed that need, long after their scripts have expired. There are those who have a sense of self but only between doses wearing off…

This image was created for displaying the anger that the photographer felt for what Big Pharma has done to his friends and loved ones...

Undeniably, this image also displays a helplessness. "I don't want the medication // But I need the medication to survive."

Stef told me that he stuck the sheets with blu-tack to the bathroom wall and assembled them then and there. No composition in photoshop required, just a single capture image and some light editing in post production. Stef also commented that he didn’t make the image specifically for the awards, rather it was an idea that he had floating around in his head for a few years that finally came to fruition when he had worked out how it was going to be made. Through his frustration with the big drug companies and their willingness to push drugs onto people, he has created an image that speaks to anyone who is angry with the world and how Big Pharma controls it.

The judges understood the image instantly and recognized the current social comment regarding prescription medications. As if it were a modern-day SOS scribbled in the sand, for a person awaiting rescue from a predicament they cannot escape. 

Video from the judging. For Stef's image, browse to 50:26

 

 

Kris Anderson “Senseless”

Image Copyright - Kris Anderson  (reproduced here with permission)

We call them Smartphones, but they’re sucking our lives away.

They’re taking our time away from the real things of value in our lives, and replacing it with useless junk, cat videos and endless emails and IMs to respond to at all hours. They were meant to help us, but have instead hindered us, stolen time away from those that deserve it the most; our loved ones.

This image, titled “Sleepless” has captured the essence of both the 'cool' and the 'curse' of our digital dependence, simply showing us what we’re missing out on by looking at a screen instead of our loved ones.

There’s four images, and it’s easy to see the repetition through this picture. A dad having a picnic with his family, except he spends the whole time on his phone, not interacting with anyone. The children are trying to play with him, to gain his attention, but eventually they leave, but he's still on his phone. He doesn’t notice. It rains. He doesn’t notice. And just once he’s drenched and its dark, he notices. But where have the people gone?!

To this date I haven’t witnessed what an emotional roller coaster that this image was. I had seen it previously in Colleen Harris’ image (mentioned above) but in recent times we had been lacking from this kind of emotional trip. Kris has made a name for himself with his vivid depictions of social commentaries, and this image is no different.

Does it make you examine your own social media habits more closely? 

 I’ll leave it to the video to demonstrate the judges impact to you:

So, in all of these images, has any spoken with you?

Have a good look at how these images are constructed, the simple ideas that led to their creation and the social commentaries that they illustrate. Simple images, complex ideas, moving narratives. The difficult part is that we have days, hours, weeks or months to construct these kinds of images, and a judge gets 30 seconds MAXIMUM to read it. Is your story able to be told in a picture in 30 seconds? That therein is the challenge.

When I think of an award-worthy image, they’re above.

Try not to look at a photograph as your end-of-line; there’s more to it than that. Consider each image in this blog against each other, how would you have interpreted them? Do you agree with the way the image was presented? Remember you can only judge the final product, not the bits of story around it.

In looking for images that strike the judges, you should always seek to tell a story of, instead of just taking a photograph of, however that may be~



 


OMG Awards

March 06, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

I've judged a few photographic competitions thus far in my career. Only a few, not a lot and I've definitely entered more than I've judged. Go to my about section if you really must know what I've done awards-wise.

So how is it to see both sides of the fence? We can, as judges talk endlessly about what makes a good award image, what will potentially do well and how to create those images, but what about the mental preparation that goes into it?

Your mindset is your secret weapon.

It is the difference between a good award experience, and a terrible one. It's the determination that you show, the preparedness, the sportsmanship of the awards that will put you in a better place mentally, to face the unknowns of the competition.

Let's have a look at what we do know about most competitions:

Some universally acknowledged truths:

■ High Pressure

■ High Stakes

■ Good Exposure

■ Unknown competitors

■ May have cost a lot to enter

■ Entrants hoping to win the big prizes

■ Reputations to uphold

■ Everyone thinks their photos are the best!

That's quite a list, I can feel the pressure already! 

Some Tips to help you prepare for any competition:

1. If you're like me, you've always got images processed and ready to go for competitions. I've got a folder inside my main exports library titled Awards and the year, so Awards 2020. Inside this folder are full JPEG images processed to perfection and waiting for the right competition to enter into. I've got all my current images that might be good fits for competitions upcoming. I've also got a catalogue of these original files and export presets with the file size, type and quality ready to push my images out when I need them.

2. I've also got a spreadsheet of upcoming competitions, their hyperlinks from last year and a few details of the types of competitions that they are, and what usually does well in them. This is a personal list, and each persons may be different. If you're super sleuthy you can also add these deadline dates into your calendars and set up reminders for critical end dates.

3. You never stop producing work that could be a good fit. It's fair to take a breather from shooting but you should always be on the lookout to create your best work, not just for a period of time where awards are happening. If you rush it, it will never be as good as when you took the time to delicately craft it without a deadline.

BE A SPONGE

■  ABSORB: As much inspiration and information as you can from all sources. Never stop creating, make too much work, then you have a big pile to pick from later.

■ WATCH no, BINGE past awards videos to determine if your work is a good fit for the competition. “AIPP Awards” Channel on YouTube

■ BOOK yourself in for all the print critiques and SIT UP THE FRONT so you can hear all the critique!

■ READ the Rules document from cover to cover. Know what you can and can’t do within the category you’re planning to enter.

Set yourself up for success:

* Promise to put up your best work, your most different work. Match the competition brief, but don't be afraid to interpret it in differnent ways, so long as you keep to the competition rules.

* Be quietly confident. But disconnect yourself emotionally from your images that you enter. The judges and the audience don’t know which ones are yours.

* Promise yourself that you’ll prepare well in advance

* Block out the dates in your calendar to attend judging.

* Watch past awards videos to determine if your work is a good fit for the competition.

*Look at images that have previously won– what is common about all of them? What style of images get awards?

 

5. Make positive Mantra cards and stick them around your workspace:

I will value the outcome, irrespective of how my images score!
I will research, plan and prepare as early as I can!
I will enter my best creative work
I will attend the judging, cheer on my peers or sit with them if they are nervous during judging!
I will attend all the print critiques and ask questions if I need further clarification
I will attend the presentation dinner and party with the winners!!
If I am disappointed with the outcome, I will seek feedback
I will volunteer my time to help run the awards!
I will enter an extra print as a “passion print” to test myself in another category that I do not usually enter.

I understand that not doing well when you thought you might, is massively disappointing. Competitions are a game of skill and you can't control everything, so let's take a look at what you can control for yourself.

When you enter any award, the universal truths of what you gain are:

Self-Confidence to enter future awards

Professional Benchmarking: Where are you in comparison to the industry/ your peers/ your mentors?

Networking: In some competitions like AIPP State and National Awards, we hold these judgings live, you  can meet other like-minded photographers at these events, and at the presentation dinners.

Inspiration - What are other people doing with their photography?

Education - Learning!

Social Connections - see Networks but less formal :P

Opportunities- You may meet a future mentor or freind.

Experience

Community.

So why the hell not enter something, somewhere? Boost your confidence, boost your profile, prepare yourself for bigger competitions upcoming!

You've got everything to gain, and if you don't enter, you are taking a pass on what could be an awesome learning experience.


Yosemite

December 04, 2019  •  1 Comment

Yosemite.

You've seen the incredible works by Ansel Adams, their other-worldliness depicts scenes from a lost era, of details, textures and beauty. So in knowing what a special place this is to so many people that visit, landing foot in the park was nothing short of transformational. There's something special in the air, a mood, ripe for creation, an enchantment leading you around each bend, with every footstep trodden...

If you've been a frequent reader of my travel blogs and have come up a little disappointed this time, in advance, I'm sorry. I was too busy living in the moment and enjoying my time to think about getting this all up day after day. So, in part to keep the memories alive, and to relive my holiday one step at a time, instead of blogging about the days that we had and showing a variety of photographs, I want to try just sharing one with you each post.

~

This was Yosemite, a morning at the end of Fall (Autumn for us Australians) with a skerrick of cloud and a banging reflection, Half Dome showed her face. Golden, browning and leafless trees rustling in the breeze and bathing in the last sunlight.

We'd had several weeks of little to no cloud, each morning waking up in the hope that our luck had changed and we'd be given some white fluffy stuff. Most mornings we were disappointed but kept shooting anyway. 

~

We'd gone to Yosemite to see what the fuss was about, to stand where many have stood before us and captured our own impressions of such an iconic park. We'd gotten lost in the many looping roads through the park, finding cute little corners and viewpoints in which to appreciate the buzz of activity around the climbers on El Capitan, and all the watchers that clung to the side of the roads, eagle-eyed with binoculars. Finding tiny human specs of life traversing that towering wall, a game of "where's wally" for the sharpest eyes. 

There was certainly a magic aura about the place.

It did however feel like they were just salivating for winter to begin. Animals such as wolves and deer foraging for their last feeds before heavy snowfall, chipmunks and squirrels scavaging the last of the seasons food. Coloured leaves falling haplessly to the ground and a cool air wafting through the valley, a sign that the season was changing and there was soon going to be less people around. Boarded up toilet blocks, chimneys wrapped with plastic and secured to avoid snow getting where snow wouldn't be appreciated. 

~

 

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