Seascape Photography

I’ve just returned* from a week in Culburra Beach on the South Coast of N.S.W, Australia. A magical place of long, empty beaches, rugged sandstone headlands, a lake and Crookhaven river spilling into the sea.

Nikon D750 w/ Tamron SP 90mm. 8 sec at f/16 ISO 100

Maybe 90% of the houses in this small town are holiday homes. A place you may not want to go to in summer, but in winter it is perfect. Quiet, peaceful.

Nikon D750 w/ Tamron SP 90mm. 5 sec at f/16 ISO 100

The pack (my partner Denise and our dog, Boofy) love the beach walks and the roaring log fire.

Nikon D750 w/ Tamron SP 90mm. 7 sec at f/16 ISO 100

Waking up to the sound of waves and birds makes a nice change to leaf-blowers and never-ending construction sites in our neighbourhood. 

It was mid-winter, so spectacular sunsets were standard, as well as freezing cold winds knocking over tripods ( I damaged my new lens as it hit some rocks- now it makes a terrible crunching noise when I focus ) and sand getting inside gear bags and clothes. The pictures look calm and serene, but the conditions were quite the opposite.

Nikon D750 w/ Tamron SP 90mm. 8 sec at f/13 ISO 100

I got sandblasted most days with icy (for Australian standards!) winds. I tried to make it seem ‘romantic’. That I was ‘braving the elements to capture the shot’ like an intrepid National Geographic photographer in the Arctic. (I have a vivid imagination) No, it was just winter on a beach a few hours south of Sydney. 

Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 2.8. 8 sec at f/16 ISO 100

I did feel, as I was packing up, and the sun had long gone behind the escarpment, that I had achieved something worthwhile. It is easy to stay at home, but the real thrill in life is getting out and exploring and shooting. Now that is a real reward, regardless of the images you capture. 

Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 28mm. 1/160 sec at f/11 ISO 100
A short video too!

*This was written and shot last year. (Didn’t get spectacular photos this year- please see this post)

Until next time, best wishes.

Don

The Worst Photography Tips Ever- Part 1

FIll the frame

Cram all your information into the frame. Don’t leave ‘breathing room’. Negative space is so negative, man. Grrrrr. This one gets on my nerve. Fill the frame? Er, no. Woops, looks like nobody told (master) Fan Ho to fill the frame. Negative space is king.

Fan Ho. Hong Kong Memoirs.

follow the rules

Rule of thirds? Check! Centre your subject? Check! Golden Ratio Spiral? Check! Ahhhh! Half of those Golden Spiral images you see are just a spiral placed over an image. You can make the spiral fit most images. I say, don’t follow rules. I say do what you feel. Rule of thirds seem to make very ‘appealing’ and ordinary images. Our brains have seen it so many times we are immune to harmonious. Following rules does not lead to innovation.

Someone trying to tell me that this Ansel Adams images conforms to a Golden Ratio. That mountain on the right ain’t the focal point. (the clouds are)

Buy gear!B

Saw an article saying you should buy more equipment if you wanna shoot like a pro. Links to affiliate Amazon links follow. Buy equipment you need. Buy something that will help you take photos. Want to do long exposure? Okay, you may need a tripod if you have been struggling for weeks with putting your camera on a rolled up jumper. (Ask me how I know?!)

Megapixels are everything!

Megapixels are the most important thing when buying a new camera. Everything. Less than 24 megapixels? Haha. Out of the game buddy. Haha! If only it were that simple. Many factors go into what makes a great camera. What made me buy mine? Holding it in my hands. It just felt ‘right’. If your camera doesn’t feel nice to hold, well, you won’t hold it so much.

Instagram is super important

No. No. And no. Shoot for yourself, not a square.

More here

Best wishes until next time,

Don

How I became a Photographer

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris 1984. Canon T70.
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris 1984. Canon T70.

I have been a photographer for 30 years. My first camera was a Canon T70. A film camera of course. I thought that thing was the bees-knees. It was actually a very advanced SLR for the time with styling not too dissimilar to today’s DSLRs. That was 1984. I shot my girlfriend when I was living in London. I was eighteen and I was going to be a photographer!

Dhana, London 1984.
Dhana, London 1984. Canon T70
Kate and Dhana, London 1984
Kate and Dhana, London 1984 Canon T70

By the time I moved back to Sydney my priorities had changed, I was also broke and had to sell that camera. That was almost the end of my photographic career. Not too sure where from, anther camera came into my life and I was back shooting- mainly girlfriends.

Creating painting and sculpture became my bag soon after that, and every painting of piece of art I made had to be documented for my folio. From then on I always had a camera- even if it wasn’t very good.

Lara, Sydney 1985 Canon T70. Kodachrome.
Lara, Sydney 1985 Canon T70. Kodachrome.

But the camera was just a tool. Just a practical tool.

The last roll of film I took before digital came along was shooting on the streets of New York. The photography bug was back! That was the year 2000.

Later that year, or maybe the year after, I purchased my first digital camera – a Panasonic Lumix DMC-F7. With a whole 2 megapixels, I was the coolest dude on the block. Welcome to the space age- digital cameras! But, again, I was mainly using a camera to document other artwork and not using it much as a form of expression.

Berlin, 2009 Panasonic Lumix DMC-F7
Berlin, 2009 Panasonic Lumix DMC-F7

I had a fashion label (Urbandon Menswear) then, so again my camera was used to document the clothes I was making. I would style, model and often photograph myself as well. A one man band. I bought a Fujifilm X10. Lovely digital rangefinder.

Me in Urbandon Menswear, Sydney 2014
Me in Urbandon Menswear, Sydney 2014

I was shooting in Paris and Berlin (and Sydney) on Fujifilm cameras: first the X10 and then the X-E1) and got hooked on photography again. Around September 2017, while on holiday, I was struggling with a way to express myself visually, in a more powerful and immediate way, (I was making electronic music and doing collage on paper) when I decided to commit all my creative time and energy into photography.

Culburra Beach, NSW Australia
Culburra Beach, NSW Australia 2018

I was was seeking an immediate form of creating without being bogged down in sewing machines, mountains of paper or boxes full of rusty metal junk. Something fast, clean and efficient to keep me stimulated.

Vegetables
Vegetables on Instagram. NikonD750
Market Finds, Sydney 2018. Nikon D750
Market Finds, Sydney 2018. Nikon D750 1/2 at f/ 11

Since then, I have been seriously pursuing photography as an art form and developing my skill as a photographer. I shoot almost every day with my Nikon D750 or on the Samsung S7 (amazing camera).

Woollahra, Sydney. 2018 Samsung S7.
Woollahra, Sydney. 2018 Samsung S7.

I really look at the light now, set assignments for myself, set up still life arrangements, shoot on the street, read everything I can get my hands on and try and learn as much as I can.

Jude Paddon-Row. Model and actor, Sydney 2019. Nikon D750
Jude Paddon-Row. Model and actor, Sydney 2019. Nikon D750

Photography is ‘it’ for me now. I now know that this is my true means of creative expression. So perhaps I have been a photographer for 1 year, or maybe for thirty- it is hard to say.

Best wishes until next time,

Don

A Little Social Media Goes a Long Way: Why Instagram is for Squares

Shooting for Instagram
Shooting for Instagram.

Social media, especially Instagram ‘likes’, is not your measure of success. There are incredible photographers with small followings. There are professional, well paid, highly regarded photographers with a few thousand followers. Followers and ‘likes’ is not a measure of success- it is a measure of popularity.

Don’t fall into the trap of linking followers to success.

A great example is Bill Henson, undoubtedly one of Australia’s most famous photographers, has less than 10K followers. A friend of mine, a leading Australian food, product and portrait photographer, Tanya Zouev, has just over three thousand followers. Tanya has worked with the biggest brands in Australia. Numbers mean nothing.

Horseshoe Bend

Instagram is addictive. It was designed that way. Nothing is free. You pay for Instagram with your time.

Even if you go on Instagram twice a day for half an hour (sounds pretty reasonable), that makes seven hours a week. What can you achieve in seven hours? How many photos can you take in seven hours? How many blog posts can you write? How many new techniques for shooting or editing can you achieve?

#camping

There is something else as well. There is an Instagram ‘look’. Photographers are now aiming for this particular look and are becoming generic in their image-making. A quick scroll on Instagram’s main page will show a repetition of center-framed, highly saturated ‘epic’ images. There is no room for calm or thoughtful photography. Those images are there, but it’s not what a most of Instagrammers want. They want at high-energy fizzy drink. They want ‘Red Bull Photography’. So people shoot more of the same. The same locations, the same poses, the same filters and the same presets.

Insta_repeat

Myspace was big. Now it is dead. Flickr was huge and was great for storing and sharing images. Now, almost dead. 500px? Dead. Facebook was huge for photographers. Not any more. You gotta pay to get any traction on they platforms. It is one of the ways they make money. Nothing is free.

Insta_repeat

I am not anti-Instagram. I am on Instagram and I enjoy it as much as the next person, but I do know that it will never make me rich or famous. I do know followers are not my currency to being a good photographer.

Small doses go a long way.

I also know it was designed to keep me, and you, on there as much as possible. And that, above all, makes me very concerned.

Until next time,

Don

Just Make The (Photographic) Effort!

My partner and I are on holidays on the South Coast- three hours south of Sydney in the sleepy town of Culburra Beach. It has become a twice-yearly ritual to get away from the city and relax.

Bruce gets to bark at the birds, we get to make a roaring open fire and eat hot chips and drink champagne. 

It is also a wonderful opportunity to photograph the beautiful landscape and spectacular sunsets. Even more amazingly, I videoed the process too- please check out the video. This  is my first video. 

In the video I touch on making the effort to just go out and shoot. But really, that principle could apply to one hundred different things. I have a list (on Asana-a great app) and the thing at the top of the list that I don’t do is usually the most important thing to do. 

Moving To WordPress

Thanks for joining me!

Moving to WordPress from Format for several reasons. WordPress has better templates (even this free one is better than the Format one), WordPress is 1/4 of the price, I have more control over the layout with WordPress, the widgets and embedding tools are way better and WordPress has better SEO integration. Another reason, and this is important, is my partner uses WordPress. We can now share knowledge. If you want to know what a cake-eating Clairvoyant does, check out her page here: Denise Litchfield.

Here is what to expect: Bi-monthly photography blog posts with tips and budget-pinching techniques, inspiration and motivation stories and ideas, creativity tips and a few good rants thrown in.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Don

Welcome to my new blog! Why I moved away from Format web-builder.
Kings Cross, Sydney.