The Art of Simplicity and Acceptance

(Disclaimer: These are my personal own views and ‘might’ be an excuse to post some of our recent New Zealand images but I’ll it entirely up to you to agree or disagree ! )

Does this image reflect peace and acceptance? Glenorchy Lagoon certainly gives me a tranquil feel when I’m there and I hope that is translated to you as the viewer.

Lately I have been reading a few magazine articles, skimming through a few social media threads and even discussing over skype the concept of art in photography. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am viewed as an artist, then it’s a great bystander effect for an intention that is much simpler and far less cerebral. It has been a little disappointing that some of these articles have voiced an opinion that to tread the well-worn path is tantamount to committing some sort of artistic disservice to one’s self.  There has also been a tendency to favour wordy exposition over direct communication often with only a somewhat veiled message (translation : huh? what did you just read?). While none of this is new, I feel that social media’s penchant to polarising debates have resulted in an ‘arty’ faction criticising the ‘artless’ many.  I would make the argument that there is an art to simplification , a skill to stripping back one’s intentions and  messages to their bare essentials without the need for extraneous distractions.  I would also make a plea that part of being an artist is simply accepting that others may have a different point of view which is no less valid than your own, just different.

Tasman Lake : My intention was to wade to the other side but I was unable to because of strong currents. No near death encounters, no stories of surviving icy waters ( I was in comfy waders) , no deeper meaning to the image than just capturing the beauty before my eyes.

Personally ,I try to err on the side of ‘dot point’ prose rather than a ‘text wall’ approach. I make attempts to write in an uncomplicated manner as possible rather than using obscure words and quotes to bolster an artistic frame from a simple message.  (oh crap, did I just use fancy words? Let me simplify that : I write, you understand. That is my goal!)

Perhaps simplicity of thought is reflected in simplicity of the scenes we are attracted to?

I remember one of my high school teachers describing the considerations one makes when attempting to write a poem. He introduced the concept of word economy and attempting to condense entire lines of thought into a simple representative verse.  Commonly these days, I see quite the opposite : where lines upon lines of prose result in a single message that is either obscured of left intentionally vague.  In the right frame of mind, it can be quite fun to read these articles or image captions as one is consistently trying to decipher the hidden meanings behind the drawn out text. I don’t have any issue with such articles, only when the echoing chorus of support considers this to be the only valid style of writing.

I shot this image of the Wakefield Falls runoff with the intention of a monochromatic end result with a short textured water exposure and textureless flowing sky from a separate long exposure. Unfortunately I cannot give you what my deeper profound meaning for this image was but you are welcome to interpret one for yourself :)

There are a great many photographers who explore the realms of writing and philosophy.( I do not consider myself one of these as I just state an opinion every time a light bulb appears in my mostly dimly lit brain). I think there is great value in the approach of deriving a deeper meaning behind any given image but in all truthfulness, that is not our intention. I’m sorry to disappoint if you thought otherwise of our images but we are literally trying to recreate a scene and emotion from a given moment in time. Our thought processes are very predictable and systematic at the time of a scene. It becomes a question of how I translate a scene where my thoughts are literally a broken record playing back a repetition of ‘Wow’, ‘this place is soooo amazing’, ‘I’m getting goosebumps looking at this amazing scenery’ (among other calmly said expletives). The image caption hopefully reflects this.

I hope this image from Isthmus Peak conveys to you the same sense of wonder as the light sprayed through gaps in the cloud.

Once an image hits the post processing phase, it’s a question of how I want to glorify a scene such that you as the viewer can have that same broken record playing back in your head to some degree. In order to achieve that, I try to eliminate unwanted technical distractions like strange colour shifts , impossible looking light sources, elements that any local will know have been manipulated. Ironically, many of those issues arise not from ‘over’ manipulation but rather, global manipulation that hasn’t been considered enough. The qualities of the image itself hopefully reflects this.

The Aurora Australis over Lake Wakatipu was an accidental highlight of the trip. I made a decision to stay warmer with this image since the less intense aurora in the evening were processed ‘cooler’.

This overriding theme of simplicity is one that suits me and one that I am frequently escaping to after experiencing the stresses of a day job that requires more analysis than what I feel like deriving from a hobby.  This is what I hope our presentation to social media reflects in a somewhat cathartic manner.

The Wanaka Tree was possibly the simplest shoot for us to get to , but we weren’t going to avoid it just because it’s simple or that other people have photographed it before. There are many versions of this tree, but we don’t have any and I do want our version of it as a memory of the conditions and location.If it’s good enough on its own merits, it might go into the portfolio.

I would propose that the presentation of a photograph does not need  any ‘artistic’ cerebral afterthoughts in order for it to be considered valid.  To criticise an image for having no such thought process seems to show a disdain for those whose intentions (like ours) were not ‘artistic’ to begin with but whose result may still be considered a type of art.

Jetty shots and selfies are often targets of criticism. “I don’t do selfies” . “I don’t do jetties”. That’s fine but accept that other people like photographing all manner of subjects. Doing this by myself , it was a fun exercise to take a few frames before I was in the right relative position between pillars.

But wait you say, these are surely first world problems that we need not argue about yet result in passionate discussion which can sometimes degenerate into frank argument?? These are examples of the many whose moderate opinions are out voiced by the bitter outrage of the impassioned few repeatedly stating their case. Perhaps it’s just me but I see a theme there that goes beyond first world comforts and is the root of many of our invented world conflicts.  What can we extrapolate for our day to day lives from the disastrous consequences of world events brought upon by opinionated factions refusing to accept any other model of thought? Perhaps acceptance that our life circumstances are all different and that these circumstances frame our differing world views.  Relating this to our insignificant little arguments of art in photography:  seriously, I don’t care if some wish to exclusively photograph deep and abstract images of obscure subjects, so why should these artists care that others love to shoot beautiful landmarks that have been photographed many a time before.

We do try to photograph frequently shot scenes differently. The Moeraki Boulders are one such scene. Whether it’s a shot we treasure depends on the end result and not simply because it’s different or shot with ‘higher’ intentions.

Just keep it simple if it suits you. Shoot what you feel like shooting  and don’t complicate the issue by imagining that you may be somehow artistically superior for picking the less chosen path. There is an art to simplicity.  By the same token, go out and explore that untrodden path , stray away from the masses but please place that at higher personal value and not promote it as having higher intrinsic value for everyone else. And I say this as someone who values experiencing and viewing images of locations ‘off the beaten path’.  I may not personally appreciate the serial icon shooter (derisively named as ‘trophy hunters’), but who am I to hand down condescending judgment on the photographer whose motivations leads him/her to do so. There is an art to acceptance.

The Ohau range shot with multiple planes of camera movement. We have so many ‘fail’ frames from this fun exercise. Whether we did achieved this in one frame or through complicated post processing may matter to you, but in presenting the final result, I can only expect people to like the image if the image itself is any good. The story itself is a separate issue.

Peace all!

How to deflate a ‘hippo’ in 5 easy steps!

Recently, I was served up a plate of irony-flavoured humble pie which had me looking quite the hypocrite. These are the five steps which occurred which you may take note of in order to avoid the same situation.

Step 1: Make a frivolous post on facebook about how you think someone else may have directly copied your composition in an image. Poke plenty of fun at the vanishingly small possibility that the so called copycat may have done it purely by chance.

(See facebook status update from September 28)

Step 2: Post an image with a story indicating just how awesomely innovative and original you were in achieving ‘your’ shot from a commonly shot location. The description as follows :

“This is the classic view of Mount Cook from Peter’s Lookout about 30km from the national park. On this morning, I was hoping to capture some car trails in one composition but there were no cars driving by at this hour! I had taken my desired composition from the centre of the road but knew that it would be too dangerous to be taking light trail images from that position. I moved everything to a traffic island in the slip lane and set the camera up for 1 minute exposure time lapse sequences. Then, it was a question of synching with my watch so that I could drive by at the right speed (which ended up being 60km/h) to maximise my lights in the frame but end up just out frame at either end. In the end, I was lucky to get this on the first go and took many more frames with changing light as the clear dawn approached. I hope you like this result which is a blend of three images (one without the cars, one with the car approaching , one with the car departing)”

Winding to Aoraki

2b :Post the image on multiple social media platforms with the same caption too.

Step 3: Have it pointed out that someone else has potentially shot the same scene in the same way! Even the title of the image is almost the same! Even the description of how it was shot was almost the same!!! Start feeling like a hippo.

Road to Mt Cook

Step 4: Look at the image in question and realise that a) it looks like you’ve pretty much ripped off the concept and execution from that person b) at some stage you’ve even liked and faved the image on 500px so you must have seen it before or done it during a button clicking frenzy ….c) realise that the image in question is from a high profile shooter , none other than Elia Locardi! d) you are now possibly the biggest, fattest hippo that might be found in the southern hemisphere.

Elia’s link to capture and processing

Step 5: Contact Elia in embarrassment but fortunately, Elia is a complete and utter champion about the whole incident and it’s all water under the bridge. Big fat hippo deflated, phew!

So here’s my take on the theme of ‘comp stomping’. With the number of images online being displayed these days, photographers with a high profile can almost expect that some of their photographs containing unique compositions and locations will be attempted by others. While in many cases, the act is a direct attempt to copy, in many instances stars will simply align and two (or more ) photographers may well spot the same composition from a same scene and record the scene in a similar fashion. In this instance, it was pretty much a freak occurrence since I had only arrived at this spot after a preferred location failed. I started shooting here without any preconceived ideas but when shooting the scene as a light trail scene entered the equation, I subsequently noted almost the same obstacles as Elia which needed to be overcome in the same manner! So if you ever suspect a comp-stomp moment, perhaps take the chance to reflect upon whether it may be by chance and what it would gain to ‘call out’ the alleged copycat even if you think it was an attempt to recreate ‘your’ photograph. Remember, there is no copyright on composition and you should probably have enough faith in your ability that the scene was impactful enough for people to even attempt a repeat.  If you’re on the other side, perhaps a little credit to the photographer with the original idea might not hurt . Big thanks to Elia for being such a pro about this and to the person who pointed out Elia’s shot who would probably rather remain anonymous in this context! I am now back to being skinny 60kg me rather than a two tonne hypocrite.


Another image from that morning : (which by the way , was inspired by an old Kah Kit Yoong shot!)

Shot from the middle of the road

Winter Road Trip Notes.

We’re about to head off to New Zealand for 2 weeks and haven’t really gone through the events of our last trip.

Here’s a sample of what we got up to

Day 1 :On the road by 8am , arrived at Halls Gap at 1630 and grey conditions meant an early night to start off with. Dylan consigned to couch with coughing fits. Everyone else with vague low grade fevers from child care and school bugs.

Day 2: Morning attempt at Reid’s lookout . Greyed out so I headed to Boroka lookout where there was at least some light above the mist!

Day 2: Mid morning : A short walk with the kids to Silverband falls where there was some nice mist

Day 2: Early afternoon: Raining and a quick walk to Splitters falls from Wonderland. No light in the evening so we stayed in.

Day 3: Early morning walk in the dark to the Pinnacles. Got lost for a little while before witnessing some awesome light! A trip back through the little ‘Grand Canyon’ on the way down.

Day 3: Mid morning : Family trip to Mackenzie falls which was crawling with long weekend tourists. Time to get creative!

Day 3: Afternoon : Mistaken route to Mount William resulted in a detour to the base of the mountain. Great light, too rushed to get anything good!

Day 4: All day driving to the snow . 0800-1900 including some crawling through blowing snow and whiteout conditions.

Day 5: Dawn foray to witness ongoing whiteout conditions. No images

Day 5: Daytime adventures on the Dinner Plain toboggan slopes and some drive by attempts photography with screaming Jaime not liking the cold.

Day 5: Evening : Weather finally begins to clear but cleared too much! Finally, we see Mount Feathertop

Day 6: Predawn drive to Mt Buffalo delayed by whiteout coming down Mt Hotham where it was powdery. Clear view of the Cathedral . Quick stop by Eurobin creek .

Day 6: Afternoon trip back down to Mt Buffalo where we wanted to take the kids outdoors since the weather was good. Lady’s bath falls and the Castle were all we could fit in. Long drive back and a late night for the kids

Day 7: Marianne ventures out for a dawn shoot of Feathertop. More daytime action on the Dinner Plain toboggan slopes. Afternoon foray to Carmichael Falls. Stayed in for a clear sunset

Day 8 : Clear predawn for some astro photography. Both of us had shot dawn in the area so after shooting stars and moonrise, went back to sleep in preparation for long drive to the Ocean Road.

Day 8 : Travel all day from 0800-1830. Along the way, some amazing mist at Smoko.

Day 9: Predawn stars visible from our accommodation but overcast at Gibson’s Steps. Attempted night selfies, tried to find a different take of the apostles for dawn.

Day 9: Waterfalls during the day! Hopetoun Falls shoot cut short by Jaime horizontal tantrum. Lunch at the Nouri-shed before tackling Beauchamp falls with Marianne doing the photography.

Day 9: Evening : Dash to Gibsons steps as Charlotte wanted to collect shells. Marianne shoots Gibsons steps from the beach for the first time (previous trip she was 37 weeks pregnant and stayed on the platform).

Day 10: Morning : Lost filter holder at Loch Ard Gorge

Day 10 : Drive to Apollo Bay to wander around and for lunch after a visit to Carisbrook falls. Kids getting grumpy as we arrived at Marinner’s falls carpark and track is officially closed. I dashed off on a 40 minute mission and snap like crazy , drive back sweaty with kids complaining of stinky daddy. Chocolate Factory next!

Day 10: Sunset shot at Wreck Beach which ended up being one of those ‘unsets’

Day 11: Stayed in preparing for relatively shorter drive to Robe. Heavy rain all the way!

Obligatory stop at the 12 apostles!

Day 11: Evening. Quick wander out to the Obelisk to refamiliarise myself with the area and boom, a ribbon of light!

Day 12: Dawn: Super light threatened pre dawn but fizzled out. Tide was uncomfortably high.

Day 12 Day: Various wanderings around town but mainly rested .

Day 12 Evening : Afternoon shoot at the Obelisk before attempting to find a different area to shoot for future visits.

Day 13: Dawn: Attempted milky way shoot at the Obelisk obscured by clouds. Dawn looked like a fizzer and then exploded!

Day 13: Day : End of trip and our illnesses all cleared up before returning in the middle of winter with vengeance a week after return! Oh and a rainbow to farewell us from the road ! Bring on New Zealand!!!! 24 hours to go now before we potentially leave for a trip healthy for the first time we can remember.


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