Category Archives: Random Musings

Ramblings on just about anything and everything

It’s OK to not take a picture

Have you had one of those frustrating mornings when the conditions weren’t what you expected? Maybe it was raining or maybe what you wanted to photograph just wasn’t presenting itself? At the scene you may have tried your best but nothing really came out the way you wanted it to. Or perhaps you came away with an image that eventually came to life with post processing but because of how you felt at the scene, you lack a certain emotional connection with it?

Mount Rundle on a grey morning. Many photographers have liked this image of ours and it was my best performing image in a recent competition. I admit though that my emotional connection with it is almost absent. I took the shots on a cold raining morning having just landed in Banff while the family was sleeping and I was wide awake from jetlag. I may have produced something others like, but for me , my link to an image is one of the main reasons I produce images, not necessarily the result nor the admiration from peers.

Stop! Time out! Seriously , why were you out there taking photos? I’ve definitely had many of those mornings locally but not so much when I’m overseas.  One of the trendy things to talk about these days is how one develops as a photographer. I’m not someone who likes to buck the trend. I’m a white collar professional with an average number of kids living in suburbia who basically lives a life that many would say is part of the gravy train of society. So I’m going to say something ‘untrendy’. Just don’t take a photo. I’m serious. Do something you enjoy and don’t waste the morning feeling angry and frustrated when you’re supposed to be having fun. Let me explain further.

I find I still enjoy taking pictures of jetties and cannot subscribe to the thinking of ‘I don’t do X’ type of landscape. It works for others but I like to keep a completely open mind. This was my first visit to Wool Bay on Yorke Peninsula

I recall a specific morning a couple of years ago when I drove down to Victor Harbor (a local seaside spot one hour’s drive from home). The forecast was for high cloud but when I got there, it was pretty much a grey out with constant rain. I was tired from the work week and I was struggling to keep awake during the drive. I tried to take a couple of shots. I tried long lens photography to focus on details but couldn’t find anything meaningful. I tried long exposures which ended up getting ruined with droplets. I tried intentional camera movement by panning during a long exposure. I even switched lenses and tried to make reference images for Marianne’s art by taking pictures of seagulls in flight but they just weren’t doing the right things ! At the end of the shoot I literally spat the dummy and stormed away , pissed off that MY morning of solitude and relaxation had been WASTED.

This wasn’t the most vibrant or mornings but instead of being disappointed. I thought I’d use a new remote my KK from Christmas had given me . Also thought I’d have some fun trying to climb that rock!

More recently, I’ve kept some spare sneakers and shorts in the back of the car. If things are not looking promising, I’ll go for a jog instead. I know that’s going to do me good and I know I’m going to get the endorphin rush. I even love running in the rain. This back up plan basically means that no matter the conditions, I’ll come away with something from the morning out ; just not necessarily in the form of treasured RAW files to make a masterpiece from. The drive is never wasted.

I’ve learned over the years that my local trips out have really been about destressing from the week of work, especially since I’ve photographed many of the locations locally. And when I’m not visiting a ‘usual’  spot to shoot, then part of the journey becomes one of exploration and images from a new spot are taken really as part of a scouting mission. I feel that perhaps that’s why when I’m overseas, these types of mornings don’t tend to affect me as much. Many of the spots I’m visiting are new, many of them requiring a long hike in the dark to arrive at dawn which in itself is an endorphin rush. Because of my situation in life , photography is a bonus to me, not a necessity. I’m sure many of you who don’t do it for a living are in the same boat.

On this morning, I knew that there was going to be volumes of water flowing at Mannum Falls. My usual spot was a foam bath! So instead of being disappointed, I explored upstream and what do you know, a rainbow put some icing on my exploration cake!

So my final message is this. Explore what it is that drives you leave home at 4am when you could be sleeping in. If there are non photographic elements partially fuelling that seemingly masochistic drive, be prepared to fulfil them if the photographic mission turns out to be a failure. If it is purely photographic, then by all means, try all those things I tried on that grey morning down at Victor Harbor. Find ways to feel you’ve accomplished something and don’t stress about having no golden images from the morning ; that’s only part of the picture.

For this local shoot at Brown Hill, I came prepared to fulfil my secondary agenda : sleep! While a time lapse was shooting, I brought a sleeping mat and snuck in an hour of sleep 😉

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2016 Annual Review

It’s that time of year again, where we get the feast on the best photographs of 2016 from all of our favourite photographers! I love going through people’s top 10 (or top 16) lists and love it even more when I see an image that I’ve somehow ‘missed’ from their feed during the year. I thought briefly about how I could shake things up, but figured that I would be making a change just for change’s sake. That has been our modus operandi this year ; that is, to consider why we are wanting to change the way we do things. If the change has a genuine basis to iron out a flaw or to encourage growth, than we’ve gone for it. If the change is merely because it’s what other people are doing and adding peer pressure to our creative processes, then we’ve tried to ignore it. If you’re here just to see photographs, then I thought I’d open up by sharing a video of our edited images to the beat of Grouplove’s ‘Itchin on a photograph’. If you want to see images in more detail, scroll below the video and hopefully, enjoy 😉

January:

The undoubted highlight of this month was a one week trip to Tasmania with Luke Tscharke, Francois Fourie and Tim Wrate. We were supposed to walk the Western Arthurs but access was severed by devastating bushfires from which many parts of the country will never recover. Instead, we did a shorter hike to the Labyrinth and visited some local icons closer to Hobart. Locally, storm season gave some great conditions around Adelaide though the storms around here aren’t quite as speccy as in other parts of the country.

Mount Gould from The Labyrinth

Mount Gould from The Labyrinth

Tessellated Pavement as dawn cleared

Tessellated Pavement as dawn cleared

Secret Falls (well, not so secret anymore!)

Secret Falls (well, not so secret anymore!)

Marion Bay (where we went airborne and suffered a flat tire)

Marion Bay (where we went airborne and suffered a flat tire)

Western Arthurs from the air : Unfinished business!

Western Arthurs from the air : Unfinished business!

February:

This was a quiet month photographically as tends to be the case after a photography trip. I tend not to go shooting while going through the backlog of images from a previous trip. This was the trip video

March:

Around Adelaide, it definitely is a Mad March with the festivals in full swing. To suit the March madness, there were crazy skies one after the other! I managed to catch a couple of the lightshows along the coast but mostly, it was a case of being #dbreezied and just basking in that red glow.

One of many intense March evenings at Port Noarlunga

One of many intense March evenings at Port Noarlunga

And another ! (I shot this with Joel Dawson)

And another ! (I shot this with Joel Dawson)

April:

The highlight of April was a long weekend to Kangaroo Island. The weather was pretty wild at times which suited photography quite well. The changeable conditions meant that there was a moment of light around the corner. We based ourselves at Vivonne Bay and photographed the south coast areas. I also had a successful shoot at Lake Bonney during one of those precious weekends where the kids are sleeping over at grandparent’s ! The image of Lake Bonney has since been used by Nisi quite extensively as has a 15 stop image taken at Kingscote during our Kangaroo Island weekend. Autumn colours were quite good this year though a little later than usual.

Lake Bonney at dawn : One of my contributions to Nisi :)

Lake Bonney at dawn : One of my contributions to Nisi 🙂

Autumn Colors at Mount Loft Botanic Gardens

Autumn Colors at Mount Loft Botanic Gardens

The end of an amazing dawn at old Kingscote Pier

The end of an amazing dawn at old Kingscote Pier

Variable weather made for great conditions at the exposed Remarkable Rocks

Variable weather made for great conditions at the exposed Remarkable Rocks

Little Sahara on a blazing dawn

Little Sahara on a blazing dawn

The iconic Admiral's Arch

The iconic Admiral’s Arch

May:

Marianne had her first market where we tried to combine photographic prints of local icons with her pastel and watercolour art. There were literally no photographic sales while many greeting cards and assorted prints were sold. We definitely learned that these markets were not really an appropriate selling point for fine art landscapes and since then, Marianne has done two other markets successfully with just her artworks. I didn’t venture out locally too often save for one trip to Second Valley where I wanted to shoot from a different vantage point.

Looking for fresh vantage points of Second Valley

Looking for fresh vantage points of Second Valley

June:

The highlight of June was a 4 day trip to the Gold Coast, our first foray photographically. In that short trip, there were numerous experiences that we’ll remember. Dreamworld was the highlight for the children though our memories would be marred by a future tragedy which occurred there several months later on one of the rides we went on! It was a great opportunity shoot cityscapes, to visit epic coastlines, and last but not least, the beautiful forest scenes. The highlight for me was a half walk, half jog in Lamington National Park for a half day to visit its waterfalls. We’ll be back again some day no doubt!

Roaring seas at Fingal Head

Roaring seas at Fingal Head

First stop on my Lamington mission : Moran's Falls

First stop on my Lamington mission : Moran’s Falls

Last stop : Box Log Falls

Last stop : Box Log Falls

Cityscapes are lacking in our portfolio - I added a couple finally!

Cityscapes are lacking in our portfolio – I added a couple finally!

A quick visit to Springbrook National Park and the famous Natural Bridge glow worm cave

A quick visit to Springbrook National Park and the famous Natural Bridge glow worm cave

The gold coast from Currumbin - and a farewell!

The gold coast from Currumbin – and a farewell!

July:

Around this time of year, the rain starts to fall and the seasonal waterfalls come to life. One of my favourites is  Mannum Falls . You never know what you get with these falls as the appearances varies wildly from trickles to torrents! This year, with the heavier rains in late winter, the images I shot paled into insignificance in terms of flow when spring rains flooded the area. David Evans , David Post and I also partook in a cleanup day for photography hotspots visualised by Christian Fletcher. Port Willunga thankfully was already very clean before we took out the 1% mess down there.

Mannum Falls on my yearly visit - 2016 was a good one!

Mannum Falls on my yearly visit – 2016 was a good one!

Port Willunga : a very clean beach!

Port Willunga : a very clean beach!

August:

Without a photographic trip planned until late October I had a chance to release several instructional videos. I believe in giving back to the photographic community as all of my learning has been from free on line sources. As such, I created a series of free 2-3 minute tutorials (to capture the attention span of today’s social media viewing audience) that can be found on my youtube channel. To go with that, we also released a short video detailing how we achieve the ‘look’ of our images which tends to be a bright and vibrant feel rather than dark and moody. I did also enjoy a great morning down at Myponga beach . I also entered a few images into the Epson Panorama competition in the hope of breaking into the top 50 .

Myponga beach

Myponga beach

September:

Much of the weather this month was stormy and with steady rain. Adelaide had experienced double its usual rainfall by this stage which isn’t really saying much considering that it’s the driest capital city. Nonetheless, it did keep us indoors and planning for our upcoming talk at APSCON in October. We do like to be super prepared so we modified our workshop that we gave to the FOCUS group in 2015 to fit it into a 1 hour interactive session (delivered by me) and a 1 hour didactic session given by Marianne. Over the years, we’ve learned that the best presentations answer the ‘WIIFM’  (What’s in it for me) within the first few slides. I’ve found myself getting restless with presentations that don’t address the WIIFM at all and just meander along with no clear message.

Storms brought life to a local seaside waterfall trickling into the sea

Storms brought life to a local seaside waterfall trickling into the sea

October:

Pano award results were in! A couple of silvers and a bag of bronze for all entered images was again a what I considered a good effort given the quality of the entries but I did not break the top 50. Oh well, we’ll try again next year. After all the angst of preparation for APSCON, we did end up having a good time presenting to a very engaged audience who gave us great feedback. Our relationship with Nisi was a win-win (again) as two lucky attendees won themselves a V5 holder. Completion of our commitments was a huge pressure valve release for us and we could go to Canada with free minds! All was set to go , except for the expired passports which sat quietly, waiting until the last minute to assassinate our joy on departure day ……… Let’s keep things positive, we were only delayed 48 hours and still managed to have a great holiday with many wonderful experiences. In fact, there’s very little negative to say about the trip at all apart from our departure troubles.

Best scoring image with a Silver in the Epson Panorama awards :taken in 2015

Best scoring image with a Silver in the Epson Panorama awards :taken in 2015

Another silver award in the panorama competition

Another silver award in the panorama competition

November:

This month was clearly dominated by our trip to Canada and briefly to the USA. I’ve already been blogging each segment, so I’ve included some representative images. If you’ve been to New Zealand before, think Mt Cook National Park but all around you, all of the time. If you haven’t been to New Zealand or Canada, do yourself a favour one day and just take a drive through the pristine country . I’ll have to reflect back with time as to which I prefer , but this being the first trip to the Rockies has left me with the bigger impression for now. Here are some images which I took that have become favourites for now:

Muleshoe Lake off the Bow Valley Parkway

Muleshoe Lake off the Bow Valley Parkway

Clearing conditions at Bow Lake

Clearing conditions at Bow Lake

Whiteout snow at Lake Louise

Whiteout snow at Lake Louise

The light returns to our journey at Medicine Lake

The light returns to our journey at Medicine Lake

Glorious light at Pyramid Lake

Glorious light at Pyramid Lake

Post glorious light at Canmore

Post glorious light at Canmore

Kananaskis Country and Mount Kidd

Kananaskis Country and Mount Kidd

A fitting farewell to the Rockies on our last morning of shooting

A fitting farewell to the Rockies on our last morning of shooting

December:

There’s really nothing to add photographically this month . I have just been editing images from the last trip and keeping up with work and family commitments. I’ve tried my best to ignore the naysayers saying how awful 2016 was. Sure, a lot of crap went down this year, but surely a lot of good as well. The best thing about the ‘good’ is that you don’t have to look far to find it. There are good deeds, smiles, and joy around you all of the time and all it takes is for you to stop and notice it over and above the crazy events of the world. To round out the year, Marianne and I would like to say a big thank you to all of you who have been following us on social media this year and in the more distant past.  We hope that in the future, we continue to provide some source of inspiration in particular to photographers who travel with family. And, for the first time, I’d like to say a big thanks to our sponsors, Nisi – without you guys, the Canada trip would not have been possible .  (Wow, that was cool to use that ‘our sponsors’ line lol!). Also a big thanks to the many social media hubs and sites such as F-stoppers who have featured us during the year, Australian Photography Magazine for our ongoing article publications and Pikitia Postcards for being our best clients 🙂  Find the happiness in 2016 and may it stay with you and grow for 2017.

 

Social Media Update

Social media has been a very useful platform for us in terms of allowing our work to be seen. As hobbyist photographers with full time professions, we have needed to find ways to maximise our exposure with the least time intensive method possible! Having good or even great images is unfortunately only one part of the matrix involved. Over the years, we have gathered quite a following on various platforms and we have learned some valuable lessons regarding social media as a general entity, as well as on specific platforms. Here are some of our tips.

  1. Goals: It’s important to know why exactly you are investing time into social media. Is it to simply share your work? Are you after validation from your photographic peers or the general public? Are you planning on creating a marketing strategy that will gain you income? Are you hoping to ‘take over’ a market by becoming an ‘influencer’ ? Or is it largely just for fun? Exploring your motivations regarding your social media presence will not only help you determine how much energy to expend but will also help you avoid disappointment and resent.  The most common source of disappointment I see stems from an perceived lack of validation based on very few ‘likes’ or ‘faves’ of images. Whatever it is, time needs to be invested in order to meet your goals. This leads on to the next point.

    Investing little time and images into an engine (like viewbug for us) should mean that you expect little in return. Social media presence takes time and work!

    Investing little time and images into an engine (like viewbug for us) should mean that you expect little in return. Social media presence takes time and work!

  2. Personal and public value: I think it is very important to separate how we feel about ourselves as artists and how the world views us through a social media platform. The popularity of an image often does not correlate with personal value. Your profile  popularity is certainly not a reflection of self worth. It is very easy to become bitter with the whole social media ‘circus’ when one starts to equate popularity (or lack of) with self merit.

    One of my favourite images but not particularly liked on social media. This doesn't devalue the image, it just means I won't bank on it to draw the crowds!

    One of my favourite images but not particularly liked on social media. This doesn’t devalue the image, it just means I won’t bank on it to draw the crowds!

  3. Content: There’s no substitute for having appropriate content that is directed at your target audience. Note that I did not use the word ‘good‘ to describe content as this is highly subjective. Seemingly, the largest audience on social media appears to be those looking for images that represent lifestyle and escapism. In the landscape genre, this includes a combination of selfies, foot-selfies, pork pie hat selfies, fronts of canoes , acid washed landscapes prepared with VSCO presets. Did you internally sneer at the preceding list ? If so, try to stay true to your own ideals and post content that you are proud of and reconsider your goals. How much are you willing to adjust content in order to achieve that goal ?

    Of these 'editors choice' images on 500px, Marc Adamus image is the only one I would aspire to. I'm personally not willing to VSCO or pork pie hat my images. Are you?

    Of these ‘editors choice’ images on 500px, Marc Adamus image is the only one I would aspire to. I’m personally not willing to VSCO or pork pie hat my images. Are you?

  4. Visibility: Do everything within your power and moral code to ensure your images have the best chance of being seen (if you have the energy). I try to tag my images with as many appropriate tags as I’m allowed. On instagram I use hashtags for high visibility sites. On flickr and 500px I try to geotag the images on the mapping platform. I don’t tend to start doing a mass commenting spree but try to keep up with those I follow and am genuinely inspired by (though these days, having just the time to post is a struggle).
  5. Stay positive. Social media engines are on the whole, not critique forums. Join a critique forum if you want to deliver or receive meaningful criticism about your work.  I tend to go by the old adage ‘If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say it at all!’.  Most people log on to social media to be inspired, to have fun and to feel warm and fuzzy about their own work and their peers. The competitive negativity created from ‘flame wars’ incited by snarky comments or backhanded compliments always ends with both parties appearing worse off in some way. The petty one-upmanship that is subsequently portrayed then reflects poorly on the artists within that genre and defeats one of the major purposes of social media ; community.

    A typical comment thread on images on instagram. They don't mean anything per se and adding snarky comments about what you don't like stands out like a sore thumb and guess what, it makes YOU look the fool.

    A typical comment thread on images on instagram. They don’t mean anything per se and adding snarky comments about what you don’t like stands out like a sore thumb . It also makes you look the fool!

  6. Research your engine. If possible, try to find out a little about who is looking at your work and where they come from. Just a simple change  in timing of your posts could have a significant impact on the overall exposure. One may call it ‘gaming the system’ but once again , how willing you are to play games with social media reflects on point 1. One particularly striking example of this is flickr’s explore algorithm. Once your images make it on that page, it receives massive exposure but the engine only allows a user to be on explore one every 9-10 days. Hence, that’s when I post the content that I want to be seen along with promotions for new items on our website.

    I can confirm rumours that flickr lets you into its explore algorithm every 9-10 days!!

    I can confirm rumours that flickr lets you into its explore algorithm every 9-10 days!! Not the spikes in views of our page.

  7. Know your strengths: For some reason or another, one social media engine may well be much kinder to your images. This may come from being a recommended user when people log on, or it may be the engine which you have invested the most time in. Most of the time it isn’t through sheer luck. Recently on 500px for instance, we made it onto the recommended user list which ballooned the viewership of all of our images. Because there are potentially 88k people who could see our work before it even becomes popular, it means that our images make it quite quickly on to the popular section which is then viewed by the general public. I know there are those out there whose thought processes include ‘Oh that photographer’s images are crap but they just get high scores because of his/her follower count’. It’s that kind of thinking that can again lead to unnecessary bitterness and a focus on the work other people are producing instead of your own. I’m making hay while the sun shines for our account by posting regularly to take advantage !

    These are our most 'liked' images on 500px. The first three also happen to be personal favourites. the rest are nearly all from this year . That doesn't fool me into thinking I've been an awesome photographer this year. This just means that this year, we've boomed on 500px.  Nothing more, nothing less.

    These are our most ‘liked’ images on 500px. The first three also happen to be personal favourites. the rest are nearly all from this year . That doesn’t fool me into thinking I’ve been an awesome photographer this year. This just means that this year, we’ve boomed on 500px. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

And now irrespective of any debate about social media value, image manipulation, comp stomping, post processing trends and other such flammable topics, this is my favourite recent image taken at Mannum Falls. Hope you enjoyed the read! Now post away with carefree joy and meet those social media goals of yours 🙂