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Favourite Photographic moments of 2017

It’s that time of the year again!

2017 has been a year where I feel that I’ve shot less than in previous years but there have been some very special moments in the field for me. With Marianne switching to other artistic media full time, there have been less images to post but I hope you’ve still managed to enjoy at least some of them! This year, I’ve gone with the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). I’ve shot when I’ve felt like it, in a manner that brings me joy and presented the images that reflect a sense of happiness and wonder. In previous years, I feel that I’ve been overly concerned with other photographers’ perception of my motivation to shoot and the way images were processed. As a result, I started trying to shoot like other people, present images with a look similar to others. In hindsight, this was beneficial for my development as tried to teach myself to see things differently but in the end, I always come back to what I love : the grand, sweeping landscape bathed in vibrant light. I feel this is largely reflected in my favourites as even the longer focal length images attempt to convey the grand scene. If you have the time, see if you can pick the two images shot with the 70-200 and the two images shot at 24-70 focal length.

As the children grow up, they play more of a role in each shoot whether it’s part of the behind the scenes stories or whether the shoot is part of a grand plan for a whole day. With that in mind, here’s a countdown of my 12 most valuable experiences for the year.

12. Starting off with my favourite backpacking trip of all time! In January, I joined Luke Tscharke, Francois Fourie and Tim Wrate on a 5 day trek along the Western Arthurs to Lake Oberon. This image was taken after the first night of hiking . We had woken up to misty whiteout conditions which quickly cleared to a glorious morning. There are naturally a few more scenes from this trip in my countdown!

Strata: Scott’s Peak from the Arthurs

11. Noosa Heads National Park. In June of this year, we visited the Sunshine Coast as part of a family holiday. We had all walked out to enjoy the evening on this stretch of coast when sudden showers had everyone scampering for cover. I stayed out in the rain with Brisbane photographer Steven Waller and witnessed some amazing light on sunset. This was a poignant moment for immediately after the joy of witnessing this, I slipped and in fell the A7r2 into the water …..

Noosa Heads National Park

10. Lake Bonney has always been a great go-to location for me. Because it’s a fair distance from Adelaide, I tend to go when the girls have a sleepover at the grandparents! So it was that on this morning, I was testing the Laowa 12mm F2.8 lens and was greeted with fantastic astro conditions after midnight followed by an amazing dawn! As with many of the shots this year, the photographs were taken in the context of mixing photography and family commitments. I drove straight from Lake Bonney to Port Gawler where we had a very successful crabbing session to fill our bellies for the next couple of evenings!

Colour Bomb at Lake Bonney : Taken with Laowa’s 12mm zero-D F2.8 lens

9. The Wanaka Tree: I must admit, I just don’t get the hate for this location. I shot here twice during the last trip to New Zealand. Once at sunset while waiting for takeout and the other at dawn on our last morning. On both occasions, I wasn’t really pushing myself to be overly creative but was blessed with great conditions. On both occasions , I managed to have some great conversations with people who were shooting there. I don’t make enough face to face contact with photographers and feel that perhaps I can be a bit elusive in the field ! These moments are valuable for me to shoot with others in mind and trying to come away with something different to the 20 other photographers there.

The Wanaka Tree on a glorious golden dawn!

8. Motukiekie beach has to be one of the most dramatic seascape locations in the world.  The addition of starfish colonies in the area perhaps put it even above many of the others! I was lucky enough to visit this location during a very low tide which allowed the whole family to experience the grandeur of this location. We stayed nearby and managed a few trips to this spot punctuated by one particularly awesome evening.

Blazing light after sunset shared with the wildlife and the family made this evening extra special

7. My only astro shot in this compilation was this memorable morning above Lake Oberon . At the time of this shot  (with moonrise and milkyway rise occurring simultaneously), I had been explosively ill with some dodgy freeze dried Kung Pao chicken from this previous evening. Blowing wind and rain did not help the cause one bit! Thankfully around this time, the weather started to settle along with the bowels and I was able to take this image!

Genesis : Moonrise, Milkyway rise and sunrise all interplay over a magnificent outlook of the Western Arthurs

6. Rocky Creek Canyon. In November, Marianne and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and decided to venture somewhere without the kids. Our last trip without Charlotte and Jaime was to Karijini so it would seem that we have a love of canyons! We are forever grateful to Jake Anderson and Blue Mountains Adventure Company who made this visit possible for first time visitors with a very limited time window. Normally, we wouldn’t be jumping into the water with the air temperature at 11 degrees but with the appropriate gear and guidance, it was a ton of fun! This was the last shot I took before heading out.

The entrance to Rocky Creek Canyon is a visual maze of curves and lines.

5. Nelson Lakes National Park has so much more to offer than just the jetty that is often shot. As pretty as that scene is, I feel it’s only a prelude to the wilderness beyond and hope to revisit the area in the future. This second trip up to Lake Angelus hut was special in that I had never really visited locations in full winter conditions. The Lake itself was completely frozen as was the water supply. Having to chip wood to start a fire, boil ice for water and help frostbitten late comers into the hut made this an amazing experience over and above the photography.

Golden light shines through passing cloud in a frozen wonderland around Lake Angelus

4. Back to the Tasmanian wilderness! After an evening and day of being battered by 100km gusts while being holed up in our tents, the following evening appeared to clear somewhat. I made a quick decision to hike up to the ridge above Lake Oberon and was greeted by an amazing light show.  Golden rays were shining through rapidly moving cloud at eye level which made me feel as though I was standing in the midst of a timelapse.

Square Lake and Procyon peak illuminated following storms

3. Hooker Lake is one of my favourite in and out walks while visiting Aoraki National Park. One day, I’m hoping to get some colour and cloud over this spot but on this year’s trip, the clear skies worked its magic . The night temperatures were subzero which led to the shores of the Lake starting to freeze over. The patterns of ice were fascinating and I chose to use the 12mm lens to accentuate their depth. While this scene didn’t give the sense of awe that other scenes did, I really liked this image the moment I shot the 3 frames needed for it. Marianne commented instantly ‘that’s the shot of the trip’ when she saw my LCD even though we were only 8 days into a 3 week trip!

Ice Glyphs around the edge of Hooker Lake

2. There are some mornings where the light bathes you in crimsons and reds. I was lucky enough to experience one such morning while watching the icebergs slowly move on a still Tasman Lake. This was our last morning in the Mount Cook area and what a send off it was! I to get to this scene and almost ran out of petrol for the return trip back to the south end of Lake Pukaki where we were staying.

A breathtaking dawn at Tasman Lake

Number One! It should come as no surprise that my favourite image from the year and favourite morning of shooting for the year came from the Western Arthurs hike. This particular morning also started off grey but with swirling clouds above, there were moments of brilliant passing light that was simply magical. We lingered until the last possible moment of light and packed up headed back for Lake Cygnus. For the remaining 2 days on the track we would be engulfed in swirling, wet,greyness as though mother nature had declared that this scene was our gift for the trek. It’s likely that this will be my favourite image of all time for quite a while.

Oberon Glory : A sight that will be forever burned into my memory

If you follow our work, how did that list pan out for you? Were there any other images that you remember giving you a stronger impression than the ones I’ve posted? If so, it’s always good to know so leave your thoughts in the comments below! Wishing everyone a fantastic photographic 2018 🙂

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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.

-D

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

New Zealand Destinations: Glacier Country

Time is flying past and we’re halfway through our trip in New Zealand. So far, the biggest difference we have noticed is the pace at which we are doing things. Spending at least 2 if not 3 nights in one location has really meant that each spot feels like home and we can explore at our leisure rather than be ‘forced’ to see the sights. Our last three nights have been spent at the top 10 holiday park at Fox Glacier. These are some of the topics which we can shed some light on , though bear in mind that this is our singular experience rather than a collective experience which sites like trip advisor might give you!

Fox Glacier vs Franz Josef Glacier: From the limited experience we had around Franz Josef, I would say that its advantages are predominantly logistic. It has an actual supermarket rather than a grocery store, it has a medical centre (which we ended up needing to make use of due to Charlotte’s health) and it seems to have a greater choice of companies with whom you can book activities such as glacier walks (more on that later). Fox Glacier is literally a one street town with accommodation strewn out and seems less busy than its larger neighbour. In terms of the actual glaciers, both are receding however, the terminal face of Fox Glacier is far more accessible with a shorter walk and better views than Franz Josef Glacier. Glacier walks can occur from the public viewing point and as a result, when heli hikes are not possible at Franz Josef (bad weather), a lot of business comes down to Fox Glacier for glacier walks instead. These are some pictures of what you might expect :

Franz Josef Glacier with waterfalls along the way

Franz Josef Glacier with waterfalls along the way

Descending to Fox Glacier ice face

Descending to Fox Glacier ice face

Heli Hike vs Glacier walks: Marianne went on a hike on the middle section of Fox Glacier which was accessed via helicopter flight. The time spent on the ice was over 1 hour and the activities included cramming through ice caves. Its cost is 399 NZD. I went for a glacier walk on the lower glacier which was accessed via a path leading on from the public view point. The half day option gives you approximately 1 hour on the ice during which you may have an opportunity to wander into safe crevasses and small ice caves though most of it is spend atop the ice. You do get to walk some ice staircases which are chiseled daily by the hard working teams. Its cost is 115 NZD.  In both cases, you can’t really stop to take your time taking images as the group needs to keep moving, so I don’t think a tripod is at all practical though perhaps you could make use of some GND’s .  Over all, I think Marianne feels that the heli hike experience gave a better ‘ice’ experience but of course, this comes at a price.

Cramming into Ice Caves on the middle glacier

Cramming into Ice Caves on the middle glacier

Stairways of ice on Fox Glacier

Stairways of ice on Fox Glacier

Lake Matheson viewing points: When visiting the Fox Glacier region, Lake Matheson is one of ‘the’ spots to visit for your postcard rendition of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook with reflections. On all of our forays there, the water was still and reflections were as ‘advertised’. There is a choice of three platforms to view the mountains and each have advantages and disadvantages. ‘Reflection Island’ is the location from which nearly all most cards are taken from. It is a fantastic location but its disadvantage is a bank of trees on the left which limits composition to a focal length of approximately 40mm or longer unless you find creative ways to include the bushes which encroach the lake from the left. The ‘Jetty’ view point has no immediate foreground obstructions which means that you can take wide angled shots of reflections however (and it is a big however) only Mount Tasman is visible without obstruction. Mount Cook on the right is obstructed by a tall tree. I would have liked to have given an example of both locations, but Marianne’s CF card from reflection point were somehow corrupted so we will have to wait until we return home before seeing how these turned out.

Wide Angle shots from the 'Jetty' view point

Wide Angle shots from the ‘Jetty’ view point

Trees on the left can limit composition at 'Reflection Island'

Trees on the left can limit composition at ‘Reflection Island’

There are  many other locations which we didn’t get time to visit but on a last note, Gillespies Beach is well worth the visit 20km out from Fox Glacier township.

Pebbled stones and roaring seas at Gillespies Beach

Pebbled stones and roaring seas at Gillespies Beach

If you ever visit Glacier Country, I hope this quick guide has been helpful to you! Three nights was great photographically and great for a family trip too !

On a last note, we will not have internet access for the next 2-5 days so the next update might be a while off!

-D