It’s that time of year again! This year I thought I’d stray a little into a discussion about what I’ve learned in life and perhaps that may give context to my approach to photography this year. The major life event this year was being septic with appendicitis after trying to ‘tough it out’ for far too long. That resulted in a more complicated operation, a longer recovery and a second admission to hospital for another complication. It gave me a focus on considering what the most important aspects of life to me are. Photography is up there for sure, but health and family underpin all of it. Hence , photography this year has revolved around family needs more so than ever. Despite this, the photography year has still been very good to me and it’s given me more fuel to add to my constantly burning feeling of ‘impostor syndrome’. Rather than presenting 2018 as a timeline, I thought I’d change tact and discuss several themes instead.
Extended family holidays:
Our first trip this year was with extended family to Yorke Peninsula in February. For those reading from South Australia, James Well is an amazing place to stay during the local crabbing season and we certainly took full toll of our weekend there with plenty of seafood to celebrate Chinese New Year. I love summer holidays away as most of the time, I can photography dawns and be back in time for the family breakfasts. If I’m lucky, I may even sneak in a sunset shoot or two during the trips. On this trip, I managed to photography a couple of places I had never been to before and ones which I had not seen many images of.
In the past , I’ve been guilty of overthinking competitions. Competitions aren’t the reason I take photographs, instead, they’re a nice source of external validation if I happen to do well. Sometimes, I even used to enter competitions with a mindset of only entering images that I felt that they were within my invented moral framework of photography. If it went well, I wanted to say a big ‘screw you’ to those images which did not fall within this framework. Guess what – it never worked ! When you’re attempting to break into the top end of any field whether it be sport, academic pursuit or photographic competition, ‘one percenters’ to push limits count. The entrants who respect the rules to the limits with their amazing images will do well. And so, I only chose two competitions to enter this year: the Australian Geographic nature photographer of the year and the Epson Panorama Awards. The former because of the inbuilt ‘RAW check’ that is required for every shortlisted finalist image. The latter because the images seem more true to landscapes than many other ‘landscape’ competitions which seem based more on the ability to use nature as mere guideline for subsequent art. In the panorama awards, I’ve got over my angst-filled deliberations about whether to enter cropped images since most winners in recent times have been cropped images rather than stitched panoramas. I also threw away my ‘pro’ vs ‘amateur’ principle for the sake of the competition as I wanted to see how I fared with all comers in ‘open’ competition. I still consider myself an amateur at heart with far more limited opportunities than ‘professional’ photographers who do it for a living. I’ve had this mindset for a few years now , and it’s only been this year that I’ve had some breakthrough results. So I don’t feel that this change of attitude has been the reason for my successes in 2018, but rather, it simply means that I’m not disappointed if the images don’t perform as well as I had hoped. Meanwhile, several organisations have benefited financially from my chase of external validation!
Physical health and rehabilitation:
People sometimes ask me why I do the amount of exercise that I do. The easiest answer is that I like it! There’s no way anyone would just run 40-50km a week just for the sake of it. The benefit of keeping fit is to be able to go that bit further, have that much more clarity of mind without having to worry about fatigue after long walks. It helps significantly on the backpacking trips (which requires a different kind of fitness) but even more so during the family holidays when I’m rushing to get to locations before dawn and the rushing back to get back to join the family for the rest of the day. I had grand plans scouted out in advance before the New Zealand trip, but had to adapt to roadside shooting due to the unexpected bout of appendicitis. Over and above this, while attempting to regain fitness in May, I had quite a nasty bike accident coming down from the hills on my bike which set me back further. For several months I just didn’t have the full confidence in my body but thanks to my greyhound Flynn, our morning jogs helped to get me on the rehab track. We’ve got into such a pattern that later in the year, I even managed to run a personal record time for the City to Bay an completely unexpectedly snagged first place for my age! I didn’t do a lot of hiking in Canada or Washington but hopefully next January I’ll be able to test out the benefits of this years rehabbing during a one week solo trip to Tasmania.
Sponsorship and photographic income:
Our relationship with NiSi and Pikitia continue to be our main sources of trickle income. On the side, there seems to be an interest in prints and tutorials every so often, particularly after favourable competition results! Overall, this means that photography is a self sustaining hobby. Throughout the year, I managed to edit a few scripts for NiSi and tested out their Titanium circular polariser. It turns out that its more of a warming cooling filter but still does its intended job well. I hope that with any partnership that I undertake, I can continue to give honest opinions rather than feel forced into praising the hand that feeds me. I feel that as someone who doesn’t depend on photographic income to survive, it leaves me in the best position to keep acting in this manner. Marianne has also branched out in to tripadvisor. We were part of a beta that recently launched in November and have a steady build up of followers.
This year I’ve ventured locally far less than I used to. To a degree, there’s photographic fatigue with visiting the same locations over and over ; even if I haven’t achieved the shot I’ve always had in my mind for certain locations. The main limiting factor is that the kids are growing up and I’ve chosen to stay home on weekends – particularly now that we seem to have established a Sunday pancake routine! I do look forward to the summer months though. From November to February, I can comfortably head out on a local shoot and wrap up after dawn before coming home to take part in the morning activities, be it sport or breakfast related.
Our ‘regular’ holidays:
Last but not least, we did go on several trips this year. The March trip to North Island was intertwined with a conference at Tauranga which I needed to attend as a physician trainee supervisor. This was the appendicitis interrupted trip. Since Marianne was pretty stressed out from that trip and fatigued, we decided to try out a resort holiday in Fiji during shoulder season in May. Finally, another perioperative conference was being held in Seattle in October which made it perfect timing for visiting the Northern hemisphere in fall. All of these trips were planned with dawn photographic opportunities in mind. For the most part, we stayed at self catering homes and based ourselves for three nights at any one location. These are some of my favourite shots from each ‘stop’ that we stayed at.
Tauranga was the first stop at North Island. I really only went on one shoot in the midst of my delirium and vaguely remember pain in my right groin each step of the way down!
Hawke’s Bay was the next stop where I had planned to do some long hikes to Cape Kidnappers. Instead, I settled for 50m outside our accommodation at Napier.
I was hoping to shoot from the top of Castle Rock at Castlepoint but it looks like many others have now beat me to it! Oh well, another visit will have to do!
Around Taupo, I ventured out to the desert road to shoot Ngauruhoe. We were staying very close to this lone tree along the shores of Lake Taupo as well.
The Waitomo area was famous for its glow worms but I don’t feel I did it justice. Instead, I took a mud bath at Marokopa Falls…
Our final stop was at Urenui near New Plymouth. I had hoped to visit Taranaki again but due to health, I restricted myself to the coastline.
Fiji was a great place to unwind however, for 2 of our 5 days , we had wild weather! This gave nice photographic opportunities at various locations though.
By the time we arrived in Seattle in late September, life had more or less returned to normal. Everyone’s health had miraculously stayed in tact (last trip we all suffered from Influenza A!). The kids adjusted well to long haul flights and time zone changes. I could not have imagined a more smooth process getting from home to each of our locations. In fact, other than the kids being loud in a Seattle townhouse causing mild friction with neighbours, all of our accommodation choices were great! There was a bit of a downer toward the end of the trip when we were rained in for consecutive days but the weather did clear and we finished off the trip with a quick visit to Disneyland on the way home.
After a few days in metro Vancouver to get over jetlag, we headed over to Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island . I felt that this was the best location of the trip accompanied by great weather after a washed out start.
After battling an epic day of traffic to get back to the Mount Rainier area, the weather settled in meaning we lost sight of mountains for good!
We left Mount Rainier to first snows! Thereafter, it cleared up during our drive, only for the weather to settle in again as we arrived at Forks, our base for exploring the Olympic Peninsula. Rain meant that the focus was largely on waterfalls, though the weather cleared up on the very last morning.
The rest of the trip was based in Seattle for my conference followed by a quick visit to Disneyland !
I feel refreshed and healthy at the end of 2018. Next year, we’re taking on home renovations which could see us a bit quieter on the photographic front. We have two trips to Tassie planned so far – one solo, one with extended family. Hopefully we’ll be able to sneak in a couple more trips locally and hopefully the girls continue to develop their hiking legs and appreciation of nature. My most important lesson learned this year was to have a stark reminder of the priorities in life. Good health and family should never be underestimated. See you in 2019 from all of us!
I thought I’d share excerpts from my diary that I kept during our last trip – interspersed with some pictures of course. This first section is more a lesson on the things NOT to forget when going overseas , but first, a picture to distract you 🙂
We had been preparing for this trip for several months beforehand and one of the most ironic things to have occurred is that we completely forgot a major detail : that my passport had expired and that Charlotte’s was expiring in 5 months. We had all of our clothing packed, all of the locations we were going to visit packed, all of the people we were going to meet organised and everything was all set with one last step to check in online on Saturday night before our planned departure on Sunday morning . WRONG. I couldn’t check in and kept wondering why until I looked with horror that my passport had expired in June!!!!! Marianne and I were deeply upset as no doubt, this would have been the best lead up to a holiday that we’ve had with good health and so many things to look forward to on this trip. I just had a sense of profound hopelessness as I went through the motions of ringing the DFAT, Air New Zealand and asked if anyone through social media knew of anything possible that I could do to get on a plane within 12 hours. Not happening…..
Early on Sunday morning, we had to break the news to the kids who really didn’t seem to mind!! To get our minds off the fact that we should actually be travelling, we decided to head to Monarto zoo instead. So this actually, was the start of our holiday albeit back home and not in San Francisco. It was a great distraction and that night, sleep did not come well as I concocted plans to obtain a new passport urgently on compelling grounds. Favours needed to be pulled and the guys from Nisi were amazing in dealing with that with a cover letter from Andrew Code (from Nisi Australia) stating that I was on an equipment testing trip that could not be cancelled. I am forever grateful to them for that act of kindness , any image from this trip is Nisi’s to use as we literally would not have been there without that letter. As a side note, I realise that many people were trying to be helpful but I managed to bust a heap of travel myths that were thrown at me (all in good faith of course).
- You do NOT need to have a valid passport for 6 months when visiting the USA or Canada (just valid for time of travel)
- You do NOT need to have a valid passport for 6 months on re entering Australia (just valid on reentry date)
- ESTA visa is practically instant and not a 72 hour wait. Same for the new Canadian equivalent.
Monday morning was the date of the imagined inquisition I would have from the office. This never eventuated. I turned up just after opening time at 830am and was 1 hour early. Fortunately the first appointment was running late so I snuck in and managed to very quickly talk my way into getting the passport done by that day! I was still not counting my chickens as I wanted to actually feel happy again only after I had my passport in hand. This occurred at about 2pm after we took another distraction to Marion aquatic centre. These last two days with the kids made me think that even if we were at home doing stuff with them every day, that wouldn’t be such a bad holiday!
Monday afternoon was a happy one . With passport in hand, we managed to rebook our flights (albeit at a loss of big $$$ due to the specials that we booked our original flights on). I contacted everyone to tell them that we were on our way and they were all extremely sympathetic and even willing to bend their schedules to meet our unusual circumstance. Brent Lok in California was particularly friendly offering to shift our dates at the cost that we had already paid!. Sleep did come well on Monday night and 28 hours later, this was the actual start of our holiday.
Tuesday October 25: (Aus and USA)
The flight was always going to be a tiring one but I must admit that the kids were better than predicted (though Jaime was a handful). From Adelaide to Auckland, Jaime did manage a tiny nap when lying flat with a blanket over the top of the seats. Despite very little rest, they managed the very quick turnaround time in Auckland airport very well. As we left Auckland to board our skycouch seats, the weather was epic there with rainbows and pink skies surrounding us – using up our trip’s light mojo dammit!!!!
The long haul was on two sky couches. Marianne and Jaime in one and Charlotte and me in the other. I think that it definitely has a comfort advantage with 2 occupants but with three, it would be of questionable benefit. Better than premium economy I suspect. Out of all of us, Charlotte got the best sleep while Jaime only had about 2 hours of solid sleep for the whole flight. I doubt that Marianne and I actually had any sleep ! Food was good, service was good and overall, couldn’t really fault Air New Zealand for their effort on the flight.
Our arrival at SFO was a very uneventful one in the late morning. We managed to get our rental quickly, head over to the rental accommodation at Mill Valley. Throughout that afternoon, things started to clear and looked as though it might actually be a decent sunset. When we arrived at our accommodation that our preprogrammed GPS expertly pointed us to ,we instantly regretted (further) our inability to spend the full three days at this location . It was beautifully set among the redwoods and had a great ambience to it. It would have been an absolutely amazing location to get over jetlag and relax. As it was, we had an early dinner at 430 in the evening and put the girls to bed. I went out for a shoot at Rodeo beach which fizzled badly and when I returned at 7pm , all were fast asleep. By the time I managed to get everything ready for bed, it was 9pm and by that time , the girls’ body clocks were far from adjusted. We had to get them out of bed at 10pm to play for an hour before they finally did go back to bed at around 11 something for the rest of the night. The next morning, they were sleeping like the dead when we woke them for our airport run.
Two travel tips :
- Loading POI’s onto your GPS is easily done through the site POI editor which saves your points of interest as GPX
- Travelling to the USA , you can prepay a USA SIM (from Australia) to insert as you land from Mobi Passport.
Wednesday Oct 26 : O Canada!
After cajoling the kids into action, we dashed off to the airport and returned the car with no hassles. Golden light was glowing across the golden gate bridge and the kids loved the airtrain ride to the airport passing through all of the terminals. Check in was relatively painless though security was quite a painstakingly long process. No tanties in the line, nothing but well behaved kids ! We had some time on our hands afterward due to a slight delay on our outbound plane to Calgary. The plane itself was a small one with 2 x 2 seat rows in economy but made up for it with leg room. The lack of sleep did catch up with everyone as Jaime, then Charlotte fell asleep on the relatively short 2.5 hour flight.
Upon arrival, there was indeed no issue with Charlotte’s passport expiry and after a scare that one of our bags hadn’t arrived (it actually had but was placed upside down on the conveyor belt fooling me!). Rent-a-wreck rental pick up went smoothly as we ventured out into an overcast Calgary evening. For some reason, the rental operator seemed a bit paranoid that we didn’t want to take out collision damage waiver? We haven’t to date with any other company?? Oh the irony as we would find out later in the trip ……With the GPS set, the kids excited to be in Canada , we headed off to Banff!
As the mountains approached, everyone was falling asleep in the car (except for me since I was gawking at the beautiful mountains approaching looking for any hint of a sunset stop that didn’t eventuate due to poor light). By the time we arrived in the beautiful township of Banff, set beneath Cascade Mountain, it was past 8pm and pretty cold by our standards! The choice for places to eat was overwhelming and so , with a sigh, we resigned ourselves to a meal at MacDonalds (which would be our last !). Check in at Inns of banff into a three bedroom unit was also uneventful and we settled for what we hoped would be a good night’s sleep. And so it was for the kids who slept until 10 the following morning but not for us as we didn’t get to bed until past midnight despite severe deprivation. We were at last, in Canada !!!
It’s time for a year’s end post from team everlook ! With another extension to family expected early in 2014 and our ‘retirement’ from wedding photography, we can probably say that 2014 will be a less productive year than this year has been. Let’s jump straight into some favourites of ours from different locations and genres!
Four weddings and a retirement.
We only photographed 4 weddings this year and actually attended 2 as guests which was such a nice change! We have tried to emulate our landscape ‘style’ of vibrant imagery into wedding photography as well as incorporate some landscape shooting techniques too.
The local weather lottery!
This year, the weather gods have been both kind and cruel at their whim. I tried to venture out on most weeks to participate in a 52 week project. I doubt I will be able to commit to this in 2014 for the reasons stated above but this year did take me to many local sites . The timing of these trips was all premeditated depending on work and other commitments so it was a good exercise to find ways of overcoming unfavourable conditions and maximising good conditions. These are some of my favourites from the ‘one shoot’ trips around home.
The weekend warrior jobs
A couple of times a year, Marianne and I set aside a weekend away. For 2013, we only managed to do this twice and on both occasions we had some dramatic weather to deal with. At Robe, sunny days became sultry and overcast while at Lake Bonney, the whole of South Australia was going through a cold snap during which it actually snowed on our 723m high Mount Lofty (well, not really snow but semi solid precipitation which the snow-naive might call snow!) A slightly longer weekend away took us to Merredin in WA where Marianne and I had the nerve-wracking honour of being speakers at the WAPF annual meeting.
The long trips :
Our first trip in the year was a return to New Zealand’s South Island. In 2012, we did the ‘typical’ alpine itinerary of travelling through the Tekapo, Mount Cook , Wanaka and Fjordland. This year we decided to visit the west coast and the north of the island. With a mobile 2 year old who wanted to explore by herself, we actually found it more difficult than in 2012 when Charlotte needed to be carried anywhere and quite often was asleep on our back as an 8 month old. We finished the trip off with some R&R in Sydney.
Our second trip of the year was to the Pacific Northwest (scroll back in the blog for more details!) . This region definitely NEEDS a revisit at some point in the future. It has given me a good incentive to stay fit and healthy such that if all things go well, and our children love the outdoors as we do, we might be able to walk as a family! The children would also appreciate and remember Disneyland more than Charlotte at this age I suspect.
Other projects /publications /commendations:
2013 started with a portfolio feature in Landscape Photography Magazine. We are currently also writing a piece for Digital SLR photography magazine. In between , we have had 5 postcards chosen for circulation by Pikitia , based in New Zealand. Our image of Robe won 4th place in the Epson Panorama Awards amateur division , we’ve been listed as a top 100 landscape photographer to follow, and our fan base seems to expanded internationally! It was such a thrill to know that photographers such as Miles Morgan and Tula Top had heard of us when we inquired about meeting in the USA 🙂 We were also honoured to be guest speakers at two local camera clubs where we were able to hone our presentations in the lead-up to being key note speakers at the WAPF annual event at Merredin.
Charlotte of course is our main focus on life at present. So far, we could not have asked for more from our adorable two year old who despite the odd tantrums and grizzles, never fails to put a smile on our face. We look forward to the years to come and in the near future, the challenge of reacquainting ourselves to the care of a new born in April . Hopefully, during this ‘down time’ of trips, we might be able to compile more ebooks and guides! Cheers to 2014 🙂