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7 photographic phases I wish I didn’t ‘have’ to go through………

With any pursuit in life everyone needs to make a start. That start might be based on a solid base of pre-learned theory, or it might be based on jumping into the deep end! Photography is one of those pursuits where Marianne and I had quite different approaches. While I always liked taking pictures, I never sought to seek any knowledge except through learning from mistakes and asking. Marianne on the other hand, took a course in SLR use (even before the digital days) and spent much of our early travels trying to explain to me what an F-stop was or the concept of aperture size. The learning curve in photography was not only steep in the field but just as steep when it came to post processing and spreading ourselves among social media circles. Here are some phases of our photography careers to date which didn’t kill us but only made us stronger. I say ‘us’ very loosely because actually, most of the mistakes are mine (Dylan’s) ! Please don’t take offence at any of these ; they reflect what I consider to be personal errors of judgment only and are definitely not targeted at individuals.

1. Everything MUST be HDR. You MUST take every shot as an autobracketed image. All of these bracketed shots must go through photomatix! Those tone mapped skies are so cool!

Circa 2007: Bracketing and photomatix were mindless processes. (So was big bordering!)

[Serious note] These days I still take multiple exposures for every scene ‘just in case’. I prefer to work from one image but if for whatever reason I need more resolution in highlights or shadows that I cannot achieve for ‘special’ scenes then the multiple exposures are my insurance policy that I will have something decent to work with.

Circa 2012: Lake Mackenzie : Still bracketing , still using photomatix at times but judiciously !

2. AS IF you need an expensive tripod! Who do GITZO think they’re kidding! I’ll just use our consumer tripod and save money thanks !

Circa 2006: Motion blur from cheap tripods: Unstable, difficult to manouvre, particularly on uneven surfaces.

[Serious note] On the whole, with photographic equipment your money tends to pay for quality but there is always a trade off. On the issue of tripods for instance, in the last 12 months I have taken a Benro tripod through its paces by shooting frequently immersed in seawater or dirty streams. It literally still works almost as new whereas a gitzo safari tripod in the corresponding 12 months prior, was more difficult to clean, has several half stuck joints and a broken foot. Though they have a lifetime warranty , sending it off for repairs is not cheap. The cost of the Benro was approximately 40% of the Gitzo though significantly more than a gorillapod!

King’s Beach: Shots like this expose tripods to corrosion of the worst kind – Salt & Sand!

3. ISO 100 is the best quality! I MUST shoot everything at iso100 , bugger the rest of the exposure triangle!

Circa 2007: Lima Cathedral shot at night, no tripod. Iso200 is probably not the ideal setting given the 0.5sec exposure @F4 !!

[Serious note] Actually, in the early days with our 20D, the statement above was relatively true. Noise became an issue even at iso400! We are fortunate these days to have sensors such as the 6D’s which allow shooting relatively cleanly up to 3200 iso for night images.

is3200 has become my ‘go to’ setting for night images of the milky way using the 5dmk3 and 6d.

4.  Landscape images need to be shot with a large depth of field. I need to shoot EVERYTHING at F22! Oh and at iso100 too – gee it’s inconvenient using a tripod for everything!

Circa 2008: Russell Falls : F22 wasn’t really needed as the water would have looked that way even with a stop or two more light.

[Serious Note]: As a trade off between theoretical diffraction and large depth of field, our go-to aperture is usually F16. When lighting or shutter speed (eg wave motion) demands, we will then adjust iso or aperture accordingly to suit. The specific situations where I aim to shoot at F22 are when I want to take advantage of diffraction for sunstars.

Roys Peak: F22 was used specifically to achieve the sun star.

5. Cataloging? Who needs to do that . I’ll KNOW where my images are and they won’t get touched.

Circa 2006: Mount Everest: I don’t even know where the original file is. We were shooting in jpeg and chances are this was saved over the original file. Pretty sure I took this as a vertical….

[Serious note]: We’ve had to come up with systems to ensure that we don’t lose files for several reasons. Firstly, our wedding clients may as us for prints years down the track and we need to be able to find the images quickly. Secondly I personally like to apply the latest post processing knowledge I’ve acquired to older images from the archives. We literally cannot do this to anything pre 2008 due to poor back up and cataloging habits.

I was able to edit this 2009 shot of Breidavik  in 20012 which made it much more impactful and has since become one of our best known images.

6. AS IF you need learn to use PHOTOSHOP to do anything. I can use lightroom PRESETs for anything and it will look cool! Who needs layers when you have a 1 click fix it all option!!

Circa 2007: The ‘300’ preset based on the movie was one of the coolest things around! Apply it to every shot for instant ooomph !

[Serious note]: Some images can be remarkably suited to a one click process. We shoot our weddings in RAW but some of the images turn out on the LCD the way we want it and we end up converting to jpeg in camera. These days, some of the magical ‘actions’ which can be purchased require a tutorial about how to use the action itself! I wonder if sometimes it might better to invest time in learning the principles of how the action works rather than learning to use the actions themselves.

Palouse Falls : The ‘in camera’ jpeg of this shot looked remarkably close to what is potrayed here after maybe 15 minutes of post process work.

7.  I NEED to get my work out there! It has to come out by the BUCKETLOADS and people need to be OVERWHELMED . They may even take notice because of sheer volume rather than quality! I’ll even tag people that aren’t in these pictures so they notice that I’ve posted this AWESOMENESS!

Years ago I may have uploaded all of these images within the space of an hour? These images were actually uploaded over the last month.

Years ago I may have uploaded all of these images within the space of an hour? These images were actually uploaded over the last month.

[Serious Note]: We do put out work at a higher frequency than usual, particularly on facebook. It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve which each site. These days, the facebook page is a working diary of thoughts and images I’m currently editing. Hence you’ll more than likely only see images I’ve touched recently unless there’s a specific image I want to revisit for discussion purposes. I personally don’t appreciate being tagged in other people’s images unless there’s a reason to be (I was shooting with them that day or we just had a discussion about the said image) and personally don’t do it. Flickr and 500px are sites where I will try to maintain a flow of reasonably good images at a much slower rate (maybe twice a week) in the hope that certain images might catch the eye of editorial staff. On flickr, I even put up some images of lesser quality such that I can submit to getty through an easy route. We only reserve images which in our eyes are ‘printworthy’ for the site. Our approach may well change in the future!

Goodbye from all of us! My next project to finish is Charlotte’s trip video of the USA.

I hope that was a lighthearted read for a Friday wherever you are in the world! I suspect that in a few years time, a similar post would include some examples of dubious photographic behaviour from 2013! Such is the course of natural progression where with time, more wisdom (and hopefully not bitterness) comes with the benefit of hindsight.

Next up : The conclusion of our North America trip – I’ve probably dragged the series on too long!



Kinh & Hao Zheng’s day (photographer’s perspective)

Congratulations to Kinh and Hao Zheng on your day! It was a long day photographically , but one that was full of fun and laughs and informality sprinkled in with the requirements of a wedding day. From our end, this is how the day unfolded:

6am : Wake up, entertain Charlotte until breakfast and Marianne ready, then Dylan’s turn.

7:30am: Take Charlotte for walk to park

Let's go Daddy!

Let’s go Daddy!

8:30am: Get dressed for day, grandparents arrive to help with Charlotte day care for the rest of the day

9:00am: Double check gear list : 2X5dmk3, back up 5dmk2, CF cards, tripod, flashes, spare batteries

9:10am: Why isn’t B&G’s address on google maps???? Street view saves the day!

9:30am: Leave for pre-tea ceremony preparation shots

Millenium Falcon cuff links!

Bride’s Shoes

10am-11am: Informal family shots around house

Who’s taller?

11am-12pm: Tea ceremony and ongoing preparation shots

Gifts from the older generation


12pm-1pm: Lunch! (Fantastic catering and the macaroons were a highlight!)


1pm-2pm: Preparation for winery ceremony shots

Groomsman looking good

Bouquets all ready to go

2:15pm: Marianne leaves early for winery to place signs along the way

Onward to the winery!

2:40pm: Final preparations before bridal party and family leave in mini-bus to Bird in Hand winery

Tough guys!

Inside the minibus (ps. photography in small bumpy bus was a whole new challenge!)

2:40pm -3:30pm : Various people fall asleep on the bus!

Wake up Hao Zheng!

3:30pm-4:30pm: Part 1 of location shooting around  Bird in Hand winery

Down the lanes

The old shed

4:30pm-5:30pm: Ceremony

Flower girl


5:30pm-6:30pm: Part 2 of location shooting around Bird in Hand winery

Stars of the day

Reception Venue

6:30pm-7:00pm: Venue shots before guests start to arrive, cake shots

Cake & lighting

7:30pm: Speeches and reactions, table shots with various degrees of Yum-Seng!

Lyrical speeches


More lyrical talent!

9:30pm Bridal waltz

The waltz

9:40pm onward: Various dancing shots including Gangnam Style!

Party Time!

Party Time!

10:oopm: Farewell to the party!

Starry skies a good omen!

10:45pm: Arrive home, start importing images, thank grandparents for caring for Charlotte 🙂

12:30am: Import and initial review and rating of images , then bed time!

The end result of cataloguing

The end result of cataloguing

Congratulations again to Kinh and Hao Zheng! We hope your image selection for high res files is an enjoyable one 🙂

I spy with my little lens…..

In early February , Marianne and I had the pleasure of photographing Skye & Brad’s wedding around the Adelaide CBD. A big congratulations to you for what was a fabulous day, and best wishes to you for the future! For the topic of today’s blog, I thought we’d share some of the images taken from different perspectives and focal lengths at any given scene. For most of the day, I was using the 70-200mm lens (hardly a ‘little’ lens) while Marianne stayed wide with the 24-70mm. The ‘feel’ of any given scene can be presented differently and this is the luxury we have of two photographers at our wedding shoots. These were all new locations as we had not photographed a wedding location shoot on the actual streets of Adelaide before. Two weeks prior, we had arranged another meeting to walk through the locations in the limited time we would have between the ceremony and reception.

Scene #1 : Outside the Majestic Rooftop hotel on Frome Road.



Scene #2 : Alleyway



Scene #3 : Crossing Frome Road


Wide (from other side of the road)

Scene #4: Adelaide University



Other things we tried:

Using a sunstar at weddings!

A cake’s point of view

Exposure blending

ND filters for longer exposures

Making use of the environment

All in all, we had a great time photographing the wedding and congratulations once again to Skye & Brad. Thank you for letting us record your special day and we hope the memories we captured will last you for a life time of happiness 🙂

One of many happy moments