Saturday, October 29, 2011

Southern New Zealand Wildlife and Landscape Photography Tour

Are you up for a bit of adventure?

Three's a Crowd

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that when I'm not out shooting as a working photographer I'm out shooting for pure joy - mainly the fantastic landscapes or wildlife we have here in New Zealand.

Tautuku & Tequila

After a bit of thought, some hard work and a lot of help from some wonderful people, I'm ready to share it with you and offer a Southern New Zealand Wildlife and Landscape Photography Tour. For 12 days next April, we'll tour the southern South Island, taking in its scenic and wildlife wonders, from great white sharks to mountain parrots, from Milford Sound to Otago's tussock high country.

Yellow-eyed Penguin

We'll be catering for photographers of all abilities, and will be offering workshops on camera craft and post production along the way. I say we because I've invited Japan-based photographer and web presence Martin Bailey to join us.  If you don't already know Martin's work or subscribe to his podcast, I suggest you do.


We'll be finalising details and coming up with all the information and booking details soon, so keep a close watch here, tell your friends and set your camera dial to adventure!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lightroom fix

For ages now, I've been struggling with an annoying feature of Lightroom. Whenever you make any change to a picture in your catalog, if it's been published to a service like Flickr, it marks the shot for republishing, and does so when you next publish anything to the service. In republishing the picture, it looses titles and other info, but most annoyingly, the links I use from my blog here all get broken and I have to go into the dashboard and fix them all up. Not any more, thanks to this handy little free plug-in from Rob Cole. Thank you sir!

 Taking a little break yesterday, I headed up to Nenthorn for some fun. Nenthorn is up in the hills between coastal Otago and the Strath Taieri Valley. It was the site of the last quartz gold rush in about 1889.


There was a thriving little town up here but it only lasted for about 5 years. Now there are only a few ruins left, the one above (the old St Bathans Hotel)  being the most intact. It's a grand place on a Summer's day, but I'll bet the winters were hard up here.

 I didn't exactly have golden hour light for landscape photography, but it was so nice to get out of town for a day. More on the place here.

 Land Grab


The highlight for me was the simplest thing, getting close to a common skink with my 100mm macro - as close as I could get before he bolted!


I tried to get close to some more, hoping to find a Grand or Otago skink, but all I saw were wriggles disappearing into tussock as soon as I approached. I did manage to sneak up on a rabbit though. Not exactly endangered in these parts, but good practice for wildlife photography. I'm hoping this is going to be a great summer for getting out and shooting.

Nenthorn Rabbit

I've got a lot of wildlife and landscape trips planned - including a very special southern safari package that I'm putting together. If you want to take the ultimate southern New Zealand photographic tour, stay tuned!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Get Over Yourself! - Discipline for Photographers

It's been a busy couple of weeks again. There's been the final bit of shooting for the book I'm working on, and a few jobs around town. It would be impossible to say what's been more enjoyable or instructive, but this one was great to do:

  Michael Stedman
That's my old boss, Michael Stedman from NHNZ. Another environmental portrait for my book that I lit to serve the story. In a nutshell, NHNZ is at the cutting edge of TV technology - a leading producer of 3D documentaries. Hence the techie looking background colours on the video bank in the background. I lit Michael with a single flash, up high and snooted to restrict the beam. I have to admit, I had a nervous moment at the start. I had a definite plan for this shot, based on my last visit. At that time though, the place was still being fitted out, and there were a lot more gaps in the bank for beams of light to stream through. Never mind, I got something we liked fairly quickly.

Another fun shoot involved a tour of Dunedin's water pollution control (sewage works) and water treatment plant. Run and gun shooting there, as my bandmate John Mackie was leading me around and when not laying down his powerful grooves in BlueStone, he's a busy city engineer. Just to show I can get portraits in available light, here's one of the lads up at Mt Grand, looking into a drinking water treatment vessel:  

The Brewer and the Chill


There have been a couple more visits to Emerson's Brewery, first to shoot famous Dunedin sound muso David Kilgour lend a hand dry-hopping the new "Tally-Ho" brew. Run and gun again.


And a calendar shot of the brewery's big three, Bob, Richard and Chris.


The lads were lit with a small softbox and filled with my Orbis ringflash adapter, a setup that's quick to do and pretty versatile in terms of the looks it'll give. The Orbis also gives you great speculars in the eyes. Then there were some head shots for local Accountancy firm JW Smeaton, a great bunch of people who all had a good time and made my job easy during the shoot. I used the same setup there. Here's Neil Stevenson:

Neil StevensonA good little spread of shooting styles and conditions. High concept, run and gun, and bread and butter portraits and I loved every assignment. Especially the bread and butter stuff. Funny thing is, lately one or two of the photography students I've been helping to tutor are finding their bread and butter assignments hard to get motivated about. Not enough creative challenge. One of my most talented pupils is disillusioned with being asked to hand in technical exercises and is getting behind in his work. I really hope he gets over this, but despite his talent, he may not make it.

 To make a living at photography (or succeed at anything), you really need discipline. It's not always sunsets, big lights and action. It also takes a bit of experience to know that even shooting heads against a wall, there's enormous scope for creativity and talents beyond composition and exposure. You have to embrace and overcome every challenge, not just the technical and creative but the personal as well.

You think it's easy for busy accountants or CEO's to look relaxed in the middle of a business day while their colleagues are watching?  It isn't, so you have to engage people to help get the best out of them. That wasn't something that came naturally to me. I had to learn it like lighting, and no two situations are the same. I used to dread engaging with subjects. Now I relish it. I hope my students go the distance and learn to bring all they have even into their routine shooting.

A huge part of the creative challenge lies in overcoming yourself.