Saturday, December 6, 2014

24 short hours in New Zealand

New Zealand - Travis Longmore Photography
Overlooking the small town of Akaroa, New Zealand
I stood staring at a scene I was convinced couldn’t possibly be real. This felt unspoilt. The only hint of the hand of man were some dilapidated old fences, the dirt road I’d driven in on and the tiny lights of Akaroa in the distance. You’d have to know the small town was there beforehand to know what those lights were though. To me they looked like tiny stars in the mountains. I could have stood there watching until the sun began to set again but I was there for a purpose.

Months in the planning, my next big photography trip gave me more excitement than I could remember. “A photographer’s dream”, I’d been told. New Zealand was meant to be something out of the movies, indeed many of the movies I love were set in the very place I was heading. Lord of the Rings, Avatar, The Last Samurai, The Chronicles of Narnia, Once Were Warriors, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Hobbit and my particular favourite, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (obvious joke just in case!)

I arrived in Christchurch just a few days ago with more enthusiasm than I’ve had in months. The last time I’d had a trip this big I was riding camels through the Thar desert, meeting amazing Indian locals and feeling like a celebrity as I worked my way across Rajasthan. This has a totally different feel in a way but I was just as excited.

Christchurch feels like a bit of an anomaly from the other places I’ve been to so far in New Zealand. It’s likely because of the results of the earthquake in February, 2011 that they are still trying to clean up from but it had a completely different feel from anywhere else I went to. The people were still friendly and easy going but there was an air of impatience and frustration that was fairly evident amongst some. I think they wanted their city back and rightly so. There were buildings still lying on the ground, smashed by the magnitude 6.3 quake years ago. It seems shocking that it would still be like this nearly 4 years on. I don’t know what it was like before that terrible day, but the place was still recovering both it’s city centre and it’s vibe. 

There are though, amongst the rubble, some beautiful spots amongst it all that anyone going to NZ should explore before moving on. One such spot is the New Brighton Pier that really isn’t far from all the damage. I found it 24 hours in to my trip and was thrilled I stumbled on it. It’s glorious in the morning as you watch the sun rise above the horizon and I was greeted by one of the most spectacular sights you could imagine. It was a perfect sunrise and I felt like this was my official welcome to NZ. I took it as a sign of things to come and I couldn’t have been more right.

New Zealand - Travis Longmore Photography
New Brighton Pier, Christchurch, New Zealand
When I stepped off the plane 24 hours prior I got my rental car sorted and decided to go location scouting. It was only a few hours until sunset so I knew I had to hurry. I’d done my research on where I wanted to start and as I was staying the night in Christchurch I needed to be close so I ventured towards the small town of Akaroa. I didn’t know it but I would fall in love with that place too! I didn’t quite make it all the way to the town on the first day though. As I was heading there I found spot after spot that I knew would make amazing photos. Luckily the traffic was sparse because I kept having to make stops to get out and take my test shots. I was never disappointed. I kept going and as the sun started to set I knew I’d found a perfect place. I had to park about a kilometre away though to be safe on the small winding roads and made the hike along the side of the road. Once I got there I got set up and shot some awesome images. Not a bad start to the trip! I also knew I’d found another great place for the next morning’s sunrise too so I headed back to my hotel and got an early-ish night (after delighting in some local Indian food of course. Just to bring back memories of 12 months prior). Location scouting and a rocking image to start. Not too shabby!

New Zealand - Travis Longmore Photography
Lake Forsyth, New Zealand
I tend to disregard the distance between where I stay the night and the spot I think will be an ideal sunrise setting and today was no difference. It was well over an hour away this time so I was up before 3am and headed off as quickly as I could. I drove slowly, cautious on roads I knew little about, and made my way there in plenty of time. I’m usually really careful until I can get a feel of what it’s like to drive at dawn and dusk. I found out the hard way in Tasmania when I didn’t do enough research and discovered I could drive a maximum of about 40km/h with the abundance of wildlife in some areas there! There were penguins, tassie devils, possums, kangaroos and a heap more that would dash out in front of you without warning. It’s not quite like that in New Zealand but I was cautious all the same.

I arrived near the spot I’d found location scouting the day before and stopped the car. Looking out at the scene in front of me I couldn’t help but think that this was the most perfect thing I’d ever seen. I’ve seen a lot of vistas like this but never this serene. It was as close to absolute perfection as I think I was ever going to see. I shot my butt off in the golden hour of sunrise and walked like a madman around the area getting all sorts of different angles. I was in heaven. Maybe literally. I did pinch myself at one point to make sure I was awake. I still have a bit of a bruise. I started to realise why someone like Peter Jackson could have such success. Surely looking at this growing up had to be inspiration to make beautiful things. 

New Zealand - Travis Longmore Photography
The hills surrounding Christchurch, New Zealand
It was my first 24 hours in a country I already know I'll visit again. It’s everything a photographer could dream of and so much more. There aren’t too many times in my life I haven’t wished for some small changes when I look out at a scene. Maybe power lines gone, rubbish cleaned up, clearer water or just people out of the shot. It wasn’t until I looked at the shots on my computer and realised this was the first time I didn’t want something changed. This was perfection. 


Monday, December 1, 2014

The best job in the world

Loch Sport - Travis Longmore Photography

Continuing on from a blog I did not long ago about what it takes to get the perfect photo, I often get told that I have the best job in the world. I actually couldn't agree more but there are times where I smile and nod but also wonder if they know what kind of work that goes in sometimes. I'm not alone in that, I know there are tons of people who work just as hard in their work but mine isn't all about holidays and relaxing on the beach. In fact I actually can't remember the last time I got to do that. There is something appealing to the work I do and so many wonderful things I get to experience but it's not all sunshine and cocktails.

There isn't many parts of the travel photography that I don't enjoy. There are long hours working out itineraries and finding out where the next location will be. There are days that go in to packing and sorting out gear and once I'm on the ground it's really intense. There is one thing that stands out as my favourite part of it all though. The location scouting. This is one of the best parts because it means I get to do my exploring and in the process I get to meet amazing people along the way.

The premise of location scouting is that I will spend the hours during the day that are the worst for photography (around 9am until just before sunset usually) to find the best spots to come back and take my photos. Sounds pretty simple right? In reality it's a little more challenging but a hell of a lot of fun. After I've taken my sunrise photos for the day I usually import them into my computer to have a backup and then hit the road with my hiking gear in tow. I've usually got the areas I want to explore picked out but if I've been rushed or haven't gotten around to it yet I will spend an hour or so figuring that out first. Then it's time to hit the road!

I'll drive to an area and then get out and lug around my smaller camera to get my location shots. I don't need all my gear for this part which is a godsend because I have a LOT of gear. I only take my small mirrorless camera and that's it. It's super light and actually an amazing camera if I happen to come across something that I really want to capture. It's a good mix but in reality I'm only using it to frame the shot I need to come back to later. You might ask why I couldn't just use my smartphone for that and there's a few answers. The smartphone is a fixed focal length so I can't zoom in and out effectively to give me the best idea on what it's going to look like in the end. The quality isn't quite up to scratch if I do happen to find a place that I know I won't get to come back to and still want a shot. There are a bunch of other reasons but these are the main two.

Loch Sport - Travis Longmore Photography

The next 6 or so hours are as close to a traditional holiday as I ever get on my trips. I explore, hike, climb and sometimes swim to find 'the shot'. The shot above is a good example. It's not a lot to look at right now but I know for sure it'll be a great shot with the right light. I basically have two options once I find a spot I love. I either come back at sunrise or sunset. How do I decide? That's where I use an app called The Photographer's Ephemeris and you can see from the screenshot below that it gives really good details on where the sun will set and rise so I can judge when I should come back.

The Photographer's Ephemeris - Travis Longmore Photography

There are tons of different things this app does and while it's a little expensive it's totally worth every cent for me. I checked the app and saw that it wasn't in the most ideal spot because the sun was setting a little far away for my liking. Ideally it would set in my frame to have the most impact but I was still hopeful it would turn out ok. I knew the spot was awesome so I thought it'd be a nice one in the end. I actually came back a second time just to make sure and get some different angles and see what it was looking like toward the end of the day. I was a little worried the sun would be setting too far away so I wanted to make sure the colours would still come through. I ended up with the shot below. Again, not much to look at... yet! I was convinced it would be great though.

Loch Sport - Travis Longmore Photography

If all goes well I should find 3 or 4 spots like this along the way during my location scouting but sometimes I come back totally empty handed as well. That's just the way it goes sometimes. This time I knew I found at least one spot that was going to be killer so I just had to wait for the sun to start setting and make sure I was in place.

About an hour and a half before the sun was suppose to be setting I was in place with my full kit. I had my camera on the tripod and was ready to rock. What I hadn't factored in was the mosquitos in this particular area. WOWSER. I spent the next few hours dancing around like a crazy person trying my best to ward off the biggest bugs I've ever seen. My blood must have been sweet nectar to these critters because they just kept coming back for more. I was basically a human pin cushion for two hours. The next day I looked like I had chicken pox. Ouch.

At the time I knew I was getting something pretty special though. I tried out a bunch of different things including wading out into the water, different angles etc. but I was most happy with the longish exposure shot you see above. After I was done at this spot I hurried back to my car and set off for some night shots. All in all it was about a 16 hour day and I was exhausted when my head hit the pillow. It was a lot of work to get that one shot but I love it and it now hangs proudly on my wall. In an ideal world there would have been more clouds in the shot and had I been able to, I'd have stayed a few more days until the conditions were better but it was my last day and I had to move on.

Loch Sport - Travis Longmore Photography

It might be a little different to the typical holidays people take but to me this is my bliss. This is where I'm most happy and most content. I love to travel and to combine it with my other passion makes me the luckiest person on the planet. Till the next adventure!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The end of being Human

Human Brochure Canberra Travis Longmore Photography

Last weekend brought about a really amazing but sad conclusion to the Human Brochure campaign put on by Visit Canberra. While this was meant to be the ultimate finale for the whole thing, I'm not sure it's going to be the last event us Humans put on that shows off the nation's capital. I get the feeling the results of this project are going to be long felt as the feedback from people who hadn't experienced Canberra like we had begin to filter through. There were some in the minority that I spoke to that thought it could have gone smoother, the large majority though, thought it was spectacular. I'm of the opinion that those that considered it under delivered probably need to look inwards a little and realise they just participated in a world first, completely free campaign that was all about us. I felt privileged being a part of it and have made some extremely close friends that I never would have met had it not been for this.

Like I said, this was the last official set of events and was logistically the most frightening for Visit Canberra I'm sure. Up until now the 101 of us Humans had been provided with a rare insight into the food, drink and events that are on show all year in the A.C.T.. We'd been wined and dined in an effort to produce 101 people who could promote the crap out of the place. I get the feeling last weekend was almost like the test to see if we passed the exam. From everything I saw, I think most got a high distinction and graduated a little fatter and probably a little hungover. The weekend gave us the opportunity to invite 2 interstate friends and one local to come and do some of the things we'd had the chance to do since it all began.

Human Brochure Canberra Travis Longmore Photography

My weekend started by joining another local Canberran and my best friend and his wife at their pretty spectacular hotel (East Hotel in Kingston) at 5am! I think we all got over the pain of the early morning when our sweet ride pulled up. We were to be driven down to Lake Burley Griffin to meet the man behind the Kayak Cameraman mask (he doesn't actually wear a mask). I'd long admired the photos that he produced as he would brave the freezing mornings and venture out seemingly each and every day. He has an amazing story himself and if you haven't heard of him, do yourself a favour and google "Paul Jurak". If you don't want to buy a Kayak after that then I'm not sure I can help you.

Human Brochure Canberra Travis Longmore Photography
The Kayak Cameraman himself!
We spent the next hour and a half just cruising the lake and watching the most incredible sunrise you could imagine. We chatted (and I raced my mate and lost) and took photos and it was as relaxing a time as I've had in the last few months. I think we all asked how we could get our hands on a Kayak by the end of it.

We said our goodbyes and headed off for the buffet breakfast at East Hotel. Now those that really know me, know I'm a big fan of hash browns. This breaky didn't disappoint. I think I ate my body weight in hash browns and bacon and sat back while I patted my belly in complete contentment.

The next 48 hours consisted of visits to Questacon, Brodburger, The Canberra Glassworks, the Arboretum and a much longer than planned trip to Bentspoke Brewery.

Not a bad way to spend a weekend at all!

So the hope is that the 101 Humans will continue to show the world how amazing Canberra is. Will it work? For this sample size of 1 (me) it's worked a treat. I've fallen in love with this place more times than I can count in the space of about 6 months. I hope people who visit do so with an open mind and without the prejudices that have existed for decades. I hope they visit the museums and galleries, the memorials and festivals, the parks and lakes, the restaurants and wineries, the sporting events and Questacon, the Deep Space Centre and National Parks but most of all I hope they come away and realise Australia has an amazing city that's relatively young and ready to grow.

Cheers from a tiny part of the Human Brochure experience.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The sunniest place on earth?

Sunshine Coast Queensland

You can't name something the "Sunshine Coast" unless you're pretty sure the sun graces the place from time to time. As a self confessed sunrise/sunset addict I couldn't think of a better place to put to the test. I've unfortunately booked myself solid for the next few months but knew I'd need a few days to make sure I got 'the shot'. If you've ever wondered, I aim for just one amazing photo per day when I do my work. It may not sound like much but if you've ever wanted to know what it takes to get the money shot take a look at a previous blog I wrote. It's a lot of work and I love the process just as much as I love the final product. It was exactly the same for this trip too. I make sure I temper my enthusiasm and understand that sometimes you just can't get one amazing photo for the day either. Sometimes mother nature has other plans.

I arrived at the airport very late on a Friday evening, picked up my hire car and set off for my hotel about 25 minutes away. I'd already done my research on where I'd start in the morning so I knew I could settle in and get an early night before the fun started. I set my alarm for 3am and drifted off. I think I hit the 'snooze' button on my phone so quick it didn't even hit the second note. I hate that alarm. I have to remember to change it. I turned it off, got changed, grabbed my gear and set off to a place I'd read a lot about; Dicky Beach. Little did I know nature was about to hit me with a perfect morning. You always want clouds in the sky to add some interest and drama but I never expected what I got that morning. I set up at the famous SS Dicky and got to work. A few hours later I'd got shots I knew would be amazing and headed back to my room to start the editing. Once they were done I was off again.

Sunshine Coast Queensland

Sunshine Coast Queensland

I had about 8 hours until the sun would be setting so I had a big chunk of time to find my spot for that days sunset and the next mornings sunrise. Sometimes as you're driving around or hiking you find dozens of spots that could work. This time I wasn't that lucky. There were some amazing places I found but none had what I was looking for. I'm not sure if it's me being pickier these days, or if I just wasn't finding 'that' shot but it was late afternoon before I found a place I knew would work well for sunset. I added a star on my google map and headed to Bribie Island. I thought this might be a place for the next mornings sunrise. I only had a few hours before I had to be back at my spot for sunset so I had to be quick. Luckily it was easy to see this place would give me plenty of opportunities to get some beautiful shots. I marked down 3 different locations and set off to get set up for sunset.

Sunshine Coast Queensland

I mentioned it before but I always pray for clouds. It inevitably adds the drama you want in pictures but unfortunately this was an almost completely cloudless day. Not to worry. I knew I'd still get something. I went up knowing I had to try and capture the beauty that is the Glasshouse Mountains. If you've never heard of them, do yourself a favour and read up. They are spectacular. I did not do them justice here, but they are just amazing. The sunset turned out to be lovely and I stood looking out at this incredible sight as I fired off a few shots. It's the thing I love most about what I do. There is always time to sit back and admire what you're taking shots of. And this was a place I wanted to make sure I remembered.

Sunshine Coast Queensland

Once the mosquitos started to buzz around my ears I packed up and set off again. I wanted to make sure I got some sleep that night. It was an hour drive to my sunrise shot and that's an early morning! I got up the next day earlier than any sane person should and set off. As I drove across the bridge to get to Bribie Island I looked over my shoulder and saw a gorgeous view. I stopped the car and got a quick shot. I didn't want to miss the sunrise at the spot I'd found the day before. The problem was, each time I looked out the window I was greeted with another spectacular view. I had to stop one more time and get a shot of some of the huge houses that lined the water. Oh to live in a place like that!

Sunshine Coast Queensland Bribie Island

Once I got to the beach I wanted to shoot, I set up, pointed my trusty camera and waited. As the clouds rolled in I knew I'd get another cracker and fired off some shots. Nicely done Bribie Ilsand!

Sunshine Coast Queensland bribie Island

After that I set off to the north of the Glasshouse Mountains to see what I could find there. I drove for hours and found a bunch of places I loved. The hardest part this time was narrowing it down for sunset! I saw a sign for a rest stop ahead and began to slow down to go over the places I'd found so far. I had to figure out which spot would be the best. As luck would have it, just seconds down the road I looked out at a farm that I knew would be perfect. I parked my car, got out and walked to the front door. Before I had a chance to knock, the owner walked from around from the back and said hello. I chatted briefly with her and told her I wasn't a weirdo, I just thought her farm was amazing. A little flattery goes a long way because she quickly agreed I could wander her fields that afternoon to get some shots.

I only had to find a place for sunrise now and I thought I'd had enough to choose from so I made the executive decision to go visit the Australia Zoo. This wasn't on my list of places to go, but I'd driven past it enough now and for those of you that know me, I'm just a giant big kid. I wandered the zoo and snapped some of the animals like it was the first time I'd seen one. It was great! I must have pleased someone because luck was on my side again. In just 5 minutes they were going to be doing a show with some of their tiger cubs. AWESOME. I stayed for that and got my place. It was a packed crowd and rightly so! Two trainers began to play with two tiger cubs who were adorable. They jumped and then just as my brain was going to explode from cuteness they decided to go for a swim! I could have sat and watched for hours. Unfortunately they were all getting exhausted so the show had to stop, but what a way to finish that particular afternoon.

Sunshine Coast Queensland Australia Zoo

Sunshine Coast Queensland Australia Zoo

Sunshine Coast Queensland Australia Zoo

I headed back to the farm for sunset and got set up. I was not disappointed! The place was amazing. I could have spent days just on her farm.  I wandered around and got a few different shots. I slipped gracefully (note; not gracefully) under some fencing and even managed to avoid stepping in any cow manure. That was a first. My final shot was amongst some of her cattle. I played it cool and got as close as I could but one of the bulls flicked the ground with its foot and started to edge closer to me. That was enough of a signal for me. I was out of there. I'd gotten my haul of photos and was thrilled. Another day finished!

Sunshine Coast Queensland

Sunshine Coast Queensland

As I started the drive home I took a little bit of a detour to drive back on a road I hadn't been down yet. You know, just in case I'd missed something! I started to think I should change my middle name to Lucky because I found another spot that looked incredible! It was on another farm so I did the walk down the dirt driveway one more time. This guy was super accommodating and said I could come back the next morning for sunrise. Perfect.

I went to bed happy and knew that no matter what happened the next morning, I'd had a good trip. I got up at 2am again and set off. It was a long drive but when I got to the farm and set up (after rolling under the fence because I couldn't find the gate in the dark) I knew this was the perfect finish to a wonderful 3 days. I walked around and got a few shots and mother nature was again very kind. The sunrise was stunning and as I walked up the hill to where I parked my car I must have looked a little strange. I had a grin from ear to ear.

Sunshine Coast Queensland

Afterwards I drove to the airport to head back home. They call it the Sunshine Coast. I cannot disagree but for some reason I'm not sure it does the place justice. It's a simple way to describe it but there's plenty more to this incredible area. Do yourself a favour and take a look one day. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Cracking Half Century for Canberra's Iconic Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

An artificial lake in the middle of the nation's Capital is turning 50 and I feel like I can't let that landmark go by without giving my perspective on this wonderful place. I've fallen in love with Canberra in the 8 years I've been here now. It's a town that stirs emotion when you tell people you live there, but I delight in being able to snap off dozens of reasons it's the sleeping giant of 'places to visit' in this country. (Although perhaps not so sleeping with some of the press it's gotten lately!)

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

One of the most photographed locations in this town's history would quite comfortably be Lake Burley Griffin and you can put my hat in that particular ring also. Looking through my photos of Canberra, photos of LBG far outweigh photos of any other location. And for good reason in my opinion. No matter how many places I trek to find the next shot I can never quite better my favourites from the lake. I love it down there.

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

It gives a landscape photographer exactly what you'd want for an amazing shot. There's foreground interest, background interest, always incredible skies and more often than not some activity happening in or around it. Perfect. The best part is the way it sits gives perfect shots of the sunrise and sunset which I'm particularly fond of!

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

It's had its controversies over the years and I'm sure it'll evolve more over the next 50 years but Walter Burley Griffin's contest design is a thing of beauty. Wether you're looking up at the National Carillon or doing the popular 'bridge to bridge' walk/run it's hard not to be impressed with its size and charm. Go a little further and you can find places like the Black Mountain Peninsula which is a particularly treasured spot of mine for a lovely sunrise!

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

A more recent addition to the Canberra family has been the National Arboretum and I'm yet to find a spot more impressive than on the opposite side across the lake. The Arboretum is quickly becoming a family favourite but also a magnet for photographers too. I love shooting it but the angle looking across the lake remains my most liked Canberra landscape. Two of the best features of the town in one shot. Magnificent.

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

The two bridges across LBG are almost as photographed as the lake itself and are another location I find myself revisiting when I'm after a nice shot. They're popular amongst the fitness community and there isn't a day that you cross them that you won't see joggers puffing there way contently across.

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

Many an animal also calls the lake home, from swans and the odd seagull (I've never understood that one) to the fiercer and often times more vocal 'rowers of the lake'. It always impresses me the dedication of these people even in the depths of the coldest mornings they are out there on the foggy lake rowing away. I've tried it a few times now but I think I'm happy to stick to the summer weekends when I don't have to risk frostbite in order to have some fun.

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

It's hard to have a photos of LBG without the iconic Black Mountain Tower and combing the two has been a particular challenge of mine over the last 12 months. They make a great combination and I think I've probably got another dozen or so shots left in me of these two.

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

Lake Burley Griffin Canberra

When you manage to score 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor you know you must be doing something right! It's a little weird wishing a man made object a happy birthday but it's got a special place in my heart so Happy Birthday Lake Burley Griffin! I'll eat an entire cake just for this occasion. I'm nice like that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is the Loch Ness Monster actually in Australia?

Loch Sport Victoria Australia Photography

The hunt for Nessie. That's what I called my trip to the tiny Victorian town of Loch Sport. As I drove the 7 hours from my home all I could think about were rumours of the sightings locals told me about. There was always a smirk on their faces as they told me to look out for the monster. A nod between them as I said I'd do my best gave me pause but I couldn't wait to get started. 

The drive there proved to be fatal as I swung around a sharp bend an hour out from Loch Sport. It was just before midnight and while I was getting sleepy I felt like I was more alert because I knew I needed to be. I was doing 20kms under the speed limit and had my eyes peeled for any movement to the sides of the road. It was pitch black and I'd been warned to look for wildlife. Especially after dark. Coming out of the bend I saw the tiniest of movements that made me slam on the brakes. It was too little too late for one half of the coat of arms as I smashed into a startled looking Kangaroo. It's not the first time I've had the displeasure of running in to the unofficial mascot of my home country and it will probably not be the last. I drive a lot at night and this is an unfortunate product of mixing that with the nocturnal habits of these adorable animals. There was no chance for Skippy and as I pulled over I knew there wasn't much more I could do. I made sure to check but there was no movement and I knew he was a goner. I checked for a joey and luckily there was none. A little rattled I gathered my thoughts and got back on the road. It was an even slower drive the rest of the way but I made it in one piece. The next morning I'd go on my hunt for the Monster of Loch Sport. 

Loch Sport Victoria Australia Photography

If there's one thing this place isn't short of it's amazing places to watch the sun rise. If anyone knows anything about me, it's that I like to rise early and get a shot of the sunrise. My thought is if I can start the day looking at something as beautiful as this then my day almost has to be good. Try being in a bad mood after you stand in this spot and see this. 

I was told to look just on sunrise and sunset for the Monster but the morning would prove to be futile. I drove around searching but came up with nothing. Not even a new lead. I'd heard about the 90 Mile Beach that happened to be walking distance from where I was staying so I decided that would be my stop to ponder my failed morning. I caught up with a fisherman who didn't mind explaining that while he hadn't caught a thing he was having a grand old time. I mentioned what I was here for and he told me I should head to his favourite spot on the lake. Excellent! Complete with a massive grin he tossed the line once again into the surf but never got more than some seaweed. It was relaxing and took my mind off the task at hand but the moment I was done there I went back to it. 

Loch Sport Victoria Australia Photography

My next stop was The Lakes National Park. While I thought it was unlikely to find 'Nessy' in here I knew there'd be a lot to see. I even met some more Kangaroos, but this time I was traveling a lot slower and there happened to be a Joey too! I stood and took some shots and got closer and closer. Eventually they decided I'd gotten close enough and hopped off to find some area that was less inhabited by excited humans. 

Loch Sport Victoria Australia Photography

As dusk began to fall I knew it was my next opportunity to become famous. With camera gear in hand I set off to the fisherman's spot. The sun started to set and I had my eyes and lenses scanning the area. I saw movement in the water and my excitement began to build. Was this it? On my first day here? I looked out and saw a head emerge from the still water. I began to take photos in anticipation. As my heart beat faster I looked up from behind the camera to see a fish poke its head out (and I swear wink at me) and duck back down just as quickly. Shattered I took some shots of the setting sun and made my way forlornly back to my room. It wasn't as easy as I'd thought!

Loch Sport Victoria Australia Photography

The next day turned out to be exactly the same as the first. I rose earlier than any other normal human would and made my way to a third spot. I looked out at an amazing sunrise but again saw no movement other than some cheeky birds who decided they could walk on water. I called them Jesus Birds. 

Loch Sport Victoria Australia Photography

The night would prove to to just as futile as the previous. Another spot, another failed sighting. Now I was worried. I only had one more morning in this place before I had to head back to get ready for another trip to another part of the country. It wasn't for a lack of trying, but I was beginning to think it wasn't going to be. I went to bed eager but disheartened.  

 I rose with my usual fervour and felt buoyed by the new day and new opportunities. I decided that no story about the Monster would talk about finding it on the first time. I had to fail first to be known as the man who found Nessie!

It was my last chance and the spot I picked out this time took some getting to. I had to slide down the side of a road and in to a swamp. It wasn't pleasant. I could see a huge area of lake in front of me and this would be my vantage point. I set up the camera gear and hunkered down. As the first rays of light poked out behind the distant hills I saw a silhouette emerge and I tried to temper my excitement this time. A duck or fish would not get the better of me today. As more light crept over the hills I began to realise this was not a fish. It couldn't be. The sheer size was big enough to make that obvious. I fired off photo after photo hoping that one of them would show enough to prove Nessy was indeed lurking beneath the waters at Loch Sport. As fate would have it my camera batteries died as the light shot out over the lake but by then it was gone anyway. It was over.

I rushed back to load the photos onto my computer. Had I done it? Would this be the day the world finally knew the Monster was real? Only you can decide now. Look at the photo below and tell me what you think. Share it with you friends. Ask your family. In my opinion Nessy has always been in Australia. 

In a beautiful area known as Gippsland in the tiny town of Loch Sport lies a Monster known to most as the Loch Ness Monster, but will now be forever called The Loch Sport Monster.

Loch Sport Victoria Australia Photography

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hunting the perfect photograph

Lake George Canberra - Travis Longmore Photography

I often get asked what goes in to making one of my landscape images and I always find it hard to give a short answer. Sometimes I get lucky and I am somewhere at the right time and things just fall in to place but usually it involves plenty of location scouting, research and always some luck.

Last week I happened to come across 3 full days with nothing on so I was determined to shoot something I'd never shot before. It had to be within driving distance so I could make the most of the time but I couldn't quite think of what to do. I ended up going to my Facebook page and asking there and got a bunch of recommendations. I was expecting to get 3 or 4 and make my choice but in the end I got dozens which made it even harder! I love getting surprises like that on social media! I narrowed it down by choosing something that I knew wouldn't be around for much longer; Canola fields! I'd even got some locations from people so I was already looking good.

I knew from previous experience that trying to do a sunrise shoot before I'd done location scouting rarely worked so instead I decided to start off with a place I'd wanted to shoot for years. I headed out 2 hours before sunrise to Lake George and managed to get the shot you see above. I'd already done the location scouting so I knew where to be. I checked the night before and knew the time of sunrise. I also knew that it was crucial to be there about an hour before that time to get the best colours. So I was up before any other sane person would and headed to get this shot. As one of the strange members of this planet that doesn't drink coffee I was left with my trusty Pepsi Max to see me through.

In the end I was thrilled with the result and the best part was that I could spend the next 10 hours scouting for my canola fields! I ducked back home and had some breakfast before I set off towards Griffith in South Western NSW. It was a long way away but I was told there were fields all over the place heading out there so I took my time.

This is where some luck is mixed in to the whole process. While I did my research and checked the weather forecasts I didn't get time off like this very often so I was stuck with what God decided to send my way. I was optimistic with the forecast because it said clouds but no rain. Perfect. That's the luck part taken care of. Now it meant finding the perfect location. That's the tricky part.

Canola Fields - Travis Longmore Photography


The first spot I came upon was really promising (the shot above). The clouds were looking spectacular and the fields had some trees in them to really make the image pop. The problem with this was the other tree to the side really distracts the eye from the main subject so I wasn't happy with it.

In the same field there was another tree that seemed interesting (the shot below). I liked what I saw but there was something off about it. I can't really figure it out but there was something missing. I tried a lot of different things to see if I could make it work, but as soon as I started that I knew it wasn't the right spot. I moved around, got closer and moved further away. I even tried it in a portrait setting (the second shot below) but nothing really worked for me. I knew I had to move on. I made sure I noted down the location though. If I couldn't find anything better at least I had a spot that was ok!

Canola Fields - Travis Longmore Photography

Canola Fields - Travis Longmore Photography

After a few more hours driving down winding country roads I came across another spot I thought was interesting and stopped to do it all over again (the shot below). From the start I had the same feeling though. I did the process over again but came to the same conclusion. Close, but no cigar.

Canola Fields - Travis Longmore Photography

Back to the car and more driving before I saw a tree that looked exactly like what I'd pictured (the shot below). This was when I got super excited. This could be the spot I was after! I grabbed my gear, set up and clicked. What I saw was so close. Closer than I'd been so far but it still wasn't what I wanted. This time the tree didn't have the canola surrounding it and it just took away from the whole look. I was disappointed but knew I was getting closer. I still absolutely love the shot but it wasn't what I was after.

Canola Fields - Travis Longmore Photography



This is where the panic sets in. I knew I had around an hour before the sun would set and that was the time I needed to be in place. I remembered more canola fields back the way I'd come that I hadn't checked out yet so I cranked in to overdrive and headed back.

What I love about this whole process is that while you've got an image in your head there's always the chance to find something that is different but just as engaging. I spotted a place exactly like that about 20 minutes from the other fields and I slowed the car. I had to decide if I'd stop and try and get this shot or keep driving and hope I'd find my canola fields 'money shot'. I knew I'd regret it if I didn't stop so I hit the brakes. What I found was incredible. It took some effort to get in the right spot (I had to crawl under a dilapidated barbed wire fence!) but once I was there I looked out and didn't have to hit the shutter button to know this would be an amazing shot. This is what I'd hoped I'd find but with canola surrounding it!

Canola Fields - Travis Longmore Photography

I got the shot and started to run back to the car. There was only about 25 minutes of light left and I still hadn't found my shot! As luck would have it I found a spot that really intrigued me. The tree was surrounded by canola, the clouds were amazing and I was hoping for that killer sunset that would make the image pop. I didn't end up with the sunset but the shot turned out as good as I'd hoped.

Canola Fields - Travis Longmore Photography

Once the sun had set beyond the hills in front of me I packed up and was moments away from starting the long drive home when I saw another spot I thought looked interesting. After a huge day like this I can sometimes feel like the extra effort may not be worth it but I made sure I went over and looked anyway. It didn't end up being my favourite shot but I still like it. It even had some tyre tracks in it! All in all I got 3 shots I'm extremely proud of.

Canola Fields - Travis Longmore Photography

So, what goes in to getting 'the shot'? Lots of practice, a tonne of driving, walking, climbing and hiking, preparation and an ounce of luck. I haven't talked about the apps I use to help with where the sun will set, the settings I use or the camera gear. I haven't talked about what makes an image look nice and so much more. There is a lot that goes in to making a photograph but it's a process I love.

I still don't have the shot I'd envisaged and one day I'll probably head back to see if I can luck out and get the sunset I wanted, but for now I'm thrilled that I got some shots other people love just as much as I do.