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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Protector of the Dead

Anubis Travis Longmore Photography

There are very few things that excite me more than being asked to help bring a creative idea to life. So when Marie of Mysdesign Hair and Makeup approached me to help with her idea I jumped at the chance. It was ambitious, it was creative, it was over the top and it was a blast. It was an idea from Marie that really appealed to me. Something that we really couldn't find done anywhere else. There were illustrations and drawings but nothing done in real life. Perfect.

Anubis Travis Longmore Photography


We spent weeks throwing ideas around and had our inspiration board on Pinterest going back and forth.

Anubis Travis Longmore Photography

Marie had her vision and we both couldn't wait to get shooting. When I was shown the photo of her perspective model for this shoot I was floored. He was exactly who I'd envisioned for the project. Luke Middlebrook would be Anubis - The Protector of the Dead.

Anubis Travis Longmore Photography

So the preparation stepped up a notch. Marie was busy spending weeks on the outfit and makeup requirements and I went to work on the lighting. We wanted dark and moody. Time for some smoke machine action. We locked in the day for the shoot and if my excitement was anything to go by it was going to be a great day.

Anubis Travis Longmore Photography

We all knew it was going to be a huge shoot. The makeup was always going to be the biggest challenge and Luke spent hours in a chilly bathroom as Marie worked her magic. And magic it was! We had our music pumping as we got ready to bring it all together. I fiddled with my lights and felt like I was ready. I snuck in and took shots as Luke's Anubis transformation came to life at the end of Marie's brushes.

Anubis Travis Longmore Photography

After hours it was time to enter the set. Final touches were added and we were away.

Anubis Travis Longmore Photography

Now it was up to Luke to bring alive the ancient Egyptian god Anubis. We tried a bunch of poses and angles to get the right feel. We changed lighting and cranked the smoke machine on high as the studio began to look more like a morgue than anything else.

Anubis Travis Longmore Photography

What makes a shoot like this work so well is the relationship of all those involved. Luckily for this shoot it was only 3 people and we happened to all share a sense of humour and work ethic that made this long day so enjoyable. We all had ideas on what the final product was going to be and so we all worked hard to make it happen.

The final shot was going to be the hardest of the day. Covered in blood, Luke needed to appear as though he'd finished a hard day of embalming as he looked at his hands and looked at the result of his world in the land of the dead. Marie even encouraged him to have the blood flow from his mouth and get a shot. It didn't look tasty!

Anubis Travis Longmore Photography

It was the culmination of a lot of work from all of us and we're all thrilled with the results. It's what happens when ideas, creativity and teamwork work to perfection.

Friday, July 4, 2014

An American Independence in Oz


I've covered the last 5 Independence Day celebrations at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra and knowing this year would be my last I went in with some mixed emotions. It's obviously not a celebration I relate to personally but it is something I've come to understand more closely. I've developed the closest friendships with the Americans I've worked with over the years and through them I've come to love the 4th of July party.


I almost feel like an adopted American after all these years and it's like I've been able to enjoy the festivities alongside my colleagues and friends with more than just an outside interest. The first year I watched on wide eyed and compared our party on January 26th with theirs but realised that as much as it was similar it was so different too. There was a real pride in their declaration of independence that I'd never really felt as an Australian. Australia Day just felt... different to this. This was bold, it was overt and it was everything I'd been taught our day wasn't. While we celebrated, it was always without the flair these parties had.


Flair is what Americans do better than any other nation I've seen. In 2012 they invited Buzz Aldrin to join them in Canberra to celebrate all things American and space exploration. Buzz wandered around the party and met with everyone and got more selfies than anyone I can remember. He was a star.



Their day is all about recognising what makes them unique and different but also understanding that what makes them so unique is that they are a nation that is built from so many other nations.

"This is a day of gratitude. We share our national day with all people, because people from every nation have contributed to the America we know today. With each generation, the United States has grown stronger, and better, from the extraordinary  people from every part of the world who come to our shores. America is a nation of  immigrants, made up of the citizens of every country. Which is why the face of America  reflects every race, creed, and religion on earth. So when Americans celebrate our  Independence, we celebrate it with everyone – our great Australian mates here in Canberra, and our friends around the world." - Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich

There's a contribution from so many others that help make a country that embraces that uniqueness and celebrates it. And that's what happens each year around the world.


Anyone who visits Australia understands very quickly that sport is a part of our DNA. It's something that defines us and is a part of almost every aspect of Aussie lives. The U.S. also has a huge sporting history and each year they make sure there is an element of that at the event. Ambassador Bleich understood this the day he arrived and while he was lured across to the Geelong Cats dark side I was always thrilled he made sure there was a sports element to each event. There were golf, Aussie Rules, Rugby and Baseball stalls every year.



Like I mentioned, this year was my last 4th of July celebration at the Embassy as I move on to other things, but I made sure I savoured the moments I could. It was a nice way to finish with a new Ambassador and a new perspective.


It was amazing to have a brilliant chef from New Orleans, Tory McPhail, cook for the entire party. We had guests that ranged from MP's to Master Chef contestants and everyone agreed that the food was out of this world. He was a genius. What made it complete was that he was a genuine character. Tory was happy to talk about every aspect of his career and had a southern flavour that appealed to everyone that attended.


I'm going to miss being a part of a very unique celebration in Canberra but I'm also leaving extremely grateful that I've been able to be a part of another countries' Independence Day celebration for so long.

Happy 4th of July America!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Becoming Human

Canberra Travis Longmore Photography


If you live in Canberra it's nearly impossible you haven't heard about the 101 Humans. It almost sounds like a movie title. The concept was simple; select 101 of the most social media savvy residents of Australia's capital city and bring them together to discover more about it and spread the word. "The Human Brochure is the world’s first living, breathing travel brochure created by real humans - just like you!"

Canberra Travis Longmore Photography

It was an experiment that started a year before with the 100 Humans. On that campaign there were people chosen from outside Canberra to come and see that this place wasn't just politics and public servants. This time 101 locals had the responsibility to show the world what it was that Canberra should be known for and not what it was known for. It was a remarkably bold idea that sparked plenty of interest and conversation online and offline. While some claimed the first campaign wasn't successful, the stats prove otherwise. Wether it was jealousy or the 'haters' of Canberra attacking a plan to change that perception it was seen by many as a waste of money. They seem to be among the minority though, because outside of them there was a national recognition of something truly special.

Canberra Travis Longmore Photography

So it was with great excitement that I found out I was going to be a part of the second chapter of the Human Brochure. Throughout the last month we've been a part of the 'discovery' phase.

Canberra Travis Longmore Photography

We've had events that were just for the lucky 101 to experience the attractions Canberra has to offer and while most of the other Humans thought this was the peak of the experience I wasn't the same although I enjoyed them just as much.

Canberra Travis Longmore Photography

But it wasn't the events that inspired me, it was the realisation that Canberra was indeed a place that offered more than most realised. So I decided to use what I did best to show what this place had to offer.

Canberra Travis Longmore Photography

I'm not a foodie. I'm not an event photographer and I'm certainly not a wordsmith. What I can do is take a good travel photo. It was time to show the world what Canberra really looked like. I'm only half way through my quest to show more of this place (city photos are the next part!) but the shots I've taken have really opened my eyes up about what a gem we really have here. It's such a unique place to have something so beautiful with sprawling green landscapes and within minutes you have a city with more activity than any local really admits is actually going on.

Canberra Travis Longmore Photography

I remember having a close friend visit not long ago. They'd grown up in Canberra years ago and hated it and they couldn't wait to leave and move on to another place. It was a really interesting conversation as we ate and drank and as we were finishing he said something I've never forgotten and I think sums up the next evolution of Canberra. He said "I love it here now, Canberra finally has a soul". It was a really simple statement but made me sit back and agree completely. It might only be 101 years old and a baby compared to other cities, but it's finally developing a character outside of politics. The government was forced upon it but the soul wasn't. It's been a long time in the making but anyone that looks with open eyes and is willing to forget what they thought about this place realises it has far more to offer than Question Time.

Canberra Travis Longmore Photography

Canberra can finally be proud to be the nation's capital and while Australian's may take a little longer to come around it won't be long. Stay tuned Humans. This chapter isn't finished just yet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pretty in Pink

Canberra Photography Pink

A few years ago I decided to change the focus of my photography. When starting out you think you can cover it all. Events, commercial, portraits, weddings, family, travel, photojournalist, fashion, landscape, wildlife, sports, real estate, concert, food, street and so much more! The problem is you may love it all but you can't be the best at any of them if you can't focus. It's a hard thing to come to terms with but it's also really liberating. Deciding on your direction is an empowering thing and can help define so much. I had that thought years ago and while I knew where I wanted to head, I also knew it was going to be hard to get there. Who doesn't like a challenge though right?

Canberra Photography Pink
So I decided what I want to focus on; Glamor/Fashion, Commercial and Travel/Photojournalism. What I love about this combination is the complete diversity of the work. On the one hand the commercial and glamor work has multiple lights, makeup, hair and design and is composed within an inch of it's life and then there's the travel and photojournalism which is all about capturing the moment with minimal intrusion. Two opposite ends of the photographic globe.

Canberra Photography Pink

It was with great pleasure that I had the chance to collaborate with Marie Donnell from Mydesign Hair and Makeup and Noo Gray as the very talented model for a shoot all about the colour Pink! While the idea was simple we went through multiple lighting, makeup and outfit setups to get the different shots. We started with some inspiration shots that led us to the first setup but after that it was all about the collaboration.

Canberra Photography Pink

We started with some basic shots with some simple lighting and worked our way through different outfits and then we introduced the props. Anyone that knows me knows I'm a sucker for cakes, chocolate or deserts. So when Marie whipped out the cupcakes and then disappeared to do Noo's makeup I nearly ruined the whole shoot. It took more self control than I usually have to not just eat the lot so I focussed on the lighting and went to work.

We did a few shots with a pink feather which was fun and a little bit cheeky. The music was pumping and I'm sure the neighbours were upset but after a few more shots we moved on to the cupcakes.


Canberra Photography Pink

This is where things got fun! When you add fun music, cupcakes and a photo shoot you are bound to get some interesting results. This did not disappoint! We went from shot to shot with our lighting, outfits and props changing each time.

Canberra Photography Pink

A photographer is only ever as good as the model, designer, makeup and hair artist are and I was lucky to nail the lot on this shoot. It never really matters how good the lighting, angle or settings on the camera are if you don't have the makeup unique and the model nailing the poses. When you get all of those you can just focus on having a good time and enjoying the shoot.

Canberra Photography Pink

After we we wrapped we knew we got some great stuff and left completely satisfied. Not a bad way to spend a day!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Covering Poseidon

Poseidon P-8A MH370

There aren’t too many people on the planet that wouldn’t know what the words MH370 referred to. The search for flight MH370 was one of the largest aviation searches in history and concluded with the Malaysian government announcing it tragically crashed into the Southern Indian Ocean. It was a herculean task that seemed to get harder as each day passed but there were new technologies that allowed the discovery to finally happen.

One such beast was the Poseidon P-8A aircraft, built by Boeing which only a few weeks ago the Australian government announced it would purchase 8 of. I attended the announcement to take photos and had the opportunity to be the only photographer allowed on board while the U.S. Ambassador and Australia’s Prime Minister toured the facilities. It started out on the ground in front of the aircraft as military personal from both countries introduced each other to the VIP group and media circled to cover it all.

Poseidon P-8A MH370

I’ve talked with public relations people from several countries now who each have mentioned how fierce Australia’s media can act in comparison to others. They tell me they’re bossy, abrupt and will do anything to ‘get the shot’. Over the last five years covering similar events I’ve come to the same conclusion. I’ve been lucky enough to cover some pretty amazing things and at each one I’m shocked at the aussie media’s ferocity. When President Obama came to Darwin in 2011 I got to compare the media from all over the planet. We definitely didn’t do ourselves proud.

Poseidon P-8A MH370

That was no different on the day as cameras and sound operators circled the group to get the perfect angle. I crawled into spots I needed to be to get my shots and when I got the signal from the media guy that the group were headed up stairs to the plane I bolted. I had to get to the rear stairs and through the belly of the plane before they got to the top of the front stairs. I ran knowing I’d look ridiculous with all my gear and trying not to drop anything at the same time. It was fun though and I got to the doorway seconds before the Prime Minister appeared and started their tour.

Poseidon P-8A MH370

They settled in the operators chairs to get a better look at all the amazing technology that went in to something this sophisticated. The U.S. military did a great job of showing exactly what it could do as I snapped away making some images I knew would end up in papers around the country. It’s a great feeling knowing that but also a little intimidating when you know they’re relying on you to get the shot. I love it though. There were also things I wasn’t allowed to get photos of so my angles had to be just right. I’d have every image looked over by a military representative to make sure I didn’t get any wayward shots but there wasn’t any so I didn’t have to hit that dreaded delete button.

The tour of the inside finished and we headed down the back stairs to join the rest of the media scrum to get some final shots before they headed inside for the media conference. Inside it’s a different ballgame all together. Here the photogs looked for reactions as the VIP’s stood at the podium and addressed the media. Throughout the entire event you’re looking for shots that convey the story as you piece together the best pics that show just that.

Poseidon P-8A MH370

Poseidon P-8A MH370

We’re in a new era now where a photojournalistic approach isn’t enough anymore. Now we’re looking for content for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as well as the other shots. Close-ups of interesting badges and shots showing what watch the Prime Minister is wearing are just as intriguing to people as the shots that tell the real story. So making sure you cover both aspects is crucial. I knew I’d ticked all the boxes on this particular occasion and as the heavily protected cars drove out of the RAAF base we took a deep breath and relaxed for the first time that morning.

Poseidon P-8A MH370

Poseidon P-8A MH370

We even managed to walk outside and get a few selfies with this incredible piece of machinery. Not a bad way to finish such an interested day at work!