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!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

'Have you heard of?' - Ranakpur, India

Have you heard of Ranakpur

As I headed from a journey across the Thar Desert only a few days earlier I wondered how it possible that we could come across a piece of paradise so quickly. Like everything in India the contrasts really struck me as my driver drove me from Jodhpur to Udaipur and decided to spend a night in the magical Ranakpur.

As part of my 'Have you head of' series I'm not sharing a small place I discovered without any intention. Ranakpur wasn't on any of the itineraries I'd worked up with numerous people but when it was suggested by my ever faithful driver, Sudarshan, I knew I should take a look. He'd never steered me wrong and I came to figure out this wasn't going to be the first time either.

Have you heard of Ranakpur

As we drove into this slice of utopia I was struck by the wonderful rolling hills and wildlife. While it's not unusual to see animals in India, I was a little taken aback by the amount of monkeys on the side of the road. There were more than a few willing motorists rolling down their windows to throw food at them so I quickly understood why there'd be so many. During the brief stay I saw more cows and gorgeous birds that would also be brave enough to come close to get fed. One of the sadder moments was as I walked from my hotel to head out on a tour of the mountains, I spotted a lonely monkey sitting on a post and stopped to take a photo. I was a fair distance away so I put my 200mm lens on and snapped away while he posed for me. It wasn't until I zoomed into the photos that I noticed he only had one hand. I'm not sure I ever want to know, but I did get curious to how he lost it.

Have you heard of Ranakpur

As I headed out with my newly appointed guide we walked at a steady pace along the bottom of a large mountain. With nervous excitement on what lay beyond we moved through some thick brush while we chatted in broken english. It didn't take long until we reached the top and as I gathered my breath back I looked around to be stunned by the view. This felt like something truly special. An incredible lake worked it's way around the mountains and I watched birds dart down and attempt to fish.

Have you heard of Ranakpur

The sun was setting and in typical Indian fashion I could only catch a glimpse of the bright bulb through the haze. It didn't do anything to blunt the moment for me though. More people started to appear and my guide began to notice too. He started to ask me something and after a few moments I realised he wanted to know if I wanted him to show me a different place to watch the sun set. We set off again and this time I realised pretty quickly we weren't on a track that was visited by people often. At times we had to plough through dense bushes and I lost track of the scrapes and scratches I got before we finally got to the top. I was instantly grateful to my guide as I looked out all alone at this wonderful scenery.

Have you heard of Ranakpur

We sat down and just watched as the sun slowly set behind the mountains and with the light dropping rapidly we headed back down a different route to get to the hotel. As we came down a lightly trodden path we came across a tiny village and I was told it was my guides home. With families getting ready for dinner and goats laying lazily on rocks we moved on.

Have you heard of Ranakpur

I was treated to one final glorious site before we reached the hotel with another view of the lake. This time a pier and a brick building ran from the shore so I took some final photos and stood back again just to take it in. This was an amazing detour.

Have you heard of Ranakpur

I went to bed happy that evening knowing I'd spent time in one of the best small towns in the world - Ranakpur, India.

Have you heard of Ranakpur

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Happiest 5km in the World - Color Running in the Capital

Colour Run Australia Color

There's a phenomenon sweeping the world that's half race and half a party called The Color Run. As those with a keen eye will note, the lack of the 'u' in the colour part of the name tips us off that this particular phenomenon didn't originate in Australia. The first run was in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States and began with half the participants that turned out in Canberra last weekend. That small participation level didn't last long and there's now been more than half a million who have donned the white shirt and run, walked and even rolled their way through the course.

Colour Run Australia Color

Colour Run Australia Color

What obviously sets this particular run apart from any other is two things. Firstly, there isn't any winners and it's rare that people even track their own times. It's primarily there as a vehicle for fun, and fun we had! The second wonderful element that sets this apart is the presence of a ton of coloured powder that's showered on participants as they traverse the picturesque locations. There's 4 stations of volunteers armed with bottles of different powder before they unleash the coloured explosions over the runners. The atmosphere is one of pure fun with music blaring from speakers at each station and the smiles on people's faces infectious.

Colour Run Australia Color

Colour Run Australia Color

Colour Run Australia Color

This is the second time I've done a Color Run so I felt like more of an experienced campaigner. I knew I wanted to spend more time at each station before moving on to really maximise my colour coverage. I wasn't going to run any more than I had to. This time I was also armed with my trusty camera that was safely hidden away in a waterproof housing to keep it colour free. I'd read horror stories of other photographers who'd ruined gear by not protecting it. Not on my watch. It made it a little tougher to take photos and I was dying to change lenses at different stages of the course but I made do with my trusty 24-70mm lens. This was a photographers dream. Everyone was dying to get their photos taken and they all looked crazy as they ran and danced their way for hours. At the final station rain bucketed down on everyone and instead of hurrying or getting out of it they just smiled even harder. The colour stuck even more to people and the sight of kids jumping in puddles added to the delight.

Colour Run Australia Color

As you make it to the finish line you're greeted by the Finish Festival. If you think the run is fun, you're in for a treat at the Finish Festival! It's a huge party of dancing, singing and even more colour. There's a stage with a DJ and dancers who stir up a storm with their catchy tunes as the crowd forms beneath them and get set for a morning of entertainment. They hurl out packets of colour and get the people begging for more before they time one huge throw in the air at the right moment in the song. It's a sight that's hard to forget as the entire crowd is hidden from view as powder descends on them.

Colour Run Australia Color

Colour Run Australia Color
Colour Run Australia Color

What is even more unique is the volunteers who walk the stage with what looked like fire extinguishers but we quickly learned weren't filled with foam. More coloured powder came pouring out as the rows and rows of people got covered. They danced to the beat as the announcement came that the final song was about to be played. It's the first time I've ever danced to a One Direction song and I loved every second. It's no Bruce Springsteen, but it was good all the same.

As people headed to the cleaning station and then onwards to home I walked off with a strange smile on my face and a face covered in colour. There's something amazing about starting the day blissfully happy.

Colour Run Australia Color

Saturday, January 11, 2014

'Have you heard of?' - Strahan, Tasmania

I'm very excited to be starting a new photo series called 'Have you heard of' where I'll be photographing small towns around the world that may not be a place you think of when you travel. I'll be exploring places that you may want to put on your list after you see what they have to offer.

I'm starting with possibly the best small town in the world. A fairly ambitious call you might say, but I'm going to admit i didn't say it, although after spending a few days there last year I'm going to admit i haven't been to any that match this place. Randy Curwen of the Chicago Tribune dubbed Strahan the 'Best Little Town in the World' and while it's a big call it's not until you walk around this gorgeous little place that you begin to understand why he said it. It's about 300km from Hobart and a short 40km drive from Queenstown and that drive will begin to give you the idea that this is indeed a special place.

As you drive in it's worth stopping at the many lookouts to take in the scenery that changes so often. You're in the mountains now and as you drive down into Queenstown it's hard not to wonder how this serene part of the world remains so incredibly untouched.

As you enter Strahan you can be forgiven thinking it may be just another small town in Australia. Until you begin to explore you realise this is unlike anything you've seen before. It's small, exquisitely beautiful, friendly, serene and above all relaxing. It lies on the edge of the unspoiled beauty of Macquarie Harbour and taking a walk along it's edges is an afternoon well spent.

Rainforest surrounds this little Tasmanian gem and it's fun to go exploring if you have some time. Walking through the national parks and seeing all the wildlife is as fun as you can get. This is what you should be doing on a holiday. I stayed in a two bedroom house on the outskirts of Strahan and without knowing there was a house there you'd drive right by. It was nestled in the trees and at night you sat on the veranda and watched as animals act as if you don't exist and go about there business.

Catching a sunset down by the water is basically perfect. I wish I'd stayed longer and gone on a cruise and had time to explore more but i only had a few days there and wanted to make the most of the time. After a lovely first day there I got some shut eye and got ready to explore the shops and chat with the locals the next day.

I woke early as i usually do when I'm off exploring and caught a wonderful sunrise before stopping in at the cafe on the main road (i think there were only about 5 or 6 roads!). I had a chat and met some of the friendliest people I've met so far. They insisted i went on down to the Woodworks Gallery and Morrison's Huon Pine Sawmill. Luckily it was about a 3 minute walk along the waters edge before i ran into them both. I walked through the Sawmill first and met the owners who were just lovely and showed me all around. They let me take photos and even take a few portraits. This particular place has been there for 65 years now and owned by the same family. It definitely had that family business vibe. You can buy all sorts of things there and while I'm not usually a fan of that sort of thing it was too hard to say no to such amazing work and i ended up buying a bunch of presents for friends and family.

Next door is the woodworks gallery and if you think the work in the Sawmill was good then be prepared to have your mind blown. It's incredible stuff and there are some seriously unique pieces that I would have loved to have sitting in my place back home. Be prepared to spend some time there because it's a lot of fun!

It wasn't long before i had to leave this little town. Had i known it was going to be this good i definitely would have planned more time there. It's a unique slice of Tasmania that truly has to be seen to be believed and if you haven't got it on your bucket list, add it toward the top. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The year that was

What an incredible yeah it's been. I started it having dreams of traveling more of the world and discovering places I'd never been to. I seem to begin each year with a million things I want to do and a month in the things on that list have changed into something completely different. What never changes is the stories. I don't go a day without thinking of something else i want to tell the world about. Wether it be a place, a person or something a little more obscure i don't have many days i don't want to create something for others to see.

This year it's been no different. I had my resolutions and goals in January, but looking back now they seem so small compared to what i accomplished and achieved throughout the year. I'm constantly looking forward and the things on the horizon are as exciting as they are petrifying. I cannot wait for how 2014 will unfold but for now I'm taking a look back at the year that was 2013.

It started with one of the most anticipated weekends in Canberra with the Multicultural Festival. It's a weekend that transforms the nation's capital into a kaleidoscope of cultures and brings music, food and drink aplenty. There is no bigger time in the area for tourism and thousands flock to eat their way around the world and see just a glimpse of the places that are there to explore. I love it for the chance to see just a glimmer of where i could end up throughout the year. It's a chance to add places to my ever growing list to capture. It's a chance to celebrate the fact that Australia combines all these places in one country and when you look around it's a unique time when race isn't condemned but celebrated by everyone. It's how it should be and i love it.

Only a month later i hit the skies to travel over the Bass Strait for my first visit to the amazing Island of Tasmania. I'd heard enough about it that i knew I'd get shots that I'd remember forever and i wasn't disappointed. For the first time in my life doing my photography, I'd discovered a place I couldn't get enough of.

Everywhere i turned there were chances to make a once in a lifetime shot. It seemed unreal to me but here it was. To me Tasmania isn't lauded enough for what it offers. Small, unpopulated, clean, relaxed and unbelievably beautiful. This was a photographers dream. I traveled the entire island but knew i saw only a tiny part. Tasmania caught my heart.

Returning from Tasmania I saw a post from Tourism Australia for an opportunity to work in the best job in the world. I'd heard of this before and watched from a distance while Ben Southall took the inaugural job a few years ago. At the time I'd looked on like a lot of people and imagined what I'd do in that situation. It looked like an amazing opportunity, but deep down i knew it wasn't my dream job. Don't get me wrong, sitting on an island in Queensland for a year would do me very nicely but it wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So at the time i didn't even contemplate applying. This time it was different. There were now 6 best jobs and one of those spoke to me more than anything had ever done so before. Lifestyle photographer in Melbourne. I didn't need to read past the title without knowing it was made for me. I decided I'd apply and as i read further i realised I'd come to the party a little late. There was less than a week left in the competition. I wondered if it was worth it to even bother now, but the more i thought about it the more i realised i had to. I thrived on pressure and this was perfect.

My job was to make a 30 second video telling the world why i was the best person for the job. I called in favours from all my friends and pulled together a video shot on an island in Canberra (yep, you read that right) with 8 of my best photos standing next to me as i told the world why i was awesome.

I didn't have high expectations when i finished it, but it was the best i could do with what i had to work with. I waited the weeks to hear the results like everyone else and on the morning they announced the final 25 i woke to an email that rocked me. I'd made it. I'd managed to beat off more than 330,000 people who wanted what i wanted. This would be as far as I'd get though. I'll never know if i was the 4th best or the 25th but i didn't make the final 3. I'm proud of what i did and I'm thrilled to be one of only a few Aussies who made it through. It was an amazing experience and while i didn't get my dream job it solidified in my mind what it is I'm meant to be doing in this world. It was life changing.

After that i looked for projects to work on for the remainder of the year and i had some fun taking photos at places like the Help From the Underground fashion show and even exploring my favourite place on Earth, Melbourne.

I spent a few moths trying to decide what was next for me and then through a series of fortunate chances i ended up in Incredible India.

I can't begin to describe this trip. It was everything I'd worked for in the last decade of my photography and it was everything I'd hoped. I planned and prepared for my ultimate photographic journey and when i stepped off the place i must have looked like a bit of a loon because I had a grin from ear to ear.

I spent the next 16 days traveling through Rajasthan meeting the people, exploring the places and eating the food of The Land of Kings. It's hard to describe the sense of accomplishment as you sit down at night and sort through hundreds of photos and realise you've created something really special. I can't wait to show everyone my work when i finally run my exhibition in the new year.

My work at the U.S. Embassy continues and i don't go a day without thinking how lucky i am to do what i do there. It's an incredible place filled with the most amazing people I've ever met. I'm constantly humbled by the work of people in this community and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Through them I've worked on projects with Vinnies and their Sleepouts as well as worked on the White Ribbon campaigns which i am really proud about.

I traveled more through Australia and found places that took my breath away. I also worked with organisations like Kulture Break who continue to do amazing things with kids across the city.

It's been an enormous year for me. It hasn't gone at all the way i envisaged on January 1st, but I'm tremendously thankful it didn't. Iv'e had a year I'll never forget. To me 2013 was the year i finally discovered what it is I'm here to do. I can't wait to show you all very soon.

Thank you to everyone who has helped throughout the year. My family and friends have played the biggest part in all of this and i can't thank you all enough. What i can do is continue to work to be a better storyteller, a better person and to help others. I believe we have the power to change the world for the better and 2014 will be so much better.

Have an amazing holidays and see you all in the new year.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ranakpur - The other side of the coin

Ranakpur was as different to the rest of Rajasthan as i could have imagined. I'd gone through hot, dry and dusty deserts and large cities that pressed in on me the entire time. Now i finally got to stretch my legs and walk through the trees as I hiked my way to a spectacular view overlooking the lake and mountains that stretched so far i couldn't see the end.

While Ranakpur is more known for it's impressive Jain temple, i found the sites away from that particular tourist attraction far more interesting. The temple was indeed impressive enough though and it also gave some wonderful views of the landscapes of western Rajasthan. It sported thousand columns with none being exactly the same as any other and as you stepped outside, amongst the trees surrounding it, there were dozens of Monkeys playing together as they jumped from tree to tree. 

What really got blood flowing was the hike from our hotel to the magnificent view of the surrounding countryside. There's nothing quite like standing upon the highest peak (that you can reach) and looking out all on your own at what has sat here for all the years before you. It's a nice change of pace in India to be able to sit on a rock and just listen to the silence. It was like standing on the edge of paradise.

While i got to see many things on this trip, the views atop that mountain were comfortably one of the best. As i marched down the other side, following my guide as best i could, we came across a tiny village that was home to his family. He grew up here and i tried to imagine exactly what it would have been like to be surrounded by this. We left his village with a polite 'Namaste' and continued on back to the hotel. 

It was a day of temples, trees, animals and water and one i won't ever be able to forget. I'd now experienced two sides to India in the space of only a few days. The hot days and freezing nights of the sandy Thar desert and now the glorious mountain spotted lands of Ranakpur. There'd be plenty more to come but this left me feeling extremely content.