Sunday, October 26, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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!)
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
We spent weeks throwing ideas around and had our inspiration board on Pinterest going back and forth.
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.
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.
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.
After hours it was time to enter the set. Final touches were added and we were away.
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.
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!
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.