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Saturday, October 31, 2009

India Begins

Getting to India was not without its difficulties. Nathan and I were supposed to travel together but he became very unwell the day of our flight and I had to go on without him. Last night I met him at Delhi airport and today, this morning, our adventure began. I have been here a day already without him and have already taken a few photographs and seen a few things. But today our India Photo Tour made its official start.
It began with our mobile phones going off at around 5:45 am. We had both slept very well, so that wasn't too bad. Our first meeting was for breakfast with the others who are with us on the tour and then we were headed for an early morning shoot at the India Gate. India Gate is a war memorial built by the British to honour Indian soldiers who had fought and died in the First World War. For us, it was a wonderful official start to our first day. The light was warm and beautiful and we were ready for it.
After a little while here, we were taken to a large mosque in the Old Delhi area. This incredible complex was a feast for our lenses. Worshippers reading Scripture as they sit and rest on ancient columns, soft light filling the Arabic style corridors and worshippers washing in the ablution pools were among some of the sights we were able to capture.
Then, the market outside. We were taken initially through this market by rickshaw and then let loose on its populace as we walked through its streets. This was a great place for my Ricoh GRDIII, which I have wanted to use as my 'street camera' for this tour. It got broken in this morning and it helped me create some wonderful images today.
Nathan found this part of the morning quite wonderful. He had often heard my tales of the rather pungent marketplaces I have walked through in the countries I have travelled through, but this was the real thing and he was actually there. He faced it bravely, his Nikon D90 raised to his eye most of the time. His morning was a life changing one, a turning point - and I was honoured to be there.
Rickshaw driver in marketplace, taken with Ricoh GRDIII

Then, lunch. We had been shooting for nearly 6 hours, so as you can imagine we were rather hungry and thirsty. So, a long lunch ensued, after which our afternoon was spent in a 900 year old mosque complex which was quite spectacular.
Oh, there is so much more I could tell you about today, but alas I have the alarm set for 4am. Tomorrow we are off to Pushkar. So, these images are pretty much straight out of camera. Too Tired for PhotoShop...G'night...
For more information on photo tours, go to the SafariWise website for the photo experience of your life...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Croydon Camera House Expo

I had the honour of being asked to speak and present a brief Studio Lighting lesson at the Croydon Camera House expo tonight and so I did! I enjoy what I do very much, and its always worth doing these things. Something good comes of it, even if it is only the personal rewards I have often mentioned in this blog. But, usually, its more than that. For instance, as a bonus, quite a few of the Five Minute Photographer family turned up too! My model was the lovely Caroline, and she is always a giggle - an important factor for a workshop model!
It was great to see so many people turn up and I heard later that many enjoyed the workshop very much. Its always great to hear that as often you don't know how the audience is taking it all. Does their quietness indicate boredom, or serious focus and interest? Sometimes you don't know. Anyway, it all seemed to go well.
Then, I was asked at the last minute if I would do the "Dusk Walk" which I turned into an off camera flash lesson for those who came along. It was estimated we would have about 5 people. Then about 30 came along. So, it was Pocket Wizards all round. Caroline came and braved the cold and the crowds and once again everyone had fun. As long as they go home with a nice image in their camera and a lesson or two learned for future reference, I am a happy man.
When that was done, it was beer o'clock. So I sat at the local pub with a few of the gang and enjoyed an ale and a laugh. All in all, it was a great night!
Images: Dean Jones

Just another image...

I forgot to include this image in yesterday's post, so I just thought I would add it here. It is another image from the One on One session with Justin on Tuesday...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One on One Workshops

Glynn, Natasha and I spent much of yesterday with a young photographer named Justin. Justin has great vision and a passion for all kinds of photography and after attending our Creative Wedding Photography workshop he asked for a One on One workshop so that he could hone his skills and have personal questions and issues more directly attended to. It was more like a Three on One as Glynn and Natasha naturally assumed roles as instructors as well as 'bride and groom'. It is a great mix. Apart from her obvious physical attractiveness, Natasha is a keen and gifted photographer and knows how to see and pose for light. Her confidence and humour make the process easier for photographers also. Glynn's experience in the photography industry, his natural ability and vision as a photographer and his marketing prowess make him invaluable also. So, what the heck was I needed for? Don't tell Glynn and Natasha that, ok?
We started the day over coffee at Abbottsford Convent discussing Justin's personal photographic ambitions and issues. We discussed our preferences for images that come straight from the camera without need for exposure or post capture repair. We discussed marketing and equipment priorities. And, then it was time to start shooting.

One of the techniques I like to teach photographers is the ability to see light, place a model within its nature and context and create above average images in less than ordinary circumstances. Essentially, for many professional photographers in various fields, this is exactly what is called upon them to do. Justin sees his professional future in wedding photography a viable field of endeavour and here is where this understanding of light and creative metering are paramount. While much can be done in post processing, there is often no need to waste the time doing so if your image straight from the camera is impressive in itself. Also, showing a couple images on the back of the camera that are immediately impressive is just good business.
After lunch we found ourselves in Flinders and Hosier Lanes in mid city Melbourne, where we taught a few strobist techniques using Justin's own equipment. This was a wonderful session as it revealed the strength of off camera flash to enable a photographer to create, manipulate and position his lighting anywhere and any way he or she sees fit. The images Justin produced here were quite wonderful and, in his own quiet way, he was very excited with them. After the workshop, it was down to the Docklands to meet with the gang from my digital photography tutorials website, The Five Minute Photographer. It was a really fun evening of fun and photography will fellow crazy people. A great way to end a day of photography. Caroline Tra once again came to be our model and she is always so lovely to work with. Apart from a frustrated, female, megalomaniacal security guard who wanted to intimidate us off of 'her promenade', all went very well. In fact, her presence added a little more opportunity for laughter.
At Creative Photo Workshops we highly recommend our personal 'One on One' workshops for photographers needing particular assistance in certain areas. They are certainly a more expensive option for one person than for a group but I have had comments from previous customers that indicate that they are an excellent investment. Sometimes all you need is someone to hold your hand and take you down one particular path long enough for you to get your footing. Then, you can walk, even run, by yourself. I wish I'd taken a few in my day. Perhaps it wouldn't have taken me so long to make things click....pun seriously intended.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fun and Photography - the Perfect Mix

Saturday found me once again running another photography workshop. This time, Creative Photo Workshops was working in league with Croydon Camera House, which was a distinct pleasure. Being able to hang around with the legendary RazzleDog (aka Dean Jones) once again is great. Also,being joined by my friends Glynn Lavender, Richard Annable, Tamara Bodor and Natasha Humble is a recipe for another crazy day.

As I have said in previous blog posts, Glynn and I ensure that we bring as much fun to the photography as we possibly can. There is far too much fear and seriousness attached to photography in the minds of many, and if you add humour to your teaching you are bound to succeed. One of our first exercises during our afternoon 'prac' session is to replicate the family kisses and hugs section of the wedding day that always transpires after the ceremony. So, some of us become uncles and aunts, while a few take their turn at being photographers trying to capture the 'moments'. Its a lot of fun, but it is also challenging. There are giggles galore, but the lesson learned is important. Be Johnny or Janey 'On the Spot' and get the important pictures - the ones that really matter.

The afternoon then continues with basics on posing, maximising your time and your photographic opportunities with each pose and location, and finally a lesson in Creative Metering. I am always surprised at the impact this last part has on those who attend. Learning to meter, creating images in camera that are a result of metering for shadows or highlights is very important and very eye-opening to most who attend. This was certainly the case on Saturday, with many saying during our final wrap up that this was the thing they would be taking home with them the most. And I can see why. Learning to use, manipulate and meter for light can often be the difference between average photographs in average situations and wonderful images from less than wonderful circumstances. That is just good photography, folks. And, essentially, it is what professional wedding photography is all about.

For more information on Creative Metering, check out the video tutorial recently added to my digital photography tutorials website, The Five Minute Photographer. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Five Minutes, or Five Hours?

One of the methods we like to teach at the Five Minute Photographer and at our Creative Photo Workshops is the benefits of 'getting it right in camera'. In the digital age there are many who, as newcomers to photography, settle for the option of 'fixing it in PhotoShop'. In my mind, that just isn't on. For old film photographers like me, that was never an option, especially if you were shooting in transparency.
We teach correct exposure techniques and creative metering skills at our workshops because it is quite simply the best process for photographers. There are few things more satisfying for photographers than being able to pull a jpeg out of the camera that is all that it can be - straight out of the camera. Then, should your desire be to enhance the image, you have a perfect RAW file as well - if, like me, you shoot jpegs and RAW files simultaneously. However, a good quality jpeg can actually withstand some enhancement without too much quality loss too, depending on what you are doing. Either way, a near perfect jpeg is a great lesson for the photographer and is immensely satisfying too. After all, who wants to show the client a half baked image on the back of the camera?
This process came galloping home to me recently. I was asked by Kodak Australia to come to their HQ in Collingwood, here in Melbourne, to photograph each member of staff for their updated business cards and security passes. Headshots on white. Its relatively boring, but I like to make it fun. As photographers we get asked to do this stuff all the time, and when Kodak is your client you happily do whatever they ask. Over the years they have shown me too much of a good time...
The first day I was rushed in the setup, and silly me - I fell for it. People were starting to come in to the room where I was asked to set up. I felt the pressure. So, thinking I had it set up fairly well for a white backdrop, I began to shoot. And...I was wrong. So, hours of PhotoShop ensued to make each background white. Here is something I could have ensured in camera, but was compelled through my own stupidity to repair later in PhotoShop. As you can imagine, I didn't make the same mistake on the second day. No one was going to rush me this time. Having learned my lesson - again - I knew it was a case of either 'five minutes, or five hours'. That extra five minutes of getting it right in camera meant saving five hours in PhotoShop - and I have better things to do with my time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rob Guest Tribute Concert

Working for the ANZ bank as their photographer has a certain level of variety attached to it. Sometimes I go into their offices to knock over a few corporate headshots. Sometimes I get to shoot their calendars - which was a whole bunch of fun. Sometimes its fashion shows, and sometimes its functions. Monday night was the Rob Guest Endowment concert. Rob Guest is a renowned figure in the Australian theatre whose recent untimely death was a shock to many of his peers and to the Australian public generally. 
I saw him play the part of Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables some years ago on the very same stage his Endowment concert was performed on Monday night. His version of Bring Him Home was simply beautiful to hear performed live. I doubt I will ever forget it. To think that only a few years later I would be photographing his tribute concert as a result of his sudden passing is a little sad. I never knew the man, but it is interesting how life takes you in circles sometimes.
ANZ Trustees sponsored this tribute event, which was supported by renowned Australian performers such as Bert Newton, Marina Prior, Rhonda Burchmore, Craig Mclachlan, Caroline O'Connor and Anthony Callea. The Australian String Quartet and cast members from Wicked and Chicago also performed. New Zealand theatre star, Tina Cross also performed with a recording of Rob Guest in a haunting rendition of Beauty and the Beast. My son, Nathan, and I were there to photograph it....and it was cool.
The Rob Guest Endowment managed by the ANZ has been established to nurture upcoming stars of the Australian stage. The night will see 6 young finalists perform to compete for the inaugural Rob Guest Endowment scholarship. The prize includes $1000 cash , flights and accommodation to New York, tickets to Broadway musicals and tuition with industry experts in New York and their own home town plus an ANZ Financial planning session.While each of the young performers was excellent, I agree wholeheartedly with the choice of winner, Danielle Matthews. Her final performance of "You're Gonna Love Me" from Dreamgirls was the clincher. It was moving, to say the least. She is such a great singer, so it was a difficult decision for me - raise the camera to capture her performance, or just stand and absorb. Well, in the end I did a little of both.
In all of this wonder, Nathan and I were able to move freely and photograph. Our task was to take publicity photographs during the cocktails prior to the performance, the performance itself and also publicity photographs afterward. The theatre was filled with people who had paid for the privilege while we, on the other hand, were being paid for it. Well, sometimes being a photographer is really, really cool. If you are reading this blog, I presume you know that already though, right?

Nathan and I were certainly tired by the end of our evening, returning home well after midnight to face a short night's sleep and another day. The McCafe Latte we picked up in Drive Thru on the way home was certainly welcome! But we both the evening very much and, more importantly, the opportunity to work with each other at such a prestigious event. I know that his introduction to this kind of photography was one that convinced him that this is a pretty cool job sometimes.
Mind you, he has probably known that for a while, living in my household and watching me work. But its different when you get to do it yourself. Suddenly it becomes personal, an experience you understand as a participant and not just a spectator. Thanks for your fabulous assistance and your highly professional photography, son! Your work from that night is excellent. I look forward to seeing what you write about this event on your blog. I imagine your take on it will be slightly different, and yet at the same time, somewhat the same...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Creative Wedding Photography workshop

Saturday found me doing what I really think I love doing best...running another workshop with my good friend, Glynn Lavender (left) and a few other crazy characters who seem to be regulars at these events. Together, Glynn and I now run Creative Photo Workshops. There is a hunger for understanding about photography in this digital world and Glynn and I are really enjoying our part in meeting that need.
Glynn and I have known each other since we were teenagers. We met while both working together on the sales floor of Fletchers Fotographics in the very early '80's. Since then he has gone on to become a renowned and highly respected photographic consultant both here and in the United States while I am still learning how to become a renowned photographic consultant both here and in the United States...

Yesterday's workshop had the added fun of Natasha Humble's contribution as the 'bride', which never fails to add a certain level of craziness. Since modeling for our workshops she has also found a love for photography and an excellent understanding of its principles and has started her own business, Black Tulip Photography. She is fast becoming an excellent photographer in her own right. So, apart from modeling for our workshops, she also now acts as a co-instructor, teaching each photographer a few tips on lighting and posing as she stands ready for each of them.
Also, there were several members of my tutorial website, The Five Minute Photographer, attending also. Bruce Williams, of Shutters Inc fame, also flew down from Sydney to join in the fun. Now, add to this mix the fact that Glynn donned a suit and modeled as the 'groom' and you have a day of learning mixed with a level of insanity that can only be found at a Creative Photo Workshops day. For me, this is the ideal mix. Photography is fun and learning it should be as fun as the process itself.
Essentially, we keep it simple. Our wedding photography workshops are about learning the principles of understanding, finding and using the light, posing the average couple and capturing a wedding in sometimes less than average locations and situations. For even experienced wedding photographers these are the greatest hurdles. For the newcomer to wedding photographer they are much more than just hurdles. They are insurmountable walls. Our Creative Wedding Photography workshop deals with the principles of manipulating light in ordinary rooms settings, creating images from any kind of light using creative metering techniques and poses. These lessons can be applied at every wedding, be it a dream for the photographer, or a nightmare.
Our final wrap up sessions are always interesting. Each person speaks briefly about what they have learned from the day's activities and how it has impacted them. I always find that part of the day very rewarding, knowing that you have made a difference to someone's future, their vision or their enjoyment of the process. It is always interesting to note certain themes of learning that are consistent to all in attendance while also understanding that each person will take home something different and uniquely useful and beneficial for them.
I have another wedding workshop to run this coming Saturday at the Abbottsford Convent. I look forward to it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And here it is...

Friday evening found me at David Oakley's Exhibition in Sandringham. I was there along with other friends and fellow photographers who had come to support David in his endeavours the best we knew how.
David is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, and his life story combined with his heart and his vision make him so compelling as a human being.
This same man honoured me by creating a digital art painting of me. Part of it, I am told, is a head and shoulders portrait he took of me at the Echuca workshop and the rest is creation from memory. I thought the whole thing was from a photograph, but I learned otherwise. Funny how he has my stance perfect!
Thank you again, David, for an honour I won't forget...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

In Hobart for the AIPP

I have just returned from the capital of Tasmania, our small but beautiful southern island. Hobart is such a lovely town and I have the pleasure of being there for the better part of three days so I could speak at a convention for...two hours.Yeah, I have to admit...really liked that idea.
I was simply forced to take some time out and travel around, photographing beautiful Richmond and the simultaneously haunting and picturesque ruins of the former penal colony of Port Arthur.
My presentation to the photographers at the AIPP convention was on the subject of Creative Flash Photography, which I love talking about. I am a serious fan of off camera flash and its ability to create images where less than acceptable opportunities abound. I was able to speak to fellow professionals and also a few neophytes to our wonderful art about the creative power of the most portable lighting a photographer could imagine. After cutting my normal presentation down from its usual two hours to only one, I had one hour left to take the photographers into Salamanca Place and run through a few techniques. Being short of a hired model, I chose Thomas, a humourous American photographer who happened to get himself 'volunteered'.
As I said, it was also a great chance to revisit Port Arthur, which appeared in the news about a dozen years ago when mass murderer, Martin Bryant, killed many tourists and locals on this site. Its history as a penal colony is devoid of human rights, and this event only makes this location all the more macabre. However, its ruins and its landscape are truly amazing and I enjoyed the chance to photograph this place digitally. The last time I was there the light was poor and I was using film. This time, everything was different.
Richmond is also a lovely little tourist town. Its famous and very beautiful bridge has been a Mecca for Australian photographers for many years. I took the opportunity to photograph it twice over this past weekend - once in the evening, and then again the following morning. The graves at the local church are also interesting for photography and even for a history lesson. All in all, it was a lovely weekend. Tasmania even turned on the sunshine for me. I left as it began to rain...

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller