My 5 Favourite Landscapes from 2017

I’ll preface this quickly - I left this one sitting in my drafts by accident. For almost a year.

Throughout 2017, I photographed my way across 3 states in Australia and posted 141 images to my Instagram page. A few of these were taken at the end of 2016, however, they were all edited and posted in 2017. I chose to only include photographs that were captured on my DSLR, a Canon 5D Mk III, and put aside all of the images that came from rolls of film. 

5) Waterfall
This is a small and mostly overlooked fall that sits among several others above McKenzie Falls in the Grampians. What I like about this photograph is the way that the waterfall zigzags its way down the rocks and out towards the bottom of the frame. It was raining while I was here and that provided dark but even skies over the rocks to minimise distracting shadows. I used a polarising filter to eliminate glare and bright highlights in the water/rocks to make the waterfall 'pop' more.

4) Astrophotography
I love photographing the night sky because it always amazes me just how much a camera can see when you let it gather light over a long period of time. I'm fortunate enough to be in Central Australia through June/July when the Milky Way's core is visible in the night sky. This photograph is from Kings Canyon where I went stargazing with some students. It's a very simple image of a lone tree at a lookout with the Milky Way above it, but I like the way that the scale of the tree compared to the Milky Way core gives it such a false sense of grandeur by comparison.

Tree Milky Way.jpg

3) Mountains
I had a few photographs in mind for this, but the one that I kept coming back to is a photograph of one of my greatest friends, Dan, sitting on the 'Devil's Jaw' at about 6AM in the freezing cold... Because I asked him to come to sunrise with me. What I love about the image is that it reminds me of how far the Grampians ranges stretch out and the feeling of awe I had when I first saw them on a previous trip. The sense of scale is much more apparent with Dan sitting on that rock and the sun's glow rolling over the mountains was stunning.

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2) Monochrome
I find that monochrome landscape photography forces me to look within a scene for shapes and contrast. There has to be something that draws the eye in. I had a lot of trouble choosing a favourite for this category, but ultimately, it had to be the Tenby Point Tree. It stands out so prominantely against the rest of the landscape and the wet wood catches the morning light to offer some guiding highlights.

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1) Jetty/Pier
I photograph a lot of jetties - mostly because I spend so much time along the coast. I love finding jetties with character - be it condition, colour or shape. I discovered Shelley Beach through another photographer friend who posted an image of a small boathouse there and knew that it was a must-see location after some Google Earthing. This jetty is my favourite for it's strange shape and how peacefully isolated it is just before 6 in the morning when you arrive for sunrise. This was also the first photograph I ever sold as a print and what inspired me to make my own website.

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Melbourne on Film

Recently, I paid a visit to Hillvale in Melbourne with some rolls of film from the last year to be developed and scanned. I have put together a selection of images from the haul. All of them are mostly unedited, save for a little cropping or a few colour corrections on a handful.

If it hasn't been made obvious yet, I love capturing Melbourne. Here it is... on film. Click images to view full screen.

120 Format:

Unfortunately, a lot of the images I had created on the 120 film were ruined by a light leak in the camera. It happens. On the plus side, it confirmed for me that Kodak T-MAX 400 is one of my favourite black and white films.

The majority of my time behind a film camera is spent shooting in 35mm.

A friend's recent trip to America resulted in me having a handful of rolls of Kodak Portra 400. It is easy to see why Portra is so popular; it produces beautiful colours and lends itself very well to all different types of images. A lot of my favourite images from below were shot slightly 'overexposed' according to the TTL metering of my camera (which I have some doubts about the accuracy of, at times).

When it comes to capturing for enjoyment, it is easy to lose sight of what to aim the camera at. A trick I tried using to avoid ending up with a completely random collection is to think about making small 'sets' of images.

Below, there are:

  • Cityscapes
  • Dingy vibes
  • Posed portraits
  • Umbrellas
  • Orange
  • Skateboarding
  • Pairs and pairs
  • Cute pooches
  • Stoic old men
  • Low-down (sitting/crouching)
  • On the job
  • Yellow
  • Cafe
  • Main Street
  • Yellow (pt 2)

And a few miscellaneous images that I liked to finish it off - including a double exposure. I can't work out how I accidentally shot that, given that the camera I was using doesn't have a double exposure feature.

And lastly, because my favourite thing to capture is landscapes, some waterfalls...

Long Exposing Melbourne

I caught up with a friend of mine in Melbourne city and brought my camera with me just in case. Neither of us had any real plans for the day - he was going to capture some portraits and I... well... I was going to bring my camera to the city.

I figured that 'if I've got it here, I might as well use it' and decided that I would try to capture nothing but long exposure images. Not something I am used to doing in the city. I thought it would be a bit of fun. It was, and in hindsight, I stumbled across some compositions that I would like to revisit with more time. Setting yourself a challenge can give you some direction as a photographer in an otherwise crowded environment rife with hidden compositions.

The idea is simple. The execution is the fun part.
I feel that it's at this stage that I should mention that all of these images have had only a very, very quick retouch and were shot purely for the purpose of personal enjoyment/this blog. Most of the images in this blog were captured using a Nisi ND 1000 (10 stop neutral density filter).

I captured the below image of Princes Bridge while battling against busy crowds coming and going from the Hokusai exhibition at the NGV (which I strongly recommend). Every time I stop here and get out the kit, someone will stop and jam their face into the LCD screen to see the image before I even get the chance. Quality Melbourne quirks that make shooting the city a bit of a laugh.

There are a few things that I like about this composition:
- The obvious leading lines up the Yarra River
- The iconic Eureka Skydeck that dominates the skyline and creates a middle-ground that pulls the eye across the sky and into the tall buildings in the background
- The late afternoon sun lights up the riverbanks and pulls the eye through the image as well

16MM | F/11 | ISO 100 | 120 SEC

Walking back from Princes Bridge towards the main CBD (conscious that there were portraits to be taken by my camera-wielding friend), we noticed that there was a temporary ice skating rink set up near Federation Square. Immediately, I sensed the opportunity to capture a long exposure of some elegant skating. Before we even crossed the road, the sun bouncing off the glass of Melbourne's office buildings took centre stage. I set up in the back corner of the taxi-rank outside Flinders St Station and captured only one frame. Again, I was looking for layers in this image that would pull the eye through it - the road leads to the right-turn arrow which moves into the tram and up the image to the buildings in the background. It's a simple shot but I think it's effective.

What made the frame for me:
- Trails from the passing trams
- Ghosting from a tram that came and went
- Gorgeous, bright reflections from the sun on the buildings
 

25MM | f/11 | ISO 100 | 61 SEC

An added bonus of long exposing in the city is that you can complete eliminate people from your images. If I had've timed this differently, or shot multiple frames, I could've removed any light trails or ghosting effects and made the scene feel completely still and barren - something that can look quite haunting in b&w.

We went to the ice skating rink. We couldn't even get a look-in past the crowds in the area. I think most of it was the line for the hot Milo van, but it was more than we felt like battling against. Sparked by the want for coffee, I stopped quickly to catch a few passing vehicles looking down Flinders St. Exact same settings as the previous photograph - including accidental fumble on the shutter timer to go 1 second over but in a minute-long exposure, it isn't going to make too drastic of a difference.

What caught my eye:
-The light reflecting off the buildings opposite me
-The very drawn out vanishing point that allowed for a long vehicle trail without it dominating the scene

25MM | f/11 | ISO 100 | 61 SEC

The next two are not images are not what I would usually capture but that's half the fun of shooting just for yourself and not for your body of work. After a quick refuel, we strolled through Degraves St and I stopped quickly to capture something that I felt was quintessentially Melbourne - the convergence of old and new, traffic and pedestrians, architecture and graffiti - you get the point. I followed it up with something equally as quintessentially Melbourne - a tram.

Why stop for this?
-Lots of horizontal lines that create layers in the frame
-The converging lines of the alleyway draw viewing down towards the person walking
-The person walking towards the camera keeps the eye in the centre of the frame and makes a great starting point to move around the image

16MM | f/16 | ISO 100 | 4.0 SEC

This was the only image that I had a good amount of time to stop and wait for. So why?
-I like the way that the tram bursts through the scene
-It was a challenge to get a tram unimpeded by passersby - patience is a virtue in these situations

16MM | f/16 | ISO 100 | 0.4 SEC

In recent years, Melbourne has had some great initiatives. We've added on-the-spot bicycles for hire, free transport via tram in the CBD, communal gardens, and free tour guides. The bright green jackets that they wear cause them to stand out for obvious reasons and I had a chance moment of a guide passing through my frame at the same time as a bright red car. It made for some pleasing complimentary colours to liven up an otherwise lacklustre frame.

For the next two images, I chose the colour version to feature in this blog as it fitted better with the rest of the set. For both, I have included the b&w and the colour image underneath to highlight how different the dynamics of the scene can become just by choosing to remove colour. I know my preference, but I'll let you decide...

What else was worth it?
- I love the arches along Chinatown (Lt Bourke)
- The subject is bold and stationary, it is the blurred movements of the rest of the scene that support it

20MM | f/13 | ISO 100 | 0.6 SEC

Melbourne has no shortage of interesting buildings to photograph - ranging from the decadent to the ultra-modern. Personally, I really enjoyed trying to battle the crowds to photograph the timeless architecture of one of Melbourne's more prominent buildings, the State Library.

Compositionally, this image could be better and I could have repositioned to remove some of the buildings emerging from the Library. So... What worked?
- I like the convergence of the steps toward the building
- The statue adds a layers to the frame and a sense of grandeur
- It's a wonderfully symmetrical building and frames quite nicely, even in a lightning-fast set up like this
- Playing stop and wait with selfie-taking tourists is a good pass-time.. there are always some interesting poses

16MM | f/11 | ISO 100 | 105 SEC

I ran into a plethora of difficulties along the way - people standing in front of the camera, traffic not moving when I wanted it to, struggling to find compositions while rushing through the city, and the list goes on. As I wrote at the beginning - the idea is simple enough, the execution wasn't.

In the end, I am happy with the images that I walked away with and I think that for just a bit of fun, and with the small amount of post processing applied, they've turned out quite nicely. This is something that I can see myself doing again in the future to continue exploring the city. The challenge was enjoyable despite the time restriction and I absolutely recommend this as a great way to experiment with filters if you are new to using them.

Below are some unused images, including some from later in the evening at Gertrude Street Projection Festival.

Go out, set yourself a challenge, shoot and enjoy photography.
Thanks for reading.

 

5 Things I Learned Shooting in a Studio with PJ Pantelis

Recently, I kicked off my boots and headed indoors with music photographer and YouTube tutorial/vlog champion, Pj Pantelis.

I captured some film photographs on this Mamiya 645 while Pj gave my 70-200 a run. Image by  Andrew Basso .

I captured some film photographs on this Mamiya 645 while Pj gave my 70-200 a run. Image by Andrew Basso.

Being such a huge fan of the outdoors and the sense of adventure that comes along with my photography, shooting in a studio environment is not something that I have had a lot of experience with. I used to occasionally tag along with a friend of mine when she was shooting in the studio but years have passed and I had barely pulled my first camera out of the box at the time. 

Roll in PJ.

PJ has been shooting bands for a couple of years and, thanks to his powerhouse work ethic, manages to churn out gem after gem for his clients.

We got in contact to discuss some work for his YouTube channel and I was fortunate enough to have him extend the offer to me to join him in the studio on a shoot for a band. He gave me the heads up on the brief for the shoot and, a couple of days later, I found myself walking into a room of people that I'd never met at Andrew Basso's Electrum Photography studio. Here are 5 things that I learned from the experience.

1) Be Personable.
This was the first thing that I noticed. I was barely two feet in the door before there was a huge smile staring at me and introducing me to everyone involved in the shoot. Watching PJ work, it was abundantly clear that his personality drives a lot of the interaction between photographer and subject. The words "that's awesome", "great", "that looks sick" were constantly streaming from his mouth at the band he was shooting and I could actually see the way it lifted their energy and encouraged them to experiment more with how they positioned themselves. He refers to everyone by name and knows their role in the band (or in the bts of the shoot) and presents his directions as something interesting or exciting to try. At one point, I heard the phrase "think JB in My Calvins" and, sure enough, there was a metal version of JB doing My Calvins. He asked me to roll back part of a black sheet, but the delivery was "this is looking great! Do you want to try pulling that back a little? Yeah, awesome. Maybe even some more, that'll look perfect!". Everything is delivered with positive affirmations and that sets a really comfortable dynamic. Which brings me to the second thing that I learned...

2) Build the Client's Trust.
Before the shoot began, PJ explained the brief in detail with his client again. It was their brief, but his intimate understanding of what they were trying to achieve together laid the foundations for a successful time on both sides of the camera. During each set of images, he didn't fragment the moment by stopping to check his camera's LCD screen but consistently reminded his clients that they were doing well, the poses were looking natural and that they were "definitely getting some amazing shots". When directing the band members, he explained what he wanted them to do but also assured them as to why - generating a sense of comfort in posing in a manner that may have felt awkward or as though it wouldn't translate in the images. After each set of images, I noticed that he would only flick through a small handful of captures with the band to show them the success that they were having. This kept up the excitement to create more and allowed the band to ease, knowing that PJ had already delivered on what he promised. This opened them up to new ideas.

3) Control the Light.
Having control over light isn't something that features in the landscape photographer's arsenal. What I learned from PJ here is how to effectively control your light to create dynamic effects. By diffusing the key light with a fairly large softbox placed slightly off centre, and a second light source projected at the white backdrop, the band were evenly lit from the front and stood out against the pure white background. I watched as PJ changed this set up to achieve new effects. He shifted to a black background and had each member stand, individually, next to the key light. He swapped out the softbox to a gridded softbox and used this to intensify the 'drama' of the shots by reducing spill light onto the black background. This left only the band member partially illuminated on the face and arms, as if they were bursting out of the blackness. Experimenting with your lights and controlling where you project your light, plus the intensity, is absolutely key in making your photographs stand out.

4) Change Your Focal Length.
Once you're in your groove, it's easy to snap away making magic and forget about exploring your possibilities. PJ captured his images in a range of different focal lengths, changing between 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses. At the wider end, this enabled him to capture much more open shots that incorporated a powerful use of the background to isolate the band members, while at the longer end, the telephoto compression flattened out lens distortion of the member's faces and produced crisp portraiture styled shots. If you look through PJ's catalogue of images, you'll find that his focal length varies quite a lot to achieve different effects, such as including all of the behind-the-scenes gear in the band's image, to minimising the perceived distance between band members and an interesting background or backdrop. Overall, I learned the importance of experimenting more with focal lengths when shooting people for a brief because, sometimes, you can have quality and quantity.

5) Record Your Experience.
Pj spoke to me about recording his shoots for his growing YouTube channel. Producing video content does more than giving a great record of events; it helps to grow your audience across a range of formats, gives your client even more out of the experience, and offers a great tool for reflecting on and learning from. This is something that I've been looking into a lot recently (and may have already started) and seeing how Pj sets up his kit to capture his shoots was very insightful. One main camera capturing the shoot overall and a second camera set up to capture more specific details. A good mix of primary and B-roll. 

At the end of the shoot, I threw the triggers onto my camera and captured a few quick shots of my own under Pj's guidance. These were for the sole purpose of having an experiment with the lights for myself. After watching Pj throughout the day, I had a few ideas that I wanted to try and I feel comfortable with how they came out.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable experience and I learned a lot about a different style of photography from hanging out with Pj. Be sure to check out his YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

Thanks for reading.
(Unfortunately, I haven't developed the roll of film that I shot on the day yet)

Beat the Street II.

Less than a month after I launched the first Beat the Street photography challenge, I found myself once again tying up the laces on the comfiest shoes I could find and hitting the pavement - camera in hand.

This time, I teamed up with three other photographers: Tyler Dunn, Jesse Wilkinson and, back for round two, Jesse Graham.

In response to the first Beat the Street, I had a lot of positive feedback and interest in participating and I am very thankful for everyone who has been in contact. I decided not to open Beat the Street II to more than a small handful of friends so that I could continue working on the behind the scenes aspect of this challenge. After the day of capturing images and using (forcing) the others as a soundboard, I am fairly confident that I have ironed out the nuts and bolts of building a friendly competition out of what was, originally, a way to hang out and explore photography with others.

I will post more on that in the coming weeks.

If you like the idea, would like to get involved or even just want to say 'hi', please use the Contact page to get in touch with me. For now - Beat the Street II.

In this Beat the Street, we upped the participants and reduced the topics. 4 photographers, 5 topics. 

Our meeting point was Flinders St Station under the clocks because... Melbourne... and convenient. From there, we set about the city with the same general rule as last time: try to avoid making conscious decisions about where to find images and allow ourselves to be guided by whatever stimulates the senses, whether it's a sound, a sight, a smell, etc. This proved to be quite interesting as we found our way inside a range of buildings and found compositions that we would normally not think about capturing.

Melbourne's weather forecast was looking promising. It was announced, courtesy of the weatherman, that it would be our last pleasant day for quite a while. This gave hope for busy streets full of interest worth capturing. What we were greeted with was quite the opposite and Melbourne was uncharacteristically quiet, making it hard to find those standout compositions with exciting subjects.

We had to make a conscious decision. We jumped on a tram and headed towards St. Kilda. Unfortunately, it failed to offer much more in terms of interest, but we did take advantage of a local football match to capture some images. Tyler and I finished the game on 1 touch each from the sidelines.

All in all, five hours outside with a camera in hand and good company is never a bad way to spend a day. The challenge topics that were selected were significantly harder and the conditions forced us to really work for our images. Having to create an 'homage' to another photographer or famous photograph required a lot more premeditation than we anticipated. I think we were lucky to come away successful today but, with a few reluctant submissions sneaking their way in, all of us are chasing redemption in Beat the Street III.

Same rules as before: we had to choose one final image per category from the day. Here they are in alphabetical order.
(Andrew, Jesse G, Jesse W, Tyler).

1) Leading Lines

2) Text

3) Out of Focus

4) Stop Staring/Stairing

5) Homage

Once again, this was a great day out capturing images. The topics that were selected provided an interesting challenge and have definitely inspired some re-shooting. Personally, I'm looking forward to taking the idea of an 'homage' back out onto the street and exploring how to capture images that reflect different styles of photography and different photographers. Trying to put yourself into the mind of someone else is an interesting learning experience to continue developing your eye for compositions - without seeing so much drone photography recently, I would not have thought to shoot down over a ledge at a staircase.

As always - please feel welcome to get in contact or express interest via Instagram or the contact page.

Honourable mentions:

Champions in the Grampians.

Please click on images to view in full - previews are cropped.

Friday afternoon is a sacred time. It marks the beginning of the weekend and that means there is no excuse to not load up and hit the road.

In a spur of the moment decision, I booked accommodation in Halls Gap at the base of the Grampians National Park. With very little convincing, fellow photographer Matthew Booth, our mutual friend Daniel, and my fiancee, Eddie, signed up for a weekend away in the mountains.

Driving 3 hours west of Melbourne, we arrived in Halls Gap late in the night and set plans for the sunrise the next morning.

An early, and freezing cold, start at around 5-6AM was a less than favourable way to kick off a weekend of photography, but that's a part of what makes capturing great images so rewarding. I read a post online once that stated: "while they sleep, we shoot". I try to remember that when I'm dragging myself out of bed.

Those moments when you're standing somewhere isolated, in your own part of the world, watching the first light of the day crawl over the horizon are golden. Not to mention, how ecstatic you are that your trackies fit snugly underneath an extra layer of jeans.

Despite it not facing directly towards the sunrise, we made the journey up the mountains to The Balconies to shoot. This is an amazing location in which you can stand on the edge of rocky outcrops and look out over a grand vista. As the sun poked through the valley, I captured this image of Daniel sitting on rock shelf known as the Devil's Jaw. 

35MM | F/13 | ISO 100 | 0.8 SEC

I've seen a lot of photographers condemn selfies but, in my opinion, if you can take a great one, why not?

16MM | F/13 | ISO 100 | 0.8 SEC

As we begun the walk back to the carpark, we climbed up onto some of the huge rocks to look out over Wartook Reservoir. The sky was still glowing as the light made its way across the valley onto the peaks of the mountains on the western side.

70MM | F/13 | ISO 100 | 1/10 SEC

With the sunset concluded, we ventured back down the mountain to our motel and went back to sleep for a few hours before acquiring the lifeblood of all adventures, coffee, and heading back up into the mountain range.

16MM | F/4 | ISO 250 | 1/400 SEC

Weaving around the mountain roads, we made our first stop off at Silverband Falls. A short walk through peaceful forests under a light drizzle. The thin trickling fall lived up to its name. A silver band standing out against its rocky background.

I struggled to find a composition that I felt captured this location adequately but not for lack of trying. It was difficult with the rain picking up and a lot of the ground turning to slush where I wanted to shoot from. I also didn't attach a polarising filter, poor choice, which would have cut down on the distracting reflections from the water on the surrounding rocks. Filters, filters, filters! Despite not feeling completely satisfied, I accepted the images that I had captured so far and we made tracks for the car.

16MM | F/16 | ISO 50 | 0.6 SEC

I feel it's important to add that when I leave a location dissatisfied, I don't consider it a failure. I've come away learning from that location and with new ideas on how to tackle it when I inevitably visit it again.

By now, our day of adventuring had carried itself into the afternoon. We got to Boroka Lookout which has a stunning panoramic view over Lake Bellfield, Halls Gap and the surrounding farm region.  Thankfully, I have free streaming of the AFL on my mobile phone, enabling us to catch up on some footy while we ate lunch. 

25MM | F/9 | ISO 100 | 13 SEC

Leaving Boroka, we made way towards the Grampians' most well-known feature, MacKenzie Falls. Having been to MacKenzie Falls before, I encouraged a detour to a lesser known site in Broken Falls. Despite a full carpark and it only being a short walk, we were completely alone. MacKenzie was clearly the drawcard for everyone.

Broken Falls don't offer a variety of interesting vantage points or options for compositions. There is one viewing platform, however, if you look carefully you can see the remnants of an older path that leads you through some thin shrubs and trees to a rock ledge. It offers a slightly more generous view of the falls, in particular, the lower section (which is more appealing, to me).

30MM | F/9 | ISO 100 | 101 SEC

Boothy is more of a film photographer and has a very quick eye, whereas I tend to be quite slow in finding a composition that I like. As I've written about before, it is something that I am constantly working on. Add to that a tripod, shutter trigger and filter kit and you're in for a much longer set-up time...

A.K.A see who can skip a rock furthest into the river. It's important to find pass-times when out for landscape photography.

16MM | F/4 | ISO 200 | 1/125 SEC

45 minutes to sunset. The countdown was on and the internet service was off. No GPS and I forgot to bring a map. We attempted to find a great location for sunset the old school way - hit the road and adventure. 

Bad idea this time. 40 minutes later we had made it to the outskirts of Horsham and were racing back up the mountains. We settled on Reeds Lookout, another location that I have shot before. I'm not overly fond of it as it really only offers the vista and no 'exciting' foreground features. Just to be sure that I would have something to take from this, I snapped a quick hand-held image on my way up to the lookout.

16MM | F/9 | ISO 250 | 1/200 SEC

I set up close to the edge to avoid having a spattering of other photographers in my image. Boothy was not far to my side with Eddie, and Daniel went off wandering along the cliff edges.

Unfortunately, the sky never 'popped' and captured the colour we were hoping for. I did capture the image below, with the sun lighting up the mountain range before it disappeared under the horizon.

16MM | F/9 | ISO 50 | 0.4 SEC

And then it was gone. Less than 5 minutes later, colourless and cold. This is why I think it is important to always arrive early and capture a few images along the way. They may just be the only ones that capture the scene how you saw it. A busload of photographers arrived at the scene that we were shooting and would've walked away with images that resemble this:

16MM | F/16 | ISO 50 | 2.5 SEC

This is just one of many reasons why I have a simple app on my iPhone that uses my geolocation to tell me when the sunrise/set will begin, what time it will peak and what time it will be fully over. Knowing when golden hour starts/ends can be so valuable when your conditions aren't looking like a guaranteed banger.

That rounded out day 1. Astrophotography was thrown out the window by cloud cover.

Day 2 was a two task affair: MacKenzie Falls and driving home.

MacKenzie Falls are, based on my experiences in the Gramps', the peak attraction. It is incredibly busy and this can make it a very difficult location to shoot. Even in the rain, as we found out. My advice is to go in Summer so that you can climb the surrounds for an unobstructed vantage point and, if it doesn't pay off, you can still make great use of your time by swimming here. (This may no longer be permitted, so you'll need to check)

The biggest challenge at MacKenzie Falls is exposing an image that is not flooded with people. As the best perspective is across the flow-out to the river, I made my way across the slippery stepping-stones and set up in hiding behind some rocks. It was raining (not heavily) while we were there and so I was constantly battling with setting focus, calculating shutter times, wiping water off filters, and other visitors who were apprehensive about crossing the wet stones and so resorted to just standing at the edge, confused.

I do not feel that I have conquered MacKenzie Falls properly yet. The massive amount of spray that this huge fall shoots into the air makes it so hard to get a crisp shot. Mine has a few water splodges on it that I just can't remove cleanly. I considered not including it in this blog but I think it's a fairly decent composition.

21MM | F/9 | ISO 50 | 106 SEC

Now, what I think is more worthwhile (for photography) than MacKenzie Falls are the smaller sections of falls in the descent to the main fall. There are levels of interesting smaller falls that can be photographed from the comfort of viewing platforms or from interesting perspectives for those of us lucky enough to have waterproof tripods. 

This is what you need to know to shoot these smaller falls: be patient. Wait for other photographers, tourists and selfie-takers to slip out of the way and get your composition perfect. Case in point: see the two images below. I rushed both of these by slotting myself in amongst other people rather than getting the composition right from the get-go. They might work with some cropping, but in general, they're a clear-cut example of why it's so important to be patient. 

I found my composition by looking through my viewfinder, handheld, for the below image. Then waited. Once I could get a clear space to set up my tripod, I polarised and added a 10 stop ND filter, locked my cable release and counted out the seconds...

1 minute and 41 seconds later, I had my favourite photograph from the trip.

35MM | F/9 | ISO 50 | 101 SEC

Home time to begin planning the next adventure.

Beat the Street I.

Street photography is something that just about every photographer I've ever met has tried. And for most of us, consistently failed at. What seems like the simplest style proves itself to be one of the most difficult.

It takes a creative eye to capture something exciting in the day to day.

I am not a street photographer. I enjoy it for the challenge and see it as a way to try and see things differently. As a photographer, that's the best tool in the arsenal - being able to enter a location and create images out of the seemingly ordinary. The more i've thought about what I enjoy about street photography, the more I notice that it shares some traits with landscape photography. In particular: cutting through a crowded scene to create something memorable from it; focussing on the finer details; trying to uncover unique textures; making a conscious decision about foreground/middle-ground/background. I wanted to put some of this to the test.

Enter the first Beat the Street.

A head-to-head street photography challenge with predetermined criteria that must be met.
For the first Beat the Street, I teamed up with my friend and portrait photographer Jesse Graham and we set 9 themes. Landscape v Portrait style, taken to the streets of Melbourne's CBD.

Unfortunately, neither of us felt that we truly hit the mark for the 9th: repeating colour (foreground and background). We agreed that even in this context, it was better to admit defeat than share something we didn't value.

We spent just under 6 hours in the city on foot with a lot of gear that we didn't use. It quickly became apparent that we'd chosen our lens for the day, and two tripods, two spare cameras, flashes and filter kits were nothing but dead weight. My shoulders are paying for it now. I opted for my natural territory of a 16-35mm lens and Jesse punched in sharpness as the top priority by settling on a 35mm prime.

The best 'unexpected reward' to come of this challenge was that we only made a conscious decision about which direction to follow 5 times for the whole day. We trekked from one end of the city to the other, top to bottom, revisited streets and found new places that we had never been. It was a great way to explore more of a city we spend a massive amount of time in.

We had to choose one final image per category from the day. Here they are - Jesse's in colour, mine in monochrome. Click each image for full perspective + caption:

1) Wide Perspective Street Shot

2) Portrait Style Street Shot

3) No People

4) Repeating Pattern

5) Down Low

6) Look Up

7) On the Job

8) Behind the Glass

Overall, this was a fun experiment. It is something that we both found incredibly rewarding on a personal and photographic level. Although not every image that we walked away with would be something we would usually share on our social medias or in our portfolios, I feel that we were able to take our interpretations of these challenges into the street and come away with some interesting and unique perspectives on Melbourne's CBD.

Stockpiling of challenge topics for Beat the Street II has begun.
If you would like to get involved, feel free to get in contact via Instagram or the contact page.

Honourable mentions:

Aurora Fail.

Please click on images to view in full - previews are cropped.

On Saturday night, I rallied together a small group of friends to chase the Aurora Australis. The Aurora had been putting on a show for the last handful of days and the images that fellow photographers had shared were looking incredible. We set out for Phillip Island - a casual 2-hour drive away from my house in Melbourne.

As is often the case, the weather was at odds with me. By the time we had reached San Remo, the last township before the island, the cloud cover was settling in and turning for the worse. The sun was beginning to set and we* decided that this might be our only opportunity to salvage something from the drive.

16MM | F/16 | ISO 50 | 0.6 SEC

* - I. I decided. I will take responsibility for this one.

Most of what I managed to capture at this location was 'B-Roll' - images whose only purpose was to keep a record of where we went and what we did. I'd had the San Remo to Phillip Island bridge in the back of my mind for a long time. The difficulty in shooting this bridge is that the shoreline doesn't offer many forgiving angles that allow you to capture a workable perspective of the bridge without obstructions. The water doesn't flow through here in a way that creates nice lines to follow with your eyes; it rolls in and around itself as water drains from the Western Port Bay but flows in from the Bass Strait. There is a small embankment underneath the bridge and, if the flow of the water is timed correctly to avoid the break, it can work quite well with the setting sun in the distance.

16MM | F/16 | ISO 50 | 1.6 SEC

Lately, my focus for photography has been on exploring how far I can push the mood of my images and continuing to learn more about stepping outside of the box when creating an image. Every photographer that I know finds it difficult to abandon the original idea for an image or the expectation of what it should look like once finished. A lot of the time, when framing up an image and deciding on the right settings to capture it, we're building an idea in our mind of what the final product is going to look like; a loose target to aim at. For me, this is usually something that captures the feeling of being at that location in those conditions. I try to maintain the natural appearance of colours and textures, so I've found it particularly challenging to let go of looking natural if it's what makes the image the most captivating.

16MM | F/16 | ISO 100 | 1.6 SEC

Once we were on the island, it became abundantly clear that we were not going to be shooting the aurora. The cloud cover that set in was too thick and all encompassing of the sky, despite projections for a fairly decent light show. We spent the rest of the evening scoping out "the best fish 'n' chips in Australia" (according to the Englishwoman in our group) and driving home in high spirits from a great (mis)adventure with friends.

Better luck next time.

Muscle Expos and Long Expos.

Collective Capture with JesseDGraham. Please click on images to view in full - previews are cropped.

Last weekend, I flipped the tables on my friend Jesse and opted to support him in his chosen shooting location. Melbourne city and the Arnold Classic. Usually, Jesse is among a small group of my friends who are punished with mountain hikes in blistering heat or freezing rain, walking through rivers, and pre-dawn wake-ups. 

Jesse was venturing to the city to capture portraits for his 1000 Portrait Project and I thought it would be a good opportunity to challenge myself to capture some midday long exposures of the city.

I find that the difficulty with daytime long exposing cities is trying to get vibrant colours into the frame. Something that makes the image pop and captures a feeling.

Jesse and I met up and headed through Southern Cross Station to get to South Bank. I've always wanted to capture something that highlights the interesting architecture of this building. Jesse waited patiently, surrounded by other people's rubbish, while I quickly snapped a photograph.

Handheld | 16mm | f/6.3 | ISO 250 | 1/20 sec

What I really enjoy about this image is that it captures the life of a train station as your eyes move across the frame. On the left, a young girl whose journey has just concluded. On the right, a train ready to depart so that other people can embark on theirs. 

Handheld | 16mm | f/6.3 | ISO 250 | 1/20 sec

Once on South Bank, Jesse and I stopped to do some lighting tests for him to setup and capture portraits of people leaving the Arnold Classic. A few clicks of the shutter in and it was us who were being approached by passersby, rather than us having to approach them. The more Jesse shot and I stood around with my camera set up on my tripod, the more attention his buff subjects gathered and we had soon gathered a small cueing of people wanting to have their portrait taken.

This was a golden opportunity for me to step aside and whip out the filter kit. I added a Nisi 10 stop NDF to my kit and set up next to Sandridge Bridge - another shot I have wanted to capture for a while. I wasn't overly satisfied with the result but I'm going to shift some of the blame onto the cloudless sky here. Due to the angle of the sun, the bridge was covered in harsh shadows. I took two exposures of this scene and masked in the bridge to bring its detail back into the frame.

16mm | f/9 | ISO 250 | 4.0 sec + 25 sec

After a few hours of walking around the city, we found our way to Bourke Street Mall to capture some interesting characters in the crowd. Once again, with Jesse occupied by capturing portraits for his project, I scoped out some potential compositions.

The theme of the day: things I've wanted to shoot for a while but never got around to doing. I've been eyeing off the old GPO building and this long hallway of arches for about a year... which is pretty much half of the time I've been properly shooting images for. I finally caught it at a time with no people walking through it, after a lot of waiting.

It wasn't quite the image I was hoping for and perhaps with greater editing, it could be, but I felt that the more I tinkered the less believable the image became. Plan abandoned.

24mm | f/11 | ISO 100 | 2.0 sec

The day finished with us sitting on the steps of Parliament house and discussing our love for Melbourne. I snapped a quick handheld image with no intention of using it but thought I would include it in here anyway.

Handheld | 16mm | f/4.0 | ISO 500 | 1/50 sec

If you would like to hit the road or head to the city to shoot together, please send me a message through my contact page here. If you would like to check out Jesse's 1000 Portrait Project or perhaps feature as a face, check it out here.

Thanks for reading.