Saturday, 30 May 2009

Challenging Photographic Experiences

Today in one of our Bluedog Beginner Photography Workshops we were asked ‘What would be some of your most challenging experiences?’ What a question? Each photography excursion presents a new range of hurdles, excitement and challenges to capture.

However it did make us reflect on one shoot on Tanna Island in Vanuatu. This was to photogaph the erupting My Yasur, one of the most accessible volcanoes in the world. Still spewing red hot lava Mt Yasur was terrifying, exhilarating and a fabulous photographic opportunity.

There are no safety rails, no signs that danger could lay ahead and as Mt Yasur continually spat rocks, some the size of cars, into the air the ground of ash we stood upon would shake beneath our feet. I asked our guide what would happen if it gave way,his simple reply was, ‘Bye, Bye.’

This image of My Yasur was taken by Nick Lancaster.
Camera Nikon D200; ISO 100; 18-200mm lens, Manual mode on bulb exposure

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Depression Times for Photography

I watched with sadness a couple of nights ago a story on the once mighty USA city of Detroit, affectionately referred to as Motown, the Motor City.

The streets are becoming deserted the report said, people are being laid off as another depression sinks in.

Is it media madness? Maybe so, maybe not. What it did though was remind me of one of my favourite photographers, Dorothea Lange, who during the last depression shut the door on her illusive and well earning portrait studio in the early 1930’s and took her camera onto the streets, to the breadlines, waterfront strikes, and down-and-out people of Depression-era San Francisco.

Her images captured emotion, reality and gave us an everlasting documentary portrait of these times. Dorothea Lange's insightful and compassionate photographs have exerted a profound influence on the development of modern documentary photography. Lange's concern for people, her appreciation of the ordinary, and the striking empathy she showed for her subjects make her unique among photographers of her day.

Lange documented the troubled exodus of farm families escaping the dust bowl as they migrated West in search of work. Lange's documentary style achieved its fullest expression in these year, with photographs such as "Migrant Mother" (featured here and one of my favourite of Lange’s images) becoming instantly recognised symbols of the migrant experience.

"You put your camera around your neck
along with putting on your shoes,
and there it is, an appendage of the body that shares your life with you. The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."
Dorothea Lange

How I wish now I could jump on a plane and fly to the people of Motown: be with them and document this time in our lives in a lovingly humane way.

View the Oakland Museum of California's entire Dorothea Lange photonegative collection online at

To view the program aired on the BAC Foreign Correspondent follow this link:

Monday, 25 May 2009

Did You Know? Photo Trivia

The world record for the highest price paid for a photograph as of 2008 was $3,346,456 in February 2007 for 99 Cent II Diptychon by Andres Gursky!
Who said photography doesn't pay!
Following that is Edward Steichen 'The Pond - Moonlight' taken in 1904 which sold for $2,928,000 in February 2006.
These are also in the top ten:
Alfred Stieglitz's, Georgia O'Keeffe (Hands) taken in 1919 sold in 2006 for $1,470,000 and his image of Georgia O'Keeffe Nude sold the same year for 1,360,000.
Richard Prince's Untitled (Cowboy), fetched $1,248,000, while Joseph-Philibert Girault De Prangey 113.Athènes, T[emple] de J[upiter] olympien pris de l'est, made $922,488.
Gustave Le Gray's The Great Wave, Sete (1857), was sold for $838,000, and Robert Mapplethorpe Andy Warhol (1987), made $643,200,
This all pushed Ansel Adams famous Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1948), down the list of top ten for making $609,600 in 2006 and last in the top ten was Andreas Gursky Untitled 5 1997, which made $559,724.
The image shown, Identical 'Twins(Cathleen and Colleen)' by Diane Arbus which was once firlmly in the top ten when it was sold for 478,400 has now been forced out and is at number 12.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Photography Tips for the Beach and Tropical Islands

We all dream!
Take me away to a tropical
island with sweeping

sandy white beaches and crystal clear waters teeming with colourful fish!
Its picture-perfect postcard material and will surely have our shutter fingers happily pressing away.

I’ve just returned from working in the Mackay region ( and during this time I was fortunate to venture onto a few of the magnificent islands that make up the Whitsundays, Australia’s premier tourist destination.

Each day, I met people with their cameras trying to capture the beauty of the scene in front of them – unfortunately many were disgruntled with their efforts. Why? Because they weren’t following a few basic photographic techniques.

Here’s a few tips to make your next tropical getaway or beach photography session a success:
1. Composition shouldn’t be hard, you may think at first, I mean look at your surroundings!

Don’t forget the rule of thirds, moving up and down; look for lines that can lead the viewers eye such as the curving edge of the sea, a row of palm trees, or footprints in the sand; look for focal points that you can place close to your lens to give the image more depth and framing opportunities.

2. Use a polariser!!

3. Pack your tripod! Yes I know its heavy but if you
really, really want to capture a sunrise or sunset
you’ll need it.

4. Be careful with your cameras meter reading.It reads that bright sand and
water as very bright and you don’t want the sand grey!

5. Don’t forget the little things. That plate of prawns, cocktail with the sea behind, flowers, etc and macro
on the beach is fantastic fun!

6. Make sure your horizon is straight – it happens to the best of us :)

7. Don’t let an overcast day put you off. The sun is not as harsh and therefore shadows not as hard.

8. What about reflections? They can make very interesting subject matters in themselves..

9. Clean your gear well when you finish - see our Top Tip below

10. Have fun and a cocktail for me!!

Our Top Tip
If you put your tripod in the salt water (and we do) place it in the shower at the end of the day and put the plug in the bath as well so the leg extenders get a good soaking. Before removing the tripod form the shower, turn it upside down to drain the water that has filled up in the legs.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

In Your Back Yard

While many of us go to great lengths planning our photography expeditions how many of us really look around in our own back yard?

I use the term back yard a little loosely, as I not only mean our actual back yard but your street, community, park or town.
Do you really know the photography experiences
awaiting you so very close to home?

While I am fortunate enough to live in an incredibly beautiful region of Queensland (also home to the oldest national park in Queensland and the third oldest in the world) I often hear people saying there is nothing to photograph where they live.

So the challenge is on! What’s in your back yard?
For those that would like to send me an image I’ll upload them onto the Bluedog Photography Facebook page. It’ll be a little fun and a great photography exercise. Just make sure the images are under 1MB and you include the details of camera, mode aperture, shutter and ISO.
Happy shooting!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Photography of Women

Some of you know that last year I had the fortune of travelling to China for a photography jaunt. While I did get to move around the big cities,
it was the far North West that captivated me.

The faces of the people intrigued me and though I could not speak a word (well maybe one word) I was able to communicate with my subjects and capture some stunning portraits.

This morning I have just read a
wonderful interview with Lili Almog
who has recently released her new book
The Other Half of the Sky,
portraits of women of mainland China.

To read the interview follow this link:

To view just a few of my China Photographs visit:

Monday, 11 May 2009

Photoshop Short Cuts

Yesterday we held another of our Bluedog Introduction to Photoshop Workshops. In this we covered a few of the Photoshop shortcuts which save you a heap of time so now we are going to share more of those with all. Here’s our first list of shortcuts:

Shortcuts for the Main Tool Bar:
(please note: Keys can be sued as either lower or upper case.)
Key - Action
v - Move Tool
m - Marquee Tool
l - Lasso Tool
w - Magic Wand Tool
c - Crop Tool
i - Eyedropper Tool
j - Healing Brush tool
b - Brush/Pencil tool
s - Stamp Tool
y - History Brush Tool
e - Eraser Tool
g - Paint Bucket/Gradient Tool
o - Dodge/Burn/Sponge Tool
p - Pen Tool
t - Type tool
h - Hand Tool
n - Pencil tool
z - Zoom tool

Sunday, 10 May 2009

James Mudd's quote on Landscape Photography

Found this great quote! No doubt these words over 100 years on, ring true to avid landscape photographers ears!

James Mudd delivered the following to the Manchester Photographic Society in 1858:"Landscape photography! How pleasantly the words fall upon the ear of the enthusiasticphotographer. What agreeable association are connected with our excursions into thecountry. How often have we wandered along the rough sea-shore or climbed the breezy hillside, or descended the shady valley, or toiled along the rock bed of some mountain stream,forgetting, in the excitement of our pursuit, the burdens we carried, or the roughness of thepath we trod. What delightful hours we passed in wandering through the quiet ruins of somevenerable abbey, impressing, with wondrous truth, upon the delicate tablets we carried, themarvellous beauty of Gothic window, of broken column, and ivy wreathed arch. Howpleasant our visits to moss-green old churches and picturesque cottages and stately castlesand a thousand pretty nooks, in the shady wood, by the river side, or in the hedgerow,where the wild convolvulus, the bramble and luxuriant fern have arrested us in ourwanderings...."

Friday, 8 May 2009

It’s Autumn!

One of the most colourful seasons of the year, autumn has many photographers stopping in their tracks to capture it’s beauty.

How is the best way to photograph that vibrancy and beauty in a meaningful way? A way that shows the emotion, the colour yet add your own personal touch.
Here’s a few tips for your autumn photography:
Choosing Your Subject
It’s not all leaves! Yet those leaves do draw our attention, don’t forget autumn also means other things: birds are migrating, if autumn rains have fallen fungi are sprouting, other plants such as cactus and autumn perennials are flowering and what about that fog wafting through the valleys, around the tress and along the creeks early in the morning?
Back to the leaves, which always rank high on our list of ‘must get’ shots. What a palette of colours Mother Nature provides us with and this is where we have to have a little think as each day of autumn presents another array of changing tones. If you’re out early in the season there will still be a lot of green, later the deciduous trees will be almost or completely stark and around their trunks the ground will be carpeted thick with leaves ranging from reds to bronzes, oranges and yellows – a wonderful contrasting yet colourful sight.

Know where to find deciduous plants. Grape vines are deciduous so vineyards can provide us with great subject choices.Try botanical gardens which often have specimen plants from across the globe. Remember not all tree species change their colour at the same time.
Position, Position, Position
Look for the best angle – sometimes this is pretty obvious straight away but look around and take images from not just head-on and eye level. Ask yourself what is the best view point? Is it better from a worms eye view, lower to the ground or higher up? Try lying on the ground – look up, along it or gain more height. There’s nothing actually wrong with carrying a step ladder around in the back of the car, climbing a tree or using the roof rack on your car. Don’t limit your choices. Always remember safety first!
Yep, there’s that word again! We are capturing a tiny slice of our huge world and presenting it in a 2D rectanglar image. Be creative, know the rules, use them and of course know when and how to break them.

Aim for balance, use contrast supplied by nature wisely, bring elements close to the lens, get in close, isolate your subject, try some with angles and look for the tiny details as well as the overall scene.
When to Shoot
We all know the mornings are getting cooler and its much nicer to snuggle in bed but......
Photographers love the ‘Magic Hour’ though here in Australia it’s not really an hour. It’s a tiny slice of time before and just after the sun breaks the horizon on its way up and down each day. This is when we get the golden light where the sun emits a warmer or orange tone and is a softer and more diffused light source.

Check out the grass, now being burned by the falling overnight temperatures – look at its contrast and texture in this light. And what about those leaves? They will glow and shadows can be dramatic and moody. Then there’s that fog drifting through the valleys, along the creeks and around the mountain ridges only available early in the morning.

Just because the clouds gather don’t put the camera away and reach for a book on the couch instead. Overcast days give us lovely even lighting providing an added hand from nature for richer colours and contrast.
How to Shoot
Our rule of thumb is to choose the lowest ISO you can depending on your cameras capabilities. But most cameras can comfortably shoot up to 400 ISOO without too much noise.

Shutter speed you may not think should matter when you are photographing leaves or a tree, however if there is the slightest breeze that leaf/leaves may be blurred if your shutter speed is too slow. Keep an eye on it and if it falls too slow go to 1/250th of a second or higher to freeze that action.
Why not try using the wind to your advantage and painting a picture? Put your camera on a tripod, set a slow shutter speed, use a cable release, or remote or the cameras self timer and expose for a ¼ second or longer depending on the wind. Add to this zooming your lens in and out for an abstract effect. Who said photography was not art?

Trees can be so big! So if you are wanting that whole tree/s sharp you’ll need to use a small aperture and focus to gain maximum benefit of your focusing thirds. If you have a depth of field preview button use it!
Over and under exposing: overexposing can bring out the subtle tones while underexposing gives deeper and richer colours.

Use a polarising filter to enhance those rich colours by increasing the saturation and the wonderful blue skies we have in autumn will be captured beautifully by the polariser decreasing the haze.

Unless you can really capture something unique try not shooting directly into the sun as this will often produce lens flare and decrease saturation. When you do shoot into the sun, make sure you use a lens hood and if you don’t have one use something else: a hand, cap, notebook or anything to shield the lens.
Change the white balance and warm up those shots – we love cloudy or shade and play with your custom settings.

Don’t delete on the shoot. Wait till you get home and have a look at the images on the computer screen. You’ll often see something you may like and could have overlooked while out shooting.

It’s not all over when you finish your shoot. Back up immediately when you get home and then process your images. If you have shot in RAW you need to post process but don’t overdo it.

Have fun – get on out there and capture this wonderful season!
The birds are singing, the trees are turning and it’s time for us
to get those shutters clicking!
(c) 2009
Written by Danielle Lancaster - Bluedog Photography

Photographing Snakes

I am a self confessed scaredy cat of snakes, yet they fascinate me (and many others) and a great photograph of a snake is a prize in any wildlife photographer’s portfolio.

Getting a good, or great image of these slithering reptiles is not easy and I must stress here can be potentially lethal.
First Rule is: knowing your subject! Snakes don’t like the cold, they react to movement, they move silently, many are nocturnal and all will strike if they feel threatened or are harassed.

Most snake photography you see in books has been done under controlled and carefully planned conditions.

Tips for Snake Photography
Never, ever compromise your or anyone else’s safety. Better to leave alone than entice a situation that may become life threatening. A general rule of thumb is a snake’s striking range is 1/3rd of its total body length – impossible to guess when they are coiled up.If confronted by a snake stay perfectly still.

While out in the bush wear closed in sturdy boots and long pants. Carry a first aid kit – they make great ones that clip onto your belt or at least carry a compression bandage and a mobile phone or emergency beacon. Remember just because a snake is not venomous does not mean it’s OK to be bitten – they have bacteria on their fangs and in their mouths which can cause a nasty infection.

It is illegal to capture and transport a snake without a specific permit in all states of Australia.
Do not make sudden movements in front of the snake. They will get nervous and may strike and bite. Keep your movement very, very slow and never ever take your eye off the snake.
Snakes always look in best condition just after they have shed their old skin.
Snakes are more active during the heat of the day as the temperature rises – this is when they move faster!

DO NOT place a snake in a fridge or freezer to ‘slow it down’. This is a cruel practise and above all different snakes can tolerate different cool temperatures and you may kill the snake with exposure to cold.
Using a tripod is often out of the question – if you can that’s great but......
If photographing snakes behind glass use a polariser filter.

An image of the head (better with the tongue flickering) will have a much greater impact then a snake totally stretched out because a stretched out snake takes up only a small thin part of your image. A snake coiled makes a pleasing symmetrical image.

Pre focus if possible. We often use a cable release to limit the movement of our hand to and from the camera.

Equipment & Technique:
We use a digital SLR and a range of lenses including 105mm macro (keeps us a little further from the subject – the 180 and 200mm are also great) and a 70-300mm.
Use flash sparingly and if need be diffuse it or bounce it to make it softer.
ISO’s are kept as low as possible.
Modes – Aperture priority or manual.
Always be kind to them – they are an animal of our planet, have a place in the ecosystem and deserve our respect.
Remember when working in the outdoors to keep your camera bag zipped up. Snakes move silently, your bag is warm and it may just provide them a perfect place to coil up for a rest.

Friday, 1 May 2009

April Winner

The winner of the Bluedog Photography 'Subscribe' voucher for April is...........drum roll.............. Sam K. from Brisbane!
Congratulations Sam you can use your $50.00 voucher for any photography workshop, retreat or tour!!

10 Reasons Why You Should Do Photography

1. Why not?
2. Because it's fun!

3. It get's you out and about.

4. It de-stresses - that's always a bonus!!

5. You meet new people.

6. You see the world in a different way.

7. You get some exercise - um..... better than sitting in front of a computer!

8. Learn a new skill - or improve on one.

9. It's fun being part of the world's greatest hobby!

10. It's fun!!!!!