Saturday, 28 November 2009

The Risks Photographers Take

The life of a photojournalist can be filled with many things. There’s adventure, fun, exploration, introductions to new people, their cultures, beliefs and ways of life. And there’s danger.
Danger became a living nightmare for Australian photographer Nigel Brennan (b. 18th May 1972).
Nigel is your all-round ‘Australian’ bloke, he’s done a bit of this and that and then he discovered photography. His award winning images, such as the photograph titled “Saint Catherine” - portrait of Catherine Hamlin at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, which is one of the first inductees into the national Portraits Gallery in Canberra and has been purchased by the Gallery and hangs there today - hold him in good stead to become one of Australia’s most recognised photojournalists. But, and I stress here, there’ a big But!

In 2008 Nigel travelled to Somalia with Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout, whom he met whilst travelling and working in Ethiopia taking photos of the Danakil Depression and the thousands of displaced Somali people now living in refugee camps throughout the country.

They were not there alone. Fellow photographers and journalists from National Geographic were also there, writing stories on the war in Somalia.

On their last day, returning from a camp outside Afgooye, their car was stopped and surrounded by men with machine guns demanding they get out of the car.

Nigel and Amanda were kidnapped, in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, where kidnapping is as common as getting married. The asking price - $2.5 million US dollars each.

This has been a long haul for the families involved. After 15months in captivity, thankfully on Thursday that nightmare ended, in part, as Nigel and Amanda were released.
Why are we highlighting this? Kidnapping is not a new ‘event’.
Because social documentary is what a photojournalist does. They go and record events. Many of these events may not be pleasant or nice but they tell a story and often this is an important story that needs to be told.
It is true, freelance photographers and journalists the world over run these risks everyday: some die on the job, some get kidnapped and some escape unharmed, as the national geographic journo and photographer did travelling in a car behind Nigel and Amanda. They had to go to great lengths to out run, and outsmart and their story is published in this month’s issue of National geographic magazine.

We wish Amanda and Nigel the very best in their recovery from the ordeal and look forward to hearing the news they are home in their respective countries safe and sound very soon.

“Saint Catherine”
(c) by Nigel Brennan

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Highlighting your cause with Photography

We all have a cause. It’s usually something near and dear to us, something that rouses an emotion, holds relevance to our own particular cultural, spiritual or just ‘that’s my opinion’ belief.

That’s in fact, exactly how that phrase most of us know off by heart, “Take only photographs, leave only footprints” came about being. Derived to save our wildness, slices of our environment across the globe where now unfortunately there are few places completely devoid of any sign of man. For many photographers it has become a slogan.

Photography is a powerful medium. Through it we inspire others and I could debate heavily on the topic of ‘does it do it more than words can’, or other mediums for that matter, but that’s not for today.

Today is for looking at how we can use our photography for the cause of conservation, an issue very near and dear to me.

1. Be a show off! Show everyone your images. They may just be family and friends but they are someone and by showing someone your highlight it is telling them you care.

2. Offer images to local conservation groups. They may wish to use them on their website or be happy to hang prints on their office walls (of course with a commission for the sale). Always make sure your images have all the necessary copyright info embedded and have an agreement in writing. Committees change and things can be ‘handed on’ often with ignorance the only blame. It needs to be written clearly and simply.

3. Use your cause to give. Design up calendars, gift cards, a DVD to music and give as a gift.

4. Get into print. Contact a magazine to gauge if the topic is of interest. There’s outdoor, wildlife, holiday, driving – let’s be honest they all use images so there’s a chance you can find a niche. Remember, most magazines require editorial to go with images. You have to at least supply captions (relevant to the style of the magazine) and most these days require the full copy for an article. Writing skills are important.

5. Enter competitions. Join the local camera group, send them in to magazines, however you do it remember each time you enter a competition your image could be displayed to an audience you may never meet.

This image by Danielle Lancaster ©
of a lava flow at Dalrymple National Park, Queensland featured on the cover of Go Camping Australia and highlighted this amazing landscape.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Mr Google Lends a Hand for Photographers

Last night at the Brisbane Camera Group (BCG) meet up I learnt a handy tool for photographers on Google Earth: the sun timer slider. 

This tool allows you to view the sun and sunlight falling across a landscape. 

Find your place you wish to be for the example here we have chosen Burleigh Heads National Park on the Gold Coast, a terrific place for both sunrise and sunset photography. 

The seventh icon across the top is the sun timer slide. This is what it looks like.

When you activate this the slider appears in the top left of your view. 

Move the slider to the day and time you wish to view and it shows the movement of the sun across the landscape so you can identify if it will be in shadow, bright sunlight etc at that time of course depending on weather conditions.

You can also activate it by click View > Sun and to hide either click the icon or View > Sun again. 
To display an animation of sunlight across the landscape, click the ‘time slider play button’. 

What a great tool especially when venturing into mountainous terrain and with Google continuing to upgrade this service our areas to view in detail will only get better and better. 

Thanks Mr Google, whatever did we do before you came along? And thanks Bernard for sharing this with us last night.

Burleigh Heads on the 17th November 2009  at 6.14am
The darker areas show what is still in shadow

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Tips for Flower Photography

As the blood red hippeastrums that line our drive wilt and the white agapanthus flowers slowly open, I am reminded that spring is drawing to a close here in the southern hemisphere.

Here’s a couple of photography tips for capturing those later spring blooms:
  • The ideal lighting for photographing flowers is soft, diffused light. Look at your bloom at different times of the day to see how the light changes it. Walk around your subject to see how it looks with light coming from different directions.

  • Experiment with back lighting and try to highlight the transparency of the petal/s.

  • Use flash very carefully. It can lend some stunning effects, especially at night, however be careful it can also kill the mood.

  • Look for colour, contrast, texture, line, shape, pattern, framing, balance when composing your flower image.

  • Make your flower image come alive. Fortunately for us here in Australia most of our flowers, especially wildflowers are filled with nectar thus attracting a range of animals from fruit bats to possums, bees to vibrant butterflies and honey eaters and parrots. Wait until something adds life to the flower - for example, a bee lands, or a spider crawls into it or a bird pays a visit. It takes patience, but it pays off if!

  • Blur the background to get unattractive backgrounds out of view and to emphasise the subject.

  • Know your seasons. No use getting disappointed, you are working with Mother Nature and she has her own timetable – get a copy!

  • Use a spray water bottle to provide water droplets sparingly. While you may wish to depict a rainy day or a dewy morning the effect could either be splendid or look too artificial.

There are many different ways you can experiment when photographing flowers!
Enjoy your time with nature and always remember to take the time to smell the roses.

 All images by and (c) Danielle & Nick Lancaster

Monday, 9 November 2009

Clicking Like a Rolling Stone

Following in a parent’s footstep career wise is out and it has been for a while for  many of ‘today’s children’. Georgia May Jagger, daughter of Mick Jagger and the stunning Jerry Hall has it would seem it all; her mother’s long legs and fathers lips. Yet this young lady aspires to be a photographer and so has embarked on a modelling career to help her on her way.

It’s an interesting scenario as many photographers don’t like being in front of the lens however it does help enormously when you have to direct people into poses. Sometimes a factor overlooked by photographers.
Check out some of the latest images by Norman Jean Roy for Vanity Fair: