Friday, 28 May 2010

Degree South: War Photography Exhibition

By Danielle Lancaster
I recently wrote a comment on the Bluedog Photography Facebook Group about the exhibition opening I attended of Degree South: War

Discussion on the topic has been healthy both on and off the site. Even here in the kennel there are some that don’t want to see it for differing reasons such as ‘it’s not my type of photography.’

Thanks to my great friend and work colleague Anita and the wonderful Rachel at the Powerhouse in Brisbane I’ve been looking further into the reason this collaboration of images was put together for a touring exhibition, the photographers, their lives, the conflicts and what others have had to say.

Below are the Room Notes written by Shaune Lakin which some may find of interest. I did, and over time I’ll write more on this topic – I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

The aim of the exhibition is to attempt ‘to reveal the impact that war has on its victims, both civilians and military, whose lives are shattered by the conflicts they did not start and over which they have little control.’ And I think it has done exactly that as shown in our Facebook discussions.

Travelling to these areas with photojournalist listed as your occupation can be tricky. Would I do it again? I will never say never, but at this time in my life it’s a no and I can’t afford a kidnappers insurance policy (yes there are such things).

What the exhibition does not portray enough I feel is the role the photographers have actually played in highlighting these events for the civilians involved and how they place themselves in enormous risk to save people. That’s a hard image to capture.

Australian Centre for Photography and Fuji Professional Presents

°South is a collective of dedicated and award-winning Australian documentary photographers who have covered conflicts from Vietnam in ’65 to present day Afghanistan. Often working at great risk to themselves, they have created images that have gone on to influence public opinion, make history and inspire us to find other ways to solve our differences.

War is a haunting journey through the scars inflicted by battle, where the only hope often rests in the power of a photograph to deliver a critical humanistic message.

At present there are 43 conflicts taking place on our planet. Once, the battlefield was the place of devastation, now it is streets, alleyways, schools and places of worship. People and places are no longer protected or sacred and in much of the world it is now safer to be a soldier than an unarmed civilian.

Warning: This exhibition contains images that may offend. Recommended for people aged 15 years and older.Mon-Fr 9am-5pm; Entry free

War is the defining constituent of our age. But there is a dominant discourse of war that reads Coalition–Afghanistan–Iraq, with respectful attention paid to Israel–Palestine. The mass media present these wars as a heady mix of “clash of civilisations” and “grand historical event”, in images sourced through a supply chain that includes military public relations, the military-industrial complex and, occasionally, civilian or soldier journalism.

There is no denying the historical importance of these conflicts. All the same, there are now over 40 conflicts taking place across the globe and some are barely known at all. They’re either not sexy enough, too far removed from the concerns of Western democracies, too complicated for the media to make sense of in a grab, or politically just too difficult for anyone (media or government) to go near. Without witness, these events could, like so many other conflicts of the past, become forgotten.

This complex and untidy context has been the ground over which °SOUTH photographers have trod for decades now, with a firm belief in the witnessing authority of the photojournalist and the affective possibilities of the photograph. These ends are secured through a commitment to the codes of photojournalism and a belief that, in the face of the military’s preferred images and the barrage of undifferentiated cell-phone pictures of conflict and horror, the photojournalist still has a vital role to play in enabling public knowledge and memory.
text: Shaune Lakin


Sunday, 16 May 2010

A Man I Met Yesterday

By Danielle Lancaster
Getting away from the city and into the country for some may mean dust, flies and isolation. For me it means a chance to meet new people, see new sights and have new experiences. The Queensland outback is full of interesting characters. Walk down any town’s main street and there is one word you learn to say very quickly - g’day.

It was such an encounter I had recently on a visit to Hughenden. Frank was leaning out a window and as I walked past I heard the all too familiar g’day. His face, beneath a big broad brimmed black hat intrigued me and I stopped, ‘g’day’ I replied. With a few dark clouds in the sky it allowed me another avenue to keep our conversation going. ‘What’s this weather going to do?’ I asked.

‘Geez mate I dunno, it could rain or it could piss off,’ was his reply in a rough yet friendly voice as a dog came out announcing my arrival by barking. ‘Sit down, you bastard,’ scowled Frank and the dog cringed back under the timber house.

It was now or never and I knew if I let the opportunity go with such limited time in this outback town it may be gone forever. ‘Would you mind if I took your photo?’ I asked and of course presented my best grin. ‘What you wanno do that for, geez I’m just an old broken ringer,’ replied Frank rolling his eyes and tossing his head almost in disgust at my question. And that’s exactly why I wanted to take his photo.

He agreed and hobbled to the front of the house, his legs bowed from years in the saddle. ‘Come around in the morning if you like, tell me a time and I’ll be here,’ he said. Quick as I could a time was set and the next morning I was on his door step calling out g’day.

The dogs of course heralded my arrival but it was me this time telling them to sit down, though not calling them by the same name as Frank had done the day before.

Photographing the old men of the bush can be a tricky subject. They are not patient and once they hear one click of the shutter they presume the session all over rover. They are shy about their lives –of often extreme hardship living in drovers camps, shearing hundreds of sheep per day, working in excessive heat, lives where luxuries are rarely heard of and if they are its a clean set of clothes, a hot meal in their stomach and maybe a rum or three.

I like to photograph them in their own surroundings. At their house, in the shed, by their vehicle and prefer only using natural light. It means I have to work quickly. They fidget, their eyes roam and there is always something they need to do even for those in retirement – a word they don’t seem to use.

Frank was born in Julia Creek in western Queensland and is now ‘retired’ in Hughenden. All his life he’s been a shearer or a ringer wandering the vast western properties of Queensland’s outback. The years of work in the sun have taken a toll and he looks older than he is. He’ll be 67 in a few days time. He tells me there’s not many people he does not know, he’s on dialysis a result of too much salt and his ‘kidneys being cooked from working in the heat. I use to cut an orange in half and fill it up with salt to try and help stop the heat cramps, not just a bit of salt, fill it right up I did.’

I work quickly and sit and chat for a bit before bidding him farewell and thanking him saying I look forward to catching up again. ‘Geez ,’ he says, ‘that should be alright if I’m not under the bloody ground next time you come!’

Thanks Frank, you were a great subject and I look forward to seeing you again on a return to Hughenden – I’m sure there’s a few good years left in you yet.

Please note: Images are unprocessed

Frank at his front door in Hughenden
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Frank sitting on his favourite chair
Image by Danielle Lancaster

I  rarely can let a good set of weathered hands not be captured.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Pandanus, People and Photography

By Augustine Mathews

Have you noticed that cork-screw palms are the latest and greatest thing in modern garden design? On our recent trip to Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island we found out that love for these wondrous plants is not a modern thing.

Ranger Jermaine, our very knowledgeable guide on the K’gari walk at Kingfisher Bay told us of the marvels that the pandanus plant “Pandanus tectorius”. For the Butchulla people who are the traditional Aboriginal people of the Fraser Coast region, the pandanus was both a blessing and a curse.

The ripe pods of the pandanus can provide a delicious treat for those that know how to get at it. Unfortunately this is one of those times where moderation is the key and Jermaine tells an amusing story of his Uncle eating too much and ending up trapped on the toilet for lengthy periods. Thankfully, as he explained, the blessing part then comes into play.

This marvellous palm provides its own cure. When eaten, the base of the pandanus leaf has a stomach calmative that can relieve the effects of over-indulgence in the fruit, a fact his Uncle fortunately knew of. What a lucky fellow and what a clever plant.

Not only is this a fantastic palm to grace the most modern of homes it is also an important plant in the indigenous culture of Fraser Island. Love them or hate them, cork screw pines are an ancient reminder of how all things old are new again.

22 year old Ranger Jermaine is a direct descendant of the Butchulla people. He’s an energetic and dedicated young man and his knowledge of bush tucker and medicine has been passed down through the generations. He now glows at the opportunity to be sharing this with others on his beloved island.

So what has this got to do with photography? Well some of you may have heard my line, ‘I don’t do people.’

And yes that has been a fact, but since commencing work with Bluedog I don’t often get a choice. From my first assignment when Danielle would not tell me what we were doing till she had me in the car and we were driving, ‘you have to do 12 individual portraits for a website’ (yes it was a trap and I fell right into it) I have learnt a great deal.

Working with people is not easy. They talk, move, fidget, itch and scratch. Since then I have been on more assignments with Danielle where we have had to meet people and within half an hour take a character portrait – this I can say is not easy but a task I have readily taken on. It’s a whole new ball game when there is a commissioning magazine or a corporate client at the end of the line, each use to Danielle’s high quality capture.

I watch her engage the person, befriend them and be truly interested in what they are doing. She has usually done her research and knows something about them though on this trip to Fraser with Danielle I saw her meet and photograph people she had never heard of and still manage a terrific image. That is a knack, a true talent and one I intend to perfect very quickly.

The experience of working with Danielle on jobs such as these has made me a better photographer on all levels. Being thrust the camera and being told you are doing this image is daunting. Not only is the lighting and the pressure of getting that shot a challenge, the biggest player on my nerves has been Danielle by my side. However she encourages me, pushes me (sometimes physically – that is to get in closer and ‘cut the crap’) to do better and I can now see that in my people images. So do I still do people? That depends. I have to honest here Danielle and to the rest of the Bluedog team if it means travel count me in!

All plant material in the National Park is protected, so look but do not pick. Always be careful sampling bush tucker as many plants contain harmful toxins. If any doubt about a plant do not eat it.

The Bluedog-Kingfisher Bay Resort Fraser Island Photography Tours are a wonderful way to meet the rangers, hear stories and capture images of this internationally recognised environment – the world’s largest sand island. The tour showcases the best that Fraser Island and Kingfisher Bay Resort while concentrating on the photographic skills that go along with such a great adventure. Details of this tour can be found on the Bluedog Photography website under the tours section.

Capturing the true personality of a person, their characteristics, and their qualities after a short meeting is not easy.
Here what I wanted to capture was Jermaine’s cheeky smile,
his love of the island and his heritage.
Image by Augustine Mathews

I am really interested- thanks Danielle.
Not sure why the whole image is not loading but after 3 attempts I am giving up :)

 Image by Danielle Lancaster

Without a doubt the most famous and photographed Pandanus
on Fraser Island.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Nicky gets in close on the amazing Pandanus root system during a
Bluedog-Kingfisher Bay Photography Tour.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Monday, 10 May 2010

Quay West Resort and Spa has our fingers clicking.

The brand new Quay West Resort and Spa Noosa, the first 5 star resort for 10 years to this famous coastal strip and just a 3 minute drive from the iconic Hastings Street, provides more than a photographers delight and challenge as we found out last week.

A combination of exquisite textures in furnishings, decor and outfitting, experiences, fine food presentations, nature at your doorstep and a little luxury cannot help a shutter finger clicking.

At the Mii Spa, ‘a place for your total indulgence and rejuvenation...’ you can gain enough photographic inspiration alone from the photos in the booklet of what’s on offer. Though the mind may wander like mine did visualizing inspirational images I’d like to capture as it relaxed into a state of almost comatose under the hands of one of the masseurs. This has to be one of the best spa treatments on the Sunshine Coast. (It is reported Augustine did have to almost physically drag Danielle away for their next appointment).

In the kitchen, master chef Lee Jeynes from Wales, serves delicious cuisines prepared to perfection in Restaurant Aroona. Even breakfast is not overlooked, the Egg Benedict’s cooked to perfection – an important factor for some of the Bluedog Photography crew, especially me (Augustine). What could one expect from an international award winning chef!

Then there’s Michael. He’s the manager of Shades Bar, open daily and leading out to the sheer drop pool falling into a wetland dotted with water lilies and fringed with rushes and grasses attracting birds, frogs and other native animals into an area of complete bush refuge in this busy tourist strip.

For the night birds, spot the stars in the water, listen to the tones of frogs echoing through the valley and in the distance is that the high tide you can hear rolling in heralding another day of top surf conditions.

The mist rises early across the lagoon and valley as the golden light of dawn gently falls across the fully self contained luxury studios (1-3 bedroom available). A spiral staircase leads up from our two bedroom apartment and affords me a vaster view. Again I click away.

All too soon it’s time to pack the camera gear and head to the next destination. However, allow us the opportunity to return with photography friends and what would our answer be – yes of course!

Maybe a top place for a Sunshine Coast Bluedog Weekend Retreat? Let’s face it we all love a little 5 star every now and then.

Quay West Resort and Spa Noosa
94 Noosa Drive, Noosa Heads QLD 4567 Australia
General Sale +61 7 32222 1181
Reservations: 13 15 15 od 1300 273 962

Written by Danielle Lancaster and Augustine Mathews
Please note: all images were taken in jpg and Raw – we have only loaded the unprocessed jpg’s to this blog.

Shades Bar
Image by Augustine Mathews

The pool looks out over the valley to the mountains.
Image by Augustine Mathews

Earthy tones in the reception are echoed through the resort.
Image by Augustine Mathews

Looking back towards the bar and restaurant.
Image by Augustine Mathews

One of Danielle's favourite places at the resort - Mii Spa

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Photography Questions and Answers

A question was recently raised and many requests have been forwarded, so each month now the Bluedog photography Blog will change a little.

The question was, ‘if tutoring killed our creativity?’ It’s something we have been chatting about around the kennel and we unanimously agree that it actually fires our creativity! We are always getting out there and trying new techniques, testing products, pushing each other and also learning from each other. 

As photographers the chance to get out and about for us here at Bluedog is critical, especially so for the tutors. So each month we will feature one of the Bluedog Photographers photography jobs with the challenges they were faced, tips etc. 

The requests have been for more travel info due to some of the locations our tutors are travelling to for shoots. So yes we’ll tell you about where we went, where we stayed, what we liked and did not (some of us are very blunt), what we did, plus any photography relevant info along the way.
We hope you enjoy!

Travel - Elephant Nature Foundation Park in northern Thailand by Danielle Lancaster

This is one of the most memorable experiences out of ten, I have had travelling for work in the past 12 months – please it’s hard to nail one in particular!

It was a stay to the Elephant Nature Park Foundation north west of Chaiang Mai in Thailand with my wonderful friend Miss J. Here I got to spend some amazing time with Lek, a remarkable person, and her treasure, a growing herd of Asian elephants.

Since then the images I took during that visit and stories I have written have circulated the media worldwide. Yes that is an accomplishment, however the bigger accomplishment for me personally, was the experience. Being able to highlight this ladies dedication to an outstanding cause. And above and beyond all, being able to spend time with her, laugh with her, cry with her and hold each other as best of friends.  This is an experience I could never ever find the words to place in print and really do I want to?  There are not numerous places I say I will return to, but here I would.

One of my biggest challenges included actually picking up the camera. I know this may sound absurd but when you have the tiny Lek sitting beside you singing a 40 pound elephant baby to sleep on her lap and its mother standing above you – one swipe of the trunk or one step of a foot could have killed me instantly – and we are the only people around, it was too precious a moment but to record to my photographic memory.

Then there was a time Miss J and I fed two elephants we’d got to know by ourselves, their trunks wrapping lovingly around our arms and ever so gently taking the pieces of cane, fruit and vegetables that we had chopped up from our hands. An amazing experience with the largest land animal on earth and then there was being greeted to a new day by a huge Asian male elephant trumpeting to us one morning as he rambled past our bamboo hut next to the river. You could most probably guess now the list goes on and on.......... 

Photographically a challenge was exposure. Yes elephants are close to 18% grey but add to that glistening rivers, clouds that could easily blow out into irretrievable highlights forever lost no matter what processing you are using, people of varying skin tones from the milk white of England’s fairest to the dark brown of a hard working northern Thai and a range of exposure predicaments come forward. Not something in a shoot we desire for but yet are often faced with proving this whole shoot a challenge for many, many reasons on all: my own professional, personal and spiritual levels.

 Lek preparing to sing a  lullaby.
Photo by Danielle Lancaster

Photo by Danielle Lancaster

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Bluedog spots a Mistletoe Bird at Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island

This morning I finally photographed a male Mistletoe bird, Dicaeum hirundinaceum. Now while not uncommon in certain areas, such as within the grounds of Fraser Island’s Kingfisher Bay Resort, what makes them a difficult subject is that they are so busy.

These tiny birds, only 10-11cm, have a brilliant scarlet throat and under-tail that catches not only the sun but also the eye of any avid bird watcher. Well, the boys do. Mistletoe birds are known to show marked “sexual dimorphism”. What this means is that the males get to be flamboyant in their colourings while the females are far less glam.

Early morning insects have them snapping their beaks as they dart swallow like in flight, fluttering and calling to their mates in the bush surrounding the resort. They have sharp little voices but a choice of calls including a high double note and a warble.

We had joined Ivor Davies, Group General Manager of King Fisher Bay Resort for a bit of bird spotting. Ivor is a keen twitcher and knows his bird ‘stuff’. Indeed, he’s just returned from a trip to the Red Centre where he added a further 10 birds to his personal ‘spotters’ list.

He not only tells, but also acts out the performance of the Mistletoe bird, a canopy bird, passing the digested mistletoe and how it ever so gently wipes itself along the branch three times, only three, bobbing between each wipe. It’s a rather elegant performance for the six foot three man. The wealth of information on birds acquired not only on Fraser Island but across the world over the years flows eagerly.

It’s a top spot for those who would like to try their hand or those that are already accomplished in bird photography with the abundance and variety of birds around the resort.

With canopy birds another challenge photographing them, aside from their quick movement, can be blow outs of highlights particularly in the areas containing leaves, clouds, and sky.

Exposure is critical as is accurate focus (continuous focus here will only frustrate you). I also find a polariser a great advantage.

I only had a few regrets: that I didn’t have longer day, an extra day or had discovered it sooner, and I wished I’d stopped and put on my x2 converter.

Bird Week, now in its ninth year kicks off on the 8th May till the 15th. Birdos from around the world meet at King Fisher Bay Resort and try to spot and record some of the 354 species found across the world’s largest sand island. A highlight of the week is tours of one of the RAMSAR listed wetlands and various presentations.

Also of interest to many will be the Bluedog-Kingfisher Bay Resort Fraser Island Photography Tours. An ever popular tour where we showcase the best that Fraser Island and Kingfisher Bay Resort has to offer while concentrating on the photographic skills that go along with such a great adventure. Details of this tour can be found on the Bluedog Photography website under the tours section.

King Fisher Bay Resort
Tel: 07 4120 3333
Tollfree: 1800 072 555

Male Mistletoe Bird, Fraser Island
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Dreamboat Photography

There’s one thing about doing what we do and that’s being thrown challenges.

Different textures, surfaces, materials and the list goes on, gives photographers a myriad of challenges.

One such for us recently was Noosa’s brand new Dreamboat. Made of deep red mahogany and coated with 13 layers of varnish, this beauty truly glistened.

It’s only been cruising the river and canals of Noosa for the last 3 months and already photographers are booking it for a fun day out.

A polariser won’t always get rid of the reflections from such a shiny surface as the Dreamboat but it will help. Placement of boat to the angle of light is the best answer. And while you want the sun out to make the water jets glisten, the sun also makes the timber reflections stronger.

 another day in the office of a photographer.

Augustine slumming it at work on the Dreamboat.
Nikon D3, 17-35mm, polariser filter, f11, 200th
ISO 400 (why because with this camera we can),
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Out and about on the Noosa River with Michael and the Dreamboat - what a beast!
17-35mm, polariser filter,
f3.2, 5000th, ISO 400
Image by Augustine Mathews

Shiny surfaces, such as timber can cause all sorts of challenges for photographers.
Noosa River with Michael and the Dreamboat - what a beast!

17-35mm, polariser filter, f2.8, 5000th, ISO 400
Image by Danielle Lancaster

For More informaion on the Dreamboat:
Tel: 0414 990 708