Thursday, 30 December 2010

On the street - travel photography with Linden Neill

A guest blog from Linden Neill currently of no fixed address.

Bazaar Basics

As we have been travelling around, one of the areas that we try to visit in each town are the markets. Whether it is the local produce and fish markets or the speciality bazaars (in Turkey), we find that they are stimulating to the senses with the smells, sights and sounds of the local area. Being food lovers, we also get some of the local ingredients to use in our nights cooking. They are also great areas to practice photography. There are so many different styles that can be captured is such a small space - from macros to candid portraits, abstracts and street scenes.

Image by Linden Neill

Due to weight restrictions, the camera I have brought with me is a Canon G11. I have found that a camera of this size and capability really excels in a street shooting situation. Here are some tips I have learned in this situation.

Use the custom modes if you have them. I have both of the custom modes on the G11 set-up for street shooting. One of them is set-up based on aperture priority and the other on shutter priority. I use aperture priority most of the time and shutter priority if I want some movement in the image.

Image by Linden Neill

For outdoor markets I have both set-up on Auto White-balance, while indoors I set a custom white balance for the area I'm shooting in, as each stall usually has a different temperature light.

I also have it set-up on manual focus. I leave it at about 5m focus distance. Because of the small sensor in the G11, depth of field is either huge or really huge so I find that even if what I'm shooting isn't 5m away,it will be acceptably focused. The reason for using manual focus is that all compacts are plagued by shutter lag and this goes some way to reduce it.

Image by Linden Neill

Play with the inbuilt colour settings. Before this trip I shot exclusively RAW files and processed everything, however going home with thousands of files to edit didn't interest me. Using the controls over jpeg, I can produce something pretty close to processing on the computer.

Most cameras these days have alot of settings that can be changed in respect to the jpeg files. In the G11 for example I can produce black and white, sepia, different film styles, selective colouring, swap colours in the image and make contrast adjustments. Give them a go and you might be surprised with the results.

Image by Linden Neill

Most importantly make sure you take your camera. None of these tips will matter if your camera is sitting on the shelf at home. There is always something to take a cool picture of.

Image by Linden Neill


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Happy Birthday Brisbane Powerhouse!

Brisbane Powerhouse, a producer of contemporary performing arts and a multi-arts venue where we have had the privilege of viewing some excellent photography exhibitions turned 10 in 2010!

We had a play at the Powerhouse recently and we must say it was fun. This iconic Brisbane structure has an interesting history and thankfully many parts from its varied past ‘lives’ has been kept.

Roy Rusden Ogg, a Brisbane City Council Tramway architect designed the New Farm Powerhouse and between 1928 and 1940 the structure slowly rose on the banks of a beautiful bend in the Brisbane River which also provided the water for cooling.

The Powerhouse reached its peak in post-war years supplying electricity for the largest tram network in the southern hemisphere as well as servicing many of Brisbane’s suburbs. Sadly, (in my opinion) trams were replaced by buses and the Brisbane City Council sold the building to the state. It was officially decommissioned in 1971.

It became the home for many of Brisbane’s homeless providing shelter and friendship. It was also a site for target practice for the army and a location for filmmakers and, as a precursor of its future, a canvas for graffiti artists and a stage for underground art happenings.

Somehow it survived two decades of neglect and a partially completed demolition project, and the building was reacquired by Brisbane City Council in 1989. Due to it being a fine example of industrial design of the art deco period, the power station was identified as culturally significant and the concept of a new incarnation as a centre for the arts was born.

Architect Peter Roy designed the redeveloped Brisbane Powerhouse which was opened on 10 May, 2000 by Lord Mayor Jim Soorley. Seven years later the building underwent a further stage of development and was re-opened on 6 June 2007 by Lord Mayor Campbell Newman with increased audience capacities, restaurant and bar facilities as well as functions and conference spaces. Gotta love the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s and their openings.

It’s an awesome venue, still evolving and bringing to Brisbane some wonderful events and a fabulous supporter of the art of photography.

How lucky are the people of Brisbane and those visiting to have such a venue? Thank you Brisbane City Council.

And who's that with Anita? Catriona Rowntree and the crew from Getaway joined Bluedog for a photo tour around Brisbane recently - keep an eye out for our new range of workshops commencing at inspiring and visually exciting venues in Brisbane!

 Images (c) Danielle Lancaster

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Last week in our backyard - Tips on Wildlife Photography

This baby python visited one of the tree ferns outside the Bluedog kennel office last week so Augustine and Sheryn took time out to play.

The lighting was low – another overcast day in an unseasonal start to summer we are seeing here in Queensland, Australia.

To even up the lighting silver reflective cardboard was placed under the snake.

Above image taken with available light only.

Above image taken with available light only but a silver reflective piece of
cardboard was placed under the snake.

Because of the position of the snake and the tree fern fronds hand holding was the only feasible option especially once it started to move.This meant their shutter speed had to be at least at the minimum focusing distance of the lens being used (105mm macro). Snakes tongues flicker quickly and to freeze the tongue you need a fairly fast shutter speed as they won’t usually pose still for you.

The ISO was pushed up from a starting point of 400 to 1600.

At 400 ISO shutter speeds were around the 1/25th second and at 1600 ISO 1/100th was attainable with a wide aperture.

Custom white balance adjustments were made of A2 G3.
We do love the motto: ‘get it right in camera”.

All images by Augustine Mathews and Sheryn Ellis

Did you know:
The ‘backyard’ to Bluedog studio is the oldest National Park in Queensland and the third oldest in the world! To see more images or on what to do when visiting Tamborine Mountain visit:

2011 sees Bluedog Photography launching reptile photography sessions!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Photographing a Hawaiian Monk Seal

Today I had an amazing experience. Right outside my motel on the beach was a Hawaiian monk seal!

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered animal species on Earth and this earless seal is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Less than 1000 are surviving today.

This one is K13, an 11 year old pregnant female who is having a little rest on our beach here on the island of Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian islands. K13 is blind in one eye and has a few scars most probably from sharks or mating.

K13 rests peacefully on the beach.
Image by Danielle Lancaster
The scientific name for these beautiful marine mammals is Monachus schauinslandi. The Hawaiian name is `ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua or "dog that runs in rough water". Hawaiian monk seals are the most primitive living members of the Family Phocidae, having separated from other true seals perhaps 15 million years ago.

K13’s gestation period is 11 months and she will return to Niihau Island where she was born to give birth. She will have one pup and nurse that pup for about 6 weeks in that time she will not feed while the pup grows and grows on her nutritious milk. Pups average 14 to 18 kg at birth and 1 metre in length. They get much larger, weighing in between 68 – 91 kilos before they stop nursing. Life expectancies are 25 to 30 years.

K13 stirs for a scratch. Image by Danielle Lancaster
And of course the biggest reason they are so rare is us humans once again. If you get the chance to see one and photograph them don’t use flash. I found underexposing two thirds of a stop exposed best in camera. How privileged I am today, thank you K13 you have made my day!

By late afternoon there had been many visit K13 to photograph her.
Barriers erected by volunteers ensure K13 has a peaceful rest before she ventures back out to the sea.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

The advancing lava flows and photographing panoramas for stitching

There is something humbling about standing next to lava flowing across the land. As it crackles announcing its advancement in a victorious way, the glow beneath the black bulge hints at the devastation this molten rock can cause.

Yet watching new land being formed on the youngest of all the Hawaiian Islands is a memory I will not soon loose.

Red hot lava crackles as it flows. Image by Danielle Lancaster

One house sits spared from the flow, almost as if Pele has seen a reason to allow Peggy, the owner another day of reprieve and a house down the road with the for sale sign erected seems not to be gaining a lot of attention. Next door the twisted lava now has the land at least 8 metres higher than it was the day before.

A house for sale on the lava fields Image by Danielle Lancaster

Charred utensils covered in lava are just some of the reminders of human habitation.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Nearby, the beach township of Kalapana was once an icon of Hawaii. It’s sweeping black sand beach fringed by swaying palm trees is still seen today plastered across postcards and tourist brochures beckoning you. The reality is Kalapana Beach is now covered in deep black lava with not a grain of sand in sight.

A tip for you when visiting these fields: keep an eye on your shoes - when they start to smoke it’s time to move.

Smokin' Shoes Image by Danielle Lancaster

The coastal drive from Kalapana to Hilo is one of the most scenic I have done. To do the whole route a 4WD is required. Hilo itself I found an unimpressive town.

Our accommodation at the Hilo Hawaiian was well below standard for the price paid. My rating 3/10 and I would not bother booking here again. Polystyrene cups in my room, one serving of coffee for your stay, dirty and stained linen, a smell in the restaurant and bar that had me gagging were just a few of the points I disliked.

From Hilo we continued north to Honokaa, a small town based on plantations most now past, with a stop at the impressive 135 metre Akaka Falls. We stayed overnight at the Hotel Honokaa Club – budget accommodation but well worth the $40.00 US we paid for the night. Annelle our hostess had a great sense of humour. For Aussies the word Hotel does not necessary mean it serves alcohol, however the local patrons at the sports bar next door readily welcomed us Aussies and before long had us joining them swigging shots of PatrĂ³n tequila.

Thankfully our heads were fine the next morning for our adventure into the stunning Waipio Valley – Sacred Valley of the Kings and the revered home of Hawaii’s powerful rulers and once considered the centre of Hawaiian civilisation and politics.

The valley is surrounded by 610 metre high cliffs draped by waterfalls and finishes at a beautiful black sand beach. See wild horses and meet friendly locals who farm this fertile valley most continuing the ancient practice of kalo cultivation. Again hire a 4WD to do this drive – if you prefer to use you own horse power, this is a steep walk in and out (25% incline) so allow plenty of time.

Waipio Valley Image by Danielle Lancaster

The most common disappointment I heard from visitors while on the Big Island was not being able to capture the entire splendour in front of their eyes. A wide angle lens is a must here and if you don’t have one then consider shooting images for stitching later on.

A couple of tips for shooting images to stitch:

Take the images from the same point of view – a tripod is best to use. After you take each image recompose the image by moving the camera either vertically or horizontally no more than 70%. This should allow a 30% overlap. More overlap is better than less.

Don’t change the exposure between shots – this includes white balance and focus distance.

Avoid shooting images to stitch when your scene lighting is changing dramatically such as at sunset and sunrise.

Don’t include moving objects.
Most times it is best to take off your polarising filter or your image will look unnatural.

Shoot in RAW.

Landscapes in wide allow more of the scene we see with our own eyes to be captured.
Image by Danielle Lancaster