Thursday, 31 July 2014

50 Shades Of Green (50 Million That Is) - Part 1

I started writing a whole crapload of physics here about the nature of colour and how the colour of an object varies according to its light absorption properties and the colour of the ambient light. You don't want to have to know that stuff; I don't even want to have to know that stuff, except when I'm editing your wedding. The study of colour is a serious science, dabbled in somewhat to a minor degree by this photographer, and definitely not a topic I'm going into here.

Today's blog is about the colour green. Green is perhaps the most wonderful colour of all to the photographer because it is absolutely everywhere in an almost limitless spectrum of shades; nature's spectacular and free backdrop. Green is a low-arousal colour and lush green surroundings usually inspire relaxation and reflection, helping to shut down our overactive twenty-first century senses (source: pantone.com).
Miller stepping out with Grandad in his Mum's backyard, May 2013
I'm lucky I live in a part of Australia where, for a bit of looking, I can usually find something blooming up green. In fact I don't have to look far at all. When we bought our house in 2009 it was a wild jungle plonked into suburbia; you could not walk right around the house it was so overgrown with trees. We tamed it a little to let sunshine into the house but left a good surround of greenery for privacy and lifestyle.
Miller stepping out with Grandad in Grandad's front yard, August 2013
This has paid off for us in the enormous variety of bird life we have visiting us year round. In fact we have trees we should trim or remove but won't do it because they feed the birds. This beautiful rainbow lorikeet is a frequent flyer to our front yard.
Peeping from the golden pender tree, April 2013
One of my favourite patches of green is the backyard of my own family home. I've blogged from here before but the true magnificence of the place cannot be overstated, and has been 45 years in the making. My mother, a high-school English teacher, liked to sit on our back patio and just read or do school work in full view of the backyard. In her diaries she refers often to the fact that she is sitting 'out the back' again with a coffee, self-debriefing from a day at work or going through issues and problems on paper, as she was wont to do, to find the best solution.

No wonder mum and my stepfather decided to marry here, followed a few years later by Danny and I. Nature (and my parents) did the decorating for us.
Stan and Di, November 2005; Anna and Danny, March 2009
The yard was mum's sanctuary, and mine when I lived here too; when I want to find her again I go home and sit as she did on the patio and listen to the kookaburras, leatherheads (noisy friarbirds) and magpies tell her story. If you'd like to hear some bird songs from the backyard you can look here and here - scroll to bottom.
Stan and Di, October 2009
It has been a few lean years of drought for the country but here on the eastern coastline we still have mountain ranges and patches of rainforest where I can sneak away with a client, or just by myself, and weave some green magic into my work. Here are some of my favourite moments where I was able to let nature lay down a backdrop of green and do all the work for me.
St. Bernard's Hotel on Tamborine Mountain, June 2008
Lavender fields near Applethorpe in Queensland, January 2004
Suburban backyard in Maudsland, January 2014
Robina Woods Golf Course, Gold Coast, August 2006
Emerald Lakes, Gold Coast Australia, October 2008
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, January 2010
Nicholl Park, Murwillumbah, NSW, June 2010

Monday, 28 July 2014

Beside The Seaside, Beside The Sea

Australia is the smallest continent and the largest island. If you live here, chances are you don't live far from water as over ninety percent of the population lives within a quarter hour drive of the coastline. This is mainly because there is nothing much in the centre of Australia except sand. And kangaroos. Ok maybe not that extreme but you're getting it. 

For those of us that live close to the ocean it is more than a way of life. The coastline is a familiar icon, a rudder, a marker to orient yourself and a compass to point the way home. On my first visit to the west coast of the USA, after living on the east coast of Australia for thirty years, it was very disconcerting to be travelling NORTH up the coast but have the water on my left. Watching the sun set over the water was almost a complete reset for my brain.
Sunset in San Diego, November 2001
I lived close enough to the surf in my hometown to have the low and constant murmur of the crashing waves as my lullaby at night and the tang of ozone on the morning breeze. Everything rusted from the salt air. When I first moved away from home I could not get to sleep for months because I did not have the gentle white noise of the sea to lull me to sleep. 

I did not realise how prominently the ocean and the surf had featured in my work until I went looking for photos of sand for my last blog entry. I've always tried to use the ocean and the surf as more than just a backdrop and make it a real part of the story. Here's a few of those stories.

This friend was about to set out on a solo year-long trip walking through Japan. It was April 2007 and we were on Fraser Island shooting an event. I wanted to capture the intense loneliness of his mental preparation.
Fraser Island, April 2007
This lovely family came to the beach at Point Danger right on the NSW/Queensland border for a portrait. It was blowing a gale and spitting with rain but their lively spirit shone through.
Duranbah beach, November 2008
I was stunned by the almost perfect mirror in this image. This family wanted shots here because it was their local beach, close to their home where they spent a lot of time.
Miami beach, Queensland, March 2011
Every year my bestie and her family camp at Hastings Point over Easter. This year I took her four almost grown children to the surf beach to reprise a shoot I did with them ten years ago before her youngest was even thought of.
Hastings Point, NSW Australia, April 2014
This of course is the delightful Darcy about whom I have blogged before.
Darcy at Kirra, November 2005
And here is Darcy again 4 years later with his family and new baby brother, a little more grown up and back at Kirra on familiar sand.
Kirra beach, November 2009
Kirra beach, November 2009
This couple got married before lunch in the middle of January and we did photos on the beach at 10.45 am when the sun was blistering and almost directly overhead. A challenge for a photographer involving a deal of good posing to avoid shadows, a blast of flash and taking advantage of the nature of sand to reflect sunlight. It was so hot we were almost hopping across the sand; I got my shots done in nine minutes.
Mark and Sue, January 2010
My mum on Pottsville Beach not long after my father passed away in 2000. This was taken on film with my first SLR camera, a Pentax MZ5 that was a gift from my brother.
Diana walking her dogs, 2001
I've featured this wedding before in the blog. The groom once lived not far from here and this beach featured heavily in his younger life and development into adulthood. I wanted to use the beach as an Australian iconic symbol - the groom here is Australian and the bride British, and they had already had a very British wedding in England the December before so I was looking for a contrast.
Currumbin beach near Elephant Rock, April 2012
This lovely couple honeymooned on the Gold Coast and I shot them in three different locations as part of a special portrait package. They were from Western Australia so wanted something distinctively 'Gold Coast' in their photos.
Hayley and Emmit at Currumbin, July 2006

When a photographer has an ideas blank or just wants a break in a shoot, they get their clients to run around, or run up and down for a while so they can think for a bit. Beaches are perfect for that stuff. This is my favourite Fraser Island wedding again, a place very dear to this couple's heart so of course where better to get married.
Fun on Fraser Island, April 2005
While I was looking through these wedding images searching for the above series of shots, I found this delightful shot of me at this wedding taken by my assistant. This was my first wedding shooting digital, and I spent a good deal of time fiddling with settings. Here the light in the day was almost gone and I was pushing the limits of the camera to see  to see what I might end up with.
It was actually almost dark looking back this way up the beach.
I pushed this shot to get a little detail back in the shadows.
And this is what I ended up with.
At last light, Fraser Island, April 2005



Saturday, 26 July 2014

To See The World In A Grain Of Sand

For a girl who grew up on the beach I have an unusually deep dislike of sand. In fact my skin is crawling just thinking about it as I write this entry.

Tugun beach, September 2013
When I was little we would go to the beach in the morning then come home in the afternoon sunburned to hell and back with great lumps of sand inside our cozzies (swimming costumes) and still be brushing it off ourselves days later. Terrible stuff.

Coconut Beach, far north Queensland, April 2009
You could take a half-hour shower and still feel grains in your hair and in your bedsheets the next morning.

Coconut Beach, far north Queensland, April 2009
At low tide we would watch as the water retreated and what seemed like millions of soldier crabs would throw up a startling display of sand marbles as they dug their holes.

Coconut Beach, far north Queensland, April 2009
Fraser Island, April 2005
We would chase them across the soft sand and hear the symphony of low clicks as they scurried away then suddenly dug straight down into the sand and disappeared.

Pottsville Beach, NSW, Christmas Day 2013
If you scooped up a handful of sand you could feel the crab scratching as he kept right on digging until he got to your palm.

Fraser Island, May 2006
Sand is the natural enemy of the photographer. I have an embarrassingly large collection of vacuum cleaner attachments for getting sand out of every possible join, ring and crevasse on my cameras and lenses.

Pottsville Beach, NSW, May 2012
The first time I went to Fraser Island I remember thinking I had never seen sand like it; fine as icing sugar and almost weightless, lifting up in the light breeze and travelling along the beach in clouds. My camera spent a goodly amount of time tucked under my shirt whenever it wasn't in use.

Kirra Beach, November 2009
The beauty of sand is how Mother Nature uses it as her canvas. With the constant tide she creates magnificent artworks for us that mostly go unseen and often last for only a few seconds.

Coconut Beach, far north Queensland, April 2009
Pottsville Beach, NSW, Christmas Day 2013
Pottsville Beach, NSW, 2011
Walking in sand can be hard. The soft white sand dunes far back from the shoreline suck your feet down taking all the momentum of your step causing awkward shuffling, especially when you are trying to run in sand hot enough to fry an egg. This beautiful sand squiffs as you walk which I imagine to be the sound of millions of grains rubbing together.

Tugun Beach, May 2006
If just the top layer of this dry sand becomes damp, it sets hard and dries a few millimetres thick. As you walk along the effect is like broken glass that instantly dissolves away into grains. As you get closer to the surf the sand firms up around the tidemark then softens again at the water's edge where the undertow sucks and pulls at your feet tearing the sand away from around them in streams.

Pottsville Beach, NSW, May 2012
On the Big Island of Hawaii in 2013 we were lucky enough to be staying close to a black sand beach in Pahoa. When you first set eyes on black sand it is quite astonishing and difficult to take in.

Kaimu Beach, Pahoa, Hawaii, October 2013
The water lapping the shore appears greyish green, not blue because the sand colours the sunlight coming through the water. The black sand results from red-hot lava flowing to the coastline, setting again into rock, then being worn away by the endless pounding surf.


I've been asked a few times if we brought any black sand or lava rock home with us. The short answer is no, we did not bring home or disturb anything we photographed. I'm not really a superstitious person but legend has it that Pele will bring bad luck upon anyone who removes lava rock from the islands. 


The National Parks and tour operators get a constant stream of rocks mailed back to Hawaii from people all over the world who experienced misfortune after taking them home. Having seen Pele's fury first hand at Kilauea, there is no way we were prepared to chance it. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

South Of The Border Down Mexico Way

I was decently drunk when I shot my one perfect moment in Mexico. We were at Rosarito Beach for the weekend, one night in fact, staying at what can only be described as a questionable hotel. 
Papas and Beer. Lots of beer in fact
It was 2004 and I was still shooting film. My fear of having gear nicked was so great I spent every waking moment of the trip with my whole kit awkwardly strapped to me in a backpack.  
Beautiful sunset, very dirty beach
A bucket of beers was twenty dollars, and at a dollar a beer in that climate what are you going to do? I drank a lot of Sol, danced badly to doof-doof music, rode a mechanical bull and even licked a margarita off the chest of a friend (who shall remain nameless) for a dare. 

Good times! You didn't need to go far beyond the edges of the tourist resorts to see the seedy, tatty side of Mexico. The desperation of the locals is almost visible bubbling under the surface of their impoverished smiles as they force trinkets on you in the street, or even right on the beach as you stepped outside the confines of your resort.
Hawkers sell paratrooper kites on the beach
I stayed away from this, putting up some mental barn doors so I could light up only the beautiful elements of the landscape around me. 


One of the best of these elements was the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, a foreign experience for an Australian east-coaster like myself. Here I was so focused on the ‘Fingers of God’ streaming down through the clouds (read: drunk) I didn't notice the diving cormorant until I had the film developed.

And yes, there are pictures of me riding the mechanical bull. And that will be a no, you're never going to see them :).