A Road Less Travelled

Monthly Archives: August 2013

EXTREME SHOOTING IN THE GORGES OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA

I’ve just completed one of the most challenging assignments in my career as a professional photographer.

Twelve years ago, I was the CEO of the Pilbara tourism authority in Western Australia and I commissioned a five day assignment to capture just four flagship images of the region. My expectations were high – the four pictures were to be the foundations of our entire marketing strategy – so it became the shoot from hell for the creative director and photographer who I dragged over hill and dale to get what went on to be the images that re-define a mining region known only for its resources into a holiday destination tourists were eager to visit.

Just a week ago – as if by some perverse act of Karma – I was the commissioned photographer expected to do the same job in just as many days, only it would include a days shooting on Cable Beach in the Kimberley as well. The shoot was for Australia’s North-West tourism authority.
Cable Beach – where we started – was a walk in the park. Handsome couple (well done Nikki and Nigel), one of the best beaches in the world as a backdrop and a few camels thrown in at sunset for good measure. But Karijini…..(the knees still groan as I recall the name)…… Imagine waking in darkness to near freezing temperatures at 5am to get to a location at first light, then plunging 30 metres into a gorge that only gets direct sunlight for – at most – a couple of hours a day when the sun’s overhead. Extremes in light walk hand-in-hand to completely change the look – let alone the appeal – of what you’re there to photograph. Compounding it is the fatigue of traversing whatever gorge you’ve gone into (some walks take up to six hours, crawling around rock ledges, wading through ice-cold pools and clambering over boulders) to get to whatever the highlight is and then get out again before nightfall.

Now, I need to emphasise here dear reader, that in these later years, just hiking – let alone clambering up and down 30 metre rock walls – is about as welcome to me as having a needle plunged into my eyeball. Why anyone would spend money to do this for a holiday is beyond me. Still, I decided to shoot one particular location (Hancock Gorge) well – assuming that if I survived I’d look and capture two secondary locations (Ferns Pool and Hammersly Gorge) in whatever time that remained. Here’s one of the photographs that resulted (above). The rest I’ll post in about a week when I get out of by bath of bathing salts.

Some tips for other photographers looking to follow in the same agonising footsteps:

– Plan to shoot a single gorge over two days. The first to observe the way the light’s falling and to pick your places. The second, to return to the sites when the light is at its best.

– Shoot for the highlights and expect to pull the detail out of your shadows in post production.

– Use a neutral density filter and a polariser for longer exposure and more detail. Works well with flowing water. Definitely take a tripod (you”ll regret it when it comes time to carry it back up but, hopefully, the results will make it worthwhile).

– Look at how its been shot by other photographers (Christian Fletcher probably does it best) at least in terms of what there is to shoot.

– The Pilbara landscape glows in the pre-dawn and post sunset light against the mauve sky. In the gorges, expect to shoot early morning and late afternoon for the best reflective light. Generally, everything’s blown out and way too extreme from 11am to three.

– Do it while you’re young and the body’s still willing (or convince yourself, as I have, that the gods will reward you for your suffering).

APPLE I-BOOKS – NOT WORKING FOR ME

As I posted back in February, it was so incredibly easy to take one of the 15 books I’ve published and drag-n-drop the content into a stylish template to produce a digital version of the publication and sell it to a global market through Apple’s I-book store. This, I reasoned, would be the answer to the perennial problem authors and publishers have of tying up their money in stock and having to distribute their books. It took me about a week to work through it all and upload two books – a coffee table book on Papua New Guinea and a guide for travel photographers – to which a tracking device was attached to monitor sales. Well dear reader, six months later, the verdict is out: It just ain’t working. Fact is, I’ve sold six books in six months (and I suspect my mother was one of the buyers). Either the two books I uploaded stink or the vehicle for selling them isn’t doing the job it was designed for. While I’d rush to add that the printed version of Impressions of Papua New Guinea went into its third edition, clearly there was no market for the digital version and, while I continue to enjoy modest sales of my 50 Top Tips on Travel Photography through my wed site, again, it’s just not selling through the I-book store.

So, the question needs to asked, Why?

Well, unfortunately, you have to have an Apple i-pad to read the books so you are already blocking out the majority of the market who are using competitive tablet technologies (and, yes, I’ve dismissed I-phones as no one in their right mind will read a book on a 6cm screen). Then there’s the process of having to wade through the plethora of publications uploaded onto I-books by vanity authors to find anything of any substance. In the photography genre alone, every man and his dog appears to have had a go at it.

With this, I thought I’d have a look to see how some popular photographic titles might have been going so I looked at Lonely Planet’s premier publication, TRAVEL Only four reviews have been posted in total; not even enough to give an average rating it said, implying not more than five people altogether had bought the book (or, if there were more than that, only four were prepared to write about it). Other publications proved the same; based on their reviews, they just weren’t selling either.

Of course, digital publishing is a young and rapidly evolving technology which I am sure is the future, but until there is cross-platform technology which allows authors and publishers to easily design books that can be readily accessed, I’d suggest your energies might be better spent elsewhere.

NEXT TOPIC: IMAGE BRIEF (www.imagebrief.com). A crowd sourcing platform linking photographers to buyers. Easy to use but are photographers actually making money?

BEAUTIFUL, MESMERISING PHOTOGRAPHY – GREGORY COLBERT

Ok, so I must have been living under a rock for the past decade not to have seen the work of Gregory Colbert before now, but at least I have and so should any photographer with ascetic aspirations. I mean, it’s simply mesmerising – both the stills and the video.

If you visit his web site (www.gregorycolbert.com) – and you’ll need a half hour off just to revel in it – you’ll see a selection of some of his best work. Seriously sensual, combining people and animals. I simply love it. I’m not sure how a lot of the stills are put together and, clearly, post production plays a big part in it but, if you explore your way through the site, you’ll see some mighty impressive footage which was the basis of some of his pictures (and, oh, wouldn’t I love to have a couple of Cheetas or elephants and an exotic woman standing around to drape over them). His vision is superb – hauntingly beautiful.

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A successful promotional photograph starts with knowing what you want it to say and who you want it to appeal to - before you even bring the camera to your eye.

 

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