I just wrapped up my two back-to-back 2015 New Zealand South Island Masterclass Workshops (trip report coming soon) and was planning to officially announce and open up bookings for the 2016 workshop on my return to Australia in a few days time. However, due to initial expressions of interest and bookings the 2016 Masterclass workshop is already completely sold out and over subscribed. If you are interested in travelling to New Zealand and photographing in the spectacular South Island you can still register your interest to be put onto the wait list or to be amongst the first to be notified when the 2017 dates are announced. Like the 2015 workshop, the 2016 Masterclass workshop also includes extensive use of helicopters for accessing some of the most remote and spectacular country as well as aerial photography of the spectacular Southern Alps and glaciers. 2016 also includes a new optional extension (also sold out) to the rugged northern coastline of the South Island.
The 2015 Epson Pano Awards are now open for entry and I am honoured to be included amongst the judging panel this year for the open professional category.Press Release: Professional and amateur photographers around the world are invited to enter The EPSON International Pano Awards to compete for over $50,000 in cash and prizes. Early-bird entries are open now until Sunday 12th July, 2015.
The Sixth Epson International Pano Awards is dedicated to the art of panoramic photography. Advances in digital photography and editing software has resulted in a surge in the popularity of image stitching, especially in the panoramic format. Panoramic film photography also remains alive and well.
The Epson International Pano Awards showcases the work of panoramic photographers worldwide and is the largest competition for panoramic photography.
‘Over the years we have been delighted to see this world-class photographic competition grow to the point where it now attracts thousands of entries from hundreds of photographers from around the world. Each year the photographs are more and more impressive and the outstanding quality of both image capture and print astounds me,’ said Craig Heckenberg, General Manager Business Division, Epson Australia.
‘Epson is very proud to continue our support of this global competition and, as always, we look forward to seeing this year’s entries and the winners for each category,’ said Craig.
The 2014 competition saw 3971 images submitted from 870 photographers in 54 countries.
The 2015 competition is open to all professional and amateur photographers with a combined pool of more than US$50,000, including $20,000 cash. Prizes include an Epson Stylus Pro 7900 printer, an Epson Stylus Pro 4900 printer, and an Epson EB- 1775 Ultra-Slim Projector.
Introducing the new Jeff Mitchum Fine Art Prize, with a massive $10,000 up for grabs in addition to the general prize pool! Entries in the Open competition are eligible for consideration if they are predominantly created ‘in camera’.
We are also pleased to introduce the EPSON Digital Art Prize, with $2000 cash on offer. Also made possible by Jeff Mitchum, this prize rewards excellence in modern digital post-processing.
Other new features in 2015 include;
- – A record prize pool worth over $50,000
- – Reduced single entry fees
- – Scaled scoring to allow for year-by-year variations in the judging panel
- – Another new special award, for Highest Scoring Wide Angle Image
The judging panel includes some of the world’s top photographers and industry professionals, including
Jeff Mitchum, Timo Lieber, Arild Heitmann, Lauren Bath, Joshua Holko, Julie Fletcher, Marcio Cabral, Stefan Hefele, Mark Gray, Mel Sinclair, Denis Gadbois, Aaron Spence and Bill Bailey.
I wrapped up my 2015 South Island New Zealand workshop a few days ago and am now enjoying a second trip around the island on a back-to-back tour. During the first workshop one of the many photographic discussions we had over dinner was about the process of editing ones photographs and this got me thinking more deeply about being truly objective when self critiquing our own photography.
One of the most important, underdeveloped and most frequently overlooked skills that we photographers need to develop throughout our career is the ability to self-analyse, self-critic and self-edit our own photography. To be clear, the term ‘editing’ does not in any way refer to post production; rather it holistically refers to the ability to choose only the very best images from our shooting session, relegating the remainder to seconds and thirds (which frankly, should probably never see the light of day). The ability to ruthlessly cull and conscientiously edit our own images is in all likelyhood the most misunderstood, and poorly exercised skill practiced by the vast majority of photographers. For just a moment, lets assume you fall into this category. You may, or may not be a discerning expert in editing your images (it would make you a rare commodity), but for the sake of the argument lets assume for a moment you are not. Assuming this is a bridge you are willing and able to cross (vanity and ego need to be put aside at this point if we are to have any hope of actually improving our image editing skills) how does one go about improving this critical skill?
Before I address this question I want to point the finger of blame at Social Media for what what is in all likelihood the primary modern catalyst for many photographers developing such poor editing skills. I touched on this briefly in Part Four of my series of articles on Creating Emotive photographs where I discussed the rush to share imagery through social media platforms at the expense of quality photography; but I want to expand on this further in this article. I also want to discuss why the ability conscientiously edit photographs is such a poorly practiced skill and what you can do to improve your ability to objectively edit your own photography.
It is important to focus particularly on educating oneself on what makes a good photograph before you can have any hope of objectively editing your own images. See Part Three of my series of Articles on Creating Evocative Photographs where I discuss the importance of reading books about photography, visiting galleries and studying art. Learning what a good photograph actually looks like might seem like an easy task at first blush; but I assure you it takes a good deal of experience and maturity as a photographer to truly recognise the image that excels. Learning to separate genius from cliché and emotive and interesting from banal and lifeless is actually a lot tougher than you might think. It only takes a saturated sunset image to wow most people but as photographers who strive for more we know there really isn’t anything more cliché or boring in terms of subject. We are looking for more in our own imagery and we need to know what that ‘more’ is. The problem is we can’t know what that ‘more’ is if we haven’t learned what makes a truly great photograph. We can’t know what makes a truly great photograph unless we have spent the time to learn from those who went before us. We have to actually put our cameras (and cell phones!) down and spend some real quality time educating ourselves.
I stand by my comments that most photographers would be far better off investing the money allocated for their next camera or lens purchase in gallery and museum entrance fees, books and prints so as to better educate themselves on what makes a good photograph. The camera is just a tool to capture a photograph. The quality of the photograph that emerges from the camera is going to depend on the photographer wielding the tool. It is therefore the responsibility of the photographer to educate themselves on what makes a good photograph. Think about that for a second…Education will make you a better photographer. Not the new camera the manufacturers brainwashed you that you had to have because yours was suddenly superseded. If you take this advice to heart I probably just saved you several thousand dollars and improved your photography in a single swipe.
Ask yourself how many contemporary photographers can you actually name who work in your chosen field of interest and whose work you know well? If we are to have any hope of producing high quality photography in our chosen genre we need to know who the leading photographers are in that specific field so we at the very least know and understand where the bar is set for image making. You should be able to rattle off a list of modern contemporary photographers whose work you know and admire. That will give you an excellent starting point when editing your own images. Its not a direct comparison you are going to be making; rather it is an understanding of wether your photograph is really any good or whether is it just the best you were able to do of that particular subject on a given day. There is no shame in putting the images from a recent shoot in the reject bin and instead planning to revisit and retry the location having learned from your past experience. I do this all the time and have lost count of the number of places I have visited and photographed and subsequently decided I need to revisit for take two (or three or four or more!).
I want to share some statistics from my recent scouting trip to the Arctic that might help put this editing process into perspective. I covered over 500 kilometres on snow mobile in the middle of the arctic winter this March in a remote part of Svalbard over a period of a week. I endured temperatures below -30 Celsius with wind chill for more than ten hours a day. I got frost nip in my fingers and nose on several occasions from lying in the snow and ice for hours at a time waiting for wildlife and light. I lived on Drytek freeze dried meals out in the field because it was the only thing that is safe to travel with in Polar Bear country. In short, I suffered to shoot the nearly 3000 frames I took over the period of a week out in the field. NONE of this matters however, and absolutely none of it has any bearing or relevance on wether my photographs are actually any good. Its all superfluous information that might make a good story and ‘making of’, but ultimately contributes nothing to the photograph itself. And here is the rub. You have to have a true quality hit photograph before you can have a good making of story. Here is the really critical element to these statistics that might shock some newcomers to photography. I probably made between three and six photographs that I would consider to be really stand out images out of the 3000 I shot that I will want to put my name to and share. And that is a really good ratio. I probably have several hundred variations on these three or six images as a result of using high speed capture and I probably have several hundred more that are close, but just not quite there in terms of being really stand out images. The rest are frankly rejects that should never see the light of day. And honestly, neither should the previous few hundred that got close or the slight variations that almost make it over the line but ultimately are just not quite as good. This ratio doesn’t make me a bad photographer – it makes me a conscientious editor of my own work. I realise that the back story is superfluous to the photograph outside of my own personal want to record and share the adventure. I have to be objective when I analyse and edit my photographs and put the journey of their capture to one side and focus on wether I actually made a good photograph. This is a hard skill to master when you are the one who has worked and suffered to create; but its an absolutely necessary one to develop and practice if you want to elevate your photography to the next level.
I believe there is a strong lesson to be learned from this example and I encourage you to think objectively and to exercise a ruthless approach to editing your own photography. Try and be objective and truly neutral in the assessment of your photograph when editing your images. Is it really a good photograph? Or, is it merely the best you were able to make on the day at that particular location? There is a marked and critical difference that many photographers would do well to understand.
I appreciate that not everyone falls into the bucket of wanting to produce and share the best that they can do and that some people just want to share their photographic adventure as they journey through life – and thats just fine. But for those of you out there who really do want to take it to the next level I think its worth taking a good look at the skill of editing and asking some tough questions about our images and our ability to objectively edit them. I’ll wager the toughest question you are going to have to ask yourself is do you need to take this advice? Take my advice on this – You do. And So Do I. Once we step down from our pedestal and the ethos of “this does not apply to me because I already know what I am doing” we free ourselves from the shackles of our current editing prison and open the doors to new potential and growth. That next book you pick up might just give you new insight and ideas that you had never considered and that will improve your photography and your editing.
I encourage you to spend quality time learning who the leaders are in your chosen field and genre. Study their photography and learn from their compositions and approach to their image making. I have a number of contemporary photographers I follow whose work I consider exemplary in their field (Ill share their names in a separate post at a later date). I encourage you to dive headlong into as many photography books as you can, free from the distractions of the internet. Take your next lunch break at the local gallery or head to the library and pick up a book on art. I promise you your photography will improve in leaps and bounds and you will become a far more conscientious editor of your own photography.
The current May 2015 issue of the AIPP The Working Pro magazine features a short article (along with photographs) on my Polar Photography workshops and specialisation in the Polar Photography genre. You can download the complete article by clicking on the image below. The full edition of the Working Pro magazine is available for free to AIPP members.
Congratulations to the fifth print winners ‘Ronny Nielson, Brian Peters and Rachel Mailais’, for the photograph of the month for May 2015: ‘Ice Bear’. This month I had three comments come in within just seconds of each other so have decided to give away one print each to the first three to comment.
What Ronny said: Great capture of the polarbear. Shows it in its environment and how isolated these animals live. And how they are the king in the arctic.
What Peter Said: This is an absolutely magnificent image of a threatened species in an endangered environment. I’m hoping to get something half as good when I’m in the Arctic in July. This image has my name all over it.
What Rachel Said: Great shot, Joshua. A gorgeous bear out for a stroll, blending in its white environment. It seems to suddenly notice you, kind of wondering what is this new type of animal on it the horizon?
Congratulations Ronnie, Brian and Rachel, you were the first, and your prints will be sent to you at the end of May when I return home from the South Island of New Zealand.
Keep an eye out on my blog for the next print giveaway with the June photograph of the month. Remember the best way to get instant updates is to subscribe via email.
My photograph of the month for May 2015 follows on the Polar Bear theme from last month. In fact, this was the same Polar Bear as the previous photograph; although this image was taken a couple of days earlier and in a different location. The bear surrounded by winter ice with its paw raised, mid step, walking straight toward the camera is a powerful iconic image of the world’s largest land predator. My heart was racing when I took this image and it rates as one of the most exciting experiences I have had in the field photographing wildlife. The bear was in hunting mode, prowling the ice in search of food. It would stop occasionally and test the strength of the ice, smell at a particular place and then move on. It watched me intently as I crouched behind my snowmobile making images until it was time to move on before the bear got to close.You can Win a free Fine art Print 13″ x 19″ of this photograph including shipping anywhere in the world. All you need do is to be the first to comment on this post on the home page with your thoughts on why you like this photograph or why you would like to own a print of the image and then share the post with your preferred social media outlet. Just keep in mind that due to my hectic travel schedule it may take me some time to make and post out each print so if you are the lucky winner for a given month I ask that you jut exercise a little patience and as soon as I am back in my studio in Australia and as soon as practical I will make the print and send it to you – free of charge. Each print will be made and personally signed by me with the same care and attention to detail I exercise on my large gallery prints. There will be a total of twelve prints to win throughout the calendar year. The first four prints of the year were won by Fred Jennings, Chris Roberts, Caroline Hind and Nita Gulbas and their prints have now been delivered, framed by them and are hanging on their walls.
Good luck and don’t forget in order to win the print you need to be the first to comment here on the home page on the May photograph of the Month for the 2015 calendar year with your thoughts on why you like the photograph or why you would like to own a print and to then share the post with your social media outlet of choice.
Over the last few days the 2015 Epson Victorian Professional Photographer of the Year competition has been running here in Melbourne at 1140 studios. I attended both days to watch the judging and it was fantastic to see such a high standard of prints again this year (as well as a record number of entries). Although I won multiple categories, the highest scoring print and the overall title of 2014 Epson Victorian Professional Photographer of the Year last year I put no expectations on myself for my entries this year and decided I would enter just for the sheer joy of the print making process. Quite honestly, removing any expectation of my potential results was really quite liberating and I think I enjoyed the entire process from capture to print and competition entry more than I ever have in the past.
From my previous post on these awards: The AIPP National and State awards are two of the few remaining competitions to actually judge the finished print and they do so using a panel of judges all deemed experts in their respective genres and accredited as Masters of Photography through their years of success in this arena. Prints are judged in a controlled lighting environment and assessed for their content, originality as well as technical craftsmanship. The judging is enthralling to watch and can be quite nerve wracking if you are a first time entrant as the standard of work is incredibly high. In brief, prints are scored out of 100 with images judged less than 70 being deemed not of professional standard. Prints judged between 71 and 79 are considered strong professional practice. Images judged 80-84 are awarded a Silver and are considered strong professional practice of an award standard. Scores of 85-89 are given a Silver with Distinction and demonstrate superior imagination, craft and skill. Prints judged 90-94 exhibit excellence in visual communication, craft and skill. And finally those rare few images that reach 96-100 are considered to have exceptional vision, creativity, innovation, master craftsmanship and skill. Very few prints score Gold awards in these competitions and even fewer reach the top tier of Gold with Distinction.
This year I entered both the Landscape and Science, Wildlife and Wild Places categories. Entering the Landscape category was a really tough decision for me as this category has an anything goes post production mantra that is in conflict with my own ethos and ethics for image manipulation. I decided I would enter anyway just to see how my prints would fare against others in this category. As it turned out – they fared remarkably well. Two of my landscape images scored solid Silver with Distinctions with scores of 86 and 86 respectively. My remaining two landscape photographs also scored solid silver awards with an 81 and 83. Three of my Science, Wildlife and Wild Places photographs (my preferred category) scored Silver with Distinctions with scores of 89, 89 and 85 respectively. Two of those three were just one point removed from a Gold Award. My fourth image in the category scored an 84 Silver Award.
All of the prints were printed on Moab Somerset Museum Rag. This wonderful paper has continued to remain my all-time favourite stock for fine art photography prints.
Arctic Fox Snow Storm – 89 Silver with Distinction Award Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Category
Arctic Foxes Sparring – 89 Silver with Distinction Award Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Category
Abandoned Baby Ring Seal – 85 Silver with Distinction Award Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Category
Arctic Fox Attack – 84 Silver Award Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Category
Dune on Fire – 86 Silver with Distinction Award Landscape Category
Fiery Fingers – 86 Silver with Distinction Award Landscape Category
Dunes and Light – 81 Silver Award Landscape Category
Golden Dune – 83 Silver Award Landscape CategoryNow its time to put the 2015 VPPY Awards behind me and get some sleep. In just a few hours time I will be headed to the South Island of New Zealand for my 2015 Masterclass Workshop.
The latest issue number #28 of Extraordinary Vision magazine features Part One of a series of Articles I recently penned on creating Landscape Photography with Mystery and Emotion. Look for Part Two and Part Three in subsequent issues. Extraordinary Vision is a free magazine available for mobile devices and can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Store.
Time has snuck up on me and in less than a week I will be flying to the South Island of New Zealand for my 2015 Masterclass workshop. Quite honestly, it feels like only yesterday I walked in my front door after two months on the road in Yellowstone, Iceland and Svalbard and it is quite a surreal feeling to be heading overseas again so soon. It has been a whirlwind time at home split between my family and the office and I feel like I have really only just started to catch up on my backlog of office work. I have no regrets about pushing the office paperwork to one side, but I had hoped to get a few more images processed from my recent travels before I ran out of time.
I am however, really excited about this new Masterclass workshop to the South Island of New Zealand. We have extensive use of helicopters during this workshop for accessing very remote areas and they should provide us some really unique and fantastic opportunities for photography. Early May is my favourite time of the year to visit New Zealand. The Autumn colour will be in full swing and the weather is often ideal with cold, crisp mornings and beautiful sunrises.
I have run out of time for a dedicated packing list post for this trip, but our emphasis is on landscape and as such I will be leaving my longer lenses at home this time. I plan to take my two Canon EOS 1DX cameras along with the 16-35mm F4L IS, 24mm F3.5L TSE MKII, 24-70mm F2.8L MKII and 70-200mm F2.8L IS MKII lenses. I also plan to take a 1.4 TC with me just in case I need a little more reach. I had hoped the new Canon 5DSR would be available by now but unfortunately a thorough and rigorous test of the new high resolution 50 mega pixel camera will have to wait until my Iceland Highlands Expedition in August this year. I am also packing my graduated neutral density filters and my tripod.
Before I leave for New Zealand I will be attending the Epson Victorian Professional Photography Awards that kick off this coming Tuesday the 28th of April and run for two full days at 1140 Studio in Malvern. I was fortunate to win both the Creative Photographer of the Year and Science Nature and Environment Photographer of the Year categories as well the Highest Scoring Print Award and overall grand prize and title of Epson Victorian Professional Photographer of the Year last year; which was a pretty comprehensive sweep and an incredible thrill and honour. I have put aside any expectations on my entries this year and entered solely for the sheer joy and pleasure of the print making process. The craft of fine art printing is really at the core of why I enter both the VPPY Awards and the APPA Awards and its a wonderful experience to watch prints being judged and to be able to view the prints in person. If you are outside Melbourne the VPPY awards this year are being live-streamed and can be watched online:
Room 1 – http://livestream.com/professionalphotography/2015-AIPP-VIC-Epson-Awards-Room1
Room 2 – http://livestream.com/professionalphotography/2015-AIPP-VIC-Epson-Awards-Room2However, if you are in Melbourne I encourage to come down to the judging in person so that you can view all of the award winning prints as they are judged and displayed. Entry is free and there is an espresso machine on site if that adds any motivation!
There is an awards cocktail party being held on the Thursday evening and I will then be leaving for New Zealand first thing on Friday morning. As always, I hope to post an update or two from our workshop as we travel through the South Island.
At the conclusion of the Masterclass workshop I will be staying on in New Zealand for an additional couple of weeks of personal photography with my good friend Martyn before I return home.
If you are interested in travelling to the South Island of New Zealand and photographing in this spectacular country I will soon be announcing my 2016 schedule. Please email me to express your interest. There is no obligation at this point. Please just be aware that some places are already spoken for and I do recommend registering interest early to avoid disappointment.
In early February 2015 I led a small photography group to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons for an exploratory winter workshop. This was my first time to Yellowstone in winter and very much a preliminary scouting trip for future workshops in the area. Winter is a wonderful time to visit America’s first national park; tourist numbers are very low by comparison with summer and the combination of snow and geothermal features offers outstanding landscape photography opportunities. There is also an abundance of wildlife in Yellowstone and many opportunities to create really unique imagery in the snow covered landscape.Our plan was to photograph both the landscape and wildlife found in the park and take advantage of the winter snowfall. When visiting Yellowstone in winter there is a sense that you have almost crossed to another planet. The landscape is hushed by a thick blanket of snow. The trees are wreathed in frost and loom like wraiths against the ominous winter clouds. The crisp, icy air enhances the effect of the geothermal features. There is an exotic combination of mist-shrouded hot pools, bubbling paint pots and steaming fumaroles that is the ideal setting for winter landscape photography.During this trip we explored the northern part of Yellowstone in the Lamar Valley as well as Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, Madison Valley and the Firehole River Basin. We also journeyed into the Grand Teton National Park. We had planned to also visit the national Elk Refuge, however the lack of snow this particular season worked against us and we decided to give this a miss and focus on areas with better snowfall instead.During our time in Yellowstone we spent several days in the Lamar Valley area photographing both the landscape and wildlife. We were fortunate to see and photograph the Lamar Valley wolf pack on several different occasions as well as Big Horn Sheep, Red Fox, Coyote and Moose. Although the wolves kept a respectful distance it was still a wonderful experience to watch wild wolves in the snow covered landscape. Just as an aside, It was almost as interesting to observe the cult of wolf watchers with their spotting scopes that prowl the Lamar Valley road in the hope of even a glimpse of these elusive animals. I am still sorting through the images I captured of the wolves and I hope to share a few in a future post.
During the workshop we also spent several days in the Old Faithful area visiting and photographing many of the geothermal features. Geothermal features photograph extremely well with snow and ice. There is a wonderful contrast between rising steam and a snow covered landscape that adds that magic element and wonderful contrast to a photograph.
Travel inside the park during winter is restricted to snow coaches and snow mobiles and as of a few years ago you now cannot enter the park in winter without a guide provided by the parks service (Private vehicles are also not allowed in winter). This new requirement necessitated the need for us to hire a private snow-coach that enabled us to go at our own pace for photography free from the burden of regular tourists. A normal tourist visit just does not allow sufficient time at each location during the best light of the day.
Winter in Yellowstone can be brutally cold with temperatures plummeting well below -20 degrees Celsius.This year however was quite mild with little snow fall compared to past years. As a result we rarely saw temperatures dip below -10 Celsius with most days hovering around 0 Celsius. As a result of the unusually mild weather the wildlife was more active than usual and there were already clear indicators of bear activity in late February during our visit.
In terms of wildlife Yellowstone has a wonderful diversity and during our time in the park we saw and photographed Bison, Elk, Red Fox, Big Horn sheep, Moose, Coyotes, Bald Eagles, and Osprey. We also spotted and photographed the Canyon wolf pack alongside some of the geothermal features just after sunrise. We searched hard for both Bobcats and Great Grey Owls but did not see them despite a few recent reports of sightings along the Madison river. We did however photograph a Bobcat a few days prior to the workshop in the Montana area (But this was a controlled shoot).Yellowstone in winter was a fantastic experience and is a truly remarkable place that offers limitless possibilities for photography of both wildlife and landscape in winter. I will be leading a future workshop to Yellowstone for a small group of people in Winter in January of 2017. This workshop will also include an extension into the Grand Teton area that will also take us to the spectacular and iconic Mount Moran area. If you would like to get the drop on the option of securing a place when details are finalised then please just drop me an email to register your interest. There is no obligation at the point.