It has been almost a year since I was in Iceland on my photographic expedition in July and August 2010. Since I have been back I have been on many other photographic trips and shoots – some local and some further afield. Yet, it is the many thousands of frames I took in Iceland that consistently draw me back for further editing and processing. It is this further editing and processing of photographs that has made me realise the importance of what I am calling ‘staring time’. That is, the importance of time to do nothing more than visually stare at a photograph so as to give both the conscious and sub conscious mind the chance to fully absorb and understand all of the subtleties and nuances of the photograph. It is not until the mind (at least my mind) has spent a significant amount of time staring at a photograph (often over multiple evenings and even weeks) that I feel I have fully understood what the photograph might need to truly ‘sing’ form a processing perspective. Subtle burning and dodging in just the right area, a slight colour temperature tweak or a different crop can often be the difference between a great photograph and one that truly shines. Staring time gives my mind the clarity in relation to the photograph to try and make those adjustments. It doesn’t always work and occasionally I find myself being unable to see the wood for the trees. In such circumstances I often find it useful to put the photograph away and revisit it at a later date.There is no hard and fast rule for staring time. Sometimes (rarely) I find there is quite literally no staring time required. The photograph comes into Lightroom off the CF card, is cropped, processed and exported as a Tiff in its completed iteration. This can be a process that takes no more than a few minutes. Alternatively it can be a long, slow and iterative process that might take any where from an hour to a few weeks (as is usually the case for me).

I want to use this photograph below from Landmannalaugar as an example of what I am driving at. This photograph has resided in my Lightroom library since I returned from Iceland in August 2010. It sat, unnoticed, unloved and unprocessed until a week or so ago when I was casually reviewing files from various shoots late one evening before bed. Something just clicked for me when this file came up and I realised I had a potential gem – a proverbial diamond in the rough. It was late however, and I was tired so I added the image to a quick collection for easier reference later and went to bed.

The next day I eagerly sat down in front of my computer and began to process the image. As is usual for me the first thing I like to do is to set both the white and black point correctly (to restore a lot of the contrast that is in the photograph – but not displayed on screen when the RAW file is imported. This gives me a pretty good indication right off the bat what I am dealing with in terms of how the final image will look. Many images never make it past this point for me. After setting the white and black point I tweak the color temperature and tint before setting the crop for the image. I will clean up any dust spots and then start to fiddle with the tone curve and other controls. This is where staring time enters the processing equation. I find it necessary to often make an adjustment  and then just stop and stare for a while; perhaps even leaving the image and coming back to it later – sometimes after a cup of coffee or sometimes another day. This staring time gives me a greater sense of clarity about wether the change I made produced the desired result. Its a back and forth process that may sound somewhat counter intuitive; but it works for me. This photograph from Landmannalaugar is one such photograph that has absorbed significant staring time. Throughout the processing of this photograph I just stopped and stared more than I perhaps care to accurately recall. In short, I spent a lot of time staring at this photograph, making small subtle changes to really make it sing to me. In the end if I look at the history tab in Lightroom what I find is a list of many changes that were made, unmade, sometimes remade in another form before I ended up at the final photograph. What this tells me is that me (the photographer) had to go on a unknown journey to get to my final destination. I could not simply plot a direct course from point A to point B to arrive at my final photograph. I was forced (ok forced is a little too strong a word) to find my way there by trying varying paths. At the risk of being somewhat controversial this is perhaps one of the key difference between producing a photojournalistic style record of an event (a snapshot) and Art.

Now; if staring time is so important during processing of the photograph it must therefore be equally important during the actual taking of the photograph – it stands to reason. I believe this photograph also illustrates this point. This photograph was taken after spending three hours at the top of one of Landmannalaugar’s highest mountains in the freezing arctic winds waiting for light. I have blogged about this days shoot before so wont repeat the story, but I had a lot of time to stare at the scene during this time; which ultimately lead me to my final composition. Perhaps if I had arrived just as the light was turning magical I would not have been able to make this photograph? The importance of staring time in my photography is considerable and it is a timely reminder for me of its importance on the eve of my trip to New Zealand’s South Island and Antarctica later this year.

A higher resolution version of this photograph is also on my Portfolio website under Iceland at


I am pleased to follow on from my previous announcement earlier this month of ‘Blue Berg’ winning the 2011 Extreme Environment People’s Choice Award with the news that this photograph has also been selected to be hung at Montsalvat in Eltham as part of the 2011 Nillumbik Prize. This is the second year in a row my photography has been selected to be exhibited in this prestigious award and I am very pleased to have my work included.  The exhibition opens on Thursday the 16th of June at 6pm and runs until Sunday the 31st of July. Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend the opening as I will be in New Zealand on a ten day Landscape shoot in the South Island. I will certainly be stopping past for a visit and coffee when I get back from New Zealand.

Montsalvat is one of my favourite locations for morning coffee and relaxing in the grounds and surrounding buildings – It is a wonderful location with three separate gallery areas, a restaurant / cafe (that makes a really good breakfast) and some fantastic backdrops for portrait photography amongst the old buildings.

The Nillumbik Prize exhibition encompasses all manner of art and craft (not just photography) and includes everything from photography, to painting and sculpture.  The Nillumbik Prize is also one of the oldest community art shows in Victoria – the former Eltham Shire Council proudly sponsored the event back in the mid fifties when it was organised by the local arts community. Then as today it was and is a celebration of diversity and importance of art to this region.


Those of you who follow any of the internets Camera Rumours websites (some of them make quite entertaining reading with liberal sprinkling of salt) will have read everything from a proposed release date of tomorrow to never for the hotly anticipated Canon 1DS MKIV. The proposed specifications are as varied as the theoretical release dates with everything from 28 mega pixels to more than 40 mega pixels being touted  as the cameras resolution and everything from the inclusion of RAW video capability to the inclusion of a larger than 35mm sized sensor (AKA: Medium Format). The rumours are a liberal melting pot of wish lists. There are rumours of the 1DS and 1D being merged, rumours of the next 1D having a full frame sensor and the next 1DS being a larger sized sensor (sort of like the Leica S2 I guess) and rumours of there being no direct replacement at all. In short, if someone has thought of it there is a rumour for it. In fact, the rumour list is now so long and varied that it is likely someone somewhere must have it right – only question is who? Or, more importantly who actually knows?

I do not normally get involved in the rumour side of photography equipment. It is not that I don’t find it interesting; it is simply that there are already many people reporting on rumours across the web (and doing a good job of it) and well… the internet really does not need another. However, I find myself somewhat between a rock and a hard place. I both want and need to purchase an additional camera body as a back-up for my New Zealand trip and Antarctica later this year. I don’t really want to purchase another 1DS MKIII at this point in the cameras life cycle (although I dearly love the camera); so I started a little of my own digging into when we might actually see a replacement; which inevitably lead me to the rumour mill. I will preface this by saying that although I read pretty much all of the rumours I could find I ended up ignoring them all and instead focused on my own industry contacts and my own common sense. The net result is my gut feeling is that “there will not be a Canon 1DS MKIV this year“.

Firstly, Canon has a number of already announced products which have not yet seen the light of day. These include the new 8-15mm Fisheye and 500mm F4 lens. Both of these were announced months and months ago now and Canon really needs to get them out before it focuses (pardon the pun) on any other products.

Secondly, the earthquake that rocked Japan would have (and has) inevitably delayed everything  – end of story. Canon Rumours has reported that Canon Japan is already reporting that it is close to normal operations; however, there has already been significant delay since the earthquake. Any announcement of new product (regardless of the product) is bound to have been pushed back – most likely to an unspecified date. As an obvious aside, it is far more important that the devastated people of Japan focus on their own recovery efforts rather than feeding the rest of the world with new cameras.

The real scoop on the Canon 1DS MKIV is that those who actually know when it will be released  (I suspect this is a very short list) and what its final specifications will be are all under NDA (Non Disclosure Agreements). And guess what? That means they cant tell you! (or me). Are there 1DS MKIV (or whatever the new name will be) prototypes in the field? The answer is undoubtedly yes – thats simple common sense. Canon has always provided a select few with prototypes for testing long before an official product announcement. For those lucky few they will enjoy some beta field testing; but even they may not know what the final specifications will be since Canon may well have different prototypes out there.

In conclusion, I can offer no accurate information on if/when the 1DS MKIV will be released other than it is unlikely to be this year. As to what its final specifications will be I suggest throwing a dart at a board; since that is likely to be as accurate as any recent rumour you are likely to read. The same applies to the 5D MKIII.

As to the question of what to buy as a back-up body – I have decided to simply rent a 2nd 1DS MKIII for the time being from Borrow Lenses on an as needs basis.A boring solution I know – but a safe one nonetheless since any purchase I might make would simply ensure an invitation to Murphy who would no doubt spoil my party with an immediate announcement of a replacement camera. Until then the 1DS MKIV is just vapourware.


My trip to New Zealand has started to sneak up on me (now three and half weeks away) and its time to formalise an itinerary of places to visit during the trip. I have booked a camper van / motorhome complete with kitchen, mod cons etc. which means I have a great deal of flexibility for the duration of the trip. I can move from location to location and not have to worry about finding accommodation for the evening, or having to constantly pack and unpack (which can be a real hassle). As I like to work primarily at Sunrise and Sunset its far more convenient to be based in a camper van on site – rather than checking out of hotels or bed and breakfasts at 5am in the morning.

I am keeping my itinerary fairly loose as much will depend on the weather. It can be bitingly cold in the South Island of New Zealand in winter and if the weather is socked in around the alps it can make photography problematic so I plan to be flexible and ‘go with the flow’ in terms of weather. If the mountains are clouded in I will spend more time on the coast. I have some business matters to attend to before I can get underway with the photography side of the trip but they should not take more than a couple of days. My loose itinerary is as follows:

  1. Day One: I am going to head from Christchurch to Lake Clearwater and Mount Somers and spend some time around this area before driving down to the Moeraki Boulders for a sunset and sunrise the following morning.
  2. Day Two: After Sunrise at the Moeraki Boulders (assuming the light has been good) I will head back up to Omarama for Sunset at Wanaka.
  3. Day Three: Spend the day at Wanaka and visit surrounding locations
  4. Day Four: head up to Mount Iron and spend the morning in this location before visiting Diamond Lake
  5. Day Five: Drive over to Fox Glacier stopping at several locations I want to shoot along the way
  6. Day Six: Fox Glacier – If the weather is good I may charter a helicopter for some aerial photography.
  7. Day Seven: Another day around Fox Glacier and Lake Matheson
  8. Day Eight: Drive up to Punakaiki and Pancake Rocks
  9. Day Nine: Driver over to Kaikoura for some more locations I want to visit.
  10. Day Ten: Home

In terms of photographic equipment. I am taking my entire kit of cameras and lenses except the 85mm F1.2L which I really only use for specialised portraits and wont need for this trip – since this is a dedicated landscape and wilderness expedition. I am currently having a mental debate with myself on what to do in relation to a back up DSLR camera. Canon 1DS MKIII’s are now available at quite reasonable pricing making them quite an attractive proposition as a back-up. I am reliably informed from various sources that there will not be a MKIVs this year; which adds some weight to the argument of purchasing an additional 1DSMKIII (both for New Zealand and Antarctica later this year as a back-up). I just won a high end Fuji camera in the 2011 Extreme Environment Photographic competition; however, this camera is a different lens mount to my Canon and (although an excellent and well reviewed camera) does not really work for me as a back-up since I prefer a body I can use my existing lenses with. The Canon 1D MKIV is also a potential option I am considering and may actually be the best choice since it provides a little extra reach for wildlife with its 1.3 crop factor.