The Australasian Nature Photography exhibition is now open at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide until the 11th of November this year. The exhibition includes work from all of the finalists from the 2018 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition. I am pleased to say it includes one of my photographs as a finalist – Antarctic Sound Tabular Dawn. Taken from the deck of our expedition class ship ‘Polar Pioneer’ it documents the formation of ‘grease-ice’ snaking its way across the surface as the first light of dawn breaks across the face of a giant tabular iceberg.
I returned home to Australia very early this morning from my Svalbard Polar Bear expedition (trip report coming soon). With jet lag already hitting hard I decided to take the opportunity and do a quick blog update with the photograph of the month for August 2018 – An aerial photograph of the Skeleton Coast in Namibia. It was taken during a ‘doors off’ helicopter photography session over the golden dunes just after sunrise. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this sort of photography over the desert is the incredible light found both in the morning and evening. With the sun at a low angle in the sky the shapes, shadows and textures of the dunes are emphasised as they glow with soft light.
I will be returning to Namibia in a couple of months for my bi-annual workshop and we will again be taking up the helicopter both morning and evening for plenty of ‘doors off’ aerial photography. If you are interested in joining us there are just two places remaining before the experience will be sold out.
In October this year I am leading my bi-annual safari to the gigantic sand desert of Namibia. At this stage there are now just two places remaining before the workshop will be sold out. Namibia is an epic world class location for both landscape and wildlife photography and best of all.. we are going to be doing both on this trip! We will be spending time at the ghost town of Kolmonskop, the giant sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the iconic salt pans of Deadvlei and the wildlife rich region of Etosha. If you are interested in joining us please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your place. A full PDF itinerary can be downloaded HERE.
Somehow I managed to let June slip past without a photograph of the month update. Either I am getting old and forgetful or just had too much on my plate (I am hoping its the later). Either way this update is both my June and July Photograph of the month (I will try not to forget August!).
The June photograph of the month was taken on my recent New Zealand South Island Masterclass (Read the Trip Report). We were driving from the small town of Fox Glacier to Greymouth on our last full day and had just left town after breakfast. We rounded a bend in the road when I noticed the wonderful cloud and mist swirling amongst the trees and mountains. We immediately pulled over for a drive by shooting session and the following image resulted. The great thing about this sort of cloud and mist is it is constantly changing as it swirls amongst trees and mountains. I made a number of different exposures over a period of perhaps two minutes, but this is the one that best captures the feeling and drama of Middle Earth. In print this image absolutely swings with wonderful delicate tones in the clouds, mist and trees.The July photograph of the month was taken on my Winter Svalbard expedition this March (Read the Trip Report) and is of the full moon rising over the snow and ice covered Arctic mountains. I almost missed this opportunity – or rather, it is perhaps more accurate to say I owe a debt of thanks to Chris who remained outside to watch for the rising moon whilst the rest of us went inside for a warming drink. We had waited outside for over an hour for the moon to rise and had all but completely given up when Chris came inside to alert us that the moon was finally making an appearance over the mountains (thank you Chris!).
I recently gave a short interview for Cody Shultz on my polar photography that has now been published online.
Tell us a little about yourself (who you are, where you are based, what you shoot, etc.)
I was born in Melbourne, Australia, but nowadays I spend most of the year overseas. As a specialist polar photographer, I am usually either down in Antarctica or up in the Arctic. I like to photograph in winter or on the cusp of winter the most. When temperatures are in the serious minus area and the snow is flying, that is when I like it the most. I do photography, both landscape and wildlife, but really think of myself first and foremost as a nature photographer working within a very niche genre of the polar areas.
How did you get into landscape photography?
I first developed an interest in landscape photography in my teens when I was doing quite a bit of rock climbing photography. It was a natural progression at the time, as photographing climbers put me out in nature and often in beautiful landscape environments. When I was growing up as a boy, my dad would also drag me around on weekends as he pursued an interest in his own photography.
What do you wish to convey with your imagery? How do you make sure your images convey this properly?
For me it is absolutely all about emotion. If I can successfully generate an emotional response in the viewer of my work, then I feel I have succeeded. Conveying emotion in a still photograph is a very difficult thing to do and the success rate is extremely low. You have to be your own harshest critic and be truly objective when editing your work.
I often ask myself – Is it really a great photography? Or is it just the best I was able to do on the day?
There is a very marked difference. Being objective about your own work is a real skill and being able to edit thousands of shots down to the one or two that are truly excellent is really critical to successfully conveying a message and emotion with your photograph.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is really a way for me to express my interpretation of the natural world as I see it. I am a firm believer in ‘in camera’ artistry. I do not do heavy manipulation, HDR, composites or heavy cloning work. My aim is to capture the natural world in its pure state. I have quite a detailed ethics statement on my website about postproduction and my photography.
I also have a deep and passionate love for the world’s polar regions. My photography is very much a vehicle for me to spend time in these areas. It allows me to work in an area that I am extremely passionate about. And if you are passionate about what it is you are photographing, then you absolutely always do your best work.
If you could only take one more picture, what do you think it would be of? How would you begin to make that decision?
It’s an easy decision for me – My kids.
What is more important: social media presence or in-person interactions?
I personally find much of social media hollow and lifeless. It can be a useful tool for client engagement, but I think overall social media has a lot to answer for. It has certainly spawned a culture of narcissism that I find destructive and detrimental to photography. In-person interactions are often far more constructive and are a far better tool for improving and growing as a photographer.
How do you recommend getting over G.A.S.? (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)
There really isn’t a better cure for GAS than actually getting out into the field and working with your gear.
Before I buy a new piece of gear I ask myself if it will really improve my photography, or if I would be better off working on my technique. It is almost always the latter that is better value for money. Far too many (and I mean the great majority) of photographers are hung up on having the latest and greatest gear; but they typically have little clue how to use it. Ask them to change F-stop or shutter speed with their eyes closed and many can’t do it.
The reality is that unless your camera controls are muscle memory and you can change them without thinking, then your brain is too busy being focused on being a technician instead of being an artist.
You have to learn the tools you have and learn them back to front, inside out, to free yourself from the technology so that you can be truly creative. If I have to learn a new camera every 6 months, that’s not a productive use of my time. If I can spend that time using a tool I know intimately and that is muscle memory for me to control, then I can focus on creating images and not on equipment.
Should artists sell prints?
It really depends on whether you want or need to monetize your photography. Selling work is one way to get it out into the world, but it’s not the only way and there are more efficient ways to share your work.
I get asked by photographers all the time how they can start selling their work and prints and my answer to them is always the same:
Why do you want to?
I think it’s an important question to answer, as trying to monetize ones passion can very quickly take the passion out of it.
I think it’s a good idea to simply start by making prints for oneself and for the sheer enjoyment of it. Share them with friends and family and start to get them out into the world. If people start asking to buy them, then you can worry about selling them as a going concern. In the meantime, print purely for the passion and love of it.
For me, the print is the ultimate expression of my photography. I never truly feel like I have finished with an image until I make a print. And the print is the legacy. The digital file is nothing more than 1’s and 0’s on a hard drive somewhere.
In terms of recommendations for printing…
It really depends on the output, the work, the intended audience etc.. Print size is also determined to some degree by the resolution of your file. If you are lucky enough to find yourself creating a show for a gallery then the gallery will know its clientele well and should be able to advise edition type, size and price to suit the local demographic.
You can read the full interview at Cody Shultz.