Playing with light and shadow in a friend’s guest room a few weeks back. You know how it is. Sleepy afternoons, naptime, a camera on your hands and time to kill. The ultra-wide end of my Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L II USM makes for some interesting angles in a small-ish room. I really miss it in my hotel here, where I am frequently at similar loose ends…
Down at the waterfront in Ballina, I snapped this shot of this father coaching his young daughter in taking photos of the sunset. She was very enthusiastic, and spent the better part of the evening scampering around taking pictures. With any luck a budding addition to the photographer’s fellowship…
I’m usually a bit cautious about taking photos of children in the current climate, especially strangers. There’s nothing threatening about this image, but a guy walking around with a camera taking shots of kids isn’t always welcome, so I try and be sensitive to that. In this instance, I was seated with friends out the front of a cafe, as were this family. I tried to catch the father’s eye after I’d taken a couple of shots, just to check he didn’t mind me taking photos, and giving him the chance to look at them if he was bothered, but he took a phone call on his cell and didn’t give me a chance. In any event he didn’t seem particularly worried, which is nice. Nonetheless, sadly, it’s something I’m very aware of any time I take out the camera in public these days.
The sun goes down over the Ballina Estuary.
Victoria’s drought is no secret. Since I got back to Melbourne in late December, the state has averaged less than about 2cm (1 inch) of rain. Our water storages are at about 30%, 5% lower than the same period last year, and dropping at a rate of about 0.5% per week. It’s the lowest level displayed on the record, which starts in 1997, but as far as I know we’ve never been this low before. We’re in stage 3a water restrictions, and gardens are dying out across the state. Flying in to Melbourne airport, the landscape is yellow-brown from horizon to horizon.
The morning after Mike & Lisa’s wedding in sub-tropical New South Wales was mild and damp, and a wet grey rain fell in a refreshing shower that hissed on vibrant green leaves and left the atmosphere singing with moist droplets. For this Victorian, it was like taking a deep breath of cool, clean air. Invigorating and nostalgic. How we could do with a nice downpour here in Melbourne…
My friends Mike and Lisa got married a few weeks ago. I’ve known Mike for a couple of years now, and last year he and I shared a house in a small town in northern Papua New Guinea. He was instrumental in getting me under the water. I met Lisa through Mike. Lisa’s a writer, which is something I aspire to be, and a TCK, which is something I am and can’t do anything about, so we have an uncanny amount in common for two people who corresponded for nearly a year but only met face-to-face for the first time two days before the wedding.
Mike and Lisa invited me to take photos at the wedding. They already had a wedding photographer, which is good, because firstly, I can’t take posed portraits, and secondly, the idea of taking photos at anybody’s wedding is thoroughly terrifying. The thought of ruining somebody’s precious memories because my skills aren’t up to scratch is depressing at best. The thought of doing it at a friend’s wedding makes me sick to my stomach. But Mike and Lis just wanted me to take some photos around some of the events where the photographer wouldn’t be. I was still pretty hesitant, having never done this sort of photography, having never taken photos because I’ve been asked to before, and because there was definitely some pressure to perform on top of it all.
In the end, the experience was a good learning for me. I used my Canon 5D, which I’d used on perhaps three shoots prior to the weekend of the wedding, so there were definite teething problems associated with what the camera and lenses could and simply could not do, and what this photographer also could and could not do. I certainly didn’t come up with any award-winning shots. My approach, as is usual with any portraits I have the courage to shoot, was to stand on the sidelines and try and capture moments and expressions that I thought the bride and groom might like to remember. I was in the wedding party, so clearly the ceremony itself (not to mention the photos afterwards) were right out. I did most of the work with my 85mm f/1.8, a fantastic portrait lens that gives razor-sharp depth-of-field, and rocks my world in low-light settings. Not all the shots were as sharp as I wanted, which was mostly photographer’s error focussing on the wrong point of somebody’s face. But I ended up getting a few images I was quite pleased with, and I hope a few that Mike and Lisa will enjoy one day.
That said, I have no plans to start hiring myself out for future ceremonies, so don’t come a-knocking.
Incidentally, the wedding shoot itself was every photographer’s dream. After the ceremony, we went down to a nearby beach for the ‘formal’ shots (which I was a part of and therefore couldn’t actually take any shots of). The sky was broken with mixed evening cloud, and the sun was just breaking through at a sharp angle, but watered down by the haze. The sky was filled with dramatic, foreboding shapes, cracked by light and colour and texture. The light was just perfect to highlight the subjects (us) without washing out features or casting long ugly shadows, and the sky had so much interest that it made a wonderful backdrop that would still stay well within the dynamic range of the sensor. I actually thought the photog was going to pass out from overstimulation…
Sunrise viewed from the house I was staying at in Ballina last weekend. Perched atop a hill overlooking the ocean, it had one of the most beautiful aspects of any property I’ve stayed in. The sunrise didn’t have much cloud to catch the colour, but the view itself was perfect and the orange light speaks for itself.
I’ve framed the sun against strands from some grassy bush to add a little interest. The reflection is in the river running through the narrow strip of land between the hills and the seashore, and I like how the underexposure has given it a texture of its own. Shallow depth of field (wide aperture) has thrown the background out of focus and kept the nearest strands nice and sharp.
Hope you all have a lovely weekend.
I spent last weekend with friends in Ballina, a small holiday town on the northern coastline of New South Wales. It’s a delightful, peaceful little place, and I spent the time eating, drinking, and hanging out with great people. And taking the odd photo, of course.
We had dinner on the waterfront one night. It’s a wide estuary, and by the marina is a walkway lined with lamp-posts. When taking shots of a skyscape or sunset, it’s usually a good idea to have something of interest in front of the view, just to offset it. Usually something simple that won’t take away from the drama (although people can work too), and often in silhouette. These lamps were a perfect subject- simple enough not to distract, but with enough interest to offset the colour and texture of the sky.
It was an exquisite sunset. From the moment we arrived while the sun was still up, the sky was full of contrasting feathery cloud, and we already knew it was going to be a good one. I shot the first photo within a minute or two of rocking up at the waterfront. I then spent the next half hour reeling off about fifty frames as the light gradually changed, and they’re nearly all pretty dramatic to look at. The clouds soaked in the sun’s rays as the spectrum shifted, and the sky turned from blue, to yellow, to orange, and finally ended up as wisps of pink and magenta against a navy-blue backdrop. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
These two images are from either end of the spectrum- one of the first shots I fired off, and one of the later ones when the dusk was in full-swing. I’m looking in opposite directions, and I just happened to frame them in reverse, so the balance sort of works too. You can get a bit of a feel for the evening. And the nicest thing? The sunset wasn’t a patch on the company.