Thursday, 20 December 2012

Better than an orgasm

by Dale Neill

'Everyone up by 3.30am. See you in the morning'
Groans, moans 'It'd better be good' ... more moans and groans.
'This isn't a holiday, this is photography', I say
'You haven't come all this way to take a tourist shot!'

We're in the south of Egypt, after two days drive across the desert; here we are on the edge of the Great Sea of Sand, a half day camel ride from the Libyan border. We are a  long way from the Nile. Talking of camels, we've all done the obligatory camel ride that afternoon. We have a better understanding about the schoolboy book title The Hundred Mile Camel ride by Major Bumsore!

Siwa is a tiny oasis town that Egypt and time almost forgot. The Egyptian Government did forget! Paved roads are a novelty, so is electricity and running water. My taxi is a  donkey cart driven by an entertaining  14 year old year old boy called Gomer. He beats his donkey repeatedly with a heavy stick. I ask him to stop hitting the poor donkey. He smiles and ignores me. I then tell him that if he doesn't stop I will get out of his 'taxi' and not pay him.Gomer beams a happy smile  'Its alright, its retreats from beating his donkey and taps her lightly instead.

Every woman  in Siwa is shrouded in a full burka. Its near impossible to see any part of the face let alone make eye contact. My one attempt to photograph a woman results in me being threatened by a teenage boy with a wooden club. I avert a confrontation when an adult shouts in Arabic and warns him off.

Because of Siwa's isolation there are rumours  inbreeding has created problems. I spot a number of kids in the back streets who give credence to the theory. The village elders have decreed a twice annual festival where young people from faraway towns meet for games and 'cultural exchanges' in a  quest for better cross breeding.

Next morning its dark and minus 4 degrees C. My photographers huddle around the 4WDs with their cameras and tripods. Our Bedouin divers fancy themselves as a cross between Juan Manuel Fangio and an extra from Lawrence of Arabia. 

Fifteen minutes later we are hurtling through pyramid-sized dunes at breakneck speed in pitch black. Egyptians believe its an insult to drive with lights on! When we stop I inspect the surface with my petzel light and say 'No, too many tracks. I want NO tracks. Let's go.'

We surge. I have no idea where we are or what direction we are going. As long as I'm on the Egyptian side of the border I'm not worried. We drive and swerve and slide in the sand another fifteen minutes all in darkness
'Stop here, this is it!' I yell.

The sky has brightened from starry black by only a quarter of a stop. I still can't see my hand in front of my face. Its time to find a position. Walking in fresh blown dunes is akin to walking in thigh-high viscous honey. Six steps forward results in moving just half a metre. In 10 minutes I'm breathless; my heart's racing and I'm using my tripod as a crutch.

Forty minutes later the 'big star' shoots rays above the rim of the dune. From the valleys between the dunes the moans and groans are replaced with shrieks of delight and 'Oh My God'. I here shutters clicking in the stillness. Someone calls out 'This is better than an orgasm'.
I adjust for a hyperfocal distance shot.
1/10 sec @ f22 200ISO, Nikon 12-24 lens, Fuji S3 Pro

Learn how to get everything sharp from 0.5 meter to infinity in my UWA Intermediate course in 2013.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

No gifts by request

by Dale Neill

Weddings are funny things. I guess I've shot about 500 odd weddings in my life with the emphasis on odd. Weddings are days of high emotion and ,,,,   sometimes high drama.

I once photographed a wedding where the celebrant was a self-confessed witch, but a nice lady witch. She wore purple robes with gold sashes, got the happy couple to jump over swords and sprinkled magic sawdust on their heads. It became interesting when I learned the bride was an adviser to one of the country's leading federal femaIe pollies. It became even more interesting when I learned later that my lovely lady witch was in fact a man. I only ever shot one witch wedding.

Over four decades lots of things have changed about weddings - the fashions, the style, the photographs and the locations. But one thing remains constant - the madness. All brides seem slightly less sane on the day they marry. Its almost a pre-requisite. And its not just due to the quantity of champagne they have tucked away in the lead-up.

Highly intelligent women, bristling with confidence, organizational skills and creative ideas seem suddenly to have overdosed on 'silly' pills. The first sign of this madness is a complete loss of the concept of time. Either time no longer exists or they believe the earth has stopped rotating for their wedding day.

So when I wrote my 'Survival Guide for the Once-Off wedding Photographer' I listed time-management as a key skill. Not only does the photographer and assistants have to have a battle plan, they must be clever enough and convincing enough to coerce the bride and groom into the plan. This starts three moths out from M day!

That's not the case here at all. No, I didn't remarry, in fact its not even a wedding and not even a  bride. Please no gifts by request.

I took the pics on 11-12-2012 the day before the earth will end. This is my lovely neighbour who was having an end of earth, fancy-dress party for her work mates. She found a 'never used' wedding dress at Good Sammy's for $60 and her outfit was ready. ( 'wedding dresses - never used'  - there must be story or two!)

If you want to know another way to make money from photography (apart from selling all your camera gear) join me on 17 August 2013 for 'So You Want to Turn Pro' at UWA Extension. (note: not yet open for bookings but place your name on the waiting list)