Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Bush Fly Sandwich

The flies are friendly in the Aussie outback. The 'Aussie Salute' is embedded in our traditions -the act of waving our hand across our face. But when the weather warms and the humidity rises  Australian bush flies multiply and swarm all over you. You wish you were the Valiant Little Tailor who killed 'seven in one blow' according to the Brothers Grimm.

Just recently I had a student who was like an Australian bush fly. Whenever I looked around she was there close by; questioning, quizzing, annoying. Why didn't she go away and take some photographs of her own.

On this particular day she was especially inquisitive and intense.
'Dale, can I walk with you and watch you'
'Where do you get your ideas.? Where do you get your inspiration? I can see nothing at all here.'
'How could you possibly find anything of interest here? Dale, where DO you get your ideas'

It was time to swat a fly, I thought.

I looked at her and smiled.
'I get my inspiration from people. People like you. Especially you'
Her mouth wrinkled a little at the corners of her mouth. She looked perplexed.

'Well, while you've been talking I've been looking. I've been looking and imagining. I fantasised that I was a bird flying low across that fallen tree trunk. The patterns in the tree trunk are a bit like a landscape.'

I photographed the tree trunk.
Then I asked her to stop talking and I shot my Aussie 'bush fly'.

There's a button on the D700 that you push and it squashes two photos together.
Sort of like a bush fly sandwich.

That was a few weeks back. Since then, my little buzzy bush fly has been buzzing less and shooting more and has sent me a couple of creative little photos.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Perfect Pooch Pics

'Sheez Dale, you are taking such boring photographs of these dogs'
That upset me.
Not just that I was getting a reprimand from my assistant Sam Oliver, but I knew she was right.
We had the gig to shoot the RSPCA Dog Calendar 'Here Boy'. I knew I had to try something different.

At a tiny roadhouse near Moora Sam found a rag and rubbed it on a cat strolling by and put it in a plastic bag (the rag not the cat).
At our next shoot at Morawa Sam dangled the rag with feline aromas in front of the pooch and immediately his tongue lolled out. Success!

Farmer and mate near Moora Western Australia

I then unleashed a new secret weapon, a high pitched belly-dancing yodel like call from deep in my throat


The dog's ears immediately pricked up and stood at attention.
I shot a half dozen frames.
I had already made sure we had catchlights in Fido's eyes to make them come alive.

We had developed a little formula to make sure that we were getting animated dog shots.



You can discover more secrets about shooting dogs in my Beginners Digital Workshop at UWA where I conduct a micro workshop on shooting dogs without getting bitten.
Click HERE for details.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Why Can't a Woman be More like a Camera

Is your camera a male or female?
Oh, you didn't know there was a difference?
Not all makes and models are the same; some have different knobs and buttons; some are much easier to use; and others are VERY expensive.

Just recently on Facebook I declared my passion for the Fujifilm X100. Yes, I've grown accustomed to her buttons and she is definitely a female. Miss X100 is sort of the Kylie Minogue of cameras. Small, petite, exciting, offends nobody and so talented.

Danielle/Voigtlander Bessa 1. Pic - Dale Neill 
On the other hand, Leica is sort of like the Joan Collins of cameras - Leica and Joan have both been around close to a century. Leica produces classic images as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel (or Miss Collins' tongue). Even ageing Leica bodies continue to increase in value and are prized by young collectors.

My work camera is a Nikon D700, reliable, super-fast, virtually indestructible, classy with great accessories; the Juliette Binoche of cameras.

On Facebook  a friend suggested that girls were more fun than cameras. I agreed but pointed out girls are more expensive and don't come with instruction manuals.

So why are cameras better than girls?
For a start I can go out walking with several cameras and nobody blinks an eye. When I go on holidays I often weigh my cameras and take the lightest - try doing that with girls!

On tour, when I pack my favourite two cameras in my bag and leave my trusty, old reliable Pentax 67 at home in a dark cupboard, does Miss Pentax get upset and weep. No way! She is there waiting for me when I return.

In the old days I would load up Miss Yashica Mat 124G (a cute Japanese model) with film and she would whir and click effortlessly. I got upset after I dropped Miss Y from my pushbike and she was damaged. After a little  TLC with a small screwdriver and a pair of multi-grips Miss Y was back in action. Miss Y still bears the scar of that bicycle accident today. Does she bear a grudge? - maybe just a little for her less than perfect appearance.

And when my current cameras start to fade a little; their shutters become sluggish; their sensors develop dust spots or sand crunches in their  zooms, none of them get upset when I start looking for a new camera. Try that with girls and you're dead meat!!

Perusing pages in a magazine or checking for new models on the internet, analysing the technical specifications I hear not a click of discontent. And when I acquire a brand shiny new Lumix FT4, the other cameras simply slide sideways in the cupboard and accommodate the shiny, new arrival.

I remember my first real camera when I was just 15 and i was totally inexperienced. I worked hard all summer holidays to buy Miss Hanimex C35. I sat there admiring her as I removed her from her protective wrappings. I was
nervous about touching her in case I broke something So many buttons and dials I'd never seen before. I didn't know which one to adjust first. Miss C35 was completely manual. Nothing automatic about Miss C35! I had to do everything manually to get her operating. The excitement in loading her with her first roll of Kodak Pan F film had me trembling.

With film there was no second chance. And I learned the hard way. One mistake with any adjustment and that was it. Disappointing results. Sometimes I never saw the results of my incorrect adjustment until two weeks later  ........  when the telephone went dead.

How to tell whether your camera is a female or male.

1. If the lens length is greater than the lens width; if your camera weighs more than your bag of pharmaceuticals and gives you a pain in the neck - your camera is almost certainly a male.

2. If your camera comes with a whole range of questionable accessories and a 450 page instruction manual you can't understand; if you put your camera on Auto and your viewfinder shows 356 focus points but the camera still can't decide what to make sharp, you probably own a female camera.


Bring your male or female camera to class and I'll explain what all the fuss is about in my next UWA Intermediate workshop. Discover Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual.
As a bonus I'll show you how to shoot lightning, fireworks and star trails. All females and males welcome.

Click HERE for details.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Walpole's Wild Women

Thirty clicks out of Walpole on WA's south coast our Toyota 4WD bogged. Despite all attempts by the other three macho guys and myself we couldn't budge the vehicle. It was cold, wet and windy; not ideal conditions for spending a night in the scrub

Then along comes this red truck with a load of women on board, offering to help us poor defenceless men. After getting assurances from them that word of our rescue would never get out we agreed to let them help us. They were a rag-amuffin bunch, ranging in age from early twenties to sixties. No make-up, tousled hair, looking like refugees from an ashram, they set about giving us some grunt with a tow rope and we were soon released.

They all came from the township of Walpole.  Every equinox and solstice they escaped their families and household chores and camped on this remote hilltop overlooking windswept cliffs and a  wild southern ocean. No fancy bungalows, they camped in the bush.

During our return trip to Walpole we four 'macho' guys could talk of nothing else but the Walpole's Wild Women. Back in  town we ran into a well known, local identity and asked him if he had heard about Walpole's Wild Women. He told us everybody knew of them but men were banned from the site. 'You should have stuck around' he whispered 'I hear they strip naked under a full moon, coat themselves in honey and roll down the sand-hills'

None of us believed him ........ but try telling our brains to stop thinking about it!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

New Zealand shows up Australia (again)

The Kiwis from the Land of the Long White Cloud have really showed us how to run an election campaign. 
After months and week's of Oz's painfulloy long, drawn out, nail bitingly, boring election campaign, New Zealand PM John Key's daughter, Parisian Art Student, Stephanie Keys has posed artistically, near-nude to promote famous Paris Design Week. This follows John Key's son posting his planking shots on the internet.

Sushi to Go

Go Kiwis! 
  http://bit.ly/17bPHgf   and  http://bit.ly/19mAmc7  

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Carla - Queen of the Murchison

Two weeks ago two busloads of photographers and artists rolled into the old gold mining town of Cue 650 kilometres north of Perth. I had a bit of a feeling of deja vu as we pitched tents in the Cue Caravan Park. Forty years earlier in 1974 I had led a bunch of 24 TAFE photography students from Mt Lawley Technical College to Cue and Daydawn for a week long photography excursion. How I returned with all 24 students alive is beyond me. At one stage three 17 year olds went missing. I found them at the bottom of a vertical mine shaft pushing an old rail trolley along in pitch blackness.

So here I was back in Cue; this time with a bunch of very respectable, mature age photographers and another bunch of even more respectable artists with easels and watercolours led by renowned watercolourist Ross Patterson.

While the painters painted, the photographers pixelated. We shot HDR and historical architecture in Cue's main street. This IS a street; wide enough to fit the MCG and Subiaco Oval side by side. You could probably land a 747 in the main drag, resplendent with wonderful old historical stone, wooden and galvanised iron buildings. Abandoned shops, the old bank of NSW, the Gentleman's Club, Police Station, Post Office and the Queen of the Murchison Hotel.

Above eye height, I noticed a small throng of people on the upstairs balcony of the Queen of the Murchison Hotel which is now a Bed and Breakfast  and upmarket Backpackers retreat. When we finished the workshop curiosity got the better of me and I wandered inside the front door of the old hotel, and then opened another closed door which rang a bell.

All was quiet when another 'Belle' sounded - a blonde Belle. Her eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed when she saw the 'intruder' - a slightly crumpled, dusty photographer with camera and tripod.

Carla - Queen of the Murchison - Cue - August 2013

'This is NOT a public thoroughfare. You can't come in here.'

A bit a f a jolt. Not exactly a warm north-west greeting. More like an icy nor-west blast.

'I'm sorry' I said (I've learned its best to make the mistake first, then apologise).
'I saw you standing on the balcony and would really love to photograph you.'
Her furrowed brow relaxed a little.
'Why?' she quizzed
'You've got such an interesting face. Are you the owner or manager here? This is such a lovely old building'
The thaw commenced. A watermelon sized smile started to emerge.
'I suppose so. I've been in the movies you know, when they shot a movie in Cue. And three years ago I was crowned Queen of the Murchison; my name is Carla.'
I shook Carla's hand.

I was starting to like Carla (especially when she didn't follow up 'My name is Carla' with 'and I'm here to help you'; or 'My name is Carla and I'm from Queensland')
I smiled back, 'Can I have a  look at the other rooms. I want to find some good lighting for your face'.
Carla danced down a  passage, through an atrium, passed her collection of Harley Davidsons, pausing briefly to sit astride her favourite HD Softail, then and into a olde worlde dining area.
'This would be great just here. The lighting is really good for you' I said.
She beamed.
'I was given a tiara when I was crowned Queen of the Murchison. Would you like me to wear my tiara?'
Now it was my turn to beam.
'Of course! A tiara would be perfect. After all, you are a Queen!'

ps The pub has no beer. But it does have Carla.
pss When I next visit Cue I'll be staying at the Queen of the Murchison. Hospitality guaranteed. By then they may have a liquor licence and I'll be able to order a Rum and Coca Carla at the bar.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

How stress affects your creativity

Can a photographer with enormous creative potential still be creative when stressed to the max?
Some photographers excel when the pressure is on, with deadlines to meet and budgets tighter than  a Botero girdle. They're the high octane brigade.

Over 20 years of photography teaching and tour leading I've noticed photographers seriously stressed with work, family or relationship issues struggle to produce artistic images.

Photography is usually a major interest. Their day job is in middle or senior management; long hours, pressures and low job satisfaction. 

They often join a tour with a head cold or extreme  tiredness. 
On tour, they spend the first week sleeping and recharging; week two they are back to shooting and by week three they are back to  creating and enjoying life.

Everyone, including photographers, need sufficient time to think, dream, create and play. 

Photography is more than buying an expensive camera. Its more than pushing a button or playing Photoshop. Photography is a love affair with life. 

For your chance to win AU$10,000 in cash and prizes enter the Fremantle International Portrait Prize. Last entries 8 July 2013.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

FORMAT - manipulation within the camera

There''s a whole breed of Gen Xs and Gen Ys who believe photographic manipulation started with the introduction of Photoshop in 1990.

Landscape mode makes an environmental portrait
I have news for Xs and Ys - Photographic manipulation started 187 years ago when Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the world's first photograph.

Portrait mode
Changing the camera height or angle alter the image. Change the lens and you alter the image again; swap the type of emulsion (film) you are using and the appearance changes dramatically. After the image was taken, if you changed developer strengths, chemistry, temperature and time you produced a wondrous array of results. We've have been manipulating images a long, long time.

'Russian' tilt for vitality
One of the simplest ways to change an image is to alter the format you are using. That is the length and breadth. It may seem too simple but it has a dramatic effect on the perception the viewer has of the subject.
3:2 standard 35mm film aspect ratio
4:3 TV format
2:1 Panorama
3:1 Super Pano
1:1 Square or Hasselblad format

 Panorama is preferred by many landscape aficionados. While the 1:1 is often the choice of high end portrait photographers.

Square format for universality and class
When you take a photograph of a person holding the camera vertically (portrait format) you are recording a typical head and shoulders portrait (like your passport). But, tip the camera on its side, and low and behold you now have an environmental portrait where the background is part of the narrative; a story telling mode!

Landscape photographers traditionally prefer landscape format and wide-angle lenses but using a vertical (portrait) format may suit the subject better and may also break the predictability of your shots. (less boring!)

Then, there's the 'Russian' tilt. This is where you tilt the portrait format 10-15 degrees to give the person some oomph! I tend to use it with teenagers and young business people but we could all do with a dose of oomph once in a while.
3:1 Panorama for classic landscapes

If you have a great portrait and would like to be in with a chance to win $10,000 in cash and prizes enter the prestigious Fremantle International Portrait Award. Entries close on 8 July 2013.

Or, if you would like three days of pleasurable torture in my Portraits - Memories Forever Workshop at the University of Western Australia Extension commencing 6 July, click HERE.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Another boring tip - Never change your angle!

A really good formula for taking consistently boring images is to use the same camera height, same aspect ratio and same camera angle that you always use.

So stand up straight, raise your camera to a height of 1.67 metres, use landscape format and keep your camera perfectly horizontal.

Nikon D700 24-70mm lens, 1/8s @ f4 3200ISO
If you have a portrait that is not deadly boring, consider emtering it into teh Fremantle International Portrait Prize 2013. With more than AU$10,000 in cash and prizes you could make it worthwhile. Click HERE for details. Entries close 8 July 2013.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Six things to improve your photography (that won't break the bank)

1. Use a genuine dedicated lens hood all the time (about $50)
This will reduce flare, improve contrast and colour saturation and make the image look sharper

2. Stand somewhere different ($0)
Stand on the same spot as everyone else while on holidays or on tour and guess what? Your photographs are bound to look more or less the same as everyone else's.

3. Shoot in the 'sweet spot' ($1.95)
Boring photographers tend to shoot between 10am and 3pm. Keen photographers like to shoot sunsets and sunrises along with the other 20 million keen photographers. Creative photographers will shoot in the 'sweet spots' between first light and sunrise or sunset and last light. There's a little app for your phone called Sunset and Sunrise by Peter Smith that works it all out for you.

4. Separate subject from background ($0)
Whether its a portrait, macro or wildlife shot there are three things you can do to make your subjects stand out from your background:
  • focus separation - use aperture wide open and a longer focal length lens
  • colour separation - example: pink subject and green background
  • tonal separation - example: light subject and dark background or vice versa
5. Treat your shutter button like a butterfly's wing ($0)
Too many people 'stab' at the shutter button resulting in camera shake.  As you shoot, STOP talking, STOP breathing and gently push the button like you were touching the wing of a  butterfly

6. The colour and the white ($0)
In portraiture the eyes have to be sharp. Don't just focus on the face or the eyes generally, focus on the line between the colour and the white of the eyes!

And if you would like a chance to win AU$5000 cash,a  new Nikon D800 camera, an Apple mini iPad or a GoPro Black Edition camera submit your best portrait to the Fremantle International Portrait Prize. Entries close 8 July 2013.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


If you enter into photography competitions regularly and you find that your best result these last three years was Third Prize in the East Widgemootha Royal Agricultural Show (Division Three) you just may have a problem.

It could be that your photographs are just so damn boring that they are giving the judges a dose of the ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzs.

If you're regularly entering sharp, head and shoulder  images of old men or old women from third world countries; guess what? So are half the population.

I've called this the BEG principle
When all else fails, BEG for a result!
Be Bold, be Emotional, be Graphic!

If you're timid, the chances are your subject will lack confidence and your image will have all the spice of reheated three day old porridge. Be BOLD, take risks, work on the edge, try quirky. You have lots of time to be shy and retiring after you die.

Tear jerking images that grasp your heart by the aorta valve and left ventricle are likely to work. The tear in the eye, the quiver of the lip, the wrenching of clasped hands. Emotion is much easier with two people because they can react to each other - pain, sorrow, loss, love, delight, flirtation, sadness. These all work.

I recently witnessed a portrait getting the highest score in a state wide competition for pro photographers. It was a portrait of a dog (amputee) sitting sadly on a stylish chair just in front of a framed family portrait of mother, father, two kids and the dog before the amputation. The judges were overcome with emotion. They pleaded the case for the three-legged hound and hypothesised on the fate of the family. 'Perhaps a car accident' ventured one judge. It was a damn fine image which brandished emotion like an 80 pound sledge hammer.

Take a long hard look at the lighting you are going to use. Remember the word 'Photography' comes from the Greek for writing with light; make it work for you! Get the image as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel.
Then power into the image with your favourite software to maximise the grain, textures and monochrome tones.

You could win $5000 cash or a Nikon D800 or a mini Apple iPad in the 2013 Fremantle International Portrait Prize! Check www.fremantleportraitprize.org.au for details. Just $15 enter. Entries close on 8 July.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Elevator Music

I once thought making eye contact was interlocking eyelashes. My dear Aunty Frieda put me right on that one before I started high school at Marist Brothers.

Do you make eye contact in a lift?

There you are standing shoulder to shoulder (or maybe face to face) with someone you have never seen before in your life. You can hear them breathing; you can smell their deodorant (or lack thereof); you might even be close enough to read the SMS on their mobile.

I've got to fess up here. When I get into an elevator I often study the people I'm sharing with and fantasise about being stuck there with them for 48 hours. In Cairo I once shared an eight person elevator with a dozen Egyptians at an ISO conference. Not photographers, these Egyptians all worked in the concrete industry. I discovered there were ISO standards for concrete as well as cameras. 48 hours jammed in a lift with 12 concrete workers would not have been my idea of a fun weekend. It would have been a long weekend. A very long weekend.

Mill Point Quartet

Lifts are such terribly boring places I thought this would be the perfect place to take a really deadly boring photograph.

So when I got to share an elevator today with Mill Point Quartet, an up and coming  string quartet from Perth, WA I thought that was a bit more appealing. In fact I cheated a bit. I invited them to share the lift. I first noticed this lift in His Majesty's car park in 2005. The walls are lined with dimpled stainless steel. I thought this would be great for bouncing flash around inside.

While Mill Point played Ravel's Bolero I took  a few shots. At each floor the doors opened and Mill Point entertained the waiting crowd before we continued our ascent. My next Creative Flash course is at UWA Extension in August 2014.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

How to microwave your camera

I'm sure you've all heard them ad infinitum - the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Mean, the Sunny f16 rule and so on and so on. There's a photographic rule for almost everything we do. It possibly all started with the Great Yellow Emperor, otherwise known as Kodak including a slip of paper in each roll of film telling the photographer what time of day to expose the film how to stand, the aperture to use and of course the sun needed to come over your left shoulder!

A 'rule' that has pervaded photographic circles for half a century is Never Use 400ISO or Higher. The warnings were dire - a massive infection of grain (or the digital equivalent of noise), degraded tonal values or being made to stand in the corner of your local camera club.

I'm not suggesting using high ISO all the time. Heaven forbid! But when the time and circumstances are right be brave enough to play with that ISO button and dISObey the rule. The only photographic rule i follow religiously these days is I never microwave my camera for longer than three minutes!

I shot the image here as part of my H2O series. It was taken at 8.38pm at night in January in the Swan River in Perth using a Nikon D700, 1/80 sec @f4 using a 24mm prime lens. (oops another rule broken - using a wide-angle lens for a portrait!) I used 4000 ISO. (Four thousand ISO).

For your chance to win a Nikon D800 or AU$5000 cash enter the Fremantle International Portrait Prize. Entries open on 5 May 2013 and close on 8 July 2013.

Friday, 26 April 2013

If you haven't ever had a multiple exposure you can't really call yourself a photographer

by Dale Neill

We're approaching two centuries since Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the world's first pic. And we'e enjoyed just over two decades of Photoshop. But just how long have photographers been manipulating images? The answer is easy - for as long as we've been making photographs. You don't need software to manipulate an image. You can do it right inside your camera (or for that matter inside your darkroom).

Manipulating really means 'changing' the image. So you can change how the image looks dramatically and easily by:

  • changing lenses
  • changing camera height
  • changing the aspect ratio
  • changing the shutter speed
  • changing the aperture
  • putting a filter on your camera
  • moving one metre to the right

In the early days of photography, photographers sometimes made a  mistake of 'double-exposing' an image because they cocked and fired the shutter without winding the film on. I had a student in the professional course in the early 1970s at Mount Lawley Technical College by name of Robert Frith. He approached me one day with a roll of developed black and white 35mm film and a furrowed brow and said 'What';s gone wrong?'.

I saw the problem straight away. 'Robert, you've loaded this film in your camera twice. All your shots are double exposed'
Was Robert worried? No way. his smile beamed and he just said 'Cool'

For the remainder of his Photography course Robert continued to experiment and double expose images. In 2013 Robert Frith is one of Western Australia's most successful and creative architectural and commercial photographers. 
A ten shot multiple exposure shot on a Nikon D700 in Egypt

Multiple exposure is the act of taking two or more images on the one frame. Not all digital cameras allow you to achieve multiple exposures but most of the high end DSLRs allow you to do it. I get far more pleasure manipulating the image in the camera than in Photoshop later. I guess because I like to think I'm more a photographer than a graphic designer or IT expert.

Another photographer who prides himself on his in-camera techniques is New Zealand Landscape photographer Mike Langford.  Mike is not only an outstanding landscape photographer but he's also an outstanding educator and nice guy to boot.

If you haven't ever had a multiple-exposure you can't really call yourself a photographer.

You can learn about multiple exposure techniques in my Advanced UWA Digital Course.

Or if you're feeling adventurous come camping with me under the stars in Outback Western Australia in the Photography and Art Tour of the Pilbara. Email me at outback@wildheart.com.au for itinerary and details.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Five things you should never take on a photo tour

by Dale Neill

I just counted 127 articles on what to pack for a photographic holiday. Jeez - some included so much you'd need  a team of Sherpas or a Kenworth to carry the gear. So let's get down and dirty here, what things should you NEVER EVER take on your next photo tour.

5. Coming in at no 5 is your gold watch. Or for that matter any gold jewellery. You already look like a millionaire in a third world country because you flew in an aeroplane and are staying in a hotel. There's no need to rub it in. Besides, if you want to mark yourself for a bout of pick-pocketing wearing a gold watch is the same as mounting a red flashing light on your head.

4. At No 4 is extra clothing. Who in their right mind would bring 6 pairs of trousers and 24 shirts!! I kid you not. I've had someone on a tour recently who bought a clean shirt for each day we were away. He's obviously never heard of laundries en route. You need to learn the 4-way underpants technique. Undies can be worn the normal way, back the front, inside-out and inside-out back-the-front.

3. Your mother-in-law. (Unless of course she can carry all your photo gear, clean DSLR sensors and wrestle Bolivian border guards)

2.  It hurts me to say this but leave your chocolate at home - especially if you are in a hot country. Choccies and jelly beans left in pockets make an amazing pattern when mixed with your memory cards. Sort of psychedelic photography.

1. An ethnocentric attitude. That's when you compare everything you see in far off places to home. The toilets are dirtier than home, the coffee's not as good as home, the traffic is worse and the people don't speak English!

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

Join me in one of my UWA Extension courses and learn what gear to take!

Then put it into practice and join John Harman and me for a tour to Turkey and Spain in September 2013

     Photo: Helen Newnham

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Just Add Water

by Dale Neill

We all know that cameras and water don't mix all that well, especially if its salt water. In a 50+ year career three of my cameras have gone to water graves. They all had burials at sea.  None ever worked again.

But adding water to people is something else. Its a bit like sprinkling fairy dust on your subject, They become alive, they act differently and most importantly they look different.

Whether they be on, in, under or through water the visual effects can be dramatic and surreal especially if you understand how slow-synch flash operates.

You can learn all about  in my Creative Flash Techniques UWA Extension Course on 21 April 2013. They are just handful of places left.

Then, when you think you've got the shot try entering the Fremantle International Portrait prize for your chance to win $5000 cash first prize.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Bird on Stick (BOS)

by Dale Neill

Along with the most famous of all boring images - red roses in middle of frame and sunsets with no foreground and a burnt out yellow ball along comes the categories of most boring wildlife shots - the infamous 'Bird on Stick' (BOS) shots.

The point here is that ANYBODY can photograph a Bird on Stick (like a stuffed bird). Not many people can successfully photograph a bird in action.

Bird on Stick images remind me of Donald Trump. He said 'Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make'. Sometimes the best decision in bird photography is not to press the shutter.

So many big game shooters, armed with 400mm lenses and 5FPS cameras feel so proud of shooting a BOS. Unfortunately, they become so common place that they drive judges to drink.

So lets examine the most boring bird shots and give them a score adjustment. So whatever score is given for the image, the adjustment is then made.

  • Bird on Stick (BOS)     -5
  • Bird on Rock (BOR)    -4
  • Bird on Water (BOW)  -3 
  • Bird in Nest (BIN)         0
  • Bird in Flight (BIF)       +1
  • Two Birds in Flight (2BIF)   +2
  • Two birds in Foreplay (2B4P) +3
  • Two Birds Mating (2BM)   +4
  • Bird in Flight with food in beak (BIFWF) +2
  • Adult Bird feeding Young (ABFY) +3

Perhaps, when you are on your next bird shooting expedition and you see the classic 'BOS' you may think twice and pursue something a little more adventurous.

Learn how to use the creative and manual controls on your camera in Dale Neill's UWA Intermediate Digital workshop. Also, during this class Dale gets you to do a night shoot, learning how to photograph lightning and fireworks (but definitely no BOS's!!!).

Thanks to Peter Lambert and Nye Evans for inspiring me to write about BOS!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Would Australia be better off?

by Dale Neill

If this Congo Caravan could tell its story!

Caravans are a little like sausages (mystery bags). They are small, hide mysterious objects and filled with sentimental stories.

As a boy, my parents towed an old plywood caravan and parked it alongside the lagoon in Mandurah. That was when Mandurah was a faraway distant mysterious location. No toilets, no running water, no electricity. My mum caught whiting in the lagoon and fried them in butter in the frypan on a kerosene burner.

An old minimalist, artist friend of mine,  Beth Kirkland had a theory. She suggested if you want to see if you can co-exist with someone, try living in a caravan for six weeks with them. I've never tested the theory but I can see that it would be a little like swallowing truth serum.

Would Australia be better off if  Julia Gilliard and Tony Abbott shared a caravan for six weeks?

What's all this got to do with photography?? Well, I'm not much of a fan of HDR (High Dynamic Range) but when texture is involved and the light is flat I sometimes try it, like in this image. Using HDR is a little like peeling back the layers of the paintwork and revealing the stories. The critical decision is not to allow technology to lead the artist by the nose, but to match the treatment and technology to the process.

Back in the 80s I towed a caravan and took a wrong turn and was forced to back the caravan for a kilometre up a country road. I vowed never to tow a caravan again. I've kept that vow. My next goal is to get Julia and Tony into that caravan in Congo.

Want to learn about HDR? Join me in my next UWA Advanced Photography course. http://www.extension.uwa.edu.au/course/CCNP023