Friday, 26 December 2014

Boring Lenses = Boring Photographs

If there's one lens that guaranteed to put you, your camera and viewer to sleep its the ubiquitous 18-
55 zoom.

Nikon and Canon both make them as 'kit' lenses. They'd be better described as 'Kitsch' lenses.

Made exclusively of ground-up, me.ted down plastic throw-away drinking cups these  lenses are so soft and so slow Kodak's 100 year old Box Brownie leaves them drowning in its wake.

Sure, they area great price when you buy them as a 'kit' but little do you know that you would get better results footing through the bottom of an empty Coke bottle.

Trade in your beloved 18-55mm zoom and before you have reached your car with your new lens the shop owner has deposited your beloved 18-55 in the bin; destined to be more useful as bio-degradeable land fill.

Not only is that lightweight plastic amorphous lump not sharp but its also incredibly S-L-O-W. With a maximum aperture of just f3.5 it lets pass only 1/6 the amount of light that a 50 year old f1.4 lens passes. And we call this progress!

I suggested to a mature age student that she lash out and purchase a 50mm lens. A week later she called me to query why her 18-55 had suddenly become so 'fuzzt'. I explained, as diplomatically as possible, that her 18-55 lens had ALWAYS been unsharp. Only by comparing results with her new 50mm f1.4 prime did the penny drop.

So, a sure-fire way to produce incredibly boring images is to persevere with that 18-55mm zoom.

Sharpen your lens  and get camera ready for 2015 with a Dale Neill photography workshop at UWA Extension. Click HERE for details.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Photographer or Camera Owner?

Are you a Photographer or merely a Camera Owner?

Photographers can spot Camera Owners a mile away.

How can you spot a mere Camera Owner?

  • No lens hood
  • 18-55mm zoom lens max aperture f3.5
  • Too scared to use 1600ISO or 3200ISO
  • Follows Great Yellow Emperor guidelines of sun over left shoulder
  • Has never used 1/4sec, hand-held, at night
  • Looks like a tourist
  • More interested in eating and drinking than making images
  • Takes 30 seconds to take a simple street shot
  • Thinks Cartier-Bresson is French bicycle builder
  • Chats to husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend instead of looking and shooting

Fujifilm X10, 1/4 sec f2 1600ISO fl7.1mm. Naughty Nuris, Ubud, Bali

Its easy to be a Camera Owner. You simply walk into any camera shop or online with your credit card and 20 minutes later you are a 'Camera Owner'. You can ever become a more accomplished camera owner by buying more lenses, bodies, flashes and gizmos. You can go further by being a 'Posh' camera owner with expensive Leicas, Rolleis and Hassleblad cameras. This still does not make you a photographer.

To be a photographer you need to love photography with a  passion. You eat, sleep and think photography. You love light. You study light. You appreciate technical developments but your life does not rely on them solely. You don't copy other photographers work or go and visit the identical location. You think for yourself. Your heart beats to a different drum. 

The Seductress and The Man with the Hammer

My Seductress appears in many forms. She is beautiful, alluring, impossible to resist.
She appears as the Nikon advertisement in National Geographic or the full page advertisement for a photographic tour of Provence in a glossy magazine.

The Seductress is at her best when I unpack my new Nikon D4 camera body or click my the virginal 300mm prime lens onto the body for the first time. Its like a betrothal, a coming of age.

On every road in the photographic journey, in every state, in every country the Seductress appears from behind a tree or around that sunlit  curve in the road. She beckons me coquettishly with beckoning finger 'Come photograph me'.

As the journey wears on I review my insipid, sterile images. Have I  been beguiled by the Seductress? My images aren't sharp, many are overexposed. How did that cow's head get into my picture. I thought the ETTL system would give me a perfect pic every click. The horizon is crooked. My lens is dusty and covered in fingerprints. The Man with the Hammer has arrived. He belts my images for six! He tells me the images are rubbish, that I have wasted my time and money. The Seductress has won.

I try hard not to listen to The Man. My neck aches with the weight of 4kg of camera and lens; my camera bag weighs twice what it did this morning and a bull ant has left twin red towers on my bott-bott. The voice of the Seductress comes from afar ........ the Man is getting closer. I feel his breath fogging my lens with insidious pessimism, 'Why not try lawn bowls', he says.

Just as the Man with the Hammer is about to strike a lethal blow, like a gladiator in the Colloseum I see an image. A motor scooter rounds a bend on a  narrow road. Shouts of 'Selamat Sore!' greet me. In an instant my right eye locks to the viewfinder and I shoot. One shot. Just one shot is all it takes to force back the Man with the Hammer.

In a smokey dusk I walk home.  I feel like a caveman, club over shoulder delivering a dead warthog to the wench who shares my cave.

Bring your Canon, Nikon or Club, leave your Man with the Hammer at home  and meet my Seductress at a UWA Extension Workshop.
Click HERE for details.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Its Holga not Helga

Two or Three times every week I receive an email or tel call with the same question,

'Which camera should I buy?'
And I answer with another question.
'Which car would you suggest I buy?'
How many of us in life buy the 'vehicle' before we know where we are actually going.
An E Type Jag is possibly not the best choice for a Pig Shooting/Beer Swilling soirée up the Duncan Highway or traversing the Great Sandy Desert with your pregnant girlfriend in mid-Aussie-summer.
So I pose these questions
  • What is subject matter for 90% of your photos?
  • What do you aspire to achieve photographically in 2015/2016
  • How much use does camera get?
  • Do you do any rough, dusty, watery travelling?
  • What is your end result – pics on screen, books, enlargements on wall etc
  • Do you enter exhibitions, competitions?
  • Software you use?
  • How is your eyesight? Wear specs? 
  • Budget

ps You could end up with a Holga.
That's Holga; please don't confuse with
Helga. (Helga's the exotic Russian dancer who wants to exchange her language skills for a marriage certificate and an Aussie passport.)

For sneak preview of my 2015 Photography Workshops click HERE.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Are you addicted to Faffing?

There's only one group that gets on my sheep (goats have had a rough trot) more than the person with a coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, who opens their car door in front of my speeding bicycle ....
Who are they you ask?
They're the photographic fiddlers and faffers.
The perennial procrastinators.
The delusionists.
The armchair theorists.
They prefer to discuss lens quality, RAW v JPEG and optical paths and 'look at the size of my lens' rather than taking the blessed pic
Heavens to Betsy!
Frame it, focus and fire! Don't faff around

To cure your addiction to Faffing click HERE

Saturday, 15 November 2014


OXFORD DICTIONARY'Serendipity'The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: 'a fortunate stroke of serendipity'

A dozen years ago I was lounging on the deck of a Greek ferry between Amorgos and Tinos. Through squinty eyes I noticed a girl sitting on a bench seat. Gabrielle was French and was a little bashful when I asked to photograph her.
'Why?' she asked'Because I've never photographed a French girl before and you remind me of Juliette Binoche''
My baby plastic Ricoh FF1 on HP5 did the rest.
Three days later I'm leading a night seascape workshop with my tour group. In the distance I see Gabrielle  swimming with her boyfriend. Serendipitous. Damm the seascape!'Hi Gabrielle, do you remember me?'"Yes, from the ferry, I remember. This is my boyfriend'.'Can I get another shot of you here. Kissing your boyfriend'This time her boyfriend looks a little bashful.But they are French.
I'm a great believer in serendipity in life and photography. Sometimes, serendipity just needs a little helping hand.
Need a little serendipitious photographic inspiration? Click HERE.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Shooting Black Dogs

A man hasn't lived until he's had the love of a horse, a dog and a good woman

We love taking photographs of things we love - new borns, cats, dogs and sunsets. We love our dogs and cats so much that we forget about all the distractions. We put our dog on a red rug, have a post growing out of his head or take the pic when he's sound asleep.

Dogs look great when:
  • their ears stick up (some models are floppy)
  • their tongues hang out (all models have tongues
Its 40 degrees in the shade. Tess, with aircaft restorer/owner in York, Western Australia
To get ears up, learn a high pitched call or whistle but use sparingly. For a lolling tongue food can work but a rag that's been wiped on a cat and stored in a plastic bag works wonders.

A couple of other tips for shooting your favourite hound:
  • active shots are winners - at the beach running through the water
  • shoot on high speed continuous
  • shoot the relationship between dog and owner
  • if its a black dog, wet his coat 
To leran the tricks of photographing dogs join my Practical Photography Beginners Workshop. Bring your own camera, we supply the dog.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Budapest-Croatia-Dalmatian Coast 2015

Image: Andrea Boldizsar

Budapest-Croatia-Dalmatian Coast 2015

Photography and Cultural Tour

Information Evening: Wed 27 Aug 2014 6.30pm


Friday, 22 August 2014

Is your Photography Teacher robbing you of Your Creativity

Would you book a flight on a passenger airline flown by an amateur pilot?
Would you choose a heart surgeon who had done a one-day course in triple bypasses?

Probably not.

'It's a matter of life and death' you'd say. However, choose the wrong photography teacher and you will only lose money and waster time. 

Or worse .... your creativity may wither and die on the vine.

Recently I sat in on a 'Beginner's Class' run by a professional photographer with numerous international accolades and a prestigious reputation. (I can vouch for the fact she is a highly skilled and passionate photographer.)

But .....

In the first 15 minutes of session one of her 'Beginner's Course' she had numerous formulae on a screen visual explaining the relationship between focal length, aperture and the diameter of the opening of the diaphragm. Half of the audience of 60 people had compacts and wanted to know how to switch their camera on. The one's with DSLRs were scratching their heads. Three hours later not one member of the audience had taken a single picture. (I was checking sunset and last light times on my iPhone app and calculating if I had enough time to fit in a beer before dinner.)

Perhaps her advertising should have read


Here are some sample snippets from photography teachers, schools and shops:

Perfect portraits - how to get Perfect Portraits every shot
(lead article in well-known magazine)
I'd enrol in this course myself if it delivered that outcome.

Become an expert on your DSLR in just two hours
(sign in camera shop window)

How to use a DSLR like a Pro Photographer
1. Read the camera manual
(Online course in photography)

How to make money from photography
(You pay $295 to find out)

Digital Photography revealed in plain simple English
(online course)

How YOU can start your Photography Business, generate 6 figures in your first year and live your passion for photography everyday!
Do those six figures include cents?

Photograhing Humpback Whales (sic)
(authors haven't yet discovered spellcheck)

Nikon School – Enroll now (sic)
tut tut Nikon

Outback Dessert Odyssey Photography Tour
For photographers with a sweet tooth

How to become a professional photographer
Tip 1: Focus on your photograph  
     That sounds perfectly reasonable

Karl Taylor Photography Masterclass
Our starter photography course inlcudes (sic) our "Introduction to Photography Course", "Travel & Landscape Photography Course" & "Advanced Digital Photogaphy (sic) Course
Sounds a little ambitious for a starter course
I wonder if Lesson 1 is how to spell Photography

Creativity in Photography: Learning how to see
I usually open my eyes
     I'm not sure if this includes a free white stick and seeing-eye dog

We would love to teach you how to take fantastic photos
I like this one!


* Kate assisted me shooting the RSPCA Dog Calendar. She told me I was taking boring photos of dogs. So Kate rubbed a rag on a  cat to make the dogs' tongues loll and we practised a whooping whistle to make their ears stand to attention.

'Ammo' - half dog, half dingo was rescued, almost dead by 17 year old Mark. Geraldton W. Australia 

Here are some thoughts on how to avoid being voted the world's most boring photographer 2014
Click HERE to see the video.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Are film cameras dead - or just in a coma?

Kiwi girl in Cappadoccia, Turkey. Nikon D90
Did you think film cameras were dead?
Admit it. The last time you checked Aunty Nance's Kodak Retinette 1A, it wasn't breathing, was it. There's a rumour circulating that film cameras aren't dead at all, not quite; they've been on life support for a few years. But they are just coming out of their decade-long camera coma.


That secretive  scrambling noise coming from the shed or the spare room mightn't be a burglar. It could be your grandson or granddaughter looking for your old Box Brownie or Pentax K1000. Gen Ys are getting interested in old things - not you, but old cameras and film  It makes a change - let's put down the X Box and pick up the K Box. (The Kodak Box Brownie)

Pentax 67 is a little like a 35mm SLR on steroids

The owner of my local camera shop, Camera House in Fremantle, reports a surprising surge in high school students bringing in rolls of exposed film; returning filled with anticipation and excitement to pore over those strange orange negatives. The delayed reward makes an interesting shift away Gen Ys demand for 24/7 instant satisfaction  Maybe film isn't dead after all. Maybe its just been on life support or in a deep trance awaiting the kiss of a beautiful princess. Perhaps you could turn your sleeping film camera into a handsome, virile carrier of mass inspiration.

Farmer's wife, Toodyay. Pentax 67.

Is film forever? Possibly not. But I suspect that film might be more 'forever' than digital.  I haven't lost too many negs in 50 plus years but I've certainly lost a  few digital images. There's something reassuring about looking at and touching an image as a negative. Its even better to turn over an old black and white print and read the inscription on the back in faded handwriting.

If you don't own a film camera, here's a good place to start. Here's a list of tested, tried and true cameras. The ones marked + are medium format and are capable of producing scanned digital images 200MB-500MB. Now, you don't get that in a digital camera.

My thirteen top film cameras (not in any particular order) 

  • Nikon F3
  • Nikon F100*
  • Canon FTb*
  • Canon AE-1
  • Pentax 67* +
  • Pentax K1000
  • Rollei 35S
  • Leica M6
  • Hasselblad SWC +
  • Rolleiflex TLR +
  • Olympus A11
  • Ricoh GR1
  • Yashica Mat 124G* +

+ medium format 120 roll film
* cameras I own and use

Are you an explorer and adventurer?
Exploring Film Cameras is the next best thing to being a  focus puller on the set of  The African Queen alongside Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Stand still, its photography. Keep moving, its art.

Tunnel in Turkey
My annual injection of culture tonight - Australian Chamber Orchestra at the Perth Concert Hall playing Shostakovich, Dvorak and Lutoslawski. I reckon if you can pronounce them you deserve a B+ for starters.

Back in '66 my Italian mate Frank suggested I was culturally lacking.
So I started eating yoghurt.
That didn't seem to work too well.
So I bought a camera. Things started picking up.

If you stand still, its photography.
If you keep moving, its art.

If your subject moves and you move, that's even better.

Avoid being too safe, like a barge in the Thames. You'll never capsize or sink. You'll stay moored forever, in the one spot, with barnacles growing on your bottom.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Twenty signs you're ageing as a photographer

  1. Learning a  shortcut to the toilet is more important than 
    Helena & Jim at Monart Fine Art Gallery
    a shortcut in Lightroom
  2. Each time you pick up your camera you check the lens for accumulated dust
  3. Your wife complains  how many lens caps and memory cards have gone through the wash
  4. You can't remember how many lenses you own
  5. Rough camping means a B & B with an American breakfast
  6. You state publicly that mobile phone photos are rubbish but secretly take photos with your iPhone
  7. You're still waiting for your 35mm Film DSLR to come back into vogue
  8. You only get low angle shots after you've tripped over your own camera bag
  9. Your camera club meeting is your major monthly social outing
  10. You got your best high angle shots after eating your granddaughter's marijuana cakes
  11. Everything aches - and you've only picked up your camera bag
  12. You're not sure whether to use your single focus, bi-focals or multi-focals
  13. When travelling, your medical kit is bigger than your camera bag
  14. You discover that the middle-aged man in your photo is actually your son
  15. Granddaughter asks 'Graddo, why are you taking so long to take a photo? This is boring' 
  16. You can't use a remote release because it interferes with your pacemaker
  17. You open a bottle of champagne because 1 of your last 592 flower shots is sharp
  18. Friends keep asking you to bring your camera to funerals to take a few shots
  19. You buy a camera with a  GPS so you can find your way home
  20. You dream about prunes

Stop the ageing process and rejuvenate your photography with a Dale Neill UWA Photography Workshop.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Guest appearance: Marilyn Monroe

I was on assignment shooting the RSPCA Calendar 'Here Boy - Men and their Dogs'.  Paul ('Mr August') lived on a picturesque little olive grove in the Serpentine Valley with his Greek wife and dog, Jay.

Over lunch I noticed the walls were hung with images of Marilyn Monroe.  In the living area, kitchen, hallway there were pictures, big and small, of Marilyn. On the bookshelves there were books about Marilyn. Our place mats were monogrammed MM  and we drank from Marilyn coffee mugs. I couldn't help but notice that Paul's wife was remarkably blonde and 'Marilyn-ish'  for a Greek girl.

We walked over the farm and I shot 30 or 40 shots of Paul and Jay in a  struggling stream beside a pristine little waterfall. When I finished  the dog shoot I asked Paul's wife if she would like me to photograph her. I suspect she might have been waiting for the offer.

She ran off into some thick trees and over a small rise. She called out and then ran over the hilltop and down the grassy slope towards me. I was a bit surprised and took a while to react, half expecting a chorus of 'The hills are alive ....' to break out. .I thought I was going to get a Marilyn MonroeSome Like it Hot performance but it was more like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

Neither Paul or 'Marilyn' were boring people. Just the opposite in fact. People like this keep the world turning. More than that, they make photography a pleasure.

'We are all of us stars,
and we deserve to twinkle.'

Marilyn Monroe