Friday, 18 April 2014

History must be the most boring subject in the world

If you really want to create boring memories of things past, carry a camera with you. 

In 1975 we made panniers from old wheat bags, cooked sausages on fencing wire and wrapped old socks on our hands to keep out the icy cold. There were no helmets, computers or electronic gears. There were twelve of us - the 'Dirty Dozen' - including one female, but it was a little difficult to identify Robin from the rest of us.

Pic: The 'Dirty Dozen' at Noggerup YH on CTA First South West Tour 1975

On the 'rest' day we cycled from Bridgetown to Balingup, to Nannup and back to Bridgetown. Two of the group rode the whole tour on single speed fixed gear bikes.

The photo here is taken at the Noggerup Youth Hostel, about half way between Collie and Donnybrook. What no internet???? There was no electricity or gas and we carried water from a rainwater tank. Together we made 'Noggerup' stew and cooked it on an old Metters wood stove. We ate the stew courtesy of a Tilley kerosene light.

After dinner we walked through the bush to a country dance at the Noggerup Hall and danced with local girls. Those who missed out danced with guys. If you still missed out there were sheep.

Seeing 40 years have gone by I feel somewhat safe to mention that we occasionally 'borrowed' apples and fruit from farmer's paddocks along the way. From that motley crew today we have a fair smattering of some of WA's leading doctors, lawyers and environmental workers.

As the years roll on and your memory of events fades and fades and is eventually lost forever your 'boring' image will help recreate those memories. Those old useless black and white images will help to keep your grey cells ticking over, hopefully staving off memory loss and dementia.

Never, ever underestimate the power of the image and the good that the photo will do.

For more sordid stories and photographic fundamentals try a workshop with Dale Neill

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Easter Quiz - just what sort of photographer are you?

The Expert: The lounge room theorist
The Envious: Goes to exhibitions and says  'I could do that'
The introvert: Only shoots landscapes
The extrovert: Only shoots people, mainly close-ups of faces 
Competition junkie: gained equal 3rd place to Wyalkatchem Show
Sniper: Waits 6 hrs to get shot of bird with 600mm lens

'Spider Man Weds' by Altruist
Gear addict: Buys the latest and best gizmo every week
Anal:  Will not use camera if its windy, dusty, sunny or hot
Course addict: Attends every course rather than think for themselves
The Rodin: Thinks before shooting (Gold Star!)
The Scintillating Star: They love, appreciate and use light (Gold Star) 
The Capitalist: Motivated solely by making money
The Altruist: Their photos make people feel good. (Gold Star)
The Camera Club junkie: Life revolves around rule 23(c) part 2
The Voyeur: Observes people before shooting them (Silver Star)
The Communist: Can't afford a camera but 'I'll use yours'
The Pscychopathographer: Uses people then offloads them. 'Charming' non-genuine.
Greens:  Photographs trees, trees more trees and whales (Bronze Star) 
Labour: Spends $10,000 on gear. Makes $50. Says they made profit
Liberal: Spends $100 on gear. Makes $200 from photography. Says they made a loss.
Palmer: Huge, chunky noisy camera that doesn't work for more than a year but is cheap
Lipstick: Usually female, uses charm, wit and looks to win commercial business. (Red Star)
The Faffer: Spends 14 months procrastinating about the shot and eats art magazines
The Albatross: 'Woe betide us' - lives for the good old days and smells like fixer

Find out what makes you tick and your camera click at a Dale Neill photography workshop.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Hot portrait tip - start with a really boring person

One sure fire way to guarantee you get a really boring portrait is to start off with a really boring subject. That makes life so easy.

Alexandra is just one giant fun-filled package.

I first met Alex eight years ago when she appeared at a the Light Fantastic photography conference in Fremantle, Western Australia. Alec masqueraded as Gretchen, the personal assistant to famous Russian photographer Professor Boris Betcherovka. The audience were mesmerised by Gretchen's flirtations with the ageing professor. But their jaws dropped when Gretchen dropped her little bllack dress to reveal nothing but a red corset and bustier.
Nikon D700 24-70 lens set at 32mmfl, 800 ISO, 1/80s @ f7.1

Alexandra is a self-employed actress, TV personality, karaoke singing, cat loving liberal goddess. Life is never dull around this super-charged Italian but I do always check that my insurance is up to date when I shoot this girl.

Taking Alex to a restaurant or coffee shop is a hazardous occupation. She is just as likely to take over the cafe and the kitchen, send the coffee back and seduce the chef. Alex is also a talented artist and has recently completed a painting of vocalist John Paul Young.

Alex stars regularly as a panelist on the TV show 'Sweet and Sour'. Alex displays the sweetness and sensuality of a Michelle Pfeiffer combined with energetic bitchiness of a cigar-smoking, stiletto-strutting Joan Collins. Alex is a gift-wrapped weapon of miss destruction.

Before you set up your next portrait shoot check out your eccentric aunts and crazy uncles. Make friends with people with energy on the buses, trains and surgeries. In fact ask to photography your doctor as he performs your colonoscopy or your dentist repairing your gold bridge. Ask your next door neighbour, the guy on the corner who lives along with his mongrel dog. Get serious and ask the lady recovering from surgery. Drag yourself out of your rut - do something good for a person and humanity with your camera. And maybe you'll amaze yourself and do yourself a favour.

Join a UWA Photography Workshop with me in 2014. Check HERE for details.


Join me in on a farm in Cowaramup for an Advanced Portrait Course in July. Enquire HERE.

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” – Peter Lindbergh

In the meantime relax, tune into 'Knee Deep' with Jimmy Buffet and dream

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Slow cooked photography (French cuisine style)

Forget your 1/4000 of a second for just a  moment, forget that f1.2 prime lens you just paid a million pesos for. I know, I know,........ you can go and get your sharpest lens recalibrated so it produces images sharper than a Saturday night surgeon's scalpel.

Have you ever thought that the subject might enjoy looking a  little softer and romantic? (Plus you might save yourself half a day in photoshop removing the turkey neck.)

If photographers spent a tenth the time thinking about charging their image with emotion as they did about getting the last shred of sharpness they may produce some more memorable images and have more time to sip a glass of Pinot Noir.

Helena the belly dancer came to me and asked if I would do her portrait. When I asked what she had in mind, she replied 'I'd love to be photographed in a  French chateau in the countryside'.
'I'm currently all out of French Chateaus' I replied.

Believe it or not I had a (wealthy) private student who had disassembled a chateau in Provence and reassembled it in the Chittering Valley fifty kilometres north of Perth. Set on several hundred acres this chateau was something of a fantasy location to photograph a belly dancer and a blonde scientist (reptologist) over a  weekend.

Helena exudes a quiet energy and natural beauty like no other belly dancer. I was standing at the top of the staircase in the chateau when Helena started to walk up the stairs towards me. She never said a word. Neither did I. I lifted the camera and took a  shot. I never even checked the settings. Moments like this are fleeting. I try never to let a chance go by.

For the pointy heads ...... I used a  Fujifilm S2 Pro camera witha  Nikon 24-70mm lens set at 70mm, f2.8 @ 1/20 sec hand held.

Sharp is often good and called for but its not a shoe-in formula for gold award images. Relax and make the odd blurry, beautiful emotional image.

Three weeks later I was sitting in the Cappuccino Strip in Freo having coffee with Helena when a young woman sashayed by looking very much like a student from Notre Dame and resembling a younger version of Helena. She approached our table and said 'Mum, I'll see you tonight at 6'.

Join me, Dale Neill, not in a French chateau,  but in an awesome, rambling,  limestone  building with a massive mahogany staircase, secret passages and reputedly a resident ghost for a photographic workshop in slow motion at UWA Extension