Saturday, 31 May 2014


One of the most dynamic photographers of the Twentieth Century was American Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971. She smashed through the so-called glass ceiling, entering the male preserves of industrial, commercial and wartime photography.

Her career was immortalised in the movie of her own name 'Margaret Bourke-White' starring Farah Fawcett. View it on a quiet evening with someone you love and a bottle of red. Its entertaining for all and motivating for photographers.

Bourke-White said:

'Saturate yourself with your subject and the camera will all but take you by the hand.'

How many of us have got the determination. perseverance and sheer guts to try half of what she achieved.

Putting that quote into action these days is Australian photographer Kevin Fairley. His exhibition 'Fine Art photography' commences today, 31 May 2014, in Ubud Bali, Indonesia.

Fine Art Photography Exhibition - Bali

Kevin Fairley , 31 May - 30 June 2014, BCAC Gallery Jl Raya Andong, Ubud, Bali.

Photographer, adventurer and entrepenaur Kevin Fairley has divided his time between Bali and Melbourne for the past 20 years. His early jobs driving trucks, tourism and opal mining led him to Bali where he recently built a hotel. His photographs reflect an appreciation of nature, a love of people and a seeing eye for the photographic image. There's also the hint of the larrikan in some of his most colourful images. 

Kevin's done his best to saturate himself in photography and life.

[Disclaimer: Kevin Fairley is my cousin] 

Immerse yourself in a UWA Photography Workshop and let your camera tap you on the shoulder.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Are your wildlife shots more 'mild' than 'wild'?

Otter: Borneo
Lounge room theorists and photographers simply don't cut the mustard.
If you're sitting in your lounge room surrounded by your cameras and lenses you are guaranteed of one thing - you will miss 100% of the wildlife shots!

You have to be there. You have to be where wild animals are running free.

Here are five really boring wildlife shots - try to avoid these:
  1. Your pet
  2. Any animal in a cage or behind bars
  3. Zoo animals
  4. Bird sitting on a branch
  5. Animals with human structures in background

I'm not a specialist wildlife photographer. The closest I get to shooting wildlife is my grandkids or mother-in-law.

Doe, joey and buck kangaroos feeding. Australia
Immature kangaroo joey
However, I've been fortunate in working alongside a few of the world's best wildlife photographers. Cede Prudente is Malaysia's number one wildlife photographer. Cede also leads tours in Malaysian Borneo. If you travel with Cede (or his brother John Prudente), not only will you see more wild animals than any other tourist but you will have Cede looking over your shoulder giving you advice.

Penguins looking for landing. Antarctica

If you don't fancy leeches and the humidity of the Borneo jungles you might like to try the frozen continent of Antarctica with Daisy Gillardini. Italian-Swiss photographer Daisy is world-renowned for her images of polar animals - penguins, bears and birds. Daisy is a Nikon ambassador and also a personable leader and teacher.

If Borneo, Antarctica or exotic locations are out of reach, try your local beach, river, desert or park. Think about the time of day you visit, where you position yourself and observe the behaviour of the animal.

Above all - be patient - and respect nature.

For more information on shooting your grandkids and other wild animals check out my UWA Photography Workshops. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

My secret life as a dog

Some years ago an innovative film maker strapped a  movie camera onto a small trolley and dragged it along the footpaths. His idea was to show the world from the point of view of a dog. Then , there was the famous 1986 Swedish film 'My Life as a Dog'.

The point here is that if you want to guarantee getting boring photographs that send your audience to sleep, then take them all from the same height.  Five foot one inch is the best height to achieve those predictable boring shots. Whether they be landscapes, people shots, street scenes or flowers - shoot them all from  exactly the same height! Boredom guaranteed!

There's no excuse for not bending your knees or your back. However, the easiest solution is simply to use a wide angle lens ands place your camera gently on the ground. With a wide angle or fish eye lens you don't have to actually look through the viewfinder.

Many cameras these days have LCD's that rotate so you can still see the image without laying in the gutter or getting gravel rash.

So next time you want to create a different perspective float like a butterfly, sting like a bee but think like a dog.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

When in doubt - put a blonde in a tight dress

Writers sometimes suffer 'writer's block' and photographers occasionally experience 'aperture apathy'. The grey clouds of gloominess descend upon you. You have no new ideas. And any ideas that do float into your mind seem to have come from ABOF (Association of Boring Old Farts).

Nikon D700 200ISO M 1/200@f16 85mm Nikkor prime lens

To get around writer's block you can always start your next paragraph with,
'Five masked men burst through the door brandishing guns. My index finger twitched nervously on the grenade pin .....'

Nikon D700 with Elinchrom 500BX

The photographic equivalent is to find a curvaceous lady and dress her in a bold, primary coloured dress one dress size too small. Materials with texture always look better.

The secret ingredient is to use a single light at right angles to the fabric in the dress. This accentuates the texture in the dress and the shape of the body. Its really that easy!

Check out Dale Neill's photography workshops at UWA.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Photograph someone famous (or infamous)

Bob Randall at Denmark, WA.
So many photographers become pre-occupied, even paranoid about the technical aspects of photography. Is it sharp as a razor? Did you spend 15 hours in Photoshop? Did you shoot with a camera with 20 zillion pixels and so on. All the while, there subject is as boring as bat shit.

Show me a photograph of Osama Bin Laden having coffee with Paris Hilton and I don't care if its fuzzy and overexposed.

I was in Denmark, Western Australia, working on a project for Estee Lauder when I ran into Aboriginal leader, Bob Randall.

Bob is a Yankunytjatjara Elder and a traditional owner of Uluru (Ayers Rock).

In the early 1970s Bob's song "Brown Skin Baby (They Took Me Away)" became an anthem for the Aboriginal people. He is the author of two books: Songman - his autobiography and Tracker - a children's book.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Five cameras that make you look like a Pro

Just about every man and his dog owns a DSLR camera these days. Aussies have purchased more than ten million new digital cameras in the last three years. Going back twenty years you could recognise the real photographer at the wedding - they were the ones with the big camera, the 20 kg tripod and the shiny pants.

These days every Uncle Harry, Aunty Sally and assorted paparazzi 'rellies' are pointing their DSLRs, compacts and mobile phones at the bride and groom.

Would the real professional photographer please stand up? Its a case of back to the future. If you want to look like a pro, you'd better start carrying a BIG camera that takes .............. wait for it ........


Hasselblad 500CM

Here are my top five cameras to help you look like a pro.

Hasselblad 500CM
The classic! Swede, built like a German tank. The official moon landing camera;  lens as sharp as a  surgeon's scalpel. Takes 120/220 roll film.

Leica M6
Leica M6
The European equivalent of the Porsche (and almost as expensive). Superb German precision. Here is one of the few cameras in the world that will rise in value as it ages. Takes 35mm film.

Rolleiflex TLR
Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex
Another German classic - one lens to look through, another to take the picture. The twin-lens concept suffered a little from parallax error but lens quality is superb and was more affordable than the 'Blad' or Leica. Takes 120/220 film

Sinar 5x4
Sinar 5x4

World class camera and optics with a film size to leave all the other cameras in its wake. Use by supremo architectural and commercial photographers where you spend four hours setting up controlling perspective, image shape and sharpness and then take just one shot! Loads 5"x4" (10.1cmx12.5cm) sheet film.

Fuji 617
Fuji 617
A favourite of the pro landscape brigade the 617 takes an image 6cm high by 17cm long on 120 or 220 roll film.  (You get just three shots on a roll of 120). Fuji were very inventive in developing special filters to compensate for light fall-off at the edges.

Every time you press the shutter on one of these film camera it will cost you - anywhere from $2.50 to $20. (Film guru Roger Garwood suggests its more like 22c to $3 a frame). Do you think that will make you think about exposure and composition. I suspect so. That's the first achievement - you're a thinking photographer. Not too many of them around these days. Most just click, click, click like a cicada on a summer's day.

Camera: Nikon F2 Photomic Head. Film: Kodachrome 50

Besides looking like a pro there is at least one other big advantage - size! The scan from your film could be anywhere from 50MB up to 600MB. Try getting that from your DSLR!

If you have the bug about film cameras - join my next UWA Extension workshop?  Click HERE for details.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Five signs your photographic career is on life-support

The world needs photographers who are 'alive' and vital and positive. Here are some tell-tale signs that your photography is in the casualty ward and could very soon be on life support.
In Botero's Gallery in Colombia

  1. In the past twelve months you never travelled to a single new destination. 
  2. Your photographic world revolves around your camera club, the rules and the next monthly competition.
  3. You find yourself increasingly saying 'I wished I had my camera with me'
  4. You haven't done a single new course or learnt one new thing because you 'know it all'
  5. Creative ideas have all but dried up - you find yourself copying other photographers' ideas.
My 'Botero' inspired shot
Going somewhere new is the light at the end of the 400mm lens. Plan a trip to a new destination or even a day trip to somewhere close by that you have never experienced. Simply booking it into your diary changes your perception of photography and life.

In 2013 I visited the Botero Gallery in Colombia and was so  inspired by the art of Fernando Botero I stayed an extra half day. His quirky, eccentric paintings of people who are 'volumetrically distorted' invaded my mind and convinced me to try some 'Botero' style portraits. If I had never visited his gallery I would never have been inspired. 

Talking with other photographers, artists and creative people is healthy and vitalising. BUT, what is more important is taking action! Avoid telling people how hard you are working on your new project - that is your secret. But make sure  when you are finished that new project that others get to see it and hear about it.

If you want to give your photography a shot of digital adrenaline, you might try clicking HERE.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Photographic Aphrodisiacs in Singapore

My petite Chinese guide with the bee stung lips flashed a demure smile,
'Why don't you try the 'Red Lantern Tour'
'Why not?'
So I signed up all twelve people in my group for a private evening Red Lantern Tour and dinner.

I'd been to Singapore a dozen or more times before for short holidays and stopovers; clinically clean, ultra-organised, religiously-conservative. In Singapore you can be fined for dropping a lolly wrapper or spitting on the pavement. In years gone by you could be imprisoned for long hair!

Today, there's a plethora of upmarket hotels, quality shopping and superb food with little chance of picking up a tummy bug. Singapore is safe and clean and 'nice'. About the main criticism that can be directed at Singapore is that it can be a bit boring.

One way to make Singapore less boring is the Red Lantern Tour. I organised for my group to join in a personalised tour of the old and new red light districts of Singapore. It was an eye-opener! We toured the shops that sold aphrodisiacs - this was the OMG part of the tour - jars of special pickled mushrooms, deer antler, horny goat weed, jing, sheng jiang, dang guy and spanish fly. There were insects and bits of animals and unidentifiable pickled thingies. Most of it looked a thousand years old and horrendous. There were no free tastings.

Very hard to get that stuff back into Australia so we continued our tour, learning of the important historical role played in the development of Singapore by the Red Lantern industry. The Malays provided much of the physical manpower in twentieth century development and many Malays were single. Brothels used special colours and street umbers to be easily identified but discreet.
We turned a corner or two and our guide led us to a current working Red Lantern district that still employs traditional signage - where the authorities turn a blind eye. So, next time you're in Singapore, spice up your photography with a Red Lantern Tour. And keep an eye out for building labelled No 6.

And to spice up your sex life while your in Singapore here are my recommendations for the top five natural aphrodisiacs. Happy shooting!

Watermelon contains an amino acid called citulline which aids blood vessel dilation and thus heightens sexual pleasure. Nature's own natural Viagra.

In 19th Century France the pre-nuptial dinner was asparagus spears. Besides making your wee smell funny asparagus contains high concentrations of folic acid which increases histamine activity which is a necessity for orgasms in both sexes.

Eating the symbol of love and passion quadruples the production of endorphins in women. (You could also ask your lady to  race her bicycle fifty kilometres to produce  a similar result but chocolate is easier and less sweaty)

Besides being a great natural antibiotic garlic contains a chemical called allicin that increases blood flow to sexual organs. (Hint: Buy some mints).

Not as good as chocolate but a sweet and sensual alternative plus you can photograph the sensual shape of oranges on bodies.

Click HERE for Dale Neill's next Travel and Street Photography Workshop.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Underground churches - pack an angel filter

If you've done a European tour, chances are you've visited and photographed Cathedral No 73 like I did. The problem was that No 73 looked remarkably similar to the previous 72. If your travels have taken you through Egypt, Turkey and the middle-east you probably shot Temple No 114 as well.

My exuberant Colombian guide Julio C├ęsar Rivera led me into an underground Catholic Church in a disused salt mine in Colombia. I thought 'This might be a bit different'. And it was! 

Nikon D700. Church: 20mm, 1s@f2.8 3200ISO Belly Dancer: 50mm 1/500s@f1.8 400ISO
The altar, statues and seats were set in amongst the salt caverns. Concealed lights created an eery vibrance and tantalising shadows. Pools of still water created reflections to confuse one's perception of distance. I needed to watch where I stepped. Memories of my Catholic upbringing came flooding back to me. I stepped carefully past the stations of the cross, stopping at Station Seven and checking for hidden notes. 

The one thought that resonated was that salt mines would have been dark and dangerous places to work. I would have wanted my guardian angel looking over my shoulder.

By coincidence I knew a beautiful, young guardian angel back in Australia and 'spirited' said angel into the church and onto the steps of the altar via Photoshop. It only took a minute or two. Angels travel pretty quick these days.

From a photographic perspective nothing in this world is boring only thinking makes it so.

Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to photograph an angel!

Check out my next Photography Workshop. Eccentrics welcome. Angels admitted free.

Not sure why songs today don't have meaningful lyrics. Back in my teenage years we all understood the deep and meaningful lyrics. Take for example Roy Orbison's 'Blue Angel'

Sha la la, dooby way
Dum dum dum, yeh um
Sha la la, dooby way
Dum dum dum, yeh um

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Five Top Photographic Locations

In real estate terms we speak of LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

The same can probably be said about photography. If you simply  sit in your lounge chair watching travel programs or play Photoshop four hours a day there is a good chance your body will rust out before your camera does.

A new location means fresh sensual stimuli - sights, sounds and smells. We usually experience a new location when we go on holidays, leaving behind the daily work grind, family chores and everyday problems. Mentally, we become more attuned to everything around us and often with a more positive outlook.

A remedy for those same old boring images is to pack your camera bags, passport and passion and head off to a new photographic location.

Here are five of my favourite photographic locations:

1.     Terraced padi fields, Ubud, Bali
Just a  four hour flight from Australia, Bali has been a favourite holiday destination for Aussies for more than thirty years. Ubud is an hour's drive into the mountains where the air is cleaner and cooler. On the back roads between Ubud and Candi Desa the narrow roads wind between lush green padi fields which are best shot at sunset or sunrise.

The Bundestag, Berlin. Fuji X100 23mm fixed prime, 1/800s@f8, 1000ISO
2.     Boranup Forest, Margaret River, Western Australia
Ancient. towering Tuart trees, winding roads, quiet unsealed bush tracks make for idyllic forest landscapes. Here is one place where you have a chance of being the only person for miles. Tripods, overcast skies and maximum depth of field promise extraordinary forestscapes.  

3.     Sand dunes, Siwa, Great Sea of Sand, Egypt
Siwa is one of the most impressive dune locations in the world. Siwa is a small oasis on the edge of the Great Sea of Sand near the Libyan border. Its best to travel by 4WD into the dunes an hour before sunsrise and set-up. Tripods are essential and warm clothing recommended as it can be down to sub-zero temperatures.

4.     Aerial landscapes from hot air balloon, Cappadoccia, Turkey
The landforms and geomorphology of Cappadoccia are breathtaking and unique. The giant fairy chimneys are home to dwellings, boutique hotels as well as ancient hospitals and churches. This magnificent landscape is best viewed from a hot air balloon at sunrise. It is difficult not to get a stunning photograph. (Tip: Make sure you squeeze your body into one of the four corners of teh basket to ensure a 270 degree view).
Brandenberg Gate: 1/1250@f2.8, 800ISO

5.     Architecture, Bundestag, Berlin, Germany
The Bundestag is the House of Parliament for the German Government. An impressive illustration of modern artistic architecture the building is home to an innovative sytem of rotating and cascading lenses which redirect light into the parliamentry chamber.
No visit to Berlin wouldn't be complete without a walk to the historic Brandenberg Gate which has become a symbol for a united Germany.

Check out my Travel and Street Photography workshop at UWA Extension.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Fine Art Photography

Fine Art Photography is often quoted in elitist terms.

Typically, fine art images are typified by:

  • Monochromatic (black and white) images as opposed to colour
  • Significant areas of negative space (black areas)
  • Simple subjects
  • High technical excellence
  • Space for the subject to 'breathe'
  • A narrative that keeps the viewer searching for a story

Achieving a  sensual fine art image is simply adding one extra element into the project.

I was photographing in an old colonial home in East Fremantle. I asked my subject to close her eyes, open them slowly, fall in love with the image in the mirror and gently kiss her. Many subjects find it difficult to achieve a serious sensual image and resort to humour and laughter to cover their awkwardness. The closing of the eyes is a powerful technique to get the subject to relax.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Faulty cameras are little more than a raquet

I'm taking my new tennis raquet back to the sports shop to get a refund. It just doesn't work properly. I did my research and bought the same raquet as Novak Djokovic,  a Head Graphene Speed Pro and I simply can't get the same results as Novak. There's obviously something faulty with the raquet and it cost me a heap.
Miss Connie an a train bound for Tulso. 1/100@f2.5, D700 85mmf1.4, 2000ISO

Two years ago I decided to get a  new camera and made the decision to buy two D700s instead of one D800 for the same price. My reasoning was I got two cameras for the price of one so I wouldn't need to change lenses; the D700 shoots quicker than the D800 and I ddin't need a 36MP file. People raised eyebrows when I stuck with old technology.

Its hard to put a tag on creative ideas and even harder to learn the fine art of lighting in a two hour course or from a website on a rainy Saturday night. Creative ideas are not hard to come by - simply talk less and observe more. Watch a movie, read books, talk with fascinating eccentrics and dream at night.

The lighting starts with being a keen observer of lighting in all its forms and facets. Observing people in trainzs≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈erzsx (my new kitten Millie typed this last word) watching the setting sun cutting swathes of light across the landscape at the end of your street and studying classic portraits of Jeanloup Sieff and Helmut Newton all help.

Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.
George Eastman (founder of Kodak)

Want a free lesson in photographic lighting?
Take yourself along to the movies to see 'The Invisible Woman'
Rembrandt short, broad, butterfly, rim lighting. Soft llight halos, silhouettes,and long focus, big aperture lenses. Window light reminiscent of David Hamilton.

I've come to the conclusion that faulty cameras are nothing more than a raquet just like Karl Marx's grave is nothing more than a Communist plot.

Discover Dale Neill's innermost secrets about lighting and photography at UWA Extension.

Friday, 9 May 2014

From Oliver Rue Designs

My wife got a new kitten today. 'Millie' is just 10 weeks old - a rescued cat from the Cat Haven. I was mesmerised by the way Millie explored every nook and cranny of our living area then my office. She stuck her nose into every corner, behind every shelf, under every ledge, bounding from one point to another with gleeful lunges.

Why aren't humans more like Millie?

As humans, we have the whole world to investigate and all five senses to use.
  • Do you really see beyond what's immediately apparent
  • Do you listen for distant sounds
  • And smell the salt or bacon cooking in the air
  • Do you touch a surface and feel the texture, do you touch someone's skin
  • Do you close your eyes, chew slowly and really taste

Genevieve's legs at Meelup Beach, Yallingup with a Sigma fish-eye 14mm lens

Give me a camera and I see more clearly
Put a saddle between my legs and I hear every sound
Lead me to the city and I'll sniff out the best egg and bacon brekkie
Let me taste the salt in the Indian Ocean, let the salt dry on my skin
Let me feel your hand in mine and I'll walk a hundred miles with you

Dale Neill

'Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it.
Because the world needs people who have come alive'.

Howard Thurman.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Does Photoshop stifle Creativity?

Q. What's the definition of a tourist?
A. Someone who travels 10,000 miles and spends $10,000 to photograph his wife standing in front of the Avis rental car.

Seriously now, I saw a guy photpgraphing his wife in Toulouse, France. As he clicked the shutter, I heard him say 'I'll Photoshop in the Eiffel Tower when we get home'.

My photographic colleague and friend Michael Coyne says 'Photographers have stopped thinking'. Ata workshop we ran together in Fremantle Michael implored attendees to 'THINK BEFORE YOU SHOOT'.

Most modern photographers die before they utilise all the features in their camera. I always ask them:

  • When was the last time you used 1/4000 second?
  • How often do you use WB to create a mood colour?
  • Have you switched on the ND filter?
  • Did you know there was a tonal adjustment for Aussie Landscapes?
  • Have you ever used the multiple exposure feature on your camera?

In my last Advanced Digital Workshop at UWA Extension I showed students how to do a three-image multiple exposure.

  • Shot 1 - a texture
  • Shot 2 - a long shot ofa  head against a dark background
  • Shot 3 - a close up of a face
Here's my demo result. This result is out of the camera - not out of Photoshop!

 Join me at one of my UWA Extension Photography Workshops. You may discover how to think creatively with your eyes and learn something new about your camera.

Pump up your pulse! - Improve your photography!

Any activity that makes your heart beat faster is likely to produce better photographs. And as a bonus, you might just find some romance along the way.

The claws of conservatism can put a stranglehold on your photography. So much so that all your photographs start to look the same week in, week out. Its the same with dating; find someone on RSVP or E Harmony and take them to dinner or a  show and you might as well say 'Goodnight Irene'. Its the perfect formula for boring photographs and boring relationships.

Nikon D700, 70-400 set @ 98mm, 1250ISO, 1/20 @ f22 Shannon Western Australia

The secret is simple - find an activity that makes your heart beat faster and the chances are you'll get better images and could be lucky in love.

Your mode of transport plays a big part in the types of photograph you take:

BORING (low pulse rate):

  • Bus
  • Train
  • Ship
  • Aeroplane

INTERESTING (medium pulse rate):

  • Motor bike
  • Small boat
  • Zodiac
  • Light aircraft
  • Home made light aircraft
  • Small water craft with motor
  • Walking
  • Sled
  • Horse
  • Camel

EXCITING (wild pulse rate)

  • Hot air balloon
  • Bicycle
  • Canoe (and self propelled water craft)
  • Roller skates

Nikon D700, 50mm f1.4 prime, 500ISO, 1/5000s @ f14  Walpole Western Australia

When your heart beats faster, blood is pumping and endorphins flowing; your brain enables you to sense things differently. Camera-wise,  your endorphins grab you by the scruff of your Gucci camera strap and enable you to see and shoot things more dynamically.

Take your first date on a beach run and sunset swim and the love signals pumping into your grey cells will redline.

I've just finished an 800 kilometre bike ride with 43 other cyclists from Albany to Perth in Western Australia. My cycle club, the Cycle Touring Association of Western Australia, is 40 years old; my Mercian bike 34 years old, my D700 and Panasonic FT4 are three years old. My body clocked over 70 during the trip.

To view the pics and stories from the CTA 40th Anniversary Cycle Tour click HERE.

 Join me at one of my UWA Extension Photography Workshops. I'll make your heart beat faster and pass on practical skills for better photography.

Hot Tip: Take out a good camera insurance policy!