Zenith Beach, Port Stephens, New South Wales.
Photographed with an Alpa TC, Phase One IQ180, 23mm Rodenstock Digaron.
I think the Focus Photographers (focusphotographers.org) have got it right and wrong. The bit they got right was the idea of spending some time with an expert photographer in order to advance their own photography.
I remember a group of 10 Australian professional photographers (they imaginatively called themselves 'Group 10') pooled their resources to bring out Norman Parkinson from London (a legendary fashion and advertising photographer) to spend a week with them. Norman was flown first class and put up in five star comfort. There was no agenda, just a requirement to go shooting and talk about photography. The late John Whitfield-King, who was one of the group, said it was one of the most valuable learning experiences of his professional career, one that Group 10 repeated several times. So the idea has merit.
Where the Focus Photographers let themselves down was inviting me! John Armytage organised a first class, four-day weekend up at Nelsons Bay (two hours north of Sydney) and along with Olga, Helen, Sean, Tony, Mike and Adam, put up with my sense of humour. We shot early morning, late evening, from a helicopter, from a whale-watching ferry and from the balcony of a very up-market holiday house with expansive views. We talked about photography, processed our files and shared meals. I had a great time. Thank you!
I'm not fishing for more of these weekends, although I will return with the Focus group for sure. However, there are lots of amazing photographers out there who are more than willing to share their ideas with an enthusiastic audience, if the right program and compensation are there. The idea of forming a 'collective' can really accelerate your learning.
The Focus Photographers have over 4,750 followers on Facebook and 1600 on Flickr where it started. They also meet in person most weekends, all around Australia. Obviously, not all the members attended our little weekend - it's a matter of finding a small group of people who get on with each other and have the same passion for standing out in a hail storm and getting pelted, all to take a photograph.
My mistake was standing out there with them, although it did lead to the above photo with which I am quite pleased.
The weather last weekend was sporadic. It varied between rain and heavy rain, but there were little interludes that tempted you out into the elements. We had already been caught out that afternoon and were rather damp, so this impending downpour didn't frighten us, but the hail was a surprise.
At this point I'd like to do a little advert for the Ridgeline Torrent jacket which the Photographic Society of New Zealand kindly gifted me following my presentations at their national convention in Blenheim last year. It is simply fantastic! Made in New Zealand and made to survive torrential downpours. I was very dry underneath and my North Face waterproof over pants also did their job, but unfortunately the water-shedding effectiveness of my upper garments resulted in my boots filling up with water.
Fishermans Bay, at Anna Bay, New South Wales.
Taken the evening before - and yes, we were lucky with the rainbow!
Photographed with an Alpa TC, Phase One IQ180, 23mm Rodenstock Digaron.
The view from the balloon on the second morning - yes, I was lucky! I had two flights!
Photographed with the new Canon EOS 5DSR and a 70-200mm Canon L series zoom.
Check out Byron Bay Ballooning next time you're up there.
I have finally been able to play more seriously with the new Canon EOS 5DSR, the latest 50-megapixel DSLR and, along with its cousin the 5DS, the only 50-megapixel DSLR! Canon hosted a Tales By Light weekend festival up in Byron Bay early this month and I was lucky enough to be invited along with Darren Jew and Krystle Wright. We got to meet some great people, print some photos, watch some movies and go on some amazing shoots.
I think Krystle and I were the fortunate ones because we took two balloon rides over the idyllic Byron Bay hinterlands. Sorry, Darren!
Shooting from a balloon is deceptive. It's usually so still you hardly feel you're moving. However, you certainly can be moving quite quickly and the trick is to keep your shutter speeds up to avoid subject blur. Standing in the balloon, you'd be forgiven for thinking 1/30 second was fast enough, and sometimes when the balloon is stationary it is, but to be safe, I'd be shooting at at least 1/125 second. And for the larger sensor cameras (36-megapixels and up), I'd push that to 1/250 or even 1/500 second. This is just a rule of thumb - the shutter speed you need will be dependent on how fast you're moving as well as how close you are to the ground.
The compromise with fast shutter speeds is either wider apertures which might not be quite as sharp as mid-range apertures, or higher ISO speeds which can introduce noise. This is especially an issue in the dawn light before the sun comes up, but essentially you have a choice of sharp photos or 'grainy' ones. I like sharp ones!
Personally, I don't mind a little texture in my photos and, when shooting with 50-megapixels, you find the noise greatly disappears when you're making smaller prints or posting them on the web. And let's not be too critical about all this. While there is more noise than the EOS-1 DX, for instance, what noise is there is a very minor concern for what is being offered.
My first impressions of the EOS 5DSR are very positive and that it has a superb sensor. The limiting factor will be some of my older lenses. Canon is on a winner here and, yes, I have bought one!
#talesbylight #canonaustralia #canoncollective
Adelie penguin at Brown Bluff, Antarctica. Canon EOS-1D X with EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4X.
Hopefully some readers have seen the Tales By Light episode on the National Geographic Channel last Sunday night. And hopefully they enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making it. Well, really all I did was wander down to Antarctica on Aurora's Polar Pioneer with Abraham Joffe, his wife Jen and second camera Blake Castle. They did all the hard work and then Abraham's team from Untitled Filmworks handled all the amazing post-production.
What I find fascinating is what other people select as their 'favourites'. This photo at Brown Bluff, for instance, was very popular with everyone during production and promotion. I produced around 50 finished images, most of which appeared in the program, but out of these 50 which I love, there are some that are more popular than others. Why?
With the Adelie penguin above, I could be criticised for having the subject bang in the middle of the frame, yet the chaotic background of icebergs and the pose of the penguin seem to hold it together. In fact, it's the positioning and pose of the penguin that makes the shot, with the penguin appearing to eye-ball the viewer.
This is pretty much a full-frame shot. I was using Canon's 200-400mm with its 1.4X built-in extender, which effectively gave me a 200-560mm zoom. This was taken at the maximum focal length and really, it's the perfect lens for wildlife as long as you don't mind the weight. I've also been playing with Canon's new 100-400mm zoom and, while not in the same league or price bracket, it is very impressive.
In the Tales By Light episode, produced in partnership with Canon Australia, Abraham and I were effectively shooting side-by-side as a number of penguins approached us from out to sea, jumping from iceberg to iceberg as they neared the shore. The advantage Abraham has with moving footage is you can see the icebergs rocking from side to side as the penguins jump along. The advantage I have shooting stills is I can focus attention on the penguin by tonally adjusting the image (darkening the surrounding areas). I know why photography is captivating, and I can also understand the same appeal for cinematography.
Adelie penguins at Paulet Island. Canon EOS-1D X with EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4X.
It is difficult to say one photograph is a favourite. Unlike ice creams which come in a limited number of flavours, photographs are myriad in number and one's taste changes from time to time. However, this is currently my all-time favourite photograph taken from Antarctica earlier this year.
I was on a Zodiac with Aurora Expedition's Howard Whelan and Canon Master Cinematographer Abraham Joffe, just touching the stony shore. We were shooting for the Tales By Light episode. Not too far away, this Adelie penguin was contemplating a swim, but keeping an eye on us. However, he (she) was the only penguin at all interested in what we were up to.
The elements in the photo that I like most are the low camera angle, which means we're at the same level as the penguin and below the tops of the growler ice bergs in the background. I also love the blurred background. The blur turns a straight photograph into a work of art, purely because of the bokeh - the out-of-focus areas. They almost look like they have been hand-painted.
In terms of technique, the telephoto lens does all the work, but you need to focus on something relatively close with areas behind and in front of your subject to be blurred. If you focus on a subject near infinity, then there's nothing behind the focus point to be out-of-focus and the result just looks like an ordinary shot.
If you haven't caught Tales By Light yet, produced by Canon and National Geographic Channel, please tune in this Sunday evening. My mum says this will be the best episode of the six because her son is in it. We've currently seen four amazing episodes featuring Art Wolfe, Darren Jew and Krystle Wright. Following my episode on Antarctica, the following week Richard I'Anson will feature in an amazing piece on India and the Himalayas. Feedback (so far - I hope mine matches it) has been sensational!
So, please tune in on Sunday at 8.30 on the National Geographic Channel.
And if you'd like to visit many of the same Antarctic/South Georgia destinations this November/December, join me with Aurora Expeditions as part of a special photography group. For more information, visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au or click here.
There's also a neat little online brochure which explains lots more - click here.
Aurora Expeditions invites you to an exclusive screening of Peter Eastway's visual journey through Antarctica with Aurora Expeditions, filmed as part of National Geographic's brand new series, Tales by Light.
Join Peter and Abraham Joffe to experience the magic of Antarctica and South Georgia on the big screen and hear their 'behind-the-scenes' stories of how the episode was filmed and the lengths they took to capture the perfect photograph.
They will also be on hand to provide their expert tips for photographing in the Polar Regions and to discuss their upcoming photography expedition to Antarctica and South Georgia. The screening is a must for anyone inspired by the natural wonders of our planet, including those who dream of visiting Antarctica and South Georgia.
Date: Wednesday, 1 July 2015
Time: 6.30 pm to 8 pm (doors open 6 pm)
Venue: QT Screening Room, 49 Market Street, Sydney
Tickets available to purchase at: http://e.mybookingmanager.com/E6160413314326
Beverages and snacks will be available to purchase.
Tales of Light was produced by National Geographic and Canon Australia and supported by Aurora Expeditions.