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I'll be spending this weekend at the Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards, part of the Digital Playground event at Luna Park in Sydney. The judging is open to the public and runs all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, although by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, the category judging will be finished.
Attending a judging is always educational. Sometimes there can be longish periods of not much happening, but when the judges discuss a print or make a comment, there can be gems of wisdom and clarity that really help your photography along. Even if you don't agree with their sentiments (and generally speaking, if they haven't scored your own entries highly you don't agree with them), it's really useful to understand how other people see the world - and your photos.
The Better Photography Photograph of the Year Awards is also being judged. Tony and David have finished their part and I am part way through the final judging and feedback, so it will be me who is providing the brief suggestions.
However, what I'm really enjoying just now is choosing to play with photographs that I like, unworried by what a judge might think. Yes, competitions have been an important part of my career, but there are many photographs that I simply love, but will never enter into a competition. Oh, I think that they'd do okay, perhaps, but it's not the point. I feel a lot freer in working the file, tweaking the image on my Cintiq 24HD touch, knowing I don't have to impress a detail-obsessive judge (and I'm one of those judges too!).
The photograph above was taken on Lago Grey in Chile earlier this year. I'm returning there next month on a job, but it will be spring instead of autumn and I'm thinking there might be a little more snow and ice around. For me, what makes the photograph is the wild sky, the line of cloud against the deep blue, and how this is reflected diagonally by the line of sunlit mountain against other mountainsides in shadow. I also like the splash of colour and how it's just a thin sliver. But it's my photo, so maybe I'm imagining all this? Who cares!
I also think this is a photograph that needs to be contemplated. It's not going to survive in a photo competition where the judges have only a few seconds or maybe half a minute to view it. It's simply not competition fodder.
So, if you've recently entered APPA or the BP competition, or the Epson Pano Awards or the International Landscape Photographer of the Year awards, now's the time to forget about competitions for a little while and just focus on what makes you happy. There will be time enough next year for more competitions, to show the world what you've been working on and see if they like it.
But for now, enjoy the personal side of photography, just for you.
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I'm not unhappy that Fujifilm has released a new X-T1 so shortly after I have taken delivery of my own, but I am a little envious!
The new Fujifilm X-T1 Graphite Silver is all about looks and feel. The new model uses a three-layer coating on top of an antioxidant treatment on the magnesium body. This is followed by a matte black undercoat (primer) which deepens the tones, and then thin coats of ultra-fine paint particles are layered using computer-controlled Thin Film Multilayer Coating Technology to create a graphite silver veneer. Finally, a clear coat is added for a deep gloss finish and by adding a small amount of black, the colour tint alters subtly with different light to emphasise the camera's shape and form. Sounds like a fashion statement!
Okay, so it would be nice, but perhaps I can do without it? Is there anything else? The new model also features a high speed 1/32,000 second electronic shutter, which can be set in 1/3 steps from one full second to 1/32000 seconds. This means the mechanical shutter is not required at all for these speeds and that exposures are completely vibration free, even though there's not a lot of vibration in the first place. Of course, the camera is also completely silent, perfect for the photojournalist in us all.
Other features include a new Classic Chrome Film Simulation mode which delivers subtle colours and beautifully muted tones, reminiscent of vintage reversal (slide) film, plus a Natural Live View function removes the image quality settings from the viewfinder image while shooting to display natural, real-world images, close to what the naked eye would see through an optical viewfinder.
Plus there's a bunch of new firmware upgrades and most of these will be available for the black X-T1 as well.
The photograph below was taken with a Fujifilm X-T1 Black in Patagonia at around 3.00 a.m. There was a full moon and I was about to walk for four hours up to Las Torres, so I delayed the inevitable and took a quick photograph of the hotel at the base of the climb. I'm sure the new camera won't do it any better, will it???
But at least I wouldn't wake up anyone with my shutter click!
To read more about the new Fufifilm X-T1, visit www.fujifilm.com.au.
I've just finished putting together a selection of photographs for a calendar company in Europe. Not sure who it is yet as my agent has organised it, which sounds very swish. "My European agent, darling, doesn't everyone have one?" If you live in Europe, it probably doesn't sound as swish as an Australian agent!
In the process of selecting 12 images, my agent's client picked 9 images and then asked if there was anything more they could look at - and were there any photos without dark skies!
As photographers, we can get hung up on what other photographers think of our work, yet the greater public still seems very impressed with a photograph that is bright, colourful and correctly exposed. And has light skies, obviously!
The photo of Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island above is one of the new images I provided and that was selected. I think many regular readers will think it doesn't include much of 'my style', but when you're selling your work, the client is in control.
It's a big lens! It's pricey! And it's beautiful!
Phase One has announced the Schneider Kreuznach 40-80mm f/4.0-5.6 leaf shutter zoom lens, the second zoom lens designed for the Phase One 645 camera platform, joining the Schneider Kreuznach 75-150mm f/4.0-5.6.
"Designing a zoom lens with excellent optical qualities throughout the zoom range is always a challenge," said Senior Product Manager Espen Beck, Phase One. "When the zoom range goes from a fairly wide-angle perspective to a normal perspective, as our new lens does, this only adds to the design complexity. This lens has 15 optical elements, two of which are aspherical, arranged in 11 groups. We have invested greater design and engineering resources into this lens than any of those before it and we are very proud of the results. I think that this lens will be a perfect companion for on-location photographers."
The idea of a zoom lens replacing two or three other lenses is appealing, but going on location usually carries with it some weight restrictions. The 40-80mm weighs 1860 g, so it's no lightweight, but then again, nothing is for medium format!
The prime lenses in the Phase One range that have comparable focal lengths are the 35mm at 480 g, the 45mm at 492 g, the 55mm at 660 g and the 80mm is 500 g, a total of 2132 g. So, yes, if you're replacing these four lenses with the new 40-80mm, your camera bag will indeed be lighter!
Of course, having a zoom lens means being able to reframe and respond to your subject without annoying lens changes. There are definite advantages in a zoom design.
The real question is how does the lens perform. I had the opportunity to give the f4 lens a trial and, like most lenses, best performance doesn't happen wide-open. However, you don't have to close the aperture down much before the image quality snaps from great into 'simply amazing' mode. At f5.6 and at both ends of the zoom range, the new 40-80mm delivers the superlative results you'd expect from a Schneider lens. This is one sharp puppy!
To read more about the Phase One 40-80mm zoom, visit the L&P Digital Photographic website at http://www.lapfoto.com.au/products_view.cfm?ProductID=410
Just back from a landscape photography workshop on the Fleurieu Peninsula with a great group of South Australians and some of the most welcoming hospitality from Ron and Sonya - thank you! There were also some amazing landscapes and seascapes to be found, especially when you wander around the points and headlands surrounding Victor Harbor (the only harbour in the world spelt without a 'u').
The photo's location is at Petrel Cove, to the left of the stairs running down to the beach. Behind us on the other side of the headland is another bay with lots of shipwrecks, but I couldn't help thinking that if someone were shipwrecked out in front of these rocks, there's a very good chance they'd be skewered as they swam ashore!
The composition was a little rushed as the light was fading quickly. I wanted to position the rocks in a way that balanced the little islet out on the horizon, but I couldn't quite find the right spot. I'm sure it's there, but that will be for a return visit.
Instead, I moved the island. It required several months of permissions and council bureaucracy, but eventually we organised for two large tug boats to drag the recalcitrant bunch of rocks into the correct position, and I took the photo.
So, which is better? The island in the middle or the island to the left? Perhaps I should move the island to the right instead...
If you're interested in learning more about landscape photography (more about capture than post-production), I'm holding an Advanced Landscape photography workshop in Dee Why at the end of August, followed by a Landscape Photography Business workshop on the Sunday. There are still a few spaces available for both events. Click here for details.
The winner of the Creative Flair category in the 2013 Photograph of the Year competition run by Better Photography magazine was Suellen Cook. Who will win this year's competition? Entries close 31 August 2014, so get your entries in soon!
You never know what might be entered in the Creative Flair category! We have everything from macro photographs of unusual subjects to intricate composites like Suellen Cook's winning image above.
One aspect of Suellen's photograph that appealed to the judges is its imagination. In many photographic disciplines, the photographic skill is in capturing something that is already there or that happens in front of the camera, but we find in the Creative Flair category that photographs which show the photographer's ability to think outside the square are more highly rewarded. This doesn't mean that it has to be a composite photograph to win, rather that it must show the judges something that is unusual, imaginative and brilliantly executed.
Suellen's image is a composite of 28 separate photographs, taken at different times with different settings from which specific selections were made and then all blended together in Photoshop to make a new image.
"The idea behind the image is a modern 'take' on the nursery rhyme, The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. My version is about a young woman who would rather indulge in luxury (drinking martinis and lying around in the sun) than bother with housework and putting the washing on the line.
"The model is my 21 year old daughter; the beautiful, sexy Doc Martin boot belongs to a dear friend of mine and the remaining elements are photos that I have taken specifically for this image or collected over time.
"Post-production took in excess of 40 hours, although not all at once. The putting together of the elements and layering the image to take on the 'look' I am trying to achieve takes a considerable amount of time, both in Photoshop work and aesthetic assessment.
"The idea is usually developed on paper first, with a sketched drawing of the composition and a list of the elements I want to incorporate. I then shoot all the things on the list if I don't already have them (which generally I don't).
"In post-production, I start with the background and work my way up to the fine detail of the image. I try to shoot all the elements in the same type of light and with the light coming from the same direction, although this is not always possible. The images usually tell me how they want to be, they take on a life of their own, so putting them away and coming back to them is an important part of image development."
You can see more of Suellen's images on her website: www.suellencook.com