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“Damn flies”. I was cursing again after checking my screen to find another fuzzy blob right in the middle of the frame.

They warned me about this. The staff at the lodge said there would be plague proportions of sand flies at Milford Sound. They even offer guests a free bottomless supply of insect repellent, an ominous sign in itself which I took full advantage of, coating every last bit of exposed skin before heading out.

What they don’t tell you is that these little bugs are drawn like magnets to camera lenses. Like some innate 6th sense, they know when you’re about to hit the shutter and are able to  time their landing to cause maximum nuisance. My only defence was to waive a lens cloth in front of the camera until just before making the frame, make several exposures of the same scene and hope that weight of numbers would mean I came away with at least a few flyless images.

I spent 2 mornings and 2 evenings photographing at Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s best known landscapes, and was inspired by how the mood of the place changed with the weather. And there was every kind of weather in the short time of my stay.

From driving rain and brooding clouds on arrival, to an unworldly dawn that cleared to a bright sunny day, which I am told is a rare occurrence in this part of the world. This is actually on of the wettest places on earth, with around 7 metres of rain annually.

Shooting 4 sessions in all at the foreshore, I managed to capture it in several different moods, but always peaceful and serene. I had intended to photograph some other locations around the area, but there was enough variation just here to keep me going back, so I’ve filed away some ideas for my next visit.

Despite my new friends the sand flies and managing to break a tripod by tightening the plate so hard the lever snapped off in my hand, I think I managed to capture a sense of one of the most isolated areas of New Zealand. Some of the images in this gallery had to be made by resting the camera on my bag, composing a bit wider than I intended the final frames to be to allow for cropping and straightening. This caused a whole lot more swearing as I struggled with the slippery rocks, and trying to get down low enough to look at the scene, but what kind of photographer isn’t happy face down in a couple of inches of cold water while shooting an iconic landscape.

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Vietnam WallpaperDusk on the river near Hoi An’s Ancient Town

Back home from Vietnam and starting on the process of cataloguing, keywording selecting and developing a new batch of images for release into the big wide world. It’s a lengthy process but I think I’ve worked out a workflow to get them out there in good time.

As for Vietnam, this was my first visit and what I found was a beautiful country full of warm, friendly, hardworking and industrious people. We started in chaotic Hanoi dodging motor scooters in the Old Quarter before heading to Hue, an ancient capital full of history. Then on to Hoi An with its beautifully preserved old town before finishing in Ho Chi Minh City (still Saigon to its friends).

The only disappointment was not being able to visit Ha Long Bay due to a cyclone. That one will have to wait until next time.

I’ll post more on the experience in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here are a couple of things I learnt:

1. In a location where sights, sounds, smells and textures can be overwhelming, often the best thing to do is choose a theme for photography and stick to that for the session. We always talk about broadening our vision, but we can do this in small steps. Try looking for interesting faces in the morning, colours and textures in the afternoon and movement and motion in the evening. I found that this way I was able to capture a broad range of subject without becoming overawed by every detail around me.

2. Vietnamese coffee is one of the best inventions in the history of humans.

3. You can fit anything onto the back of a motor scooter.

Lastly, I’ve made the above image into a new desktop wallpaper to enjoy. Just click on your resolution to download and please hit “Like” below if you do.

2390 x 1600

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Vietnam Map

Things have been a little quiet around here lately, and they’re about to get even quieter for the next couple of weeks. I’m about to board a plane for Hanoi, Vietnam where I have the chance to visit a place I have wanted to see for a long, long time: Halong Bay.

Following that, I’ll be heading south an planning to stop and photograph at Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City with a detour to the Mekong Delta.

I hope to come back with some new images, stories and lessons learnt to share, unless I get too distracted by the food to pick up a camera. That could happen.

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Orange juice seller, Marrakech
Marrakech, Morocco. This orange juice seller in Djemma el-Fna was more than happy to pose for some photos after I bought several glasses of juice.

When we travel to a destination with the intention of photography, photographers mostly try to capture the destination in its entirity, rather than focus on one particular feature or aspect. Unless we are travelling to a particularly remote place, this will involve photographing local people.

Photographing people is scary. It doesn’t get any easier either the longer you have been doing it. But the satisfaction in creating a genuinely moving portrait of a person often far outweighs any fear or anxiety involved in approaching someone. It is almost always the images that are hardest to create that give us the most joy.

While the nerves are something we all have to overcome, there are some considerations to make your interactions go more smoothly.

Always ask permission where possible before photographing people. If you want to photograph children, always ask permission of their parents. Often you can do this with a simple smile while pointing to your camera if you don’t speak the same language. Don’t be offended if you are refused. This is not a personal affront as more likely the person is simply self conscous about having their photo taken period.

There are some situations where people are more likely to be obliging, such as if you are purchasing something from them, or if you have taken the time tostart a conversation before asking if you can photograph them. If you are photographing at a well known tourist destination, don’t be surprised if you are asked to pay to make your photos. There is an ongoing moral debate on whether it is ethical to do this, but if you do decide you are willing to pay, agree a price upfront and let the person know how many photos you are planning on. Often they will expect you to make just one and then walk away. If you feel that paying for images is not right, don’t under any circumstances then try to sneak a photo. That definately is immoral.

Cosplay girls
Harajuku girls, Tokyo. Followers of Harajuku fashion culture dress in elabourate costumes and are happy to have their portraits made

It is also useful to be ready to make the image before approaching people. Have your camera set up as you want it with the appropirate lens, depth of field and some idea of where you would like the person to stand. You may want to take a few test shots to make sure you have this right. It is much more difficult to keep the subject’s interest if you make them wait around while you stop and get ready.

Next post, we will look at practical and technical considerations for travel portrait photography.

 

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Seattle skyline

As this post goes live, I’ll be on a plane bound for New York via Los Angeles. Things will be a little quiet around here for a few weeks as I explore the northeast corner before heading back to Seattle and San Francisco and who knows where else in between. I do have a few posts scheduled though, including a new desktop wallpaper, so check back for those. I’ll also do my best to check in via Facebook, Twitter or Google+ with some images and updates as I go, so drop me a line there if you want to get in touch.

See you again soon!

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Looking through some recent and not so recent images of Melbourne for a client request, I realised that I don’t get out and shoot my home town nearly enough. Which is a shame because it is a great place to photograph with a lot of varying subjects. The city skyline, while not as imposing as some larger international cities, is full of interesting lines and reflections. Modern architecture contrasts with heritage buildings, places like the Queen Victoria Market and various laneways buzz with activity and street art gives the CBD an edgy feel.

I put together this small gallery of images of the city centre and surrounds, just because. I have also promised myself I will make more time to photograph Melbourne and all its variety.

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The district of Shibuya is modern Tokyo at its most epic. An area of omnipresent neon and fashionable youth where thousands flock to eat, drink, shop and be merry.

The embodiment of this hive of activity is Shibuya Crossing where pedestrian traffic flows out of Shibuya Station and across the multi sided intersection before disappearing into the various shopping malls, bars and restaurants the area offers. It is estimated that this is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, and definitely the busiest in Japan. At peak times, some 1,000 people will navigate the crossing at one time, expertly managing to swerve and miss each other and make it safely to the other side with the kind of aloof agility that seems ingrained in Tokyoites. In the time it takes the lights to turn green again, the sidewalks have filled up again and the entire scene is repeated over again like a video on loop.

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Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing

Back from Japan and starting the long process of cataloging, key-wording and editing another few thousand images. I’ll post more on my own way of doing this later, but for now, some impressions of photographing in Japan:

Japan is such a country of contrasts that it is impossible for two people’s viewpoints to be the same. A place of zen temples, sombre shrines, J-pop and pulsing crowds, there is something to kick start your creativity no matter what your photographic interest may be. As a country of hobbyists, the Japanese are refreshingly open to the idea of being photographed. Although asking someone permission to photograph will never be an easy thing to do, this and an innate sense of politeness make Japan one of the less intimidating locations to approach strangers.

Senso-Ji Temple

Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

As a location for photography, Tokyo is a paradise. It is both diverse and accessible. Neighbourhoods as diverse as old Asakusa and Akihabara’s Electric Town are easily accessible by a public transport system that is safe, reliable and cost effective. Tokyo is not a city filled with landmarks. Its attractions are in the street life, culture and food.

Tokyo Subway

Tokyo Subway

We were extremely lucky to be in Tokyo as the Cherry Blossoms began to open, which we were told happened much earlier this year than usual. Cherry Blossoms are widely found in Tokyo’s parks which also provide welcome oases from the crowded, noisy streets.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Kyoto presents yet another range of opportunities. Sacred shrines and palaces, traditional houses lining narrow alleys, Geisha and a cuisine of its own, the former capital is an enchanting example of old Japan.

Geisha

Geisha, Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Tiasha

Fushimi Inari Tiasha, Kyoto

Osaka is a city with a sense of humour. Louder and brasher than its larger sibling, Osaka prides itself on its fun loving nature, reflected in its outgoing residents and colourful even cartoonish restaurant streets. I didn’t get to spend very much time in Osaka, but enough to make me want to go back and explore some more.

Cartoon Sales Figure

Cartoon Sales Figure, Osaka

A world away from Japan’s major cities is the Fujikawaguchiko region. A peaceful way to spend a day is to hire a car and drive to one or all of the 5 lakes surrounding Mt Fuji for some iconic views of the snow capped peak.

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji

Whatever your vision, Japan is sure to offer something to inspire. More to come…

 

 

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Tokyo night scene

At the moment, I’m on a plane to Tokyo. A place I have been desperately trying to get back to since my last visit in 2006. This time its for a self imposed assignment and I’m excited to be able to set my own pace and shoot what appeals to me.

I love the energy of Tokyo, but also the quiet places. The fact that in amongst the noise and skyscrapers you can find peaceful green pockets and traditional buildings. It is a city of contrasts like no other.

I’m looking forward to revisiting some of these places and discovering some new ones. And cherry blossoms, lots of cherry blossoms. I here from a Japanese friend that they have started blooming just in time this year.

While I’m gone, I haven’t left you hanging. I have some posts lined up including some new work, so check back soon.

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Hong Kong market photos

Click the image above to view gallery

For a modern, fast moving metropolos with an abundance of shopping malls and supermarkets, the people of Hong Kong still shop predominantly at its many street markets. Throughout the city, narrow streets are lined with stalls where you can purchase anything and everything from cheap clothing, to pets to fresh fruit and vegetables to trinkets and souvenirs and flowers and where any marked prices are merely a suggestion and a starting point for negotiations.

One of the best known markets are Temple Street Night Market (also kown as the men’s market) where you can find all manner of souvenirs, cheap clothing, pirated CD’s and outdoor resteraunts. You can also have your fortune read by one of the many street side fortune tellers.

Tung Choi Street Market (the ladies market) offers more cheap clothing and accessories and is crammed with pushy sales people and suffocating crowds, giving a true market experience.

Other markets include the Goldfish market, a street lined with shops selling fish, tanks and all the accessories. Some of the more exotic and rarer fish can fetch some exorbitant prices. Yuen Po Street Bird Market is a meeting place for people (mostly old men) to gather and chat and air their birds who have long been a favoured pet of the Chinese. The market is lined with cages of birds and the noises and smells are not for the faint hearted.

Amongst these, each neighbourhood has its own wet market where people come to buy their fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. Due to the density of living in Hong Kong, there is not much room for storing and refridgerating food, so people tend to go each day to the market and buy only what they need.

Browse any of Hong Kong’s neighbourhoods and you will be sure to come across one or more of these street markets which give a unique insight into the way life is lived here.

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