Early morning in the Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan.
The Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards(APPA) are coming up soon and, as usual, I'm struggling to work out what to enter.
Over the years, I've realised that entering competitions becomes a game. I've won lots of acceptances and silver awards, so I am pretty comfortable that I can take a half decent photo from time to time. Now the challenge is, can I show the judges something they like as much as I do?
The four photos that leave my studio for APPA, packaged in a weathered print case, are four gold awards in my mind. I imagine all the other entrants are thinking the same about their entries.
And I imagine there are a lot of photographers who are disappointed when their prints come back with scores lower than gold, and severely disappointed when one or two are lower than silver! It's not that the photos aren't any good (I tell myself), just that the judges didn't appreciate my brilliance on the day. The challenge when picking your photographs, I think, is to distance yourself from them and imagine how a judge will react to them. For instance, for me, the photo above brings back wonderful memories of an early morning in Bhutan, but I don't believe it is strong enough for a gold award. So, does that mean I'm not happy with the photograph? Definitely not. I love it, but it's not going to take centre stage in the context of a photo competition. In isolation, it's 'lovely', but when placed against hundreds of other images, it doesn't have the immediate impact needed to impress the judges. At least, that's what I think.
For a book, for an audio visual or even for a large print on the wall, I'm more than happy with this image. But for my competition entries, I will continue to look through my files and hopefully find something with more immediate impact.
If you're interested in visiting Bhutan with David Oliver and me in 2016, please take a look at our online brochure here.
The Better Photography Magazine Photograph of the Year competition is now open. Entries close 15 September 2015. You can enter the competition and also see the top 50 winners from each of the 6 categories in our previous competitions on our dedicated competition website - competition.betterphotography.com.
There's not much difference between the before post-production (above) and after (up top). A little more contrast and I have highlighted the road at the bottom.
Adelie Penguin, Paulet Island. Photographed with a Canon EOS-1D X and the 200-400mm 1.4x super zoom. When you get in close to your subject (relatively speaking), the background is thrown well out of focus and the 'blurring' or 'bokeh' is glorious!
Lying flat on my stomach, I'm sure I didn't look like a penguin. Mind you, I hopefully didn't look like a beached whale either, although with the amount of warm clothing on, I was well padded from the rocky shore below me.
I'm no wildlife expert, by which I mean I'm not a naturalist nor an animal behaviour specialist. However, when it comes to photographing wildlife, I like to think the principles of portraiture and landscape photography apply in equal measure - with one important addition: patience. The more wildlife photography I do, the more I realise that it is time in the field that gets you great shots. Yes, this one's not bad, but there are aspects that could be improved.
For instance, the penguins on the right don't have heads - they might be better out of the way completely, or at least showing a bit more of a bump so animal rights zealots don't accuse me of cruelty. The penguin on the left is not cropped off the best either. Similarly, the penguin partly obscuring the chick isn't in the best position. Unfortunately, when the hero of the photo did its thing, this is how it was, but I'm sure if I had another hour or so, I could have nailed similar antics with a better arrangement of the supporting cast.
Does this make sense? I mean, I love this photo and the moment it has captured, but I can see how it could be better still. And once you've photographed a few hundred penguins, you start to refine your vision. They are still incredibly photogenic, it's just a matter of having all the elements come together at the one time.
Easy for me to say because I'm heading down to Antarctica and South Georgia in November and I will have many more opportunities to perfect my penguin portrait technique. Mind you, Aurora tells me there are still spots available on the Polar Pioneer if you'd like to come with me, plus they are offering to fly your partner to South America and back for free! I guess that means there will be two of you coming along!
For more information, visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au or click here. And mention the special 'partner flies free' offer (assuming you're taking your partner, of course!)
A few more Adelie Penguins clambering over Paulet Island, Antarctica. Photographed with a Canon EOS-1D X and the 200-400mm 1.4x super zoom.
The one-inch, 20-megapixel sensor on the Panasonic Lumix CM1 smartphone is impressive!
If you're wondering why the bokeh (blurred bits) look so good in this photo, there are two reason. First, the closer you get to your subject, the shallower (thinner) your depth-of-field - so the sharp bits don't stay very sharp for long, and there's lots of blur. Second, the larger the sensor, the better the bokeh. This is one reason why photographers prefer a full-frame DSLR over an APS-C version (with a slightly smaller sensor). You might have the same number of pixels, but it's the physical size of the sensor that helps make the depth-of-field shallow.
The photo above is taken very close to its subject and the background blur is great. This is nothing you wouldn't expect from a DSLR or CSC - except it was taken with a smartphone!
Most smartphones have physically small sensors, so they can struggle to produce shallow depth-of-field. In fact, most smartphones (like most compact cameras of a few years back) were designed to produce as much depth-of-field as possible to cover up any focusing errors.
But no more! The fashion today is for shallow depth-of-field and so you need a large sensor. And, unusually and unexpectedly for a smartphone, the Panasonic Lumix CM1 has a one-inch, 20-megapixel sensor which works pretty damn well in low light!
Even better, it has a serious lens as well - a 28mm (equivalent) Leica DC Elmarit lens and shoots 4K video. This is not just a phone, it's a very cool camera as well.
What's the phone like? No idea! Who cares! Okay, okay, so we should care. It has a 4.7-inch Full-HD Touch LCD screen which runs an Android system, but I confess, the reason I asked to review the CM1 was because of the camera.
Is this the best camera in the world? No, but it must be the best quality smartphone in the world at present. Yes, Apple has billboards the size of 10-story buildings overseas showing you how good its iPhone is, but I'd put my money on this smart little CM1. The specs say it all.
For more information, visit www.panasonic.com.au.
There are a lot of people offering great advice on how to run a professional photography business, so what makes this package different? Perhaps the main difference is it's written from a background of extensive practical experience.
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Photographed from the courtyard balcony in the Paro Dzong, Paro, Bhutan.
Make sure the monk you photograph isn't too big or, if he is,that you can run fast!
I'm just kidding of course - everyone over there is so friendly, especially at festival time.
Last weekend, Kathie and I met up with Robyn, Greg, Diedre, Robert, Kay, Libby and Geoff, a partial re-union of travellers from our Bhutan trip last year. And I have to say I was a little embarrassed. Before dinner, we all sat down for drinks in Robyn and Greg's home and looked at half a dozen amazing Momento photo books. (Yes, the Libby and Geoff are the same Libby and Geoff who own Momento - but even they were surprised how many Momento photo books were on display!)
The subject matter of the books was Bhutan and the books were amazing! My guilt came from only having processed a dozen or so shots from what was an amazing trip. As I flipped through their books, I saw shots of Robert's that I hope I have, some great portraits by Kay (and I know I didn't get them), and there were some exceptional compositions from Greg with some really great post-production as well. Robyn did a great little video which brought back some wonderful memories, even if it was Greg who was starring.
I'd like to compliment Libby and Geoff, but their photos have yet to make it into a Momento book (Geoff said something about Libby worrying how much time he was spending on personal projects already), and they all politely said they'd like to compliment me on my photos, BUT WHERE WERE THEY?
So, in an effort to make some small amends, I'm starting off. After all, I will be returning to Bhutan with David Oliver in November 2016, so I better process a few so I can show David what to do!
This photograph was taken quickly. He is a young monk and if he knew I was there, he didn't let on. Festivals in Bhutan are great because the insides of the dzongs become more accessible and you get to wander around these majestic old buildings and wonder at how they are put together. Huge wooden beams and the floor boards are often a half a metre wide, but of course, it's the colour of the costumes and the clothing that create the pageantry.
My idea was to convey the texture of the clothing by getting in close to my subject, but to include his surroundings. The unusual angle looking down hopefully creates a little extra interest and the only thing I might do differently next time is to wait until there are a few more dancers in the quadrangle. The photograph was taken with a 24mm wide-angle and I was careful to focus on the head, not the background. Although wide-angle lenses have quite a lot of depth-of-field, by getting the camera quite close to my main subject and using the maximum aperture of f2.8, I was able to throw the background out-of-focus. I like this 'differential focus' effect because it concentrates our attention on the subject, but the background is recognisable enough. Well, it is for me!
#invisiblephotoshop #bhutan #Illuminatingtoursbhutan