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Don't Be Born As A Goat!

The sport of Buzkashi, Kyrgyzstan
Fujifilm X-T3, Fujinon XF200mmF2 R LM OIS WR, f2.8 @ 1/4000, ISO 80.

While the choice of a ball might not be our cup of tea, there is no denying the speed and agility of both horses and riders as they play buzkashi. I'm told the name means 'goat pulling' in Persian and I guess it is 'sort of' like polo, except they use the goat as a 'ball'.

In Kyrgyzstan, we took a drive around Issyk Kul, a high alpine lake sitting underneath towering, snow-capped mountains. Like other parts of The Silk Road adventure, you feel like you're stepping back 50 and 500 years. Issyk Kul has some seriously ancient buildings, but its location and use by the locals as a holiday destination is what gives it a 50-year old patina. No doubt the small towns and resorts around the foreshores looked fantastic when they were first built, but over time and neglect have left them with a wonderful patina for photography.

The locals are like locals everywhere, taking in the tourists with a shrug of their shoulders and happily performing when there is a payment involved. We were under no doubt the game and performance were for the cameras, so nothing authentic, except the athleticism, of course!

When I first arrived, I was a little disappointed the riders were all wearing their sports outfits. I was hoping for them to be in furs and skins, I guess. A completely unrealistic expectation, of course. However, reviewing the images now, I actually love the strong reds and blues. There's something about the gaudy colours that makes the scene almost surreal - and I think this is a good example of trying not to have too many expectations about a subject, rather sit back and see what you find.

Can You Hear The Snow Fall?

Rio Fitz Roy, Patagonia, South America
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, 24mm TS-E lens 2 minute @ f5.6, ISO 100, tripod, 10x ND filter

Sometimes you visit locations and the light is not optimal. In a perfect world, you’d camp out and wait for the light to appear, but life isn’t as simple as this. Often when travelling, you have only one short opportunity to photograph an area and so you have to take what you can get!

Such was the case with Rio Fitz Roy which sits at the bottom of Cerro Torre. This location can be reached in a day from El Chaltern below, but we camped out for a couple of nights so we’d be in place for the morning and evening light.

As an aside, the weather was like this for most of the day. I spent six hours at this and another location nearby, patiently waiting for the cloud to lift. In the end, I had to walk back to camp for dinner empty-handed, but no sooner had I walked into the mess tent than the sun came out! This location was too far away to return before the sun disappeared behind the mountains, so I made do with what I could see from near the camp. But back to Rio Fitz Roy and the lack of light.

While the original exposure was very flat, just being in this location on my own was very special. This is a photograph with lots of baggage, lots of memories, so even though the light is not great, it was an important image for me. I used a 10x neutral density filter to produce a long, two-minute exposure which blurred the water in the river and, as there was no wind, the surrounding trees remained sharp and blur free.

Wind is often a challenge for long exposures because trees and grasses blur while the shutter is open. The solution is to take two different exposures, one long exposure with the ND filter to blur the water and the clouds, and a second without the ND at a movement-freezing speed like 1/250 or 1/60 second. The two exposures are then merged together using masks in Photoshop.

I took a number of exposures of this scene at different shutter speeds, including two minutes. It was during the two-minute exposure I can remember watching the largest snowflakes I have ever seen drifting down from the heavens above. Apart from the water rushing over the rocks below, there wasn’t a sound to be heard – it was a bit like being in a sound studio with deadened walls. The snow flurry only lasted a few minutes, but the experience is etched in my memory every time I look at this photograph.

As photographers, we have no control over what others think of our work. While from time to time people will enjoy our work and compliment our photographs, the only person we can really please consistently is ourself. I think there comes a time in every photographer’s career when you become comfortable with your technique and so the resulting expressions are complete. I like to think after 40 years I have reached a point where I’m happy with my technique and my expression. Is this arrogance? Or experience?

And one more thing! My wife really wants to clear out the last boxes of The New Tradition we have carefully stored under the stairs at home, so reluctantly I have reduced the price. Previously it was $150 to $180 including postage. It's now just $80 for the book, plus we've worked out postage and packaging ($15 for Australia, $35 for NZ, $80 the rest of the world). So, if you haven't yet purchased a copy of The New Tradition, now is the time. Click here for details.

Do You Take Photos Just For Yourself

Skyscape, Antarctica
Fujifilm X-T5, XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR, f8 @ 1/500 second, ISO 125

When I travel, I take a lot of photographs. Normally I don't press the shutter unless I think there is something good about the subject. Of course, as David Oliver will complain, I take hundreds of photos of wildlife not with the expectation they will all be great, but with the hope one of them will be!

The skyscape presented here is a photo I really liked through the viewfinder. The simplicity of the detailless white snow contrasted against the dark grey clouds was graphically strong, and then there was the glimpse of pure blue sky through a gap in the cloud cover. I took perhaps six shots as the shape and size of the blue sky changed from where we were positioned (I was on Aurora Expedition's Greg Mortimer and as we were steaming along, the shapes of things in the landscape were changing quickly).

Yet in my initial run through of picking out photographs to process or share from my voyage, this didn't get the nod. There were other photographs that my subconscious told me other people would like more. Yet when I give presentations on my approach to photography, I tell those silly enough to listen that the only person we can be sure of making happy with our photography is ourselves, so don't worry about everyone else. 

So, this week, I'm sorry, but with your permission and kindness I'm not worrying about you. I like this photograph. It's simple. It can have lots of meanings if you want it to. But at the end of the day, I like it. Enough said!

I'm not expecting lots of hearts and likes when this gets posted on social media. Nor am I expecting lots of emails of congratulations from this newsletter or the website. It's just a competent photo (I suggest) and in a world inundated with great photographs, it won't compete with the true crowd pleasers. But does that matter?

My challenge to you is to post something that you really like and to hell with everyone else! In the nicest possible way, of course. We still want our friends and followers to return next time when we post something that is perhaps more generic in its appeal.

Arkaroola Information Night

Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary Lake Frome, Lake Eyre + The Painted Hills
April 21st to 29th 2023

If you are ready for a photographic retreat of a lifetime hosted by Robin + Timothy Moon, and Peter Eastway and would like to know more about where we are going and what to expect, then join us for an information evening over Zoom next Monday 30th January @ 7.30pm

To register for the event click here

For full workshop notes click here

Tim tells me you need to register with Zoom ahead of time these days, and he has a limit of 100 seats on his account. While I don't expect we will run out of places, best to register sooner rather than later if you're interested.

Our plan is to wing it! Show some photos from previous trips and answer questions - so if nothing else, it should be an entertaining Monday evening!!

 

What Are Our Workshops Like? Check Out These Videos!

Svalbard - Ten Perfect Days
Svalbard - Ten Perfect Days
Narooma NSW
Narooma NSW
What's It Really Like In Antarctica?
What's It Really Like In Antarctica?
What's It Like In Bhutan?
What's It Like In Bhutan?
Photos from Middlehurst Workshops
Photos from Middlehurst Workshops
Late Season Antarctica
Late Season Antarctica
Bolivia
Bolivia
Bhutan - Myth
Bhutan - Myth
Peter and Tony Talk Middlehurst
Peter and Tony Talk Middlehurst
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Svalbard - Ten Perfect Days
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Narooma NSW
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What's It Really Like In Antarctica?
PlayPlay
What's It Like In Bhutan?
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Photos from Middlehurst Workshops
PlayPlay
Late Season Antarctica
PlayPlay
Bolivia
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Bhutan - Myth
PlayPlay
Peter and Tony Talk Middlehurst
PlayPlay
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