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Recent Blogs from Better Photography

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Drone Safety

AS PHOTOGRAPHERS, we mightn’t realise quite how many lowcost and potentially unsafe drones are hitting the Australian market. However, we probably all realise just how many people are flying their drones contrary to CASA guidelines. And being involved with photography competitions, it’s interesting to see a number of photographs that were obviously taken outside the guidelines (for example, there’s a person directly below the drone).

There is now a new safety symbol to look for when buying a drone, which means you are purchasing from a responsible retailer, manufacturer or wholesaler.

“Drone safety advocates have pledged to follow a specific set of guidelines when selling drones,” CASA spokesman Peter Gibson says.

“The guidelines ensure they are providing consumers with important safety information on when, where and how they can use their drone safely— and stay within the law.”

DJI, Zero-X, C.R. Kennedy, EE Group Australia, Fly the Farm, Officeworks and Rise Above Custom Drone Solutions are Australia’s first drone safety advocates.

“This is a voluntary joint initiative between CASA, retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers,” Mr Gibson says. “The outcome will be better drone safety education and encouragement for safe and responsible flying from the first time a new drone takes to the skies.

“Our research indicates consumers expect to be informed about the drone safety rules at the time they purchase their drone. Drones are great fun and by following the simple rules, everyone can enjoy flying safely.”

Australia’s drone safety rules have been in effect since 2002 and are designed to protect people, property and other aircraft. So, what are the rules we need to follow? Here’s a summary:

To begin, you must not fly your drone higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level. You must also keep your drone at least 30 metres away from other people and you can only fly one drone at a time! Now, keeping your drone away from people in busy public spaces can be pretty challenging, even more so when you start flying in an empty field and then find you have visitors arriving.

You must keep your drone within visual line-of-sight. This means always being able to see the drone with your own eyes (rather than through a device, screen or goggles), and you must not fly over or above people or in a populous area. This includes beaches, parks, events and sport ovals when there is a game in progress.

CASA also requires us to respect personal privacy, meaning we don’t record or photograph people without their consent as this may breach other laws. This rule could be clarified because, generally speaking in Australia, there’s no law to prevent us from photographing people in public, but then again, these laws didn’t consider drones flying over private property.

If your drone weighs more than 100 grams, you must fly at least 5.5 kilometres away from a controlled airport, which generally has a control tower at it. You must not operate your drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property, you must only fly during the day and you must not fly through cloud or fog.

You must not fly your drone over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway. This could include situations such as a car crash, police operations, a fire or firefighting efforts, or search and rescue.

If you’re near a helicopter landing site or smaller aerodrome without a control tower, you can fly your drone within 5.5 kilometres, but if you become aware of a manned aircraft nearby, you will have to manoeuvre away and land your drone as quickly and safely as possible.

And finally, it is illegal to fly for money or reward unless you have a remote pilot licence (RePL) or you’re flying in the excluded category (meaning the drone weighs less than two kilograms or you’re flying over private land with the landholder’s permission).

For more information, visit https://www.casa.gov.au/ knowyourdrone/drone-rules.

Little White Islands of Snow

Little White Islands of Snow, Antarctica
Phase One XF 150MP, 240mm Schneider, f4.5 @ 1/1600 second, ISO 800

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a photo which I suggested wouldn't win any photo competitions, but commented that I liked it anyway! My blogs are posted onto Facebook as well as my www.petereastway.com website, so they get a bit of traction - including a few comments that agreed with me and suggested we need better judges.

Now, that's a problem!

To start with, I'm one of those judges and, if you ask me, the photo above (and the one I posted previously) would not win a photo competition. They might be accepted, given a Silver Award or get into the top 20% of entries, but they are unlikely to come first. And as a judge, I wouldn't give them first prize, either.

But I still love the photo. It has lots of emotional baggage for me. I love small, snow covered islands. I remember the cold wind as we stood on the ship's deck, approaching Antarctica for the first time that voyage. And I love the light.

However, the point I was trying to make (perhaps unsuccessfully) is that not every photo we create needs to be something that everyone else in the world loves. I know I get a lot of likes and loves on social media (and thank you for doing so), but there are also a lot of people who just click past because my photo doesn't do anything for them. And that's okay!

We can't control how people react to our work. Now, while it would be untrue to say I've given up caring what other people think, I am training myself to accept that there are all sorts of views out there and not to worry too much about the 'negatives'. On the other hand, sometimes judges have made negative comments about my work which have been really instructive and useful. They have helped me become a better photographer - in my opinion. 

We all have opinions and that's a good thing. It's a first step to creating new and original photography, so we certainly don't want everyone agreeing with everyone else - that would be boring. And as for the judges, yes, there are times when judges get it wrong. So do photographers! But if you enjoy the competition process as I do, I think the solution is not to get upset by poor outcomes, but to work out if you're still happy with the photo.

Sometimes my work is criticised, I agree with the judges and the photo is no longer a 'favourite'. But if I still love a photo after it has bombed in a competition, then that to me is a mark of success.

Vale Richard White

Richard White's 2020 calendar on my wall at the studio. What a great photo to finish on.

Richard White died last week, doing what he loved most, talking and discussing photography. His passing was unexpected for Richard, the person on the other end of the phone, Richard's family and the world-wide photographic community. And while there is undoubtedly a lot of grief for us all to work through, I'd like to celebrate Richard's life and contribution.

In fact, I can hear him now. "Don't make a fuss about me, concentrate on the photographs". Well, Richard, I love the May photo this month in your 2020 calendar. It was shot at Hadrians Wall in England and I can see it as a metaphor for so much of what you stood for.

It has a beautifully balanced composition, just as your many articles and presentations were carefully balanced. And the wall represents the different sides of photography, perhaps the gap between film and digital and all that the two mediums have come to represent.

Richard was not a fan of digital photography and post-production, but I mustn't misrepresent him. He owned digital cameras and used Photoshop, but what he loved most was his 4x5" view camera and processing sheets of black and white film. He was a large format fan. Digital was just how he presented his work for publication in Better Photography magazine.

And what a great contributor. With our 100th issue just about to be released, Richard has contributed to every issue since No. 10. And given we're a quarterly magazine, that's 23 years of putting up with an editor who had quite different views about what photography meant.

And this is what I love about Richard. He had his opinions. He knew what he liked, but in presenting his case, he always put himself in the shoes of the other side. A foot on both sides of the divide. He didn't criticize modern post-production technique per se, rather he queried whether what was being produced was of any real value. And I think he had a good point. There is so much poor quality photography in the world today, it's true to say digital technology is responsible, simply because it has made photography so accessible to so many. Just pick up your phone.

And in the early days, even the experts were good at making crap digital shots. I still cringe when I think about the early post-production we accepted as being 'good'. Richard was the voice of reason and the conscience of photography. He questioned whether the changes in the medium were progress or just a move in a different direction. He wasn't interested in switching to digital in the early days because it simply wasn't as good as film. And then in later years, it was his choice to stay with large format because he was a fan. Rather than following all the new fads and trends, he looked inside to find what really matter to him. That's a strength of character we can all emulate.

Richard White leaves behind a legacy of great Australian black and white landscape photography. Like Ansel Adams, he was passionate about education and the environment in which he lived. Unlike Ansel (for whom I have the greatest respect), we won't be able to fit Richard's best work into a small book of 400 prints! Ansel was a black and white technician, Richard was a black and white artist - who in many ways stood on Ansel's shoulders to take photography a step further into the future. He was progress in his field of endeavour.

Richard, you will be greatly missed.

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