Almost Weekly Photo

Wanted: Travellers to Georgia & Armenia

Ushguli towers, Georgia. Love the vehicles below.Phase One A-Series, 100MP,…

Have Aerials Passed Their Use-By Date?

Station track, Middlehurst, 2019Phase One XF, IQ4 150MP, 80mm Schneider…

Ushguli towers, Georgia. Love the vehicles below.
Phase One A-Series, 100MP, 23mm Rodenstock lens, f8 @ 1/180 second, ISO 50.

Georgia and Armenia are so full of history, it's practically dripping off your photos. And two of my favourite locations are Ushguli and Mestia in Georgia, for many reasons. 

First, these towns are tucked away in the mountains, so there's a good chance of snow or - on our planned trip for 2020, golden autumn leaves! As you can see from the photographs, last time we had plenty of snow. We were there in early spring and a late snowfall transformed the landscape. Mehmet our guide mentioned how beautiful the area was in autumn with the changing colours - and so that's why this time we're going there in late October 2020, hoping to get that colour.

Second, the towns are home to these wonderful towers. There are lots of great stories about why they were built, how each neighbour would try to out do next door, and even of a few people jumping off the top or dropping things on marauders below! For me, they punctuate the landscape and there are a couple of angles I'm hoping to shoot in Ushguli especially. Last time, it was raining pretty heavily, so I couldn't explore as freely as I wanted to.

And third, I still remember the home made soup we had in an Ushguli farmhouse. Ushguli has only a handful of dwellings and is very remote, so our expectations for a great lunch were not too high. How wrong I was - it was sensational!

If you'd like to join me in Georgia and Armenia in October 2020, please book now! Details can be found on the Better Photography website - or click here.

Station track, Middlehurst, 2019
Phase One XF, IQ4 150MP, 80mm Schneider lens, f6.3 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 100

With every photographer shooting aerials these days, is the genre at risk of becoming cliche and boring? I don't think so. While photography judges might struggle to give 'yet another aerial' a really high score, the simple fact is aerials can look great! Like sunsets and photos of green tree frogs with bulbous eyes, they will always be popular.

But in any event, why are you taking photographs? Hopefully it is to please yourself, so it DOESN'T MATTER what others think! If you buy a drone or have the opportunity to get airborne, make the most of it! I still love getting into the air and can't see that thrill lessening any time soon.

When airborne, I'll shoot the scenic shots like everyone else, but what I like most are the abstracts that can be best created by tilting the aircraft over and shooting directly down. The plan view. Then the trick is to find an interesting composition and perhaps one of the easiest devices is a diagonal line.

In this case, the diagonal line is formed by a station road covered in snow. The snow has mostly melted away from the surrounding paddocks, revealing the yellow grasses below and an interesting pattern of lingering snow. It's a simple composition and there aren't lots of extra bits and pieces to distract the viewer.

When judging photo competitions, I think the biggest mistake most aerial entries have is trying to fit it all in. From up in the air you can see lots of different things that are all interesting in their own way, but when left together in a wide-ranging composition, tend to be complicated and confusing. A simple composition is best and often it can be easily achieved by cropping. This image has been both cropped and rotated to get a composition I was happy with.

And if you're interested in listening to a little piece Tony and I recorded about the Middlehurst experience, check out YouTube here:

Today you will find Gary Grealy’s portraits collected in the National Gallery of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, among many others. In fact, for nine of the eleven-year history of the National Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery, Gary’s work has been exhibited as a finalist.

So, what are Gary's secrets to creating his incredible portraits? In Better Photography this issue, we interview Gary and there are three important take-aways.

1. The portrait happens at the time of capture, so setting up the portrait shoot is essential for success. However, Gary isn't just talking about equipment, but the connection he creates with his subject. 

Explained Gary, “For me, it’s the relationship I have with the subject and the process I go through that leads to the actual portrait sitting. I take every opportunity I can to learn about my subject, including an interview before the photography session itself, when I try to get a sense of the person." Gary then explains in detail some of the ways he builds that relationship - it makes impressive reading.

2. His post-production process in Photoshop is quite different - yet to me it makes a lot of sense. 

“I guess everyone has his or her own strange way of starting the grading process. Mine is that I will initially process three frames, one light, one dark and a middle ‘correct’ exposure."

Then with all three images in a stack in Photoshop, rather than using curves to lighten or darken areas, he uses masks to brush in lighter or darker areas. In this way, he says he’s not fiddling too much with the initial file - but of course, this is just the beginning of his process - it just sets up the file which is further refined.

3. Gary enters photography awards. When asked why, he asks in reply, what else is there for a portrait photographer?

“If you are a creative person, not only do you want to produce work, you need an outlet as well." And that outlet has led to exhibitions around Australia in a number of regional galleries.

What I love about the interviews in Better Photography magazine are the little gems of wisdom I get to take away that have a big impact on how I think and work as a photographer. It's inspirational. And you can read them too - just subscribe to Better Photography magazine online. You'll find details on the website here.

Click here to subscribe.

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