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Street scenes, Copacabana, Altiplano, Bolivia
Fujifilm X-T3, Fujinon XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM WR lens, f4 @ 1/1400 second, ISO 160.

Although I've been taking photos for over 40 years, including a modest number of weddings and family portraits, I'm still not the world's greatest when it comes to photographing people in the street. Why is that?

When you're working professionally, you have an excuse. You're expected to walk up to the bride and take her photograph, or arrange the family on the beach - and with an excuse or a reason, I find I'm much bolder. However, on the street in a foreign country, things aren't so clear and the only excuse I have is my own curiousity. 

I often wonder how I'd feel walking around the streets of Sydney if a woman dressed in a large, colourful dress and a bowler hat walked up to me and asked if she could take my photo? In fact, this has happened to me (but not the woman in a colourful dress and a bowler hat) and, being a photographer, I've acquiesced. And if I were approached in the right way, well, actually I wouldn't have a problem.

And so it is for me when I am in the foreign land. I've taken a deep breath and approached someone to take a photograph and, nine times out of ten, I receive a very positive response. So, my message is that we should be bolder, when appropriate.

In popular tourist destinations, I find it a little more difficult. The locals are used to people with cameras and don't give them a second glance as they walk through your picture. However, because there are so many tourists, they are less likely to stop and engage. We are just another obstacle in their daily lives!

The photos in this post are from Copacabana in Bolivia. Copacabana is very much a tourist town and while tourism hasn't reached the dizzy heights you'd find in Paris or Rome, I do find people are less likely to engage with you. That's not to say they won't - we certainly had some great encounters - but generally speaking I found my photos were of street scenes with people in them, rather than portraits of people I met in the street.

And that's perfectly fine!

Cacti, Uyuni, Bolivia
Phase One A-Series, 150MP sensor, f8 @ 1/125 second, ISO 50

There have been a few things to report in recent weeks, so let me quickly bring you up to date!

Better Photography December 2020 issue is currently with Momento being printed, so we're looking good to being out on 1 December and in plenty of time for Christmas. So, if you'd like a paper version of the magazine, now is the time to subscribe! Click here.

The Landscape Photography MasterClass is now fully updated with over 20 new movies. Much of the old MasterClass remains the same as the fundamentals of using layers has not changed, but the updated movies use the latest versions of Photoshop, Lightroom and Capture One. If you already have a subscription (it lasts a lifetime), visit the Better Photography Education (www.betterphotographyeducation.com) webite and login here. If you haven't joined the MasterClass, you can sign up with 10 monthly payments and use the coupon code LMC25 to get 25% off - you can join here.

My book The New Tradition won second prize in the Self-Published Book sub-category in the IPA (Int'l Photography Awards) which was nice and hopefully that will mean a deluge of book orders! I also earned four honourable mentions for photos in a variety of categories (similar to being in the Top 20 in our Better Photography competition), but no places. Is this a disappointment? Why do I still enter photo competitions? What do I have to prove? I think if you're a competition judge, it's really important to continue entering other photography competitions so you know what it's like to be an entrant, know what it's like to receive feedback - and it is always nice to be in the top section of entrants if you can.

Thanks to Qantas for upgrading my frequent flyer card. Returning from Antarctica via Uruguay on a special repatriation flight in April, I missed out on earning the final five points needed for Gold and when I explained my situation, the kind people at Qantas gave me the last few points as a gesture of goodwill, given my special circumstances. I like the Gold card as it gives me priority boarding and access to the lounge which make air travel that much more enjoyable! Thank you Qantas.

I shot a wedding a couple of weeks ago (don't ask) and used Fujifilm's new 50mm f1.0 lens on my X-T3 (the X-T4 is on its way, but I'm wondering if the new X-S10 is the go). The results at f1.0 are beautifully sharp on the plane of focus (something that wasn't always the case with other 50mm f1.0 lenses I've owned from Leica and Canon), and the background blur a delight. It's not a cheap lens at around $2700, but I am reticent to send it back, so a chat with my accountant might be in order!

And the photo? It's another Bolivian edit from Uyuni and a small island in the middle of the salt pans, covered in cacti. We spent an entire day on the highly reflective salt and the underside of my nose felt badly burnt for the next three days!

Cocoi Heron, Rio Yacuma, Bolivia
Fujifilm X-T3, XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, f5.6 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 1600

I'm enjoying my spare time processing images from the Bolivian photo tour I did last year with Ignacio Palacios and a group of brave photographers - brave because we had some amazing adventures in many different ways.

I can remember coming back from our trip up the Yacuma River. There were two canoes and we were in the last one when our engine stopped. As the river twists and bends, the others didn't realise we were lagging behind. Worryingly, there were so many alligators along the embankment, we wondered if they knew how tasty we were. Fortunately, like all good boy scouts and girl guides, we only travelled with boatmen who had a spare oar and so slowly, slowly we limped our way back to the pick-up point.

The wildlife at this time of year (September) is highly concentrated because the floodplain waters have subsided and so all living beings seem to congregate along the river edges. I probably shot 1000 photos of egrets and herons in flight (I'm assuming this is a Cocoi Heron, but I stand to be corrected by a true birder), but this one worked the best. The background was in shadow and dark, the bird's wings were nicely positioned and, importantly, the bird was sharply focused.

In Lightroom, I darkened down the image overall until I was happy with the background. Then I used an adjustment brush to roughly cover the heron and used the highlight slider to lighten the bird, but not the background. Using the highlight or shadow sliders to adjust your exposure locally can work very well because it will adjust light values and not dark ones, or vice-versa, and this in turn means you don't always need a precise mask (or brush).

I used second and third adjustment brushes to further lighten the neck and the feet - and I like the way the little sunlit leaves on the right seem to be leading the heron on its flight path!

Some readers have asked about the 1:2 format. I am processing all my Bolivian photos with 1:1 or 1:2 format because I have a square format book in mind - a lay-flat book from Momento should present this image very nicely. However, I agree I'm wasting some image area for the A2 prints I make of each image before I send them off to be printed in book format, using my Epson SC P10070 and Canson Rag Photographique paper. No matter how good my EIZO monitor is, I still love looking at and handling a real print - I think it's one of the greatest enjoyments of the photographic process.

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