All posts tagged: photo focus column

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88 Stars

It’s been a while since I last did portraits. I arrive at the hotel at 9.45am. It’s too early and I need to wait for my subjects to get out of the lecture. There are 88 of them. I have been hired to photograph an astrophysicist convention in a well known Blue Mountains resort. These are probably the most intelligent portrait subjects I’ll ever get to photograph. It’s a good thing there’s a whole constellation of them. I talk to my contact. She suggests we do the shoot outside, in front of some greenery in the back of the hotel. All I need is a decent background, and the sun facing me. “We don’t want people squinting in the sun,” I tell her. It’s almost time. I’ve checked my camera settings. My flash works. It’s a beautiful day in the Mountains and I’ve been in Australia for almost ten years. When I arrived I had nothing, I think to myself. Now I’m photographing scientists. And then they start coming. The first person steps inside the …

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The New Residents

When I arrived to photograph the house in Leura, the new residents were sipping champagne in the upstairs kitchen with the architect and the ever-jovial building company boss, my employer on this job. Everything in the house was new. It had no curtains, no personal belongings. The owners had just been handed the keys and may not have felt the house belonged to them yet. That would come later, when the hustle and bustle had died down and they would have time to breathe and take it all in. But for now, by contrast to the empty rooms, there were people and action everywhere. The downstairs garage floor was strewn with power tools, paint buckets, ladders. The radio was blasting 90s hits and sports commentary. The workers were busy packing up and making sure everything was in order before it was time to go and not come back anymore. Later on, the friends of the new residents came in groups, walked from room to room, stopped to look at the empty walls, the uncovered floor, …

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Icarus

What separates a good photographer from a great photographer is not necessarily skill or vision. The thing that’s needed in order to become a great photographer—or great anything—is awareness. When I was learning yoga in my 20s, twenty years ago, it was very important that I be aware of the position of each of my muscles and coordinate my moves with the inward and outward flow of my breath. The visible—what the observer saw—mattered less than what happened in my mind: did my mind guide my body through the asanas or did I daydream and let my body move on autopilot? The thing that applied to yoga twenty years ago applies to photography today. Once you have passed the initial stages of apprenticeship—once you know your equipment and have become friends with light—the only thing stopping you from taking great photos is your mind; whether you pay attention or not. Awareness is hard and uses up a lot of energy. I remember being drained like a bathtub after my first longer photography shoots a few …

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Miners on Bicycles

I had driven along Great Western Highway past Blackheath and Mount Victoria when the scenery suddenly changed. Instead of endless, monotonous woods, there was a vast valley with open fields, farm houses, horses on paddocks and quaint little shops along the highway. I breathed a sigh of relief. The long and winding descent down the hill eased into a leisurely drive on a country road. The bright Australian sun was up and doing its best to put a smile on these pastoral surroundings. We both had a job to do and we were feeling fine. I was on my way to the “little house on the prairie”, as its owner called it. She had hired me to photograph her partner’s bicycle collection as a birthday surprise for him. The idea was to select one or two of the photos and make a canvas print to present to the hero of the day. It was a great idea and I wanted to help make it succeed. As I arrived at the little house, my client had …