Passing marks for our photo schools?

Capture10 Institutes around the country are churning out photography graduates, but are they being taught the right skills to survive an industry that may not have a place for them, asks PJ Heller

Become a professional photographer” shouts the headline from a newspaper ad for a local polytechnic. Ah, the life of a professional photographer — trotting around the world, shooting the rich and famous in fabulous locations, or documenting dramatic global events, all the while earning lots of money. At least that’s the way it is often portrayed in the media, but the reality is far from it, explains Aaron Key, executive director of the AIPA.

“Thousands of kids are going to see that and go, ‘Oh, wow, I’ll do that’, not understanding that for every one of those successful photographers, there are probably a thousand others who are barely managing to scrape together a living, even though they might be just as talented or have as much photographic ability.”

Yet nearly two dozen schools around the country continue to churn out graduates with degrees or diplomas in photography, laments Key. Only a handful of those graduates may actually work as professional photographers, with others moving into peripheral areas such as design, animation, retouching, teaching, or video. Some may decide to try their luck overseas, while others leave the industry altogether. Still, the age-old question persists of how many photo graduates the market can sustain.

Vicky Te Puni, who graduated from Auckland’s Unitec in 2012 with a bachelor of visual design majoring in photography, recalls on the first day of school that her instructor advised the class there were “absolutely no jobs in photography”.

“There are no jobs, but there’s a lot of work,” she says. “You have to create it yourself. You have to be smart about it.”

John Maillard, head of the photography programme at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT), agrees, saying there are very few salaried photography jobs available. “The first thing we tell our students is photography is a very difficult career, and you’re going to have to figure out how you’re going to make a living.”

Careers New Zealand rates the chances of getting a job as a photographer as ‘average’, citing stable demand and stable numbers in a competitive industry. In the 2013 New Zealand Census, 2130 people listed themselves as photographers.

Mike Langford of the NZIPP says the issue is compounded by the idea that “everyone’s got a camera, and therefore they think they’re a photographer”. Langford himself is director of the Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography workshops, which teaches many of those keen amateurs. “The days of just having a camera and being able to take a good photograph, and being a professional as a result of that, they’re gone. That doesn’t exist any more.”

Ann Shelton, associate professor of photography in the School of Art at Massey University, says the school is very aware of the realities, and does not try to attract students by convincing them that photography is “glamorous”.

“We let them know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, and to succeed you have to work really, really hard and commit yourself to a degree,” she explains.

Rachel Hoskin, head of the School of Photography, Arts and Design at UCOL, says the school cannot ‘create’ jobs for graduates, only arm them with the best chances possible of finding or creating work for themselves. “If they really have that motivation, that passionate drive, they will find their place in the industry and they will be successful.”

Ian Rotherham, programme coordinator for photography and senior lecturer at UCOL, says he has been hearing the question about whether the market is oversaturated with photographers for more than 30 years. “I’d ask the same question of lawyers and politicians. There are people studying economics and politics at universities all over the place, and it’s a pretty small pool to get a job within politics … I think putting a spotlight on just photography is pretty unfair.”

iStock_000004242081Medium (Medium)

However, photography schools have been in the spotlight lately, with UCOL expanding to launch the Commercial Institute of Photography Auckland, offering the two-year Diploma in Photographic Imaging. At the same time, Unitec has slashed its design and visual arts department by more than half, eliminating 50 jobs, which will be replaced with 17 new positions, many of them expected to be filled by outside design professionals. At Massey, its two-year Diploma in Photography has been put on hold, and its four-year Bachelor of Design with a major in photography has been revamped for the coming term.

Langford, Key, and Te Puni all agree that photography schools are more interested in their bottom lines than they are about what happens to their graduates. “They are profit-making businesses,” Langford says. “That’s what they’re there for.”

Some of the schools, however, supply accolades and statistics to make a case for their industry relevance and efficacy. UCOL points to the success of its graduates, as well as its staff and current students, in industry awards — most recently, photographers associated with the school grabbed 21 medals at the Australian Institute of Professional Photography’s annual print competition in Melbourne. Shelton reports 65 per cent of Massey’s 2011 design students obtained full-time employment within six months of graduation and, of those, about 80 per cent were in jobs directly related to their chosen areas.

“We’re teaching skills,” Shelton says. “We’re providing students with a set of really high-end skills that they can use when they graduate in lots of different ways. Some of them will use those skills to become commercial photographers, and many of them will use them in innovative and different ways.”

One complaint coming from both New Zealand’s professional photography organizations is that many students coming out of photo schools lack the necessary training in running a business.

“To actually make it as a photographer — as a wedding and portrait photographer or a commercial photographer — and do the jobs that a lot of those young people want to do, like the billboard campaigns, the magazine editorials, and other cool stuff, you’re going to be self-employed,” Key notes. “And to succeed as a self-employed person, it’s probably more important to have some business knowledge. You know how to negotiate. You have to know about copyright and all of the business side of things. That’s more important to succeed than actually knowing f-stops and shutter speeds.”

He says many schools simply teach insubstantial, tacked-on classes in business, because such classes are a hard sell to students more interested in creative endeavours. “It’s the age-old thing: they want to turn out art. To actually succeed in that you have to realize you have to devote a lot of time to the business side of it.”

This was very much the case when Te Puni was studying. She says Unitec was “totally lacking” in providing students with the business skills to be self-employed, such as the cost of running a business, how to prepare taxes and understanding GST. “They don’t actually prepare you for that even though that’s the reality.”

UCOL, Massey, and CPIT all say they require photography students to take business courses. “It’s quite a holistic programme” that includes web and page layout design, invoicing, and building a business, says photography instructor Deborah Marshall of CPIT’s business focus.

Similarly, Rotherham describes UCOL’s business component as “very nuts and bolts”, addressing areas like copyright and pricing. Students at Massey can do a minor in a business subject, such as entrepreneurship and small business, or marketing.

The photography school representatives all stress that students receive a well-rounded education to prepare them for the future in a rapidly changing industry. CPIT’s Maillard says professional photographers need to be multi-skilled and have to move beyond thinking of themselves as just photographers, and UCOL’s Hoskin agrees.

“We designed our programme the way we did so that students have multiple skills when they leave,” Hoskin says. “That’s the beauty of our degree. We’re not flooding the industry with people who only have one skill set.”

Massey’s Shelton also echoes the need to produce graduates who are adaptable and flexible, with a breadth of knowledge that can be applied in different ways. “We can’t predict what sort of careers will be out there for our graduates in 10 years … So we want to send a young person out there with a broader range of career options, because we can’t anticipate that change.” Even so, Langford is unconvinced that all schools share those same attitudes. “There are a lot of institutes out there teaching photography. Some of them are pretty woeful, and the students, when they come out, really have no idea of how to use a camera to communicate.”

Institutes with real, substantial connections with the photographic industry are the most likely to produce graduates who are aware of and equipped to deal with the realities of the trade. They’re also fairly easy to identify, as they will wear this connectedness on their sleeves, welcoming industry members to observe their courses as readily as they’ll send students out to observe the professionals.

Layer blending modes

01 - Blending Modes MenuDigital editing expert Hans Weichselbaum brings us the first half of an in-depth look at blending modes

Everybody working in Photoshop will be familiar with layers. After all, they’re one of the many assets of this program, but very few users take advantage of the layer blending modes. In general, there is more than one way to achieve a certain outcome in Photoshop, but quite often a simple change in blending mode, perhaps in combination with a layer mask, can get you there quicker and with less effort.

Here, I run through most of the available blending modes, with a short description of what each does. In a follow-on article next issue I will show you how to make use of blending modes in your day-to-day photography. Editing programs other than Photoshop (Corel PaintShop Pro and Photoshop Elements, for example) also use layers and blending modes.

Perched near the upper-left corner of the Layers panel you will find the pop-up menu for blending modes with a long list of choices.

Open an image, duplicate the layer, and then use the keyboard to cycle through the blending modes: press and hold the shift key then tap the plus key to go forward through the blend menu, and use shift and minus to go the other way.

You’ll find blending modes all over Photoshop, for example in the Layer Style dialogue box, with some of the filters, and in the Fade dialogue box. Some tools also make use of blending modes, including Brush, Paint Bucket, Healing and Cloning Brush, Gradient, and Smudge.

If you are working on a single image, rather than a composite of two or more images, then it’s better if you use an Adjustment layer instead of duplicating the image layer — it won’t double your file size. Simply put an adjustment layer on top of your image — it doesn’t matter which one you choose — and change the blending mode.

Looking at the long list of options, you might notice Photoshop groups them into six clusters. The default setting is Normal, and this behaves as you would expect when you put one image on top of another: the top image simply covers the one underneath, like a sheet of paper. If you change the blending mode to anything other than Normal, Photoshop applies some maths to change the appearance of your image.

I will demonstrate the various blend options with two layers: a blue sphere on top, and two red gradients in the bottom layer.

02 - Blending Modes

Image 2 — The two layers used for my demonstration

The first group: Normal and Dissolve

These two modes are at the very top of the list. We just looked at the Normal blending mode, which basically does nothing — there is no interaction between the active layer (the one you have selected) and the one underneath. Of course, you can still reduce the Opacity of the top layer to make it semi-transparent and let the image underneath shine through. Reducing the Opacity is also the way to go if the effect of one of the blending modes is too strong.

The Dissolve blend is quite unique, and there are not many applications for which you will find it useful. Most of the time you won’t see any change in the image at all. That’s because this mode only affects transitions between opaque and partially transparent pixels in the top layer. To make the effect visible I had to reduce the opacity of the top layer (I used 70 per cent). The texture effect is similar to what you often see as a transition effect in slide shows.

03 - Normal & Dissolve

Image 3 — The Normal (left) and Dissolve (right) blend options

Darkening modes

The members of the next section of blending modes all have a darkening effect.

04 - Darken Modes

Image 4 — The darkening blending modes

White is the neutral colour for all these blending modes. The effect is that any areas of white in the upper image will disappear, showing the colours of the underlying image.

The first mode of this group is simply called Darken. I didn’t include it with the examples shown, because its effect comes up as very similar to the Multiply blend. The Multiply mode multiplies the pixel values from the two layers, and then divides the product by 255 to normalize the value, getting it back into the allowed range. Think of two slides sandwiched together and projected from one projector. Perhaps that’s a difficult thing to visualize for the new generation of digital photographers, but take my word for it, the result will be a darker image. In practice you can use the Multiply mode to add density to an image that is too bright.

Colour Burn involves some complicated maths. Similar to Multiply, it darkens and increases contrast in the underlying image, then applies the colour from the upper layer to the bottom image, but as a function of how dark that colour is. When you use it on a layer filled with 50-per-cent grey, it intensifies the colours on the layer below. You can use it to fix an ugly sky in a hurry.

Linear Burn is a combination of Multiply and Colour Burn, but it only darkens based on the underlying colour values without having an impact on contrast. It has a tendency to turn dark pixels into solid black.

The Darker Colour mode compares the base and top colours and keeps the darkest pixels. No blending is going on here — the lighter colours just vanish. It is ideal for removing white backgrounds. You can create some cool effects with this mode.

Lighten blending modes

Not surprisingly, all these modes will lighten your image. Black is the neutral colour, and any black pixels in the upper layer will disappear, leaving the underlying pixels unchanged. Anything lighter than black has the potential to lighten the layer below.

05 - Lighten Modes

Image 5 — The lighten blending modes

Again, I left out the first mode, Lighten, because the effect is very similar to Screen. All the colours are compared, and Photoshop keeps the lightest ones from both layers.

Screen is the inverse of Multiply. It’s like projecting two slides onto the same spot with two projectors. This blending mode comes in handy when you want to extract shadow detail. You can also simulate a multiple-exposure image by blending a number of slightly underexposed images together.

Colour Dodge lightens your image by decreasing its contrast. Light pixels tend to turn into solid white, but it keeps black pixels. Using this blending mode on a layer filled with 50-per-cent grey, you can give dark hair instant highlights.

Linear Dodge lightens your image by increasing its brightness. In general, this isn’t a blending mode you’ll often use, because it tends to turn all light colours into white. More often than not the image will look unnatural.

Lighter Colour not only lightens, but also increases the saturation. It is the opposite to Darker Colour, and you can get some unexpected results. Photoshop compares the base with the top colours and keeps only the lightest pixels. It doesn’t combine any colours.

Contrast modes

This is a group of seven blending modes. The neutral colour here is 50-per-cent grey. Any pixels lighter than middle grey in the top layer will lighten the underlying image, while any darker areas will darken the bottom image. It’s like a combination of Darken and Lighten modes. The result is an increase in contrast.

I use the Overlay blend a lot in combination with the High Pass filter to enhance local contrast, making the image look sharper. If the effect is too strong, you can always reduce the Opacity setting. Seasoned Photoshop jockeys do all their portrait retouching non-destructively with the Dodge and Burn tools in Overlay or Soft Light mode. Soft Light does almost exactly the same as Overlay, but more subtly.

Hard Light is a combination of Multiply and Screen modes. It is the equivalent of shining a harsh light on your image.

06 - Contrast Modes

Image 6 — The contrast blending modes

In the Vivid Light mode, Photoshop applies Colour Burn to increase the contrast of colours darker than 50-per-cent grey, and Colour Dodge to decrease the contrast of colours lighter than middle grey.

Linear Light is similar to Vivid Light, except that it adjusts the brightness rather than the contrast of the underlying image.

Pin Light is great for producing some special effects in combination with creative filters. It combines the Darken and Lighten blending modes, switching between the two depending on whether the pixels of the upper layer are lighter or darker than middle grey.

With Hard Mix you get a particularly strong result because all the colours are reduced to the six primaries: red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow (plus black and white).

Comparative blending modes

These should really be called ‘psychedelic’. They can turn your photos into some freaky-looking specimens, which might come in handy for a Halloween card.

The Difference mode compares the pixel values between the two layers. What you see is the difference between the two, but represented as the absolute value (always a positive number). This mode is useful when you want to locate the mid tones of an image. You can also use it to align two layers of the same image (for example, two shots at different exposures).

Exclusion is similar to Difference but with a less dramatic effect. Blending with white inverts the base colour, and blending with black doesn’t do anything.

07 - Comparative Modes

Image 7 — The comparative blending modes

These are also called the ‘HSL’ modes. They break up the colours in the active layer into three parts: Hue (the basic colour), Saturation (colour intensity), and Luminosity (brightness).

The Hue blending mode applies the hue of the active layer to the underlying image, without changing saturation and brightness. Saturation and Luminosity work similarly, only affecting one parameter. The Luminosity blending mode is particularly useful when working with the Unsharp Mask filter when you don’t want to get any colour artefacts.

08 - Colour Blend Modes

Image 8 — The colour-attribute blending modes

The Colour blending mode is a combination of the Hue and Saturation modes. Photoshop keeps the luminance of the underlying layer, and picks up the colour and saturation of the top image. This makes it handy for colourizing greyscale images.

And there is more …

There are other blending modes, for example, the Pass Through mode for layer groups. And the Brush, Pencil, and Shape tools have two additional blending modes, Behind and Clear.

Don’t worry if you haven’t got your head around all the blending modes at this point. The best way of exploring them is to experiment. Start on a single image with an adjustment layer on top. The important points to remember are that Multiply builds up density, Screen makes the image lighter, Overlay increases the contrast, Colour changes the colour balance without affecting luminosity, and Luminosity allows you to sharpen images without the dreaded colour fringes. Don’t forget that you can reduce the strength of the effect by reducing the opacity of the top layer.

Needless to say, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. In next issue’s article I will show you some practical applications for these techniques in your day-to-day editing work.

India by lens

A Girl does her washing in the Gagnes

From packing to departure, Travcom Travel Photographer of the Year 2014, Josh Donnelly, leads us on a photo tour of India

Ask a lot of people who have not been to India what their perception of the country is, and many will give a negative answer. I must admit, even before my plane touched down I was a little apprehensive about what I might be letting myself in for on my first visit. But after a quick two-week holiday, I can truthfully say it was one of the most amazing and colourful places I have ever been to and, as I would discover, it is a photographer’s paradise.

In this article I will write about my whirlwind tour, discussing a few thoughts and approaches on travel photography, and hoping I can motivate you to take the bull by the horns and step outside your comfort zone with your camera on your next holiday. 

A little girl plays in  an ally in Varnaesi

Regarding photographic equipment, my biggest bit of advice is to travel light. Unless you are on an arranged photographic tour, take minimal gear; I usually just travel with one camera body and one lens. On this trip it was a Nikon D7000 and an 18–200mm lens, which served me fine. Pick a versatile lens that works in most situations. It need not be 18–200mm, but something you like to use. Even a medium telephoto can be a good option. Last year when I visited Turkey, I shot with a 15–85mm and got some fantastic results.

Should I take the tripod or not? It’s a question I ask myself every single time I go overseas. I have a very small, compact and lightweight Cullmann tripod I usually take just in case but, to be honest, I have hardly used one at all during my last couple of trips. If you do like to use a tripod, I would suggest first researching the attractions at your destination, as many do not allow the use of a tripod — an example of this in India is the Taj Mahal. Modern cameras have amazing ISO abilities, so utilize them and you’re likely to find your pictures will come out fine, especially with today’s improvements in noise reduction and image-editing software.

Make sure you have plenty of memory. It’s always better to have plenty of cards than not enough. I usually take a 32GB card and always have at least two backups, just in case. And always make sure you fully charge your battery before each day’s shoot.

For the sort of trip I took in India, I brought a small over-the-shoulder camera bag that fitted into a bigger backpack so that I could pack other things with it for the plane journey. I have found on previous trips that camera backpacks leave very little room for your own personal items, which can be a nuisance after a day out when you may have collected the odd souvenir or brought some bottled water back to your hotel.

Now you have all your gear ready, it’s time to get on the road.

A man sewing in Todi Garh

My first stop in India was Delhi, and my initial impression was slightly negative on the photography front — I didn’t see the colour and chaos I was expecting. After the flight from Singapore I checked into the hotel before taking a small walk. Unfortunately I didn’t feel inspired to take photos, in fact I was too scared to even take the camera out. There were people everywhere, and I felt flaunting a camera would attract too much attention, that I was being intrusive. I did get over my initial hesitation on the second day, which involved a rickshaw trip through Old Delhi. I didn’t know which way to look because so much was going on; there were people bathing in the street, shopping, cleaning wax out of ears, sewing, repairing shoes, shaving — you name it, and it was going on. A street photographer’s dream, but difficult to shoot when on the go.

One of the places we visited in Delhi was the Jama Masjid Mosque. There were other tourists wandering through the grounds of the mosque and I wanted to get a photo that was different from the standard exterior shot, so I decided to explore the interior. I was impressed by its size and splendour, and it wasn’t until I had been in there for at least 15 minutes that I noticed there were only locals in the scene, so I decided to click away from some distance, respecting that it was a place of worship.

Jama Masjid Mosque

Varanasi, which is situated right on the banks of the Ganges, was the second location on my itinerary. I can truthfully say Varanasi was one of the most amazing and colourful places I have ever been to, and an incredible place to photograph. Ghats (a series of long steps) line the bank of the river closest to the city. You can see people fishing, washing themselves, washing clothes, praying and cremating their deceased loved ones along this culturally significant and holy river. You can photograph most of these things, but photography is strictly prohibited at the funeral ghats and at the actual cremations. 

Sadhus (holy men) are great to photograph; they are located along the banks of the river, normally sleeping in tents. They live quite a simple life and a lot of them have amazing faces. They may expect you to pay them if you want to take their photograph, so it’s a good idea to have some smaller Indian rupees, just in case, but much of the time it isn’t an issue. 

Offerings for the Gagnes River

One of the many photography highlights of my stay in Varanasi was a dawn cruise along the Ganges. You will see thousands of people bathing in the river and praying. It truly was amazing to witness such devotion. One cannot help but get caught up in the moment, and may even find yourself saying a prayer as well. In this situation it is important to shoot at high ISO, because the early morning light can make it difficult to photograph from a moving boat. 

You can’t go to India without visiting the Taj Mahal, and you will definitely not be disappointed. It is truly breathtaking. Photographing can be difficult, however, mainly due to the large number of other tourists. Expect it to be busy. Tripods are a definite no-no, so if you do manage to be there when the sun goes down, make sure to increase your ISO setting. The best vantage point to photograph the Taj is just in front of the pools that are in the foreground where, if you’re lucky, you will see the magnificent building reflected in the shot. There will likely be lots of locals trying to take your portrait with the Taj in the background. They will expect you to buy the image from them later, but look around for a fellow user of Nikon, Canon or whatever make you yourself use; you will usually find they will do a better job for free.

Old woman in Todi Garh

I was very fortunate to spend a night in the village of Tordi Garh. What makes this place special to photograph is that the tour companies stopping here encourage responsible tourism; there is no begging, we are told not to give any money for taking a local’s photo or to give the children any gifts. And the people, in turn, didn’t expect it. This place gave us quite a different look at the Indian people compared to those in the cities. Most of them actually want you to photograph them and love the simple gesture of showing them the results on your camera’s LCD screen. I got some stunning portraits in this place, and what made it work were the beautiful colours, both of the garments the people wore and of their surrounds. 

My final stop was the city of Jaipur before heading back to Delhi. Jaipur has many sights to explore, including the Amber Fort. You can walk up to the fort but, if you’re like me and want to experience how life would have been as a maharaja, you can also take a ride on an elephant. The elephants are beautiful and great to photograph, especially if they are still wearing their paint from the Elephant Festival, which happens in March.

The Taj Mahal just after sun set

Sadly, after that my travels in India quickly came to an end and it was time to fly back home. 

India did not disappoint photographically. It is difficult not to leave this amazing place without being touched by the colour and people. So the next time you’re looking to go on a holiday with great photographic opportunities, I encourage you to go somewhere different, like India. You don’t have to do a photography tour to get great shots, and you don’t need to spend big bucks on your gear. Just go out and enjoy it — the next trip for me is Burma and I can’t wait.

Cruising into photography

Dan Molloy Supper Club

Paul Gummer talks to commercial photographer Dan Molloy about the fallacy of photography being easy work

There’s a perception outside our industry that photography is easy. This way of thinking often extends to the notion that it’s pretty straightforward to become a photographer.

I doubt there is any job in life that is ‘easy’ if a person has a desire to become highly proficient at it and carve out an interesting career. In fact, I am convinced that the more you put into something, the more you get out, and that this holds true for most people. Each of the photographers I have talked to about getting into the industry has found the road hard going. It is the reward of doing something we are passionate about that keeps us at it.

I find it fascinating to analyse why successful people are just that. It all begins and ends in our thought worlds, and one of the keys to success is persistence at pursuing your goal despite the obstacles. 

Some journeys can appear amusing. My former colleague Joe Sing began life as a greengrocer. His dream was to become a photographer, and eventually he bought the shop next door and turned it into a photographic studio. One minute he would be selling a kilo of spuds, and the next he would be running around the back of the shops, taking off his brown coat, straightening his tie, and popping up in the studio to sell a portrait. He told some hilarious stories about his adventures, but they were all cemented together by the fact that he worked incredibly hard to become successful.

Dan Molloy Get It cover

One of our graduates from the Universal College of Learning (UCOL) back in 2003, Dan Molloy, left for a photography job on a cruise ship in the Caribbean for eight months. On paper, this sounds like it would have been an easy dream job. Not so. Molloy says he loved the travel but not the job. It was demanding, mundane, repetitive work. The pay was low and the hours long, and the photographers were treated poorly. Despite this, he says it was a fantastic experience after being brought up on a New Zealand farm. He learned the skills of efficiency, time management, and customer service — all of which he says are vital to running a successful business now.

Molloy left the cruise ship at the same time as an Australian friend, and they decided to travel together for a while before heading to Brisbane. Molloy liked it there and found part-time work to keep him ticking until returning to New Zealand. He tried getting a job in photography, but it was difficult to become established. He contacted a lot of photographers in desperation to get work, but to no avail. He became disheartened and wondered how he would ever run his own business. Then an acquaintance offered him some occasional photographic work, shooting events and bands for posters, etc.

With time on his hands, he became fit, healthy, and “good looking” (he laughs), resulting in a model agency signing him up. The agency eventually asked him to photograph its models, and after a year or so, this sideline business took off. Molloy made numerous contacts through the agency and began to shoot for many of its clients. The freelancing included advertising campaigns, fashion lookbooks, and catalogues. A move to Australia’s Gold Coast, and setting up a studio at home, resulted in even more work flying in. Using social media to advertise, Molloy found both Facebook and Instagram to be superb for generating business. Initially this was from models wanting a portfolio, but it then spread to smaller companies needing photography. The bigger companies, he says, tend to operate through agencies.

Dan Molloy Kate Anderson

One of Molloy’s main clients is the Gold Coast glossy lifestyle magazine Get It, for which he has shot many covers and fashion editorials. Modelling, acting, and talent agencies are also in the line-up, along with fashion designers. His ideal jobs are shooting new ranges for fashion designers — as they allow for a more creative approach — such as the shoot for Kate Anderson’s winter collection.

Difficult jobs for Molloy are those for which there is no clear brief. So much so, that he now insists on a brief when a client books a shoot. His prime advice for new photographers is to “never sell yourself short”. This comes back to the idea that photography is easy and enjoyable, and so, if it is, to the question of why it is worth paying for. One of the biggest problems in our industry is people doing jobs for nothing. The irony is that those who do this cannot possibly last in business. The flip side is confidence in both your work and your fees. Joe Sing used to say, “charge what you’re worth but be worth what you charge”. At UCOL, we are frequently searching for ways to make graduates’ portfolios stand out, and how they can add value for clients. Sometimes this means breaking new ground. Molloy took risks and created opportunities — two traits very often shared by successful people.

Young blood

00001Oliver Rose

Kelly Lynch talks with three young photographers who made waves last year within the challenging fashion and commercial environment

Coming up roses

Personable young photographer Oliver Rose has based himself near central Auckland’s trendy hub, Ponsonby Central — the ideal spot to meet clients and discuss image ideas over a strong cup of coffee. Working in close proximity to your requisite caffeine fix is just one of the invaluable tricks the 23-year-old has picked up while working predominantly as a fashion and portrait photographer for the past two years.

In that short time Rose has built up an impressive list of clients, and enough of a reputation that he’s now eyeing up the international market. Rose says he has managed to stay ahead in the highly competitive market because he is eager, passionate and driven, which people notice and like. “Agencies are always looking for something fresh, the new kid on the block,” he explains. 

But it is bigger than that, Rose spends time understanding what he calls his client’s vocabulary, getting to know their brand. He researches trends applicable to them, what medium their message will work well in, and he shoots stills and/or video to match.

6 Oliver Rose

A diverse interest in visual arts has helped Rose establish his distinct visual style. His passion for oil painting was kindled in school, where he produced artworks drawing influences from cinema, particularly early German expressionist films from the 1920s to ’30s. His photographs unsurprisingly now echo this cinematic feel, too. 

His time at Auckland’s Elam art school was focused on film-making, with stints assisting on music videos and an independent film to bolster his practical experience. After he finished school at 19, an opportunity to shoot during New Zealand Fashion Week opened doors for him, igniting a career in fashion photography.

He says he spent three years killing himself doing jobs. He lived on two-minute noodles, and would spend nights learning, upskilling in areas like post-production, studio shoots and business acumen to further his prospects. Now, despite now having a healthy number of key clients who keep him fed on more substantial fare than packet noodles, he still regularly spends evenings in the studio, further developing his know-how by trialling lighting and different shoots. 

The effort has resulted in a style Rose can claim as his own, and one he is very protective of. Instead of working a shoot he feels wrong for, he says he would rather turn down a job to ensure the client hires the right person.

It’s a work ethic that ensures business has been very good, so much so that next year he is expanding to Sydney while still maintaining his Auckland business, returning regularly for shoots. There is no hesitation in his voice when he shares his future ambition to make imagery in the fashion worlds of New York and Europe. 

Elena Stejko Sacha Stejko

Turning heads

Finding a niche is always solid business advice, and Sacha Stejko has done just that — in the last three years the young photographer has taken close to 450 head shots. Over the past two years, since she turned 21, Stejko has become the go-to photographer for actors’ head shots, a reputation gained from working with the country’s chief acting agencies and a healthy dose of word of mouth.

Stejko’s photographic beginnings include a scholarship to Auckland’s Whitecliffe College, and winning a Sony-sponsored competition at the age of 18. Her prize was the opportunity to shoot during New Zealand Fashion Week, which opened her eyes to a career path that she then knew she was bound for.

Six months later Stejko took a trip to Switzerland, with the opportunity to photograph Russian actor and clown Slava Polunin’s world-famous production, Slava’s Snowshow. The resultant images were published in the show’s promotional material and book.

IMG_3862 Sacha Stejko

Back in New Zealand she did a few assisting gigs for fashion photographers Sam Crawford, Garth Badger and the late Craig Owen, learning vital tricks of the trade. Before long opportunities to photograph for agencies and theatre companies arose, and Stejko branched out on her own, establishing her distinctive niche.

Having grown up with a mother who was an actress, director and acting tutor, Stejko is no stranger to the business. She has witnessed hundreds of casting photos pass by the casting director’s gaze, and recognizes the looks that cause the page-flicking to halt, from which leading roles are won.

joel Sacha Stejko

Her familiarity with actors and their world allows her to easily relate and offer insight. “A lot of actors are pigeonholed into one look,” she says. “I photograph the presence of the actor, take a range of shots, if the person is a bit cheeky then I want to show that and give them an edited selection.”

Stejko takes shoots in a naturally-lit space in her home, creating a relaxed environment for clients to unwind and trust her. Because she wants to capture authentic imagery, she must be genuine and able to connect with those in the industry. She sees her work as a huge responsibility, directly related to her clients being able to generate income, but it’s also a source of pride as she watches clients gain roles time and again.

IMG_3368 Sacha Stejko

While head shots make up the bulk of her work, Stejko also shoots PR shots for theatre companies and, like many, is increasingly asked by clients to supply video. Ultimately she sees herself doing more fashion photography, and she’d also like to direct and produce films in the future, but for now she is in her element.

Fashionably early

Karen Ishiguro is a 20-year-old fashion and beauty photographer who has attracted a lot of attention in a very short space of time. She has quickly earned her stripes on the photographic assistant track, and is now blazing a trail of her own, already catching the eye of one of the country’s top fashion designers.

Karen Ishiguro Photographers Mail Karen Ishiguro

Ishiguro’s work was published in the Platform feature in Remix magazine late last year, a space where up-and-coming photographers collaborate with Kingsize Studios to produce a spread. This issue was seized upon by Trelise Cooper, and Ishiguro’s images are now front focus of the Trelise Cooper website, and her 2013–2014 collections.

Without any formal photography training, Ishiguro launched into practical assisting work right after high school. She assisted the late fashion photographer, Craig Owen, on a two-week Farmers Trading Company shoot, and was impressed with his know-how, professionalism, and the high esteem in which he was held. In awe of Owen’s work and the shoot, the experience left her hungry for more. 

She emailed other fashion photographers whose work she admired, and feels extremely lucky to have worked for the likes of Jessica Sims, Guy Coombes, Caroline Haslett, Stephen Tilley, and Monty Adams. The assisting experience taught her teamwork, punctuality, how to deal with stress and, most importantly, to have fun and be inspired by other creatives. 

Karen Ishiguro Photographers Mail 2 Karen Ishiguro

Though her career as a photographer has quickly been established, Ishiguro will still assist other photographers if available — only these days the photographers come calling on her. 

In addition to Trelise Cooper, the photographer’s clients include fashion labels Ruby and Liam, Showroom 22 PR agency, Taylor boutique, Meccano clothing, and magazines like Remix and Element. For such jobs she is happy to mix things up, and shoot in hired studios or on location.

Asked what inspires her photography, she points to biannual Dutch magazine, The Gentlewoman, saying she’s moved by articles containing strong, confident women in the workforce today. “The photographs are absolutely beautiful to look at too; the lighting is always very simple but very powerful,” she explains, “with minimal retouching and often containing many black and white images, which I love.”

Ishiguro works on shoots from beginning to end, keeping control of the whole process and, like others, sees the value in doing the hard yards between shoots — researching ideas, scouting locations, retouching images, working at her business. She balances the intense work with travel as a way of expanding her horizons, and hitting the reset button. I talked to her as she is returning from a trip to Iceland, where she was stirred by the colour and dancing movement of the Northern Lights. Now she says she’ll hit the ground back in Auckland refreshed and ready to work. 

Links of interest:

Oliver Rose

Sacha Stejko

Karen Ishiguro

Mob mentality

Rachel Callander, Tymon, Super Power Babies Project

Adrian Hatwell explores the local options for crowdfunding photographic projects, and the clever creatives putting them to work

In the last five years the idea of crowdfunding has increasingly gathered steam. For many creative endeavours across the globe, crowdfunding is now the first and only port of call necessary to get a project up and running. Uptake has not been quite as vigorous in New Zealand as other parts of the world, but a slow and steady build in popularity has local crowdfunding platforms set to hit a tipping point soon. It’s something the world’s biggest crowdsourcing website, Kickstarter, seems aware of, having opened shop in New Zealand recently.

With its launch in November 2013, Kickstarter joins such local platforms as PledgeMe and Boosted as online destinations for creative Kiwis to float their ideas and vie for the public’s dollar. Internationally, such services have been a valuable tool for photographers in producing a wide array of products — books, exhibitions, films, tours, prints, collaborations — anything that might catch donor attention.

Things like video-game, film, and design projects have traditionally been the biggest successes in the crowdfunding realm, but Kickstarter reports having raised US$9.73 million for various photography projects to date. Our local variants don’t have quite such impressive numbers, but there have been a number of small-scale successes and a few rather sizeable ones too. Anna Guenther, founder of PledgeMe, says the site hasn’t had a huge volume of photography projects come through, but of those that have, 49 per cent have been successfully funded, and she sees New Zealand as particularly ripe for crowdfunding to flourish.

“I think we build communities and connections quicker [in New Zealand], because the degrees of separation are less. If a story is sticky, it’ll spread like wildfire through a community — like the photography community.”

Success stories

One recent local campaign certainly backs this up. As reported in Issue No. 197 of The Photographer’s Mail, Timaru-based photographer Rachel Callander launched a campaign on the PledgeMe website with the aim of raising $70,000 to create a photo book featuring New Zealand children with chromosomal and genetic conditions. It was one of the website’s most ambitious funding goals to date, but Callander’s worthy goal of “changing the way we in New Zealand see and talk about people with disabilities” ended up netting over $85,000 during its four-week campaign.

Rachel Callander, Romy, Super Power Babies Project

“We were very optimistic, we did a lot of planning before the campaign; a whole month of market research and figuring out how many people we could get involved,” Callander explains. “But it was a huge punt — PledgeMe said the average successful campaign was only around $3000.”

Callander was originally inspired to crowd-fund the project after hearing about the success of her cousin Chris Thomson and his business partner, Ben Ryan, at their Queenstown company, Syrp. Last year they managed to raise over US$636,700 for the ‘Genie’, a motion-control and image-capture device for film and time-lapse photography.

“When we began developing the Genie we always had Kickstarter in mind for launching our product,” Ryan says. “At the time Kickstarter was becoming very popular, and it seemed like every week there was a new highest-funded project. We thought it was a great fit for our project, since there are a lot of creatives on there and people getting excited for new products.”

Spreading the word

The beginnings of these two successful campaigns were very different — Callander was looking to pre-sell her book before going out to create it, while Syrp had already sunk a year and lots of money into developing the Genie before launching its Kickstarter initiative. Despite the differences, both took similar steps for publicizing their campaigns from the outset, with a hard emphasis on web-based promotion.

“The plan was to just hit every related blog and website that we could; social media also played a huge part in spreading the word,” Ryan says. “We also spent a lot of time just creating new footage with the Genie, and making films that would not only get shared among the tech sites but also more creative websites.”

Callander says Facebook was initially her main driver for publicity, but soon discovered the demands of constantly keeping the campaign in front of suitable potential backers meant a more diverse strategy was needed.

“We have this graph, and it plays out like a one-day cricket match. You go in hard at the start. We Facebooked all our friends and family and got heaps of pledges on the first day. Then it kind of waned a little bit. Then it waned a lot.”

With the initial momentum dropping off she turned to the more conventional media release, sending the story off to newspapers and TV stations, which proved very effective. When it came to marketing reach, the Genie campaign found most of its backers in the US, whereas the Super Power Baby Project had an extremely loyal local following, with people all around Timaru throwing fundraising events to pitch in.

Regardless of whether you want to take a very community-focused approach or are hoping for more geographically broad appeal, the advice echoed by the experts is to speak to your backers as a community, and engage them in on a more personal, conversational level.

“Crowdfunding backers are not your regular customers; they want to be a part of your project and come along for the journey,” Ryan advises. Similarly, Guenther says the biggest mistake she sees at PledgeMe is people not tapping into their own networks successfully. “Crowdfunding is really about engaging your crowd, and if they like what they see it’ll spread further afield.”

Which platform to choose

That is precisely why Mark Michel, Boosted’s manager, thinks the platform is ideal for photographic artists to launch projects from, despite its slow start in the medium.

“Boosted is about helping a project to raise money, but it is also about helping to nurture the artists, no matter what stage of their career they are in. We endeavour to sit down or at least talk to every single project that comes through.”

super power baby project

As part of The Arts Foundation, the website is a way for artists to benefit from the organization’s 13 years of experience of managing private funds, building partnerships in the industry, and leveraging sponsorship, which Michel would like to see more photographers take advantage of.

Callander, however, says she was very happy with PledgeMe’s community-focused vibe and website design, though when it came to advice she had to go outside the organization to a friend for business-minded mentoring. Kickstarter’s more global saturation definitely has its advantages, says Ryan, but the company itself will not help with marketing your project, and its size can also detract from its efficacy.

“There are a lot of projects on there now from large companies basically trying to pre-sell products — these guys don’t really need to raise the funds, they are just wanting to utilize the large audience to sell things, and I’m surprised Kickstarter allows it. It has sort of moved away from just a couple of guys in a shed trying to launch something for the first time.”

Regardless of which platform you’re looking at, there’s undeniable potential for local photographers to begin using crowdfunding more frequently. The concept is definitely gaining traction in New Zealand, and savvy photographers willing to put the work in will likely discover it to be a rewarding new avenue for funding in an environment where traditional opportunities are becoming increasingly hard to come by.

What is ‘crowdfunding’?

Anyone can attempt to raise money for a project by creating an online campaign on one of the many crowdfunding websites. These platforms provide a space where creators can pitch their idea to the world, along with a simple mechanism allowing interested backers to pledge money to the campaign, often getting rewards based on the amount pledged.

If a campaign reaches its funding goal within the allocated time frame, those pledges are turned into actual funds and the project is away; if not, then there’s no money for the creator, no money lost by the backers.

Different websites have their own particulars, but this is the basic concept behind them all.

Top five tips for successful crowdfunding

PledgeMe’s Anna Guenther gives us her best pointers for raising the money you’re after on a crowdfunding website:

1. don’t just promote the campaign, promote you

2. make it a journey, not just an ask

3. individual emails are gold

4. sharing photos works really well on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

5. get help, and make the promotion part fun (e.g. a working bee with beers)

Links of interest

Kickstarter PledgeMe Boosted Super Power Baby Project Syrp

Images: Rachel Callander

Top of the Lake

TOP OF THE LAKE

Auckland-based photographer Parisa Taghizadeh tells The Photographer's Mail about shooting stills on the set of Jane Campion’s recent television miniseries, Top of the Lake

The Photographer’s Mail: Can you briefly tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?

Parisa Taghizadeh: I am a freelance photographer and film-maker with my own art practice. I was born in Iran, raised in London, and lived in LA for six years before moving to New Zealand. I make work based around issues of cultural and personal identity, and I work commercially to make ends meet. I keep my own art practice alive with a bit of self-motivation, and support from organizations like Tangent, a lens-based collective here in Auckland of which I was a co-founder. 

How did you come to be the stills photographer on Top of the Lake?

I had worked on a few films back in London, and when I moved to New Zealand, I knew that was the area I wanted to pursue, not just because of my love of films, but also because it took a specialized skill that I knew I had. I heard Jane Campion was shooting her next work here, and found out who the producer was. She and Jane saw my website, liked my work, and off I went to the South Island.

DSC_7619

What was a typical day on set like for you?

I would be on set throughout an 11-hour shooting day. I would often look at the angle used by the director of photography [DoP], as he would select the best shot, and light it accordingly. I would then get as close to his camera as possible, and I’d shoot from his angle. Sometimes, I would find an angle that worked better for me and would take my place on set. This doesn’t always work, as there are often people or gear in the background. You can’t ask for changes to be made for your needs while filming is taking place. Sometimes you can if there is extra time, but that is rare on a film shoot. Sometimes I would need to take the actors off-set for more ‘posed’ shots.

What do you shoot with? Is there specialist equipment required?

I shoot on a Nikon D7000. I use a ‘sound blimp’, which is a case that houses your camera and silences the sound of the shutter so that it’s not picked up by the sound recordist. It’s a big black case that has to be custom-made for your camera and lens. 

Do you have much freedom when it comes to what and how you shoot?

Nobody monitors what I shoot, but I do have a lot to consider. Your selected edited shots have to go through an approval process. Publicists often have very specific requirements, like capturing certain scenes. Your creative thinking can go a long way if you trust your own eye and instinct. It helps to sometimes work outside those parameters, and shoot what may be a bit abstract, just to deliver a different perspective without going too far off the mark. You always have to remember that it’s someone else’s vision. You’re brought in to interpret that, not create your own take on things, as tempting as it can be sometimes.

DSC_9296

What were you trying to achieve in the stills produced for Top of the Lake?

I was trying to produce the best shots for a director as well-accomplished and talented as Jane Campion! It helped working with people who were all at the top of their game, because it sets the stakes high. I was trying to capture the mood of the film. When I read the script, the image of a young, pregnant girl walking into a lake seemed visually powerful, and I knew that had to be the iconic shot. I wasn’t able to capture it well during that particular scene, so I asked if we could stage it again. Jane was very supportive, and it’s evident in the result that we can achieve much more when given the time, backing, and assistance. 

What would you say are the biggest challenges in shooting production stills?

Making sure everyone’s happy. You have many people to please for different reasons, so you have to make sure everyone’s needs are met. One challenge during Top of the Lake was that the DoP, Adam Arkapaw, had a dark and natural approach to his lighting. This made interior set-ups hard to shoot. They would look stunning through his monitor, but were too dark for the settings in my camera. Often I shoot to the same settings as the main camera, so my stills look as close to the look of the film as possible, but the high-end cameras used are capable of much more than our DSLRs. 

DSC_5630

What do you enjoy most about working on a production as stills photographer?

I love working with teams of people. You feel like a family when you’re together for so long. As a stills photographer, you’re in your own unit, so other departments take you under their wing. You learn so much about other people’s skills. The best part is when you’ve done something that you’re proud of, and can’t wait to show it to people.

Any advice for someone looking to get into the field?

You need a tough skin because you’re exposed to criticism. The trick is to not take things personally. If your favourite shot doesn’t make it through the approval process, it could mean anything, not that your shot was crap. 

The first thing to do is to find out which films are being made, and then get in touch with the producers. It’s always worth keeping your ear to the ground. I got my first job in London because they were shooting part of their film in Iran, and needed someone who understood both cultures and languages. I didn’t want to go as a fixer or translator, so I suggested I take photos for them. That was my first big break. 

To see more of Parisa’s photography, including personal work and commissions, visit parisatag.com

totl

Super colliding

ariana-perez-illustrationIllustrator: Gina Kiel, model: Bay Berger at Nova

Fashion photographer Garth Badger takes on a global collaboration in his latest personal project

While an element of collaboration is always necessary in successful fashion and beauty photography, Garth Badger has taken the idea to another level with his new project, Collision. The plan, hatched by the photographer and make-up artist Verity Griffiths, was to produce a series of portraits that would then be sent to illustrators around the world to modify in unique ways.

Badger approached artists from as far afield as the Ukraine, Spain, and the Philippines — most contacted through the Behance creative social network — and found them all to be very receptive to the idea of artistic cooperation.

BAY_GINA_HRHIGH-HERO Illustrator: Ariana Perez, model: Holly Rose at Red 11

“It’s an opportunity to work on something outside of yourself, and I think that’s why a lot of them jumped at it,” he explains. “There’s a lot of sitting there in the dark, working on things alone. I know that’s why I jumped at it — when you come at something collaboratively, you get something better than anything anyone is individually capable of.”

It was important for the project that each of the illustrators, though distinct in approach, specialized in beauty, and once an appropriate entourage had been signed up, Badger began the process of finding the right model for each style.

“We looked at the type of people these artists would draw and, it’s amazing, when you really start looking at their stuff you can kind of see, ‘Oh that’s this person’. Then we went to all the agencies and booked the best international models available at the time, and couple of the best locals, and started matching them to artists.”

CARNE HERO HIGHOutside In Illustrator: Carne Griffiths, model: Breonne Rittinger at Nova

Tying the images together from a photographic standpoint was difficult, as Badger had no idea what the artists would do to his images. For his part he kept the lighting consistent throughout, and worked to give the artists something to build upon, even if it meant producing an unfinished-looking edit. He resisted the urge constrain the illustrators with colours or styling.

“I didn’t want to dictate that; I’ve got no interest in telling an illustrator how to illustrate,” he says. “The brief was literally to take the image and make it theirs, while retaining some level of the original photographic quality.”

To give his collaborators even more freedom, Badger sent out four or five image options and allowed them to select the one they would work on. He then Photoshopped the chosen image and sent it off to be reimagined. This was a process that took between a little over a week and six months, depending on the individual artist’s practice and schedule.

Alexander-fedosov-queen-high Illustrator: Alexander Fedosov, model: Chloe Wheatcroft at Red 11

“What we’ve ended up with is a series of individual images that work very well,” Badger says. “I don’t think they run together amazingly (though some of them do), but individually they sit really, really nicely.”

Badger has released the images on Facebook and Instagram to an extremely positive response. “A lot of the time you’re working away on commercial projects, so it’s nice to get some feedback on something you really care about,” he says. 

The photographer has had requests for prints but, at this stage, has no big plans for the usage of the Collision images. The process was his purpose and, as an example of creative collaboration, it has been a clear success.

About Garth Badger

Garth Badger is an Auckland-based fashion, beauty, and advertising photographer working with both still images and video. He began his photography career seven years ago at the age of 25 — before then he worked as a beekeeper. Badger opted for self-directed learning and interning, rather than formal study, as his path into the industry — a decision that has paid off in a rapid rise to prominence within it.

To see more from Garth, including the rest of the Collision series, head to garthbadger.co.nz . 

All images: photography by Garth Badger, make-up by Verity Griffiths

Colour adjustments

iStock_000012201422XXXLarge

Hans Weichselbaum walks us through correcting an image with problematic colours

Getting colours right is one of the main challenges in digital imaging. Concerning hardware — cameras, monitors and printers — we have seen huge improvements in recent years. Longevity of inks and fading colours, major challenges just a couple of years ago, are not big issues anymore. But still, we often come across images that don’t seem right, and in many cases it is just a matter of adjusting the colour balance. Perhaps the Auto White Balance of your camera didn’t catch the scene properly, or you have a scan of an old photo with faded colours. You might also try to warm the colours of a portrait shot or reduce the red cast of a scene taken in artificial light.

A few months ago we looked at colour management. This is always the first step, making sure that monitor and printer give you an accurate colour representation of the image pixels. Only when you are working with a calibrated monitor and the right printer profiles does it make sense to fine-tune the colours.

01_ Colour_WheelFirst, we’ll look at the White Balance — that’s where it all starts. Then we’ll go through some of the common tools for tweaking colours, which you can find in every digital imaging program. Finally, I’ll introduce you to two methods that can be quite handy. They allow you to snap an image straight into the optimum colour balance. But let’s start by looking at the theory behind colour adjustment.

The colour wheel

The visible region of light covers the electromagnetic spectrum from 380nm (violet) to 700nm (deep red). If we wrap this around a circle we get the colour wheel (left).

Red, green and blue (RGB) are the primary additive colours, because adding them up gives us white. In-between we find the primary subtractive colours, cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY). These are the colour inks we use for printing and they add up to black. It is important to see the relationship between all of these colours. Once you understand the links, then getting rid of a colour cast becomes much easier. For example, if the image has a blue cast, you cannot simply take blue out. You have to shift the colour balance from blue to the opposite colour, which is yellow. In general, all colour adjustment tools give you three controls that adjust the balance between red-cyan, green-magenta and blue-yellow.

02_White_Balance_LightroomWhite Balance — It all starts in the camera

In most cases the Auto White Balance (Auto WB) setting of your camera will do a good job. If not, the colours need to be corrected later in Photoshop. Auto WB works similarly to the human eye: The lightest object in the scene is set to white, or light grey. For example, in a landscape the clouds will be the lightest objects. They are a good indication of the light temperature, and the lightest part of a cloud should come out white or light grey.

If you shoot in JPEG then it is important to get the WB right. A daylight scene will have a strong blue cast if the camera was set to tungsten light. Such a colour cast is difficult to get rid of later when you work in RGB. If you don’t want to fiddle around with the WB, then it is best to leave the camera in the Auto WB setting.

On the other hand, if you shoot in Raw, the camera settings are not critical and you have total control over the WB setting during Raw conversion. The image on the right shows you the WB setting in Lightroom (Adobe Camera Raw, and all the other Raw converters, give you the same controls).

The Eyedropper on the left works as an auto setting when you use it on a neutral light area of your image, for example, a cloud. Or you might prefer the finer control you get with the two sliders, the top one for the Colour Temperature scale and the second for the Tint.

03_Colour_TemperatureColour Temperature is measured in Kelvin (K), with 0K being the absolute zero temperature (-273.16°C). The tungsten filament in an ordinary light bulb glows at about 2800K, and that’s the colour temperature of a light bulb. The surface temperature of the sun is approximately 5500K and that represents our ‘daylight’ reference number. Light is scattered in the atmosphere, which gives us the blue sky, and this is the reason why the colour temperature keeps going up under overcast conditions.

The image on the left shows you the colour temperature scale from candlelight (below 2000K) going up to very high values under blue sky.

The industrial reference value of D50 is not exactly the same as ‘daylight 5000K’, but it is close enough for us to ignore any differences. It is the standard light temperature for professional light tables and viewing booths. A photo print should always be viewed and judged under a 5000K light source. On the other hand, monitors are calibrated to the D65 standard (6500K).

Note that blue is a ‘hot’ colour, while red is a rather ‘cool’ colour. This is the opposite of our traditional thinking, but it does make sense if you think of heating a piece of metal. It will start by glowing dark red, then go through orange, yellow and white. And if a light bulb blows out, it will give a distinct bluish flash.

Coming back to the White Balance setting in our Raw converter, the Temperature control specifies the colour temperature in Kelvin on an amber-blue scale. Lowering the colour temperature makes the image bluer to compensate for the amber light; raising the colour temperature makes the image more amber, to compensate for the bluer light.

The second slider, the Tint control, lets you fine-tune the colour balance along the green-magenta axis, perpendicular to the Temperature control. Negative values add green, positive ones add magenta.

It takes a while to get your head around these controls, because we are used to three sliders in RGB: red-cyan, green-magenta and blue-yellow. Keep in mind that Lightroom, as well as Adobe Camera Raw, also work with JPEG, TIFF and PSD image files, but in general you will want to use the standard colour adjustment tools for fine-tuning the colours in an image.

The common colour adjustment tools04_Colour_Balance

There are many ways of changing the colour balance. The most common tool is the Colour Balance interface (Image>Adjustments>Colour Balance) shown in the above image.

05_Tone_Curve_LightroomHere you find the three sliders we were talking about earlier for adjusting the balance between the primary colours. The interface allows you to do this separately for shadows, midtones and highlights. For example, to eliminate a blue cast in the shadows you would select Shadows under Tone Balance and shift the Blue slider into negative territory (less blue, more yellow).

You can also use the Levels command for colour adjustment. There is a drop-down menu called Channel with a default setting of RGB. The interface allows you to select an individual channel, e.g. the Red channel. You can then shift the red-cyan balance using the middle slider.

The same goes for the Curves command. Similar to Levels, you can make adjustments to the combined RGB channels or to individual colour channels. In the example shown to the right we have the Blue channel 06_Variationsselected and we get rid of a blue cast by grabbing the curve and pulling it down (reducing blue and enhancing yellow). This is like using the middle slider in the Levels command.

But there is more you can do in Curves, for example, if you have a green cast in the shadows and a magenta cast in the highlights, you simply select the Green channel and make an S-curve (increase magenta in the shadows and reduce it in the highlights, without affecting midtones).

Another handy tool is called Variations (Image>Adjustments>Variations) shown on the left. The beginner, who often doesn’t know which way to adjust, will especially feel comfortable with this interface. It shows you the original photo surrounded by six images with the colour balance shifted towards one of the six primary colours. You simply click on the one that looks best and it will be placed into the middle. Then you can further fine-tune the colours, if necessary.

Two more ways of eliminating colour casts07_Match_Colour

When looking at a photograph you often feel that the colours are not right, but it is not obvious where the problem lies. In that case you might try one of the two following methods.

The first one uses the Match Colour command in Photoshop. This comes with an advanced algorithm to match colours and brightness between two images, but you can also use it on a single image.

08_Average_Blur_Colour_Cast_Removal

Open the image and duplicate the layer by dragging the Background Layer over the New Layer button in the Layer palette (it is always a good idea to work on a duplicate layer). Then open the Match Colour command (Image>Adjustments>Match Colour), shown above:

Click on Neutralise to remove the colour cast. If the effect is too strong, use the Fade slider. Also try the Colour Intensity slider to increase the colour range, if necessary. Stay away from the Luminance slider – there are better ways of optimising the lightness (use Levels or Curves instead). You can also change the opacity of the layer, or even create a Layer Mask to limit the colour changes to isolated areas.

The second method uses the Average Blur filter, which was introduced in Photoshop CS. Again, start by making a duplicate layer, then go to Filter>Blur>Average. You will get a layer with a solid colour, the average colour of your image. This will be the problem colour. To get rid of it, you need to invert this colour (Image> Adjustments> Invert) to apply the opposite to our image. Finally, you change the Blending Mode of the top layer to Colour. If the compensating effect is too strong, you can tone it down by reducing the Layer Opacity, shown right.

These two methods assume a neutral colour balance of your photo. They won’t work if there is a strong imbalance, for example with sunset images, which naturally have a strong orange cast.  

Critique

One of New Zealand’s leading photographer’s, Mike Langford, offers simple tips to improve D-Photo readers' photos. If you would like to submit your image for consideration send it to editor@dphoto.co.nz with the subject ‘Critique’.

Satisfied

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Before

The emotion and light in this shot are both great but I just feel like I want more from this story — especially about where they are. Remember this also could have been achieved in-camera with picture style by reducing the contrast so we can see into the shadows as well as the highlights.

In Photoshop, I have gone into Image > Adjustments > Shadows > Highlights, and adjusted the shadows by 10. This has allowed me to keep the highlights which I already liked, but allowed me to see more details in the shadow, which now gives me a greater sense of where they are.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

After

Lake Wahapo

Lake Wahapo A

Before

Just because the light is flat and uninteresting, there is no reason why you can’t get a really strong image, even from a JPEG straight out of the camera. By going into picture style and increasing the contrast as well as shooting for the shadows (high key), you can very easily create an image like I have recreated here in Photoshop.

To achieve this look in Photoshop I have first created a Curves layer and limited the tone to a much narrower width. I have then created a Contrast/Brightness layer and increased both of these until the image is mostly just about fine. Finally I have cropped into the image to make the graphics even stronger. The final image still has the misty mood but now also has strength in visual depth and form.

Lake Wahapo B

After

Manukau Sunset

Manukau Sunset A

Before

The crop of this image into a panorama is very effective as I’m sure it is making us look at the subject, which is the sky. However, I’m not sure that the right-hand side of the image is adding much to the story, as most of the interest is on the left, where the person is. Funny the way our eye always gravitates to a figure if there is one in the landscape.

If the figure was cropped out then the story would be entirely about the sky and the shapes of the clouds, but having chosen to include the figure the story becomes much more about the reflective nature of the person in the landscape. By cropping the image on the right and flipping the image horizontally the person now becomes less reflective and more looking to the future. I have also dodged the area around the person a little to make them stand out more. None of this is right or wrong — it’s just another way of thinking.

Manukau Sunset B

After

Free advice:

Mike Langford of the Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography is here to offer free advice to help you take better pictures. Mike has been an international awards judge for over 20 years and has twice won Australian Landscape Photographer of the Year as well as New Zealand Professional Photographer of the Year; he is also an EOS Master.

Do you have a photo that you know doesn't look right but can’t work out how to improve it or how to do better next time? Send us your problem pictures and questions for Mike Langford to answer via the Critique column.

Email your digital pictures to editor@dphoto.co.nz with the subject 'Critique'.

Or post them on a CD to: Critique, D-Photo, PO Box 46020, Herne Bay, Auckland 1147.

Please ensure your pictures are around A5 in size at 300dpi.

Packing it in

brettstanleyphotodotcom-2012-12-10 11.54.42

Expat commercial photographer Brett Stanley continues his journeys in the US, this time looking at the dreaded art of packing for international travel

Moving to another country is never an easy task, there are so many things to take into consideration, and deciding what to bring is one of the more important.

Clothing and personal items aside, choosing which of my gear and hardware to pack when moving to the United States was hard, for a few reasons. Not having a US visa meant I didn’t really know how long I was going for, so did I want to take everything I owned for what might just turn out as a three-month trip? I could always rent equipment once I got there, but that can get costly, and I’d already paid for my kit, so why shell out again?

The obvious answer was compromise. My plane ticket allowed two 23kg bags, and one would carry clothes. The other was my snowboard, as there was no way I was going to the northern hemisphere in winter without it (though it turns out there’s not as much snow near LA as I expected). I then budgeted myself one more bag up to 32kg (the maximum the airline will take) for all my photography hardware. It wasn’t that expensive, either. Qantas let me book a third 23kg bag for $90 and then charged $60 for the upgrade to 32kg. Bringing all my lighting gear for $150 — not bad at all.

So what did I take gear-wise, and how did I pack it? I’d always wanted a case that could house all my lights, stands, modifiers and grip rather than split them across smaller cases. I’d never found anything I liked until I saw the Kata LW-99 Rolling Organizer. This thing is like a coffin on wheels. It’s 114cm long, so it can accommodate my stands along with a tripod, and the 40cm width makes it easy to pack my three flash heads, cables, battery packs, three soft boxes, grids, gels and an assortment of clips, clamps and gaff. Is it heavy? Yes, but with the built-in wheels it’s much easier to carry one load than a few, and I never forget anything any more.

Stylist: Loren Robles, Makeup: Sarah Huggins/Alfeya, Hair: Nina

Now, I have to admit I didn’t get everything in the bag I wanted to take. It was just over the 32kg limit, so I did have to spread a couple of items between my other two bags, such as my tripod and battery packs. But between those two I managed to fit my other sporting equipment (climbing, diving, cycling), and an array of hard drives for images and backups.

One thing I would recommend if you plan to travel with quite a bit of heavy gear is a travel scale. It’s a small handheld scale for weighing your bags, and it is invaluable. There’s nothing worse than getting to check-in at stupid o’clock in the morning, eyes still encrusted with sleep, and being told you need to drop some weight from your bags. Where’s it going to go? You can’t leave anything behind, and so you play a frustrating game of ‘Luggage Tetris’ on the airport floor, trying to spread the load between your bags as fast as you can so as not to have to get back in the queue. Not fun.

For me, the question of whether or not to take my gear was moot. I’m a location shooter and I love my artificial light, it’s what makes my shots and my style. We knew we would do a few long road trips, and taking hired lighting wasn’t an option, so this made perfect sense to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I can travel light if needed. One camera and a single lens will flex the creative muscle, but I was here to expand my horizons and shoot bigger, badder work than before. I wanted to start in the States with no restrictions, and being able to say yes to any job because I had the equipment was paramount.

It paid off, I shot some great images and I got to do it with my own trusty equipment. My travels in the United States have just begun, and I’m looking forward to sharing them.

This article originally appeared in The Photographer's Mail no. 196

Gear talk: Shooting in Program mode

0N0A9544

There’s nothing more tragic than a lovely DSLR camera that’s forever stuck on auto mode — D-Photo and Dion Mellow from Snapshot Cameras explain program mode as your first step to creative freedom

If you have recently stepped up to a DSLR camera then you’ve probably already noticed the decent results you can get using Auto mode. But no matter how fancy automated features may get, you’re always going to take better, more rewarding pictures once you take manual control of the camera. Knowing when and how to use the many different features of a DSLR can be confusing to begin with, but switch your dial from Auto to Program mode (P on the mode wheel) and you’ll be taking a simple first step towards truly mastering your camera.

All camera brands and models do things slightly differently — if anything here doesn’t make sense for your camera, consult your manual

What is Program mode?

Program mode is a type of automatic setting that gives you control of some, but not all, of your camera’s settings. According to Dion Mellow, professional photographer and equipment expert at Snapshot Cameras in Hamilton, the main reason to switch to Program mode is to gradually increase your control over the camera.

“In Program mode you can adjust your exposure, ISO, white balance, flash, and focusing area — you can’t adjust any of these in Auto.”

In Program mode the camera selects an aperture and shutter speed combination based on your chosen focal length, with the rest up to you. So let’s take a look at what you can do with these adjustable options.

Flash

0N0A9537

 

In Auto mode your camera will asses the scene and decide if the flash should be fired or not (unless you put it in auto-flash-off mode, in which case it will never fire). In Program mode that decision is up to you; if you want it, simply push the flash button on the side of most cameras and the unit will pop up, ready to fire.

By controlling the flash you are able to use it in creative ways that the Auto mode would not have thought of, such as using fill flash outside on a sunny day, Mellow explains.

0N0A9538

“It is also useful any time the background is significantly brighter than the subject of the photograph, particularly in backlit subjects.”

Mastering flash techniques can be a very fulfilling aspect of photography, and the control and experimentation you can experience in Program mode is a great introduction.

ISO

0N0A9554_2

Program mode automatically selects the aperture and shutter speed of a shot (the elements that dictate how much light gets inside the camera), but you can control how much light the camera needs by adjusting the ISO value.

As Mellow explains, the ISO value tells you how sensitive your sensor is to light.

“The higher the ISO, the less light you need to capture a photo, so in turn you will not need as long a shutter speed.”

If you wanted to shoot in a darker environment where a flash would be inappropriate, and at a fast enough shutter speed to hand hold the camera, you could dial the ISO value up to, say, 800 in order to correctly expose the shot. Just hold down the ISO button and rotate the command dial to make ISO changes.

To much grain

However there is a downside: the higher up you go with ISO the more electronic ‘noise’ — random, strangely coloured little blips — will be present in your image (see above).

Exposure compensation

0N0A9571

While Program mode automatically chooses your aperture and shutter speed values many cameras will let you tweak these slightly using exposure compensation — kind of like the kiddie pool of manual control.

Depending on your camera you will be able to push the exposure up or down slightly (usually in increments of a half or full stop), making the resulting image lighter or darker through adjustments to the aperture and shutter speed.

Exposure

“You would underexpose (darken) an image when your subject is brighter than your background or overexpose (lighten) an image when your subject is darker then the background,” says Mellow.

“If you’re shooting landscapes with a lot of sky that’s getting overexposed (white instead of blue) you can underexpose to bring the blue colour back into the sky.”

0N0A9554_3

To adjust your exposure compensation settings in Program mode hold down the +/- button and rotate the command dial.

White balance

White balance

If you have ever taken a photograph of something and had it come out with colours that appeared different from how your eye saw them then you’ve encountered the need for white balance adjustments.

As Mellow explains, not all light is the same colour and it varies based on the temperature of the light source.

“Tungsten lights are warm and give an orange colour cast to photos whereas fluorescent tubes are cool and will give your images a green colour cast.”

You don’t tend to notice these colours in person because our eyes do a good job of compensating — we see whites as white. In much the same way your camera’s auto white balance feature is pretty good at automatically removing colour casts, but not always.

0N0A9554

When you do run into shots that come out with a colour cast you can adjust your white balance setting with a bunch of preset compensations — tungsten for hotter light, fluorescent for cooler, flash to adjust for the temperature of your camera’s flash, daylight, cloudy, shade, etc.

Your camera’s preset white balance settings will likely do a pretty good job any time auto white balance lets you down. You can also manually set the white balance on most cameras by entirely filling your frame with a colour (many use a purpose-bought white card or grey card) so your camera can ‘learn’ what that colour looks like under the specific light conditions and adjust all other colours accordingly.

The above adjustments should give you plenty to play around with now that you’ve cast off the shackles of Auto mode, but Program mode can still be very limiting, says Mellow.

“In Program mode the camera will choose your shutter speed and aperture so you cannot control depth-of-field or movement.”

 This article originally appeared in D-Photo no. 53

Passion and Place: Daniel Max

21_Horses

Daniel Max, the commercial photographer known as Maxy, shares his experience in starting a beautiful personal project, Our Land, and his plans to continue it

Our Land is an ode to New Zealand, a celebration of our beautiful country. An ongoing photographic series documenting the connection between New Zealanders and the landscape they inhabit, it sets out to observe, without intrusion, these varied relationships within our land.

2_Fisher_A

Essentially, this project is an expression of the things I love most about both New Zealand and photography. I want to explore the bond many Kiwis share with their country; that pride in our renowned landscape. Many of us are happiest when at one with the land — whether we’re farming or fishing, or just relaxing in nature. Personally I’m most at peace alone in the wild, on a beautiful vast beach, camera in hand.

I’d been motivated to work on a personal project for a long time, but never had the time to step away from my commercial work, and hadn’t found a subject I was truly passionate about. Eventually it developed organically, from simply being out in the environment, doing what I love. The first image — The Seal (below) — happened spontaneously during a break in a campaign shoot. We were waiting out some rain in the production truck when I saw this little dude hiding in the dunes. I couldn’t resist jumping out to shoot some images, and the results immediately felt right. The misty, overcast light lent itself perfectly to the washed, painterly style I’d been developing, and this ended up flowing through the rest of the series. What started with capturing my connection with the landscape developed into documenting other New Zealanders and their own interactions.

1Seal

Over the next eight months I built on this, heading out West to shoot when I wasn’t working. But it really came together when I booked a month out of my schedule, packed the truck with my camping and camera gear, and missioned down to the West Coast of the South Island. You could call it drive-by shooting — letting the country take me down, I drove along the coast, stopping at pubs and finding people on the beach, setting my tripod up when the moment was right. While shooting from a distance I found people would click back into their moment quickly, resulting in a really true shot. This fed into my idea of people being part of the landscape rather than a main feature.

I exhibited and sold a number of the limited-edition prints in the first part of this project, and hope to do the same over the next three years. I plan to take a month off each year to travel a different part of the country, and document my experiences along the way. Eventually I’d love to see the work culminate in a book — a slight twist on the ongoing documentation of New Zealand’s beauty, seen from my personal viewpoint. Ultimately I’d love to get Creative New Zealand funding for the project, as it takes a lot of time and money to make something like this work.

4_SpaceBoat

Apart from the satisfaction of doing a personal project, I aimed to grow my portfolio, and showcase some of my personal style. I wanted something to present to advertising agencies that would inspire them and show them some of my work outside a commercial brief.

It’s great to have a wicked body of work that I’m proud of, and have a sense of passion about. At the end of the day everyone wants to see someone who’s passionate about something — it’s one of those driving forces that can make anyone succeed.

6_Chainsaw

Our Land prints are still for sale, and can be found on Maxy’s website: www.maxy.co.nz 

This article was originally published in The Photographer's Mail no. 196.

18_Horsetree

Light in darkness: Neil Silverwood

D-Photo Caving Submission  (11)

Adrian Hatwell chats with Neil Silverwood, one of the country’s very few dedicated cave photographers

The lightless void of a subterranean tunnel system may not immediately appeal as the best place to go exploring with your camera, but to Neil Silverwood nowhere is as ripe with as much photographic possibility as an uncharted underground cave.

“It’s something no one else is photographing, it’s my own little niche,” explains the South Island photographer. “The marble cave systems are quite remote and hard to get into — if you’re photographing in there you know it’s the first time that it’s ever been shot by anyone.”

The first thing the caver wants to make clear is he’s not talking about tourist-friendly caves like Waitomo, but rather the expansive and forbidding systems running through the South Island’s marble mountains — caves that can go as deep as 1000 metres and run to 70 kilometres long. Not the sort of expedition where a packed lunch and camera bag is all you need.

D-Photo Caving Submission  (7)

“You go in for a week at a time, taking all your camping gear and photography gear and sleeping there, going days at a time without any sunlight. It’s a tough environment.”

However, for those with a spirit for adventure, these untouched regions offer a unique pioneer thrill, as there is still a lot of cave system yet to be discovered. “Last year alone we found about 15 kilometres of new cave,” enthuses Silverwood. “It’s amazing to be the first person through a new section of cave, it’s not something everyone gets to do.”

D-Photo Caving Submission  (13)

In fact the photographer and his band of caving compatriots believe they are on the brink of a big find. Two years ago they discovered a new caving system in the Mt Arthur region, labelled Stormy Pot. Having put in many dark weeks exploring the cave, which is 14 kilometres long and 800 metres deep, the team is confident it will eventually link up with another of the region’s systems, Nettlebed. This would form the deepest cave in the southern hemisphere, at some 1200 metres deep.

And while traversing these days-long cave systems is an arduous task to begin with, choosing to go down to take pictures of these inaccessible caverns is a whole other challenge entirely. The pitch-black conditions are problem enough when it comes to photography, but simply getting around with photography gear takes exceptional effort, says Silverwood.

D-Photo Caving Submission  (9)

“You’ll often be going through very tight squeezes where you have to take off all your gear, pass it through, unpack your pack, pass all the stuff through and then squeeze through yourself. So that’s quite limiting.”

The lights that cavers take down into the claustrophobic depths are generally of a purely functional variety and not particularly helpful when it comes to photography. So it’s up to the diligent cave photographer to load up his own, rather intensive, lighting kit if he hopes to illuminate these underground mysteries.

“I usually carry five flash guns with radio triggers and one slave, because you can’t use triggers underneath the water. I also generally have half-a-dozen flash-bulb firers, which are quite different — they put out an enormous amount of light.”

Though the technology might sound antiquated, flash bulbs can give off up to five times as much light as a modern flashgun and have a much slower burn time. Combine this with the excellent low-light performance of modern DSLRs (Silverwood uses a Canon 5D Mark III) and you have the ideal set-up for lighting up the total darkness of areas over 10 metres wide. Of course using the more obscure equipment presents its own particular problems.

D-Photo Caving Submission  (14)

“I buy up all the old bulbs I can find on Trade Me because on an average trip I’ll fire off 100 to 200 bulbs underground,” says the subterranean photographer. And he’s always very happy to hear from anyone with flash bulbs to sell.

As effective as the bulbs are for taking photos they aren’t exactly a solution for general visibility, something most photographers would agree as being rather important when  contemplating composition.

There are things you can do to mitigate the darkness, says Silverwood, but in the end there’s just something of a sense you need to develop down in the black.

“You carry massive lights to get an idea of what it’s going to look like but it is really challenging to imagine how the final image is going to come out. You pretty much just set up your camera, you can’t see anything through the viewfinder, and you try and work it out as you go — imagine how it might look and shoot.”

D-Photo Caving Submission  (12)

Though juggling light and composition in the trying environment of an underground cave would send your conventional photographer running for the escape rope, Silverwood says these unusual challenges only serve to make him a better photographer.

“You start with a blank canvas and go from there, you have total control over all of the variables so you can really create the image rather than going out to find it,” the photographer says.

“Caving is the only time light is taken away from you. In a strange way it helps with photography outside of caves as you can really see the beauty of the world after being underground for a week.”

Even in the relatively obscure field of cave photography Silverwood strives to go beyond traditional caving images and develop a sense of scope, dynamism and elements of the human experience in his shots.

“For me it’s about trying to create a sense of movement. A lot of the cave photography you see is quite static, with people holding flashguns in a row; I try to go away from that and have cavers moving in the shot.

D-Photo Caving Submission  (6)

“Working with a team of four, I can have two people holding flashes, another couple of flashes stashed around the place and then I’ll have the other two cavers moving through the shot, doing what they do.”

Further developing this idea, the photographer says he has started experimenting without flash, shooting the cavers as they dig, explore and catch their breath — a photojournalistic style that gives the viewer a glimpse into what conditions are really like down there. Windows into a world most will never see.

And even with the enthusiastic cave photographer bringing back his marvellous captures of the world below there are still not as many people experiencing it as he would like. Over the last two years he has been doggedly submitting his caving work to magazines but would more often than not run into rejection.

“Editors would say their readers would not be interested in something so extreme, I think caving is hard for people to relate to. It has been a lot easier to get more mainstream work published such as landscapes, tramping, kayaking and skiing. This has helped a lot financially.”

D-Photo Caving Submission  (2)

But one demographic where Silverwood’s images are definitely hitting home is with the cavers themselves — even if getting them on board to help create the pictures was a hard slog in the beginning.

“One of the tougher things is just finding people to go with you, because it involves a lot of standing round. Most of the shots I’m doing now will take 35 minutes to two hours to shoot. That’s a long time to stand around for a single shot, getting cold.”

Once the cavers started to see the images Silverwood was emerging with, however, they soon came around on the creative process. It was the first time they had been able to bring a piece of the beguiling underworld out into the light with them.

“In a way these images mean a lot more to cavers than non-cavers. They have been going through these places for years and they really connect with them and this is the first time they ever see images of those caves.

D-Photo Caving Submission  (4)

“When you’re caving you can’t actually see a lot of these places because our lights only go four or five metres and the passage might be 50-metres wide. So when you shoot a photo using flash lights it’s the first time you can really see that whole passage.”

And in return Silverwood is just as appreciative of his caving friends, not just for the help they lend in getting the pictures made but in keeping the photographer safe while he does it. Being in untouched terrain means dealing with lots of loose rocks in a demanding landscape.

“We’re on and off ropes all the time — especially in the deep systems like Stormy Pot where we’re going down to about 800 metres, so you’re probably abseiling up to 500 metres a day and ascending it at the end of the day.

“I guess as a photographer you’re so fixated on what you’re doing it’s hard to focus on your safety at the same time. You have to stop and remind yourself to keep safe.”

D-Photo Caving Submission  (1)

While Silverwood has been fortunate so far as life and limb go, he can’t say the same for his photography gear. “Each trip I’ll destroy at least one flash and one bulb firer, it’s amazing. Gear gets dropped in the water, dust and dirt gets into it. It’s a real challenge to look after your gear — I’d say a camera only has a lifespan of one or two years in those sorts of environments.”

But for this cave photographer that’s just the cost of doing business and the risks are starting to pay off — next month he’ll set off again into the system on Mt Arthur, but this time funded by New Zealand Geographic with the aim of creating an article on what could be a momentous caving find. Just another step in Silverwood’s grand plan to bring the majesty of the caves into the light.

“Most people have a perception that caves are dark, nasty places like coal mines and what I’m trying to do is show people what the caves really look like and how beautiful they can be.”

This article was originally published in D-Photo no. 52.

He shot rock and roll

Prolific British photographer David Corio talks to Adrian Hatwell about shooting some of pop music’s biggest stars

The Specials performing at the Hope & Anchor, London 1980

The Specials at the Hope & Anchor, London, 1980, © David Corio

Few would argue that rock and roll reverberates beyond mere sound; its impact has always been just as inextricably linked with image. That’s what makes music photographers the unsung heroes of the rock revolution — they brave ravenous fans, risk life and lens in mosh pits, and put up with stroppy celebrities to bring us the images that make icons.

Veteran music and portrait photographer David Corio has been at it for over three decades, shooting a huge range of live shows and portraits of some of the most important names in the business. His love of music began at an early age, with a particular fondness for the blues and early British R&B, and once he came to the conclusion that his guitar skills were never going to make him the next Clapton he dove into photography.

“I went to art college doing photography in 1976 when I was 16, and left after two years and thought I would try and make a go of it straight away. I worked in various jobs — restaurants, liquor stores — in London while I shot concerts at night.”

Tom Waits 01

Tom Waits at the Victoria Apollo Theatre, London, 1981, © David Corio

Proficient at printing his own black-and-white images thanks to an 18-month stint in an industrial darkroom, Corio took a very self-motivated approach to breaking into the publishing industry, despite having few contacts to begin with.

“I would drop off prints at New Musical Express from the previous night’s gig that I had been to but would be going to my day job so it would be too early to meet anyone. I would develop and print the film in my bedsit through the night so must have managed on only a few hours’ sleep for quite a while I guess.

“The money was never very good either so you really had to have a love for it and not think you would be making your fortune.”

He might not have made his fortune, but Corio certainly made a name for himself. From his early success with New Musical Express he went on to shoot an array of the period’s most exciting acts for the likes of The Face, Time Out, and Black Echoes. His distinctive, candid black-and-white style has earned him a place amongst the greats of music photography — three of his images are featured in the exhaustive visual history, Who Shot Rock and Roll, currently exhibiting at Auckland Art Gallery.

Throughout the years he’s shot in every conceivable type of venue, from mammoth orchestral stadiums to tiny sweaty dives, and as a music fan he’s enjoyed them all — but each has its own set of challenges as photography goes.

“The big festivals tend to have very high stages so you end up shooting up people’s noses and having to use long lenses, which I don’t like. And you tend to get a lot of photographers that get in the way,” recalls Corio.

Grace Jones

Grace Jones at Drury Lane Theatre, London, 1981, © David Corio

“Cramped punk gigs would often mean you were getting banged around by crowds pogo dancing and that is not good for camera shake either. I used to wear a hooded jacket sometimes as when punks were spitting from further back towards the stage I would be in direct line.”

For him the ideal venue for shooting is something mid-sized with an orchestra pit and good lighting, citing the Hammersmith Odeon and Lyceum Theatre as personal favourites. But he says you can make do wherever you are as long as you pack wisely.

“In small clubs I will travel very light with a canvas bag with one camera and a couple of lenses. At festivals and bigger shows I’ll probably take more equipment but I have never been one of those photographers that have four cameras hanging round my neck.”

An ardent film devotee, Corio shot most of his well known images with a Nikon 801S or Nikon FM2 on Tri X black-and-white film rated at 800 or 1600 ASA. He shot exclusively with fixed focal length lenses: 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 85mm, 135mm and 180mm. With aperture wide open he could get good handheld results at shutter speeds around 1/15s.

One of the most difficult elements to manage when shooting live music is problematic lighting, though Corio says with good technique and a sharp eye you can make most situations work.

“I always use manual shutter and aperture settings, as even though cameras are far better now than when I started, try shooting a black performer in a white suit and hat and you can guarantee the exposure will be wrong if it’s set on automatic.”

Peter Tosh performing at The Rainbow, London 29 June 1981

Peter Tosh performing at the Rainbow, London, 1981, © David Corio

He advises keeping away from over-saturated red light, as it makes images totally flat — try and use any backlighting to add some ring lighting to the head and body of a performer.

“I like to try and use the beams of light if there are any, although now that you can’t smoke in venues anymore those strong beams of light you once got at jazz and reggae clubs have become a thing of the past.”

That’s not the only change to the industry Corio has seen in his time, the very nature of shooting live music has undergone substantial shifts. “In the mid ’80s all the major venues changed their policy to only allow the first three songs to be shot and then invariably you get thrown out of the venue. It’s really irritating as it doesn’t give you long to get a good shot and the performers normally start warming up by the fourth song too.

“Small venues often won’t allow photography at all now.”

As a result Corio no longer shoots many gigs, but live music was only one chord in the accomplished photographer’s repertoire, he is also renowned for his rich, candid approach to portraiture. Corio has built a career around getting up close and personal with some of his idols, though starting as young as he did meant meeting living legends was a touch intimidating.

James Brown at Hammersmith Odeon, London 26 May 1985

James Brown at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 1985, © David Corio

“Initially I would get nervous but as you become more confident with your own ability it becomes easier most of the time. A lot of them were my musical heroes so I would be in awe of them but most would be friendly as long as you worked quickly and didn’t try to get them to do stupid poses.”

The photographer says bringing out something natural in a rock star is not so very different from any other subject, the best way to get them to relax is to show a personal interest and get them talking comfortably about themselves.

“Other times if I feel they aren’t interested in chatting I may do an entire shoot hardly speaking — maybe just asking them to turn a bit this way or that. Sometimes these can be the best shoots even if they only last for a few minutes.”

Regarding any memorably troublesome subjects, Corio recounts a shoot with legendary soul singer James Brown that was scheduled to take place at noon but didn’t end up happening until midnight.

“He had his hair done at least four times that day and when I finally met him he had his hair in red hair-rollers and said he would throw me and my cameras out of the window if I tried to take a photo — we were on the third floor backstage at Hammersmith Odeon.

“Just before he was due onstage I said the photos would only take a minute to do and so after the show he took me literally and timed me — 60 seconds and then I was thrown out!”

The Pretenders performing at the Nashville Rooms, London on March 9 1979

The Pretenders at the Nashville Rooms, London, 1979, © David Corio

Asked what he thinks his career prospects might be if he were just starting out today Corio echoes the same, slightly despondent sentiments of Gail Buckland, curator of the Who Shot Rock and Roll exhibition — a feeling that the golden age of rock and roll might have passed us by.

“Record companies have complete control and there is very little access to artists who are entirely controlled by management and agents, etc. There is more competition as everyone thinks they can take a photo with their phone and fewer music magazines. They never paid well, but pay less now than when I started.

“Also I don’t see that there are the artists with the character, pedigree or longevity that there used to be. Maybe I’m just old and out of touch though.”

But just as rock and roll will never die, music photography has virtues at its core that can’t be eroded, regardless of the industry — the opportunity to hear good music, meet interesting people and make images you’re proud of.

“Every shoot is going to be a different challenge and sometimes problems arise that are out of your control so seeing a good image appear in the darkroom tray is always a good feeling at the end of the day.”

Unique, contemporary style key to travel success

Submissions for this year's Travel Media Awards close on March 28, and to get you in the mood we bring you  Kelly Lynch's look at the 2013 winners, originally published in The Photographer's Mail.

At the conclusion of a long drum roll, photographer Babiche Martens was named the Travel Photographer of the Year at the 2013 awards night for the country’s top travel communicators, the Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards. Despite not winning any of the five photography categories on the docket (she was runner-up in Best Travel Image Taken Outside New Zealand), Martens’ 10-image portfolio was strong enough to take out the top honour and a luxury trip to Hong Kong.

In deciding last year’s travel photography champions, the judging panel, consisting of Tony Bridge, Aaron K, and Bela Trussell-Cullen, said they were looking for consistency and technically superb images.

“We chose the winner because we found her work very contemporary. It is unique. In a medium that can attract clichés, Babiche’s eye was refreshing.”

Babiche Martens 104fyyy

Babiche Martens

Martens, a staff photographer for The New Zealand Herald’s Viva supplement, entered both published and unpublished images in her portfolio. Six published images appeared with her story Sri Lanka: Portrait of a People, published in the Herald’s Travel supplement in 2012. It was a self-initiated assignment, and Martens (an admitted beach-lover) was inspired to visit Sri Lanka on the promise of beautiful beaches and colourful culture. She was not disappointed.

Her remaining portfolio images, entered in Best Unpublished Travel Image category, were originally shot for Viva during a week-long work assignment in Los Angeles. She says these images are “an eclectic mix, a humorous take on what I saw”. Usually, Martens has an annual international travel assignment with Viva and shoots angles to fit the story. But in this case, because the story hadn’t yet been written, she wasn’t influenced by it, and instead interpreted places as she saw them. Initially these were just candid snaps but later she saw them as something more serious and entered her favourites into the awards.

Starting full-time work as a photographer for The New Zealand Herald seven years ago, Martens became casual in her approach to photography while on vacation. That was until 2011 when she entered the Travel Media Awards and topped the Best Unpublished Image category — the responses and feedback she received spurred her to take travel photography more seriously.

Babiche Martens 104C Peoplenn

Babiche Martens

Judge Aaron K said it was a tough decision choosing between the winning portfolio and that of last year’s runner-up, Tessa Chrisp. Commenting on Chrisp’s images, the judges acknowledged a “lovely continuity of style, strong lens, colour and colour relationships that we liked a lot”.

Chrisp was overall winner of two photography categories, Best Travel Image taken outside New Zealand and Best Travel Image with People. Both winning images, taken in Vanuatu, appeared in a story published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine.

Her entries in 2013’s awards derive from prizes she won as Travel Photographer of the Year in 2011, including a trip to Nepal care of Cathay Pacific and another to Vanuatu thanks to then-sponsors Air Vanuatu and Mangoes Resort.

Tessa Chrisp 124G Peopleccc

Tessa Chrisp

A freelance photographer working for a healthy number of New Zealand glossy magazines, Chrisp is both commissioned to cover travel assignments and generates her own. In deciding which of her images to submit in the awards she looks over her published work and chooses quality, technically good, and emotively captivating images.

Chief photographer at the Waikato Times, Peter Drury, won the NZ Maori Tourism award for Best Travel Image that captures the essence of Māori with an image of wakas at the Ngaruawahia regatta on the Waikato River, published in the Times.

Peter Drury 122a Maorivv

Peter Drury

Student Joshua Windsor entered the awards for the first time last year after becoming motivated to learn photography during a journey through South America in 2010. His image of a climber scaling Fiordland’s Darren Mountain face, which he says “looked like an ant on the wall”, won the award for the Best Travel Image taken in New Zealand.

Windsor’s image was published in New Zealand Geographic magazine after he posted it on the publication’s Flickr page and the editor subsequently chose to put it in the publication. Windsor has already committed his $2000 prize to fuel more travel.

Joshua Windsor 113a New Zealandaa

Joshua Windsor

This year marks 23 years of Travcom, an association of New Zealand travel communicators, which organises the Travel Media Awards, New Zealand’s only major travel writing and photography awards programme.

In general the awards celebrate published work, with the majority of categories requiring the author be paid for their work. The one photography category exception is Heritage Boutique Hotels Award for the Best Unpublished Travel Image. 2013’s winner was Wellington commercial photographer Lindsay Keats, with his atmospheric image of boys playing soccer in Morocco.

Lindsay Keats 116d Unpublisheddd

Lindsay Keats

While Keats says his peers inspire him, he largely attributes the success of his travel images to a life-changing workshop he attended in 2010, run by Magnum and National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. The workshop was such a success that Keats ended up assisting McCurry teaching at one of his recent workshops in Thailand.

An inspiration to those whose travel images are not yet published, when Keats first entered four images in the 2010 awards for Best Unpublished Travel Image he ended up as the runner-up for the overall Travel Photographer of the Year award.

For more information on Travcom or entering 2014’s Travel Awards programme, click here.

Pressures of the press

With the results of two important photojournalism awards soon to be announced — the Canon Media Awards, celebrating excellence in local press photography, and World Press Photo, an international search for the world's best photojournalism — D-Photo presents a feature from sister publication The Photographer's Mail, discussing the 2013 champions of both events.  

Last year’s winning photo in the world’s most prestigious photojournalism competition caused a flurry of controversy in the media, after digital imaging experts accused the image of being a heavily-manipulated fake. Around the same time that quarrel broke out New Zealand was celebrating the pinnacle of local photojournalism achievements in the Canon Media Awards. The Photographer’s Mail speaks with some of the 2013 winners to discover where digital manipulation ranks among the challenges facing Kiwi photojournalism today.

Swedish photographer Paul Hansen’s image of a burial procession in Gaza city picked up the Photo of the Year nod at the 2013 World Press Photo competition, a decision that has seen the organisers come under fire due to the image’s significant digital treatment. Many are now questioning the degree to which a news photo can legitimately be manipulated after the taking, before losing claim to authenticity.

Emma Allen, photographer for the Marlborough Express who was named Junior Press Photographer of the Year at the 2013 Canon Media Awards, doesn’t think Hansen’s photo has been too heavily manipulated, but she admits it’s a difficult line to draw. Though it was the topic of a spirited discussion at her workplace it is not, she says, an issue that affects her own daily work.

Boomtown Brawlettes

Emma Allen, Marlborough Express

“We would never have the time to do that much editing. He obviously put a lot of work into the photo; we have maybe 10, 20 seconds to edit each photo.”

A glance at Allen’s winning portfolio — featuring such diverse subjects as car crash victims, roller derby players, community fundraisers, and flood-hit families — bears this out. The images evidence the hallmarks of classic photojournalism bereft of all but the subtlest of digital tweaks. While Marlborough Express owner Fairfax Media includes in its Code of Ethics a rule to not “tamper” with photographs beyond the cosmetic, Allen says it’s the unofficial rule to only perform digital edits that could have been performed in the darkroom which guides her and her colleagues.

“Of course we’d never move something around or cut something out or anything like that. Never, never, never.”

Money bag

Emma Allen, Marlborough Express

It’s a sentiment echoed by The Daily Post photographer Stephen Parker, who was last year named Senior Press Photographer of the Year at the media awards programme. While editors are always looking for an eye-catching photo for the front page, he has not seen anything in New Zealand photojournalism that approaches the realm of doctored images.

“It’s the same as it’s always been, just the same old burning and dodging under Photoshop.”

Rather than computer acumen, the 15-year veteran says the ability to concentrate and find form with each and every job is the bigger challenge with working in the local news industry.

RDP0554819103

Stephen Parker, The Daily Post

“Sometimes I feel like I’m owed the pictures because I’ve put in the time in the testing conditions, and nobody else is there,” Parker explains.

“Sometimes the pictures you envisage don’t come, but then there are the days when everything falls into place — the horrific attack happens in front of you while doing a street poll, or the five-year-old triplets at the breakfast club have both infectious smiles and shocking footwear.”

He says he was happy to pull in the award for the Rotorua newspaper, which doesn’t have the resources some of the larger media outlets do (“I’m usually the one on the ground and the bigger papers and TV networks are buzzing overhead in the choppers”). But a smaller paper does not mean a smaller workload, especially with the industry-wide increase in demand for online imagery and video in addition to print photos.

attackcanon

Stephen Parker, The Daily Post

“You’re sort of wearing two hats, if you’ve got time you try to shoot the video as well. The advantage of working on a small paper is pretty much everything gets used.”

With the future of print media still in question, the biggest trend reported within the industry was a shift towards the web, accompanied by an increased urgency in turnaround and a more diverse array of media products.

Despite this, there’s still an appreciation in the industry for crafting a classic news image, says Natasha Martin of the Timaru Herald. She took home the Best Feature Photo award, a new category at the 2013 Canon Media Awards, for a warm environmental portrait of an elderly man, just enrolled in a chef’s course for people aged over 65, serving his wife a boiled egg. Martin says the time pressure of a daily newspaper is no barrier to connecting with subjects; it is a simple matter of treating people with respect. She was with the subjects of her winning image for around 40 minutes.

“I really enjoy being able to spend time with subjects prior and just listening to the interview, as the picture idea will normally come to me during this time. So then it’s just a matter of replaying what would typically happen in that scenario and letting the picture unfold before you.”

639canon

Natasha Martin, Timaru Herald

Though she hopes respect for straight photojournalism will continue into the future, Martin says her advice to anyone starting out would be to build skills beyond still images.

“I think the biggest challenge these days is breaking away from past ideas, offering the readers something different by use of multimedia, informative photo essays, graphics, etc., all alongside a great read but most importantly delivering that package in a professional visual.”

The winning images at last year’s Canon Media Awards would seem to clear the local industry of the concerns raised by the World Press Photo debate, with technical camera talent valued well ahead of digital editing skill. The news industry’s self-regulatory body, The Press Council, confirms that alarm over image manipulating is not a concerning trend within New Zealand — there have been no complaints relating to technical manipulation of photos in recent years.

All of which is not to say digital editing of photojournalism imagery does not have a place here. The Iris Awards, the annual awards programme of the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP), contains a Photojournalism category in which minor exposure, contrast and colour adjustments are allowed in pursuit of a high quality print. Kaye Davis, chair of the NZIPP honours council, believes Hansen’s controversial World Press Photo entry would also have been accepted into the local competition.

“Under the criteria, entries must reflect the authenticity of the original scene without any form of manipulation that takes this away … Even when reading through the debates over the image, there is no indication that the scene is anything but authentic in its content.”

She acknowledges that the level of editing allowed under the criteria can be “a little subjective”, but says things like removing elements, such as power lines, or adding elements, like replacing a head where a person’s eyes are closed, are clear violations of the rules.

In the Iris Awards it is important to note that the judges are looking at the photographer’s print quality as well as what the image communicates, a consideration that is not shared at the Canon Media Awards. But Davies says while digital technology is changing the photographic environment, which can lead to healthy debate, the core ethics behind photojournalism remain unchanged.

“There will always be images that push the boundaries and make us question what we do, and I see this as a good thing. Ultimately, it is up to the organisers of the competitions to determine exactly what they are looking for in entries and be specific when setting the rules.”

The erosion of photojournalistic integrity through digital manipulation may not have taken root in the New Zealand industry but the impact of technology is impossible to ignore. The Canon Media Awards show a strong appreciation of conventional photojournalistic aptitude remains. But in an industry where jobs comprising solely of conventional photojournalism are increasingly scarce, those keeping up with the technological tides are most likely to stay afloat in a swiftly evolving market.

 The judging process for 2014’s Canon Media Awards is currently underway, with  the awards night to be held on May 9 in Auckland.