365 Challenge #309 - summer fun!

I spent a lovely afternoon today with my family on the Gold Coast. What a cracker of a last weekend for summer - but hopefully now we move into the season of fewer storms and cooler temps. Autumn is my favourite time of the year in Queensland.

Little B, my gorgeous nephew who turned two last week, entertained us by splashing around in the pool. It would have been a great day for using my 70-200mm lens, but I only had the 24-70mm lens.

The 24-70mm lens is the one I use most often - such a brilliant general-purpose lens. My only concern about using it today was that I had to get fairly close to this cheeky little monkey to get a close up shot - and he was splashing around like mad. Even though the lens and camera body are weather sealed, I'm still a bit nervous about getting it the gear wet.

Anyway, I was able to roll off a bunch of shots of him and Grandma playing in the pool. That's what summer is about, after all :)

365 Challenge #308 - New Farm Park's rose garden

It was a gorgeous day out yesterday! Photography buddy Robyn and I arranged to meet up at Brisbane's Powerhouse to check out the Nikon Walkley Press Photo Exhibition, which finishes this weekend.

The collection of 100 of the winning and finalist photos was inspiring. Press photographers, particularly news photographers, usually have very little time to set up the images we see in newspapers.

These photographers are often shooting in the most difficult conditions, like wars and disasters. As we wandered round the images, we wondered whether the shots were straight out of the camera or if they had been photoshopped at all.

It was also interesting to see that some of the winning shots broke some of the "rules" that we've been taught in various workshops - like the rule of "don't stick your subject in the dead centre of the frame". A number of the winning photos had captured the subject right in the middle of the image. Go figure!

After a few quiet drinkies on the balcony of the Powerhouse, we wandered out to New Farm Park with our cameras. I hadn't been here since before the area had been inundated in the January floods, and it was great to see everything largely back to normal.

The sun was still hot and glary, so shooting flowers (or indeed, anything) was a tad tricky. A polarising filter helped to pull back the light and add some colour to the sky. I experimented with shooting these roses from underneath.

I love the colours of vivid colours of Summer, but am also looking forward to cooler temps in Autumn.

All photos taken with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8L lens.

365 Challenge #307 - experimenting with the vertical pano

I was out shooting last night, on what was a beautiful summer evening. The Brisbane sky was a gorgeous blend of blues, pinks and yellows.

The skyline lends itself to being cropped to pano format, but I thought I would try both vertical and horizontal layouts. I think I prefer the horizontal version in this instance - mainly because it shows more of the colours, but I will try to "see" more vertical pano's when I'm out and about.

365 Challenge #306 - Issey Miyake

My head is spinning with the concepts of design we discussed in the first session of the 8-week Colour II course at the Brisbane College of Photography & Arts last night.

We discussed the eight principles of design - proportion, rhythm, unity, dominance, balance, harmony, selection and contrast. On top of that are the seven elements of design - line, direction, shape, size, texture, value (which I equated with exposure) and colour. All of these principles and elements can be incorporated into photography - particularly helping with composition decisions. The tutor explained that photos which incorporate the principles of design generally seem to work better than those photos which ignore or contradict these principles.

We then put these into a matrix, and the first assignment became to take pictures which represented a combination of one item from each category - so contrast and value for example.

This is FABULOUS, because it gives me 56 possibilities from all the combinations, meaning 52 photos - which will just about see me done and dusted for this 365 challenge.

No doubt, I'll research and blog about each element as I go, but for today, I thought I'd start with an easy one - a yummy selling combination of contrast and value :)

365 Challenge #305 - Thinking of Christchurch

Today, a massive earthquake devastated the beautiful city of Christchurch. I couldn't help but think back to the fantastic few weeks I spent there a couple of years ago.

During my trip, I bought a few pieces of jade jewellery, a speciality of the area. I particularly loved the maori symbols, and chose a Koru (spiral) charm. The Koru represents new beginnings, growth, harmony and was derived from the symbolism of an unfurled silver fern leaf - which are plentiful in New Zealand.

My thoughts are with everyone in the disaster-struck Christchurch tonight. I am sure they'll find the strength to create their own new beginnings.

365 Challenge #304 - Colour 101....or make that 2

Anyone who knows me will attest to my course junkie thang. I love doing courses - short courses, long courses, degrees for the fun of it...So I'm very excited to be starting the 8-week Colour II course at the Brisbane College of Photography and Art tomorrow night.

I did the Colour I course at the college late last year, and it provided a great refresher on exposure, flash and studio lighting, and all manner of other interesting photography stuff.

The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital PhotosColour II promises to cover creative composition, elements and principles of design, angles and perspective and a range of other topics. I'm reading about design principals as they apply to photography in The Photographer's Eye, so it will be interesting to get a more practical take on the subject.

I find that the 8-week courses give me time to ponder points that are made in class, go home and try them, and then come back with just as many questions the following week. I also like hanging out with other photogs and seeing what they're up to...

So....stay tuned for updates from this happy little course junkie.

365 Challenge #303 - The Reading List

My blog posts lately have been few and far between. I recently started a fab new marketing job, and now have a long, and fascinating reading list which covers everything from marketing to management, strategy to fables. I used to love reading all the latest business books and I'm really enjoying getting back into it all with a vengeance.

One particularly interesting book I was challenged to track down and read, is called the Go Getter - a story that was published in 1921. It's a v-e-r-y short story, a fable in fact, and I read it in an hour - but it was cool. If you're interested in what type of people make the business world go round, track down the book and let me know what you think!

Now...to get through this current stack, to make way for the next batch :)

Loving the long exposure!

Ah, the joy of night shoots! Haven't done it for what feels like ages, and ended up going out twice the weekend.

Other than the mossies, which around the Brisbane River, are more like small helicopters than tiny bugs, I love that night shooting relies on long exposures. The photo of the Story Bridge (above) was 100 seconds, while the one below was 611 seconds - just over 10 minutes (both at f/11 with the 28-70mm f/2.8L lens).

I love what long exposure shooting does to lights and water, and the reflections created when you have both ingredients. I love that night shooting is typically quiet and peaceful (other than random Irish drunks and the swearing that comes with having forgetten the mossie repellant).

I also appreciate the chit chat that typically comes with the other photogs who are shooting with you - last night, the guy that was shooting near Steve, Darren and I ended up being a guy I was already in contact with on Flickr. It's not the first time someone has suggested we all start wearing t-shirts with our Flickr Id's out to shoots....

It was a dilemma last night though - the sunset on one side of Cleveland Point, and the full moon rise on the other. We opted for the sunset, but the moon looked pretty spectacular through the palm trees. My lens didn't zoom far enough to capture enough detail, so I'll have to commit that image to memory.

Now - to find some more locations around Brisbane so I can do more night shooting! Where's YOUR favourite night shooting location in Brisbane?

365 Challenge #298 - Me. After tennis squad

This was about as much as I could muster for today's 365 Challenge, after running around for two hours in the humidity, for tennis squad. It was great fun, but I'm too knackered to pick up a real camera. So...iPhone + Hipstamatic...

365 Challenge #296 - jumping on the iPhone bandwagon

Sooo...after a couple of years of resisting iPhone mania, giving preference to Blackberry, which I've used for about 10 years - I took the plunge yesterday and upgraded to my first iPhone.

I'be been exploring the App Store and asking my photog buddies which photography-related Apps they use and like.

Here's part a list of what they've suggested so far and others I've found myself. Methinks it's going to be a whole new world! I'm also debating whether to start a 365 iPhone Photo Challenge, or incorporate it into this one. We'll see!

Hipstamatic - Description from the iTunes site: "Pictures taken with the Hipstamatic have their very own look and unique character. Artistic and painted with light and quirk, Hipstamatic images are sometimes surprising and offer a delicate beauty turning any iPhone into an instant art making machine. Images can be uploaded directly to Facebook, Flickr, or emailed to your friends and family."

Easy Release - "Easy Release replaces inconvenient paper release forms with a slick, streamlined application designed by professional photographers for professional photographers...it lets you collect all the data and signatures you need right on your iPhone, then mails a PDF and JPEG of the release right to you."

ShakeItPhoto - "ShakeItPhoto is the most realistic instant photo experience for the iPhone. Works just like an instant camera. Watch the photo develop. Shake your iPhone to make it develop faster."

Quad Camera - "Just pressing a button, QuadCam proceeds to take 4-8 serial shoots and create one image with 6 selectable effects."

There's a whole raft of photography Apps on iTunes, which I'm sure could will be fun to experiment with as I get my head around this new little plaything! Stay tuned for my first attempts at iPhone photography.

The Bag Lady with a bad case of GAS

Since my photography obsession really kicked in, I've often wished I could re-visit many of the awesome places I've had the chance to see - but this time, with all the right camera gear.

For many years, "packing the camera" was simply a matter of tossing my little, and I mean TINY, Canon Ixus into my handbag, putting the charger into the suitcase, and off I'd go. No need for even a second memory card because the files were so relatively small. My trusty point and shoot was small and light - and simple. Ah, those were the days my friends....

When I upgraded to the Canon EOS 400D with two kit lenses, even travelling with that kit through the UK and Turkey was fairly straightforward - a nice little compact Canon shoulder bag held the camera, an 18-55mm and a 55-250mm lens, a couple of filters, spare battery, memory card and charger. It could be carried onto planes - even packed into a larger carry-on bag, and it was still all pretty easy.

And then I made it difficult for myself. Enter, stage left - the Canon EOS 5D, a couple of big (and heavy) wide angle, zoom and macro lenses, external flash (and requisite batteries plus their own charger), polarisars, neutral density filters, spare batteries, memory cards AND laptop (as a backup to the prospect of a memory card failure). When I started to upgrade gear, I bought a Lowepro Pro Runner 450 AW DLSR Backpack to lug it all around - and while I love the Lowepro, I've noticed after about 6 months of use, that it's pretty damn heavy when fully packed...and that's not incuding a tripod!

Despite the weight issue, I decided the Lowepro backpack was still the safest and easiest way to transport my camera gear on my recent trip to Japan. It fit within the carry-on luggage size guidelines, although I got a bit nervous about the weight....all up, I reckon I walked onto the plane with about a 9-10kg weight hanging off my shoulders...a tad over the allowable 7kg. Good thing the bags weren't weighed at any point, but I know that some airports and airlines can get a bit anal about all of that...

When I went out for daytrips in Japan, I left the laptop in the hotel room and cleared out the chargers from the backpack, and for the most part, it was heavy, but bareable for a day of walking around. It was winter, so I wore a thick coat everyday, and that seemed to make the whole backpack thing a bit more uncomfortable than usual - and then....enter stage left, Yodobashi - one of the largest camera stores in the world.

This 6-storey gadget megastore exceeded my expectations in terms of the range of electronics they stocked. There was a full floor of camera gear, with glass cabinets that stocked pretty much every camera and lens across every brand you could imagine. I have only ever seen the full compliment of L-series lenses in a Canon brochure, but Yodobashi has every one on display - and the staff were more than happy to take them off the display, attach them to your camera and let you have a play. The drool was somewhat embarrasing....

I priced lenses, and even with the tax-free price and a fairly strong exchange rate, the lenses I were looking at were easily a couple of hundred dollars more than some of the shops back in Australia...

But the range of camera bags was pretty astonishing - certainly larger than any range I'd seen in Australia, so I started to investigate in more detail.

I came across the Vanguard series of bags, and liked their bags for zoom lenses. The bag below (the 17z) fits the 5D with a 70-200mm lens on it, plus a few small accessories. There's even an in-built rain cover (like those on the Lowepro bags), and a bizarre looking leg strap attachment (see Picture #3 below for how it works!).

Given the momentous occasion of being in Camera Heaven, I decided that I needed to celebrate by purchasing one of these Vanguard zoom bags.

I put it through its paces over the next couple of days, and what it actually made me do, was cut back the gear to what I actually needed each day - which ended up being the 5D and the 24-70mm lens, my macro lens and the tiny Lensbaby Composer and Fisheye optics (the Vanguard bag will fit the zoom lens or a couple of smaller lenses, so is quite versatile). The side pockets accommodated spare batteries and memory cards, credit cards and my passport.

What I like about this bag is that it's worn over the shoulder, which is kind of like a backpack in distributing the weight. Most importantly it allows you to keep both hands free.

I like that there is a flap inside the bag that suspends the camera body (with the lens pointing downwards). It seems to be a safe way of carrying the lens, and it lets you whip the camera out whenever you need it - and put it back just as quickly - particularly in combination with an R-strap (which is still my most favourite camera accessory ever). The bag is well padded and all the fittings feel pretty robust. It even felt more comfortable over my thick coat, perhaps because there was one less strap to get all the material caught in.

Now that I'm home, I'm looking forward to heading out to one of my usual photography haunts - like the Botanic Gardens, and taking only as much gear as will fit into the new bag. It's not that much bigger than the Canon bag I used to take out - just longer, to accommodate the bigger lenses.

As for using the leg strap, can't imagine I'll be using that anytime soon - and I'm not sure I could stifle a giggle if saw anyone else wearing their camera gear strapped to their inner thigh....I guess it takes all sorts.

And as for the desire to keep travelling - well, that's as obsessive as it ever was. I'm sure I'll still debate which bag and which gear to take on the next trip :)

365 Challenge #295 - All hail the holy banana

Today was the day that Tropical Cyclone Yasi crossed the Australian coast, and decimated the seaside towns of Cardwell, Tully and Mission Beach. Hundreds of kilometres of that part of the Far North Queensland Coast also copped a hammering, and tonight there is widespread devastation.

As well as destroying homes and businesses, I read that the monster cyclone - a Category 5 when it slammed into the land - would wipe out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of banana and sugar cane crops in the area.

So...today's 365 pic pays homage to the humble (and soon-to-be very expensive) banana. I shall savour these ones, because they reckon bananas could jump from $2-3 a kilo to $15 a kilo.

My thoughts and best wishes go out to everyone who has been affected by what has been described as the biggest cyclone in living memory, to cross Australia's coast.