Success!

Well, I have some good news to report.
Yesterday afternoon I went to Cafe on the Dam ( http://www.cafeonthedam.com/ ) and showed some of my work. They agreed to take it on consignment, which means that if it sells, we both make some money.
They took everything I had with me, which made me want to have taken more, but you are only as good as the worst piece of work you are displaying, so perhaps the minimal work on display was a good thing?

Either way, I’m very happy with this success. Cafe on the Dam is set in a lovely location, in the bush behind Jarrahdale and Serpentine. Not only is it local to us, it is the kind of location I would like to display my work anyway and that is a really important thing.

I didn’t take any photos of the event happening, it was more a business transaction anyway. After we had agreed on what kind of commission the cafe would get, my partner and I had lunch and a short walk around the dam wall. My partner took a lot of photos, I have to say, I dislike being the subject of so many photos.

As usual, I wasn’t 100% prepared and I have to now write short little spiels for each piece. Well, I don’t have to, but I think that at least adding the location and description of each photo would add value for potential customers.

In other news, the last week has been very busy photographically for me. Exactly this time last week I was shooting for the cover of my employers new brochure. The shoot was a last minute request and was well timed as I was due to leave site and return home with in a few hours. Fortunately, my boss knew what he wanted and the surveyor I was working with was a great assistant/model. To help, nature put on an amazing sunrise.

Self Portrait, at work.

My employer ended up going with something similar to this.

Dampier has possibly one of the cleanest ports I have ever visited. Despite being a hub for heavy industry, nature exists here in all her glory and with just a little photoshop, you might never know otherwise.

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Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) patrolling the coast line

Over the Fathers Day weekend, we were visited by our niece. Being a child, she is wide eyed with wonder out here. As a child I remember the joy of visiting farms, playing with horses and chickens, bush walking, and it is very satisfying to see it in another young child.

Sun Dews are magnificently soft and only a little bit sticky.

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New Toys

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So I got a few new toys this week. Of the most interest to me were LR5 and Leap Motion.

I’ll start with the Leap Motion. This is the future of computing https://www.leapmotion.com , well, maybe in a generation or two.
When I ordered the Leap Motion, months and months ago, I was envisaging intuitive and natural control of my laptop by waving my hands around. I wasn’t 100%  sure how it would work, but I was sure it would be great. I am a little disappointed. Not much, I just had to remember that this was a technology that was in it’s infancy, and that I was not familar with it. I remember when I first used a mouse, I hated it, couldn’t see the need for it and I thought it was a cop out for lazy people who couldn’t use a keyboard. Now I resent having no use of a mouse. I suspect soon we will have tablets with inbuilt touchless/gesture control, desktops with out mice or keyboards and so on. It would seem that the only thing missing from my vision of the future is fully 3D screens and I don’t mean like the current crop of shitty  gimmicks in stores at the moment. Yes, it will be like in the Minority Report (sans the gloves hopefully).

My desire to see this happen is actually coming from a practical view point. I often spend 50+ hrs a week working in Civil 3D and other AutoCAD products. I draft in entirely x,y,z and have no end of issues with doing so on a flat screen. Sure, I’ve developed methods to avoid most of the common traps, but I can’t wait till drafting in 3D is as natural as sketching on paper with a pencil.
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Lightroom 5 has been interesting. I skipped Lightroom 4 and stuck with my dated copy of LR3.6, so I can’t comment on what exactly is a new feature for the program, only on what is new for me. Firstly, the Heal/Clone Brush=Awesome. Sure, you can do the same thing in PS, but that meant using another piece of software and considering I mainly only used PS for getting rid of things like powerlines, this is of great benefit to me. The tools were a little hard to find, I know they were in the same place, but they worked slightly differently, despite not looking any different and as such, it took me a while (hours) to figure it out. Both the images here have had power poles and lines removed and I have to say that I’m impressed with how well the tool works out of the box. There was mention of some additional functions being added to the Heal/Clone tool, such as feathering, but for now I’m happy enough.
Things like the lay out the sliders makes more sense than what was in LR3. Despite there being a little bit of time required to adjust from the habits of LR3,  I can appreciate the thought that went into modifying the layout and functions. Another boon is the extra control available in Lens Corrections. I do try and shoot in a way that minimises Chromatic Abberation, but you can’t always lose a shot for some shit tech reason like that. LR3 was pretty damn good at fixing CA, but LR5 is miles ahead.
Supposedly, there is several stops of additional Highlight/Shadow Recovery available now, but I can’t say I can see it, though I’ve never had an issue with blacked out shadow or blown out highlights appearing in a photo. Sometimes in the real world, looking at things with your real eyes, there will be black shadows and white highlights in the same scene, so I can’t see what the fuss is about, maybe I’m missing the point? I think at this point, I should point out that in both the above photos, I was using fill flash, from a SB-900 with diffuser, mounted on camera. This was to help balance the very contrasty scene.

The other very exciting feature is the Book tab. I’m not really sure when I will get around to publishing a book. Probably when I can find a coherent theme and also find a printer that will print a small run (several hundred, tops) for a reasonable price, Regardless, this feature is brilliant. I hate, with a passion, book making software. Every company has it’s own shitty in house software and they are all missing features, never the same features and they all have peculiar quirks that are annoying to have to learn. Assuming that most book printers will accept LR5 Book PDF’s, I can’t wait to put it through it’s paces.

Both LR5 and Leap Motion will take some getting used to, learning a new tool while trying to achieve the same work is never straight forward, but both have been fun and useful so far.

About the photos. My partner and I took our youngest horse out for a ride whilst we had lend of a friends float. I was interested in scouting locations for possible shoots in the future and my partner was looking for new places to ride. Whilst this was not the most consistently scenic place, there were a few spots that had potential. A few weeks earlier, we ventured to Kwinana, to the horse beach behind the heavy industrial area. http://www.flickr.com/photos/brokentoyshop/sets/72157634758081259/ This shoot was much more productive, I have a several decent shots still to go up.
I would welcome any suggestions of locations to shoot horse and rider portraits , in and around the Perth Metro area.

Working in the North West, the brighter side.

Ok, so my last post finished on a somewhat negative note. It wasn’t really my intention, but I felt I needed to express something that I have been feeling for a few years now.

So, for this post, I thought it would be nice to list some of the positive aspects and talk about the reasons I love working in the North West and other remote parts of Australia.

The first thing would be the most obvious, I get paid to take my camera for long trips into places most tourists or even professional photographers don’t get to go. This results in some fairly unique experiences.

In his natural habitat.

In his natural habitat.

This was shot a few hours north east of Cue, during an exploration project. We had a few down days where the soil was too damp to sample, so I kept busy shooting and taking selfies….
We spent three weeks living in tents, cooking on campfires and watching the world cup via satellite. It was pretty special.  During the 3 weeks, it rained quite a bit, so we had a fair bit of spare time to explore the region we were in.

Our adventures took us to an abandoned station a few Km north of us. I don’t know the story behind the station, or why it was left,  but what did know was that they left behind a lot of stuff. There were entire windmills stripped to pieces and left in ordered piles, stacked in grid patterns, behind a shed. There were rusted out car bodies, some that looked like they were in good condition before they rusted.
The biggest surprise was the interior of the buildings. Each room was filled with dead animals. Even the rooms that had clear exits had corpses everywhere.

Count the corpses.

This is the bathroom. I would say that it’s gone beyond the renovation stage and onto the condemned stage. I can’t remember how many animals we counted in there, but it was over a dozen. In the bath tub too. Yeah, that’s right, I walked all the way into that room.
When we returned to our camp, it was a wordless and mutual understanding that every item of clothing we wore to this place was getting washed, twice. The smell wasn’t that bad, but it made your skin crawl.

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Something a little more pleasant. Do you ever resent having to be up early in the morning and having to be at the office before sunrise?
Not me, as a photographer, sunrise and sunset are very good times of the day to be shooting.  In the few minutes from shortly before the sun rises to when it just sit over the horizon, magic happens.
The above two shots are minutes apart and are of the same bird. I was driving in to work and I saw a silhouette on a hill near one of our survey stations. The shape and size told me it was a large wedge tail eagle and I decided that the survey station need a closer inspection.
Visiting a place and spending a few days there shooting is all well and good, but spend a few months somewhere and you start to learn a lot about where the birds like to perch, which birds are where at what time and other things that make it possible to get stunning shots with ease.

Before

After

Ofcourse, it’s not all just lazing around with the camera, snapping away at what ever happens to come with range.
Some times I do work. What you see above is a before and after. Entirely unintentional, I just happened to be driving back from site on this road and notice the pretty sunset. In the exact same spot. At mile stone points in the project.
Industrial and construction photography is a passion of mine, I guess it goes with the enjoyment of the job I do and having a passion for photography in general. I think I’d be pretty happy getting paid to shoot construction projects.

After a week of rock breaking and getting nowhere, the drill and blast crew were called in. Now there is no shortage of crusher dust and road base….

The Great North West

98% Completion, seconds from the end

 

The above, blurry, photo shows my current location. Situated in the North West of Western Australia are dozens of places like this, work sites where billions and billions of dollars are being spent.
It may not look like it, but this is a multi-billion dollar project, a wharf expansion for a port that links by rail to mines located hundreds of kilometres inland.  The entire port handles iron ore only and it handles several hundred Mt/a. And it’s going to double that with this expansion.

I absolutely love my job. I’m an engineering/construction surveyor working on some of the biggest projects in the world. When I was a kid I played with Lego and Meccanno and was always building industrial stuff. Shit, I say as a kid, but if you put either toy in front of me now, you won’t get a word out of me for a few hours.
One of the best things about working like this is the places I get to go to.  Some are extremely remote, two hours of serious 4×4 driving to get to the nearest road and some are located next to sleepy little towns in the middle of nowhere. All of these places are great for photography, I’ve even called my job a distant second priority to the photography.

<rant>What shits me though, are the self righteous and entitled fucks who expect everything on a silver platter. Not every one who works in places like this are like that, but it seems to be getting worse. Perhaps it’s just an obvious minority, like political lobby groups, but they sure bring the mood of the place down. I’ve never could have imagined that some one could get paid so much to do so little and still feel hard done by! Deck hands and labourers who get paid $150k+ and won’t work because they feel their conditions are unfair. Operators on $200k+ who won’t work because they don’t like their supervisor for personal reasons.
It makes me fume.
Some people blame the unions, others blame the current political parties and some blame the companies, contractors through to the clients, but I think they are missing the obvious culprit here. Culture. It is all through Australia, a sense of entitlement that disables the effected’s ability to be responsible and capable, “I’ve done my bit and don’t need to do any more”. It’s such a far cry from the propaganda stereotypes that every one knows about Australia, that when you tell people what you are thinking, they treat you like a heretic.</rant>

I think I might bring my camera in to work with me tomorrow and take some photos of birds or something….

Bells Rapids

Bell Pano

We spent part of our weekend in the Swan Valley. Most people think of the Swan Valley for it’s wine, chocolate and tourist traps.

I’ve spent very little time in the Swan Valley before and the vast majority of that time was in the air, the flight paths from Karratha, Barrow Island, Port Hedland and the rest all pass direclty over the Swan Valley. Prior to Saturday, I had often looked down at the above scene and wondered where it was exactly, how to get there and if it was open to the public. On Saturday, as I drove into the car park for this area, I still had no idea that where I was was where I had often wondered about, I was pretty distracted with other things.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I figured it out!

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I had a short wander up the valley, not stopping until I found some actual rapids. Shooting scenery in the middle of the day isn’t ideal, but as with anything, the challenges are what  makes  it interesting.

Taking The Time

Taking The Time

One of the biggest problems I have with my photography is getting the time to do it.
Every day I see things I would love to shoot and I don’t get the chance to stop.
So last night, I made time. I stopped several times on the drive home, going up our large hill.
This photo is from the second stop. You can just see the haze from the dust I kicked up driving here.

I actually had the intention of shooting for HDR. However, my skills at getting a natural looking HDR image are lacking, so this is taken from one image, processed in LR3 to have this look. Shooting with a D700 means loads of dynamic range to play with. This shot was my 0EV, I shot as low and high as +-3EV in 1EV steps.