Monday, 30 June 2014

Baby, Baby, You Set My Heart In Motion

It was W.C. Fields who said never work with children or animals. He was pretty spot on the money; there are some days it is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to get a toddler to sit still and look at a camera. For every money shot a photographer takes of a child I can tell you for free there are at least 30 shots that went straight into the Recycle Bin. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

In March of 2013 my stepdaughter decided she was going to enter Miller, who was then nine months old, into a cute baby competition. He was required of course to wear the sponsor's brand of onesie in the entry photo. So despite having already taken least five thousand gob-smackingly awesome shots of Boy over the course of his short life, we had to shell out twelve bucks and arrange for another photo dressed in the offending  jumpsuit. 

We ummed and ahhed over what we'd do, how we'd style it, light it etc; which of course is all bullsh&t because when you take photos of a baby anytime past newborn stage, you have to sit them down, make a whole bunch of stupid noises so they look at you then shoot like mad before they start to cry, fall off whatever they are sitting on or both. You should know those cute shots with a baby sitting up on their elbows with their hands cupped under their chin are shot in a sauna, and photoshopped. Google it if you don't believe me.

The morning of the shoot Lauren turned up with Miller and we plonked him on a fat leather Ottoman in our front loungeroom, opened the curtains to let the sun do all the work and banged off 40 images. I'd just had an operation the day before so was feeling super uncooperative and uninspired.

We ended up with this: one perfect moment.
Butter wouldn't melt.
But for the record, here are *some* of the outtakes:
He didn't win, but he'd already won our hearts and that was the only prize really worth having.

'One Perfect Moment' will be a series of single, powerful images that tell a story. Sometimes I'll cheat, like today, and provide backup images to better illustrate the tale.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

To Thine Own Selfie Be True

I was taking selfies before Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat were even invented; probably before mobile phones were even invented. 
This is what happens when photographers drink around mirrors.
April 2005 and July 2012, Fremont St in downtown Las Vegas. More drinking, more mirrors.
Sometimes for a travelling photographer a selfie is the only way to ever get yourself in a photo, or the both of you together if you happen to have a companion. 
Anza Borrego Desert, shot on film with wobbly tripod, November 2004
Sure you can call upon the kindness of a passing stranger, if a kind one happens to pass. 
From left: September 2007 terrible selfie, August 2012 terrible selfie, August 2012 passing kind stranger
But this opens you up to various risks, not the least of which are ending up with a shockingly blurry photo taken somewhere unbelievable you might never make it to again, or simply having some ass run away with your gear. 
As a photographer this fellow made a great taxi driver. Puu Ualakaa Lookout
Oahu, Hawaii.
Yeah you can unfold your tripod, attach the camera, put the camera on self-timer then have fourteen tries at pressing the shutter and running around in front before it goes off but by this time the sun has usually set or the animal has run away or the tour bus has left after getting sick of waiting for you to take a photo.
Or just balance your camera on the hood of a Jeep. Anza Borrego Desert. July 2012
So generally it's easier just to zoom out to a ridiculously wide angle, point the camera at yourself and hope for the best. At least the digital age makes it easier to rinse and repeat until you get it right. Or not.
Anzac Day 2011, shot on a ridiculously wide angle lens
Never work with children or animals, January 2013
Selfies are never flattering. The perspective is distorted, extra chins you didn't know you had come up for air and the golden rule of never shoot up a nose is usually broken.
And then your husband makes a rug out of it. A lookout on Oahu, Hawaii somewhere, October 2013

Chain of Craters Road on the Big Island of Hawaii, November 2013
When I started looking I realised I have hundreds of selfies, so here's some more of my hits and misses over the years taken in interesting places or that had interesting results. Just because I liked the photo, I've included a couple of shots that are not technically selfies but were taken of me by whomever I was with at the time. Or a random kind stranger who happened to be passing.
Inside a submarine off the coast of Cairns, April 2009
Shiny car bumper, Brisbane Motor Show, February 2008
April 2009 with the girls from Bliss Photography Michaela and Deb

Mirrored ceiling in the Waikiki Beach Swatch store, April 2005
Back in the desert, April 2005
Queen Califia's Magical Circle sculpture garden
(artist Niki St Phalle), in Kit Carson Park Escondido,
California, 2005

The cane road out from Pottsville, September 2013, images by Danny
Dawn before the Supermoon, May 2012, image by Danny

Thursday, 26 June 2014

O'er The Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Brave

On the road out of San Diego heading towards Julian and the Anza Borrego Desert my brother and I discovered this unique architectural statement. 

It was November 2004 and I asked my patient brother to stop while I took a photo. Here was a living, breathing example of the seriousness with which Americans (for the most part, there are exceptions) took the subject of patriotism and national pride, the core intangible concepts of which seem to be embodied in visible symbols such as the flag and the bald eagle. 

USS Midway at the Embarcadero in San Diego, 2012
I had become fascinated with the nature of American patriotism and interested in how their sense of allegiance to flag and country differed so greatly from ours in Australia. 

Veteran's Memorial on Mt Soledad, the highest point in San Diego, 2012
In America the flag is conspicuous, on display and treated with respect; flown not just on government buildings and the like but barely a suburban street exists without at least one or two flags flying from homes.

Haight Ashbury District, San Francisco, 2012
Morro Bay California, 2012
A home in Los Osos in the San Luis Obispo District, California, 2012
In December of 2010 I went to San Diego alone to spend Christmas with my brother. We made the usual pilgrimage out through Julian and up into the mountains. This time the day was grey and wet, very untypical weather for the area. The same shed still stood shouting the same message. In a moment of deja vu I could not help but grab another shot as we passed by.

You can find the flag anywhere. It's a symbol of many things and I'm sure that for every American the list differs depending on their personal story. 

Train at San Luis Obispo Station, 2012
I'm a lucky outsider who has been given a chance to participate a little in the American culture beyond the experience of a tourist. When you scrape away Yellowstone, Hollywood and Disney, you get a people not unlike us, just a little louder and brasher and with less sense of personal space :). 

Giant flag at a gas station in Baker, on the road to Las Vegas, 2012
My experience has been that the flag is something unifying, an unchanging constant in the face of uncertain times, and an embodiment of the freedom Americans feel strongly and defend fiercely. Again I think each citizen would define that freedom differently.

Flag near the Golden Gate Bridge in Marine Drive at
half-mast by Presidential Decree, to show respect for
victims of a shooting, 9th August 2012
(image by Danny)
In 2012 I returned to San Diego, bringing Danny for his first US trip. This time it was a scorching summer day when Simon took us out to the desert. We again stopped at our eagle shed for photos so I could remind myself that even in the face of life’s turbulence, some constants remain.

And on a more personal note, congratulations to my brother Simon for today being awarded his US citizenship (dual) after almost 2 decades in the country. America may have you, Simon, but I know you still call Australia home.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Total Eclipse Of The Heart

I am unapologetic about my obsession with hearts. I can't explain it, don’t recall when it started and I can’t see it ending anytime soon. Even if my mum did occasionally say I have more than enough and my house is starting to look kitsch.
Yep, she's right.
 Hearts are everywhere. When we travel I'm always looking closely for the hidden and not so obvious hearts, left both by design,
Stained glass ceiling panel, Las Vegas 2005
One of the four hearts marking the corners of Union Square, San Francisco, 2012
or by man's obsessive need to leave his mark.
Golden Gate Bridge, 2012
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, 2006
Pinned to a poster on a community noticeboard, La Jolla 2012
Nature is also full of surprises if you know where to look. 
Pottsville Beach, Spring 2013
Secret Island, Oahu Hawaii, 2013
In what I am sure was a once in a lifetime event in 2010 we sliced this onion open to reveal a perfect heart inside.
My foolish crying heart
I took this in October of 2010; Danny and I had ventured out on an urban photo safari around Brisbane with a friend. It was very late in the afternoon and as the sun filtered down through a pedestrian overpass onto this red concrete wall it cast a perfect heart in the corrugated finish.
I like to think it was done just for me.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

My Baby He Wrote Me A Letter

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more is it worth when you find a thousand words already written about it you never knew existed?

In the early 1960's my father travelled to far north Queensland (Julia Creek and surrounds) for a job building roads so he could afford to buy a ring and marry my mother. My mother was still in teacher's college in Newcastle at the time, a tender 18 years old to my father's worldly 25. The two young lovebirds corresponded frequently. Of course this was an era long since passed of no email, no internet, no Skype and no mobile phones, actually no phones at all where my father was working. So pen to paper it had to be. 

They wrote faithfully to each other all through this courtship and long distance romance over the course of a few years. How do I know this? I found in my mother's effects a box, about the size of a big shoebox, and it was packed full to overflowing with letters, most still with their stamped and postmarked envelopes, dated back as far as 1962 (maybe earlier – I've not been through them all yet) and through the end of 1964.

Back to the letters later, for I digress. When my father was building roads up the North he also spent some time taking photos, which he then sent to my waiting mother at college. He had a box brownie camera, similar to the one this photo was taken on -
Jim and Di very young
- you can see dad has hold of the case while an unknown person took their portrait. I'm not sure of the date here, but probably the late 1950's.

These photos from 'up the north' were put into albums, cherished, occasionally looked at and fleshed out with stories from both of our parents to became part of our family legend. I've chosen just a few from the many we have to illustrate the time:
Jim (white shirt) and co-workers
It wasn't until I found the box of letters that history suddenly crashed into the first person, because with the letters I found a box containing the negatives from this northern adventure, kept all this time in the original packaging and in perfect and pristine condition. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I raised one to the light and realised what they were.
Then, deep in the box of letters, I found one where dad tells mum how he has bought a camera just like hers, and hopes to send her some prints shortly – but has to send the film to Townsville to be developed first! I held my breath and a few letters later I found first-hand descriptions of the prints. Not only that but detailed descriptions of the land and the work in my father's own words, in his own handwriting, on paper that had survived more than 50 years to be discovered again. So, far from being worth a mere thousand words, these icons of another time suddenly became priceless.
The print with my handsome suntanned head in it is the rear vision mirror. I don't know whether Anthony Armstrong Jones could do better than that.” No, dad I don't believe he could.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Attention to detail

Someone once said, when you pay attention to detail, the big picture will take care of itself. Not in the world of photography. You have to make that big picture happen. 

My location for today's images is somewhere in the middle of the Anza Borrego Desert in California. If you've been paying attention I've blogged from there before. Well not from there, but about there. There’s something magical  about the place. Far enough from civilisation to be out of phone range yet close enough to be a couple of hours drive there and back from greater San Diego.  
It looks worse than it is. Ok that's a lie.
I love everything about the desert: the tang of the cool air as you leave sea level behind, the strange alien plant life, bumping over impossibly rocky creek beds and climbing up insanely steep hills holding my breath the whole journey.
These shots were taken in 2005 on a trip my brother and I did alone in his Jeep. We climbed up this ridiculously high plateau because I think Simon wanted to find out simply if he could do it. 
The answer was yes, even if he did scare the total bejeezus out of me in the process by sending the Jeep up a near vertical cliff right at the end of the climb. 
The best thing here is the complete and total solitude. Out here you are alone, period. 
Full circle 360 degree panorama stitched from 20 single images
I know this is why my brother loves to come here. Far from the order of civilisation with no one to fill the silence but yourself, no voices to heed but your own inner ones. 
And here, even those fall silent in unspoken homage.