Brisbane fog

The first fog of the year in Brisbane is always greeted with fascination. Well, for me anyway. Fogs always remind me of when I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, where there were some fantastic 'pea-soupers'.
The first Brisbane fog of 2013 came in June and it was a good one. I start work at ABC News Online at 6am and my alarm is set for 4.10am. On the morning of 'the fog' I woke and got ready and it was only when I pulled back the curtain and looked out the window just before I left, that I saw it was quite foggy. June in Brisbane is winter, so 4am is well and truly night time. I set off for the bus station to get the 5am bus and the fog looked great. Walking up my street to the bus station I could see it was a thick one. I took the camera out and fire off a couple of frames of street lights and traffic lights and passing vehicles on the main road near where I live.
The same happened at the bus station, where I took some more photos. The bus got about halfway into the city and the fog appeared to dissapate, and I thought I might have seen the best of it. Still, the Brisbane River runs through the CBD, where I get off, and if there's going to be thick fog anywhere, it's going to be close to the river. Sure enough, I got off at my usual stop in the city and the fog was thick (I get off a couple of stops early and walk the rest of the way - for the exercise and it's a nice walk along the river).
Instead of walking along the Brisbane River, I decided to walk through the CBD and started taking photos as I went. The fog and the night time made everything look so photogenic and there were no shortage of images - car headlights illuminating from the depths of the fog, lone figures silhouetted by the fog as they crossed city streets. It was a photographer's dream.
After I knew I had around four really good images, I started thinking I might be able to get a photo gallery out of my morning's efforts, so I started looking seriously to get several more images. I rang the news desk and told them what I was up to - it was a quiet morning in the office - and that I might be a few minutes late.
I didn't wander from the direct route I would have taken if I'd chosen to walk to work through the CBD and photos kept appearing before me. I stopped at the top of William Street and prepared to cross the road in order to walk across the Victoria Bridge, which crosses the Brisbane River. The lights on the bridge disappeared into the fog while the headlights of buses coming over the rise in the bridge lit up the fog like beacons. I took some photos and started walking across the bridge.
When I got to the other side I turned and looked back. That's where I was when I took the above photo. The lights looked nice but on their own didn't really mean much. News photos are 99% about people, so I needed someone in my photo to make it complete. At that time of the morning - 5.45am - it wasn't exactly peak hour and the fog kept many of the regular joggers/walkers in bed. As a result, I had to stand around and wait for someone to walk across the bridge - preferably towards me. Victoria Bridge isn't somewhere too many people loiter about, especially with a camera in hand in the pre-dawn darkness, so when a few people walked past me heading towards the city, I pretended I was taking lots of photos of this and that in the fog. I did take a few photos of them as they disappeared into the distance but it wasn't what I was wanting.
Finally, after around five minutes, someone started walking towards me. When they got close enough I started taking photos but, at the same time, a bus trundled over the bridge heading towards the CBD. This buggered up my photo because I just wanted one person and the lights of the bridge. The bus was a distraction!
I gave up on that photo and waited some more. A few others walked past heading towards the city and this did me no favours. I was about to say 'sod it' and make do with what I has when, in the distance, I saw the bobbing of a head as someone appeared over the rise in the bridge. I looked behind me and, despite the fog, there was no traffic - pedestrian or motorised - sneaking up behind me to screw up my photo.
'Great', I thought, and started snapping away. As I did I saw the fog light up from what was obviously a car and I started to curse under my breath - I just wanted a pedestrian and the lights of the bridge. I kept taking photos, telling myself I'd wait until the car headlights were visible (at which point the fog would be too brightly lit to work). I had a quick look at the back of the camera and I knew there would be something there, although not quite what I was hoping for. It wasn't the be all and end all if I didn't get the exact photo I wanted.
A short time later I was at my desk at ABC News Online and had downloaded the photos I'd taken that morning. I could view the photos big on the screen and it was then that I noticed the 'star' effect of the car's headlights shining through the railing. The headlights weren't so obtrusive that they took away from the composition of the photo and the lone figure of the pedestrian was large enough so that you could see it was 'someone'. Plus, the headlights that I was adamant I didn't want, actually worked in the photo's favour because the 'star' effect added the extra element. As is the case with many photos in this blog, it's always that 'something' else that lifts the photo above what would have made it otherwise run-of-the-mill.

The full photo gallery of fog pics taken on my way to work that morning can be seen HERE.

Gear used - Canon 60D, 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 lens, 6400ISO, 1/100sec f5.6


The new Lord Mayor

Sometimes photos just fall into your lap and, when it does, it's fabulous.
The guy sitting on the seat is Campbell Newman, one time Lord Mayor of Brisbane. Running under the slogan 'Can Do Campbell', he was elected Lord Mayor in 2004. This photo was taken the day after he won the election when he was doing a media call in New Farm Park in the inner-Brisbane suburb of New Farm.
The Lord Mayor had gathered with his family in the rotunda at the park and we'd all assembled to take lots of photos and footage for that day's news.
All the family photos had been taken - sitting in the rotunda, walking through the park...you name it, we did it - and we asked Campbell if we could get some photos/footage of him on his own.
We selected a bench seat for him (the one in this photo) and he sat there while we photographed/filmed him.
We were all positioned quite a way away from Campbell getting some 'long' shots. While we were going about our job, this old bloke saw the new Lord Mayor sitting there 'on his own' and, seemingly oblivious to the media pack assembled 20 or so metres away, wandered over to Campbell, introduced himself and started giving him a few pointers as to what he should and shouldn't be doing.
Normally if someone wandered into our photo we'd tell them to sod off. However, we'd all been photographing/filming Campbell long enough and were just about done with him, so the old bloke's intervention was timed to perfection (I doubt he knew that).
Not only that, it was obvious he was really passionate about whatever it was he was talking about and all sorts of hand gestures were being made as he spoke. The Lord Mayor sat there and listened to him. Being his first day on the job he was probably a bit bewildered by what was happening and made sure he looked interested (the media was close by, after all).
The funny thing was, after 30 seconds or so, the old bloke looked up and saw us all photographing/filming him. However, he didn't break stride and made some comment about us being there before turning his attention back to the Lord Mayor and contining his spiel.
Up until 'old bloke' came along we'd all taken some nice photos/footage and were quite happy knowing it would get a run the following day. However, the old bloke had unwittingly, added that special x-factor to the event and guaranteed that the photo was going to move closer to the front of the newspaper as a result. He'd turned a 'run-of-the-mill' photo call into an actual news story.
We all got the old bloke's name (although I can't remember what it was) and he made sure he gave us all an earful of what he'd been sharing with the Lord Mayor before he let us go on our way.

Gear used - Nikon D100 DSLR, Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 lens, 400ISO, 1/500 sec f5.6


Banana boy

This photo is of one of my hitches from my hitchhiking journey around Australia (1998) photographing everyone who gave me a lift and writing about each hitch (http://soididbook.blogspot.com.au/).
This bloke, Tim, was my 31st hitch. I was hitchhiking from Uluru to Melbourne (my team was storming into the finals...more on that later) and he picked me up on the outskirts of Adelaide. It was a good hitch as he was heading all the way to Melbourne - score!
Because I was going to be with Tim all day I didn't stress too much about what I was going to do for a photo. I was looking forward to sitting back and chilling out. As the day progressed, though, I began to wonder what I was going to do. Nothing was jumping out at me. We stopped off somewhere (can't remember where) and I tried a few ideas. They looked like rubbish through the camera and, even without the ability to see what I'd taken, I knew they were crap. While I'd been with Tim most of the day and we were pretty relaxed in each other's company, I didn't want to hold him up while I tried to come up with ideas for a photo.
We got back into the car and headed off. Among other things, the weather was pretty ordinary...we were in Victoria after all! It was cold and drizzly, often rainy. That, as much as anything, was reason enough not to waste Tim's time trying to take his photo. He sure as hell wasn't going to want to keep getting out of the warmth of the car and into the shitty weather to have his photo taken.
We kept motoring down the highway, chatting as we went. After an hour or so since my ordinary attempt at taking a photo, Tim took out a banana, partially peeled it and started eating it as he drove.
I took no notice of what he'd done and we kept talking. Then I looked across and saw what you see here i.e the beautiful soft light falling on the lovely composition of the hand on the wheel holding the banana.
I immediately knew that was the photo I was after and reached for my camera bag between my feet. Tim was a hungry boy and started to go for another munch on the banana. I nearly jumped out of my seat as the banana moved towards his mouth.
'Stop!' I said. 'Don't take another bite.'
He didn't know what the hell was going on so I told him and made him put his hand back on the steering wheel. He jokingly told me he was hungry and was keen to finish his banana. I got my camera out and fired off no more than half a dozen frames (I always kept my shooting to a minimum when I was hitching). Tim was then free to finish his banana and I could relax the rest of the way to Melbourne. Even without the ability to see what I'd taken, I knew it was a good shot.
I wasn't bothered by the fact I couldn't see Tim's face. The stipulation I'd set out for myself was that I had to get part or all of my hitch and part or all of their vehicle in shot - hand, banana and steering wheel was good enough for me.

As mentioned before, the reason I'd hitched to Melbourne was because my footy team (North Melbourne) was storming into the finals and were sure to make the grand final, which they did. The only problem was they lost and I sat in a pub in South Melbourne crying into my beer as they kicked themselves out of a victory - 8 goals, 22 points (including 2 goals, 11 points in the 2nd quarter...it still digs deep).

Gear used - Nikon FM2, Nikkor 24mm f2.8 lens, Neopan 1600ISO film, 1/125 f5.6


Red Nose Day

I was working for the Courier Mail and a journo and I were heading out west - I can't remember exactly where and what for - when we drove over a rise in the road.
Way ahead in the distance we could see a group of people walking along the road. Considering we were in the middle of nowhere, this seemed a bit odd. We were belting along so slowed down and, as we drove past, we saw a young guy and girl walking ahead of an older bloke pushing a big red 'thing'.
We didn't know what was going on but we decided we should investigate. By now we had sped past them, so we turned the car around and drove back past them, pulling over a few hundred metres ahead of them.
We got out and I grabbed one of my cameras with a 300mm lens on it. I got a couple of okay photos of them all heading along the road but, to be honest, the guy and girl got in the way of the more interesting aspect of the photo - the old bloke pushing the big red 'thing'.
As the group neared, the guy and girl slowed and the journo asked them what they were doing. It turned out they were on a charity walk from Roma to Brisbane, a distance of 475km, or around a six hour drive, for red nose day, and the red thing being pushed was a big, round red 'nose' with a handle attached so it could be pushed along the road.
We instantly knew we'd stumbled across a decent yarn and started the process of interviewing the young couple. I looked behind them at the older bloke pushing the red nose and knew that an open stretch of road like that we were on would lend itself to some good photos.
The old bloke neared us and the journo peeled off to ask him a couple of questions.
"I can't talk," said the old bloke as the journo asked his first question. "I don't want to stop and break my momentum." The old bloke didn't even look at the journo as he spoke, so focused was his concentration.
I was hoping to get a shot of all three of the party walking along the road but the old bloke's determination not to break his stride pretty much put paid to that and, not for the first time in my career, I had to come up with a quickfire Plan B.
I stood there as the journo turned back to the couple and resumed asking them questions. I figured we were going to have to drive well ahead of the old bloke and get a shot of them all powering along. As I mulled over this idea I looked back at the old bloke heading off into the distance.
Normally photographing people front on is the done thing when it comes to news photography. However, in this case, the journey was the story and not so much the old bloke. Looking at him walking away from me made sense - with the road stretching away in front of him, it implied many things - and instinctively I raised the camera and started firing. I kept firing and let the old bloke grow smaller and smaller in the frame.
By now the journo had finished with the couple and I suggested we get in the car and race ahead of the old bloke. I think we even gave the couple a lift so they could be in shot also.
As planned, we sped ahead of the old bloke and I jumped out. I grabbed my camera with the 300mm lens and started firing. It looked okay but I knew in the back of my mind I liked the other shot better.
As the old bloke neared I changed cameras and grabbed the young couple, placing them by the side of the road so I could get them in shot as the old bloke walked past.
I fired off several frames of the 'group' photo but all the time I knew the best shot was the original one. It was simple and said it all - less is more...well and truly.
Normally you gave the office a choice of photos, horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait), in order to give them an option depending on the shape of the space they had on the page. However, from memory, I don't think I even gave them an option. I knew what the best pic was and that was all I gave them (I may have begged a little to make sure that photo used).

Gear used - Nikon D100 DSLR, Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens, 400ISO, 1/500 sec f8.


I shut my eyes and ran like hell!

I can count on one hand the amount of sunsets I've photographed. I've always thought that capturing them 'on film' doesn't do them justice so I've never bothered. This was, I think, the first exception to my rule.
For several years during the late nineties/early 'naughties' I was the photographer for the Australian Science Festival which was held annually in Canberra. This meant jaunting off to Canberra for a couple of weeks every year to photograph all manner of things 'science'...sunsets not included, though.
This photo came about late one afternoon when I was walking back to my car, which was parked in a large, open carpark in Civic (what Canberrans call the CBD), after a job. I could see the spectacular orange colour filling the sky and thought nothing of it. Like I said, I normally leave sunsets (and sunrises) alone.
However, when I turned a corner and saw the striking pointy shape of Telstra Tower, a large telecommunications tower on the summit of Black Mountain, silhouetted against the orange, my photographic juices started flowing. I knew I had to get a photo of the scene.
The only problem was that between myself and Black Mountain/Telstra Tower was power lines, several trees and a small, very low hill. I wanted a totally clear shot of the scene but all I had in front of me was mess.
I started to panic - I knew I didn't have much time to play with before it was going to be all over. I took a couple of photos in case it was all I was going to get but deep down inside I wasn't happy and knew I needed to do better - this meant having to get to the other side of the car park...somehow, anyhow!
The carpark surrouded the small, very low hill and my car, which I was now standing next to, was parked on the wrong side of the hill. I looked at the scene before me and I weighed up whether or not I could live without taking what I knew would be a spectacular photo. It was all there right in front of me but there was still all sorts of mess in the way.
I to-ed and fro-ed about what to do and, before I knew it, I had broken into a jog, making for the far side of the carpark. I kept looking up at the tower but every time I did there was still mess of some sort in the way. My jog soon escalated into a canter as I made my way across the carpark - mess, mess, mess the whole damned way!
All the while the colours got richer and richer and, as the sunset become more and more spectacular, I became more and more obsessed with getting the photo.
I began running blindly, my gaze fixed on the sunset. I was lucky I wasn't taken out by someone trying to park their car.
I finally made it to the far side of the car park where, lo and behold, one last powerline stood between me and an amazing photo.
The one thing I haven't mentioned so far is that running around the bottom of the hill is a 6-lane major road which, at that time of the afternoon, is very busy (even by Canberra standards). This was my one last hurdle between myself and great photo.
The area of hill/car park/road where I was isn't pedestrian friendly, so getting across the six lanes was going to be more of an act of stupidity than bravery. Still, the will brought on by creative juices is a powerful one and I had to get across it no matter what.
With the orange getting even more orange and the juices surging through me, there was finally a break in the traffic and I made my move i.e. I shut my eyes and ran like hell!
When I felt grass under my feet I opened my eyes to discover I was in a place where there was no mess between me and my photo. To say it looked spectacular was an understatement.
I raised the camera to my face and began firing. The sense of relief (achievement) was palpable and what you see here is the end result.

Gear used - Nikon D100, Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8, 800ISO, (I think) 1/250 f8


There were no warning signs...

Many of the photos in this blog have arisen from spontaneity. This photo doesn't fall into this category. It falls into the "photographers often have to wait and wait and wait to get the photo they want" category.
I was spending the day taking photos (panoramas) on the Gold Coast, an hour's drive south of Brisbane. I had no idea what I was going to get and was 'wandering' aimlessly. I'd arrived in the morning and had taken a few photos I knew looked good. I was liking the way the day was panning out when I found myself wandering along the shorefront at Nobby's Beach, south of Surfers Paradise but still a part of the Gold Coast (which is a long, thin strip of 'built
environment' stretching 50km or more).
I noticed a small headland in front of me and climbed the steps to the top. I walked over the headland and had a look at what was beyond. Nothing in particular grabbed me so I turned and headed back the way I'd come. As I walked to the top of the headland I saw the vista of the Gold Coast skyline stretching out before me. I liked the way that the highrise crammed together seemed so small against the vast expanse of the ocean.
I stood on the path and fired off a couple of frames. It looked good but I wanted to get a cleaner view of the skyline, as there was a tree in the way that was screwing up my photo. There was a small wooden fence next to the pathway, beyond which the headland carried on for 20 or so metres before dropping away to the beach and ocean. I needed to be on the other side of the fence to get a clear shot of the skyline and ocean.
There were no warning signs - it was assumed people would know which side of the fence to keep on - so I stepped over the fence and walked closer to the edge of the headland where, as expected, I had an uninterrupted view.
I framed the shot so the skyline was in the far left of the frame and the ocean stretched away to the right (bit.ly/cDacA2) and took several shots, varying the focal length of my lens so the ratio of skyline to ocean varied. I liked what I saw and was about to call it quits when I looked at the same scene but from a vertical perspective, with the wash of the waves as a line running down the vertical panorama I envisioned in my mind's eye (I use a 35mm camera and crop the panorama format in Photoshop).
I moved closer still to the edge of the headland (I'm not great with heights, so wasn't 'teetering' on the edge) in order to get as much of the beach in shot. I framed it up, with the skyline at the top of the frame and the wash running down the middle of the frame (pretty much what you see here).
As sod's law dictated, I framed up the shot and a woman I'd spied at the bottom of the frame, who balanced the image nicely (against the skyline at the top of the frame), walked out of the surf and out of my composition. I'd missed 'snaring' her by a few seconds.
I quietly swore to myself. Having seen her balance the shot nicely, I knew I needed someone at the bottom of the frame to make the photo. The wash and the skyline looked good but I needed that extra piece of the 'composition puzzle'.
I stood where I was and waited. I had no hat with me and could feel the sun on my nose. I placed one had at the top of my forehead as a visor of sorts and my other hand on my nose. Having struck the pose, I wandered what the passing parade might have thought of the scene...a bloke standing next to the edge of the headland, camera over his shoulder, using one hand as a visor and the other over his nose. Thankfully I knew I'd never see any of them again and didn't care what they thought.
When I'd first stepped over the fence and started taking photos I noticed that the beach below where I was standing had a few people walking along it and swimming in it. Of course, now that I wanted someone in my photo to balance the composition, the beach had totally clear of anyone.
I did all I could do and waited...and waited...hands duly in place as temporary visors. I watched people walking down the beach, willing them to keep walking into frame where I needed them to be. A couple of women wandered into frame and I fired off a couple of shots but I knew they weren't exactly where I needed them to be. I needed someone to be in the actual wash of the surf.
I then found myself taking photos 'for the hell of it'. This is a strange phenomenon whereby photographers (and I can only speak for news photographers), if they haven't taken a photo for a few minutes, fire off a frame. I'm not sure why we do this - to ease the nerves...in the hope something will miraculously appear the moment we take the photo. Who knows?
I did this a few times and then started getting annoyed that, despite being a warm day and the population on the Gold Coast being well in excess of half-a-million people, many of whom were wandering up and down the beach, no one was on 'my' patch of beach.
I didn't want to pull the pin - it wasn't as if I could just pop back down the Gold Coast one afternoon during the week and try shooting the photo again. I was there specifically and knew I either had to persist or be happy with the series of skyline/ocean photos I'd taken.
The half-hour mark passed and, as I debated what to do, I noticed a bloke walk onto the beach below where I was standing, drop his towel on the sand and keep walking into the water. He was exactly where I wanted him to be and I started shooting.
He dived into the surf and disappeared out of my frame so I waited until he started wading out of the water before shooting again. I knew I was going to be happy with what I was getting - it looked good through the camera - and watched him walk into the shallows. For some reason he then started walking directly up the beach and, more to the point, directly up the middle of my frame!
I watched him become silhouetted against the wash of the waves and, to make matters even better, he walked with his arms away from his body, further enhancing the silhouette. If I'd set up the photo myself, I couldn't have asked for a better result. I fired off frame after frame as wave after wave, and wash after wash, silhouetted him.
I kept firing until he turned and walked up the beach. I excitedly turned the camera so I could see what I'd got and scrolled through the shots I'd taken.
There were several like the one you see here but the thing that sold this one to me was the person higher up in the frame bending over.
I couldn't have scripted the photo better myself and the half hour I'd stood there waiting dissolved into nothing. The walk back to the car was a good one.

To see more panoramas like this, go to - www.giuliophotography.com.au

Gear used - Nikon D5000, Nikkor 28-105 f3.5-4.5 lens, 200ISO, 1/500 f8


"That looks like shit!"

This photo, taken of one of my hitches from my 1998 hitchhiking journey around Australia photographing everyone who gave me a lift and writing about each hitch (http://soididbook.blogspot.com.au/), is one of my favourite portraits. However, at the time I took it I thought it was 'shit'.
I was hoping to get a few hitches in trucks - semi-trailers more to the point - on my way Around Australia and really keen to get a ride in at least one in a roadtrain. However, it didn't pan out that way. I'm sure 99% of the reason was the fact I was a bloke. If I'd been of the female persuasion, I reckon I would have had semi-trailers and roadtrains queuing up.
In fact, I only got 2 hitches in trucks (both 'semis') and one followed the other. This bloke, Brian Melbourne, was my 2nd truck hitch. I got a ride with him because my first truck hitch, a guy called Marcus, phoned ahead and lined me up with Brian.
Marcus introduced me to Brian in Horsham, western Victoria. I got into Brian's semi and we soon discovered a mutual love of AC/DC. I also discvered that Brian loved swearing and pretty soon we were getting along like a house on fire. He was, in short, a good bloke.
He was also a heavily tattoo-ed good bloke and I knew early on I wanted to do a photo of him that incorporated his 'tatts'. It was late afternoon and I wanted to get the photo done while there was still some daylight kicking around. I told Brian what I had in mind and he kindly pulled the truck for me so I could get my photo (despite the 'truckie' demeanour, Brian proved a great model and, later on, when he spoke to his wife on the phone, he introduced himself as "Australia's next super model").
Once he'd pulled over I tried a few photos in the truck cab, with Brian resting his arms on the steering wheel and the tatts visible, but it looked pretty ordinary. I was 'umming' and 'aahing' to myself, trying to come up with an idea that would work. Nothing in the confines of the cab appealed so I suggested trying something outside.
We hopped down and I looked around. Nothing grabbed me and I was fast losing light, so I told Brian to lean against the cab with his arm out straight. This is the photo you see here.
Without even looking through the camera I could see that it didn't look great. There was lots wrong with it - for a start, I wanted more of the truck in frame. Out of courtesy more than anything I decided to take a photo as I didn't want Brian to think I was wasting his time.
I put the camera up to my face with every intention of taking just one frame and, as I pressed the shutter, I said to myself, 'That looks like shit'.
I tried a few other things before the light completely died. I wasn't happy with what I had but Brian had a schedule to stick to and I didn't want to piss him off. Anyway, I knew there was something passable in what I'd taken.
Months later, when my journey was over and I was in the darkroom printing up all the portraits of my hitches, I printed some of the photos of Brian in the truck. None of them grabbed me and I thought I'd screwed up royally. Out of frustration I put the negative of this photo into the enlarger and knocked off a quick print. I watched the image loom up at me from the tray of liquid and I couldn't believe what I saw. The photo I'd thought was shit suddenly came to life and almost leapt out of the tray and grabbed me by the throat.
Maybe it was because I'd thought it was shit that it seemed so much better but in B&W the photo took on a whole new dimension. Without meaning to get too technical, the late afternoon light meant there was little detail in the shadows and the photo is very much 'black' and 'white'.
As a result, there is so much mood and atmosphere about it and, most importantly, the tattoo, which was one of the things that initially didn't appeal, really came into its own. I love the fact that this photo took on a whole new life months after I'd taken it.

FOTNOTE - Brian and I have, on and off, kept in touch since we parted ways later that night in Adelaide. When I was doing publicity for the book of my journey, ...so I did, ABC TV's Stateline did a story on my journey and Brian, who happened to be in Brisbane with his semi-trailer, 'starred' in the story. We even recreated him picking me up in his truck in a sequence filmed at the offramp to the Boondall Entertainment Centre (a long way from Horsham!). I remember the producer telling me Brian was 'great talent'.
In fact, the same afternoon I posted this blog, I rang his parents to get a number for him and he was there. It was the first time we'd had a yarn in eight or nine years. He didn't seem to swear as much but maybe his folks were within earshot.

Gear used - Nikon FM2, Nikkor 24mm f2.8 lens, Neopan 1600ISO B%W film, exposure - probably around 1/60sec, f2.8.


My new book

Hi All,

Apologies for the lack of a post this week. I've published my ebook, Deep Fried Pizza, and have been busy spending time on that this week -

Steve Butcher is young, Australian and living in Scotland. He is a tabloid photographer. He is also disillusioned. His life isn't one of Page 3 Girls and celebrities. Instead, his morals and ethics are compromised every day. Thankfully, his life also revolves around beer, football, cable TV and, occasionally, women. It is through these he maintains his sanity.
Set against the contrasting beauty of the seasons, Steve views his world through the eyes of an outsider. He discovers a country steeped in history, a city of intense beauty and a passionate people. However, by the time his fourth Scottish winter – a particularly fierce one – arrives, he is at his wits' end...

I've set up a blog - http://deepfriedpizzabook.blogspot.com/ - on which you can read a large synopsis, reader reviews and excerpts from the book. The blog links through to a page where you can read the first 20% of Deep Fried Pizza and, if you like what you see, buy the ebook and/or soft cover version.

If you visit the above blog and like what you read, please tell others about it. The blog can also be found on the right-hand side of this page.


I didn't want to do it in wet undies!

I was on my way home from work at ABC News Online and was sitting on the bus as it headed into the Brisbane CBD. I was going to have to change buses in the city, which is no big deal. However, as we made our way down Coronation Drive, next to the Brisbane River, I could see this big, black, gnarly storm front sweeping across the suburbs on the other side of the river at a rapid rate of knots.
I did a bit of math in my head and it appeared the storm front was going to hit the CBD at around the same time the bus I was on was going to arrive. I only had to walk 50 metres or so from where the bus dropped me to where the second bus picked me up but I didn't have an umbrella (which, I thought at the time, might prove useless anyway) or anything remotely waterproof. Brisbane rainstorms can be big, scary things and, unless in head-to-toe waterproofs, forget it.
Raindrops - bloody big ones - started hitting the bus windscreen a few hundred metres from where I had to get off and by the time we got to the bus stop the heavens had opened, accompanied by fierce winds.
The red 'don't walk' man you see in the photo is where I have to cross the road to get my second bus. I jumped off the bus and straight into the pouring rain, now being blown sideways by the wind.
The bus stop is next to the Supreme Court building which, when a storm isn't blowing through the CBD, is a lovely building to walk around and through. However, when the wind is swirling and the rain is being blown every which way, it offers no protection and is bloody useless.
Not caring about anything in my path, I turned GI Joe and headed cross-country i.e. through garden beds, for what looked to be an area of some protection from the storm. This turned out to be an empty fountain against a wall partially sheltered by an overhang. I stood there, out of the rain...just...and marvelled at what was happening beyond my 'sheltered' corner of the Brisbane CBD.
Moreover, I was amazed at the amount of people out in the storm, many of whom were using bags, folders, briefcases and an assortment of other devices as wet weather 'protection'. All of which were totally useless. I couldn't understand what was so pressing that they needed to be getting themselves drenched in such a manner. I doubt any of them had a change of clothes, let alone a towel, back in the office. I was more impressed by those with no protection at all. They were true diehards.
As I marvelled at the sight before me, the news-gene that had implanted itself in me over the previous 20-odd years, kicked in and I dragged my camera from the very dry confines of its bag. I'm sure it wasn't impressed by this but such is life. I knew there had to be a photo out there somewhere.
While my news-gene had kicked in, my self-preservation-gene had kicked in alongside it and I was going to stay where I was to get a photo. There was no way I was going to get drenched for my art. I had a bus ride to sit through and didn't want to do it in wet undies!
Still pressed against the wall, I lifted the camera to my face and began firing. I did afford myself the opportunity to move along the wall but stepping away from the wall brought me closer to the wind and the rain an this was a no-go area as far as I was concerned.
There were still alot of people rushing through the rain but nothing really grabbed me. I had an idea in my mind's eye what I was after but nothing was living up to my expectations. Then I saw a bunch of people huddling under a narrow awning across the street from where I was.
I had a clear view of them and could see the woman in the photo was keen to cross the road but kept 'false-starting'. She appeared to have no protection but this obviously didn't faze her.
Finally the little green man lit up and, in what I can only assume was a case of bad luck, she broke from the sheltering pack as the storm really hit its straps. However, she had committed herself and wasn't turning back. I saw her plunge - almost literally - into the wind and the rain. It was an admirable sight. Little did she know that, at the same time she was giving her clothes a free wash, around 50 metres away a photographer's eyes were lighting up.
I fired off around half-a-dozen frames and turned back to face the wall, in order to protect the camera from the same wind and rain that had afforded me the photo. Still facing the wall, I pressed the camera against my body and checked the sequence on the LCD screen. I smiled.
I fired off a few more frames of other scenes but the storm was gradually abating. Then, as suddenly as the storm had started, it finished. I walked the 50m to my bus stop, caught the bus home in dry undies and emailed the photo you see here to the office.

Gear used - Nikon D5000, 28-105 f3.5-4.5 lens, 1/125 sec f5 (therabouts), 1250ISO.


A media sh*t fight was in the offing...

When Pauline Hanson was sent to prison, it was headline news. Not surprisingly, when she was released from prison after her conviction was quashed in November 2003, it was also headline news.
When she was taken to prison it was in the back of a prison van with the windows blacked out and getting photos/footage of her was nigh on impossible. However, when she was released, she was going to walk out a free woman and the media was going to be able to record every moment. They were going to be there en masse.
The way things turned out, One Nation co-founder David Ettridge, who had been imprisoned with Hanson, also had his conviction quashed and was released at the same time.
The mens and womens correctional centres at Wacol on the western outskirts of Brisbane are next to each other and whether by design or coincidence, both Ettridge and Hanson walked at the same time.
Despite the correctional facilities being next to each other, all the media outlets had sent reporters/photographers/TV crews to cover both exits.
I can't remember who walked first but one, then the other, appeared from their respective exit. Friendships and acquaintances went by the wayside in the name of journalism i.e. getting the quote, vision, photo, and the usual pushing, shoving and jostling among the assembled media took place.
When Hanson and Ettridge made a beeline for each other it became obvious a media sh*t fight was in the offing when the met. Indeed, it was like two waves smashing into each other head on as the two already sizeable press packs morphed into one giant, seething mass of spitting, snarling, pushing, shoving, yelling humanity. Elbows became the weapon of choice and it was the survival of the fittest. The whole affair took on the appearance of a Medusa - a writhing mass with dozens of heads.
It was a great time to take out revenge on anyone you may been feuding with - an elbow to the head or a knee to the general groin region could all have been done in the name of 'getting the job done'.
I can't speak for others but at times like this I do try and watch for other photographers. Of course, TV crews are fair game - they're always getting in the way and f*cking up our photos, so it is a great chance for payback.
Anyway, I can't remember who I was initially following but I soon became one of Medusa's heads and it was all on. It was one of those strange occasions when the adrenalin kicks in and instinct takes over. It's times like this that you appreciate having all those years experience under your belt.
I tried shooting with the camera to my face but there was so many people, cameras and microphones in the way that it was impossible to get a clean shot.
One of the things that pisses me off about movie 'press packs' is that photographers are always lifting their camera above their head to take a photo, even if they're standing in front of the person they're photographing. I can count the amount of times I've lifted my camera above my head on one hand. I feel like a toss-pot every time I do it and try and avoid it at all costs. Anyway, in the name of wankery, this was one time when I just had to do it. There was far too much crap in the way and I was wedged where I was. That press pack was as tight as a fish's bum and if I was going to get anything decent the camera was going to have to get 'airborne'.
Situations like this are one of those weird times when a matter or seconds seems like a mini-eternity.
I remember as I lifted the camera up it freed me up a whole lot more. Each time someone had bumped into me when I was looking through the camera, the camera jolted. Having my arms above my head eased this problem. I had to sacrifice less control over what I was doing but all I needed was one half-decent shot. To make sure I had every chance of getting a decent photo I half-watched my camera to make sure it was pointing in the right direction while also keeping an eye on my two subjects All the while I left myself to the will of the throng and moved with the crowd.
With the camera above my head, I kept firing the whole time. It's not totally blind firing as, like I said, I was aware of where the camera was pointed and I was doing some rough math in my head as to what angle might work best.
After the two had embraced and the initial sh*tfight ended, the media throng actually retained some level of normality. I kept taking shots and it wasn't until they'd both departed the scene in a car that I had the chance to stop and look at what I'd taken. Amidst the mess and slop was the frame you see here.
From an aesthetic view, it's spot on - the composition funnels the viewer straight to Ettridge and Hanson, whose red hair shines out from the surrounding greyness of those recording the moment. Many other photographers resorted to the 'airborne' tactic and everything in the photo is directed at the subject matter. This is one of my favourite news photos and, like so many other photos in this blog, it came from pretty close to nothing. While I was trying my best to get a decent shot, the reality was I had little idea of what I was getting.
What made it even better was that it was run right across the front page of the Courier Mail (who I was working for). There's nothing better than seeing a photo you are really proud of splashed across page one - the thrill never tires.

Gear used - Nikon D100, Nikkor 20mm f2.8 lens, 800ISO, (probably) 1/250 f8