I cradled my 'Frankenstein' photo...

Two things before we get started:

1. This is a composite of two photos, so let's deal with the photo on the left first.
2. Please excuse the quality of the image on the left - it's a photo of a newspaper cut-out.

Many moons ago (pun intended...1990, in fact) when I was a staff photographer on the now defunct (Brisbane) tabloid, The SUN, I was working the late shift one night. It was dead quiet and I was getting bored when I remembered it had been one night off a full moon the previous night. Not only that, the moon had appeared to be hanging over the Brisbane CBD.
That night a full moon was due and I thought that if it was hanging over the city like it had the night before, it would make a great photo.
I threw my gear into the car and headed to Mt Coot-tha, about a 15 minute drive. I pulled into a gravel area just below Stuartholme, a girls school sitting atop part of Mt Coot-tha, that had a spectacular, uninterrupted view of the city (now there is a high fence where I pulled up and a large block of apartments on the hillside below where I had been. There is no view like there had been 20 years ago).
The view of the city and the moon that night was, indeed, spectacular. The only problem the city was where it should be but the moon was waaaay up in the sky. My idea of a spectacular photo of the moon hovering over the city was looking shoddy at best.
Not to be outdone, I got the camera and tripod out and took some nightscapes of the city and a couple of the moon on its own. I also took some portrait (vertical) photos of the city with the moon waaaay up above it. I knew they sucked but I didn't want to think I'd come all that way for nothing. Perhaps they'd look better when I got back to the office.
I was wrong and when I got back to the office and processed the film, they still sucked. What's more, the photos of the moon were way over-exposed (too much light) and it looked like a big, round white blob surrounded by black. None of the moon's detail - the craters etc - that was normally visible, was present.
I was about to ceremoniously run a pair of scissors up the middle of the film when one of the other photographers still working reminded me that photographing the full moon is like taking a photo in the middle of the day because it is the middle of the day on the full moon we see. Hence, I should photograph the full moon with my camera set like it was the middle of the day i.e. bright sunlight. It all made perfect sense.
'Hey,' he said. 'You've got a perfectly good nightscape of the city...all you need to add is a moon. Why don't you go up onto the roof of the office and re-shoot the moon. Then we'll make a sandwich.' He grinned broadly when he mentioned the word 'sandwich'.
I grabbed a telephoto lens, took the lift to the top floor and walked up and onto the roof of The SUN building. I then proceeded to re-photograph the moon like it was the middle of the day. Twenty minutes later I was admiring my handiwork on the lightbox in the photographers room three floors below. The moon, as predicted, looked splendid.
With a little help from my 'mentor-of-sorts' we got one of my perfectly good nightscape negatives and one of my simply splendid moon negatives and 'sandwiched' them together so the moon was aligned majestically over the Brisbane skyline. I slid my sandwich into the enlarger and hit the timer.
A short time later I cradled my 'Frankenstein' photo in my hands. My dream had come to life and I almost felt inclined to murmur, "It's alive!"
Now, I'm going to get a little bit technical here, so bear with me.
I'd photographed the city nightscape on a 200mm lens. When I headed for the rooftop of The SUN building, I had a 300mm lens strapped to my camera. The perceptive ones among you will have worked out that for the nightscape and the moon to look the same they both needed to be photographed using the same lens. A 300mm lens has more magnification than a 200mm lens, so the moon in my sandwich - the photo you see before you - is a tad larger than it should be. In fact, probably a lot larger. At times like this one needs to fall back on the old addage - why let the facts get in the way of a good story.
If it makes you feel better as you sit there rolling your eyes, I did feel a little bit guilty at the fact I'd screwed with nature (twice), not to mention my ethical responsibility. But the end result, you have to admit, was pretty damn good, and this was all I cared about as I slipped a large print of the photo into the top drawer of the boss' desk (as tradition dictated in the 'old' days), with a note explaining what I'd done.
I slept well that night and when I arrived at work the following afternoon, I was amazed to see the photo splashed right the way across page 3! Obviously no one had minded what I'd done - ethics, who needs them?!
So, all's well that ends well...except for the fact the story doesn't end here.
A week or so later the boss received a letter from an elderly gent, Norm Crew. In it he stated that he'd been so taken with my photo, he'd recreated it in the form of a painting (time to deal with the photo on the right). The boss, not one to pass up an opportunity, rang Norm and asked him if he'd mind it if the photographer who took the photo of the moon over the city came out and took a photo of Norm with his painting and an actual copy of the photo of the moon over the city. Norm was over the moon (once again, pun intended).
And so, a week or so after 'Moon over Brisbane' had been published, I trapsed out to Norm Crew's house and got a photo of Norm holding a large copy of my photo next to his painting. It was pure tabloid. I even got a photo of me and Norm with my photo and his painting (as you can see). In fact, I can't even remember if that was the photo they ran in the newspaper.
Anyway, what had started out as a simple 'that might look good...' idea for a photo one night had given birth to a Frankenstein and inspired a bloke called Norm to pick up his paintbrush. If only he knew...

Gear used - Nikon F4, Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 lens (city), Nikkor 300mm f2.8 (moon), city exposure (1-2 seconds, from memory), moon (1/500 f8 or f11), film - probably HP5 400ISO


He'd been lying on an ant nest!

In 1998 I hitchhiked all the way around Australia photographing everyone who gave me a lift and writing about each hitch (http://soididbook.blogspot.com.au/).
The bloke in this photo, Marc Hubben, was my 29th hitch. He took me from Erldunda, a road house on the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory (at the turn off for Uluru), to Adelaide. I was with him for a couple of days.
It had rained in the days leading up to Marc picking me up and, as we made our way from the Northern Territory into South Australia, we were greeted with the sight of wildflowers blanketing the landscape as far as the eye could see. It was spectacular and lasted for several hundred kilometres.
I wanted to somehow incorporate these flowers into Marc's portrait but I was shooting my journey on B&W film and a wide shot of the landscape would have looked pretty ordinary.
I also knew I wanted to use one of the car's wheels in the photo (circles are dominant shapes...they can be a distraction or used to your advantage) and, as we sped down the highway, I came up with an idea. I told Marc what I had in mind and he pulled over to the side of the highway.
We stepped from the air conditioned car into the 40+ degree C (100F) heat which hit us like a very hot brick in the face. To make matters worse, swarms of flies descended on us within seconds and it was blustery, so we felt like we were in the middle of a hair-dryer.
Marc could have very easily told me to sod off and climbed back into the car but he stuck it out like a trooper. We were both suffering for MY art.
I found a bunch of flowers I liked but were a little off centre with the wheel and Marc kindly moved the car into position for me, then got out, lay down and wriggled into position.
What amazes me looking at the photo all these years later is that the scene looks so peaceful. In truth, it was anything but!
The ground was extremely hot, the blustery hair-dryer conditions equally so, and the flies kept swarming all over Marc's face. The way we worked it was that Marc waved like mad to get rid of the flies from his face, then I'd shout 'NOW' (without, hopefully, swallowing any flies) and he would pull his hand away.
I had less than a second to fire off a frame before his face turned black with flies (okay, an exaggeration, but you get the idea). Because I was using a Nikon FM2 without an automatic winder, I only had time to take one frame at a time. I got Marc to repeat the process around a dozen times (those flies were quick!) before I was sure I had what I wanted.
I'd noticed Marc squirming a bit while I was taking the photos and thought it was just the heat of the ground. However, when he stood up, it turned out he'd been lying on an ant nest! Thankfully they weren't the 'bitey' variety, but he danced a jig nonetheless as he brushed them off!
You'll all be glad to know that I later bought Marc dinner as a thank you for his heroic efforts.

Gear used - Nikon FM2 camera, Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens, FP4 B&W film (125 ISO)


I'd made a couple of hundred quid...

In the mid-1990s, while living and working as a freelance photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland, I spent a year or so living in the area known as Gorgie - Dalry to be specific...16 Cathcart Place to be even more specific.
Cathart Place was lined with stark, featureless tenements, and one day after arriving home from a job, I was walking to the flat when I heard some shouts of excitement bouncing off the tenement walls. I looked up and saw two of the local kids, who I knew by sight alone, tearing down the footpath being towed on their rollerblades by their dog (who I also knew by sight).
I smiled to myself and then thought as they whizzed past, 'hang on...that could make a photo I can sell to the newspapers...'.
I was freelancing so was always on the lookout for a job/photo I could sell to the newspapers, and two kids being towed on their rollerblades by their dog...well, the dollar (pound) signs began flickering in my eyes as the cash register rang in my head!
I called after the kids and when they came back to where I was I told them if they'd mind doing that again while I got some photos. They knew I worked for the papers and were excited at the prospect they might get in the "Rec'rd" (Daily Record - Scotland's biggest selling tabloid). I, too, was excited that they might get in the "Rec'rd" and make some money for me.
The kids got their dog to tow them to the end of the street and they performed their routine for me while I got some front on shots of them belting down the footpath towards me.
Happy that I'd got a front on shot, I also wanted to get a side on 'panning' shot (achieved by following the subject with your camera and using a slow shutter speed, so the subject is sharp - in focus - and the background is blurred).
The poor dog, now panting, towed them to the end of the footpath and, having picked up momentum, sped past me. With the dog's well-being in mind, I didn't ask the kids to do another run for me (although they would've gladly done so if it meant getting in the "Rec'rd").
Being the mid-1990s and about 10 years before the advent of digital photography, I was unable to check the back of the camera to make sure I got the shot. Instead, I had to hope and pray that there was something on the film in my camera.
I processed the films in my flat and half and hour later held the negatives up to the light. The photo you see here was the one good panning shot I got.
I sent one front on photo and a panning photo to around half a dozen newspapers and, quite content with my afternoon's 'work, sat back and spent the afternoon relaxing. The next morning I went and bought the newspapers I'd sent the photos to and revelled in the fact 3 of them had used the photos - all up I'd made a couple of hundred quid for something that had fallen into my lap.
The kids were, of course, over the moon that their photo was in the "Rec'rd" - they were going to have bragging rights at school for a long time!

Gear used - Nikon F90X camera, Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens, Fuji 400 ISO colour film