29.6.13

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

20.6.13

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

13.6.13

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.

FOOTNOTE
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

6.6.13

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.

31.5.13

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

23.5.13

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

15.5.13

"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.

1.5.13

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.

30.4.13

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.

23.4.13

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



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15.4.13

If only I got paid royalties


There's not alot to the story behind this photo - like the band photo earlier in this blog, it's more a case of using what's there and the fact you don't always need all sorts of fancy lighting and/or props.
In my role as photo editor with ABC News Online - www.abc.net.au/news/photos - I am always hunting for generic photos of all sorts of things. One of the most common requests I used to get was a generic photo to go with drug stories, especially drugs in sport stories. I'd searched everywhere I could think of looking for a decent generic photo and had no luck, so I took matters into my own hands and did one myself.
I didn't have to travel far to get this photo. I was at home one night and went to the bathroom cabinet, took out a bottle of pills and found a small syringe (I was house-sitting for a mate whose wife is a doctor...seriously). I then got my bedside lamp and cleared a space on the kitchen bench. I tipped out the pills, arranged them around the mouth of the bottle, placed the syringe in the background, far enough away so it would be out of focus but near enough so it was still obvious what it was, and set up my bedside lamp on the bench so it was shining back towards the camera, backlighting everything (adding mood to the photo). There was no needle with the syringe, so I had to do with the syringe on its own, and I turned the pill bottle so the label couldn't be seen.
I stood back and fired off half-a-dozen frames. Done!
If you go to the ABC News Online website (above) and type 'drugs' into the search engine, you won't have to go far before finding this photo. It's been used a stack of times...if only I got paid royalties :)

Gear used: Nikon D100, Nikkor 18-70 f3.5-f4.5 lens, 1250 ISO, 1/125 sec f4.5.

8.4.13

He will do ANYTHING for a photo...


Some people are complete pains in the arse to photograph. Everything is a chore, even if they have to sit there and do sod all, or they're smart arses, or they're just plain old $%#@wits!
On the other hand, others are a total delight.
This bloke, the botanist David Bellamy, falls into the latter category.
He is my all-time champion person to photograph. He will do ANYTHING for a photo and we've (me and other photographers on the job) had him knee-deep in a duck pond and even up to his neck in a water display at an aquarium. And for both he didn't have to be asked twice. It was if he's thought of the idea himself.
Unfortunately I don't have the duck pond or the water display negatives, however I do have this.
This photo was taken on a PR job I was shooting in the mid-1990s when I was freelancing in Edinburgh, Scotland.
I was doing the job for a window frame company at, of all places, a hothouse at Edinburgh's Royal Botanical Gardens. The only reason I can think it was at such a location was because the wooden frames must have been made of recycled wood...or something like that.
Anyway, the PR company wanted me to do the job for them but also see if I could get a photo in the newspapers, who they knew I also worked for.
PR photography and newspaper photography are two very different beasts. PR is all about the product whereas, for the most part, news photography is about getting a great photo. Often the two cross paths but, for the most part, news photographers hate rolling up to news jobs that are thinly veiled PR jobs. We delight in trying our very best to make sure the product isn't in shot - anything to piss off a PR person. However, this day I had both hats on and I couldn't piss off the PR person - they were my meal ticket!
The one thing in the PR company's favour was that Bellamy was (is) a household name in the UK, meant there were a few news photographers there.
The obligatory photos were taken of Bellamy leaning through the window frame, looking out through the window frame - doing all sorts of things with the window frame. It was cheesy at best but Bellamy was his usual great self and doing whatever was asked of him, even coming up with a few ideas himself.
While the PR company loved what they were seeing, most of the other photographers were a bit restless. Even I was wondering what I could do to make it look interesting for the papers.
With the PR photos done, we all took Bellamy and wandered off into the hothouse, as a few of the other photographers had come up with ideas while I served up the cheese i.e. PR photos. I was scratching my head a bit but wasn't too stressed. At worst, I could send out the least cheesy photo I'd taken and feign sorrow if none of the papers used the photo (I'd still get paid by the PR company). Getting a photo in the paper was a bonus for PR companies but they didn't put all their eggs in that one basket.
I trailed off the back of the pack and started looking around. It was then that I saw the lovely soft light illuminating the fronds (that's what I'm calling them) of the plant you see in this photo. It was a simple idea but the thought of Bellamy poking his face through, surrounded by the fronds of the plant, really struck a chord - how apt for a botanist!
I waited for the others to finish taking their photos and explained what I had in mind to Bellamy. His eyes lit up and, before I could say 'that frond over there', he was off into the bushes. Being a botanical garden he had to be a little light of foot, but he was off all the same.
He poked his face through two of the fronds but it wasn't quite right, so I suggested another and 'bingo'!
I got in close with the wide angle lens and, while it looked okay, I knew the 80-200mm zoom was the way to go.
By now the other photographers had seen what I was doing and, as I positioned myself with the 80-200mm, three other photographers perched themselves around me, getting the same photo (they're called parrots because they 'sit on your shoulder' - we've all done it).
And that is the photo you see here. I tried him looking up, straight ahead, at me...and a few other poses, but this was the shot. The light was so beautiful and soft - from memory it was the start of winter - and bathed his face in a gentle glow.
If this isn't my faourite portrait, it's pretty damn close. This is as much as anything for the reason that whenever I see this photo of Bellamy I think of him on that other occasion we had him up to his neck in water and he was still smiling happily and obliging for all of our photo requests. A truly great bloke who understood the benefit of giving photographers what they wanted.

FOOTNOTE - I had this photo enlarged to one metre and framed, and had it hanging on the living room wall of my flat in Edinburgh. When I returned to Australia I couldn't bring it with me and donated it to Edinburgh's Royal Botanical Gardens. I hope it's still there.

Gear used - Nikon F4, Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 lens, Fuji 800 ISO film, 1/125 sec, f5.6

1.4.13

"WHAT?!"


For those non-golfers among you, this is one of the legends of the game - Arnold Palmer, otherwise known as Arnie.
In 1995 Arnie had played his last British Open, which just so happened to be held at the spiritual home of golf, the old course at St Andrews in Scotland.
This photo was taken the old course at St Andrews, in 1996. Arnie was playing in a gold medal tournament (don't ask me what that means) and it was to be his last round of golf at the course. It was by no means a well-publicised occasion and the crowds that would normally be present for a British Open were absent. The media, however, knew about it and quite a few journos and photographers had rolled up for the occasion. I was photographing Arnie for the Daily Mail, a London-based tabloid.
We all arrived at the course and set ourselves up for the 'traditional' 1st hole teeing off shot. The day was glorious and, being the occasion it was, it was all quite casual and light-hearted. Arnie had one of the most distinct golf swings in the history of the game - it was more brute than beauty - but it got the job done. He teed off, we all got the shot and then we all set off down the first fairway. All the photographers stayed with him for 4 or 5 holes and then headed off...except for me, that is. I can't remember why, but the Daily Mail didn't need an early photo and were happy for me to stay with Arnie for the full 18 holes.
As the game progressed, I was getting some okay photos but I knew 'the' photo was going to be the one you see here.
This 'wee stone bridge', formerly known as the Swilcan Burn Bridge, is a famous small stone bridge at St. Andrews and spans the Swilcan Burn (creek) between the first and eighteenth fairways on the old course. It's one of the icons of golf and the previous year Arnie had stopped to be photographed on the bridge with the 18th green, the famous clubhouse, and the grandstands full of spectators all away in the distance. It was a very emotional public farewell.
Even though it had already been done, photographing him on the bridge again was the only way of locating where he was. Otherwise, it could have been any links golf course.
With that in mind, I decided to approach Arnie during the round and ask him ahead of time if he'd mind doing the photo for me.
I'll be the first to admit that I was a bit nervous - this was a legend of the game and I'd been watching him play all my young life - so it took me til about the 12th or 13th hole to figure out what I was going to say and wait until he was on his own.
Finally, I'd worked out my spiel and he was on his own, so I trotted up next to him, introduced myself and launched into my short spiel.
Without breaking stride he turned to me and, with one eye squinting and his face screwed up, said in a really loud, gruff manner, "WHAT?!"
Needless to say, I nearly shat myself.
I nervously blurted out my spiel once more.
No reaction.
Then, with eye still squinting and face still screwed up, he turned and looked at me - "YEAH, OKAY!"
It wasn't a pleasant "YEAH, OKAY!"
It came across as more of a "PISS OFF YOU %!@#...OKAY!"
My bowels nearly emptied.
He sounded pissed off. But why? Maybe he couldn't understand my accent. Maybe I should apologise. But what for?
My sensibility got the better or me and I decided leaving him alone was the best thing.
The game continued and I thought this was good as it might give him time to calm down.
As we neared the 'wee stone bridge' I felt myself getting nervous. How would he react? No matter, I had to ask him. I knew I had to get the photo. He teed off from the 18th and we all started the walk. We got to the bridge and I ran up to him.
"Mr. Palmer, I was wondering if we could take that photo I mentioned?"
He had seen me coming and, with eye squinting etc, said something along the lines and "YEAH, OKAY!"
I hate holding up anyone at the best of times, let alone a possibly pissed off golf legend, so I didn't want to take up too much of his time.
However, golf legends, pissed off or not, are also media savvy, and he walked onto the bridge, lifted his foot onto the side of the bridge, and rested on his golf club. It looked great and was exactly what I wanted. I could have run onto the bridge and kissed him!
All the other photographers had left so it was just me and a few other punters with happy snappers.
I had my two cameras with me (one with a long lens, one with a wide angle) and I took a few frames with both and I was done. I thanked him, he smiled and kept walking. If I'd forgotten to take the lens cap off or hadn't had any film in the camera, "BAD LUCK!" Arnie had 'left the building' and wasn't coming back!
I was as nervous as hell and, even though Arnie was posing for me as I'd requested, I was running on adrenalin. As a result, I kind of knew what I had but wasn't sure. I was just relieved that I'd got the shot I wanted and there was every chance it was going to look good.
The drive to Edinburgh was just over an hour and, being a glorious day, I took my time and enjoyed myself.
Back in Edinburgh, I processed my films. The shots taken on my long lens (80-200mm) looked crap without the crowd in the background, but the wide angle shots, with the burn, the grass and the blue sky as a backdrop, looked great.
The Daily Mail must have also thought it looked great and, for a tabloid, gave it a huge run in the sport pages the next day.

FOOTNOTE - I later found out that Arnie was deaf in one ear and when I had initially apporoached him on the 12th or 13th fairway, I'd been speaking into his deaf ear. Hence the continual loud, gruff "WHAT?!", "YEAH, OKAY!" etc.
I was relieved - I hadn't in some way ruined the day for this golf legend playing his last round at the spiritual home of golf.

Gear used - Nikon F90x, Nikkor 24mm f2.8 lens, Fuji 400ISO colour film, 1/500n sec, f8.

24.3.13

"So, you're a secret agent then?"


If you've been a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that spontaneity is a regular feature of the photos, and stories, featured here.
Meet Bill and Colin - one of my hitches from when I hitchhiked all the way around Australia, photographing everyone who gave me a lift and writing about each hitch (http://soididbook.blogspot.com.au/).
Bill (facing) and Colin (not), were my 10th hitch and they happened upon me in Tasmania. They were a couple of American guys on a three-week trip to Australia. However, they hadn't done their homework on Tasmania and had only allowed themselves two days to see the island! As a result, they were hurtling around Tasmania in the time they had. In fact, I'm surprised they had time to stop and give me a lift.
Anyway, they did find the time and, no sooner had I jumped into the backseat of their Nissan Bluebird hire car, then we set off at as close to warp speed as a Nissan Bluebird can go. After a few minutes chit-chat I spun my spiel of who I was, what I was doing and why I was doing it. They were cool and more than happy to be a part of my adventure.
During the course of the conversation I did the usual and asked them for their names, ages, where they were from and what they did. Bill, who was driving, was 30 and a computer software designer from Colorado. I duly jotted all this down.
I then asked Colin what he did. He and Bill looked at each other, smiled, and Colin turned and looked me straight in the eye - "I work for a branch of the government that doesn't exist."
My eyes widened. "So, you're a secret agent then?" I said.
He smiled and turned to face the front of the car again.
I didn't know what to make of it and the conversation moved on. I didn't want to press the issue in case he might have to kill me for passing on the information...or something equally ludicrous! Either way, I knew the photo of them was going to involve Colin being incognito.
The conversation never got back to Colin's secret agent status in the 45-minutes I was with them but I wasn't bothered as I was having too much fun.
When the time came for us to part company Bill pulled over. I had an idea of what I wanted to do for a photo, incorporating Colin's incognito 'performance' - a close up photo of their heads, with Bill looking at me and Colin with his back to the camera and the car behind them. I'd try a few variations of this idea but that was the crux of what I wanted to do.
We all got out of the car and, without saying anything, Colin leapt up onto the back of the Bluebird and stood up, facing away from me. As he did this, Bill leant against the car and the photo, as you see it here, was pretty much exactly as they had positioned themselves with little or no direction from myself.
I had been putting my bags on the ground and looked up to see them do this. I was set on the idea I'd formulated in my mind's eye but this was far better. I hadn't contemplated/pictured/factored in Colin jumping up onto the back of the car and facng away from me. It was exactly what I had wanted but more!
'Don't move!' I shouted at them and started taking photos with a couple of minor variations - Bill looking up at Colin, Bill looking at me...but all the while Colin facing away from me.
After no more than a couple of minutes the photo shoot was done and Bill and Colin sped off to discover what more of Tasmania they could in their allotted time.

FOOTNOTE - In 2009 I found Colin on Facebook and, while in San Francisco a short time later, we met up and I finally got to ask him more about his secret agent status. It turns out he's been bull-shitting me and was actually studying economics at the time. The secret agent story sounded much better. I shouldn't have been surprised and didn't really care. I'd been speaking about my hitchhiking journey for years and his "I work for a branch of the government that doesn't exist" story always got a big laugh and had helped sell many of my books at these speaking events.

Gear used: Nikon FM2, Nikkor 24mm f2.8 lens, FP4 125 ISO B&W film, around 1/250 sec f8.

16.3.13

'Hey Bruno, get f*cked!'


On face value, this is a rather uncoothe photo. I agree. However, the point of this blog is to show there is often a story behind a photo. And this is the case here...
In November 1992, not long after arriving in Edinburgh, I was working a shift for the Edinburgh Evening News. The photo editor approached me and said, 'I've got a job you might be interested in. Have you heard of an Australian comedian called Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson?'
I told him I had and he thrust a job sheet into my hand.
For those of you who don't know Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson (hereby KBW), he writes 'bawdy' ballads. Some might even say downright filthy, but one person's filth is another person's poetry. Either way, he amazingly popular Down Under. So much so that, without any airplay (not with songs like those he sings!!!) and initially by word of mouth alone, KBW has now sold over 3 millions records/tapes/CDs. An outstanding effort. I didn't know much of KBW's stuff at the time but what I did know was bawdy, to say the least! Here's a snippet of one of his least R-rated (more recent) songs - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnuPeXrwFEU&feature=fvst
Back in 1992, KBW was touring the UK and had a show in Edinburgh. While there, he was sponsoring a local rugby team for their match that weekend and was going to be at the rugby club for a photo that day. Why he was going to be sponsoring the team, I can't remember.
Anyway, I set off for the club's ground in Edinburgh and when I got there KBW had just arrived. It was vert low key. The club was a small club and the clubhouse nothing much more than a glorified shed. KBW was there on his own - no PR or agent or the like. He was totally amiable and open to any suggestions, photo-wise.
I pretty much knew what I was going to do - the well cliched photo of a group of burly rugby players holding KBW as he lay in their arms, wearing the team jersey with his name (as sponsor) emblazoned on it.
We tried several takes on this theme and all was good. I was happy, he was happy, the rugby team was happy.
KBW joked around with the players and we left the club together.
As we were walking to our respective cars I told him my brother was a huge fan and asked if I could get an autograph.
'Sure!' he said, as glad as you like, and I handed him my notepad and pen.
'What's his name?' asked KBW.
'Bruno,' I responded.
And with that he wrote: To Bruno, Get F*cked (minus the *), Kevin Bloody Wilson"
I looked at it and smiled.
'He's gonna love that,' I said.
Then I said: 'Can I get a photo of the two of us as well to send to him?'
Nothing was too much for KBW and he jumped at the idea.
I had a wide angle lens on the camera and held the camera out in front of me. KBW threw his arm around me and, without prompting, thrust his middle finger into the air.
'Hey Bruno, get f*cked!' he said as I threw my middle finger in the air alongside his and snapped a couple of shots.
'Mate, he is so gonna love that,' I said to KBW, who smiled back at me. Something told me this wasn't the first time he'd struck such a pose in a photo for a fan.
'Hey,' said KBW, 'do you want to come to the show tomorrow night? I can stick a few tickets on the door for you.'
'Sure,' I said. To be honest, I was a bit dubious and thought the evening might be a bit crass. But, freebies were freebies - what the hell!
The following night I went along to the Edinburgh Playhouse with two mates, one Aussie and the other Scottish. We took our seats and the lights dimmed.
On came KBW and for the next two hours or so, we laughed our arses off. He was bawdy, he was 'blue', he was filthy - but throughout he was bloody funny. It wasn't just 'f*ck this' and 'f*ck that', as I'd expected. It was classy filth, if there is such a thing, and it was all done with a nod, a wink, a look of the eyes and a raise of the eyebrows.
What's more, the crowd all knew KBW's songs and, the Scots being the great singing nation that they are, he was accompanied by a couple of thousand others each time he launched into a song. It was fantastic!

Footnote - I sent the autograph and photo to my brother and, in the more-than-five-years I was in Edinburgh, it was the only time he rang me, outside of my birthday.
'Oh mate,' he said. 'Thanks for the photo and autograph. I've shown it to all my mates and they think it's f*cking great!'

Gear used - Nikon FM2, Nikkor 24mm f2.8 lens, Fuji 400ISO film (maybe pushed to 800ISO)

11.3.13

It had all happened in a blur...


In 1989, when I was a fresh-faced cadet on the Canberra Times, I was sent to a job at Parliament House one night.
I can't remember what the occasion was but all sorts of political luminaries were there, including Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen, the former premier of (the Australian state of) Queensland.
Sir Joh was a controversial figure. He'd been the Qld Premier for 20 years and had left politics the previous year in 'uncertain' circumstance. In the time he'd been in power he'd passed some dubious - some might even say draconian - laws.
My favourite was that any group of people walking down the street three-abreast could be construed as a street march and arrested. He later survived a corruption trial by the skin of his teeth when a unanimous decision was needed by the jury and it was a hung jury, 11-1. It was later revealed the foreman of the jury was a junior member of Sir Joh's political party...you can guess who the '1' was. Queenslanders were used to him, whereas the rest of Australia
didn't know what to make of him.
Anyway, I grew up in Queensland and Sir Joh was the only political figure I knew until I was 20-years-old. And here I was in the same room as him.
The event was being recorded for TV, I remember that, and there were TV lights scattered around the room.
I'd brought with me a 300mm f2.8 lens and was sat on the floor photographing proceedings up on stage. I have no idea who I was photographing.
Anyway, there was either a lull in proceedings or I was bored and began looking around the room, just seeing what else there might be on offer.
Being sat on the floor I could see very little of the room. Then, at some point, someone at the table next to me lent forward and Sir Joh came into view.
Most of the light from the TV lights were, understandably, directed at the stage area and Sir Joh was far enough away from the stage to be in darkened area. However, one of the TV lights on the far side of the room had spilled enough light so that it caught the edge of Sir Joh's face, which I could see in profile.
I swung my camera around and fired off two frames before the same person that had lent forward to reveal Sir Joh sat back and Sir Joh disappeared out of sight.
The whole room other then the stage was quite dark and I was shooting at f2.8. For the uninitiated, this meant the depth of field - the area that would be in focus - I had to work with was only going to be a couple of centimetres. If I'd been photographing Sir Joh front on and the end of his nose was in focus, his eyes wouldn't be.
I'd had seconds to take my two frames and had focused 'on the run'. It had all happened in a blur and I wasn't sure what I had.
I wasn't overly bothered as Joh wasn't the photo I was after. It was an extra if it turned out.
When I got back to the office and processed the films I couldn't believe that, out of the two frames I'd shot, one of them not only had Sir Joh in perfect profile, his eye was 'pin sharp' and the rim light better then anything I could have hoped for. It looked like I'd set up the shot in studio, sat Sir Joh down and snapped away. I wish!
I don't know what photos I gave them to use but Sir Joh's photo was one of them and I remember the photo was used small on the story along with the main photo - whatever it was.

Gear used - Nikon FM2, 300mm f2.8, Neopan 400ISO B&W film pushed to at least 800ISO.

3.3.13

'Now, where are my keys?'


You'd think that after 20+ years as a photographer, I'd have learnt to never leave the house without a camera. This is especially the case being a news photographer, as we all dread missing the shot of the proverbial 'plane falling out of the sky' (a shocking thing to happen, I agree, but I'm sure you know what I mean).
So, a few months ago my girlfriend and I were heading over to the house of a mate and his wife one afternoon for a few drinks and dinner. As we were walking out the door of my flat, I looked at my tiny camera bag sitting on the table next to the door and thought, 'Nah, she'll be right'.
We arrived at my mate's place and began cruising into the afternoon. They have a deck at the back of their place with a spectacular view through the Story Bridge to the Brisbane CBD. They live in one of the suburbs right next to the CBD, so everything is close and the view is spectacular. It was a cloudy day, and warm, so sitting outside was lovely.
As the afternoon came to a close, the clouds began breaking up and the Sun started peeking through. Within a few minutes the clouds had separated so that the Sun was beaming through onto the TV towers, located atop Mt Coot-tha on the western outskirts of Brisbane. Not only that, the clouds had parted so that the sun lit up in a long and narrow section of the sky behind the TV towers.I immediately thought 'panorama' and then realised my camera bag was sitting on a table several kilometres away. D'oh!
With the conversation flowing, I kept glancing over everyone's shoulders to the setting sun and the spectacular photo I was missing out on. I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera. The one time I didn't have it was the one time I needed it! The annoying thing was, I knew this was going to happen when I had thought, 'Nah, she'll be right', and I was seething.
Then I realised my mate was a photographer (der!) and I turned to him.
'Have you got a camera here I can borrow?' I said, nodding towards the sunset.
Moments later I was trailing behind him as we headed into the house. I began to breathe easy.
We went into a room where he kept his camera gear in a locked cupboard and he stopped.
'Now, where are my keys?' he asked, screwing up his face in deep thought.
My breathing suddenly became less easy. I had visions of the sun dipping below the horizon while my mate went from room to room looking for his keys and there was nothing I could do because it was my fault for leaving my goddamn camera at home in the first place! And it wasn't like I could come back and shoot the photo another day. It had to be then and there!
After much scratching of the head, my mate delved his hand into a desk drawer and brought forth a set of keys. Soon thereafter he handed my one of his cameras with an 80-200mm f2.8 lens and we hot-footed it back to the deck.
I'm a Nikon man and it was a Canon he handed me, so he gave me a couple of 'how-to-use-a-Canon' lessons in the few metres between the locked cupboard and the deck, then let me loose.
I propped myself against a palm tree handily coming up through the deck and took aim.
By now the light was becoming more glorious as the sun sank lower. The clouds opened a little bit more but the light bursting through still maintained a long narrow shape, perfect for the panorama image I had originally envisioned.
Over several minutes I fired off a couple of dozen frames, shooting tight, wide and in-between.
By the time the light began to fade I knew I had something but wasn't sure which was the best frame.
The one you see here was the only one where the Sun was visible but not so bright that it flared out the shot. I couldn't have asked for better.
You'll all be glad to know that, as I enter my 23rd year as a news photographer, I have finally learnt the lesson that, under no circumstances, should I leave home without my @!%# camera!

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

Gear used: Canon 5D, Canon 80-200mm lens, 800ISO, 1/500 sec at f8 (and thereabouts)

27.2.13

I dropped my camera bag...


It was 1990 and I was a staff photographer with The SUN newspaper in Brisbane.
I was working a Sunday shift and, like most Sundays, it was pretty quiet. However, there were a couple of jobs to the north of Brisbane and the boss gave them both to me.
The first was a BMX event in Redcliffe, an area on its own peninsula 40-odd km north of Brisbane. On the way back to town I had to stop off at Sandgate, a bayside suburb, and photograph a 'beach' horse race happening there - by 'beach' I mean a race along the mudflats at low tide.
I made it to Redcliffe on time and, as sod's law dictated, on the one day when I wanted everything to run smoothly, there was a delay. What that delay was, I can't remember, but there was one. Normally Sunday shifts were cruisy but with only the one beach race at Sandgate, I had to get there or else.
After waiting around in Redcliffe I finally got a photo I was happy with and made a dash to Sandgate.
I knew I would be cutting it fine but dash I did and arrived with minutes to spare before the start of the race.
I drove along the foreshore and there was quite a crowd assembled. Sandgate is a bayside suburb, so many had walked down to the water's edge. However, quite a few had driven and parking was a premium.
I drove along the waterfront, looking up al the streets leading away from the water but there were no parks. I finally found a sidestreet with a few spaces at the far end of it and sped to park the car.
I grabbed my camera bag and began running to the waterfront. As I approached the end of the sidestreet I heard the 'bang' of the starter's gun.
I picked up speed and, having made it to the end of the street, I ran across the road running along the waterfront and looked in the direction of where the 'bang' had come from. I could see the horses picking up speed at the far end of the mudflats and knew I had had to act quickly.
Normally in situations like this, I like to get to the job early, have a look around, work out the best position and set myself up. However, in this instance, I was unable to do any of this. I was going to have to do with whatever I had to work with.
With the adrenaline surging through me, and as politely as possible, I wiggled my way through the assembled crowd until I had a clear view of the mudflats, whereupon I dropped my camera bag on the ground.
Without even assessing the situation I reached into the bag and, in one motion, grabbed a camera body and my 80-200mm f4 lens, fitted the lens to the body, swung the camera up to my face, focused the lens (this was the days before auto-focus) and started firing. Thankfully I'd already used the camera in Redcliffe so the settings were set for the conditions.
By now the horses were in full stride and I pressed down hard on the motor-drive, focusing somewhat blindly as they approached where I was standing and sped past. I didn't have to time to properly compose the photo and was running on pure instinct.
I had no idea I'd taken the photo you see here until I got back to the office. It had all been a blur of adrenaline and panic.
As it turned out, this photo didn't get a run in the newspaper. The SUN was a tabloid and silhouettes were 'frowned' upon - too esoteric. A photo was used but it was a far less dramatic one I took after the finish of the race (from memory this photo may have also been used, but the size of a postage stamp).
I love looking at this photo and admiring everything about it - the beautiful composition, the silhouetted seagulls and horses in full stride, the 'beach' setting - and then remembering the mayhem surrounding it and the pure 'arse' of it all!

Gear used - Nikon FM2, 80-200mm f4 lens, HP5 film, 1/250 sec f5.6 (or thereabouts)

20.2.13

I was bloody cold...


This photo was taken in January 1993 in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is a favourite of mine.
Once again, it was something that came from nothing - a constant theme among the photos in this blog.
I was working for the Edinburgh Evening News and it was a particularly cold winter's morning. I was out looking for a photo to depict the conditions and was trying to avoid the usual photo of someone wearing a scarf looking cold etc.
In the middle of Edinburgh is a large 'hill' called Arthur's Seat. It's actually an old volcanic plug that rises up out of the landscape and is quite imposing. It's not really all that well known to those outside Edinburgh/Scotland, as it has to compete with Edinburgh world famous castle and a host of other more well known tourist attractions, but it's there in all its imposing glory.
Winding it way around Arthur's Seat about halfway up is a road and it was along this road I was driving early that winter's morning in 1993. When I say early and winter, I actually mean it was around 8.30am. While this isn't super early, the sun rises late and sets early during a Scottish winter, and the sun was just peeking over the horizon.
I wasn't sure what I was going to find that morning but I was driving around hoping to come across something different. Not surprisingly, not many people were out and about so I was short on finding any models to use in any photo I had in mind.
I made my way up the afore-mentioned road at Arthur's Seat and was just starting to make my descent when I looked over the edge and saw the early morning sun casting its shadow across the undulating hillochs of Prestonfield Golf Course.
'That looks nice', I thought and stopped the car.
I got out and attached my 300mm lens (on a monopod) to my camera. I walked to the edge of the road and looked down on the golf course. I sized up what I thought was the best looking photo through the camera and snapped a couple of shots. If anything, the shadows looked nice.
'All I need is someone in shot', I thought.
From where I was I could see the entire golf course, so I looked up and scanned the links. Away in the distance I spotted two players - the only two people on the course that cold winter's morning.
I sized them up through the lens but the photo looked crap - they were too far away and there was too much distracting 'stuff' in the frame. I needed them to be where I'd taken the couple of shots of the shadows.
I was bloody cold - freezing in fact - but I had nothing else to do and decided to wait and see where they went. Slowly they made their way down one hole, then the next - all the while getting closer to where I wanted them to be.
They finished playing the second hole since I'd spotted them, walked a few paces, turned in the direction where I wanted them to head, and tee-ed off. A quiver of excitement ran through me. Having tee-ed off, they proceeded to walk down the fairway in the direction of 'my photo'.
I pointed the lens where it looked best and the players walked into frame exactly where I wanted them to be! I couldn't believe it. They couldn't have done a better job if I'd (somehow) asked.
I fired off several frames and jumped for joy (I needed to - my feet were starting to go numb). I almost shouted out to them a big 'thank you'!
Unlike a sporting or news event, where something happens in a fraction of a second and you're often not sure if you've got 'the photo', this had unfolded very slowly and I knew I had something that looked good...possibly great.
There's no better feeling than knowing you've got 'the photo', so I excitedly raced back to the office and printed up a large copy for the boss. I left it with him and went home, not sure of what they'd do with it.
The following day I found out. I was working another shift for the Evening News and when I got into the office one of the photographers told me to turn to page 17.
Normally page 17 is considered a crap page to have your photo run (the further from the front of the paper the worse), so I flicked through the pages of the newspaper not sure of what I was going to see.
However, when I turned the page to reveal page 17, there was my photo filling the entire page! There was no copy - just my photo with a byline. The Saturday edition of the Evening News was a tabloid edition but, nonetheless, a full page is a full page! And none of my photos had ever been run as a full page shot before (or since).
While I will never know the identity of the two blokes in the photo, they don't know how much I have to thank them for!

Gear used - Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens, Nikon FM2 camera (with winder), Fuji 800ISO film (possibly pushed one stop to 1600 ISO), probably 1/250 f5.6 (or thereabouts)

15.2.13

The backdrop was my doona cover


The thing I love about this photo is that, while it looks totally serene, the truth is far from this.
It was 1990 and a good mate of mine - the bloke on the right - was in a local Brisbane band called the Appaloosas. I wasn't a big fan of the band name but their music was pretty good.
At the time I was living in a share house with two mates - one a fellow news photographer and the other an old school friend - at Toowong in inner Brisbane.
While it wasn't an out-and-out party house, we were all in our early twenties and the house reflected this - lots of beer was consumed on a regular basis and our hangovers were treated by excursions to the local Hungry Jacks up the road at Taringa.
Being a house full of twenty-somethings, where beer and fast food were the priority, not much thought had been put into an area of the house that could be used as a studio if need be. This was despite the fact two of its inhabitants were photographers.
So, getting back to the photo, I can't remember how it came to be that it was decided to do a band photo at my house. Either way, one night they all trooped over to get a photo done.
The band showed up and were keen to do something similar to the 'Meet the Beatles' album (http://bit.ly/hJofmP), so 'dark' was the theme of the shoot. When it came to choosing locations, we looked at the limited options on offer and decided upon the dining room which was, at least, a room unto itself. We pushed the dining room table and chairs to one end of the room and the band stood up against the wall opposite the table.
The lead singer's partner and toddler had come along too and the toddler, not quite into the whole band photo 'thing', decided to make the table and mish-mash of chairs into an imaginery world and was in kiddy heaven.
If we'd been in a proper photographic studio, there would have been an equally proper black backdrop - preferably material. Being a dining room, however, there was no material - not even a set of curtains - so I had to do with what was on offer. In this case, my navy blue doona cover.
I upset the toddler and took one of the chairs from his imaginery world so I could fasten my doona cover to the wall with the help of some masking tape and a few tacks.
I wanted to get some height for the photo (eye level photos are, invariably, boring) so, realising by now the toddler had forgotten his imaginery world was one chair down, I kept the chair I'd borrowed to use as the step ladder I needed.
The lighting in the dining room consisted one bare, stark light. As far as studio lighting went, it was horrible - crap, even.
I was using an Nikon FM2 and my flash 'set up' in those days was a Metz-45 flash. For those not in the know, the difference between a Metz-45 and the flashes used nowdays is similar to the difference between the first, house brick-style mobile phone and the sleek works of art available today.
The Metz-45 was a massive contraption that was strapped to the side of the camera via a bracket (it's not a Nikon FM2, but similar to this set up - http://bit.ly/hDaFzQ - scroll down to the first photo).
I stood on the chair and sized up the scene. Direct flash (the flash head pointed at the subject) would have left horrible shadows behind the subject, so I pointed the flash head at the ceiling just above my head and used 'bounce' flash to soften the light. I now started shooting, trying several variations of the same theme - 'try looking here', 'try looking there'.
After a dozen or so shots I knew I had something pretty good. The set up was basic but with a bit of work in the darkroom (this was pre-Photoshop days), I knew I could get a great photo, which is what I got.
I know it's not the first time a band has been photographed this way but I love it because, while it looks like the sort of photo I'd have taken if we were in a proper studio, the fact of the matter is:

1. We were in my dining room.
2. I was standing on a chair.
3. Behind me was a dining room table and chairs that had been pushed to one end of the room.
4. My two house mates and the partner of the band's singer were standing next to me looking at what was going on.
5. Their toddler was running around us all...that is, when he wasn't playing in his imaginery world under the dining room table.
6. The 'moody' lighting was my Metz-45 flash bounced off the ceiling a few centimetres above my head.
7. The backdrop was my doona cover.

Whenever I look at this photo I see serenity but I always think of the mayhem going on around me.

Gear used: Nikon FM2, 24mm f2.8 lens, HP5 400ISO B&W film, Metz-45 flash, 1/250 sec, f8.



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7.2.13

I felt the size of a peanut...


I have to admit that, compared to the other photos in this blog, this isn't the best. In fact, it's cod-ordinary. However, there's a reason why...
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/).
This was my 38th hitch - Sally Sahir. She was one of only 2 lone females to pick me up on my journey. Oddly enough, one took me into Alice Springs (Sally) and one took me out the following day.
Sally picked me up hitchhiking north from the Desert Oaks Resort Erldunda, on the corner of the Stuart and Lasseter Highways and pretty much smack-bang in the middle of Australia (the Stuart heads north/south and the Lasseter heads west to Uluru).
She was in a good mood, having just landed a job, and was celebrating the fact with a beer (a can of VB cradled in her lap). It was around 10am. She offered me one but it was about 8 hours too early for me.
We set off and, like all my hitches, after a few minutes I told her what I was doing and would she mind if I photographed her? I do remember her saying, somewhat quietly, 'Oh'...then, tentatively...'sure', but I was too preoccupied with the beautiful day outside and the fact I was hitchhiking through the middle of Australia, loving every minute of it. I didn't stop to think that a single woman being asked this question by a hitchhiker she'd just picked up might start alarm bells ringing. Anyway, I knew I was a big, friendly bloke, so what was there to worry about? Plus the fact, by the time I'd met Sally, I was well into my journey and was used to people being more than happy to let me photograph them.
I knew what I wanted to do for a photo and it involved using a layby which we could pull into. I told Sally this and once again, she quietly said, 'okay...'.
Meanwhile, Muggins i.e. me, was totally oblivious to how Sally might be feeling. We chatted amiably as we drove and, after around half-an-hour or so, I said, 'Can you pull into the next layby and I'll do the photo?'
At the next layby Sally duly pulled in. There were people there and I'm sure Sally must have breathed a huge sigh of relief. I had a look around and knew it wasn't what I wanted. It was then that Muggins said, 'It's not what I want. Can we drive to the next layby?'
As I said this I turned to face Sally.
Now, there are lines from movies, songs, books, poetry that stay with people forever. The short sentence I heard next will stay with me 'til the day I die.
Sally, cowering into her seat and with eyes the size of dinner plates behind her huge, 1970s Charlie's Angels-style sunglasses, feebly uttered the now-immortal words, 'You're not going to go all weird on me, are you?'
In that instant, her short sentence sent everything crashing down on me like a ton of bricks as the magnitude of the situation hit home. I felt the size of a peanut, with a brain to match, and spent the next minute or so apologising profusely. Understandably, she took some reassuring as she must have spent the entire time I'd been in the car worrying for her safety.
Any idea of using other laybys for photos now went out the window. No matter how much apologising and reassuring I gave her, there was no way she was going to move from where we were for the sake of a photo. Whether I wanted to or not, I was going to have to take her photo there and then. And I was going to have to be quick. She was in no mood for modelling.
We got out of the car and I looked at what I had to work with. It wasn't much. Sally wasn't going to venture far from the relative safety of the car, so I had to make do with what was there.
I tried a few basic combinations of her standing in the doorway of the car, making sure the car was between us the whole time, and working as quickly as possible in case she pulled the pin on me. The adrenalin was surging through me but more out of horror at my behaviour than out of concern for getting an award-winning photo. I was going to get whatever she gave me. Even though she's smiling in the photo, it wasn't a comfortable smile!
I took maybe 10 frames and called it a 'wrap'. I knew the photo wasn't great but I had something in the bag.
My apologising must have worked and Sally allowed me to get back into the car with her, whereupon we set off.
When Sally picked me up, she was quite content to enjoy the day and asked if I minded if we cruised along at 70-80km/h. After the 'photo shoot', however, we averaged 110-120km/h the rest of the way to Alice Springs!

Gear used - Nikon FM2, FP4 125ISO B&W film, 1/250 sec f8. Minutes spent apologising and grovelling - many.