"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.


'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)


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.


'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)