taking it live

While I've taken the odd live photo using a flash before, I have only recently started to explore shooting live music without additional light sources. Because I only shoot with film and I don't have super huge lenses, I assumed that I couldn't achieve anything worthwhile. But the more I look into it, the more I see that there are a lot of interesting things I can do with the right film, the right settings and my modest cameras.

I have by no means mastered this; there is still a lot of trial and error happening. But seeing as the only way I have ever learnt anything photographic is through trial and error, I decided to stop worrying and start shooting.

I was pretty keen to make it to Money for Rope's album launch, as they are an incredible live band and never fail to turn it on when the chaos hits the stage. But I thought I might as well shoot it, too, so I went along with my camera and a couple of really fast rolls of film. I didn't know what to expect, and certainly there were a lot of lessons in there (read: failures). But these shots here are among the most successful and interesting. I like the dramatic lighting, I love the grain, and I think the movement visible in some of the shots works pretty well (especially the first and third shots).

What I've discovered is that when you're shooting with modest equipment, not using a flash, and only using film, you are almost completely at the mercy of the stage lighting and (of course) the performers. The lighting at Ding Dong was pretty good, though inevitably the guys at the front of the stage get more exposure in terms of light and photographs. That said, I luckily managed to capture the two drummers at times.

If I had a fancy digital camera with lots of lenses and I was possibly using a flash, I certainly would have taken very different photos. They would be crystal clear, they would be sharp, they would be probably in colour, and they would look a lot like many other great live photos that come from professional photographers shooting gigs like this. But they wouldn't have the gorgeous grain, they wouldn't have the atmospheric movement, they wouldn't have the little imperfections that film inevitably includes, and they wouldn't have the same level of character. They wouldn't look different, and they wouldn't look like my photos.


meredith haze

For those who have been, and even some of those who haven't, the Meredith Music Festival (and its sister, Golden Plains) is instantly recognisable in photos due to several of the Amphitheatre's iconic features that pop up in happy snaps all over the place twice each year. The hill, the Pink Flamingo bar, the dead painted tree (which I'm sure has been given some kind of name other than that sad and sorry description), the ferris wheel, the stage. Even the crowd - a mixed bag of young trendsters and old rockers and everything in between, sometimes thrusting their shoes skyward - is somehow almost distinguishable from many other festivals.

These things pop up in my photos, too, and I think that their presence makes any other descriptive properties unnecessary. This means I can take marvellously unclear photos like these, and they still very strongly convey a specific time and place.

I'm not going to write any more because, well, if I'm honest with you, I'm very tired and anything I write now will be a bit sub-par. But I want to share the photos. So here they are.


ten unconventional wedding portraits

When Craig and Sarah asked me to travel to Adelaide to be their 'official' wedding photographer, I kind of freaked out. I've taken photos at a wedding before, but never in any kind of official capacity. So many questions flew through my head: What if they don't like the results? What if my cameras break? What if I get the settings wrong? What if I catch the flu the week of the wedding? What if I panic and can't do the job?

Earlier this year I met with Craig and Sarah to talk about it. I expressed my reluctance but they assured me that they knew my style, loved my style, weren't after anything too conventional, were open to experimentation, and were happy to collaborate on ideas while also leaving creative control to me. I said I wasn't comfortable taking photos during the ceremony; they told me they would ask someone else to shoot that part. I told them I didn't like the idea of taking large family portraits, or photos of all the groomsmen holding up the bride (and other tacky cliches); they said they were absolutely happy not to have those photos. So I agreed, and my first paid wedding job was essentially underway.

They are both extremely creative people - Sarah is a marvellous illustrator and Craig an excellent musician - and it was this creative understanding, for lack of a better description, that sealed the deal for me. Being able to really experiment while shooting the wedding, and to have them not only accommodate it but wholeheartedly embrace it, was kind of a dream come true.

Having said all that, I have to confess that these first two shots were accidental! I was using a new camera for the first time and had the settings all wrong without realising. I thought they wouldn't work out at all and just wrote those ones off, but when I got them back I was thrilled and pretty amazed at the results. The complete lack of any detail gives them a gorgeous, dreamy feel. The top one especially is totally haunting. Without context, I wonder if you would even recognise it as a bride and groom? Probably just, with that full white skirt - but only just. I adore these shots and am so pleased to now know how to achieve them (intentionally).

It wasn't just accidental experimentation that took place; the rest of the images were absolutely intended to be as far as possible from your standard wedding photo.

Well this I am just in love with. The double exposure is classic Greta, if I do say so, but there is so much more to the image: the sun glare bathing the whole thing in muted gold while also concentrated on the couple, as though the light shines just for and on them; the clouds and the beach being visible but not outstanding; the very natural body language between the two - a lovely moment of everyday communication on a very extraordinary day.

And speaking of classic Greta... you know if you've ever read this blog before that I have a photographic foot fetish, so I insisted that they take off their shoes and let me see the feet in all their glory. And why shouldn't they be the star of the show? Don't they look wonderful? Sometimes I really do think that feet say just as much as, if not more than, any face.

Another dreamy, nondescript image. Wedding in the sky. With many of these beach photos I really had to try to work around the very harsh sun: it hadn't set enough to be soft and golden, so I ended up shooting a lot of silhouetted images. In a lot of cases, like this one, it was a good move.

I HAVE WANTED TO TAKE A PHOTO JUST LIKE THIS FOR AT LEAST TWO YEARS. It was a vision in my head that planted itself there back when I was experimenting with psychedelic palm trees, but until now I had never executed it. But here it is! Excellent outcome.

I don't love this one as much as some of the others, but it still holds interest because the bride and groom are in it, but only just visible. It's a great concept, but perhaps not as wonderfully executed as it could be. But a good basis for experimentation nonetheless.

I love absolutely everything about this photo. Craig gave a beautiful speech at the reception, and afterwards left it sitting on a bench, open just like that. His final words were his dedication to his new wife - said once to her, and once to everyone else as a prompt to raise glasses and toast her. And that is the essence of everything he said, of everything he felt and of the purpose of the day. Here is Craig's love for Sarah. I adore the selective focus, the muted, deep colours, and the stunning grain. And it is hands down one of my favourite portraits of the day. Moving even further from the feet concept, this demonstrates to me how a stunning, powerful portrait doesn't need to include any people at all.

This is another of my favourites. I'm actually quite in love with it, and it never fails to make me feel and react when I see it. Some context: Craig had just removed the garter from Sarah's leg using his teeth, and it was hanging from his mouth. Again, a stunning unconventional portrait of new husband and wife. The composition, the soft focus, the colours, the grain: it all just works.

Perhaps this is the most conventional of all of these, but it's still quite unusual in the sense that it's not posed, you can't see their faces, and it's so dark that you're not sure of exactly what's going on. In fact, they were walking out of the reception and about to leave to spend their first night together as husband and wife. So it's really the last anybody saw of them - the image we were left with. In that sense, it's lovely. And the dark background adds an unusual element of mystery. Definitely not a word used to describe most wedding photos.

Of course, I did actually take some photos where they were both fully visible. Plus a lot more than that. But in the interest of diversity, here are the experimental shots. The ones that Sarah and Craig encouraged me to take, and the ones that we all love to bits - in some cases even more than the conventional shots (you know, like the ones with their faces). I am just so grateful that it was a required part of what they wanted. It really makes me feel pretty strongly that when it comes to my photography for others, the best results come with open minds and willing collaboration.


hot, split and faded

I went to Adelaide recently to shoot a wedding for my lovely friends Craig and Sarah. But these are not those photos. Rather, these are photos from the day after the wedding. Me and my girls had a little time before our flight back to Melbourne, and it was pretty hot, so I asked Adelaide native Megan to take me down to her local beach, as I had never been to a beach in South Australia's capital. Even though I was suffering with complete camera fatigue after shooting twelve hours the previous day, I just couldn't resist taking one of my cameras to capture one of my favourite experimental photography landscapes.

These photos present an interesting combination: my new plastic camera (which I introduced here) and an expired film. Not only are the images overlaid, but in a more subtle departure from 'regular' colour photos, they are quite faded. From what I can tell, one of the most common effects of expired film is desaturation. I think it works quite well in these images - especially in the top one, where the decidedly daggy and old-fashioned fabric that constitutes a makeshift tent adds to that evocation of an era gone by.

The other thing that stands out to me about these images - particularly the two immediately above this text - is the seamless transition between the two layers. It's especially effective in the bottom one, which is why I included it even though there is an unseemly black mark in the top corner (my fault).

The two exposures in these ones are a little more obvious. It's a different effect to those with more subtle transitions, but I find both styles interesting and beautiful. In the bottom photo here I particularly like the fact that there are two very distinct images, but they are closely related; you can look at one at a time, then see the whole 'picture', so to speak - walking along the beach eating ice-creams while scores of others enjoy the sand.

Hahahahahahaha! This is not subtle nor necessarily beautiful in the conventional sense, but it is hilarious. I got very excited when I saw a giant shark statue at a holiday apartment complex near the beach, and I decided to create my own tribute to Jaws. I don't usually go for jokey images but this is pretty priceless. Look out, young couple on the beach! Jaws is after you!

They aren't as important as the wedding photos from the day before, but I sure am glad that I took out the camera one last time to capture the Adelaide beach. And Jaws.


city in the sky

I don't want to say too much about these because for one, I'm not sure what to say about them. And secondly, I'd rather they speak for themselves. I think they are incredibly evocative, and simultaneously reminiscent of and completely different to anything I've done before. It's too soon for me to articulate anything specific about them (I only just picked them up tonight); my first impression is emotional rather than intellectual.

So that's all.


looking back at sydney

If I get a new roll (or rolls) back that I want to post about, I usually choose the most interesting images, then basically forget about all the others until I have to go back through the library for some reason. This weekend was one of those occasions, and I've been revisiting my photographic memories of Sydney.

I've been to Sydney a few times now, and each time I find new things to photograph. And each time I also photograph the House and the Bridge extensively (an obsession I have documented in the past). These images aren't the best, but they still hold some interest. The first of these three shows a group of school kids, most likely on an excursion, who had stopped exploring for a lunch break. I don't love the middle image but the third one is kind of fascinating in its ambiguity; it's actually an extreme close-up of the Opera House facade (the wonderfully arranged tiles) exposed over a long shot of the House.

Still in the Harbour, but focussing on less famous views, these two make the most of the unusual slide film colourings. The sun looks fabulous in the first one, while I love the second one just because I love the architecture of Circular Quay Railway Station - and the great typeface.

And now to the Gardens. The middle image, showing bats in a palm tree, is a bit bland and indistinct for my liking, and the bottom image is, for lack of a better word, ugly. The top image, though, really appeals to me. I think it's partly because it seems different from a lot of my other photos; it's not the kind of photo I often take. It was just a pretty amazing scene: these two girls sitting on a ledge and seeming to have the whole of Sydney at their feet. It's a simple photo but that's one of the reasons I adore it.

So there are hits and misses here. Some perhaps better left in the archives, no doubt. But with the benefit of distance and hindsight, there are also some lovely images, and memories, that don't deserve to be forgotten.


a trip to panama

I've been doing so many bits and pieces for other people lately that I haven't had much time to work on my own projects. In one way that's great, because I'm always flattered and honoured when I'm asked to shoot for other people. But it's also potentially frustrating when I'm not getting the chance to shoot my own stuff. Sometimes, though, what I do for others gives me the chance to also do what I really love, without many restrictions. 

I recently did a shoot for Eagle and the Worm, and we took a lot of photos for press purposes. For a variety of reasons, they didn't work out as well as we had all hoped, and for other reasons, I don't think they will be used. Which isn't a bad thing - if work that I don't love doesn't get used, it's almost a blessing in disguise. But that doesn't mean it was a fruitless exercise. For one thing, I always learn a lot with each new project. And, more importantly, after we did the press stuff, I got to shoot them just hanging out. And these photos I am completely in love with.

When Jarrad and I were looking for a location for the shoot we were kind of stumped. I had recently been to the Panama Dining Room for the first time, and I was blown away by the beauty of the place, and especially the stunning arched windows - I really wanted to photograph it. So I suggested it to Jarrad, who got in touch with the restaurant, and luckily they gave it to us for a Saturday afternoon.

It isn't just the windows and the interior design that I love about these photos. I was using a film that I hadn't tried before and the contrast and smoothness is so gorgeous. Then there is light - the way it glows, and the way it falls so naturally on the subjects. 

And let's not forget the subjects themselves. Everyone was pretty relaxed seeing as it was the end of the shoot. After having a camera pointed at you for hours on end I suppose you get used to it, and perhaps the initial discomfort gives way to a kind of nonchalance. While I like the long shots that include most members of the band and make the most of the glorious windows, I have to say it's the individual portraits that I like best. I'm just going to show you one each of all of them, because they are pretty stunning:

Phew. See what I mean? What an amazingly photogenic bunch. Things like this remind me that while I love to experiment with all kinds of photo types in all kinds of situations, the power of a simple, black and white portrait is hard to beat. There were so many great photos from the three rolls I took for these shots; it was one of those rare occasions where there were more winners than losers. As a result, it's difficult to choose which ones to post and which to leave out. So at the risk of throwing the image-to-word ratio of this post way out, I'm going to finish with a few more of my favourites, because they say as much as any words I could write about them.