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.