Peter Eastway writes an almost weekly newsletter from his Better Photography website (www.betterphotography.com). These are some of the more recent posts.

What Does The AIPP Closing Mean?

November 14, 2021

On the road to Ushguli, GeorgiaOn the road to Ushguli, Georgia

On the road to Ushguli, Georgia. Which has nothing to do with the AIPP, but since I'm not travelling at the moment, I'm enjoying my time processing photos from past trips. I also have a photo tour planned for Georgia and Armenia towards the end of 2022, COVID conditions allowing. These towers are wonderful to photograph and are dotted all around the hills. More to come in the not too distant future!

Last week, the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) appointed an administrator, abandoned the Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA), froze its Facebook page and closed its doors. The end of an era. What happened?

The following thoughts are mine alone. I have been very closely involved with the AIPP for 40 years, spending time as national treasurer, chairman of the Australian Professional Photography Awards and editor of The Working Pro/AIPP Journal. I was the Australian Professional Photographer of the Year twice, I’ve won the Ilford Trophy for the highest scoring print and I think a couple of years ago, I earned the lowest scoring print as well - with a 68!

For me, there were two primary reasons for membership, both selfish.

The first was for the friends I made. Visiting APPA or a conference once or twice a year was a great opportunity to catch up, share ideas and grow as a photographer. I have met many lifelong friends through the AIPP because of our shared passion for photography. The second was entering the annual awards. Note, I said entering, not attending, not winning, although they too were enjoyable. However, it was the process of putting together my best four photographs every year, thinking about what the judges might say, improving the images to satisfy any criticism. It was this process over 40 years that has guided and established me as a photographer.

And they were professional awards. This isn’t meant to make them sound better than amateur awards – because these days they are not. Rather, professional awards make an assumption that you are producing work for sale or for the satisfaction of a client. It’s a different mindset, but one that is incredibly important. Or used to be.

When I joined the AIPP, it was all about education. We learnt how to take better photographs and how to earn a living. Then the internet and digital photography arrived (around the same time) and professional photography changed forever. The secret stuff we used to do in the darkroom was now available to everyone – including our clients – in Lightroom! The profession and its environment fundamentally changed.

While financially I lament this, artistically I embrace it wholeheartedly – as do many AIPP members. We’re photographers first, business people second and the digital realm has expanded our creative horizons exponentially. I don’t think there has been a better time in history to be involved in photography.

Future image making may rely more on ideas and technology, perhaps the ability to recognise what you like rather than create it. It’s neither better nor worse, just different. And with YouTube and social media, there is perhaps less of a need for a large organisation like the AIPP. And that in a nutshell is why the AIPP has closed.

While there are many of us passionate about the AIPP, we weren’t passionate enough to go back on the Board to help make it work (there were no new nominations for the Board last year). We weren’t passionate enough to enter more prints into APPA this year. And try as hard as they did, our Board couldn’t find the right mix of buttons and switches to keep the AIPP going. They are not to blame. At least they stood up and did as much as they could – my thanks to all the directors and volunteers that made the AIPP what it was.

No doubt you’ll be reading a lot of comments about the AIPP on social media. The ones I like speak of the good times, the friends made, the positives. Reading between the lines, the negative posts generally say more about the person making the comment than the AIPP. Sure, there are some former members who have every right to be disaffected by the AIPP, based on the unethical behaviour of a very few past office bearers. I know this too, from personal experience. However, most criticisms seem rather self-indulgent. I mean, no one forces you to stay a member of an organisation you don’t like. Why not just walk away, rather than poison it for everyone else? 

So, will I miss the AIPP. Certainly. Will I start up a new organisation? No – I think that’s a job for a younger generation, but I’d certainly enjoy being a member. If nothing else, I think COVID has shown how highly valued social contact is.

Will it be a professional-only organisation? Maybe, maybe not. Many people think being professional is ‘better’ than being an amateur, or that a professional standard is higher, but that’s no longer the case. It’s the purpose behind the photography that is different, one being commercial, the other being wonderfully personal. Many of us practice both.

Not all professionals will agree with my sentiments. Mind you, nor will all enthusiasts! But that’s okay because it’s just an opinion and, since we all have this wonderful passion for photography, hopefully we can still be friends!

 


St Andrews @ South Georgia

November 07, 2021

King Penguins, South GeorgiaKing Penguins, South Georgia

King Penguins, South Georgia
 

As many readers will remember, around seven years ago I featured in one of a series of television documentaries about professional photographers working in different locations all around the world. Called Tales by Light (and still available on Netflix), my episode was based in Antarctica and South Georgia.

In the production, I said, "If I could only go to one more place, one more time, it would be back to South Georgia".

And since then I have been lucky enough to return several times. Whether you shoot nature, landscape or art, South Georgia is a photographer's utopia. What I loved about this location at St Andrews was the overlook from where I could create a composition that gives the impression that the King Penguin colony goes on forever - as in fact it does!

The reason for mentioning this and running the photo again is that South Georgia Heritage Trust and Friends of South Georgia Island are taking part in Giving Tuesday on November 30th. This day of global giving inspires people to support the causes that mean the most to them.

"Our work on South Georgia is dedicated to protecting this hugely important ecosystem, the species that call it home, and its rich cultural heritage. Right now, we are raising funds for a critical survey of the former whaling station at Stromness. This study will inform major environmental and heritage conservation work that we will be undertaking over the next five years.

"We work in partnership to support other science and technology initiatives to make informed decisions about conservation. We are working to protect globally endangered Albatross species in conjunction with RSPB and British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Just this month, BAS research we support is also clearly showing a strong recovery and return of Humpback whales to the waters of South Georgia and Antarctica. The return of some whale species to almost pre-whaling levels marks a profound shift in the human story of South Georgia Island.

"It’s been almost two years since visitors have come to the Island. As we welcome visitors returning to South Georgia, hopefully next year, we also hope you can help us on Giving Tuesday. If you have visited South Georgia previously, could you consider sharing with us your most memorable photo of the Island and tell us why that is?

"Please Email: [email protected] with your photo and a wee description. We'll also be happy to answer questions sent to that address. Submissions may be shared on SGHT, FOSGI, and third party social media and websites, in the run-up to Giving Tuesday, on the day, and beyond, to show why our work, your support and South Georgia is so special…and hopefully it will encourage others to give too.

"And on Giving Tuesday, or any other day, if you can consider making a donation to support our work, we would be very grateful indeed."

Donate - South Georgia Heritage Trust (sght.org)
Donate - Friends of South Georgia Island (fosgi.org)

 

 


What Is It?

October 31, 2021

Clean Skin Creek, Northern AustraliaClean Skin Creek, Northern Australia

Clean Skin Creek, Northern Australia
Phase One XF 100Mp, Schneider 110mm lens, f2.8 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 200

I'm not sure about you, but I'm in a state of indecision! In Sydney, we're coming out of lock down and when you read this (1 November), many restrictions for both NSW and Victoria will be removed, allowing us to travel once again. We can also travel overseas and we're letting Kiwis come to Australia without quarantine, but it may be some time before that is reciprocated. So there's talk of travel and, as a travel and landscape photographer who loves taking photo tours around the world, I have smiles from ear to ear!

So why the indecision? Because as I write this, it's not completely clear what is going to happen or when. Sure, the borders will open, but will people want to travel? How long before confidence returns? When will Western Australia open up? Or will we see yet another mutation and a new COVID variant arrive?

I'm figuring you're probably feeling much the same, trying to work out what's what in the world, so I thought I'd add to your tasks by presenting this photo.

What is it?

This is an aerial of a tidal sand flat on the northern coast. To me, it could be a huge droplet of oil, spreading global warming across the globe.

The location is right on the WA/NT border and it was taken on a post-workshop flight with Tony Hewitt, Christian Fletcher and Drew Altdoerffer from Phase One. On Google Maps it looked really interesting, but you can never tell because the large tides can completely change the aerial patterns, and it's not always possible to guess when that Google Map photo was taken. What we found was quite different to what I was expecting.

And naturally, the original photo didn't look like this, much flatter, less colour, but the shapes were there with the tidal pulse moving inexorably inland. I struggled for a couple of years with this photo, loving the inside patterns, but disliking the lightly toned surroundings. It was only having the time to sit down and review my work over this COVID period that I finally came up with a solution that made me happy: darken the surroundings.

It seems so simple now. And I think it works much better.

So, while we're looking forward to our post-COVID freedom, perhaps part of my indecision comes from the positives of being forced to stay at home? No one likes being forced to do anything, but on the other hand, if the glass is half full instead of half empty, then who is to complain?

Keep an eye out for my photo workshops next year - we'll run a few promo pieces at the end of the emails for your viewing pleasure!

 


The Value of Reference Points

October 24, 2021

Long Reef WharfLong Reef Wharf2m00s, Automated Frame Average

Long Reef, NSW.
Phase One XT 150MP with 32mm Rodagon lens, 1 minute @ f11, ISO 50

Reference points are ideas. And ideas are fundamental to photography. Over the years (decades) of interviewing photographers for Better Photography magazine, I'd ask two questions. The first was how much time they spent in promotion and advertising (it was more than 50% for successful photographers) and the second was, where do your ideas come from?

There's no single answer, of course. Gay Campbell called her ideas 'cosmic Fedexes' - ideas or dreams which she would carefully write down in a journal, waiting for another time. My iPhone has a bunch of apps on it with lots of different ideas. Or references points.

Reference Point 1: Christian Fletcher published a book 10 years ago and if memory serves me correctly (let's hope it was Christian's photo and not Tony Hewitt's), it was on the cover. But it matters not: the photo was of an old wharf or wharf posts in the middle of a beach with waves washing around it. The light was beautiful, composition strong. I filed it away in my memory banks.

Reference Point 2: Most afternoons, Kathie and I walk around Long Reef headland with the dogs. There's a point where the walk comes down to the beach and a ramp extends down to the sand. However, usually there's so much sand, the waves never reach the wharf, except with a high tide and a large swell. But every time I walked past the ramp, I'd think of that reference point.

Last week, after nearly 10 years of walking around the headland, the stars aligned and while there wasn't quite as much water around the ramp as I wanted (and even then, I had to wait for the set waves), I managed to shoot a few photos. Did they look like Christian's photo? Hell no! No point copying something that has already been beautifully done. Besides, it's a completely different location and no one looking at this photo would think of Christian's shot, but the reference point was there for me.

I have a little more thinking to do with this image - and three or four other frames. I'm not sure if the colour grading is completely resolved and I find myself still fiddling with the saturation and balance. I'll print a test and pin it up on the wall in my office, so when Christian Fletcher calls up to tell me how good life is in Western Australia, I can tune out to his monotone and concentrate on my photo!

When I go on photo tours, photographers often ask how it is that I usually know what to photograph, while they feel they are struggling to work it out? One of the answers is having a database of reference points that can act as a catalyst for your photography.

And building up that database takes time, so start now!

 


Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta

October 19, 2021

Italy, 2002. Canon EOS 1Ds, Canon 28-135mm lens @ 135mm
1/250 second @ f8, ISO 800, hand-held, no filter

When we arrived in Italy for a two-month holiday with our young family, there were two photographs that seemed to be everywhere we looked. One was a stand of trees in an undulating field near Montalcino, the other a small chapel sitting alone in a field on a hill, and they were on the covers of guidebooks and posters promoting travel within Italy.

Eventually I found them both, having asked every Italian I met if he or she could give me a clue (Google and Google Maps weren’t around to help me in 2002).

At the time, we were staying in Orvieto and it was around a 90-minute drive to Cappella di Vitaleta. I visited it three times, researching the best time of day and hoping for suitable light.

It never happened.

The weather simply wouldn’t co-operate, so I had to resort to a second-best exposure with poor illumination.

On my final trip, the wind was so strong I couldn’t set up my tripod outside the car, so I positioned the car on the road and sat in the back seat with the window down and waited. Every few minutes, the wind would drop, the car would stop shaking and I’d press the shutter button. I spent half an hour with a zoom lens exploring different compositions.

Most of the photos I had seen were of the chapel alone with the small cluster of trees around it, but in reality, just to the right was a large farm building. What I had imagined based on the photographs I had seen was a lone chapel in a vast field, but looking back on the photographs I had seen, I could understand how the framing and composition had fooled me (or perhaps, more correctly, how I had interpreted the scene).

My solution was to remove the farm building. The first time I processed the print was in 2002 using an early version of Photoshop. I used the clone tool to remove the farm building and adjusted the colours to be more inviting. The drab light had really only left me with varying tones of grey, but I could see the potential for colour in the trees below and the surrounding field.

This is one of the first images in which I explored The New Tradition. Not only could I process the file shortly after taking it (that night with a nice glass of red), I could transform my camera’s capture into something that better represented my thoughts and feelings about the location.

And some 10 years later, I reprocessed the file. This is not something I normally do because once an image is processed, I find it boring to revisit it. However, I needed a larger version of the file for a client and, looking at my original technique, felt I had to finesse it further. Yet another positive for The New Tradition.

Need a good read? Like to learn something more about photography? Interested in new ideas? Why not purchase a copy of my book, The New Tradition, which is full of great tales and ideas. It has 100 photographs and accompanying stories guaranteed to enthrall you - and you can save $30 on the purchase price right now - use coupon code TNT30. Check out more on the www.betterphotography.com website

 


Different Ways

October 17, 2021

Glasshouse Rocks, NaroomaGlasshouse Rocks, Narooma

Glasshouse Rocks, Narooma
Cambo Actus DB-2, Phase One IQ4 150MP, 600mm Nikkor, f11 @ 1/4 second, ISO 50

I've just put together a little promotional video for the Narooma workshop I'm presenting (COVID hopefully) with Len Metcalf next year (3-7 May 2022) and the headings I've used are 'two teachers, two styles, one workshop'. When it comes to photography, Len and I are at polar opposites although we're both heading towards the same thing! Our backgrounds, our education, our approach are wonderfully different and as you view the photos in the video, you'll see what I mean.

Here's the link: https://youtu.be/fzF4_xf2mlk

At present, Len is into sepia tones and squares, but he strays into other areas from time to time. His first or second photo is a multiple exposure, a subtle ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) I am thinking, but it takes the photo away from 'just being a literal rendition' into something more interpretative. At least it is for me. However, Len's Narooma photos are not all monochrome...

Far from it. Len has taken some interesting tangents into strong colour and almost abstract compositions. Compare this approach with mine, where I feel my photos are much more literal in their framing and composition, but my 'other worldliness' comes from the use of colour and tone.

I think the movie shows that there is more than one way to take photographs. We don't have to practise what another photographer does to appreciate and enjoy it. Difference is great. Inspirations and ideas can be long lasting.

The photo above, also taken on our last Narooma workshop, such as comes from my love affair with telephoto landscapes. I've been influenced by a number of American photographers (such as David Muench and Johsel Namking) who have used long lenses with large format cameras to create beautiful captures. While most sensible photographers were using a mirrorless or DSLR with a telephoto on this morning, I was working with a Cambo Actus DB-2 and an old, large format 600mm Nikkor lens. It requires a 450 mm monorail and bellows and if there's any wind, the camera is next to useless because the fastest shutter speed available is 1/125 second on the Copal-3 shutter (too much camera shake - everything is magnified with a telephoto and a high resolution sensor). But we were lucky in the pre-dawn light and I was able to find a 'different' view of the Glasshouse Rocks.

Different ways. I think that's what we're all looking for - different ways that make what we create, in some small way, our own.

Good. Different. Maybe I need to go to the supermarket...


Kinloch Fisherman

September 28, 2021

Kinloch Fisherman - New ZealandKinloch Fisherman - New ZealandWe could hear this fisherman quietly motoring the lake's shallows and every now and then the mist would clear enough for us to see him and his latest catch.

One of the rights of passage for photographers is to exhibit their work. It’s true that displaying work on social media or a website is a form of exhibition, but the process of turning a digital image into a physical print is, to my mind, the hallmark of a true photographer.

So much photographic potential is lost when you display your work on the internet. The small file sizes are generally over sharpened, the JPEG format loses much of their tonality, the colour space reduces the colour palette and, worst of all, you have no control over how your work is seen by your viewers. Goodness knows what monitor or display they may be using!

Online exhibiting has its place and its distribution is second to none, but I believe the context of a public exhibition of physical prints with controlled lighting is the pinnacle of photographic expression.

One marvellous aspect of an exhibition is that you get to interact with people – and all their foibles. Normally it is very polite and civilised, but several experiences come to mind, such as with this print of a fisherman on the lake at Kinloch, New Zealand. A woman was very interested in purchasing a large print, but just wanted to get her husband’s approval.

The husband returned a few minutes later, took one look at the fish being hauled into the boat and dismissed the photograph as being ‘Photoshopped’ and not worthy of consideration. He dragged his wife away.

I remember this keenly because of all the photographs I had in the exhibition, this had the least amount of Photoshop and the fish was captured in-camera. I think this experience has scarred me psychologically because now when people tell me they can tell if a photograph has been ‘Photoshopped’ (a term, by the way, which Adobe has actively discouraged), I wonder if they really can, or if they just think they can.

I guess it doesn’t really matter because when it comes to selling your work at an exhibition, the only opinion that matters is that of the buyer. I didn’t make the sale.

Footnote: Some seven years later, the boat sank and the owner was looking for a photograph to remember it by. However, I was told my print prices were too high. I’m sure he simply took a screenshot of my website and put the money he saved towards a new boat – the challenges of making a living as a photographer in The New Tradition.

Need a good read? Like to learn something more about photography? Interested in new ideas? Why not purchase a copy of my book, The New Tradition, which is full of great tales and ideas. It has 100 photographs and accompanying stories guaranteed to enthrall you - and you can save $30 on the purchase price right now - use coupon code TNT30. Check out more on the www.betterphotography.com website

 


Sharpening Selectively With Purpose

September 26, 2021

 

Middlehurst Station, New ZealandMiddlehurst Station, New ZealandMiddlehurst, New Zealand

From Middlehurst Station, New Zealand
Fujifilm X-T3, Fujinon XF200mmF2 R LM OIS WR, f2.8 @1/1900 second, ISO 160

This photo is out of focus! Well, that's not quite correct. The background mountains are sharply focused with my greatly loved Fujinon XF 200mm f2.0 lens, but the foreground mountains are a little soft. There wasn't sufficient depth-of-field to keep them sharp. I didn't worry about this initially until I produced an A2 size print when the issue became much too obvious. I could hide this error away on the website easily enough, but not on paper!

What happened? At the time, I was shooting Sue McDonald on her horse at Middlehurst (did we work out if her horse was called Tony or not from an earlier newsletter?), so I wanted the background for her to be a little defocused. The solution was to shoot with the lens nearly wide open (I'm a bit disappointed with myself to see that I shot at f2.8, whereas I spent all that money on an f2.0 lens!), but when I saw these lovely shapes in the mountains as I was waiting for Sue and Tony to get into position, I simply pressed the shutter. Who wouldn't?

Well, a better photographer would have closed the aperture down first, say to f8 or f11, and then the foreground mountains might have been a bit sharper - and they wouldn't have wasted a sheet of lovely Canson Rag Photographique paper!

So why am I coming clean about this? Why am I airing my dirty laundry in public? It's because technology has provided me with a solution: Topaz Sharpener AI. I've written about this plugin/standalone before and how it helped correct the softness in some of my aerial shots, so why not in a landscape as well? As you can see from the screen shot below, fixing up the foreground had unintended consequences.

It might be a stretch to see this on the screen shot above, so you'll have to take my word for it. On the left is the original with the slightly blurred foreground. On the right, the corrected version and while Sharpener AI has crisped up the foreground nicely, it has overcooked the background which was already correctly focused. The (2nd) solution to the problem with the (1st) solution is also easy: apply the sharpening to a copy layer and, using a mask, brush in the sharpness only on the foreground where required.

It used to be that if you didn't have the photo in your pixels, you didn't have your photo, but with a number of new plugins and standalone applications, such as Topaz Sharpener AI, I'm having to re-think this. It won't make me a sloppier photographer out in the field (I can fix it later in Photoshop), but it will expand my opportunities knowing that as part of the post-production, I can render the result that I want.

What a great time to be alive in the history of photography!

 


The Future of Photography?

September 19, 2021

Adelaide River, Kakadu, Northern TerritoryAdelaide River, Kakadu, Northern Territory

Adelaide River detail, Kakadu, Northern Territory
Phase One XT 150MP, 80mm lens, 1/2000 second @ f3.2, ISO 160

After talking about the history of photography last week, Better Photography magazine contributor Ken Spence challenged me to guess what the future holds. Good luck, I reckon! I can't even work out when we're all going to get out of Covid lockdown here in Sydney. Mind you, as Ken is in Melbourne, what else have we got to do?

There's a part of me that wants the print to remain the epitome of photographic expression. I love my Epson printers and Canson papers (unapologetic plug as I'm an ambassador for both brands) and I still get great joy out of making a print. Currently I'm working on a project with small prints, but I've also received an inquiry for a 60-inch print - big or small, the print is a beautiful object and something more than just the image.

But what if technology changes? What if my beautiful EIZO monitors (another unashamed plug) could be manufactured as ultra-thin, one by two metre screens which I could hang on a wall and stream images to from my computer or smart phone? The technology is there, but the screens are generally multiple monitors tiled together. I'm dreaming of a continuous surface - and maybe I can have different textures on those surfaces.

But would I be happy? 

Turn the power off and the image is gone, but that's not the case with a print. A print is a separate entity. It exists on its own. Is this 'existence' what attracts me to the print, or the image quality I can produce? I'll have to think about that because in the first instance, it's the image quality that is most important - my expression. If the expression is just as good in the future, but in some different way, why wouldn't I change my view?

Referencing history again, digital cameras produced poor quality in comparison to film and many photographers couldn't see the point. But that changed and so did our views.

So, once I can see what the technology in the future holds, I'll be in a better position to have an opinion. Or perhaps I'll have a third jab of the Covid vaccine which includes a special microchip co-designed by the CIA and KGB, and I'll hack the chip so I can stream my best photos from my body to screens all around the world - in fact, to every television and computer monitor there is. Even if they're not turned on, my hack will be so good the screens are turned on all by themselves and the world will see the brilliance of my photography! Wait on, why worry about a physical delivery mechanism - I'll just stream my photos virtually and everyone who has had the vaccine will be forced to see my images.

That's it! I have a plan!

And the end of lock down can't come soon enough...

 

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Personal Favourites The Judges Miss

September 12, 2021

Middlehurst Landscape DetailMiddlehurst Landscape Detail

Middlehurst Landscape Detail
Phase One XF 150MP, 240mm Schneider Kreuznach lens with 2x converter, f16 @ 0.6 seconds, ISO 50.

We all have them - photos that mean something to us, but never seem to get the reward we'd like when we enter them into a photo competition or post them onto social media.

Does it matter?

No! The reality is we have no control over what other people like, whether judges or friends. Sure, we can choose subjects or techniques that are more likely to receive a positive response, but I don't think this is a great way to use a camera. Surely we should be taking photos we love first and hoping others like them second?

The photo above is one of my (many) favourites - and the photo at the end of the article another. Both were taken within a few minutes of each other at Middlehurst on a quiet evening. The light was soft, there was hardly a breath of wind and both were shot with a 240mm Schneider and a 2x converter, about as telephoto as I can get with a medium format camera.

So, why do I love them?

The main reason is the texture and the detail - texture and detail you'll struggle to see on a screen, I'm afraid. But as a print, the texture is visually tactile. You can see every blade of grass, every shiny pebble. They are simple in composition, plain in subject matter and they make me happy. They take me back to last century when I would shoot with 4x5" and 8x10" film cameras and marvel at the superb quality they afforded. And I laugh to myself because the quality I am capturing today is just so superior to back then, I simply couldn't imagine how good photography was going to become.

So, my challenge for you?

Whether you're in lock down (unlucky) or out and about (fortunate), spend a few hours looking through your archives and pull out some photos that you really love. Re-process them and post them on social media or make a print. Tell people why you like them. Take people on a journey and, with understanding, they might become favourites for others as well.

The results of the Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year 2021 will be announced on Wednesday and I know there will be some mixed feelings with the scores, but just because a judge doesn't respond to a photo the same way you do, doesn't necessarily mean it's not a great photo, that it's not a 'keeper'.

And here's my second photo.

Middlehurst LandscapeMiddlehurst Landscape