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

At Prayer - Award Finalist

August 29, 2021

At Prayer, Thimphu, BhutanAt Prayer, Thimphu, BhutanBhutan

At Prayer, Thimphu, Bhutan 
Fujifilm X-T3, Fujinon XF200mmF2 R LM OIS WR, f2.0 @ 1/500 second, ISO 1600

I'm asked why I still enter photo competitions? The main reason is that I enjoy the process. And being a photo competition judge, I also think it's important to know how it feels to be an entrant - we should never forget what it feels like to win or be rejected. The photo above was 'accepted' in the recent Olive Cotton Award, meaning it was printed and exhibited (even if the number of gallery visitors was limited due to COVID). However, I had another entry which was rejected (see the bottom of the article). As an entrant, I like them both, but entrants always have different views to the judges, unless you happen to be the overall winner!

It was a delight to have this photograph accepted and there is something haunting about the gentleman's gaze. Was he aware I was there and glaring at the camera? Or was he lost in prayer as he turned the large prayer wheel? Perhaps how the photo was taken gives a clue to the answer.

There is a large, open 'shed' in which a dozen prayer wheels stand, and seated a their base you often find the devout at prayer. I was using a 200mm f2.0 lens at its maximum aperture, so this throws both the foreground and background significantly out-of-focus. You can't really tell what is either side of the subject, but the ropes hanging down in front of his face are for turning the prayer wheel.

For me, part of the strength of the portrait results from using this selective focusing to highlight my subject. In post-production, I've darkened down everything else so the viewer is directed to the prayer's face - and his fully engaged eye. Was he looking at me or deep in thought? I'm pretty sure he knew I was doing something, but as I was looking down at the flip-out LCD screen on my camera and cradling the lens in my lap, I think he was just looking at me out of interest and completely oblivious to the camera. But I'll never know!

And the photo that didn't make it? A personal favourite taken elsewhere in Bhutan, but that's another story!

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Why 343 Photos Was Okay!

August 09, 2021

Sue and her horse, MiddlehurstSue and her horse, MiddlehurstMiddlehurst, New Zealand

Sue and her horse, Middlehurst
Fujifilm X-T3 with Fujinon XF200mmF2 R LM OIS WR, f2 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 160

I'm in trouble on two fronts. First, I've forgotten the name of Sue's horse and that alone is a whipping offence (for me, not the horse). Second, I was in trouble a few weeks ago when I wrote that I took 343 shots of Sue on her horse, with the inference that it took this many to get a good one. Note, I said it was inferred, not implied!

Well, you could have heard the derisions of laughter from professional portrait photographers all around the world. Mind you, these were mainly family portrait photographers who would be aghast at having to wade through 100 shots of the same person - from their perspective, it is not only mindless, but a waste of time and money. So I understand that my suggestion to 'shoot lots' was poor advice in this context. Although, never being wrong, I would like to remind them that many of their heroes used to shoot lots of photos as well, in order to get just the right one! But agreed, not 343 of them.

So, with my tail between my legs and my reputation on the rocks, I am throwing caution to the wind and presenting some of the other 343 photos I took of Sue as she approached our camera position on Rocky the horse. Wait on, I think it might have been called Tony? Anyway...

Since I couldn't be in Middlehurst last month, nor this month or next, I've been looking through my files from our last visit back in 2019. While Tony (the photographer, not the horse) and I shoot alongside our 'students', we spend most of our post-production time back in the comfortable lodge helping students with their work and making prints (thanks to Epson and Canson for their support). So looking through my 2019 files, it's just like being back in Middlehurst and reliving a wonderful experience.

On this day, I wanted a shot of Sue on her horse. I wasn't quite sure whether I wanted a long shot or more of a portrait, so I shot lots - 343 to be precise. Above, is one of them, below are nine more for your viewing pleasure. They are preliminary edits - but getting close!

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Living With A Test Print

August 02, 2021

Duffys Wharf, PittwaterDuffys Wharf, Pittwater

Test print photographed with iPhone on pin-board, Collaroy, 2021
Duffys Wharf, Pittwater

A few weeks ago, I posted a photo taken within 10 kilometres of home as the Sydney Covid lock down began. Well, the good news is we didn't have a bunch of demonstrators in the city this weekend (and isn't it interesting to learn these sensible fanatics had been encouraged by a European group that wasn't putting their own liberty on the line). The bad news is this lock down is likely to go on for quite some time, so if you have freedom of movement at the moment, enjoy it!

Actually, I'm quite comfortable in lock down. While life is completely different (i.e. no travel), lock down isn't as bad as isolation which I enjoyed 15 months ago. Everything is relative. And so are photographs.

The photo above is of a print stuck to my pin board in the office. It is opposite my desk, in full view. When someone rings me up to have a chat, like Tony Hewitt wondering if we will ever get over to Middlehurst this year, or David Oliver asking when he has to start judging the Better Photography Photo of the Year competition, and they start to drone on a little, I walk around my desk and look at the print more closely. I study it. "Yes, Tony, any day now. No, David, I have to prepare things first." And I have a pencil which sits balanced on two thumb pins so I can write a few notes on the print itself. What to change, what to rework, what to improve. This is a test print. It is designed to be written on.

For me, living with a photograph for a period of time is an essential part of the photographic process. And it never ceases to amaze me that even after spending hours and hours on a file, this process reveals even more insights for improving the finished product.

Now, I know when you compare the small screen files you have before, the work print above with the final file below, the differences don't appear huge, but when you're looking at an A2 print (or larger), these changes and improvements are so important. Others might not notice, but if you do, that's reason enough to fix things. Enjoy your photography, wherever you may be!

 


What Can You Find In A Ten Kilometre Radius?

July 11, 2021

Pittwater Backwater, Northern BeachesPittwater Backwater, Northern Beaches

Pittwater Backwater, down the bottom of the hill.
Phase One XT 150MP, 32mm Rodenstock, f5.6 @ 1/125 second, ISO 50

We have an international readership, so not everyone will know that as a Sydneysider, I am in lock down with 5 million other lucky souls who live in the Greater Sydney Area! On the other hand, Australian readers will be well aware of the COVID restrictions and I have been receiving some condolences notes from Victorians who know what it's like. Thank you!

Tony Hewitt and I were supposed to be in Middlehurst, New Zealand today. We've postponed the 'experiences' until later in August and October, fingers crossed. In the meantime, Gladys (our premier) has finally introduced a sensible restriction, asking Sydneysiders not to travel more than 10 kilometres from their home when they are doing essential shopping and daily exercises. So the question is, what can you find within 10 kilometres to photograph?

Now, I know I'm not supposed to leave home to take photos, but I can't see any damage leaving home for an hour walk and taking a camera with me. You never know what you might find. Case in point is this scene not far from home. My wife and daughter 'discovered' it and suggested we get up early one morning and perhaps catch some mist. Although we arrived shortly after sunrise, the mist was already rising and not a lot left for my camera. 

The photo is hand held and the scene quite remarkable when you realise how close it is to a major city. In fact, there are lots of locations like this around the Pittwater backwaters and maybe this will be the first of a series.

In terms of processing, this remains a work in progress. I'm struggling a little to get the balance between the sky and foreground just right, and I also want to experiment with the colour grading a little more. But in the meantime, for someone in lock down, it suits me just fine!

Enjoy your freedom if you have it!

 


Govetts Leap's Leap of Faith

June 29, 2021

Pulpit Rock, Blue MountainsPulpit Rock, Blue Mountains

Pulpit Rock, Blue Mountains, pre-Lockdown
Phase One A-Series 150MP, 180mm Rodenstock, f11 @ 1/60 second, ISO 50

The workshop I ran with Ignacio Palacios up the Blue Mountains last weekend was on, then off, then on again, then curtailed by the Sunday restrictions. However, we managed to get through the program and enjoy some of the Blue Mountains' wonderful scenery as well.

This photo is taken from Govetts Leap where we congregated before dawn. I wish I were better at getting out of bed because when I do, I really enjoy it. However, I seem to take more of my landscape photography at sunset, rather than sunrise!

I had more or less put my cameras away when the sun started to creep around the edge of the bluff opposite, to which is attached a formation called Pulpit Rock. It's a slight telephoto lens, there's a touch of lens flare in the top left and bottom right, and the light is delightful. And the lens flare reminded me of how fashions change. It took me more than a little while to accept brides really did want lens flare in their wedding photos! And here I am, happily using some controlled flare to add to the quickly evaporating morning haze.

We discussed many subjects during the workshop, including the square format. When Ignacio gave a presentation on composition, he was asked why so many of his examples were square. I also confess to being partial to the square format - it seems to be less 'factual'. A horizontal makes me think of a landscape, a vertical is a portrait, but a square is anything you want it to be and sometimes cropping images to square seems to work better for me.

But it's a personal choice, of course!

 


Photography and Friendship At Bruny Island

June 20, 2021

Bruny Island Lighthouse, TasmaniaBruny Island Lighthouse, Tasmania

Bruny Island Lighthouse, Tasmania
Phase One XF 150MP, 55mm Schneider lens, f2.8 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 320

I'm not sure if friendship extends to a full bottle of Talisker, but as I saw the level in our bottle quickly diminish on the first night of four, I decided it had to!

While photography can be a lonely, individual pursuit, there are times when photographers come together. The AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) is one organisation that facilitates interaction, APS is another - and your local camera clubs as well. It's great to spend time with other photographers and over the years, I've developed strong friendships with many. I consider myself very fortunate to be involved with a number of informal groups, one of which congregated on Bruny Island a week or so ago.

Richard Bennett and better half Susie, who live on Bruny Island, sent out the invitations. Richard is a past president of the AIPP, as is his daughter Alice who paid us a visit. Other invitees were David Oliver (hence the Talisker), Phil Kuruvita (I think he drank most of the Talisker, followed closely by Richard - Phil is also a past president of the AIPP), Nuran Zorlu, Bruce Pottinger (who sold us most of our cameras) and Kevin Cooper (who represented Fujifilm for the past decade or more and is a keen photographer and balloonist). Ian van der Wolde was invited (also a past AIPP president), but sadly his Victorian premier wouldn't permit him to travel.

So, among such illustrious company, one wonders how I was invited!

In addition to much socialising, David suggested we do a print swap and this turned into a highlight of the weekend. While we have seen each other's work in the awards, books and advertising, there was so much more about us all as photographers we didn't know and we each gave a little talk about our prints. It was a wonderful afternoon and I have also added to my collection!

The reason for mentioning this is that many of us have informal friendships in photography. Assuming we're not in lock down, it's not too hard to organise three, four or a few more people to spend a weekend together - and talk about photography. If nothing else, it can be very inspiring.

And the photo? We did a little helicopter time around the very south of Bruny Island. I had visited this area many times, but never really understood how magical it was until I took to the air. Unfortunately, being a national park, you might not get permission to fly a drone there, although interestingly the Tasmanian government had lots of drone footage in an informational piece playing on a big screen at Hobart's airport!

 


Can You Shoot Mungo Under Starlight?

June 07, 2021

Mungo, NSWMungo, NSW

This photo is no longer possible for most of us. I’m sure National Parks would allow a National Geographic film crew in, but the average photographer will struggle to get this close to the eroding rock formations at Mungo, let alone stay there after sunset to photograph them with a backdrop of stars.

In fact, the average visitor will be kept well away from the rock formations. Access is with a guided tour only and I understand why. With so many visitors to Australia’s national parks, crowd control is needed if we’re not going to love them to death. Uluru has done it successfully, although some of its photography rules continue to perplex me. But I get it.

To take this photo, post-production was required. The rock formation was photographed on a stormy afternoon with dramatic clouds all around. We had a short burst of sunlight right on sunset – perfect timing or just plain lucky!

The Milky Way was photographed later that night from Mungo Lodge and while its angle to the rock formation may not be completely accurate, the resulting image has plenty of impact. The sky is a four minute exposure at ISO 800 using a Fornax star tracker, with advice and assistance from Glenn Martin. No matter how many YouTube movies I watched, there’s nothing like having someone who knows what he’s doing to help you out!

However, while the afternoon storms cleared at night for the stars, the following morning the rain set in and we were told to evacuate Mungo Lodge. This wasn’t great news on several fronts. First it was disappointing to be leaving so soon, and second, Ignacio Palacios’ car was an AWD, not a 4WD and we struggled to get out as the dusty road instantly turned into a muddy bog. However, I’m grateful to say Ignacio kept the wheels moving and I didn’t have to get out and push!

And just to let you know, the Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year award will be open for entries on 10 June, with $5000 in cash prizes up for grabs and a judge comment for every entry. Click through to the competition website for details at www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com.

And there’s a capture to print workshop with Ignacio and me up the Blue Mountains at the end of this month – check out the website for details at www.betterphotography.com.

 


High Resolution Workshp

June 01, 2021

Silverton and Broken Hill in New South WalesSilverton and Broken Hill in New South Wales

Posted from Silverton and Broken Hill in New South Wales on a photo workshop with Mr Palacios!

Date and time: Tue., 8 June 2021 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm AEST

Location: Dee Why RSL, 932 Pittwater Road, Dee Why, NSW 2099

Price: $20

Here is the link: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/high-resolution-photography-with-peter-eastway-brought-to-you-by-phase-one-tickets-156998188809

AIPP Grand Master of Photography Peter Eastway will deliver an enjoyable presentation on capture and processing techniques required for high resolution photography, whether you're using a small mirrorless camera or a medium format back.

Peter will discuss choosing your lens's sharpest aperture, understanding the limitations of depth-of-field, the need to keep your camera stable and firing the shutter properly, plus focus trimming your lenses if required. He'll also discuss software approaches for making the most out of your images with a view to producing beautiful, high resolution prints.

Plus there will be a series of audio visuals, some entertaining travel stories and a Q&A session!

So why not come along for a light hearted evening of fun, sponsored by Phase One (you don't need to be a Phase One photographer to attend or enjoy this session).

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Can Crocodiles Really Fly In Kakadu?

May 25, 2021

Crocodile, Yellow Water, KakaduCrocodile, Yellow Water, Kakadu

Crocodile Showdown in Kakadu - Photo 1 of 3
Fujifilm X-T4 with 200mm f2.0 lens and 1.4x converter, f4 @ 1/1600 second, ISO 800

How do you define flying? If flying is being projected and moving above the water or land, then we saw a crocodile flying in Kakadu last week - and thank heavens it wasn't heading towards our boat!

For those in southern Australia, you probably don't want to know how warm it was in the Northern Territory last week. It's a wonderful time of year for the Top End and many of the locals say they wouldn't be anywhere else for winter. I'm not quite so sure as it was still pretty hot, but then again, as I write this on a cool, shivery evening in Sydney, perhaps I am!

Sharon Jones from the AIPP's Northern Territory chapter organised a series of lectures, workshops and a photo tour last week which gave me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and do what I love most, take photographs! And with so little travel in recent times, it was great to sit on a plane again, even if my face was covered with a mask and my ears sore from tight elastic!

So, what about these three photos - and the croc when it flies?

The first image is a bit of a tease. I'm pretending it's the dominant croc moving towards another croc that has invaded his territory. The second photo shows the actual stand-off position and the third is when the croc launches himself and flies! It was a very special encounter and well documented by our group in the early morning at Yellow Water.

For action shots like these, I use continuous autofocus, image stabilisation and auto ISO. I set my shutter speed at 1/2000 second on shutter priority exposure mode and let the camera work out the aperture and ISO. And I set my camera to a high frame rate so I'm capturing as many shots per second as I can. And while I wasn't using a zoom lens, if I had, I would have zoomed further out to make it easier to capture and contain the action - my prime telephoto lens was a little long for this situation.

And in a perfect world? I would have been on the other side of the action with the croc coming towards me - and hoping like hell he didn't fly too far!

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Why I'm a Boomerang Photographer

May 18, 2021

Mullimburra Point, NSWMullimburra Point, NSW

Mullimburra Point, NSW (Preliminary edit)
Phase One XT 150MP, 28mm Rodenstock, f11 @ 30 seconds (frame averaging), ISO 100

There are two schools of thought when it comes to travel and photography. One school says let's go somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere exciting. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it's a flop, but the experience of travelling into the unknown can be addictive.

The second school says that travelling photographers can't understand a location and experience it properly with a single, short trip. Especially if we're trophy photographers, it's unreasonable of us to expect the amazing light and climactic conditions we've seen in the hero photos of a location. Sure, we can be lucky from time to time, but statistics indicate that to get great light and conditions we need to allocate more time. Time improves our chances and that's why I'm a boomerang photographer. I'm always happy to return to a location that I like and see what's there.

Mullimburra Point is north of Narooma which is a popular base for seascape photographers. While I have surfed up and down the NSW coast, my first trip to this area as a photographer was with the Focus Photographers (www.focusphotographers.org). And every time I visit, I find something new. My most recent trip was with a mate and our primary focus was surfing, but there was so little surf, I convinced him to let me take some photos. I even flew my drone a few times (no crashes so far).

In terms of post-production, I was a little late to capture the sun on the rock, so in post-production I have used an adapted luminosity mask to select the rock and lighten it up, and I've also warmed up the colours so they contrast with the cooler, blue background. And the image is stitched as well - two frames with the XT being shifted left to right to get a wider angle-of-view of what is in reality a very small beach.

Is it better than my other shots of the same location? Hmmm, does it have to be better? Today I think it's better, but tomorrow I might not. Perhaps more important is the fact I enjoyed taking and processing the photo - and that's enough.

A small reminder that my updated How To Win Photo Competitions program is now available with a $50 discount (and yes, the coupon code is now working) - use COMPETITOR to purchase for $79 (full price $129).