Feb 16

A love of lighting 

Here’s a behind the scenes shot of my lighting set up from Sunday’s beauty test with make up artist Kelly-Marie Waters and models Annette Melton & Tannie Tong from theright.fit.

Light. It affects us in so many different ways. Different light can make us feel happy, feel down, awestruck at the majesty of creation or fearful for our safety. And as photographers (and filmmakers), we use light to tell our stories.

Many photographers, whether starting out or highly experienced, are wary of lighting their work. Some prefer natural light. Some think it’s too hard. Personally, I feel it’s a skill one should learn, part of the craft of photography. And it can take many different forms.

To those who worry about it being hard, well, it is. But so is driving when you first try it. Lighting is just a skill, a set of techniques you learn just like you learn how to drive.

I’m self-taught and never assisted. I taught myself how to light – it look practise and many, many failures over years. And I’m still teaching myself.

I don’t just light to make something pretty, or dramatic. I light to tell stories. And there are many stories to tell. Sunday’s test didn’t need a narrative – it was a beauty shoot. So the lighting was about sexiness, about colour and about fun. The lighting helped tell that story, and then the models used the light to make the shot work.

All this technical stuff – lighting, focal lengths, framing, post etc All of it is irrelevant without a connection with the subject. Photography is nothing without an emotional connection. So the first thing before all else is to work with your subject, whether a model, portrait subject or a landscape. The best images have that connection. Then lighting pulls it all together.

Feb 16

Recce fails… Some days it just doesn’t work.

Location scouting can be a bastard.

Today we drove out to Lithgow, roughly 2 hours west of Sydney. Inevitably, we got stuck in traffic for well over 40 minutes, and there were endless kms of roadworks too.

When we got there, we found the whole location under construction – completely unusable. Was there any indication on the council websites that this would be happening? Of course not. 

So, a day wasted. But such is. There will always be days like this, part of the journey.

Feb 16

A snap and it’s forever 

 Again dipping into the archives, going well back to 2009 to behind the scenes on the Denim and Thread campaign.
What a fun job. More than 6 years later, it still holds pride of place in my folio. 
This is a funny business. Most of the work you shoot generally isn’t the most interesting (comparatively) – it’s a job and you’re paid to do it. And that’s a wonderful thing – getting paid to do what you love to do. It can feel a bit creatively bereft though. But sometimes, rarely, you’re allowed to make something special. 

That campaign was special. I put up the hero a while ago – https://www.instagram.com/p/_VuYEURG5a/. 

This is a quick snap I pulled off while we were setting up for another shot – we were all in the zone, so quickly – click! Another moment noted forever.

Feb 16

Build right.

Louis Issac

Louis, aka Kid Fiction, is a mate from high school. A truly excellent musician and producer; Louis spent years recording other people’s work, waiting to get the stems from other people’s work, yet more recording then rerecording of other people’s work, and then inevitably waited a hell of a long time to get paid for said other people’s work.

While of course gigging and working on his own music as well.

That all got a little tiring.

So for the past year, he’s only been focusing on his own work. Writing, producing, playing, rewriting, reproducing, mixing, mastering etc etc it all builds up and builds up. You lose perspective.

Before we shot this portrait, he showed me something like 11 EP’s he’d put together. Would he release any of them?

Well, no. Perhaps one… Maybe.

This is a good thing. Louis’s trying to make some special.

In the technology world, the culture often seems to be ‘build the product quickly, ship it, then iron out the kinks later’.

But as creatives and artists, we rarely beta-test. We tend to build once.

And if we’re any good, we want to build right.

Feb 16

The weird and wonderful world of recce’ing.

Location scouting in Helensburgh

Yesterday we were on a recce (location scout) for a job.

Recce’ing is vital. You scope out potential locations and figure out if they fit your brief and concept. Can we shoot here? Are there strong angles? What’s the light like? Do the colours work? Most importantly, does it work for the narrative – is there a motivation to be there?

You also need to check if the location is workable logistically. Is there parking? Toilets? Is it safe? Is it a long distance to the shooting area from your unit base (where we keep the unused gear, make up, wardrobe, catering etc and often where the vans and cars are parked)? Do you need special equipment to work the location – cranes, cherry pickers etc?

Recce’ing is also fundamentally weird. Sometimes you’re by yourself or just with a key creative like our DOP Lucas yesterday. And sometimes you have a whole team of people with you – the producer, the DOP, the gaffer, the art directors, the stylist, etc. Basically, you all stand around and point. Then have a discussion. Then point some more. Then move to a different spot and point a little more. Then usually have a polite argument. Then point just a tad more. And then you move on to the next location.

But they’re also adventures. You get to explore. Often unexpected, unusual and sometimes even unlikely places. And then you plan how to transform those places for an image or for a film.

Those places become magic.

Feb 16

The years that shape us


Last week on instagram, I posted a double shot of Ollie, and mentioned how he’d gone through a tough year.

I thought I’d add one more to the mix.

It seems everyone who lives a creative lifestyle goes through these intense years. They are crucibles that shape us, but sometimes we come out misshapen. This is something that happened to me several years ago, and it took a long time to get over.

On the flip side, sometimes they shape us into something more resonant and powerful too.





Feb 16

The person behind the light.

Enzo Tedeschi

It’s a weird thing to say someone is a leading light. Quite a grandiose thing to say really – almost a declamation from on high. Still, in very specific cases, it’s true.

Enzo here is a leading light in the Australian film industry. Over the past 6-7 years, he has been one of the few producers really trying to make the business sustainable in the long run; by experimenting with different release strategies, financing models and most importantly, by producing good content. But that’s enough about what he’s doing.

Let’s talk about Enzo the person.

This business can eat you up. The nature of filmmaking is that it’s a grind. To come up with the ideas, to get the finance in place, to make the damn thing and then to get it out there. Everything is a grind. How do you it well and also have a family? How do you do it well and be a good father?
This is something we talked about today.

Enzo has 4 kids. Once, several years ago, a shoot that was very close to his house went 4 hours over. As a result, he missed his son’s 11th birthday celebration at home. He promised his son he would make it, and didn’t.

That changed something in Enzo. Never again could that happen. Yes, what he does is important; but his kids, his family? Far more important. Missing that birthday caused him to doubt himself, as a father and as a filmmaker; even though his family understood. Could he actually do this and make it sustainable? Not just financially, but personally?

People who don’t know Enzo see him as this leading light, someone who has it all worked out, knows how to make the industry work again. A monolithic character 100% certain of every day. Of course that’s not the case. To be in this lifestyle is to court self doubt and to work around it. And while he absolutely deserves leading light status, it’s good to know the person, not just the symbol.

Feb 16

Expectation vs reality and the wonderful human that is Patrick Canion.

Patrick Canion

So we all have expectations. When we meet people we’ve either heard a lot about, or do things we associate in certain ways, often it’s hard to separate our expectations from the reality of meeting that person.

Patrick here is a Financial Planner. I first met him a couple years ago, when I flew out to Perth to shoot a documentary for his company. Like what seems to be most people, I had friends and family whose experiences with so-called financial planners had been…horrendous. In some cases, so bad that it destroyed their savings and/or crippled their livelihood. Additionally, about a month before the video, the Commonwealth Bank had become embroiled in a scandal involving their in-house planners. Things got dodgy and it wasn’t pretty.

So with all this in mind, frankly, I was expecting to meet a self-interested tosspot who only cared about their commission and had the listening skills of a hyperactive squirrel on acid.

…expectation vs. reality.

Patrick was not what I expected. Anything but. A more genuine human being you won’t find, with a wide and eclectic range of interests, enabling him to find common ground with almost anyone. Someone more interested in talking about your life than theirs.

I mentioned before the expectation of bad experience. Financial Planning as a profession has some fairly major issues to work out. Patrick is one of the leading planners in Australia, a man whose integrity is beyond question. He’s trying to reform the business so that this commonplace bad expectation can dissolve. A big task, but something Patrick is eminently suited for.

When I first interviewed him for that documentary, Patrick mentioned how he wanted to be able to hold his head up high when walking through the streets of Perth. His reputation matters. How he treats people matters. And how he makes a difference to other people’s lives; this matters more than anything else.

Patrick, you were surprised when I asked to take a portrait of you. Well, here’s your answer – you matter. You’ve had impact on many, many people, including me.


Feb 16

I Don’t Matter (but actually you do)

I Don't Matter

This is an image I shot last year. I’ve put it up again because I feel it’s even more relevant now.

In the image, the girl is both pushing him away and pulling him close. He’s both dropping her and holding her up. There’s a lot of tension there. Is she trapped?

I was having coffee with an old friend of mine, Tara, who was a top model for well over a decade. We were speaking about models and fashion, and how it was such a meat grinder for women, when she made an interesting statement. The whole time she was modeling her predominant feeling was, to quote her, ‘I don’t matter’.

I don’t matter.

Tara felt that she was just a disposable object, judged only by her looks and not by who she was as a person.

That’s a horrendous sentiment and something I had to explore. And that exploration became this image, which expanded into something broader than just modeling.

There seems to be constant and now almost deafening news of blatant and violent misogyny, of rape, of domestic violence. This shouldn’t be happening, but it is. Men who feel they’ve lost their place in the world lashing out at the women they perceive as their rivals. I am a man and profoundly an equalist. I’ve never cared whether someone was male or female, just who they were. I cannot and will not sympathise with those men.

I don’t matter.

If you know that you don’t matter, do you need to be treated with respect?

The obvious answer is yes. And please don’t misconstrue any part of this as victim shaming. What I’m trying to explore is the mindset, originally through the lens of a model’s experiences.

In the end, both Tara and I wanted to create an image that would only lead to more questions, which is a good thing.

Please remember, you always matter.

Stylist: Monique Caldow
Make up artist: Kelly-Marie Waters
Assist: Veronica Wood
Retoucher: Suriya Black
Her: Mel Wasson
Him: Craig Foster

Feb 16

Bring it back bring it back baby.

After something like 3 years, I’m bringing back the blog.

Why? Because of instagram actually. I stopped it previously because I felt like there was nothing worthwhile to say. Since joining insta about 6 months ago, that sentiment has changed.

Hopefully this blog will be insightful. And sometimes quite silly. Both are needed at times.