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Archives for posts with tag: David Bigwood

To some, autumn signals the beginning of the end. It’s all downhill from here. Short days leading inexorably to even shorter ones. Summer warmth and long days, are disappearing. Gloomy skies are on the horizon. Cold, wet, and even colder days to come.

William Cullen Bryant, the nineteenth century American poet, wrote, ‘The melancholy days have come, the saddest of the year’. One can almost feel him shuddering with distaste as he penned those lines.

But not all feel like Bryant. His compatriot James Whitcomb Riley exulted at the change of season when he wrote, ‘O it sets my heart a clickin’, like the tickin’ of a clock, when the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock’. And, of course, England’s John Keats welcomed the ‘Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ with something akin to open arms.

This ambivalence to the onset of autumn is common for many reasons. Sufferers of hay fever for instance are glad to see the dampening down of their pollen producing tormentors while those who suffer the excruciating itching of chilblains live in dread as the year moves on.

For landscape photographers, it is an exciting part of the year. Summer is all very well but at times our lenses get overpowered by the omnipresent greens of high summer. What a thrill it is to sight the first flaming torch that is a poplar tree in autumn.

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The raindrops from the sudden sharp summer shower splattered on the spreading and well-leafed canopy of the oak that was my welcome shelter. As I leant back against the solid trunk and idly watched the rain it struck me that I often take trees for granted. As a photographer of the landscape, this seems to be a dreadful admission.

With inactivity came the questions. Is it just because they are there? Because they are a familiar part of the scene? Because they have always been a part of our lives from playing peek-a-boo to climbing in our childhood to relaxing in their shade with a favourite partner as we grow older?

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The only concession to dawn was a lightening of the grey lowering clouds hanging above the rolling white-capped waves in the east.
I pulled up the collar of my spray jacket and, head down, set off along the beach. Here, seagulls swooped over the breaking surf then climbed and hung almost motionless as they faced into the wind while there groups of their kin stood imperturbably, feathers ruffled, upon the wet sand.

Imperturbably that is until, with a joyous rush, Mac, my bit of this and a lot of that dog, raced among them.

This walk was my early morning ritual; a chance to get the cobwebs of the night out of my brain and, hopefully, some ideas into it. As a writer, I rely upon ideas and sometimes, like this morning, they are hard to find. Mostly, I was thinking of a nice hot cup of tea and a chance to warm myself and get dry.

I stopped and turned to face the sea, watching with fascination as the jumble of waves rose before tumbling with a crash and a cloud of spray onto the sand. Mac came running back and, with careless abandon, jumped into the spume that was piling up on the edge of the water.

I turned for home. There would be no ideas out here today.

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This interview is now several years old and many things have changed but it is still worth reading as an insight into how a professional went about establishing himself. Michael’s gallery is now closed as the high rent finally persuaded him that the time had come to consider his next photographic project. He now sells his superb prints through his website at www.michaelscottlees.com.au and through many retail outlets in Jindabyne.

I met Michael Scott Lees at the Kosciuszko Mountain Retreat at Sawpit Creek, a favourite place for me to stay when in the New South Wales High Country. It seemed an appropriate place, tucked away as it is in the bush, to talk to a photographer who makes his living from selling images of the Snowy Mountains in all their moods.

Having explored our backgrounds, we got down to the serious business of discovering just how Michael had ended up with a gallery selling his fine art prints in Jindabyne.

My research had already uncovered the fact that the photography bug had bitten while Michael was in Year 10 at school — coincidentally at a school which was a close neighbour of the one where I was Publications Officer and in charge of the school Photographic Society.

It was at a time when his school was having considerable success in outside competitions thanks to the enthusiasm of the photography teacher and Michael won first prize in the portraiture section of the Sydney Morning Herald competition. As he commented, “The school made an almost clean sweep that year.”
Photography was firmly established in Michael’s life and he went off to Art College.

“At the time, I felt Art College was a bit of a waste of time,” Michael said, referring to his disappointment that it appeared that the technical aspect of photography had been subjugated to the demands of artistic creativity. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and he quickly added, “but not now”. The fact is that he now recognises that it is that very creativity and good grounding in design that has enabled him to produce the stunning images that people are prepared to buy from his well-known gallery in Jindabyne.

Once out of college with his brand new degree under his arm, Michael followed the traditional path of becoming an assistant to a professional photographer. It happened that he was a fashion photographer but that was incidental as this period enabled Michael to fill in the technical gaps that he felt he had missed at college. It also introduced him to the panoramic format in the shape of a Widelux and, as Michael puts it, “I fell in love with the format”.

Still following the traditional path, Michael then became a freelance commercial photographer with a leaning towards industrial photography. He survived for eighteen months but he failed to promote himself and by that time Africa was calling.

That continent had been a bit of a passion so it seemed as good a time as any to buy his own panoramic camera, an Art Panorama, and head off and “then come back and start again”. Michael had the idea of a coffee table book — they were all the rage then — but that didn’t see the light of day but, he commented, “I grew up a lot in Africa”.

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Success as a freelance photographer relies upon maximising our return for every minute that we invest in our business. This is true whether we are full or part-time freelances. We have to keep our cameras working so if you are ever at a loss for a subject during a wet and uninviting day, here is something that you can do at home with almost no special equipment.

You will have seen in magazines and newspapers the images that are used in such things as the financial column or on the food or computer pages. Often these images have no direct connection with the words, they are there just to draw our attention to the article and to get us to read it. They are generic images and it is these that you can shoot simply at home, the only limitation being your imagination. And, imagination is the key. You will be competing with many other photographers who have tapped into this market so innovation is as vital as technique.

The only essential items of equipment other than your camera are a tripod and, if one can be fitted to your camera, a cable release and, if you don’t have a macro lens, a set of extension tubes. You don’t even need special lighting or flash unless you are shooting at night. I usually get by with just window light and an occasional reflector — generally a piece of white card or aluminium foil. Keeping it simple is my philosophy.

While innovation is vital, if you have not been involved in shooting very close ups, experiment with some simple ideas to begin with so that when you do come to shoot your innovative set ups you don’t have to think about your technique and can concentrate on getting your pre-visualised ideas on to film or sensor.

What you are looking for as generic images are items that can be photographed so as to be recognisable without showing all their detail. With things like books, this can simply mean shooting so that their titles are not visible but with other items it may be necessary to have just a part of the subject sharply in focus. For instance if you want to show that it is a camera without showing its make, use a large aperture to reduce depth of field and focus on the shutter button or the side of the lens or anywhere where the name of the manufacturer doesn’t appear or can be thrown so out of focus that it is illegible. Or you can do the same with a credit card without giving away important details such as its number. Grab a pen and some paper and start listing your ideas for generic images. In quick time you will probably have up to twenty written down.

Generic images may not be the most exciting of pictures to shoot but they can be one way of keeping your camera active and earning its keep on days that are not conducive to much other photography. They can be one way of maximising our return from our freelance business.

To see my e-books on photography, go to http://tinyurl.com/ofbqeeg

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When I began making pictures of the landscape, it was always the big picture that figured and I suppose it’s the same for most of us. It was a case of a few exposures and then move on to the next grand view.

Then came the day when I ‘needed’ to make some pictures — photographers will know what I mean — and the weather was against me. Uniformly grey cloud and lousy light are no recipe for great landscape shots.

With the itch in my shutter finger unsatisfied, I had to find a subject so I began casting around the area and, what do you know, there were dozens of them. Of course there were for those who have eyes to see. The big picture is made up of thousands, maybe millions of smaller pictures and this is what I had been missing.

I have used film and digital to produce my micro-landscape pictures but what you use is immaterial. It is the result that counts and that result will come from your ability to see the picture in the first place and then from your technical know-how which will enable you to make the image.

The picture with this post was shot on my Olympus digital DSLR and shows the sort of image that can be found at any time but is especially valuable when the light is just not right for landscape photography.

Keep your eyes open but don’t just look, see!

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Excuse me while I wallow in a little nostalgia. I may spend my Christmases in summer now but that was not always the case. Thank goodness for photography which helps keep memories alive and fresh.

As we wind down with the end of the year approaching fast — where has the year gone? — it is appropriate, indeed necessary, that we review our performance over the last twelve months and decide what our goals are for 2015.

My goals are not yet set. There are too many things to be considered in light of what has happened this year before I can make a sensible goal for next. The only goal I can set at the moment is that by the middle of January I have to have my 2015 goals settled.

I suspect that I am not alone in my quandary and that many of you will be joining me in using this holiday season to do some serious thinking.

I wish you well and remind you that whatever goal you set, it needs to be realistic and measurable. And actual performance needs to be checked against the goal regularly so that adjustments can be made if necessary.

Stormy day. Long Bay, Sydney, NSW, Australia

I have mentioned previously in this blog my love for black and white photography and recently I was asked to show some more of my monochrome images. This picture was made during a very stormy afternoon at Long Bay in Malabar in Sydney. I shot it between heavy showers that had me running back and forward to my car for shelter.

It is available as a print made using archival materials. To get details of print sizes and prices, e-mail info@bigwoodpublishing.com with “Details please” in subject line and country to be delivered to in body of e-mail.

Perseverance and confidence are two of the attributes that freelances need but there is another that we all need in abundance if we are to survive this precarious existence that is freelancing. And that is enthusiasm.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson, the nineteenth century American author, poet and philosopher who said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” and that is a quote that is stuck to my office wall. When rejection after rejection of what we consider our best work is turning up day after day, the temptation to quit can rise and threaten to overwhelm us but, if we are truly enthusiastic about being a freelance, we will lift our drooping heads and start preparing the next submission. That is how a freelance succeeds.

Winston Churchill put it rather well when he said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” And, of all people, he should have known.

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