Blog Archive

Check out some of my recent work, and my essays on Photographing The Arts!

Congratulations to The Dapto Chaser on 3 Sydney Theatre Award nominations!

I was really pleased to see that the announcement of the Sydney Theatre Awards this afternoon included The Dapto Chaser no less than three times - Best Independent Production, Glyn Nicholas for Best Direction, and Daryl Wallis for Best Score / Sound Design...

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Photographing the arts: colour balance as an artistic choice

I was working recently with actor Andre de Vanny on a promotional image for a show he's working on, Swansong, which opens tonight at the Old Fitz Theatre here in Sydney - and it got me thinking about something that isn't talked about so much in photography, the use of white balance as a creative tool, to control or alter colour in an image.

Sure, there are a number of settings on pretty much any camera bigger than your phone (and even some apps) that let you choose the 'correct' colour that best matches your situation, from daylight to tungsten or fluorescent balance. But of course, lots of times there are many sources in an image - so how do you know which is the the one true white balance for your image?

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Before & After: NIDA Summer Courses

I've been working with the good folks at Leading Hand Design on a few things recently, and here's one that has come out just recently - the NIDA Summer Courses campaign, for Australia's leading drama school, based here in Sydney.

Because the school runs courses for just about all ages over the summer holidays, we had a range of current students to work with on the day - and I have to say, if the shoot was anything to go by, the courses must be pretty good...!

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Photographing the arts: two sides to every story

Once, early in my career, someone gave me wise advice about photographing events: 'remember, there are two sides to every story. There's what's happening on stage, and then there's the audience's reaction to it.'

Naturally, not every event I work on has an audience in attendance - often, I'm at a dress rehearsal, with only the director & crew - but also, most of the time, the audience (deliberately) isn't lit! So the opportunity to make use of this suggestion isn't always there; but once in a while, the chance comes along, and it's great to be able to take it...

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Photographing the arts: whose images are they?

I've never been entirely happy about referring to what I do as 'a photo shoot'. There's something over-simplistic about it, as if photography is merely a matter of being in the right place, and pointing something (a weapon?) in the right direction, and the results are whatever comes out of the camera when it goes off. So when I saw Eleanor Catton's tweet about military metaphors a little while ago, I understood what she meant right away.

Obviously there's a lot more to photography than just pointing and shooting, but nobody's come up with a better term for it; or at least, not one that has caught on. (Eleanor suggested photographers could 'flatter', 'immortalise' or 'seduce' the subject instead of 'shooting' them, but I haven't started using those - yet!)

I've talked before about how much happens after the shoot (for lack of a better term); but of course, there's what happens after the images are delivered to the client, as well. Who ultimately owns them?

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Photographing the arts: what skills are involved?

When I was studying drama at university, I went for an interview to spend the summer at the Banff Centre For The Arts. I'd been focussing on the technical side of theatre at that point, including a bit of stage management, and thought this might be an interesting way to spend a few months between school terms.

The question was asked: did I read music? And frankly, it had never occurred to me that this might be a useful skill - our university programme was pure theatre, not even musicals, much less opera or dance; so it had never come up, and of course I didn't. So, I didn't go to Banff, and I didn't become a stage manager...

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Ride & Fourplay at the Darlinghurst Theatre Company

I've been doing a bit of work recently with the lovely folks at the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, who are based in the (amazing!) Eternity Theatre, not far from my office in Surry Hills here in Sydney.  

Their latest show, Ride & Fourplay, which opened last week, is actually two one-act plays by author Jane Bodie put together for the first time; curiously though, they feel absolutely right together...

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Lost & Found #52: Bayly's Beach, New Zealand 2006

It was already dusk when we arrived, and the sun was setting as we found the beach for the first time. Through a gap in the hills it appeared, a small river snaking its way to the sea; and it was there that the wind hit us.

I hadn't seen many beaches like this in New Zealand before; the hard surface felt more like icy snow to walk on, sometimes strong enough to support your weight, other times fragmenting underfoot...

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Photographing the arts: how do I edit my images?

In my previous essay on photographing the arts, I was talking about selecting images from a shoot; now, we're on to the conversion and correction of the files themselves, taking a RAW file and turning it into a beautiful, finished image.

RAW files are the original camera files, which contain far more image data than an in-camera .jpg, so as a result there's a lot you can do in the RAW conversion process - and, there are a lot of choices that need to be made for each image that gets worked on. Sometimes, it's possible to take settings and copy them from one image to the rest, and get consistent results that way - but that's rare in the performing arts, as the light usually changes from scene to scene, or from one part of the stage to another. Having been a lighting designer, I know how hard it is to get an even, smooth spread of light across a stage, if that's what the aim is - but often, it's not!

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Lost & Found #51: Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale California, 2011

Something a little different this week for my Lost & Found blog - I don't talk about it so often here, but when I'm not being a photographer, sometimes I'm spending my time researching a silent-era film producer / director / actor from New Zealand, by the name of Rupert Julian.

I stumbled across the story of Rupert some ten years ago (or more, come to think of it), when I was watching the 1943 Phantom of the Opera DVD with the alternate audio commentary track on - y'know, as you do. A historian by the name of Scott MacQueen was talking about the production, and just threw in as a minor aside that 'of course, the 1925 silent version of the Phantom was directed by the son of a New Zealand sheep farmer - but that's a whole 'nother story!’

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Lost & Found #50: Te Whare Runanga at Waitangi, New Zealand, 2006

Waitangi. The word is weighted with meaning, in New Zealand at least, as the treaty between the Crown and the chiefs of the many Maori tribes was signed there in 1840, or at least a number of signatures were made there; and it's also home to annual celebrations on Waitangi Day (6 Feb) each year, which are sometimes controversial, or marred by protests against the government of the time.

But it's also now a scenic reserve, open to the public most of the year; and, in 2006 on a road trip with my parents (who were visiting en route back to Canada from a trip to Australia), I drove up north from Auckland to the Bay Of Islands area to see it...

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Photographing the arts: how do I choose which images a client sees?

In all my photographic estimates, I include a short list of what happens after the actual photography takes place - it always surprises me that most people think images are finished the moment they're taken, so I want to outline how much more goes into making something better than just an in-camera .jpg.

Those are fine some of the time, don't get me wrong; but when you're working in the performing arts, most often you're working in low light, at the ragged edge of what cameras are capable of; and the images often need a little help to look their best, after the fact...

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Lost & Found #49: Aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, Canada 2014

It's a funny feeling being able to take a picture of a train, FROM the train itself; but sometimes, it happens.

Last summer I was aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, travelling from Vancouver to Calgary on some of the original tracks laid by the founders of the Canadian National Railway, and took this image out the side of our car of the front of the train heading off into the distance, and dragging us along with it...

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In Praise Of The Camera You Have, at the Kage Collective

Just wanted to briefly mention a new essay of mine over on the Kage Collective site, that went up this week - it's about some of the issues that go with upgrading or changing your camera, which I must admit I've fallen victim to many, many times over the years...! But, as always, it touches on a few other issues as well.

Also, thanks to ArtsHub here in Australia for publishing one of my Photographing The Arts series over on their site this week, too! Nice to see a few new visitors here on this site, and glad that it's resonating with people.

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