CULTURALLY HOW ARE WE BEING EDUCATED?

One of the highlights of the Adelaide trip was having the opportunity to meet up with Eddie Peters in Mitchell Park through a mutual friend Colleen-Ara Palka Raven Strangways. Immediately it became obvious that my jaw was going to hurt for the rest of the evening as Eddie continued to bring me to tears in laughter. After dinner we spent the night looking over maps of Eddies homeland the Torres Strait. The stories of growing up on Thursday Island, learning the jobs that each island carried out as part of a wider community and being educated on sacred objects such as the bow and arrow, ceremonial drums and head dress meanings all drew me in to a culture I had previously never been exposed to. Which brought me to my questioning of the system.

Culturally how are we being educated?


A big part of this journey has been the re-education of myself coming from a standard Australian school learning nothing about Aboriginal history let alone knowing of the existence of the Torres Straight people, their identity and culture. Five years ago I was unaware of what the flag meant. Totally shameful to admit to this but it’s the truth.

We blindly swore elegance to the Queen not really understanding how they had come to this country, the violent colonisation techniques employed and the influx of brutality that followed we just had to make sure our uniforms were up to code to avoid retribution.

Eddie’s cheerful demeanour sets you at ease and the caring and non judgemental attitude exudes from every pour of his body, exemplifying an honest love for country and people, quite the opposite of the treatment that a lot of Indigenous people deal with on a day to day basis.

MOMENTS IN TIME WITH EILEEN WANI WINGFIELD

Recently on my voyage back from Adelaide I was invited by Esther Seery to spend an hour with her family to document through portraiture author, Elder and activist Eileen Wani Wingfield and her three sisters at their home in Port Augusta. The portraits had to be fast as I didn’t want to interrupt the ladies tv show and I also had to get back on the road before the kangaroos and bullocks decided to come out from their slumber.

This experience showed me my clear progression in creating connection and listening to peoples stories and history whilst interacting and capturing moments in time.

The importance of these types of encounters are never lost on me and it is with the upmost respect that I create these images. This opportunity won’t come along again and I am painfully aware of the reverence of being invited to sit with these strong woman who have helped shape Australia in a much better way showing me that amongst all of the negativity of the media and government there are still people willing to put themselves out there to exact change.

In 1995 Eileen led a successfuly campaign to halt the building of a nuclear wate dump at Woomera alongside many other strong elders of the time and was jointly awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2003.

'It's from our grandmothers and our grandfathers that we've learned about the land. This learning isn't written on paper as the whitefellas knowledge is. We carry it in our heads and we're talking from our hearts, for the land.'

A DAY WITH THE YOUNGS

Monday the 30th of June I spent the day with the Young family at their home in Adelaide listening to their stories from growing up in a care free Pipalyatjara riding motor bikes, hunting and living in society with a youthful sense of nativity unaware of the disenfranchisement and the enforcement of living within a white system.

This story triggered past memories of loss and grief and for a second I could hear my heartbeat within my head and a sensory presence of heat surrounding my temples and ears.

{READ MORE}

MORE DOCUMENTARIES ON THE WAY

Editing begins on the Centacare 2014 Healing and Leadership Camp documentary. The footage from this documentary will also be used in an upcoming story on the ABC's 7:30 program.

Listening back to the interview transcripts I am accutely aware of the progression of my interviewing style and depth growing as well the mental freedom to try new things whilst filming and also in post.

Was a great time away and I learnt a lot about the issues facing young men and adults around Australia.

Work continues on 'Family of Children' the short documentary about Mona Olssen's story regarding the Stolen Generation and it's impact on the unwilling participants of this government policy.

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

Heading into Port Augusta on Friday night for two days of shooting around the place then heading off Monday to the 2014 Healing Camp in the Flinders to create a documentary.

This will also be the first trip for the new Merlin 2 Steadicam system so should be an interesting time of human connection and technological advancement.

The review of achievement is soon approaching as I take a look back at the last three months of activity here in the north and evaluate what is working and what is not. Interested to see what outcomes this produces as currently feeling really unsettled.

Adelaide is back on the cards for next month as well for 2 weeks so again will be interesting to see how the culture shock affects me.

UTOPIA HEADING NORTH

John Pilger’s Utopia is headed up to Coober Pedy care of Sue Gilbey in the form of two dvd’s that will be used to screen from Coober Pedy and into the APY Lands.

The first screening is being held after the Easter break when all of the service providers return to work. Will be interesting to have all of the service providers in one room as well as having the screening and subsequent discussion around the issue of Aboriginal health.

The next screening is planned for the Aboriginal Community in the old gym which will be a big night of food and music.

Still trying to work out my funds for running all of this but i'm sure it will all come together.

More on this as it develops in the next two months.


I value honest on the ground reporting and being informed as highly as I do productivity and creativity.

Feeling really heavy after this documentary as the gravity of John Pilger's The Secret Country and Utopia still rest within my soul and follows me as a welcomed shadow.






THE RETIREMENT OF THE TJILPI PAMPA TJUTAKU FESTIVAL

Wrenching myself out from the subconscious and actively engaging people on their terms is a massive shift for me and i’m still coming to terms with being surrounded by large groups of people 24 hours a day.

This was a last minute opportunity to jump in with the passing 4WD’s once again into the heart land of the APY Lands 600km north of Coober Pedy. The unplanned nature of this trip led straight into road blocks within the festivals media constraints meaning that I wouldn’t be able to capture any of the festival action and would have to manufacture a quick work around. This came in the form of short to medium length bush trips taking people out onto their land and homelands for stories and quick setup shoots.

Dealing with clients from Aged Care restricts you in many ways. The site had to be easily accessible by walking and couldn’t be a very long distance. The lighting and composition had to be pre light to avoid lengthy time in the midday sun as well as keep the attention of the subject. This for me was all a massive learning curve and one to which I quickly adjusted my techniques to.

That said without consciously predetermining to achieve it I was quickly mixing a variety of challenging techniques together including selective lighting combined with the brenizer technique something that i’ve never tried to achieve before let alone in a one shot one kill scenario. I think the gravity of the situation compelled me to pull out every stop.

The subjects of these images might not be walking next week, may never get a chance to return to their lands all of this weighs heavily on my mind as I quickly prepare an on the fly lighting plan.

The purpose of the festival was to bring elders from all over the lands together to celebrate culture and tradition through art, basket weaving, dance (Inma), yarning, food and song. Every community was represented which gave elders and family members an opportunity to catch up over some amazing food that was prepared by the NPY Womans Council.

My contact from Amata, Reuben Burton, was also there with his family and his daughter featured in the dancing and even remembered my name which made me smile.

The atmosphere and activities were all amazing and I was disappointed not to be able to capture this due to media restrictions and yet this ultimately forced me into participating within the festival including the children’s choir, walking between camps to meet elders from different communities, learning about the land and culture and yarning around the fire (waru).

Around the fire we met Alan a stockman from Amata who taught us language and shared many stories into the early hours of the morning as the coals simmered away. Alan also taught me a new word Woompa which translates to ‘I don’t understand’ which I can definitely find a use for as I strained to process and understand the stories, English being his third language.

I gave Alan my card to stay in contact as he offered to take us to his homeland David Well to camp and learn the land (munda), culture and language over a week.
















KEEPING YOUR INSTINCT STRONG - COOBER PEDY KARATE CLUB

I find the mental challenge of photography just as challenging if not more than the technical aspects. To keep the mind sharp and my techniques strong I often collaborate with people who are passionate about their vocation or hobby. Placing your creative stamp are crucial keys within any project.

Another key to keeping the instinct strong is fighting against impossible elements and trialling new techniques for future development. Often time there are failings within this but ultimately this is the only way to flesh out processes and build upon technology and inherent methodology.



In this region of the outback there is often little or no cloud and the sun is often flat and harsh and requires a lot of wattage to overcome.

This requires adjustments to standard indoor or overcast conditions that are prevalent in studios and neighbouring environments including:

- only using the inner baffle on modifiers
- keeping the f-stop between f4 and f9
- placing rim lighting quite close to subjects and focusing
- working with white uniforms in the midday sun using a variable 1 - 9 ND filter
- keeping a very close eye on white balance and off camera flash temperatures
- sometimes the use of a telephoto or medium telephoto is out of the question

There isn’t a book or an online video that can teach you how to react to situations with a strong instinct when things go wrong or a piece of equipment doesn’t perform the way it is supposed to and a fix is needed often on the fly and always with a client hovering directly over your shoulder.

The acknowledgement of this internal mental skill comes from my background in audio engineering where every problems has an original and signal path is king. This translates into photography with light replacing the audio signal. The camera works as mixing desk, the modifiers as plugins, the subjects and light power rating as the signal source.

If you’re afraid of a situation or a technique and have had failings in the past I would encourage you to focus on this rather than your tried and true methods so that when the situation / technique arises again you can jump into it with full confidence knowing that you’ve done your homework.




FROM COOBER PEDY INTO INTO THE APY LANDS

Since mid last year I have had a burning desire to get up into the lands and speak with the communities about what life is like encompassing the challenges of living so remotely and the rewards of beings close to country and the spirit of the land.

Being based in Coober Pedy this is ultimately made a lot easier shaving 1000km’s from the journey. The initial meeting time was 4pm to 5pm on the Friday in the town of Marla (243km). After 4 hours of waiting it became apparent that my contact wasn’t going to show.



The decision to head back to the studio had to be made however travelling in this area after dark presents a series of road hazard challenges such as wandering bullocks, kangaroos and emus so I ended up ghosting a three trailer road train for the entire journey making it safely back at around 11pm.



Wasn’t such a bad drive I have purposely left early so I could stop along the way and capture anything that caught my attention. This is a practice that I have found really mentally freeing as well as giving me time to stop and enjoy the country whilst still being on time for meetings and production shoots. I do feel for the truck drivers that flew past the shoot of the bloated cow.





Early start leaving Coober Pedy once again Saturday morning to head back to Marla for a second attempt at meeting up with my contact. Have to admit it was a strange experience being tired and sore without really even shooting a frame it’s a similar feeling I have after my assisting work.



This time my contact, Rueben Burton, did show up and quickly explained that a cable had been cut somewhere in the lands leaving the entire APY without phones, internet, banking, food or fuel. This obviously caused some communication and logistical challenges. We drove for 4 hours into the lands passing communities along the way including Indulkana, Mimili, Freegon and finally Amata.





This trip was filled with firsts including wild donkeys, camels and boars walking the streets looking for vulnerable bins.



The sun sets as we reach the great mountains of the APY lands and pull into Amata to load in the equipment and hit sleep.

The purpose of the trip was to meet with different heads of department and make them aware of the services that I would be providing in northern Australia so that if something came up in the lands they would at least have my skillset on paper and a business card in hand to give me a call. The next port of call was the community shop which was an eye opener with a common coles cake fetching $68 and tail rounding out at $30 each. I could completely appreciate the struggles and challenges of the people living so remotely and paying such high prices for everything ranging from food, limited clothing and diesel sitting at $2.20 a litre.



Test fire for the profoto acute 2b head.


Nikon d800 ISO 160 85mm f8 1/250 @ the home land (happy valley)

I would have to say the most disconcerting part of the stay would have been the 24 hour church service that is broadcasted through out the town at quite an impressive sound pressure level. Think it was the duration of the broadcast coupled with the yelling and signal distortion.

Will be back for sure it's just a matter of time. Big thanks to Rueben and his family for taking me into their lives even if for three days.





The portrait of Avril will be showing at the Royal Society of ArtsCharacters of the Fleurieu’ on May 24th.

HOW TO MAKE A PORTRAIT OF A PORTRAIT ARTIST (AVRIL THOMAS)

Collaborating with new people that you’ve never met before can often be a very rewarding and surprising experience. For the past three years I have been randomly connecting with people in all different manner of art forms or creative expressions to sit down with them over a coffee and then to document their day to day existence.

The most recent collaboration was with tonal realist portrait artist Avril Thomas who to be completely honest I had no idea of at the time so when we spoke on the phone I didn’t register the surprise in her voice when I suggested taking her portrait in her studio at Hope Forest in Meadows. It’s quite comical now that I think about it but at the time I felt a strong reverence in preserving the light and ambience of the room all the while capturing a natural unposed portrait.

After a very freshly made coffee Avril then took me on a complete guided tour of Magpie Springs a multi faceted establishment boasting a winery, coffee lab, livestock, rock climbing wall and the fully functioning on site art gallery. I was really impressed with the amount of diversity within the property and the love that had clearly been poured into every element.

Avril is determined to facilitate other artists within the walls of the art gallery hosting regular openings for various artists including a current exhibition by Rita Hall which runs until May 4th.

Proceeding this showing is the Magpie Springs Photographic Competition which is curated by Avril and opens on May 11th which I took an image for during the visit using some dam water.





DIRTY LAUNDRY

Preparing for tonights video shoot with an inverse clothesline of dirty laundry. Bogman suit no.2 has been soaked for 24 hours in a mixture of dirt, honey, leaves and figs and then hung in the midday sun for quick bonding of the linen to invested materials.

Watching the Anne Leibovitz 1993 documentary pushes me to a realisation of the origins of where this suit comes from. 

In Port Augusta we used to play as children, deep into the night amongst the marshlands often neck deep in pure mud chartering our way to small patches of grasslands and islands as we called them of partially solid ground.



 

UTOPIA, THE CALL TO RISE

Have just returned from the Adelaide premier screening of John Pilgner’s 'Utopia' with good friend Nicola Gage from the ABC.

I would have expected a few walk outs in the opening 5 minutes as John delivers hard hitting and disturbing images of Northern Territory Aboriginal males being treated appallingly and in a mocking fashion whilst in ‘protective custody’ but thankfully this was not the case.

The film hits home many issues and is quite long trying to bridge across many different issues each as complex as the next however Pilgner’s charismatic style and smooth voice tends to add a certain element of sustain and increases the tempo in a kind of alegro spurt, almost like a car stuck in first gear at times.

I can feel his rage and indignation and his underlying tones of contempt for the invaders coupled with the immense ignorance of the general public to any of the issues that he clearly cares so much about.

The film covers the unjust intervention, the great war, health standards. living conditions, Aboriginal suicide, the gap between tourism Australia and the health of the Indigenous population, the cut to services and army intervention with regards to the mining investment and interest in central and northern Australia, the stolen generation and it’s re-accuring existence of Child Services intervention in 2013 and the governments clear declaration of works via statements and it’s long history of failure to act and the end result of such non action.

On a personal note I was shocked and astounded by a few things in relation to the film’s delivery and my own perception. In the Q&A after the movie Sue Gilby called up the documentation of the actions of the Federal Government as UN black listed human rights violations and stated that Australia is the only country not to have a treaty with it’s Indigenous first nation population.

There was a clear communication of many facts that really just aren't shown in the media or readily available sources such as the history behind Rottness Island. Having dinner after the movie we googled Rottness Island to find articles relating to the prisoners of war style treatment that occured to only find BIKE HIRE / SCENIC FLIGHTS / ACCOMMODATION etc etc

The theatre was drowned in emotion especially when the stolen generation component of the film spoke about the wailing mothers and the loss that has been passed down through each generation and the effect that this has had.

The delivery and editing of the film is quite one sided and a lot of interviewees get a solid grilling, including Warren Snowden, but I think that this is what is needed to punch a hole in the consciousness of the ignorant public who don’t see these issue pop up in their newspaper or mass media it often takes the left wing, outspoken radicals to bring this to the fore which is ultimately sad and and a cultural injustice.

I have not felt such anger in many years and the uphill struggle and injustice of this plight. This is the responsibility of all Australians.



WILL NOT LET THE ENGINE STALL

Momentum is such a crucial element to me and often times I find it hard to slow down but when there isn’t a whole lot of choice in the matter it often appears that nothing is happening and the daylight is just slipping away as wasted energy slowly creeping downhill.

I’ve been treading water for around three months now waiting to complete the move up north and it feels like Christmas with the leave date slowly approaching. Only a few tasks to complete and we’ll be on the open road. A lot of exciting opportunities are already coming in and it doesn’t look like i’ll have time to tie the laces on my boots but always happy to active.

Pretty keen to not be living such a disjointed existence and get settled and started on this years projects.



COOKING WITH CONFIDENCE

Spent the day filming with local chef and author Grace Love in the Bliss Organic Cafe garden for the upcoming release of her book 'Confident Cooking - A Blissful Guide To Vegan Cooking Without Recipes.

Always a pleasure working with Grace and I never leave hungry no matter how many excuses I can think of. The three months we spent together creating the images for this book were the healthiest and happiest of 2013.

Make sure to check the book out and follow it's release progress below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNPxN-LRtBc
http://www.pozible.com/project/178330




EARLY BEGINNINGS OF 2014 PROJECTS

As part of the planned projects for 2014 I went and visited Mona Olssen at her home in Pooraka. This project will involve filming all across South Australia covering the many facets to Mona’s 82 year life.

From Pooraka we travelled to the Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park to visit the 'Fountain of Tears' and the 'Grieving Mother'.

This was a deeply emotional tme for Mona as she took me through her forced journey from her homelands and recollected memories shared with her family.

Excerpt from New Times 2008

Saying sorry doesn’t mean much unless we can leave that part of our history behind, having addressed it, and go forward in forgiveness, healing, restoration and partnership with the rest of Australia".

The Government’s apology is a momentous occasion but it should not be simply thought of as a one-day event. We look forward to the Federal Government acting on its commitments to Aboriginal people".

"More than ten years ago, Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released the ‘Bringing them home’ report. It contained 54 recommendations, one of which called for official apologies from Australian Parliaments and ‘appropriate reparation’.


THE LAB KICKS INTO FULL GEAR

Late night collaboration using food colouring, candles, dirt and water with Marcus Munro at his really peaceful beach house over looking the water.

Was a really fun night and great to hang out and any excuse to play with motion and lights is a good one.


ON THE ROAD AGAIN - COOBER PEDY BOUND

The studio shift is almost half way complete didn’t envision the move being so arduous but will be worth every last drop of sweat when complete. The 2013 look book is still floating around central Australia and is a pretty efficient envoy with a host of emails and leads coming in from northern Australia with new projects and concepts for this year.

It’s a completely strange and surreal experience being half in one city and half in another not exactly sure how to process apart from putting my head down and pushing harder every day.

The next two months are being dedicated not only to the move but also to ironing out some issues with the Pocket Wizard transmitters as well as the profoto’s intermittent power output.

STEPPING OUT OF THE FRAME

This is the first venture into building a staged character rather than being the subject. This subject was made from weeds, veterinarian gauss, birds of paradise stems, rope, circular dome diffuser and a hessian bag.

Was a lot easier throwing water around and also framing the camera in place and after trying this on my person I got really sick i’m not sure what it was but it took five days to get back into creating so not sure about rediscovering this.

More experiments to follow once the new studio is complete in March 2014.



NEW TECHNIQUES DISCOVERED = MORE GEAR REQUIRED

A lot of people tell me that people buy more gear in an effort to make themselves into better photographers or artists. My desire or decision to purchase more equipment is based on new techniques that are created through trial and error.

In this case todays art session has revealed the need for a dedicated macro lens. There are so many amazing different combinations that can be created.

In the next few months I will be researching macro lenses especially the Carl Zeiss range as well as finding round sections of timber that can be used instead of subjects to capture more stable results as well as utilize tethering.

images are now in the compositions works gallery

CULTURAL WARMING

A really good friend of mine asked me to do a work relating to hope and it’s had me thinking ever since about our notion of the future, our perceived sense of control and our limited input into a lot of things that occur on a global scale.

My search for inspiring stories to spark something, externally to begin with, as a trial into this proved rather counter productive. Unfortunately I stumbled across this iView reality show ‘Meet the Natives USA’ that instantly made me taste stomach bile.

This combined with the self absorbed documentary series ‘Before they Pass Away’ by Jimmy Nelson sparked a reactionary image containing the contempt and disgust with these publications and they overall delivery that I was feeling.

larger image can be found within the compositions gallery.

 

 




UMOONA AGED CARE PHOTOGRAPHIC MENTORING COMMISSION

Youth from across SA joined us at the 2013 Mentoring Camp at Ten Mile Creek a Traditional Bush Camp in Coober Pedy.  The camp allowed the Elders to share their knowledge, wisdom and skills while teaching the Traditions of Respect’ UACAC

Fast and furious was the pace of locations and events at the Mentoring Commission which really stretched my illustrative style into a hybrid bridging into the editorial.

Over fours and multiple locations, some as far as 250kms away, five hundreds frames were fired with an end result of 295 great shots. To put this into perspective I usually take maybe 3 images in a day.

This was a real opportunity to connect with a broad spectrum of the Aboriginal culture from the young, middle age and the Elders of Coober Pedy and the surrounding regions.

Activities on the trip included INMA the traditional dance of the ladies and men in traditional paints and movement, kangaroo & goanna preparation and cooking, yarning around the fire, bush trips to selected sites of cultural importance, music stick and boomerang creation and the passing of knowledge, dreaming and tradition.

None of this was passed over or taken for granted I felt extremely humbled to be even on the trip and every moment was another lesson in how you aren’t your car or your apartment or your oversized plasma television.

I would say the highlight of the experience would have been eating tail, which I have done many times, however not cooked to this standard and also drinking the warm kangaroo (malu) blood amongst the elders and mentored young people.


SHARING THE OLD WAYS WITH THE NEW

The gear has been checked and double checked in the lead up to tomorrows load out. This trip sees a four day stay in swags out at the 10 Mile Camp a place usually off limits to the general public. I'm most excited about seeing places that most wouldn't have the opportunity to and to hear all of the stories whilst getting involved within the culture from the elders of this region and surrounding regions.

Feel a lot more confident now with the addition of a replacement profoto LiFe battery and a solid profoto 2A charger capable of charging a completely flat battery in under 2.5 hours. My time in this region teaches me a lot of things about how to interact with others, how to spot an activity of interest to document as well as adjusting to the environment and predicting how it will react to large modifiers, studio lighting and hypersync.

It's amazing how a loss of cell phone coverage and ever expanding horizon can settle the mind and relax the spirit.

IDENTITY SERIES

An idea is a linear process from which other ideas are born. Without the rural encounters I could never have dreamed up a concept like the Identity Series. From this initial concept new ideas have been created and adventurous endeavours sought out to push and stretch the fabric of perception and technical normality and expectation.

Filing has begun and initial images will start to form up over the coming month.

 

AN INSIGHT INTO IDENTITY

As part of NAIDOC 2013 UTHSAC commissioned illustrative artist Dave Laslett to travel up from Adelaide to create a series of set portraits at the newly opened Drug & Alcohol Centre on Hutchinson St, Coober Pedy.

These portraits brought a buzz and a sense of fun and adventure to the grounds of the centre with fifty prints made on the day which were subsequently framed and distributed to the participants, filling a large gap of absent photographic documentation of the people of Coober Pedy. The purpose of these portraits is to embody the identity of the people and act as a mirror.

The joy witnessed was palpable as subjects and family members crowded around the back of the camera to see the end result.

The process also gave Dave and his team a chance to engage with the people and hear their stories and where they are at with their lives, struggles and joys.

' I've been up to Coober Pedy a few times however this was one of the most special trips with access to a wide range of people with all different types of stories and histories'.

The second stage of this commission was street missions which consisted of Dave Laslett walking the streets with a 1.7m octabank and assistant into the streets of Coober Pedy.

These encounters show a mixed variety of the Coober Pedy society without a sense of discrimination as the camera reflects the story of the subject(s) at this particular moment in time. There is no staging or make up artists this is an honest, raw, bare bones representation. Importantly these street portraits utilise the surrounding environment and encapsulate the people in their natural environments which is a key to the process of creating a sense of vulnerability and honesty between the photographer and the subject.

'The juxtapose of intense high fashion lighting contrasting with the presence of honesty and lack of subject posing is paramount to the effectiveness of these works. I was surprised on the first day how apparent this was'.

Article supplied by Umoona Tjutagku Health Service Aboriginal Corporation.


 

SAMMY BROWN - THE UMOONA BOY



Sammy Brown was born in the Umoona Reserve and has travelled around Australia but still lives and loves his home in Coober Pedy South Australia.

This short movie was directed by Sammy as he tells his story not through words but a meandering walk through his old stomping grounds now littered with investigation holes left from the settlers infectious lust for opal.

Filmed in a few hours in and around Coober Pedy, Sammy directed the locations, panning and yelled cut with a swing of his arm which brought a smile to my face everytime. Dropping round to give Sammy the rendered DVD this morning so he can show his friends and family he seems pretty excited to show his work off.

 

THE ROAD HEATS UP

It's been a pretty full on last three days and a challenge to retain some version of sanity filming in 37 degree heat with not a single cloud in the sky. The challenge has been a fortifying time with some moments of inspiration.

Took some of the framed prints from the last trip up to Oodnadatta to give to the subjects which was a great feeling to see their eyes light up seeing themselves in print some for the first time.

The wind continues to hamper the use of the 107cm octa or the "Mary Poppins" as it has been nicknamed and the pace of locations and time limit of a subjects attention span challenge my technique and drive me onwards to work harder and faster.

 

SHORT VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH CURATOR KAT COPPOCK

Filmed just as I had returned from a rural trip speaking about the associated pressures of being a male in society and the way that the perceived normality and majority of civilisation affects the way we live and ultimately how we express who we are. Details found here

 
 

DON'T CHASE A DREAM

Lessons are always learned and i'm always learning them. I used to chase commercial success and buy a whole swag of useless "things" that I really didn't need. From simplifying this and removing the trail of purchases i'm again learning all new lessons and remembering what is truly important to the creative process and the mind space of an artist.

Don't chase quality

I have a large archive of low res jpgs captured from around the internet and they always remind me that high resolution and quality high gloss images are not always conducive to the creative process. More often than not you need to get into the trenches in the mud co-existing with the rats and bugs to create from the dark depths a work that is truly worth noticing.

 

PORT WILLUNGA VISIT

Fellow photographer Denis Smith celebrated one million views on flickr last night with a light painting display for the captive audience of thirty light painting enthusiasts at Pt Willunga Jetty. At a staggering seven degrees and in the biting wind and the rain Denis set about creating his homage in the shallows of the rolling sea.



Following the light painting we promptly retreated to the hill side caves to gather around the fire and catch up. Was really peaceful in the cave and also gave me an insight into what it's going to be like always smelling of campfire as I prepare for 7 days out on the Oodnadatta track under the outback stars once again.


Didn't have any other lens than the 85mm so went with the Brenizer Technique to capture this image within a tight space.

 

IDENTITY SERIES

I'm planning a new series for 2014 and am currently looking for subjects. The idea is to create human faces that don't currently exist using parts from a multitude of people. If you're interested in a being a part of this process please email art@davelaslett.com with your contact details so I can organise a common day where everyone can get together in the studio.

 
 

MESSING WITH A $9 MACRO RING ADAPTER

As things slow down and the year draws to a close it's a great time to get back into the swing of experimentation and try some new techniques. I purchased this macro ring adapter on ebay for $9 three years ago and have only played with it a few times with some really interesting results.

It always astounds me what the camera picks up that isn't possible by the human eye and the change of perspective that such a close up system produces. Pre meditation is taken out of the picture and shoot and play is encouraged and facilitated. I think what I also like about this style is that it's not serious in any form and the lightness allows me to relax out of the focus driven light obsessed shooter and give control over to random chaos even just for a day. It's definitely liberating.

View gallery here more images to come i'm sure.

 
 

SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME

Sometimes a concept dreamt up in a studio works a little differently on the ground. Recently we headed out to St Kilda at low tide to walk out into the ocean floor to get close to bird life. My scouting and reference images all made it look like an fairly easy task but on the day proved to be quite a challenge. It's four days since the shoot and my legs are still sore from trudging through the sludgy sediment. As always the results out way the strained body and exhausted mental capacity.

The second location was a much safer setup and again it was different to my scouting and reference images. We headed up to a nature reserve up in Aberfoyle Park and i've been there over five times and never really seen many people but as soon as the octa went up there seemed to be people everywhere. Loosing light at a rapid rate we decided to get on with it anyway pushing through beagle attacks and curious onlookers.

This is the first project that has limited my illustrative lighting techniques through logistics and physical restraints. Hopefully the results work out so far i've only imported the images and had a quick skim will be an interesting week of building the works destined for this show here.

Side note don't buy an Elinchrom Quadra they misfire a lot and the 400 watts is dismal compared to the profoto acute 2b and the quality of light is very second rate in comparison. Very glad I chose profoto not so glad it's in a tech shop in Sydney at the moment.

 
 

TIMING IS EVERYTHING AT 2AM

Pulled over at 2am to stretch my legs and try and wake up for the 900km journey when the ground began to rumble. It's hard to explain the size of an actual fully loaded road train. One thing i'll be looking to capture on the next trip is backlit dust was looking for it everyday and even went out into the mining districts but to no avail.


28mm ISO 100 F11 10sec exposure

 

REAL VS IDEAL EXHIBITION

I'm always up for a challenge and occasionally up for collaboration so the latest project Real VS Ideal sort of met me in the middle. Over the next week i'll be planning a two part shoot based on an average persons conception of his male identity and employing it within two images to be exhibited as part of a group show with 5 other photographers at The Mill on Angas St in Adelaide. The exhibition opneing night is Friday 6th of September.

Unfortunately I won't be able to attend opening night as i'll be heading up a crew for the four day bike ride from Oodnadatta to Coober Pedy to document the latest program addressing depression, substance misuse and mental health in the area. This will be my sixth trip into the northern deserts of South Australia and one that may cement my decision to move up into the forest on a semi permanent basis.

In other news the Pocket Wizard hyper sync system has been installed into the equipment bank and configured with successful results up to 1/4000 with more testing planned for the next 28 days. Presently this brings my trigger system up to a Nikon SU800 (IR) a Profoto AIR (UF) and the industry standard Pocket Wizard TTI & TT5 with Hyper Sync. I've had some difficulty with the Profoto Acute 2B 600 Air but hopefully this will be ironed out shortly.

Planning for the Port Pirie, Coober Pedy & Oodnadatta Streets exhibition is in full swing but I think I still need another streets visit to get the images that I want for it. Logistics are fun to plan out though so I'll keep making notes to make this event truly rememberable.

 

streets of coober project

STREETS OF COOBER PROJECT - UPDATE

It's been three months since my last visit to Coober Pedy and it's great to be back.

Having the time and space to explore and create as well help out the local community through images and conversation. Have found it hard connecting with people on a lot of trips from the splice of hermit style input device creation but this trip has opened me up a lot in terms of just having a laugh with people and hearing their stories and not being so concerned with producing work. The challenge of the new equipment has also greatly helped to spark my brain into over drive.

The other thing that has been great is being setup in a caravan with just a bed and my camera. Having had much time to explore but hoping the weekend will open up some more opportunities to. It's funny how the cold drives people in doors at a time when all of the millions of flies have done the same. The best time to be out is when the flies are in bed!

The best part of this trip by far is getting funding, support and access to subjects from UTHSAC the health organisation that has commissioned me to travel up here and take all of these portraits and some of these portraits are images that can never again be replicated they are truly a once off and with this comes the immense pressure of "getting that shot" in some really challenging conditions.

 

RESEARCH LEADS TO RESULTS

I've leant a lot this week through experimentation and research.

For this latest trip up north i'm going to be running a 600 watt profoto head into the Deep 70cm and 170cm elinchrom octabanks triggering the SB900's in optical slave mode as 5 rim lights.

This will be an interesting journey with the profoto AIR triggering systems allowing me a non line of site 200m range previously unheard of with the Nikon SU-800. The only down side is manually configuring the flash power instead of having a universal controller although I intend to rectify this when I return with the Pocket Wizard Plus III Hyper Sync hardware / software combination.

Pretty excited to see what all of this extra power and range means for my ideas and work.

 

 

CAUSE & EFFECT

Spent the afternoon trying to recreate an iphone image with my Nikon d800 only to get distracted as usual by water and movement. I'm ok with each device creating a different result I suppose i'm chasing control and mastery by recreating the iphone 35mm lens and desctructive editing file formats and software.

Images have been added to the HIDDEN LANDS gallery

 

EXPERIMENTATION RAISES MORE QUESTIONS

Not being a very technical being and utilising the technique of trial & error i'm often not aware of the limitations of the equipment that i'm using. So far i've had a free run with the SB900's and SU-800 firing at whatever synch speed I desire. Looking to the future i'm endeavouring to integrate studio heads with power packs to overpower the sun in the desert with a full 1600 watts of power modified through the 1.7m Elinchrom octabank.

ISSUE #1 FIRING
At the moment the kind people at B&H are giving away an AC3 with any purchase of the Pocket Wizard (US residents only). The AC3 is a radio triggered version of the Nikon SU-800 but with different stop increments. The compromise is that this system with fire without line of site for up to 100m and will also integrate with some mobile studio heads such as Boncolor and Profoto. The SB900's would then become rim lights fired by a split Pocket Wizard in group C.

ISSUE #2 SYNCH SPEEDS
The SB900 in high FP mode will synch nicely at crazy speeds allowing me to freeze motion even with the presence of ambient light to a point. I often utilise this to underexpose scenes and limit the throw of the light through high shutter speeds and modifiers. Through testing the Elinchrom 500 series the fastest speed I could synch at was 1/300. These lights fire in a slave mode from the SB900's firing.

ISSUE #3 NO CONTROL
The only issue is that the Elinchrom 500's set off the SB900's even when their respective channel was turned off and even with the IR sensors covered. This meant that the SB900's were all firing at full power removing the ability to control or shape the light in any form.

To me this all seems like quite a setback and not a progression but trial & error has never failed me before so i'll keep exploring and see what happens.

Any gear nerds that are up on this any advice would be greatly appreciated! art@davelaslett.com

 
 

SELECTIVE COLLABORATION

 

It is always great to meet up and hang out with other creatives who are passionate about what they do and how they do it. I've always wanted to collaborate with Denis Smith since I watched his documentary "The Ball of Light" which really inspired me to lift my game and really get motivated within my work and my personal life.

The special thing about this collaboration was the mixture of slow shutter speed (3 minutes) and the snap freeze speed light technique together in one frame. To me this shows the combination of control and chaos merging together.

Getting together with others and sharing the journey is also a good reminder that ultimately we're not alone and that there are others out there with the same drive and determination to create beautiful works.

 
early childhood

THE UNTOUCHED MIND OF A CHILD

Bill Viola speaks a lot about his early childhood experience of falling into a lake and his discovery of the "other world" where light plays, shadows shroud hidden mysteries and objects glisten. This one event has shaped his existence and also his subsequent works.

In the past year i've had major discoveries about my early childhood as well as the relevance of mundane activities that I really hadn't given another thought to. I've been astounded at my newfound love and interest bordering on obsession for a camera but when I think about it i've had a camera in my hand the entire time from the year 2000. Just because it was a point and shoot I didn't associate it with meaningful work and yet some of my more prolific and favourite works have spawned from a $150 Canon Powershot A95.

This progression has quickly generated into an interest in creating video works. Again when I think back to 1993 to 2005 I had a Panasonic M7 VHS video camera in my possession every step of the way documenting anything that I would stumble across.

Getting back to Bill's comments I began to think about my early childhood and recalled an incident when I was 4 years old in Disneyland. The hotel we were staying at had a very large common pool area. On the second morning after breakfast we were all sitting by the pool and I just couldn't take my eyes off the dancing reflections in the body of water.

Without warning I dove into the pool to chase these reflections and be one with them. Sitting on the bottom of the pool in this new and intoxicating world I slipped in as trance like state completely overtaken by the beauty of the shimmers of light. This moment was one of the most peaceful and silent experiences of my life to date. Looking up at the surface of the water I saw a figure break the water drawing ever closer to my cross legged position in tranquility. Welcoming the new visitor to my world I was shocked when the dark figure wrenched me from my newfound world. I could not believe I had to leave this place.

I suppose these experiences seem normal but for an artist that lives within the sub-conscious with minimal self reflection this cause and effect intrigues me although I will keep this self discover to an as it happens format rather than seeking out understand. The mystery of the depth of that pool push me onwards I could never destroy that influence.

 

adobe lightroom 5 release

ADOBE LIGHTROOM V5 RELEASED

LR5 has brought back the best features of V3 whilst retaining the steps forward of V4 expect to see a lot of the photography world to increase their scope and imagination with the new possibilities now at everyones (people that use lightroom) disposal.

 
view videos here

PUBLIC HOLIDAY PRODUCES TIME AND SPACE FOR VIDEO WORK

The Queens Birthday long weekend provided a whole day to explore some video work with mixed results. Again it's something that is a little hard to produce alone but think it is a good exploration into this medium.

All three videos can be found on my VIMEO channel or here

 
 

BILL VIOLA VIDEO ARTIST

 
 
redman at black flag

REDMAN IN THE RED DIRT @ BLACK FLAG MINE

It's been a challenge creating these images over the past week however this has given me call to investigate how the process can be streamlined and crew requirements reduced. Research is under way to develop a new technique for better results and a more consistent outcome.

I've found the varying ambient light a challenge when freezing or blurring the motion of the water, dirt, leaves, sand etc and have spent some time looking into changing the lighting setup from a three to a six light configuration.

Whatever the future holds for this series i'm always going to be excited to try. Images now up in the gallery

 
streets of coober project

STREETS OF COOBER PEDY PROJECT BORN

I've just returned from a week in the outback and it has been at the very least to say a game changer.

The first two days were spent documenting a new non residential drug and alcohol treatment facilty in the main street of Coober Pedy with team members Nat Rogers and Denis Smith.

This was a huge challenge which included sub splitting audio feeds from lecturns, chasing MP's for interviews and filming traditional dancing and ceremonies.

 
Second Hand Project

SECOND HAND SQUAD IN A SECOND HAND STORE

Next week sees me and a team hitting the Salvation Army thrift store on Goodwood Road for a promotional shoot for The Second Hand Squad. This project has long been in the making and it's a project that i'm really looking forward to.

Access to a shop like this with assistants and subjects is set to be a great challenge and a lot of fun!

The octabank will be making an appearance as well as the newly arrived Nikon 28mm f2.8D

 
toyota car

HITTING REGIONAL AUSTRALIA AGAIN

This time it won't be a solo mission I have the very talented editorial photographer Nat Rogers and super inventive Denis Smith joining me on this mission into the red dirt. The crew will be heading back early as I take the newly equipped car out into the Flinders for some swag photo missions as well as some elinchrom portrait work in the heart of the Australian outback.

Vehicle pictured different to previously mentioned newly equipped car

 
Speedlight Sunday

SPEEDLIGHT SUNDAY

This Sunday the 20th marks a new era for me. A location is yet to be locked in but we're planning on all getting together and practicing speed light and modifier techniques over a 6 hour period with a break for lunch.

So far there will be four photographers attending all with varied knowledge of speed lights, a couple of assistants and two volunteer talent stand ins.

Should be a really great day of experimenting with available light and seeing the results of combining small lights for big results. You can find event details here for registration of interest.

 
Fringe Sound Scape

ADELAIDE FRINGE 2013 SOUNDSCAPE COMMISSION

Last year in March of 2012 I was exhibiting mixed media at the Adelaide Convention Centre as part of the Fringe. This year i'm taking a different tact teaming up with 4 other electronic artists to create an interactive soundscape under the Morphett St Bridge as part of the 2013 Fringe Festival.

I'm very pleased that Adobe has finally released Audition CS6 for Lion OSx so I can utilise my splicing and re-sampling techniques. I'll be testing my tracks through the KRK8 and Sampson studio subs and then installing them under the bridge for true linear playback.

I'll be posting snippets onto the website as the progress comes along.

 
beach golf

MURRAY MOUTH 4 DAY EXPEDITION

This is always a scary and revitalising time for me. I'm always concerned with all of my camera gear in a boat for 30 minutes but made it there and back without any loss of equipment.

This was another great chance for reflection and to just slow down. I took a few books with me and sat on the beach with my camera bag close by. The interesting part about this stretch of the Coorong is that one side is completely sheltered and calm water however a 15 minutes walk across this amazing stretch of South Australian wilderness is the uncontrolled chaos ocean.

Found this contrast to be quite profound as I look towards the challenges of the new year.

Again found time to trial some new and tested techniques on some willing subjects.

 
Alien Water

4 DAY ART LOCK IN AT MIDDLETON

Christmas is always an emotional time and I used this recently in a shearing shed at Middleton to explore life and death through illustrative set design. I think my water comes from the fact that we are 90 percent water and often neglect to replenish our stocks.

Practiced a lot of new techniques as well as working with 6 SB900's which was new ground for me as I only have 4. Should have some more next year as well as some shade scrimps and deflection baffles.

Was lucky enough to have a shed with multiple hanging points and a few assistants around over the 4 day period.

To become closer to the scene and environment I slept in the shearing quarters with mixed results. I built some blockers for the holes in the shearing shed roof but they quickly fell away or were destroyed by the wind.

I've never been in 40 degree heat with the strong wind being hotter.

 
Create Combine complete

EXHIBTION OVER

2013 is shaping up as time to reflect and evaluate my process and outcomes. Two pieces were sold at the exhibition and a lot of interest was generated into my style of images and production. It's so powerful to be able to look at my submissions from March to December the journey has been a long one but also an important one in the cleansing of the mind.

Next year i'll be researching new print suppliers as I was let down quite significantly by my current supplier in the lead up to this showing and cost me 40% of my proposed display.

I've also found a series of documentaries on performce art that have really shown me an insight into what it is to connect with an audience which for me isn't my strong suit.

 
Create Combine

CREATECOMBINE III

It's on again and after a great showing in March at the Adelaide Convention Centre this time the mixed medium exhibition will return to the historic Queens Theatre. I've learnt so much from my first show in March and ready to tackle this one head on. The addition of the Nikon D800 has brought challenge and reward and I don't think the results of this research and development will truely come out until late 2013.

Check the event details here and make sure to come down from Thursday December 13th to Sunday December 16th

 
nikon 135mm f2DC

NEW ARRIVALS

With demanding photo shoots comes a demand on gear. With the flurry on new projects in progress and on the go i've ordered some new equipment to get the job done. For the food shoot i've imported a rare Nikon 135mm telephoto f2 DC all metal prime lens which features Nikons patented Defocus (control) ring for adjusting foreground and background bokeh.

At this point i'm only buying equipment that is needed for the progression of the art and commercial commissions. So many things I would like to purchase but focussing on not stretching myself financially. Such a thin line there!

In other news have recently merged all libraries from Lightroom 3.6 to v4
Was a little hesitant to do this after looking at the trial whilst on the road at the beginning of the year but was pleasantly surprised to how the develop module interacts with the D800s 36.4mp of data. In 3.6 I was reprocessing the RAW files three times to achieve the desired amount of adjustment.

 
Jana in a pose

HRIDAY YOGA ACADEMY SHOOT

Halfway through the shoot which is progressing well. It's actually quite hard to anticipate lighting, composition and focus when the final pose is the head instructor standing on her head. Much to learn over the last week with another shoot coming up in three days time to capture some more artistic black and white shots as well as a corporate profile.

Have also invested in some large tent pegs for securing large modifiers especially around water and intensely windy areas.

Recently i've been playing with the in camera picture control adjusting sharpness and contrast straight to the sensor. Amazing the depth that the D800 can capture.

 
Grace Love food shoot

GRACE LOVE FOOD SHOOT

Always enjoy a new challenge and this was no exception. Have never really shot food before and quickly discovered that my favourite 50mm wasn't going to cover it. Up to the plate stepped the 75 - 150mm tele lens. The only draw back is that it's a totally manual lens so everything was a little bit slower but the focal plain paid for itself.

After a day and a half of shooting we managed to capture 17 dishes. Was really happy with a specific few that looked like Home Beautiful magazine covers!

Have purchased a new 85mm AF-S 1.8g and lightroom 4 for tethering for the next shoot to speed up the work flow. Grateful for the experience and again being stretched. Work begins next week on over 100 shots.

 
COBRA 2012
Pink Roadhouse

COBRA DVD

The DVD for Umoona Tjutagku Health Service in Coober Pedy has now been completely built. I've been working on this project since January 2012 so it's nice to see the 100gb of video and over 800 stills come together.

Due to budget i've also recorded the entire soundtrack in the studio with some interesting results. Has been a really hard but fun journey and keen to do more video in the coming months.

I've been up to the region three times with a different kit of gear each time and it's really helped with thinking on my feet and relating to people. The D800 is a work horse and captures movement and panning scenes a lot better than the original D90 that I headed up with at the beginning of the year.

Have also learnt a lot about the limitations of DVD bit rates and the actual medium of a digital video disc.

The final product is destinated for post first thing Friday morning and will head to a host of different media outlets which i'll post on the site once they're live.

If you want to see the original trailer that helped secure the contract it's over here.

 

lightroom v4
 


THE NIKON D800

After much anticipation the new camera arrived in Adelaide.
My journey began with the D70 and D90 so it made immediate sense to upgrade to a full frame camera.

Much to my surprise my current work flow really didn't support this brand new model without any real firmware updates available.

Nikon D800 issues since picking up this afternoon to consider:

The D800 isn't recognised within Lightroom v3.6 you will need v4.0 to transfer and file your images. At this stage you won't be able to tether capture within Lightroom 4.0 with the d800 (forum source as I can't test this). If you choose to upgrade to v4.0 with it's net set of contrast and clarity attenuators you will find that Photoshop CS5 is not compatible with this new version Lightroom. The D4 is unaffected at this stage.

The D800 will not recognise a Nikon ML-L3 and you will need either an annoying MC-30 corded trigger release or an ugly ML-3 "Compact" Modulite remote. The only joy i've had so far has been the CLS system being intact and the Nikon SU800 still being compatible with the D800.

The green hue imbalance of the 3.2" LCD screen does transfer into the image under testing and is said to be a firmware issue and with Nikon not having released a firmware fix for this the camera needs to use a custom Kelvin white balance to achieve a usable image or video. Having a look at auto focus modes at the moment it seems a lot more basic than my starter D90 body. All in all the camera is amazing and the USB 3.0 is surprisingly fast it's just that in my current studio setup it's not very conducive to have a DSLR that produces non effective NEF files.

Obviously i've only had the unit for a couple of hours so any work arounds would be greatly appreciated.
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Since posting this firmware upgrades have become available for the D800

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