Best Photos Of 2012

Gold on blue

This post is part of the very excellent ‘Your Best Photos From 2012” blog project run by Jim M. Goldstein, a very worthy project to be involved in to get your photos seen and also to see amazing photos from other photographers from around the world. This show cases some of the ones I feel are my best for the year of 2012.

The one above is by far one of the best macro shots I’ve ever managed to take out in the world. A confluence of luck, timing and strategy all came together to make this one happen. The bright blue background was not added in post but rather is a piece of blue card held behind the insect as it rested on the wire.

2012 was a big year for me photographically. Half way through I finally bit the bullet and switched from Olympus to Canon – a very painful and expensive change but unfortunately the Olympus love affair with very small cameras left me without an upgrade path (the otherwise very technically excellent OM-D EM-5 is too small for me to hold comfortably).

Part of the switch was going to a full frame sensor (Canon 5D Mark 3) and I’m still going through the exceptionally large learning curve with this. As a result of this and a few other life changes it feels like I’ve taken less photos this year or at least I’m being far more fussy about which ones I’m willing to share.

Explosion of Light

This was a fun long exposure shot of the Santos City Of Lights event during the Brisbane Festival.

Waiting... waitingThis is a macro shot of a White Crab Spider waiting for an unwitting victim to come along.

Streaming plasma

I had a fun time capturing macro shots of a plasmaball in the dark and using them to learn more about post processing in Adobe Lightroom.

Fade to black

A silhouette shot of the Brisbane city skyline at dusk that happened almost entirely by accident.

Mayfly Yoga

A mayfly that posed beautifully for the camera.

WINTER IS COMING!

I did a really fun series of LEGO minifigs in the fog shots using dry ice. This is by far my favourite one so far.

The sky burnsThe sky turns into a gorgeous burning pit of roiling clouds.

Just RestingThe shed skin of a huntsman spider sites serenely in a bright orange flower.

Sitting in the darkFinally a macro shot of a tiny insect taken using a new technique using a portable softbox and turned out better than I could have hoped.

This Photo Cost $4285 To Create

I take regular photo walks on my days off and on a recent one where I captured this photo a passer-by made the throw away quip “I don’t know why you waste so much money on camera gear”. Shots like this is why I do so.

I believe every camera is a real camera and that you can’t achieve great photos simply by buying the most expensive kit but you do need to invest in appropriate gear if you want to get truly great shots. So how the hell did this photo cost me $4285?

Camera Body – Olympus E-30 – $2500

The Olympus E-30 has a pretty standard 12.3 megapixel sensor but as DSLR it has full control over the shot. I can set ISO levels, white balance, exposure and literally hundreds of other settings. This level of control is needed in the field where conditions change rapidly and relying on automatic settings is not a good idea.

Camera Lens – Sigma 150mm Macro – $760

My obsession is macro photography, particularly taking photos of insects and other critters. To that end I needed a lens that was both fast and had a decent focal length. Insects by their nature are jumpy critters and sticking a camera lens right in their face can be tricky but the Sigma 150mm macro gave me the room to manoeuvre around the subject while providing maximum detail.

Tripod – Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 with joystick head – $800

There are macro photographers that can take superb photos without the use of a tripod. I am not one of them. The above shot was done at a relatively slow shutter speed (0.33s) and there would have simply been no way I could have held the camera steady enough to capture that much detail. Some time ago I decided to spend the extra cash on the 055CXPRO3 from Manfrotto. It’s a carbon fibre tripod which dramatically adds to the cost but also reduces the weight making it ideal to lug around all day.

Post production – Lightroom – $121 + $99

Not so long ago I would have told you post production was for chumps but I’ve learnt I was wrong. Very, very wrong (and I have an article on my change of heart coming on that). As such I spent the cash on Adobe Lightroom 3 and then upgraded to Lighroom 4. There are cheaper and even free Lightroom competitors out there but after testing them all it was clear for my needs that Lightroom was the clear winner. Not much was really needed for this photo, a small white balance correction but that’s all.

Travel – Train – $5

Unless you intend to operate a home photography studio and never leave the house there will always been travel costs involved somewhere. Fortunately for this shot I found him in a park not far from where I live and the costs were kept down.

Wait a minute…

I can already hear the people eagerly firing up their comment-o-matics to shout “Aren’t these mostly once off costs! You can take thousands of photos with those!” and fortunately you are indeed correct. Of those thousands of shots I may only find a few dozen I’m really happy with and the one above is one of them.

If I hadn’t invested in this gear the likelihood of getting this shot is fairly minimal. Working together they allowed me to produce a photograph I’m exceptionally happy with. Always think when buying camera gear how exactly it’s going to help you with your passion. Photography is a long term investment but the rewards can vastly outweigh the monetary value of the gear purchased.

Addendum – March 16 2012

As D. Travis North has pointed out over at ShutterPhoto.net there is an important difference between operating costs and the price you set when selling your photos. For example there is zero way I could try and sell the above photo for over four thousand dollars. The market simply wouldn’t pay it.

Whilst it is important to understand that operating costs can be high it shouldn’t be uses as a basis to set your prices but nor should you undersell yourself. Understanding the market you are operating in is incredibly important. I really recommend reading the article at ShutterPhoto.net for a better overview of this issue.

Best Photos Of 2011

This post is part of the very excellent ‘Your Best Photos From 2011” blog project run by Jim M. Goldstein, a very worthy project to be involved in to get your photos seen and also to see amazing photos from other photographers from around the world. This show cases some of the ones I feel are my best for the year of 2011.

Above remains one of my absolute favourites. That photo is not edited and I’m still blown away in how sharp the focus was and how well placed the subject was during this shot, particularly as it was shot outdoors in uncontrolled conditions. I liked this photo so much I made a number of versions of it for common wallpaper sizes.

Shot in the same area as the first photo this extremely large (roughly half the size of my hand) dragonfly sat quietly on a wire for quite some time allowing me to get some fantastic photos.

This one was the most technically fun to make. It involved a dark room and a green laser with a jury-rigged setup to make it happen.

While not the most exciting photo of all time I just liked how the play of light and shadow combined with the shallow depth of field really made this photo pop.

A rather nice sunset shot of a ferry working it’s way down the Brisbane river.

Another lucky shot. I’ve never seen a fly as brilliantly orange as this one before and it was offset so extremely well against the verdant green of the leaf it was resting on.

A long exposure shot of the Brisbane CBD from South Bank. Image originally shot in greyscale, not post converted. I really enjoy long exposure shots near the river as it generates some really nice smoothing effects.

I don’t enjoying photographing people but zombies that’s an entirely different story. This years Brisbane Zombie Walk was absolutely massive, possibly to the point of world record setting but as yet there’s been no official confirmation. I also prepared a quick article on How To Shoot A Zombie Walk to help prepare others for their zombie invasion.

This photo is purely for the purposes of scaring people. It’s an extremely close macro shot of a discarded huntsman spider skin.

And finally this photo. It’s less what this photo is and more what it represents. I am now finally getting over my prejudice of post-production methods. I used to staunchly be in the “I don’t edit my photos” but after reading a lot from seasoned photographers, debating the pros and cons back and forth I’ve decided to move on and embrace post-production.

I’ve invested in Adobe Lightroom (which has turned out to be a very fine product indeed) and the above photo is the first photo that I’ve shot in RAW and post-produced. The post-production used is minimal, a slight colour correction and some contrast adjustment. Not much but small touches that made it look much more that way it saw it with my eyes. I still believe in getting as much right in the field as possible but I do now admit that post-production can be used as a force for good as well.