Best Photos Of 2014

Golden Stag Beetle

Another year done and alas not one as full of photography as I would have liked. However Jim Goldstein is once again running his “Your Best Photos” blog project and I do have a few I’m happy with.

The one above is a Golden Stag Beetle that flew onto our balcony just a few days before the end of the year. Was very co-operative with the camera although the iridescence turned out to be trickier to capture than I thought it would be.

Blue Bauble

New year, new lens. In 2014 I decided to get myself a circular fisheye lens as I’ve always wanted one. The Sigma 8mm fisheye lens was reasonably cheap and has been a steep learning curve. This shot was an early one of a domed walkway area in the Block Arcade, Melbourne.

The next three shots were from a failed attempt at a photo365 in 2014. I just didn’t have it in me to do it and will be looking for some other challenge this year which I can hopefully work around my life which is some flux at present.

ARRRRRRRRRFun little shot with some LEGO bits and pieces that turned out better than I expected.
Wool ButterflyA yarn bombed set of iron rods I found in one the many alley ways in the Melbourne CBD.

Shiny blurA macro shot of a masquerade mask with narrow depth of field that bokeh’d rather nicely.

Towards the end of the year I was fortunate enough to get enough time and spare cash together to head to Queenstown, New Zealand for Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk which was a fair bit of fun. The first of my two favourite from that trip was surprisingly not from my DSLR but rather my phone:

Hellllllo QueenstownAnd the other was of a plant making its way through the pebble beach on the lakes edge.

All Things StriveA few other shots from the year. First up a wasp resting on a leaf.

WaspA shot using a ring flash from my last photowalk of the year. I’m very pleased with how the detail of the insect came out.

Just restingAnd finally a shot from a lucky little walk I took on a whim where I happened to arrive in the gardens with frost still on the ground allowing for a really fun series of shots.

Frost flower found


How I Failed At My Photo365 Project And Why That’s OK

A little too shattered for this

Towards the end of late last year I  was in a deep photography rut. I wasn’t feeling the excitement or confidence in myself as a photographer and was looking for a way to revitalise those feelings via.. something. I wasn’t sure what. I ended up settling on doing another photo-a-day (photo365) project as I had done one back in 2009/2010 which I enjoyed and got a lot out of. So come January 1st I confidently decreed it was time to do so again and away we went, onward to excitement & confidence!

And… Nope.

It started off well, I made a few good photos, got a bit of the interest back but I very quickly found I was starting to not just dislike the project but actively hate it. It took some time to figure out why this was but in the meantime I stubbornly continued, taking a least one photo a day until I finally had an epiphany. The reason it wasn’t working this time was because this style of project wasn’t what I actually needed.

The photo365 worked the first time around because I was still very new to photography with a DSLR and being forced to take a photograph every day was a good way of getting me used to it. It generated interest in various styles and ultimately became one of the major factors in why I so enjoy macro photography today.

Instead of producing good shots like I intended to, I was mostly producing mediocre, poorly thought through and rushed images. A few great ones here and there but most of it, to be quite frank, was crap. I can be quite a stubborn person and I could have just continued on and finished the project but this time around I decided no. It wasn’t working, time to can it. So I did. Stop taking a photo a day, pulled down the posts from this blog and removed all but the best photos taken during that time from my smugmug gallery.

Failure Is Always An Option

Decision made, it was time to just move forward right? Well I’m afraid it wasn’t quite that easy, I felt even worse than before, that I had failed at what I wanted to do and generally moped a lot. I thought about writing why I quit the project but even that I’ve been staring at for over a month and not been able to fully admit to my own failure. Until a few days ago when a curious memory popped into my head.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be sent my employer at the time to attend DEF CON® 17 in Las Vegas and while wandering through talks on botnets, social engineering and tutorials on lockpicking (which was actually a lot of fun) I quite by accident wandered into a talk entitled “Failure” given by Adam Savage who you may know from the ever interesting Mythbusters series.

The talk (embedded below) given by Adam explored the idea of failure was being a positive thing and a learning experience rather than a totally negative and to be despised pit of despair. He goes over a few of his own stories of failure and describes emotions very similar to what I was going through now.

I remembered that the time thinking this talk was awesome and clearly it made enough of an impression that I squirreled it away to be referenced at such a time like this. I rewatched the talk and cheered up immensely. Failure was an option, I just needed to figure out what I really needed to achieve.

From Decay Comes Life

So there was the moment of zen. The acknowledgement that while yes I had failed good and hard, it wasn’t for nothing. I had simply learnt that what I needed now wasn’t a daily grind of taking photos it was to sit down and think about what my weak spots were and how to move forward.

Instead of shooting each and every day it was time to look at things like planning shots, actually learning how to better post produce my photos and get back into my love of taking photographs of critters of all kinds. I’ve started back into it and while I’m still feeling at a low eb of confidence things are moving forward, with a recent photowalk netting this photograph of a wasp

WaspSo here’s to the learning experience that is failure. I highly recommend watching Adam’s talk and thinking about what you want to achieve and accepting that failure at something is not the end of all things, not even close.


Fairfax Can Clique Off

Photography careers are dead bobToday Fairfax Media announced it was firing 80 people which includes 30 of their 50 photography staff, announcing they would source most of their material from Getty images instead.

While this move will be seen by many as merely another note in the funeral dirge for traditional media, the particularly heavy emphasis on firing their photography talent raised a bit of an alarm bell for me on another front.

Not only will this certainly mean a drastic drop in quality of photos in the various Fairfax publications and the continued support of Getty images, a company that notoriously provides very little royalties to photographers themselves but it also raises the question of why would any Australian photographer ever want to be involved with Clique ever again?

What The Hell Is Clique?

The “Clique Photographers Association” sells itself as an association for amateur photographers to help them learn, get some nice discounts and ultimately participate in photography challenges which offer the opportunity to be published in Fairfax papers, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Clique is partnered with big names such as Canon Australia and Adobe, combined with the relatively low fee of $50 ($25 if you’re a Fairfax subscriber) makes this appear a pretty good deal and overall it probably is. However with this most recent announcement one can’t help but wonder…

Less Clique More Trojan Horse?

I have to admit I’ve never really been comfortable with Clique and for that reason I’ve never made the move to join it despite the potential it offered. The copyright section of the Terms & Conditions never really sat well with me.  Don’t get me wrong it’s no an out and out copyright grab (like some competitions) and they very explicitly state the copyright remains you but you do grant Fairfax (‘the Organaiser’) the following:

However, each participant grants the Organiser (and its related bodies corporate) an irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide licence to deal with participants’ images (in any format):

a. for any express purpose identified during the Program (including to publish any winning images on the Organiser’s digital platforms and in print.
b. for any implied purpose associated with the Program (including publication on any closed network associated with the Program or for the purposes of providing feedback in relation to an image);
c. for the purposes of promoting the Program.
d. The Organiser will endeavour to contact the Participant to inform the Participant when and how their image will be used in relation to the Program.
e. Participants’ images will not be stored on the Fairfax Media photographic data base – Fairfax Digital Collections (FDC)

For the avoidance of doubt, the foregoing licence entitles the Organiser to reformat any image for the purpose of publication or display.
You will not bring any claim against the Organiser for infringement of your moral rights in the image.

It’s not the worst I’ve seen but it gives them a lot of free reign to do what they want with your photo and you get to pay them for the privilege. Neat trick.

This Won’t Clique

Which leads us back to the firings announced today. Now that Fairfax management has shown they see photography as burdensome expense they can better replace with stock images (and I’m betting more “crowd sourced” material as well) why exactly would any amateur photographer in Australia want to be a part of Clique? Seriously?

Will Canon Australia or Adobe raise concerns about this? How can they continue working with Fairfax to further educate photographers when Fairfax seems unable to see the value in doing so? Indeed what is the future of Clique in this bold new stock images first world at Fairfax? Will it even remain in place until the end of this year as planned?

For me I won’t consider Clique any further. I won’t support an association run by a corporation that seems unable to support the people that make up that association. There are far better places to interact with photographers and while they might not offer the publishing possibilities of Clique, I’ll be happier knowing they actually give a damn about photography.