A Byron Bay Sunrise From A Hot Air Balloon

I think everybody has a place where everything just comes together, whether it be relaxation, ideas, or in my case, visual creativity. Byron Bay is definitely my creative special place.

I headed down there this last weekend with my fiancée to celebrate her birthday by going on a sunrise hot air balloon ride, and naturally I used the opportunity to shoot some content! If you haven’t ever been in a hot air balloon then it’s hard to explain how amazing it is. It was my second time flying with Byron Bay Ballooning, and I was just as blown away this time as the last. It’s just so peaceful. It definitely helps when you are floating over some of the most beautiful countryside in Australia while the sun rises!

I put together a mini vid of B-roll from the experience that I hope does it justice.

Technical Stuff -

I shot solely on my Panasonic GH4 handheld with the brilliant Lumix 25mm 1.4. The entire thing was shot at 60p for the nice slow motion, using the GH4’s really excellent 200mb/s 1080hd mode and the Cinelike D profile.

The music track is noteven by ye. (https://soundcloud.com/pronouncedyea)

10 days in Indonesia

I got back yesterday from a 10 day holiday in beautiful Indonesia. I'd been working pretty hard lately and was overdue some time off, so my Fiancee and I decided to hit Bali for some relaxation. Of all the places I've been lucky enough to visit on our wonderful planet, Indonesia is one that always draws me back. There's just something about the cocktail of wonderful people, culture, spirituality and landscape. I can't explain it, it's just special to be there. Ironically, even though my job is mostly taking pictures, that's what I always end up doing to relax; especially in a place as creatively inspiring as Indonesia. It was nice to not have a shot list, heaps of gear & models etc to worry about like I do on a job; I was just able to wander around with my camera shooting what I wanted.

Nikon D700 & 35mm 1.8 - Pure Magic

 

99% of the time, I shot with my 5 year old Nikon D7000 & 35mm 1.8DX, and I was reminded again why this is my favourite gear combination I've ever shot with. It got submerged by a wave a few years ago (long story) so the rear screen is useless, most of the buttons don't work or are stuck, It won't let me change the autoafocus mode from single point and I can't move that point form the centre of the frame. Also, the focus screen got glue on it (an even longer story) so there's crap all over the viewfinder. But oh my, the beautiful images this thing creates. It's borderline magical. These pics are some of my best work ever, so before you think you have to spend heaps of money to shoot great stuff, stop yourself. You can pic up a used D7000 for a few hundred bucks right now and the 35mm 1.8 is pretty much the cheapest lens Nikon sell!

Anyway, enough about gear. You can check out all of my shots below. Hopefully you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed shooting them :)

Camping At Rainbow Beach

I recently went camping with some mates a few hours north of Brisbane to Rainbow Beach. From the beach, the sunrise/sunsets to the night sky, it was pristine. I'll let the images do the talking ;)  

Brisbane City in Time-Lapse

So it's Riverfire day today in Brisbane. For those unfamiliar with what Riverfire is, it's a huge fireworks display over the city that marks the end of Brisbane Festival. For Brisbanites and especially photographers, it's Christmas and every other holiday rolled in to one! I'm going to be shooting some video content tonight during the display, but I thought I'd post a little One Minute Window of time-lapses of the city to whet the appetite :)

One Minute Window - The Sloth Institute

A one minute window to the Sloth Institute at Kids Saving The Rainforest NGO in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

KSTR is a great cause I visited last year, saving orphaned and injured Costa Rican animals, while at the same time the Sloth Institute furthers studies on these amazing animals. You can find all of the info on the NGO here: http://www.kidssavingtherainforest.org/

One Minute Window - North Stradbroke Island

There will be a few regular things I'm going to be doing with this blog around video content. One of them will be sharing my One Minute Window videos. I came up with the idea as a way to both creatively challenge myself and make use of all the video content I shoot around the world. Can you tell a story about a place, person or cause in just one minute? I'm going to give it a shot. Here's my first effort - North Stradbroke Island :)

The 10 Phases Of Gear Acquisition Syndrome

OK so if you live anywhere close to most cities in the world and you're not blind, for the last couple of years you will have probably noticed heaps of billboards showing up using images 'shot on iPhone 6'. They are beautiful images. Without the 'shot on iPhone 6' part tagged on there, I don't think anyone on earth would have even thought for 1 second they weren't shot on a 'commercial' camera, never mind an 8 megapixel smart phone. I know I can't tell the difference!

So can we all now finally stop going on about resolution as if it makes a difference anymore? If anything smashes the megapixel myth for you it should be the fact that 8 megapixel images shot on a tiny 1/3" sensor went on gigantic billboards worldwide. Obviously it's nice to have a bigger sensor and more resolution to play with (16-24mp is my ideal range), but are we sure we really need 50mp full frame images for our work to be deemed adequate?

The things that all of these 'shot on iPhone 6' images have in common are interesting subjects, engaging compositions, good timing and good light. These factors have been the key to great image making since the dawn of photographic time, and will still be in 100 years time. focus on them more than the equipment you're using and I think you're going in the right direction.

Funny thing is, most of the time I'm just as obsessed with gear as the next person

Without fail I follow the same distinct 10 step cycle every time I start getting in to the 'ooooh gear' mindset

  1. XXXX camera or lens is released
  2. 'Shiny object' phase - "wow it shoots 75mp RAW stills and has internal 10-bit 10K video!"
  3. 'Creative depression and lack of perspective' phase - "Damn, my work produced in regular HD sucks now all of a sudden". 
  4. The 'creating excuses' phase. For me the most destructive behaviour to personal growth, happiness and success - "If only I had (insert specs from #2) then my work, and by extension me, would adequate!"
  5. The 'need' phase - "my life will be perpetually empty and without purpose if I do not get XXXX"
  6. The 'financial justification' phase - "of course I can afford to spend $25,000 on XXXX. Who needs rent or food?"
  7. The 'reality' phase - "damn I really can't afford it"
  8. repeat #3
  9. The 'awakening' phase - "actually, when I think about it my work is really good and I love it. WTF is wrong with me?"
  10. Start again at #1

This exact cycle happened to me as recently as last week. Curse my inner gear demon, but it still gets the best of me from time to time. #1 started when the shiny, new, badass Fuji XT-2 was announced. Internal 4K, 24mp stills, aps-c sensor, Fuji colour science. I fell in love. “This is the answer to all my problems!” I decreed to my fiancée, who has to regularly put up with my creative bullsh*t and for some reason is still with me. I travelled to #5 within the space of an hour. I then got to #6 soon after, and was so committed that I pre-ordered it. I even wrote an article about my upgrade on this blog!

A week later, by coincidence I arrived at #9. I was due to teach an astro photography workshop on the coast with my friend Kristin Repsher. After arriving early the check out the weather conditions, we quickly realised that there was too much cloud to see the stars so had to unfortunately cancel. As there a particularly beautiful sunset in motion while we were there, we figured we might as well shoot some stuff so it wasn’t a completely wasted trip.

I shot this on my Nikon d7100.

I got home, threw some of footage together, colour corrected, rendered it, then watched it back on a 42” HDTV (a self indulgent thing I always do). It was beautiful. “Oh my god come and look at how good this is!” I cried out to my fiancée, who walked in to the room rolling her eyes in that ’here we go again’ way. She just smiled, nodded and agreed, no doubt thinking “what the f*ck is wrong with him? This is the 10 time we’ve gone through this!”

I realised what I had was more than good enough an I should concentrate on using it properly. I cancelled my pre-order for the XT-2 and thus, the cycle was complete. Well, at least until the next new shiny camera release, at which point I’ve no doubt it will start again.  

A Case For Creative Folly

When is the last time that you took part in creative folly? When is the last time you just started creating something just because you enjoyed the process? When is the last time you just played? And by playing I mean in the child-like ‘just for the sake of it and because I want to’ sense.

These are questions I find I’m asking myself more and more regularly now. When I really think about it, my creativity is becoming more and more about the outcome rather than the process.

As a society I feel like we have all become far too outcome focused. I know that people adopting ‘type A’ behaviours are more successful at achieving goals in the traditional sense, however have we let it bleed in to too many areas of our lives? I create content for a living, which means I am naturally viewing those pursuits for which I am providing a service as almost transactional. Photo or video = money. This is a required way of thinking when conducting business, however I have realised that this mentality has found it’s way in to my pursuits away from earning money. I would presume that I’m not the only one.

It’s a very mild distinction in mentality that makes a big difference to the experience. You can have either: “I want to get a shot of the sun setting over the ocean at xxx”, or “ I want to go to the coast, chill out, listen to the waves, watch the sun set over the ocean and take some shots”. You can do it either way, but I’ve found that if I adopt the second mentality I enjoy the process more and the knock on effect is that the outcome is usually more creatively inspired. Mindfulness is the key.

Next time you want to create, whether it’s photography, film or anything else, forget about the outcome and try focussing on enjoying the process. Stop producing and start playing

Curing The Creative Lull - The Importance Of Personal Projects

This is symbollic of my creative rut

A stale patch, a plateau, a creative roadblock. Whatever you want to call it, regardless of your creative discipline we all go through it. Even the famous ‘celebrity’ level creatives suffer from it, although they may spend a lot of time trying to convince you otherwise. It’s that crippling period where you aren’t really creating, rather you’re stuck doing making the same thing as always, and that lack of creative stimulation is a real killer.

I go through it regularly. Another photo shoot, another sunset over rocks on the coast. Hell, for a period of almost 6 months that was my only thing.

Luckily, there is a cure. Like all good advice it has been said a million times before by others, but like most creatives I decided to ignore it until I accidentally discovered it actually worked. Hopefully you won’t do that!

 

START A PERSONAL PROJECT

Make it long term. Taking one new type of photo is like taking one antibiotic; you need to finish the entire course or it won’t work. Contribute to it regularly. Aim for as different as possible within your creative field. Make it as large scale as you can. Get as far out of your comfort zone as possible with it; the more terrifying the better. Trust me, you will go from: scared, to uneasy, to comfortable, to excited, and finally to obsessed; while along the way your creative plateau issues will magically be cured.

Best case scenario, your personal project becomes a defining creative pursuit or career step (á la Humans of New York).

Worst case scenario: nobody else sees it, nobody else likes it, nobody else cares (see my last blog post about this), but you come away with a whole new string to your bow, a new skillset, some variation to your work and a huge boost to your creativity. WIN WIN

I used to avoid taking pictures of people like the plague. Now after consciously forcing myself to do the complete opposite, it’s what I enjoy shooting most and my travel portrait work is arguably the best in my portfolio.

Starting an insane personal project is the sanest thing you can do

The Only 2 Opinions You Should Ever Listen To (As a Creative)


As a creative you only need to satisfy the tastes of 2 people or audiences, yourself or your client. Paying attention to and caring about the work or opinions of other creatives regarding something you create is the worst thing you can do. Remember, yourself or your client, nobody else.

What does that mean exactly? Well, if you are lucky enough to be getting paid to shoot, then the only opinion that matters is the one from the person or people paying for your service. Who cares if it won’t get many ‘likes’ on Instagram? You fundamentally get paid for creating what they want, and nothing else. If you’re not shooting for a client? Well the only question you should ask is do I like it. Ignore all others if you can. Shoot whatever you want to and how you want to shoot it.

 

Let me tell a piece of my story to explain why.

Until fairly recently, I was someone who paid far too much attention to the work of others and shot everything guided by what would receive the most ‘likes’ etc. I’m lucky enough to have travelled to a lot of interesting places in the world and have seen some really amazing things. Unfortunately, when I look back I realise that I was always trying to capture it all in ways I had already seen it captured before. My consideration for outside influences completely took over my entire creative process.

Taking a Rest, Hue, Vietnam, Ben Ashmole

For example, in the early days of my photography ‘journey’, I was lucky enough to have travelled through Asia. I was constantly surrounded with interesting, exciting and culturally diverse human scenes, waiting to be captured. What did I do? I spent most of my time waiting for people to get out of my shot so I could shoot another empty city scene or sunset like so many of the photos I saw on social media. This photo of an old woman sitting down on a japanese covered bridge outside of Hué, Vietnam is probably my favourite photo that I’ve ever taken. The funny thing is I only took with her in it because I was bored of waiting for her to leave. Crazy eh?

The more you are creative without the shackles of consideration for what other people think, the more your work will be reflective of your style and what you do best. This is what will make you successful, not creating work that is reflective of everyone else's. Any success I have had personally or professionally has been because of what I do differently, not because of what I do that is similar. The second I stopped being just another wannabe landscape photographer and started capturing moments rather than just another sunset, everything changed.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with shooting landscapes by the way. I still do all the time. My point is that my inherent style of shooting is far more varied than that, I just never had the balls to try any new stuff to realise it, because I was obsessed with copying or listening to everyone else.

Art and creativity is completely subjective. Negativity from anyone regarding what you create, especially from the internet, should be brutally disregarded. Criticism, unless invited by yourself and entirely constructive should be utterly ignored. Remember, yourself or your client. For every person who does not find your work to their taste, there is somebody else who does. Even then, who cares if they do? The only question is - do I like what I created?

I am in no way am suggesting that you do not share your work, it is incredibly important for creative growth to share what you create. Rather pay no attention to its reception after you do.

So next time you head out to shoot ask yourself:

What do i want to create?

This Blog - the What, the Why, the Where and the When

 DCIM\101GOPRO\GOPR1634.

I decided to start blogging again, but this time it’s going to be different.

There was a blog here on this site previously. It was full of basic photography how to’s, regular random photos that I’d taken from my travels around the world or gear reviews and the like; a product of my copying of other people’s methods in a vain attempt to launch my photography career. I was forcing myself to create content that went against my nature for the sake of page views, and it didn’t work. It really didn’t work.

OK, fast forward to now and that content is no longer live, relegated to a memory of where I forced myself to partake in an non-organic and unnatural form of creativity. I now have that photography career I always wanted (which ironically was in no way thanks to that blog), and I’ve learned so much along the way about business, myself and generally existing as a creative in a world that makes it very difficult to do so. So I’m going to blog about it. The what, why, where and when are probably not the usual………


What

This blog will be a collection of my thoughts, views and depending on how you view or value it, wisdom. I’ll share anything that comes to mind that I want to and in no particular order. Most of it will probably be about concepts of creativity, I have a lot of thoughts on that. Other than that there may be what I have learned about the business I’m in, how I did it, mindfulness, projects I’m working on and maybe gear if it excites me. You may even get a few of my passionate views about general issues like conservation or humanitarian problems born from my work with various charities or NGO’s over the years.

What this blog won’t be is various ‘top 10’ lists or useless ‘(insert camera name) review or thoughts’ in the pursuit of page views. I won’t be writing to please the general masses.

In short I’ll write about what I personally want to and will pay little to no attention to what I should do according to conventional wisdom. It will be organic and authentic and (hopefully) nothing else.   


Why

So why the hell am I doing this if not for page views or promotion? Well, it’s actually more of a personal development and growth tool more than anything. Call it a social experiment if you want. There’s something therapeutic about getting your thoughts down on paper, and I hope that the process of getting my ideas on to this blog will help me be more self aware and gain a healthier perspective. If people read it because they are interested in my work, and it somehow helps them as creatives or in a more general sense then that’s brilliant.

I get emails all the time asking for my advice on stuff around photography & videography, so hopefully this blog can be a resource for those people who need it.

If nobody reads it, well then that’s cool too.

 

Where

Wherever I am really. Travel is a way of life for me and one of my integral passions, so I may be doing this from all over the world at some point or another. Hopefully I’ll have some cool experiences to share. Other than that I’ll mainly be getting my thoughts out either in or near my home of beautiful Brisbane, Australia (my happy place).


When

Whenever I want. There will be no posting schedule that anybody can count on. I will post stuff solely when I feel I want or need to. The usual blogging mantra of ‘post at least once a week and once daily if possible’ is one that I wholeheartedly reject for a number of reasons, but I’ll explain that another time.

So there it is. Let’s see what happens :)