Ability To Create Images

This is the second piece that I contributed to the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine, It was published in the March 2017 issue under the title “Against the Odds”.

2017.03 - APS Focus - as published - small

It’s frustrating following major surgery. I’m dictating this into my tablet rather than typing it because the surgery was on one of my hands, and the other hand that needs the same surgery is now much overused and painful. I’ll be out of action with my hands for some considerable time – the surgeon predicts four months to full rehabilitation. It’s not only my ability to type that’s affected, I can’t use my heavy camera either. So, I’ve been making quite a lot of use of my smartphone camera, albeit held carefully with one hand and gently firing the shutter with the thumb of the same hand.

One other thing I can do, on good days when my hands are reasonably OK, is use various apps that allow me to post process and manipulate images taken on my smartphone camera. The phone is linked to my tablet so images are available on it as well. I can do most of the processing simply by sliding my finger on the surface of the tablet screen. Once I’m happy with the result I can save the processed image and I can upload it to various websites, including the ubiquitous Instagram and my personal Flickr site. So, I’m still able to easily share images and receive comments, and sometimes praise, about them.

It’s a salutary lesson having to learn about the things you cannot do when access to things you regularly use is taken away from you. It has reminded me about several people with various disabilities whom I have met over the years and who have been excellent photographers. One of them was in a wheelchair and one of the great joys for me of looking at his images was that they were all shot from a different view point to that which able-bodied adults use for most of their images. His images were a reminder of the importance of seeking different viewpoints.

Russell's Precinct - by Brian Rope

Another photographer that I’ve known who has a disability was actually legally blind. The first time I saw him in a photography shop collecting processed slides I was astounded. Inquiring, I learned that he could at least discern general shapes and so, if he was pointed towards the scenery, he could hold his camera to his eye and memorise what he was photographing so that, later, when projecting his slides after a while he could make out the same shapes and then recall the original scene. When I arranged for him to screen his holiday slides at my local photographic Society, we were all most impressed by the composition of these images and the fact that they were generally all in excellent focus. He knew how to use his camera. We should all know how to use our cameras so that we can compose and focus!

I’ve also met, and seen an exhibition by, a photographer who is deaf. You might say that’s a disability which does not affect our photography skills. And that may be right. The interesting thing was how this photographer used her photography to tell a wonderful story about deafness. Over a period of a year she met with a diverse group of people who have experienced different types of hearing loss and deafness. Some have dealt with their disability by getting Cochlear implants, others use hearing aids or sign language, and yet others simply live with their deafness. The photographer used still images, multimedia vibratory works, video and text pieces in a multidisciplinary exhibition about the complexity of deafness. The exhibition was opened by another Deaf person who is a sign language user and the opening was simultaneously live-captioned (via telephone link to an interstate captionist) to a large monitor and also interpreted into spoken English by an on-the-spot sign language interpreter. It was the reluctance of many people to confront and discuss issues relating to deafness and hearing loss that was the impetus for the project and the exhibition. The one in six Australians who have a hearing loss need themselves and everyone else to address the issues. Here was the photographer making that possible at least amongst her audience. What an inspiring use of photography!

Perhaps you also know some good photographers with other disabilities. If you do, I would encourage you to learn from how they overcome their disability to create good images. You may even be a photographer with a disability yourself. If so, as someone with a temporary disability learning to create images despite that, I admire you even more now.

We should all seek out opportunities to create photographs that are inspiring.

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Tribute to Malcolm Smith

A good friend, and photographer colleague, Malcolm Smith died on 3 June 2017. I prepared this simple tribute to him in response to a request from his family for material to include in a eulogy at his funeral service. It was first published on the Canberra Photographic Society’s Forum on Facebook on 8 June 2017.

Malcolm was interested in art all his life and one of his earliest memories were of having his portrait taken by the famous Australian photographer Harold Cazneaux in early 1946:

Malcolm Smith by Harold Cazneaux

After retiring from his engineer and computer consultant careers in 1994, Malcolm commenced working as a professional photographer from his Canberra studio. Photography took over from his painting in oils and acrylics. As well as undertaking portrait and general photographic commissions, Malcolm did many front-of-house and publicity photographs for Canberra theatre groups.

He joined the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers and won many awards from that body, including top-scoring contemporary portrait at the National Professional Photography Awards. He became a Master of Photography with Gold Bar in the AIPP.

Despite being a recognised and awarded professional photographer, Malcolm also took a keen interest in and became involved with amateur photography bodies. He joined the Canberra Photographic Society in the early 1990s and quickly became one of the Society’s most highly successful competitors and achievers. He took out 1st place in A Grade monochrome prints in 1995, 1996 and 1998, won the Hedda Morrison Portfolio Trophy in four consecutive years (1997-2000), won Monochrome print of the Year in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 2000, and was named the Society’s Photographer of the year in 1995 and 1998. Malcolm also judged competitions for CPS on a number of occasions.

Malcolm had a compelling interest in images of people, ranging from studio and environmental figure studies to dancers in performance motion. He also had a keen interest in landscape photography, often isolating small areas for detailed scrutiny. His images were widely exhibited in several solo exhibitions in Canberra, as well as in both Canberra Photographic Society and many other group exhibitions.

Malcolm also had an involvement with the Australian Photographic Society, the national body for enthusiast amateurs. Along with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Bec, Malcolm was a valued member of the organising committee for that Society’s 50th anniversary convention in 2012. By that time, Malcolm had wound down his commercial photography work to enable him to spend more time developing his own photographic art. The Committee Collection photobook produced for that convention featured some of Malcolm’s fine colour images captured in Cuba.

This is one of my own favourite photos of Malcolm.

Malcolm Smith by Brian Rope

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APS Focus

In late 2016 I was invited to join the team of four people who take it in turns to write a piece for publication under the heading APS Focus in Australian Photography magazine. The purpose of this, and associated pages, is to promote the Australian Photographic Society. My first article, and accompanying image, was published in the January 2017 issue.

Here is the text of the article as submitted:

Telling the story

I commenced my learning journey as an enthusiast amateur photographer when given a Baby Brownie camera on my ninth birthday, over 65 years ago. The journey continues today. Along the way, I have learned about telling stories.

One of my strong interests is photographing events, whether they involve just a few or huge numbers of people. My grandchild’s football games, a demonstration, the opening of Australia’s new Parliament House, and the annual conventions of the Australian Photographic Society are just a few of the many events I have photographed.

The important thing is to capture as many aspects of the event as possible so as to tell the whole story and not just a part of it. Let me take the football game as an example. If you wish to capture the full story, then you clearly do not only focus on your own child or grandchild. You do not just focus on the team that you support. Indeed, you also need to capture sufficient off-field elements to complete the story.

So, if I photograph my grandson’s team playing in the Kanga Cup then I want to capture the on-field action by lots of players in as many of their games as possible, but also to photograph such things as the spectators, the match officials, the coaches, the warmup, the halftime pep talks, the team’s water bottles and clothes by the side of the field, signage identifying the tournament and the competing teams, and more.

Likewise, if I photograph an outdoor public arts festival, I need to get images of as many different elements of the event as I can. I need the performers getting ready and also performing. I need the spectators responding to what they are seeing and hearing. I need images of people viewing displays – and aspects of the displays themselves. If some spectators become willing, or unwilling, participants themselves then, hopefully, I am on the spot to capture that as well.

Why is gathering images of the whole event important? Well, it is all about storytelling. I learned many years ago that telling a story through our images is one of the most important aspects of all our photography. Sure you can tell a story in just a single image, but how much more can you share through a series of images that seek to capture an entire event?

Of course, the next question after capturing our storytelling images, whether they be of an event or something else, is what do we do with them? The ever growing popularity of photo books is one obvious answer. If you have gathered sufficient images what better way to tell the story than by putting them into a book in the appropriate sequence to enable everyone who later reads it to enjoy your story? I deliberately used the word read, rather than view, in the previous sentence because there is a great deal to be said for adding words to your images in your book. Not because, your images do not stand alone, but because story telling is about both words and images – and we all need the extra challenge!

When you have completed your photo book and a copy has pride of place on your coffee table, then all the visitors to your home will be able to enjoy the book, the photographs and the story. You could even enter a copy of the book in a growing number of competitions for photo books. The Australian Photographic Society introduced such a competition this year and delegates to its annual convention will enjoy looking at the entries.

Another option for your storytelling images is to put them into an audio-visual presentation – or slide show if you prefer that terminology. Again you will have something special to share with friends and family, your local photographic club, or anyone else who might be interested. The Australian Photographic Society has a group dedicated to the art of audio-visual making. It can provide assistance and, if you are interested, introduce you to the world of AV competitions.

Of course, you don’t need a specific event to photograph. You can create a story anywhere. On your next holiday you might set out to capture images that tell the story of your travels. You might just pay a visit to the main street of your town and gather photographs that tell the story of the people visiting the places on that street at that time. The possibilities are endless. So, let’s get out there and capture some stories.

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World Photo Day

World Photo Day is an international photography event on 19 August that celebrates the passion for photography.
In 2009, a 21 year old Canberra resident by the name of Korske Ara thought about starting a World Photo Day while sitting on his bed at home. Now, hundreds of thousands of people around the world celebrate photography every August.
Korske describes World Photo Day as “a global photography celebration that’s uniting local and global communities in a worldwide celebration of photography. We’re using technology to connect with ordinary people that love taking photos and we’re using those connections to promote a passion for photography that positively impacts our communities.”
“Photography is a powerful method of communication that we can use to uplift people and initiate change in our world. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and those words can be in any of the 6,500 languages on planet earth.”
Korske says “I built World Photo Day for community, and I want to develop it together with community. Building out the World Photo Day vision requires a whole community of young guns, and I’m working on building that community of passionate young people as you read this.”
According to Korske, World Photo Day now has an established community with 47,000 Facebook fans, 4,000 Instagram followers and 4,000 Twitter followers. It also has over 11,000 registered participants on its Website from 111 countries.
I am one of the members of the World Photo Day community. Why? Simply because I am passionate about photography – and have been since I was given my first camera on my 9th birthday. It is a lifelong passion that has given me so much. I have made so many great friends who share my passion. I have had the privilege of meeting a number of internationally famous photographers and getting to know them personally. I have had so many opportunities to share some of my zillions of images with other people, through competitions and exhibitions, through my blog and my various Websites and, of course, just personally with family members and close friends.
So, on 19 August 2016 I will be capturing some images with a view to sharing something with even more people.
Here are some images I captured just out of Canberra on 19 August 2013.
Sunlight and Rainmist
World Photo Day Horses
World Photo Day Rainbow
And here are a couple that I took at Lake Tabourie on the south coast on 19 August 2014.
Lake Tabourie Dune
Lake Tabourie Seascape
You can read more about World Photo Day at http://worldphotoday.com/
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Freeing Ourselves From The Constraints Of Competitions

Most of us have at least something in us that makes us competitive and, so, we want to compete against each other and seek to win (or at least do well). And we get a buzz when we do succeed. So we photography enthusiasts enter photography competitions – at our local photography clubs, in the ever expanding number of Web-based opportunities, in so-called salons or exhibitions given approvals by our national photographic bodies such as the Australian Photographic Society, or by international bodies such as FIAP.

The judges of competitions vary in their personal photography skill levels or ability to assess images. The local newspaper where I live in Canberra conducts quarterly seasonal photography competitions for readers where the final judging of a group of selected images is done on Facebook by anyone who cares to vote. This means the eventual winners of modest cash prizes are the authors who have the most FB friends or the best social media skills to self-promote.

Judges at our photography clubs and in National and International salons are generally well-credentialed and experienced photographers who have themselves succeeded in such competitions and may well have completed a judging course. So, when we enter these competitions we submit images that we hope will please the judges. Whilst we learn from these experiences and, hopefully, improve our photography as a result, I wonder whether we also put our imagery into something of a straight-jacket at the same time.

At last year’s Australian Photographic Society Convention (APSCON 2015), some of the presenters introduced us to approaches that may not produce images that would succeed in competitions. I think that is a good thing as it helps free up our photography. Not every image we take needs to be aimed at competition. We should enjoy making images that will simply bring a smile to the face of a friend, or cause another person to ask “why on earth did you take that?”

The Society’s Contemporary Special Interest Group does not conduct any competitions, preferring instead to encourage its members to focus on exploring their own personal approaches to photography and to illustrate concepts. Members break “the rules” and seek to stretch the boundaries of their photography. I am not trying to make a case for joining the Group, simply suggesting that it is well worth exploring our own personal approaches by pursuing personal projects.

Last year I began working on a specific personal project which I now refer to as “Of Books and Memories”. I not only construct images relating to particular memories associated with particular books, I also write words about those memories. The possibility of a book of both the words and the images is not yet resolved in my mind. Here are some examples of the images that I have been constructing for that project.

Small - Dusty

Of Books and Memories – Dusty

Small - The Power of Positive Thinking

Of Books and Memories – The Power of Positive thinking

Like many others I also explore themes. Sometimes those explorations last for years, often lapsing and later being revisited. Others become the focus of intense activity for a relatively short time. One I have been exploring for the last few months has seen me grabbing quick images of the feet of people as they go about their activities in shopping centres, art galleries and elsewhere. I am wondering whether or not it has the potential for an exhibition in a gallery.

Feet - Tom Roberts at the Gallery

Feet – Tom Roberts at the Gallery

Feet - interacting outside after the opening

Feet – interacting outside after the opening

Feet - moving through the shopping mall

Feet – moving through the shopping mall

Feet - viewing the exhibition

Feet – viewing the exhibition

After having had the opportunity to learn from the Canadian photographer Robert Walker, firstly in Times Square, then at APSCON 2015 and finally by studying one of his books, I have explored imagery using something of his approach which often involves abstract shots with a limited colour palette and comprising geometrical shapes – perhaps where the same colours appear in diagonally opposite quadrants. I do not wish to simply imitate Robert, but rather to explore my own possibilities using his style as something of my inspiration. My explorations have already resulted in a photobook for home coffee table in which every image is a vertical.

Vertical - Tenterfield shop entry

Vertical – Tenterfield Shop Entry

Vertical - Tweed Heads Fish

Vertical – Tweed Heads Fish

Vertical - Circus Elements

Vertical – Circus Elements

Vertical - Sunshine Coast Coffee Shop

Vertical – Sunshine Coast Coffee Shop

I will continue to enter competitions at my local club, primarily because as a member I want to participate in as many of its activities as possible. I might even enter some of my freed up images! I will also continue to enter into a few select other competitions. But my principal focus is on creating new images for projects that I embark on; images that mostly will never be entered in competitions but will be shared with anyone who is interested – like those of you who have read this.

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Glimpses

I find that a useful thing to do is to gather images on a theme. Whenever I am out with my camera some particular themes are in the back of my mind – as well as whatever else I am specifically looking at photographing on that outing.

I find that, in the same way we look at things like light to see just what it is doing and, so, recognise a good image that the light is creating, I will notice something that fits one of my themes and might be a worthy addition to my collection.

There are all sorts of themes that we can work on – shadows, windows, whatever is the set subject for a forthcoming Canberra Photographic Society competition. The list is really endless. One of the themes I have explored on and off over many years is Glimpses.

The dictionary definitions of Glimpse include:

1.    A very brief, passing look, sight or view

2.    A momentary or slight appearance

3.    A vague idea; inkling

Storytelling is a very important aspect of much photography. If the viewer can weave a story around what they see in the image, then the photographer has succeeded in capturing their interest. I consider that the theme, Glimpses, provides an excellent vehicle for storytelling.

Here are some of my images on the theme of Glimpses. All of them were taken when I was traveling to other parts of Australia or overseas, times when my main focus was on gathering travel images. The concept of what constitutes a glimpse is interpreted variously, but each image shows a glimpse of one or more persons and, I feel, allows the viewer to invent a story about what they see.

Glimpse - Boy

Glimpse – Boy

In the image above we see just a glimpse of the young boy as he plays his own game, blissfully unaware of the scene behind him. It is a passing look of him as he moved quickly across the view through my lens. But what is it about? What was he actually doing? What is the setting? Why was he doing what he was in that setting? What were the other people behind him doing?

 

Glimpse - Legs.jpg

 

Glimpse – Legs

Here we glimpse only the lower half of a person and can do no more than speculate as to what the other half looks like. Do we have an inkling of what the upper half might be like? Is it definitely a woman? What was she doing?

Glimpse - Dance Reflection.jpg

 

Glimpse – Dance Reflection

This is a glimpse of my reflection between two glimpses of human forms holding stylised poses – for my camera? The viewer sees only a vague idea of me, the photographer.

Glimpse - Stall Holder - BR.jpg

 

Glimpse – Stall Holder

As she is hidden behind one of her wares on her stall at the markets, we only have a glimpse of this stall holder and need to imagine what she really looks like. Without the title, would you know she was a stall holder? What story would you attach to the image with no written information to accompany it?

Glimpse - Who is Watching

 

Glimpse – who is watching?

The woman on the bench appears to be taking a passing look over her shoulder at the people in the mural, who are not looking at her. Is she glimpsing them, whilst we are glimpsing her? Are we certain she is real, or is she a sculpture? Indeed, are the bench and her also part of the mural?

Glimpse - Self

 

Glimpse – Self

This image provides a glimpse of me and another person, both in the form of reflections. You can make out my camera. Was the other person also taking a photo – or watching what I was doing – or just there?

Glimpse - Couple

 

Glimpse – Couple

This couple was seated together against two separate reflective surfaces which created this image. For me, the glimpse of them, via their reflections, poses questions about their relationship.

Glimpse - Prayer

 

Glimpse – Prayer

Dressed smartly and possibly on her way to work this woman paused briefly at a public shrine. The blurred image seemed appropriate for the speed at which she made her offering and provides just a glimpse of her.

Glimpse - Le Mythe de Sisyphe

 

Glimpse – Le Mythe de Sisyphe

We gain an inkling of something about her from this glimpse of a young woman in a Champs-Elysées café. Her taste in books incudes at least one classic. Does it include more of the same, or was she only reading it because it was a set text for a course of study she was undertaking?

Glimpse - Pool User

 

Glimpse – Pool User

 

On the roof of a 56 floor hotel/shopping mall building in Singapore there is an edge pool for hotel guests. Other visitors to the building can glimpse users through screens (and the gaps between them) – voyeuristically? here we see a momentary view of this man as he passed the gap where my camera was positioned.

Glimpse - Curtains

Glimpse – Curtains

We can do no more than glimpse all these people through the translucent curtain fabric. We can only speculate as to who they were and what they might have been doing.

Glimpse - Family

Glimpse – Family

In this passing look at them, we view enough to learn about this family’s faith and that they have at least one child, but little else about them. It is merely a glimpse of this family.

Glimpse - Darkness

Glimpse – Darkness

In the darkness we barely glimpse a figure or two. We learn nothing about them. Are they men or women? Where are they? Is that a boat they were on? If so, where was it – and they – going at this apparently late hour?

Glimpse - Spectacles

Glimpse – Spectacles

In this glimpse through a wet window we see that the man wears spectacles and, probably, sufficient of his head to take a reasonable guess at his race. But what more can we glean or invent from the image? What was he doing? What is the pink shape? What is the bright light? Was there anyone else with him? Write your own story.

Glimpse - Tea

Glimpse – Tea

In this glimpse of a woman we see just enough to tell us that she is being served tea by a waiter in a smart-looking venue. We do not know who she is, why she was alone or why she was even there.

Each of the Glimpse images above may conjure up quite different stories for you to what I have briefly suggested below them, and different ones again for each other viewer. That doesn’t matter. The important thing is to explore themes for yourself and, so, look at everything around you when out and about with a camera (or even when you don’t have a camera with you). When we observe we substantially improve our prospects of capturing interesting imagery.

–       Brian Rope

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A Horse Called Cow

After years of listening to other people talk about it, I eventually went to New Zealand. It was a long time ago and it was during one summer. I was there for twenty four days altogether and saw a great deal of both the main islands. I’ve returned to the South Island since and seen places I missed on my first trip. But I’m sure I could return to the Land of the Long White Cloud for as long again and still not have seen anything like all of it. Most of you who have been to New Zealand would, I’m sure, agree.

Which was your favourite island – the North or the South? That question has been asked by so many, seemingly wanting confirmation of their own views. I find it difficult to answer. The South Island has its wonderful mountains and rain forests. The North Island has its magnificent thermal areas. And yes, both had their disappointments for me, because expectations had been built too high by some of my friends. You probably already have your own favourite parts of New Zealand, perhaps even if you haven’t been there in person!

So, let me tell you something which you may not have seen or heard about. It is almost certainly not still there, because so many years have passed since I saw it. It was a horse named cow. On one side anyway!

Along the stunningly beautiful road to Milford, where the rain forest makes you drool, there is a great deal to see. Water cascades down its twisting and turning and plunging courses, through chasms and gullies, over rocks, sometimes meandering more slowly along more tranquil landscapes. Mountain peaks soar high above, today piercing fluffy white clouds, tomorrow shrouded in forbidding grey swirls of precipitation which makes the fungi, lichens and tree ferns shine with life. A cheeky and inquisitive Kea bird in a roadside car park uses its unbelievably strong beak to vigorously attack a plastic grocery store bag which a thoughtless tourist has left hanging from a tree.

Along this magical route there is a turn-off. Eleven kilometres after emerging from the one-in-ten gradient downward run through the solid rock 1.2Km long Homer tunnel, there is another road leading into the Hollyford River. It took me to Gunn’s Camp five hundred metres above sea level with its old cabins and signpost proclaiming “NZ’s MOST IMPORTANT PROJECT – HOLLYWOOD-WESTLAND ROAD 80K”.

This was a political message far away from the eyes of New Zealand’s then leaders in Wellington. And, since they tend to stick to the major routes, it was also a message unseen by most tourists travelling to or from Milford. Not everyone would have shared the view that a road should be constructed through from here to the Westland region, and it was a somewhat surprising message to find at a place where trampers – hikers, walkers, trekkers, bushwalkers if you prefer – could camp. But, no doubt, the proponents had expressed their message in other ways as well as on this little seen signpost.

But I hadn’t come to see this signpost, or to consider the merits of a new road. I had come looking for a horse, supposedly called “cow”. I had read a throwaway comment in my 1991 Lonely Planet Guidebook and thought I may as well take a look, as I was so close. And there it was. Not close enough to get a decent photo and, seemingly, camera shy as it kept moving and hiding each time I pointed my camera lens in its direction. But I did get one image which proves the key part of my story to be true. Painted on one side was the word “COW”. On the other side, of which I did not manage to get a photo, it read “HORSE”.

EPSON MFP image

Why? The answer was simple. The horse’s owner, one Murray Gunn, was worried that shooters aiming at “anything brown that moved” might mistake his horse for a deer, unless he labelled it. After painting “HORSE” in large white letters on one side of his favourite horse, he just decided to paint “COW” on the other side! Apparently if you walk the Hollyford Track from Gunn’s Camp, your guides might also tell you that this Fiordland character said “city slickers wouldn’t know the difference and sometimes he needed the milk”.

The horse called cow was just one of the many tourist attractions in New Zealand when I first visited. Not as famous as many others, but interesting nevertheless.

By way of a postscript, Murray Gunn is also famous for having presented New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Helen Clark, with a memento after she decided that, perhaps, free trade in nuclear arms with the USA may not be the most beneficial thing for her country after all. Murray Gunn died in 2014 at the age of 89.

– Brian Rope

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