Thursday, 29 June 2017


Have you considered a project, using your images in a body of work to show the world, your world through your eyes. Defining a project is a great way to develop a body of work. Defining a project can help you set goals, sets timelines and helps to focus your creativity. This body of work can be for lets say photography letters with a Photographic Society, this is a great challenge to set yourself, to produce a cohesive set of images, that a board of experienced photographer feel achieve a standard of competence. This can take several attempts to achieve and failure can be devastating, you have put your heart and soul into all the images submitted, however have you produced a set of images that are unique to you rather than emulating others. As you try for higher awards this becomes more important, stay unique give the assessors something to challenge them. I recently achieved my Silver level with the Photographic Society of America, now to work on my Gold, I can not use the same set of images I used for my Silver, so it is time to produce 20 new images that are unique and worthy of a Gold level.
There are many other avenues to venture into that require the production of a body of work, why not give it a go.
Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work. When you define a project you focus, set goals, set quotas, set timelines, create a useful structure for your images, collect accompanying materials, and polish the presentation of your efforts so that they will be well received.
Focusing your efforts into a project will help you produce a useful product. A project gives your work a definite, presentable structure. A finished project makes work more useful and accessible. Once your project is done, your work will have a significantly greater likelihood of seeing the light of day. Who knows, public acclaim may follow. Come what may, your satisfaction is guaranteed …
Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work. When you define a project you focus, set goals, set quotas, set timelines, create a useful structure for your images, collect accompanying materials, and polish the presentation of your efforts so that they will be well received.
Focusing your efforts into a project will help you produce a useful product. A project gives your work a definite, presentable structure. A finished project makes work more useful and accessible. Once your project is done, your work will have a significantly greater likelihood of seeing the light of day. Who knows, public acclaim may follow. Come what may, your satisfaction is guaranteed …
Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work. When you define a project you focus, set goals, set quotas, set timelines, create a useful structure for your images, collect accompanying materials, and polish the presentation of your efforts so that they will be well received.
Focusing your efforts into a project will help you produce a useful product. A project gives your work a definite, presentable structure. A finished project makes work more useful and accessible. Once your project is done, your work will have a significantly greater likelihood of seeing the light of day. Who knows, public acclaim may follow. Come what may, your satisfaction is guaranteed …

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Let the rest of us.

So the last stage, is the image you are going to show to your family, friends or perhaps the world. Have you produced an image of the scene you captured that is more than a record shot. Have you added your own feelings and opinions of the scene you witnessed.  Is the image the best you can make it, if you are going to enter it into a competition, does not matter if it is a club or an International salon you need to make sure you give the judge no reason, technically to throw the image out. Do remember that some judges do not have the understanding of all types of processing and can make mistakes. I have had a very good image, well i think so and that is all that matters, unaccepted by a judge because he considered the B&W image to be pixelated, simply he did not understand the dynamics of grain, when I confronted him about this he had to admit his mistake. I am a judge and we do make mistakes, sorry.
So you decide to print your image, first thing is print to the largest resolution you can, lets say 300 DPI not 72DPI. Paper choice is another massive subject, there are some very good papers out there, it can be an expensive exercise, however there is nothing better than seeing a well printed image hanging on a wall. make a book of your image. Whatever you decide, do something with them rather than letting them lie on the hard drive, share, let the rest of us see what you are seeing.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Suggestions not statements

 So the second stage of any image is  post processing. Do you feel like you are weighed down by the expectations of what you are supposed to do with your images. It is your image, so why should you do what others want you too do. You were there when you pressed the shutter, something in that Nano second caused you to press the shutter, so how would someone else know what is required in post processing to make your vision/voice heard.
As an accreditation  judge and someone who has been judges many times, I am disappointing how so many so called experts tell us what we must do with our images, they should only critic the image as it place in front of them not what they would have done. Make suggestions not statements.
Too often we lose the story we captured with the post processing we use, we over process, so the image become how good or not we are in Photoshop or Lightroom or whatever program you use. These programs should be used as an emery board not a jackhammer.

Do not let technology weigh you down, use it to your advantage, the more you get it right in the camera and the more you know about your equipment and the technology you will use the more you will understand what the final image will look like. You want to paddle along,  enjoying the experience, it is not going to happen overnight, but if you keep working and staying true to yourself and your vision, you will create images that will move viewers the way you were moved when you captured the image. Have fun.

Monday, 26 June 2017


Enthusiasm, I once heard that there are three ingredients when combined will produce success in any field you are interested in being successful in. One is Talent, one is Hard Work and last is Enthusiasm, you only need two of these elements to be successful as long as one of them is Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm of a scene inspires you to try harder, it can often manifest itself as an emotional response. Without Enthusiasm you will have no spontaneity and the work will become labored,
with Enthusiasm your work will become joy.  Many people want to take better images, how are you going to achieve this without Enthusiasm of what you are photographing. As I have said before, how well do you know your camera, if the technical side of the camera gets in the way of your Enthusiasm do something about it.
There are 3 steps to getting better images.
One, the initial capture.
Two, processing.
Third the print/ the finished image.
Most of us have to work on the Hard Work element, rather than the Talent, we need to understand how our camera works and know what we need to do with the camera to get the results we want. 
"Prior and proper preparation prevents 'p'-poor performance!" a quote from the Natural horseman who I studied for 7 year, Pat Parelli. Understand your equipment so it does not get in the way of your image.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Last full day

 Yesterday was a very wet day here in Samoa. The rain eventually left us around 3pm so I went out and about for a walk armed with camera. I headed down the road to a place I had found some Samoan children a few days before and yes they were there again, once again playing in the water with total gay abandonment, not a care in the world. They seen me coming and came along the beach to meet me, Uncle they called me, in their best English, how are you. 
I spent the next 45 minutes watching and photographing these children play, the energy, the fun. Today is my last full day here in Samoa,what a great way to finish this trip spending it photographing these kids, no cellphones, no ipads, no technology, I let them look at the pictures I was taking on the back of my camera, they laughed with a laughter that will be hard to forget and as I think about it, it makes me smile. As I watched and photographed I tried to be quiet, to be part of this moment in time, to let the energy of these children infuse me. I have recently been reading a book where the author talks about a concept of looking with your ears and listening with your eyes, I think being with these children I achieved this. Now to practice seeing with my ears and listening with my eyes.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


 Out and about yesterday I got a few images I like. We came across some young men fishing, so we stopped and chatted as you do and I captured a few images. During the afternoon I went for another walk and came across some kids playing on the beach so I spent sometime talking to them, then photographed them at play. I spent about 30 minutes with them, they played games and teased the funny old Palangi who was taking their  images and talking to them  with a funny accent. Do not know if they have heard a Scottish/Kiwi accent before but it made them laugh and if you have never heard a Samoan child laugh you have missed something very special in life. It is infectious and you cannot help but laugh  with them. While I was sitting with them happily shooting away I was thinking that children of Samoa have been photographed thousands of times, what is it that I can bring to the image to make my image of them unique.

It is no different to photograph anything that has been done million times like the Wanaka tree, what can you do too make it different so that people viewing it will know you took it, can you be unique in your approach to the subject, can you capture its soul, the gesture, that comes from you, that nano second that will never be repeated or the rest of the us to enjoy. Do you give all the answers in your images or do you leave some questions for the viewer.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Eyes wide open.

We live busy lives, constantly on the go, not taking time to smell the roses or just enjoy the environment we are in. We are currently at Taufua fala resort here in Samoa, a different place from all the others, a lot more westerners than anywhere else we have been. I am sitting here this morning looking out to sea, a rainbow is overhead, eating a fresh pork bun given to me by the local people who work at the resort, no other palangi are up. Life is simple for these people, family is important to them, it is not about individuals it is about the greater good of the family. I spent most of yesterday just looking, not taking many images with the camera, however I looked with my mind and captured images with my eyes. It is often a good thing just to look and see what is going on around you. Today I will go to the local village and find a place I like and sit and wait, the players will come, some I will photograph and some I will just talk too, the whole time I will be looking with my eyes wide open. This is a great exercise which I feel and strongly believe improves your photography, looking at the scene,, the lighting the composition, the story, would it make a strong image should I shoot it or keep it in my own image gallery, the one in my head, a memory not to be shared.

Monday, 19 June 2017

So what makes

So what makes a good photograph?. There are many different answers to this question and many different photographers will happily give you their opinion. Some say composition, others it might be subject, perhaps another answer would be light or fill the frame, lets not forget negative space, some might suggest it is about the amount of post processing required to get the idea out, Black and White over Colour. For me it is Gesture or you could say the Soul of the image and I believe there is gesture and soul in everything, you just have to learn to see it. Sometime as in the images on this page, the gesture/soul is for me easy to see, it was the cheeky look on the Samoan boys face or the wee girl below.
There is no quick recipe for achieving this it takes time, your soul looking at the subjects soul, now that just might create a good photograph.
As Jay Maisel said-"if it does not excite you the thing that you see, how in the world are you going to excite me."

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Winding road.

The journey we take in our photography is an interesting one, one that starts with the purchase or the borrowing of a camera. I started pretty young, not really sure exact age, but I believe it  was around 6 years old. I have a B&W image of me with a camera and I guess I look about 6. We are often encouraged by friends and family in the early days of our photography, who often tell us what we want to hear, not the truth.  During our discovery in photography we take many roads and hopefully survive many hurdles, which if we work hard, practice and study will lead us to creating creative images which are recognizable as our work, unique. It is a long and winding road that will take us to this point and along that road we will fall off the track at times. We will often get obsessed with one style of photography, but to get our stronger subjects stronger we need to get our weaker subjects stronger. Whatever you find in photography to be difficult, should be your next challenge. If you are not pushing yourself into an uncomfortable area you will not grow, improve or shine. I was asked during last weeks Samoan Photo/ Cycling tour, how do I decide what images to play with from the thousands we have taken during the trip. I have a list of five elements that I look for in an image that help me make the decision to which ones I play with. These are , Gesture, Light, Colour, Story and  Impact.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Faith and Confidence

It is not a great mystery, that perhaps the best way to learn is to do it. The more we shoot, the better we will get, the faster our reaction time will be. The more experience we have, will teach you what works and what does not, it will teach you how your camera works to get the best from it  and you. The more you shoot the more your eye will be in the viewfinder then you will find yourself in the right place at the right moment with hopefully the right like. What is the best light, that is the available light any dam light that is available. To get these sets to work takes repetition and repetition becomes your teacher.  Experience then stays with you and can be accessed when needed you only need to have faith in yourself. Just like the shot here, it happened in such a fleeting moment in time, no time to consider or think, I just had to do it and have the confidence and faith in myself and equipment that I would get the shot my minds eye saw. I am happy.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Hurry up and slow down

Lets hurry up and slow down, the end is coming soon enough why rush there. We went for a bus trip today and stop off at the drivers village. He took us to his younger kids school and we got to take images in the classrooms of the kids working. As a thank you I took images of all the classes both as a formal shoots then a funny, the last time this was done was 2013 when a tourist visited the school. A lot of fun had by all. While spending time with the kids I just sat in the class on the floor and enjoyed there company. A time to hurry up and slow down. I will be off the grid for a few day. So take care and head out with the camera.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Deeper images

 During this trip to Samoa, I have taken more images that have stayed colour than on any of the other three trips. I have asked myself why, I really do not know, however something inside of me, the visual circus in my brain, my subconscious is directing my conscious mind to keep them as colour. Is this another step in my development as a photographer/artist. I listen to my inner creative voice and I trust it to get it right and so far it has been spot on, so why not let it take control, what do I know. I guess for me it is not about taking better images to show how well I know my camera, it is to be more honest, vulnerable, authentic and share something about me to the world and the things that I see and move me, if anyone want to read the story or understand the poem I am trying to share then that is a bonus. If you want to make deeper images, that depth comes from you.

Don't Look

 I came across this mother and two children playing in the water, the family connection was playful, natural and true.
Becoming more creative should not be approached as a one size fits all. Each and every moment you capture is unique to that moment, the gesture, light and colour can change ever so subtly, these elements give the image the X factor you were looking for or missed. It is about being in the ZONE, all those creative juices channel to the right place to enable you to get the image, know when to press the shutter, reading the scene, knowing the limitation of your camera or yourself. When you are in the ZONE, time is irrelevant, decisions are made fluidly, experimentation leads to good results and when done you feel like you have come out of a trance, with some good images as the result. The focused mind of the focused photographer in the ZONE is alert without being jittery and aware of their surroundings. There's a goal in mind and steps have been taken to achieve that goal and these steps are taken with a sense of play not dread.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Hungry Eyes.

Good photographers have hungry eyes, they are constantly on the lookout for another image, always internalizing composing. So how do we decide what to photograph, for me it is really simple, if it moves me, I shoot, this wee girl was walking towards me and the dog was walking the line I liked, the gesture, the story that was unfolding in front of me, so I shoot.
Unfortunately we can get overwhelmed with what to shoot, too many options, sometimes we struggle to get excited about taking the camera out, analysis paralysis sets in, what if no one likes it, falling into the trap of analysis paralysis is to set limitations on yourself. Take the camera and yourself for a walk and see what happens.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Chip on the shoulder

More like a small tree, I passed this boy yesterday while I was out and about exploring. I asked to take his picture and he agreed. Every image tells a story, the first step is to understand the story your image is trying to tell. Some images tell a novel, others a poem.  I can relate to this image in a way others will never understand, others have not lived my life or experienced what I have experienced. Images stick with us because they have "soul". This image hits me between the eye as I can feel the road he is traveling.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Cacao Beans

Whittaker's single origin artisan collection Samoa range of chocolate comes from the village we are currently staying in. We visited the factory this morning and learned the process they are going through to get the beans to NZ. A few companies are banding together as well as the NZ government to help get the villagers on the North West of Savaii island to get a brand of bean that is unique to them. Very interesting and another reason I feel to support Whittaker's chocolate.They need another 42 bags and they will be ready to send a container load to NZ, this will be the first full container load to be sent. Sometime images are about record keeping, not always about competitions.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Silly Question.

Curiosity, who are you? Why are you in my village?. Honesty in the questions asked, as many have heard me say, there is no such thing as a silly question, if you do not know you don't know. We produce work that people find difficult to understand and we hope that enough people spend time looking at our images to learn what we are trying to communicate, you could always contact the artist and ask. It is one of the difficulties of an artist being understood and with the hope that enough people will look for your work to either study or as we all hope purchase.  As I travel around Savaii island, I encounter many friendly people who ask, where I am from and why I am in Samoa. They do not know so it is not a silly question. On my workshops I often say "it is better to stand up and ask a question and look a little stupid than sit there looking intelligent, but reamining stupid.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Life is good

Yesterday we spent time at a preschool. The innocence of these children. We took along some school supplies, which they used straight away, drawing pictures and learning numbers plus much more. It reminded me of how complicated life has become. As I cycle around Savaii I am reminded of how one can survive on a simple diet of life. I always feel refreshed on these trips, the jungle, the people, the falas and the friendliness of the people we meet. Traveling with my new camera system which I love an done again am happy with my choice of system. So easy to get it right in the camera time and time again ,post processing kept to a minimum, life is good. 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


As I cycle along my merry way through the countryside of Savaii Island, I am constantly looking left and right, very rarely looking straight ahead, I glance to see where I am going, but I want to see what is happening around me, LIFE. The normal day to day existence of a simple yet proud people. I witnessed this scene and could not get off my bike quickly enough, camera out and shoot. I ask myself as I am shooting what is it about this scene that has triggered an emotion to capture it, what do I need in the frame, these are thoughts for me that exist in a subconscious state, yet I know what I want and I often know what I will do with it,  nano seconds after pressing the shutter. Today we are off to a preschool here in Manase, looking forward to seeing and photographing these beautiful children .

Sunday, 4 June 2017

The trip has started.

So here we are in Samoa, Savaii Island cycling around, day one, say us, on the ferry, off the ferry, lunch then on the road to Lano for the night. Road has been busy but plenty of kids to talk to and photograph. As the famous photographer Ernst Hass commented "Set the stage and the players will come", the stage for me is my bicycle as it attracts attention from the kids and adults a like. Or maybe it is because I am white and talk funny. Tomorrow we head over the lava fields to Manase ,the lave church and plenty of small hills and plantations to pass.      

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Visual circus

In photography everything starts in your head. Not in the outside world, but inside you. in your mind and soul. Therefore, you need to have a black and white mind in the figurative sense of the word. This will allow you to create your vision in black and white.
What do you mean I hear you say.
It means a lot of things, among which the ability to go to the essence of things,  to recognize what is important in what you have photographed and what needs to be emphasized,  to recognize your subject, to recognize your idea, so you know what scene, subject, point of view, light conditions will be the best raw material you can use to recreate your vision in a black and white image. Regardless of how crazy others think you are, or the visual circus that exists in your head, when you have an idea just do it
 A little saying if often recite to myself, that helps me is: "on the Plaines of hesitate, bleach the bones of countless million, who at the dawn of victory, sat down to wait and in waiting died"

Samoa a photographers paradise

Here is the article I wrote last year for the Photographic Society of America, Monthly journal. I am enjoying Samoa as you read this article.

Exploring Traditional Samoa
 A Photographic/Cycling Adventure

Samoa is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. The Independent state of Samoa (these islands are approx. 100 miles west from American Samoa) consists of two main islands, Upolu and Savaii, with several smaller islands scattered around the coastlines.
With average fitness it’s easy to spend 10-14 days cycling the 125 miles around Savaii Island, stopping at will to photograph the place, the people, the buildings and the daily happenings that would be missed if travelling by car.

Flights from New Zealand land near Apia, on Upolu Island. Suitable bicycles and panniers can be hired a short distance from the airport and ferry terminal. Part of the adventure is the ferry trip from Upolu to Savaii. Whilst waiting for the ferry the distinctively colorful buses are coming and going, discharging passengers and embarking others. The wares the people carry are often large and unusual and despite appearances must have all somehow fitted on the bus!  Hustle and bustle abounds. The ferry is full of fascinating people with a variety of interesting produce and then there are the views.  It’s a 70-minute ferry ride across the Apolima strait to Savaii; the stunning coastal scenery goes by too quickly for an avid photographer.
The main road circumnavigates the Island of Savaii and might equate to a total of about 12 to 18 hours of actual cycling for an easy to moderate cyclist. Taking 14 days allows for plenty of rest days and they are easily filled up walking around the local village, cycling up side roads or to villages off the beaten track on photographic expeditions. There is plenty of time for swimming and/or snorkeling or to just relax with a drink and a book on the beach or by your Fale.

 Accommodation is varied. Traditional Open Fales are a bit like camping but with a little more style, a mattress, clean sheets and mosquito nets are provided. These traditional fales are a big part of the cultural experience, but should you prefer more comfort there are air-conditioned motel style rooms available in most places.
Breakfast and dinner are included with the accommodation. Meals are interesting and usually prepared with traditional produce, recipes and cooking methods. The locally caught fish, free-range pork, locally grown taro, bananas and other fruits that are on the menu when available are delicious and always plentiful.
This was our second cycling trip to Savaii and safety and security were never found to be an issue. Cell phone and data access was always good around the Island and a local Samoan Sim card was easily acquired.
Often while cycling along, your senses will alert you to a potential image.  Something heard or smelt, maybe smoke or children’s laughter. One is continually on the lookout for the unusual; maybe an old church, someone walking along the road carrying their wares to market or even a game of 'Kilikiti' - traditional Samoan cricket. The beautifully colored birds, the lava fields, and the interesting buildings will encourage you to get your camera out.  There are pigs and piglets, chickens and chicks everywhere to bring out a smile and capture the interest.
A camera hanging around your neck makes for easy access and also helps with humidity control. Humidity can be an issue. Where possible it is best keep the camera temperature constant to alleviate this problem. Keeping your camera in the camera bag exacerbates this problem so when you take it out to capture an image, the lens can fog over. One disadvantage of travelling by car is the air conditioning. This makes condensation on the lens even worse… not to mention missing all the little things that you see, hear and smell when travelling by bike.

 The people of Savaii, especially the children enjoy having their pictures taken so to make communication with the them easier it helps to learn a few local phrases - hello (malo), good morning/evening (talofa), please (fa’amolemole), thank you (fa’afetai), excuse me (tulou) goodbye (tofa). Also don’t forget that sign language (pointing etc) works a treat along with a friendly smile; it just takes a little practice.
The distance cycled between destinations ranges from 12.5 to 35 miles, mostly done in the morning before the heat of the day. Loose cotton clothing is best when cycling as it helps to allow the flow of air to keep you cool. The temperature in June/July ranges between about 70 - 90degrees F. This is a pleasant temperature for a relaxing swim when arriving at the destination. After lunch and days not cycling, there is plenty to do; exploring the local villages, kayaking the lagoons, snorkeling or just going for a walk and seeing what the local people are doing, with camera ready to shoot.
Sunday is the big day on the Island. The locals dress up in their Sunday best and the singing at the churches is a worthwhile experience. With a good shady tree to sit under at the right time outside the church and a bit of patience the words of a great photographer, Robert Doisneau will have a new meaning “Set the stage and the players will come”.

A stop at the local shop will likely bring the children out of their fales to come and see you, hence more photographic opportunities. Not to mention a welcome chance for a cold drink or ice cream.

Savaii Island is a photographer’s treasure, with an abundance of tradition and culture. It is an accessible location, modestly priced with accommodation costs that nearly always include breakfast and dinner. It is a very friendly environment with photogenic, strong and proud people. The cycling is fun and well worth the extra effort to get those WOW images. It is a place worth visiting a number of times to get the full benefit of the photographic opportunities.

Friday, 2 June 2017


 Getting packed and ready for the next adventure to Samoa. Last night I was rereading a Vincent Versace book and came across an Ansel Adams quote and for me it say it all.
" You don't make a photograph just with a camera .You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved."
This trip will be with a different camera system, the Nikon D810 and I am really excited to see what we will see and capture.

I will update my blog as I can, with images and stories of our trip.

Within us all.

 Creativity is within us all, it just has to be let out to play. However we as adults suffer from an ailment that stops us from exercising the  creativity muscle.
It is called ADULTISM.
Feeling that you will never do something well is no reason not to do it. Let that something become your newest best friend, it is from doing that things never before seen are born.

We are in a wonderful time in photography amd we are part of it.
The digital image allows anyone willing to take it, the path of unlimited potential where impossible is merely an opinion, an opinion not held by the viewer but the creator. This means the photographers/artists imagination is the only limitation to creativity.

No two Photographers

 What is often overlooked is the importance of imagination over technique. "Give me inspiration over information" a statement often heard from Cartier- Bresson.
There is no such thing as the prefect image, as no two photographers have the same idea to what constituents or defines a perfect image. Once you come to the understanding that we all perceive the perfect image differently you can come to the understanding that the viewer who you must impress the most and first, is the one viewer who truly matters YOU. The tools and techniques that  help your voice/story heard are your choice, however consider this, creative voice always trumps technique but without technique you may never get your creative voice heard.
Taken by the gesture of the moment is the goal, so let that moment cause you to press the shutter.
" I would say to an artist; "do not be repressed in your work, dare to experiment, consider any urge, if in a new direction all the better" Edward Weston.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Mediocrity NO

Do not be happy with mediocrity, aim to be a virtuoso, the best YOU can be.
Some people work for many years to find what they are looking for in art/photography.
There is a common saying that you need 10,000 hours of study and practice to get to a level of really mastering your art form.While there are ways to speed this process up, this rule is generally true in the case of a fine art photographer /artist, considering that besides the practical skills that you need, one also has to cultivate your eye. This can be achieved by further study and theoretical knowledge, however is it often experience and many artistic/photographic experiences, that will get you to the point where you can say you have found your VISION/ STYLE and this may take sometime to find/achieve. Once you feel you have reached this point of creating a VISION/ STYLE stick to it and your pictures will be unique and also recognizable, through YOUR shooting and editing style. It does not really matter what camera system you use it is the sensibility to bring to the image that is the most important.