I've done some new work with Brett from Bella Management, playing with ideas I've had for a while about shooting surfing portraits and some exercise/sports work. We lucked out by having one of the most beautiful sunrises at Maroubra Beach I'd ever seen.
A few months ago I was contacted by the U.S. natural history publication the Smithsonian Magazine to shoot a story on Charles Darwin’s exploration of the Blue Mountains- it’s one of my favourite places in Australia.
It was a shoot that I became more passionate about as I worked my way through the assignment; it was an odd coincidence that I was hired for this shoot- a few weeks before the magazine asked me about doing the assignment my wife and I had decided to move our family to the Blue Mountains. It was a pretty exciting opportunity to explore a whole region that would be our new home. It was early spring when I started the job and the Blue Mountains is much colder and rainier than Sydney, so instead of doing the whole shoot in one trip, I actually had to drive out to the mountains every weekend for a month to get a break from the rain and fog and get all the shots I needed.
In Glenbrook and also in the Wolgan Valley I saw hand paintings in caves which are said to range from hundreds to thousands of years old and it struck me how much more of an impact seeing hand prints made on me than carvings or drawings I’ve seen at other sites. To see a hand print of someone from thousands of years before is to see their size, their age and their physical humanity and connect with them in a way I hadn’t really sensed before. I noticed one set of hand prints where the person must have broken their hand at some point and it healed badly because one of the fingers bent away from the hand in an unnaturally awkward angle. I felt like I was reading some form of ancient text about who lived on this land.
Often when I'm shooting a morning landscape I'll get to the location well before dawn and shoot through the sunrise for an hour or two. Even in a not-so-mindblowing landscape there is usually a moment where the light and the morning atmosphere does something that makes everything light up in the right way. For these shots of what is known as the Jamison Valley in the Blue Mountains off of Sublime Point in Leura, I felt like I was watching a light show- the sun, the mist and the eucalyptus vapor in the air kept changing colors and lighting up the landscape in surprisingly different ways. Every 10 minutes was something different. Finally when I was done I set the camera down in the grass while I was packing up my gear and tripod and grabbed a quick shot- I realised that that was probably my favorite shot of the morning.
I spent a day doing a massive hike in the bushwalk around the Three Sisters. I started off at Scenic World taking the world's steepest train down the escarpment and walked for hours around the bush track. I wasn't keeping track of time and missed their last elevator back up, so I ended up having to climb the near-vertical staircase up the Three Sisters with a backpack full of heavy camera gear after I was already tired from hiking all day. By the time I walked back to my car and put the keys in the ignition I closed my eyes for a second and ended up sleeping for an hour and a half in the drivers seat with the door open.
The cottage that Darwin stayed in was located on the property of the Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort- the most expensive hotel in Australia. I had arrived on a Friday afternoon and it coincided with their absolute busiest time- when the guests are all arriving for the weekend. There were Ferraris and Lamborghinis in the parking lot and guests landing at the helicopter pad and I was given about an hour to shoot what I needed to get before they had to devote their full attention to the guests. Since the magazine budget clearly did not involve staying at the spa, after I was done shooting I had to drive about an hour before I could find a place to stay. The local town was having a big lawn bowling competition and all of the rooms were booked out to drunken retirees enjoying their night out with the boys. The only place I could find to sleep was a room above a loud pub with a bunch of guys arguing about rugby. My bed must have been a junior bed because my feet hung off the bed past my ankles and I could hear a guy in the room next door watching porn on his phone all night. The difference between the Emirates Spa and the sleeping situation I had arrived at could not have been more stark. I had a late dinner at a local bar and was called a "fancypants" by one of the locals. I couldn't really figure out why other than the fact that I was wearing glasses and reading while eating dinner. I guess I was being a fancypants.
I had taken some big hikes getting (sort of) lost looking through a cave system in the Wolgan Valley for some hand paintings that were just too hard to find. Instead I got sunburn and bug bites. After finding only a few hand paintings I struck out for the Mt. Tomah Botanical Gardens which have examples of wollemi pines growing in their gardens. It was the end of the shoot, I had gotten everything ticked off my shot list and I was looking forward to going home the next day.
I was supposed to meet Darwin's great-great-grandson Chris Darwin and shoot his portrait, but despite our best efforts we just couldn't make it happen- he had booked passage on a very slow container ship from France to Australia to reduce his carbon footprint and didn't get back until after the story went to press.
The story that the images accompany can be found on the Smithsonian's website here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/australia-put-evolution-darwins-mind-180953651/?no-ist
A few weeks ago a good friend of mine decided to take me trout fishing with his brother to one of his family's favourite secret trout fishing spots. Gerrod and I became friends before I moved to Australia as his wife and my wife went to art school together. It also just so happens that our kids were born a few months apart, are great playmates and are often mistaken for twins. Gerrod and his family also happens to live just two blocks away from us, so he's basically family. He's been an avid fisherman his entire life and I was one growing up. I quit fishing after my teens again and didn't pick it up again until the global financial collapse hit in 2008, the photography jobs dried up for a while and I had a lot of time on my hands. I spent a lot of time in the wonderful Driftless Region of Wisconsin but when I moved to Australia I was convinced that the climate would be too hot and dry and the water too warm to go trout fishing. I packed away my gear and would just get misty-eyed when my buddy in Oregon would post pictures of his boozy Pacific Northwest fishing trips complete with massive salmon and steelhead catches.
Gerrod and I had been planning to go fishing for quite some time but it's hard to get away when we're working dads but after some careful planning we were able to do some trips to the Snowy Mountains and the Wollondilly River. It's winter time here so the water is cold enough for the trout to run and there are certain areas upstream from dams where it's still legal to fish this late in the year. We left well before dawn and spent some time driving through cliffhanging dirt roads and hiking through fields and woods of frost to get to the spot. The trout had just begun to do their run to spawn but it hadn't rained much and the river levels were low so despite the fact that I caught this fat 2kg beauty on my second cast, we didn't catch anything else for the rest of the day. That was fine by me though. I'm not one of those fisherman who likes to haul in and release fish all day. I'll spare the fish the stress. If I catch my keeper fish, I'm done for the day and I'll just spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the nature.
I recently wrote a post about an ad campaign that I shot for the eyewear retailer OPSM in Busselton, Western Australia with Saatchi & Saatchi. The images below are just a few of the shots that I did for the brand to tell some of the stories of the everyday people in Napier, New Zealand. I love New Zealand- aside from having incredibly beautiful landscapes the people there are quite beautiful and agreeable in their own right. We met a huge range of people from architects, designers, farmers, fisherman, tractor mechanics, vintners and even a Scottish bag piping corps and I felt blessed to be able to meet these people, hear their stories and shoot in such an intimate way. We shot there for a week and I averaged 16 hour days and took portraits of over 50 people and plenty of landscapes and I was exhausted in the end but really had great shoot.
The town and its surrounds are an interesting mix of 1930s art deco architecture and farms offering fresh picked cherries, figs, berries and veggies everywhere we went. I ate some of the freshest, tastiest food I've ever had and we felt welcomed by friendly faces everywhere we went. If you're ever there, be sure to check out the lovely people at Aroha and Friends.
I recently spent several weeks traveling and working with Saatchi & Saatchi on a new ad campaign for the eye wear retailer OPSM. The job was a really exciting project for me to be a part of because it picked two small towns- Busselton, Western Australia and Napier, New Zealand- and found people of all ages and walks of life who use and need their product, eye glasses. Saatchi & Saatchi scoured through Australian and New Zealand census data to determine a town in each country that encompassed the broad range of types of jobs, incomes, ethnicities etc. that represent each country. We met with bushfire fighters, a horse whisperer, a bagpipe marching band, a master jeweller and a beekeeper just to name a few. I was really excited by the notion of shooting my favorite subject in advertising work: real people with real stories. These are just a few of the shots from Busselton, Western Australia. I'll post images from the New Zealand campaign which was shot in Napier, New Zealand in the near future.
Like most of the large productions I've been working on lately, I was shooting alongside a TVC production that was filming spots for TV and the web, while I was shooting images for the new catalog, website and everything print- in-store, billboards etc. We shot every day for 10-14 hours a day for 2 weeks and I ended up shooting portraits of over 100 people and a lot of landscapes along the way. Most days I would shoot alongside the TVC crew, grabbing shots when I could and stepping in when the TVC guys were done or had a few minutes to hand the subject and location over to me. In each city I had a day to shoot 25 portraits a day which broke down to a new location, set up and portrait every 20 minutes or so for 9 hours. An exhausting but exhilarating exercise as the opportunity to meet new people with great stories just kept coming. At one point I ended up getting pretty emotional at a small town bag piper rehearsal after feeling so lucky that these people would allow us to come in and be a part of their private experience, something I would have never been able to know about or be a part of if I was on my own traveling through this small town.
At the end of the 2 week assignment I'd shot portraits of more than 100 people, was tired, sore and really missed home but damn, I enjoyed that job. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
CD: Matt Gilmour Sr AD: Nils Eberhardt Sr Copywriter: Veronica Copestake The TVC/Motion campaign was produced by Tobias Webster at EXIT Films and directed by Stephen Carroll.
The Monocle Magazine has just come out with a hefty new book titled, "The Monocle Guide to Better Living" and I have a two page spread inside featuring a shoot about swimming in Sydney I did for them last year. It's a beautiful book and it's great to have my images alongside other photographers and stories from around the world.
In September I was asked by the Japanese advertising agencies Hakuhodo and Aoi Pro to take part in a year-long project shooting the new Subaru Forester as it began a drive around the world through some its toughest terrain. I shot stills alongside a motion/TVC production headed by the Australian cinematographer Daniel Ardilley with the Australian production handled by Dynamite Productions. I felt pretty lucky to be involved in this production as I knew I was going to be going to parts of Australia that I probably would never get the chance to go see otherwise and I'd be able to go up in a helicopter to get some great views of the incredible Aussie outback landscape.Read More
These images are for the third ad of the GoodStart Early Learning campaign that I shot with the ad agency The Monkeys. To continue with the concept used in the first images that I shot for this campaignwhere the tagline is physically integrated into the image we wanted to create life-size letters that the children could interact with. When I first saw the concept drawings for this ad I was really excited with the idea of the kids running around and interacting with the letters in the shoot.Read More
In December I worked with the impressive Sydney agency The Monkeys on a three image campaign for Australia's GoodStart Early Learning Program. The GoodStart program has hundreds of early learning centers around Australia focused on children's learning development in the crucial first 5 years of their life. Our approach to the shoot was to capture children engaged in discovery and play with their environment and the tagline, "Minds Now Open," becomes an integrated part of the image and the activity.Read More
I shot the images for the cover story of this past weekend's issue of Good Weekend, a major Australian magazine distributed in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age every Saturday. It's Australia's equivalent of the New York Times Magazine. I'd like to say it was a challenging shoot but getting teenagers to look like they're playing video games is just about the easiest thing in the world. It was my first Australian magazine cover and my first time working with the people at Good Weekend and I had a great time.