Chasing Colours

Steve Fraser.Life.Adventure.Inspiration.Photography

5 Life Lessons I Have Learnt About Adventure

 

1.     Life Should Be A Great Adventure

 

Each one of us has a desire to do something challenging, inspiring and adventurous with our lives. An innate part of us wants our lives to count, to be someone who makes a difference, to experience something special I have met many people who live amazing lives, and I have come to realize that most of them started out as fairly ordinary people. For most it was the desire for something more that saw them change their lives from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

 

The Oxford Dictionary defines adventure as:  participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises. Each one of us deserves to have an exciting undertaking, something that makes us a little unsure or takes us beyond our comfort zone.

 

As a child, your first jump from a swinging rope into a river, riding a bike fast down a hill for the first time or your first kiss all got your heart racing. The first road trip with friends or heading out on your own for that first overseas trip, these are the things we remember and were excited about. The outcome was often uncertain, but the memories of adventure stay with you forever.

 

 

2.     Don’t Miss Your Moment

I finished school, started a family then worked in the same business for 25 years before my real adventures began. It’s not that I didn’t have any adventures, I was into rally driving, got to travel for work, and decided mountain biking across the Canadian Rockies would be fun, it’s just I didn’t have the same freedom to pack up and go whenever I wanted. I know better than most that often we have to wait for adventure. For others, like Oskar Schindler (Schindler’s list) adventure came during his younger years when he saved thousands of Polish Jews from certain death in World War Two. After that nothing adventurous or significant is recorded of Schindler’s life. Nelson Mandela languished in prison for the better part of his youth before transforming a nation and placing a mark on this generation across the globe.

 

If you are currently in a place you would rather not be, then think of it as a training ground. That’s where you develop character, integrity and perseverance, all qualities you will need, and use, when your time comes.

 

Adventure may come later in life, or in your youth, but there is no guarantee it will be a lasting journey. When your opportunity for adventure comes, embrace it, as there may not be another.

 

 

3.    We Can’t Make It On Our Own

We all need a coach in our life. This is someone who believes in you and wants to see you reach your potential. They are the person telling you to go for it when life presents you with an adventure. They will challenge you, question you and, at times frustrate you, but they always have your best interests at heart. We need this person in our lives when the big opportunities come along. At this point we can feel vulnerable; insecure, afraid, full of self-doubt and anxiety. This is totally normal as you are being presented with an opportunity that doesn’t have a guaranteed outcome, where risk is involved and face possible failure. When the moment arrives for you to take the plunge into a great adventure, having someone you trust who has been a part of your journey, someone who in that moment of doubt can tell you to go for it, can be the difference between stepping into your life’s adventure and missing the moment. 

 

 

4.    You Will Never Regret It

There are a number of adventures that I have said yes to, that as I was getting on the plane I’ve often thought, maybe this is bad idea. Even in the midst of some of them, I’ve wondered if I should just go home.  However, when I reflect on them afterwards, I have not regretted a single one. It is a bit like exercising. Often, leading up to a long ride or run I wish I wasn’t going. Even in the midst of it, the pain and heat I experience make me wish I wasn’t doing it, but once I finish and reflect, I’ve I regretted exercising.

 

Some adventures will take you so far out of your comfort zone that you will wish you were back home tucked up in a comfortable bed or back doing the mundane tasks of life. Let me assure you, when you look back the challenges are the things what bring colour to the stories when you’re sitting around at home sharing your tales with friends. It’s what you will fondly remember and, strangely, long for again. A recent survey of elderly people nearing the end of their lives asked what was their greatest regret. A frequent answer was not taking more risks.

 

 

5.  Adventures Don’t Have To Cost A Lot, But Not Having One Is Expensive

      It could be as simple as a new job, or as complex as trekking across Antarctica, each one of our journeys and adventures will be different. What is adventurous to you may seem tame to others, or beyond what most can achieve. Each person is different. What we each perceive as a great adventure is what matters. It is your own journey, so who cares what anyone else thinks? If you don’t have a lot of money it could make for an even greater adventure. Travel cheap, backpack and stay in a backpacker hostel. My best adventures don’t come in five star hotels, they come when you do things like meet the locals, catch the local bus, eat in a market and listen to a cool busker in the back streets of Ecuador.

 

Money, or a lack of it, is no excuse. I have met lots of people on my travels who are down to their last few dollars, and yet they are having the time of their life. The cost of not going, not stepping out could add up to a lifetime of regret. The last thing I want to do is sit back in later life and wonder, what if? I would rather reflect on a life filled with adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do I become a better Photographer?

How do I become a better photographer? its a question I am often asked. There are lots of training courses, great camera clubs and online tutorials that you can get involved in, however one of the risks we run as photographers is that we often take pictures for ourselves. What I mean by this is we like a subject we photograph it and keep the image as a great memory but at times little else.

One of the suggestions I would give to photographers at any level is get involved with something bigger than yourself, and you will see an amazing change in your photography. Pick the area you are passionate about, it could be sport for example then find a sport you love and offer to help a local sporting club by taking shoots for them they will jump at the chance. So you don't think you are good enough, check out some of the shoots they have at the moment, generally there will be lots that are out of focus, with little thought put in. Your skill level will increase dramatically as you treat these as photo shoots as a learning curve that will demand your thought and effort. Over time you will start to experiment with composition, exposure, angles and in no time your photography will improve. All of us have a specific area that we love to photograph and there will always be someone who is studying that area,local clubs that specialise in the are or community groups that are involved in it etc they would all love to get some great shots to support and promote what they do.

My professional life is spent shooting Landscapes and a bit of wildlife/underwater, however once a year I donate my time to a charity that is doing (in my eyes) incredible work. I have worked last year in South America for World Vision and this year I gave my time to Water For Africa. They are an Australian based organisation doing amazing, lasting and significant work in remote Africa by installing water wells into villages, who have no water. 

The sad reality is that one child dies every 15 seconds from a lack of water or water related disease. A lack of water also causes a number of other significant problems with the girls leaving the village to collect water being attacked and raped, they miss out on an education and the water they collect is often full of disease as it is shared with the livestock. 

So while this is not what I normally do, I believe it makes me a better photographer by stretching me and helps make a difference to these organisations to have high quality images to promote their work.

A friend of mine is one of the worlds leading wildlife photographers he started out photographing birds as a passion and got involved with a couple of local groups who were trying to protect the bird habitats, he went on to become a National Geographic photographer for over 20 years and is one of the worlds best. So from little things big things grow. You never know when starting small at a local level where it might lead to. Decide what area you love and choose to get involved.

Check out the video on how I got involved this year 

  

Photographing Icons - Finding your unique perspective.

You have seen an image of that special icon hundreds of times, so what will make your image special.

This is a challenge that i constantly face, I am often challenged with the task of photographing iconic locations and trying to look for a new perspective, to bring something of my own to the image, something unique.

My approach to this will be to look for a different composition, to stand back and see if a new angle is possible, or is it possible to add another element into the picture. I was recently in Central Australia and wanted to get some new images of the Olga's an Australia landmark that has been photographed by some of the very best thousands of times. So I stood back and wondered if there was another perspective I could take, after a little while I saw a hill a few kilometres away from the Olga's that would give me some height and a direct line of sight over the thick bush. The Olga's are famous for the amazing colour at sunrise and sunset so I didn't want to loose this aspect of the scene, so it all came down to composition. After a reasonable walk and bit of a climb to the top of the hill, I had my new perspective and found a classic Aussie tree that would add to the image and give me a new take on this iconic location.

I think that challenge for us as photographers is to look at what we can add, what only we see and not to copy the thousands who have gone before us. I know each one of us has a unique perspective on life and how we see the world around us, so don't be afraid to innovate and experiment, not copying but creating something that is uniquely you. This unique perspective can be achieved by composition, light, weather etc it is really up to you to be uniquely you and find something special. Attached is my image of the Olga's and hopefully a new take on an Aussie icon.

 

 

 

CF018770 Olgas.jpg (862.34 kb)

An Impressionist approach to photography

I like to approach some of my photographs in the same way that impressionist artist would approach the canvas.

Looking at colours as delicate and subtle, taking a gentler approach on occasions and looking for the pastel colours in a landscape. These images are often softer, rather than dealing with strong light I will look for the back light, the subdued that can add an overall feel rather than a strong contrast.

The colours can still dominate the image but in a more abstract way, rather than being the feature due to their strength they are the feature because they set a mood. This mood will often reflect the feeling of a warm summers day, or a gentle breeze. 

When I look to achieve this I will tend to shoot away from the sun using it to illuminate the entire scene rather than allowing it to over power one portion of the image. The end result is warm tones that remind us of that special moment, not the rushed pace of life but rather the moment when you stop and wait, where life seems just for that moment to be a happy wonderful place.

Soft warm colours = Gentle embracing images 

 

Australian Geographic Calendar 2014

It has been a real privilege working with the team at Australian Geographic to produce their flagship calendar for 2014.

They have been such fun to work with and are an extremely professional team. It was great to arriving home from a 6 week shot to see the finished product on my desk. The calendar is a collection of landscape images from every state in Australia and also includes an image from Macquarie Island in the Australian Sub Antarctic. A couple of my personal favourite images made the cut and are part of the calendar.

The full description is available online at Australian Geographic's web site http://shop.australiangeographic.com.au/AG-Panoramas-Calendar-2014-P3636.aspx

 

 

Extravagance in Art

I firmly believe that art should be a bold expression of who we are as individuals and not a reflection of a broader conservative society.

This should be reflected in the way we use colours and textures, always looking to impact the viewer, to challenge their senses and stretch their thinking. Often if we are not careful we start to produce art for a commercial return and not to express that which others wont say. One of the fundamental ingredients I constantly search for in the Landscape is bold vibrant colours. They are often fleeting but when you experience nature at its most vibrant it is hard to go back to the mundane. 

As artist let me encourage to push the boundaries, ignore the rules and let self expression take over. The last thing I want people to say about my images are they are nice, it is such a beige word, it conjures up images of the average, conservatism at its finest. I love it when people challenge me asking if these colours are even real, if such a place is real.

Our job is to engage the higher senses, push the boundaries and sale further from the shore. Let extravagance touch your work in a way that inspires others, that brings out the best, the creative, the artist in each of us.

 

Shooting, Sleeping and stunning scenery - A week in the life of a Photographer

Lots of people ask me what it is like to be a photographer, so I thought I would share what the last week of shooting on location was like.

The aim of the week was to photograph the NSW coast from Byron Bay in the North to Port Stephens. Also there was a day of video interviews at a gallery in NSW.

So rather than bore you with a blow by blow description I thought a few facts would help give you a picture of the week. So here are the ingredients of my week

Take one hire car (4WD) travel 3584km in 7 days

Go to 42 potential locations - Photograph 26 of them - thats better than an average week for good locations.

7 early mornings, starting between 4.45am and 5.45am depending on how far it was to travel to each location.

Finished around 6.30pm each day - one of the benefits of working in winter is an early finish.

Slept in 6 different beds, most good but one of them needed serious attention.

Consumed 22 bottles of water, 8 take away meals, 1 box of weetbix and a jar of Honey - love weetbix and honey in the morning.

Tried 11 cafes - most were Ok got one total dud.

Climbed down 2 sets of Cliffs and had to climb back up in the dark, one small fall - only a few cuts and bruises.

Lost the car keys on a beach - spent an hour in the dark hunting and finally found them - yeah!!

Got soaked one morning 

Had a great trip.

The end result of the week is that I will have a few new images, meet some wonderful people and experienced another beautiful part of the world.

 

 

 

Brand New Day

I love the fact that everyday is different and each morning brings with it the sense of starting a fresh. If I have had a bad day, a poor attitude or if I didn’t manage to capture the image I was chasing then I get to start a fresh the next morning.

I called this image Brand New Day as it reminds me that in photography and in life each day brings new possibilities and opportunities, ultimately its up to us to choose how we approach each day. The challenge for me as a photographer and as a person is to make wise choices and let go of my preconceived ideas of the past. To approach each day with a sense of wonder and excitement rather than expecting nothing new to happen.

I had a very good friend with me when I took this shot, he has encouraged me over the last 30 years to be a better person, to look for the best in others, to be excited about what tomorrow brings. I don’t know about you but I need people like Glen in my life who keep me on track, people who challenge and encourage me.

As a person of Faith I have come to understand that each day has wonderful possibilities, especially when God can take the ordinary and shine his light on it and make it extraordinary (a bit like this photograph). I know this applies in photography somehow I think it applies much more in life.

 

Capture the Cover

Here is a great competition to get involved in.

I am really pleased to be involved with this years Yellow Pages Capture the Cover competition. After the great success of last years competition, this year you have the chance to get your local photograph on the cover of the Yellow pages. There are great prizes worth over $60,000 and it is easier than ever to enter. 

Check out the web site and get out your best shots, you never know you could be one of the winners.

http://www.capturethecover.com/

So get out your best local shots and you never know you might see it on the cover of your local yellow pages.

 

 

 

 

Lens Testing - Finding the Sweet Spot

Every lens has a point where it is sharpest, and a few points where it is soft. I use some of the very best lenses currently made, yet I still test every lens as soon as I get it to find out its sweet spot.

Here is how I go about it:

1. You will need: a tripod, your camera, the lens you want to check and a brick wall.

2. Set up looking straight at the wall. I use the joins in the brick work to check the sharpness.

3. If the lens is a zoom (let's say a 24-70mm) I will start at 24mm. Make sure it is in focus.

4. If you have been using auto focus, turn it to manual so it cannot change during the test.

5. Shoot one image at each aperture - f2.8, f3.5 etc all the way to f22.

6. Change the focal length to say 35mm (it's up to you) and repeat the shots.  

7. Adjust to 50mm and repeat. Then finally to 70mm and do the same series of shots.

8. Upload the images to your computer. If you have a digital camera it will have recorded your settings in the file info. You will be able to see what the settings were for each shot. E.g.  35mm focal length at f9.

9. View the image at 100% and look at the edges of the image. This is where you will get the most noticable sharpness drop off. You will generally see that each lens has an f stop that is better than the others.  This can even vary at different focal lengths.

10. Record the sharpest settings and write them down on a card that you can keep in your camera bag. I know professional photographers who will put a very small sticker on each lens that might say f14. This is a great reminder when you use that lens to try and work around its sweet spot. It may not always be possible to use the sweet spot because you need more light or you are chasing a particular effect like getting motion in water. At least you will know the sweet spot and be able to use it to improve the sharpness of your images whenever possible.

I would estimate on some of my best lenses the difference can be as much as 10% sharper.

 

I hope this helps, get out there and have fun  - Steve