Japan - a few tips and handy links for first timers

Japan is so close for us from Cairns, one 7.5  hour direct flight to either Tokyo or Osaka and just like that, BAM you are in a different world!

The last time I went I didn't take my camera gear, just did all photography on my iPhone, as I needed to take a holiday from the Canon and its heavy mates! Some places I had to keep the phone in an inside pocket as it would get too cold and shut down.
It was great not having to lug it all around but I know the photos are average in comparison.
Usually I take a diverse lens like the 24-70mm and one other eg 100mm or a wide.
If I was going over there just to photograph, I would definitely take the 70-200, but it is soo HEAVY!!

Anyway this blurb is more about other stuff rather than photography, for first time japan travellers, as I get asked all the time and I forget stuff, so I sat down and wrote some words - of hopefully helpful stuff.

We usually fly into Tokyo or Osaka, spend a few days sightseeing, and then head up to Hokkaido to ski. We have skied on Honshu but it's not quite as cold as the north island and have had a few icy days, which is no fun. There is always heaps of snow, but if you get a few sunny days in a row, with thousands of skiers compacting the snow, then you get ice and mush. Hokkaido is generally too cold for ice to form, so the snow stays a nice powdery, fluffy deliciousness. With that in mind, if you have little kids with you I would suggest Honshu for skiing, as it may be too cold for them up north.
The first time we went we froze, as we had Australian standard clothing, NOT GOOD! Once we had all the warmer gear, we enjoyed it so much more. Doesn't matter where you are, if you are cold and uncomfortable, it won't be fun.

So Tokyo or Osaka?
We prefer Osaka as there is more to do in the area and Osaka is a good base.
Tokyo is good for eating and shopping, and Disney if you have little ones.
Osaka has more of a range of things to do and you can do day trips to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nara, and Kyosan.

Either one, tips for accommodation: stay out of the CBD areas, but on a train line. If you can score a place on the Loop lines then that's even better as this is the main line that all side trips depart from.
In Osaka we stayed at the Hotel Monterey La Souer in Kyobashi, which is across the road with an adjoining skybridge to the train station, AND on the Loop line. VERY handy.
It was also close to Osaka Castle and had a 7/11 on the ground floor.
7/11's or quickie marts are everywhere and a great place to grab a quick breakie of baked goods and save you some $ as the hotel breakies are usually pricy. They also do coffee and hot meals. Good coffee is hard to find. Starbucks are OK but nothing like what we can get at home.
Most restaurants have the menu out front and in english OR they have pictures of the food or little plastic models of what the plates look like in the shop window.

Back to accommodation... booking.com has been great for us with no problems. It allows you to cancel up to 2 days before usually, and you don't have to pay until arrival.
It's also great for searching accommodation using the maps to filter on locations near stations.
The rooms are typically very small. A double bed is more like our king single. Unless you pay big $ for the room, the beds will be hard, and the pillows weird! They put a rice bag or something in them, so BYO pillow is recommended, if you have a favourite and are fussy with pillows.
I take a little travel pillow, which is a small kids pillow so it doesn't take up much room.

Getting around. Travelling on trains with luggage in tow is super annoying. If you can, avoid doing this at peak times of the day. Note their peak hour is more like peak 2 hours morning and night. Also make sure if you are tripping to the airport, that the train isn't one that breaks up at a certain station and only the front half continues on to the airport. Yep, we've done this and had to leg it from carriage to carriage before it separated and left the station. Was funny afterwards, but not at the time.
Rail passes are excellent. You have to buy them online before you leave Oz. They don't cover subway lines, only JR and most bullet trains. They are easy to use and you don't waste time at the ticket booths every time you travel, just flash your pass at the manned gates. The only annoying thing about them is you have to convert the voucher you get in the mail to a pass once you arrive in Japan. There are offices at main stations where you can do this but if you wish to use it straight away you have to go to the exchange office at the airport and it is ALWAYS busy, queues for miles and the crazy thing is its all manually done. It takes forever! So tip: if you are tired or have little ones with you, do this the next day and just pay your fares separately to get to your motel from the airport.

Plan your day trips and allow for conditions to change your plans. eg snow can stop trains and planes from running on time. Always good to have a back up plan in place. This has only happened to us once in all our trips. There are great apps and websites to use for planning such as www.hyperdia.com where you can put in start and end destinations and find routes to get there. Google maps is brilliant, we would be lost without this.
If you are doing a long trip eg Osaka to Hiroshima I would book the seats the day before. It doesn't cost anything with the rail pass but is convenient.
Don't try to fit too much in in one day.
Theres is always heaps of walking to do. Even when you think you won't be walking much as you are catching trains, you still end up doing heaps of walking. Even just within stations, especially the bigger stations and platforms are away apart and not every platform has escalators, be prepared for loads of stairs! This is why its a good idea to try and get accommodation as close to a station as possible as it is SOOOO good to come up from a station, after walking all day,  and there's your hotel across the road!

Take cash: good for vending machines and temple admissions. You end up with pockets full of coins so vending machines are a great way to offload some of this.

Also, take neurofen/panadol as Japanese medicine isn't as strong.

Some things I can recommend:
Tokyo Dome City - good for all ages of kids and us older kids, go at night for all the cool light installations.

Harajuku - crazy fashions and street happenings, also known for its amazing crepe vendors. You will find lots of street vendors selling steamed dumplings etc just about everywhere.
Also close to Meiji Shrine -  a nice break from shops and crowds, a beautiful path of cedar lined trees leads you to the main shrine, a bit of a walk but worth it.

Mt Fuji - good day trip, went up the ropeway for a nice view of the mountain and its surrounding towns and lakes. A river cruise here would be nice but we ran out of time. We spent hours getting over to the ice caves, but they were very disappointing.

Imperial Palace Gardens - huge, so lots of walking, again.
Shopping - animae districts like Akihabara are cool to go to, as its very different to our shops great to do late afternoon and just as all the neon lights come on.

Some things I can recommend:
Universal Studios - get fast passes prior to leaving home, some travel agents sell them. At peak times you may not get into some places eg Harry Potter World, unless you have a prior booked time and fast pass. Its pricey, but if you are a potter fan, so worthwhile!
Osaka Castle - good to go late afternoon, do the inside tour, and then have dinner at the many market stalls at the base of the castle and watch the castle transition into night. One of my favourite castles in Japan.

Koyasan - Possibly one of the most amazing places on this earth!! Hard route to get to but so amazingly unique and dripping in culture. It took me 3 hours each way as a typhoon had taken out part of the railway and we had to bus up, but it was worth the effort. I will go back and stay overnight next time.

Umeda Sky Tower - after a trip to the top make sure you visit the basement reenactment of Old Tokyo with its narrow laneways and wooden shopfronts.

- Bamboo Forest at Arashiyama
- Torii Gates at Fushimi

- Nijo Castle 
- Gion - go late afternoon/ early evening
- Philosophers Path

Nara - Giant Buddha, numerous temples, deer roaming the streets (be careful they pester you for food - a lot)

Hiroshima - not to be missed, but allow at least half a day or more.
Miyajima Island - good to do after Hiroshima, would love to go back here and stay for a few days, huge torii gates in the ocean, amazing vivid orange temples, chairlift up the mountain to many other temples and shrines. The deer are much friendlier here than Nara.

One other place we spent a few days in last trip was Matsumoto.
It is on the way to Nagano from Osaka, and mostly known for its castle which you can tour. I really liked this place, plenty of little market stalls and cute book shops where you could sit down and read and order coffee or whiskey. Perfect on a cold winters day.

Skiing Tips
We have found if you leave your trip to later in the season, its way cheaper, not only to get there but also accommodation. So late Jan, Feb, March or even early April (for Hokkaido). It is busiest at New Year and the first week of January. We have been at that time and will never go then again. The queues and amount of people travelling is overwhelming.
I have booked trips personally and I have booked with agents. I highly recommend ski japan.com to organise your trip if you are planning to go to one of their managed resorts. They can organise the entire trip for you. You don't save money by doing it all yourself. Skijapan have been very easy to deal with and you can pay in Australian dollars. Also their website is fantastic! Theres a lot of other agents that can learn a lot from these guys.

We have tried 4 different places to ski now, two in Hokkaido (Niseko and Furano) and the other two in Honshu (Nozawa Onsen and Tsugaike Kogen) both west of Nagano.

One of the biggest and busiest resorts in Japan, and you will see people from Cairns there, heaps of them in fact. We have visited 4 times now. This is a great place to go if you want to do stuff other than skiing all the time.

A couple of our houses we have stayed at; Neyuki and Genji & Musashi

I have done a professional photo tour with Glen Claydon, which was fantastic.
Hubby has done a snowmobiling day tour with the boys which they all were buzzing about for days! They gave it 10/10. It was hard trying to find a company that did proper tours, not just kids machines around a paddock a couple of times. They ended up using black diamond tours www.blackdiamondtours.com - they come highly recommended.
There are other snowmobiling tours for kids around the place, especially at Hanazono.
There are heaps of classes to do like calligraphy, cooking groups etc.
We did a day trip to Otaru once, caught the train from Kutchan, and spent the day checking out quirky museums, glass blowing, breweries and little gift shops. Otaru is on the northern coast of Hokkaido so you can see snow right up to the beaches. It was still very cold walking around the streets, so take your thermals.

Kutchan is only a 15min bus trip from Niseko. Good to go for an afternoon shopping, stock up on groceries or warmer clothes. There is at least one good ski shop there. Also good for restaurants and bars.
Niseko has plenty of variety for eating out. From the street vendors selling takeaways, to Italian pizza kitchens, to traditional japanese style. If you are not keen on Japanese food you definitely won't starve. Theres also heaps of great wine bars, cocktail bars and burger joints. Most of these have pool tables and dart boards. We had a few favourites but over the years they change hands/names and become other things.
Sapporo is good for a day trip as well. They have a huge ice festival there every February for a week or so. Most of the shopping is underground, so its nice and toasty.

As for the skiing at Niseko, I don't think the main front valley is the best. We preferred Annapuri on the west side of the mountain simply because it was less crowded and had better runs for our ability (beginner to intermediate).
Night skiing, we love! Three reasons: you can actually see the contours of the snow better as there is no glare from the sun, so easier to see where you are going.
Less people, so no lift queues ever
No beginners out, so no one to run into you and no learner groups blocking runs.
It is colder at night, but remember its dark by 4.30, and we would just stay out until about 7 or 8. Most night skiing goes to 9pm.
In general we learnt to be out skiing when everyone was usually having lunch and dinner. We would eat when they all came out on the slopes. We usually started late in the day, especially if we were doing night skiing.
Another good area is Hygashiama area near  the Hilton. Theres some good forest runs and harder runs higher up.
Layer! Always take more clothes than you need, as you can always strip thermals off and pocket them. If you are cold you won't have any fun. Be aware of little kids hands and feet as they can coldest first, and always put a beanie on your head for your ears. Its generally around minus 10 and minus 15 at night.

We just love the ski runs here, perfect for our ability and some nice pretty forest runs.
This is where we saw "diamond dust" whilst riding the chairlift up one morning, it was just beautiful.
We stayed right on the snow next to the lifts, at the New Prince Hotel. Not a fan of staying in hotels for ski trips, but not a lot of options here for large houses. The great thing about the hotel was the convenience to get to the lifts, ski hire was downstairs, and they had brilliant ski lockers to store your gear. You walked out the back of the hotel and along the flat for about 40-50m and you were at a lift. You could actually plank ski to it.

There is also the Prince hotel, not to be confused with the New Prince. The Prince is much older, but also has a brilliant ski in/ski out location. It also looked liked it had a great lobby bar downstairs which our hotel lacked. We managed to find bars and restaurants scattered about but we had to catch the free bus from our hotel to get to them. A lot of the farmers that can't work during the winter convert their houses into little restaurants for the winter, so they welcome you in and you sit in their downstairs living area while they happily cook you dinner.
We had some awesome meals here.
The hotel had restaurants but we found them expensive and limited.
From Furano you can do some great day trips.
Biei Blue Pond is highly recommended to visit at night, you can do a tour from Biei.

Furano is famous for its wine and cheese, so theres also a few places to go tasting.
There was a great kids set up next door to the hotel with slides and ice houses, which us bigger kids enjoyed. There is also the cutest little chalets spread throughout the forest just below the hotel.
These little wooden chalets open up from around lunchtime until late at night selling unique handmade items: jewellery, little wooden figurines, souvenirs etc.
It was a very beautiful place to walk around at night.
There was also a great stone building hidden in the forest called Cafe Mori No which served the most amazing soups and crusty bread.
We had dinner there a few times.

Nozawa Onsen
Had our most recent trip here, January 2018. It was different  to all other places but I probably won't return. The whole village is built on a very steep hillside. We stayed in an amazing house closest to the lifts, there's a chair lift literally across the road (the road which is also a ski run so you can ski right to the door).
It was called Kamoshika Lodge and we booked it through nozawa holidays. www.nozawaholidays.com
The house was also about 30m to the "Craft Room", which became our regular hang out. They did a few meals, sometimes had live music, and the place was always rocking no matter what time of day you went. It was like the Tardis - tiny but always seemed to fit you in. They also did great breakfasts and "pirate coffee", coffee with a nip of something extra :)
The Neo Bar, which was also close to the house was great as well, good food and vibes, but you need to book here as it is very popular.
The onslope restaurants were really good, plenty of them and great food at reasonable prices.
We found the ski runs here either too easy or too hard, not a lot of in-between ones. Got stuck on some hard narrow ones one afternoon, it was major hard work to get down. They were classed as intermediate but should have been black runs.
The towns onsens were plentiful and are hotter temps higher up the hill.
They are all free and basically just have privacy buildings built around them. No one mans them so you are often the only one in there. They are great for sore muscles, so I was having them daily.

Adding our most recent review to Tomamu February 2019

January 29th we arrived at the Towers Hoshino Resorts Tomamu in Hokkaido.
I don't know if it was because we didn't have 20 other people to look out for or whether it was just because we didn't have our kids with us this time, but this would have to be our best trip yet.

The rooms were spacious enough, with a nice little bay window to sit on and look out at the ski slopes and rest of village below. The towers are connected to dining halls, where you have several options to choose from for breakfast (awesome french toast), via covered walkways, though they are not heated but you can easily get around without tramping through snow.
We possibly had the coldest temps we have experienced to date as well. Most days were around minus 8-10. One morning was minus 18 degrees C.
The new Hotalu Street was my favourite. You can ski into it during the day and pop your skis off for  a hot chocolate, then continue on your way. At night it comes alive offering a great variety of restaurants from italian, a steakhouse, soup curry house, burger cafe, sushi rolls bar, and some awesome place that just had melted cheese on everything. There are some fire pits scattered around the area that get lit up from late afternoon which really add to the ambience.
There was another place we ate at on our final night, right out jutting into the forest, Ninnupuri Dining Hall, a buffet style, but AMAZING food. We had to roll back to our rooms after second and third helpings!

There was also some outdoors activities such as snow rafting and snowmobiling. Mina Mina wave pool was a short free shuttle ride from the towers and offered something for everyone with a massive 80x30m heated wave pool complete with floating pool toys, warmer spas around the edges, a bar and cafe and if you wanted something hotter, an outdoor onsen on the edge of the forrest.
There was also the Ice Village to visit at night with igloos selling alcohol and souvenirs plus an outdoor ice skating rink.

As for the skiing, excellent! The blue runs here were fantastic, nice and wide with plenty of tree run options for those mad boarders. There wasn't a huge amount but perfect for 5-6 days. Some runs got groomed in the middle of the day!!! The off piste system was brilliant. Our friend travelling with us did this - applied online the night before, got a sleeve pass at the ticket office and signed a waiver saying he would return the pass by 3pm that day. If he doesn't hand it in by then they send out a very expensive search party. He also said it was THE BEST off piste powder and boarding he has ever done.
They had a rental store on the ground floor and lockers for storage. When you finished skiing for the day/night you handed your skis into a storageroom area out near the lifts, which we thought would be annoying, but it was actually really good. No need to cart them back inside and into your lockers. The queues for lifts were non existent, and sometimes you would be the only person on a run, so crowding was not a problem.
Would highly recommend this place.


A 3 night stopover on the way back from Tomamu to Sapporo.
Nice to spend a few days wondering around snow covered parks and temples, but also good to do some city shopping. Stayed at the Hoshino Resort OMO7 which had reasonably comfortable beds and moderately sized rooms for japanese standards. The best thing was the bar down in the lobby area, with great bar snacks and ambience.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Ticked off a bucket list item here, but was a little disappointed. The Otori Park sculptures were the highlight, with some massive sculptures, live dancing and singing, a massive snowboard ramp with expert boarders doing their stuff and plenty of food vendors selling all sorts of stuff. There was also an ice skating rink and plenty of free rest spots with tables and chairs and heaters to sit around.

There is also the Susukino Ice sculptures in Susukino, a short subway ride away, which I would recommend viewing at night since they are in the middle of a street and they don't close the street off to traffic  until dark. Most of these stand 7-8 foot high.
The third part is Tsudome Park which is more for the kids, though we had fun in the interactive section of the dome with virtual reality hockey and luge, some curling, and snowball throwing.


Giving Birth .... what do you need?

On this, the most exciting day of our lives to date, we don't really need to have a lot with us. The few things we do need are major : good support and love!
Here's a couple of things to keep in mind you may have not thought of.

 - if you have a support person there, ask them to turn their mobile on silent, it can be distracting if it goes off at the wrong moment.

- if your support person is taking photos make sure they turn the flash function off, especially once baby is born

- make sure your support person respects your decisions, as far as simple things like no lights on, the type of music you choose, candles or scents...right through to the big issues as well.

If you are having a hospital birth:
- don't forget a phone charger
- take some music to listen to, some birth rooms have docks for your music to stream through the      speakers, chose your music carefully, and have a good range and not too much of the same. 
- change of clothes for your partner as well, in case they want to join you in the bath?
- some loose change; if your partner or support person needs a midnight snack, sometimes you can only get supplies from hospital vending machines
- water bottle
- massage oils
- and of course all the obvious stuff like baby clothes, a change or two for yourself, toiletries etc.
- and maybe a nice treat to indulge in afterwards! You deserve it!

#cairnsbirthphotographer #cairnsbirth #birthphotography #birthstories #ilovemyjob


Genazzano Photography Retreat - behind the scenes

What a magical little patch of turf, surrounded by the lapping waters of Tinaroo Dam, noisy with birdlife, and a perfect mix of morning fog, dramatic sunsets, whispy clouds and beautiful sunshine.

September 2018

#Genazzanoretreat #genazzano #Photographyconference #qps #landscapephotography

I arrived at the retreat on the friday afternoon. A simple one and an hour bit trip took me 3. It was the skys fault...it was all streaked with whispy high clouds and a gorgeous deep blue.
I'm surprised it didn't cause a car crash with several photographers driving up from Cairns to partake in the weekends events.

The gorgeous undulating hills of the Yungaburra surrounds were perfect for some classic country scapes with this amazing final winters day sky.

As well as the retreats location itself being perfect for landscape photography with its watery landscape dotted with emerging dead trees, it was also an added bonus to be presented with a brilliant sunset to photograph on the first night, followed by a thick foggy morning.  Perfect!!

While I was waiting for the sunset colours to come out, I snapped these few images from the shore just a hundred metres from where we were camped. I have applied a split toning effect to them as they were a little "muddy" and just to make them a little different.

This is one of my favourite images from the first morning. The fog was sooo thick that you could see the moisture falling through the air. we had to wait for it to lift before we could see the emerging trees . It was worth it.

And a final one of some movement blur from the second night, the sky wasn't as dramatic so I had to get creative.


Behind the scenes - Blencoe Falls camping, without a bottle opener...

I treated myself to a fantastic 4 days away back in July.
I dragged my nephew along and we headed out to Blencoe Falls just south and west of Cairns. The turnoff is actually only 67km inland from the coastal main highway, but it took 3 hours to drive it! This gives you a bit of an idea of the road. Actually it wasn't too bad but the numerous blind corners winding up the mountain, black snakes sun baking ON the road, corrugations and a couple of creek crossings on the dirt road meant an average speed of 20-30 kms per hour. I wouldn't try a low normal 2WD sedan on it, though I didn't actually need low4 until I arrived as the most of the campsites were right on the creek bank and quite sandy. After a bit of exploring and deciding on our site, we set up camp and enjoyed the absolute tranquility.

It was then we realised the crucial item from our kit was missing. With an esky full of ice and coronas, and no bottle opener, we had to get inventive, so eventually we discovered a good old tyre iron sufficed.

When I camp (which I try to avoid as much as possible) I only take bare essentials. The idea of dragging along just about every item from home is just way too much work. I take a tent, mattress, chair, esky and basic cooking gear, (camp oven, saucepan and jaffle iron for baked bean toasties). The only drawback is whenever I need coffee I have to light a fire, but you know...there's a little bit of pyromaniac in all of us :)

Heres a couple of phone pics of our setup.

The following morning I woke up to the mad symphony of bird noise and the thickest lowest fog I have ever seen. Living in Cairns, fog is a rarity, so I was out there clicking away before my first coffee; also a rarity :)

This is when I made one of my favourite images.

It was also a great time for dew covered spiderwebs, but ho hum, we've all seen that before.

Our campsite was surrounded by fantastic natives on three sides, mostly wattle trees, and Blencoe Creek itself on the west side. Wildlife was pretty much limited to birds and possums, with the odd water rat. The campsites are on a cattle station so we had a couple of bulls visit us too!

Anyway heres some pics from my time there and would highly recommend a trip if you want to get away from it all, just don't attempt it in the wet season, though the falls would be much more glorious other than this trickle...
The campsite is actually few kms away from the falls, there's a walk that goes from the campground to the falls lookout, maybe an hours hike through the bush, but if you want to go to the top of the falls you would have to do some serious bush bashing. We drove around to this lookout which was about 5kms away.

Will be uploading some of these onto my website shortly.
Blencoe Creek and the old bridge crossing.


School trip - Centenary Lakes - Tanks

Recently I did something for my local school and tagged along with their media class to do some photography within our botanical gardens and surrounding areas.

The kids were great, very entertaining actually, and the sky was overcast which was perfect for what we were doing.

I took my own gear, showed them how to use a tripod, when you need one, and then a run through on basic camera settings.

Heres some pics I took and some tips of how you can improve on your typical tourist pics by some simple changes.

I was feeling a light and airy mood on this day so my images are deliberately a little overexposed. Here is a typical photograph of the chinese temple at Centenary Lakes.

So instead you could zoom back a little and get a little more of the gardens in the shot.

Then crop to suit, this removed the pandanus palm fringe on the LHS.

  To make another crop to a portrait shape makes it a much stronger image, keeping the structure off centre and white space above and below keeps it from being too busy.

1/200th sec f2.8 ISO 200
Compared to this first image here, this is a huge improvement.

Get a different viewpoint by looking up, can create nice bokeh (dappled light in the background) as well as enhancing features eg the texture on the paperbark

Also do the opposite... and keep it simple, main features off centre.

Get down low and shoot from ground level across textured floors.

These next few I have stepped back to include some greenery from the trees in the foreground, just to give more depth and another dimension to the image.

Same thing here but I should have stepped back further to get all of the reflection in the shot.

This crop is much more appealing.

I find these next two images too busy but a simple crop to a more pano mode improves the image.

Here's some post processing for improvements..
I removed the black fencing from the background and added a simple vignette to darken the edges and draw the eye to the main part of the image.

Another example of including some foreground in the images for depth.

Small depth of field with the focus on the centre on the palm, probably should have removed that bit of dead leaf first.

This is a great place to explore and learn a variety of different shooting techniques.
We also did some motion blur images using slow shutter speeds and shooting puddle reflections.

Thanks for having me and happy shooting!


Rodeo comes to town - bulls, dust and cowboys

Rodeos are not really my thing but have always wanted to photograph the action in the late afternoon light and dust.

July 2018

#mareebarodeo #mareebarodeo2018 #rodeophotography #actionphotography

I love to change up the pace very now and then and decided to visit the local rodeo a few weeks back.
I was looking for images shot in the last hour of sunlight, the warm winter sun highlighting the manes of the horses, outlining cowboy hats and stirred up dust giving a yellowish brown haze.

Most of these shot at 1/1000th sec f5.6 with a 70-200 with a 2x adaptor.

I have a heap of more but won't bore you too much, just a chosen few here with what I was trying to achieve.
And I got chosen for being a bulls target at one point as he roamed the arena looking for the exit, that was a bit exciting !!!

Needless to say, my camera was filthy after this and needed a good clean.


My new addition to the family.......100mm macro lens - super cool!

Yeah well its unlikely that I'll be having anymore babies, so lenses are it! Easier to maintain too!

The canon 100mm f2.8 L series lens is a pearler.
Picked this one up a couple of months ago.

So there's no zoom on this, its a prime lens. When shooting macros I find myself manually focusing it, just so I can pinpoint the exact area I am wanting to be in focus. Heaps of fun:)

The lens itself is quite light, compared to my others.
It's also a GREAT lens in low light with f2.8, so will be handy in shooting births so I can get nice close shots without getting too close!

So it has been raining A LOT here in Cairns over the past week or so and generally rain stops play, when it comes to outdoors shoots. Providing it's not pouring down I actually like the rainy days for shooting things you can't normally shoot in the middle of the day in bright sunlight, eg garden macros.

Now, my garden isn't really a garden, its more an "assortment of plants" and tough buggers too, as I am no green thumb. However shooting teeny weeny details, it doesn't matter so much. No one can see how messy my garden is :))))

Here's some snaps to look at, mostly shot from only a few cms away, focusing on one tiny detail.

f2.8 1/160th sec ISO100

f2.8 1/80th sec ISO200 and actually darkened the edges and underneath the dew drops a little using multiply blend mode in PS and because the dew drops were so bright it didn't affect them too much.

f4 1/60th sec ISO 320, had to get right inside this trumpet flower

The colours really come out in mundane objects like tree trunks, in the rain, but I have cheated little on this one and saturated only the oranges and greens in Lightroom.
f2.8 1/60th sec ISO 320

This one almost looks like fur and veins, like on a cats ear.
f4.5, 1/60th sec ISO 1000

This reminds me of Lord of the Rings, my favourite movies of all time!!
f4.5 1/60th sec ISO 1000

f2.8 1/60th sec ISO 640 These brown veins were quite orange and detracted from the section in focus, so selected oranges and desaturated a little in Lightroom.

f2.8 1/60th sec ISO 640

f2.8 1/200th sec ISO 100

f4, 1/100th sec ISO 200

f5 1/80th sec ISO 400, wanted a bit more depth in the focus for this one.

f3.2 1/80th sec ISO 400

#macrophotography #Cairns #100mmCanon #primelens

Dads and Birth Photography

Don't let your partner be the handbrake for your birth story!

Loads of Dads and partners are not so keen on having a birth photographer present for their big day.  There are two main reasons I am discovering: the $, and the whole idea that there will be someone else there, a photographer.

The $ part, I can do nothing about, that is what it is. I do the work before, during and after your birth. I do have registry options where others can contribute  to your birth photography. GREAT idea to give out details of this prior to a baby shower.

The second part I can.
I feel sorry for partners at times, they are unsure what to do, they don't know how to help, and seeing your partner going through labour can be a tough deal on their part as well.
Generally Dad has not had a good experience with photographers in the past. There's a lot of scary ones out there. Whether it was from their wedding or a childhood family portrait shoot that was simply too painful to forget. Photographers in their eyes are ANNOYING!!
Well, this is certainly is the case where they are NOT.

Birth Photographers have to be "there but not there", if you know what I mean.
We are not there to start conversation, but will join in if prompted.
We are there to capture snippets of the event as it unfolds, in all its craziness and beauty. We won't be taking 100 photos of mum in pain, nor asking anyone to pose for ANYTHING!
We will not get in the way, nor disrupt the birth space with lights.

All up, to be a birth photographer you have to be patient, respectful, friendly, caring, quiet, and supporting, NO MATTER WHAT!

FREE you partner from the worries of taking pics, so they can be there for you AND be in the pics too.

An old  favourite image I took many years ago, Dad with his bub.
#birth #birthphotography #cairnsbirthphotography #cairnsbirthphotographer


Prime Lenses - what are they and why are they so good!

Currently, my lens collection is 50% prime lenses.

And possibly my favourite of these is the 50mm prime, a photographers dream lens.

OK, so what is a prime... its a lens that has a set focal length. You cannot zoom.
Generally they are more expensive than zooms because the quality is superior.
So why would you want just a set focal length when you could have multiple?

Because there's no zooming mechanisms, these lenses have less elements to them, so the optics are sharper. If you are a portrait photographer, sharpness is essential, no matter what your style.

The 50mm is a VERY FAST lens with an aperture of f1.2. This is pretty extreme and you have to be super careful to get the correct area in focus at f1.2 but VERY handy in low light situations, so you can still keep your shutter reasonably fast and reduce blurriness from hand held camera shake. I LOOOOOOVE this feature, especially for photographing births, which is always tricky lighting.

The lens itself is much lighter in weight than a zoom within this range. This is important if you are hiking, or just carrying it around your body doing street photography for example.

Generally fine art and portrait photographers will prefer a prime simply due to the sharpness.
If you are on a busy schedule and moving location constantly eg weddings, then the zooms are more preferable to cover a range of situations, as you may not have the time to change lenses.

I took my 50mm out for a play last weekend for some street photography.

The primes also tend to make you work for the shot a bit more, you have to move your body closer or further away to get the frame you want, thus making you look for different angles and you get a bit more creative with your photography.

So heres all the boxes it ticks..
sharper images
lighter weight
generally better in low light
makes you more creative

#cairns #photographer #photography #primelens #50mm

These next few are processed using split toning, for effect.


Lifestyle Photography - what is it and why is it great for families

I LOVE  lifestyle shoots for young families and have started offering a product of short video clips blended with stills of your kids at home.
BECAUSE it is at home, they are comfortable. They know this place and are free to expose their unique personalities.
I spend some time getting to know them and for them to decide that I'm OK to be around. I open the curtains, flood the house with beautiful natural light, and off we go. It's all unplanned, just daily events that normally take place each day.

These events can involve mum and/or dad at times, just popping into the film here and there to give a helping hand where needed, or play or give a quick kiss. It all unfolds naturally which takes the pressure off mum and dad, and makes for a realistic and beautiful short film of how life is, something they can look back on in years to come.
I can also manage to snap some gorgeous candid shots of kids this way as they become oblivious to the camera after a bit.

The whole session can take 2-3 hours. I edit to keep just the highlights of the session, and integrate short bits of film with stills into a 5-6 minute story with licensed music. I keep some audio in parts, where I think warrants leaving it in, and then blend the music back in.

Heres a sample of one I did last month and some images from the shoot.


#lifestyleshoots #cairns #familyphotographer #familyphotography