Any year that features work for the likes of National Geographic, NBA, Reader’s Digest and Delta Airlines to name a few, is bound to be a good one professionally. Add in licenses to Lonely Planet, HSBC, BBC, der Spiegel among others and it’s a winner. Throw a lot of personal work into the mix, and a few cases of being in the right place at the right time, and the year certainly can be called a success. From the beginnings of 2013 watching the fireworks on Sydney Harbour, through my wife and I buying our first home in Taipei, to the ending in a couple of weeks which will be in the World Heritage listed town of Malacca, Malaysia it’s been an eventful year. Trying to select a small series of photographs to represent my favorites isn’t easy. In previous years I’ve usually decided to choose one image per month but this year, after much debate with myself, I’ve just chosen a random selection. The list could have been a lot longer but this group of photos probably represent things the best.
I’m off to Australia in a couple of days, and then Malaysia a week after that. I’ll endeavor to post a couple of blogs during that time but if you really want to keep up to date, following me on Instagram may be the best place while I’m on the road.
Headed out last weekend for a fairly multicultural test shoot. We had 5 people in all (2 photographers and 3 models) and each of us was from different backgrounds and cultures. That’s one of the things I love most about photography, how it crosses borders and brings people together for a common purpose.
We photographed in an area that I’d never used for a photoshoot before, although it’s a place I see everyday. My approach was mainly to test out a couple of ideas that have been running through my head to see if there was enough there to expand on in possible future shoots. One of the concepts I think I’ll slowly incorporate over time, so it’ll come together in bits and pieces, while the other one has a lot of potential but will require a lot of planning and preparation to really put together, as well as finding just the right team to work it. I won’t say much more about them yet, instead leaving them to come to fruition in their own time.
Anyway here’s a handful of images that were made on the day. They are mostly low-production tests that have only been lightly edited to see if they work.
It went out to subscribers earlier this week, and now it’s available for everyone else. The Winter 2013 newsletter is packed full of unpublished work. From outtakes of the white face shoot as seen above, to assignment work for the NBA and Delta Airlines, news on Instagram and Light Rocket and a whole lot more. Follow this link to the Winter 2013 newsletter.
In a couple of weeks I’m off to Malaysia and Australia but before I do so I’ll have roundups of my favorite images of the year, and hopefully a couple of fresh shoots to share with you.]]>
So we move into the final month of the year and it’s almost time to slow down and take stock of what went on throughout 2013 and what will be in 2014. Kicking things off for this month though is the regular desktop calendar for you to download. This one comes from the annual Qingshan Wang deity festival that took place a few days ago in Taipei. Various temple groups parade through the Wanhua district, one of the oldest districts in Taipei, to honor the Chinese God Qingshan Wang.
Grab you calendars at these two links.
The festival offers a lot of colour and excitement with dragons, fireworks, temple guardians and more. Here is a small selection of some of the photographs from the event. Firecrackers are always seen at this type of event, adding a lot of noise and smoke to the environment. This first photo below was picked up as a Picture of the Day by the German news media Der Spiegal.
Here’s another of my faves. These guys were carrying a palanquin holding their temples’ God. Everything came together perfectly for this one, with the sun sinking behind them and some dramatic clouds in the sky. Of course, they are doing their actions alongside busy rush hour traffic on one of Taipei’s busiest roads.
Speaking of busy roads and traffic, just because there’s fireworks is no reason to stop traffic or stop driving as this guy in a new BMW demonstrates.
I’m going to embed the slideshow with more images now. There are a couple which involve blood and self-flagellation so be warned. After the slideshow I’ll talk a little more about those and share a couple of the photographs so if that kind of thing makes you squeamish, don’t go any further.
Spirit mediums are an occasional part of these festivals. I’ve only seen it a handful of times, and this was the first I’ve been close enough to photograph them properly. It’s a lot more common to see in the countryside and southern parts of Taiwan where massive crowds attend these festivals, often making it difficult to see due to the number of people. It’s pretty rare to see in Taipei, and like big, modern cities everywhere, most people don’t pay too much attention to religion, so there are a lot fewer people watching.
These mediums, or ji tong, put themselves into a trance and become possessed by the spirits. They then take up spiked clubs, knives and other medieval-type torture implements and beat themselves over the head and back with into, often producing a lot of blood. These two photographs is of one of these shamans as he’s still receiving possession of the God. He didn’t draw all that much blood during his possession, and ten minutes after he came out was eating lunch and feeling no apparent effects from it.
Here they are during the self-flagellation. There was a small crowd of onlookers of all ages at this site, which was outside a local politician’s office.
And a closeup of the after effects of all the beating.]]>
The latest line in Taipei’s extensive MRT subway system opened this week. The Xinyi line running along Xinyi Rd from Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) to CKS Memorial Hall where it links with the line to Beitou caused years of traffic snarls and a few delays during the construction phase. The opening of the line will take some of the pressure of the blue line, as well as providing a station right outside Taipei 101. Services seem to be not as frequent as they are on the blue or orange lines with about 7 minutes between trains during off-peak hours, as compared to 3-4 minutes on other lines.
Daan Park MRT Station is one that I was available to visit during construction last year. It’s quite possibly the best looking MRT station, with landscaped gardens and water features as it opens onto the park. I headed there and attempted to shoot a series from photographs from the same places that I shot during the construction phase, to create a now and then style. Calling it before and after may be more correct but in the photographic world, that’s often used for images before and after Photoshop, so I’m going to go with now and then. In all, I was happy with 15 scenes out of about 30 that I shot. Some that didn’t make the cut were where the angles ended up being too different between the two different shooting days. Below (and one above) are all the final scenes. Click on any of the photos for a larger view.
Over the past week or so I’ve been busy with all the boring bits of work that comes with being a working photographer. Sorting out financial and other admin tasks, (seemingly) endless captioning and keywording of images, and keeping on top of various software and firmware updates. So with some nice morning light today I decided to get out and headed to the Lin Family Gardens in Taipei. I arrived just after opening time, which is the photographically unfriendly 9am, and spent a couple of hours wandering around. The Lin family migrated from mainland China to Taiwan during the Qing dynasty, and after they’d been settled for a century or so, began work on this site. Sadly, the original 3-courtyard house that was the first structure built is undergoing restoration work, and is currently off-limits to visitors but there’s still plenty of other examples of traditional Chinese architecture and landscape design to be seen.
Over the years I’ve shot a handful of yoga practitioners, both in the studio and out, and it is a subject I really enjoy photographing. A couple of weeks ago, one of the students at Taipei Photo School who is also a yoga teacher wanted to learn some techniques for photographing his fellow teachers so we headed to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and were rewarded with some fantastic golden light. I was mostly instructing him rather than shooting myself, but did manage to get a few photographs I was happy with, especially in the half hour before sunset when the natural light was incredible and we packed the speedlights away. Here’s a sampling from the day. I’m always interested in photographing people doing yoga, so if you’re interested, let me know and we can set something up.
One company that really seems to be getting behind photographers and giving them the tools and resources for creativity to shine is Google. Following their acquisition of Nik software last year, they’ve reduced the price of the Nik collection by more than half for new customers, offered free updates for life for existing customers, and just last week debuted a new tool in the Nik Collection, Analog Efex Pro. As with any new release there were those that embraced it sight unseen, and those that rolled their eyes and described it as an Instagram filter. The best thing to do however is to put it through its paces and see what it’s capable of.
When I first looked at it my first impression was that it’d be useful for adding some subtle texture to photographs that can benefit from them, and I created a couple of quickly processed images in this way that I was reasonably happy with. Looking around at some of the work that other people were sharing on Google + it became evident to me that the photographs that work best were ones where the subject already had an old feel to it. Although I’ve yet to see anyone do it, I don’t think something like the ultra-modern metropolis of Dubai would be suitable for Analog Efex Pro. I am however happy to be proved wrong on that so if anyone wants to send me on an assignment to photograph Dubai and process it in Analog Efex Pro, I’ll certainly give it a go. Where I think the strength lies are with images that already have an aged or timeless nature to them, and there’s no better place for that than the area around Bodhnath Stupa on the edge of Kathmandu, Nepal.
For the photographs here I’ve started with the presets located in the panels on the left. These give me a starting point, and from there I can move to the various adjustment panels on the right and tweak things to taste. In time, I’ll likely begin creating my own custom recipes based on these adjustments but until I’m fully up to speed with all aspects of the software I’ll hold off doing that.
Nik Analog Efex Pro, like the other tools in the Nik Collection, will work its way into my workflow when appropriate, and as I already do with other tools, I’ll will also find myself shooting specifically for processing in the app.]]>
It’s been 2 years since I was last in Nepal, arguably my favorite place in the world for travel. Last night I was chatting with a couple of people about travel there and so decided to dive into my Nepal archive for the November calendar. The photograph is from a rooftop restaurant on one corner of Durbar Square in Kathmandu. I took it for a run through Nik Color Efex using a preset recipe to accentuate the rays of light and possibly push it more into the realm of digital art than straight photography. As usual, the links are below in two sizes for you to choose from.
Durbar Square in Kathmandu is a fascinating place to explore. Just sitting there and watching the world go by offers endless color and life, a real feast for the eyes. Below I’ve embedded a slideshow featuring a series of photographs to give you a glimpse at some of what is on display daily.]]>
Taiwan is often said to be one of Asia’s most open societies and with more than 60 000 people turning out over the weekend for the annual LGBT Pride Parade, that reputation was strengthened. The weather was perfect for the colorful parade which this year moved to a new location based around Taipei City Hall in the busy Xinyi shopping and entertainment district. Gay activists marched alongside young families, Christian groups, drag queens, Google and thousands of people lined the route of the march to cheer the parade on and show their support in a vibrant display of tolerance, diversity and acceptance. I covered the event for the news, and you can see a full gallery of photographs at my Light Rocket site. Here is a small sampling of some of my favorites.