Wanderlust | Part 4

Wanderlust | Part 4

[For the back story on these photos, see Wanderlust | Part 1, Wanderlust | Part 2, Wanderlust | Part 3.]

Our goal in Georgia had been to get a visa for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is filthy rich with oil money and doesn’t care much for tourists. As a result, it isn’t easy getting a tourist visa. At the time, you needed an in-country sponsor and reams of completed paperwork, to even be considered for a tourist visa. Getting a visa for Azerbaijan was critical for us, as our goal was to travel overland to the Caspian Sea, before entering western Kazakhstan.

Courtesy of the internet grapevine, we found some advice indicating that there was a rather ‘tourist friendly’ administrator at the Azerbaijan consulate in Tbilisi. Though we still had to complete reams of paperwork, we were eventually granted our tourist visas.

We left Tbilisi on the overnight train to Baku, Azerbaijan. An old style Soviet sleeper, with the best sleeping bed I have ever slept on. It easily fitted my 6 foot, 2 inch frame, a rarity on sleeping trains.

These photos show: inside our overnight sleeper; desolate oil fields; on the road to Xinaliq, a village in the mountains near the Russian border; Xinaliq village houses; Xinaliq village and river; the family we stayed with in Xinaliq; exploring Xinaliq with our host; selfie in the hills around Xinaliq; horse riders Xinaliq; our driver and his Lada - we agreed on price, through my basic Russian and using our fingers to write numbers in the dust on his Lada’s bumper; hand washed clothes drying in Baku; Baku waterfront; polluted water at Baku waterfront; newly built apartments on our drive to the airport.

[Next week’s post - Kazakhstan]

Wanderlust | Part 3

Wanderlust | Part 3

[For the back story on these photos, see Wanderlust | Part 1 and Wanderlust | Part 2 ].

It always amazes me how something as simple as crossing a border between two countries, can represent such a huge change in the people, food and culture of a place.

That is exactly what happened when my wife and I crossed from Turkey into Georgia. Gone was the easy, clean transport of Turkey. Gone was the amazing food of Turkey, seemingly available at every cafe / restaurant. Gone was the easy to find accommodation, with helpful hosts.

While Georgia was different to Turkey, we still managed to have a great time travelling across the country, as we continued on our journey east towards China.

These photos show: Batumi on the Black Sea; lifeguards on the Black Sea; ferris wheel at night; man selling prints for $5 USD each; a Lada in action, the Central Asian vehicle of choice; myself and our driver John (his generosity was as big as him); overnight trek in the Caucasus Mountains; Tbilisi market (including real bear skins); Kazbegi village and mountain and lastly, a self portrait of two tired people, after a long day in the mountains. We are having dinner in an abandoned park, in Kazbegi village.

[Next week’s post: Azerbaijan]

Digital Memories, Technology and You

I received an email out of the blue the other day from a previous wedding client. I had photographed her wedding at the beautiful Langdale Vineyard, just west of Christchurch, some three years ago.

She was writing, as since receiving her hi-res photos on a DVD, she hadn’t actually backed them up to another device and she could no longer access the photos on the DVD (that’s the thing about DVD’s and technology - they don’t last forever).

Fortunately, I have a copy of every single wedding I have ever photographed, archived and backed up on my server. Those same photos are also stored off-site on their own hard drives, in the event my office is robbed, flooded or burns to the ground in a fire.

Put simply, I place value on photos and I take the necessary steps to ensure I will have them in decades to come. It is part of my cost of doing business and it is just one thing that separates me from any person with a camera. I can pull your photos from my archive and provide them to you, three years down the track, within 48-hours of you contacting me. There is a small fee to cover my time and hosting costs.

If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed there has been an enormous shift in how we take, consume and share photography in the past decade. Where we once took photos using film with relatively expensive cameras, now anyone with a phone can take a photo and share it instantly with the world, courtesy of the new printing press called the Internet.

And while that has helped make us all content creators and dare I say ‘photographers’, it has also led to a loss in the understanding of the true value of photos.

If you have photos on your digital devices and you haven’t backed them up, please back them up.

Right now.

 Holly on the dune track with her camera, New Brighton, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Irreplaceable

This photo instantly reminds me of an afternoon I spent with my daughter walking along the beach together. Captured at 1/2500 of a second, this slice of time, is a memento I will have for years to come.

Wanderlust | Part 2

Wanderlust | Part 2

[For the back story on these photos, see Wanderlust | Part 1 ].

These photos are from our time in Turkey. In order of appearance: Istanbul Turkey, the gardens of stone in Gallipoli, the ancient ruins of Ephesus, a multi-day sea kayaking trip along the stunning Turquoise Coast (huge shout out to Dean and his company Seven Capes for providing us with the gear we needed & logistical support), ballooning in Cappadocia, an old fort on one of the old Silk Road routes (near the border with Georgia). 

[Next weeks post: Georgia].

Sikh Indian Wedding Photography

Sikh Indian Wedding Photography

Received a text message just three days ago about my availability to photograph a Sikh Indian Wedding in Christchurch this Saturday. Given how colourful and different the Sikh Indian wedding ceremonies can be, I was pretty happy to find I wasn't booked with other commitments.

The first Indian wedding I photographed was back in Thailand, a country I called home for two-years. That wedding lasted four-days and was my first experience with the elaborate celebration and traditions surrounding Indian weddings. 

As a wedding photographer, Indian weddings are full of great moments to photograph. Whether it is the Mehndi, the dancing, the rituals between the families or just the wonderfully colourful clothing everyone is wearing. 

I have pulled a few photos from an Indian wedding I photographed for Ophelia & Berinder in Hua Hin Thailand, a few years' back. 

If you are planning an Indian wedding and need an Indian Wedding Photographer, then drop me a line. I'd love to discuss your wedding day photography requirements with you. Thomas.

Interview with My Wed

I recently joined My Wed and one of the optional things they do is ask you (me) some interview questions. I don't normally complete these type of things, but after looking through the questions, I thought I could have some fun answering them.

I've reproduced the interview below.

MyWed: First and foremost – whom can you name as the best wedding photographer in Christchurch? :)

Me: I can't go past myself, though I'm not used to being so upfront.

Are you photogenic?

Surely a trick question?

How did you get into wedding photography?

Reluctantly. While studying for my Diploma in Photography, my tutor said I should come along to a wedding with him. I said 'no', he said 'yes' and the rest is history.

What are the most important components of a good photo in your opinion?

Great light; an authentic moment between the couple and sweet design.

Are you fond of travelling?

Oh yeah. I've lived in four countries – The Cook Islands, The Maldives, New Zealand and Thailand. Did I mention I have worked for four summers in Antarctica? Or I have travelled to 50-countries?

What do you like most about your profession?

Meeting new people and being entrusted to create photos of a couple on one of the most important days in their lives.

What do you like least about your profession?

Marketing. It isn't my strength.

What will be the future of wedding photography?

If I knew that, I wouldn't be typing the answer in this interview.

What is special in wedding photography?

It is about the people. People are what make weddings great. That and great light.

How do you handle criticism?

What? Got a problem with my work?

Are there any trends in wedding photography?

Yeah, everyone with a camera thinks they are a wedding photographer these days...

Just because I have some tools, doesn't make me a plumber.

What should be the criteria for a bride and a groom to choose their wedding photographer?

One, they love the photographer's work. 
Two, they like the photographer's personality
Three, the photographer's prices are within their budget.

What things are to be avoided when shooting?

Standing still. Always change your viewpoint and your focal lengths (great way to hide annoying background elements).

What things that common people don't usually see can a wedding photographer notice?

Where to start? How about the light and the moments between people.

What influences the value of a photo? What are its elements?

Great photos are about great lighting, wonderful visual design and in the case of wedding photography, real moments between people.

What person can be the symbol of the 21st century in your opinion?

Just one person? That's a tough question. I'd start with Barack Obama, though I'd be happy to name more.

Who do you want to take photos of?

Your next wedding (so stop reading this and head over to my website and contact me). Right. Now.

Do you have any professional taboos?

No full on nudity. Sorry, it isn't you, it's me. Just not my cup of tea.

Do you believe that you replicate the soul of the person you are shooting?

That's a bit deep for me.

Who would you like to shoot with?

My shadow. I rarely use a second shooter, but when I do, I have a reliable go-to.

What do you worry about, and why?

Donald Trump being re-elected. Don't you?

What is the most impressive moment in your life?

Delivering my second child. It'll take a lot to surpass that moment.

If you were a cartoon, book or movie character, who would you be and why?

Always loved Road Runner...

Who inspires you in your life and why?

My wife and kids. They see the joy and wonder in everything. Makes me happy to be a dad.

How do you define success? How do you measure it?

Being happy and having a healthy family.

Would you rather be liked or respected?

Respected. Is this another trick question?

What is the biggest mistake you have ever made at work?

I applied for a job once and misspelt a person's name, three times. To be fair though, it was a really tricky name...

When you're going to travel, what do you take with you and why?

Earplugs and a first aid kit. Camera. Passport.

Is there anything that you wish you hadn't bought among the gadgets that you own? Why?

I have the bare minimum. Gadgets don't last long and I consider them a waste of valuable money.

How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

A year studying for a Diploma in Photography was a good start. Working alongside other working photographer's, has helped too.

Whose work has influenced you most as a wedding photographer?

Jonathan Ong.

What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

I would get better at creating photos very quickly.

What do you want to say with your photographs?

I want people to actually stop and look at them.

What motivates you to continue taking pictures?

Couple that keep wanting images that they will cherish forever.

Should your parents have been more or less strict?

Dad – less strict. Sorry dad if you are reading this.

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

Buy a sporting almanac, put down lots of sporting bets and retire to an island in the Pacific somewhere. Wouldn't you?

What about life on other planets?

It's out there...

Who are your heroes?

My wife.

Who do you have no respect for?

Racism and treating people poorly.

What do you do in your spare time?

Surfing, sea kayaking and camping with the kids.

When are you completely satisfied with your work?

When my couple's love their wedding photographs.

Do you believe in the traditional roles for men and women?

Nope. I bake our bread; I cook; I clean; I wash the clothes. It's all about sharing the workload.

Do you develop friendships easily?

Sometimes.

Where would you like to live?

Where I'm living right now. Two blocks from the beach, in beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand.

What's the stupidest thing you've ever agreed to do?

Photograph weddings....It turned out okay though.

Is there life after marriage?

Another trick question? I've been married for many years and don't plan on being non-married.

Do you have a favourite joke? Tell us.

It's R-rated. It'll never be published. So pass this time round.

Do you like dogs or cats?

Dogs, but we don't have enough space for a dog.

Who or what do you hate?

Hate is such a strong word and there is enough hate in the world. I'm not a hater.

Do you take nothing but wedding photos?

I used to do a lot of magazine photography work, prior to getting into wedding photography.

The best thing in life is:

Lazy Sundays after a wedding shoot on Saturday.

The most annoying thing in life is:

People rushing around.

Is there anything around you that you would like to change?

Could be a bit warmer in Christchurch during winter.

What would you like to change in yourself?

Getting older.

What would you like to alter in the world?

Reduce child poverty to zero.

Can you give a few tips for wedding photographers who are just starting out?

Learn visual design. 
Shoot a lot. 
Find a mentor. 
Be patient. 
Practice and practice some more.

If aliens come to the Earth and you are the first person they meet, what will you tell them?

I knew you guys were out there!

If you are called to shoot a movie, what genre will it be?

Adventure (think Indiana Jones)

Tomorrow I will go and...

Photograph a wedding. Might see you there...

Wanderlust | Part 1

Wanderlust | Part 1

The main reason I got into photography, was because of wanderlust. 

As a kid, I loved nothing more than coming across that yellow bordered magazine called National Geographic. Opening an issue of National Geographic made me feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. As I turned each page, I was presented with far off lands and exotic customs and rituals. The magazine fuelled my curiosity about the world and the power of an image.

It was after a summer working in the Northern Prince Charles Mountains in Antarctica with the Australian Antarctic Division, that I decided to pursue a career in photography. It wasn't something I needed to do. It was something I had to do. To become a travel photographer, working for magazines became my siren call.

While I was very fortunate to spend a number of years' working as a freelance photographer for various magazines, there came a point in my life where I just wanted to travel more and explore the world. I wanted to do it without a client brief and a deadline. 

In 2012 I embarked on what turned out to be a 10-month trip. Together with my wife, we travelled from Istanbul, Turkey down through the Aegean Sea (crossing into the Greek Islands), back into Turkey, through Georgia, through Azerbaijan, over the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan, into Kyrgyzstan, across the Tien Shen Mountains into Kashi in western China, then across China to Shanghai. We then headed north into Mongolia. 

To summarise such a trip in words is really hard. We met wonderful people. We had some long, tough days. We came as close to being mugged as I have ever been. And we had days of absolute joy. To travel overland, without a time frame is one of the most rewarding things I have done. 

Along the way, I took some photos. 

[These photos are from our time travelling through the Greek Islands. Up next is Istanbul Turkey, which I'll post next week].