Motivation: overcoming creative roadblocks

Today. I thought that I would write about something that all photographers suffer from a lack of periodically: motivation.

I am sure you know how it is: you are in your office, or study or wherever you normally do your photographic desk work and you are reminded by an article, or coming across an image, or looking for something and seeing your camera, that you have not actually been out and shot anything for quite some time. The doubts suddenly appear like ghosts in a haunted house…have I lost it for good? Did I ever have it? Did I have it and not nurture it enough and now it has ceased to be, like the parrot in a Monty Python sketch? I must go and shoot, you think. Oh, but WHAT shall I go and shoot? I can’t think of anything at all…is often the next thing.

I know no photographer for whom this has never happened and for most it happens reasonably often unless they actually work in a role where they are fed photography work on a weekly basis. Even those fortunate few often find themselves lost because they are forced to shoot whatever they are told to shoot which is only rarely what they want to shoot. You pull your camera out of the bag and wonder whether the battery will still actually be charged, it has been so long.

Let’s look at some ways in which you can overcome this.

Personal Projects

Personal projects are great for giving you some work to do when you have no other motivation or, if you are professional, the sales calls have not brought work in that week. Of course, being personal they can be about anything you like. Signposts, old cars, your grandparents, parents, children, pets, local landmarks, festivals. They can be themed – all black & white, all colour, all square, all prints and so on. They can last a day, a week, a month – a decade if you wish, or more.

Constraints

Place some limits on yourself. Go out and shoot using only one lens. Only in black & white. Only in one day from shoot to print. Only 16:9 ratio images. A group of 10 images by 4pm the following day. I learned this one from photographer David du Chemin, a great visual artist and very wise man.

Travel

This one works best for me. I have always found it hard to shoot the space in which I live my life. I do not know why; perhaps subconsciously I feel that it violates my personal bubble somehow – I really do not know. I do know that work I shoot around my local area rarely generates the enthusiasm and interest within me of work I shoot elsewhere though. Going somewhere new brings curiosity and the need to explore for me, renewing motivation. If you are really in a rut, come and see us in New Zealand and let me help you work through it as we travel through some of the most amazing scenery in the world.

 

 

There are three ways that may help you find your motivation. The key skill is learning to see it in yourself and knowing when it needs attending to. True photographers are not made, they are born I think and if that applies to you then the need to shoot, to use your talent and creativity, will eventually drive you to action. Try to spot when that is happening and address it before it becomes too much of an undirected force in your life. Harness that energy.

If you need to travel, or want to, then you can always begin the process and start planning and researching that next trip, making the shot list you want to get when you finally get off the plane…

If your dream is New Zealand, then get in touch and let us help.

 

Walking generations

Generations

When Should I Come On My New Zealand Photography Tour?

I was asked to write about this for Tourism New Zealand who often get asked the same question. I thought that it would be useful to write about it here too so that clients planning a New Zealand photography tour with us will have easy access to the information.

The simple answer is the one you might expect, in the summer. However, there are nuances for photographers that you should take into account. It depends on what you like to photograph, what weather tolerance you have, how long your New Zealand Photo Tour will be and so on.

Winter

Winter in NZ is the opposite of winter in the northern hemisphere. It begins in June and runs through to September. Think of June as being the equivalent of December in the Northern Hemisphere.

In winter, NZ is colder, wetter and (in the right parts) snowier. Down on the South Island, expect winter overnight temperatures as low as -5C and day temperatures ranging from 0C to 15C or thereabouts. On the North Island, overnights generally around 5C and days around 17C average, with some occasional dips into early negative temperatures at night in many parts.

Spring

Spring is from September to November. Temperatures begin climbing, especially overnights, rainfall is plentiful and grass grows well on the many farms. The countryside is a riot of green crops and white sheep, cows and budding trees.

Snow will depart from all but the highest of peaks (such as Mount Cook).

Summer

Summer runs from December through to the end of February.

Usually, long periods of settled, warmer weather. Tourism is at its height and hotels, activities and locations become crowded. Daytime temperatures can hit 30C. Often the countryside will brown over in summer due to insufficient rainfall to keep the grass.

Autumn

Autumn is from March to May. The countryside will green up if rainfall over summer was short. Early snow will appear on the peaks towards the end of the period. Daytime temperatures are pleasant, evenings start to get chilly.

When Should I Come On My New Zealand Photography Tour?

My recommendations, if you have no other factors driving your decision, is to come in one of the shoulder seasons of Spring or Autumn. Tourism is less fraught than it is in summer which means less crowding and a more pleasant visit. Photographically, either choice can offer spectacular snow covered landscapes. Spring offers a lush, verdant countryside replete with young lambs, Autumn offers (down south at least) brilliant colours from autumn tree foliage.

Do not be put off coming in Summer or Winter if you have no option to do otherwise: both offer equally special photographic opportunities but will require skilled itinerary planning in the summer to avoid the crowds (a speciality of our service, of course) and in winter you will need to pack accordingly to deal with location shooting in colder weather.

For more details on what we can do for you, contact us for a chat.

new zealand photography tours

View from inside a helicopter over New Zealand mountains

 

Astrophotography On Our New Zealand Photo Tours

Astrophotography has been this year’s area of personal photographic development for me. If you come on one of our New Zealand photo tours, we always recommend at least one evening session of this, weather permitting.

Where In New Zealand?

New Zealand boasts a large area on the South Island which has the status of International Dark Sky Reserve. This protects the darkness of the region by controlling how housing and roading are lit and so on in order to minimise light pollution. Boasting the Mount John Observatory, the Lake Tekapo region is truly a night sky wonderland. On the North Island, the South Wairarapa region (about 80 kilometres from Wellington) is in the process of applying for the same status. It boasts a coastal landscape, too, providing further foreground compositions for wide field astrophotography in that region which the Tekapo region does not have.

What To Shoot

The most obvious thing on which to concentrate in wide field astro is the Milky Way. On a clear night in a dark place in New Zealand, the Milky Way is visible with the naked eye. This often amazes clients who have spent much of their lives in cities and have no idea that such a wonder stretches across the Heavens every night because they cannot see it due to the light pollution.

One of our recent New Zealand photography tour clients told me that she found the experience of seeing so many stars, planets and the Milky Way to be “almost religious”.

Modern cameras are far more sensitive to light than the human eye is. You will notice when you come to post process your night’s work that there are in fact at least twice as many stars as your eyes could see (if not more!) which is quite the revelation as well. I sat outside two nights ago and watched a meteor shower which was an amazing experience. Shootings stars and passing satellites are often spotted, as is the International Space Station. You will need a tripod and warm clothing for astrophotography, but it is worth it.

The image below was shot on an Olympus EM1X, at 7mm f2.8, ISO 2500 and shows the Milky Way rising over my house.

Get in touch to see how we can help you get images like this and show you around New Zealand on one of our amazing New Zealand photo tours.

Astrophotography

Why I Use The Olympus OMD System

As a professional photographer, cameras are the tools of my trade. Professionals place different requirements on their equipment than amateurs. Things such as how the camera feels in the hand, how reliable it is, how it copes with a range of temperatures and weather conditions, how easy it is to use when you are in a high pressure situation and the weight of the equipment when travelling are all very important. I recently moved to the Olympus OMD system and here’s why I did that.

You can see some of my work on my professional photography website here. For much of my professional career I shot Nikon equipment. I loved their gear and it fulfilled all of the requirements above. However, a few years ago, I had a fall and damaged my right wrist. All of a sudden, I found the large kit I was travelling with was less comfortable to use all day. Airlines were getting stricter about carry on weight (never check your cameras!) as well. A pair of Nikon D3s bodies with three lenses covering 17-200 at f2.8 plus the associated batteries, chargers and so forth was well in excess of the 7kg limit that many airlines operate now for carry-on bags.

As with all things, technology moves on. Mirrorless cameras are well and truly mainstream now. This enables many clever things, such as electronic shutters, but it also enables the body to be smaller and lighter because it no longer needs to house the reflex mirror and the pentaprism. Of course, if the sensor is the same size as the one in your Nikons, the lenses will all be the same size and weight as you cannot get round the laws of physics! 

If you wish to reduce the size of the  kit, you need to reduce the size of the sensor, so that the lenses can get smaller as well. Enter, Stage Left, the Olympus OMD system. Using a Micro 4/3 sensor, this system offers the speed and handling of a professional DSLR system at much less weight and bulk. Of course, there are trade offs to be had – everything in life is a compromise. This post is not the right place to get into what the trade-offs are, but they are all workable for me. In return I get the benefit of a smaller, lighter system that is as responsive and tough as I could wish for.

Currently I have the outstanding Olympus OMD EM1X bodies. Not the smallest Olympus bodies, but for me, the best combination of size and ability that there is. Combined with the M-Zuiko Pro lenses from the Olympus line and you have a weatherproof, high speed system that cannot be beaten except in a few specialist circumstances that do not concern me the vast majority of the time.

If you travel a lot for your photography, and we hope that you will be coming to see us on a photo tour in New Zealand, the Olympus OMD system is well worth considering. Contact me today to begin planning your New Zealand photo tour.

 

Taken with Olympus OMD

New Zealand photo tour? Travelling Light can help!

We are often asked by clients how we help them as they plan their New Zealand photo tour.

New Zealand is a long way for most people to travel. Many of our clients are from the USA and Europe, so have undertaken travel in excess of 30 hours to get here in some cases. Having made that commitment to come here to take a New Zealand photo tour, of course, you want to be sure that you maximise the time you have here. That is what we do for you.

Long before you arrive, we will have been speaking with you to scope out what it is that you would like to do when you are here. Some clients have a good idea, some want more help with that. We go through your wishlist (or write one for you) and examine it from several perspectives:

  • Practicality – we know the roads, the travel times and the distances involved to get between the destinations on the list. NZ roads are a bit different from those elsewhere and travel times can be longer than you may be used to
  • Photographic Value – not all destinations are equal, you may have read about X as being the best place to shoot sunset but our experience may be that Y is much better because no one else knows about Y…for example
  • Accommodation – you may have told us that you want 5 star accommodation on your trip but then suggested an itinerary to us where that isn’t possible, so we need to work that out with you
  • Weather/Light
  • Past experience – we have been to a great many locations in NZ and have all manner of insights relating to them based on our experience

Over time, we refine your itinerary with you, incorporating the locations and activities that you want, the hotels you want, the golf/vineyard visits/private wine tours/restaurants and so on that you want. Once we have something you are happy with, we will cost it and invoice it. Prior to arrival, we will let you have packing suggestions, hotel contact details, specific information that may be needed for your itinerary and airport pick up details.

On arrival, we will meet you (or if we are not meeting you from your initial flight, we will have arranged private transfers for you) and from then on, we will travel with you as your guide and concierge, ensuring that all the arrangements go smoothly. We will guide you through the location shoots, helping you with tips and tricks if required.  We work to get you in the right places at the right times based on years of experience, whether that is at dawn to shoot sunrise on Mount Cook or midnight to shoot the Milky Way over the Cape Palliser lighthouse.

Drop us a line and I’ll be only too pleased to discuss your New Zealand photo tour.

Mount Cook taken on New Zealand photo tour

Sunrise on Mount Cook with wind-driven snow on the peak