Woolongong Waves – A Visual Narrative

Life in Sydney, Photographic adventures, photography

21 May 2017 – On an impromptu roadtrip to Canberra, we stopped on the way at the beautiful Woolongong and cheekily made our way down to the off–limits–due–to–storm–damaged–cliffs for some exploring/yoga/photography.

As the tide came up the waves started to crash against the rocks, creating some amazing opportunities for photos. My lovely housemate Sjusanna wanted some shots of her meditating on the cliff with the sea spray behind her, and we got some rippers.

Then this happened, and I have not been able to look at the shots yet without almost peeing my pants in laughter.


Not so zen now, hey Sjuzie Q?! Hahahaaaohhahahahahaaa ….uh oh

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Final Assessment

Life Through a Lens

The brief:

“….Narrative surrounds us in momentary experiences as well as within a sequence of events. The challenge of this assessment task is to capture narrative moments within single photographs as well as (on a broader level) the series that the photographs make up. You are encouraged to explore the idea that in the realm of photography, the whole is the sum of its parts and the parts can stand alone: both aspects contain narrative…

…Choose your own phrase. It must be a phrase, not a complete sentence, past, present or future tense. This phrase will be the theme which drives your photography for this second assessment.”



The light after dark is a photographic narrative that follows a soul who is discovering the benefits of nurturing ones own light in the face of darkness. From a tiny flame that flickers and struggles to exist, to a blazing fire which lights up the landscape, and all of the steps of self discovery in between; her light is a subjective concept, one that is within the realm of the beholder to translate in a way that is easiest to relate to.


The story behind my choosing of this phrase originally was that after shooting water in a very high shutter speed for my first assessment, I wanted to experiment with something that was the complete flip side. Under pressure to choose a phrase by the deadline, and with the knowledge that I had the option of changing it later on, I chose ‘the light in the dark’ with the vague idea that I might do something to do with long exposures.

The idea went through a few twists and turns since then, and I got a semi complete series of the knife makers at Eveleigh works, but was unable to finish the series in time in a way that made sense. Besides, I had already had another idea, one that carried a lot more meaning and significance to my my own recent life experience.

After talking with my lovely new housemate Sjuzannah about the irony that in a city as teeming with people as Sydney, how you can feel so completely isolated when you are new, and people and places are all unfamiliar.


I shared with her my experience of overcoming this, in which I changed my own perception and attitude, from one of self–pity, to acceptance and gratitude, wherein I embraced my own feelings of vulnerability and insecurity.

I decided to reach out where I could, and spend the time I normally would spend on social pursuits on myself instead. I chose to pay attention to my inner feelings and take time to meditate and reflect in a way that was compassionate to myself.


This has been an important lesson for me, and Sjusannah could also relate to the  experience. She agreed to be my model, and together we developed the concept to suit the original phrase, as I was too doggedly stubborn to cop out and change my theme again like in the first assessment.

To get the shots we spent an adventurous weekend which involved getting lost dozens of times and accidentally going over the Harbour bridge twice; hiking through the undergrowth to get our sunset shots at the last possible second, several cheeky & illegal parking spots on inner city sidewalks, setting steel wool alight at Carriageworks and both getting drenched in the fountains in front of a Saturday night crowd… And incredibly, no parking tickets, police, or security attention whatsoever!

So ‘The Light After Dark” as I see it, is a series which illustrates a personal journey. It is my hope to show how for a couple of girls who felt alone, found the rewards of nurturing your own light, being your own support network, confidante and partner. How spending time listening to your inner self and paying care and attention to your thoughts and emotions, facing challenges head on with courage and calm, and overcoming obstacles with positivity and self compassion, is the best thing that one can do to nourish ones own flame so that it can burn bright from within, – authentic, unquenchable and unique.



…so that it may grow…





..into a beacon of light that will guide and protect you, all of your days.




Portraiture Photography

Life Through a Lens

Here are some examples both past and present, of portraits I have shot. (See captions for details) I very much prefer a natural or action shot as opposed to a studio photography shoot, and love natural lighting and genuine smiles.

An example of beauty retouching using photoshop:

Here is a portrait I recently took of Teya which I have retouched for the purpose of example here. The first is the original unedited photograph, the second with all freckles and blemishes absent, the third, keeping her looking like her natural self with freckles intact, but skin smoothed, eyes and teeth brightened and lips plumped. These effects were achieved using a variety of techniques including the clone tool, dodge and burn, layer blends, the paintbrush/eyedropper tools and gaussian blur.


Lesson 9 – Narrative

Life Through a Lens

A visual or photographic narrative tells a story through a series of images. The series can be either linear or non linear.

The example above is from a non–linear photo essay by David Wells. His thoughts on the subject are very concise and a great read.

He says of the series:

“…The photos shown here are from my project: The relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. My project proposal for that project says: In 1990, before the first Madrid peace conference, I started photographing the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. In my experience, the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis is best viewed as a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum is conflict, at the other end of the spectrum is cooperation, intentional attempts at understanding one another through dialogue groups, summer camps, etc. The middle of the spectrum is co-existence, day-to-day interactions in shared working, living, and playing spaces. Coexistence is the heart of the relationship and the part of the relationship that is most ignored in the media at large. Much of my work has been an effort to humanize (sic) both sides. My photographs of the occupation and the forced interaction between Israelis and Palestinians highlight the problems, while images of their intentional, chosen interactions show the positive possibilities. It is very telling that when I disseminate my work, in and out of the Middle East, viewers are surprised by their inability to tell Palestinian from Israeli, reminding viewers of the similarity between the two. My goal was to put a human face on the struggles for Middle East peace and to educate people both in and outside of the Middle East…” Read the whole article here.

Here is an example of a linear narrative by Duane Michals:


For my photo narrative, I have included a scene which occurred the other weekend on Good Friday, when a group of friends who are still getting used to the encroachment of kids on their lives, bore witness to a miniature scene of bullying play out before them. I was photographing willy nilly and a little bit tipsy at the time, but found it intriguing that I did not fully realise what had actually happened until later, when reviewing the shots:

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…Poor kid!

Lesson 8 – Lighting + Free Lighting Techniques for Photographers on a Budget

Life Through a Lens

I was not present lesson 8 as I had to go back to Adelaide for a few weeks for a friends wedding/Grandpa’s birthday/tie up loose ends/drive my car back up to Sydney..!

As such I missed three lessons, but the principles of which I am not entirely unfamiliar with, and so I will attempt to recreate some of the important elements, or add some alternatives of my own.

There are two types of lighting, natural and artificial. Natural light is of course light from the sun. It is free, warm and can give beautiful effects, particularly during what is known as ‘golden hour’ which is approximately the half–hour before and after both sunrise and sunset. The light hits the subject on a sideways angle and has a beautiful diffused glow, with soft shadows and a warm temperature.

However natural light can also be tricky in that it is unpredictable, uncontrollable, fleeting and sometimes very cruel to a photographic subject. The midday sun for example, is colder, creates harsh shadows and is usually very unflattering for portraits.

Artificial light can be either strobe/flash lighting or continuous lights (fluorescent/tungsten/LED’s) which can be manipulated in many ways, and is more reliable and controllable than natural light. It can be diffused, directed in different configurations towards the subject (e.g. 3–point lighting) for greater effect and can be combined with tools such as coloured gels and reflectors for greater effect.

Lighting setups can be infinitely varied, and can use any or all combinations of reflective, diffused, natural and artificial lighting to create lighting style which will vastly change the mood and effect of your photograph.

Using reflectors or an external flash, such as with a softbox or strategically placed speedlight will help to offset shadows, particularly when your subject is backlit. If you are a student, hobbyist or just do not have much of a budget for photography gizmos, there are other techniques you can use to reflect or diffuse light onto your subject. Luckily, through experimentation, trial and error and sometimes pure accident, this is something I have had some experience in:


  1. Use your surroundings as a reflector. The sunlight that was reflected onto Teya from the road was enough to offset the bright mid–afternoon sun and get a lovely back–lit shot of her dancing without leaving her face obscured in shadow.


2. Use a mirror to reflect light. This shot was taken using a 55–200mm lens, and a small hand held mirror to reflect light onto the subject, in this case a spider who was repairing her inconveniently–placed web, which I had put my head through a couple of times already. I have had much success with this technique when doing close ups such as in rain drop photography, but be aware that if your subject is living such as this one, that the heat and light you are reflecting will get very uncomfortable after a while, so limit the time you use it and have a spray bottle handy. (Plus droplets look good on the web!)

DSC_0257-girls-portrairt3. Use everyday objects to diffuse light and create interesting patterns in shadows.  Although it looks as though the girls are sitting by a window, in actual fact I got this effect by hanging, of all things, a woven welcome mat in front of a studio light and placing it at a distance from the subject. This effect can be wonderful when using things like lattice, mesh and other die–cut objects.


Taken using my old home made cardboard light tent and both natural and artificial light (sunlight from a window and two lamps)


Taking using a studio light tent

4. Make your own DIY light tent for product/macro photography. Link to instructions here


Taken without DIY reflector


Taken with DIY reflector

5. Create your own DIY reflector. By using a sheet of card or similar thick, flexible material covered with a reflective material such as white paper, aluminium foil covered with baking paper, or as pictured above, a car windshield sun protector, you can make your own reflector at home for nothing.


6. Utilise your angles By lying down on the ground and shooting up at Melanie, I was able to get her hair to be highlighted dramatically with the coloured light behind her.

For flash photography, I always carry a business card, and some baking paper and a rubber band in my kit. Why? If you do not have/cannot afford a speedlight and find yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to use your camera’s in–built flash, you will want to offset that sucker somehow or get ugly, washed out photos. First of all, do not forget that you can manually reduce your cameras flash in the settings by 1/2, all the way to 1/16 of the strength and no doubt beyond on some cameras. (But not mine!)

By propping a business card up in front of the flash you can bounce it up onto a ceiling or a wall, so that it is a reduced and diffused light that reflects onto your subject. Note: This does take some experimentation to get it right so don’t give up if it does not work first time.

By wrapping a small amount of baking paper, tissue paper or the like around your built in flash and securing it with a rubber band it will diffuse the light and so that your subject does not look as washed out. Note: This technique works best when you have at least one other light source on a different angle, and your flash is dialled right down. I also use this technique when doing DIY lighting setups at home using portable lamps and similar.

Of course every designer and photographer’s best friend is Adobe Photoshop. By using camera RAW and other settings you can dramatically enhance photos and reduce or increase the shadows, lighting angles and more.

A wonderful free plug–in that is a great asset to any photographer is the Nik colour eFex 4 plug–in. This is a FREE resource and I highly recommend it to my fellow students and other readers looking to improve their photographs. Get it here.