At precisely this time last week I was experiencing a rather eclectic mix of exhaustion, elation, excitement and nervousness. Day one of the 2015 AIPP NSW/ACT Epson Professional Photography Awards was completed, and as the NSW President of the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) I found myself in the interesting position of being an organiser, entrant, panel chair and judge! As such I was shattered from running around The Muse gallery at Sydney TAFE in Ultimo, making sure the day went smoothly. But I was also excited that three of the four images I entered into the Wedding category won silver awards while the fourth image scored a 79, just one point shy of a silver! This was my best result to date at the state's most prestigious professional photography competition, but it wasn't over yet.
Viewing entries in
As wedding photographers we naturally love to travel and every Aussie winter we look forward to a vacation to explore somewhere new. This year we were exceptionally excited for our six week European adventure. This long break, which had been months in the planning, would take us through eight cities in five countries and provide the perfect way to relax and recharge in warmer climates after a busy wedding season. But Amy and I also had our own individual reasons for looking forward to the trip. For me it would be my first time back to Europe and my home town of London since I moved to Australia over eight years ago, whilst for Amy it represented a bookmark in her career - the end of her day job and the start of exciting new challenges including running her own business and helping to develop mine.
Those reasons alone justified our trip but we returned in absolute disbelief at exactly how much happened in just six weeks.
After the whirlwind of a year that was 2012, this year is set to have a much calmer outlook with just one milestone that needs to be planted firmly in the ground. Today.
On this day last year I woke up to a shiny, new lifestyle that involved running my own business and once every week or two photographing the most amazing day of someone's life. I also, finally, had the opportunity to be that person you always see hanging out in bookshops drinking coffee.
A year on and everything's rosy. I love my life and couldn't be happier.
But my success wouldn't have been achieved without the massive support I received from friends and family. They got me to this privileged position where people now tell me they admire what I've done, what I've achieved and how they wish they could also "live the dream". Well I would love nothing more than for everyone to do just that, so if you've been wanting to change your life I'd like to offer a few words of advice and encouragement, starting with:
Give yourself the life you crave before it's too late.
Yes, I know you've heard it all before and it's on the "to do" list. But here's the thing: I've had many conversations with people who say they would love nothing more than to run their own business or spend the rest of their lives exploring this amazing planet. And yet they continue to stay in their jobs and do the same thing day after day. Maybe they're worried about taking the plunge and so opt for the security of a steady income until the day when all the stars align. Totally understandable.
But if you're one of those people, just ask yourself: is that day marked in your diary? Because if it's not, how do you know it will ever come? Deadlines make things happen.
The good news is that achieving your dream lifestyle doesn't need to feature a dramatic life change. You could transition like I did by reducing your hours while you build your business or train up on new skills. I was fortunate that my previous employer was open to discussions about flexible hours, but if your employer is not so generous don't despair. There are ways to make yourself super efficient in your current job so you can then free up time for yourself while at work, or ideally persuade your employer to let you work from home. To find out more I highly recommend reading the first book I always grab in the bookstore whilst waiting for my coffee (even though I actually own a copy): "The Four Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss.
This best seller is infamous for perpetuating the mythical dream of just four hours of graft per week. But the principles outlined for why you should aim for four hours are perfectly sound. For starters: why should you want to work at all, even for yourself? When we were kids we dreamed of being astronauts and ballerinas. It wasn't about working for a living, it was about having a life filled with fun and excitement! And yet when we grew up society popped our utopian bubble and dictated that we had to work 9-5 (at the very least) in a job that rubber stamped us as suitable for the position. Incidentally, shouldn't that be the other way round? Shouldn't we determine and create the job that we want to do?
And what's the deal with working non-stop until you retire? Does that really make sense? We talk of achieving work / life balance until we retire but how's that working out for you right now? Is the reality that you're currently sweating out the best years of your life so you can look forward to lawn bowls and P&O cruises in your twilight years? How about turning that on its head and taking mini-retirements every few years while you're still able to salsa? Work, save and follow the surf for a year; work, save and live like an Italian in Tuscany for a year. Rinse and repeat until you've done everything that's ever appealed to you. Doesn't that sound more like work / life balance?
If you're still with me you may be wondering if I've been sucking on some serious nitrous oxide so I won't dive any deeper for now. I just wanted to start a conversation and encourage you to think differently, to consider what's really important to you, and to take action. Everything you've ever wanted is waiting for you and all it will takes to start your journey are a few small, simple steps. Like buying a diary.
I'm loving the Olympics. After week one Team GB are currently 5th in the medal table with some fantastic wins last night in three of our strongest sports: cycling, canoeing and shooting. If only darts was in the schedule as well. The green and gold on the other hand are not exactly giving this new citizen much to cheer about.
London has put on a mighty fine show so far, so much so that I'm actually feeling a little homesick. There, I've admitted it. More than six years after leaving Blighty on a one way flight vowing never to return, I reckon it would be quite nice to be back in England's green and pleasant land right now. Minus Lakeside.
But it's not just the Olympics that are turning my thoughts to London. My parents are there too, just a few miles from the Olympic stadium. I only see them every couple of years when they head Down Under so I miss them dearly and when I do see them our time together is very special. Their last visit was just a couple of months ago and it was the first time they had seen their son in his new career as a professional wedding photographer. I was half expecting them to tell me I should get a real job but fortunately they said they were very proud of me.
My folks love the countryside so as it was autumn there was no better day trip than a drive down to Bowral in the Southern Highlands. Autumn in Bowral is spectacular. The scenery is always amazing, but at this time of the year the Japanese Maples burst into fiery hues of orange and red and the landscape becomes littered with explosions of colour.
My dad has always been a keen photographer, and as much as he used to drive us nuts when I was a kid by taking half an hour to set up every holiday snap, he taught me a lot and always encouraged me to shoot. His hands are a bit shaky now so he's swapped his SLR for a compact. With image stabilisation.
My mum is the complete opposite. She's never taken a photo in her life and avoids cameras like the plague. So it took all my client handling skills to coax her into a few photos for a mini Love Session as we toured Bowral and visited one of my favourite wedding venues, Milton Park. Such a great name, hey?
Yesterday's delivery from Mr Aus Post was a hip swinging pair of blue suede shoes - uh huh huh! It therefore stands to reason that the next four hours were lost to finessing my Elvis lip curl. However, my new arrivals also reminded me that I still needed to blog my trip to WPPI and California back in February. So grab yourself a Friday arvo beverage, relax and read on...
WPPI stands for Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. It's a US based organisation that every year pulls together the largest gathering of photographers in the world for a week of workshops, seminars, print judging and high octane partying networking. This year there were 17,000 of us. Oh, and it just happens to take place in Las Vegas. Gee, the things I have to do for my profession ; )
However, whereas most people head to Sin City in search of drinking, gambling and showgirls, my pilgrimage was for inspiration. I had left full time employment just a week earlier so I was still getting used to the thought of life without regular paydays or cupcake drops. But within a couple of days of hanging out at the MGM Grand with my new shutter-clicking brethren (special mentions go out to Lara Beck and Rebecca Lozer), I knew I had made the right decision.
There were over 160 seminars, workshops and master classes to choose from, many of which were hosted by some of the biggest names in the business including Jose Villa, Jasmine Star, Bambi Cantrell and Australia's own Jerry Ghionis and Sue Bryce.
Jerry Ghionis is one of the best wedding photographers in the world. He's incredibly skilled and creative as you would expect, but wedding photography is about people so one also requires immaculate conversational and customer service skills and Jerry has them in bucketloads. His ability to put clients at ease and make them happy to spend time being elegantly posed is just incredible. And on top of all that he's one of the nicest and funniest guys you'll ever meet. Man crush much?! At the awards night Jerry won the WPPI Wedding Album Of The Year title for the 8th time in 10 years! The album was ground breaking in design using fractured images, inspired by the edges of bevelled mirrors. Below is one of the amazing layouts and here's the whole WPPI Wedding Album Of The Year.
Jerry also entered another album into the contest. What the judges didn't know was that all the photos were taken on an iPhone 4S and processed with just one app to give them a sepia polaroid look. It finished in 4th place! Have a peek at the iPhone album.
Sue Bryce is a Kiwi by birth but now calls Sydney home (when she's not jetting around the world teaching and speaking). Sue is hilarious and shamelessly ditzy, but she also has the most incredible story, starting a portrait photography business in her parent's garage in country New Zealand and going from scratch to $20,000 per week - within. her. first. year! Sue has redefined the glamour portrait industry with her breathtakingly beautiful images of women.
Just before WPPI Sue won the Australian Portrait Photographer Of The Year title, then followed that up at WPPI with 6 awards in her first year of entering! Sue's seminar was the last on my timetable. Hundreds of photographers filled the auditorium to capacity and were held spellbound as Sue gave one of the most inspirational classes I've ever heard. At the end of it Sue received the only standing ovation I had witnessed that week. A truly fitting end to my first WPPI.
I would highly recommend anyone entering the wedding photography industry to head to WPPI, for the incredible experience and to get their bearings in an industry that's evolving at an astonishing speed.
So after 9 days of frantic scribbling my notebooks were overflowing with photographic, creative, and marketing ideas and I was raring to come back to Sydney to put them all into practice and take my business and client experience to the next level. But my time in the US wasn't over just yet. I had also planned a road trip up the West Coast of California to San Francisco, a place that I have always wanted to visit.
So I headed off in my trusty Dodge Nitro and spent three days on the road, taking in the spectacular scenery of Pacific Coast Highway 1 (including the incredible Big Sur!), and stopping off overnight at the beautiful coastal towns of Santa Barbara and Monterey before arriving in San Francisco. It could have taken even longer given that it was my first time driving on the right hand side of the road, and without any GPS, but somehow I managed to stay on track!
San Francisco lived up to my expectations; beautiful, charming, and a little quirky. I only had three days there but managed to squeeze in a night tour of Alcatraz, a hike over the Golden Gate Bridge and back, a bread bowl of clam chowder at Boudin Bakery, a Double-Double burger at In-N-Out, a catch up at the Cheesecake Factory (Y.U.M!) with new friends from WPPI, and was a good Apple fanboy by dropping by Apple HQ in Cupertino.
All up it was an awesome way to mark the start of my new life. I did of course take a lot of photos but I had challenged myself to pack light and so shot pretty much everything on my new 45mm tilt-shift lens. This is a speciality lens that has a number of tricks up its sleeve. You'll probably be most familiar with its ability to make big things look miniature as you can achieve a similar effect on your iPhone with apps like Instagram. So anyway, that's enough of my spiel, here are some of my postcards from Nevada and California. Enjoy!
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This post has been a long time in the making. Forty years actually. To the day.
Yes, it's my big 4-0 and so I am now bracing myself for the moment I:
- start telling "hilarious" dad jokes
- lose all sense of coordination on the dancefloor
- feel the need to buy a motorbike
- turn into a grumpy old b@stard
However, before all of that nonsense sets in I feel obliged to write a post that suitably combines a touch of reflection, a pinch of contemplation and a good dose of optimism. So here goes.
Well let's start with that infamous saying "life begins at forty". For quite a while I've wondered just what that meant and, if it was true, what exactly is the point of the first forty years? Now that I've reached that milestone I think I have a pretty good idea. Just as I did when I turned twenty and thirty, I look back now and see how my life has been fun, exciting, interesting and dramatic. It's had ups and downs and been littered with mistakes that I've attempted to learn from. Those years have got me to where I am today. But looking forward is what it's really about. And now, more than ever, I know what lies ahead. I have become the man I was destined to be.
I'm a wedding photographer. I live in the country I dreamed of moving to. I'm surrounded by the best friends I've ever had. And I have a girlfriend that I am truly in love with. Life at forty is a perfect storm and the forecast is rosy.
However, if you'd asked me ten years ago what I would be doing at forty I wouldn't have predicted this complete life change. I always envisaged that I would change my career by my mid-thirties, and when that moment came and went the anxiety started to creep in. I nervously pondered whether I was really going to spend the rest of my working life in media, in London. What I should have done is acknowledge that I tend to do things later in life than most people. I passed my driving test at 17 but didn't actually have a car to drive until I was 23. I didn't move out of home until I was 27. I still can't swim (so Uge from Aquabumps can breathe a sigh of relief) but I do hold out hope to one day grow stubble.
I also used to hear about celebrities who are my age and wonder what exactly I had been doing with my time while they were busy becoming successful. Want some examples? Jude Law, Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, Idris Elba (yeah, I could have been Luther!), Chris Rock, The Rock, Eminem, Shaq, and the man who famously copied my hair style, Kelly Slater.
Yeah they may have Oscars, Grammys and world titles but do any of them know how to expose for ambient light, huh? Yeah, you know what I'm sayin'!
The title of this post was going to be Genesis but that would be predictable and somewhat inappropriate given that I don't believe in God. I do however believe in fate. And I believe the intricate chain of events that got me to where I am today were all meant to be. I was destined to be a wedding photographer.
But today there is no wedding to shoot. I turned down at least five enquiries for 31st March because this weekend is about celebrating my 40th and my good friend Jimbob's 30th, up at Blueys Beach with good food, good wine, good friends and good times.
Now go do something useful you pesky kids!
Bula my friends! As it's the festive season and we're all in the holiday spirit I thought it would be a good time to share some pics from my recent trip to Fiji.
I hopped over there in November, which admittedly is an unusual time to leave Australia given that the wedding season is just starting to heat up. But Pixie Face had just reached her big 3-0 and wanted to celebrate in style, and as I had a gap in my schedule we locked it in.
The timing of the trip turned out to be perfect. I'd been super busy for the last few months and on the weekend before the trip I had back to back weddings and a 7 hour Love session, all in sweltering heat. Oh, plus there was the small matter of being best man at my best mate's wedding, held in the "humble" surroundings of St Mary's Cathedral and the Opera Point Marquee! For some reason everyone thought I would be able to churn out a world class best man's speech in my sleep given the amount I've heard. But they overlooked the small fact that when the speeches are on I'm taking photos, not making notes! So on top of everything else I had also spent weeks stressing over the most important speech of my life! In the end it all went to plan but I couldn't wait to jet off to Fiji the next day for some serious down time!
The flight to Fiji is only four hours long but you really do feel a whole world away. It was our first time in Fiji and as the singing welcoming committee greeted us at the airport, we immediately succumbed to the charm of the relaxed and friendly Fijian people.
We stayed at the InterContinental resort on the beautiful Coral Coast. The rooms, restaurants and day spa are world class and it has private access to Natadola Beach, rated in the world's top ten beaches. If you want even more perks, my tip is to join InterContinental's Ambassador programme. For a one-off US$200 fee you get automatic room upgrades at any InterContinental hotel, plus 4pm late check out and a Pay TV movie per stay, a complimentary night each year and lots more!
We could easily have stayed in the resort for the duration but we took two excursions that came highly recommended. The first was a day cruise to the tiny, private Savala Island. It was amazing for the superb crew, the reef snorkelling and the unlimited food and drink :)
The second trip was to the local primary school. It's run by volunteer teachers who don't have much to work with; they've only just installed their first computers and don't have internet yet. But the InterContinental makes donations and is currently funding the construction of a new kindergarten classroom. Plus the weekly visits by hotel guests has also resulted in donations of books, furniture and office equipment. But you would never have known the children were lacking or missing the things that we take for granted. As we arrived the classroom doors flew open and dozens of gorgeous smiling, giggling kids ran out to greet us with a welcome song. We spent about an hour playing with them, telling them about ourselves and being treated to a show of native songs and dances. It was one of the most enriching and rewarding experiences we've ever had.
Our last evening was spent in the resort's Navo restaurant which would surely win at least one Hat if it was in Sydney. As we finished our delicious meal the staff gathered by our table to sing a beautiful farewell song barbershop quartet style. It was the perfect end to an unforgettable trip. If you haven't sampled Fiji yet you really should try it. It's bula-licious!
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The Aussie wedding season is winding down for winter so I recently took the opportunity to recharge my own batteries on the beautiful Thai island of Koh Samui.
The Lady and I hadn't been to Thailand before so we were keen to explore the sights, sounds and FOOD! We packed a lot into a week including elephant trekking, Muay Thai boxing, temples, fish exfoliation(!), massages, LOTS of food, and of course a few ladyboy cabaret shows!
It's often said how beautiful Thailand is and how friendly the people are, and we were delighted to find out first hand that it's all true. From the moment we landed at Koh Samui Airport (which is probably the prettiest airport you will ever see!) the Thai people made us feel welcome wherever we went, from the humble, ramshackle beachside restaurants to the most exclusive hotel resorts.
I tried to keep my photography to a minimum (after all I was trying to relax!) but I couldn't help taking a few shots which I thought would be nice to share and hopefully inspire you to visit Thailand as well. Perhaps for a destination wedding!
Uluru is one of those places that everyone should visit at least once. And for those living in Australia a weekend trip is sufficient time to pay homage to one of the world's most famous natural and spiritual icons.
I spent a weekend in the Red Centre recently, visiting both Uluru and neighboring Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas. These giant rock formations dominate the skyline for miles and form the only landmarks against a surreal martian landscape of red sand, green shrubs, bright blue skies and white puffy clouds.
I stayed at the Sails in the Desert Hotel in nearby Ayers Rock Resort from where a number of excursions can be booked including the amazing Sounds Of Silence. This popular daily event starts just before sunset at a viewing point between Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Canapes (including kangaroo and crocodile) are washed down with champagne as the sun sheds its last light on the monoliths. Then an incredible outdoor buffet feast is served before a "startalker" gives a guided tour of the constellations shining so vividly overhead in the southern skies. It's magical and memorable and will certainly be a highlight of any trip to the Red Centre.
The following morning was an early 5am mark to head out for the sunrise at Uluru. It was tough start to the day after the wine tasting session the night before, but those that made the effort were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise and the famous bright glow of the red rock. And my special souvenir was a long exposure shot of the clouds racing overhead.
But if you decide to visit make sure you buy a fly net! You might look like a bee keeper but it will be the best $10 you ever spend!