An inspiring woman and inspiring photo job

December 20th, 2010 § 2 comments - add yours

Bianca Edwards doesn’t do things by halves.  But her back was broken in halves.  Her story is as remarkable as her attitude.  Several weeks ago I shot the New Zealand Geographic Magazine article on ‘Happiness’.  Bianca was part of this story.  I enjoyed meeting her, and thoroughly enjoyed working together on an image that captured her remarkable spirit.  On the drive back to the office, my assistant Aliscia Young spoke about the inspiration we’d both experienced.   Let me tell you about it.

Bianca was a top athlete, competing in multi-sport events, and while training, was hit from behind by a van at 100km/h.  Her back was shattered and she was lucky to survive.  What followed is a remarkable recovery led by determination, optimism and, I think above all, the unwillingness to be a victim to her situation.  The article by Dave Hansford focuses on how Bianca was able to readjust her expectations; from expecting to win events, to making simple steps, like wiggling a toe.  A trait that some research suggests is key to being happy.

So, knowing this, how do you approach a photo shoot that gives dignity to the subject, captures their spirit, and avoids creating another cliched photo of a disabled person toiling against obstacles? 

Discussing angles on the phone with Bianca was a joy - full of ideas and keen to give it her best, we threw around ideas about the things that were important to her - fitness, swimming, study, Ducatis…  Motorcycle riding was key, especially with her friends and fellow Ducati owners Carla and Fiona (friends like this that Bianca rates in her recovery) .  Hang on….from not being able to walk, to riding big motorcycles?!  The angle fast became clear.  But, how to shoot a portrait that captured this story? 

Carla, Rob, Bianca & Fiona. The Ducati women of the Wairarapa.

After the shoot. Carla, Rob, Bianca & Fiona. The Ducati women of the Wairarapa.

Bianca’s story in the happiness article for me is one of ‘freedom’ - freedom of movement, but also freedom of mind.  So, it was important that we had a very dynamic image to portray freedom. We tried to accomplish this with an open face helmet, but the freedom died.  With considerable care we took this without the helmet.  I think we caught Bianca’s spirit in the image below. What do you think?

Bianca Edwards and her Ducati, with Fiona and Carla

Bianca Edwards and her Ducati, with Fiona and Carla

TECHNICAL SPECS: We pottered very slowing along with a 1/8th sec shutter with ND filter, while using my aerial photography gyro stabiliser to maintain sharpness but achieve a blurred movement.  I super-clamped and magic armed 3 strobes to the back of the vehicle, and shot from the rear hatch.  Canon 1dsMk3, 16-35mm, ND filter, 3 canon flashes, Kenro gyro.

Are you giving something back? It’s the juice of life

June 23rd, 2010 § 5 comments - add yours

“The only way to divine happiness is by helping others” is a saying I heard years ago.

Last week I was asked to talk at a pre-school. My initial thought was that I didn’t have time to prepare and do it, and anyway, being used to speaking to adults, what would 3-4 year olds get out of it? 

Courtney from Evan’s Bay Preschool said, “these kids love playing at what you do for a job - they’d love you to visit”.  I remembered the saying above and reconsidered; and was very pleased I did.

eb01I took along my polar outfit and… > > > Continue reading : full post + comments > > >

Have you been KAKAPO’ed yet? Stephen Fry knows what I mean

March 2nd, 2010 § 0 comments, Add the 1st

Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry had the classic ‘encounter’ with a frustrated male Kakapo bird which has since become gold on YouTube. 1.7 million views last count (see video below).

I came across old photos of my own encounter with a friskly Kakapo recently. The famous person around at the time was Don Merton (famous enough), but unfortunately there was no video camera.  Fame and glory were not to be this time, so you’ll have to make do with this image:

Rob Suisted being Kakapo'd by an over enthusiatic 'Trevor' on Maud Island. Photo by Don Merton
Rob Suisted being Kakapo’d by an over enthusiatic ‘Trevor’ on Maud Island. Photo by Don Merton. Kakapo are one of the rarest birds on earth (123 birds), the heaviest parrot, the only nocturnal one, and a Lek breeder.

Remarkable experiences. Conflicting demands. How to make the most of them & life?

I’m lucky in my life, and work, to see and experience some remarkable things.  The trick is not to take this for granted.  It’s easier said than done when the object of the experience usually must be shot with camera.  There are fundamentally opposing demands here and I want to explain a solution I’ve found to this problem….

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