Gareth Morgan is a strong climate change campaigner and author of a book on the subject, so a bit of creative dreaming arrived at a strong metaphorical image to capture the man’s character and one of his important messages.
This was my 17th trip to Antarctica. I drive boats and lecture, as a break from professional photography. So, we took a boat on Xmas day, out into flat water behind Plenneau Island, borrowed a face mask and snorkel, and dropped Gareth off on the best piece of ice we could find to represent the melting ice of climate change. The casual holding of the face mask and snorkel in normal business attire was designed to represent the foolish notion that many people carry, vis, that we have a ‘plan B’ somewhere for climate change. Plan B isn’t an option - just as a facemask isn’t here.
I’m proud of the result - strong metaphorical frame that captures Gareth Morgan in a striking way - no trickery, no post production work - simple. BUT check out the pile of comments on Gareth Morgan’s facebook page. It’s galling when some people, from the comfort of their home, suggest a great photo must be ’photo-shopped’. *Cough* - THAT photo is the combination of skills learnt over a long time as a professional photographer, planning, a good creative process, and qualifications and experience operating boats on over 20 polar expeditions! Everyone is a cynic, a critic, or blimin both…
Rob Suisted polar guiding and boat driving
Anyway, here’s the NZ Geographic Magazine article the image was used in: Out in the Cold. And Gareth was a bloody good sort, keenly signing up to the idea, and willingly being marooned on a small ice floe while we (I and his family) drifted off without him, in the frozen middle of nowhere. Shot with a Pentax 645Z and DFA25mm lens.
Finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards, AND Finalist in the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year Awards in the same week. Very proud about that. Please give us a vote in the Public choice awards NZ Post Book Awards UPDATE: We WON! Have a look
My job was to communicate Bryce’s varied roles in one image. This was a formidable task as CEO of the NZ Fish and Game Council his is a complex and varied role. Primarily, Fish and Game is a statutory organisation concerned with the rights of anglers and hunters, and advocating for improving habitat.
The portrait needed to capture that variety. I wanted to focus on his advocacy for anglers and freshwater quality for all of us, but also how his day can stretch from political halls of the The Beehive, to the bank of a river. Here’s what I got:
The shot was fairly complex, it required a wide angle underwater photo to catch the habitat around Bryce and called for a balanced mix of underwater strobe, above water flash and ambient natural light. I used a slave trigger that fired the topside flash whenever the underwater camera strobe fired - one underwater strobe lighting Bryce’s legs, one flash pointing upward towards the softbox flash, and natural light toned down to give a sombre background to delineate Bryce’s from.
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?
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
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.
A bit outside my normal beat, but despite initial trials and tribulations, it became a most satisfying and challenging week. Meeting, filming and spending time with such a varied group of people interested in happiness, really made me happy. Not surprising really - from a buddhist monk to a philosopher, brain researcher and even an athlete who has learnt to walk again and now shes rides ducatis for fun, it was very inspiring. I hope my images do them all justice. Here’s a hint of what’s coming. And here’s another teaser from NZ Geographic http://twitpic.com/3bf5ed. Have a look out when the next issue arrives, and let me know what you think. I’ll be writing more on this subject. All the best, Rob
New Zealand Geographic Magazine cover finalist in 2010 awards
I’m very proud of the image and how NZ Geographic treated it. Obviously other people agree and of course, I’d love it to win the title. If you agree it would be great to get your vote here: http://www.themaggies.co.nz/vote-now/ (and there’s a $5 discount incentive on subscriptions). Fingers crossed.
New Zealand Geographic featured a nice article about Rob’s TankCam, otherwise known as RoboCam (nice touch guys!). If you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look of the Fairy terns shoot please check out the article here and Rob’s video here.
Let us know what you think, it’s always great to hear your feedback!
TANKCAM (’Rob-o-cam’). Tough assignment to film NZ’s rarest bird - the Fairy Tern for NZ Geographic Magazine. Less than 40 birds known, they nest in the open and human disturbance may stop breeding.
Solution was to build a remote control vehicle that I could very slowly inch towards the nest over an hour while we monitored the birds’ reaction and leave it set up to capture intimate scenes (very, as you’ll see below!). So that’s why I built TankCam. We’ve kept the highly successful assignment under wraps until now. This video tells the story and gives you an idea of three days worth of filming, behind the scenes. Please view and post your comments - it’s great to get your feedback:
Teamed up with Editor of NZ Geographic Magazine, James Frankham, to do a feature on nocturnal Mana Island. Photography of wildlife can be tough, but doing it alone, in the dark, fitting between southerly cold fronts and short timeframes makes it all the sweeter for me when it comes off. I enjoyed this one, and working with James in a can-do style.
The story is contained in the 100th issue of NZ Geographic Magazine (a great milestone for James and the team). How about getting a copy as it’s a beaut read - in fact it’s so good I can’t think of a reason not to. Better still I think you should subscribe). Here are a few of the frames selected for publication and a bit of info behind them. I wanted to show rarely seen wildlife living on this special island, but contextually it’s so close to our capital city (hence I wanted the light pollution illuminating the skies beyond). The shot above was taken after sitting motionless in the dark for 2 hours in camouflage clothing waiting for the diving petrels to return to their burrows after dark. I was ready to leave when a lone bird landed nearby amongst the flowering native ice plant - what a stroke of luck. It sat there preening while I careffully took it’s portrait. Above is one of the island’s geckos. At night they all come out hunting insects and …. > > > Continue reading : full post + comments > > >
I got some good photos, realised it was different and contacted the weta experts. No one has seen anything like this. There’s a chance it’s a juvenile Cook Strait Giant Weta with odd markings, but then there’s also a chance it’s a whole new species. Very exciting…colouration and some body features are very different.
So today I’m heading back to Mana Island for the night with 4 weta experts. We want to see if we can catch the insect again so they can determine how significant the find is! Back Monday evening.
Update 26 Oct 2009: Well, we found the spot I originally spotted the unknown weta (shown above), but strong winds conspired to make the search tough. We’ve marked and will be monitoring it for future developments.
We did have a top night though, finding a couple of Gold-striped Geckos (Hoplodactylus chrysosireticus) and a beautiful pair of Cook Strait Giant Weta (Deinacrida rugosa), some of the heaviest insects in the world - real whoppers! I’ll post a few photos of these shortly. Also, we saw the first nests of the very endangered New Zealand Shore Plover (Thinornis novaeseelandiae) on the beach. In fact, this morning I was enjoying a cup of tea sitting in the sunshine on the beach and a pair of rare plover came over and bedded down not far from my feet - how lucky is that! So, not successful this trip in finding the unknown weta, but great to see all these rare creatures.
Update 29 Oct 2009: I’ve just added a video of the Giant Cook Strait Wetas as they make great video actors! Check this out:
It was a privilege to work with the rare and little know native New Zealand Falcon this month… New Zealand Geographic Magazine were running a feature on the rare NZ falcon, but didn’t yet have the wow shot to sell the story, so asked if I’d have a crack at it. Knowing that these birds are amongst the fastest on earth, very cryptic, and not particularly large meant that a challenge lay ahead. I love a tough assignment that pushes thinking beyond the norm; the satisfaction of success is very sweet. Here is part of the result:
New Zealand Geographic Magazine Cover this month
The other part includes the next photo as an internal double page spread. It blows me away and I just can’t stop looking at the result below…MORE…
‘We’d like you to mentor a ‘Young Gun’ photographer’ was James Frankham’s request from New Zealand Geographic Magazine. The ‘Young Gun’ was Spiderman Bryce - a keen young chap from Hamilton who has a penchant for bugs, especially big spiders. Bryce was super keen, and while spiders are not one of my fav critters, I’m always up for an interesting challenge, giving back to a good cause and something different.
Cook Strait Giant Weta female climbing onto Bryce's hand (Deinacrida rugosa, Stenopelmatidae). Endemic endangered New Zealand insect. Wetapunga. Island gigantism
NZ Geo magazine have just started a programme where they pair promising photographers with seasoned pros (not sure what my seasoning is yet though). We chose to take Bryce to Mana Island, a Scientific Reserve that is an island sanctuary for some of New Zealand’s rarest animals and plants. Currently Mana is being restored to a pest free island status, which means that the lack of introduced predators gives the local fauna a chance to recover - especially the giant weta and lizards. Kindly supported by the Department of Conservation (DOC), we were collected in the DOC boat and whisked across to Mana Island from Paremata.
Party trick. A common Gecko licking its eyeball while hanging off branch hunting at night (Hoplodactylus maculatus, Gekkonidae)