Jun 21, 2008

On Photography

It's now less than one month until Impro Mafia presents Off the Cuff: A Festival of Improvised Theatre at the Brisbane Powerhouse. This is going to be an awesomely awesome three nights of impro - featuring the best players from Sydney, Melbourne and even New Zealand. I highly recommend you check out the running order on the festival website. It's only $22 per night for a smorgasbord of different shows - I can't stress what great value that is for the talent's that on offer.

This year's festival is a much grander affair than last year's "Briz Improv Fest", which in itself was an achievement - the first festival of impro in the River City. The incredibly talented Aurelie Beeston took photographs during the show - and she's very kindly emailed me this brilliant montage during the final night's "Best of the Fest".

As Krusty the Klown might say, "Look at my range!"

Aurelie's already winning awards for her photography, and there's no wonder. I don't quite know how she managed to capture such crisp, clear images during something as frenetic as an impro show, particularly as the lighting in the Metro Arts where we held the event was probably not ideal. It's a testament to her skill and talent.

My only formal education in photography was a Photojournalism course back in my third year of university. I was very excited at the time - it was 2000, and my father had the previous year bought one of the very first digital cameras available. It cost - wait for it - $1000, and had a laughable 1 mega-pixel image quality.

Oh, how we cringe about it now.

Anyway, the photojournalism instructor was an actual freelance photographer, with a black beard so bushy he could store his spare lenses in it. I still see him around the joint at media conferences. On the first day, he took one look at my silver Olympus and dismissed it as an "instamatic toy". I realised then that we were expected to provide our own SLR for the course.

I'm not quite sure how they expected university students to come up with the hundreds of dollars for a proper camera (even a second-hand one), but I decided I couldn't afford it. While I wanted to learn the basics of photography, I wasn't planning on doing more after the semester was over. So I dug out my Dad's old Minolta, which he'd purchased sometime in the late 70s. It held up rather well, actually, and I was pretty impressed with some of the pictures I managed to take with it.

The only problem with the Minolta is that it had the rather annoying habit of sometimes not taking any photos at all. I would click through a whole roll of film, only to discover after getting it developed that every negative was black. I spent a night at a dance class trying to take some dynamic action shots, and discovered three days later nothing came out. Once you pay $8 or so per roll of film, plus $6 to get the negatives developed, it starts becoming an expensive past-time.

That's why the digital revolution is so damn marvellous. When the Wah and I travelled overseas in 2003, we had an Olympus film camera, and we ended up with 32 rolls of film bouncing around in the bottom of our day packs. No more - this time we'll just be lugging the camera, video camera, lap-top and assortment of cables and chargers.

I'm sure it will be easier. Won't it?

I wound up with a credit (a "5") for the photojournalism subject; which I suspect had less to do with innate talent and more to do with my ability at the time to present the photos well in the Powerpoint presentations we were required to assemble.

The thing is, I think I would have done better in the subject had I gotten myself a reliable camer
a. I really actually love cameras and photography - in fact my interest in the technology, the physical cameras and video cameras, borders on the obsessive. I find myself staring at JB Hi-Fi and VideoPro catalogues, drooling over the cameras pictured inside. I don't actually know what half of the features do, and I wouldn't know how to start properly focusing a lens, but part of me wishes for one of those great big digital SLRs. I would take marvellous, striking, poignant photographs that showed the Truth in the world around me.

Another part of me yearns for a bunch of point-and-shoot models - they're improving all the time and I'd love to have a play. Sadly, I can't justify spending the cash on another camera before this holiday - so the Panasonic 5MP Lumix I got just before the 2006 big trip will have to do. I'm just going to try to think more about my photos before I take them, and to try to learn more about taking good photos. I get frustrated with the number of photos I take that are blurry, over-exposed, under-exposed - just generally crap.

Of course the irony of the digital camera revolution is that more and more journalists are being equipped with cameras and told to take photos while they're out on jobs - to ease the demand on the professional photographers (the cynical would say to get rid of them altogether). Online photographs don't need to be as detailed or as good quality as photos destined for print, but still, sometimes I wish I'd spent a bit more time listening to my grumpy yet knowledgable lecturer.

1 comment:

  1. One thing I've really learnt, you can have a fantastic camera, but if you don't have good strong batteries in it, it can't do any work for you. Lash out on good rechargeables or some high output lithiums. They make a world of difference!