Newsletter

Winter

2011

CONTENTS
Welcome Lightbox - Destination Nepal Review - Dicapac SLR Pack On Assignment - EBMF Talking to - Steve from Phottix Stories - Pashipatinath Lightbox - Dawn Review - Photographically Speaking On Assignment - Corporate Tearsheets Lightbox - Dusk Final Frame
Lighting butter lamps. Bodhnath, Nepal. October 2011

3 4 5 6 8 9 11 13 15 17 18 19

WELCOME
They say a change is as good as a holiday but I wonder does that apply to newsletters too. I hope so because this marks the first edition of a completely redesigned and revamped newsletter style. The aim is to offer you, my loyal readers, more value by giving you more photographs, more stories and a few exclusive extras. While you get more content with each edition, the frequency will drop down to quarterly which will give me more time to put together a newsletter that I hope you will enjoy and share with your friends. In the pages that follow you’ll get first look at some thus-far unpublished images. Go behind the scenes on an assignment with an NGO that works in the field of human trafficking. Read a review of an underwater housing I tested out recently, as well as a review of the most recent photography book I read. There’s an interview with the CEO of Phottix, one of my sponsors and a company I’m very proud to work with. Finally, there’s a look at some corporate work I’ve done recently which is a bit of a diversion from usual as well as a sampling of recent tearsheets. You’ll have noticed that the logo on the front cover looks a little different from what it used to. As part of my preparations for 2012, I’ve undertaken a redesign of my website and the associated graphics. A design team I commissioned put the logo together for me and I feel it offers a fresher, cleaner look going into the new year. I hope you enjoy this latest newsletter. If you have any feedback, don’t hesitate to get in touch and let me know your thoughts and ideas. It is an evolution of sorts and like anything of this nature, some things work better than others.

CraigFerg uson

Copyright Notice. All photographs and text ©Craig Ferguson Images. No content in this newsletter may be reproduced without written consent of Craig Ferguson Images.

Photographs Cover - The Annapurna Himal, viewed from Sarangkot, Nepal. October 2011 This Page - Shalun Beach, Taiwan. November 2011

Destination - Nepal

Review - Dicapac SLR Pack
When I was planning my trip to Nepal, one idea that came into my mind was a photograph of the mountains shot while in the waters of Phewa Lake, Pokhara. To that end, I needed something that would allow me to protect my camera but I didn’t really want to fork out for a full underwater kit. Enter the Dicapac WP-S10. It allows you to securely place a DSLR inside and is rated to a depth of 5m. Perfect for surface and near-surface shots from the water. Through the use of strong velcro sealing, a camera and lens can be placed inside allowing use from the water. There is a finger sleeve system that allows for pressing the shutter button and holding onto the camera. Zooming is tricky and I ended up just settling on one focal length and leaving it at that. I found that I needed to pull the lens bellows system back until it rested against my wide-angle lens otherwise I’d get the edges of the bellows in my photo in a kind of vignette-type feel. It takes a bit of getting used to, especially in a freshwater lake without swim fins. You’ll really test out your treading water skills while you shoot with one of these housings. Image quality seems ok - we had hazy skies most of the time which didn’t help with getting clear photographs. Still, there are a couple that worked okay although the original image I had in my mind wasn’t achieved. With more time and some better positioning in the water, I have confidence that I’ve have pulled it off. If you’re looking for a cheap and easy method to get your camera into the water, this is it. Retailing for around $100, they make water photography a lot more affordable.

On Assignment

One of the reasons for going to Nepal in October was to shoot some assignment work for NGOs that are based there. Perhaps the most unique assignment I’ve ever done for an organization was the work I created for the Esther Benjamins Trust, a group that works in the field of human trafficking. They specialize in rescuing children that have been trafficked and sold into circuses in India. Where possible they work to reunite children with their families but when that is not possible, they house and educate them as well as providing skills training. A number of the rescued children had expressed a desire to develop the skills they’d been forced to learn in the circus, only this time it would be for their own pleasure. And with that, the Sapana Contemporary Circus was born as an arm of EBT.

The Esther Benjamins Trust
My job was twofold. The main part was producing a series of photographs of the circus children. We came up with the idea of shooting in a traditional temple to play up the contrast between age-old traditional buildings and modern performance. There was only a limited amount of time for us to get the shots we needed. The kids spend the day at school and in the evening were reheasing for an upcoming performance so we only had a one hour window in between.

day at school and then had circus trianing in the evening but that was enough time to run through a series of different poses and routines. The kids were a joy to work with, their love of the circus overcoming any initial shyness. Their trainers are volunteer circus professionals from around the world who spend a few months at a time passing on their knowledge and experience, and helping the children of Sapana create Nepal’s first contemporary circus.

The second part of the assignment, although it was actually shot earlier in the day, was to document a couple of the skills training workshops that EBT has set up. We were able to visit workshops that have been set up for printmaking and jewelery making. A third one, on mosaics, was located in a different city and time constraints meant that we were unable to fit this in. At the print studio, they focus on all aspects of the print process, with handmade cards and bookmarks thorugh to bound books and large accordian style foldout cards being produced. The jewelery workshops produces small runs of designs in silver and various stones. These workshops supply some of their pieces to Namaste UK, a fair trade organization working throughout Asia. If you wish to learn more about EBT, visit their website at www.ebtrust.org.uk. Want more NGO photos? Had to my blog to see a report on a womens’s skills development group in Nepal.

Talking To
Steve Peer - Phottix
Phottix has had a big year with the introduction of the Strato II, the Odin and a few different light modifiers such as Easy-Up Umbrella Softboxes and Para-Pro Umbrellas. What has created the biggest buzz in the photography world? The Odin, hands-down, has created a lot of buzz. Since it was unveiled at Photokina 2010 we have received countless emails asking for updates and release information. It wasn’t an easy product to develop and we are happy with the feedback we have received thus far. All the suggestions we receive are considered for future upgrades. Strobist recently mentioned the Strato II for Sony. Do you see lighting gear for Sony as a particular challenge due to their non-standard hotshoe? Sony is making great cameras and flashes, and Phottix is happy to support Sony users. The NEX line of cameras has proven extremely popular in Asia. Initially, the Sony hot shoe was a manufacturing challenge but that hurdle has been crossed. Canon shooters seem to love the Odin and I've had a few people ask me if I know when a Nikon version will be out. Any hints? The Phottix Nikon for Odin? That's the $10,000 question everyone wants answered. We receive email every day asking this very question. What can I say? We can't provide solid dates other than to say the Phottix Odin for Nikon will be sent out to testers in the new year. Depending on the number of changes needed I estimate photographers will see Odin TTL Triggers for Nikon available during the first half of 2012. The reputation of Phottix as a producer of high-quality photography equipment is growing with each product release. As I see it, most of that is to do with your flash triggers and remotes. Yet you also produce some excellent umbrellas and softboxes, although I don't hear as many people talking about them. Do you feel they are a bit overlooked by the photography world? Electronics are our forte. That is what Phottix is primarily known for. We have a lot of umbrellas and softboxes and many photographers are shooting amazing photos with them. A new softbox or umbrella aren’t nearly as exciting as a flash trigger. A lot of people use them, few people blog about or review them. We are slowly branching out into different areas and expanding our product lines. Our Trafo DSLR shoulder rig has been well received by the filmmaking community. The Phottix Easy-Up softboxes have been very well received. I’m certain in time these non-electronic products will receive the recognition they deserve. 2011 saw a lot of new releases from Phottix. What's in store for 2012? 2012 will be a landmark year for Phottix. We're keeping hush-hush on several products. What I can say is Phottix will move into TTL in a major way. New triggers and lighting products, that are useful and affordable, will be released over the course of the year. We believe in being cautious and not rushing products to market. Product testing is undertaken by photographers around the world before any products are released. Keep your eyes open – Phottix will be doing big things in 2012.

Stories - Pashipatinath
On the banks of the Bagmati River on the outskirts of Kathmandu lies the holy Hindu temple Pashipatinath. Dedicated to Shiva in his form Pashipati - the lord of beasts (animals) - it is considered a very auspicious place to be cremated and at any time one can see the recently deceased being burned on one of the “burning ghats” by the riverside. As Nepal’s oldest and most important Hindu temple, it attracts pilgrims and worshippers from across the Indian subcontinent as well as the wider world. Entrance to the actual temple is reserved for Hindus only however nonHindus can see in from the opposite bank. The photo here in the upper left shows the actual temple. The current temple, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site dates back to the 17th century althoughsome of the surrounding smaller temples are centuries older. Ir is uncertain exactly when the earleist temple was constructed on this site - the one that stands there now was constructed after an earlier building succumbed to termites. As well as cremations, pilgrims flock to the area to take a sacred bath in the Bagmati River. Others consult with one of the many Brahmin priests in the area or leave behind offerings. Sadhus - Hindu holy men - come here em masse during the Shivatri festival.

Pashipatinath - Nepal

Lightbox - Dawn

All Photos from Sarangkot, Nepal.

Dawn in the Nepal countryside

Review - Photographically Speaking
David duChemin is back with his fourth book, “Photographically Speaking - A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images”, and he has accomplished something rare. This is a photography book (as opposed to photobook ie just photos) that will appeal to photographers of all types, from the beginner just starting out to the experienced artist and professional. By looking at how we “read” photographs we gain an insight into the mind of a master craftsman as well as receiving tools that will better help us understand and improve our own photography. Thinking about why you shoot the way you do and how the scene makes you feel helps elevate photography to the artform it really is. It has been traditional practice to contemplate paintings and other creative arts but photography has often been looked at as a technical exercise or a form of reproduction and somehow not worthy of longer contemplation. Photographically Speaking invites you to move beyond this and actually think about the images you create. As a photographer teacher and workshop leader here in Taiwan, one of the biggest stumbling blocks I face with my students is when they are trying to describe something in their own photography. For me, this book will serve as an invaluble teaching aid that I can use to encourage and assist my students. For the student, it will provide them a deeper way of connecting with their own work that takes them beyond numbers, camera specs and the so-called rules of composition. Photographically Speaking is divided into three sections. Kicking things off in part one is “The Photographer’s Intent”. This part

revisits some of the concepts that were first discussed in duChemin’s debut book “Within The Frame”. The key to this section is the idea of vision, an idea that will be familiar to everybody with even a passing awareness of the author’s work.

The third part of the book is titled “20 Photographs” and takes you through a discussion of the creative process inherant in the production of twenty different images. Alternatives are discussed and the reasons why a particular style or feel was chosen in creating the final image. One useful exercise you could do here is to look at each photograph and consider your thoughts about it before reading the accompanying text. How does the photo make you feel and what might you have done differently if you were the one there with camera in hand?

Vision is central to the notion of expression.
This is not by any means a step-by-step how to type description of vision. No two photographers will have the same idea of a particular scene, a point that’s evident if you compare the photograph on page 25 of Photographically Speaking with the one I’ve placed on page 2 of this newsletter. It’s the same basic scene viewed and presented by two different photographers in two different ways. At the time I photographed it I hadn’t seen David’s photo, and my personal vision of the scene led me to present a different view of it. Part two looks at “Visual Language” and is divided into two subsections, Elements and Decisions. These are both related to composition, with Elements being concerned with lines, curves, repetition, contrast, color, light and movement. They are the the pieces that are “out there” and will become part of the photograph.

Our photographs will be read by others, but even if our only audience is just ourselves, we still find greater clarity and meaning in our expression as we understand more of the language, and can therefore find new ways to weld it.

Elements are the raw pieces we have to work with.
Decisions refers to that way we arrange and organize the various elements in order to make a photograph. Concepts such as the framing, crop, aspect ratio and orientation we choose, the placement of subjects within our frame whether we adhere to the rule of thirds or golden ratio and spiral or something else entirely. Exposure, focus and optics are all covered in this section as well - how the use of different tools can bring you closer to realizing your vision and direct your readers to what you want them to see.

If you’re looker for a straight by-the-numbers technical book, then Photographically Speaking is not for you. However, if you’re after a book that will assist you in developing a greater understanding of photography and why soem photos work, as well as providing a series of guidelines and tools that you can use to strenghten your own creative work, then this book is perfect for you. Read more book and eBook reviews on my blog.

On Assignment
Corporate Photography
As one of the few professional photographers in the expat community here in Taiwan, from time to time I get approached about photographing work that is outside my usual specializations. Each potential job that comes my way is given some consideration and if time permits and any other conditions are met, I’ll often say yes. I don’t advertise my services in these other fields and most of the time there is already some kind of connection between the client and me. Here are a few images from two recent corporate assignments. They were both enjoyable to shoot and because I don’t produce this kind of work day-in, day-out, they made a nice break from my usual work.

Recent Tearsheets

For a full rondown of these and other tearsheets, visit the Recent Work section of my blog.

Clockwise from top left - Asia Foundation, Asia Business Traveler, Silk Road, CebuSmile, Centered on Taipei, Cebu Smile, Taiwan Business Topics.

Lightbox - Dusk

Final Frame
Here we are at the final frame. I hope you’ve gotten as much out of reading this as I did out of putting it together. I invite you to share this newsletter with your friends. Feel free to post the link to it on Facebook, Twitter and Google + Is there anything you want to see in future newsletters? Or things you don’t want to see? Constructive ideas are always very welcome so get in touch if you have any comments. I wish you all the best for the upcoming holiday season no matter where in the world you may be. The next newsletter will be the spring edition and should appear in the first week or March. Until then, all the best.

Craig

www.craigfergusonimages.com