I’m currently exploring rabbit holes of documentaries, and naturally I gravitate towards those about photographers (and true crime . . . but that’s not relevant here).
New Zealand has a MEGA FEAST of talented and interesting photographers. But in classic Kiwi fashion, they work under the radar, have *that* sense of humour, and are very humble. Read below for a list of some of my favourite documentaries about New Zealand photographers (it’s just the tip of the iceberg).
My own take on the styles of Brake, Westra, Morrison, and Ward.
A Master of Light - The Life and Work of Brian Brake Photographer
1987 (TV). Director, Producer: David Coates.
In this Inspiration documentary — made shortly before his 1988 death — Brake reviews his lifelong quest for “mastery over light”, from an Arthur’s Pass childhood to a fascination with Asia. He recalls time at the National Film Unit and is seen capturing waka huia, Egyptian tombs, and Castlepoint’s beach races - NZ on Screen.
Favourite quote: “Patience, skill, perseverance and pure gall”.
Learn about: impact of positive role models in our formative years, the role of discipline and technique, being on the look-out for photo ops.
Special mentions: James K Baxter, Richard Farrell, Doreen Blumhardt, Arthurs Pass, 1980s stubbies and jandals.
Ans Westra - Private Journeys / Public Signposts
2006. 71min (TV). Directed by Luit Bierenga. Produced by: Jan Bieringa
This film explores her remarkable life and work, and includes commentary from family, friends, photographers, and those she photographed. There is also discussion of the controversy over her 1964 book Washday at the Pā - NZ on Screen.
It is constructed around a long interview with Westra and a conversation with poet Hone Tuwhare, and follows Westra as she photographs around New Zealand. Locations include Ratana Pā and the memorial service for former PM David Lange - Mary-Jane Duffy, 2013.
Favourite quote: “There’s a certain ability to being in the right place at the right time”.
Learn about: the power of standing on the sidelines, 38,000 books guillotined – Washday at the Pa controversy, legacy of photographs in society.
Special mentions: Hone Tuwhare in his house, tomato sauce bottles, David Lange’s memorial service.
Sense of Place: Robin Morrison
1993 (TV). Directed, produced by: John Bates.
Director John Bates' 1993 documentary examines the life and work of photographer Robin Morrison, who captured iconic images of everyday New Zealand life and landscape. Part biography, part travelogue, the film goes on the road with Morrison to revisit some of his best-loved locations - NZ on Screen.
Stuart Dryburgh’s gorgeous cinematography evokes the saturated colours and wide screen vistas of Morrison’s prints, without falling into the trap of ‘quoting’ his imagery. Rather, the tactic is to place Morrison’s pictures at the forefront, but surround them with characters, comments, and location photography that puts them into context - Costa Botes, 2014.
Favourite quote: “Sometimes I was behind police lines and sometimes in front of them.”
Learn about: importance of interacting with subjects, Cromwell before the dam, the value of photographs documenting place and time.
Special mentions: Scones and tea, early 90s music soundtrack, nostalgia, Ted Duggan’s store.
Gifts from the Gods
2023, 19 mins. Directed by: Hans Weston.
Gifts from the Gods is a short documentary film about New Zealand photographer, Julian Ward and directed by Hans Weston. Shot during just one of the 3000+ weeks Julian has been practicing black and white photography, the film shows Julian working in two contrasting environments, the street and the bush. Gifts from Gods refers to the moments and compositions that continually present themselves to him - PhotoForum.
Favourite quote: “Trying to find those gaps between people, and pressing the button when the gaps are all balancing.”
Learn about: composition, rainy day photography, the responsibility of photographing our world for the future, finding accessible opportunities in your own community.
Special mentions: Wellington's Wilton's Bush, fab black and white street photos, Mākara, L.S Lowry.
2019, 6.39 mins. Directed by Morgan Albrecht, Produced by: Morgan Leigh Stewart, Juliette Veber.
(ADHD New Zealand) ambassador Petra Leary features in a short documentary on how she takes her hidden superpower to the sky, focusing her lens on becoming the world’s top aerial photographer.
Bird's Eye shows how Petra sees the world from above, seeking startling heights to create stunning art, all while trying to make sense of the complex and challenging world around her - ADHD New Zealand
Favourite quote: “The most boring things that you can walk past are sometimes the most interesting things when you see them from the top down".
Learn about: how family can support young photographers, photographing what you love, the strong fit of ADHD and photography.
Special mentions: Lego, Drake, a super cute dog.
Which camera documentaries will i see next?
Jos. The Forgotten Photographer Who Saved a Town
2023, 46 min. By filmmakers Dave Kwant and Robyn Janes.
Documentary Jos unearths the life and work of Czech-born New Zealand photographer Joseph Divis. Born in 1885, Divis was a pioneer of street-style photography in an era of colonial studio portraits. His photography captures the everyday lives of the residents of gold-mining town Waiuta, and its eventual decline into a ghost town - NZ on Screen.
Watch the trailer.
Grant Sheehan: Light, Ghosts & Dreams
2023, 119 min (feature film). By filmmaker Robin Greenberg.
For more than four decades, Wellington-based photographer Grant Sheehan has made his way in the world through images. Where many photographers find longevity in laser-focused speciality, he is one of the few that has managed to thrive by expanding his style ever wider. Spinning yarns as though to an acquaintance on the neighbouring barstool, Sheehan recounts his own exceptional career in this charming documentary - NZIFF.
Watch the trailer.
Looking for an article about the latest cool new gadgets and gear that I have in my fancy and complex camera bag? Then jog on, because this is not that article.
Read below to learn what I typically pack when photographing events, architecture, landscapes and streets.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any particular brands, and none of this content is a paid promotion.
I keep things minimal, second-hand, and very straightforward. This has multiple benefits:
At events I need to be really responsive, agile, and tidy. I zoom around all over the place so I use my small bag with the following items:
basic camera kit for events
Standard kit for city & landscapes
If I’m heading out to photograph cityscapes and people, architecture, landscapes or a particularly bespoke event, I’ll pack the following extras into my bigger Lowepro bag.
Carrying the right amount and type of gear is important for my posture and for producing the right photos for my clients. If you're getting started with photography, keep your kit in range with your budget, and work with the essentials before branching out and spending more on other gadgets.
Final advice: never carry hair clips in your camera bag - see photo below. Thankfully the the lens was fine!
I recently travelled to the UK and Europe for a family holiday and invested in a workshop with a local photography guide. I know great locations, lighting, and angles for landscape photography in my own country but wasn't sure where to start overseas.
In this blog post, I’ll talk about my experience with Northumberland landscape photographer and guide, Emma Rothera (spoiler alert: it was fabulous!)
fINDING THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE
I had a clear idea of what I wanted before I started Googling ‘photo tour guides and workshops’. I was keen to:
Emma Rothera quickly popped up in my Google search as an ideal photography guide. I read reviews, checked out her style, and went with my instincts. A few emails later, and I was booked on her First Light, Sunrise, and Golden Hour Photography Workshop on Holy Island (simultaneously forgetting that I’m not great early in the morning).
These are inspiring times for me, photography is my passion and my life, I live and breathe it and couldn't go a day without it. The things I have been blessed enough to experience and see throughout my career so far, have quite literally blown my mind. I am fortunate enough to be able to do something that is essentially every part of who I am everyday of my life
PLANNING THE TRIP
With no room for my usual tripod, I found a second-hand retro Stabilo Bilora for twenty bucks (bargain of the century). Emma recommended I dress for about 11 degrees (Celsius) as Spring time has been warmer over the past few years.
During the month before the trip, I’d spent time photographing Cyclone Gabrielle relief work in New Zealand, so I was confident in my level of fitness and ability to get muddy, although I had no room in my luggage for proper work pants and boots.
Once the workshop booking was confirmed, I went down the Google rabbit hole of Holy Island. I like to visualise a location and understand some of the history before photographing it. Read more about Holy Island and it’s castle, monastery, saints, viking raids, puffins, lifeboats, seals, and other delights at Visit Lindinsfarne. I can also confirm there are pubs, coffee roastery, a gin distillery, and gelato on the island.
Words cannot describe the magic of The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, particularly as you cross the causeway, admiring staggering views as you go, and feel as though you are entering a secret world as you approach the island.
THE PHOTO TOUR ON THE DAY
I was up early for my tour – leaving the house at 4.30am to cross the Holy Island causeway before the tide rolled in. Meeting Emma was a delight, and it was apparent that our common interests and sense of humour would give us loads to talk about.
Emma took me to a key viewpoint of the Lindisfarne Castle to watch the sunrise. As a visitor to the country (and Northern Hemisphere), I would never have thought to visit this spot at this time without Emma’s guidance. There were so many little gems of information that she shared with me about getting the best out of landscape photography – particularly around aperture, patience, and where to find light.
The weather system decided to buck the trend of warm springs, and instead of the mild 11-17 degrees Celsius, it was freezing with a biting wind. But none of that seems to matter when you're taking photos. We didn’t get the perfect sunrise - that would be predictable. Instead I was challenged to find different angles of interest with my low tripod. Throughout the workshop tour, I learned about life on Holy Island, it’s flora and fauna, and Emma’s experiences as a photographer.
The chill kicked in as soon as the workshop finished, but luckily the Post Office Café was open, where I had eggs on toast and one of the best coffees of my entire holiday as I waited for the tide to roll back out. Jeans covered in dirt and wide-angle lens smudged with sand (it face-planted), I made my way back over the causeway with fresh inspiration for my landscape photos.
Throughout the rest of my trip in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, I regularly applied Emma’s advice not only to landscapes, but also to my architecture and street photography.
Next time you’re on holiday overseas or in your own country, do a little Googling to find a local photography guide or workshop and get out of your comfort zone (but wear plenty of layers).
This blog shares tips and tricks for you to get involved with photography, and keeps you up to date with my exhibitions and shenanigans.