Brought to you by
ISSUE 23, September 2019
BY RICHARD YOUNG
HOW TO CRITIQUE
YOUR OWN PHOTOS
BY SAMUEL OGUNLAJA
IMAGINE AUCKLAND PEOPLE’S
CHOICE AWARD WINNER
WELCOME TO ISSUE 23 OF
NZ PHOTOGRAPHER MAGAZINE
This edition of NZP puts the focus
on learning, experimenting, and
growing as a photographer whilst
also introducing the topic of why
and how photography should
be encouraged in the younger
In our interview, photography
teacher Fairlie Atkinson takes us
under her wing to share her bird
photography and also explains
her teaching methods and the
importance of the Arts in education.
We also get to see what some of
her photography students at Kapiti
College have been working on and
how photography is showing up in
their everyday lives.
From young adults to young kids,
Ana shares her thoughts and tips on
introducing photography to kids at a
young age, as soon as they're able
to hold a phone or camera. She
explains how photography can help
children improve their concentration
whilst also developing a skill that is often overlooked; the art of seeing.
Don't have kids or maybe they've already flown the nest? Don't worry, we have
plenty of articles to teach and inspire your photographic journey too! Richard's
article gives in-depth detail on shooting sharp landscapes and, instead of an
Expert Critique session this month, Sam is going to teach you how to critique your
own photos – A vital step that must be completed before sending your images out
into the big wide world to be critiqued by others.
Last but never least, we've greatly enjoyed looking through your own
experimentations in readers' submissions learning how you've been pushing out of
your own comfort zones with long exposures, double exposures, and more.
Brendon is the man
behind ESB Photography.
He is an avid tramper
who treks from sea to
mountain, and back
again, capturing the
uniqueness of New
Co-founder of Excio, Ana's
started many years ago
with one of the first Kodak
film cameras. She loves
exploring the unseen
macro world and capturing
genuine people's emotions.
Richard is an awardwinning
wildlife photographer who
workshops and runs
photography tours. He
is the founder of New
Editor NZ Photographer
NZPhotographer Issue 23
by Fairlie Atkinson
nzphotographer nzp_magazine email@example.com
© 2019 NZPhotographer Magazine
All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material appearing in this magazine in
any form is forbidden without prior consent of the publisher.
Opinions of contributing authors do not necessarily reflect the
opinion of the magazine.
2 NZPhotographer September 2019 3
IMAGINE AUCKLAND PEOPLE’S CHOICE
AWARD WINNER: TINA MACRAE
WITH FAIRLIE ATKINSON
BEHIND THE SHOT
with Kelly Vivian
INTERVIEW WITH FAIRLIE ATKINSON
THE UP AND COMING TALENT
FROM KAPITI COLLEGE
GETTING TO KNOW CHARLOTTE E JOHNSON
IMAGINE AUCKLAND PEOPLE’S CHOICE
AWARD WINNER: TINA MACRAE
THE ROUTEBURN TRACK
by Brendon Gilchrist
ENCOURAGING OUR CHILDREN TO BECOME
PHOTOGRAPHERS FROM A YOUNG AGE
by Ana Lyubich
SHOOTING SHARP LANDSCAPES
by Richard Young
HOW TO CRITIQUE YOUR OWN PHOTOS
by Samuel Ogunlaja
SHOOTING SHARP LANDSCAPES
BY RICHARD YOUNG
BEHIND THE SHOT
WITH KELLY VIVIAN
Imagine Auckland People’s Choice
Award Winner: Tina Macrae
HI TINA, TELL US ABOUT YOU…
I have been very fortunate to live in the
beautiful Whitianga on the Coromandel
Peninsula for the last 22years with my partner
Mark and our two gorgeous boys (or I should
say young men) plus two cats, and Badger
our Lab/foxy cross rescue dog. I’m passionate
about native plants and gardening, food,
travel, and photography.
F10, 1/125s, ISO125
WHAT’S YOUR CONNECTION WITH
I was raised in West Auckland and lived in Te
Atatu South. I attended the local school’s,
finishing my education at Rutherford High so
west coast beaches were my local stomping
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU GET STARTED
My Grandfather and Aunty have always been
avid photographers and my Mum was always
taking family snaps but it was my art teacher
(Gary Shuker at Rutherford High) who taught
me the fundamentals of photography like
form, composition, lighting, and developing
black and white film.
Later on, when I had a family of my own,
I was always taking family snaps but started
stretching my skills by taking landscape and
Wanting to improve and learn, I joined a local
camera group called Focus Photography in
2016 which then merged with the Whitianga
Camera Club in 2018. We have some amazing
accomplished photographers within the club
who are happy and willing to share their
time and knowledge with monthly workshops
covering topics includiing astro, portraits, and
HOW DO YOU PUSH YOURSELF TO
IMPROVE AND TRY NEW THINGS?
With the monthly challenges from the
Whitianga Camera Club, I have been pushed
outside of my comfort zone, exploring new
techniques and styles of photography. Who
knew that I would enjoy astrophotography
and wandering around at 4am trying to take
photos of the Eta Aquarids meteor shower
back in May (and yes did manage to capture
WHAT CAMERA DO YOU HAVE?
Currently, I’m shooting with a Canon
Powershot G3 x which is a bridge style
camera. While it does have some restrictions,
at the moment it suits me fine as it’s ideal for
travelling – I don’t have to worry about having
the right lens with me (it has an incredible long
range zoom) and it’s able to perform most
tasks a DSLR can.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE GENRE OR
PREFER A CERTAIN STYLE?
As yet I don’t have a preferred genre as such
but I do tend to take more landscape and
nature photographs. However, I am interested
in developing my skills in street photography.
TELL US ABOUT THE DAY YOU TOOK THIS
We were fortunate enough to be staying
at the family bach at Muriwai which is
a quintessential kiwi bach from the 60’s.
I decided to hit the beach for a long walk
with my camera on a stunning June afternoon
as the tide was dropping. My idea was to
work on capturing people on the beach in a
more abstract way. The light was incredibly
beautiful. As I was leaving the beach
I climbed the sand dunes behind the surf
club watchtower to capture the sunset and
silhouette of the tower and was rewarded
with a glorious golden sunset where the sky,
sea, and sand were ablaze. It wasn’t really a
planned shot but one I thought summarized
Auckland’s west coast.
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE PHOTO? IS
THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD HAVE
LIKED TO HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
I like the effect and colour of the image as it
was on the day but I should have used a filter
so the sun wasn’t as glaring but alas, I didn’t
have them with me.
HOW DID IT FEEL FINDING OUT THAT
YOUR PHOTO HAD WON THE PEOPLE’S
To be honest I was surprised but totally thrilled
at the same time as there were some amazing
images in the competition.
HAS WINNING PEOPLE’S CHOICE
GIVEN YOU A SENSE OF NEW FOUND
Actually, it really has. I guess I have always
been my own worst enemy with self doubt but
this is my second win of the year as I also had
a photo shortlisted in the still life category of
the Sigma amateur photographer of the year
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS OR ADVICE FOR
FELLOW PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO MAY
BE HESITANT ABOUT SUBMITTING THEIR
WORK TO COMPETITIONS?
Don’t stop learning and keep trying and
experimenting with different genres, ideas, and
techniques. For those just starting out, get off
Auto mode and start using Manual – Have fun!
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU ONLINE?
Nowhere yet as my photography has just been
for me up until this point but who knows what
the future may hold!
Behind The Shot
with Kelly Vivian
F5.6, 1/1200s, 18mm
September 2019 9
KELLY, PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO US...
I live on Auckland’s North Shore with my 17 year old
son, Sebastian. I have a 19 year long history working
within the hospitality and customer service industries
and began my amateur photography journey in 2015
when I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D3300.
I primarily bought a camera to take shots of my son
on the basketball court and ended up doing multiple
contracts for Basketball NZ after they saw some of
my shots. I then diversified and began taking shots of
almost everything I could to practice and get better
at other styles of photography.
Landscapes, wildlife, travel and long exposure
photography are my favourites now. I still take sports
photography shots, but they aren’t so much my focus
WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING WITH?
My current weapon of choice is the Nikon D500. I love
the functionality and speed of the body, it’s not too
heavy when shooting handheld and I find it produces
such high-quality RAW images.
I have three lenses, the first is a Tokina AT-X Pro,
11-16mm, f/2.8 which I love for landscapes and, with
my Hoya 10 stop ND filter and remote shutter control,
long exposures. Then I have my Nikkor FS kit set lenses,
18-55mm & 70-200mm which are great multi use lenses
and finally my Tamron SP 70-300mm, f/4-5.6 which I use
for wildlife photography.
I use an extreme pro 256GB SanDisk memory card
because of the super-fast processing, a Godox
speedlight flash and a Joby Gorillapod as my tripod
but am looking to get a larger tripod as a more stable
base for my long exposures. I shoot exclusively in
manual mode, but rarely do I take the ISO off auto, I
just adjust the f stop and shutter speed.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR O’HARE AIRPORT
My son and I were travelling to North Carolina for him
to trial for a college basketball team and we had to
go from LAX to O’Hare then onto Greensboro in NC.
This photo was taken during our stopover in O’Hare
Airport in Chicago.
Upon leaving the plane, we needed to move from
one terminal to another and to get to the second
terminal, we needed to go down a large steep
staircase and along the travelator shown in the
The lights along the roof changed colour and I was
mesmerised by the sight. It was spectacular, and I
couldn’t help myself but to get my camera out of my
hand luggage and take a couple of shots.
I opted to go down the most central lane heading
the right way and take the shot, so the lines of the
handrails were as centred as possible. I had to avoid
people coming up behind me and didn’t want to
get in the way, so it was a super quick few shots fired,
hoping that I’d got the shot.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING BEHIND THE CAMERA?
My son was super tired and less than impressed
that I was holding him up from getting his breakfast
because I was ‘taking more photos’ haha.
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE PHOTO, WHAT DO
YOU LIKE/DISLIKE ABOUT IT?
I always liked this image, especially as it was taken on
the fly, with no real planning or time to perfect it. The
fact that the passengers in the photo are somewhat
blurry initially annoyed me, but now I feel they tell
a story of how rushed people can be at one of the
largest airports in the United States and how they
don’t take the time to stop and look around in such a
I like to take photos free of people so I tried to take
this with the least amount of people in the frame,
but in retrospect, I quite like the silhouettes of weary
travellers in the image and I think it adds to the
aesthetic of the image as a whole.
I don’t know if there is anything I could have done
better, maybe got a different angle of the space
from off the travelator with a more stable non-moving
spot, but it just wasn’t going to happen with a hungry
teenager hounding me haha.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM TAKING THIS
The main thing I learned from taking this image is to
take chances, take opportunities to get the shot,
regardless of what is happening around you, what
people may think of you or where you are. The most
challenging shot can often be the most rewarding.
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU ONLINE?
BEHIND THE SHOT IS PROUDLY
We’re inviting photographers to highlight all the wonderful things that make the Wellington
Botanic Garden much more than a garden, while encouraging photographers to focus on
the garden season by season.
For prizes and full Terms & Conditions see: www.excio.io/freshshoots
The last season of the competition is now open:
22 June - 20 September 2019
HI FAIRLIE, ALTHOUGH READERS WILL KNOW
YOU FROM OUR BLOG INTERVIEW, WHY DON’T
YOU GIVE US A RECAP?!
I live in Kapiti and teach Photography and Design at
Kapiti College. My partner Peter and I have four children
(2 each) and we also have two exchange students
living with us long term while they study at Kapiti College.
Our life is pretty busy as we are doing up our home. That
being said it is perfect for our large eclectic family.
Since I teach photography, I am immersed in it all day
with my students, time for my own photography during
the school term is rare so I tend to do my own creative
work on the weekends if it is a project I can involve my
kids in, and during school holidays.
My own photography passion is creating bird portraiture
as a way of fundraising for local wildlife reserves and
I donate my images of native New Zealand birds to
wildlife and conservation organisations to use in their
advertising and marketing to avoid them having to use
their budgets to pay for this service.
Aside from photography I love horse riding and teach
horse riding after school one day a week. I enjoy
reading crime novels, visiting nature reserves, bush
walks, and travelling to new places. I love foreign food,
learning languages and last but not least spending time
with my eclectic family.
TELL US MORE ABOUT HELPING CHARITIES
WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY, WHAT HAVE
YOU DONE MOST RECENTLY?
Most recently I was in Turangi and captured
images of whio in the wild that I have donated to
an organisation called Whio Forever. They partner
with DoC to protect the whio, and photos of whio
in their natural habitat are a wonderful indicator
of their success. They can use my photos (if they
wish) to showcase this success on social media
or anywhere that might raise their profile. I also
donate my images to Staglands and Nga Manu
whenever I visit, and I have a series of images taken
at Nga Manu, when I sell prints of these I donate a
percentage to the Reserve. They do incredible work
rehabilitating our native birds and I believe it is only
fair to give back to the community that supports my
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO
BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHY TEACHER?
I have spent most of my career teaching at universities
in Asia and the Middle East. My children were born
in the Middle East but I wanted to raise them in New
Zealand. Therefore, I returned to high school teaching
in New Zealand in 2015 where I taught English and
I had been given a DSLR camera that same year
and started playing with it so by the time I moved to
Kapiti in 2017 I had decided photography was what
I wanted to teach. I enrolled in a level 5 diploma of
photography with the Southern Institute of Technology
and realised very quickly that I wanted to teach
a creative subject that students took as an option
rather than a core subject that students had to take.
I was lucky that Tony Kane, the principal had faith
that I could do this and I am in a supportive working
environment. The Visual Arts teaching community
is incredibly caring and share many resources and
support new teachers to the subject very well.
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE TEACHING OF
My approach is two-fold. First, I believe students need
to experiment. The first thing I do for new students is
to run a camera boot camp which is two weeks long.
Each day we focus on something different like shutter
speed or aperture etc. I give them challenges related
to this, like take a photo that shows someone jumping
in the air, with no blur.
I also do things like getting them to build their own
lightbox from white cardboard and photographing
a cicada shell placed in the centre. In order to
photograph the cicada well, they need to use their
camera on manual. Once they have the camera
basics right and know how to manipulate studio
lighting, I encourage as much experimentation as
possible. My catchphrase is “go play!” What I mean
by this is go and play with the settings, lighting, subject
matter, location. Experiment and see what evolves.
Secondly, I believe ‘creative conversation’ is essential
(either one on one with me or peer feedback) to the
creative process for a student operating within the
confines of NCEA. Asking the hard questions such as
‘how much time did you devote to this? How does this
image relate to your theme or the images around it?
Who is your artist model? Where are you going with
this and what’s next?’ gets students to look with a
critical eye at their images.
However, I very much believe that students need
to follow their own creative journey so I tend to give
them very loose themes like ‘Turangawaewae’,
which they can interpret very literally or in an abstract
manner. Many students create a photographic series
based on their identity, or something they identify with.
And because I am careful to work within their interests
they tend to be more engaged in the process.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE THING TO TEACH IN
The first couple of lessons in Photoshop! Students
think they can magically transform a terrible photo
in Photoshop but they find out very quickly that this
isn’t the case at all. They also discover that a well shot
image just needs some tweaking in Photoshop to look
absolutely fantastic. Once they have mastered the
tools, I love to see them getting creative and trying
things like surrealism and pop art using their own
photos. Some of their creations are weird, wonderful,
and bizarre, but all of them are a creative journey.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF BEING A
PHOTOGRAPHY TEACHER? AND THE WORST?!
The very best thing about this job is the immense
satisfaction that comes when a student’s work is
recognised or exhibited. To know that I was a small
part of that creative journey is very satisfying and to
have others appreciate the innovation and creativity
of the teenage mind is wonderful. I also derive a great
deal of personal inspiration from my students and from
the creative conversations we have. They push me
to get out of my comfort zone as a photographer. A
direct result of this is that I have started dabbling in
some surrealist photography of my own which you
can see on the next page. My picture of the baby
ruru was taken at Wingspan and then I went online
and found a copyright free image of an eye and
one of a steampunk style clock face. I then blended,
painted, coloured, and smudged until I got an image
I was happy with. It was my first attempt at surrealism
and I still like it.
The worst thing is that photography is underfunded,
underappreciated, and undervalued in every high
school. Therefore, we struggle to find funds for
equipment and resources. It is also a subject that is not
viewed as particularly academically rigorous by many
in the community. This perception is completely false,
and students have to work extremely hard to pass,
and standards are very high. This is an issue for many
optional subjects and subjects in the Arts and not just
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOUR STUDENTS FACE
AND HOW DO YOU/THEY OVERCOME THEM?
The biggest challenge is coming up with an idea that
will run across 2–3 NCEA boards. That’s anywhere
between 40–60 photos that connect to each other,
are based on various artist models, that fit into a
theme, and that can provide enough variety to keep
the marker interested.
Students often say, “but Miss I don’t have any ideas.”
That’s where the Internet, this magazine, Excio,
Instagram, Pinterest, and the library come in! I ask
students to explore photography by other people
based on themes of interest to them. Once I know
what they are interested in and what creative style
they like I can recommend photographers that can
be used as artist models so that students can learn
from established practitioners. They can then develop
their own interpretation of that style and work towards
developing their own approach to their photography.
Artist models are established practitioners in their
field of art, whether that be painting, sculpture,
photography etc. Our students are required to
reference more than one artist and their style or
techniques somewhere in their work. For example, if
a student wants to shoot a photographic series and
incorporate type into it they might use Barbara Kruger
as an artist model and shoot their images in black and
white and use red and black type. The images and
message will be unique to them but will be influenced
by the artist model's style.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON
PHOTOGRAPHY (AND THE ARTS AS A WHOLE)
IN THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM?
They are absolutely necessary. Not every kid can
read and write well, and not every kid is musical,
mathematical, or sporty. Not every child likes science.
So what’s left? We as a society need to nurture
creative pursuits. They inspire others, and push us to try
new things. When a student leaves school, employers
are increasingly looking for adaptable, creative, and
conscientious people. The Arts does a very good job
of preparing our young people to think creatively and
solve problems with the tools in front of them. If the
Arts are removed from a curriculum, so is creativity in
its purest form.
HOW DO YOU EDUCATE YOURSELF SO YOU
CAN BETTER HELP YOUR STUDENTS?
I look a lot at student work and talk to them about their
interests. I then go online and see what other artists and
photographers may have done in that field and how
they have done it. I spend a lot of time on online forums,
watching tutorials, or exploring different genres in order
to better help my students. Essentially, I am constantly
learning alongside them.
I find it pointless to teach the same thing to everyone.
Last year a student said she loved the work of Prue
Stent and Masie Cousins so I went online and explored
their work and their techniques with that student. We
experimented making coloured cornflour paste, and
Googled the ingredients for a milk bath so she could do
a shoot at home. We bought glitter, and slime and found
out how hard it is to clean it up after you have taken
photos with it and that the glitter keeps reappearing
weeks, even months later. It’s about learning, and
experimenting together. This year when a student asked
me about those two photographers, I was ready with
When you train to be a teacher, or train within your
subject matter, it doesn’t mean you now know
everything. You can learn as much from your students as
they can learn from you if you choose to.
TELL US HOW YOUR SCHOOL HAS TEAMED UP
WITH EXCIO TO SHOWCASE STUDENTS’ WORK…
It started with me leaving a comment on one of the
NZPhotographer Magazine posts on Facebook that
asked what we, as a community, wanted to see
in the magazine. I was tired of seeing all the posts
of landscapes and what I felt was the same style
of photography again and again posted by the
photographic community. I felt that it excluded the
creativity and talent of our younger generation.
I use this magazine as a teaching tool, and I wanted
to see the magazine evolve and attract a younger
generation of reader – I think this is definitely happening
lately, which is awesome. Ana and I began talking
about my feature on the Excio blog and I asked her
if we could have an Excio account for the school as
the photography the students do is fantastic, and a
bit different from what we normally see showcased in
photography magazines and in social media.
She was immediately supportive and when she came
to talk to our students she was so inspirational. She
essentially voiced the message that I have been trying to
get across to our students about photography telling the
students that photography does not have to be about
the ‘likes’, the ‘followers’ and the ‘influencers’, but it can
be about doing good and communicating a message
for change or just sharing a beautiful moment. I feel very
grateful to have had someone like Ana in my classroom
living those words with her work with Excio and NZP as
an example of how a photographic community can be
based on something other than the pursuit of fame and
At the moment we have around 8 students on Excio with
1–3 photos per student, but are in the process of adding
more. What we are trying to do is showcase a variety of
images from our students so users of the app can see
how varied our students’ talents and interests are. I have
put together a student team to help me administer the
school collections so we can showcase as many as
120 photos at a time. It’s very exciting for us, and gives
students the motivation to strive hard to be innovative
and creative because, in the end, it is those images that
have the most impact and those are the ones we want
to show. Photography as a subject is only growing at
Kapiti College, and with our partnership with Excio it will
only attract more students keen to be appreciated for
the innovators and artists that they are.
HOW DO YOU THINK PHOTOGRAPHY BENEFITS
KIDS AS A WHOLE?
Photography has something for kids who think and see
things differently. Maybe they can’t draw or play a
musical instrument but are still creative. Imagine a world
without creative people, without photography, art and
music, it would be a very grey world. Children paint, sing,
and dance before they read, write, and calculate. It’s
their way of communicating, and essentially that is what
art is in its purest form; a vehicle for personal expression.
Photography facilitates creativity, personal expression,
communication, and changes the way kids look at the
world. Once you begin to be able to communicate a
message with an image, you start seeing the potential for
photos, and for communication everywhere. Remember,
we are a society made of kids whose first instinct is to
imagine, create and explore. Why can’t we continue this
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE YOUR STUDENTS
WHO WANT TO MAKE A CAREER OUT OF
If this is your dream then go for it. If it’s the only thing they
want to do then why not? Photographers are employed
by the Armed Forces, the police, hospitals, regional
councils, real-estate firms, government departments and
by publishing groups.
Many students talk to me about their fear of financial
insecurity that comes with choosing a job in the Arts. This
is indeed valid, as photography has become very much
a contract business. I think there are ways and means of
making money from doing what you love though, without
money being the primary objective.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GETTING A
FORMAL EDUCATION IN PHOTOGRAPHY VERSUS
TEACHING YOURSELF WHEN THE AIM IS TO MAKE
PHOTOGRAPHY INTO A CAREER?
I taught myself everything from Youtube, the Internet and
by just playing with my camera. I think a formal education
will help you if your employer is one that requires it and
that’s the direction you want to go in but honestly, what
I gained from a formal education in photography is the
qualification, not the skills themselves.
Saying that, not everyone learns the same way and many
people like the structure of lessons and being told what
to try and in what direction to move before they try the
practical skills out. I prefer to learn by doing. I see in my
classroom kids who want me to actively show them every
tool and how it works in Photoshop and other kids who just
want to dive in and click everything and see how it works.
To be honest, the kids who dive in seem to learn the tools
more quickly because they are not afraid of making a
mistake but that’s not to say that one approach is better
than the other.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OUR READERS
FOR CHOOSING A PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE?
Consider what purpose it will serve. If you need a
qualification for a job then by all means go and get it.
Remember, at its core, photography is a practical art form
so make sure you choose a course where there is room to
practice and hone your practical skills, and not just write,
or reflect on, or critique work.
Critique is valuable, but courses seem to want to add a
fair amount of peer critique in them to make them feel
more ‘academic.’ I, myself, found little value in mandatory
critique. Voluntary, on the other hand, has a great deal of
value and leads to a more authentic learning experience.
I actually love the photo critique section in the magazine
and on the blog but what we have to keep in mind is that
one person’s idea of a good photo is not someone else’s.
ANY WORDS OF WISDOM TO LEAVE US WITH?
Learning is a lifelong pursuit. Art is personal and art
critique is subjective. In a nutshell, do what you love, keep
learning, and trying new things. Go and play with your
camera as often as you can!
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU ONLINE?
The Up and Coming Talent from Kapiti College
We’ve heard Fairlie talk about teaching, now let’s switch sides and hear about
the creative/photographic journey that some of her students are on as we see the
projects they’ve completed.
aesthetic. My style of photography is quirky, girly
aesthetics. I love both trying to communicate a
message through photography in a creative way,
and also just experimenting with random meaningless
ideas. I find photography a way to express my
creativity and art, using props and settings to create
an image no one else will have seen.
CAN YOU CHOOSE A FAVOURITE PHOTO OR
These photos are a series of four demonstrating a
progressing heart. The first photo is just a sparkler by
itself, the second a 1/4 heart, the third a 3/4 heart,
and the fourth a full heart. I created these images by
using sparklers to draw a heart shape. I adjusted the
settings manually to a low shutter speed, the lowest
for the full heart as it took the longest to draw, and a
short shutter speed for the still sparkler. The low shutter
speed meant that I could draw the heart shape with
the sparkler and the camera would capture the light
trail, and dismiss the wire stick of the sparkler so that a
heart outline was created with sparks flying off it. I also
put a piece of pink cellophane over one studio light,
and a blue piece to cover the other, this created an
TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY WITH
PHOTOGRAPHY SO FAR…
I have always had a passion for taking aesthetic
images, and an appreciation for beauty – Trying to
capture the good in things or bring out the beauty.
I have always loved taking photos however had never
used a proper camera before, only using my phone.
So this year is the first year I have actually taken
photos on a DSLR. I struggled at the beginning to
figure out how to adjust and manipulate the settings
however, for every photo shoot I did, I played around
with the manual settings a lot until I got it right.
WHAT’S YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC STYLE?
I just love experimenting with props and camera
settings to create images that hold a beautiful
WHAT CHALLENGES YOU MOST IN CLASS?
HOW DO YOU/DID YOU OVERCOME THAT?
I sometimes struggle to come up with ideas, or plan
a series of shoots. I usually overcome this by finding
inspiration from Pinterest, or just coming up with a
simple idea. I then experiment a lot, so the basic idea
expands and more ideas come flowing until I finally
get the photo or idea I want. My best photos are the
ones where I had no plan or a very rough plan, the
photo created purely from experimentation. That is
what I find fun in photography: experimenting heaps
to get my creativity flowing.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR
PHOTOGRAPHY BEING CHOSEN TO FEATURE
ON THE KAPITI COLLEGE EXCIO ACCOUNT?
When I heard that, I was really excited and proud! To
be honest, when I first started the subject at school,
I didn’t think I would be good at photography, I was
kind of just messing around with some ideas and never
really thought they would go anywhere.
NAME: CHARLISE SEFO
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO STUDY
I’ve been interested in taking photos since I was
younger. My cousin is a photographer and has
travelled to Switzerland, his photos were a big
inspiration for my love of photography and an
introduction to quality photography. Watching the
process of him taking the photos always looked like
the hardest part but seeing the final outcome was
always inspiring to me. My favourite thing about his
photography was how he would always perfectly
match the colours together, perfectly balancing the
photo. This pushed me to study photography.
WHY/HOW IS PHOTOGRAPHY IMPORTANT TO
Photography is a way of expressing myself. A photo
means a thousand words and tells a story or journey.
It’s important to me because it’s my own way of
writing a story, without the words.
CAN YOU CHOOSE A FAVOURITE PHOTO? TELL
US ABOUT IT…
My favourite photo is what I call “Dream State”. The
flower is a symbol of love with the blur on the side to
hint that it’s a dream. With the blue overall, the neon
colours pop more which allows specific things, the
important hints, to be seen. I let the viewer wonder
what it means. Is it a dream? Or a distant memory of
what once was? That’s why it’s my favourite image,
the wonder of the story behind it, is it an untold story or
WHAT CHALLENGES YOU MOST IN CLASS?
HOW DO YOU/DID YOU OVERCOME THAT?
Having to use artist models can be very restrictive. My
ideas are inspired by images that may not necessarily
be done by famous photographers while the NCEA
says we have to use them. I overcome this by looking
up a certain image or photographer and putting
my own twist on it. I used Jochim Froese as one of
my artist models on my first NCEA level 2 board and
changed a few things to fit my aesthetic and the
energy of my board.
DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO PURSUE
PHOTOGRAPHY AS A CAREER OPTION?
I didn’t think that photography could be a career
option for me till I was recognised – I have realized
now that it could hopefully be a career path for me
one day. It’s something I really enjoy and something
I love to do. I love to show people what I see through
my photos. To capture quality moments with friends
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR
PHOTOGRAPHY BEING CHOSEN TO FEATURE
ON THE KAPITI COLLEGE EXCIO ACCOUNT?
When I first heard I was being featured I was over the
moon excited and told all my family and friends. It’s a
massive honour and has made me more focused and
given me the drive to try harder, to experiment more
with the lights and the camera to create awesome
and unique photos.
NAME: LUCAS REID
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO STUDY
I wanted to do a fun and creative subject. I didn’t
want to choose a subject where you are restricted
to exams and study – I wanted to do something
more relaxed and be creative in a fun classroom
atmosphere. I enjoyed the class in year 12 so I ended
up taking a double line of it in year 13.
WHY/HOW IS PHOTOGRAPHY IMPORTANT TO
To be honest, photography is not part of my career
plan, but it is part of my creative outlet. Life is busy
with work and school, and there is not much time to
just take time to enjoy creating something – This is my
space to do that.
CAN YOU CHOOSE A FAVOURITE PHOTO?
The reason I have chosen this photo as my favourite
is because it shows all the elements from my level 3
NCEA board. It shows all the bright colours and all the
objects in one photo as well as a clear photo of my
model. I started my board by creating photo art in
the style of Emily Blincoe but I used everyday NZ food
like hundreds and thousands biscuits and Liquorice
Allsorts. I then introduced my model, who I have
dressed as a colourful, yet grungy drag queen. He
is shown with these other elements to try and make
an extraordinary picture out of an ordinary boy and
WHAT CHALLENGES YOU MOST IN CLASS?
HOW ARE YOU OVERCOMING THAT?
The challenges I face are following the NCQA rules
for the external photography boards as well as being
creative and having my own ideas. Because I need
to pass the boards I need to follow the rules that
NZQA have put out for me, and this can sometimes
restrict how creative I can be with my photos. For
example, I would quite like to do photos in my own
style, or in the style of influencers on social media but
I have to use artist models that NZQA and the teacher
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR
PHOTOGRAPHY BEING CHOSEN TO FEATURE
ON THE KAPITI COLLEGE EXCIO ACCOUNT?
I’m amazed! It feels great to know that my photos will
be featured on the Excio account, my teacher has
more faith in my work than I do!
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Getting To Know Charlotte E Johnson
DO YOU HAVE A CERTAIN STYLE OR A
I adore fine art portraiture – this is the area I’m
working towards with my own work. Our modern
world is filled with amazing photos but the ones that
make me stop scrolling are the ones that engage
me and make me feel something. It’s the same
feeling you might get when you view a beautiful
painting in an art gallery or come across an image
that makes you think ‘wow’.
CHARLOTTE, LET US KNOW WHERE YOU’RE
FROM AND WHAT YOU DO!
I’m a photographer and microscopist for the
University of Auckland. I spend my working hours
taking photos (either on a camera or through a
microscope) and editing them in Photoshop – it’s a
pretty great job. I moved here from the UK almost
2 years ago where I did my Ph.D and subsequent
postdoc researching cancer biology. Quite a jump
in career and geographical location!
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU GET INTERESTED
I bought my first DSLR (a Sony a200) about 8 years
ago. After about a year of casually playing around
with it, I wanted to do more but I had no idea
how to take it off auto mode so I took an evening
course in photography for beginners. That sparked
my interest which led to a second and a third
course, plus an obsession with film photography.
I was greatly inspired by the classic abstract works
of photographers like Minor White and Edward
Weston. At the time I couldn’t understand my
classmates’ interest in taking photos of people –
now portraiture is my favourite genre!
WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING WITH?
For my digital work, a Sony A7Riii with a selection of
Sony or Zeiss prime lenses and a Minolta Dynax7 for
35mm and Hasselblad 500C for medium format film.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE CREATIVE
PROCESS BEHIND YOUR ‘PAINTERLY
I want to create art which is beautiful to me, that
has depth and feeling. I sometimes start off with
a prop or accessory and the idea builds around
that, or other times I take inspiration from artwork or
techniques I’ve seen elsewhere and want to put my
own spin on. I’m very lucky to have several creative
contacts who share my passion and am often
asked to take part in their projects.
For my painterly style portraits, my keyword is usually
‘soft’; soft lighting, soft hands, soft textures. I will
often make a Pinterest board which helps keep me
on track leading up to and during the photoshoot
as I tend to get carried away in the moment.
For me, the real magic happens during the postprocessing
stage, for which I use Photoshop.
I employ several techniques to most of my images
which I’ve picked up from workshops, but every
image is uniquely processed – I almost feel each
one pulling me towards a certain look.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE IMAGE?
My favourite image is the one I’m going to take
But if I must choose, one of my favourite images is
my Curious Kea. Taken on a trip to Wellington not
long after we moved to New Zealand, it was the
closest I’d ever been to a kea – I’d only brought my
35mm prime lens so didn’t have much choice.
I was cautious about putting the camera (and
my fingers) so close to the bird as I’d heard
about their penchant for ripping things to bits but
I approached slowly and calmly, speaking to the
kea in a soft voice so as not to scare it. As you can
see from the image on the next page, it was dimly
lit so my shutter speed was quite slow. As you can
see from the image on the next page, it came out
so sharp as I was hand-holding. When I look at this
photo, I see the curiosity and intelligence of the
kea and I am very happy to have captured this
ASCENSION: MICROSCOPE CAPTURE
OF A PINE CONE SECTION
F5, 1/1000s, ISO1000
Collaboration with makeup
artist HollyB and model Elle
F2.8, 1/125s, ISO250
Collaboration with designer/
stylist The Baroness Creates
and model Suzan Tibane
F4, 1/125s, ISO100
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU OVERCOME
IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND HOW DID YOU DO
I came from an amateur background with a foundation
study in photography and jumped straight into a fulltime
photography job where I was asked to take photos
of anything and everything at publication quality using
unfamiliar equipment. I didn’t sign up for a 365 project but
I most certainly did take photos every single day, learning
the equipment and techniques as I went.
I used online workshops and YouTube tutorials,
joined the Photographic Society of New Zealand
and went to my first photography convention,
joined a local camera club where I received image
critique, and practised, practised, practised.
A lot of my work involves taking portraits but I had
no experience in portraiture, so I put up a sign on
a notice board asking for students to model for
me in exchange for photos. Often they had never
modelled before and we learnt together from the
HOW DO YOU PUSH YOURSELF TO IMPROVE
AND WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET OUT OF A
When I first started taking photos, I was of the firm
belief that post-processing was not necessary if you
got everything right in camera – I even thought it
I was introduced to editing during my photography
evening courses. The idea of using a complicated
software scared me but I was intrigued by the
creative possibilities, so I took an online course
thinking nothing much would come from it. Some
years on, I am now an Adobe certified expert in
Photoshop. My happy place is sat at my desktop
with a cuppa, listening to music and editing
HOW HAVE YOU BENEFITED FROM BEING
PART OF LESLEY WHYTE’S WOMEN IN
PHOTOGRAPHY, WHY IS BEING PART OF AN
ALL-FEMALE GROUP IMPORTANT TO YOU?
There is an under representation of women in
photography, especially at a professional level.
Lesley is doing her part to encourage women
photographers and it’s important to me to be able
to support that by being a member of her group. It
also offers many opportunities, including attending
talks by female photographers who you would be
unlikely to otherwise meet. For instance, I attended
a recent talk by Marina de Wit who I had previously
read about in a British photography magazine and
had been inspired by her work – I had no idea she
was living in Auckland! I’m so pleased to have had
the chance to connect with her.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ADVANTAGES ARE
OF BEING A FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHER?
I think it’s easier to approach female models and
connect with them plus female models can feel
more at ease during a shoot.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I’m open to collaboration and am always on the
lookout to challenge myself. I am available for
Photoshop tutoring/workshops too.
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU ONLINE?
PROUDLY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:
I don’t get in creative slumps but I do get very
downhearted when my images don’t do well in
competitions. I’m so grateful to the people I have
in my life who help remind me that if what I’m
creating makes me happy, then that’s really all that
Collaboration with makeup
artist Kaith Fainsan and
model Yuri Chetty
F4, 1/200s, ISO100
F9, 1/160s, ISO100
The Routeburn Track
by Brendon Gilchrist
Come on a written journey with me as
I venture onto the Routeburn, one of the
greatest walks in New Zealand covering
32km of tramping track from Glenorchy to The
Divide or vise versa.
This is a walk that many people do during the
official season which runs from from 29th October
to 30th April. Last year a total of 6,606 Kiwi’s and
8,536 international visitors walked the Routeburn
Track. Myself and my Dad can't be included in
those figures though as we're walking it in the off
season, a time when the track is walked by very
DAY 1 – FROM THE DIVIDE TO LAKE
Driving up to The Divide which is where the track
begins, there was a lot of snow banked up at the
side of the road which seemed to get deeper the
further we drove but the road itself was thankfully
Arriving at The Divide around 9.30am we got kitted
up with our boots, hats, and gloves and headed off
into the bush.
The track started slowly, winding uphill towards Key
Summit turn off but this was a detour that we didn’t
take as the clouds were low and the view wouldn’t
have been very good so we continued on the main
Routeburn track, making it to Lake Howden Hut
after about an hour 20 minutes. Considering the
track was covered in snow, we were doing well.
As we carried on there were many streams and
bridges to cross, some with icicles hanging by the
I should have stopped and taken some photos of
these icicles when I saw them but I didn’t and I am
a little gutted because on the return trip they were
At approximately 1,000 metres above sea level,
the snow was deep in patches which was tough
going. We could hear the 174 metre high Earland
Falls before we could see them but when our eyes
did catch up with our ears it was a spectacular
sight with snow and ice hanging on to the sides and
water pouring over the top. Standing at the base
we could see large chunks of snow falling off the
side of the waterfall – I took a few photos but was
wary of hanging around too long incase something
bigger fell down!
I thought that once we reached this point,
roughly half way with no long hard climbs ahead,
just a consistent altitude until we reached Lake
Mackenzie, that the going would get easier.
My thoughts were a little bit wrong! Over this
next section, we made good time crossing a few
avalanche paths (one of which was signposted
400 meters long) but it was not easy and the snow
never stopped, it was as if it snowed more the
further we went in! It was around 4pm now with
a little bit of daylight left and I had a great idea
to go ahead of Dad and light a fire to warm the
hut up, but now there was no dry firewood. I tried
anyway but failed and although we had some
success later, we spent two nights in a hut that was
warmer outside then it was inside, how is that even
Given the amount of snow we had walked through,
there was no way we were going to even attempt
to go up the Harris Saddle as it was bound to be
neck-deep! So our plans for the next day were to
relax and hope the weather would clear for a little
Night fell and we had nothing else to do but sleep
by the fire in hope that it would be slightly warmer
here than in the bunk bedroom.
DAY 2 – IN AND AROUND THE HUT
The next morning we collected what wood we
could find, it wasn’t much, but it had to do – a lot of
the good stuff was buried under the snow.
I went for a walk to the campsite which is 10
minutes from Lake Mackenzie Hut hoping that the
view of the mountain with the frozen lake below
(the shot I came for which is just 2 minutes from
the hut) would be visible but the mountain was still
hidden by clouds.
It would have been such a stunning shot but this is
the way of photography, it’s not always a success
but you go and try anyway as you never know
when you might get a lucky break.
At sunset I headed out with my camera and
tripod again but there were no colours at all, a
very blue evening. I managed to get a few good
compositions of the lake and the mountain but not
that stunner I’d been hoping for.
Our last night in the hut was an interesting one, the
rain poured down and the ice on the roof came
crashing down, waking us up now and then.
DAY 3 – FROM LAKE MACKENZIE VIA LAKE
HOWDEN BACK TO THE DIVIDE
Morning came and we had to pack up and clean
the hut. I was hoping the rain would stop by the
time we were ready to walk out but no, it poured all
I put on my over pants and my rain jacket and I was
ready. I didn’t think about the 12km we had to walk
but just stepped out of the hut and started walking.
The only good thing with the rain was that a lot
of the snow had melted so the track was mostly
We arrived at Lake Howden hut
looking like drowned rats. We stepped
inside for a rest, put on some dry
clothes and warmed up a bit before
walking the last hour back to the car
knowing that the hardest part was
The rain continued to fall on the last
stretch back to the car. We turned
the engine on so as to have the
heater going and got changed inside,
shedding more soaking clothes. It
was a good feeling getting the heavy
pack off my back and into some
normal (dry!) clothes again.
On the drive out, looking forward to a
warm drink and a nice hot meal, we
saw people again, the first in 48 hours.
The further away we drove from The
Divide the less it rained until our arrival
back in Te Anau where it was mostly
F8, 1/25s, ISO1600
Despite the weather this trip was
beautiful in every way – time in the
bush is some of the best time ever
spent and I enjoyed good company,
refreshing views, fresh clean pure
drinking water and came back with a
few hundred photos to go through.
I will be back again soon, the summer
tramping season is almost upon us
and I have some cool plans of places
3 TIPS FOR WINTER
• At night in the huts, keep all your
camera batteries in your sleeping bag
with you so as to keep them warm.
They can lose power even when not
• Chemical heat packs can be great
for Astrophotography when moisture
can become a problem on your lens.
Wrap the heat pack/s around your
lens and it will keep it warm for hours.
• If the weather is not as great as
what you had hoped for, know
that there are always other options.
Telephoto lenses can give you a very
moody mountainscape and a part
of a tree and a mountain top can
look just as dramatic as the entire
Encouraging Our Children To Become
Photographers From a Young Age
by Ana Lyubich
“Children see magic because they look for it.”
How young should you be when you pick up your
first camera and become a photographer?
Although old dogs can most definitely learn new
tricks, the answer is, the younger the better!
In this article, I’m going to talk about involving young
kids in photography. I believe that children need to
start taking photos as early as possible, as soon as they
are able to hold a phone or a small camera without
dropping it repeatedly. Here’s why…
DEVELOPING THE ART OF SEEING
One of the most important parts of a child’s
development is their imagination. Reading and
playing helps them to develop their creative
thinking and broadens their horizons immensely
but photography goes further, teaching “the art of
seeing” which can often be overlooked.
It is not so much about developing creativity, it is about
‘seeing beyond seeing’. Everything around us can be
seen from a different angle if we try hard enough but
believe me, the angle that children see the world at is
completely different from how we see it as adults.
Since kids are much closer to the ground (both in
height but also because they tend to spend more
time on the ground playing), they see a lot of things
that we, as adults, just don’t tend to notice.
It’s vitally important to support this ‘special sight’ in
children, motivating them to find and capture the
moments or things that are important to them. If ignored
or dismissed, the natural way of paying attention to
different things will very soon disappear in the big
grownup world of noise, busyness, and daily routines.
Supporting the ability to see things that other people
don’t notice will go a long way in helping your kids
grow up to be confident and creative individuals in
the future. From stopping to appreciate the bright
Taken on a Samsung Galaxy A10
by a 12 year old photographer
blue sky to noticing the contrasts, colours, shapes, patterns, interesting views, places, and tiny details –
all of these seemingly small things are actually a huge
IMPROVING FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION
Giving a camera to your kids is not only great for
improving their concentration and focus but also
boosts their mental well being. It is no secret that
photography is associated with meditation and
mindfulness as are many other art forms.
Taken on a Canon Powershot
by a 9 year old photographer.
As an adult, you yourself know that photography
motivates you to go outside and explore the real
world beyond tablets and computers. While taking a
photograph, be it on your phone or with a DSLR, you
might find yourself in a state of meditation even if it
wasn’t intentional and lasted a few minutes. Being
able to focus and concentrate on something with
the end goal in mind of achieving (or capturing)
something interesting, meaningful, and beautiful
can help our kids perform better throughout school,
college, university, and throughout their adult life.
Aside from focus and concentration, photography
non-intrusively allows children to learn a lot about
other disciplines. Photographing flowers? They will
inevitably learn about the different plants, their
blooming and growing behavior and the insects and
wildlife that surround those flowers. Photographing
animals and pets? They will soon become a pro in
knowing how they behave and how to take the best
Last but not least, photography help kids express
themselves in ways they can’t do otherwise. Notice
how the camera becomes the window into their
minds and souls and consequently helps you connect
more closely with them throughout their life.
If I were involved in developing the modules for
schools and educational institutions I would make
photography mandatory from the very first year
because no matter what language your kids speak,
how many friends they have, whether they’re part
of a large or small family, or if they have any health
or developmental issues, capturing objects and
moments around them will help showcase their inner
world. It can connect them with others, kick start
a passion for creative writing (if they are asked to
write a short paragraph to go with their photo) and
most importantly it helps them share their journey so
they know they are not alone; being seen, heard,
understood, and appreciated.
HOW TO INTRODUCE PHOTOGRAPHY TO
Make it Enjoyable and Exciting
First of all, your child must find photography to be an
enjoyable and exciting exercise – Don’t push them
into taking photos! The best way to start is to let them
use your camera or your phone (with one swipe most
smartphones now allow the use of the camera without
unlocking the phone itself) and just see what they do.
It doesn’t matter what they photograph, what matters
at the very first stage is the process itself. At the very
early stage they will probably start with self-exploration
and will take photos of themselves, hands, feet, smiles,
cheeky eyes, then they will switch to taking photos
of family members and friends. From there they are
likely to progress to capturing their bedroom, toys, and
other surroundings. From the inner world to the outer
world this process is very important, there’s no need to
Once your child’s interest in photography has gone
beyond the initial capturing process, give them some
easy but exciting challenges in the way of a game
e. g. “Let’s find 10 red/orange/blue etc things in the
back yard and photograph them!” Grab your phone
or camera and join in the game yourself!
When they show you what they have captured,
you will gradually get an idea of what it is they like
to photograph – small details? the bigger picture?
flowers? nature? pets? people? This is the point where
you can start helping them develop their own style.
When they are not in the mood to pick up a camera
on their own, ask them to take a photo of something
to help you out. Find an excuse and say “Sweetie,
I can’t come and look right now as I’m very busy, can
you please take a photo of it and show me? We can
also show it to Daddy/Nana etc when he/she comes
home too as they’d like to see it I’m sure.”
Of course, all efforts must also be rewarded and all
achievements made to feel important to help them
keep their motivation and excitement alive – Don’t
allow disappointments to get in the way.
Depending on how excited your kid is about running
around with a camera, find some of their best shots
and print them even if it is a batch of small 5’x7’
photos (many online services offer these for free if you
are subscribed to their mailing list). You can then hang
these photos on the fridge just as you do with their
precious masterpieces created in art class.
A few things to keep in mind…
Having your kids running around with a camera (and
we don’t necessarily mean literally running!) doesn’t
mean the only career path they can look forward to
is becoming a professional photographer. Not at all.
However, photography allows them to keep an open
mind and sooner rather than later they (and you too)
will realise that what they see is so much more than
what other people around them see! So don’t be
afraid that your plan of seeing your child become
a lawyer, doctor, or accountant in the future will be
ruined if you introduce them to photography – it will
only make them more creative in their career.
You don’t need to start your kids off with a big or
expensive camera, a small point and shoot can cost
about $100-$150 nowadays and is a great starting
point. However, if a point and shoot is “not enough”
and stopping your kids from taking full creative control
in capturing the world as they see it, don’t put off
getting them a second hand DSLR just because you
think that DSLR’s aren’t play things meant for children –
You might be in the process of nurturing the next Ansel
Shooting Sharp Landscapes
The importance of proper shooting techniques to capture sharp landscapes images.
by Richard Young
F11, 1/20s, ISO 100
SUMMIT OF MT NGAURUHOE
SUNSET OVER MT NGAURUHOE
F8, 1/30s, ISO 100
F11, 1/6s, ISO 64
How important is sharpness? Well, that
depends on the end-use of your image.
If you are only ever going to display your
image at a maximum size of 1200 pixels on
Instagram, Facebook or a website, I would say not
very. If however, you intend to make large scale
prints of an image, sharpness can make or break
the end quality of that print.
As a landscape photographer that often
produces prints as large as 1.2 meters wide,
sharpness in my original files is paramount for
me. I would not consider myself a “pixel peeper”
though and I am not interested in spending all my
time testing the latest sharpness lens at a different
setting (there are websites to use for that!).
Where having the right equipment for the job and
some knowledge of its limitations are important,
I feel that equipment is not the main reason
that people don’t get sharp shots. The one thing
I consistently see when teaching on workshops is
bad shooting techniques, and I would say this is
the biggest reason for ending up with soft images.
Let’s consider some of the things that can lead to
a soft image and how to minimise these.
EQUIPMENT QUALITY & KNOWLEDGE
I see people blaming the quality of their shots on
the quality of their equipment all the time. Though
gear can make a difference, I feel that this is not
the main reason people don’t get sharp images.
If used correctly any camera setup can capture a
reasonably sharp image.
Camera – I think we have all been sold on the
“megapixel dream” by camera (& phone)
manufacturers. My current phone even has a 40MP
sensor in it! In reality, this whole megapixel race has
become a joke, as the files from my 40MP phone
would never withstand the enlargement needed to
print to the size that I do from my “real” camera due
to other factors like the quality of these pixels and the
optics in front of them.
For my landscape photography, I shoot with a
Nikon D850. One of the reasons I use this camera
is its resolution of 45MP which helps me to make
large scale prints of my images. However, most
photographers do not print to this scale, if they even
print their work at all, so do not require this sort of
file size. Anything over 14MP produces an image of
about the quality of traditional 35mm film. So for most
photographers, if left uncropped this would be more
than enough for everything they would ever use it for,
including A3+ prints. The number of megapixels your
camera has, only impacts sharpness if you intend to
make huge prints of your photographs.
Lens – I think lens quality is a more important factor
to consider when it comes to image sharpness. A
camera body only records light; it is the lens that
controls the quality (sharpness) of this light and
focuses it onto the sensor. There is no point owning
a camera with a 45MP sensor and using a cheap
lens that is only capable of 12MP sharpness, and
some low-quality lenses would not even be capable
of rendering this sharpness. Even the very best fullframe
lenses available today are still not capable of
resolving 45MP in terms of sharpness, but some do a
much better job than others.
The DXOMARK website is an excellent resource for
lens tests and saves the work of testing them yourself.
Coming back to my earlier point about the 40MP
phone and why this is a bit of a joke, I doubt the tiny
optics on its lens would be able to resolve much of this
Sharpest Aperture / Diffraction – All lenses have a
sweet spot, and you need to test your lens or use a
website like DXOMARK to find out this information.
This will differ from lens to lens. As a go to for most
full-frame camera lenses, your sharpest aperture
will be around f8, with f11 only having very minimal
diffraction. With each aperture narrower than this
(e. g. f16, f22) you will lose noticeable sharpness in your
image due to diffraction.
CORRECT FOCUSING TECHNIQUES
Focusing in the right place and obtaining enough
depth of field to get both your foreground and
background in sharp focus is critical for most
landscape images. A slightly out of focus image
on your camera will be extremely noticeable when
viewed at 1:1 zoom later on your computer and even
more in a large scale print.
AF Point – People tend to rely on their camera’s Auto
AF point selection mode. While using AF is not a
problem we need to take control of the AF system
and where it focuses; by using the Auto AF point
selection, the camera would focus on the closest
subject it can find, and this would likely leave the
background out of focus. By manually selecting our
AF point, we can still utilise the AF system but decide
where we wish the camera to focus within the image
to obtain the best depth of field.
EVENING LIGHT ON MT RUAPEHU
F11, 30s, ISO 64
Hyperfocal Distance – If we were to focus on the
closest subject in the landscape (e. g. the rock at our
feet), then the background (e. g. the distant mountain
peaks) would be out of focus. Likewise, if we were to
focus on the distant mountain peaks, the rocks in the
foreground would be out of focus. Therefore we need
to focus on a midpoint within the landscape to obtain
focus throughout; this point is called the hyperfocal
distance. Hyperfocal distance is a complicated
subject, as it depends on many factors. A good rule
of thumb is to focus at a third of the way through the
Depth of Field – Depth of field extends in both
directions from our focus point, but not in equal
amounts. It is also dependent on lots of factors such
as our choice of lens focal length and distance to our
closest subject, but we also need to select the correct
aperture to obtain enough depth of field. When
shooting landscape photographs, this will generally
lead us to use a narrow aperture (e. g. from f11 to f22)
to get everything in sharp focus, but we also need
to be mindful of diffraction when using these narrow
Tripod – When shooting landscapes, you often end
up using longer shutter speeds, which require the use
of a tripod. Tripods also have the added benefit of
allowing us to slow down to master the composition,
along with your focus and depth of field. A sturdy
tripod is a must for landscape photography, all too
often I see people with a lightweight flimsy tripod
which cannot hold the weight of the camera on a fine
day, let alone when shooting outside in the elements
like a strong wind!
Cable Release – There is little point using a tripod then
wobbling the camera by pressing the shutter button,
which happens on even the sturdiest of tripods. So
make sure you use a cable release to allow you to
take your hands away from the camera, preventing
you from shaking it when you press the shutter button.
Mirror Lock-Up – On high-end full-frame DSLRs the
vibrations caused by the mirror slap can be enough
to cause a slight blur to your image. To prevent
this, shoot with the “mirror up” feature. Likewise, the
movement of the mechanical shutter curtain on DSLR
and Mirrorless cameras can also cause vibration.
Some cameras now feature an “electronic first curtain
shutter” to also eliminate this.
Vibration Reduction – A lot of lenses or camera bodies
feature a “Vibration Reduction” system (also called
Image Stabilisation, Optical Stabilizer, Vibration
Compensation), which is designed to reduce vibration
for handheld shooting. Vibration Reduction should
be turned off when on a tripod as it leads to softer
images due to the movement of the lens elements or
the camera sensor.
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Photo© Darran Leal www.worldphotoadventures.com.au
RICHARD YOUNG IS A FULL-TIME LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER BASED IN WELLINGTON AND
TEACHES ON WORKSHOPS THROUGHOUT NEW ZEALAND WITH NEW ZEALAND PHOTOGRAPHY
How To Critique Your Own Photos
by Samuel Ogunlaja
I’m a Conceptual Portrait and Commercial
Photographer with a passion for art and
everything beautiful. I started photography
in 2011 and experimented in various genres of
photography before finding my niche.
Alongside some other reviewers, you’ll have
seen my name on the Expert Critique columns
here in the magazine as well as on the Excio
blog photo critiques – Perhaps I’ve critiqued
one of your photos?
I want to take the time to give you some
guidance and remind you of the importance of
being able to critique your own photos. All of
the tips below are based on my own personal
experience and are what I use when critiquing
my own work, as well as photos from the Excio
and NZP community, I hope you will find it
THE FIRST PERSON TO CRITIQUE YOUR
WORK AS A PHOTOGRAPHER SHOULD BE
Always remember this. It is vitally important
that you have reviewed and know the exact
narrative of your work before allowing another
person to step in and offer their thoughts
because when you allow another artist to
critique your work first, you run the risk of
To properly critique your own work, you must
first cultivate the right attitude.
Remove every trace of emotion you have
about your photograph. Remember that the
people who will be seeing your work will not see
the stress, effort, time, and trouble it cost you to
create the photo and will not be judging you
from an emotional standpoint. Thus, you have
to be firm and unforgiving about this process
to ensure your judgment is based on deductive
points and not on emotions.
You must stick to the exact reason of why you
took the photo in the first place. It is highly
possible that despite the effort you put into
the process of taking the photo, the end result
is not how you envisioned it. You have to be
able to admit to yourself when the result didn’t
work out quite right or fit your objective so that
you can try to plan better for the next time;
highlight errors and learn from them. Don’t try
to console yourself by saying you have a great
photo, ‘a second best’ or a ‘happy accident’ if
it does not fit your original objective.
DELETE THE PHOTOS THAT DIDN’T WORK
Delete the photos that didn’t turn out great no
matter how much time and effort you invested
in getting them. Keeping poor quality shots is
a phase you must outgrow. It is probable that
while trying to get that perfect photo, you took
several photos in the process; this leaves you to
choose the best from a large number of similar
photos. You have to be bold enough to delete
all the photos that didn’t work out. The reason
is so that you don’t become bias and lose
the objective by considering too many similar
Now that you have cultivated the right attitude,
let us dive into the things to look out for when
doing a personal photo critique.
THE REASON FOR THE PHOTO
You can also call this “The Why of the Photo”.
Ask yourself Why did I take this photo? Am I
expressing the things conceived before
creating the photo? Is there any major element
driving the message?
I realize there are some photographers who
capture random moments and tend not to see
themselves as story teller but in opposition to
that, I say “every photographer is a narrator”.
There is always something that interests
the photographer in a scene that spurs the
shutter release; a memory you want to keep
or a fascinating story you want others to
see. The message of the photo determines
every other thing you see in and about the
photo and answers the questions of What is
the best angle? What artistic element should
be prominent in the photo? How much post
production work should be done? and more.
The message, the ‘why’ should be the driving
force for decision making in the whole process
of capturing and showcasing an image and
should take most of the photographer’s
This term encompasses everything that has to
do with the technicality of creating an image
and includes exposure (lightning), composition,
visual weight, depth of field, distance (focal
length), the angle, stability, and so on. Let’s talk
about a few of these things in more detail…
This has to be in accordance with the message of the
photo; it should compliment your imagination and
intention for the shoot. Ask yourself Did I adopt the best
exposure or lighting for this photo? Does the lighting or
exposure compliment the context of this photo?
For example, in the image below, the idea of the photo
shoot was to lay emphasis on the model’s skin and
body structure so I needed to use a moderately harsh
light to create specular highlights on the model’s dark
apportioning enough space to the main elements in
the picture, it is about allowing the viewer to capture
the most important element in the picture at a glance.
This can be done through the use of colour, (using a
particular colour for that element to ensure it catches
attention), focusing, lightning etc. It can also be
achieved by intensifying the artistic element that drives
the message for example, the texture.
An example of visual weight misappropriation is an
image that has the subject in front while putting the
complementary element at the back but adjusting
the focus so that that the element in the background
is sharper than the main subject. The element that
catches the most attention in the picture has the most
visual weight so make sure you know where the visual
weight is, and should be, if there’s a difference.
This has to do with how the elements in the photo are
arranged in order of importance or in sequence. There
could be as many as 5 elements or more. Ask yourself
the questions; Did I properly arrange the elements?
Did I make the most important element conspicuous?
For example, in a photo that has elements that look
similar on both sides, using a symmetry composition
(so that when split into two halves the elements on
both sides are similar) can be very accurate like in the
Another thing that falls under technical judgment is the
visual weight of the photo which is often overlooked
and underrated. Visual weight is about more than
SHARPNESS AND DEPTH OF FIELD
It is important to review if you have used the right depth
of field for the image. For instance, in a landscape
photo where there are mountains and several other
natural elements, if the photo is taken so that just a few
elements are sharp versus having every element sharp
by using a wide depth of field, it would defeat the
purpose of that particular photo. On the other hand,
newborn photography essentially requires shallow
depth of field to be used so as to express the tender
nature of the subject.
What element of art is used to drive the message
in the picture? There are basically 7 elements: line,
shape, form, colour, space, texture and value. To stick
to the objective of this article, I will not go too deep
discussing these elements since art is so subjective but
we can discuss a little.
Each of the elements is unique in its own way and is
used to drive different kinds of messages. The more
of these elements you are able to incorporate, the
better your photo will be. However, not every good
picture has all of these elements in it, sometimes you
just need one dominant element.
The use of lines (leading lines) is important when you
take a picture with your subject in the far distance. An
example of using lines is a trail or road leading towards
your subject. You could take the picture from where you
are standing tracing the line until its end point to help
the viewer follow the line towards the main subject whilst
helping them see everything around that same subject.
Shapes work well with a two-dimensional and/or
enclosed area. If the picture you are taking is more shape
oriented you might want to incorporate a number of
shapes into the picture to portray the message well. Or
you may even introduce shapes into the picture just to
make your work more artistic. For example, in the picture
on the previous page, the model was asked to pose
in a certain way that expresses various shapes just to
incorporate that element in the work.
This has to do with the shape of a particular object
along its volume or perceived volume. It’s about
creating an image from a perspective where you can
give the viewer a sense of size. For instance, a picture
of a building taken from the front allows people to
see the rectangular shape but it can also be taken
from a 45% side angle to give a 3D overview with the
viewer able to see the front and side to get a sense of
volume to show it isn’t just a flat building.
Another popular element is the use of striking colours
to drive home your message. However, in instances
where the scene is overflowing with many colours,
such as at a carnival, you have to concentrate on
a particular colour scheme to get the right result.
For example, at a carnival, you can effectively use
complementary colours from a scheme to single out
This deals with how you are able to incorporate
space so that the elements are not choked up. More
often than not, a picture may not incorporate this
element as it depends on the subject and the scene
being shot. For instance, thinking of a carnival, space
might not be that evident owing to the nature of
the activities. However, the more you are able to
incorporate space, the better your picture looks,
especially when you need to single out a particular
activity in the midst of all that is going on.
This helps in creating a perception of how something
feels or looks. For instance, a picture of a table with a
rough surface and one with a smooth surface will give
you different feelings. One might give the sense of
luxury and the other of durability.
This is the degree of lightness or darkness in a
particular image. It deals with the relationship
between highlights and shadows. Value helps to
express a form or create an illusion of it in a picture.
For example, if you take a photo of a white ball
against a white background; if the picture is overly
exposed, we may not be able to differentiate the ball
and the background but if the photo is moderately
exposed, there will be some level of shadow
(darkness) in the picture which will help to differentiate
between the ball and the background.
After considering all the points above so that you are
able to interpret your photo well yourself, you need to
consider if the layman (the person viewing your work)
will be able to recognise and see the same things.
This determines how much post production work is
Consider how much post production work the
photo needs. Ask yourself if the exposure should
be increased or reduced? Are there distractions to
remove? Does it need to cropping?
It is important to note that post production is usually
one of the last things to consider and saying “I will
fix things in Photoshop” is the statement of a poor
photographer. Know that you are a photographer
before you are an editor and post production is used
to enhance a photo, not recreate it.
After you have considered all of these points
individually you can put your picture out into the
world for others to critique and give feedback on.
Remember that no one can narrate your work as best
as you can and you need to gain the confidence
and ability to defend your work regardless of people’s
opinion. Their feedback should only strive to make you
a better photographer because at the end of it the
day, everything is art.
THE GALLERY IS PROUDLY SUPPORTED BY
BEST READERS' SUBMISSIONS THIS MONTH
F6.3, 1/500s, ISO320
The devotion of Indian Sadhus at
Kamkya Temple in Gwahati.
F22, 1/60s, ISO64, 29mm
I went exploring from the Wairarapa, visiting Castlepoint and
Riversdale Beach for the first time. The walk up to the lighthouse was
comfortable and easy and the view from the top was worth it.
F8, 1/250s, ISO64
A nice long weekend in the Wairarapa provided
the opportunity to visit some new places and I got this
Castlepoint pano landscape - a few photos stitched together.
F8, 1/3s, ISO100
I had an idea for a photo that showed these toys in action, but I had to figure out how to
capture it. After trying many different ways which weren't successful, I tried taking two
photos, one sharp and one panning the camera while the photo was being taken. I then
merged parts of both of these photos to create the image that I was imagining. This was
definitely the result of experimenting and learning!
CAMELS AT CABLE BAY
F8, 1/200s, ISO400, 32mm
We had been 4 wheel driving in the outback around the Broome area. On our return back
to Broome we drove down on to the beach to watch the sunset over the sea along with
100's of other vehicles and two trains of camels. I had to run alongside and catch up in
order to capture the sun behind the train with the long shadows.
F13, 1/6s, ISO800
Papamoa in the Bay of Plenty is my local beach.
Forever changing, it's always a lucky dip as to what
one will find. This shot was a learning in how far I could
push the ISO instead of the go to graduated filter.
SYDNEY VIVID LIGHT FESTIVAL
F5, 0.6s, ISO1250
The Vivid Light Festival in Sydney was way out of my comfort
zone due to shooting at night. This was a learning on ISO settings
and how far I could push my Nikon D750.
A mid-winter journey to Whiritoa on the Coromandel. The thoughts
behind the composition were to capture the feeling of desolation
and tranquillity which were with me just prior to the sunrise.
FOREST OF TREES
I had seen a few double exposure images but I had not tried this technique myself, until
now. My previous camera didn't have a double exposure setting but my current one
does, so I played around for a day or two and here is the result!
September 2019 77
MAGIC AT THE LAKE
I took my crystal ball to the lake to see if I
could create a double exposure with it. I
could, this is one of my favourites!
September 2019 79
This is one of my first double exposures of
a silver birch tree against a corrugated
fence. I like the abstract form and colours.
September 2019 81
THE TOPAZ RING
F25, 1/500s, ISO51200
I was experimenting for my digital photography course
for the subject of product photography, and chose this
piece of jewellery as my subject. I placed it in a black
box on top of a mirror board and lit it with a small study
lamp. In Photoshop, I upped the contrast and the black
in the image and was left with this.
THE DOGS SILHOUETTE
F14, 1/1600s, ISO200, 30mm
I was out on Auckland's Karekare Beach with my little Maltese dog,
Pebbles taking photos of the beach. Late on in the shoot, I was lying
on the sand to get the sunset when Pebbles kept getting in my shot so
I took some images of her back-lit by the sunset. I didn't realise what I
had captured until I was downloading the images when I got home.
September 2019 85
DAWN OVER THE BAY
F8, 6s, ISO 200
ORIENTAL BAY, WELLINGTON
I've been trying to build my skill of long exposure photography since a workshop I did last year.
On this occasion I wanted to try and combine the sunrise with the city lights, the light trails from
the cars were a bonus! There were showers as I was setting up my tripod and I had to shield the
camera to protect it from the strong wind, but the fast moving clouds and choppy seas were
perfect for a long exposure shot and I was rewarded for the early start.
F16, 25s, ISO100
ISLAND BAY, WELLINGTON
I've been trying to build my skills with long exposures. A strong southerly
wind had got up while I was out for a walk with my camera but it created
good movement in the clouds and sea for me to practice. I set up the
tripod and took some shots with my ND filter on, the wind whipping the
sand up around me. This was the last shot I got before I had to abandon
the beach due to the rain setting in.
F8, 1/200s, ISO400, 32mm
A stall at St Georges Market in Belfast. The
choice was huge, the colors and designs
oustanding, and I can't resist a photo.
F5.6, 1/6s, ISO3200, 55mm
I generally focus on landscape photos
but I've been wanting to develop
my skills with urban/architecture
photography too. I was out for sunrise
on a cold winter morning and as I was
walking to location I noticed this building
and the one light that was different - It
seemed a good opportunity to try some
different shots out.
F11, 1/125s, ISO200
After spending several weeks closely watching weather websites, I finally saw my chance
to capture a sunset at Lake Benmore. I haven't seen so many photos of this lake and despite
only living an hour away I had never tried to photograph it myself. I arrived a couple of hours
before sunset to figure out a composition from the lookout point, I was set up for a wide angle
shot overlooking the lake but as the sun started to set I noticed a more intimate shot further in
F8, 1/800s, ISO125
A view from my belay stance 30 metres away from the top of Mount
Brewster (2,515m) in Mt Aspiring National Park. My climbing buddy Piotr,
now safe on top, savoured his achievement before building an anchor
to belay me up to join him. With this perspective I wanted to convey the
feeling of being up high. The image is actually 3 stitched. Being very
limited to my seated spot I used 3 portrait shots to catch myself as well
as the scene ahead. My camera was a Lumix TZ220 - very compact -
far better for mountaineering than a DSLR if you want to actually take
any pictures in exposed situations like this.
F8, 1/40s, ISO100
Dawn view south east to Mt Taranaki, across the icy wind churned surface of the Pouakai Track tarn, New
Zealand. This tarn is normally shot when the weather is very calm and the mountain is a mirror image
reflected in it. But the tarn itself has something to offer as well I think. These days it has become difficult to
enjoy the seclusion I did on this morning. International tourism has well and truly found this place, changing it
from what those visiting are looking for. This image is a stitch of 3 landscape shots, taken on my Nikon D750,
Camera Raw, spot meter, manual settings.
SHADOWS AND LIGHT
F8, 1/160s, ISO125
A dawn view of the top 600 metres of Mt Taranaki, taken from the southern rim of Fantham's
Peak. Syme Hut sits to the left of the summit cone, which has projected a shadow out to the
far left. Mounts Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are silhouetted on the right skyline. It
was my fifth trip up this route and the best light so far. This image is a stitch of 8 portrait shots
taken on my Lumix TZ 220, shot in Camera Raw, spot meter, manual settings.
F7, 1/30s, ISO450
BUFFALO BEACH, WHITIANGA
The clouds out East often look quite moody as the sun sets in
the West so I experimented with zooming in on the 'moodier'
clouds. The resulting image accentuated the mood of the
clouds with the last of the days sun shining on the houses
on the ridge top adding another dimension.
F7, 3.1s, ISO200
Experimenting with high key and over exposure, I
photographed this inside on white paper with window light
using a macro lens with 2.33/100 exposure bias. I further
increased the exposure in Lightroom using +1.10 with
blacks increased to 100 and subtle texture added.
“KNOW THE RULES
WELL, SO YOU
CAN BREAK THEM
DALAI LAMA XIV