Thoughts Over Morning Coffee

Thoughts Over Morning Coffee

By Richard Young


"Photography doesn't start with the landscape or the camera; it starts with us."

As a creative photographer, I think more about why I photograph and what I'm trying to express than I do making or editing photographs. Each morning, I wake up early and make a coffee - fresh espresso, of course - like many things; coffee is worth taking time in its preparation, enjoying the art of creation. I'll sit on the couch for about an hour reading photography books and magazine articles (plus watching the odd YouTube video) from photographers I admire.

Often I will just read, but sometimes I will have a creative thought process, and I have to write down a few notes; this is how most of my articles for the magazine start, a thought over morning coffee. These thoughts are often continuations on topics explored in the two ebooks I wrote with Ken Wright in 2020 on Style & Vision and Expressive Photography.


Over the last year, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about why I make photographs, what I'm trying to express, and what stands my work apart from others who work in the same landscapes. I'm not referring to how I can create better images than them. In fact, I'm less and less worried about external validation of my work. It's more about trying to understand why I am creating images to start with. What are my photographs telling me about myself? What is the relationship with the subject that I'm trying to express? 

For me, the camera unlocks more about me than the object I am photographing. And really, this is why I photograph these days. I photograph more to understand myself and express my relationship with the landscape rather than capture images representing landscapes I visit. A great photograph is like a great coffee, not simply the end product but about a process of creation. Of course, there's a technical side, a skill, but the use of this must be guided by intent. We can't simply use a set process to make the best photograph. What are we even aiming for, and how do you define the "best" photograph?

As we grow, our tastes will change, our expectations will increase, and we may be less content with what was once considered good enough. So I encourage you, not just to go out and photograph, not just to spend your time editing images; spend your time thinking about your work, thinking about what you're trying to express. And when you are out photographing, enjoy the process of creation, not just the final product.

Read the full article by Richard Young in issue 54 of NZPhotographer magazine.

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Behind The Shot 53

Behind The Shot

'The Good Side'

Nikon D500, 70-200mm lens @ F2.8, 1/2500s, ISO360, 200mm

with Jamie Fraser


I am grateful to be based down in Dunedin – NZ’s wildlife capital! With its stunning scenic locations and wildlife in every corner, it’s no surprise that it is here I discovered my passion for wildlife photography.

My interest in photography initially started during weekend jaunts with my wife to the English countryside while we lived in London. I used my smartphone to capture our adventures and shared them on social media for family and friends. I then received the best birthday present ever about three years ago, my first DSLR camera (Nikon D3500). How lucky was I?! My interest in photography kind of exploded from then on.

Although I tried many photography genres at the beginning of my journey, wildlife photography just blew my mind. I knew nothing about wildlife beforehand (dare I admit, I would confuse a fantail with a tui…), and ever since I discovered the wonderment of our natural world, I’ve been all in. Nature has introduced me to species and locations in Dunedin that I never knew existed. It’s never a dull day out there!


I like to keep things pretty simple and I usually travel light when I go out for a look. I always take the same kit - a Nikon D500 with a Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 lens. Although I do have a tripod and other lenses and equipment etc., I generally only shoot wildlife and always hand-held. I prefer to seek out a subject rather than sit and wait for one with my tripod. I also have a longer Tamron 150-600mm G2 which is great for the extra reach; however, I feel it lacks a bit of sharpness at the longer end, and don’t often use it these days.


The photo was taken at Cedar Farm Forest a few weeks ago – just up the road from where I live in Port Chalmers. It is so quiet and peaceful up there in the forest. I really do enjoy it and of course, there is a variety of birdlife to photograph. On this particular occasion, I noticed a wee silvereye up ahead on the track and it appeared to be walking along the ground from one clover flower to another. This is not behaviour I have witnessed before from these guys (never a dull day!). As I got nearer, the bird seemed oblivious to my presence and carried on. I noticed that one of its wings was splayed out – I assume it had been damaged or even broken which would explain why it was meddling on the ground. As I inched my way closer I saw that its right eye was all puffed up – it reminded me of a cauliflower ear! It had evidently been in the wars at some point, although it didn’t appear distressed and eventually flew up into the trees (which put my mind at ease). I carried on up the track and as I returned back to head home, I noticed it was again nonchalantly tickling the nectar of the ground dwelling flora. The midday sun was casting a shadow across its face as it poked itself up to the meaty parts. I got myself down low and managed to grab this snap. I felt that for the dignity of the wee fella, I had to show its ‘good’ side. There was certainly another ‘side’ to its story. I prefer to seek out a subject rather than sit and wait for one with my tripod. I also have a longer Tamron 150-600mm G2 which is great for the extra reach; however, I feel it lacks a bit of sharpness at the longer end, and don’t often use it these days.


I had my then 7 month old daughter in my backpack (child carrier not camera backpack!). She was passed out asleep, with her head, arm, and a wee bit of drool spilling out to one side. I consider her my wildlife spotter; although, within 20 minutes of walking she usually falls asleep on me. I’m still to establish if it is the monotonous gentle rocking of my tentative steps that puts her to sleep or just my Dad mutterings…


My style involves relatively heavy-handed exposure adjustments to the subject and background during post processing. I developed this over time as I found it quite handy to remove any distractions, while being able to impress the subject on the viewer with the exaggerated contrast between the background and subject. My workflow involves masking the subject, allowing me more control of the exposure.

I make my global editing adjustments and ‘dodge and burns’ to the image, and from then a lot of my edits are trial and error. I don’t use any presets or anything – I feel every shot has to be edited on its own merits. Depending on the intricacies of the image elements, I can spend anywhere from an hour to several hours editing.


I would have preferred to capture the shot while lying down and shooting up towards the silvereye rather than down. Unfortunately with my daughter on my back, hanging out all manner of sides, it just wasn’t possible. I had to do with a crouch followed by a half
hour attempt to stand back up again.


  • Experiment with different approaches to composition. For example, try breaking some of the fundamental rules, and be aggressive and committed to your approach.
  • Try not to be overly influenced by other photographers, but certainly allow them to ignite some ideas of your own which will assist in developing your own style.


  • Don’t be afraid to shoot subjects on overcast or (better still) rainy days for even and soft lighting, some drama, and to avoid harsh shadows on your subject.
  • Get out there as much as possible. Every venture out is an opportunity to capture that special shot. Don’t be afraid to visit the same spot more than once. You never know what you’ll find on another day.
  • Keep your shutter speed above 1000 and your ISO as low as possible. Shooting with an F8 aperture is ideal for wildlife photography. If it compromises your ISO too much, open it up. It is better to have a wide aperture than to have a crazy high ISO.


I am currently undertaking my third and final year of a New Zealand Diploma in Photography. All going well, I should finish October this year!


Get Your Grunge On

Get Your Grunge On

 Fairlie Atkinson

Have you wondered how some photos manage to give off a grungy vibe? Or have you looked at a photo and asked yourself how they have managed to create texture in a shot that would not ordinarily have it? The answer is by using editing software.

Grunges are different to filters as they are an overlay that you pop onto your photo during editing. A filter is what you use when you’re shooting. If you’re of the Instagram era this may confuse you, as you add the filter after you take the shot. What this is doing though is creating a photo that looks like it has been shot with that filter already in place on a camera.

A grunge is an overlay to provide a textured look to your images.


It’s quite easy to find copyright free grunges online. If you go to WikiMedia Commons and type ‘texture’ in the search bar you will find a plethora of textured free images of wood, grains, and grunges that are free to use. You can also find free grunges on Pixabay and other commercial sites but you have to sign up and then the emails don’t stop!

I downloaded a brown distressed concrete grunge from WikiMedia Commons and popped it onto an image I took of a gannet at Cape Kidnappers. The grunge enhances the yellows and browns in the original image and gives it a nice texture, not only does it look good on the screen, it will print really nicely on a canvas for a unique piece of home décor.

Here you can see I have popped the grunge as a new layer over the gannet. I will enlarge it until the entire bird is covered by the grunge, then choose a blend mode, change the opacity and then erase parts of the grunge that cover the bird that I don’t want. We will look at this process in more detail in the next part of this article.

Read the full article by Fairlie Atkinson in issue 53 of NZPhotographer magazine.

For access to all articles in our back issues, become a subscriber,
alternatively, you can order a printed copy.

Photographing One of the World’s Last Remaining Homogeneous Tribes

Photographing One of the World’s Last Remaining Homogeneous Tribes

By Susan Blick

I was recently in the very North-Western tip of India, about 7 hours north of Srinagar on the Kashmir Line of Control in Ladakh, India. Ladakh sits right in the middle of the World’s highest mountain range, the Himalayas. It’s completely inaccessible overland for eight months of the year, totally cut off from the world bar infrequent flights.

This isolation has allowed the preservation of people known as Dropkas in Ladakhi which means nomad or Turk, not from the modern day Turkey, but a Kingdom of Turkic or Dardic people who once ruled the Karakoram in the time of the Greeks.

The Dropkas (Aryans as we know them in English) are ethnically, socially, linguistically and culturally completely different from all of the other inhabitants surrounding them. They are the decedents of the men from Alexander the Great’s army who could travel no more and were tired, sick or injured. These decedents live mainly in three small villages in the only fertile valley in all of Ladakh. They originally migrated from the Gilgit area of Pakistan, wandering Westward looking for better hunting grounds and pastures and eventually stumbled upon and settled in this valley squashed between the Indian and Pakistani Line of Control.

I had read a lot about the Aryans before traveling to the region and I was keen to
document one of the World’s last remaining homogeneous tribes.

Just getting there is a story in itself, but photographing them wasn’t as straightforward as one might expect either. First of all, the people are hard to find. Their village lies on a steep cliff face and at an altitude of around 3,500m, it makes it very hard to sniff them out. Secondly, they seem to slip in and out of their houses without being seen, camouflaged-well in their traditional dress and blending with the forest surrounds and giant granite boulders that nestle their village. The lane ways are devoid of people and in the night they tell me Himalayan wolves and shanko (high-altitude feral dogs) as big as lions roam the mountains in search of wildlife and domestic animals.

Add to this, the fact that in the past, Dropkas believed that cameras could steal your soul, so most people still aren’t all that keen on being photographed! Nevertheless, I needed these photos as I had come so far.

Click here to read the full article

The Best Weather For Landscape Photography

The Best Weather For Landscape Photography

By Richard Young

There is a common misconception among non-photographers that the best photography weather is a bright, sunny day. The reality is quite the opposite; a sunny day for landscape photography is often the worst weather you can have!

Good photography comes from a mix of weather - interesting weather, along with its light, will add more drama to a landscape. A bright, sunny day means boring, empty blue sky and a flat image with deep shadows.

Click here to read the full article