Faces in Tasmania

On September 11, 2012 by Simon Fleming

Earlier this year I had the great pleasure, and honour, of accompanying Joe McNally & his assistant Drew Gurian (along with four other Aussies) on a whirlwind four day photographic trip through parts of Tasmania. You can read more about the whys and wherefores of that trip here.

Whilst in Tasmania, and trying to learn as much as possible from Joe, I got to take a lot of pictures myself. Some where my ideas and/or candid coverage of what Joe was doing, many others were literally knock-offs of Joe’s setup and ideas of the images that Tourism Australia had commissioned him to shoot. He was incredibly gracious in this regard allowing us to jump in after he had made his shots and shoot our own, just to see what he was seeing, and use the lighting he was using. As an added bonus we often had Drew acting as our own ‘assistant’ of sorts – being a VAL and passing on tips and explanations – pretty damn cool. Below is a shot of “Muddy”, a local fisherman & great character working out of Swansea opposite Freycinet National Park – I physically shot this image but the idea, lighting and concept was 100% Joe’s. Below that a shot of Joe shooting test images of Drew prior to bringing Muddy in. The shoot was at sunrise, with the Hazard Mountains in the background across the bay.

Also travelling around with us during those four days, was our representative from Tourism Tasmania, Di Hollister. Di was an absolute champion, working tirelessly in the background making sure everything was running smoothly as well as chauffeuring Joe & Drew around. Di was also taking a lot of heat over a number of changes we made on the fly to the itinerary.These were to ‘correct’ a number of ill-thoughout locations & times which would most certainly have resulted in sub standard images being produced – the decision to change things up was completely ours but Di copped it unfortunately. She never once stopped being a professional though, and I’m glad she was with us. Di is a true character of Tasmania herself, and had almost as many stories as Joe (which is saying something). I had the privilege of shooting her too – first image is again using Joe’s ideas and lighting, the second was my own whilst we were sent on a mini ‘assignment’ whilst down in Hobart…

The assignment I mention was, I’m sure, Joe’s way of getting us out of his hair for a few hours. Essentially we could borrow whatever gear of his we wanted, pair up, and head out on to the streets of Hobart to capture some ‘faces of Tasmania’ as if shooting for a magazine article of sorts. Man what an intimidating circumstance to be dropped in… Ray Warren and I teamed up, and decided to break the ice by asking Rachelle, one of the receptionists in our hotel if we could photograph her. Much to our surprise she said yes – not the greatest image (because of my technicals, not Rachelle) by any means but that ‘yes’ made it a lot easier to ask the next person we approached.

Ray and I then headed out onto the streets of Hobart armed with newly found confidence and some impressive gear, including an extendable paint pole with an SB-900 & small soft box on it (the paint pole is an awesome idea which I now use regularly myself). We had so much confidence in fact we decided we should slow things down a little, and headed into the first Irish Bar we stumbled upon to have a couple of quiet Guinesses whilst we came up with a plan… we figured Joe would approve, and sure enough about five minutes after settling in he and Drew popped their heads through the doorway and gave us an approving smirk. After settling in to our first Guinness it became obvious that there were opportunities everywhere in the pub, so we started with the bartender (of course) – it was Ray’s turn to setup and shoot so I was the VAL for these images- which Ray has. They were great – really interesting environmental portraits. We then switched roles and I befriended some locals enjoying their own Guinnesses who were more than happy to be the subjects of our photographic exploits… the first was shot from behind the bar, the second I had Ray out on the street aiming the SB900 back in through the window whilst I shot inside.

In between our Guinesses we headed out to the streets where we met a number of people who were quite willing to let Ray & myself do our thing. We met Jonathon who was about to take off on his beautiful bike but graciously let us take his portrait – Jonathon has just opened “Valentino’s Family Restaurant” in Devonport which sounds like it would be worth a visit if you are ever in that neck of the woods.

We then ventured out into the night, where we were eagerly sought out for our photographic skills… actually, the way it really went down was that a curious passer-by commented on our pain pole rig, which then led to the obvious demonstration of said gear using the innocent by stander as another face of Tasmania…

After our shooting was done we headed back to our hotel to meet up with the others for dinner, after which we learned we would be sitting down with Joe whilst he critiqued our unedited RAW images… oh shit. We did our best to get Joe as inebriated as possible to hopefully improve our chances of a good hearing. It didn’t work. Joe was graciously kind with his comments but also pointed out the blaringly obvious mistakes & oversights we had made – just like a magazine editor would have done. It was a great exercise and I learned a hell of a lot from someone who has been there and done it all, and who is still doing it at the top of the tree.

The next morning we were on the Hobart docks before sunup for Joe to shoot the 2012 Tasmanian of the Year Rob Pennicott. Rob was a great guy who has definitely earned the award having read up on his continuing efforts over many years.  I chose to stand back and enjoy watching Joe work on this occasion, and just shot a couple of candid captures of the proceedings…

And speaking of Ray, a candid capture of Ray checking out his own good work that morning…

After a speedy pack up & breakfast back at the hotel we then headed off to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary for Joe to photograph Greg Irons, the 2012 young Tasmanian of the year and his partner Petra Harris. Again, fantastic people doing a great job, and very deserving of their recognition. Grabbed a few shots of my own that I kinda liked, as well as some candids showing the processes going on.





Who’s checking who out…?

I had an awesome time in Tasmania, experienced so much, and learned so much. The people of Tasmania are as much a part of that fantastic experience too – it wouldn’t have been the same without them, so thank you to you guys and girls as well.


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