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Blog, sweat and beers

July 14, 2011

Guest post by Owen Lyell

This is my first attempt at a blog for Bluedog so for those who don’t know me, my name is Owen. I occasionally help out in the office as well as attempt other more menial tasks that help alleviate the endless workload Bluedog staff are faced with on a daily basis.I guess the focus of this blog is grounded in something I heard at a presentation delivered by Danielle to a Photography club in Brisbane. Danielle was giving some useful tips that may assist people who are interested in developing a career in photo journalism, and how to prepare for the tough road ahead.After recently traveling with Bluedog to Cambodia, it was great to see how much magic goes on behind the scenes, and how much everyone on the tour developed their skills photographically. However, the one tool that most people seemed to never have at hand was the most basic, a pen that works and a small notepad to record information, names, places, and notes on how to get back to that really cheap cocktail bar that serves beer for thirty cents a can and pitchers of Vodka and Redbull for one dollar. Perhaps even the number and address of the hotel might also be a good idea if you decide to partake in the aforementioned beverage (Ask yourself… was the free T-shirt really worth it?).

Planning is a big part of any travel, but as I see it, even more so for photographers. It’s not just about what to take, grabbing a guide book and jumping on a plane and doing the tour. A great deal of preparation is in researching what to expect mentally, physically, and most importantly, photographically.

By mentally I mean being prepared to step out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to get the images you want to get, even if you find them disturbing or difficult to photograph. One member of our tour group in Cambodia would make me laugh everyday by commenting on how they knew if they had worked hard that day by how sweat drenched their gear was.

Image 1.
It was hot yet captivating. A pre tour monastery visit for blessing and allowance led the group that had arrived early to a special time with Somnieg, Head Monk of Wat Damnak and Director of the Life and Hope Association who flew out later that week to speak at Harvard University, USA. Image by Danielle Lancaster

If you are seriously out of shape like me, don’t choose to do the eight hundred stair climb to the top of Buddha Mountain in sweltering thirty seven degree heat under a cruel blistering sun, equipped with every piece of photographic equipment you own. Take the tools you need for the job.

Image 2.
When out and about consider what gear you will really need. Is it really the whole pack or can you challenge yourself with just a few pieces easily carried no matter what you are doing? Sheryn and Trista ‘at school’ in Cambodia.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Be prepared not only for physical challenges but also those of the weather. Battery life, cards and bar tabs all run at different speeds depending on the climate. Be prepared and take wet weather gear for yourself and your equipment.

Learn the local lingo, even just a few words is appreciated by most people and will open doors that might otherwise be closed. It is a great way to break the ice, just don’t call the agro looking guard with the AK47 something unpleasant unless you want to make the evening news.So to sum everything up in three words, “research and preparation” should rate highly for any photographic excursion. You don’t have to be a boy scout to always be prepared.In closing, I would also like to say a quick thank you to all the staff and participants on the Cambodia tour for giving me such a great experience and look forward to catching up with you all again next year of the stairs of Angkor Wat (shameless plug) with Bluedog on another “not to be missed” adventure.

Image 3.
Trista shows Sheryn its not about the gear but all about the light!
Image by Danielle Lancaster

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