The Aesthetic of Minimalism within Portraiture

Photo Set featuring Tony O'neil 

In collaboration with @Endeavour_Clothing 

Shot in the Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales, Australia

Emotion within portraiture, evoking emotion within portraiture and landscape photography is fundamental within the practice and essentially what all artists aspire to covey within their work. For me portraiture should always aim to build a relationship between the subject and the environment. Wether this relationship is direct or subtle doesn't necessarily matter, it is how the image will be perceived and interpreted though subjectivity that is central within it's meaning. I find this relationship incredibly interesting to work with, especially when focusing on two central factor's; the environment and the individual. 

Drama vs Neutrality, in the examples bellow one can see the way in which a dramatic aesthetic can be mixed with that of a very basic approach to portraiture. Following the simple rules of thirds and a central subject one can create some quite intense images of scale, especially when working with a dramatic natural landscape scene. All you have to do is experiment a little and play with the sense of scale within the scene. The easiest way to do this is to shift the way we see scale through changing the presentation of the central subject. One of the best methods to do so is to shoot an image in correlation to your post production work. Using the examples bellow one can see these methods placed into practice through the use of cropping, eliminating the immediate foreground in the image to create a sense of mystery within the stance of the central figure. You will be astonished at the effects that this simple process can have within your work, challenging subjective responses in terms of scale. In relation to this process my biggest tip is to always maintain a sense of space within the upper levels of the image. Be sure to avoid a clustered environment in this area of space, this can have dramatic effects upon the aesthetic/style you are trying to achieve, it is crucial to keep it simple. Simplicity is your biggest asset within this style. It is important for me when shooting in this style to formulate an idea of the image you want to create through post production before or whilst you are shooting. This will help a lot within making your vision a reality. I often shoot as close as possible to the crop which I am ultimately aiming to achieve but making sure to leave extra room for error and space for post production.

 Examples of prime backdrops often include clear sky's, dramatic cloud formations, the ocean and barren landscapes. These are just some of the most obvious environments one could use, however I do stress the importance of experimenting with these locations and making the images your own, challenge the normal. 

Within my images bellow I found the dramatic Hazard Reduction scene in valley prime to experiment with this style. I found it extremely compelling when exploring emotions surrounding the young male figure, I hope subjective responses dive deep into the emotions of this subject through senses of rebellion, heart break, aggression, doubt and a feeling of overwhelmingness.

I feel it is important for me to acknowledge my influences and inspirations within this aesthetic of photography. @KnivesandTheives is an incredible photographer largely practicing in this style of aesthetic, especially through portraiture and wedding photography. I definitely urge you to explore his portfolio when searching for influence in this area. 

Hope you enjoy the Photo Set bellow.

 

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A Visual Diary, Miyajima

Miyajima, often referred to as the "Island of the Gods" is one of Japans most beautiful cultural centres. As a world heritage listed site the small sea side town is surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea, it shines a bright light upon a region with such a terrible past. Alike the Gion districts of the ancient capital Kyoto, Miyajima displays a true cultural heart for the nation and is a beautiful display of its rich culture and traditions. The island town is well known for the world famous Great Torii, a great shire seemingly floating in the middle of the harbour. However the vast pagodas, dense villages and compressed ally's can be found to be where the islands true charm lies.

Take a stroll through the early hours of the morning, as the sun rises over the temples and alleys of Miyajima...

A Visual Diary :

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Golden Hour

A short photoset featuring the beautiful Chloe Andrews...

An afternoon at landslide lookout,

One of the Blue Mountains most prime locations to shoot sunset and portraits. This location is unique for portraiture through its ability to allow for a beautiful sense of harmony between the natural landscape and the subject. The light sets directly across from the further escarpment out towards Narrow Neck plateau providing a magnificent flourish of direct sunlight. There is so much room for experimentation, from classical portrait compositions to look throughs and following shots. You come up with it and I guarantee you can make it happen at landslide. Without any doubt my favourite location to shoot portraits in Katoomba. For landscape photographers there are also a few interesting compositions to work with through the wind swept trees and interesting rock formations on the escapement. 

Hope you guys enjoy the photoset below...

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Why I love photography and how to stay inspired

Personal thoughts...

Photography has fast become my main passion in life, as well as a way of self expression and expansion. I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to find a true passion in my life.  

For me photography has become a lifestyle, as well as a way of being able to covey my emotions in a physical sense, through an image. Much like how painters, drawers and writers draw their inspiration. I feel my work is inspired by my personal experiences, both positive and negative. The best thing being able to create something positive or emotive, that people can relate to and even create their own meaning for. Other photographers also inspire me without a doubt. Instagram has fast became an incredible tool, expanding your horizons and knowledge regarding the medium. Especially when developing an understanding of your own personal style and aesthetic. At the time I felt as if I was struggling to discover my own style and vibe, but now looking back over the past two years and my development, it was definitely an important stage to go through. It's those stages, where you can often give up or decide to do better and trust your ability.

Inspired Vs Uninspired...

My inspirations lie in creating an experience, the photo itself is essentially just an artistic representation based on how I perceive that moment, as a result of my mental state at that time. People will say it again and again in quotes over time but I believe it one hundred percent that it's all about the creative process and the journey that leads to the end product. I travel a lot, every chance I get, wether it be locally, state wide or internationally.

Comparing yourself to others can be one of the worst aspects of being photographer/visual artist. It's how you turn that around into inspiration that can prove pivotal within your work. I am guilty of making daily comparisons to other photographers out there, especially that of others around my age range and area. Social media is filled with an insane and at times, over whelming amount of visual talent. You just can't compare yourself to these faceless artists, the best way to deal with this is to use this diversity within your own work and gain a greater understanding of what looks good and what doesn't. I tend to see myself as an erratic photographer, I'll shoot one style and then be captivated by a whole different aesthetic and try to learn it and use it in my own style. I've always been told that you will develop your own personal style in the natural progression of time, yes I do believe this is true, but I don't think it should be seen as a major goal that you have to achieve fast. For me I'm still on that journey and I'm definitely finding that my style is growing on its own as we speak, but Ill tell you now that I live for the progression and the hunt to shoot different subjects and styles. Each style influences the other, whether it be landscape, portraiture, long exposure, drone or something like Boket. Don't limit yourself to a style that will ultimately just please your Instagram followers through a matching feed. Yes, this is an important aspect as well, but personally I've found this will naturally occur over time.

Making it happen...

As a photographer I find you need to simply just "get out and get busy". Brett Conti, a New York based cinematographer, entrepreneur and youtuber, is great example of this and an individual who inspires me on a daily basis. It's that simple concept of progression, to make change you have to get up and make it happen, especially within photography where you can't just chill out at home and watch YouTube videos and tutorials all day! You've just gotta get out there! Jump in the car, have a vague idea of something to shoot and just make it happen. You wont be successful every time but I do guarantee you will learn something every single time, as frustrating as it may be.

Solo Vs others ( Introverts/Extroverts)...

Introvert or extrovert? In my opinion who cares, it doesn't really matter, photography allows for both! I certainly can't define which one I am, I can happily say I have traits of both and I think it changes with time, never settling down into just one category. I believe both are crucial in building your own practice and work.

Developing a balance between introverted and extroverted is one of my biggest challenges as a photographer and understanding when to get out of my own head and internal motivation and work with others. Because, yes it can be motivating and demotivating at the same time, it's just all about how you choose to perceive it and who you choose to work with. All the individuals of whom I've worked with have all become great friends and I feel this is one of the best ways to have it, it's not a sense of working but a sense of creating, having fun and vibeing off of each other and the energy you can create when shooting. Simply creating an enjoyment and love for what you're doing. 

My favourite thing about photography is the flexibility to shoot by yourself and work with others, in order to learn and progress, I am a strong believer in both. If you are a skateboarder or have been I'm sure you'll read this and be able to relate to it. Photography to me is essentially an individual and self motivating practice like skating or any other individual sport, you yourself are the only one who can make it happen, you have to believe in it and actually want to be the one getting up at 3am in the morning to road trip it to a rad location to shoot sunrise. It's that internal motivation that is crucial.

When it comes to shooting with others it's the same concept, however, it's even better because there is external motivation and you are able to learn more and grow within your field, by channelling the other. A healthy sense of competition/camaraderie as silly as it may sound within photography is also really important. It forced me out of my comfort zone in many occasions, shooting with others who have entirely different styles to your own can often be daunting but if your in the right head space you can use it as teaching mechanism and create a new dimension to your own style. Through my experiences of shooting with a range of photographers from urban shooters, portrait and professional landscape photographers I have learnt a lot and I promise you will to. These mediums all interact and can have awesome effects upon each other if you channel them creatively. A great example being portraiture, landscape and urban styles. Placed together by using subtle references/influences can create images you never thought were possible and something no one else is doing, hence creating your own aesthetic. 

One of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone through my experience, is don't see photography as a networking game, see it as a way of expanding your growth and a way of meeting like minded individuals who you share a common interest with. I have met some incredible and inspiring people through photography, people of whom I could never of seen myself engaging with ever a few years ago. Locally and from Melbourne to Hong Kong and Singapore I've met and engaged with some incredible people who inspire me daily. Surrounding yourself with like minded and progressive people is incredibly important and I assure you will help growth in yourself, work and others around you. Collaborations are a great way to achieve this and is something I seek to work on a lot more in the future. 

Turning Points

For me photography filled a deep void that I almost fell into. Relationships will always create both incredible inspirations and equally as incredible lows. It hit hard both emotionally and physically for me, just through the way I was able to deal with it. I am so grateful that I had photography to channel those emotions into and both express them in an artistic form and to help me grow and learn as an individual. For me the breakdown of a relationship changed the way I viewed myself and my photography. I looked at my work entirely as a way of how I could let go of a certain feeling but yet still create something positive out of it. In the photo series below I'm going to be featuring images that best represent this to me and reflect a true emotional state. Self doubt became a major barrier at the time, however I was able to break through it by the confidence I gained within my photography and the positivity that was being given to me by others as a result.

For me photography filled a deep hole that I almost fell into. Photography inspires me everyday whether it be through others or something I've achieved. The idea of the perfect image never leaves my mind, its like a constant buzz that never leaves. The idea of the "perfect" image is one that I love, due to the fact, that is unachievable, you literally cannot achieve perfection within photography and that is what makes it so captivating, quite similar to the feeling that skateboarders feel when learning new tricks and trying to progress. It's an interesting concept and I could waffle on for hours about it... but I won't, because it will end up somewhere I don't even know. But it's that very idea of not knowing that I love intently and directly relates to the ideas I've talked about earlier with travel and the journey to the final image. 

I have become more and more self critical over time, and yes this can be a positive thing, but I feel it is important to not take it to seriously but to use it as filter for your work. At times I have totally shut down and not believed in myself at all, these are the moments where you just have to change it up, not give up. Shoot something different or even trying some video can help! Just anything, for me it was getting out and shooting with others. Working with models and gaining the confidence in my own ability to shoot decent portraits in different forms of light and environments. I was never that into portraiture but after expanding my horizons and seeing what other photographers where doing it has fast become one of my favourite and most emotive ways to shoot.

Since finishing high school, the last two years have been both a challenge and an incredible adventure. My world has totally changed, from the way I choose to interact with others and relationships, I've gained and lost, and most importantly the way in which I believe in myself and my abilities. Im going to seek to never stop learning and to always see my photography as an ever evolving presentation of myself and my life as it happens! Hope everyone can see it within the photoset placed below.

 

 


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Belmore Falls, A visual diary

Belmore Falls, located within the heart of the Southern Highlands of New South Wales is one of the most epic waterfalls in the state. The falls feature a powerful central column of water which plunges over 130 metres into the pool below, which then continues to cascade down into another dramatic drop into the valley below. 

The actual location is within the area of Robertson, around an hour and forty minutes drive south of Sydney. The hike down to the base can defiantly be a challenge one, especially if the weather hasn't been great. The track isn't maintained at all and is actually closed off from the main lookout and carpark, you'll need to hop a fence around 50 metres from one of the smaller lookouts facing out towards Kangaroo Valley. It takes around 20-30 minutes to walk down to the base, definitely be sure to take it easy in the rain or when its muddy as the track can get pretty gnarly as well as hard to see. But I assure you its worth the effort, you wont be disappointed! 

Hope you guys enjoy the short photoset below...

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A Portait Diary, Mount Blackheath

Photo Set

A moody afternoon in Blackheath...

The Blue Mountains feature a diverse range of locations for portrait photographers. Mount Blackheath is certainly one of my favourites. Although it may not offer the the best light for shooting with direct sunlight, it does offer a unique form of light through the valley below. Light can be used directly if you shoot parallel with the sun with the subject on the wooden deck. However, that can be a little daunting due to the fragile state of the old paragliding runway. I have always found it interesting shooting from around a quarter of the way down with the subject toward the end,  depending on how willing the subject is though! 

A simple tip I can offer is to just get creative, it has been shot a lot in the past,  to stand out you really have to think outside the box and not be afraid to try something different. Step out of that comfort zone, I know I'm guilty of playing it safe and sticking to the standard. Something as simple as using a mirror or your phone for refections and light distortions. Fairy lights are an awesome addition as well! I don't have a lot of experience shooting with fairy lights, but they are a ton of fun and I highly recommend giving it a go! They open up a whole new realm of creativity and opportunities, not only limited to portraiture either. They can add subtle texture, leading lines or even just simply creating another dimension to your landscapes, changing it up from classic practices. I love the way they are able to subtly create a surrealistic vibe, especially within moody landscapes. You can also maximise your shooting time with props such as fairy lights. Instead of just shoot during the small space of time between sun down and sunset when the light is in its prime, you can also shoot once the sun has gone down. You wont even have to pump your ISO up to an insane level and slow the shutter. All of the shots I'm featuring in this post were all taken between an ISO range of  100 to 320, avoiding any major grain in the image. I had my friend use a simple phone light to shine on the subject to boost the available light and allow for a lower ISO setting. This can be a helpful little tool to aid in situations such as this. 

If you are interested in shooting some more photos at the same location, there is another ramp and far wider open landscape just down from the main carpark. People often mistake this one for the one that is usually seen in photographs, I tend to shoot at the ramp 5 minutes down the track, towards the main lookout and through the bush to the right. However, if your after shooting the sunset directly, especially on a cloudy day as the sun peaks in and out of the clouds I defintely recommend getting out a zoom lens and shooting out from the main paragliding ramp, you wont be disappointed. This location will always offer new perspectives, I urge you to not just go once but to come back on multiple occasions and see the differences.

 

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Sugar Pine Forest

Laurel Hill and the beautiful Sugar Pine forest

A summary of a memorable adventure & a Visual Diary of our travels.

What an amazing part of Australia, Sugar Pine Forest, located in the beautiful Laurel Hill at the doorstep of the vast Snowy Mountains and Great Dividing Range. Around 2 and a half hours from central Canberra and just under 5 hours from Sydney it is a long journey, but I promise you its worth the adventure! 

This was by far one of the most incredible adventures I've ever undertaken, and totally spontaneous at that.  Ryley and I originally set out on a short two day trip to Canberra which ended up stretching into three and out to Laurel Hill. We honestly didn't know what to expect, all we had seen was photos on Instagram, which were just insane! We were well and truely along for the ride. After spending the night at a freeway rest stop just outside of Canberra we began our trip by wondering around the city just shooting photos and seeing where the day would take us. The light was quite dull and we were struggling location wise so we made the decision to just back up and take the trip to Laurel Hill and see what all the fuss was about! Fueled up on lots of coffee and terrible servo lollies we set off, under the guide of trusty ole google maps.

The drive was definitely a long one, for us it was around 5 or 6 hours from the Blue Mountains with countless stops along the way. That's the beauty of traveling with two photographers, the countless stops on the side of the freeway or at some random town just to shoot the sun going down or an interesting subject. We came across a particularly special location just outside of Gundagai on the turn off to Laurel Hill. It was no picturesque landscape but it was a unique, run down mechanics shop which had several broken down, decrepit trucks and cars out the front. The trucks were perfectly positioned in line with the sunset creating wonderfull burst of light which lit up each individual crack and intricacy within the wreak, providing a rare composition. Our timing and spontaneous decision to stop is what made this so special, along with the opportunity of creating such a run down environment so alive and exquisite.

There are several small towns about 40 minutes to an hour out of the forest itself, Tumblong and Adelong being the largest, these towns are crucial if you are in need of supplies or to charge batteries like us! They are also beautiful in their own right. Everybody we met were very friendly and helpful. 

We didn't arrive until after dark, so setting up the tent was pretty interesting. It was insanely creepy arriving at the time we did, it was super quiet and the forest was incredibly daunting in its scale. It was almost a full moon so light was just hitting the tops of the pines, bringing out those intense Harry Potter vibes! To make it worse all we could see in the distance, through the column of colossal pines was a single light. Super creeped out, we decided not to go to close and just set up the tent. Turns out there was an older dude setting up lights to shoot long exposures so it was fine. Still creepy though. Anyway we woke up early the next morning to shoot sunrise. This was such a special experience, one that I will remember for long time to come. Dazzling light began to peak in and out of the pines, creating a truely exquisite golden yellow haze which spread like wild fire through the small forest. Unfortunately I had very little charge and only one battery for my camera which died shortly after the light began to rise, I was able to create some interesting long exposures of the tent in the forest but that was about it. 

We decided to return to Adelong in order to charge our battery's and attempt to find a memory card for Ryley and for my drone. We searched around the town from the local grocery store to the newsagent but came out empty handed, turns out we were able to find everything we needed at the local Australia Post office! So if you need that extra storage and you are in Adelong hit the lovely Aus Post ladies up! We found a small corner store/cafe along the main street where we could have breakfast and charge our cameras, the cafe was awesome! And had one of the best cappuccinos I've ever had! Forget Italy, Paris or your best local barrister, Adelong local cafe and burgers has got you covered, and if your feeling a little under the weather their " Hangover " burger will pick your spirits write up, yes its called the hangover burger and it looks and tasted exactly like you would expect.

We later returned to the forest and shot sunset, where we are able to get our best images and the sun was in a much more favourable location. If you love photography your guarranteed to love this place, its in a class of its own. If you are considering making the trip down I definately recommend bring a better tent than we did as well as some warm clothes and lots of them! Especially if its during winter, we froze in our one man tent which we both squeezed into, but that's all apart of the adventure though right? I would also recommend doing the trip with a buddy, not just for company but for photos, the forest is a portrait photographers' paradise, especially so if your into moody landscapes featuring a presence. It's also creepy as hell at night, with wild life cracking branches all around so yeah, you get me... You may even get the chance to get a photo of some wild Brumbies in the early morning. We also only really ate Pringles so try and be more prepared than us and bring decent food as there ain't much around! But definitely hit up the local Adelong cafe, it's well worth running into the lovely couple who own the cafe and grabbing some breckie and a coffee, or just hanging out and recharge your battery's for over and hour or so...

 

A Visual Dairy...

 Ryley

Ryley

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