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 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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