Unforgettable Tasmania

skitched-20080414-150838.jpgNow that I’m back from the Lightroom Adventure: Tasmania, I’ve been reflecting on what made it such a success.
It’s not often as adults that we get to have that “outward bound” experience offered to teenagers. That’s too bad because the chance to work closely with 25 pros on a group project in a wild and unfamiliar context is something rare and special. I think all adults should do it every few years both for personal and professional growth.

All of us, even the full-time photographers, were thrilled to have the time to focus entirely on taking pictures, especially because we had such a entrancing subject, the Australian state of Tasmania. Most of us didn’t know each other, and we all made lasting friends who will also be useful professional contacts. Mikkel Aaland deserves credit for creating such a great group and sending us on such a magical journey.

Credit also goes to one of the major sponsors: Tourism Tasmania. Many places have departments devoted to promoting tourism, but TT has created a winning formula. Our guides, Josh, Shaun, Matt, and Ben were jovial, patient, and well-informed. Their logistic skills made it possible for the photographers to focus entirely on making art. Without them it would have been a much less successful trip.

Our other sponsor, Adobe, sent a team of professionals who were very interested in how we used Lightroom and open to suggestions for improving it. It’s clear that this kind of customer involvement makes Lightroom a better product. Winston Hendrickson, Melissa Gaul, Bill Stotzner, and Angela Drury were the perfect example of what makes Adobe so successful – and they were amazing photographers, too.

Credit also goes to O’Reilly, publisher of the Lightroom Adventure books. These books cost more time, effort, and money than the run-of-the-mill computer book, but the result is better than anything else you’ll see in the computer book section.

Lightroom 2.0 should be out in a few months – it’s spectacular. Check out the public beta, and look particularly at the new localized corrections, the ability apply Lightroom’s adjustments on discreet regions of your photo. Lightroom can take an ordinary picture and make it extraordinary.

Mikkel hopes to publish the new book, “Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Adventure 2,” when the program itself ships – I don’t know how he’s going to pare down the hundreds of spectacular pictures from the trip to the few dozen that appear in the book, but it will be a must see. We also talked about selling a companion book that includes more of the pictures to benefit the Tasmanian Devil – I’ll let you know where you can get that. It will be worth it, I promise. Just ask the generous Tasmanians who paid a total of $7,000 for prints of our pictures at last night’s closing reception. All of that money will go to the Save The Tasmanian Devil fund, too.

Finally, if you’ve been inspired by our pictures from Tasmania, maybe you’d like to take a trip there yourself. Tourism Tasmania is sponsoring a contest for a trip for two to Tazzie. Sign up at xyzadventures.com. You’ll never forget your visit to one of the world’s last unspoiled places. I know I never will.

No Wuckin’ Furries Mate

Today was our last official day of shooting on the Lightroom Adventure: Tasmania. Winston, Matt, and I headed to an Australian Rules Football game in Ulverstone. It was a league match with Devonport and a blast. I think have a new favorite sport. I understand there’s even a US league and a team in SF.
AFL is kind of a full contact soccer meets rugby with lots of scoring and precious few penalties. The players wear no pads and never stop running. Next door there was a much quieter game of bowls going on. I left the footy to Winston, who is a sports photographer, and I stuck with the bowling.

After the game we drove home, stopping along the way at Cradle Mountain to look for wildlife. We found it in the rotund shape of a wombat.

These peaceful little creatures are marsupials, but they seem to like humans, too. Winston took this shot of the wombat wobbling my way, which gave me a bit of a scare until Matt told me they only chewed on grass.

If you’re in Tas, don’t forget our little soirée tomorrow from 5-7p at the Henry Jones Art Hotel. We’ll be auctioning the best prints (including a few of mine) to benefit the Save the Tasmanian Devil fund. And I’ll be glad to hang out after for a final Cascade with anyone who cares to join me.

I head for home on Monday and it’s going to be sad to leave Tasmania. I’ll take plenty of memories of a wonderful land and friendly people with me.

If you’d like to see the photographers with whom I’ve been travelling, visit the Gallery on Mikkel’s xyzadventures site. Or visit my photo gallery for my favorite shots and my new best friends, human and animal.

I’m gonna miss you Tazzie!

Save The Devils

When I told people I was going to Tasmania often the first thing they’d say is “oh! the Tasmanian Devil!”
Taz, the Warner Brother’s cartoon character, while based on the real thing, lacks some of the charm of the actual Tasmanian Devils. They’re small marsupials with pointy little teeth and a howling cry that no doubt inspired a fear of the devil in the first settlers on Tasmania. These little devils are carnivorous, but don’t worry, they only eat things that are already dead. They’re less of a threat to us than we are to them.

But the biggest threat to the Devil these days is a virulent form of cancer that’s wiped out half the population in just eight years. This cancer is spread during play and mating and is always fatal.

Tasmanians have mounted an effort to save the Devil at www.tassiedevil.com.au. The prints we sell at our reception Sunday from 5-7p at the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart will benefit the Save the Devil program.

I took these pictures at Devils@Cradle. That’s Chris, non-chalantly holding a 10-month-old devil. We were warned to keep our fingers away, but they do appear pretty cuddly.

This little guy isn’t mad, he’s just yawning. They do that when they get nervous. Believe it or not, the Devils (even these human raised fellas) are pretty shy.

More pictures from our travels around Tazzie are up at the gallery at www.xyzadventures.com/galleries, and, of course, I’ve posted a ton more shots on my SmugMug page. We’re off to see the rain forest, then tonight it’s caves.

Meandering The Midlands Highway

We made it to Bicheno at 6 last night, turning a two hour drive into a full day’s journey. Never travel with photographers if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, and expect to take extra time if you’re with Winston and there are cows anywhere to be seen. (Oddly enough Winston also consumes mass quantities of beef.)
In many ways the countryside looks very familiar to us Northern Californians — Tasmania is at latitude 42° south – San Francisco is at 42° north — but then you run into a wallaby or a quaint English village and the illusion is dashed. And I’ve never seen skies quite like this in Petaluma.

As we were driving along the Midlands Highway, we passed a giant sign made of red wood that read “T-R-E-E.”

We stopped to visit the farm next door, and the farmer told us the story of the sign. In 1996, to publicize the deforestation of Tasmania, a group called Landcare painted a huge dead Eucalyptus tree bright red. The tree was burned by disgruntled farmers, but resurrected as this red sign by artist Ray Norman, Jack Jaffray, Landcare and others in March 1997. It stands by an experimental grove of trees, planted to show what the area might look like if it were returned to forest. The tension between “progress” and the environmentalists in Tasmania can be seen everywhere. I’m sympathetic with the greens who want to preserve this wild and beautiful place, but it’s also true that the character of this island comes from its settlers.

The quaint town of Ross is a perfect example. It was as if we were in the English countryside. Ross has the oldest bridge in Tasmania, built by convicts in 1836. One of the convicts, a forger, carved elaborate abstract designs into the bottom of the bridge. The historic Ross bakery was the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s 1989 animated movie, Kiki’s Delivery Service.

The bakery is mecca for visiting Japanese tourists who come to see the bakery and Kiki’s room. My daughter Abby asked me to get a picture of the room. It looks like the ghost of Bruce Dale is visiting it.

I’ve uploaded more of my pictures on my SmugMug page. To look at them full screen, press the Slideshow button.

You’ll see many more pictures on the real photographers’ blogs at digitalmedia.oreilly.com/adventure. We stayed up late last night putting up a web gallery of our best pictures, so far. If you want to see why I am blown away every day by these world-class photographers, take a gander at www.xyzadventures.com/galleries.

And don’t forget you can buy prints of many of our pictures to benefit Save The Tasmanian Devil at our public reception, 13 April from 5-7p at the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, TAS

On The Road To Bicheno

Bruce Dale, Winston Hendrickson, Angela Drury, and I head out of Hobart on the road to Bicheno.

Caution: this video might make you carsick!

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The Long And Winding Road To Bruny

Yesterday Bruce Dale, Peter Krogh, Winston Hendrickson, and I took the morning ferry to Bruny Island, a secluded vacation retreat off the southern coast of Hobart – population 600.
Bruce drove, because he’d driven on the left before – in fact, he’d driven all the way from England to India following the gypsies for a book some years ago. After hearing some of his harrowing stories from that trip we feel pretty lucky to have returned in one piece. We stopped many times along the way and spent the entire day there.

Our goal was the Bruny Lighthouse, but our best pictures were from Cloudy Bay lagoon. That’s my poor attempt to capture its beauty below, but Bruce took a panorama that should be amazing – we waited an hour for the light to be just so.

All of these pictures were taken with my Canon 5D. Most with the 24-105 zoom except for the Farmers’ Market pictures which were taken with the 50mm f1.2. All of them were adjusted in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 and most of the Bruny Island pictures were re-touched in Photoshop to remove a dust blotch that was on my sensor.

I’ve uploaded around three dozen shots from our first three days in Hobart to my SmugMug page (try the slideshow). Let me know what you think. I’m learning so much from these amazing photographers, and enjoying my first visit to Australia even more than I expected.

I’m taking today (Saturday in Australia) off to go through the thousands of pictures and hours of video I’ve shot. I also have to rest up because I’m doing the radio show tomorrow morning at 4 local time. After the show I hope we’ll get a chance to go up to the Tahune Forest AirWalk. After the radio show Monday morning we take off for Basecamp 2 at the Diamond Island Resort in Bicheno on the east coast of Tasmania.

Lightroom Adventure – Day 1

The adventure doesn’t officially begin until Friday, but photographers are trickling into Hobart one by one. Yesterday there were only five of us, British Photographer of the Year, Jackie King, National Geographic wizard, Bruce Dale, Lightroom wiz and all around innovator, Peter Krogh, brilliant Japanese photographer and documentarian, Aihara Masaaki, and our host, Mikkel Aaland. You’ll see images from all five in the video I whipped together from our first foray into Hobart last night.

Peter did that amazing 135 image montage of our plane landing in Hobart. The infrared images are by Bruce Dale. Many of the rest of the stills are from Mikkel Aaland. I shot and edited the video using the new Canon HV30 and Apple’s iMovie ’08. Thanks to Inverted Silence/Jim Kang for the song Berimbau.

We’ve been having so much fun, and the adventure has barely begun. If you’re in Hobart, please join us for our closing reception Sunday evening, 13 April at the Henry Jones Art Hotel. We’ll have prints on exhibition and for sale to benefit Save the Tasmanian Devil.

I spent part of the day exploring the waterfront and just got back from the Female Factory and the Cascade brewery. We’re going to do some Lightroom work tonight and I’ll start posting images tomorrow.

Greetings from Sydney

Mikkel Aaland and I just arrived in Sydney on the way to Hobart, Tasmania. Qantas took great care of us on the way – it was my first time in the “bubble” up top of a 747 and I slept like a baby. Maybe that’s because they give you your very own set of jammies.

Photo Credit: Mikkel Aaland

Aussie Mike met us at the gate and got us into the Qantas Club. I took a much needed shower and feel like a new man. I’m headed off to the “meetup” at the SYD Starbucks. Hope to see a few of you there!

Live From Down Under

April 5 and 6 I’ll be broadcasting the radio show live from Sea FM/Heart 107.3 Hobart, TAS, Australia. It’ll be 4-7 am Sunday and Monday local time, but the show will air at its normal time here in the Northern Hemisphere! I’ll be taking calls as usual, and if I can wake anyone up at that hour there may be some special Tasmanian guests, as well.

Speak Softly And Carry A Big Camera Bag

Adobe Lightroom AdventureI’m leaving tonight for Australia on the Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop Adventure 2008: Tasmania!
My good friend Mikkel Aaland, author of O’Reilly’s Lightroom Adventure is leading another photo expedition; this time it’s to Tasmania with a bunch of the world’s top photographers for the next edition of his book and he invited me to come. I couldn’t resist even though I’m no photo pro. (They’re billing me as a “special media guest.”)

I do apologize to my friends on the mainland – the itinerary is limited to Tassie: A week in Hobart and a week in the wild. Our Qantas flight does stopover for seven hours in Sydney, so thanks to Aussie Mike, we’ll do an impromptu meetup at the Starbucks at Terminal 3, Sydney Airport, 11a-1p on Tuesday. (It’s a 12-hour flight and we cross the International Date Line so even though I’m leaving Sunday night I won’t arrive in Sydney until Tuesday morning!) If there are any fans in Hobart who want to set up a meet up on Thursday or Friday let me know.

I’ll be doing my radio show from Sea FM/Heart 107.3 Hobart Sunday and Monday morning 4-7a local time (Tasmania is UTC +11 but it’ll be live in the States). The following week I won’t have access to a studio so we’ll air two shows I’ve recorded ahead of time with all new material.

I’m bringing enough gear to equip a multimedia army.

All this fits into my Lowepro CompuTrekker Plus AW backpack (it’s huge) but I’m also bringing a Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW to carry into the field.

And a change of underwear.

Thank goodness I’m not going by ship. I think I’d sink it.

There’s a reason for all this gear. I’ll be blogging the whole time I’m Down Under, including photos (on Smugmug and Flickr), audio (here), and video (on Smugmug and Viddler) so watch this space. Many of the other photographers will be blogging as well on the O’Reilly blog site.