Sometimes there is more to a photo than first impressions. Time and again we hear “Great shot! Your camera takes really great pictures.” Well, thanks, I taught it everything it knows. But yes, I do have good camera gear. I AM NIKON after all :)
In our QP Photo Tips series earlier this year, we talked about the fact that you don't need the biggest and best camera to take really good photos. (Check out our August Photo Tips). It’s about knowing what a great photo is to start with, and then knowing the Who-Where-When-and-How of getting those great shots. They don’t just fall into your lap.
GETTING THE 'HEADS UP'
We need to know what’s going on around us in the first place. For a photojournalist this means monitoring various social media channels, radio scanners, watching the weather and in general having a reliable network of people for leads, news and information. Establishing these systems and connections takes time, patience, persistence and a lot of ground work. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it
A good example of this is when we shoot football, often the news story is on the training field or behind closed doors at rehab sessions, and not within general viewing and access. Over the years QPG has worked diligently towards building those valuable connections to be added to the sports associations and club media contact lists. This is where you get the access to those “behind the scenes” stories. This is where those great shots are born, away from the general limelight. Good work, honesty and trust lead to connections and better access. This takes a lot of time and even then, there are no guarantees.
Sometimes we develop the story. No, I don’t mean we fabricate it. Leave that nonsense to the trashy tabloids. We keep our ears to the ground, listen, learn, network and follow a lead or something of interest, and then record the story. Photojournalism is about finding a story and documenting it well for those who are interested.
SHOOT FIRST, ANSWER QUESTIONS LATER?
Last Friday was one of those days that took time to organise. We had found a topic of great interest for a project we are working on, and had the network of contacts to make it happen. The short story is we were granted the rare opportunity of access to Richmond RAAF Base with considerable camera gear in hand (or in car boot, as it were).
The mission (and we chose to accept it!) was to shoot Coulson Aviation’s C-130 Large Air Tanker (LAT) “Thor”, AgAir’s DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) “Nancy Bird” and the two ‘Bird Dog’ observation aircraft, including the flight crews, engineers and mechanics.
Obviously a military base is not the kind of place where you can just rock up, whip out your camera and starting photographing left, right and centre. At least not without getting tackled, arrested and interrogated. And no, I wasn’t prepared to run the risk of “shoot first, answer questions later”.
This is where the work starts long before you click the shutter button. The approval process isn’t too complex, but it does take some work. To achieve such a great outcome we really have to thank the RFS Media Section for their role in coordinating the approval process and getting us in touch with the companies involved. Special mention goes to the State Air Desk who had final coordination and approval, plus Bernie our escort on the day. Early discussions with the companies resulted in verbal approvals. Application to the RAAF was relatively painless. Having to apply with 14 days notice before the first date to shoot just meant forward planning on our part so as not to not double-book during the busy end-of-year season.
Once all approvals got the green tick, we were granted access. After a briefing session with the crews and mechanics on the day, explaining what we were there to do, what we were looking to achieve, what our secret mission is about, answering questions, and giving them time to do their hair and makeup (or not!).
Given the short window of access granted on the day, we had to plan our shoot as much as possible. We had targets and objectives, but as our end result is still developing for us, the shoots we had were a little open-ended. But even having said that, we still had to decide on our ‘Hero’ shots and some well captured ‘filler’ photos. When you have a small window of opportunity, you better grab everything you think you may need, and then some!
As a side note, we live and die by our Calendar. Many a time we have defended the words “If it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t happen!” We always pre-plan everything to make sure every single meeting, shoot or event is planned out, resourced and properly prepared to ensure the best outcome for all stakeholders.
WHAT'S THE STORY, MORNING GLORY?
Firstly, we are always looking to find the ‘nice, different and unusual’ angle to a situation, perspective or story.
Secondly, this shoot was a key factor to the ‘secret mission’ that we’ve started banging on about via QP. We can’t reveal too much at this stage (or we’d have to kill you…). But I can say that it’s all building and gaining some serious momentum. So much so, that even our ‘models’ for the day were sworn to ‘pseudo-military secrecy’.
Thirdly, a little insight into our ‘secret mission’ for you… it has something to do with firefighting. Go figure! And that is all we will say for now. #NoSpoilerAlert