Blog

Thoughts on Travel, Photography and Life from Ian Lloyd

Chile - Exploring Santiago & Valparaiso

Chile came as a complete surprise to me. Santiago was filled with the familiar architecture of old world Spain but the surrounding snow covered Andes mountains were a constant reminder that this was like no other place on earth. It was hard to pin down as hip new hotels and restaurants sat comfortably alongside a native culture strongly influenced by invasions of Incas and then Spanish conquistadors.

Valparaiso on the coast similarly had its own unique vibe. As a once proud port for the world's merchant navies, it was built precipitously on the surrounding hills overlooking the bay in an  era of sailing ships and schooners. These days the funicular railways and steep stairs up into the town seem like a quaint throwback to those bygone times.

by Ian Lloyd

Okinawa - The Secret to Living a Long Life

I've learned a lot of interesting things on magazine assignments but a recent trip to Okinawa for Islands magazine promised to reveal the secret to enjoying a very long life. Okinawans are known to have the highest percentage of centenarians anywhere in the world and scientists and doctors have been studying the population for years to find out why.

According to Dr. Makoto Suzuki who we interviewed, it seems there are three main factors to living beyond 100.

1. Exercise - regular and often.

2. Diet - eating well, eating slowly and paying attention to how food is prepared.

3. Regular social contacts with friends and family.

Most of the elderly Okinawans enjoyed a healthy diet of fresh seafood and got plenty of exercise from growing their own vegetables. Friends and relatives visited regularly and one elderly centenarian and his wife even hosted afternoon party get togethers sharing beer, saki and conversation with neighbours. 

We were told that researchers hope to find a special longevity gene some day but in the meantime it seems that eating and exercising well and and taking time to be with friends works wonders.  

 

Sumo Wrestling Club, Tokunoshima Island, Japan   

Sumo Wrestling Club, Tokunoshima Island, Japan 

by Ian Lloyd

Leaf Peeping

Vermont

Vermont

A number of years ago Singapore Airlines assigned me to photograph Canada for them so I took the opportunity to go in the autumn, rent helicopters and shoot the spectacular fall colours. The assignment made such an impression on me that last year I went back to do it all over again.      

Lake McArthur , Yoho National Park, BC

Lake McArthur , Yoho National Park, BC

The east coast is generally known for the best show of colours but I couldn't resist a stopover in the Canadian Rockies where I had worked as a young photographer at the Banff Springs Hotel. I wasn't thinking of fall colours but I happened to be there unexpectedly when the alpine larches turned a golden yellow making spectacular mountain scenery even more beautiful. Who would have thought conifers could look so colourful - if only for a week or so? 

In early October I visited Quebec where some of the best Canadian colour foliage occurs. North of Montreal and then eastward along the St. Lawrence river to Quebec City and beyond are favourite areas for what the Americans voyeuristically describe as 'leaf peeping'. 

The heart of the trip though was New England. I was able to gauge where the colours were best from online reports and spent time in favourite areas such as Smuggler's Notch in Vermont, the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Acadia National Park in Maine.

Timing is everything for fall colours and even then a degree of luck is required to avoid rainy weather and even early winter snowfalls. The cool weather and lack of crowds though makes this a special time of year for hiking, exploring and discovering a world of fleeting colour.

 

 

 

 

by Ian Lloyd

Worlds In a Small Room

A show of my photography STUDIO has been touring for six years now and when the show finishes in 2014 it will have been exhibited in 23 galleries including the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. Strangely enough, it was never intended to be an exhibition but evolved from a personal project looking at the working spaces of Australian artists. 

Painter Margaret Olley in her Sydney studio in December 2005. 

Painter Margaret Olley in her Sydney studio in December 2005. 

I was curious about how an artist's studio influenced their creativity and with the help of gallery curators I came up with a tentative list of well known Australian painters, representing different styles, ages, and backgrounds. It seemed like a good idea for a book so I asked the art critic John McDonald to come on board and refine the list down to 60 names. The next stage involved many months of persuading and cajoling artists to open up their very private working spaces. Thus began a two year 50,000 kilometre journey all around Australia documenting artist's studios in all manner of locations.

I came to each studio never having seen it before and had to photograph a dramatic double page image of what was essentially just a box. A very messy box at that. I had the added stress of a famous artist looking over my shoulder each time passing judgment on my interpretation of their creative cocoon. 

After about ten of these set-ups I started to panic, wondering how I could continue to do this fifty more times. It helped that I couldn't pre-plan so I had no pre-conceived ideas about how to treat each space. My quest involved new angles from high to low and even shooting from outside the space at night. I began to trust in my own first impressions and started with a series of test shots that I shared with the artists. We were usually in agreement on what worked best so from there I planned the lighting - ambient, flash, reflectors, hot lights etc. - so that the studio didn't look like it had been lit. The last but not least consideration was to insert the artist in the room in a naturalistic way. 

With only 2-3 hours in each studio, of which an hour was devoted to a video interview for a planned DVD, I really had no time for second thoughts. In time I came to realise that often the best creative solutions for a photographer come from working with limitations under pressure. When there is literally no time to think, creative instincts, being 'in the zone', and right brain thoughts will often kick in to save the day.

See if you agree.  

All the STUDIO double page photographs.

The book STUDIO - Australian Painters on the Nature of Creativity.

by Ian Lloyd

Sri Lanka's Perahera Festival

My first trip to Sri Lanka in the early 1980s was for a new guidebook. It was my first book assignment and a lot was riding on how well I did.

As it turned out, the country was a photographer’s paradise. I also happened to be there for the biggest religious event of the year, the Kandy Perahera. This festival takes place over several days in which a sacred tooth relic of the Buddha is honored in a series of spectacular nighttime processions by elaborately costumed elephants accompanied by hundreds of dancers and musicians. The parade is lit by a phalanx of men carrying burning coconut lanterns and attended by throngs of local devotees and visitors from all over the world.

My delight soon turned to disappointment though as I tried to capture all the incredible nighttime festivities on slow Kodachrome 64 film. I did my best, but I came up short. I just couldn’t capture the magical spirit of the event properly.  

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by Ian Lloyd

Secret Australia

Over the years I have photographed many parts of Australia for magazines such as National Geographic and Islands. The most popular locations that overseas visitors want to see are the underwater wonders of the Great Barrer Reef, the starkly beautiful Outback around the Red Centre and the rugged coastline and mountainous interior of Tasmania. But there is one area that I think rivals all of these wonders for sheer unsurpassed beauty and it is virtually unknown outside the country.

Western Australia's mid north coast is home to spectacular river gorges that rival the best natural wonders found anywhere in the world. National Parks there like Kalbarri and Karijini in the Pilbara are a photographer's paradise and are little visited by the great bulk of tourists as they require planning and effort to see. Getting there involves long flights followed by a drive of a hundreds of kilometres before encountering bone-rattling dirt access roads. On top of this, accommodation is limited to tents and caravans. But all this hardship just adds up to make these destinations even more rewarding. 

by Ian Lloyd

Invisible Technique

The great photographer Robert Frank recently said: “There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art any more. Maybe it never was.”

He's right. Photographers have become celebrities like chefs and hoarders.

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by Ian Lloyd

Digital - Ten Tears After

Ten years ago I gave up shooting film and switched entirely to digital. At the time it seemed incredibly risky and difficult. Editors were suspicious, the gear was expensive, and the software was in its infancy. Purists looked at digital as a fad. On top of that there was a steep learning curve for everything.

I had just completed a 20 year retrospective book and exhibition sponsored by the National Geographic Channel and I felt I had reached the limits of what I could do creatively with film. Digital photography offered the possibility of capturing low light without the intrusiveness of using a flash along with the added bonus of instant feedback. I was worried about quality but the new Canon 1Ds I had bought at great expense had a phenomenal 11 megapixels on offer. That quality got even better very quickly. More importantly though, I felt renewed. I was excited again by photography. I could experiment, make mistakes and take risks. It felt like I could see again with child like wonder.  

I've spent the last ten years exploring digital photography. Shooting blind without looking through a viewfinder. Shooting light I could barely see myself. Sharing images with my subjects. Trying new things. In the beginning it was a hard transition but ultimately it was the best decision I've made since becoming a professional photographer. 

by Ian Lloyd

Websites, Editing & Creativity

I recently came to the shock realization that my website was hopelessly out of date. It started out well many years ago but it had recently suffered from neglect. Time had passed its once elegant design by and I had to admit it was...well...just embarrassing.  My webmaster was not 12 years old anymore and now had degrees in IT and Art History with his own YC backed tech start up company in San Francisco. There could be no possibility of bribing him with extra allowance or family trips. My son had grown up. Even if he had the time, I realized I probably couldn't afford him now anyway. In short, I feared the technical coding and geek voodoo needed to do an entire makeover of my site. 

I need not have.

 

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by Ian Lloyd

Aerials from a Balloon

Ballooning in Australia's Hunter Valley

Ballooning in Australia's Hunter Valley

I was reminded the other day just how ideal photographing aerial images from a balloon can be. The basket of a hot air balloon is quiet, stable and offers lots of obstruction free views. Ballooning has its drawbacks with weather cancellations and your direction determined by the prevailing wind, but when it works...... its spectacular! Firing up the burner at dawn, ascending slowly over sleepy landscapes as the sun rises along with a descent into unknown territory all makes for an exhilarating experience.

I've photographed assignments from balloons in many different parts of the world including the ballooning capital of them all - Cappadocia Turkey. I sometimes think back to an assignment in 1995 though, when a balloon flight turned into a disaster in Bagan Burma (now known as Myanmar). Read here for more.

by Ian Lloyd

Cuba Calling

I went to Cuba on vacation and I arrived on the island knowing what we all know: Communism, Bay of Pigs, Castro. I had no assignment and no intention of waking up early each day to shoot photos. But I did. Simply put, Cuba kept surprising me. For an island whose past is so well documented, whose future sparks so much speculation, I found myself taking pictures everywhere because I felt as though Cuba’s best story may lie in being there now. There in its emergence from a half century of isolation. There in its rising (and crumbling) architecture. In its resilience and failures. The surprises kept coming. The resulting photographs became a 12 page photo essay in the April 2013 issue of ISLANDS magazine as well as a video presentation

Afro Cuban music at the Palenque de los Congos Reales, Trinidad, Cuba

Afro Cuban music at the Palenque de los Congos Reales, Trinidad, Cuba

by Ian Lloyd

Elephants Swimming to Java

It was the worst of times and the worst of places. I was in the tropics on the equator mired up to my thighs in impenetrable black mud. It was a rain forest in the rainy season in southern Sumatra and I was tired wet and hungry. But what really concerned me most was that I hadn't taken a single photo of the subjects I'd been assigned to cover. I'd walked thirty kilometres over three days wading through slime and tripping over fallen trees. The area resembled a war zone as much of the forest was being cleared for a government resettlement programme. In time, this land would produce neat rows of crops farmed by hardworking Indonesians escaping the overcrowded island of Java. But now all it offered was fallen trees, mud, erosion and one very disgruntled photographer.

It all began, as these things so often do, with a phone call at three o'clock in the morning from Paris.

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by Ian Lloyd