I’m on the flight back from Rabaul to Port Moresby at the end of the seven day assignment which was largely carried out in the midst of a tropical low pressure system created by two converging cyclones.

It’s generally the case that you need to work a lot harder as a tourism photographer in poor weather conditions. Denied the golden light of sunrise and sunset and faced with heavy winds, rain and brooding skies, obviously shooting big scenery pictures is out of the question so you’re having to think a lot more creatively.

In this situation, I generally look to take advantage of the even, overcast light and concentrate on indoor opportunities (markets, museums, resort interiors, textures and food etc), waterfalls (if you can find them or, for that matter, get to them) and tight shots of fauna, flora and people.

As I’m often heard to say though, with talent and proper planning, you just need one fine day out of seven to turn an assignment around which, thankfully, we got on the second last day of the shoot.

And what a full day it was. We started at 5am, jumped onto a boat, roared across the harbour to pristine Pidgin Island, did some quick beach shots, scuba dived on a nearby shipwreck, then lifted anchor and headed off to snorkel on a sunken Japanese zero before the sea breeze came in. An hour later we were back on land,  thundering along an unsealed road and up onto a mountain range in a four wheel drive to get to a scenic lookout before ending up at the base of distant Tuvurvur volcano for some shots with children. By eight, I was back at my bungalow doing room service while I backed-up and processed the day’s pictures which took a couple of hours. My day ended about 11pm as I drifted off to sleep with thoughts of picture ideas for the 7am start the next morning. All up, an 18 hour day (yawn).

Probably the most exhausting aspect of a bad weather assignment is working with the uncertainty of whether you’re going to get better weather. I’m a big believer that as a professional travel photographer, you should still be able to capture appealing images – regardless of the conditions (setting aside extremes, he adds). So you still need to be productive and efficient with your time even though the risk is always higher with less options. And there’s always the prospect that the weather could improve and everything you shoot trying to make it work will become largely redundant when you return (even worse than that, of course, is it raining for the entire period which, I’m happy to report, has only ever happened once in my entire professional career).

Anyway, as you can see from the preview below, despite the weather, the assignment has produced a solid range of appealing images for the national tourism authority.

And, once again, I find myself eternally grateful to the gods for at least that single day of fine weather.

storyboard topstoryboard blog

There are a couple of things I wouldn’t recommend doing if you’re white talent on a photo shoot who’s volunteered to be whipped as part of an East New Britain initiation ceremony (below).

Best whip 1

Firstly:  Don’t tweak the chief’s nipples for a laugh when he’s applying the body paint (even though everyone around you, including him, cracks up (below).


whip 3Secondly:  As you kneel on the ground having survived the first lash, don’t look back at your tormentor and joke that he “hits like a girl.”

(As you might have deduced from Steve’s expression (below), he didn’t the second, third and forth time).

whip 6

And thirdly: Don’t wait until your assailant has turned his back to pick something up (below) before exacting your revenge (much to the delight of the crowd).

whip 4

We’re day two into our photo shoot and the weather’s still terrible but its shaping up to be a memorable assignment (certainly for Steve).

...not quite the conditions we were hoping for

…not quite the conditions we were hoping for

So much for shooting a pristine beach with a stunning island in the background.

I’ve just arrived in East New Britain in Papua New Guinea to, not one, but two converging cyclones. Tempest winds, grey brooding skies, surging waves rolling in flotsam and bucketing rain will make for a challenging shoot.

To add to my woes, Colin, my counterpart from the tourism authority, is down with “Malaria.”

We’re here for the next five days for Stage Two of plans by the national tourism authority to make the northern islands  a tourism hub for Papua New Guinea. Direct flights have started from Cairns to East New Britain; the imagery we will be producing will go towards the promotional collateral used to market the islands as a destination.

It’s a expensive phase. We’ve flown in talent from Sydney and made arrangements around the reconnaissance we did three weeks ago when I was here. Everything has been tightly planned (as much as you can do in PNG, he adds). We only need the weather to make it work.

One day, that’s all I’m asking for. Just one day of fine weather and we’ll get what we came for.

Please, gods, I’m begging you.

I’m convinced there’s a price to be paid for the pleasure I derive from photographing Papua New Guinea –  the suffering, certainly from where I’m sitting now, being equivalent to the richness of the imagery that appears in front of me whenever I go over.

It’s 8am. I have been sitting at Jackson’s International Airport in Port Moresby waiting for my flight home since 3am (as in when most sensible people are still asleep). A five hour wait and the uncertainty of whether the flight will actually leave seems bearable you might suggest but my uncharacteristic enthusiasm at arriving at any airport early has been born by the fact that I sat for nine #^%$$*#@! hours yesterday, through three %%$$#@! false starts, in the steamy airport in East New Britain waiting for my flight to the capital.

Why, I ask the gods, does this always happen on my way home from a demanding shoot when a hot shower and my own bed seem within reach?

Still, here I sit, drawing on my darkening mood to add a few more black and white pics from the assignment which I’ll post when I get back (this, of course, assumes I will get back, that I don’t strangle the screaming child who has just appeared next to me, and that I don’t behead the legion of spluttering coughers who are promising me their wrenched colds should I ever step onto this cursed plane).

Postscript: My computer battery is blinking and still no sign of departure. Arrrrghhhhhhh!!




I’ve just completed the first stage of an assignment to photograph East New Britain as part of a regional branding exercise for Papua New Guinea’s national tourism authority.
I’ll compile the best images of this shoot, and those of the second stage, into a preview I’ll post a few weeks from now after I return with talent to complete the project.
Assuming good weather (and Tuvuvur volcano not erupting again, he says), it’s likely to be a particularly productive shoot as a solid range of generic pictures of the destination has been shot over the past five days. Having done the reccie and organised contacts, we’ve largely mapped out stage two around the activities tourists can do when they come here.
In the meantime, I’m sitting in my hotel room in Port Moresby, playing with a few of the images from the shoot. Here’s a couple of personal interpretations I quite like, incorporating the Tolai money ring which is a symbol of wealth and status in East New Britain.