The entrance page of PNG

The entrance page of PNG’s new Photo Library

This week we completed a major upgrade of the Papua New Guinea Tourism Authority’s On-Line Photo Library which we built for them about five years ago. The library has proved to be an invaluable tool in promoting the destination, with the software we have just introduced providing a range of new features including added security, search engine capabilities, the ability to track and monitor downloaded images, and a user-friendly registration and management interface (it’s completely managed by tourism authority staff; we just oversee it).

On-Line Photo Libraries are an amazing resource to promote a destination (particularly when you think that just 10 years ago we were all having to burn images to a CD and send them off  in the post). Now, high resolution promotional images can be downloaded instantly from virtually anywhere in the world to be used in advertising, magazines, newspapers and electronic media .

We build the On-Line Photo Libraries (above) for tourism authorities as an extension of the service I offer as a travel and tourism photographer. That means that if you’re a travel writer, a publisher, a travel agent or anyone else who wants a photograph to promote one of the destinations I work with, you can go directly to one of the libraries we’ve created and instantly download high resolution pictures for free.

As a photographer, I’d have to say, the libraries are a bit of a two edged sword as, once my images are available for free on-line, it certainly diminishes my ability to sell them commercially through my own library or the two international agencies that represent me. On the other hand, it adds value to the service I offer, I’m obviously paid to create and capture many of the images that populate the libraries, and it extends my reputation as a travel photographer (one of the few condition of usage is that the images must be credited).

Certainly, it’s a brave new digital world for professional travel photographers – as exciting in terms of new opportunities as it is challenging.

…..there’s no doubt we’re all having to think outside the viewfinder to make a living.

Next Assignment: Back down to Victoria’s High Country – hopefully to capture the changing seasons.

It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since my first book was published. I made next to nothing from it, despite the entire print run (3,000 copies) selling out in six months.
The book, Impressions of Papua New Guinea (below left), was a collection of 50 short stories and 100 photographs, based on two years I spent living in Papua New Guinea.
I wrote the book, captured all the photographs between its covers and designed it, leaving an Australian publisher to print it and – as it turned out – pre-sell it in a single meeting with a national book distributor. When the deal was done, I made 12% of the net profit which, I was told, was generous for a first-time author, while the publisher claimed the balance (not a bad little earner on his part methinks).
When the book sold out, the publisher approached me for permission to re-print it and I asked for a more equitable arrangement given I’d done most of the work and that the risk was reduced as the book had clearly found a market, only to be verbally abused and told the film for the book (as it was in those days) would never be released to me unless I agreed to the earlier terms.
Well, I didn’t agree and three years later I bought the film from the publisher (for what amounted to the royalties I received from the first edition) and printed the book myself, giving birth to my own publishing company, Frontier Publications.
Today, having published books on Australia, South-east Asia and the South Pacific, I’ve returned to Papua New Guinea for my 15th book  – Papua New Guinea – The Last Great Frontier – which is going to press in Singapore as I write this post and, with 3,000 copies already sold, it’s likely to be one of the most successful publications we’ve ever produced.
Clearly, publishing has become an important pillar in my business as a photographer as it adds value to my photographs but, truth be told, if it hadn’t been for that greedy, short-sighted publisher I met early in my journey, it might never have happened.
….It’s funny how things work out.

My first book (1991) - Our latest book (2015)

                My first book (Published 1991)                                         Our 15th book (Published 2015)

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.