I’m just back from a particularly productive 10 day shoot of Efate Island in Vanuatu for the country’s national tourism authority.

The brief: Cover at least 15 subjects on the Shot List we’ve drawn-up, primarily concentrating on scenery and the island’s tourism highlights. Include aerials (drone) and underwater. We’ll give you a car and plug you into our operators. Beyond that, we’ll try and get you some “tourist talent” but they will be local and you’ll have to work around their day jobs.   

So, here’s a short preview of hundreds of new images which the Vanuatu Tourism Organisation will be drawing from as part of a new association we are building to promote the destination worldwide.


Next: Two back-to-back assignments of The Cook Islands which will see me through to the end of the year.

A few quick pics from Lelepa Island – regarded as some of the best snorkelling around Efate (which has certainly proved to be the case to date). Colourful coral patches, plenty of fish and – as you can see – amazing visibility on the morning we were there.

Well done Karin and Matt who all but drowned having to repeat their dives for a stubborn photographer who was eager to do the setting  justice.

Photography Tip: If you’re planning some underwater photography, overcast days tend to make for better pictures – particularly if you have people in the frame as the bodies tend to be overexposed at the same settings you need to capture the colour and detail of the coral and fish. Depending on the conditions, I also drop at least one F-stop to ensure I get more detail. Remember, the best colour is closer to the surface; go too deep and everything turns blue. Find a pleasing feature in the coral and work around it..and, if you’re going to feed the fish in a spot where they are used to being fed, hold onto your fingers!

Yahoo, the tourism authority tracked down some local talent (Karin and Matt) for the last part of the shoot, who both look great and have arrived with a fun “can-do, just-point-us-in-the-right-direction attitude.”

Having spent the past week driving around Efate, I’ve worked out where some of the most photogenic locations are, and the right time of day to return, so it’s just a matter of dropping them into the settings (above) and encouraging them to enjoy themselves (below).

Yesterday it was The Blue Hole, a return to Rentapau Waterfall and a beachside Kava bar out at Pango Point (which accounts for why this is a late posting on my part). Today we’ll have a quick play on the harbour with paddle boards and kayaks, then head off to one of Efate’s best snorkelling sites on Lelepa Island.

It’s shaping up to be a particularly productive shoot. I’ll post a preview of the 30 best pics at the end of the assignment.

Photography Tip: My brief to “tourist talent” is that I’m likely to ask them to play to one of three different moods – Relaxed Contemplation (i.e. for when they are surrounded by a beautiful natural setting), Laughter and Fun (to create an  element of spontaneity so the pic doesn’t look posed), and Engagement  (between themselves or with the local culture). During the initial phase of our assignment, I generally direct to each of these moods and decide which they do best, then I guide the shoot around it. As you can see, Karin and Matt do the last two particularly well.

I’d have to say, capturing a sudden burst of bright light exploding from the darkness and the mouth of a fire dance performer is not the easiest thing in the world to photograph well.

Of a folder containing about a 100 shots, only a couple of pictures (above) survived the cull.

Stefan (pictured) is the lead performer in Vanua Fire, a Ni-Vanuatu dance troupe that bursts into flame nightly at resorts around Efate. Their performance is contemporary, rather than the fire dancing you’d expect to see in, say, the Polynesia countries. Seven men and women dance a choreographed performance to taped music with a dazzling array of swirling, jumping and dancing techniques. It’s well worth watching… and fun to photograph if you’re looking for a challenge.

Photography Tip: Producing a successful flame performance shot takes some serious  practice……more

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With the blues and greens surrounding Iririki island in Vanuatu’s Port Vila, the obvious shot is to capture it in full light (above).

But it’s also an enchanting setting early in the morning (below), with its soft hues, its yachts bobbing listlessly in the harbour and the colourful banana boats making a b-line towards nearby islands.

In promotional terms, both styles of photography have their place (it’s just a shame the pics in this post are so small as the shot beneath has such a glorious feel to it – like an old world painting).

Photography Tip: As a professional tourism photographer, you need to consider the photograph you are making in terms of its likely application i.e. whether it will be used for posters, internet, billboards, brochures, advertising etc, etc. In this instance, I had the time to shoot expansively. The harbour was captured in a square format initially to suit a magazine cover, then I shot a more elongated, horizontal format anticipating a double-page spread. I also fell further back to allow plenty of space for a headline and copy, then I fell back still further so the image could be cropped into a panoramic pic for a web site header.

It’s easy to get caught up with the scenery and be satisfied to walk away having captured a pleasing photograph but, when you do it for a living, you can’t afford to lose sight of the fact there’s more work to be done while you’re there.