A pristine swimming hole in the morning and a stunning coral island in the afternoon – I’m enjoying photographing Vanuatu – and particularly Efate (which, I just worked out, I haven’t shot in more than a decade).

While resort shoots and assignments in the outer islands for the national tourism authority have seen me returning to the country several times recently, the brief on this occasion was just to shoot the main island of Efate which attracts the majority of Vanuatu’s tourists.

The tourism authority simply handed me a car, a Shot List of the subjects it wanted captured and plugged me into their operators. Perfect (and likely to be a particularly productive assignment, I should add).

Tomorrow I’m off sailing and snorkelling on the Coongoola first thing in the morning so hopefully the clear weather that came in this afternoon will last. I’ll keep you posted

Photo Tip: If you’re photographing an island from the air, be sure to use a polarising filter to bring out the contrasting blues and greens. Remember, you need colour in the water so an hour either side of midday – depending on which way the island’s feature’s face – is likely to get you the best result. Aim for low wind, high tide, no or few clouds, and – critically – a clear blue sky above the island.

Caption: Hideaway Island (above) and Rentapao River (below).

Above: One of the several smaller tiers leading to the top waterfall at Mele Maat (or Cascades) on Efate Island, Vanuatu.

It’s been several months since Efate’s had any rain (of course, that’s about to change now I’ve arrived, he says ##@!!) but, even then, there’s water flowing and some attractive swimming pools to be found. Imagine this pic with a couple of trekkers in colourful clothing, perched on that rock in the foreground or with their backs to the camera peeling away the foliage to discover this scene……..sounds like it has potential for a hero shot to me……don’t you think Rachel? (Rachel’s my new photography student from the national tourism office, standing in for Alcina – while she does her fingernails:).

Shooting Tip: When it’s overcast or raining, waterfalls are always the first place I head to on a tourism shoot because, as you can see, the light’s even and – as long as you’ve lugged a tripod in with you – you can do long exposures of the water to get that “cotton- wool ” look. Ideally, no wind, no sun (but shoot when the sun’s high) and a polarising filter with neutral density filters if you have them. This one was shot on the large format camera at iso 200.F32 @ 3 secs.

Ps. I’m holding back on posting a pic of the top waterfall until the gods decide whether they plan to unleash a deluge or deprive me of the shots we have lined up if the weather improves….(I’m begging ya guys, just two days of sunlight and I promise I’ll go to church when I get back).

We’ve just started the Vanuatu shoot of Efate (the country’s main island) and, despite a weather forecast that predicted six straight days of rain (joy), I’m happy to say the gods have chosen to deliver some fine conditions. Here’s a quick pic of a popular swimming spot – Eton Beach in the island’s north.

4am start again tomorrow so it’s an early one for me.

Nice to be back in Vanuatu doing a tourism shoot.

Shooting Tip: High tide was critical for this shot. Ten O’clock worked best, before the wind picked up and the light and shadows became too extreme. Glorious swimming location – safe, protected and pristine, white beach, with simple shelters built for shade. With luck, I’ll return to it in the same conditions with the drone and talent to drop onto that left-hand beach, wearing an appealing, contrasting colour.

Next Stop: Mele Maat Waterfall – in my opinion, one of the most stunning waterfalls in the entire South Pacific.

I leave next week on assignments to Vanuatu, then the Cook Islands which will pretty much take me up to the Christmas break.

As you might imagine, I’m looking forward to photographing both destinations again – particularly having spent the past few weeks in the studio processing images for three new coffee table books we’re publishing (previous post), and adding to our commercial photo library at  www.davidkirklandphotography.com.

I’d have to say, there are few pleasures in going back and scouring through my archive of, literally, tens of thousands of raw images from previous assignments – to find the ocassional photograph that may have potential for the projects we’re working on.

As a professional tourism photographer, my priority is to provide my clients with the best selection of photographs from the assignment, matched to their Shot List – which I do. But it needs to be done efficiently as the client tends to want them as soon as possible, and – from a business perspective – there’s a limit to how long I can spend selecting and working on the best images before handing them over and heading off on the next assignment.

So, having returned to the archives with a bit more time and a perspective that can only come with distance, I’m happy to say there has been some gems to be found. Of course, the raw images still need to be processed then captioned and meta-tagged (joy) before uploading but I’ve managed to take some comfort knowing that photographs like these two (above and below) from an earlier PNG assignment will get to see the light of day and that someone else might come to value them as much as I do.

Anyway, time for a change of pace ….and an appointment with the best Kava in the South Pacific (a controversial statement indeed….though I’m sure Alcina will agree).


Below: For your interest, this is the difference between the raw file and a finished photograph, as well as a summary of the post-production process I went through.

Workflow: Import folder of raw files into Lightroom (probably 300 images altogether) to select the image. Increase exposure and contrast, tinker with whites, tweak vibration and saturation, straighten horizon, crop to suit, vignette, and export to desktop. Then import the file to Photoshop, check for minor imperfections and clone if necessary, adjust curves, sharpen image, dodge and burn to enhance features (ie whiten feathers), layer photo to add “punch”, title the picture, export it to desktop as both 300 dpi RGB Tiff file and 300 dpi J-peg level 12 file.  Store Tiff on hard drive as back-up and upload J-peg to www.davidkirklandphotography.com. Then caption and meta tag the picture (which, as you can see from our library, has been the least of my priorities)….And yes, this is what’s involved in processing every photograph that makes the final cut.

We’ve started production on three new coffee table books to promote The Cook Islands, Vanuatu and The Solomon Islands.

The hard cover books (above) will be published early in 2018, drawing on the best of thousands of photographs uploaded to our on-line photo library at www.davidkirklandphotography.com

The 120 page souvenir books have been carefully designed to re-enforce the marketing efforts of each of the country’s national tourism authorities by including appealing images of their main tourists attractions, with subjects including scenery, activities, culture and the exceptional experiences on offer to visitors. Importantly, they are a convenient size (210mm X 210mm), so they fit easily into a suitcase, and they’ll be reasonably priced (probably around AUD$30 each).

Photographic souvenir books have long played an important role in a country’s marketing mix. Visitors expect to be able to buy them when they arrive so they can return home with something to remember their holiday by and share with family and friends – hopefully creating the desire in others to visit the country too. Unfortunately, the comparatively low volume of tourists in the South Pacific, coupled with transport, storage and distribution costs, and having money tied up in stock for so long, continues to make publishing books commercially challenging (if not seriously risky, as my general manager keeps telling me).

More than 150 photographs will be included in each book which has been based on the successful design of our Papua New Guinea Gift Book (below) of which 3,000 copies have already sold.

We have plans to create similar publications on other countries in the South Pacific on which we have built substantial photo libraries – maybe we’ll also do some wall calendars and playing cards which continue to prove popular. One thing I can say with certainly is that we’re out of the postcard business which has gone the way of the Dodo with everyone now using their smart phones to send photos home and avoid mailing costs.

So, expect to see our books on the shelves when you visit the Cook Islands, The Solomons, Vanuatu or Papua New Guinea next year.

Next Assignment: The Cook Islands (….though there’s still Lesotho (Africa) in the pipeline and a rumour going around that I might head back to Vanuatu beforehand….but then, who really knows).

Drones have become an indespensible tool in capturing high quality resort photographs.

Location, vicinity (particularly to the beach), activities and size are just a few of the aspects of a resort property that can be appealingly captured using a drone – and at a fraction of the price we all once paid to hire a helicopter.

And, given it can be up in just five minutes, there’s so much more flexibity to be had in terms of shooting in ideal conditions (lighting, cloud cover and tides), the subject matter you have time to shoot (property, scenery, activities etc), and the angles you can work at (high, low, distant, close). Added to that, the drone flies at 45 kilometres per hour, it can travel seven kilometres from where you’re standing, and it rises to 500 metres (not that you’re allowed to, he adds).

But it’s only recently that high quality still photography in a drone has become both affordable and easily transportable (as I have written before, I waited for the Phantom 4 Pro to be released this year before heading skyward, finally convinced the large file size and the quality the sensor produced were up to the job). That said, it’s an extra case to carry, a whole new dimension to work in, and there’s the technology to master, but the results speak for themselves.

It’s now hard to imagine a resort not wanting quality drone images featured in their promotional collateral – or for me to head off on assignment without it.

Here’s a short preview (above) of some of the drone images captured over the past few months which have all been shot to convey key marketing messages of the property.