March - April Edition

Mobile Photography

by Richard Gray, The Guardian 2012

Digital Division is finalising details of a "Mobile Photography Exhibition". By way of introduction, the following article has been edited down from a piece titled "The rise of mobile phone photography" by Richard Gray published in "The Guardian" 16/11/13. (Robert Dettman)

Your phone camera is your best camera, because it's always with you. Add to this the ability to almost immediately show your images to the world on platforms such as Instagram and you have an incredibly vibrant genre.

Mobile photographers are much more prolific than average amateur "big camera" enthusiasts. They have their photographic brains switched on all the time, looking for possibilities. And the ubiquity of these cameras, combined with their unobtrusiveness, have made them particularly effective at capturing candid moments in public spaces.

But for many, the initial snap is just the start. It's the raw material for a new creative process. Most mobile phone cameras take very dull photos. But it doesn't matter, because there are hundreds of apps to help you turn them into something amazing. And that's what's really at the heart of it. Costing pennies, mobile photography apps give you the creative power of Photoshop, and more besides, without being tied to your desk. This makes mobile photography incredibly liberating for the creative photographic spirit. Suddenly, every free moment is an opportunity to both take and craft images. These apps have accelerated the creative process, allowing you, quite simply, to be more creative, more of the time, for less money.

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People love getting comments about their photos and take great inspiration from the images of others. It's little wonder, with such a vibrant web of personal exchanges, that the genre has been booming, resulting in millions of people taking great photos every day, and experimenting (or "appsperimenting") with their images in highly creative ways.

Suddenly, thanks to the social platforms, photography has a purpose. People have started taking more aesthetic photos that connect (thanks to hashtags) with complete strangers across the globe. What's more, the apps have released enormous creativity in people who might otherwise never have got involved with photography.

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Pioneering online forums such as, and are showcasing some amazing mobile photographers and artists. Other groups, such as, have taken mobile photography offline, with more than 330 regional groups worldwide organising regular photo walks and meetings.

As a young genre, mobile photography is still finding its own identity. Its roots may be in online and digital, but it has aspirations to be taken seriously by the rest of the photography world and various physical exhibitions have taken place. The LA Mobile Arts festival recently brought together 200 mobile artists, and a recent Instagramers exhibition in Spain was accompanied by a day of talks and presentations.

© Richard Gray/The Guardian 2012 Richard Gray



Digital Division Summer Competition 2013
by Maureen Maxwell – Competition Organiser

The Summer Competition has been successfully run and completed. There were two Sections – Open and Architecture.

 Thank you to all entrants and congratulations to the prizewinners and the random entrant winners. A summary of the judges’ comments appears below.

 Results: Open Section 

First $120   White-throated Kingfisher with a Skink by Graeme Guy
Second $90   About to get wet by Roy Killen
Third $75   Superb Fairy-wrens feeding by Lorraine Jones
HM     Beyond Extinguishing by Ron Willems
HM     Inner Glow by Nadia Paul
HM     Anger horse-2 by Jame Lu







 Results: Architecture Section 

First $120   Canberra Museum by John Stein
Second $90   Disney Hall by Lance Jones
Third $75   Full House by Nadia Paul
HM     Glass Staircase by Anna Pha
HM     Savings Bank by Andrew Fuller
HM     Block Arcade looking up by Vicki Moritz







Random Entrants – Awarded a cash price of $30 each

Paul Carpenter, Jennifer Fawkes, Nicholas Leach, Roger Lancaster and Peter Feeney

The Winter Competition will run during August 2013 and will comprise three sections – Open, Special Theme of Simplicity and a separate section for Newbies.

Summary of Judges Comments and Feedback

  • Overall in Open there was a huge range with some extremely good images, some very good images, some average good images and some that needed something, mostly light to bring them up to the others. Mostly this is experience, knowledge and practice. 
  • With regard to Open in particular, they found the use of HDR often detracted from what may have been a good image. HDR can be effective if used appropriately, but often it was overdone.
  • A percentage of images were below entry level and these may have come from members who are starting their journey through the system. We encourage you to keep entering competitions, as it is a good way to learn.
  • There was a lot of use associated with filters and gimmicks with software that creates these effects quickly and easily. These are fun to use and often you like an effect, but it can be seen as not needed by a judge, if it doesn’t improve the original image.
  •  This same applies to images that have been compiled from a number of images to create some kind of story or effect. Again, this same thinking applies. If it works, it can be good, but if what has been done appears to be an exercise in changing an image rather than creating an effective story, it can act against you rather than for you. So think about what your intentions are in the creations.
  • It is really interesting to see the different stages that people go through as they develop. Sometimes they overdo/underdo effects and sometimes they don’t magnify their work to see if they have made developing faults……but that is how they progress. We have all been through those stages.
  •  The above comments were also made about entries in Architecture. Many people did not read the criteria set for Architecture. Images showing suburbs were disallowed, or images that had as a main feature a person, statue or persons, which came across more as a photojournalism subject and did not feature Architecture were also disallowed. It is important to consider the subject when entering fixed subject criteria.
  • One other thing with architecture in particular, it is very important to have the lines or perspectives within the image straight, perpendiculars and horizontals, unless the building is actually crooked and this is the reason for taking the image.
  •  Purposeful angles can enhance the lines, so if you can’t do straight, think of ways that you can use angles to their best advantage.
  • Architecture is a hard subject and it is very hard to portray something original or artistic in the process. Light was also an issue and many images were taken without considering this in their creation.
  •  Originality and impact were two things looked for and this did not always apply. It is mostly about lines and angles and sometimes it is about colour.
  • Think of a competition as a race, in that you have to wow the judges to get to the finish line first!

For the statistically minded

The total number of images entered is 781

The total number of people who submitted entries 129

The number of images entered into the Open section is 475

 The number of people who entered the Open section is 126

The number of images entered into the Architecture section is 306

The number of people who entered the Architecture section is 85


Black Shadow Backgrounds Part 1 - Natural Light

by Jodie Williams

I am often on the look-out for inexpensive ways to achieve great looking results. For most of us, spending huge amounts of money on a hobby is just not possible and it’s for this reason that I’d like to share a little something that I have learnt along the way so that you too can get the same results (or better) without spending hours behind the computer.
Image 1 JW
Black shadow backgrounds are very popular and best suited for portrait type shots. People and animals look awesome when they are isolated on a dark background. Some people tend to think that the black shadow background is achieved by spending tedious hours behind the computer replacing backgrounds in Photoshop or by using expensive lighting/back drop set ups.
A black background is achieved simply by clipping shadows for a creative effect. By exposing for the highlights and allowing the shadows to block up and lose detail, we can turn the background black.

Composition: Positive & Negative Space

Whole books have been written on composition, but for the purposes of this short tutorial, I am referring simply to the use of Positive and Negative space.
Positive space refers to shape and forms and negative space is the empty space around the shapes and forms. In photos with a black shadow background, the shadow area is considered the negative space.
The areas of negative space are important visual elements that provide balance and tension in an image. The amount (weight) of negative space also helps in conveying mood to an image.
Consider the image below. Do you find it sad, contemplative, lonely, hopeful etc.

Image 2 JW


 Setting Up

To create the black background you need a subject that is light against a background that is dark or in deep shade such as a shed/stable doorway. You will be outside shooting into the shed. If you are using a shed, close any side doors, cover the windows and turn off any interior lighting. The darker you can get your background, the less cleaning up to do.
Don’t feel limited by the lack of a suitable shed, you can use natural window light, a tree-lined paddock or even a building where light and shadow meet. You can even mix it up with off-camera flash (I’ll save that for part 2). You just need enough light to make a strong contrast between light and shadow.
In these shots you will be exposing for the subject not the background.

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In the shots above, I set up using the doorway of a shipping container. The advantage of the shipping container is that it has no side doors/windows or interior lights to create light patches. (In the second image, having a reflector would have been useful to throw some light in the shadows of my models face.) Both shots are taken at f5.6, 1 /1600, ISO 400. 


Camera Settings

There are several key settings you need in order to take control of your camera. The first is exposure mode. Set this to Aperture Priority or Av (Canon). Unless you are comfortable using full Manual, this is essential.
The next setting is the focus mode. You need to set this to ‘One Shot’. Your subject should be still and you shouldn’t use any Servo or Continuous Focusing. Select a single focus point so that you can control exactly what you focus on. The middle focus is most sensitive but you can use a single point that naturally falls over the eye of your subject. Lock the focus by half pressing the shutter and recompose if necessary.
Start out by using f5.6 and ISO 400, changing these as required to keep the shutter speed reasonably fast.
When framing your subject, be on the lookout for ears, noses, limbs etc that might be lost into the shadow areas. If you are able to, have your subject start in the shadows and gradually move into the light. Watch for the play of light and shadow. You can then decide how much of the subject you want in the light and how much you want to leave in the shadows.
For all of this to work you need to expose for the high lights. By that I mean exposing for the brightest part of the subject. The shot below is nearly straight out of the camera, it has only been cropped and sharpened. You can see just how dark you can get your backgrounds with the right kind of light on your subject. I exposed for the white beard to the right of his eye where the sun was reflecting the brightest. (f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 400).

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Post Processing

Ok - I know that I said you wouldn’t have to spend hours behind the computer but we all know that digital images benefit from basic editing at least. Post processing is essential for those of us that shoot in RAW.
For the black backgrounds you can try using a simple levels adjustment to make your shadows darker. In Photoshop open a levels adjustment layer by going to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels. Select the black eye dropper and click on an area in the image that should be black. Sometimes all you need is one little click. Try clicking in different areas of the image to get the look you want.
Image 7 JW


When you are happy with your simple black back ground shots, mix it up a little and experiment with different subjects. In the image below I have added the use of a single flash as my ‘sunlight’. In part 2, I will show you how to use flash to create black backgrounds.
Image 8 JW


The first time I taught photography 

 by Margaret Pattison

If you have ever used chemical darkroom methods, you probably won’t understand 90% of this. I am ever so glad that I did, as it helps me such an enormous amount. Students attending schools with old style darkroom are lucky as they know and have access to both  methods of photography – film and digital.
Some years ago, while I was still teaching, and when “digital” was still in dreamland, a Year 12 teacher approached me saying she had several students in her class who wished to submit photographic works as a unit for their HSC. She had only a very basic knowledge of photographic techniques, and had been told I was well able to help these students. (Apparently a couple of staff members had seen an exhibition (my first) where I was one of four photographers.)
After checking with the students, who said that the previous year with another teacher they had learned how to develop film, and make prints, etc.  Then I checked the master lesson register, where it was recorded  that the class had done that (and much more). I said I would the glad to help them.
Imagine my surprise when I suggested they each bring in the results of their photography from the previous year, and they were embarassed, finally admitting none of them had anything to show for the four hours photography every week for a year!
The first practical lesson of the previous year.  That teacher had loaded a camera with film, given it to them saying” I want you each to take a couple of photos with this. Take a picture of another person, and also one of a building or something not living. And that’s the shutter button you need to press”.
The second practical lesson. The teacher had taken the film from the camera (in the dark of course), loaded it and developed it etc in front of the class. At least the actual developing in the tank was in light so they saw it happen, though they admitted the entire process had not been explained, so they did not understand either what or why. That’s not quite correct, as they knew the film must be washed. How? Good question. In the sink with the tap running, and other students who were rinsing paint brushes didn’t matter.
The third practical lesson. Now it came time to show how negatives “become” prints. The students knew negatives couldn’t “become” prints, but were shushed. A very sketchy process of developing a print ensued, with no mentions of test strips, just develop “till it looks right”, a swish in the fixer, then a wash similar to that of the film.
The following lessons.  The teacher then developed a negative for each student, and made a print (of sorts). Now bring in prints from home that some family member has taken and we’ll mount them. This was done by using photo corners on a sheet of paper.
Somehow in two terms I was expected to guide these students to an HSC during eighty minutes per week in those terms. As well the school darkroom was a closet off another teacher’s classroom. She was a special friend of the teacher who had been promoted to another school, and the previous teacher of the students. This third teacher refused to allow either the new teacher or me in the “darkroom”. At home I had been using the bathroom as my darkroom, and as one son had recently departed to Sydney to work, my husband and I converted his bedroom into a darkroom, visiting regularly at night and weekends. What they told their friends I don’t know, but they were the envy of the school.
When they finished, they knew about cameras,  exposure, different films, papers, normal printing and developing, various techniques, montages and lots of associated things. It was very good for me, as I had only been printing etc for a short time. I also thoroughly enjoyed it, and the antics some of the students got up to obtain “extra lessons” at my place. 
Each student did well in this unit of their HSC, so that was a feather in all our caps, and better than expected in some others too. As luck would have it all HSC works arrived back from marking in Sydney the day before the school’s annual display of work (always attended by the Lord Mayor and some members of Parliament). The event was a terrific success, with the photography a large part of it. 
When word went out through the school that I would be taking the next art class through to the HSC there were enough students for nearly 3 classes, instead of the usual one class. This was due to the photography, and shows how well you develop average students into keen capable individuals, if they are taught something in which they are interested.