black and white

Werribee Open Range Zoo // August 2016

My sister and I took ourselves to Werribee on a beautiful Winter’s day to try the “off-road safari” at Werribee Open Range Zoo here in Victoria. I’d been to Werribee before, but I’d never gone on the safari.

 

CqEEM7iUEAAq0l_

 

We had a really great safari tour guide, Matthew, who told us about the shift in zoos and wildlife parks away from the traditional attraction sites of the past to a focus on conservation and education, and the animals we saw definitely seemed to benefit from it.

 

Werribee2016-9487wm

 

Werribee2016-9255wm

 

Werribee2016-9381wm

 

They are given strictly limited human contact (only what conditioning is needed to help keep them manageable and safe) and the environment and species social groups help them to maintain their natural behaviours. It was actually really moving to see how happy and settled they seemed, even when we were driving around near them.

 

Werribee2016-9358wm

 

Werribee2016-9440wm

 

Werribee2016-9471wm

 

The only part I was disappointed about was that after the tour, we went to see the Lion enclosure but it was largely blocked off. The big cats are my favourite to photograph, so it was hard to take photos that worked from such a distance. I managed to get a couple of photos, but I wasn’t as happy with them.

 

Werribee2016-9496wm

 

Werribee2016-9506wm

 

I’m not really sure what prompted me to try editing them in black and white, I think I just tried it with one of the giraffe photographs and liked how striking the effect was. I did edit a couple of photos in a sort of low contrast, semi-matte colour, boosting the levels of the blues and greens using saturation levels in Lightroom, then selective colour in Photoshop. I made sure whatever I was doing with the colour in Photoshop to keep watching that the whites stayed white, which is always a good guide to keep things looking realistic (unless unrealistic is what you’re going for).

 

Werribee2016-9374wm

 

Werribee2016-9584

 

Taking photos of wildlife is, obviously, a completely different skill set to taking convention photos or portraits, and so it’s nice to stretch yourself and do something different!

Emotion

I was thinking about how many different ways we have of describing the rhythm of our heartbeat and how we use it to punctuate different moments and events in our lives. We say our heart races when we fall in love. It stops when we’re afraid. It aches when we get hurt. It swells when we feel proud. It hammers, it skips a beat, it bursts, it thuds, it breaks. It’s a muscle, roughly the size of our fist, that plays like a silent soundtrack throughout our lives.

Sometimes I can look at photos and all I see is a heartbeat. I can see it swell, I can see it race. I have felt it when I’ve taken photos; the feeling like it’s beating so loud I could hear it echoing in my ears. It’s usually when I know something is coming, when I’m anticipating some moment I want to photograph.

 

SPNPhx 2016

SPNPhx 2016

 

Some might say that’s esoteric or simply a whimsy, that I’m placing too much on capturing a photo. But it’s these photos that I know have effected me that are the ones that seem to move people the most.

 

VegasCon2014

VegasCon2014

 

180-365-4559

Makayla, 2012

 

PHXCon2016-7461wm

Kim Rhodes and Rob Benedict, SPNPhx 2016

 

Copy of SeaCon2016 -2704

Matt Cohen, SeaCon 2016

 

Rob 2016-3938

Rob Benedict and Briana Buckmaster, Seattle 2016

 

Jensen Ackles, VanCon 2015

Jensen Ackles, VanCon 2015

 

Chris Schmelke, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

Chris Schmelke, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

 

Photography is a shared, universal language in the same way that emotion is. Emotion doesn’t know or recognise age barriers, gender barriers, religious barriers, language barriers. It just is. It’s something we all know, and we don’t necessarily understand why we know it. But if we can look at a photo and recognise the emotion in it we will respond to it, regardless of the context of the photograph itself. It’s no wonder that photography is what is mostly used to document our history and humanity. It can tell a story that can cross borders in ways that words can’t.

 

Briana, Seattle 2016

Briana, SeaCon 2016

 

PHXCon2016-6009wm

Richard Speight Jr, SeaCon 2016

 

Dani and Dad, December 2012

Dani and Dad, December 2012

 

VegasCon16-0534

Ruth Connell and Rob Benedict, VegasCon 2016

 

Osric Chau with fans, Karaoke VanCon 2015

Osric Chau with fans, Karaoke VanCon 2015

 

I truly believe that the more you put into a photo the more someone will take from it. If you want it to last and to have meaning, the feeling behind it should be equally as sincere. This is even more important in the editing process. You have to be quite strict and ruthless in what you cull. What you don’t show can be as important as what you do. It’s something that I battle with; I have to learn not to over-saturate, but instead to be more deliberate about what I show. It has greater impact that way. Leave people wanting to understand but not being given all the tools to understand.

 

Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict, Karaoke PasCon 2015

Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict, Karaoke PasCon 2015

 

Jared Padalecki, VanCon 2015

Jared Padalecki, VanCon 2015

 

Sometimes putting so much into photography can be exhausting, and when it’s all going wrong it can feel overwhelming. It’s tempting to just coast along and it’s tempting to not try to shift and grow.

But as exhausting and overwhelming as it can be there’s nothing really like putting your whole heart into a photo and seeing people respond to it.

There really isn’t.

What Makes A Good Photograph?

What is it about some photos that makes us really make us stop and take a look? Those photos that make us think? The photos that make us feel?

Before I go on; I’m not even just talking about the “worthy” photos, the ones that end up in National Geographic lists about photographs that changed the world. I mean even a photo that your grandmother took of you at your fifth birthday; you can look at that twenty years later and you can hear everyone’s voices singing happy birthday, you can feel the weak heat coming from the candles, and smell the cake. Photographs are powerful no matter who took them and how.

Bath time, phone photograph 2014

If you think about how many different images our brains take in and filter through in any given day, it’s a wonder that we are actually able to fully process and engage with any singular image. But some images really do have a unique power. It’s arresting, that sudden stop that you make when you see one. All it takes is that small seed, that tiny tug on the rope that pulls us in. But what is that? And is it the same for all of us?

The truth is I’m not really sure; I’m just as in the dark as you and as a photographer these are questions I ask myself all the time. When I’m shooting, when I’m culling through whatever I’ve shot, when I’m editing, when I’m deciding what to post; what’s foremost in my mind is what is going to be the one thing about each photo that is going to give that tiny pull. You know when you have a magnet, and you hover it over a fridge or something metal? And there’s that point, right on the edge of where the pull only just starts. That’s the feeling I’m looking for.

Kim Rhodes, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, Phoenix 2016

Kim Rhodes, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, Phoenix 2016

 

Parade, 2014

Parade, 2014

 

Angie and Brooke

Angie and Brooke

But I could shoot a hundred images and never feel that personally about any of them. Or I could shoot one image and feel it so strongly and someone else doesn’t feel anything at all. It’s the thing that makes photography so amazing and confusing and frustrating at the same time. We all come to look at different images bringing a lifetime of other images with us. Not only that, we’re bringing every thread from our own individual lives – who we’ve loved, who we’ve lost, what we think, what we know, what we think we know, what we’ve learned, what we’ve forgotten. No two people will look at an image and have that same background framing the meaning of a photograph for them.

Rob Benedict, Seattle 2016

Rob Benedict, Seattle 2016

 

Briana, Seattle 2016

Briana, Seattle 2016

As an example, if I take a photo of a person and another person looks at that photo, how they see the subject in that photograph can be dependent on so many different, very personal things. Do they know the person? How does this person make them feel? Have they interacted with them? Have they heard of the person? Does the person remind them of someone else? Someone they loved? Someone who hurt them? Is whatever the subject is doing something universal that we can all relate to? Does the person’s facial expression make us feel joy or discomfort? Is there more than one person in the photo? What does their dynamic suggest about their relationship?

VanCon14-7388

Misha Collins, Vancouver 2014

 

Makayla and Dani

 

Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict, AHBL 4

Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict, AHBL 4

Not only that, but there is a third person in the equation – the photographer. Are they trying to make you see the subject in a certain way? Or is the photo candid, and so it reflects something the photographer doesn’t even really know they themselves feel? This tension is a theme in all art forms; once it is out there, your work never really belongs to you anymore. It is a part of you, in some aspects a deep part of you that you don’t really know, and now suddenly it’s up for interpretation by anyone else.

As scary as that is, that’s actually why you do it though. At least that’s how I see it. I want people to feel something looking at my photography, because I feel so much when I do it. It’s another form of communication, it’s a narrative, it’s an expression, it’s a question, it’s an answer.

MattCohen-6991wm

Matt, 2016

Osric, 2016

Osric, 2016

And yes, there are some photos that just simply exist. They just are. They don’t offer deeper meaning, they don’t need to be read. They just exist. That photo from your birthday may never make a list in National Geographic but for that time you look at it years down the track it won’t matter, because it means something for you. We need those too. The more we look the better we get at seeing.

 

Salute to Supernatural Pasadena 2015

On the Monday following DenverCon, I made my way across to Pasadena for the convention there the following weekend. It was really different being able to say, “well I didn’t get such great shots at that panel, but I’ll have another chance in a week.” Usually you have your one shot and then it’s months before the next. I did try not to use it as an excuse to be lazy, or complacent in Denver though!

PasCon was a standout for me in so many ways. There were so many people I knew there, I got to see so many friends and familiar faces. My good friend Michelle, who I first met when I sat next to her at BurCon two years ago, was kind enough to drive us around for the few days before the con started. The weather was perfect. I love California.

 

santamonica2015

 

As far as my photography goes, the standout for me was both Karaoke and the Louden Swain Saturday Night Special. Anyone reading these blogs will know that I am extremely critical of my photography, but both of these times something in me clicked and I just felt it all really working. I don’t know how else to explain it. You know those images that show what happens when a key fits into a lock properly and all the tumblers move into place? It was kind of like that.

 

Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict, Karaoke PasCon 2015

Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict, Karaoke PasCon 2015

 

Briana Buckmaster, Karaoke PasCon 2015

Briana Buckmaster, Karaoke PasCon 2015

 

Matt Cohen, Karaoke, PasCon 2015

Matt Cohen, Karaoke, PasCon 2015

 

Again, it was the Saturday Night Special that I truly found the most challenging and the most rewarding to shoot. I thought it would be especially bittersweet because it was the last of the year, but instead it felt like a huge celebration, an acknowledgement that they have found this amazing event that they want to hold onto and share into next year. Of course I cried, but that was a given.

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

 

Briana Buckmaster, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

Briana Buckmaster, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

 

Chris Schmelke, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

Chris Schmelke, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

 

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

 

Richard Speight Jr, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

Richard Speight Jr, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

 

PasCon was also the first time I got to properly photograph Briana Buckmaster and Kathryn Newton, and I fell for them both. So lovely and funny!

 

Kathryn Newton, PasCon 2015

Kathryn Newton, PasCon 2015

 

Briana Buckmaster, PasCon 2015

Briana Buckmaster, PasCon 2015

 

2015 was a big year for the Supernatural conventions. It was the 10th anniversary, there were more dates in different cities, bigger venues and the Louden Swain Saturday Night Special truly became a big monster event of its own. But at its heart, these were still the same conventions that they have always been. Some things will change, get bigger, get smaller. But some things will always be the same.

It’s the waiting in the lobby when you check in to your hotel wondering who else is there for the same convention, until you spot someone with a Family Business shirt and you know you’re in the right place. It’s your room at the start of a weekend,  an explosion of schedules and highlighters and different coloured tickets and lanyards and cosplay and phone chargers and SD cards for cameras. There’s the same nervous excitement waiting around for the doors to open before Karaoke late on a Friday night, laughing about being Friday People even though your feet already hurt and you could probably fall asleep if you sat down long enough. There is still the feeling of the sound of your heartbeat almost drowning out the music in Chris’ photo op room while you watch other people pose for photo ops and you wait your turn. There’s the butterflies when you wake up each morning and try desperately to force in breakfast because you know it’s probably the only decent food you’ll have all day. There’s still that feeling when your last autograph is done on a Sunday, and you start to see people leaving and you wonder if you’ll ever get used to what that feels like.

2015 was a big year, but 2016 will be bigger. The same but different. I think I’m ready for it.

Salute to Supernatural San Francisco 2015

The 2015 Supernatural convention circuit kicked off in January in beautiful San Francisco, California.

I’d never been to San Francisco, so as well as getting to do the convention I was excited to explore a bit for a couple of days after the convention.

Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz, San Francisco

 

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

 

Giraffe, San Francisco Zoo

Giraffe, San Francisco Zoo

 

The conventions started out with a bang – this is what I’ll call The Big Convention Year, celebrating 10 years of Supernatural, and I think the stakes have been raised to reflect that. Creation Entertainment have invested in a huge new sound and lighting system, and the guys themselves have all been involved in shaping different aspects of the convention itself. This year, the Cabaret is being billed as the Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, which is wonderful since it encapsulates just how important Louden Swain have become to the whole convention. It really would not be the same without them, or without Richard Speight Jr running the show as the Host (or Captain of the Ship, if you prefer).

My friend I was attending the convention with hadn’t seen a Creation event for over a year, so I was excited for her to see how much of a huge production it’s become.

 

Host Richard Speight Jr kicks off SFCon 2015

Host Richard Speight Jr kicks off SFCon 2015

 

Felicia Day, Friday SFCon 2015

Felicia Day, Friday SFCon 2015

 

Osric Chau, Friday SFCon 2015

Osric Chau, Friday SFCon 2015

 

Matt and Richard’s karaoke party theme for 2015 is “Cult Classics”, which sounded difficult at first, but is actually quite a broad well to draw from! Loads of attendees dressed up for the karaoke, which is a good sign for the rest of the year!

 

Photography by Christopher Schmelke

Photography by Christopher Schmelke

 

Sebastian Roche, Karaoke SFCon 2015

Sebastian Roche, Karaoke SFCon 2015

 

Richard Speight Jr, Karaoke SFCon 2015

Richard Speight Jr, Karaoke SFCon 2015

 

Gil McKinney and Rob Benedict, Karaoke SFCon 2015

Gil McKinney and Rob Benedict, Karaoke SFCon 2015

 

My last blog post was about how the different parts of the cons have very different feels and so I sort of approach shooting them differently. However, as I was editing my photos for SFCon, I noticed that this particular convention kind of tore up that rule book. The karaoke and the “cabaret” were the same, however the panels also had this very moody, high key lighting. It was most noticeable when the guests would walk to either side of the stage, they would be thrown into this high-key side-lighting that gave everything a very dramatic feel.

 

Rob Benedict, Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard, SFCon 2015

(l-r) Rob Benedict, Stephen Norton, Misha Collins, Mark Sheppard and Mike Borja, SFCon 2015

 

Mark Sheppard, SFCon 2015

Mark Sheppard, SFCon 2015

 

Jensen Ackles, SFCon 2015

Jensen Ackles, SFCon 2015

 

The Louden Swain Saturday Night Special / Cabaret is still the highlight of the convention for me. It’s difficult to describe exactly what it’s like unless you’re there to experience it, and I urge anyone who is thinking of going to the SPN cons this year to go to the Saturday concert. The guys put their heart and soul into the whole weekend, but Saturday night just feels a little bit more special, like the emotion is just that much higher.

 

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special 2015

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special SFCon 2015

 

Christopher Schmelke, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

Christopher Schmelke, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

 

Rob Benedict and Mark Sheppard, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

Rob Benedict and Mark Sheppard, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

 

Mike Borja and Billy Moran, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

Mike Borja and Billy Moran, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

 

Stephen Norton, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon2015

Stephen Norton, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon2015

 

Gil McKinney, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

Gil McKinney, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

 

Matt Cohen, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

Matt Cohen, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, SFCon 2015

 

The fact that this incredible band, that plays tirelessly all weekend as the houseband, is still able to put on a concert for us in the middle of it all is amazing to me and I cannot express enough how much I love it. If you’re a fan of these guys, and a fan of good music, please go and see this!

The panels were the usual heady mix of earnestness and hilarity, and it seems as though every time there is a convention there are more and more new (and younger!) people attending. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how adorable it is to hear someone get overcome when it’s their turn to ask a question at the microphone during a panel. I don’t blame them – I wouldn’t get up to ask a question, and look how many I’ve been to!

If SFCon 2015 was a sign of things to come for the rest of the convention year, we are all incredibly lucky! Here’s to 2015!

 

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, SFCon 2015

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, SFCon 2015

 

Misha Collins, SFCon 2015

Misha Collins, SFCon 2015