Tag Archives: Photography

Digital Travel Photography

Text: 2014© Garry Benson 

Discovering your personal vision


Digital Travel Photography with Garry Benson
Digital Travel Photography with Garry Benson

I first picked up a camera at the age of seven, and that’s over fifty years ago. To say the least, technology has changed. Books in my personal library that deal with equipment from ten or more years ago have very little bearing on today’s automated digital cameras, lenses and flashes.

Yes, the fundamentals of setting exposures via shutter, lens aperture and ISO speeds are still relevant, but technology has provided us with instant feedback and hopefully a new way of thinking about making our images better. Moreover, sophisticated software programs like Photoshop have allowed photographers to finish their images as they had envisioned it in their mind’s eye.

However, there is one constant that doesn’t change but rather evolves and that is personal vision. I loosely describe personal vision as the manner in which each of us uniquely sees a scene photographically. Books dealing with good composition will stand the test of time no matter what type of technological wonder is used as a capturing device. This is true because travel photography is all about capturing light – great light! What means we use to capture it (film or digital) is really irrelevant.

If an image is great, it will stand the test of time regardless of what medium was used to record it. It’s the image itself that speaks to the hearts and minds of the viewer. But before we head off into the very individualistic area of what makes a great image, let’s start with some basics.

That Magic Moment
One of the most difficult parts of digital photography that new users have trouble getting used to is the inevitable time delay that occurs between pushing the button on the camera and capturing the picture.

Digital cameras have more to do in preparing to take a photo than film cameras. Like film cameras, they have to focus the lens. However, they also have to take a pre-exposure to get proper colour balance!

The good news is that they are able to achieve better exposed, better colour balanced and in many cases better focused images than film cameras. The bad news is that this takes a fraction of a second and could cause you to miss a great picture.

What can you do about it? There are a couple of approaches that are very effective.

The simplest is to just push the shutter button down half way as you’re waiting for the action to develop. Keep it there until you are ready to shoot, and then press the rest of the way.

Pressing half way signals the camera to immediately choose focus, color balance, and exposure. The subsequent delay when you take your shot is now quite small, comparable to film cameras. When I am shooting I keep the shutter button half depressed, and I get great shots.

A second approach is to switch to manual exposure and focus. If lighting is stable, as it is indoors, this works rather well. Most digital cameras have tremendous depth of field (sometimes too much) so focus is not critical but sometimes you want to have a very small depth of field to emphasise the subject. Using a telephoto lens will often achieve this result, but watch out for distracting backgrounds.

Set your focus for a typical distance, and you will probably be happy with the results. If this is an indoor sporting event, you will want the shutter speed as high as possible, so choose maximum aperture and adjust shutter speed for proper exposure.

That’s just a short intro to this subject – Tracey has asked me to write a regular column about travel photography & I’ll be using some of my images as examples. I was trained as a cinematographer after leaving school at 15 to take up the apprenticeship. Part of my training was to load rolls of 35mm B&W film from a 30mm roll and take lots of shots every weekend. I then had to bring the proof sheets back to work on the Monday and the whole staff would critique my shots. When I finally became a pro cinematographer shooting newsreels on 35mm for Cinesound, I received back a shot by shot ‘rip’ sheet that gave feedback on each shot, how much film I used and how much I wasted. I soon learnt a fair bit about composition and story telling.

To close, a few hints about travelling with cameras. I take two cameras with me on trips – depending on the location a small pocket size camera (like the Lumix DMZ-TS5) that’s also water & shock proof (it does rain a lot in SE Asia and London!). I also take either a Nikon D300 series with a good long lens or a Lumix FZ150 . The Lumix has a Leica lens with a range of 24-600mm but it doesn’t poke out about a metre from my body and can do a really superb job of photographing things like full moon (from a tripod).

Full Moon by Garry Benson
Full Moon by Garry Benson

So must I look like a photographer to local thieves? I try not too.

  • I carry my camera inside my jacket with the strap around my neck – just around my shoulder it’s easy to snatch.
  • Keep your gear in something like a backpack but don’t advertise by having big Nikon or Canon signs all over it.
  • Close the top of your case between shots – sometimes a bicycle lock is handy.
  • When I put my photo case down I put my foot through the carry strap.
  •  I always walk on the building side of the footpath with the camera and/or case on that side to avoid motorcycle thieves.
  • I store the memory cards + small (500gb) external drives in the room or hotel safe after backing up to either my laptop or the Cloud.

So that’s the first column. In future articles I’ll give lots of practical hints from my experiences as a photojournalist & cinematographer – that ‘may’ help you take better travel images. Any feedback on the above is welcome – you can teach an old dog (me) new tricks!

Aspects of the Anangu Lifestyle

Text: Garry Benson
Photos: ©2008 Garry Benson Dragon Design

This article focuses on many aspects of the Anangu (the Aboriginal people of Central Australia) lifestyle.

Tjala (Pitjantjatjara) or Honey Ants are ants which are gorged with food by worker ants, to the point that their abdomens swell enormously, a condition called plerergate. They function as living larders. The mosaic Honey Ant is part of the Kondoli Sculpture, a beautiful Whale mosaic in Victor Harbor South Australia. The Ngarrindjeri and Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people and the local community all contributed to the project as a part of the reconciliation process.

It tells the story of Kondoli (the Ngarrindjeri whale story) as well as the Pitjantjatjara story of the seven sisters. The seven sisters story is relevant to Aboriginal people throughout Australia, as it is a dreaming story universal to most tribal groups. Other artwork is depictions of animals and plants native to Ngarrindjeri and Pitjantjatjara homelands.

Honey ants are edible and form an occasional part of the diet of various Australian Aboriginal peoples. Papunya, in Australia’s Northern Territory is named after a honey ant creation story, or Dreaming, which belongs to the people there. The name of Western Desert Art Movement, Papunya Tula, means “honey ant dreaming”.

Their nests are found in a variety of arid or semi-arid environments. This species lives in extremely hot deserts.

These images shot by me during the 3 week ‘Painting the Song’ expedition in August 2008. This resulted in a book ‘Painting the Song’ & documentary that I filmed & directed on the Kaltjiti artists in the Sand Dune country of the Western Desert.

Matjangka (Nyukana) Norris
Matjangka (Nyukana) Norris

Matjangka (Nyukana) Norris dancing the Minyma Mamu (female devil) Inma or corroboree for which she is famous at Tjilpil nr Fregon, APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands in Central Australia. From the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’, a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008.

Robin Kankapakantja
Robin Kankapakantja

Robin Kankapakantja is the senior nguraritja or traditional owner for Walalkara. He started painting in July 2004 & he creates maps of his country with a sense of space & openness, as his mind’s eye recreates the bright pinks of wild flowers and the vivid blues of creeks brimming with water after rain. From the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’, a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008.

Antjala Tjayangka (and Robin Kankapakantja) – her art reflects her absorption with managing the ecology of the land near Fregon & Walalkara and she has an amazing knowledge of plants & animals of the region.
From the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’, a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008.

Tali Tali Pompey
Tali Tali Pompey

Tali Tali Pompey started painting in 2000 & is very highly regarded as an artist based at the Kaltjiti Arts Centre. Her Paintings evoke the wide expanse of sand dunes stretching on the horizon. From the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’, a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008.

Imitjala Curley is nguraritja (custodian) for Ngunyma
Imitjala Curley is nguraritja (custodian) for Ngunyma

Imitjala Curley is nguraritja (custodian) for Ngunyma as it is her father Peter Wara’s country. Her mother’s country is Walyrjitjara. She & her husband David Curley often work on paintings together. From the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’, a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008.

Painting in the desert dunes near Wattaru, in the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands. This still image was shot during a 3 week expedition in August 2008, resulting in a book ‘Painting the Song’ & documentary that I filmed & directed on the Kaltjiti artists in the Sand Dune country of the Western Desert.

Wiltjas are shelters made by the Anangu (Australian Aboriginal) people of the Central Desert region of South Australia such as the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara groups. They are temporary dwellings, and are abandoned and rebuilt rather than maintained. Open and semi-circular, wiltjas are meant primarily as a defense against the heat of the sun, and are not an effective shelter from rain.

These images shot by me during the 3 week ‘Painting the Song’ expedition in August 2008. This resulted in a book ‘Painting the Song’ & documentary that I filmed and directed on the Kaltjiti artists in the Sand Dune country of the Western Desert.


People don’t always appreciate the damage feral camels are causing in South Australia, chiefly on the APY lands, ranging from land degradation, through to damage to infrastructure and buildings, and fouling waterholes used by native fauna.

On my recent filming expedition to the desert I shot many waterholes fouled by dead camels. These waterholes are the traditional stopping points for Aboriginal people on ‘walkabout’. Much vegetation is also destroyed as camels strip branches off trees & bushes in their search for food. There are literally millions of feral camels in the desert regions of Australia.

Tjukurpa is the foundation of Anangu life and society. The word has many complex but complementary meanings as displays in the above montage of paintings of different Dreamings or Tjukurpa that refers to the creation period when ancestral beings, or Tjukuritja, created the world as Anangu know it. As well as describing the past, Tjukurpa also describes the present and the future. It is the religious, legal and ethical system through which Anangu live, and have lived, in harmony with their harsh and delicate environment for many thousands of years.

Minymaku (mother) and tjitji (child) at an Inma (corroboree) near Fregon. From the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’, a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008.

All Photos ©2008 Garry Benson Dragon Design

Publication details
National Library of Australia listing:
Painting the song : Kaltjiti artists of the sand dune country / Diana James.
James, Diana. 2009, English, Book, Illustrated edition.
Bookmark: http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/44700181
Edition 1st ed.
Physical Description: 172 p. : ill. (some col.), maps, ports. ; 28 cm.
Published: Fitzroy, Vic. McCulloch &​ McCulloch Australian Art Books in partnership with Kaltjiti Arts, 2009.

David Flanagan’s Lake George

A reblog from Graphic Design Canberra of David Flanagan’s beautiful work, which we wrote about in an earlier post titled Canberra day trip to Bungendore.


Papercut Graphic Design

We pass it every now and again when we travel north and it signifies we’re almost home. People tell mysterious stories about where all the water went and eerie happenings from the past that occurred on the land. But since moving south of Goulburn with a view of this expansive lake, I have a new appreciation for how beautiful Lake George really is.

‘Weereewa’ is a festival celebrating Lake George and the surrounding landscape running this February and March. While looking at the program (http://weereewafestival.org), I came across David Flanagan’s photography. In 2005/06 he did a series in which he photographed Lake George from the air. The resulting images are stunningly beautiful and really do uphold the Lake’s mysterious reputation. The little water that was in the lake at the time forms intricate patterns and shapes creating very textural and organic images. The bird’s eye view gives a totally different…

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Horse Riding in Cappadocia – A Photo Essay

A lovely afternoon spend riding through the spectacular Red Valley near Göreme, October 2013.