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my-canberra

Last weekend (if you count the Friday), I got up in the dark of night in order to witness and photograph three sunrises. That’s three in a row. That’s about the sum total of sunrises I’ve managed in my entire life, all in one successive hit. And let me make something clear. I am not a morning person so this is indeed some feat.

So what happened to bring about this massive and abrupt change in my nocturnal patterns?

The Canon Collective hit Canberra when a weekend photo festival happened. And it was fantastic. Three full-on days of photo workshops and events with a gang of super talented and friendly Canon folk, sharing knowledge and giving tips, lending out some of their gear, and generally spreading the photography love.

Canberra provided a spectacular backdrop, because it’s a pretty spectacular place and a bit of a photographer’s dream. Seriously, that lake …

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Supported by VisitCanberra and QT Hotels, the events took place in a range of locations around the city: a macro session at the Botanic Gardens, a bird photography session at the Jerrabomberra Wetland, street photography around the city, and more.

I didn’t get to try one of the super-duper zoom lens myself at the wetlands (otherwise my photos no doubt would have been utterly superlative, naturally) so I concentrated on catching other things:

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And it inspired me to do a bit of a walk around the town by myself for a bit of solitary street photography:

At the themed portrait shoot at the Arboretum in a Himalayan cedar forest (yes, that’s the sort of thing we have here), we paid great attention to light and lighting and got to pretend* we were fashion photographers or members of the papparazzi and collectively snapped the lovely model, Emily Tokic, many thousands of times over, while she remained good-humoured, patient and immaculate till the end.

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*Actually, some of the people were professional photographers and others were placed all over the experience spectrum, but all I’m sure managed to pick up new insights or gain great practice.

Here’s a glimpse into how it was done:

The festival went on and on with almost endless choices. There were action sessions – photographing mountain bike riders at Mt Stromlo, photographing underwater scenes at the AIS, or capturing flour-dusted models flying around on trampolines. I didn’t attend those but the photos were pretty speci. Check them out on Visit Canberra Facebook page or on Instagram, #CanonCollective or #VisitCanberra.

There were some more technical sessions too, where you could learn about panoramas and how to stitch them together in light room, and editing workshops. Brain overload approaching. Next time.

And of course the sunrise and sunset sessions, where Canberra provided an amazing canvas around our lake and from up high on a hill on which the sun painted an impressive  light show. The first couple of mornings were spectacular. Look here:

Oh, I know, I know, they’re fairly average compared to some of the really amazing ones captured by others on the day, but it’s all relative. It’s a major progression from just the week before when I was attempting to photograph that abnormally huge moonrise without much success at all. Actually pretty much a fail really. Now after my series of dawn excursions, I have enough knowledge to quickly set up my tripod and camera and capture some of the morning colour magic in vaguely decent photos, something that has confounded and eluded me previously. This is a big win. I’m much more inclined to get up early to take part in the wondrous photography hours if there’s a chance I won’t come home empty handed.

In fact, after the weekend I feel so much more in control of my camera with a few guidelines in my head now of settings to start with for different situations. If only someone could have explained things like that long ago, I could have saved myself so much time and learning agony.

And in even better news, most of these Canon events are free, so the money you save on training workshops you can spend on new lenses and filters, because now you’ve seen the amazing difference between what you can capture with your 50ml portrait lens and what others can capture with their macro lenses. Like, exponential difference. Bees legs and eyes and even eyelashes if they had them. And while I can now catch birds on camera 100 times more effectively than I could a week ago, I realise if I want super close and sharp detail of birds in flights, I might need some better kit. Lens envy.

The weekend finished with a party at QT, with drinks, mingling with other participants, and the announcement of the weekend’s themed comp winners. Prints of 80 short-listed shots from the weekend were displayed in an impressive impromptu gallery that the Canon guys pulled together in a blink of an eye. And the photos were amazing. So many different perspectives. So much talent. So many beautiful places. I had one of mine displayed on the wall, which I was thrilled about. I’m taking that as a win.

The whole weekend was a win. Well, except that my sleeping patterns have been massacred temporarily. I’m still waking at ungodly hours in the morning (yet desisting the temptation to rise to take photos) and then wandering around in the afternoons in a virtual stupor, as if I’ve been hit by a bus. I’m sure this will pass, but my new knowledge and enthusiasm will remain.

Good job Canon, Visit Canberra, QT Hotels and all the other peeps who assisted and housed events. It was a triumph all ’round.

They’re off to other places now – Melbourne, Brissie, Sydney and more. Maybe I will become a stalker.

Now to sort through all those photos…

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