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Author: Sarah Matheson

Beating the heat with the bow wows

Beating the heat with the bow wows

Western Australian dachshunds gather about once a month to trundle around a park together. The first walk of 2018 was in the beautiful backlot of Burswood. Of the 53 dogs that attended a fair few were brand new faces, including this tiny sweetie, Summer, who is yet to hit the ground.

Of course it’s always nice to be remembered by the regulars too – the dogs who have seen me around know that I usually come with treats. Miss Molly was first to trot up to say hi.

That said, I made firm friends with luscious chocolate, Bella, without treats as she was following me around for a while before I could check in with her Mum to make sure she could have some.

It was pretty amazing that Titch brought his whole family up from Bunbury just to say hi to his brothers, Rufus and Lesley, and the rest of the extended family – that’s commitment.

The forecast for today was 37 degrees so the walk was nice and early, and the generous shade was amble and cool. Some of the dogs may or may not have taken a quick dip in the lake.

A quick wander around the lake revealed one special doggy lookout spot.  As they rounded the reeds just about every dog paused to survey the view.  The presence of copious duck poo was a possible draw card. I think the average number of daily dog baths may have spiked today.

Tiny Tigger and brother Apollo were all bounce and play. It made me reminisce on when Smudge and Olive were around that age and all over each other.  It was nice that they also got to have a play date today (no pictures of that – I’m a terrible mum).

It was equally lovely to see Trudy being pushed in her pram, and taking a little time out in the sun as well.

New friends, old friends, duck poo and sunshine.  Who could ask for anything more?




Pro-crastination – Oh yes, I’ve turned it into a full time job.

Over my summer holiday creating a price list for services and prints has been at the tippy top of my to-do list.  I have sat down to do it at least 20 times over the last four weeks.  I’ve watched Creative Live videos on how to do it, I’ve consulted with professional photographers on what they do, I’ve checked out product prices online from various suppliers. I’ve even sat down to think about what my costs are and what my goals are for my photography.

And yet my actual price list, one I could share with actual people to enable them to ask me to do work for them (which I love) and pay me for it (which I am still uncomfortable about), is still in very early draft form.

And look – rather than actually completing it now, I’m writing about how hard it is to do. And then googling to see if I should write this as a facebook post or as a blog post. Oh and I read something by Alain de Botton this morning about procrastination and how it wasn’t always so bad, and not a sign of being bone idle,  but was usually about fear – so I went to have a look for the link to include here.

The irony is that I’m a finisher.  I like to get things done so I can cross them off my list.  I hate having something 95% done and just lingering around for that last piece of the project to be completed.  So why then am I doing this to myself?  What is it that I am afraid of?

I think there are three things that scare me. If I put a price on what I do;

1- Some people might think WOW- that’s so expensive – there’s no way what she does is worth that.
And why is that something to be afraid of? If I put it out there and it is too expensive or not good value for them, they will know that and not contact me in the first place.  Isn’t that better than them not knowing how much something is, asking and THEN going WOW- that’s too expensive?  Well of course it is.

2- Some people might think WOW – that’s so cheap, she’s undercutting all the other photographers out there and the whole profession will go into a tail spin and the sky will fall in.  Which is also pretty silly because I’ve met and talked to enough professional photographers now that while they are aware that undercutting goes on, the market still knows that the work of a professional is well worth paying professional prices for, and I’ve done enough research that the chances of me setting unsustainable, bargain basement prices that will see me losing money on every shoot I do (in the future….) shouldn’t happen.

3- Some people might think – that sounds ok, I’ll book a shoot with her. And then I’ll start to question my ability like I always do. And then I’ll have to deliver on what I’ve promised – which I’ve done on each of the shoots I’ve done last year, so I know I can do that. And I enjoyed doing it. So that really isn’t so bad either, is it?

So why the fear?  The worst case scenario on each of these isn’t so bad. So I really should just sit down and get on with it.  Maybe a quick cup of coffee first…

PS: In case you’re wondering,  the picture of the grasshopper is less of a reference to the story of the Grasshopper and the Ant (ie a eneral kick up the bum to stop fiddling around and get on with doing the job at hand), and more a picture I took in the garden because you can’t have a blog post without a picture (while I was busy putting off actually creating my price list).



My first shoot for 2018 was with the highly adoptable Luke, a 6 month old sweetheart being fostered with Staffy and Bully Breed Rescue (SABBR). I haven’t blogged about a Shutter Paws shoot before, so I thought I’d give a run down of how it works for me.

That probably starts with a bit of a blurb about Shutter Paws itself. Shutter Paws is a collective of volunteer photographers who donate their time and skills to take photographs of rescue animals needing new homes.  There are a few dedicated individuals who wrangle all of this as administrators, liaising with the various rescue groups and fosters carers and allocate photographers according to area and availability.  Given that there are rescues and carers all over the metro area that’s a lot of wrangling and they do an amazing job.

Most photo shoots are at the home of a foster carer, or nearby park or beach. Well, I’m yet to photograph a cat at the beach, but you get the idea. We also visit adoption days, fundraising events and some boarding kennels to capture the action there.

Apart from the innate joy of trying to get a cute picture of a black cat hiding under a bed in a dark room (surprisingly some of the foster cats aren’t natural super models) the Shutter Paws experience is as rewarding for the volunteer Togs as it is for the cats, dogs, bunnies, chickens and the occasional pig in need of a home. The volunteer group in particular provides a wealth of support, tips, laughs and general encouragement no matter where you are in your photographic journey. It helps new photographers to develop the confidence to walk into an unknown environment and come away with images that will hep that little soul find a new home. Or a crippling need to organise a reshoot – been there, done that in the early days.

So if you’re a photography enthusiast with some time to help, drop them a line. they are always on the lookout for new tribute – I mean talent.

Back to Luke.

I’d photographed for Luke’s carer’s before, so it was an easy couple of text messages to sort out a time to visit. They have a big back yard, with fairly long grass so I made sure to take an antihistamine before I went (Polaramine sales have skyrocketed since I started this as I have allergies to both grass and cats, so have to dose up for most shoots). My kit for outdoor dogs is a Canon 7D ii which has a high frames per second (fps) to catch the action, a 24-70mm and a 70-200 lens, a couple of kinds of squeakers / noise makers and a a fully stocked treat bag. I take both lenses because some dogs want to be right up in  your grill, while others prefer to have a bit more personal space.  Pays to be prepared for both eventualities.

It had been a warm day so we’d opted for a 5pm shoot.  It was still pretty warm, but not stupidly so. Luke’s carer greeted me at the door and we headed on out the back. Her own dog and Luke were waiting outside for us and I got an enthusiastic welcome with tail wagging and a good sniff down. I put my gear down to say a proper hello. While doing this the carer and I chatted a bit about Luke – How long had he been with them – about 2 weeks; How old did they think he was? – about 6 months; How was he getting on with with his foster sister? – great; Has he had the snip yet? – Yes, just a week ago; Isn’t he a handsome boy? – Oh yes he is.

I offered Luke a treat from my treat dag. and got him to sit. Great! “He doesn’t really get treats” Kell told me. Not that he isn’t offered them, he just doesn’t really understand them. Lo and behold Luke then dropped the slightly slobbery treat on the ground and looked up at me smiling. Having a variety of treats on hand is essential and we quickly established that liver treats were another story and we were off and running. Well, less running and more lounging in the grass for the most part. Even better.

Luke was friendly, and very gentle for his age. He was happy for a little play with toys and a bit of a romp, but his favourite thing to do was to lie in the long grass and commando crawl forward, letting the grass rub against his belly. Normally that meant he was commando crawling towards me so I had to get my backwards shimmy going on.

30 minutes later we had a range of shots for his adoption profile and we were both ready to get back into air conditioning. Home to edit, upload and email off to the rescue. What a great way to kick the year off.

If you’re interested in adopting Luke, contact SABBR. I believe they are having a well deserved Christmas break, so be patient if you don’t hear back straight away.


Wooramel Station Riverside Retreat

Wooramel Station Riverside Retreat

If you’re looking for a stop off point between Perth and the Coral Coast, Wooramel Station comes with our stamp of approval.  I’m not a huge fan of traditional caravan parks as a general rule, and station stays are a great alternative at a good price.

It offers unpowered camp sites for $13 per person per night.  You can choose from shady or sunny spots on the banks of the ‘upside down’ river, or select a spot on the grass. Dogs on lead are allowed at the far end of the retreat. There are also four glamping on site tents equipped with queen sized beds for those that don’t want to BYO.

Fire pits are set up at each camp spot, and wood can be grazed around the sites. The toilets and showers are cute, crafted from water tanks, clean and functional.

The artesian baths are a big plus.  Filled with naturally warmed waters you can sink in the thirty degree water and enjoy a nice soak while sharing tips and tricks with fellow campers from around Australia or the world. It feels very decadent after some time roughing it.

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Pilbara 2017

Pilbara 2017

I’ve lived in Western Australia practically all my life, but in this big old state of ours there are still so many firsts for me. We’ve just returned from a trip ‘up north’ to Karajini National Park in our new-to-us Hyundai iMax van (henceforth known as Coops*).

You may recall we had a fabulous camping holiday last year courtesy of Tears of Joy. Our holiday plans for this year originally involved setting off in a teardrop camper of our very own, but things haven’t panned out that way. Necessity being the mother of invention K spent the week before this trip decking Coops out to accommodate gear, and add a backup sleeping module in case our borrowed tent didn’t work out, (or the more likely scenario that one of us started snoring too loud – him not me BTW).

Loaded up with a significant amount of borrowed gear including a partially deflating blow-up mattress, a Waeco fridge, solar array and deep cycle battery, the afore mentioned tent, and a range of different tent pegs, we decided to go up by road – about a 16 hour drive. There weren’t a huge number of things we wanted to see on the way up, it was June and the wildflowers aren’t quite out yet, so we did it in two eight hour driving days.

You may want to grab a cuppa - this is going to be a long one. Don't complain later - you have been warned

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Copyright and Copywrong

Copyright and Copywrong

When visiting my niece  a while ago she was working on a school assignment. I noticed that she was using Google Images to locate and copy pictures into her document. Being the nosy parker that I am,  I asked if the teacher had talked to the class about copyright and  the need to include image information in their referencing.  She explained to me all about what they had been told about plagiarism, but looked at me blankly when I explained that copyright applies to images as well as text.

It wasn’t a suprise to me, a quick glance at Social Media highlights that most people don’t know that Copyright applies to images as well as to written works.

The Fair Use provision in the Australian Copyright Act allows for the use of copyright works for educational purposes. That doesn’t override the moral right of an image creator to be credited for their work. Copyright is a pretty dry subject, but here is what I’ve learned as it applies to photography.

For the more official word, check out these great documents by the Copyright Council of Australia;


Moral Rights

These days, everyone is a photographer. Many people are creating images on a daily basis. Lots of those are going to be uploaded onto social media by the photographer themselves, or by someone the photographer has shared the image with.

For those of you who have wasted a year and a half of your lives reading the T&C for each of the social media platforms you use, you’ll already know that by uploading images onto facebook, or Instagram or whatever flavour you are consumed by, that you’re agreeing that you have the right to upload the image and you are granting that platform the right to do an outrageous number of things with it.

However the photographer retains moral rights to their images. Just like you would reference a quote or a book in an essay, you should be referencing the creator of an image that you use.

Moral rights include ;

  • the right to be attributed as the creator of an image
  • The right to take action if someone else pretends they took the photo
  • the right to take action if someone has mucked around with an image in a way that is going to cause the photographer grief (see the technical wording stuff in the act – caused me grief won’t stand up in court and I’m not a lawyer)

If you’re sharing an image and you’re not the photographer,  ask permission first and make sure you include a photo credit for the photographer. Better yet, include a link back to their page or web site. If an image has a watermark, don’t remove it by cropping or cloning. That’s just not cool.

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Life Long Learning and Credit where it’s due

Life Long Learning and Credit where it’s due

A life without learning seems a life wasted for me. It’s a privilege I treasure.  Any day I learn something new is a day to celebrated, even if the lesson is hard and teaches me what never to do again. Everything I say here equates as well to my past as it does to my present and my future.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a HR professional about learning.  She was explaining the 70-20-10 framework where 10% of your learning comes from formal education, 20% from exposure or social learning and 70% from experience.

This fits very neatly with my life experience. I’m a big fan of formal education for me because it gives me the confidence to dig deep into the other two learning spheres. There are lots of others out there that don’t need that boost as much I’m sure. but I’m the girl who reads the manual from start to finish the moment she unboxes a new toy tool.

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On opportunity and taking chances

On opportunity and taking chances

A sense of agency in life comes from having opportunity and choices.

Some opportunities you happen across just as  you are wandering along through life.  It pays to have your eyes and ears open so you don’t miss these ones. They can be small, dull and easily passed over.

Other opportunities come from hard slog, from always turning up and giving whatever it is your best shot, reflecting on your achievements, and failures, and figuring out how to get to the next level.

Opportunities are funny things. Some are thrust in front of you in an almost aggressive way that makes people like me want to run screaming in the other direction. These are the opportunities that take us by suprise, those we have not been seeking or expecting and for which we feel ill prepared. Opportunities like these will always teach you something. Usually that you are capable of so much more than you think you are. And sometimes that you have a whole lot more to learn.

In contrast there are those for which we seek and hunger.  The opportunities that lurk in the strangest hidden places, the rare four leafed variety. We check under bushes, kick over a stone every so often in case we might, by sheer chance, stumble across one.

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Hitting the streets

Hitting the streets

I was out for my bike ride this morning when I came across a street fight.  I felt 100% comfortable jumping off my bike, grabbing my camera and squeezing off a few (mostly out of focus) shots to capture the action from a safe distance. In the end I think my presence helped break up the fight, but that wasn’t my intention.

Why did I feel so comfortable doing this? Well because the brawl was between a rainbow lorikeet and a raven.

And in that moment I realised I love street photograph – capturing a candid, unobserved moment in a pubic space – just so long as the subjects are birds or animals.  As soon as there are people involved I become outrageously self conscious.

What I need to remember is that when I first got a DSLR and a decent sized lens, I felt uncomfortable getting that out to even photograph birds, so with practice and perseverance comes growth and confidence.

I needed to try for a city or industrial portfolio piece recently which took me right out of my comfort zone.  After trawling around seeking inspiration I finally came across a scene I really liked, but couldn’t summon up the courage to work it. I came away with a hurried picture that had potential, I think, to be much more that that.  I know enough from my wildlife work that once you’ve missed a candid opportunity it won’t come again.

I’ve read up on the rights and responsibilities of street photographers as published by ArtsLaw Australia  and it is suprisingly wide open. That means that the inhibitions I have relate to my own innate respect for privacy.  There is a quite a bit of discussion on the issue in the public domain, and I’m not sure yet where I will settle.

I know some people who wouldn’t bat an eyelid, and others who would agonise over it as I did. There will be still others who wouldn’t even consider taking a picture of a stranger ever, at all, under any circumstances.

I could have approached the guy on the bench and asked him if he’d mind me taking his picture.  He might have said yes, he might have said no.  In asking the question I would have changed the moment, I could have worked the picture and then approached him afterwards. I did neither, I took an ordinary picture and scuttled away feeling a little bit guilty.

guy on a bench

If the man had had a dog with him, I would have trotted up and asked to take a picture of course.  Go figure.

What I will do next time is a question I’ll be exploring this year.


Rorschach, blowing your background, and the joy of learning something new

Rorschach, blowing your background, and the joy of learning something new

This is Rorschach.


He started life with Dora Designs, and we brought him home sometime after we lost our beloved Tilly the dachshund, and sometime before we felt ready to have a real live dog in the house again.

Rorschach is by far the best behaved dog we’ve had.  He never barks, he sits and stays where he’s told and has never left a puddle on the floor.

Today he has been helping me figure out how to combine studio lights with a speedlite to blow out the background. He’s a perfect model as he just sat there patiently while I scratched my head, googled manuals and fiddled with settings.

Because studio lighting is so new for me I’m going to record my settings here so I know where to find them if I need them again. Feel free to ignore this bit unless it’s something you’re interested in.

This set up used a bit of white polar fleece hung over a backdrop stand at the rear.  My Canon 430ex ii on its little stand sat on the floor behind Rorschach, pointing up at the polar fleece. Attached to it a Yongnuo 622c transceiver in manual mode.

Two Elinchrom D-lites were unimaginatively set at 45 degrees (roughly) either side of the little guy.. These were set to have the Skyport off (press up and down arrows together then set to 0).

On camera, the Yongnuo controller, set to manual. Camera also on manual with shutter speed 250, ISO 100 and Aperture at f8 (not sure why f8, I could and should have been lower but it meant less mucking around with the position and power of the key and fill lights and the purpose of the exercise was to get the Yongnuo set to trigger the speedlite and the Elinchrom lights to act as Optical Slaves).

And once I’d figured those variables out they all fired together and I’d learned something new. Clearly more finessing in future, but we all start somewhere.