Anthony Brown on ‘effortful’ photography

30 Apr
Juvenile Swimming Anemone - Bawley Point December, 2010 Photograph by Anthony Brown
Juvenile Swimming Anemone – Bawley Point – Photograph by Anthony Brown – December 2010

I am pleased to be able to introduce my first guest photoblogger, underwater and above water photographer Anthony Brown. Anthony says about himself on his online photography site, Rowland Cain Photography, that “I am an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer, living in Canberra, Australia. My passion is to capture and show the beauty beneath the temperate waters of the New South Wales South Coast from Jervis Bay, Ulladulla, Bateman’s Bay to Montague Island. When out of the water I enjoy walking and photographing the National Parks surrounding Canberra and the New South Wales South Coast, including Kosciuszko, Namadgi and Deua National Park.

It was he that I first thought of when asked by a family member to write a post on ‘effortful photography.’ Knowing of his unceasing scuba diving and photography efforts, I felt he was well placed to respond to the question of effort in photography. I was both right and wrong, because it appears that effort, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Seacam Housing Photograph by Anthony Brown, Rowland Photography

Seacam Housing – Photograph by Anthony Brown

Anthony modestly only chronicled the effort involved in taking the photographs he wished me to publish, discounting the many years of activity and expense that brought him to those splendid moments. But as we all know, one does not catch the dawn’s first rays without getting up before the sun. And one does not take a photograph of a cuttlefish pistoning over corals with a point-and-shoot from the safety of the sand’s edge.

Anthony has been scuba diving since 1992, and has qualifications including the CDAA (Cave Divers Association of Australia) Level 3 that allows him to dive in caverns and sinkholes.

At the moment Anthony uses a Nikon D200 SLR camera with a 10.5mm fisheye lens and a Micro Nikkor 60mm lens with Nikon SB105 strobe lighting. His camera is the only thing he carries on a dive; when underwater his SLR is kept safe from the seawater with the neutrally bouyant and rather impressive looking Seacam Housing above.

I will let Anthony recount his ideas about effort in photography from here.

Anthony Brown: 

When looking at a photograph it can be very difficult to judge how much effort has gone into taking the image. Lately, I have been very interested in images taken in the Kosciuszko and Alpine National Parks in the snow. I have chatted online to a few photographers who have told me how difficult it is to camp in the snow and get up at dawn in -10 Celsius to take the images, let alone risk the hazards of the weather conditions. I was surprised when I spoke to one photographer about an image near Falls Creek; he said that he had trekked for two days though snow to get the image. He paused, then continued with, 'only joking, I was driving to Falls Creek and noticed this scene along side of the road, I simply stopped the car and took the shot.'

Here are two of my images to illustrate the point; I like each of them about the same. The first is of a baby humpback calf I had wanted to take for years. To get this image I traveled to Eua in Tonga. It was not as easy to get the image as I had anticipated. Sure, some people do get lucky and the whales do just sit in the water sometimes and pose, but generally speaking the whales simply take off as soon as the snorkel lets enter the water.

Rowland Cain Photography: Underwater &emdash;

Baby Humpback – Eua, Tonga – Photograph by Anthony Brown – September 2012

It took me a week of going out for a few hours each morning and afternoon to get about 3 images I was relatively happy with. Only once during the whole week did a calf get inquisitive enough, and its mother allow, to come only metres from me.

The Baby Humpback photograph is basically straight out of the camera; the only adjustments I made were the mandatory RAW sharpening and removal of the blue colour cast that the camera captured which was not visible to the eye when I took the shot.

Rowland Cain Photography: Australian Panoramas &emdash; Camel Rock - Bermagui

Camel Rock – Bermagui, NSW – Photograph by Anthony Brown – January 2014

The second image was taken at Camel Rock near Bermagui on the way home from my parents' place in Tuross Head. Sure I had to get up early to get there for sunrise, but I simply stepped out of the car, walked 100 metres, took the shot and walked back to the car and drove home. (However, there was follow-up work required in constructing the panorama from the various image slices.)

To illustrate my point further, I entered the Humpback Calf image, along with another four underwater images into a local competition last year. I placed second. The lady who won, a wonderful photographer,  entered images of steel grates and other images taken alongside the road near her house. They say that to take great photos you have to stand in front of something great. That really does help, but a great photographer can find great images anywhere.

-- Anthony Brown, April 2014

It has been a treat for me to work with Anthony and learn more about underwater photography, RAW photograph processing, and the subjects of his photos.  I have always found it difficult to see the eyes of whales in photographs and it wasn’t until I saw Anthony’s Baby Humpback Whale photo with its eye so clearly visible that I realised I had always been looking too far forward on the body for the eye, when in fact it was rather near to the pectoral fin. And I was taken by the otherworldly-ness of the Camel Rock photo, with its long exposure, sunrise colours and panorama format.

It seems that effortful photography can mean different things to different people. On first thought we probably equate effort with things such as being persistent enough to finally have the right opportunity, like Anthony’s week of waiting for the humpback whale calf to draw near. Or perhaps it is the journey required to be in a certain place at a certain time that gives us pause.

But effort in photography can also mean constructing the building blocks of a photographic practice, like investigating and investing in the right equipment. It might mean developing processes for managing our photographs and building websites to showcase them. It might even mean developing special abilities over time to have the capacity to be in a position to take the photograph, such as Anthony achieving his scuba diving certifications. In respect of the effort of putting these basic building blocks in place, the effort of taking a single photograph is a thin layer on top of a large foundation, like icing on a cake.  Perhaps we should all take stock of what it really takes for us to achieve those photographs of which we ourselves are particularly proud.

Thanks Anthony for sharing your photographs and your stories with us. For all of you who would no doubt like to see more, please visit Anthony’s online photography at Rowland Cain Photography.  And with that we come to the end of this delightful adventure learning about Anthony Brown and his amazing photography. I will leave you with just one more of his stunning photographs.

Eastern Cleaner Clingfish - Bawley Point - Photograph by Anthony Brown - April 2012

Eastern Cleaner Clingfish – Bawley Point – Photograph by Anthony Brown – April 2012


All photographs by Anthony Brown. Re-sized for web use and post processed as described by Anthony below.

The Baby Humpback photograph was only adjusted with the mandatory RAW sharpening and removal of the blue colour cast that the camera captured which was not visible to the eye when I took the shot.

Juvenile Swimming Anemone and Eastern Cleaner Clingfish were only adjusted with mandatory RAW sharpening.

Camel Rock is a different story, but I believe still faithful to the original scene although the blur of the water and clouds was not visible to the eye. Adjustments made on this image: Image was taken as between 7-9 (I can check) vertical images on a slow shutter speed. The images were stitched together with Photoshop to produce a massively scalable panorama. The ocean did not stitch correctly on the left, so I fixed it by moving part of the image down aligning the water. As the very slow shutter speed meant some time before taking the next image in sequence, the clouds did not align correctly, so I had to manually brush in the joins. Mandatory RAW sharpening was then applied. Colours were boosted slightly. Overall what is in the image was what I saw, except for the blurring due to the slow shutter speed.



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One response to “Anthony Brown on ‘effortful’ photography

  1. Kyle Samper

    May 16, 2014 at 10:24 am

    The baby humpback is amazing for many reasons. The swirling motion of the moment is strong and well conveys the ballet of humpback movement. The presentation of this young whale was hard-earned and is therefore a unique experience nabbed from somewhere out of the unknown. The average viewer would never visit this environment themself or encounter this magnifcent being. Here the intrepid Anthony Brown brings us a world that only photography can. Beautiful.


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