How To Make Fun Photos In The Orange Groves
The photos in this post were all made while working as a stills photographer on the Australian motion picture film, Summer Coda.
Set in and around the orange groves of the Sunraysia region, where the Murray River borders northwest Victoria and southwest New South Wales, Summer Coda was the first full length film directed by Richard Gray.
Photographing in the orange groves provided me with great opportunities to produce fun, candid images of actors and crew alike.
I wanted to take some time to feature several of the orange groves depicted in the film and, importantly, the actors who so brilliantly delivered the heart felt script through their sensitive portrayals.
The photo at the top of this post features actor Alex Dimitriades whose performance brilliantly captured the intensity and anguish of his character, Michael.
Photographing Candid Moments On Location
Here's some of the other actors, who worked so hard to make this film, in a fun moment between takes.
Due to commitments back in Melbourne I was unable to stay in Mildura throughout the entire production of Summer Coda. But every time I arrived I was greeted by brutal heat.
One such day my flight arrived late afternoon to hot and humid conditions. Fortunately, as you see here, the unusually humid conditions provided nice, soft light which made my job somewhat easier.
This photo of actor Daniel Frederiksen (Miklos) about to test his aim, in between takes on Summer Coda, came about quite intuitively. I could sense he was looking to start an orange fight.
To record the photo of Daniel throwing an orange I simply locked my focus on his eye and waited for the moment between him taking aim and actually throwing the orange.
This approach allowed me to both depict the intention and concentration in his eye, as well as recording action within a single frame at a relatively average shutter speed.
It's my view that, if you rely too much on the technology inside your camera, you'll likely lose the skill to see and record a moment in time.
Photographing action is not as simple as setting a high shutter speed and engaging continuous shooting mode on your camera. That's just technology and I don’t believe it’s particularly creative to continually rely on a spray and pray approach to your photography.
Historically great action photos were made long before such technology existed.
We Can All Make Better Photos By Studying The Past
The first such image I'm aware of is the famous picture of a man being shot, while running, during the Spanish Civil War.
Said to be the first action photograph portraying the moment of an individuals death the photographer, Hungarian-American Robert Capa, made an image that was, for its time, both shocking (for its realism) and groundbreaking.
The limited technology of the day was overcome with excellent powers of observation and a keen sense of timing.
Over recent years the authenticity of that photo has been challenged. I know not whether it's a fake, but I remember how profound the experience of viewing the image was the first time I saw it, projected on a wall as a first year photography student, in Melbourne back in 1986.
The facts associated with the making of that image, true or otherwise, can't take that profound experience away from me.
Rain Brings Renewal And Restores Mind And Body
Amongst the excessive heat, with temperatures into the low and mid forties (celsius) for most of the shoot, it was a great relief when a heavy storm fell. Rain continued the next day with much more pleasing temperatures.
The filming schedule may have had to have been re-organized somewhat, but I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to recover from the heat and recharge my body for the rest of the job.
Besides it gave me a great opportunity to catch up on image processing and make some behind the scenes images of the crew, an amazing bunch of hard working and fun people.
I remember the actual moment the rain came. I'd traveled up from Melbourne and was really looking forward to an important sunset image of the film's two primary stars Rachel Taylor and Alex Dimitriades, relaxing at the end of a hard day's work in the cool breeze on the roof of a large farm shed.
Sadly, shortly before sunset, the rains came, the actors fled and I lost the opportunity to make that photo. And boy did it rain.
The photo directly above illustrates the brooding sky moments before the storm front hit. Check out the bluish color of the rain-filled clouds.
While disappointed at missing out on the opportunity to photograph Rachel and Alex, I made the most of the situation and photographed the approaching storm and how various crew members managed the situation.
It was exciting and I remember experiencing an immense burst of energy as I ran around responding to a range of opportunities presented by the storm. From brooding sky to violent downpour and sodden landscape, it was a blast.
Take a look at Steady Cam Operator A.J. toasting the rain.
For a range of reasons working on Summer Coda was a tough gig. But all members dug deep and produced, to my mind, a wonderful film.
From the opportunities I had I'm very happy with my own contribution and I remember the fantastic people, cast and crew alike, with whom I was privileged to work.
I also remember and am grateful for the rain and the great photographic opportunities it provided.
I made this candid image of Assistant Camera Operator, Peter Wells, getting the work done, despite the rain.
Film making schedules are tight and, despite all manner of trials and tribulations, the work just has to get done.
This image features rain-sodden oranges, hanging from the branches of trees totally saturated by the heavy rain.
It's amazing how a good wash and some nice light can enhance subject color and produce a really vibrant image.
I think the lesson to draw from this post is that great photos can be made, day or night, under a variety of weather conditions.
What contributes, as much as anything else, to the success of your photos is the attitude that underpins them. And I'm talking both about your attitude, as the creator of the images, and that of the people you photograph.
People based photography is, after all, a collaborative process. I think that's why I love it so much.