Monday Memories: A Portrait Session on Sydney Harbour
It was Australia Day yesterday, 26th January, and while we always feel conflicted on this day that celebrates the official ‘founding’ of Australia in 1788 when the First Fleet arrived from Britain, despite Australia being occupied by indigenous peoples for around 40,000 years previously, it was wonderful to see the images of Sydney on social media.
Of course, being Sydney, the focus of many of the photos was magnificent Sydney harbour, easily the most beautiful city harbour in the world, so beautiful it brings my wife to tears. I can vividly recall our final day in Sydney on our last trip back to our home town, which we spent on the harbour, part of it shooting a portrait session.
We had been wanting to do a day trip around Sydney with My Sydney Detour since Richard Graham, the creator of this unique tour, first contacted us when we initially arrived back on home soil. But we were waiting for the perfect weather. We finally firmed up a date for a day when we should have been packing, but it was too good to miss the opportunity to do a tour we had been so excited about.
For much of the time during the tour we were revisiting some of our favourite spots in suburbs we used to drive to on weekends, including a lookout where Lara and I used to take out-of-town family and friends who’d visit us in Sydney, which offers sweeping panoramic views of a great expanse of Sydney harbour, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The views were as stunning as I remembered them, however, it was the final destination on Richard’s tour that really took our breath away. It was a secret spot that even we didn’t know, and yet Lara was born in Sydney, spent her childhood there, and we lived in Sydney together for many years in our 20s and early 30s.
The view was stupendous, but so was the magic hour light. I had wanted to do a portrait session with Richard and shoot some formal photos of he and his beautiful old 1964 Holden for stories we were planning.
Lara and I have a nostalgic attachment to the old Holdens. They were a part of every Australians life growing up when we did, but a Holden also played a starring role in the feature film, a road movie, we made together in the late 80s. As Holden are ceasing production in Australia, we’re extra pleased that we took Richard’s tour.
The cul-de-sac we ended up in that overlooked that spectacular view was perfect for a late afternoon shoot — as, of course, was Richard’s hair! How does he do it? We should have asked him when we interviewed him; see the link below.
It took me a while to find the best set up for Richard’s portrait session — which is always a little nerve wracking when the sun is disappearing — but I particularly liked this low angle wide shot I managed to shoot just before the light started to fade. And yes, I’m lying on the ground, but there’s no passing traffic.
One thing I don’t like in the image is the two palm trees either side of his head — it’s a bit too symmetrical for me, but I do like the fact he’s slightly off centre to the left, having him centred in the frame would be a little too neat.
And while I don’t use my wide angle lenses much these days — I used them far too much in my early photography years — I think it really worked to pull the old lens out of the camera bag for this shot. You can see the image blurs at the edges (this is not a favourite lens of mine), but I didn’t bother correcting it because the attention is clearly on Richard.
I know that some people might think Richard is wearing fake tan — but that was just the beautiful golden light of a magic late Sydney afternoon. It was an informal portrait session that just worked.
Richard and his business partner liked the photos so much that they have licensed them for their business as his official portraits — a refreshing change from people asking if I can “just send the high res images through so I can use them for our marketing” without even thinking of asking for licensing rates. That’s because, like the old Holdens, Richard’s fair dinkum*.
*That’s Australian for down-to-earth, straightforward, reliable, and trustworthy.
Details: Nikon D700, Nikon 12-24 f/4G @ 24mm @ F7.1 @ 1/1000th second @ ISO400
Read Richard’s local guide to Sydney here as part of our Local Knowledge series.