Simon Cowling: Blog en-us (C) Simon Cowling [email protected] (Simon Cowling) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:56:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:56:00 GMT Simon Cowling: Blog 80 120 Private Photography Tutorials - the best way to learn! I have been teaching photography to groups, individuals and schools for many years now. From teaching and designing courses at the prestigious Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney during the 1980's, to setting up Perth's first fully independent Photography School, Shoot, in 2012, plus teaching many individuals and corporate clients along the way, there isn't much in the areas of both film and digital photography that I haven't covered.


These days I am happy to take things a little easier, and prefer to teach individuals or very small groups on a personal basis. By doing so I am able to free myself of the restrictions of subject labels such as "Beginners", "Portraiture", "Advanced" or "Post-Production". I am now free to teach exactly what YOU want, whether you are a complete beginner with no idea what a lens, aperture or shutter speed is, to enthusiasts and professionals who might need some help honing their portfolio, or their Lightroom and Photoshop skills.


Obviously there are areas of photography where I do not have enough skill to confidently teach; underwater photography, for instance, or sports photography. Sure, I could do these shoots for myself if I wished, but I wouldn't be so cheeky as to charge for teaching them to others. Which is more than can be said, sadly, for many so-called photography schools and self-styled photo experts out there.


So if you want great personal tuition in most aspects of photography, get in touch! I can organise times to suit you and tailor a course of lessons that will be perfect for your individual needs. Here's some details of what's on offer, and what it will cost:



> Through the Contact page on this website

> Personal message me on Facebook

> Email me - [email protected]

> Call me - 0418 926 920



This is a simple one. $90 per hour, regardless of subject matter. Any ancillary costs, such as models, makeup artists, props, helicopters etc will of course have to be met by you.






> BASIC PHOTOGRAPHY All about your camera, how to get started, how all those buttons and dials work, composition, colour, light, exposure and how to recognise what makes a great picture. You can choose all or part of these sub-categories.

> HONING YOUR SKILLS where we get into post production (Lightroom and Photoshop) and setting assignments where your pictures are dissected and analysed (in the most helpful way, naturally) so that you can really start to improve your overall skills.

> IMPROVING POST PRODUCTION where I reveal the many amazing functions of Lightroom and/or Photoshop and you learn some valuable techniques along the way.

> EXHIBITING YOUR WORK - how to put a coherent collection of pictures together for a presentation, exhibition or portfolio and a guide to preparing your pictures for maximum impact.

> TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY how to prepare and shoot for a memorable record of your trip, or what to look for in shooting for travel magazines and the like.

> PORTRAITURE AND PEOPLE in the studio or on the street, using studio lighting or available light. This is a huge category with many iterations. Tell me what interests you particularly.

> STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY including product shooting and food photography. Again, you tell me.

> ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY from the basics through to the abstract, including exteriors, interiors, aerials and night shooting.

> HELP WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY ASSIGNMENTS - some extra mentoring and advice to get you those A's you crave.

> NONE OF THE ABOVE - something I haven't thought of? Most likely, so you tell me and I'll tell you what I know.


©Simon Cowling©Simon Cowling













[email protected] (Simon Cowling) advanced beginners classes lessons lightroom photography photoshop tutorials Wed, 04 Nov 2015 08:34:04 GMT
Quiet Moments - Photography at the Fremantle Arts Centre The 'problem' facing photography today us just an exacerbation of the dilemma it has always faced. The proliferation of cameras in everyone's hands has resulted in a quantitative rather than a qualitative change.

Photography has been stuck being “about” subject matter. Painting, for example, has not been about its subject matter for centuries; it is “about” paint, surface, color, illusion, many things, but rarely subject matter.

When you have millions upon millions more people with cameras, taking portraits, landscapes, still lifes, then “serious” photographers’ work gets buried. The answer? Simple. Do what “art” has always done: transcend the chatter of the masses. In this case, look inward, look at the “meaning” of the photograph. Don’t try to take a more beautiful landscape; you’ll get lost in the noise." ~ Thorney Lieberman

Well, yes, Thorney, you do have a good point. But unfortunately the 'meaning' of the photograph has led many so-called art photographers to forget entirely about subject matter altogether. Which makes for very dull viewing in many cases. 

Fremantle Arts Centre currently has two exhibitions showing - the excellent Aftermath by John Gollings and Quiet Moments, a group show curated by Susan Hill. John Gollings is a legend in Australian photography circles, and his exhibition of aerial photography of the desolated landscapes left by the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria is a wonder. Beautifully printed large scale prints captivate, inform and make us painfully aware of the fury of nature. FAC is to be highly commended for showing photography like this, and it is rewarding to see a major gallery in Western Australia taking the medium seriously.

FAC EXHIBITION 0615-5FAC EXHIBITION 0615-5 Quiet Moments, on the other hand, is a bit of an uneven show, and some of the images on display are a good example of 'meaning' outweighing content. Unless the meaning of your work is interesting to others and has the technique and construction to hold one's attention, then the work tends to become self-absorbed, cogent only to the artist and his/her acolytes. No doubt some of the photographers in this show had some highbrow philosophy attached to their work, but without any didactics attached to the images it was not clear what we were being asked to look at - they certainly didn't succeed on a purely aesthetic basis, which seems for some to have become almost a badge of honour in recent years. No doubt the catalogue may have explained some works satisfactorily enough to justify their inclusion, but I was not enthused enough by the images to fork out the $7 to find out. Instead of (or as well as) a catalogue which had to be purchased, the FAC should have supplied the usual free A4 printed sheets that gave the viewer some informative background information.

​Of the photographers whose work I enjoyed were David Bate, whose Bungled Memory series of broken crockery were whimsical and reflective, and Estelle Hanania, whose Shady series were powerful and well-executed images evocative of black magic and witchcraft. Both these photographers had something interesting to say, and said it engagingly and with a sense that they knew their craft. Some of the other photographers used the deconstruction of photographic technique as a statement to emphasise the integrity of their vision as being beyond the need for aesthetics, supposedly lending gravitas to 'meaning' over actual subject matter. That only works when ideas are powerful, real and thought-provoking, which in this exhibition was not the case. We needed a little boy in the crowd to point out the king's nakedness. But perhaps I'm just being a grumpy old man. 


As an example, the work by Christophe Canato, Ad Vitam Aeternum (the title should have warned me) was a series of photographs covered by tissue paper that had to be lifted after donning cotton gloves, as if in the Library of Congress rare books section. Puh-leeze. I couldn't be bothered, although I was tempted to tear each covering off its picture. But perhaps that was what Mr Canato was hoping would happen. FAC EXHIBITION 0615-15FAC EXHIBITION 0615-15 And while we're on what else annoyed me about this show was the curator's deliberate placing of pictures in odd, almost random places, sometimes breaking up a single photographer's work into several locations. In one instance, three small images from a series by Susan Hill (I think - they were well separated from her other series What Does the Moon Eat ) were scattered, one above a door, one on the wall next to the door and one on a wall in an adjoining corridor. Why? I thought we'd grown out of that sort of art bullshit at the end of the seventies. Yes, I'm definitely being a grumpy old man.

Having got that lot off my spleen, I once again thank the FAC for devoting its entire space this month to photography, for mine is just one, mainly uninformed, opinion, and I hope many will go to see the exhibitions on display. For my part though, thank god for John Gollings.

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Fri, 19 Jun 2015 07:52:42 GMT
Want to Learn Photography? Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

I've been teaching photography on and off for many years. Now, I'm more interested in teaching on a one-to-one basis, or at most with 2-3 people. I'll still be doing the odd seminar or course here and there - a couple of workshops at the Fremantle Arts Centre for example, and later this year I have an intriguing one-day seminar coming up - watch this space!

Meanwhile, if you'd like to learn anything about photography without the need for scheduled classes or distracting fellow students, I'm more than happy to oblige. Here are some ideas to inspire you.

> Basic Digital. Just spent a fortune on a new camera with lots of knobs and dials? Want to know how to get the best out of your purchase and also learn the essentials of lens choices, colour and composition? This is for you.

> Beyond Basic. This covers a lot of ground - depends what you want! Learn in more detail the mysteries of depth of field, lighting, better travel photography, portraiture, architectural photography, aerial photography, industrial photography, magazine photography... phew. 

> After the Click. OK, you've shot your heart out, got a raft of good images, now what? Learn all you need to know about Lightroom, the world industry standard for cataloguing and refinement of digital images. And then of course there's Photoshop, the Big One. Lots to  learn there, and I can teach you to master image making using either or both of these essential programs.

> Travel Photography. My favourite thing. Come and learn how to understand the essence of travel photography, what to look for, how to behave (yes!) and how to capture the essence of a country and culture.

What don't I cover? Well there are a few things that are better taught by specialists in these fields. Sports (any and all), underwater photography and wedding photography. And sunsets. Did I mention sunsets? I don't "do" sunsets except with a glass of wine in my hand.

Give me a call or send me an email and tell me what you'd like to learn! I can tailor the lessons to suit you, whether its a one-off lesson or a series of sessions. No obligation to sign up for any course structures, learn at your own pace and have my full attention. Prices are $90 per hour, that's it.

Call: 0418 926 920

Email: [email protected]

Oh, and I also offer Gift Certificates for my sessions. Great present for the photofile in your life.

Jardins Majorelles, Morocco

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Photography courses advanced beginner camera experience knowledge learning lesson lightroom one on one personalised photoshop private seminar teaching travel photography tuition workshop Fri, 04 Jul 2014 05:42:38 GMT
Arrested Development - Artspeak and Reality ARRESTED DEVELOPMENTA universal mystery, or just breakfast?

ARTSPEAK: The first in my new series "Universal Ennui".  Arrested Development speaks of loss and the inevitability of decay. This work is informed by a feminine (though not feminist) sensibility; the life forces have been ennucleated, engendering a sense of longing and loss that only the female of the species can know intimately. The irony is that the avocado in this arrangement is in fact more egg-like than the eggshell, which itself has taken on a more circular, or testicular, form. Yet both egg and avocado represent here a deep sense of regret, a confession of intimacy between the sexes and simultaneously the dichotomy of the same. The graphic, almost brutal composition and the use of a dark granular background points to a proprietary sense of paternalism by the artist, while at the same time allowing the viewer to contemplate their own fragility. Mystery and enigma pervade the whole, metamorphosing the mundane into the sublime.

REALITY: I had avocado and egg for breakfast, and this was lying on the kitchen bench. Shot with my iPhone.

Limited Edition Prints (3X): 3 metres x 2.5 metres on Japanese silk. $45,000 each. Hurry - limited time only!

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Wed, 04 Jun 2014 04:34:43 GMT
Some Notes on my Prints for Sale SIDETRIPPER EXHIBITIONHoneymoon Caravan

Whist I think that Zenfolio, the web builder I have used to make this site, is excellent (and it really is - I have tried other DIY web building apps and this one is the best I've used by far) there is only so much one can do within the confines of pre-programmed templates. Unless you can program HTML yourself of course, in which case I imagine you wouldn't need a web builder.

Anyhow, what I have had to do on my gallery pages for the Exhibition/Print Sales part of my site is to put up PDFs showing the range of sizes and prices that are available as well as a page with my Artist's Statements from each of the exhibitions. The price list does appear automatically when you click on the BUY button, but not otherwise, so this is the best way I can show what is on offer. 

​The other thing I have attempted to explain within the price list is that not all the sizes on the list will necessarily fit the dimensions of each image precisely; in most cases there will be small discrepancies depending on my cropping or the particular camera I may have used. Thus if  you order a 60cmx90cm print, the actual image size may be, for instance, 72cm x 101cm - or 56cm x 92cm, etc. The only sizes that will be dead accurate, for obvious reasons, are the square prints.

​It is also worth noting that the prints, when you receive them, will not only have an image size closest to the size chosen but will have a 2-4cm white border in addition, to facilitate matting and framing. I have shown the pictures on the site as having a much wider white border; this is to illustrate the "look of the print once it has been matted and framed so you might have a better idea of how it might look on your wall. Of course in the end, it is entirely up to you as to how you choose to display the print.

I hope that has  helped explain some of the less clear aspects of the Print Sales section - I'm always open to any further suggestions for improvement or clarity you may have. I hope you enjoy my galleries, and that you find something you like to hang on your wall!



[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Sat, 31 May 2014 05:46:48 GMT
FINE ART PRINTS FOR SALE RED SLATS -  available for purchase on fine art German Etching paperRED SLATS - available for purchase on fine art German Etching paper


Finally! I've  managed to work out how to sell prints on this website (I hope). They can be found under the Exhibitions/Print Sales tab on the main menu, or scoot over there now on this link.

I'm selling prints from two of my past exhibitions as well as my Ochre Dance Series pictures. Part proceeds of the latter will go towards Ochre Dance Company, so you're not only getting a great picture but supporting a great company as well. Prints from my most recent show at Gunyulgup Galleries are not for sale on my site at present as they are still the provenance of the gallery, but you are very welcome to buy any of those through them - +61 8 9755 2177 or [email protected].

The prints I sell on this site are museum quality archive prints, but not on the same material as I have used in my exhibitions, which are limited edition prints and therefore on different stock and with different finishes. However if you are interested in buying a limited edition print, please contact me on [email protected] and I can confirm if any of the edition is still available and let you know prices. If you are after gift certificates, I can organise that also - just email me!

Please share this post with your friends and let them know what's available - I'd really appreciate it......

As it says on my homepage - Simon is an accomplished Fine Art photographer and his work is in many private collections as well as Artbank, the W.A. Art Gallery, the National Gallery Canberra and the Kerry Stokes Collection. So you'll be in good company!

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Wed, 28 May 2014 06:18:26 GMT
LIGHTROOM WORKSHOP COMING SOON! LIGHTROOM INTERFACE IN DEVELOP MODULEThe image on the left is a RAW image straight out of the camera; on the right is the finished image, all done within LR

I'll be running a one day Lightroom workshop at Fremantle Arts Centre on Sunday June 15th, from 10am to 4pm. If you really want to get the most out of your digital photography you need to know your way around some sort of imaging software. And Adobe Lightroom has become the industry standard amongst professional and enthusiast photographers, for good reason. Lightroom is not only a processing tool, but a very powerful organisational tool as well. Get your pictures in order, know where they are, catalogue them expertly and then learn how to get the most out of what you camera is capable of delivering. I'll be going through the basics of this terrific software, and by the time I've finished you will be able to master the program by yourself with this knowledge base! Learn just how powerful this application is and how it will change your approach to photography. Move on from taking photographs to making photographs. And all of it will be taking place in the hallowed surrounds of the Fremantle Arts Centre - what better way to spend a Sunday!

Book here:

LIGHTROOM DEVELOP MODULEThe image on the left is a RAW image straight out of the camera; on the right is the finished image, all done within LR

LIGHTROOM DEVELOP MODULEPowerful editing tools allow you to pick the shots you want to work on and catalogue by colour, star ratings, and more.

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Fri, 23 May 2014 09:01:30 GMT
The Infuriating Roger Ballen ©Roger BallenFrom the book Platteland

In the past ten years or so Roger Ballen has become a worldwide darling of the photography fine art circuit. His books, videos and installations are ubiquitous. So why do I find him infuriating?  Well, mainly because I do not like his pictures. But the annoying thing about Ballen is that he is intriguing. And undoubtedly talented. And so perhaps I should view his pictures with more interest and empathy than I do.

I guess it has a lot to do with first impressions. If I had been introduced to Ballen's work in the past few years, I would probably have a different take on the matter, but the first time I became aware of his photography was quite a while ago, when he came to notice in 1994 for his book Platteland. The pictures were obviously meant to shock, but rather than shock me they made me angry. I saw the book then, and still do, as a collection of photographs purely intended to enhance the photographer's reputation as a fearless documenter of "the truth" when in reality (to me) it was nothing but an exploitation of a defenceless group of unfortunates. Google Books describes it thus: Stark duotone portrait photographs capture the hidden world of South Africa's impoverished white inhabitants of the "plattelands," revealing a ravaged world of social and economic isolation, disease, poverty, alcoholism, and abandonment.

Ballen documents his foray into the Plattelands in great detail (doth he protest too hard I wonder?), and argues the point that the white Afrikaans trash, for want of a better word, are a legitimate anthropological sub-species worthy of recording; the dregs of the once-powerful South African white rulers who no longer had the patronage of their wealthier, more successful cousins. Well, maybe so, but for me, when I saw the photographs, I couldn't help but thinking that these were possibly the most exploitative and prurient photographs I had ever seen of a society that did not have the wits to tell the man to go fuck himself. So yes, Roger and I got off to a bad start, you might say.

©Roger BallenFrom Platteland Am I being too sensitive? I don't know. Diane Arbus was rightly hailed for her photographs of people on the edges of society, and I don't have anywhere near as much trouble with her work. She seemed to have so much more empathy with her subjects, a respect and gentleness that I find so lacking in Ballen's pictures. I think my problem with the Platteland monograph is that it is so focussed on just one disadvantaged community in one location, so to speak, which seems to me a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. 

Having said all that, there can be no doubt that Ballen is a fine photographer, and thus my dilemma about disliking his work in the face of so many supposedly qualified critics who lionise him. And then there's Ballen the person. He is possibly a very engaging and witty chap, but his public persona suggests otherwise if any of the interviews and videos I've seen of him are anything to go by. He takes himself extremely seriously. He sees himself as a photographic "purist", using only film as opposed to digital, and shooting only in black and white. Of course. It is the chosen modus of many self-proclaimed "serious" photographers and often used as a justification in itself when it comes to the importance of their work. Am I a cynic? When it comes to this, yes. Film only, B&W only - give me a break. And so Rog and I part company once more.

So on now to his latest work. He moved from photographing drooling idiots in the Platteland to photographing people on the very edges of existence in South African slum dwellings (notice a theme here?). His photography is dark, strange, dangerous and moody, inhabited by the seemingly  dangerous and deranged denizens of shanty towns and filthy abandoned buildings.

©Roger BallenImage from Outlands Since his early works in this area Ballen has gone on to more complicated setups; where at first he shot the people and surroundings of these ghettos in a more documentary style, he has gone on to setting up entire sets and scenarios, sometimes illustrating the walls with his own artwork and drawings and sometimes getting the inhabitants to draw on the walls and furniture; he often props the scene with old bits of junk he picks up at op-shops and garbage sites, or with the animals, vermin and birds that live around and with the residents. The whole effect is thus doubly surreal; the real setting and people are in themselves other-worldly enough, but with Ballen's set-dressing and the careful placement of his subjects and props he has entered an entirely new world. And whilst I still don't particularly "like" the images much, I do now see intellect behind them, and the intriguing unfolding of what is clearly a very complex, and, I would suggest, somewhat troubled, mind. So yes, I see completely where the art illuminati are coming from, and why Ballen can command the respect and fees he is now getting. But I'm still unsettled by what I continue to view as the exploitation of a disadvantaged group of people, and wonder if I've totally misread his images and intentions or whether the king really is naked.  As I said, infuriating.

©Roger BallenFrom his latest book Asylum of the Birds

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Tue, 13 May 2014 15:25:04 GMT
The best camera.... Waiting for a HaircutTom's barbershop, Claremont

..Is the one you have on you at the time. An old cliche, but a goodie. As tech-savvy as I think I am (and I'm not bad) I always forget that I have a phone and and iPad that contain a camera. Sure, everyone including photojournalists are using their phones for taking "serious" pictures but I just never think of it. But waiting at the barber's today and catching up on my emails I suddenly remembered  - I have a camera here! So I took this shot of my barber's shop, which is quite a cool old-fashioned shop, and then mucked around processing it a bit on PS Express on the iPad. Helped to pass the time, and I got a nice little pic out of it as well. Must try to remember that just because I don't have a DSLR slung over my shoulder doesn't mean I can't take the odd snap!

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) barber barbershop camera hair haircut iPad old-fashioned Thu, 01 May 2014 04:51:53 GMT

Yay! I've finally got around to finishing my edit of the pictures I shot of Ochre Dance Company's wonderful dancers. Thanks to all who helped - the dancers, the administration and my faithful assistants Dana and Catherine. These pictures are now up in my EXHIBITIONS section of the website, so take a look! They will eventually end up as large format (1 metre square) prints and the proceeds of any sales will go towards the company. Its a small donation but one I am able and delighted to make and every little bit makes a difference in getting this great company on a permanent footing. They put on a fantastic performance recently at the Sculpture By the Sea in Cottesloe, and they just get better and better. Do try to get to their end of year season at the State Theatre (details on their website soon) and in the meantime go along and support their choreographic workshop series "Articulating Landscapes" which is on in July. Details here >> .

Hope you enjoy the pictures and lend your support to the company!

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) aboriginal art ballet beautiful black and white bodies dance dancers delicacy ethnic flowing graceful graphic indigenous movement photography powerful races racial sexy simon cowling strength tonal Tue, 29 Apr 2014 10:21:39 GMT
My PhotoHeros #1 - Guy Bourdin, Fashion Photographer ©Guy BourdinCharles Jourdan Shoes

Guy Bourdin was one of my early inspirations in photography. And still is; whenever I revisit his work I am knocked out by his extraordinary compositional skills, his impeccable colour sense and his often bizarre but always fascinating concepts. His ability to work up an abstract, often erotic idea and still keep things razor-clean, balanced to perfection and with an outrageous sense of colour have deeply influenced my own approach to photography. Not that I have ever sought to copy - but when you are taken with an artist's work it is inevitable some of it will rub off on you by creative osmosis. And not that I have had a career in fashion either, except for the first few years of my photographic life when, like most young male photographers, I was in it for the girls.... but that's another story! Bourdin himself cited his own influences, including Man Ray, Magritte, Balthus and Luis Bunuel.

©Guy BourdinCharles Jourdan Shoes

Bourdin was a pioneer in fashion photography. He would devise a concept, a story, a scene, which was usually provocative and often with sexual undertones, shoot the picture and then simply ascribe a fashion brand or label to that picture. He had no time for the accepted convention of actually "showing off" the clothes - the picture itself was the thing, the fashion incidental. And fashion mags went crazy for it. Clients included Vogue, Harpers, Chanel, Versace, Ungaro and Pentax. Yep, Pentax - the camera of choice for discerning photographers... ;-) (I was obviously more influenced by him than I thought!). His longtime campaign for Charles Jourdan was perhaps his most famous, and in many ways his most outrageous. There's never been another like Bourdin in my opinion (although David La Chapelle is a close contender, albeit far more campy in his approach). Thanks Guy, for teaching me about composition and colour and the incredibly graphic possibilities of photography.

©Guy BourdinCharles Jourdan Shoes

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Chanel David La Chapelle Guy Bourdin Harper's Bazaar Man Ray Pentax Vogue bizarre colour composition fashion fetish graphic hero influence photography sex Mon, 28 Apr 2014 04:02:18 GMT
Ochre Dance Company - New Pic ©Simon Cowling©Simon Cowling The editing and refining of my shoot of Ochre Dance Company continues - I'm loving it. Hoping to have an exhibition at some stage of large format prints. All pictures shot on medium format Pentax 645, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop. I'll post some more up from time to time. Support Ochre here

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Tue, 22 Apr 2014 06:15:29 GMT
LIGHTROOM WORKSHOP AT FREMANTLE ARTS CENTRE ©Simon CowlingLightroom ExampleA hawker of fine bonnets in New York City.

I'll also be running a one day Lightroom Workshop at FAC on Sunday 15th June from 10am to 4pm. Its an introduction to what has become, in a few short years, the industry standard editing and organisational tool for digital photography. If you've always wanted to know about this great program but have been too lazy to find out, now's your chance! It will change the way you view your photography whether you're a pro or just wild about taking pictures.

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Tue, 22 Apr 2014 04:13:56 GMT
TEACHING AT FREMANTLE ARTS CENTRE Christ_Rises_in_RioChrist_Rises_in_Rio

After a much-needed break from teaching at Shoot, I'm back! This time at the Fremantle Arts Centre, which I'm thrilled about. FAC is just about the perfect place to teach anything in the arts, with its beautiful building, history and fine reputation in the visual arts. Starting on the 6th May I'll be teaching an intermediate course in digital photography. The course runs for 6 weeks, three hours each Tuesday night except the night of June 3rd. I'll be talking about a variety of topics and the course will be slanted towards assignments and critiques of your work, so the course is part tutoring and part mentoring. It is designed for those who know their way around a camera but wish to really take a step forward in their creative, compositional and publishing skills. Hope you'll join me! Details and bookings here:

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Tue, 22 Apr 2014 04:00:07 GMT
Tassie the Magnificent Part 3 SALAMANCA MARKETS, HOBART, TASMANIABustling stalls amongst beautiful buildings

Last day in Tasmania and we are running a tiny bit late to get out of the house. Rob is pacing up and down like a caged animal. I make a feeble attempt at activity by putting couple of bags in the hall, but the girls still have mulch to discuss. No, that's not a typo. Its all about gardens around here. Anyhow, we set off for Salamanca markets - its a Saturday morning so Hobart's famous and historic Salamanca place is full to bursting with stalls of every description. Beautiful fresh Tasmanian produce (the sausage stall is overwhelming - over 100 sausages of various varieties sizzling on giant grills under a marquee, the cloying smell of three tons of frying onions pervading our clothes, nostrils and and every other place. We still smell like a sausage sizzle when we board the plane two hours later). Delightful. The markets are like markets the world over - organised chaos, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, stalls of fine produce and stalls of fine craft, stalls of dreadful food and stalls of absolute crap; amazingly talented buskers and down at heel performers who have nothing remotely resembling talent. Just as it should be. But it has a special atmosphere, this market. Bordered by a sweeping row of beautiful, historic buildings it is very easy to forget that this is Australia and not some bustling European city.  We had a great time there, albeit a short one, before heading out to the airport and winging our way west once again. We'll be back.















SLIDE GUITARIST, SALAMANCA MARKETS, HOBART"I'm a sucker for slide guitar" - Rob Walls. Yep, me too. He was good.



[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Anzac David Walsh Hobart MONA Mount Wellington Rob Walls Salamanca Tasmania art balloon biker busker cooking crazy crowds drummer eating entertaining ferry food gallery garden goat grower guitarist holiday landscapes leather leisure magnificent market music photographer raconteur rustic scenery sheep stalls touring travel trout vegetable writer Mon, 14 Apr 2014 06:48:07 GMT
Tassie the Magnificent Part 2 TASMANIA_2014-737PINNOCHIO IN THE WINDOW OF A WOOD SHOPCampbell Town Tasmania We picked up a rental car in Hobart and hit the road for the east coast. Let's not dwell on the process of renting a car I had already booked for a specific time and paid for; suffice to say that Rob later commented he was pleased to see that vestiges of old-style Tasmanian (non)service still existed.

Once out of Hobart (an easy enough manoeuvre) we struck out on the open road for the Freycinet Peninsula. Before long we were oohing and aahing about the scenery and the  impossibly cute towns we were passing through. Unfortunately 'cute" is a word that seemed to come up a lot during our travels. Unfortunate because it conjours up images of twee little villages with lace doilies and devonshire teas. Which is partly true, but in Tasmania cute seems to work without becoming cloying. The sturdy Georgian and colonial architecture, the old bits of machinery, the rustic cottages, are all the real deal.The dark history of Tasmania, with its convict past and genocidal slaughter of its indigenous people, seem imbued in the land and the towns, so the urge to describe so many things as "cute" is tempered by the realisation that beneath that refined colonial surface lies a violent past.
















We reached the Freycinet Peninsula (Coles Bay, to be accurate) in the early afternoon and were immediately drawn to the place. Wonderful topography, crystal clear waters and a range of strange, foreboding mountains known as The Hazards that brooded over the whole like keepers of the strange. We went mad and splashed out on accommodation at the Edge of the Bay Resort which was far out of our proposed budget, but I'm afraid that's the way we tend to travel. Its part of our Fuck Art Let's Dance philosophy I guess. When I awoke at dawn the next morning and saw this view from my bed I knew we'd made the right decision.

DAWN AT COLES BAY, FREYCINET PENINSULASpectacular! The Hazards are on the horizon.

Shortly afterwards my wife decided a walk was in order and was so taken with the serenity and clarity of the water that she braved the chill and took a dip in her lingerie. Brave girl. That's the ever present Hazards in the distance. Beautiful rocks there too, with a fiery patina of some sort of mineral or fungal staining.
















Rob had insisted that we should climb the route to the Wineglass Bay lookout in the national park. An easy stroll, he said. I knew the bastard was lying when I saw this sign at the start of the trail.

WINEGLASS BAY SIGN"The walk to Wineglass Bay lookout may be the hardest walk you do in Tasmania".

We made it however, but it left me feeling confused. I was glad for the exercise, since that's something I normally try to avoid, but I have never understood the fascination of the Australian bush, and this walk proved to be no exception. Yes, there were some interesting rocks and the occasional spectacular view to a bay, but for the most part one is scrambling vertically up or down through dun-coloured vegetation that just looks a mess to my visually anal sensibilities. The way down was fun though - I could cheerfully tell people on the way up that they didn't have far to go in a tone of voice that suggested I did this walk every day before breakfast. Mr Smug.

After a couple of days tooling around Freycinet and the Bay of Fires we came back to Hobart through a road in the middle of the island that was once one of the most used coach routes from Hobart to Launceston. Once again we passed through a number of almost impossibly cute towns, but they were all fascinating, and the Georgian architecture outstanding. Its pretty cool to be able to drive through history that is still very much alive. We stayed in a cottage in Ross overnight that was very ancient (by Australian standards) and it was a bit like sleeping in a museum; we had a suite of rooms including a parlour and a kitchen/dining room. I was sorry I had  neglected to pack a frock coat. Then it was back to Hobart for a last night at the Walls' idyll, with the  promise of a quick visit to the Salamanca markets the next day before we caught the plane. More on that later....

SWEET'S BODY WORKS, FINGALSeems to still be working. SWEET'S BODY WORKS, FINGALNice to know his body still works. His building looks pretty shabby though.


[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Coles Bay David Walsh Edge of the Bay Freycinet Georgian Hazards Hobart MONA Mount Wellington Oatlands Rob Walls Salamanca Tasmania Wineglass Bay art bush car hire cold convict cooking cute eating entertaining ferry flour food gallery garden genocide goat grower hiking history holiday indigenous landscapes magnificent market murder photographer raconteur road rocks rustic scenery sheep swimming touring travel trout vegetable water windmill writer Fri, 11 Apr 2014 03:39:00 GMT
Tassie the Magnificent SWORDFISH ON A STICK, TRIABUNNA, TASMANIAFly, my little swordfish, fly!

Tasmania is magnificent. No other word will do. Just spent a week there with my wife, visiting one of my oldest friends, Rob Walls, a superb photographer, raconteur, writer and cook. His wife Susie is also one of the most delightful people you're ever likely to meet, and in the shadow of Mount Wellington, just around the corner from the famous Cascade brewery, Susie tends a lush and lively vegetable garden. A serious one. She sells to people who sell vegetables at Hobart's Salamanca markets. That's how serious. What with the bucolic scenery, complete with hens and goats (all individually named, of course) fossicking around in the lower paddock by the boundary stream (am I making you sick with jealousy yet?) I didn't want to go anywhere else. And this was just the start - we hadn't glimpsed any more of Tassie than the Walls' house and garden and we were already more than happy with our Tasmanian visit!

TASMANIA_2014-313Rob Walls serves up a magnificently cooked fresh Tasmanian trout. Let that be a lesson to you.

But of course there's more. There's MONA for a start - - Tasmania's already world-famous art gallery. Words can't do it justice. Well not mine anyway. Built from the eclectically mad collection of Tasmanian uber-gambler David Walsh and housed in a masterpiece of subterranean architecture, a visit to MONA should be mandatory for anyone even vaguely interested in art. The experience starts right from getting on the MONA ferry for the 20 minute journey across Derwent Harbour to the gallery. Mad art, sheep sculptures to sit on on the upper deck, superb food and coffee from the onboard kitchen manned by MONA's own chefs, the witty brochure ("Tasmanians are admitted free of charge. You just need to supply identification - yes, yes, two heads and all that...") and the passing scenery all combine to make just getting there a blast. We had a very happy and stimulating day and will definitely return soon I hope.

TASMANIA_2014-424Grumpy passenger (is it the Queen?) sits on a sheep aboard the MONA ferry.

The next day we set off from the Walls' domain to discover the pleasures of the east coast. More on that next post....

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Bay Coles Bay David Edge Freycinet Georgian Hazards Hobart MONA Mount Oatlands Rob Salamanca Tasmania Walls Walsh Wellington Wineglass art bush car cold convict cooking cute eating entertaining ferry flour food gallery garden genocide goat grower hiking hire history holiday indigenous landscapes magnificent market murder of photographer raconteur road rocks rustic scenery sheep swimming the touring travel trout vegetable water windmill writer Thu, 10 Apr 2014 09:34:29 GMT
Breaking the law. Again. The cosmetic department in Myer, Sydney. So? I hear you cry. Well yes, it's a totally uninspiring picture, but taken for a purpose. I sometimes play a little game of how long will it take for security to tell me to desist? In this case, it took about two minutes for a very snappily dressed young man with an impeccable hipster hairdo to tell me oh-so-politely that photography was not allowed instore. That was pretty good in my experience - it usually requires me to take at least three or four pictures and make myself fairly obvious (a flak jacket and a tripod helps). Now I know these stores and shopping centerst  have proprietary material they want protect from piracy, but let's be realistic. Anyone with a phone can take pictures equally as good for reference or even publication purposes, and unless you stick your phone in the security guard's face it's unlikely anyone will challenge you. To prove the point, after I was chastised by the security hipster in Myer I then proceeded to wander through the store taking odd pictures with my iPhone, my DSLR tucked out of sight in a shoulder bag. No challenges, no problems. What with the PC police jumping on any photographer within 1000mm lens distance of a child, outdoor market stall owners yelling at you for taking a photo of their crappy hippy colored bead baubles and stores and shopping centres unleashing the dogs of war against anyone who dares to tale a picture of a Clarins counter, one really has to wonder what we've all done to become such pariahs. Ah, the first-world problems of the downtrodden! PS Play the department store game - see how many pictures you can take before being reprimanded. No prizes though - I've already won, it would seem.

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Fri, 28 Mar 2014 23:53:18 GMT
Let there be light, said Ernest ©Simon Cowling©Simon Cowling Light. Its what photography is all about, right? I recently discovered some lovely quotes from a man who is well known to Dr Who fans (or should be if they were paying attention). His name is Ernest Vincze, a Hungarian lighting cameraman who was responsible for setting the look and feel of the new Dr Who series from 2005 to 2009 and is regarded by many cameramen as a true master of light. 

I think light and all its nuances are one of the greatest influences that not only got me interested in photography in the first place, but has kept me there ever since. There is something indefinably wondrous about the ever-changing qualities of light, and the challenge of getting that feeling into a picture. The trick is to recognise great light when you see it and grab it with both hands. And a camera is also handy. Even if it means getting out of the car in the middle of a downpour! The above was taken in Canada's Rocky Mountains last year.

Some thoughts on light from Ernest that I think are worth pondering:

"Light is beautiful. Light reveals the world to us. Light permeates our reality at every scale of our existence. Light is a carrier of beauty, a giver of life." 

"Light is amazing. Light sets our biological clocks. Light is craved by the body and soul. It triggers in our brain the sensation of colour. Light feeds us and it inspires us with specials like rainbows, sunsets, Northern Lights."

"Light can be gentle or violent, living or dead, clear or misty, hot or dark and sensual. Light can be straight or slanting, subdued or bright, poisonous or calming."  

Maybe he should have been called Ernest Lights.....

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Canada Dr Who Ernest Vincze Light Rocky Mountains awe-inspiring beautiful cameraman cold landscape lighting mountains photography rainbow rainy snow travel Tue, 25 Mar 2014 05:07:31 GMT
Sydney Biennale Hoo-Haa ©Simon Cowling©Simon Cowling A few weeks ago, certain artists who were invited to show in the Sydney Biennale got together and decided they could not in good conscience be involved with an event for which Transfield was the founding sponsor, to the tune of around $600,000 per year. As such, they told the Biennale Committee that they would pull out of the event unless Transfield withdrew their sponsorship. Senator George Brandis, the Liberal Minister for the Arts and the Attorney General, was swift to condemn the artist's action. He has signalled a significant shake-up of arts funding to avoid political "blackballing" in the wake of what he describes as the "shameful" decision by the Biennale of Sydney to reject private sponsorship from Transfield - Chris Kenny, The Australian, March 13.

Why? In my view this is a predictable, knee-jerk reaction from a reactionary jerk. I'm not going to argue the merits or otherwise of the artists' decision; its a minefield, and whether one supports their stance or not, they surely have a right to protest in whatever way they can against what they see as unacceptable human rights abuses by a large corporation. Yes, they are shooting themselves in the foot in many ways; it would be very difficult to find almost any large corporate sponsor today which would scrub up as blameless in any number of areas where it could be taken to task. Whether it is discrimination, sexism, slavery, eco-destruction or just being plain greedy arseholes, big companies almost by definition will end up treading on one or several toes.

But back to Brandis. He is 'appalled" at the Biennale's decision to cave in to the demands of the artists and has threatened that their future funding from the government will "have regard to this episode and to the damage it has done". I cannot see how Brandis can take such an arrogant, heavy handed approach - whatever way you cut this cake, he is clearly sending the message that artists have no right to reject the source of their patronage if they feel conscience driven to do so. And yet this is the same man who just today has stated that people have a right to be bigots and that is why he and the liberal government want to remove sections of the anti-discrimination act that makes racial slurs an offence. Great. So we have a minster FOR the Arts who wants to legislate against artists taking political action against perceived unacceptable corporate practices but will make  it quite OK for them to call someone a nigger. The man is a menace.

I said earlier in the piece that the decision by the Biennale artists to demand Transfield withdraw its sponsorship was a minefield. It is. By doing so they have certainly made it harder for artists to obtain corporate funding in general, but sadly it is and always has been a fact of society that great art has always needed generous patronage to survive, wherever that patronage may have come from. One of the most generous patrons of the Renaissance period was the infamous Borgia family; they were regarded as one of the most dangerous families of the period, with many crimes committed in the pursuit of power. I suspect that had the Biennale artists told the Borgias where to shove their golden ducats they may well have ended up with their throats cut... no doubt with Senator Brandis cheering from the sidelines.

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) AGWA Art Art Gallery of Western Australia George Brandis Girl Liberal Party Sydney Biennale Transfield appalling blue controversy corporate critic gallery hair ingratitude interference painting sponsorship view viewer Mon, 24 Mar 2014 09:59:49 GMT
Getting There! CHA-CHA -  available for purchase on fine art German Etching paperCHA-CHA - available for purchase on fine art German Etching paperOnly available in square print sizes. ...and speaking of let's dance.... I've uploaded images from my last three exhibitions for you to have a look at. Coming soon, some travel and commercial work. For those of you looking to build a new website, this ZENFOLIO site builder seems really excellent, especially for photographers. I guess time will tell, but I've been amazingly pleased at how quickly I've been able to get to this stage from scratch in a couple of hours.

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Fri, 21 Mar 2014 11:25:09 GMT

Welcome to my brand-new website. Welcome to the ramblings of a photographer who has been in the industry for an awfully long time. Welcome to photography, travel, politics, strong opinions, teaching, lots of foolishness and hopefully some wisdom. I hope you enjoy what you see and I hope you join in the discussions from time to time. As someone famous once said, Fuck Art, let's Dance! Welcome to my world.

[email protected] (Simon Cowling) Canada DIner art classic martian reflections retro spaceship Tue, 16 Jul 2013 18:14:50 GMT