How to keep motivated

I'd lost the mojo! The Hague was no longer a lustrous mistress offering glimpses of a fascinating photographic world. I felt I had photographed the guts out of the place and there was nothing left. I wanted to get out shooting, but visiting the same old spots just didn't excite me anymore. I was in a rut. I needed to get out though, get out and capture more stock images. I had a window of one afternoon and an evening in which to get some meaningful shots, so I had to put the old thinking cap on. I know that often once I make the move and get out then often that is the hardest part over. So that's the first thing I did. Even though I wasn't feeling it. I also wanted to shoot something that was going to be interesting to me. The nearby seaside resort of Scheveningen came to mind as a possible location. I remember going to Scheveningen when I first came to the Netherlands and just hated it. The built up boulevard seemed alien to this boy from Tasmania, who associated the seaside with nature and wildlife rather than hordes of people and attractions. Over the years I've changed though, and Scheveningen represented an interesting mix of fun sights and interesting land and waterscapes, albeit, man made. I started with the fishing fleets in the enclosed harbour and  and began my photographic hunting expedition. Right away, I knew I had made the right choice. The day was an absolute stunner, with puffy clouds drifting across a deep blue sky. I wandered around the harbour capturing the boats and ships and moved toward the beach. The North Sea coast of the Netherlands stretches north and south for miles. the day was so clear I was able to see the wide sandy beach all the way to Hoek van Holland near Rotterdam and north to the Pier and ferris wheel at Scheveningen resort. Between where I was standing at the south end were a myriad of photo opportunities suh as, beach goers, beach tent cafes, sculptures, a lighthouse, grand hotels and historic architecture. Scheveningen beach southern view shot from the pier.   Dutch lifesaver Unimog vehicle on patrol. By the time I had walked the beach to the pier and photographed all there was to offer, five hours had flown by without me realizing, and I was walking back to the car in the dark, and I hadn't even photographed everything on my shot list. I really can't wait to go back. Zip liners going past Scheveningen ferris wheel. I didn't have time to shoot the light house with its rotating beam or the world war two bunkers that line the high dunes on the north side of the beach after the pier. That will be for another day and will motivate and inspire me to get out shooting. I've climbed out of the rut! Scheveningen ferris wheel at blue hour before dark on long exposure.

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Death by plastic

If you have been watching nature programs in the media over the last few weeks, you'll see a lot of focus on plastic pollution in the oceans and water bodies. I watched turtles tangled in nets, albatross feeding their chicks chunks of plastic pieces and countless sea birds drowned, poisoned and choked by the stuff. Most of these species were pretty exotic and in far flung places from my base here in the Netherlands. I thought it was all very far away and because of that, wasn't expecting to see anything like that here. How wrong I was. In the weekend, while taking a constitutional walk on the beach I came across a large white seabird lying dead on the beach. As I got closer, I saw it was a northern gannet. The gannet is a really large diving and fishing bird that hunts the open sea for school fish in the North Sea and Atlantic. When I got really close, I saw to my disbelief that the bird had fishing net wrapped around its wings and beak. In the previous days, a storm had been blowing and must have swept the bird from it's feeding grounds. At first I thought it had to be some kind of media event cooked up by a wildlife group to bring attention to the plight of sea birds dying from plastic pollution. I hung around and waited for the environmentalists to descend, explaining about plastic pollution and asking whether I was doing my bit. When no one showed up, it started to dawn on me that this was an actual thing. This huge bird had become tangled and died a horrible death and washed ashore on my beach. I then got busy with the camera and documented this creature's plight. After a while, some people walking on the beach paused to take a look. But many just took a disinterested sideways glance and continued on their walk, non the wiser. After a while, some lifeguards took an interest in me taking photos of the bird and came to have a look. I said "maybe you should leave it here for a while and let people see it". They went away and after 30 minutes came back with shovels. It seemed beach hygiene had a higher priority. The gannet and its fishing net was shoveled up, put in a bag and then unceremoniously put in a bin. Only a few people were aware of the huge bird that is seldom seen this far south and its futile struggle to stay alive. The beach strollers continued their strolling past more plastic pollution scattered on the sand. The lifeguards kept doing their job and I kept walking, albeit with a sense of waking up from this insulated cocoon I had been in. The plastic death had found it's way into my world.

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Summer in the city (street pho...

This summer, I spent a day in the bustling tourist hotspot of Amsterdam. Wandering the canal lined streets and taking in the hundreds of years of history was a fantastic way to spend a day. I had no plan for the day and decided to just see what great sights I might come across. History, architecture and people watching. Amsterdam has it all.   Bridges over the Prinsengracht. When i walked over an elevated footpath I saw that all of the bridges lined up nicely over the canal. Each photo I took also highlighted different characters walking or biking over the bridges.   This is another kind of bridge (a moveable bridge) that you often see in the centre of Amsterdam. I tried waiting until there were no people coming over it, but between the biking locals and the rambling tourists, this was not to be. So I waited for an interesting local to ride along and then took the shot. During my amble I came across a bakery and confectionery store. They were kind enough to let take some shots inside after I bought one of their mud cake cookies which kept my energy up for the afternoon.      A typical Amsterdam sight, actually, a typical Dutch sight. I never get tired of the relaxed way the Dutch can weave through a busy city effortlessly carrying groceries or their kids. A classic American station wagon (I think it's a chevy) with two tone paint. It certainly makes a statement in the poky little streets lining the canals.   This boat is on the way to an open air concert being held on the canals. The people came equipped with enough drinks, food and good spirits to have a great time. Some of the boats also have personalities of their own. You can tell that Amsterdam is one of the most popular places in Europe to party and these people certainly look like they are having some fun.

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Stock photography: my dirty li...

For a little over a year now I've been contributing photos to several micro stock photo agencies. It started out as a trial, but has developed into a bit of an addiction. The idea of creating a passive income is attractive to me, and I hope that over the coming two years the hundreds of images i've uploaded will start to generate a monthly inflow of cash. I went into it with eyes wide open and knew the dosh wouldn't start rolling in straight away, but guess what, it hasn't. I uploaded this photo of fish oil capsules as a commercial image. It was easy to do in my own home and cost very little to make. Simple, low cost but visually pleasing images like this are a good way of starting a stock portfolio.   Deciding for microstock The 200-600 images I uploaded to seven sites have taught me how to correctly compose, expose and make photos that people can use in publications or advertisements. The procedures for contributing and creating a workflow have also taught me new skills. The above photo of Tasmanian wallabies is pretty interesting, but it wouldn't be accepted for microstock photography. Images must be perfectly sharp when enlarged to 100%. This shot was taken at dusk, but motion blur occurred due to a slow shutter speed and there was too much noise from choosing a higher ISO. This meant that I couldn't use it. Photos have to be technically close to perfect for acceptance by stock agencies, even if the image is very compelling.   So, why stock? Well, if my photos are not being sold to a magazine or website and they are just sitting on my hard drive, they may as well be out there online and available for sale, albeit for only 35 cents a pop in many cases. I photographed this 747 cargo plane at nearby Schiphol Airport and uploaded it as an editorial image. The location is close to where I live, which kept costs down and the image is compelling. Time will tell however if it is profitable though. Because the return for individual photos is so low with stock, it is worthwhile making sure your costs are also as low as possible.   The reason for the title "my dirty little secret" is because many photographers despise microstock because it pays so poorly per photo. That offends a photographer's sense of worth. I understand this, but I also look at from a different perspective. Over a long period of time this could represent good income, maybe. Also, many editors and designers only buy photos through the stock agencies and they don't buy images from individuals. It's sad for photographers, but that's life. One has to move with the times. Another advantage of uploading to microstock agencies is that you don't have to deal with people such as customers, gate keepers and editors. This reduces the amount of problems that can come from dealing with strong personalities, inflexible budgets and the clash of ideas. For some photographers, this is reason enough. Quantity vs quality Once the pics are uploaded, you can just monitor the stats that they generate. It's a long-term game. Keep in mind, however, you could upload hundreds of images and still have no one buy them, this could be because they don't fit with the buyers needs or, they have no commercial or editorial value. Eventually you will learn by your sales, and the advice that the other contributors post on the agency blogs. This image above of honey on a spoon is one of my best sellers, half an hour's work and my daughter helping by pouring the honey -  a great stock shot made.   As I said, a lot to learn, but importantly, a lot of fun. If it isn't fun, then I wouldn't do it, because all of that work takes a lot of time and energy away from other endeavors. Over the coming year, I intend to expand my stock portfolio and to include video clips. I'm slowly starting to see sales go up too, so who knows, maybe it will work out - and, i'll be having fun finding out.

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white wallabies of Bruny

Wallabies are a kangaroo in miniature. On the southern edge of Tasmania sits Bruny Island, roughly 50 km long and pretty much untouched by man. It's home to a rare albino Bennetts wallaby, which is a more densely furred subspecies of the red-necked wallaby found on mainland Australia. I'd heard of this rare animal but had never had a chance to see one in the wild. Recently, I had an opportunity to go to Tasmania so I booked into adventure bay camping grounds and was determined to spot and photograph this marsupial. With a little local advice, I was able to find them and spend a great session watching and photographing them. The albino wallaby would normally be predated fairly quickly in the wild, This is because the white coloration stands out like a beacon against the darker undergrowth. But on Bruny there are no predators so they thrive and breed. The albinos number around 200 animals. Albino wallaby 1 Albino wallaby 2 Here an albino can be compared to a normal colored wallaby. On Bruny, both types breed together. It's not unusual to see an albino mother carrying a brown colored joey in its pouch. [caption id="attachment_2010" align="alignnone" width="300"]White albino bennetts wallaby with brown grey wallaby White albino bennetts wallaby with brown grey wallaby[/caption] I was also lucky enough to capture two bucks fighting each other. Unfortunately, I had my camera set for a slower shutter speed so wasn't quite ready for the fast action, hence a bit of camera blur. As far as fights go, this one was pretty tame, more of a practice sparring match really. When these two stood on their hind legs they were pretty tall, considering they are wallabies. Albino wallaby 4 Albino wallaby 5 A normal colored wallaby among a field of flowers. Albino wallaby 6 A closeup of one of the not-shy animals. This little one posed very patiently for me to snap a portrait of it. [caption id="attachment_2006" align="alignnone" width="300"]rare white albino wallaby rare white albino wallaby[/caption] Overall, I was very happy with how things went, the wildlife couldn't have cooperated more and I know I'll be back to photo these rare and beautiful creatures again in the future.  

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Autumn

Well, Autumn is here and I thought there was no better time to test a wide angle lens I had got my mitts on. A nearby park and a little co-photographer joining me and I was all set. The park was alive with colour and for once, the sky wasn't grey. Perfect. I'm going on a big trip in a few months and I will need a wide angle lens for it. A Sigma 12-24mm was available, so I thought I would test it for sharpness and a few other things. Below are a few test shots and my conclusion on how the lens did. trees lining a canal A day with no wind, vibrant colour, leaves on a glassy surface and great reflection. An average urban park transformed into a wonderland. trees-along-the-water The strength of a wide angle lens is that you can get up close and pack plenty into the scene. With this shot I was right against the tree and could fill the scene with sky and other trees. The stark branches gave me a good indication on how the glass handled chromatic aberration, not well as it turned out. But this was easily corrected in Lightroom afterwards. autumn-tree tree-in-gold autumn-leaves My little helper getting up close to a couple of swans. boy-and-swan watching-ducks water-and-trees leaf-on-water After the shoot, I was pretty happy with the Sigma. But I won't be buying one. It lacks image stabilization, and in dark old Autumn Europe there is not much light. So slow shutter speeds are the norm, unless you want tonnes of noise from a fast shutter speed to keep things sharp. The lens was sharp in the middle and less so in the corners but not terribly so. Big and heavy too. The colours and contrast it captured were fine. And overall I was happy with the pics. But I have my eye on another lens which is even cheaper than this one, has image stabilization and is alot lighter. Stay tuned for another review of the Canon 10-18mm sometime in the future! A great day out with great scenery and great company!  

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Spotting urban wildlife

I used to be so envious of photographers who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time when it came to capturing rare sights of wildlife. Over the last few years, i've tried to emulate their "luck". It turns out that luck is only part of it. In order to be lucky, one also has to be prepared and to be active. Where I live in The Hague, we have a natural corridor of dunes running between the city and the beach. It's a haven for some species of wildlife and gives them access to the city. As you will see further in this post, however, wildlife having easy access to the city does not always work out well for the animals. The following photos are a selection of my "lucky" moments when it comes to spotting and capturing urban wildlife in an image and some tips on how to increase your chances of encountering wild critters. Grey heron eating a duckling The below image was captured at an area in the north of The Hague known as Marlot. Marlot is a piece of parkland with a combination of open grazing pastures and woodland intersected by canals. The reason I was there, was because I had read in the news that during the winter local bird conservationists feed storks to help them through the cold months. I wanted to see what all the excitement was about and I also noticed there was a lot of other wildlife around. Storks of course, but also red squirrels, great spotted woodpeckers, and kingfishers. Tip; where you find one species of wildlife, often you will find more. Before capturing this shot, I was hanging around waiting for a kingfisher to fly onto a low hanging branch. The kingfisher never did arrive, instead, I heard a sudden splash in the canal and saw this beast (grey heron) seize a cute fluffy little mallard duckling. It was disturbing to see, but also a rare sight - nature is not always gentle. [caption id="attachment_1964" align="alignnone" width="214"]Grey heron catching and eating a mallard duck duckling Grey heron catching and eating a mallard duck duckling[/caption] Urban fox at Hoek van Holland In the late summer, I visited Hoek van Holland which is about 20kms south of The Hague. I made the trip primarily to photograph the boats around the entrance to Rotterdam harbour. It is also the location of the big car ferries that go to and from England. I was looking out over the water at a massive ferry, when I heard a commotion behind me in the direction of a nearby seating area. The cause of the commotion was a young red fox hanging around the people and licking ice cream wrappers lying on the ground. [caption id="attachment_1960" align="alignnone" width="300"]immature urban red fox scavenging an ice cream, at Hoek van Holland, the Netherlands immature urban red fox scavenging an ice cream, at Hoek van Holland, the Netherlands[/caption] It was in the middle of the day, (a terrible time to take photos usually) and the fox had little to no fear of people. I guessed hunger was making it so bold. I had time to shoot it with my 70-200mm lens, then he stood still long enough for me to change to a 17-50mm wide angle lens. Tip; be inquisitive and notice things happening around you. urban-fox-low-res2 [caption id="attachment_1959" align="alignnone" width="300"]Hoek van Holland, the Netherlands - July 31, 2016: car boot sale Hoek van Holland, the Netherlands - July 31, 2016: car boot sale[/caption] Highland cattle While not classed as wildlife, they are indeed a fun sight to see during a walk in the dunes. These two, a mother and calf, are taking it easy in the October sun. The city uses the cattle to eat the plants and trees that are harmful to the dune environment. This allows the right kinds of plants to thrive and thus attract more wildlife. [caption id="attachment_1956" align="alignnone" width="300"]The Hague, the Netherlands - October 01, 2016: highland cow and calf in coastal dune region of the Netherlands The Hague, the Netherlands - October 01, 2016: highland cow and calf in coastal dune region of the Netherlands[/caption] Northern shrew I've never seen a shrew in the wild before. So I couldn't believe my luck when I spotted this one on a post near a walking path in the dunes near Kijkduin. When it didn't move as we got closer, I realized it was dead. Shrews, I am pretty sure, have a short life span. And I reckon this little guy had had a busy mating season and wasn't fit enough for the cooler autumn weather. Tip; keep a camera with you, even if your just going for a walk. [caption id="attachment_1958" align="alignnone" width="300"]a dead shrew on a post in the dune region near The Hague, the Netherlands a dead shrew on a post in the dune region near The Hague, the Netherlands[/caption] Mute swans of the "desert" These three swans (which were part of a large family of seven) are feeding in a fresh water lake not 10 minutes drive from The Hague near the town of Monster. The lake is not in a desert, but rather in a man-made sandflat created to counter the effects of rising sea levels. Known as the Zandmotor or "sand engine", it was formed when ships pumped thousands of tonnes of sand onto the coast. After a time, a lake formed and the local wildlife started using it for feeding and sanctuary. Tip; keep up to date with the developments in the land around where you live. Things change. [caption id="attachment_1957" align="alignnone" width="300"]Mute swans in a fresh water beach lake at the zandmotor in the Netherlands Mute swans in a fresh water beach lake at the zandmotor in the Netherlands[/caption] Porpoise washed up on the beach One morning I was out getting some exercise by taking a walk on the beach and I saw what I thought was a log. As I approached closer, I smelled that it was something other than a dead tree. It was a dead porpoise, or as they call it here, a bruinvis. Luckily, I had my camera with me and took some images. After speaking with a local birdwatcher who was nearby watching for migrating wildfowl, I learned that the fishermen often catch them in their nets. They cut off the tails to free them and then cast the body back into the sea. I later checked to see if this "bruinvis" had a tail and saw that it had been cleanly sliced off. Often being in the city and walking its outskirts gives one an opportunity to see how man destroys much of the nature and wildlife trying to share the same space. Tips; be prepared with your camera, talk to the locals to understand things better, and pay attention to details in the landscape. bruinvis Full grown hedgehog dead on the road One morning I got up early and went for a walk in the nearby woods. When I came back home, I noticed this object lying on the road. To my sadness, I saw it was a large hedgehog that had been hit by a car. Hedgehogs have always been in this area, but because of the hedges often being removed by residents and councils, more roads, and house yards being covered in concrete, there are fewer places for them to shelter and feed. They are in serious decline. This one pictured managed to fatten up over the summer but unfortunately, it will never see another summer again. [caption id="attachment_1962" align="alignnone" width="251"]fully grown hedgehog dead on the road after being hit by a car fully grown hedgehog dead on the road after being hit by a car[/caption] Marsh harrier flying in front of the "strijkijzer" building One morning, I was climbing a nearby sand dune near the beach to photograph the city skyline at sunrise. To my delight, I saw a seldom seen migrating marsh harrier flying the dune line and skirting the suburbs. A marsh harrier is a predatory raptor and on this occasion it was in hunting mode. I managed to snap it just as it was bracketed by the tallest building in The Hague (the Strijkijzer) or the "iron" (in English). Tips; get up early and stay out late. Find out if there are migration paths near where you live. marsh-harrier-cruising-past-the-hague Greater spotted woodpecker This weekend I woke up and the sun was shining through the trees so I grabbed my camera and went out to apture the golden light. To my surprise, not five metres away from my front door, was a woodpecker having a go at the last insects of the season. Getting up early can give one a unique view into the lives of other 'residents' of your street, [caption id="attachment_1981" align="alignnone" width="300"]greater spotted woodpecker on tree in suburban street greater spotted woodpecker on tree in suburban street[/caption]

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Croatia

It's been a busy year so far photo wise, but the downside of that is that I haven't been very attentive with my posts. Over the next couple of weeks I'll be changing that and providing more updates about my latest adventures. With this post, I'll rewind a little and retouch on a great trip I took back in May to Croatia. I've always wanted to visit this country and many Aussies I've talked to have often raved about how much they've enjoyed it. The month of May was a good time to visit because things were still pretty quiet and the package holiday hordes haden't yet arrived. The only downside of visiting in May though, was the bloody cold water temperature. The Adriatic sea doesn't seem to warm up until deep into the summer, so swimming was not an option. I think next time, September would be an even better time to go, because the sea is warmer, the weather is still balmy, and the tourists have mostly departed. On this short visit, I managed to see a lovely island off the coast near Split (Brac), some pretty coastal villages, and a stunning national park. Below are some of my visual impressions of the trip. I hope you enjoy them! Cheers for now, Andrew pretty Supetar harbour on the island of Brac (near Split) [caption id="attachment_1930" align="alignnone" width="200"]Brac, Croatia - May 07, 2016: Supetar harbor, Brac Island Brac, Croatia - May 07, 2016: Supetar harbor, Brac Island[/caption] one of the many waterfalls at Krka national park [caption id="attachment_1924" align="alignnone" width="300"]Krka national park, Croatia - May 05, 2016: waterfall and rock pool Krka national park, Croatia - May 05, 2016: waterfall and rock pool[/caption] a yacht off a sandy beach [caption id="attachment_1938" align="alignnone" width="300"]Brac, Croatia - May 07, 2016: yacht at Zlatni Rat beach, Croatia Brac, Croatia - May 07, 2016: yacht at Zlatni Rat beach, Croatia[/caption] parachutist after landing on Zlatni Rat beach (Brac) [caption id="attachment_1937" align="alignnone" width="300"]Brac, Croatia - May 07, 2016: parachutist landing on Zlatni Rat beach, Croatia Brac, Croatia - May 07, 2016: parachutist landing on Zlatni Rat beach, Croatia[/caption] The pretty town of Primosten [caption id="attachment_1936" align="alignnone" width="300"]Primošten, Croatia - May 07, 2016: Primosten Primošten, Croatia - May 07, 2016: Primosten[/caption] a light aircraft flying low over Zlatni Rat beach low flying light aircraftIt's been a busy year so far photo wise, but the downside of that is that I haven't been very attentive with my posts. Over the next couple of weeks I'll be changing that and providing more updates about my latest adventures. With this post, I'll rewind a little and retouch on a great trip I took back in May to Croatia. I've always wanted to visit this country and many Aussies I've talked to have often raved about how much they've enjoyed it. The month of May was a good time to visit because things were still pretty quiet and the package holiday hordes haden't yet arrived. The only downside of visiting in May though, was the bloody cold water temperature. The Adriatic sea doesn't seem to warm up until deep into the summer, so swimming was not an option. I think next time, September would be an even better time to go, because the sea is warmer, the weather is still balmy, and the tourists have mostly departed. On this short visit, I managed to see a lovely island off the coast near Split (Brac), some pretty coastal villages, and a stunning national park. Below are some of my visual impressions of the trip. I hope you enjoy them! Cheers for now, Andrew

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I love my work and every film, photo or sentence I create reflects my genuine enjoyment in what I do

 

My name is Andrew Balcombe and I’m originally from Australia. I’ve been a photojournalist for ten years and ...

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Recently I started a blog. Here you can find what projects I am working on!

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