Issue 001 - words from the editor

For over three years now KAGE Collective has been first and foremost a gathering of photographers: our public face—the stories and articles on this site—was always the tip of the iceberg, with much more going on beneath the surface than what was actually visible. From day one—and even more so in the last two years—we've stayed in touch with each other, shared thoughts and ideas on an almost daily basis. But recently we came to the realization that this private activity was lulling us into a false sense of enriching as they were, all these conversations weren't necessarily translating into actual content.

As a photography collective, content should be our focus, always.

KAGE Editions has been a step in the right direction, with three books already under the label's belt. But last November we also began re-thinking our ways more profoundly, laying the foundations for a new approach based on a magazine-like monthly schedule, the results of which you're seeing here today, with what we're labelling our first issue.

A fixed deadline may seem odd and almost anachronistic in this day and age, when everything around us is constantly speeding by on a daily basis, but our project isn't about news or immediacy—while we're broadening the scope to include interviews and articles along with essays and stories, we remain committed to a slow and deliberate approach. We feel this is consistent with the new format we're adopting.

Instead of random updates, our entire homepage will now refresh with brand new content on the 15th of every month, just like magazines in a newsstand. And I won't be the only one at the helm: each of us will also take turns as editor. Over the next few months, as we settle in and add material, additional changes to the website will allow these monthly issues to be browsed easily as we move away from the chronological but flat presentation of the collective's work we've been using up to this point.

This is for you, our readers—and we're hoping you'll stick around for the ride—but it’s also for us: because it's a kick in the you-know-what. Fact is, life runs on deadlines or else procrastination takes hold, soon followed by apathy, regardless of intentions. So enough with the chatter...and on with the show.

I'll end with a few words about this first issue, all about Fujifilm’s new flagship camera: the X-Pro2. Five of us had the privilege of being part of a special X-Photographers project and have been using prototypes since last October—so we've shot several essays and written a unified review that looks at various aspects of this impressive update from our individual point of views. Also this month: Charlene Winfred has a chat with photographer Lynn Gail and Derek Clark visits Open Trenches.

If you're reading this on January 15th 2016, Bert Stephani and I are in Tokyo attending the 5 year X-Series anniversary and X-Pro2 launch event, most likely shooting our hearts out. I'll take a wild guess and say there's probably also a good dose of saké mixed in; more stories in the making.

So welcome to our new digs, we do hope you enjoy the view. And let's all hail 2016: our Year of Publishing.

An X-Pro2 collective review


I think it’s fair to say we’ve all be waiting a long time for the Fujifilm X-Pro2. Well, today, it’s here.

Firstly, I think those photographers all over the globe that fell in love with the ergonomics and aesthetic of the X-Pro1 have to congratulate Fujifilm on their unwavering belief in the form, shape and tactility of the camera – for the X-Pro2 is almost identical.  Which is a great thing.

I received a pre-production version of this camera back in November 2015 and all the images in this section are shot on that pre-production camera.  For that reason, don’t expect RAF files for comparison; the images you see here are from the JPEG images the camera has made using the new high performance X Processor in the camera. So, as part of my own little promises to myself, when I’m making notes about a new camera I want to show the very first image I ever took. It’s not exactly interesting, but was taken around 30 minutes after the camera was given to me:

I told you it wasn’t very interesting.  But what, perhaps might be more interesting is the fact that this image is shot at 12,800 ISO. This image is totally untouched and straight from the camera using the B&W+R film simulation

This is possibly a good time to interject with the relevant technical details of the new camera:

  •  Newly developed 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor.
  • New high-performance X Processor Pro image processing engine.
  • The world’s first Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder offering the benefits of both optical and electronic viewfinders.
  • New focal plane shutter with a top speed of 1/8000 sec. and flash sync up to 1/250 sec.
  • New graphical user interface design.
  • Robust, weather resistant body meets the needs of professional photographers.

And here are a few other details that I have personally found very appealing whilst using the prototype:

  • The direct AF selection joystick.
  •  Even though the new sensor is 24.3 MP, Fuji seem to have worked marvels on the low noise algorithm and it’s good to be able to shoot RAW files at 12,800 ISO now too.
  • I’ve become addicted to the Acros film simulation.
  • Some of you may not immediately find the ISO selection tool on the top dial easy to use – but believe me, give it one shooting session and it becomes natural.
  • I like to shoot in AV mode quite often and I can now use exposure compensation to +-5 ev.
  • The new sensor obviously creates large RAW files.  Luckily, Fujifilm have included a new lossless RAW option which yields RAW files approximately 50% smaller (and I can’t notice any difference in the data or quality of the RAW file).

Here are some images I shot using the camera for the first time at a wedding:

Finally, for those who found the AF speed and Shutter lag of the X-Pro1 an issue: well, this has been addressed in its entirety by Fujifilm.  I was genuinely astounded at the speed of shooting with this camera.

Acros & NEW Expanded Settings | Patrick La Roque

Fujifilm pride themselves on their film heritage, something that's always been evident with the film simulations included in the X-Series cameras. What at first seemed like a gimmic on the original X100 has, in my opinion, proven to be a significant feature. This is where the company's personality shines through—the introduction of Classic Chrome a little over a year ago made this abundantly clear. It may be anathema to anyone who considers raw the only serious image format, but I ditched the raw-only dogma when I switched to Fuji cameras five years ago and never looked back. I've published and printed and delivered JPEG images. Sue me.

I already knew the Acros black and white film simulation would be introduced with the X-Pro2 and was looking forward to seeing the results. What I didn't expect were expanded image controls, allowing us to customize our files even further. Where previous cameras offer a range of plus/minus 2 on all settings, the X-Pro2 now includes varying intensities. Here's a list of possible modifications:

  • Highlight Tone: -2/+4
  • Shadow tone:  -2/+4
  • Color: -4/+4
  • Sharpness: -4/+4
  • NR: -4/+4


My first reflex was of course to experiment with Acros. According to Fuji, the simulation "produces smooth tones, deep blacks and rich textures that are far superior to conventional monochrome modes". I've always had a custom black and white setting on my X-Series cameras, boosting both highlights and shadows to create more contrast, so I was very curious to see what could be achieved. In a side by side comparison with the older B mode, I first had to admit the differences seemed rather subtle—at least for the subject I was shooting. But once I started combining the new simulation with the expanded custom settings, things got interesting: there seems to be a built-in tone curve in Acros that holds up much better once you start tweaking those in-camera settings. In fact, it feels as though this is what Fuji engineers intended when they created this mode, which makes sense when you think about it; they are being introduced simultaneously after all. 

I've found Acros mode to indeed create a more graduated image when pushed, in both shadows and highlights, while still maintaining contrast. In fact it looks a lot like how I process my images in Lightroom...hmm...there goes that workflow. But that's the entire point here: just like Classic Chrome allows me to create files that are much closer to my intended final results, Acros in turn does this for black and white. Below are  two Acros files straight out of camera followed by a few more images shot using the new simulation over the past few months (all with a pre-production X-Pro2):


I also wanted to play around with the new range of settings available, if only to see where this could lead. So here's a technical line-up showing off possible contrast variations including colour, black and white and the new grain simulator:

Once processed, different variations will obviously yield different results. Here's an example of two files processed the same way, except for the contrast version being pushed back up in post:

Here's Grain Weak vs Grain Strong on the same high contrast variation:

Left is weak, right is strong.

I'm not entirely sold on the grain engine but I'll be curious to see how it looks in print (which is how Fujifilm expects it to be used according to the release notes). It's a very tight high frequency grain structure.

Overall I can't help but feel the X-Pro2 brings us closer to the SOOC dream—even though I'll always consider processing an integral part of photographic work. It'll be interesting to see if any of these features trickle down to other X bodies through firmware updates — some of these functions may be tied to the new X Processor Pro. But whatever happens: it certainly shows us a glimpse of the future.

Oh and the camera as a whole? Bloody fantastic.
More please.


I work as a music photographer and I have shot gigs with the Fujifilm X-100 (the original), the X-Pro1, the X-E2 and the X-T1. For the past nearly two years my camera of choice has been the X-T1 and it is an incredible performer at gigs. It is almost the perfect music photography camera, so how would the X-Pro2 fare?

I had the chance to find out just a few days after receiving the X-Pro2, when Zouk Singapore very kindly allowed me to photograph their Halloween party. Later on, in December, Club kyo in Singapore very kindly allowed me to shoot when the legendary Francois K played. What follows are my main impressions.


  • The new 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor. ISO 12,800 oh yeah! Almost all of my work requires at least ISO 6400 so low noise capability is extremely important to me. The lack of noise at high ISO is spectacular. I thought the X-T1 was fantastic, but this is mad good.
  • The fast shutter. It is practically instant, it has a great feel to it, and sounds nice as well. It is such a pleasure to shoot with and makes it easier to capture fast moving action and lights.
  • The new super fast X-Processor Pro image processor. The camera is just in general fast responding and I especially like how fast the startup time now is. 


  • The AF-L “back focus” button. On the prototype, the AF-L button is so recessed that it is unusable (this will apparently however be fixed in the production models). For me, the AF-L button is also in a place that is almost unreachable. Fortunately the AE-L and AF-L buttons can be swapped in firmware, this is better but still not great. It continues to puzzle me that Fujifilm do not seem to understand that a lot of us shoot 99% of the time in manual mode using back button focus.
  • The new ISO wheel. This is the second ISO wheel design on an X-camera, and here we have ISO selection built into the shutter speed wheel. It is different but not better than the ISO wheel on the X-T1, which I am not a big fan of either. Again, this is a button I use all the time and I really dislike using this new wheel while shooting. 
  • No flip screen. The flip screen on the X-T1 is an amazing tool that enables me to easily shoot from high or low positions, and I miss having one on the X-Pro2.
  • Smaller viewfinder. For working in pitch black nightclubs there is just nothing like that X-T1 viewfinder, the sheer size of it is like having night vision goggles. The X-Pro2 viewfinder is a lot smaller and I do really miss the X-T1 viewfinder.


Shooting music, especially electronic music gigs which tend to be dark as the night, is often pushing the camera to the limits. In this respect, the amazing image quality and low noise of the new X-Trans III sensor is fantastic and much better than the X-T1. The X-Pro2 also responds a lot faster, feeling practically instant. There are however some things where the X-T1 really shines, in particular that amazing huge viewfinder and the flip screen. Overall, the new sensor probably will win out and I will end up using the X-Pro2 for most of my electronic music gigs but I am undecided for now and need to use the X-pro2 at more events.

Read the full review of using the X-Pro2 at music events on my blog.


A small selection of music images made with the pre-production X-Pro2. Thank you Zouk Singapore and Club kyo in Singapore.


Even though the X-T1 brought significant technological improvements, the X-Pro1 has always remained my favourite camera for portraiture, mainly because I prefer the rangefinder-style shape over the mini-DSLR form. With the X-Pro2 I get the ergonomics of the X-Pro1 with the functionality of the X-T1 … and more. 

The X-Pro2 feels just fine in my regular sized man hands. After retraining my muscle memory for a couple of days, all the buttons and dials seem to be at the right place. If you are right eyed like me, the viewfinder on the side gives you the benefit of not being hidden behind the camera. With a DSLR-style camera, even a small one like the X-T1, the camera hides most of the photographer’s face. For me it’s very important to build a rapport with my subject. With a camera that isn’t a barrier between us, I find it a lot easier to connect to the sitter. 

For me, the X-Pro2 is made to be used with prime lenses. With bigger, heavier zooms like the 16-55 or the 50-140 the camera is less well balanced than an X-T1 with the battery grip, particularly when shooting vertical. 

The improved AF and the ability to quickly change focus points with the new joystick make life easier. I often shoot with a very shallow depth of field, so the focus must be absolutely spot on. There are also some improvements in the shutter speed department. The mechanical shutter now goes up to 1/8000 and if that’s not fast enough, you can use the electronic shutter for even faster speeds when using a wide open aperture in a bright environment. Finally, we also get the industry standard 1/250 flash sync speed which is good news for anyone who likes to combine ambient light with flash. 

The X-Pro2 has the kind of wifi-connectivity we’ve seen in all the latest cameras and can print straight to the Instax Share SP-1 printer. As I often want to send a quick picture to the subject for social media use or give them one of those little magic Instax prints, this is a great addition to build connections. 

For portraits I often use the Astia and the Black and White with Red Filter film simulations. These are still there and we get more control over the degree of noise reduction, shadows, highlights and sharpening in camera. There’s also the new Acros black and white film simulation which I found to be very pleasing in some portrait situations. Your preferences may vary from mine but more options and more control are better for everyone. 

The X-Pro2 has a new sensor that packs about eight more megapixels but the Fujifilm magic is still presents. I also figure, I can go up one more stop in the ISO settings compared to the X-T1. I’ve been doing a number of test portrait shoots with a prototype of the X-Pro2 and there’s only one thing that I didn’t like … I couldn’t share my enthusiasm because the camera had to remain a secret … until now. So here it goes: Yihaaaaaaa, the X-Pro2 is here and it’s everything I expected and hoped it would be. 



Picking up the X-Pro 2 for the first time felt like returning to some kind of photographic home. It hits all the right notes with the amazing new X-Trans CMOS III sensor and shutter, which manage to improve on already sensational low light handing and responsiveness. Its shape is still delightfully discreet, with the classic styling that the X-series is known for. 

There are a heap of improvements and new additions:

  • The new 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor that gives us native ISO 12,800 (the camera can officially see better than my eyes)
  • That fantastic new shutter which is fast - up to 1/8000 sec - and delightfully responsive
  • Dual card slots
  • New Acros film simulation
  • Exposure value compensation of up to +/- 5 with with the new C mode

And a whole bunch more which I won't address here because they are features that I haven't used. There is plenty I love about it, a few things I don't like so much, and other things which just leave me confused.

But all that aside, the thing I really love about the X-Pro 2: It feels right at home in my hands.

When I say "right" I mean "like the X-Pro 1," which was my first X-series camera, and together with the XF 35mm f1.4, the only camera gear I had for 2 years. I'm used to the weightiness of that set up, its dimensions, how it performed, and importantly, how the set up made me perform. The X-Pro 2 takes all of that and improves on it. The same no-frills, black rectangular box styling still calls little attention to itself on the street, while all that great technology under the hood goes to work: faster, less laggy shutter, improved low light and noise handling ability, make changing (read: rapidly fading) light and wet weather (the X-Pro 2 is weather resistant) a little easier to handle.

The X-Pro 2 brought back the pleasure and intuitiveness of a camera that was an old friend. It was good to have the new X-series flagship back in my bag.

A more detailed review can be found here:


a Royal Hunt

Text and photography by Bert Stephani

Becoming a hunter in Belgium is a lot more complicated than buying a gun and venturing into the forest. It requires passing a pretty testing theoretical exam followed by a series of challenging practical exams. The exams are held only once a year and it’s a tradition that the top 20 performers get an invitation for a hunt on the royal hunting grounds, a privilege that is usually only reserved for the happy few. I never came close to be top of the class on the hunting exams so when I got the chance to experience a royal hunt as a photographer, I jumped to the occasion. 

In the late afternoon I meet Jan, an obviously smart young hunter and his personal hunting guide for tonight who also happens to be the head keeper for the royal hunting grounds. It becomes immediately clear that the hunting here is not just some kind of royal gesture to justify all that tax money they get, it’s a special gift in many ways. These forests are some of the most beautiful places in the country and no effort is spared to keep them in pristine condition for man and animal. The guide is an intense man who generously shares his wealth of knowledge and experience with Jan who soaks up every whispered word.  

We move slowly, all our senses on full alert and desperately trying not to snap a dry twig. Every few meters, Jan and the guide scan the area with their binoculars looking for deer, roe deer and wild boar. I’m doing a delicate balancing act of getting some pictures without spoiling Jan’s outing. It doesn’t take long before our guide suddenly freezes. He points in the distance but I can’t see a thing from where I am standing. The guide and Jan crawl to one of the many strategically placed blinds. The rifle comes out and I see Jan peering through the scope but no shot follows. I’m invited into the cramped blind and through the guide’s binoculars I can make out two does and a fawn. I was not carrying a long lens, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The does are fair game today but as we don’t know which of the two does is the mother of the fawn, we all enjoy simply watching the trio. 

After this amazing encounter we move on, always making sure we keep the wind in our face. Although we don’t see any game for a while, we all enjoy the sights, the sounds and the smell of the forest. It’s at moments like these that I’m amazed by how good our human senses can be. 

The light is fading quickly and our guide proposes to spend the last half hour in another blind that offers a decent chance at seeing roe deer. We all squeeze into the tight blind and we wait. Twenty minutes later we see a dark form emerge from the trees. It’s a female roe deer and since some need to be culled to maintain a good natural balance, Jan clicks of the safety of his rifle. As the roe doe turns broadside the small blind is filled with the loud report of a shot. The doe goes down as if struck by lighting, she never knew what happened. As is custom we stay in the blind for a couple more minutes to let the peace descend upon the forest again.

To prevent the meat from spoiling, it’s important that the guts are removed as soon as possible. Generally the guides take care of this but Jan asks if he can do it himself. He admits that he’s never done it before and everything he knows about this task, comes from watching YouTube videos. The guide clearly appreciates that this young hunter is not afraid to get his hands dirty and learn.

The notion of time fades away with the last light and is replaced by a sort of primal truth. 

This story would not have been possible without Frederik and Jan who kindly invited me to join them on their hunts, knowing perfectly well that taking along a photographer could have had a negative impact on their hunting chances. 

The invitation to photograph this outing came in about the same time that a secret prototype of the Fujfilm X-Pro2 landed on my desk. I decided to take the plunge and shoot this story with the prototype. To give myself some flexibility and a fully weather sealed setup, I shot most of the day with the XF16-55 f2.8 zoom lens. I wanted to travel as light as possible, so I completed my kit by stuffing some batteries and the 35mm f1.4 in my right jacket pocket. As a backup, I put my X100T in the left pocket. 

I had played around with the new camera for a couple of days before to get used to it. Having shot a lot with the X-Pro1, it was pretty easy to move on to the X-Pro2. The only thing that bothered me at times is the back button focussing. On the X-Pro1, I've always used the AF-L button to focus with my thumb but on the X-Pro2 I found it ergonomically better to assign the AE-L button to function as the AF-L button. By now my muscle memory is retrained but in the first days, I've pushed the wrong button repeatedly. 

I shot pretty much everything in aperture priority with auto ISO, just riding the exposure compensation if necessary. The biggest technical challenge for me was to shoot for JPEG-files as I knew I wouldn't have access to the Lightroom RAW presets I've created for my hunting photography until Adobe adds support for the RAW-files of this new camera. I've selected the ProNeg S film simulation, set noise reduction to -4, color to 0, Sharpness to +1 and Highlight Tone was set to -1 to preserve details in the bright parts. Throughout the day I changed the Shadow Tone setting repeatedly to get a good mix between the kind of shadows that I wanted and giving myself some detail with post processing in mind. 

Every sound decreases the hunter's chance of succes, so I activated the electronic shutter for totally silent operation. Due to the technical limitations of electronic shutters there's always a risk of unwanted artefacts, certainly with low shutter speeds, but I didn't experience a single glitch. 

At the end of the day in pretty much total darkness, I switched the 16-55 for the 35mm f1.4 to gather the very last photons of the day. 

I've shot most of my ongoing project about hunting (book will be finished in 2016) with the X-Pro1 and even though the X-T1 has become my main tool because of it's technological improvements over the X-Pro1, I still prefer the rangefinder-style form factor. With the X-Pro2 I have the best of both worlds and more:

- weather sealing and dual memory cards offer protection and peace of mind
- the AF has taken a big leap forwards again and the joystick makes selecting AF-points a breeze
- even though the camera pretty much looks the same as it's older brother, it feels more secure in my hands
- we now get 24 megapixels and the sensor still offers this unique Fujifilm magic
- despite the extra pixels, there's at least one more stop of useable high ISO sensitivity.

The Woodshop

Text and photography by Patrick La Roque

Phil was a painter and we were an alternative band. Or goth...depending on the mood.  We'd play underground clubs and he'd always be there, a friend as passionate as we were; as crazy. Now I'm a photographer dabbling in music and he's a woodworker, dabbling with paint. The years have grizzled us both, adding a hint of wisdom that's nothing but a front—we're still just kids inside, forever, because none of that ever changes; you come to realize it eventually.

The room is cold and perfect. A refuge of sorts.
We're just shooting the breeze here.
Drinking espresso.
Fighting off the years.

The Witch Hunt on Jiak Kim Street

I am at Zouk Singapore but tonight is no nightclub, instead I am in a large cave in the Underworld. There are no clubbers, for the dance floor is filled with characters from every Halloween nightmare. Bartenders of the Undead serve us bloody drinks while zombies drop tunes on us from the DJ booth.

This is the last halloween as Zouk Singapore nightclub is closing down and relocating to a new venue in Singapore. This is it. The last witch hunt on Jiak Kim Street and every ghost, ghoul and goblin has come out to play. 

All images made at Zouk Singapore using pre-production Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera.

Open Trenches


My mind drifted as I looked out the window of the SUV. The voices speaking in Tagalog (the national Filipino language) were now off in the distance as I sunk deep inside my own head. I can usually pick out enough words to piece together what the conversation is about, but my brain had switched off many miles back.

We pulled into the Long Island National Cemetery and along the road lined with hundreds of graves until we arrived at the walls. Cristy's husband had been a pilot during the Vietnam conflict and although he only passed away a few years ago from a heart attack, his ashes were placed here. A place for her to visit.

I walked along each side of the walls, reading the names and photographing the things that loved ones had left behind. Gifts that were never meant to be used. There were emblems of different faiths next to each of the names. Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jew …etc. United in war regardless of beliefs.

I came across a wall where names were yet to be engraved and remains yet to be placed. A sign nearby read ‘CAUTION - OPEN TRENCHES - PROCEED WITH CARE.'
Yes, with care.

Interview With Lynn Gail

I first met Lynn during the blur of my life as a corporate monkey in Perth, Western Australia; I think we might have attended a photowalk organized by a local photographer who is a mutual friend. Dry humored, diminutive and sporting a pair of tellingly worn shoes, I was only slightly jealous when I found out that she traveled for a living, shooting for the likes of Lonely Planet and Getty Images. I interviewed Lynn over the (email) wire, keen to know how she came to do what she does. Many pots of Earl Grey were consumed during the course of this interview by us both. - Charlene

How did you come to be a photographer?

I left home at 16 after failing badly at secretarial college (uni was never mentioned at home).  Boredom had seeped in very quickly – the typewriter keys never bounced in the right direction and after several bottles of white-out I left the UK to live in New Zealand, where I stayed for two years.   

On returning to the UK I joined The Hastings (a local newspaper) and St-Leonards-On-Sea Observer where I became an apprentice typesetter.  Unfulfilled in this typist/compositor role, I’d easily get distracted by the bushy tailed squirrels running around outside my window; I day-dreamed of something more meaningful than pressing small squares of letters on the black keyboard.

The darkroom, initially off limits, became a room of magical little moments as the editorial photographers allowed me to watch them develop their negatives. I wanted to know why parts of an image were soft while others parts were sharp.  The aperture ring helped me focus on my life and I began studying the old masters, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Helmut Newton, Elliot Erwitt etc.  With a Canon AE-1, I began photographing everything that did and didn’t move, writing down each setting to match to each print.  People fascinated me though – I wanted to get beneath a person’s veneer and capture their essence – and travel photography seemed the perfect fit. 


What sort of work do you do / have you done?

Photo: Lynn Gail

I’ve had no formal education apart from a six week black and white darkroom course when I first came to Australia.  For several years I photographed day-care centres, T-Ball teams, built a rustic out-door studio set up for family portraiture, photographed people in commissioned shoots for For Me Magazine (no longer in print) and photographed weddings while raising two very special young men.

Having a restless, wandering mind, travel has always been part of my thought process.  When I met Richard I’Anson, founder of the Lonely Planet stock library, I asked him to look over my travel images. I wanted to know how cultures worked, what made them so diverse. I didn’t just want to observe; I wanted to make a connection.  I’Anson generously helped me with an initial 500 image submission that was necessary for acceptance into Lonely Planet Images.  I also became a contributor of the UK stock library, Robert Harding World Imagery.

One thing invariably led to another. After completing two short on-line travel writing courses, I began contacting travel magazine editors with a view to supplying features articles. Having been published just twice in several years, getting a commission took many knocks on editors’ doors.  Knock long enough though, and the door eventually creaks open. My initial articles had appeared in Australia Photography Magazine (now +Digital) and Better Photography.  More recently, my work has appeared in Australian Traveller Magazine, Get Up and Go Magazine, Get Lost Magazine (Jan 2016) and Australian Photography +Digital (due out Feb 2016).  Travel Directors, a specialist small group tour company based in West Leederville, also hosted me on one of their tours to Madagascar to shoot video/stills for their advertising material.

New journeys inspire new ideas.  Through meeting some kindred and clever souls in the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit, I have recently started running small personalised photo tours with Seng Mah [a fellow professional in Perth, Western Australia]. Our website – Cultural Connections – has just been launched.  In 2016 we visit Madagascar, return to the Yolngu people in Arnhem Land (one of the gentlest cultures on our planet), and we also visit Sardinia for a recce trip.  Our bucket list is growing pretty fast!  We want these tours to be immersive, where participants really connect with the people they visit and not just pass through without gaining any real sense of the journey they are on.

Through being focused firmly on travel, I’ve recently neglected the all-important creative process of personal work; as a photographer I feel one feeds the other. Business and personal paths don’t have to meet, but they should run a close parallel to one another.  


As a travel photographer / writer, you come into contact with a lot of people. Making connections is obviously important for you... how do you get underneath someone's skin to understand what's under their veneer, in a short amount of time?

When I’m on the road it’s not always easy making a deep connection, especially in a fleeting moment.  I often feel uncomfortable ‘grabbing’ the shot, but the reactive photographer in me struggles with not recording a slice that resonates.  Essentially we are all the same, regardless of culture, skin colour and conditioning: our basic human instinct to be accepted and to accept the World around us is paramount to our survival.

So, how do I get beneath someone’s veneer in a short amount of time?  I try to be open and honest and connect to their existence through my own existence, some people you can do this with instantly, and others take a little more time to build trust with. I want to learn about people’s rhythms, their daily routines and their belief systems. Understanding others helps us to understand ourselves and where we fit in.  These chance or planned meetings, however brief help to shape the road ahead and make it a tiny bit straighter and sharper.

An occasion that put my life in perspective occurred in Cambodia. We had a driver for two weeks who took us off the tourist trail (the best place to be).  We drove through an area called Battambang and stopped at a local village to stretch our legs. I always explore unplanned stops, so I walked into a brick-making factory where I met two young boys. One was 12, the other 15, around the same age as my youngest son, both were skinny and wearing tatty shorts, pushing a heavy load of newly made bricks up a steep incline into the factory. I found out that they worked every day with rare days off, and the money they earned went directly to their families, whom they saw once a month. 

These hardship stories of children working to support their families are common, but what struck me was: grim their as situation would seem to many Western children who live far more comfortable lives, they found reasons to smile.

Also, there’s always laughter on the road.

“You want sex?”  The dark haired man asked, sitting in his white panel-van at Phmon Phen’s airport in Cambodia when I handed over a wad of US dollars.  

“For driving”, I said, as confused as he was. “You’re Sarat?”

At this point, I turned, and noticed the real Sarat sitting in an identical white van whilst my two companions were on their knees, doubled-over with laughter. I snatched the wad of cash back from the poor confused man, mumbled an apology and quickly walked away, head hung low.  I’ve never quite lived that one down!

Photo: Lynn Gail


Images: Can you share some of your personal favourites made over the years, and tell us about them?

Girl In Tall Grass

Girl In Tall Grass. Photo: Lynn Gail

We were just returning from an impromptu rodeo in a rural village in Madagascar.  Watching angry cows buck against rum warmed men was not my idea of a good time, so I walked ahead of the group.  This young girl was as interested in me as I was in her – her clothes matched the tall dry grass and her contrasting big round eyes just stared out at me.  Fortunately I had a 70-200mm lens on the camera and  quickly took two images as she looked right into the lens, then she was off running through the growth.

Girl Mothering Sister

Girl Mothering Sister. Photo: Lynn Gail

This image of a young teenager looking after her sister was taken in a small hill-top village in Laos where they rarely have visitors.  We shared no verbal communication, only wide open accepting smiles from this chance meeting of opposite worlds.  After pointing to the camera she looked fixedly into the lens and I felt a connection for the briefest of moments as she shared a little of her soul.

Novice Monk In Robes

Novice Monk In Robes. Photo: Lynn Gail

When eyes stare out at me, I get excited.  At the New Moon Festival in Bagan, Myanmar, I spotted this novice monk peeking out at me through folds of dark maroon material.  He was surrounded by a long line of older monks waiting to collect public donations under the intense sun.  I’ve learned to wait, knowing that if someone looks once or twice they’ll invariably look again to see if you are still there – just as I took his picture I felt he looked safe yet vulnerable at the moment we made contact.

An Aboriginal elder – Djarlie

An Aboriginal elder – Djarlie. Photo: Lynn Gail

I had spent the day with Djarlie, a Yolngu elder, at Bawaka homeland in East Arnhem Land.  I was there on assignment to write a feature article for Australian Traveller Magazine on the Top End outback.  Initially Djarlie was reserved but after spending three hours riding alongside him in a battered 4WD on the most incredible coastline of Australia, he opened up once he discovered I had keen listening ears.

He took the time to show me what is involved in spear making, using the maluan and gutpa trees. Afterwards, demonstrated his prowess in fishing with the spear – once released from his hands, it always connected with its target, killing his prey immediately.  He taught me there are six seasons, and each time the weather changes, the Yolngu people know which animal is ready to hunt, what plants are ready to use in their cooking/medicinal purposes and which can be used for the artefacts they make.  The Yolngu people believe that rain is a recently departed Aboriginal elder’s spirit returning to land and country. 

Djarlie is an exceptional character with a colourful past who is he is deeply connected to country. Once we had made an open connection his demeanour changed; I felt I was photographing the pages of his life, not just its cover.


Andrea. Photo: Lynn Gail

On a more recent visit to East Arnhem Land I met Andrea at Bukudal Homeland in East Arnhem Land.  A talented young Yolngu girl, Andrea sang and danced as I photographed her on the beach – her zest for life was intoxicating, but her quietness was what I wanted to capture. She struck me as being an old soul, for her young years. As we gathered on the communal mat, she spoke of the land and her people with a connection that belied her years. She struck me as an old soul, with a connection to her community that I can only imagine as an outsider, and it was this facet of her that I wanted to capture.

Laughter in Lombok

Laughter In Lombok. Photo: Lynn Gail

As a stock photographer it’s part of my work to be aware of up-and-coming destinations that are becoming popular. While trekking through the Mount Rinjani region in northern Lombok, Indonesia, my companion (Elana) and I came across a tiny hut in the middle of the tobacco fields. 

Initially, we didn’t see a soul. Right as we walked past the hut, a child peeped out at us from a wooden door, then its father and mother appeared. I never give up an opportunity to mix with the locals if they appear friendly, so we stopped, waved and asked if we could visit in sign language – pointing to ourselves and back towards them, smiling. They waved us over, inviting us in.  People in this area are not used to seeing Caucasian women loaded with camera gear trekking through their fields, so I think it was as much a novelty to them as it was to us.

In the hut, they also served us think black strong coffee in plastic cups. I don’t drink coffee, but my companion, Elana sipped on hers, making a face at the taste of it. This sent our hosts into gales of laughter. They laughed the whole time we were there, and we didn’t really know what they were chortling about, but as we couldn’t help laughing ourselves, it seemed entirely natural! As we showed them images on the back of the camera this sent them into more raucous laughter – quite a memory in the middle of tobacco fields at the base of Mt Rinjani!


Being a travel photographer requires that you're away from home a lot. How do you and your family make this work?

I met my husband at an airport - he was on the way back to China where he lived at the time, and I was emigrating to Australia.  After several ping pong trips I moved to China and from there we moved to Malaysia, with lots of travelling in between. 

Travel has always been a part of our relationship. When my boys were old enough and the opportunity presented itself for further travel, to do what I love, he was very supportive, which he continues to be to this day. We’ve never had a conventional relationship with conventional husband and wife roles.  When I’m away he keeps everything in check; he’s also worked away from home a fair amount of time and understands the need for change and discovery. Without his unconditional support much of what I’ve been able to achieve could not have happened. I am eternally grateful to him for this.  

Photo: Lynn Gail


What are the challenges you've faced as a professional photographer?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced would be be bringing the inaugural tour to East Arnhem Land together. 

I first had the idea for this tour when visiting East Arnhem Land in 2011 for the first time. There were no photographic tours running in the area and I could see the potential for the cultural and photographic aspect. Seng Mah invited me to be a part of Photo Expose in 2013.  I got to see how skilful a teacher he was, and I invited him to join me in running my tour. That was the easy bit.

So many questions followed the idea:  Could I teach? It’s easy knowing what you know, but imparting that knowledge is a different story, requiring a different set of skills. How do I keep a group of people engaged for a week? How do we fill the spots? Will everyone get along?  All other photography jobs seemed a walk in the park compared to taking a small group of people on a personalised tour of Australia’s most remote territory.  

I often tell myself that everything will work out though, along with a quote by Mother Teresa: ‘doubt takes away your freedom.’  Challenge creates focus which ultimately creates gratification and that excites me – I believe it’s healthy to feel accomplished when we achieve our goals. When the journey of any idea comes to fruition, it is a wonderful thing!

Personally, I always struggle with leaving my family behind – they are the people who balance and support me – but the itch to travel, photograph and write about my journeys run deep.  The challenges and opportunities that travel provides, teaches me to be a better human being. I think it’s a wonderful assurance to my two talented sons to follow their dreams and get totally immersed into whatever excites them.

When you believe in yourself, the road becomes a lot less bumpy.  Creativity can be both rewarding and an enemy when things don’t pan out as expected – imagination is a powerful tool; it can work both ways.  I’m a fighter though – what gets me down also propels me forward to improve my work both in my personal and business life.  I believe in the old adage: ‘where there is a will, there is very definitely a way’.  

Photo: Lynn Gail


Who's your hero / Who are your heroes?

The photographers that grace my coffee table are the obvious ones:  Steve McCurry, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Don George, Simon Reeve,  Vivian Maier, Richard I’Asnson and the many other Magnum photographers – but are they my heroes? 

These photographers certainly inspire my mind but it’s the unsung heroes who inspire my heart:  My close friend Kaye, who fought cancer on and off for nearly 30 years, passed away last year at just 47. She never complained, even the day before she died she was still worrying about everyone else. 

Special K, they called her.  

This year I was involved in a volunteer project for the Australian Institute of Professional Photography – photographing the Anzacs to honour their lives. After getting to know these service men and women through their stories I realised what it really meant to be a hero – they fought for their country at the ages my sons are now.   

I also volunteer for Heartfelt, an organisation that gives the gift of photographic memories when all else is lost – when people lose their babies and young children, often through a still birth, others through cot death, through disease and tragic accidents. When I am in the hospital room with those who have lost their children, I am always touched by the strength that they find to continue with their lives. They are heroes to me, the people who soldier on through their darkest hours.  We give them a gift through Heartfelt, but they certainly gift us in return.

Photo: Lynn Gail


Photographically, are there any projects you haven't taken on, that you burn to?

I had to have a good think about this one. If there was absolutely nothing in my way and Nat Geo rang to offer me an assignment (yeah right!) documenting say, Tribes Untouched by Tourism,  then I’d be packing my bags pretty damn fast. I have a fascination with untouched cultures – there are so few left in the world.  To document tribal rituals so foreign to our own lives with no outside influence would be the ultimate career clincher.

But a little closer to home, in 2016 I’m continuing an on-going project: People Reading Print  – Books, newspapers, anything printed has been taken over so quickly by technology. I love to see people engrossed in tactile print – there seems to be a more connected expression, and often their surroundings add to the story.

I’m starting another personal project this year:  ‘Seen through Windows.’ As a people photographer it stands to reason that I’m a people watcher – photographing people through windows in restaurants, in shops, on public transport and wherever there is a window that separates us. It’s about recording something completely in the moment, a slice of undisturbed life.

Photo: Lynn Gail


What sort of equipment do you typically use on assignment, and for personal work?

I generally use the same equipment for both personal work and assignments.  I try to keep my kit down to three or four lenses due to weight.  In the bag:  Canon EF 70-200 f/4L, Canon EF 16-35  f/2.8, Canon EF 50ml f/1.8, Canon EF 28-70 f/2.8,  Canon Extender EF 1.4.  My tripod is a combination of a Manfrotto ball head and a Gitzo traveller titanium base – total weight 1KG.

Photo: Lynn Gail


What is your guiding philosophy in life?

My guiding philosophy would be: When first inspired by a seemingly unachievable goal - one that excites and focuses you like a meditation - follow it, stay with it, play with it. Follow it to fruition; the view is incredible.

Photo: Lynn Gail


Where are you heading to in 2016?

My youngest son has his ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) exams so I’m keeping the travelling to as much of a minimum as possible, while still covering three trips.  

In May, Seng Mah and I are off the Sardinia, Italy to recce a possible tour we may be running in 2017.  We have our inaugural photographic tour leaving for Madagasar/Mauritius on July 10th, and our East Arnhem Trip on September 10th.  

If someone calls and the timing is right I’m sure I’ll squeeze it in ;)

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