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Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Own Favourite Photos from this Year

My Personal Picks for 2013

This year has been one of great changes in both my personal and professional life. Thankfully the changes have been, for the most part, very positive and contributed to my growth. This is just as true for my photographic journey as the rest of my life, and I can say with confidence that I am still continuing to learn and develop both my skills and wisdom every day. 

With this in mind, I felt like compiling a short list, 16 in fact, of my own best photographs from 2013. 

Click on any image for large size. All images are on display and available for sale at:

Tony Heyward Images

My Local Area - Wollondilly Shire, NSW.

Coastal and Seascapes

Waterfalls - Blue Mountains, NSW Australia.

Nature and Macro


© All photographs, images and texts contained on this page, are subject to copyright by the copyright holder, Tony Heyward Images. Any reproduction may only be made by consent of copyright holder, and can be requested by email to -

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Google Plus Journey - Novice to Now

Tips for Sharing your Photos to Google Plus

I have received quite a few requests from new Google Plus members asking for advice on the best way to post photos. Rather than rewrite a response each time, I thought I’d make a blog post for frequent referral. If your goal is for greater engagement, more comments, Plus 1's and shares, and ultimately in more circles; and I am assuming of course this is the case, then there are a few tips I can give that may help. There are many blog and forum posts on this topic and I have linked to a few at the bottom which I have found helpful, and give better detail than my own. PLEASE NOTE – I am by no means an expert on this, but I do get asked for advice and love to help where I can. This is simply a, high-level outline of my own experience where I started with nothing, and now I am in nearly 10,000 circles in just over 6 months. To see my own work, please visit Tony Heyward Images ( and at G+ Tony Heyward

About Yourself

How does your profile look? Visit your own “About” tab on your profile and be concise and accurate about how you want to portray yourself. A tip that helped me was once I’d written my bio and other information I then accessed G+ as a guest and then hovered the mouse over my own name. When you do this on G+, a small summary is displayed on that profile and includes a snippet of that person’s information. Make the effort to ensure your bio is written in such a way, as to convey the right information in this screen, as this may mean the difference between whether you are added to circles or not. People will often not want to dig too deeply into another persons’ profile to find out what they’re about, so making pertinent information easily accessible is a benefit. 

Always include a photo of yourself: preferably a decent one. When I see a profile on my stream or in my notifications which only has that default blank Google silhouette, I pretty much ignore them. A decent photo that is of you, not a cartoon or other abstract image, says to me that you are a real person, and you intend to present real posts. We are all wary of SPAM, and you don’t want to be seen as someone who is hiding themselves.

Present youself with a tidy profile: The first thing I was taught (thank you Zvonimir) when I joined Google Plus was to change my account settings so as to stop displaying community posts in my stream. When you do this, people who visit you will see a variety of your work as public posts, rather than multiple versions of the same photo posted to every community. To do this click on the left menu drop-down and select settings. Towards the bottom you'll see a check box _Show your Google+ communities posts on the Posts tab of your Google+ profile_ Make sure this checkbox is blank. Of course, you may want to leave this checked, but if this is the case you should always consider how your profile stream will look to others and also consider how you share to communities.

How Do You Post?

First post publicly, and then consider sharing that public post to a community. Generally I wait a few hours, days or longer before sharing in order to gain greater exposure for the same image. A lot of those who have you in their circles may also belong to the same communities to which you post. In this case these people will just see your same post several times in their home stream and may only engage on one, or worse, regard your post as something akin to “SPAM”. It also means that others who come on line to Google Plus at a later time will miss all your posts. Another common mistake is that people may post to a private community, then attempt to share that image publicly. Whilst G+ is really geared towards public sharing, the team works hard to give members the option to protect information, and allow community by invitation only. What happens is that theme pages and individuals who like your work enough to share it, are blocked from doing so if your original post is a closed or private share. 

Tag your posts: You will find pages that have great shares and you should include these in your circles. I personally recommend +Landscape Photography +Best Top Photographer Group (Best Top Photographer website) +ShowYourBestWork +PhotoMania (insert your country) as a good place to start but there are dozens of other fantastic theme pages. Keep the tags appropriate to your work (ie: don't tag Landscape photography for a post of a portrait). When you visit these pages see their shares to get an idea of the quality and also click on originally shared to see the original post. Do this a few times and you'll soon get an idea of how prolific content creators you admire tag their posts. Also on these same theme pages, visit the About tab and you'll see there will be a section that tells you how to tag for this theme page eg: #landscapephotography curated by +(21 digit number). This will send a notification to both the page and the curators, and the hash tag makes your post visible in searches on the theme (eg: #landscapephotography). N/B – Disclosure – I am an editor, curator and member of these mentioned themes so I am naturally biased towards these.

When Do You Post?

Consider the time of day you post: Ask yourself what geographical region/s are you mostly targeting and what time of day are they most active. There is no easy answer to this and much of it is trial and error, but engagement on a post may be as much about the content, as about ensuring your followers are awake. For example if you live in Australia, and you get up and post at 8am on a Monday, many of those who have you in their circle may live in the US or EU and it will be late night or very early morning for them on the weekend and a large proportion of your audience are unlikely to be on-line. By the time these persons become active, your post is buried beneath many others and may be missed altogether. On this same topic, certain individuals and groups are active at different times – I have seen studies which suggest one network is more active during work hours, whilst another might be more active during recreational hours. Thank you to Brianna Smith for this guide:

  • Facebook – between 10 am and 4pm Monday thru Thursday. 
  • Twitter – between 1pm and 3pm Monday thru Thursday. 
  • LinkedIn – focus on posting before and after business hours, 7 am to 9 am and 5pm to 6pm Tuesday thru Thursday. 
  • Google+ – 9am to 11am on workdays. 
  • Pinterest – This is the one social network you should focus on posting during weekday evenings and on the weekends. specifically 2pm to 4pm and 8pm to 1am on weekdays. The best time to pin items on Pinterest is on Saturday morning. 
Source: Google Tools to help here - start with Google +Timing .
Even the pattern in some countries varies between hours of peak usage. See this very enlightening graphic. 

What Do You Post?

The first and most obvious rule is to be a content creator. We aren't all acclaimed artists and G+ is about real people, sharing their own journeys so don’t be afraid to share because you may deem your work of lesser quality than others. We are all our own worst critics so by all means put yourself out there! Having said that, post what you believe to be your own best quality. My reference in this article is geared towards photography but the same general rule applies. I know that some of my early posts fall far short of my later works, but at the time they were quality to me and that’s what I shared, and that’s how I presented myself. To put it bluntly, if you’re about photography, then too much sharing of funny cat memes, cartoons or offensive materials will lose you a lot of credibility very quickly. Treat your G+ stream as an active and interactive portfolio.Sharing is good, in moderation. Try to avoid tagging a shared image to themed pages, as you may become known as a sharer, rather than a creator. This means that often your posts may be overlooked as these theme pages generally only share original works. Remember, the curators of these pages look through hundreds or even thousands of images every week to select the best shares. So being visible, clean and known for only quality original content helps get you noticed. Also, too many shares can make your stream a little messy. Your stream is the depiction of your personality and demonstrates how you want to portray yourself to the Google Plus community. If you really want to share a lot of work, consider starting your own theme page or looking for the opportunity to curate for an existing one. Always remember the golden rule – Don’t plagiarise work, only share with credit to the content creator!! – and when you credit, where possible (ie: when the original content is from G+ and not an external source) then link to that profile so they are notified, and others can easily click through to that persons profile.


Be friendly, be nice! It sounds simple but is all too easily forgotten. If you want people to engage with your posts, engage with theirs. Plus 1, leave comments complimenting their work and don’t forget to leave a comment on your own post thanking those who've commented on yours. People like reciprocity, this may also mean if someone adds you to their circle, consider adding them to your own. Sometimes you might find that someone adds you to their circles, but their content does not suit what you usually search for or joined G+ for in the first place. You may not wish to add some of these people at all but another consideration is to create a special circle just for these people. Every so often, you can revisit that circle and see where those people are in relation to your own G+ journey. You might find that a person your circled in return who initially only had a few followers and a few, uninteresting posts, later proves to be a highly active individual with great engagement and a prolific sharer.

On the subject of circles, engage in Circle Sharing. Once you have made some circles of your own, and found themed pages and individuals who create and share fantastic, quality content, you will find these profiles will often share entire circles publicly. You can elect then to import this circle into your own, and increase the quality and quantity of content that appears in your stream. The other bonus is that when you add any profile to your circles, whether individually or in bulk such as importing another circle, every person will be notified that they are now in your circles. If your profile and content appeals to them, they will likely choose to circle you in return and the ripples then flow on from there. In addition to this, there are many active circle sharing projects in which anyone can participate, and potentially become part of a larger shared circle. This is a fantastic way to find new connections both individually and collectively and really gives a boost in creating a significant G+ presence. Two such fantastic examples are the G+ Photography Engager’s Circle organised by the Photo Exchange Club (PEC) and the High Quality Sharing Project (HQSP). Repeat Caveat: These two pages are ones in which I also participate actively which why I have singled them out. There are many others which may prove more or less useful to your own circumstances..

Final Thoughts:

I realise that, as they say in the automotive industry, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) but this is a snapshot of my own journey. Advice and opinions should be sought from a range of sources to tailor your own approach to your Google Plus experience and goals. Whilst much more could be said on this topic, I will leave this here as it is already longer than I originally intended.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Love Affair with Photography

What is there to love about photography?

I ask myself this question on occasions. Not so much to introduce doubts, lord knows there’s enough impediments in this world which create new self-doubts without developing my own internal frustrations. But I, like many other people may sometimes struggle with commitment. Just to be clear, I’m not talking of stereo-typical “Rom-Com” masculine fear of relationship commitment, I’m referring to that fad phenomenon. That insidious experience also responsible for the ab-cruncher in the garage, the ice-cream maker in the kitchen and the framed certificate of registration of business name that represents all that remains of a previous entrepreneurial venture. I have taken on new projects in my life and at the time my inner voice screamed “this is it. This is what you were meant to do.” At the time I loved it, found myself good at it, learned new skills with the voracity of a child savant, and developed clear goals for development of that idea. Then, two years, one year, even 3 months later the love dies, the relationship sours and we part ways with a mutual understanding never to contact the other again.

This is not a treatise on the human condition and impetus for failures, so let me take a fork in the road now. Suffice to say, the goal is often inimical to the process. Another way of looking at it is to say, just because you love doing something, does not necessarily translate into love of doing that for someone else, or dare I say it, into paying the bills. So if money becomes the objective, then the activity often loses its lustre. I used to love riding motor bikes. Not that I don’t anymore, but there was something I noticed about riding that relates here. I would ride on my days off, in the rain, in the heat, in the cold, around the corner or thousands of miles and loved it all. So then, it only makes sense that my workdays could only be made better by riding my bike at the start and end of that workday. As with all emergent love, spring fills the senses and fools the mind into the false belief of eternal bliss. After a while though, autumn leads to inevitable winter and as it crept into my world, I began to find irritation in those attributes I once saw as cute. The problem was, no matter how much I loved riding, I could not escape the irrefutable fact that I was still commuting, and no matter the method, the negativity tainted the activity. Now might be a time to turn to Zen philosophies and look at my own negative Neural Linguistic Programming, but I won’t, so don’t panic.

What I did learn though, is that there is a triangle of needs for a successful life. There is what you love doing; what you have a talent for; and what is marketable. Success in life increases as these three converge.

To fit this into the previous example, I loved riding motorcycles. I was not particularly great at it, and no-one wanted to pay me to do it. Only one point of the triangle was met and I lived with this disparity. Realising something had to give, I sold the bikes for other pursuits – there were other imperatives, but for the sake of argument let’s stick on message.

Getting back to topic, Photography has always been my passion, only I never knew what to do with it. Sure, there was the taking of photos, but then what? The ultimate love for me was the way to see the world. I noticed in me a change and still do, as I continue to learn new skills and challenge my abilities. I don’t just see a tree, or a field, or a sunset. I experience the light; I look at the depth, the curves, the lines, the shadows inherent in every vista and learn to love what I see. Photography has changed, and is changing my perception and enhancing my experience of my world and I love that. However, for many years I would enjoy my photographic excursions, and then continue to relive the experience with my prints. I might even share them with family and friends who usually feigned interest just to be nice, or maybe they actually were impressed. The point is, the journey was incomplete. Like an addictive psychotropic drug I was always chasing the dragon for that high I’d feel when I was alone in the wilderness with my camera.

That’s what I loved about photography, but that is not the title of this musing. I had something I loved doing; and something that I was good at, and I believed with time, study and practice I might even become better than good. So now I have two points to the triangle, but I’m still missing that all too crucial third point, marketability. Again, with enough will there is always a way around the obstacle, but I was never prepared to place the sanctity of my family’s home in jeopardy by quitting my job and schlepping around the state to market fares with my stall of prints and canvasses, making pennies and hoping to be discovered.

All hail the digital revolution!
It’s all different now, and I know I’m technically a late adopter, but I have a rekindled love. Photography and I have renewed our vows at a small ceremony on the beach at dawn. The convergence of digital camera, internet, social media and the democratisation of content creation has changed forever the playing field of publishing. I regard this as a social revolution akin to vernacular bibles and mass-transit, altering the human experience, generally for the better. What this means to me is simple. Marketing in the 21st century is a Masters Degree of intricacy, so I am not professing expertise or possessing of panaceas. But I do now see an avenue, a tunnel that links the two points of the triangle to the third providing a glimpse of the means by which the points can converge. I can still capture my beloved images, but now I can more easily seek help to learn from my mistakes and subscribe to tutorials and mentorships. Further to this, I can now share my work, create a brand, and even participate in sharing and promoting the work of others. I can’t force an audience, but likewise I’m not beholden to an executive from a publishing house to decide if I tick the required boxes or fit with the corporate business plan philosophy, or before all that, just getting her attention. My bride has gone back to school; signed up to the gym; and bought a new wardrobe and has returned to me with new abilities and radiance that compels me to catch-up, or risk being left behind. Photography and I are in love again, and I am doing all I can to be worthy of her affection.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

“That’s been Photoshopped” and that’s the same as Cheating.

Warning: My reference to “Photoshop” in this article is a proprietary eponym. That is to say, it is not meant to be brand specific. It is a phenomenon of English vernacular that through common use, popular brand names often become a generic word encompassing all items of similar purpose. See Kleenex, Band Aid, Coke, Frisbee, Polaroid… 

I've wondered over this attitude for many years. Truth be told, I have in the past prescribed to this idea, whilst at the same time employing the use of various digital processing software almost universally. One pretty much has to, unless you’re happy leaving your 6x4s buried in an album for the rest of time. This has naturally led to a measure of internal unease as I wrestled with the spectre of hypocrisy. 

So what then, is NOT cheating?

I have to laugh these days when confronted by a self-proclaimed purist of the photographic arts who chooses to flaunt their piety in the face of us digital manipulation heathens. “I like to return to the purity of simply capturing the image” is the gist of their mantra. “So” I retort, let me understand your position. You stand before the breath-taking artistry of nature, imbibing the majesty and feeling the awe that is the earth-mother-goddess. This Buena Vista is absorbed through the miracle that is your eyes, and can then be appreciated by unfathomable mystery that is the human mind. In order to share this purity, you interrupt your line of sight with metal/polycarbonate alloy chassis box housing a multi-layered silicon wafer rectangle meticulously pock-marked with (insert number here) million photo-receptive light cavities which digitally convert the analogue light signals through an anti-aliasing array into electronic signals stored digitally on Electronically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory flash memory drive. But first, you insert a metal/polycarbonate tube housing multiple machine-crafted glass lenses in order to mechanically bend the light from this wonder of life in several different ways and to flatten all three dimensions into a two dimensional representation. 

By this time, as I’m about to launch into the diatribe about the supposed purity of uploading your image through Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest via encrypted algorithms to convert your digital file into light pulses pushing the packet data down optical fibre…. You get where I’m going here right? But the disinterested party has now switched completely off, and usually disappeared in a cloud self-righteousness leaving me like the lone-nut muttering to himself while passers-by throw coins into my camera bag mistaking me for a mentally-ill homeless person.

But all I’m really trying to say is this. 

The biggest single manipulation of any view, is made by putting your camera in front of it. 

Whether your capture device of choice is a 2MP camera phone or a 50MP Hasselblad, no camera yet in existence can see the world with anywhere near the quality of the human eye. To be brutally honest, cameras destroy scenes.  Everything that follows regarding post-processing, is simply trying to force the outcome to better emulate, better communicate the emotion and experience of being present in that particular time and place. Remember my last entry – every picture must tell a story. Well, I want to tell MY story, share MY emotional reaction to that view. My camera can tell its own story if it so chooses, and given the smarts of modern DSLRs I would not in the least be surprised if at night, while I’m snoring, she sneaks out of my camera bag and interacts with the world under her own social-media pseudonym. But while ever I’m still in charge, it is important to tell my own story. 

Now, there are some caveats here. I do think it is akin to cheating to purport an image to be something it isn’t, and this is the example often cited by anti-Photoshop advocates. Let us imagine that I take a photo of a pigeon in my garden. I then use image editing software to paint its plumage bright green, give its tail some flourish, and proclaim to the world I have been the first to photograph this new species in the hope of personal acclaim. This has been famously evident with dubious photos of UFOs, Bigfoot and just about every photo of a ghost. But that is the exception, not the norm. 

My camera is somewhere in the middle of the pack. It does a fair job, but it is rare that it captures what I intend it to see. What indeed, I see. Contrast is my greatest nemesis, in Photog-speak, High Dynamic Range (HDR). What I see are beautifully saturated blue skies melding into orange and magenta sunsets, colour-contrasted against the deep green grass painted with swathes of golden light rim-lighting the taller blades. What my camera sees is white, blown-out sky and black, shadowed foreground. This is not the story I want to tell. Now, there are a number of ways to fix this, any or all of which I might employ. Physical GND filters are a good start but the same result can often be attained with a virtual GND in Photoshop (or other generic, non-brand specific digital photo editing software). So I now ask this question;

Philosophically speaking, what is the difference between a physical and a virtual GND?

Technical merits aside, quality for quality, whichever method I choose I am still employing an artificial device to alter the light intensity of nature, in order to force my two dimensional representation to tell the story as I am at that time, feeling it. So the real question is not whether to post-process, but where to stop? I could probably, with a lot more skill and knowledge than I currently possess, turn that hill across the road from my house into a pretty good likeness of the Matterhorn under a winter storm. But that, by my own definition, would be cheating. So I developed my own guidelines that can be succinctly defined as:

Does the finished product genuinely reflect the story I am trying to tell about the beauty I experienced? 

Notice, I did not use accurately, but genuinely. Am I being true to my vision? Am I being true to my emotional memory? If the answer is NO, then I’ve either gone too far, or not far enough with my post processing. Occasionally, I get lucky, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to improve an image that comes out from my camera. But if that defined the limit of my creativity, then my gallery would be very small indeed – and not the better for that either. So I am richer inside, I am nurturing my creative outlet, by employing Photoshop, and I make no apologies for that.

Even that photographic Gautama Buddha to my Prince Siddhartha, Ansel Adams hand-painted his own negatives right?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A great photograph, or a photograph of something great?

Something I have been learning, sometimes a little painfully, is that there is a chasm between these two concepts. Furthermore this chasm is really only apparent to those within the photography cabal, leading to further divisions between those who take photos, and those who simply view.

Let me elaborate…

The most striking example where this is apparent is family portraits, particularly babies and children. How many of us have been shown countless photographs of friend’s and family’s offspring, having to constantly agree as to how great a photo this or that is. Truth be told, most of the photos are usually ghastly. Flat lighting, flash blasted, fuzzy focus / slow shutter movement blur, cluttered backgrounds, mis-matched clothing, over/under-exposed, photo-bombing elements, you name it and they’re usually there. But… there is no way in the world I’m going to be the one to break the bad news. The fact is, the budding photog is fixated on the subject, and all other elements are irrelevant, or else completely invisible. When you’re looking at the most beautiful thing in your world, any photograph will inevitably also be beautiful, right?

Take this to the next step, travel photography. This is where I started my journey, taking photographs of majestic objects such as mountains in the Himalayas, the iconic buildings of Venice, ancient temperate rainforests of Tasmania. So long as one can focus, get the exposure at least close to correct, and some semblance of composition, you can almost be guaranteed a good shot. Combine this with the quantity percentage phenomenon (if you take a thousand photos, at least a few have to be good, right?), and almost anyone can come home with a photo that just screams “YOU COULD BE A PROFESSIONAL”.

So I keep taking photos, even though I’m no longer on holidays, usually of my more familiar environment. But now I’m wondering to myself where the magic has gone. My photos just aren’t inspiring anymore. I have come to a fork in the road, and just quietly, I’ve taken both branches at various times. I put my camera back in its case (usually something expensive and professional looking because my journey isn’t complete without the appropriate accoutrements), and there it stays for that “some day” moment. Then of course, “I don’t have enough time”, or “I couldn’t be bothered lugging all that equipment around” so “my (insert camera phone here) will do just as good a job”, or any one of a dozen other excuses raise their daemons in the back of my mind and become self-imposed obstacles in my path. Occasionally I might pull out the old-girl for another session at a friend’s wedding or children’s birthday party but those photos inevitably end up lost in the cyber world of hard-drive oblivion and the camera returned to its undeserved internment.

Is there a solution? Of course, but it does involve a journey of self-discovery. Ergh… I know, but stay with me for just a bit longer.

I revisited all my favourite photos and studied them. I still love them, nothing’s changed there. I subscribed to magazines, websites, social-networks and even went to galleries. My mind was filled with spectacular images, but I still didn’t understand why only those special picks of mine “made the grade”. I studied articles, tutorials, even took classes. My own photography was improving, but at a measured, incremental pace. I still did not understand why I could make such giant leaps of talent when confronted by majesty, but exhibited banal when confronted by the familiar.

What happened?

The answer was always there, but it took the wise words of a very experienced wildlife photographer for me to make the connection. I invested in a workshop with Steve Parish (, listened intently, pad and pen in hand, and tried to ingest all the secrets from the inner sanctum of photography holiness he could impart within 8 and half hours. The fact of the matter is, like most things in life, there were no real secrets. Although obviously possessing less skill and experience, I understood already by this stage the general photography and post-processing principles. Whilst there was still a lot gained from this session, one uttered phrase, oft-repeated stuck in my mind. Of course, I’m paraphrasing here but it goes like this.

Your image must tell a story, or it will never hold attention.

In this specific example, the advice was specific. He literally was reinforcing the need to write a story the support the image, and capture the imagination of the viewer, who was never there, at that moment in time, seeing the beauty you saw. Steve was, and is, a publisher of books, not just a photographer, so his view of the world is to share stories. It’s not enough to just show something pretty. Like a person, being pretty is good for a glance, but having substance can hold attention for a life-time. The same rings true for photography.

Having mulled this over in my mind for some weeks, this explained all these mysteries to me, and changed the way I see photography forever. My images were not just beautiful, they told my story, back to me, invoking emotions, feelings, transporting me to happier times and places. Henceforth, for my images to work, I needed to invoke that same sense of feeling, the passion, the awe-inspired, the breathtaking, and convey this to a disconnected viewer. For me, words would not work, it had to be the image, the story must be written in the colour, the mood, the drama, the detail (or lack thereof). I was no longer content to capture the image alone, I now had to capture the emotion. 

Now how does that work with 16million dots of electronic technology sitting behind layers of polished glass...?

The Purist Photographer versus the Excited Photoshopper...