FEATURE: Lessons Learned from Difficult Shoots​

Gear: Nikon D7100 camera, Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D lens. Settings: Exposure 1/125 sec; f2.8; ISO 800.

“When shooting in extreme conditions, forgetting the smallest item can be more critical than forgetting your camera!”

I often get asked to contribute to articles which is always and honor for me. Shutterstock recently asked for my insight on the topic of lessons learnt from difficult photography shoots. Immediately my recent trip to the remote Yasawa Islands came to mind. Here is my response.

What’s the most challenging shoot you’ve done? In recent years, I have extensively documented the indigenous culture of Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. On one of my photo assignments in the Pacific Ocean, I was shooting for Blue Lagoon Cruises in the remote Yasawa Islands in the northwest of Fiji, and I was given exclusive access to photograph a local native tribe performing a sacred cultural Fijian ritual called the “Demon Dance.”

I had to set sail from Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, traveling from dawn to dusk on a small boat to reach a remote island not far from Turtle Island, one of the world’s most secluded hideaways for the rich and famous. The location for the shoot was in a small clearing on the edge of a tropical island covered with palm trees. The native sacred dance was performed by local Fijian people.

To keep the authenticity of the performance and to avoid creating a disturbance or distraction, I was required to keep myself hidden at all times in the nearby bush. This led to a few problems; firstly, I had to shoot the dancers’ expressions and motions in low light without the use of a flash. It was night, and this was very challenging!

To capture these images, I had to stabilize my camera on a light-weight monopod, increase my camera ISO to 800, and set the camera shutter speed to 1/125 seconds.

On top of the technical challenges, I had forgotten to bring my mosquito repellent—a big mistake that almost cost me the photo shoot! By the end of the shoot, the mosquitoes had attacked every bit of my body, which led me to feel ill. It took me a few weeks to recover.

What did you learn from this shoot?
When shooting in extreme conditions, forgetting the smallest item can be more critical than forgetting your camera! Aside from the challenges I faced, I don’t regret taking up this unique experience and documenting these happy people and their culture as they performed such a beautiful and ancient spiritual ritual.

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