Malcolm Smith

BORN 1969, AUSTRALIA

Some of my earliest (mid-teen) photographic memories are from school excursions to snow fields, museums and zoos. I can still remember manually winding the film after taking each photo.

I spent a lot of time during my late teens shooting various school events, followed by a lot more time in the school's dark room processing black and white images. It wasn't long before this passion grew further and I converted an old garden shed at (my parents) home into my own personal darkroom. It was like working in a telephone booth, but it did the job.

 

Many, Many Bad Photographs

Although I felt I was generally proficient at taking photographs during these "learning years", I also had times of absolute failure. I'll never forget traveling to Kakadu National Park for a holiday (late 80's) with my bag full of slide film. After shooting several hundred photographs I returned home and eagerly had them all processed. I was so excited to see the results that I sat in the car while the processing lab developed the film.

My excitement, however, turned into heart-wrenching grief as I laid each 35mm transparency onto the light box. Almost every shot was grossly over-exposed.

"Your first 10,000 photos are your worst" - Henri Cartier Bresson

Although this trip was a huge failure, it was probably the time in my life that I learnt the most about the technical side of photography. From here on I shot more and more in order to better understand the difference between using negative and slide film, how to judge lighting more accurately, how to use a light meter under different conditions, how to deal with high contrast lighting, how to best retain shadow and highlight detail, and more.

After a few more years of shooting everything in sight I eventually realized that I didn't have to think so much about "how" to take a photograph as it had all become second nature. Now I could focus on the "what". Having said that, I wanted to try my hand at getting something published in a magazine. I think I was looking for a way to validate everything that I had learnt.

 

My first publications

In 1989 I opened the April edition of the "Australian Camera Craft" magazine and on page 44 was my first published piece of work, titled "Photomacrography". I cannot begin to explain just how excited I was to see my article and photographs spread over 4 pages of the magazine. It's a moment of my photographic adventure that I'll never forget.

My next article, "Light In The Landscape", spanned 6 pages of the same magazine in August 1990. This article covered some of the basic technical aspects of sunrises, sunsets, clouds, mist, fog, directional light, and how to improve your colour and B&W photographs through the use of filters.

My third article, "Skybound Exposures", was published in April 1992 (yes, the same magazine). This article focused on what exposure meters were and how to use weighted, spot, multi-zone, and incident readings. I also discussed the use of substitute readings by finding something that I judged to reflect an average of 18% light.

 

Portraits And Weddings

In 1990 I took my photography to the next level and started to shoot portraits and weddings on weekends. Apart from being a means to help pay the bills, it also allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and shoot something that you only had one chance at. Even though I ran this as a small business I tried to operate it as a "professional hobby". This approached worked for me because the service I provided felt more personal, I never lost interest, and most of my work come from referrals which told me my clients were happy.

I was accepted as a member of the Australian Institute of Photography and I remained a member until I ceased shooting professionally in 1999.

I married my gorgeous wife, Cindy, in 1994 and we had our first two children by 1998 (we have three now). My daily life quickly become exhausted of time and so I chose to stop shooting weddings in order to spend more time with the family. See my When I Grow Up blog for more info on my full-time career and other interests that consume my time.

 

Buying New Equipment

I stopped shooting portraits and weddings at the end of 1999 so I could focus on building my career and enjoying family time. I never stopped shooting, I just stopped shooting for other people. Some 15 or so years later I realized I was still spending far too much time working - time that would be better spent getting outdoors and taking photographs.

In late 2016 we upgraded the car, purchased a caravan, and replaced a large selection of our photographic equipment. We largely made this decision so we could get away from work more, travel this great country, and take more photographs (of course).

 

Future Aspirations

Like you, I need to pay the bills. This means I'm still working full-time but I take every opportunity I can get to take the camera out and run the battery flat.

Although I have photographed many different subjects over the years, landscape photography is by far the most satisfying. Nothing beats getting outdoors and photographing the places we live in and visit - even if it means getting up at 4.30am in the freezing cold for a sunrise. It's difficult to explain, but regardless of it being at the beach watching waves crash over a rock, or on a hill observing tall grass sway in the wind, pressing the shutter to capture a moment in time, when the light is just right, is an incredibly relaxing feeling.

In the years ahead my wife and I would love nothing more than to hit the road in our caravan and visit as much of Australia as we can. In the meantime, sales from this site is reinvested back into equipment, servicing, and helps put fuel in the car so we can explore and shoot more images.

Through my photography I'd like to share this journey with you.