June 2013

ICAN Country Cruise 2013

In April this year we attended our first Independent Country Artist Network (ICAN) Cruise on the beautiful Sydney Harbour.  The cruises are an annual event organised by Nat Wyborn who greeted us all at Darling Harbour in her bikini. 

Weatherwise we couldn’t have asked for a better day to spend on the harbour which probably explained Nat’s decision to wear a bikini.  The cruise was about about 4 hours and it is a great opportunity to mingle with the performers for the day, other country music fans and photographers (there were quite a few on the cruise!)

The performers on the cruise were Jeremy Edwards, Chris E Thomas and Golden Guitar Winner, Luke O’Shea.

With artists of this calibre it was no wonder that the cruise sold out – $50 for four hours of entertainment with finger food included.

The first artist to perform was Jeremy Edwards and I must admit that prior to the cruise I had not heard of any of his music, needless to say that after hearing him perform I took advantage of the merchandise on sale by the artists and purchased his latest CD Russian Doll.

Jeremy Edwards – Photo © Malcolm Katon


Jeremy’s vocals were complimented by the vocal talents of Julieanne Henry

Julieanne Henry – Photo © Malcolm Katon

Did I mention that there were a lot of photographers on the cruise??

Mark Turnbull – Photo © Malcolm Katon

Al Slade – Photo © Malcolm Katon

Mark & Al were only two of the many and as you can see everyone had a great time.



The next artist on the stage was the very talented Chris E Thomas.  If you like great music then make sure that you listen to some of her CD’s, her latest Monkey Off My Back is a great listen!

Chris E Thomas – Photo © Malcolm Katon


It’s not easy to perform on stage as the boat rocks but everyone managed to cope quite well.

Luke O’Shea is someone that I could listen to all day as his songs tell a story.  He didn’t disappoint during his performance on the cruise and he always seems to have so much fun entertaining the crowds.

Luke O’Shea – Photo © Malcolm Katon


The singers can’t do everything and they were ably assisted by the very talented Clare O’Meara and Doug Weaver.

Clare O’Meara – Photo © Malcolm Katon

With everyone having so much fun the cruise seemed to end too quickly but there is always next year!!

Finale – Photo © Malcolm Katon

Here is a photo to show you how much fun everyone did have on the cruise

The Country Fans – Photo © Malcolm Katon


If you would like to attend future cruises the easiest way is to like the ICAN page on Facebook or contact Nat on facebook.

See you next year!

CMC Rocks the Hunter 2013 Part 4

With the festival drawing to a close the fans were getting excited for the final acts.  Glen and Kaylee Harrison were performing next as Kaylens Rain.  They are a young and energetic duo and I have been lucky enough to watch their progress and development into a very professional and entertaining act.  The debut album “Found” is a tribute to their hard work.

Kaylee Harrison of Kaylens Rain


Glen Harrison of Kaylens Rain


Corb Lund from Canada was another artist who I not taken much notice of before the festival but it was easy to see why he was brought all the way out from Canada for the festival – he seemed to be enjoying his time in Australia too.

Corb Lund

I hard heard Harry Hookey‘s name a few times but didn’t know who he was until seeing him at the festival.  He was one of the crowd favourites, particularly with the younger females.  Audrey’s song was one that I really enjoyed and have listened too many times since seeing him perform.

Harry Hookey

Next up were The Band Perry and they were one of my favourites acts of the festival.  They are another energetic young band from the USA comprised of brothers Neil and Reid and their sister Kimberly. I read somewhere that their father had told them not to have a back-up plan and to concentrate on their music.  He felt that if they had a back-up plan they would not put as much into your music.  Having see them perform and having listened to their albums numerous times I am convinced that the advice was right.

The Band Perry

The next act was Mark Wells and I thought to myself at the time that he had a difficult job performing between The Band Perry and Rascal Flatts but I needn’t have been concerned as he put on an awesome performance.  He was also joined on stage by Bob Corbett.

Mark Wells

The headline act, Rascal Flatts, were next.  The crowd had been building up all day and I am sure that everyone at Hope Estate were now standing in front of the stage.  The crowd loved them and seemed to know every song too!

Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts

In my opinion the CMC Rocks the Hunter 2013 was a success and the artists chosen to perform over the weekend were fantastic.  It was a great opportunity to see and hear some new artists perform live.  Looking forward to CMC Rocks the Hunter 2014!!

The festival would not have been possible without Chugg Entertainment, Robb Potts Entertainment Edge, Foxtel, CMC Country Music and the Hope Estate.

Keep up to date with future festivals via the CMC Country Music Festival website


CMC Rocks the Hunter 2013 Part 3

The final day of the festival had some great music on offer.  First up were the Bluegrass Allstars (formerly known as the Flying Emus) and unfortunately not much of the previous nights crowd were up at 10.30am to see them.

Bluegrass Allstars

Craig Morrison was next and as usual he did not disappoint.  I have seen Craig perform quite a few times and he always puts on a great show.

Craig Morrison

David Lee Murphy was next up on the main stage and I must admit that I wasn’t very familiar with his music, but that soon changed and I am now a fan.  Not only is he a very talented performer but his songwriting skills are very much in demand too.

David Lee Murphy

The talented performers were not limited to those from the USA and Australia as next up was Aaron Jury from New Zealand.

Aaron Jury

I was blown out of the water by the bold and edgy sound of the next act who I had never heard of before – The Farm from the USA. The three band members, Nick, Krista and Damien bring together a diverse array of musical talents that is just bursting with energy.  It was one the first of the CD’s that I purchased at the on-site music store.  The fiddle riffs were incredible and created a sound that helps the band stand out from the crowd.

Nick Hoffman of The Farm Inc

Damien Horne and Krista Marie of The Farm Inc

It was great to see another very talented Australian artist up next in the form of Aleyce Simmonds.  Aleyce is always popular with the fans and here talents continue to grow after winning the winning the award for ‘Female Rising Star’ at the 2011 Australian Independent Country Music Awards of Australia.  Her new album being released in a few months time is being eagerly awaited for by her growing fan base.

Aleyce Simmonds

Canadian Dean Brody was next on the main stage. He is has been a real success story in Canada and won three 2011 CCMA Awards for Album, Songwriter and Single of the Year. If you haven’t already done so then have listen to his latest album, Dirt.

Dean Brody


Final instalment to come soon

CMC Rocks the Hunter 2013 Part 2

Following on from Part 1, the next artist to perform after Travis Collins was Chelsea Basham.  Chelsea recently won a Golden Guitar for best new talent.

Chelsea Basham

Chris Young from the USA was a surprise package as I hadn’t taken too much notice of him in the past but when he started singing I realised that there were a lot of his songs that I knew and really liked.

Chris Young

Jackie Bristow from NZ performed a few songs on the small stage whilst the main stage was being set for Jasmine Rae.  I am always amazed at how much energy Jasmine brings to the stage.

Jasmine Rae

Morgan Evans had just won New Oz Artist of the Year at the CMC Music Awards the night before and seeing him perform it was easy to see why.

Morgan Evans – 2013 CMC New Oz Artist of the Year

McAlister Kemp are always favourites with the crowd and really know how to rock the stage!

McAlister Kemp

Former Olympian, Paul Greene was next to take the stage.  He is one of Australia’s most respected musicians.

Paul Greene

Paul Greene’s drummer over the weekend was Eleanore Plummer

Eleanore Plummer


The headline act for the Saturday was Big & Rich from the USA.  Most people would know their hits “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy” and “Coming to Your City”.  They put on a huge show complete with a working bar on stage, dancing girls and Cowboy Troy.

Big & Rich

Big & Rich

To be continued


Learning to Work with Off-Camera Flash

One of the first things that you learn when shooting portraits is that your photos improve dramatically if you can have your flash off camera. When I first started shooting portraits, I did what everyone first does and that is use the flash mounted to your camera.  This usually results in stark portraits that often look lifeless.  Having your flash off camera and not pointing straight at your subject also reduces the chance of red-eye shots occurring.

I am continuously trying to improve my photography whether it be landscapes or portraits and that means that I need to research and experiment.  Speaking to other photographers and working with them in sharing knowledge is also a great way to improve.   Most photographers I know are always willing to share their knowledge and experience.

There are a few ways to work with your flash off camera.  You can use an Off Camera Flash Cord which is a cord that is connected to your camera’s hot shoe mount and also to your flash.  This method works reasonably well particularly when you are not very far from your subject.  The cords come in a variety of lengths but you need to be careful of someone tripping over them.

Another way to shoot with off camera flash is to set-up your on-camera flash as a master and use additional off camera flashes as slaves.  Assuming that you have more than one flash then this method also works well. The master and the slave communicate using infrared light so they must also be in sight of each other without anything blocking their line of sight.

My preferred method of triggering my off camera flashes is to use an electronic trigger.  There are many brands of triggers available ranging from a very low price such as the Cowboy Studio Wireless triggers to a few hundred dollars each such as the Pocket Wizards that I use.  There are a lot of different brands between these two and I am unable to vouch for them as I have not used them.

Electronic triggers open up a world of possibilities as you no longer need line of site between your camera and your flash. I can have my flash set up behind a wall to light my subject and still be able to trigger it from my camera.

You need both a transmitter on your camera and a receiver for each flash that you wish to use which can increase your costs.

If you use your flash off camera it enables you to direct the light, fill in shadows or create shadows to accentuate certain parts of an image.

The sample photos that are shown in this post are from a shoot with Candace Featherstone.  We both used the shoot to experiment with different ideas that we had and it was a very enjoyable and worthwhile shoot for both of us.

Candace Featherstone

The above image was shot in an old dairy without much natural light available.  I used a flash mounted on a light stand to my right and you can see that by having the flash to the side it has created shadows making the image more interesting.

Candace Featherstone 2

Again in the above image of Candy I positioned my flash to my right which created a more interesting image than if I had had my flash on camera.

It is also important to experiment with different levels of flash output to see how it impacts on the subject.

An important point to note is that your shutter speed determines how much your background is exposed whilst your flash output determines the amount of light on your subject.  You can effectively darken your background and light your subject to focus the viewers eyes on the subject.

Below are a few more sample images from the same shoot

Candace Featherstone 3


Candace Featherstone 4

Candace Featherstone 5

 The majority of the above images were shot using a white shoot through umbrella to spread the light evenly and to also soften it.

If you would like to see more images from the shoot then head over to my flickr set and if you have any questions that I might be able to help you with then feel free to send me an email using the contact me page.

Vivid 2013

It is the time of year when Sydney literally lights up with the Vivid Festival.  From the 24th May, 2013 until the 10th June, 2013 Sydney comes alive with colour and light with buildings and iconic structures brought to life by an amazing laser show.

If you are thinking of heading in there I suggest that you arrive early (the lights are turned on at 6.00pm) or catch a train.  I have driven in there twice in the last week and the traffic and parking were a nightmare.

Opera House Blues

Vivid has their own Facebook page where you can obtain more information.

It is the 5th year that the Vivid Festival has been in Sydney and I have been to 4 of them.  Be aware though that it usually seems to rain a bit during the festival and the you may need to bring an umbrella.

The Pinball Machine

One of the scenes projected onto the sales of the Opera House is that of a pinball game.  The scenes take you through a game on the pinball machine from the launching of the ball, through hitting the bumpers, scoring points and getting the multi-ball feature.  When you take your time to watch it you will be amazed at what they have achieved.

Pinball Fun

A lot of the lighting displays are interactive allowing the crowds to create the light by pressing buttons or making movements.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge lights are created in this way with people on the Milsons Point choosing a colour and location so that they can light the bridge.  There are 100,800 LED lights used on the bridge.

The Coat Hanger

A great place to view the Harbour Bridge is Observatory Hill.  Not only during the Vivid Festival but at anytime as you can see different eras of Sydney at the same time.  You have the historic terrace houses in the foreground, then the Harbour Bridge and then the skyscrapers in North Sydney.  You can also throw the iconic face of Luna Park into the mix too!

Sydney Through the Years

If you do head up to Observatory Hill at night make sure that you take a torch and someone to keep you company as it is very dark and you can never be sure who is around.

On my third visit to Vivid I explored the area around Walsh Bay.

Pushing the Boundaries

A bit of fun with the fish-eye under and around the harbour bridge

Under the Coathanger

Walsh Bay with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

Walsh Bay

An interesting technique to use for different photos is to move your zoom during the exposure.  This is what I did with the mirror balls below.

Purple Rain