One of my best weekends away!

Updated: Oct 23, 2018

Melbourne is such a hub of creative people, and as a photographer, there are many meetups and events happening around this city to connect with other likeminded folk. However, there is one regional photography event that I eagerly await each year.

This event is the Bright Festival of Photography (also known as BFOPA) and it’s held in Bright, a small town in regional Victoria, just over three and a half hours drive from Melbourne. Since attending BFOPA last year, Bright has become one of my favourite destinations. It’s absolutely stunning, being surrounded by mountains and bordered by the Ovens River. The town itself, whilst small, has an excellent local brewery, great cafes and restaurants, playgrounds and water play areas for kids. It’s also in close proximity to wineries and outdoor activities including walking trails, mountain biking, and near to some of the Victorian ski fields. Bright seems like the perfect location for festivals and events, not the least of which is BFOPA.

This was the second year of the festival, and over a weekend in October starting from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, a variety of workshops and lectures were hosted by some of Australia’s finest photographers. The festival program covered a diverse range of styles - light painting, astrophotography, landscape, sports, printing, dance, wedding, environmental portraits, portrait lighting, and food photography.

Choosing what gear to take took some thought. I had to consider what would be relevant to my chosen workshops. Fortunately, I had just purchased the Fujifilm X-T3 camera the week before so, BFOPA was the perfect opportunity to really give it a workout.

I decided to pack my Samyang 12mm F2 lens for the astrophotography workshop, 16-55mm F2.8 and 35mm F2 lenses for the food photography workshop, a 55-200mm lens for good measure, and the 60mm F2.4mm lens for my brother-in-law who planned to do a macro workshop with his Fujifilm X-E3. I was also attending a portrait lighting workshop, and from past experience, workshops don’t always cater well for Fujifilm users. So I packed my tripod, Godox TT685 speedlight, a small wraparound softbox, and Godox x1F wireless trigger.

This year I went with my brother-in-law and we took our families and stayed in the Bright NRMA Holiday Park. We arrived around midday and caught up for lunch by the river with some photographer friends from the Fujixaus group.

The festival opening was held on Friday afternoon in a large marquee next to the Bright Brewery. The organisers, Matt Krumins and Nick Fletcher, welcomed us and introduced the photographers presenting over the weekend. Afterwards, I headed over to a food photography workshop with Naomi Sherman at Feathertop Winery - a stunning location just outside Bright overlooking the mountains. This year I had done a stack of food photography shoots, so I was really interested to learn about Naomi’s workflow and get some styling tips.

Naomi is incredibly passionate about food and it comes through in her photography. Interestingly, she handles the entire food photography process end-to-end - recipe development, preparing and cooking the food, styling, photography, and post-processing. And she is able to do this from her home.

Naomi gave plenty of time for questions and answers, but showed us her food props for light and dark backgrounds consisting of a bit of Bunnings DIY, op shopping, throwing cutlery in barrels of burning wood (!), and homewares from local department stores.

Naomi styling the spring rack of lamb dish

Feathertop Wineries produced two dishes for the workshop: a rack of spring lamb with gnocchi, asparagus, globe artichoke, tapenade, and thyme jus; and a poached pear with gingerbread, toffee sauce, and macadamia ice-cream. Naomi showed us how to style each dish, layering different food props, and her style by creating a bit of mess around the dish to tell the story. She demonstrated the use of reflectors and diffusers to balance and change the natural window light that was in the room. We had the opportunity to take some images and then watch Naomi post process some of her images in Lightroom.

The workshop reminded me that storytelling is a critical element to a good food image. And it's the lighting, styling and knowing how create layers in the image that supports the storytelling.

On the Saturday morning, I went to the printing workshop hosted by Kayell. It was incredibly informative, in fact, it was a total eye opener on how technical and extensive the process is to printing good consistent images. They covered monitor calibration, room lighting consistency, paper types, printer and colour profiles Lightroom and Photoshop. I went into the workshop enthusiastic about printing some of my images, but left knowing there is a whole body of knowledge I need to learn to do it properly. Something I will put on hold for now!

Gina Milicia’s portraits with speedlights workshop was in the afternoon. Gina is a veteran portrait photographer who has shot the who’s who in the entertainment and fashion industries for more than 25 years. I loved hearing her share her passion for portrait photography. She talked with authenticity and brutal honesty about how she uses speedlights, modifiers, and her particular lighting style, which is often a top-down or angled down directly in front of the subject.

My newly acquainted friend Frank (who is a Fujifilm community member) was the workshop model. So, after Gina had demonstrated a few shots using a Godox AD200, a octobox and some reflectors, we all had the opportunity to take a few images. Whilst Gina mainly shoots with Canon 5D MkIV, she also uses a Fujifilm X100F for street photography and travel photography. So I was able to borrow her XPro-F wireless trigger and took a few shots of Frank and his wife Margot.

My final workshop for the weekend was advanced astrophotography with Matt Krumins and Brendan Holland. We headed out to Wandiligong to the Chinese Swing Bridge on the Diggins Walk. We fortunately had a clear night, and with no light pollution, the night sky was simply stunning.

Matt is a fantastic photography teacher, and always structures his workshops so you come away with key learning outcomes. He covered how to light the foreground more consistently using speedlights or strobes, and matching it to amount of light in the sky. Brendan, a local photographer, also showed us how to light a subject in the foreground using a speedlight.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to attend the lectures over the weekend since I wanted to balance my time with family and enjoy what Bright had to offer. The family had a blast - putt putt, swimming in the pool, playing near the local river, and visiting our regular eateries (Gumtree Bakeries for the best baked goods, and Tomahawks with amazing share plate food).

BFOPA lightheartedly promotes itself as “possibly the best photography festival in the world”. Whilst I haven’t been to many photography festivals, I’m inclined to agree. The mix of learning new things to improve your photography, interacting with the photography community, spending time with family, consuming excellent food and coffee in a stunning location - what more could you ask for in a weekend?!

#photographyevent #fujifilm #bfopa