Last Thursday night I was invited to photograph Noosa District State High School’s Year 12 Formal dinner. Let me just say, apart from the gorgeous dresses and dapper suits, there wasn’t anything formal about this incredible party. Almost 200 young graduates danced the night away without speeches or other formalities, and even the teachers got in on the fun!
What a night! DJ Ella from Noosa DJ’s kept the dance floor full and overflowing. So many times I’d see girls leaving the dance floor, barefoot and sweaty only to be dragged back by the intro of the next song. They’d look at each other, turn right around and go back for more. I love that feeling. I wish I could have dumped my camera, kicked off my shoes and boogied out too. At the start of the night I got a bunch of portraits with the DJ’s pretty light display in the background, after that it was dancing room only!
I loved being a walking, talking, pose-correcting, smile-demanding photo-booth robot. They were lining up for pics all night. I’ve posted a handful of my favourite photos below. All 321 images from the night are on my Facebook page. High-res downloads (for prints up to A4 size) will be available at elysepatten.com/NDSHSformal until the end of February 2016. (Due warning: it is a bit slow to load those big files.)
All the best everyone. Real life is much better than high school, you are gonna love it.
It is always a challenge to create a meaningful portrait when you don’t know the people on the other side of the lens, and they don’t know you. I only spent an hour early one Saturday morning with this gorgeous bunch, but when I sat down to process their images, I really enjoyed observing their relationships. Their natural poses, their playfulness and their friendships all shine through the finished photographs and show what makes them unique as a family.
The kids hired me as a wedding anniversary gift to their parents. They asked to have the shoot at the beach near the family home, and to make sure the landmarks were in some of the photos, especially Old Woman Island which sits just offshore. When I arrived only a couple hours after the sun rose out of the sea, they were dressed and ready in bare feet and we walked across to the beach. We packed a lot into an hour long session. It is hard work for me to get flattering shots of everyone looking relaxed and natural. A bit ironic.
Back home on my computer, as I sifted through the photographs it occurred to me how many times they must have walked this beach; together, in pairs, alone with the puppy. It seems to me that this beach is like an extra family member. It is the place where this family goes to talk deeply, run away, reconcile and play. In this way it is the perfect location for a portrait, as these simple photographs represent many hours together walking on the sand and looking out across the waves.
You might not believe it but not everyone was keen for this photo session. Which is fair enough. They jokingly apologised for being ‘dysfunctional’, but in my opinion, being together for a photo shoot early on a Saturday morning is the very definition of a well functioning family. The fact that some didn’t like having their photo taken, but did it anyway, speaks volumes about their commitment and love for each other.
They wanted to bring their puppy in for some shots at the end. For me, when people start to really relax is when my job really starts. My favourite shot of the morning is the one at the top of this post, a moment of real family fun.
The beach is such a beautiful place for a photographic shoot. The pale blues, the shiny shoreline and the endless blank canvas of soft yellow sand. It lends itself easily to any style of photograph. And at this time of day, I don’t have to worry about the background, wherever I point the camera it looks gorgeous.
I only wish I had photos like these of my family.
Right now the ocean is angry. Whipped by fierce winds and dirtied by the muddy rivers spewing into it. It’s summer: rainy season. We’ve had vicious tropical storms, floods, king tides and angry waves that have swallowed all the sand exposing ancient lava rocks. Too dangerous to swim most days I stay in looking over images from seasons past. Those visiting the glorious Sunshine Coast during the peak holiday season might find it hard to believe how this same ocean behaves in winter. See for yourself.
Wandering through my archive recently my eyes dove into these vibrant memories of my beach last August: crystal clear, clean and impossibly calm. The ocean was like an enormous lake with just one small wave gently greeting the shore. Children delighted in the soft winter sun and everyone marvelled at the deep aqua reflection of the wave at the moment it folded in on itself. These images make me long for winter.
Wandered down to the beach this morning before sunrise. Kicked off my shoes and rolled up the bottom of my cotton pyjama pants. The puffy clouds reflected in the glassy mirror of the dark freshwater river that lives in the sand dunes. The ocean was soft, gentle and made me catch my breath. I sat in the cold grainy sand, watched and waited. The clouds changed colour first, from grey to hot pink, then everything came to life. There was no one else on the beach. Just me and a big pink star that rose up out of a clear green ocean.