About Fiji in Colour, Jonathan M Wilkins Photography and Digital Media.

About Fiji in Colour

When I first visited Fiji in 1997 the vibrancy and clarity of colour everywhere I looked astounded me. It was probably at this time I first began taking more photos with the intent of creating a good image rather than just taking a memorial snapshot.

More than 20 years later, now living full time in Fiji on the island of Taveuni, I am still amazed by the colours. Taveuni is known as “The Garden Island” and with little air pollution and almost zero light pollution at night everything just seems to pop.

Vivid green landscapes, crystal blue seas, burning orange sunsets with kaleidoscopic skies, beaches of black, white and yellow, a plethora of tropical plants, fruits and flowers visited by birds, butterflies and bugs – all painted with a wonderfully diverse palette.

A good place to take photos. And it’s pretty much the same under the water – but I don’t go there. I have plenty of friends who do, and they take proper gear and take some cool photos. I’ll probably introduce you to some of them in future blog posts.

I didn’t acquire what some might call a “proper camera”, ie a DSLR, until 2014. Like many, and maybe you too, I guess I was tentative and kind of confused about all the additional gear and accessories that seem to go with being a “proper” photographer. I might end up just being being “not a proper” photographer owning some proper gear and a smaller bank balance.

Since then I’ve been learning. Learning how to take better photos in camera, learning how to edit photos off the camera, and learning not to be discouraged by all the impossibly perfect pictures produced by the pros. For us mere mortals of the photography world we can aspire to get images like they do, but we shouldn’t expect to do it this afternoon, or this evening if you have kids homework to do like I do.

This afternoon be happy to take a photo that makes you happy. Take a photo that makes a small improvement from the last. Take photos with some intent and purpose. Then, if you like it and it means something to you, put your name on it. Odds are someone else somewhere will like it too.

My purpose? Basically to take photos that represent how I see the world, and I see it as full of colour, and that’s why I call this place Fiji in Colour.

My images aren’t perfect but they do all mean something to me. It might just be a bird I’ve not photographed before, an experiment with a new technique, a different viewpoint on something ordinary, something that worked when it didn’t before, or just a impromptu snapshot with a story.

Continuous incremental improvement is what really matters, and that takes time, effort, patience and practice.

If you’d like to take a few steps with me on this photographic odyssey then jump onboard. Hopefully we won’t sink. As I said, I don’t do underwater.

If you like some of my images you can follow this site you’ll get notified of all future updates as and when they are published. All you need to do is fill in a valid email address and you’re done.

Many thanks for dropping by. There’s a bit more about me and how I ended up in Fiji below, so read on if you’re interested in that…

Fiji in Colour Photography Taveuni Sunset, Fiji Islands, Jonathan M Wilkins Photography and Digital Media.

About Jonny In Fiji

Partly on a whim, and partly due to my first mid-life crisis in 1997 I first came to Fiji during a 12 month sabbatical from my job in London, UK. I visited again in 1998 as I circled the world twice, much of the time spent in the South Pacific. I fell in love with Taveuni and the relatively untouched environment, and eventually returned 7 years later in 2005 to buy a property in Taveuni Estates, locally known as Soqulu. This was to be my future tropical retirement hideaway.

As it happened I “retired” rather earlier than anticipated and in 2007 began spending more time in Taveuni.

In 2009 I met Titilia, in Fiji, on Taveuni. Titi and I got married in 2012. In 2013 we moved a short distance to a bigger property to accommodate us and the two children (now three), plus the four-legged friends – three dogs (now none) and one cat (still one, but a different one).

Most of my time here is occupied keeping the jungle under control (it grows very quick), keeping the kids under control (they grow quite quick too), keeping the finances under control, dabbling with the blog and web projects, enjoying cold Fiji Bitters around the island, and trying to stay reasonably sane – which at times is quite difficult.

This site is always in a state of flux – it’s basically a big sandpit for me to play in. Right now I’m focusing on my photographic exploits, ranging from beginner to better of late.

If you’re pondering a trip to Fiji, maybe even Taveuni, and wondering what it’s really like here then feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be more than happy to help.

Have fun, and thanks for reading !


Fiji in Colour Photography Tent Web Spider Jonathan M Wilkins Photography and Digital Media

My Top Photography tips

1. Get a Kindle Unlimited subscription

Say what ? What’s this got to do with photography ?

Well, learning and improving goes hand in hand with reading and doing. If you don’t want to spend a wheelbarrow full of cash buying overpriced photography books, many of which say many of the same things, then it helps if you can read a lot of them for free – aside from your subscription cost that is.

I’m quite happy if I can get one or two useful nuggets from a book that costs nothing. Had I paid $30 I wouldn’t.
When I was learning more about photo editing I read all of Serge Ramelli’s books on the subject. Had I paid for them all I would have definitely felt a bit short changed as they are mostly screen shots and lots of repetition. However they were very useful in actually learning a process, and help you to find your own style whilst doing it. Most of Ramelli’s editing is overdone in my opinion, but his books are still worth reading – just don’t pay for them all unless you want a physical copy sitting on the bookshelf to impress your friends.

Overall it helps to read widely. Plough your way through 10 free books each week and you’ll learn quite a lot, and make the most of your subscription!

2. Take your camera everywhere

If like me you have limited time to set aside to “go and do some photography”, for example you have a pesky day job, pesky kids, pesky pets or needy friends (who needs those ?), then make sure you take your camera everywhere.

A lot of my photos get taken on the school run. See something interesting, or see the same old thing but the light right now is absolutely stunning, or a pod of whales has just decided to cruise down the coast doing synchronised breaching ? The camera is useless if it’s sitting back at home.

Take the camera shopping, take it to the rubbish dump, take it to a needy friend and do a portrait and maybe they’ll be a bit happier. Charge your batteries overnight too to avoid feeling really stupid.

A few weeks ago on the school run an owl flew across the road in front of me. With the camera beside me on the passenger seat I pulled over and saw the owl sitting in a tree by the roadside. A quick 2 minute stop and I have a reasonable photo of an owl for my collection.

Two or 3 times a week I come back with a half decent photo of something, a sometimes a proper decent photo. See if it works for you.

3. Shoot RAW

It took me a long time to actually do this, even though you’re told just about everywhere to do it if you want to get better final images. So, I’m going to say it again anyway just in case you’re like me.

No, the RAW image does not look better (not usually anyway) than the nice JPEG your camera has given you. Yes, it requires more work to get your final images – you have to do something with it. Yes, the extra work required will make you more selective on what you keep. Yes, you need to learn to edit with proper editing software.

Yes, you will see the difference.

Go read about it, get it, and don’t do as I did.

4. Take photos every day

Get to know your camera inside out. Do this by taking photos every day. Photos of anything and everything. Do 100 photos of the gatepost experimenting with depth of field. Take 1000 photos trying to get a sharp photo of a bird in flight. Change the settings and do another 1000.

The photos you take as practice do not have to be particularly interesting – this isn’t film, it doesn’t cost anything except your own time, and nobody else is going to look at the photos.

Do it whilst the ketttle is boiling or the dinner is in the microwave. Take lots of photos of your toes, or the living room with various lights on and off, or the kids crayons arranged on the table.

Athletes train, golfers practice, painters paint.

Photographers take photos.

Take photos. Show your toes to your needy friends. They might stop calling you after that.

5. Learn to edit your photos

My first adventures in photo editing were with GIMP, which is free but not quite as intuitive as alternatives such as Lightroom.

After I’d justified buying myself a DSLR I then purchased Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography package, which includes Lightroom and Photoshop. For photo editing I do everything in Lightroom. I only use Photoshop to create logos, watermarks, or play with wacky distortions just for the fun of it.

When you start to edit your own photos you create a feedback loop. You see where the original in-camera shot can be improved and then you work out how to fix it (ie do things differently) to reduce the editing effort in future, or make those edits even more effective. You learn how much latitude your camera will give you shooting RAW in different situations – what can you get away with knowing that it can be handled in post processing.

Those of us who do not have 16 speedlights, 96 inch octagonal softbox umberellas and 8 assistants to move everything around usually have a little more work to do in post processing to get the image we imagined when taking the shot. If the final image comes close to the original intent (which may not necessarily be close to reality) then pat yourself on the back and go around the loop again.

6. Be happy with the gear you’ve got

I’d really love a Nikon D850, a 600mm zoom lens, and a super wide-angle lens, half a dozen off-camera speedlights and collection of softboxyocta-reflectabrellas and a studio the size of my house with a selection of moveable backgrounds and a supercomputer loaded with every Adobe package under the sun.

Realistically though right now I’d settle for a speedlight.

The truth is we are really only limited by our imagination and/or persistence. The camera is an amazing piece of kit, it can do some amazing things, but it needs us to do it. With just one camera and one lens the possibilities are as endless as your ideas.

I think the quest for more gear or better gear is sometimes a kind of procrastination. “I need A to do B”, “I can’t do X because I haven’t got Y”. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe just do it differently.

A lot of the studio accessories can be improvised with a bit of ingenuity, there are plenty of resources online showing how they can be done. It’s slightly harder to improvise a 600mm zoom though, but not impossible. Getting a bit closer is a good start.

Don’t let a perceived lack of gear stop you moving forward. Get the new gear as and when the time is right, or the wallet can handle it. Most of us can go a long way before we really outgrow the capabilities of the kit we’ve got, and we have to feed the pesky kids in the meantime.

I really would like that Nikon D850 though if anyone wants to send me one.

7. Be your own critic

When we do anything remotely creative we open ourselves up for criticism, which can be good or bad. Photography and other creative endeavours are not like mathematics where 1+1 always equals 2, unless you’re a computer geek where 1+1=10.

Take a photo an 10 different people may give you 11 different opinions.

What really matters though is whether you like it or not. With 7 billion people on the planet there will be quite a few others who do like your photos, even if the majority don’t. So, be your own critic, be honest with yourself, take photos that make you happy, throw out the rubbish, and present whatever is your best at that particular point in time.

As time goes by the ratio of good to not so good images improves incrementally. At the same time you raise your own bar. Take a look at images from 6 months or a year ago and re-review them. You’ll likely find that what you thought was good then wouldn’t make the cut now.

8. Do buy some good books

Despite what I said earlier about books I do actually buy a few – a handful of keepers that don’t really go out of date and are not available on a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

A few examples are Greg Heislers “50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographers Photographer”, “Light, Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting” by Fil Hunter and co, and Michael Freemans “50 Paths to Creative Photography”.

All of these contain tons of useful information and ideas to stimulate your creativity, and make you think about what sort of photography you want to produce, and above all can be read multiple times or dipped into on a regular basis as you travel down your own photographic road.

9. Use Aperture priority most of the time.

But everyone says use Manual if you want to be a proper photographer don’t they ?

Indeed they do, but aperture priority works fine most of the time.

By most of the time I mean about 90%. Set the aperture you want then just worry about an ISO setting to get your shutter speed. For example, when photographing birds I’ll usually have the aperture wide open and set the ISO depending on the ambient light to get a fast enough shutter. Some birds are fidgetty, some perch and sit still for a while, so “fast enough” varies depends on the light and the subject. It also needs to be fast enough to overcome the exaggerated shake with 300mm of zoom.

When do I use manual ? Photographing the moon, twilight and night skies, long exposures – anything where the histogram shouldn’t actually average out at 50% grey, which does include daytime shots too, just not that many for me.

Know your manual settings, but if aperture priority works for you most of the time like it does for me then it’ll reduce your faffing about when a fleeting photo opportunity pops up in front of you.

10. Be inspired

Read lots of books, look at lots of photos, look at paintings and other visual arts, see the light (or notice the lighting) in magazines, books, tv and movie images. How did they do that ? Why does it look great (or not) ?

One of my recent Kindle Unlimited reads was “Still Life Photography” by Kevin East. He recreates photographically images in the vanitas style of the Dutch still life masters. Reading it was quite fascinating, not just in terms of lighting and technique and prompts for ideas, but also how all the items present in a still life contain a message or metaphor and contribute to the overall reading of the image.

Follow all the rules and you may end up with images that look like everyone elses.

I’ve sort of found my style, but it’s always work in progress !

Fiji in Colour Photography Green Skimmer Dragonfly Jonathan M Wilkins Photography and Digital Media.