Flood damaged photographs

I created this last week after a request from ABC Radio in Brisbane for Recovering flood damaged photographs.

Key points
To help understand, the image that makes up a traditional photograph is held within what we refer to as the emulsion it is coated on the surface of the photographic papers. There are different papers that photographs have been printed on over generations.

Images before 1975 are likely on a fibre (porous) paper and more fragile to handling if they have been wet for long periods, like most papers they absorb water and can become very fragile, they should be handled with great care on both front and back.

Photographs after the 80’s are likely on a paper that has a plastic coating (resin coated) they are a tad more resilient to long term saturation.

Modern digital prints are either on the same plastic coated paper (a photographic process) or Inkjet on modern art papers.

Either way it is important to handle the print with great cares if they are still wet.

Focus on the important /significant images first

My personal experience is prints can stay wet for 48 hours before the emulsion will start to degrade or separate from the paper.
With any image that is damaged before you do anything try and take a digital photograph of it at the first opportunity you can see the image, even if they are wet, this can act as a safeguard.

If they are covered with mud or debris soak them in clean cool water, you can rinse them under a tap but do not rub the surface of the print as this can scratch the surface/emulsion of the print. Use a soft bristle brush if and grime needs help moving on.

If the prints are stuck together do not separate while dry, after they are cleaned soak them in cool water with a very small dash of dish washing liquid (not powder), this will act as a wetting agent, leave them for a short time then gently peel them apart – at the first sign of resistance stop and soak them for a longer time this will allow the water to work its way between the stuck surfaces.

With colour prints if you start to see individual colours starting to form on the surface of the emulsion, it may look like a coloured paste, stop immediately, this usually indicates the emulsion has been wet for too long.

Once separated lay face up on a towel if possible on a surface with a slight slope to help the water run off, the wetting agent will help a smooth drying on the surface of the print.You can use a coolish fan to create a gentle breeze over the prints never use strong heat as the emulsion may be in a fragile stage and crack.

If in doubt and the prints are still wet, place in a container and freeze until the proper help or advice can be found.

Modern Inkjet prints have a very stable image layer but the papers they are printed on can absorb and stain, soak and flush lay flat and dry. The prints may curl in the drying process, they can be flattened once dry if needed.


Older postcard style albums- if you can remove the prints do but don’t force, if they have written notes photograph the page before doing anything.

Wedding albums -there are too many variables to detail, If you can separate the prints from the album without damage to the prints then do so if not put in a sealed container and freeze and get to a conservator when you can. Hopefully your professional wedding photographer could replace the prints if required.


Remove the prints and backing if you can, if the print is stuck to the glass do not remove, soak in water and follow steps above for separating prints stuck to other prints.

Negatives and Slides

If they are wet soak them in lukewarm water with a wetting agent do not rub the surface of the negative, repeat this step a few times if grit or mud remains. Once clean hang vertically in a dust free area, the same process as negatives but remove from their mounts.

A key thing for people to remember moving forward is preserving those important images that record our life story weddings, christening, family portraits first day at school etc, if the right protocols are followed it makes the impact of flood damage less traumatic. Protocols can be found on www.restory.com.au

Modern technology in the hands of a good restorer will allow most damaged images to be returned to a reasonable quality depending on the damage.

Whose greetings?

A few years ago I realised if you add an “s” to my surname  you end up with Season, particularly handy at Christmas time.

I started with a die cut Christmas card – S on the front cover and “eason’sxmas-1 greetings” on the inside and simply mailed them with no writing or message to friends and clients. That drew an interesting response, half the people I know said “some idiot sent a card and forgot to sign it” and those who realised wrote their own message and sent them back to me the following Christmas.

Since then I have been doing something similar each year.

2021 the year the borders shut

2020 a year in lock down


New Zealand 2019

New Zealand 2018




There have been many others but you get the drift.

9 Star Hotels

I was asked by Brisbane Airport Hotel Corporation to photograph their two new hotels and conference complex at Brisbane Airport, one is a 5 star and the other 4 star – hence 9 star, I had to get your attention somehow.

Both trade under a major international hotel group and to respect intellectual property of their brand I have had to blur out their brand name

The key to any good image is lighting we use it to ensure detail is enhanced and the true mood of a room or scene is captured. To demonstrate this I am showing before and after images, the before being what the camera actually saw before we introduced professional lighting.

The key with lighting is to guide the eye, in hotel rooms we aim to guide the viewer to the bed as it is a major consideration for the client

Conference rooms can become cluttered or busy to the eye, each chair is individually lit to add shape and contour and leads the viewer down the table.

While it is not a resort the pool was shot to emphasise a tranquil setting to catch up up on work


I have been privileged over the last 3 years to be part of the largest coordinated photographic project in Australia aimed at honouring our WW II veterans.
I met some amazing veterans and collaborated with some amazing photographers whose work is illustrated in this video, I hope they don’t mind me sharing their work.

Lost History Found

I’ve been an advocate for the importance of preserving our photographic heritage, today’s pictures will be our historical story for generations to come.

Albert Wheeler collection
Vestey Meatworks

My father passed onto me some time ago images his uncle (Bert) had left him on his death. Bert was a carpenter migrated to Australia in the early 1900’s, his first job was building a factory in Darwin, a frontier town at that time.

He would collect photographs, some with him and his mates, write a story or description on the back and send them to his sister ( my Grandmother) in England.

I’ve pondered for some time what to do with these images so this week I copied them, front and back to include the notations, and sent a digital sample to the Northern Territory Museum and Library.

They are keen to have these images as part of their permanent collection – “There are some extremely important photographs within it, many of which we did not know existed”

One was the only known image of Latin American migrant children that had eluded their collection until now.

Albert Wheeler collection
Vestey Meatworks

We should never take for granted the relevance of a photograph, they record a moment in time that may be more relevant in the future than at the time it was taken.

My family has decided to donate the 160 prints from Bert’s collection to the NT Museum

The Value of a Photographer

As a professional photographer for 40 plus years I can’t help but ponder the value of my profession in society.

Value can be measured in different ways and it’s easy to relate it to money but value also relates to a contribution or role, what we give.

So what do we give or provide?

We document society, we provide a photographic record of what has been and who we are. We record significant events and moments in time that usually cant be repeated and the true importance of that is usually not valued until some time later – also know as “too late”. Images tell our story, our life’s journey and history

We live in an era where digital images dominate, smart phones pervade our life and we progressively rely on digital technologies to record, share and store our stories. Many fail to understand that generations to come, our children and grandchildren, may want to look back at their ancestry but the rapid advancement of technology over that time may not allow them to either find or view those images.

I bought a computer twenty five years ago, it is not compatible with any current operating system or software, it can not read a DVD or CD (nor can the one I bought a month ago) it does not have USB /firewire port and if that change can happen in twenty five years past we have to ask what changes will happen twenty five years into the future

I believe as a professional photographer my industry has a duty to ensure society is not denied its visual history through that inevitable change in technology.

The value we bring is more than taking photographs it’s working with our clients and society so they understand the responsibility we share in ensuring generations to come can look back and see their heritage.

My grandparents left me (and my children) part of their heritage, a professional photograph printed by a craftsmen.

It’s compatible with the one operating system that will be available for all generations to come…
The Human Eye!

1918 was a challenging time in history but they were wise enough to invest in recording their story, and I’m thankful they did.

This video will explain the importance of printing our significant moments.

Pulling the plug on Sydney Harbour

I was asked by an agency to work on a project for a multi-national industrial pump company as part of a national billboard and magazine campaign. The target audience were open cut mine sites and as the budget was relatively humble we had to find a way to complete the project within certain constraints.

This is the original concept brief that I was presented with. In discussions with the agency the options of shooting at a different time of day or angle were discounted for reasons outside my control. I’m part of a team when I work for an agency hence have to work to the direction I am given.

The starting point was the base image of Sydney Harbor shot from the South Pylon lookout on the Harbor Bridge, this is where the reference shot (above) was also taken from.

Part of the brief was a cracked earth harbor floor and without a suitable image to use I decided to build my own model in our car-park, bags of dirt and clay make plenty of mud and a few days in the sun does the rest and while this gave me the base it was still a little too “outback” so I created a blending layer with sand shot at a nearby beach to give a bit more of a coastal feel.


From that point on it was a matter of trying to visualize what the harbor may look like once you pull the plug. I checked on Google but they had no images that went back to the last Ice age so for me it was simply a matter of looking at the surrounding geography and visualizing where those lines may go.
Starting with the most obvious feature the Opera House sitting on “ Bennelong Point” I went back to nearby coastal features and looked at some headlands and grabbed a bit of a point on Stradbroke Island.

I slipped that under the Opera House and extended the seawall around the opera house so it looked as though it was reaching down to the point, in addition I added a bit of drainage run off at the same time. I have no idea if the storm water drains are there but I have seen them in other facilities in similar environments.

I used the same method for the entire harbor shore line adding or more so extending the harbor edge so it looked as though it was a very low tide. This uncovered some unanticipated issues that had to be resolved, there was a frigate moored at Garden Island. To resolve this I found some plans for hull design then recreated that in photoshop and blended with the above waterline image.

In Farm Cove, next to the Opera House they are constructing some over water decking so this too had to be extended below the waterline

Another aspect I considered was in any river valley there is still some indication of the stream and being an ex Sydney boy I knew that Tank Stream formed part of Circular Quay, to help create this I found features on a coastal beach that had, at a different scale, the style of receding stream that I could blend in to the existing harbor floor.

Sydney Harbor is a busy place at the best of times and we decided with the agency that it should have some elements of distressed boating features without going over board
(pardon the pun), again visualizing what a boat might look like when it runs out of water. I shot some boats from appropriate angles (while I was shooting the base image) so they would look like they had settled at irregular angles on the harbor floor and included the dregs of the “Tank” stream that you see in dried out inland rivers. The jet boat was actually on the harbor the day I shot the base plate.

For the Photoshop junkies the layers count, including all layer groups, went into the triple figures.

The end result….

Weir Mutiflow Pumps
Weir Mutiflow Pumps

Personal Passions

Someone asked me recently what I like to shoot for myself, so I thought I would show and explain what I shoot and why.
I was working in the USA a few years ago and by accident bumped into US Photographer Michael Belk. Michael was a high end Fashion/Advertising photographer based in New York who had just moved to Florida with a goal to shoot what he wanted, how he wanted.

He had set up a gallery displaying mostly landscape, he told me that for the bulk of his career he had shot what clients had told him to and he felt he was losing the passion for photography so he decided to start shooting for himself. As he told me I could relate exactly to what he was saying. As commercial photographers we try our best to work with clients and photograph their product or service so it will tell or sell their story and I found in myself that to relax I would actually put the camera down and turn off from photography. After talking with Michael I was determined from that point on to keep it in my hand when on holidays.

My wife and I are trekkers, our idea of a great holiday is to carry 24 kilo of food and equipment over a mountain range, preferably with no one else around, and I found this was the perfect escape for my personal photography, I don’t set out to create works of art I simply walk a trail slowly and allow nature to find me.

Sometimes I have to wait for some mist to clear or rain to stop and other times you simply look around and there it is. But the part I enjoy most of all is the silence or absences of man made noise. I can hear the wind or the water (be it running or falling) the sounds of nature, birds calling, but nothing else.


We can sit there looking at a scene knowing that we’re the only people at that place and time to experience the show that nature gives us and that is what I try and shoot for myself, that is my photographic passion.
As odd as it sounds we try not to walk when the weather is good because that is when most people choose to walk, we look for the fringe seasons when the weather keeps people away but creates the mood, light and feel that I enjoy.

Thinking inside the Box

I recently shot a project for John Robertson from OGE Group Architects, John had taken on a personal project of creating a holiday home out of three shipping containers at Buddina on the Sunshine Coast. The pictures below were shot just at the tail end of construction and illustrate what an architect can achieve with creative thinking.

_EAS2734 copyOGE Group ArchitectsBeach BoxesKawana OGE Group ArchitectsBeach BoxesKawana OGE Group ArchitectsBeach BoxesKawana OGE Group ArchitectsBeach BoxesKawana OGE Group Beach Boxes OGE Group ArchitectsBeach BoxesKawana OGE Group ArchitectsBeach BoxesKawana OGE Group ArchitectsBeach BoxesKawana OGE Group ArchitectsBeach BoxesKawana _EAS2731 copy_EAS2742 copy