Sydney from Behind the Lens

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I recently turned the ripe old age of 27 and my girlfriend’s gift to me was a three hour photography course in Sydney’s beautiful Rocks district. I’ve waxed lyrical about this historic region of Sydney’s foreshore in the past, but it really bears repeating. It may be a bit of a tourist trap with its many souvenir shops and boutique cafes, but there’s plenty of hidden gems to be found in the place where the Australian nation as we know it was birthed.

Run by the criminally talented Alfonso Calero, the Sydney Photography Tours experience offers a pretty unique blend of photography course and tour. While you’re being taken to some of The Rocks’ less well known sights, you’re also learning a whole lot more about your camera and what it is capable of.

The tour weighs in at a perfectly affordable $99 and you well and truly get your money’s worth from it. Our tour group, consisting of a motley crew of 8 or so tourists, had people ranging from housewives with point and shoots to geeky photography nuts with expensive DSLR’s. With such a small group, you’re given plenty of hands on instruction from Alfonso if you need it.

The general format of the whole tour is simple enough. After meeting at 8.30am near the Rocks Discovery Museum and making your introductions, you’re quickly issued with your first challenge. We started it the art of finding a line and capturing it. The tour provides you with a double sided cheat sheet in business card form, and each side has ten tips that range from the obvious to the more surprising.

Basically we bounced from site to site tackling different artistic concepts. We snapped photos of line in and around the museum; texture in beautiful Foundation Park; snapped portraits of a pair of elderly gentlemen who sell portraits near the park; the use of the flash to negate harsh light underneath the Harbour Bridge; and tackled shape inside a beautiful Anglican Church not far from the bridge.

You’re given roughly 10-20 minutes at each site to snap as many pictures as you care to and then you each select a favourite or two to share. It might seem intimidating showing off your photography to complete strangers, but the whole affair is very friendly and laid back.

With our group being mostly amateurs, Alfonso focussed on the simpler facts about photography. While the course is ostensibly about travel photography – what you learn can be applied almost anywhere. I learned quite a bit about how to draw the eye with a well selected line; the tricks of getting a good street portrait (and potentially making a new friend); and even a few cheap ways to improvise a tripod if I haven’t got one by my side.

The whole tour ends at the historic Hero of Waterloo pub where you share your two favourite shots, exchange email addresses with those you might have hit it off with; and then have a beverage or two.

With Fallon having made reservations for my birthday lunch though, we couldn’t stick around.

It’s hard to say just how much you could learn on the tour if you were an experienced photography. If you check out Alfonso’s website you can see that the man is quite talented, and I’m sure his tour would approach things from a different angle if you had a more talented group of photographers along.

Sydney Photograph Tours also runs tours in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Melbourne – as well as night courses once a month. Alfonso is the man behind it all, and he also runs editing classes and one on one tutoring sessions if you’re willing to pay a little extra.

There are a lot of obvious things to do while you’re in Sydney, and a lot of sites that get rattled off as must see – but if you’re going to be snapping photos on your tour, why not kill two birds with one stone and make it a tour while brushing up on your photography skills?


Attempting to master the art of drawing the eye with a line
An exercise in capturing texture in Foundation Park
Another use of line. Again from Foundation Park
Learning the art of the street portrait with a colourful local
An exercise in shape

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