Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Photo stories: Odori Park drummers

Saturday, 27 June, 2015

I recently went on a business trip to Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan. I was attending the ISO standards meeting for Technical Committee 42, Photography. Sapporo is a lovely city – it has the cleanliness and efficiency of Tokyo, without the overwhelming crush of people. And everywhere people are friendly and willing to help you as a non-Japanese speaker.

In the centre of the city is Odori Park, a long-thin block-wide park which runs east-west for a dozen or so city blocks. I was staying very near the park, and in my spare time it was the obvious place to go to enjoy the ambience of the city. The park was full of people… simply enjoying the cool early summer. There were many people just having picnics, sitting on the grass and chatting, or playing frisbee, skateboarding, enjoying ice cream cones, or playing music.

Sapporo drummers

I spotted this group of three people simply sitting on a bench and playing drums, looking like they were having a fantastic time. They played for several minutes as I wandered around, and I kept being drawn back to them to listen and absorb their evident joie de vivre. I walked off, intending to leave the area, but was suddenly struck and inspired to go back and ask them if I could take a photo.

They were still drumming, and I held up my camera and smiled at them, gesturing what I wanted to do. They smiled back and nodded at me. I stepped in close and took this picture. I showed it to them on the back of the camera, and they laughed appreciatively, never stopping their drumming the whole time. I said, “arigato gozaimasu”, and continued on my way.

Photo stories: In Step

Wednesday, 22 April, 2015

In 2009 I went on a holiday to England and Wales with my wife. We hired a car from Heathrow Airport, and began our trip by driving directly away from London. The plan was to do a loop through Cornwall, up to Wales, then across and down to London via the Cotswolds. We hadn’t booked any accommodation in advance except for after we got to London, and we spent two weeks driving to wherever took our fancy and finding a place to stay for the night.

In step

After several days we ended up in Shrewsbury, just on the English side of the border with Wales. It’s a lovely city, with the famous Shrewsbury Abbey just across the river and outside the walls of the old medieval city. We liked it so much we stayed thee two nights, giving us time to spend an entire day walking around and absorbing the architecture and atmosphere. The weather was intermittently drizzly, and at one point in the early afternoon the rain got quite heavy. We took refuge in a cafe which served gelato, and spent half an hour or so sitting and eating the sweet treat.

While sitting, I watched the people walking past outside. As this couple waked by, sharing an umbrella, I grabbed my camera and took this candid shot. I have no idea who these people are, but this is one of my favourite photos from that trip, as I feel it captures something about the couple, and the way they quietly work together to withstand the British drizzle. Whoever these two are, I hope they are still happy together.

Photo stories: Piazza San Marco

Wednesday, 15 April, 2015

I took this photo in Venice, on my first trip to Italy in 2001.

Piazza San Marco

Venice is an amazing place. Sure, it’s hyped up, but for me it lived up to the hype and then some. It is pedestrian-oriented and there is something amazing and interesting around every corner of the maze-like warren of streets and canals. It buzzes with activity, but even though many of the people you see are tourists, there is a definite local atmosphere if you just head a few steps off the main tourist strips. Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) is of course as far on the tourist strip as it’s possible to get, but this also makes it a colourful and fascinating place. It gleams at night with lights and people and sounds – it’s something to just immerse yourself in.

I took my Canon T70 35mm film camera on this trip, with a small selection of lenses and a cheap aluminium tripod. I am very glad I took the tripod, because I took quite a few shots at night, requiring slow shutter speeds – this being one of them. Being film, I had to estimate the exposure with a bit of help from the camera’s light meter and then hope that the pictures turned out okay when I got home and had them developed.

I set up behind the tables at this cafe, aiming at Basilica San Marco on the right, and the opera singer with small group of musicians on the cafe stage at left. The photo turned out better than I hoped. I like the blur of the moving people in the square, which adds some of that atmosphere of activity which you feel when really there.

I scanned the digital image from a print of the negative. This is one of my most viewed photos online. A while back I was contacted by the Victorian Department of Education (from the Australian state of Victoria), who requested permission to reproduce this photo in an exam paper. Since it was for educational purposes, I granted them permission, and they sent me a copy of the paper. It appeared in a geography paper, with questions about the use of land and buildings in this area.

This is not actually my favourite photo from that trip to Italy. Maybe I’ll tell the story of that one another day.

Photo stories: Fujin noodles

Thursday, 9 April, 2015

Since I started talking about individual photos with my latest photo, I thought for the second one I’d go to the other extreme in one sense, and show the first photo I uploaded to Flickr:

Fujin Noodles

I took this photo in January 2006, just a few hours after landing in Tokyo on my first visit to Japan. This was my first business trip with Canon Information Systems Research Australia, the company I’ve been working for ever since. Being a subsidiary of Canon, we have plenty of contact with the head office in Tokyo, and staff often take business trips over there.

I was travelling with a co-worker (that’s him blurred on the right, holding the spoon) who had been to Tokyo before, so could rely on his experience in getting around, and in finding a place to eat on the night we arrived. Being January, it was very cold – much colder than I am used to even in midwinter at home. There was snow on the ground. We caught a shuttle bus from Narita Airport to Shinagawa, where our hotel was. After checking in, we were hungry and so ventured out to find a place to eat.

My companion spotted a random ramen restaurant not far from the hotel and we managed to squeeze into some seats at the bar counter you can see here. The meal was hot and delicious, freshly made by the cooks behind the counter. I took this photo with a compact IXUS30 camera, which was the first really decent quality digital camera I owned. (I actually bought it for my wife before I started working for Canon.)

I like the perspective lines in this photo, and the balance between blue and red light across the two halves of the image. The slight tilt and the blurring of the motion of some of the people give it a sense of motion and busy-ness which matches my impressions of that meal. That, and memories of the hustle and bustle on this first night in Tokyo make this one of my favourite photos from that short trip.

Photo stories: Dee Why sunrise

Sunday, 5 April, 2015

I thought I may as well start with the most recent photo on my Flickr stream:

Skyfire

This photo is a result of my quest this autumn to catch a great sunrise. Sunrises and sunsets can be beautiful and can make fantastic photos, but you have to catch them with the right weather conditions. And for really good sightlines and scenery, you can’t beat the sun rising or setting over water. The problem is, I live on the east coast of Australia.

If you live on a western coast, you have the luxury of watching the sun set over water. You can have a leisurely day doing whatever you do, and judge the weather conditions to see if there will be a spectacular sunset, and then go photograph it at leisure. If you live on an eastern coast, you need to catch the sunrise. You need to wake up before dawn, peer outside to try to guess the weather conditions, then head out anyway because you can’t tell. You arrive at the coast in pitch blackness, while nearly everyone else is still asleep, and you hope that the sunrise will be worth it. And more often than not, the weather is cruel.

The best time of year to do this peculiar form of self-torture is autumn, just before daylight saving ends. The weather is still warm enough for early mornings to not be freezing cold, and the late sunrise means you only have to get up around 5:30, rather than 4am or so in summer. This autumn, I’ve made five pre-dawn treks to various beaches, hoping for that elusive golden sunrise. Each time I’ve been more or less disappointed.

I can still get some photos that I like and am proud of, and this photo is one from my most recent excursion, on 30 March. I think it turned out well, and is pretty good for the timing, which was about 20 minutes before sunrise. However, very soon after I took this photo, a storm rolled in from the south and thick cloud obscured that pink glow on the horizon. I never saw the actual sunrise at all, and I didn’t get the sort of photos I was really hoping for.

But still, no photographic trip is a complete loss if you look at it the right way. I still took some photos, of clouds and swirling ocean and wave-washed rocks. And I was up early and had the whole day to look forward to! I love cramming as much into a day as I can, so this was a good start.

Skink!

Thursday, 29 August, 2013

241/365 Eastern Water SkinkI’ve had a couple of good days for spotting wildlife. I saw this fellow sunning himself on a rock as I was walking home from work today, just 50 metres or so from where I saw the brushturkeys yesterday.

This is an Eastern water skink (Eulamprus quoyii). It was maybe 40 centimetres long. I managed to poke my camera fairly close before it scooted away.

Brushturkey!

Wednesday, 28 August, 2013

Australian brushturkeyFollowing up my urban bird post of the other day, I was astonished this morning to come across a pair of Australian brushturkeys while walking to the station to catch the train to work. I know these birds are around the city, but I’ve never seen some so close before, nor so close to my home.

They’re very territorial, so I’ll probably see them again in the future if they’ve moved into the area. At this time of year they’re probably either building compost mounds to incubate their eggs, or already looking after a clutch of eggs or chicks somewhere nearby.

ND400 filter

Sunday, 7 July, 2013

I recently got an ND400 neutral density filter for my lenses. This is an almost black filter that cuts the available light by a factor of 400. It looks black, and lets through only the barest amount of light, like welding goggles. With it, you can take really long exposures when there’s too much light to do so otherwise. This is useful for things like ocean scenes, when you want the waves to blur out into a misty ambience. It’s best around sunrise or sunset, but I went out today in the middle of the day to test it out. Here are a couple of the results.

188/365 Ocean meets land

Rock shelf mist

Photo challenge

Sunday, 9 June, 2013

Photo challenge: out of the cameraYesterday when I went out to take photos of the sunrise, I arranged to meet my friend Andrew at the beach, since he’s keen on photography too. We shot various things with our cameras, wandering around and taking photos from different places. At one point Andrew suggested we set up our tripods right next to each other, on the rock shelf that we were currently standing on, and take photos of the same scene at the same time. Then we’d each process our photo and post the results so we could compare how we’d approached rendering the final photo.

The small shot on the right here is my version of the photo, as it emerged direct from the camera, converted from RAW format to JPEG using all the default settings. Below are the final photos after processing, making various artistic choices to achieve a final photo we were happy with.

Andrew’s version is on top – he went for a darker approach, elected to use black and white, and went for a shorter crop to give a wider aspect ratio. My version is on the bottom – I chose to emphasise the colours and the foreground. I notice we both enhanced the contrast, and by a similar amount.

Photo challenge

Photo challenge: final image

Grey morning

Saturday, 8 June, 2013

159/365 Tidal riverI planned to get up at 5:30 this morning and head out to the beach to take photos of the sunrise. Doing this is always a risk, because you can never tell what the weather will be like, and it’s difficult to tell when it’s still pitch black outside. I checked the rain radar and there were a few tiny specks around, but it was mostly clear. So I went out.

On the way to the beach (a 20 minute drive in the pre-dawn lack of traffic) it started raining. I parked at the beach and sat in the car for a few minutes. The rain eased off and stopped, so I ventured out. The sly was gloomy and the sun never showed its face through the hanging grey cloud. But I got some acceptable photos. There’s a stormy feel to them, which is fine, I guess. You can’t have a perfect sunrise every day!