Thursday, April 30, 2009

Natural Light, Controled Landscape

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Afternoon light from a low sun does amazing things with silhouettes, even when the light is indirect. This shot was taken in the gardens of Pannet Park Museum, Whitby, UK, in November 2006. My camera batteries were about to expire in a few shots' time, compelling me to call it a day, which was just as well as the evening was going to be cold, and I would return to photograph the museum and its contents the next day. But the last few shots I got before the batteries died had much to recommend them. The museum stands on the brow of a hill, with magnificent Georgian houses on the lower slope, and newer estates on the hills beyond, and this shot looks westward toward such an estate. The houses are hazy in the late light: the sun burns them out, while gently silhouetting the trees in the museum gardens. Match this with the 'controled landscape' of classic English garden design, and you have an atmospheric and appealing image. Sharpness and colour were adjusted slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dawn Mists

This is another frame from that misty dawn at Mount Crawford Forest, north-east of Adelaide, in May, 2008. The quality of the light, the softening effect of the mist, ghostly trees, the clinging silence -- these were unforgettable aspects of the experience, and the imagery is evocative. Technically the images were simply a case of composing the frame with the material on show, that is, making the most of the moment. It would be easy to come back with pedestrian pictures, but a natural eye for composition always comes in handy. Catching these giants looming through the silver-grey was quite an experience. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Robin Hood's Bay

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Did the famous outlaw from Sherwood Forest, down in Nottinghamshire, ever visit the coast of Yorkshire? How would a name from one part of the country become attached to another? There are those who claim he never existed, I would claim that any identity which has so entered the folk and national consciousness has a reality independent of historical facts. I took this photo in November, 2007, at the top of the steep road leading from the new town down to the historic town by the sea. The North Sea looked almost inviting from this distance, but it was not warm weather by any means, and when you got down to the water it was far from friendly. This was a simple shot of photogenic material, but the composition is quite classic. It was cropped to a mild panoramic effect and enhanced slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

The Moon From Down Under

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A companion to the Moon-among-trees shot I took in Sunderland thirty months ago, here is the Moon framed among fall colours at Loftier Gardens, east of Adelaide, taken in April, 2009. The chip is focusing on the treetops at high telephoto, and focus on infinity for some reason can be a little indefinite. I grabbed several frames both for the composition and to really air out the chip on its ability to capture a single remote detail against a plain background. It's a wonderful thing to have colours like this in your environment, autumn is a beautiful time of year! Sharpness and colour were tweaked for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Speedbird by Dawn Light

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I was very tired after three connections so far, but on my final leg from London to Newcastle I still had the energy to keep the camera clapped to the window. It was dawn over London when the domestic left Heathrow, and by the pink light (the first light I'd seen in 21 hours) what should I see but a Concorde! This was years after they were retired from service. If I remember correctly, 'Speedbird' was Concorde's generic radio callsign. I took a series of frames, needing maximum telephoto to catch her properly. The morning was cold, you can see condensation streaming across the wing. Luckily the window was clean. The image was cropped and enhanced (colour, sharpness and contrast). November, 2006. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Optical Opportunism

Seeing the potential of a shot is the photographer's knack, and seeing this building looming agsinst the sky from the main carpark at Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, in April 2009, offered all sorts of possibilities. First the unusual curved morphology of the building created visual interest, the low angle against a blue sky offered colour, but realising the sun would be reflected from the windows was the cherry on the icing. I took a series of frames in both axes to catch the image at its best, a prerequisite with digital cameras on bright days if only because the light level and relative angle often means you can barely see the camera-back screen to really fine-tune what you're doing shot by shot. The image was sharpened and the colour raised a tad. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, April 24, 2009

In Memoriam

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This is the sort of thing you will never see in Australia, New Zealand, America or Canada, a small, discrete, public memorial to war. There are war memorials all over the world, they didn't call them 'world wars' for nothing. Every town and village in Australia has it's memorial to those who didn't come back. But this is different: a memorial to those who died when the war came to them. I took this simple snapshot on the platform of Middlesborough Station, Yorkshire, UK, in November 2006, and to look at the classic 19th century architecture, dressed-over with late 20th century glasswork, screens, automatic doors and all, was to realise that the same building was the one bombed on that day in 1942. People dressed differently, thought differently, did things for different reasons and the details of their lives were, well, very different. But it was right there that it happened, and that reminds you of both the flow of time and your own mortality. The image was sharpened and brightened a little for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sun in the Green Wood

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There is something very old-world about this image, as if Robin Hood and his band might appear at any moment, or a couple of Hobbits and a walking tree... The light and composition just begged to be recorded, the way the foreground tree is in silhouette against the direct sun beyond. It has the feel of Larinaga's production drawings for King Kong, in 1931, as he designed a primeval jungle in layers of contrast to register clearly on black and white film. This was taken at Loftier Gardens, the beautiful park just over the summit of the hills east of Adelaide, in late April 2009, an afternoon of contrasts as the exotics made patches of vibrant colour all over the park. The exposure latitiude of the chip is excellent, capturing foreground detail while only fractionally burning out the background. Colour saturation and sharpness were slightly enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

From Mountains to Desert

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Whn the weather is clear below, you can see the most amazing things from aircraft. This shot was taken at the end of October, 2007, somewhere over Western China or maybe Kazakhstan, a point where the rugged mountains that stretch away to Siberia give way abruptly to desert (though are those strip farms I see, using runoff from the high country for irrigation?). The transition in altitude-based characteristic is abrupt and creates almost a feeling of other-worldliness. Keeping your camera trained out the window during the daylight phases of international travel can be a rewarding exercise, and if the window is reasonably clean the camera chip does an excellent job with exposure and focus. Enhancements include colour, sharpness and contrast. Fuji Finepix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Life in the Waters

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Life finds its niche anywhere, and calm waters will always throng with organisms. This simple shot looks into the pond at the Flinders Medical Centre rainforest garden, one of Adelaide's little-known treasures. Plants installed to fill out the ecosystem are complimented by the natural algae that provides food for the many ducks that use the waterway, and a high afternoon lighting angle sets the flare of the sun among the plants that depend on it for life at the base of the food chain. The chip did an excellent job of capturing the background while nestling the sunflare into the organic broth. The picture was sharpened and the colour intensified slightly. December, 2007. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Echoes of Battles Past

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History comes in many forms. This is the old British cruiser HMS Belfast, moored on the Thames and billed as "London's floating naval museum." She was commissioned in 1939, fought through the Second World War, served in Korea, was decomissioned in 1963 and, after a preservation campaign, was saved from the cutting torch and became a museum in 1971. Now seventy years old, she represents not just naval history or a symbol of national pride, but a tangible link with the past as surely as the Tower of London which stands opposite. Together they are overlooked by futuristic organic architecture, and passed by sleek 'Thames Clipper' tour boats, linking the past with the present and the promise of a future in which both will be remembered. This was one of a batch of images framing the ship from both sides of the river and in company with a variety of backgrounds, taken in the later afternoon light on a Sunday in November, 2007, and the camera did a fine job of extracting the mid-tones from the ship while preserving the luminoscity of the evening sky. The image was subtly enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, April 19, 2009



This is a reflecting pool. You are now about 15 metres underground in the Alexandra Cave at Naracoorte. The water depth is between 1 to 3 centimeters. In order to get the natural colours of the calcite flowstone to show properly, you need to be at least 10 feet away, a masked flash, and a good zoom. Very difficult shot, but if you know how to mask the flash then it should come out right. Don't worry about the pool drying out, the cave's humidity is by dave

Super-Macro Magic

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Super-macro is one of the neatest features of the Fuji FinePix ... also one of the hardest to handle. You're photographing objects that are so small, the caterpillar in this shot is depicted at 300% life size! The slightest movement either of your hand, the camera or the subject, and you get OOFF, which is an acronym for the technical term "Out Of Focus Fuzzies." And what's worse it, there's no simple trick to cure the OOFFs. Auto focus or manual focus, makes very little difference. It comes down to two things: 1) steady hands, and 2) a very, very still subject. There is a trick, however, that professional photographers have used for eons, when photographing tiny wildlife such as ants. Capture them, and a stick, leaf, whatever. Put the whole lot in a jar ... put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Insects slow way down when they're cold. The ants will stop running and will seem to strike a pose! There: National Geographic shots. Easy, wasn't it?! Photo by Mel, 2007.

The Ruins of Trinity Church

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Backlight from a low sun through a stormy cloudbank creates a highly atmospheric backdrop to this burned-out church. It was a creepy experience to get this batch of photos on an afternoon in November, 2006, in Stockton-on-Tees, Yorkshire, UK. This is Trinity Church, burned by vandals in 1987 and left standing as a reminder of senseless destruction. A local icon hundreds of years old, it has gone from a community focus to one of England's ecclesiastical ruins, featured in the folklore of the North-east for the tree which stands by its door, reputed to be the mortal body of a witch who shape-shifted to escape a mob who had chased her to a sanctuary she was denied. They tried to burn the tree, but found it would not burn. Ironically, hundreds of years later, though the church went up in smoke, the tree still refused to burn! The light level was low, to expose the stonework the sky has burned out, creating a sense of Gothic unease which pervades the ruin on all but the sunniest days. Enhnacements were mild as always, colour and sharpness, preserving the sense of the original. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Adelaide Festival Plaza

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The old and the new are really brought together in this shot, taken in February, 2009. This is the plaza between Parliament House, Adelaide and the Festival Theatre, which dates from the 1970s. Parliament House was completed shortly before the First World War, replacing the first Parliament House (preserved just next door). On the far side of the plaza is Adelaide's classic Victorian-era Railway Station (now the Adelaide Casino), but looming beyond it is the tower of the Hyatt Regency, dating from the late 1980s. This is how an urban landscape evolves, mixing styles new and old in an amazing tapestry. The photo was a simple frame and shoot, but taking the greatest care with alignment as the distortive element of the lens bends verticals inward at the edges of the frame. Sarpness, colour and contrast were enhanced slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Macro magic

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A shower of rain refreshes the greenery in the forge at Morialta, and water-starved plans take it up eagerly. Macro shots like this fascinate me, reminding me of the line in the poem by Blake, To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." Beautiful words. The only knack with this shot is focus. It's absolutely critical to know where you're focusing, and to make the camera agree with you. The Fuju Finepix has a tremendously good Macro setting. The SuperMacro is much trickier, and there's an element of luck, but with plain old Macro ad a steady pair of hands, it's hard to go wrong! Photo by Mel, 2006.

Friday, April 17, 2009


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Sunderland is the farthest north I've been, and in November, 2006, it was very cold. This was around 3.30 in the afternoon and the sun was low, daylight would be gone in an hour. This is the lighthouse at the end of the north breakwater of the pair protecting the beach on the Roker foreshore, and I walked out there in the sea wind to explore stone, iron, rust and light. The texture of the stone construction of the tower appealed very much to the lens, and is characteristic of the way all coastal engineering fares at the hands of the elements. The shot was a simple one, looking up the tower against the late afternoon sky, and enhancements were simply sharpness, gamma correction and contrast. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lens Flare in the Wild Wood

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This is a moodily atmospheric shot... The sunflare itself is always a positive or evocative motif, but teamed with the contrasting blackout of silhouetted foliage it creates a 'light from beyond' scenario that lends itself to the creepiness of the moment, though the colour-flash in the corona is a very uplifting element. This frame was captured in the cemetery in Leicester, UK, in early November, 2007, a low, late sun on a chilly afternoon among the stones creating photo opportunities not to be missed. The pic was essentially un-enhanced. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vanishing Point: winter fog in the Adelaide Hills

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Eleven in the morning on the road in the Adelaide hills -- a winter's morning, saturatingly humid and a little chill ... fog. This shot was captured through the windscreen, somewhere between Belair and Crafers. Driving conditions were interesting, and the photography --? Pot luck. Point, shoot, sort 'em out later and send the junk straight to the bin. In conditions like this, there's always going to be a lot of rubbish, but when something "comes out right," no doubt by accident, such shots can be dramatic. This one is "atmospheric," somewhat creepy. I like it a lot. Photo by Mel, 2006.

Whitby Fish Market Quays

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This is a wonderful texture shot: the wind-patterning on the water surface, the concrete and timber, the steel and rust of the boats, and the bright winter sun of a clear afternoon. I took this shot in early November, 2007, thankful that the roaring wind up on the cliffs did not reach to the protected harbour. Photographically this was a no-brainer, a little telephoto to properly frame the subject matter, keep the camera level, then snap. The atmosphere is what makes the picture: you can almost smell the salt and the fish, and hear the herring-gulls. Enhancements were slight, sharpness and colour saturation only. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Camouflage ... spot the wallaby!

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Out for a drive in the countryside by daylight, you're fortunate indeed to see a kangaroo or wallaby. They're mostly nocturnal, and during the day they're normally curled up in the shade, asleep -- and extremely well camouflaged. They lie among the bark that's dropped in large sheets by native trees, and from a short distance away they're literally invisible. As the evening shadows lengthen and become blue-toned, they're even harder to spot ... and they're shy/ It's easy to "spook" them, and they beat a hasty retreat from tourists and photographers! Your best places to see them are in the national parks and conservation parts, such as Cleland and Belair, both in South Australia. Photo by Mel, 2007.

Evening at the Tram Stop

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This is photographic opportunism. I was walking through Adelaide on a warm evening at the beginning of February, 2008, and the redevelopment of the city tramway had just been completed, eliminating the old final stop in the middle of Victoria Square and moving it over to the east side, opposite the foyer of the Adelaide Hilton, as a stop on the extended route to the western end of North Terrace. The barricades on the right are left over from the Tour Down Under cycle race, whose headquarters is always opposite the Hilton. I just had to wander over and frame up an approaching tram. The sun was low, the tall buildings are in direct light but their shadow plunges the square into cool tones. The exposure was obviously lengthy, the sky has burned out to correctly expose the foreground. But the soft light gives a smooth texture overall, which suggests the evening's relief from the heat of the day. The usual round of enhancements were done, nothing major. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Old Royal Naval College

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These streets are over 300 years old. The architectire is timeless and to see these buildings on a sunny afternoon is to blink and see the fashions of the 18th century strolling by. Designed by Christpher Wren, they were begun in 1696 as the Greenwich Hospital, and from 1873 to 1998 they housed the Royal Naval College. The Royal College of Music is now in residence. I took this photograph in November, 2007, on a bright Sunday afternoon, and Maritime Greenwich made a considerable impression on me. The shot was a simple frame and shoot, and the image has been cropped for publication (excess sky and foreground trimmed to create a panorama), and the sharpness and colour have been adjusted slightly. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Summer at Myponga

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A summer's day at Myponga Reservoir ... a very simple shot to capture, difficult to actually do anything with, because what the viewer doesn't realize is that the full frame is something of a disaster! There's a rubbish bin at bottom right and a dilapidated bench at bottom left. There's graffiti just out of the frame to the right, and the tree in the foreground is broken away, just out of the frame at the top! The public loo is just out of frame to the left ... all of which makes this image an exercise in cropping. Shooting at 5MP or more, you'll get a picture which is big enough to get in there and crop out the useful part, and discard the rest. A little enhancement of color and sharpness, and you're done! Photo by Mel, 2007.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

An Embodiment of Freedom

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In AD61, Boudicca, queen of the Iceni tribe (in modern Norfolk), rose against the Roman forces of occupation in one of the most ferrocious rebellions of all time. As with each attempt of the British tribes to dislodge the foreign empire, she failed, but her failure was a symbol of resistance to oppression, the quest for freedom, and the ancient warrior queen and her daughters were immortalised as part of British culture. This 19th century Romantic bronze stands at the north end of Westminster Bridge, across the road from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, on the banks of the Thames, and while Londeners perhaps no longer see her, by sheer familiarity with the landmark the statue constitutes, visitors may pause and remind themselves that 2000 years ago this queen took on an empire and gave them a war we remember to this day. She would not have looked anything like this Classicist fantasy, but the chariot and proud horses are accurate enough, at least in spirit, to the warfare of the tribes of the 1st century. I took this simple snapshot in December, 2006, on a cool afternoon after coming back from the National Gallery. Enhancements were sharpness, contrast and colour. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Focus and contrast: red hot pokers imitate art

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Once again, life imitates art. These red hot pokers are trying valiantly to be a screen print! They're a marvelous splash of color in the landscape of late summer, downunder, where the dust and "brown lawns" can become a little jading and overwhelming after a long, parched summer. Getting the shot was tricky, but far from impossible. It's a question of not letting the camera focus anywhere it wants to. Automatic focus is fine and dandy, but for an image like this -- click the camera over to manual and make sure it gives you what you want. Photo my Mel, 2009.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Noisy Miner

australian miner bird

This bloke is called a Noisy Miner. It's a type of honey-eater. They normally don't let you get too close, but I was able to get about 5 feet away from him/her. I was concerned that the miner would fly away so I just left the Fuji 6500 on auto. Took about 20 quick shots before s/he flew away, and this one turned out the best of all. Gotta love filmless photography! photo by dave

Lights on the River

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This is the River Wear in Sunderland, in the stretch just beyond the Wearmouth Bridge, looking across to the St Peters Campus of the University of Sunderland. At top left is the church of St Peter and St Cuthbert, on the site of a church where the Venerable Bede was based in the 7th century. It was about 10 at night, and very cold in Mid-November, 2007, and I shot several frames on my walk from a dinner at the Bonded Warehouse (now a trendy venue on the south side) back to my boarding house by the Roker seafront. The streetlighting was quite strong enough for me to be hopeful that a supported camera would get the goods, and it did. A handrail provided a firm footing for this shot. At least three frames were good enough to be shortlisted for the blog, and this one has the most interesting subject matter. Enhancements include sharpness, colour and a tiny bit of contrast, otherwise this is a verbatim example of night photography -- what the camera can see that the eye on the night might not, at least not consciously. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, April 10, 2009

High-rise Living by the Waters

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This is another reflex shot. I was getting pretty good at it with all those bridges and urban vistas in eastern London as I rode the Docklands Light Railway in November, 2007. Watch for a bridge coming up, frame out over the water of the next canal or dock and shoot whatever appeared. The finished shot looks like it was purposefully staged, but it's actually entirely opportunistic. Only the dark area at top right gives away the fact it's shot through a train window, that's either a bridge stanchion or part of the window surround, otherwise I was lucky with a clean window. Enhancements include sharpness, contrast and colour saturation, though I keep my adjustments subtle, I like to preserve the 'feel' of the original frame, reproducing the visual atmosphere of the time and place as much as possible. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

The Liquid Mechanics of Flame

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Fire is an amazing thing -- luminous, ever-moving, obeying the laws of fluid mechanics as if it was water. A fire by night provides amazing photography as the chip deals with the flames against a dark background, and exposure length dances around the margin where individual flames will move while the shutter is open. It's not difficult photography, frame and shoot and the camera does the rest, but the result can be amazing. This photo was taken at a gathering of friends in the country north of Adelaide in November, 2008. Enhancements include simply contrast and colour. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Classic Backlight with Foreground Illumination

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The long row of windows along one side of the first display hall at the RAF Museum, Hendon, in northern London, made for tricky lighting throughout, as the natural light of a drizzly, grey day vied with the artificial lighting inside. This shot of their imaculate Mustang was taken from the mezzanine gallery on the opposite side of the hall, shooting under the nose of their suspended lifesize mockup of the Eurofighter, and I was mildly amazed that everything balanced out properly. The exposure was comparitively long, the overcast afternoon completely burned out the windows, but, remarkably, the school kids at bottom right were moving little enough not to blur. The ring of lights under the plane have registered amazingly well, making this a delightful play of light and reflection. The camera was solidly supported on a handrail. Enhancements include sharpness, contrast and colour. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic, telephoto; December, 2006. Image by Mike.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The dome of the sky

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I'm reminded of that verse from the Rubaiyat, "And that inverted bowl we call the sky,/ Whereunder crawling cooped we live and die,/ Lift not thy hands to it for help,/ For it rolls on impotently, as thou or I." A glass sky -- glass dome. Marvelous "vanishing-point" perspective, and such color saturation. In fact, it's the Madagascar house at the Adelaide Botanical Gardens! The shot was easy to capture ... if you don't count the panting and perspiring! It's HOT and HUMID in there ... the plants love it. Every life form inside is from equatorial Africa. Photo by Mel, 2009.

The Bellot Memorial

It's an amazing contrast, an Egyptian obelisk whose native environment is the heat and dust of the Middle East, or at best the green vales of the Nile, yet here it is framed by the deciduous leaves of an English autumn, in fact winter. This obelisk stands on the banks of the Thames in the grounds of the Royal College of Music (which inhabits the buildings erected at the end of the 16th century as the Seamen's Hospital). It's not an original brought from Egypt, this one was built in the 1850s as a commemoration of a young French adventurer, Joseph Rene Bellot, who died in 1853on an expedition searching for the missing ships of Sir John Franklin in the Canadian Arctic. Thus it's extremely fitting that it was built at Maritime Greenwich, a stone's throw from where the Cutty Sark has layn since 1950. The image was taken at high telephoto from outside the boundary railings, the framing excluding buildings and the endless London skyline, and the colour, contrast and focus were tweaked for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic; November, 2007. Image by Mike.

Monday, April 6, 2009

MY branch!

MY branch,

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I do like to take parrot pictures. Maybe because there are so many wild ones around here and I never saw them back in Alaska. This was taken early in the morning and the sun was just up. The sun was shining directly at the landing cockatoo. I was actually taking pictures of the little rainbow lorikeet that's flying away and tripped the shutter right after this big bloke jumped from a branch about 3 feet behind this one. Guess he just really wanted his picture taken. the Fuji S6500fd does quite good work in these conditions, and I didn't even have the shutter set for high speed pictures. It was manual focus, but everything else was on automatics, and no colour fixing was down in the computer. Very handy camera. Photo by dave.

Cafe culture goes way upmarket

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Low-light photography offers a whole suite of challenges in either optical or digital, and your solutions to these tests might be different on different days (or shoots). It all depends what results you want: the pro might want a tack-sharp image without grain, because s/he is more than likely shooting for a brochure. The amateur will want a good, clear shot, and can afford to live with a little grain, since the image isn't going to be published, much less at large size. Either way, your choices (your solutions to the challenges) will define this project: stop the action, or "correctly expose" the background, produce fantastic depth-of-field with blurred figures, or accept a little grain in the shot...? It's all about film speed, aperture, and shutter speed. Here's a few ground rules to help you make the decision: high shutter speeds will stop the action (no blurry figures), but you'll need either (or both) bigger apertures or faster film speed to get those fast shutter speeds. Big apertures cost you depth of field, and fast film speeds give you grainy images. Long shutter speeds give you blurry figures (anything that might be moving), plus the probability that you'll get "camera shake" during the exposure, which means the whole shot is blurry. Somewhere among all those "downsides" is a happy medium, and depending on what you need or want out of the finished shot, you'll make your decision. Photo by Mel, 2009. (The National Wine Centre, Adelaide, South Australia.)

Last of the "Wooden Walls"

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Now here is living history: the last surviving warship of Georgian times, HMS Victory, which though she has been preserved in drydock as a British national treasure also remains a commissioned vessel in the Royal Navy. The Captain and Executive Officer have reserved parking places next to the ship... This ship, Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, typifies the 'wooden walls of England' that protected the country from invasion in the warlike 17th and 18th centuries, and is the technological ancestor of 1869's HMS Warrior, which lies a few hundred yards away at the Historic Portsmouth Naval Dockyard. I visited on a grey day in December, 2006, a day when rain was sweeping through in light, cold showers and the overcast made exposures difficult. Note that the sky is burned out to white to properly expose the ship. She was simply too big to frame the whole ship properly amongst the jumble of buildings surrounding the drydock, but I captured many excellent detail closeups. Sharpened, contrast- and colour-enhanced for publication. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In the time warp ... Adelaide, of course!

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Architecture fascinates me, with the way it pretends to be anywhere but where it is, and in any time period but our own. And nowhere in the world is more of an architectural time warp than the North Terrace area of Adelaide, South Australia. In five hundred meters, you can see 1970s modernism, Romanesque frontages, nineteenth century colonial Australian, eighteenth or nineteenth century British India ... and then you get along to Adelaide University, and -- dang! This one is pretending to be a fifteenth century castle. It's absolutely magnificent. These are the hallowed 'halls of learning,' of which students and visitors can tell you a few rare stories! The image was easy to capture, just a question of getting close enough to put the sun just behind the roof there. This threw the building into silhouette and burned out the sky, of course, but this was easy to fix at the software level later. I might have stuck around and done the perfect manual exposure, but to get this shot at all was a question of patience: taxis backing in and out, students by the thousand trooping by. Eventually, you grab what you can and enhance it later. Thank heavens for digital photography! Photo by Mel, 2009.

Visual Contradictions

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Industry has to be somewhere, but the mind usually pictures it clustered around polluted rivers, or in areas sterilised by contamination. Thus the contradiction of this steam-belching installation (nuclear power station, perhaps?) surrounded by the rich greens of the English countryside. Somewhere in the Midlands, this frame was captured from the window of an express on the line between London and York in November, 2007. The eye is on one hand soothed by the farmland all around, yet offended by the ugly organic shapes of the cooling towers and their endless belch of steam that contributes to the overcast. Enhancements include sharpening, contrast and colour saturation. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic exposure, high-end optical zoom. Image by Mike.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Perspective Compression

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Sometimes you see the most unexpected things, and it's good to have a camera handy. I had just arrived at my boarding house in Sunderland, near the seafront, having dragged my bags up from the St. Peters railway station, and what should I see on this cold, bright, windy afternoon, but a ship manoeuvring to enter Sunderland harbour via the twin breakwaters. It was a real gift for a spot of maximum telephoto action and the phenomenon of perspective compression, the foreground and background in focus simultaneously, suggests the ship is much closer than it really is. Sharpened, contrast-tweaked and colour-enhanced. November, 2007. Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fossils, front and center!

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Palaeontology week at the South Australian Museum of Natural History offered some fantastic opportunities to pit oneself against a slippery opponent: glass. The exhibits are all behind (or under) glass, of course ... and it's daylight, which means that trying to get a good photo of an amazing fossil entails finding some way to get the "glare" out of the shot! You can find yourself taking an excellent portrait -- of the photographer, reflected in the glass. There's no real trick to it, but there's a few guidelines to follow, if you're wondering how in the world to get a usable shot. First: observe. Use your eyes. Don't let your brain merely "tune out" the reflections -- see them! Second: use your feet and knees. Move around and duck down, till the reflections are either minimal, or gone. The camera might try to focus on the glass itself, so be vigilant ... make sure it focuses where you want it to. Lastly, the light levels will be low, so set your virtual film speed at 800 or higher, if you're working in Manual mode; and if you're working in Auto mode, take a great number of shots till the camera gives you exactly what you want -- and erase the dross! Photo by Mel, 2009. (Palaeontology Week, late March 2009; in the foyer of the SA Museum. The major skull in the case is Protoceratops.)

Aspects of the Journey

"Inward, Looking Outward" could have been the title of this post. This was one of a batch of frames I took late one evening in November, 2007, at Heathrow Airport, London, while waiting for my outbound flight, a Qantas Boeing 747-600, the Longreach, named for the original headquarters of the company in Queensland. It was delayed four hours due to weather on the flightpath, a great many disgruntled people could only sit around and wait. At least I had photography to help pass the time! Had lighting been less bright maybe shots through the plate glass could have been managed to create an outside perspective such as with my shots at Newcastle Airport earlier the same evening, but that was never going to be possible here, and this time the reflections tell their own story: two images, superimposed, the travellers in the lounge and the plane they are about to board, interleved, thus two aspects of the journey. Sharpened and colour-saturated for publication; Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic exposure. Image by Mike.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

True Antiquity

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It's not often you get to focus on a manmade object that is some 14000 years old. This is a carved antler artifact from late Palaeolithic times which I had the priviledge of actually touching at a touch-and-tell exhibit at the British Museum in December, 2006. It is humbling to think that human hands shaped this piece of organic material, and carved in the decoration, long before the world as we know it began to take form. The photograph was taken in available light on macrofocus setting, and was simply a case of framing the composition and releasing the shutter: photographically it was a no-brainer, but to see the object is to feel the gulf of time between the maker and the beholder, and it demanded to be recorded. Sharpened and colour-enhanced for publication; Fuji FinePix S5600, automatic exposure, macro range. Image by Mike.

Reflections teasing eyes and brain

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Water is the most amazing element I know. Glass can reflect and to a degree can also distort, but there's nothing else in nature for twisting your perceptions of the second, third and fourth dimensions than water. Consider this: water offers a pseudo 2D surface. You think it's flat, but even when it's at its most calm, it's not perfectly flat. It's curved into the third dimension however fractionally. Now, true 3D objects are reflected in it, and their reflections drop a dimension. A 2D reflection of a 3D object (ie., an image) cannot be the same as the object -- there are massive sacrifices to be made for the conversion from 3D to 2D. Now, take the 2D reflecting surface and warp it into the third dimension -- the way water ripples. Weirdness results ... but our human eyes are so accustomed to reflection, they "tune it out." But here's what will really challenge your brain: try to imagine a 4D object reflected in the "surface" of the third dimension ... and then allow for ripples in the third dimension caused by gravity wells and tides... good gods! We could be looking right at (or through) 4D creatures, and not knowing what they are. Anybody want to run with this and extrapolate it as the ultimate rational explanation for paranormal apparitions ... ghosts, demons, sprites, angels ... even alien encounters?! Photo by Mel, 2009. (This is a surface shot of the Amazonian lily pool in the incredible new Amazon exhibit at Adelaide's Botanic Gardens.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


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Neoclassicism -- the New Classic approach, be it in architecture, art or social thought -- was a fascination with 'respectable antiquity' that swept the world in the 18th and 19th centuries. The styles of ancient Greece and Rome were supplemented with those of Egypt when archaeology, barely emerging from its anitquarian forebears, made its early discoveries there (obelisks sprang up in cemeteries all over the world as grave markers). London is a very Neoclassical city, in which a great number of buildings dating from the 1700s and 1800s reflect the grandeur of antiquity, and this particular one, on Whitehall, caught my eye for the statues recessed in niches on the facade. This is truly ostentatious by modern standards, and sculptors were on a good living in centuries gone by. The aspect remains magnificent, even in this age of steel and glass. The shot was a simple one, automatic exposure plus telephoto to fill the frame with the subject matter. Mild enhancements include sharpening, contrast and colour saturation. Fuji FinePix S5600, November 2006. Image by Mike.