Los Chavos: Band Shoot

I had the pleasure of shooting 9-piece Latin/SKA band Los Chavos recently. Here is a selection of pictures from that shoot. They like their 'Day of the Dead' gear ... can you tell? ;-)

Incidentally, this is the band that inspired the production of this stuff.

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6 lads on a shopping trolley ... what could possibly go wrong?
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6 lads on a shopping trolley ... what could possibly go wrong?
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6 lads on a shopping trolley ... what could possibly go wrong?
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6 lads on a shopping trolley ... what could possibly go wrong?

 

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6 lads on a shopping trolley ... what could possibly go wrong?
6 lads on a shopping trolley ... what could possibly go wrong?
6 lads on a shopping trolley ... what could possibly go wrong?

A quick post today ... things are busy here at Chez Geoff. I'm doing some art documentation for an artist ... more on that soon :-)


Fog Chasing

Canberra gets foggy. Mostly it's morning fog, settling sometime before dawn. When it's extra thick it may not burn off until well after lunch ... sometimes it doesn't lift at all and the temperature hovers in the low single figures all day. Those days are cold ... that seeping cold that slowly creeps into the bones. Every now and again, if we've had rain, the fog starts in the early evening ... you can see it descending ... beginning as a glow around the streetlamps. It can be very localised too as I found out again the other night when I decided to get on my bicycle and go fog chasing. I didn't really have an idea or location in mind ... just knew I wanted to get pictures - at night - in the fog. So I set off in what I thought was a good direction but soon found no sign of the fog... it was all clear as a bell.

Not to be deterred turn around and head back up the hill toward the mountain which I can see is shrouded in cloud. I'm thinking that perhaps all I might get tonight is exercise. I'm now riding up the dark foggy (that's good!) cycle path toward the institute of sport where I can see a huge glow from the sporting field lighting. Through the eucalypt trees (Canberra has a lot of trees) I can see something that might make a photo. There, in beautiful foggy light, are delicious green sports fields with dark backrounds and bright, stark white goals and nets.

There seems to be noone about. The gates are open so I ride on in like I'm supposed to. Ooops ... there's a security guard ... oh make that two security guards. They ask me what I'm up to and I explain I'm a photographer (you know ... like that should sufficient for any question!) and I'd like, if I may, to take some pictures of the goals. They ask "why?" ... it's a fair enough question and it's a national training facility ... it's also cold and damp and night time. So I start to explain about how I really like the bright white goal nets against the flat green grass and how the foggy lights bring a terrific misty ambience ... I can see their eyes  glazing and so I stop and say "you know ... fog chasing arty stuff ... I have a business card if that helps?" I give them my card as I'm pulling my camera out of the pannier ... it's a big camera with a lens that encourages repsect and credibility  ... they say OK ... that's where I took this one...

Goal lit by misty lights on green
Goal lit by misty lights on green

Now I'm not really into sport and by and large goals and ovals don't do it for me but this just looked fantastic and this picture goes some way toward giving you an idea of how the scene looked to me.

OK, I got a picture so the ride tonight (I've been out for about an hour and a half by this stage) hasn't been a total write-off photo wise and so I say thanks and goodnight to the guards who've been watching with a slightly amused eye as I've trekked around the oval photographing goal nets :-)

Riding back into the fog it suddenly clears again and I'm near a pond by the road with an intersection on the other side. The pond is still ... the reflection near perfect and so I stop and get the tripod out. I take a series of pictures extending the exposure time each subsequent frame and finally settle on about two minutes to produce this one...

Intersection reflected in a still pond
Intersection reflected in a still pond

It's not the most amazing picture I've ever taken but I like it. I love the reflection and the light stars. Two half-decent pics tonight ... it's turning out all right this fog chasing hunch...

Now I'm starting to feel cold and damp and I start to head for home. I can literally see the fog descending betweeen where I am and where I need to go and so I set off. There a patch of road which I've seen at night in the fog when driving without my camera (this actually happens a lot) where the lights arc away and the light from the lamps shines only downward leaving them appearing as if suspended ... I head there now and it looks just as I'd remembered it (I love that about my brain - the way it records a scene). I didn't bother with the tripod ... I was feeling cold and lazy ... and so set the camera on a very high sensitivity which brought in the grain which I think really suits this scene ... which scene? Well, the one below of course ;-)

Lights in the Fog
Lights in the Fog

I like this one best ... I'm going to print this one up ... not often a picture fast-stracks itself to the front of my printing queue.

What about you? Do you ever get a sudden urge to go and take pictures of something or take walks in the rain or wander about in the fog? Do tell :-)


Cranes Tweaking My Hair

It's been a little while since I put myself in front of the camera ... all this playing with flowers and having all the gear set up ... well the art just kinda got out of hand. I don't recommend sucking on a gerbera ... they really taste quite foul but for the sake of a loony selfie why not!

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This last one pretty much sums up where I am right now ... playfully surprised, speaking flowers and with cranes tweaking my hair ... there's gold and lots of fun too :-)

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

So lucky! You get three and not just one ;-)


Gone all Pop! The poster for Los Chavos

I did a shoot for 9-piece Latin band 'Los Chavos' a couple of weeks ago and have been busy processing them up. One of the parts of the commission (the kinda optional part) was to produce a poster for the band in the style Pop Art Cartoon by taking headshots of the band and reducing them effectively to solid colour paintings. I'd not tried it before but I knew it was possible so I agreed. I'd shot the headshots using the intense blue of our autumnal skies to make it easier to mask out later and replace it with whatever colour I chose.

When I first approached the task I thought 'It'll be easiest just to paint these in Photoshop using the original photo as a base.'. But then I'm not the greatest illustrator in the world and in effect I was afraid they wouldn't look any good (I'm sure I'm not alone on that front) so I went for what I thought was the safest option ... trialling and recording a series of actions incorporating various filters in Photoshop. The two main filters were 'Poster Edges' and 'Cutout' which I chose for their ability to effectively reduce the number of colours and tones I wanted in my final image. OK so after a couple of testy tweaky runs I passed all nine of the images through the action ... and? Well, the results weren't great, at least for most of the images. One worked really well, two others were alright and the remaining six were rubbish. I re-tweaked the processing and got a slightly better result: three out of the nine were now pretty close to where I wanted them to be ... that only left six (the same six as before!) still looking rubbish.

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Hmmm ... there was always the painting option... so I began to paint. Not from scratch but using an intermediary layer created during the processing action. Using my editing tablet, I selected a hard brush, sampled colours as I went and well, painted! I was soon pretty caught up in the process and while each picture took a while (about 30 minutes each I guess) I was pretty bloody satisfied with the result. 

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When I arranged all nine into the poster and coloured them up yellow, blue or red ... I literally said 'wow!'. I should note that I'm easily impressed with my own cleverness ;-)

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The members of Los Chavos love it (and all the other non-painty ones which I'll post soon) so I think I've found another artform ... who'd a thunk it?

 


2012 Plus One Collection

Way back in January I posted that my photograph Feel The Wind had been selected to appear in the 2012 Plus One Collection curated by Ivan Marakov and sponsored by the Kilgoris Project and the Photographers for Good Foundation. Well my copy arrived yesterday and looks (and smells) fantastic. A large format (12" x 12") ensures the pictures look great. The range and quality of photographs is simply awe-inspiring and I feel quite chuffed to have been included in such company. There are around 300 photographers included with a single photograph from each. Lovely :-)

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Lensbaby Love

I have a Lensbaby.

For anyone unfamiliar with these nifty devices, it's a variable focus 50mm f/2 lens. The single lens element is fully adjustable to enable a focal 'sweet spot' to be found in creative photography. A particular setting can be locked and then fine tuned by rotating any of the three protruding long screw threads. To change the aperture, a series of magnetic aperture rings is provided and held in place in front of the lens element by a series three small magnets. It's a quirky lens with a maximum aperture of f/2 and produces a wide range of focal effects. Mine is a Lensbaby 3G ... which is now sold as the 'Control Freak' (can't imagine why ... I mean look at the thing!).



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Picture courtesy Lensbaby

When I first received the lens (passed to me by a cinematographer friend who'd purchased it for cine-work but found it unsuitable) I put it on my D80 DSLR. It produced  some neat results but it wasn't a go-to lens by any means. Also the lack of adaptive exposure metering in the camera body meant more then a few frames to get the manual exposure just right ... it just seemed a bit of a chore. For this reason I had been putting off trying the Lensbaby on my new D600 body and but ... well ... whatever(!) ... so I took it along in my bag to the abandoned shops in the previous post. I put it on the camera, dialled in what I thought was my anticipated exposure setting and took a picture. Beautifully exposed! Well I wasn't expecting that! So I left the settings as is, re-composed and took another shot of something somewhere else ... and? Same! Great exposure! It was then I had one of those total 'Derr!' moments when I realised the D600 was automatically adjusting to bring in the best exposure for the scene ... it actually had very little to do with me and my settings ;-)

Now, this was fabulous news as I am essentially a lazy photographer at heart and I realised that the previous burden of adjusting exposure had been banished ... it was like I had a new lens ... which I guess I kinda do. Here's the same shops as seen through the Lensbaby ... Enjoy!

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Lensbaby love ... have you ever fallen in love with a lens (or anything for that matter...) all over again?


Downer in Decay

I took a ride up to the urban decay that is Downer Shops on the weekend … and took some photos … the shop side is truly derelict.

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One of my first group houses in the early 90′s was a weatherboard affair in Durack Street (which incidentally was the coldest house I’ve ever lived in) and Downer Shops was my local. The centre was in decline even back then. There was a dark supermarket (literally dark and dingy and not of the supernatural bent … well, not that I ever saw…) a Chinese Restaurant which was passable and an Italian which was dire. There were some others too but I’m unable to recall them.

There were people around. Over at the Community rooms on the other side of a little park (with attendant rock sculpture) in the middle of the complex a groups was packing up after a meeting. The community rooms are by contrast clean and swept … and the end of the building features a mural by Byrd. There was a little post-it note stuck onto some fresh graffiti staking a claim on what’s otherwise a remarkably graffiti-free building. The carpark was more or less subscribed and the two sporting fields were both full of soccer and families enjoying the late afternoon autumn sunshine.

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The shop side is just sliding into decay and I loved the irony of the boarded up security company shopfront. The community noticeboard lies vacant and the hand-carved bicentennial logo (someone took ages making that … with it’s little Tasmania) still stands proudly beneath a dead clock. So, while there were folks about … the centre felt truly abandoned. I understand that new development is slated for the area … maybe that’ll start this dead heart?


On Printing

Last year a local gallery sold one of my large (44"x30") prints. They're keen to sell more, it's what most galleries like doing and so I recently took in some sample images on my tablet to show them a range of images I thought would work in their space. I had a set of 10 images to show which worked either individually or as part of a series of twos or threes. We eventually settled on three; two new images and a reprint of the one that sold. Jolly good ... now I need to print them.

For me as a photographer, and as an artist I guess, there is a stage of the process which quietly freaks me out ... I'm talking about printing and You, clever reader forearmed with the reading of the post's title, will no doubt have guessed this already!

wpid-20111008_NIKON-D80__DSC3670_1_2.jpg A couple of years ago I had my first exhibition. I wanted my pictures to sing, to look as good as they possibly could and so I set about looking for a printer ... not a machine ... a person ... an artist. Someone who understands what to me is a dark art ... someone who can take what I have created and take it to another level ... namely a wall. I didn't want a commercial sausage machine with automated calibrations. I was looking for someone who would create something special. I needed to trust them with my work.

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When I first visited Stephen, who lives an hour's drive away in rural New South Wales and saw the tidy cottage which houses his printers and workstation I was quietly impressed. When he showed me the range of papers he collects and started to show me sample prints speak of black levels and colour absorbency and paper saturation levels and the depth of gloss and coatings I thought "He knows his stuff ... he certainly knows a lot more than I do..." I quietly nodded. It was when he spoke to me of his theory: that a viewer has two simultaneous reactions to a picture - the first is a response to content or subject, form and balance ... the second is a subconscious reaction to the colour and texture of the print itself and it was this subliminal aspect of the print and it's combination with the structure and form of the image the he strives for in his printing ... he got a faraway look in his eyes when as he explained it and I thought "you're the one" and so I entered a relationship with a printer. You have to trust them ... they can make or break your picture. (I'm paraphrasing ... he said far more eloquently than that) ...

There's a strict calibration setup for my monitors to ensure that the colour and tones you want are what Stephen will see when the images lands on his display. He understands implicitly how his inkjet printers interpret colour and tone and crafts an individual colour profile for each image to achieve that ... it's what he does and he does it exceptionally well.

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When the printing's complete and the prints delivered I get tense and sometimes I don't want to unroll them or open the folio case ... the images have entered the tangible world ... they're now real things. Real things that people will look at and buy and hang on their walls ... I feel a buzz from that mixed with a weird sense of responsibility ... one which I hope I never lose.

Eventually of course I do open them and look and pore ... and breathe. Prints of this size are a reasonable investment ... they represent my investment in my talent as an artist. An acceptance and belief in what I'm doing ... trying to do ... should be doing. They look fantastic of course ... what was I worried about?

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I took them to the gallery the other day and we discussed frames and mounts and wall space ... I signed them. There, now they truly are mine. Michael, the gallery owner, loved them and the first of the prints goes up on the wall this week. It's exciting.

Are you printing your pictures large?


Sausages

I like sausages. I think I've always liked sausages. I like sausages so much I came to the idea that I wanted to make my own ... it's simply ground meat and spices stuffed into a casing right? So, my friend Ashley and I decided to give it a go. I mean how hard could it be? Well it turns out ... not very! 

Bit squeamish about grinding up meat and intestinal things? Here's a completely different post.

Onward!

I have my parents original Kenwood Chef A701 which incidentally is as old as I am ... give or take ... and amongst the myriad attachments they had bought for it (many of which are still in their original boxes) is a mincer attachment. Please excuse the phone-pics ;-)

OK ... mechanism for grinding meat? Check!

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Next we need some meat. This is roughly 2kg of pork forequarter prior to being coarsely cubed.

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And after... some fat was left on to assist with the cooking...

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And first pass through the coarse grinder...

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Flavours ... We went with fresh, finely cut sage and thyme (about 2tbsp of each), some nutmeg and ginger and about 2tbsp of sea salt. The salt is the critical one ... too little and the sausage tastes like straight cooked meat and too much ... well, too salty ... see, I do something once and standing on the shoulders of Google Giants I sound like I actually know what I'm talking about! The spices were mixed through by hand with the addition of about 150ml of iced water which serves to congeal the fat. I didn't take any pictures of that bit for fear of encasing my phone in ground meat.

OK ... the next stage involves putting the filling into the casing to make sausages. What to use? Synthetic or gut? I spoke to my local butcher at Lyneham, makers of the famous Country Pride sausages and they supplied us a length of sheep intestine for the casing with instuction to run a little cold water through before fitting to the nozzle. As we did so it swelled up like ... well ... like gut... Ashley is seen here threading the casing onto the filling nozzle. In case you're wondering it is exactly like fitting a very long and slippery organic condom... there ... you always wanted to know that huh?

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Here's the nozzle fitted to the end of the mincing attachment ready to be stuffed. I'm not going to share what I thought this resembled...

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OK! Fire that sucker up and lets make a sausage!

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Certainly looks like a sausage! And here's where we ran into trouble (and it wasn't because I was too busy documenting to notice what was going on ;-) ) but the Kenwood mincer with the nozzle attached kept getting blocked necessitating the regular dismantling every 40cm length of sausage or so. The reason is the design of the grinding filter and I think the worm screw was pushing meat to the plate faster than it could be pushed through. After several dismantles and scraping out of tangled meat ... definitely not a job for the squeamish ... and the application of brute force, we had ... you guessed it! Sausages!

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We then cleaned up (how responsible is that!) poured some more wine and set about cooking a couple to sample them... it was about midnight by this stage...

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And the result!

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And they tasted bloody fantastic! It's always a cool moment in creation when you stand back and look at something you've made and think 'We did that!'. Going to do it again? Absolutely! The only part of the process I didn't enjoy was the repeated dismantling and hand-clearing of the mincer during the filling of the casing. The Kenwood really isn't the machine for that part of the job. It did great on the initial grind ... just not the filling. I'm looking into a dedicated sausage stuffer and we'll try again after that. In the meantime I'm off to a BBQ this afternoon where our sausages are the guests of honour ;-)

Dee-lish!

 


Optical Galaxy and then some ... a trip to Cameron Offices

On Sunday afternoon I went for a little photowalk. I went up to the Cameron Offices, once a shining example of 1970's Brutalist architecture and future vision ... half has been demolished and the other half transformed into student accommodation ... still, amongst the concrete there is a semblance of the vision of the architects and designers ... in between concrete angularity and rigidity there flow streams and reflective ponds, stark white lift wells and sculpture. Optical Galaxy by Canadian sculptor Gerald Gladstone (1923-2005) particularly caught my eye ...

"Commissioned for Cameron Offices as part of the Town Square located opposite Mall 9. It was created by the Canadian sculptor, Gerald Gladstone who was striving to express humanity's concern with its position in intergalactic space. The sculpture comprises eleven truncated fins each standing 7 metres high that are curved to represent the form of the sine waves used in measuring light waves. On top of each fin is a Lucite block in which is suspended a sculpture of welded steel road to represent the swirls of planets in the galaxy. A specially designed water cannon emits a cascade of water over the work." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Gladstone)

The piece has been moved from its original location opposite Mall 9 and now stands somewhat external to the main complex and easily accessible although it lacks any form of descriptive plaque or insightful inscription ... I would love to see it in action with its custom water cannon but sadly I think it may be defunct.

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What about you? where was your last photowalk? Did you take any pictures? Sometime I go on a photowalk and leave the camera in my bag the entire time ;-)

ps ... thanks to everyone who let me know just how much the gallery option didn't work for them ... we're back to inline images again :-)


Collective Thoughts

I have been getting back into taking pictures again. This follows on from my moving and renovation experiences late last year when I took almost no pictures of anyone or anything except the progress (and at times ... total lack of progress) on the renovations to my flat. It was a period of perhaps six or seven months where I took next to no pictures purely for the pleasure of taking pictures ... it was like my photo-mojo had vamoosed. I like to think of it now as a kind of enforced sabbatical ... a time when I reflected upon other things and new directions ... though I recall at the time finding it confusing and debilitating.

I mean, after a while you start to think about whether you'll be able to take pictures again. You look back on the remarkable things you've captured and published before but they feel like they were taken by a different person and there's so much going on in your mind, things are moving so quickly, that even beginning to write a post feels like it's passed before you even start.

I knew the mojo would return ... I could feel it circling me. I began to see pictures again ... the ones the you compose when you aren't carrying a camera. You see the picture ... the light, the crop, the depth and the colour even though you didn't actually take it. Truth be told that's how most of my pictures are captured ... I have a large mental store of those ones ... the ones I saw but didn't take.

Enter The Ellis Collective; a six piece folk-rock (also referred to as 'Bloke-folk' ;-) ) group from Canberra. I'd shot them before and we were both very happy with the results. I met with Matty Ellis (the large chap with the shaved head) in early March and we tossed around some ideas. There were to be two separate shoots ... the first of the band having a picnic and the second ... well ...

Matty had this idea of a shot with band at night standing in front of a car's headlights and I began to think of how I'd do it. This was one of those times when you know technically how you would take a shot but have never actually taken a shot like it. I knew from my Strobist readings many years ago (that's a great site if you're into using any kind of flash in your photography btw) how to expose for the background lighting and illuminate the foregound with speedlights or flash.  I knew I could do it and I wanted to do it and the band were into it but I'd never attempted it before ... and certainly not with paying clients! There was a real risk that we would come away with nothing ... that I'd assembled the group in the dark for nothing ;-)

The shot called for a stretch of deserted road ... I used trusty Google Maps and found a spot amongst the fields of Pialligo out near the airport, arrived at sunset and began to set up. We moved a car into position and I got the band to stand in front but it became clear that I needed more light ... so we moved another two cars to just out of frame ... now we had plenty of light :-)

Now for the speedlights, I used two (Nikon SB-910 & SB-800) atop two mid light stands on either side of the band. The SB-910 on the right of the frame sported a Honly speed grid to provide harsh, directional light across the band. I controlled the power of the speedlights using the the D600 camerabuilt in flash as a commander. The camera uses the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) to alloow the body to remotely control the power setting of speedlights. The camera was atop a tripod and the pictures shot through my 70-200 f/2.8.

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The road was dusty and I got the band to kick up some dust to produce a smokey effect. One hassle with that was there a light breeze blowing across the frame from right to left ... I left the camera (with my remote in my pocket) and went down to band to get some dust in the air. However, the remote sensor on the Nikon is on the left side of the body and wouldn't trigger from my upwind side ... for these pictures I threw the dust, ran across the frame, fired the remote and got the picture ... fun! I do like a picture you have to do some work for :-)

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I even did a lighting diagram just for you :-)

Ellis Collective lighting diagram

 

And some from the picnic shoot too :-)

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Man Up Geoff!

Man Up Geoff! says the photo-bombing carp
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So, my ADSL went kaput last Monday night sometime. ISP checked all they could, have sent replacement modem (which still hasn't arrived) not that it's likely to do any good as the line tech who came this afternoon discovered that the line appears to have been disconnected at the Civic exchange. A line trace from the exchange end returns a line length of zero meters!

That's fine, I guess, they just need to reconnect it right? You'd think so. But then I receive an SMS from my ISP late this arvo saying my fault requires 'further investigation' and is expected to be rectified no later than 7pm 15th March! Tha Fuck? 15th of bloody March!

Grumbles bloody mumbles.

That's right Geoff just MTFU... it's likely a healthy thing really.
So now I'm trying to post to my blog via my phone. It's a bit slower!


Lucie Thorne - The Front - 24th February 2013

I had the pleasure, in between passing cells of heavy rain, to see Lucie Thorne perform at my local pub/gallery/cafe The Front yesterday afternoon. Lucie sings finely crafted stories of longing with aching melody and feeling. The Front provides an intimate setting to see performers and Lucie did not disappoint.

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Apparently she's become quite famous!

You can visit her here.

Lucie Thorne - The Front - 24th February 2013


Monochrome self portrait with white light bars across my face

The Wind In My Heart

Monochrome self portrait with white light bars across my face

Searching, it's a common theme here on this blog ... searching for that indescribable piece that falls into place the moment we find it. The thing you don't know what you're looking for until you've found it. That thing.

I've been looking for pictures to post ... this is Pictures with Words after all ... but I've come to realise over the course of this search that I'm grown dissatisfied with my body of work. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike them, they remain good photographs but they don't represent where I am now. What to do about that? Well take some more obviously! Like this one taken this afternoon as the sun was beginning to set out the window of the flat. Those beams of incandescence, hot and bright. I felt them as I closed my eyes and breathed.

The wind in my heart

The wind in my heart

The dust in my head

The dust in my head

The wind in my heart

The wind in my heart

(come to) drive them away

Drive them away.


Listening Wind, Talking Heads, Remain In Light


Bokeh firework

Happy Birthday ... to Me!

Bokeh firework

So it's my birthday today ... the hour and nine minutes that's left of it anyways :-)

It's been a fun day despite having to go to work for a large part of it ... I got to have cake and champagne with the family and red wine afterward and catch up on my blog and all the lovely people who've stopped by on various forums to say hello and wish me well. It's been nice ... a laid-back kind of birthday and to celebrate I've included a bokeh firework shot on Saturday night looking toward Darling Harbour in Sydney. Gosh, that was a fun weekend ... nothing to do but decide what to do next, take photographs ... or not ... I walked a long way.

So, Happy Birthday to Me! :-)

What's your ideal way to spend a birthday? Soaking bath? Skydive? Zilch? Everyone? Noone? Chocolate!

Do tell :-)