Sydney Harbour - 5:50am

The view of Sydney Harbour from our hotel one morning this past weekend. I don't want you thinking I've become some kind of early-bird ... I mean you can if you want to but it's just not true ;-)

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This was taken leaning out of the window a ways to get the left pylon of the Harbour Bridge in shot. It's also shot handheld at 1/30th of a second with an aperture of f/2.8 and ISO 6400... I mention this only because it demonstrates my laziness in that I didn't use my tripod which was sitting on the table next to the camera ... mind you the tripod wouldn't have got the camera out the window so anyways ... err.. was there a point to this story?

Here's a second picture taken at sunset the previous afternoon from the ferry between McMahons Point and Circular Quay. There must have been a bushfire burning inland which brought the smoke across the sun and created the haze visible beyond the Sydney Opera House in the sunrise picture.

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In an interesting aside I posted this image on Google+ on Saturday afternoon and by last night it had been viewed over 60,000 times ... I guess people like it :-)


Oh Japan 2 - Kyoto

Kyoto ... a two hour journey from Tokyo on the Shinkansen (bullet train) was beautiful. Less hectic than Tokyo and steeped in history, The original Imperial capital. However, I'm presenting today one of my favourite pictures from the trip.

We arrived in Kyoto early in the evening and after settling into our hotel and taking advantage of the traditional Japanese hot bathing facilities at the hotel we ventured out for some dinner in the old town. Walking back toward our hotel after unsuccessfully trying to find some nightlife ... the place we were recommended was closed(!) ... we came across these cavernous markets the Nishiki Market (錦市場, Nishiki Ichiba). They stretch across five blocks and at midnight when we came across them they were largely deserted. We could then only imagine what they must look like during daylight trading hours ... which we did upon visiting them the very next day :-)

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Midnight in the Teramachi Street market

This place was huge and we walked the length of this particular covered street.

During the day we sampled local foods in the Nishiki food market ... like the picture above but packed with food shops. I sampled this delicious grilled octopus on a stick ... the head had been stuffed with a quail egg and it was utterly delicious ... would you try one?

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Marinated grilled octopus stuffed with quail egg on stick anyone?

 


Oh Japan

Oh Japan indeed! In the first week of July I took a spontaneous trip to Japan. When I say spontaneous I mean that it was less than 24 hours from deciding 'hey, let's go to Japan!', booking tickets and driving to Sydney at 2am to catch the flight! It was a blur but oh so rewarding. For reasons unbeknownst to me I have waited nearly four weeks to share this and some of the images from the trip.

We flew from Sydney into Narita, Tokyo and spent the first 3 nights in different districts of Tokyo - Asakusa, Ginza and Shinjuku before taking the bullet train to Kyoto and spending time in and around Arashiyama and the city of Kyoto. I have long had a fascination with Japan, the culture, food and design all have special places in my heart. Also the idea of being immersed in a place that is so foreign to my own. Oh and I love neon lights and the cities did not disappoint ;-)

I took loads of pictures, some of which are presented below and some which will be posted in future posts. Those of you with whom I communicate regularly will know I have been in somewhat of a creative doldrums of late ... personally I blame winter(!) but there are deeper reasons than things seasonal. I'm bringing you some pictures today from in and around Arashiyama, a smallish city northeast of Kytoto.

This first picture was taken at Arashiyama Station at sunset as we arrived back from a day in Kyoto.

Arashiyama Station at sunset
Arashiyama Station at sunset

This next picture was the view from the balcony of the traditional Japanese-style place we stayed in in Arashiyama ... sunsets eh? The place was amazing and we had shared some very special moments here.

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Arashiyama is famous for, amongst many other things, it's giant bamboo groves. This place, like so many others in Japan was bristling with people but there weren't so many in the frame when you turned your gaze upwards ;-)

Black against the green
Black against the green

There's a river (the Hozu-gawa River) that's simply beautiful with long boats used for cormorant fishing and of course ferrying visitors around.

Anyways I hope you've enjoyed this little photo tour of this part of Japan... I'm currently working out how I can get back there :-)

I'll be posting more pictures over the next little while (now that I appear to have released myself from my writer's block!) so please stay tuned :-)

Have you been to this part of the world? Did you like it? Have you never been but always wanted to go? Do tell me in the comments below :-)

 


Just because: Butterflies

I was up in Far North Queensland (that's FNQ by the way!) last week with the kids visiting relatives in Cairns and Townsville and I had the opportunity to travel up to Kuranda in the Barron Gorge National Park. It was hot. Barron Gorge NP is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. It was hot.  Whilst there we visited the Butterfly Sanctuary and so here are some pictures of butterflies ... had I been a truly dedicated type I'd have annotated these with their proper species names ... but you can see that I haven't ... perhaps you didn't even notice until I'd pointed it out? Oh well, it was hot*  :-)

So, just because ... butterflies :-)

More pictures of the trip to come ... but first you know ... butterflies :-)

Links

*Hot being a comfort index in Cairns of 42.8°C with 75% humidity.

Did I mention it was hot?


Trust in your intuitions

Once I gave the headphones a thorough once-over exam, I tried them on. As I mentioned, they have a classic over-the-ear style and just looking at them, the padding on the ear pieces seem adequate and the peak of the headband seemed to be a bit lacking, but you don’t really know comfort unless you try on the product. So, I slipped the headphones on and found them to be exquisitely comfortable. Once I gave the headphones a thorough once-over exam, I tried them on. As I mentioned, they have a classic over-the-ear style and just looking at them, the padding on the ear pieces seem adequate and the peak of the headband seemed to be a bit lacking, but you don’t really know comfort unless you try on the product. So, I slipped the headphones on and found them to be exquisitely comfortable.

If no one hates you, no one is paying attention. If attention is what you want for vanity, confidence, or, hell — to make a decent living — then know that it’s not instantaneous. Every single person that you’re currently paying attention to, at some point in their lives, was in your exact position.

You need to be
true to yourself

Just like every other human on the planet, I have epically awesome days and days when life just shits on my face. And while I can’t stand most self-help (see: tired quotes over stock photography on Instagram), sometimes I need a little pick-me-up. And most of the time, in order to get out of a slump (because my brain leans more into math/science than anything else), I need to drop a logic bomb on my ass.

Yes, this is a long article. But here’s the thing — if you’re reading this in your inbox and are already like, “fuck this!” delete it. No hard feelings. If you’re reading this in a browser on a website, and you see how tiny the scroll-bar is because of how far you still have to scroll to get to the bottom, close this tab and go back to 140-character tidbits of advice. Still with me? Phew. Just had to weed out all the folks from points: #1, #4 and #8. Welcome friends, onward we go.

Remember to
never give up

If no one hates you, no one is paying attention. If attention is what you want for vanity, confidence, or, hell — to make a decent living — then know that it’s not instantaneous. Every single person that you’re currently paying attention to, at some point in their lives, was in your exact position. They kept at it and worked enough so that others started listening. Also know that if no one is watching, you can experience true freedom. Dance in your underwear. Write entirely for yourself. Swear like there’s a going-out-of-business sale on “fucks” and “shits.” Find yourself — not in some coming-of-age hippie way involving pasta and ashrams— but in a way that helps you draw your own line in the sand for what matters and what doesn’t. Do what you want to do, just because you want to do that thing. This will build confidence that will come in handy later.

Once I gave the headphones a thorough once-over exam, I tried them on. As I mentioned, they have a classic over-the-ear style and just looking at them, the padding on the ear pieces seem adequate and the peak of the headband seemed to be a bit lacking, but you don’t really know comfort unless you try on the product. So, I slipped the headphones on and found them to be exquisitely comfortable. Once I gave the headphones a thorough once-over exam, I tried them on. As I mentioned, they have a classic over-the-ear style and just looking at them, the padding on the ear pieces seem adequate and the peak of the headband seemed to be a bit lacking, but you don’t really know comfort unless you try on the product. So, I slipped the headphones on and found them to be exquisitely comfortable.

If no one hates you, no one is paying attention. If attention is what you want for vanity, confidence, or, hell — to make a decent living — then know that it’s not instantaneous. Every single person that you’re currently paying attention to, at some point in their lives, was in your exact position. They kept at it and worked enough so that others started listening. Also know that if no one is watching, you can experience true freedom. Dance in your underwear. Write entirely for yourself. Swear like there’s a going-out-of-business sale on “fucks” and “shits.” Find yourself — not in some coming-of-age hippie way involving pasta and ashrams— but in a way that helps you draw your own line in the sand for what matters and what doesn’t. Do what you want to do, just because you want to do that thing. This will build confidence that will come in handy later.


John Deakin’s photograph of George Dyer in the Reece Mews Studio, ca. 1964, Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane (Image courtesy Art Gallery of NSW)

On Francis Bacon, patina and love

John Deakin’s photograph of George Dyer in the Reece Mews Studio, ca. 1964, Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane (Image courtesy Art Gallery of NSW)

 

In February of this year I travelled to Sydney for what really was a rather Arty weekend. I saw the Anish Kapoor show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Circular Quay (very good ... so good I took the kids up to see it a couple of weeks ago) ... I saw Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry performing at the Sydney Opera House in their legendary duo (+ band) Dead Can Dance which brought me to tears on more than one occasion with it's power and sheer beauty.

I also went to see the Francis Bacon show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Now let's get this out there first ... I'm not a huge fan of Francis Bacon ... none of his works feature near the top of any of my lists of favourite art but I do respect his work. I find it uncomfortable and violent, visceral and gutsy. I like that I feel something from his art even if it makes me uncomfortable. There's a certain violence in his work ... it's been said that he was ismply repsonding to the violence and opression he saw and felt around him. I think he was brave or perhaps he just didn't care ... I respect that he kept going and going ... thoroughly obsessed by his work and not caring whether it was liked or not. I think he did care and the angst in his pictures is, to me a demonstration of just how deeply he felt.

There was a large collection of his paintings and sketches, over 50 in all, along with books and and detritus from his studio. Then there were the photographs... they were what affected me the most. The photos were placed in simple frames that were deep enough to allow the crumpled prints to breathe. The photos were scrunched and ripped, taped back together, creased and stained, torn ... I imagined them cried over ... the tears falling onto them after the passing of his lover, I imagined them being scrunched into a ball and thrown in anger after an argument, unfolded and pressed flat by hands, left under whatever else occupied the artist's mind at the time... they had patina.

In short: they were loved

At a time when our culture is obsessed by perfection, the smooth and the wrinkle free, these photographs spoke of life and how it is messy and sticky and visceral and at times violent. I think we forget that or it somehow suits us to forget that. I realised I had been looking at them a long time transfixed by these thoughts and resolved to write them down ... to blog them ... I forgot - distracted by whatever else was going on in my life ... the new and shiny smooth wrinkle free objects of my attention.

I said I'm not a huge fan of Francis Bacon but re-redading my post I think just might be.

Are you moved by art? ... I think some of you might be...


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 :-)


Sydney Archistracts

A term I found in the Plus "Archistract" or an Architectural Abstract describes seeing a building in an abstract way ... it's something I like to try when I'm visiting a new city (or a city that's not my city). The trick for this technique, the real trick, is to look up. These are from my walking around Sydney last weekend. Archistracts seem to work best in monochrome ... which suits me at the moment because I'm on a real monochrome kick at the moment :-)

 

 

 

 


Sydney: Anish Kapoor - Museum of Contemporary Art

I have just returned from a glorious weekend in Sydney. Well, glorious for the people and things I saw ... the weather was cold and wet and so unlike Summer. The main purpose of the trip was see Dead Can Dance perform at the Sydney Opera House on the Sunday night. DCD are essentially two people; Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry. They have been working together for nearly 30 years with their first release coming in 1984 and their latest work Anastasis released last year. The performance was outstanding and supported by another 5 musicians. If you're unfamiliar with their work and you have 6 minutes of guaranteed 'alone-time' click here. There's no 'clip' with this one ... just a visual of the cover art for the album The Serpents Egg. The track was also featured on the Baraka Soundtrack. They performed this last night about half way through their set and I wept ... this piece always moves me and hearing it live has now somehow made my life more complete.

Anyways, I digress! I also saw the Anish Kapoor show at the Museum of Contemporary Art down on Circular Quay. This show is his first for Australia and didn't disappoint. There are many visually challenging pieces in the show and the scale of some is quite breathtaking. Like, for example My Red Homeland (below). From the catalog;

My Red Homeland is a monumental wax sculpture that consists of 25 tons of paraffin wax mixed with a deep red pigment. In this enormous circular sculpture, a large motorised steel blade slowly traces the circumference of the structure, which measures 12 metres in diameter. Each rotation of the blade takes about one hour, as it cuts a course through the wax, dissecting and reshaping it into endless new forms.

I know ... to make this work, I think we need some wax ... how about 25 tons of wax! And I want it red, blood red, so when it's cut and churned it resembles meat ... yes ... like that, flesh. Visceral, cut, shaped and continually reworked (once an hour) ... quite brilliant really.

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The scale alone is enough to grab you in.

I went up to Sydney with my good friend David and his wife Thao. David's a huge DCD fan and he drove us all up to Sydney for our weekend of culture. Here he is in the picture below photographing Kapoor's Memory, a 24 ton hollow steel construction that required the roof to be temporarily removed to lower it into its install space.

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Now, apart from these rather colossal installations, there are a lot of pieces that sincerely mess with your visual perceptions of the space you find yourself. Kapoor uses non-reflective pigments in a number of pieces which really works to mess with you perception ... I didn't take any pictures of those ... it would have  been pointless really ... you have stand in front of it and experience them yourself ... sorry about that.

I did take a picture of When I was Pregnant (below)

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Oh and there was a whole room of very shiny S-curves and C-curves all incredibly polished that served to reflect and cross-reflect the room and the people in it in a myriad different ways. I spoke to one of the assistants who explained to me that the artist has a team of specialist polishers flown over from New York specifically to polish these installations ... the polishing took nine days for the MCA show. They did a bloody good job!

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I really enjoyed this show by Anish Kapoor. It runs until the 13th of April 2013.

How's about you? Been to visit any particularly fine art recently.


Bali Impressions


Some pictures from a trip that already feels like years ago :-)


Long exposure of fire twirling

Something in the wine

Long exposure of fire twirling

Three and a half seconds of dragged shuttery, fire-twirly goodness for your viewing pleasure. Have a good weekend ... what are you up to?


Volcano Gunung Batur on the island of Bali refracted through a glass sphere

Gunung Batur

Volcano Gunung Batur on the island of Bali refracted through a glass sphere

 

Oculus time again. This is a picture of Gunung Batur (Mount Batur) on the island of Bali. It is an active volcano and this picture was was taken from the rim of the caldera which was formed around 25,00 years ago. The present cone rises some 700m above Lake Batur which has formed on the caldera floor. The last major lava flows were in 1968 and can be seen clearly as dark basaltic out purings out from the main cone but the volcano urmbles and emits steam regularly. It looks and sounds remote but there are literally hundereds of restaurants and tea houses stretched along this, the southwest part of the rim forming part of the town of Kintamani.

Nearby is a Volcano Museum which wasn't there last time we visited and contains some great models and geological samples. My eldest (7), who's totally into seismographs at the moment (even more so after watching 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' twice on the plane on the way over...) thought it fantastic. We found a little staircase in one corner of the museum labelled 'Observation Room'. We ascended the stairs to find a little bright room with several tripods with high powered binoculars pointing vaguely at the volcano. The tripod mounts are very wobbly and the scopes could not be focussed ... oh well. On the way back down we stopped at a little glass door where we found the resident seismologist who seemed completely chuffed to have some interested visitors. He welcomed us in and showed us the seismograph which had a trace on its drum from a tremor that morning. Mr 7 was in heaven!

Of course my oculus came to Bali with me and although it stayed in my camera bag most of the time ... it came out whenever I remembered it was there ... like this occasion. Shot using my favourite lens my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4.


Boy walking down back streets of Ubud in Bali

Walking A Different Path

Boy walking down back streets of Ubud in Bali

Walking a different path. Travel ... one of the best things we can do for both ourselves and our children. As a family we travelled ... a lot. I changed schools every two or three years and after a while you make friends like a traveller makes friends ... knowing that it's a temporary thing ... one or other of you will be gone soon. You don't put down roots, they'll only be torn up in a couple of years. You learn to be compact and self-reliant. On the other hand you get to see things other people do not. Countries that no longer exist. Ways of life that have disappeared forever. I remember seeing Chinese junks in Penang and Singapore harbours. Orchard Road with wooden shops before it became high-rise. Islands before they became the footprint for mega-resorts. It wasn't that long ago either.

I remember returning to Australia, to a new school again after one of these trips and finding people simply didn't believe that I'd been overseas ... that I was making it all up ... that everywhere was simply the same as it was here. How I longed to be able to teleport them  to walk along one of those streets, or to the center of an asian market where you chose the chicken you wanted for dinner, went away and returned to find it newly converted into fresh-plucked chicken ... still vitally warm ... or you could stay and watch. That would learn them ... maybe.

I believe it's vitally important to walk down another street. A place you've never been ... surrounded by people living a life completely different to yours (albeit superficially ... I mean we're all essentially looking for love and warmth and food) to see how people live. It changes the way you view the world and your place within it ... at times if only to realise just how lucky you are to have the things you have and often take for granted.

I took the picture above on a recent family trip to Ubud in Bali. I liked that it showed that essential nature of travel ... walking a different path.

Do you travel? Have you walked another path?