Last lot before I am off to Kyoto. Not sure if I am going to have much time for photos but I will try!
There is a project I am working on which takes in much of the feedback I received (thanks, everyone!) and will hopefully come to fruition at the end of the year. In the meantime I am going to be just snapping what I see and making an occasional trip where possible. Stay tuned for Kyoto in Winter!
# 1 Crazy hazy Melbourne sky (driving home from work), #2 Little lady #3 Sad kid #4 Construction begins at Moorabbin airport #5 Skies at Ricketts Point #6 A 'fountain'(?) at Music precinct, Monash Uni
If you are fascinated by night scenery like I am, there are a few obstacles in shooting an acceptable pic besides the usual challenges of seeing an interesting scene, composing it correctly and shooting at just the right moment. The lack of light makes it harder to get anything sharp and the colours often come out funny. I also try not to be intrusive when people are having a good time, and not to prey on the vulnerable, though sometimes their stories are begging to be told.
These images are from a family holiday on Bass Coast, Victoria. For those of us who are amateurs but still passionate about photography, there are many possibilities to take interesting images without making it a full-time thing or driving our family up the wall. Just having the camera around, ready for the right moment and still being there with our loved ones for their sake, rather than the image, the right moments present themselves! Sometimes it can be trying on the family, I know - sorry about the long unscheduled stop in Whiskey Bay!
Last one for the year, folks! All the best to all of you and if this little project matters to you at all, spare a few seconds and leave some feedback, please.
Wednesday morning was not the explosion of light and colour I was hoping for, but a misty grey morning has its own mood.
Having woken up before 5am on Sunday morning I decided to meet the dawn and it took me to these wetlands somewhere on the outskirts of Mordialloc. There was not a soul in the area, except for the birds and this symphony of light and colour! By contrast, the last two were taken at dusk few days before that.
Melbourne is an incredible people zoo and a little stroll yields some interesting glimpses of its culture and the surprising configurations of its inhabitants and structures.
Yes, it's an awful word (Photography + Philosophy).
Since getting this website together I started to examine what I look for in an image, and what it is that I try to convey. There is an ancient Chinese Buddhist philosophical school called the Huayen or Flower Garland school, that taught about the principle (li) and the manifestation (shi). The principle is ineffable, inexpressible, intertwined and inseparable from everything else, while the manifestation is specific and concrete.
In each dust-mote of these worlds
Are countless worlds and Buddhas...
From the tip of each hair of Buddha's body
Are revealed the indescribable Pure Lands...
The indescribable infinite Lands
All ensemble in a hair's tip [of Buddha].
It kind of echos with the Platonic noumenon and phenomenon but is actually very experiential like all Buddhist philosophy and relies heavily on paradox and non-standard logic. So what does it have to do with photography?
Each image is a specific scene, a particular moment and yet it attempts to capture or allude to something universal, something of more relevance that an accidental arrangement of form and light. But this 'universal' must of necessity be ineffable, else it is trite and false. "When the doors of perception are cleansed, everything will appear as it is, infinite."
As my art teacher, Joseph, relentlessly tried to show us, each thing, each moment has its character, its story, its poetry, and it is our job to see it. This story, this poetry is what alludes to the universal. And somehow we have to convey this story vividly but faithfully. Hmmm.... I am sure I fail nearly every time...
Recently I shot a bunch of day-lit sea scenes. Mid-day light is something most photographers avoid - it gives too much contrast and not enough colour. On the practical side it was the only opportunity I had to shoot that location (Mornington Peninsula) and it also felt wrong to just give up on harsh mid-day light. So what is the character of mid-day sea scenery? The light is strong, burning and blinding, especially in the first few images when the sun was shining openly. Few shadows are present and objects don't appear fully three-dimensional. It simplifies, it reduces, like an overpowering presence that makes everything else appear less than it is. Our eyes dart about the scene, the pupil dilating and opening depending on the brightness, attempting to recover as much detail as we can. The camera exposes once and then the photographer can try to recover some detail hidden away in the megabytes using software to approximate how it actually looked to the eye, or even enhance it.
Next I explored the bunkers and the tunnels at Fort Nepean. These old and disused military structures with their peeling paint and plaster, sure have a story to tell. The beaches are out of bounds due to unexploded bombs one of which I seem to have found in the 5th pic above. But the tunnels and the engine house with their windows facing the beautiful scenery or deeper into the darkness were what I really took to.
On the way back home, the light turned a little misty and as we headed towards evening, we passed by the amazingly quiet sea at low tide at Dromana. I was too tempted to just pass it by. It was an incredible scenery...
I was just asked by a friend what equipment I use which gives me an excuse to start gathering my thoughts on this big and painful topic. As some of you know over the past few years I've been suffering from a bad case of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) which means I've had my greedy little fingers on everything from beautiful little Leica aspherical lenses to Sigzilla 3/5.6, quaint rarities like Kern Macro-Switar 50/1.9 and Som Berthiot 25/0.95 and more than one camera too. Right now I mostly use Nikon D600 with modest Tamron 24-70/2.8 Di VC USD, Nikon 70-200/2.8 VR and a bunch of primes including Zeiss 25/2, Sigma 35/1.4, Zeiss Macro 50/2, Noct-Nikkor 58/1.2 and Zeiss Macro 100/2. I also still use my little Sony NEX-5n with Leica Elmarit E55 28/2.8, Kern Macro-Switar 50/1.9 and Leica APO-Summicron 90mm ASPH all via the Metabones Speedbooster. Does one need all of these to take good pictures? The answer, of course, is 'no' - it is a luxury. There are however, a few benefits and if money is not a concern, then by all means, get lots of lenses and play with them. But if you don't, you can still take very good pictures with a smaller camera bag than mine, for sure. So what does one need and what are the benefits of having fancy lenses (and cameras)?
First it depends what kind of photography you want to do. I'm going to talk about 6 basic categories of lenses which are useful for some types of photography but not so much others.
1. The (ultra)-wides: for wide vistas, architechtural exteriors and interiors - they are able to fit a great deal into the frame and for a special perspective- they make near objects big and distant objects very small. There are some nice examples here. Wide angle lenses like 35mm equivalent can be a good everyday lens especially for a photographer who likes to get in close1.and 2.
2. The standard lenses are so called because they capture a frame similar to what we normally see in terms of the angle (width). A typical kit zoom (24-70mm) includes the wide angle and the standard, as well as a mild telephoto. A standard prime is typically 50mm and they are generally very good! If you are not really interested in equipment, spend a few hundred $$ on a prime 50mm to see if you can discern any difference from your kit zoom. If not, then your mortgage is safe. Otherwise, you may embark on a great adventure that some unsympathetic souls have labelled LBA (Lens Buying Addiction).
3. True macro lenses is something you need if you like to shoot small critters very closely. They have a label 1:1 which means they reproduce the object up to life-size on the sensor. They also tend to be very sharp and good for other things too. With a macro you can focus very close whereas with most lenses you will occasionally find yourself unable to focus because you are too close to the object. Some lenses have a label macro when they are not true macros, but simply to say that you can focus closer than usual with them, perhaps even into the "macro" range like 1:3, which can be handy, but they are not 'true' macros.
4. Telephoto lenses are obviously for shooting things that are further away, but they can also be handy for blurring the background to isolate the subject as in a portrait. The more 'tele' the lens is, the more it will isolate the subject that is in focus, all other things being equal. Telephoto lenses do vary in quality a lot, they have different wide-open (lowest value) aperture (which limits how much light they are able to let in), different levels of correction for various aberrations, flare, some come with handy vibration reduction and of course sharpness and contrast. The big caveat is that the best ones are usually very large and heavy and this is going to matter in many practical applications.
5. Prime vs Zoom vs Super-zoom. Prime lenses generally tend to be better optically, but in terms of functionality, they tend to be faster, ie let more light in (allow lower value aperture), which makes it more feasible to shoot in dim light and to control how much of the frame would be in focus (depth of field). They are smaller and lighter usually and importantly they are easier to get used to - after a while you know what the frame will look like. But of course they are fixed focal length, which means you can't zoom. Zooms have gotten heaps better, even the kit zooms are often not bad, especially away from their boundaries at either the focal length or the aperture but superzooms, the ultimate in convenience, still has a long way to go. So if you've invested in a very good camera, such lenses are not going to take full advantage of that sensor - they will blur the image with their optics.
6. Specialty lenses. These include Perspective Correction or Tilt-shift lenses which are very good for architectural photos where you don't want your buildings tapering off and can also move the plane of focus to create weird effect and Lens Baby optics for all sorts of bizarre blurs and effects.
So if there is a style of photography you gravitate towards, get a lens that does the trick and as you begin to feel its limitations, upgrade.
Brands? Modern lenses are pretty damn good. Even cheap ones are reasonable. The law of diminishing returns kicks in big time with lenses. An $800 Sigma 35/1.4 to $5500 Leica Summilux 35/1.4 Asph FLE is going to make very little difference if you manage to stick both on the same camera that is. Of course the Leica is heaps smaller, fits a Leica body (yes, they do make digital camera) and looks the price. All major manufactures produce some very good lenses (and some that are quite average). Most of the difference will show up in the richness of the image - tonal range, colour fidelity, the 'pop' 3-d -like quality of the image that can make it very lifelike. But what people seldom hear is that much of the difference comes from postprocessing the image well - the work that happens on the computer after the shot has been taken. If you are wondering where to invest your money and time, then getting good photoprocessing software and learning it well, is probably a better investment than splurging out on the latest optical marvel.
Conclusion: It's a jungle out there as far as equipment goes! But the good news is that even the basic kit lens with a dSLR is already a powerful instrument and once you begin to feel its limitations, by all mean there are alternatives. But whenever you see a special look to a photo, chances are it is the light, the skill, the filter or most likely the post-processing more so than the lens. Lenses can and do make some difference as far as what kind of scenes you can capture and how rich your final image can be, of course, but rarely as much as the price of the best ones would seem to suggest.
If you're adventurous and want to see some great quality on little budget, get the little Sony NEX-5n ($280 used), a Metabones Contax G to Nex adapter ($120), and some of the Contax G lenses. The cheapest is probably 90/2.8 ($220) and is already excellent, but the most practical is 45/2 ($450). These are superb, small and easy to use on the 5n if you are not afraid of Manual Focus. Compare it to the Sony kit zoom and see what the fuss is about. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words.
Hello folks! Once I may actually succeed in making this background white, but for now, please accept my apologies if your eyes hurt (hopefully not from the photos).
A friend recently said that he couldn't really see why I took most of my pictures, what was the point. After all, many of them are quite ordinary scenes, people in the street, some boring buildings or a construction site. So I thought maybe an explanation or a kind of an apology, is in order.
Reflecting how photography has evolved for me, I realized that what it currently means to me is simply learning to see. Whether seeing a majestic sunset, to see all of its aspects and how they interplay, so that the awesome colours, the play of light and shadow, as well as the balance of forms can all be seen, captured and conveyed in a finished image. Or simply seeing a lonely old man in a slice of urban environment, further isolated by the photographic frame, a slice of a unique world, a glimpse of a life lived, a mysterious microcosm, and finding something special, something universal in this ordinary scene, is what I attempt to do.
It is great to capture a special moment, something that is rare and immediately appealing, something that tells a compelling story, like a tender kiss against a stark backdrop of suits hurrying to work. I like such photography and every now and then a moment like this presents itself like in the Friendship picture, but such moments are rare and more often it is the ordinary that I try to see the special in and convey in an image. It is special to lie on the ground and observe a little bug or get close to a flower and learn its story. It is special to take a portrait of a person that captures a little bit of their timeless essence or the unaffected smile of a child, capturing a little of that freedom that we wistfully recall as a distant memory.
I hope you see some of this reflected in the images. It pays to linger sometimes. The image is silent and our eyes dart from one thing to another all too quickly. Pausing may help hear this silent song.
In the meantime, I am going to be posting new photos here rather than the old facebook. please check in!