Over Vivid Sydney

Over Vivid Sydney

Previously, I mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of coverage of Vivid Sydney’s opening night on Friday. Well, I wasn’t providing coverage from a conventional vantage point, for a simple reason: I was on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It turns out that the Harbour Bridge Climb invited around 130 climbers culled from the family and friends of its staff to don some LED high-vis jackets and get on the Bridge on the night of the Vivid opening to provide a bit of illumination of their own. I signed up to do some documentation.

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The preparation for the media contingent climbing the bridge was fairly extensive – you first put on a jump suit, then a belt, then have various accessories hooked to your person. Cameras and other loose items are especially points of caution – normally, climbers are not allowed to bring wallets, phones or cameras onto the Bridge Climb for fear they’ll drop the items and hit the cars/pedestrians on the bridge surface – the restriction on cameras was lifted for us, since we were there solely for documentation purposes. Of course, they screwed an extra tether on my camera, and people who elected to bring their lens hood up had to gaffer tape the hood to the lens.

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The climb up was fairly easy – we went up an elevator, then a series of ladders (felt like the latter levels of Portal 2 in some parts), then the long slope of the bridge arch.

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By the time we made it up, Golden Hour was gone, but that’s all good, because we had some time until Vivid Sydney lights turned on, and the wind was going at 50km/h. We were getting buffeted all over, and when my documentation on ascent was requiring ISO 2000, I knew this wasn’t going to be one of those easy shooting experiences.

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OK, to be fair, it was raining pretty darn bad on Thursday and Friday morning was cloudy as anything, but I still decided to go ahead with the climb, so I was pretty grateful it cleared up by the time the climb came around, and in fact, conditions were pretty damn clear.

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Even without the Vivid Lights, this was a fairly rare perspective on the city. And on the other side was Walsh Bay.

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Chapter 1: Vivid lights up

By the time the lights started coming up for Vivid Sydney, I was huddled down to minimise the buffeting effect of the wind (which had of course picked up majorly), cursing my tether for preventing me from getting down too low or too close to the railing, which I was trying to stabilise my lens against. I was using stupidly slow shutter speeds with both my 17-35 and my 80-200 lenses, even with ISO up to 5000 or 6400. There is no detail in the 100 percent of these pictures, just digital noise.

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After some mishaps, the Opera House was illuminated at last. We were a bit surprised about the effects this year, which are very different from the 2011 version.

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A cliched shot from another perspective.

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OK it was really hard wielding an 80-200mm lens in the midst of intense winds and with almost zero points of stabilisation, but in the end I was glad I brought it, as it provided a nice alternative to the ultra-wide. It allowed me to focus in on various parts of the scene below.

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It also allowed me to do what the Harbour Bridge Climb people really wanted us to document, which was the climbers. Managed to get this on the way down (the climbers were further down the arch from us, and since I was closer to the apex, I couldn’t actually see them for the most part of the excursion).

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Well, I think this is a good variety of shots, and I managed to get this as we were hurrying back down.

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Chapter 2: After Dark, after the Descent

Since the Bridge was near Walsh Bay, I decided to take the opportunity after descent to go and find the extended part of Vivid this year, which sees a number of artworks on these wharfs. Last time I was here, it was during the day, and I must say night does change how it looks quite a bit.

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Pretty cool, the interactive artwork in one of the rooms uses Kinect to detect people’s movements and those moves then add various sounds and effects to a piece of music, while lighting up various shapes on the sculptures.

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Of course, I was drawn to the maroon umbrellas.

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The quiet of Walsh Bay was in stark contrast to The Rocks and Campbell’s Cove.

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But the turret provides a great view, and once again a long lens helps with that extra level of detail.

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By the time I was done, it was fairly late, I was pretty tired. I still managed to get into the MCA for the official Vivid party, but I don’t really like parties where I don’t know anyone (actually I don’t even like parties where I know people – I just bob awkwardly and spill a drink discretely in the corner) so I went around a bit then left to get some late-night sushi and go home.

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  1. Thoughts on photographic gear | Light Scribbling - [...] where my current camera and lenses were pushed to their technical and quality limits (the night-time Bridge climb being …
  2. Main coverage: Vivid Sydney 2012 | Light Scribbling - [...] my initial coverage of the Vivid Sydney 2012 preview and opening night, it seemed that it had fallen off …

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