Feels like a long time since I updated this blog! Two weeks, I suppose, since my last update for the Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls cosplay. Since then, I have been fairly active photographically, though perhaps not in the cosplay sense. But there are some shoots coming up this weekend which will be quite interesting (still trying to work out the logistics of a few of them).
In a way, breaks like these are fairly intrinsic to the creative process. Most people involved in the arts know of the need to vary tasks, to not get stuck into monotony. While cosplay photography still offers a wide range of subjects, locations, and creative approaches, relapsing back to my old haunt of landscape photography serves its purpose in relaxing my vision, opening my eyes to new angles, compositions, and fundamental mistakes or bad habits which I need to fix. Some of these lessons I learn from an extended stint in landscape/architectural photography may be fairly complex, others are as simple as reinforcing practises like leading lines and symmetry, things which do have a bearing on creative environmental portraiture.
Some notable landscape/architectural photography exercises I have involved myself in during the last two weeks include [Sculptures by the Sea 2012] (now closed), [Location 193] (a very beautiful private garden) and [Sydney Open 2012]. I also went to [Jesse Willesee’s Haunted Hotel event] on Halloween night.
You might have noticed that links to the galleries now go to Facebook. As previously mentioned, I don’t really have a space within the pireze.net gallery for my landscape/other type photos, since that site is really focused on cosplay/fashion. What I now have (and have had for a few months now; I’m only just now officially telling blog readers about this) is [a Facebook page for what I do] – mostly photographs, but basically visual expressions.
The cosplay galleries on this page are not as comprehensive as the pireze.net galleries, but contain selected photos from shoots – enough as a summary of the general feel of the shoot.
The controversial Timeline feature is also put to good use on this page, as I am continuing to upload older cosplay shoots from 2012 into the page and dating them for the timeline, both for your visual enjoyment, and for my personal reference in terms of what went down, when. I am not uploading stuff earlier than 2012, though.
I am also putting the landscape and other photos that I do into full galleries on the page, and sometimes providing status updates (though not very often).
Basically, it’s a platform that provides near-real-time updates on new things that I put out, so feel free to “like” the page if you want my photos clogging up your feed.
It was certainly my intention to visit Sculptures by the Sea more than once, although I failed to do so. I visited one day after it opened, and many of the sculptures were still being put in place. Additionally, I noted the provision of lighting for a number of works which indicated visiting at night would have yielded some fairly spectacular results. However, given other commitments, I could not find the time to visit the exhibition another time.
During my visit to Sculptures by the Sea, in addition to my normal D700 and NEX-5 with tilt adapter, I started using my medium format film camera. This is a Bronica ETR Si with a speed grip, basically a set-up which ensures handling fairly similar to an SLR. I had bought the system from the Sydney Camera Market earlier this year, along with some 120 Portra film. With 15 exposures available, I was fairly choosy in terms of what I took photos of, and as such that one roll was used both for Sculptures by the Sea, and for the next outing to Location 193.
I later got it developed and scanned, and I must say, the look of medium format film is certainly quite different from digital 35mm full frame. It’s not something I can really qualify, due to lack of experience with film, but I would characterise it as an extra level of dimensionality. It’s all a bit wishy washy but I hope to be able to pin down the difference as I do more shooting in that media.
You can find [most of the photos I took using the MF setup here].
One of the most extensive and beautiful gardens I have been to. It is normally a private estate, but is opened to the public on select days of the year. It is not available for photoshoots, weddings, or other such things.
Features include a Japanese bridge, water gardens, mini waterfalls, structured European type gardens, a maze, a birch forest, a Chinese pavilion, and an aviary which would have been perfect for a Clover shoot.
In case you couldn’t be bothered to scroll back up to find the link, [the gallery is here].
Sydney Open is held once every two years by the Historic Houses Trust. The main feature is the Open Day which was held on 4 November, though this year they have extended the event to also cover Friday night (Open Night, which is free for the public to attend, regardless of whether they have the City Pass for Sunday or not). For others, the highlights have to be the Focus Tours, which provide rare access to selected architectural wonders around Sydney.
For the Focus Tours, I opted to visit the Central Station Tunnels and unused platforms 26 and 27, the Queen Victoria Building dome, and the Tank Stream.
The Central Station tour used to be held quite frequently but due to concerns after 9/11, were shut down. Nowadays, the only legal way to access those areas is through the Sydney Open tours. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed.
The Queen Victoria Building dome, which is the area above the stained-glass dome that most people can see when they glance up on the ceiling of the QVB, was fairly mind-blowing. The attention to detail for architectural buildings constructed during that time is amazing – spiral staircases which were intended only for maintenance workers had ornate filigree iron work, and the actual dome has an amazing texture. The view around the outside of the dome is also very impressive, and we spied some urban explorers on the roof of a nearby building as well.
Tank Stream, being the original river that Sydney was built upon, has now been reduced to a subterranean drain. While it was lucky that cameras were allowed down there, we were looking at ISO 6400 and slow shutter speeds. I also spotted a tag from the Cave Clan dating to 2003.
For the rest of Sydney Open, visited sites included:
Suffice to say, by the end of the whole thing, my legs were just about ready to give out. [The entire album from Sydney Open]
I tend to look forward to Jesse Willesee’s art events, because he always tends to include the audience as photographers. It’s not just about installations and music and the show, but also an embrace of today’s culture, where everyone is an instant documentarian (something which really struck me when I watched the beginning of Obama’s victory speech: the number of cameras, phones and tablets held up by the audience, each of them recording the historical day from that person’s perspective).
Some photographers may despair at the commonality of the photographic medium today, but I see it as a more democratic world – your voice as a photographer is no longer based solely on your access to technology, but on your vision and artistic execution.
I started attending these events after Seven Hundred Photos in 2010, and always enjoy it as an opportunity to photograph unique subjects – the installations never fail to stun me with their creativity and beauty, and the challenge is always present. For me, I seek to, within the confines of what technology can do, capture the essence or ambience of the installations as I see them. That means not using flash unnecessarily (and in many cases, we don’t have to, because the organisers have put in fluorescent illumination panels, whose lighting quality by the way, I am absolutely in love with), and, where flash is an absolute necessity to overcome the inherent dynamic range and sensitivity limitations of the camera, using it strategically and subtly so as not to overwhelm the feeling of the scene.
Case in point: the picture above was an installation which was solely lit by light from coloured panels similar to what is visible behind the model and chair in the photo. The entire appeal of the scene, to me, was the coloured lighting, the subtle darkness. Yet, it was too dark. The areas which were not illuminated by that little bit of light were completely black. I used a wireless flash in this case, powered fairly weak, positioned to bounce off a black wall to further kill its power. This provided sufficient illumination to lift details from the darkness, but not enough light to kill the ambient.
My kit for events such as these are my standard camera body, wide zoom and 50mm lenses, as well as a radio trigger and receiver, and a flash. I do not bring stands or monopods or tripods, as I tend to position the flash, when I need it, on floors, tables, and other parts of the environment, as required. A recent piece of gear I acquired was the Sniper-Strap Back-Pack-Strap which attaches to the straps of backpacks. Very useful when I go to events like conventions and these sorts of shoots, and I have to carry a backpack. The normal Black Rapid Strap I tend to use becomes another thing that I have to wear either on top of or under the backpack, and things can get tangled. The BPS will definitely see constant use, although it’s not a perfect product: I would have preferred a carabineer-type attachment system for the camera, as opposed to the integrated screw-and-loop, since I tend to take the camera off the strap to achieve those impossible angles fairly regularly.
For the full album of the Haunted Hotel event, [see here].