20 Sep 2014

Weird in Shanghai.

This has to go down as one of the weirdest scenes I have ever come across or photographed. Communal ballroom dancing at dawn on the Bund beside the river in the centre of Shanghai. I took this photo in 2004 but it's probably still going on now every morning weather permitting. And how about that pollution? It was bad then. Today it is much worse. Photographed with a Leica Digilux 1-a camera which produced nice colour but which by today's standards is very vintage. There is no detail in the shadows-just sensor noise. Leica were not convinced then that digital was going to totally eclipse film and I guess at the time you could understand their reservations however they had not factored in the rapid rate of improvement in digital cameras and the sensors in particular. If I took this photo today on my X1 or X Vario it would be a much better photo at least technically.
However despite the technical deficiency of the camera another shot I took that same morning was awarded a Mark of Excellence recently in an international i-shot-it photo competition.See Mark of Excellence
Which goes to show that the camera does not really matter.

18 Sep 2014

Happy hour

Planet Earth is not a happy place to be currently.The Ebola epidemic is killing thousands in West Africa and threatens to spread into all of Africa and beyond.A murderous mob of totally evil demented religous fanatics are running amok in Iraq/Syria.Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been displaced by the civil war in Syria.A very nasty spat is going on in Ukraine and a forgotten war in Sudan.The Palestinians of Gaza have had their homeland destroyed and thousands of innocent people have been killed.Yet again we have a total lunatic in the Kremlin desperate to revive the cold war and now boasting about his ability to turn the US into nuclear ash.
Even the usually jocular Pope is warning that world war 3 may have already started.It ain't looking good folks.And it seems that there is not much we little people can do about it.So I will have to resort to running a happy photo.And here it is.
 A group of happy monks enjoying "happy hour" as the golden light fades in the early evening at a temple in Yangon,Myanmar.
The photography experts rightly tell you that the golden hours immediately after daybreak and before sunset are the best for photography when the light is magical but in this case not only was the evening light golden from the setting sun but it was extra golden from bouncing off all the gold leaf adorning the temple.Truly a golden hour.
No need to say "cheese" to get this crew to smile -it came naturally to them.They may be monks with almost no personal possesions living in one of the poorest countries on the planet but to me they look much happier and above all content than most people.A good thing they haven't seen the TV news lately.
Leica X1 photo.

16 Sep 2014

Top End sea creatures

See previous story on the Top End.Some photos of encounters with some of the sea creatures of the Top End.I did see a pod of whales frollicking off Cable Beach,Broome but they were way too out for my modest lens to capture them.No sharks seen but two saltwater crocodiles seen in Willie Creek up from Cable Beach.Salties are like some of the people you encounter on internet forums-they trawl around looking for innocent victims and then they attack them in a very aggressive manner.The croc photo was taken with a 70mm lens and was as close as the skipper of the little tinnie boat was prepared to go and I had no problem with that.
Broome has been a major centre for pearl farming for over 100 years and the divers and workers associated with the pearl industry are responsible for Broome's strong Japanese and Chinese connections.Over the years the pearl industry has waxed and waned and nearly disappeared when pearl buttons were displaced by plastic buttons but today it is thriving with big floating pearl farms still employing some Japanese workers in seeding the oysters.The shot of the pearl in the oyster is sadly a set up.
The orange blob next to my sandals is a big jellyfish.There were hundreds of these marooned on Cable Beach each morning.These give you a nasty sting but it is not fatal.Leica XVario photos

11 Sep 2014

To the Top End

As most of the readers of the blog nowadays are from outside Australia I should explain that the Top End is the Australian term for the vast area at the top of Australia including the top of the state of Queensland,the Northern Territory and the top of the huge state of Western Australia.
It is an extraordinary area.Flying from Sydney to Darwin takes four and a half hours and after an hour flying over the farmland of New South Wales the rest of the flight is flying over uninhabited waterless desert.Sometimes you can see a solitary straight dirt track but for most of the flight it is totally empty.Hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of emptyness.

The Top End has two seasons.The wet season from approx late September to late May when it is very hot-over 40ÂșC and very wet- monsoonal like wet with big storms.Then there is the dry season from June to end of September when it is almost totally dry and warm/hot.

The Top End is sparsely populated.Darwin with a population of 127,000 is the only major city.The other towns in the Top End are really small and there are only a handful of them.The main highways with some exceptions are tarmac but all the other roads are dirt.If you live in the Top End you drive a 4WD.No alternative if you want to travel out of town.In the wet season the towns and small settlements are cut off by flood waters.Some for months on end.The rivers turn into raging torrents sometimes kilometres across.There is no mobile phone network outside the few towns.If you need a mobile phone you have to use a satellite phone.Forget about updating your Facebook page regularly or watching cats playing the piano on YouTube.Go fishing instead.
The distances are huge.Light aircraft and regional airlines are used extensively.Air North the local regional airline is excellent with very moden aircraft and a very professional operation.
The Flying Doctor Service provides medical services to remote outposts.

It is a very rugged,rough and extraordinarily beautiful area.The colours are spectacular-particularly at sunset.It is Kodachrome on steroids.The soil everywhere is red.All the vehicles are coated in red dust.There are vast ranges cut by deep and very spectacular gorges with waterfalls and billabongs.
The vegetation is very similar to African savannah-desert grass ,low scrub and boab trees with termite mounds everywhere and the ground littered with broken rocks.it is harsh unforgiving country.and even at this time of the year( september) it is very hot.Break down with no drinking water in your vehicle out here and you are in trouble.Serious trouble.

The major industry of the Top End used to be cattle farming with many cattle stations bigger in area than some European countries.The stations are so big that the mustering is done by helicopter.
Now mining has overtaken cattle farming to be the major industry. LNG,coal ,iron ore,uranium,bauxite and diamonds are mined.
Tourism is also very important with backpackers,campers and caravan/RV campers and many retired Australians -so called grey nomads- drive the huge distance from the southern states to spend the Australian winter months in the Top End.If you live in the Top End you embrace the outdoor lifestyle totally.

Bird life is prolific.It is too hot for kangaroos but there are plenty of wallabies - a smaller species of kangaroo-venemous snakes and crocodiles.
Crocodiles are a protected species in Australia and they are a major problem in the Top End.The freshwater crocodiles are apparently benign but the saltwater crocs (salties) are very aggressive and dangerous.This year alone a number of people have been taken by crocodiles in the Top End and the salties swim hundreds of kilomteres up rivers so they can be in a lake or billabong a very long way from the sea.Not a comforting thought.

I have just spent ten days in the Top End.Two days in Darwin including a trip south to Litchfield National Park.One day in Kununurra with a light aircraft flight over the Bungle Bungle landform in Purnululu National Park as well as the Ord River irrigation area and the Argyle Diamond Mine.
Then three days deep in the Kimberleys at the Emma Gorge tented camp and then back to Kununurra and a flight to gorgeous Broome.
Here is a selection of my photos from the trip to give a taste of the amazing colours and scenery of the fantastic Top End.All Leica photos - either X1 or X Vario .
Termite mounds,Litchfield National Park,NT.These all mounds are aligned N-S
Giant termite mound,Litchfield NP
Wangi Falls,Litchfield NP

Early morning Lake Argyle ,Ord River nr Kununurra ,WA.
Bungle Bungles from the air.Purnululu National Park
Bungle Bungles.Shaped by wind erosion from wind blowing across flat Tanami desert
Bungle Bungles only "discovered " for tourism in early 1980's.

Boulders in pool at head of Emma Gorge

Pool  Emma Gorge

Sunset Emma Gorge

Chamberlain Gorge

Boulders,Chamberlain Gorge

Reflections,Chamberlain Gorge
Chamberlain Gorge,late afternoon.

Crossing the Pentacost River,In the wet this would be a wide raging torrent.Now at the end of the dry it is just a creek

Chamberlain Gorge

Next  four photos of sunset from a bluff on the Durack Range looking down the Pentacost River and the Chamberlain Gorge and over El Questro Station.

Wllie Creek -below-and the magnificent Cable Beach at Broome from a helicopter.Broome town is on the coast close to the horizon
Fishing Broome style.Drive your Toyota up the beach for a few kms.Find an empty spot- not difficult-erect the awning.Pull out a few cold beers and throw in a line.


10 Sep 2014

The Digital Photographer

See previous post.Whilst I was photographing the analogue photographer featured in the previous post he was photographing me on his vintage Rolleiflex.Since his photo appeared on the blog he has become aware of it and he has sent me the photo below of me shooting him!
It's a very small world.

9 Sep 2014

The analogue photographer

In July I met this photographer using his vintage Rolleiflex to take photos of the Arc De Triomphe. He's from Vietnam and he works at the Vietnam National Museum in Hanoi. He has a website devoted to analogue (film) photography. It can be found at Analog Photo. It showcases some very creative film photography and is well worth taking a look at.

8 Sep 2014

What a car park

For interesting car parks it's hard to go past the main car park at the Le Mans Classic.I took this photo at this year's Classic-you can tell from the colour of the sky- from where we parked our car. There's an eclectic mix of cars visible in this one random shot.The wing of an MGA ,part of an Alvis (you don't see too many Alvises around),the superb Fiat Multipla (as rare as an Alvis particularly in this condition),a Porsche 356 convertible, an Austin Healey, numerous MGBs (common as the proverbial at Le Mans)and mostly hidden from view a kermit green longnose 911.

7 Sep 2014

Aren't we all part -time pedestrians?

Seen in Hong Kong

It's a mad,mad world.

There is a Japanese garden attached to the local regional art gallery.It is not a national park-there are no gorges,or fast flowing rivers or waterless deserts or crocodiles.Or leaking nuclear power stations or unpatrolled surf beaches .No, just a small Japanese garden with the sort of things you expect to find in the standard Japanese garden like a shallow carp pond,some rocks,some stunted shrubs ,some concrete lanterns and some raked white stones.But look at the risks you need to be aware of.Common sense has left the building.No wonder Australian amateur motor sport along with many other activities is slowly drowning in a sea of risk minimisation strategies and high vis vests.

5 Sep 2014

Fast disappearing camera shops

Whilst I was in Paris a few weeks ago I went to the Bastille end of Boulevard Beaumarchais intending to visit the interesting camera shops which populate both sides of the boulevard. Well I should say used to populate both sides of the Boulevard because in the space of two years most have gone. Even the multi front store which incorporated Le Moyen Format (medium format) has consolidated down to just one shop incorporating a Leica shop and all the other formats.

The camera business is in retreat all over the world. Sadly smartphones rule for young users and the latest digital cameras have arguably become so good that most buyers cannot see the point of upgrading when there is no visible improvement in the quality of the photos from the new model.

Hong Kong used to be the place to go to buy new cameras at seriously keen prices. The world has changed and now Hong Kong retail prices of new cameras even after vigorous bargaining are not competitive with either the internet or retail stores in Australia/NZ/UK/USA and most of the Hong Kong camera shops have gone. Although oddly many of the very cheap deals on new cameras on eBay come from Hong Kong which seems nonsensical.
In Hong Kong just a few serious enthusiast shops remain as do some very specialist shops selling second hand film cameras and lenses and accessories. Most of these are tucked away in side streets and alleyways with hole in the wall shopfronts.They are crammed with gear- Alladin's caves for collectors- and they smell of decaying old cameras. The Hong Kong climate is not camera friendly. And their prices are outrageous by Australian standards. I will be surprised if many of them survive for more than a few more years.

4 Sep 2014

Catching the light-morning

I don't do lying in bed. I would love to wake up at 7.00am but my body clock just won't let me.Maybe it's the result of catching too many early morning flights or waking up in different time zones.I am not so good at the other end of the day. If I wake at 5.00am I struggle after 10.00pm. Mind you the early rising does mean that I can catch the light as these photos of Hobart Harbour,Tasmania at dawn,the solitary monk going off to morning prayers in Mandalay, Myanmar and the sunburnt Russian tourist on the beach at Na Trang,Vietnam -below show. Leica X1 photos.

I am currently in the Top End of Australia -as far away from Hobart as you can get in Australia -and hopefully catching the light in some pretty spectacular locations .

31 Aug 2014

The Lake

The Central Coast of NSW is fringed by a series of freshwater lakes and lagoons. Avoca Lake at Avoca is one of the smaller lakes. In the nineteenth century there was a major timber industry in the area and hardwoods were extracted and put on boats and taken to nearby Terrigal Haven where it was loaded onto ships and transported to Sydney. As the timber was extracted and the area was cleared erosion increased and the lake silted up and could no longer be used by boats so the timber had to be taken by a tramway system to the neighbouring Terrigal Haven. Hardwoods extracted from the Avoca area were used in the piling for the wharves in London Docks and the Suez Canal.
Now all that remains of the timber industry is Tramway Road which follows the route of the long gone tramway.

Gum trees have grown up to replace the hardwoods but the lake now is very shallow.In two of the photos below you can see a rope hanging from a tree where boys used to swing out over the lake and jump into presumably reasonably deep water .Today the lake is used by kayakers and people fishing in very shallow draught boats and herons and pelicans.The lake opens onto a beautiful surf beach. It is the stuff of tourist brochures and it is just 5 mins drive from my house -over a very steep hill so it's a pretty arduous walk.

In the past 12 months I have been making occasional trips to the lake in the afternoon with my Hasselblad and a tripod to try to capture the changing moods of the lake on film.The results are below. It's a totally different sort of photography to my usual style but I am very pleased with the results.Film has magical properties.I don't usually like using a tripod but it is necessary when using a Blad for this sort of shooting otherwise focussing on that dim little screen and camera shake are big problems.
Photos taken on Kodak Portra 400 film on a Hasselblad 500 with Zeiss 50mm,80mm and 150mm lenses.

27 Aug 2014

Moto TT Classic Gedinne-2014

Patrick was at the wonderful Moto TT Classic in Belgium last weekend. This is an extraordinary event-see the story on it last year at
 Moto TT Classic .

It's like motor racing was 40-50 years ago. I understand that there are still similar events in New Zealand where there is a very different perspective on public liability to many countries and where they still enjoy their motor sport relaxed and close up.
How about those straw bales and the tape restraining the spectators and that wonderful paddock full of tents? I can almost smell the two strokes and the barbecue fires from here.
Sony RX100 photos.