I just love winter sun. Apart from providing a bit of warmth at an often bleak time of year, its light has a wonderful quality not found in summer. Even at midday, it's diffuse and low in the sky, casting wonderful shadows and creating intriguing patterns which would be flattened by the harsher summer light. It almost makes up for the cold and damp.
I was recently shopping at my local strip and found myself reflecting on the changes to my suburb since I first moved here more than 25 years ago. I don't think the changes have been for the better, and while I'm not happy with the changed nature and mix of businesses (do we really need THAT many cafes????), my angst is mostly directed at the increasing congestion and bustle. It's not just Bentleigh of course, but Melbourne in general, and there doesn't seem to be any respite, any day of the week or any time of day.
I'm not sure if that feeling has anything to do with a series of pictures I've been making over the last year or so, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a contributing factor. I call it "Finding Space". The images are sparsely populated, and the people depicted are often dwarfed by their surroundings, creating illusions of wide open spaces and solitude rarely found a modern metropolis. I like to think they speak to our need to have room to breathe and clear our minds in increasingly crowded cities.
Or perhaps they're just a bunch of interesting pictures. At least I hope they are.
Live music venues aren't always about refinement - they're often shabby and lacking in amenities. But there's not too many venues which could compete for grunginess with a little corner of Centre Place, Melbourne. The alcove is scattered with cigarette butts and scraps of litter, and there are often signs of rough sleepers taking shelter there. The street art is tagged and partly covered in peeling posters. Even so, it doesn't seem to be any deterrent to the buskers who frequently ply their trade there.
It might be the acoustics, but more likely it's the constant stream of punters seeking nourishment in the seemingly endless eateries which line the alley. Whatever the reason, it's a great spot to find some occasional lunchtime entertainment. The grungy backdrop doesn't hurt the pictures, either.
Australians are a people whose passion for sport is renowned, and few sports fire the parochial flames of our sporting passion more than football. Not that odd game played with a round ball, but Australian football. From March to September, a game which attracts only peripheral interest outside Australia (and even in some Australian states) has hordes of loyal fans putting on team colours to cheer their team on. Few, however, demonstrate their loyalty and support like Troy West. Every week of the season, Troy's alter ego Catman emerges from hiding to cheer on his (and my) beloved Geelong Cats to success.
It doesn't always work out, and this week the Cats inexplicably failed to fire. Still, it gave me an opportunity to continue gathering pictures of supporters for a little project I've had bubbling away in the back of my mind for a few weeks. It's called "We are Geelong" and, with more than two hundred individual portraits, hopefully conveys the passion which fires the faithful.
Even though the Cats failed to fire this week, hopefully next week will be a different story. Either way, Catman and the faithful will be there to show their support.
Occasionally I like to look through the catalogue of images from our 2016 trip to Italy and Ireland. Of the thousands of pictures I brought back, I haven't worked on more than a few hundred. While I've discarded a lot of obvious duds and duplicates along the way - and could easily discard hundreds more - I'm now reluctant to do so. Occasionally I turn up a gem, like the slowly rocking gondolas near St Mark's, which went unnoticed for more than a year after we got back. It happened again a few months ago when I came across a blurry and somewhat painterly picture of a wet night in Venice.
I have only a vague recollection of taking the shot. I think I was returning to our hotel alone, Trish having deserted me in favour of an opera performance. The two men are approaching me from the direction of our hotel and looking at the result I was probably taken by the light, the outline of their umbrellas and the reflections in the wet flagstones. I doubt I had much time to think about camera settings, and the 1.6 second hand-held exposure was never going to be sharp. In the normal course of events I would probably have deleted the picture in camera as it lacked any of the crisp detail I normally like, but I didn't, and it now stands as one of my favourite pictures from the trip.
In any case, it got me thinking about deliberately introducing camera movement into some pictures and I've been playing around with the idea lately. I've tried photographing relatively static subjects while the world moves around them, keeping pace with my subject through a long exposure and even the old trick of zooming while the shutter is open. It's all good fun and makes a nice change from trying to keep everything pin sharp.
I don't shoot as much nature as I used to. I guess my mindset is elsewhere most of the time these days, and nature has become a bit of an opportunistic pastime, rather than an active pursuit. Still, when a subject presents itself, I enjoy both the challenge and the results enormously. Which begs the question of why I don't do it more often. I have no idea, and I really should get out and smell the flowers more often.
Central Melbourne's myriad laneways and alleys were once dirty, dingy and often dangerous, not much more than places to facilitate deliveries and rubbish collection. That's all changed over the past 30 or 40 years as the CBD has become more of a social than business hub. Now, they're lined with street art and bustling with activity. While both tourists and locals flock to places like Hosier Land and ACDC Lane for the art, others byways have become culinary destinations.
Centre Place, off Flinders Lane, is one of the busiest of the dining hot-spots. Aided by its central location, it's bustling from early in the morning till well past the lunchtime peak. Nearly every one of the often tiny storefronts is serving some sort of enticing fare, making it a great place to grab a quick bite, or just settle in for a relaxed meal. The bustle also makes it a great place to watch people, which is what usually takes me there. The food is just a nice bonus.
When I first arrived at the University of Melbourne in 1977, it seemed vast and imposing, a curious mix of everything from beautiful 19th century sandstone to functional late 20th century concrete. I was not much of an architecture connoisseur, but I felt affection for the sandstone, and was bemused that the ugliest building on campus (now thankfully demolished) housed the architecture faculty. However, there was one structure which fascinated me, and curiously enough it was a carpark.
Under the sprawling South Lawn was the aptly named underground carpark, a striking vaulted space designed to accommodate the roots of trees growing above. The iconic structure has been used as a movie set (the police garage in the original Mad Max), a Master Chef dining room and a fashion catwalk. When empty (not an uncommon occurrence in the 70s), it feels eerie and sepulchral, however I haven't seen it empty for years as the University is active pretty much year-round these days. I was therefore quite surprised to find it vacant on a recent visit, and it turns out that the carpark is going re-purposed. My informant couldn't tell me what the new use will be, or when it will happen, but I've made the most of it over the last few weeks while I still can.
I know, I know, things have been a bit quiet lately on everyone's favorite blog. In fact, things have even been quiet here on Miralight Imaging....
While I have been trying every bit as hard as usual to find interesting things to shoot lately, things just haven't been clicking like they were through the middle of the year. It comes from the contempt bred by familiarity I suppose, as I haven't been getting away much and treading the same old paths gets a bit tired. Still, I have managed to come up with the odd shot I'm pleased with, so here's a bumper - and somewhat random - crop of pictures to make up for the fact that I've been neglecting my loyal subscribers of late.
Go wild /
The Victorian Orchid Spectacular takes place each year at the end of August, and is the largest orchid show in Victoria. For the past few years I've been putting a few entries into the photography competition run in conjunction with the show. While it's an opportunity to have your work judged and possibly win some prizes, mostly it's a chance gain free entry to the show. It's an interesting outing and a chance take some orchid photos for next year's entries.
This year I was lucky enough to win first prize in the cultivated orchid section. That was quite pleasing of course, but having now found out there were two sections, the challenge had been laid down. I did some research and found the Baluk-William Reserve on the outskirts of Melbourne is a well-known habitat for native orchids. I made the trip and was rewarded with a few elusive specimens of Caledenia Carnea. It's quite a challenge to photograph these plants in the wild - they’re just a few centimetres high, and the slightest puff of breeze sets them swaying. Still, it was a pleasant and quite rewarding morning.
Sometimes you struggle to see anything that seems worth pointing the camera at. This usually happens to me when I haven't had a change of scene for a while, and treading the same familiar paths becomes a bit, well, too familiar. But there's always a different viewpoint to discover if you're patient and alert. That happened over the last couple of days, and it turned into something that continued to develop.
Strolling down one of Melbourne's street art covered laneways, I spotted a couple of discarded spray paint cans and it seemed there was a story there somewhere. I started working the scene, kicking the cans on to a grille which added some interesting lines to the composition. Then, for some variety, I waited for someone to walk into the shot. The only problem with that is that when people see you crouched down with the camera close to the ground, they'll often - kindly they think - stop and wait for you to get your shot, not known that they're meant to be part of the shot. Still enough people passed that I got something to work with. But, for me, the gold came when someone decided to hurry through the scene, even doing a little jump to get through quickly.
So, if your vision is just not working for you, have patience, the shots are out there.
It's spring, and as always that means flowers are blooming. I used to photograph flowers a lot more than I do now. They're beautiful, technically challenging to photograph well, and everyone loves a good flower shot. But even though my tastes and inclinations have changed with the years, I still enjoy both the process and the results when I get around to working with a few blooms.
The presenters of a podcast I used to listen to once proclaimed that "no-one has ever become famous for photographing flowers". My friend Martin says that Robert Mapplethorpe was famous for photographing flowers, although I contend that that wasn't what made him famous. Either way, it hasn't worked for me yet.