The previous afternoon, Cath and I had wandered around the streets of Toledo together. Today, we decided it would be a good opportunity to go our separate ways and explore the streets for ourselves. I enjoyed the opportunity to just wander aimlessly and explore my fascination with all these beautiful old doors.
Europe 2017 – day 06
Our two days in Barcelona were over way too soon, and it was time to hit the road for our next destination, Toledo.
A couple of hours out of Barcelona and it was time for a break. We stopped at Zaragoza and marveled at the four pillars rising above the cathedral. The interior was equally impressive but I decided to honor the sign requests not to take photographs.
We hit the road again and a couple of hours later when it was time for another break, we pulled off the highway into a little town called Medinaceli.
A glance up the hill between a couple of buildings revealed a Roman arch high up on the hill. We drove up there and found the original village of the same name. This was a photographer’s dream. It was here that I shot the image of the cobblestone streets with the red flowers by the wall.
We headed on to Toledo, booked into our Air b’n’b and then went and perused the old part of town. Again, for a photographer who comes from a country with a history of only 200 years, Toledo represented a photographic smorgasbord of cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, and beautiful artwork.
Late in the evening, I took a drive around town. I rounded a corner and across the other side of town, I could see the beautifully illuminated Alcazar of Toledo. Whether by fluke or by design, almost no other buildings around it have lights shining on them in the evening, which makes the Alcazar really stand out in the landscape!
Europe 2017 – day 05
Saturday morning, we decided to head off to the Castillo de Montjuic. Montjuïc Castle is an old military fortress, with roots dating back to the mid 1600’s, built on top of Montjuïc Hill. From here, we could see our next stop, La Sagrada Familia, 4km away.
A couple of trains later, we arrived at La Sagrada Familia, a church designed in the 1800’s by Antoni Gaudí. Construction had commenced, but not been completed, when Gaudi died in 1926. And unfortunately, he had not committed any of his plans to paper. It was all in his head. As a result, construction has been going on ever since, with different architects adding their influences to what has to be one of the weirdest looking churches I’ve ever seen! I noticed the variety of different statues which adorn the outside, and how their differences show off the changing style of art across the decades. The current custodians are aiming to complete construction by 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
After our couple of hours there, marvelling at the structure both from outside and within, we headed off in the direction of home, on foot. We had not yet had true Spanish tapas, and decided we should find somewhere that could accommodate. We ended up finding this little place called Restaurant Rene which was just opening up for the night at about 19:00. Pre-dinner drinks became post-dinner drinks, with Cath befriending the barman/manager, Alex. He introduced us to some Spanish cocktails, while we introduced him to the concept of a Mudslide. I don’t think we left there til about 23:00, by which time, we were well lubricated!
Europe 2017 – day 04
Friday morning, we went into town, wandered through the St Josep Mercat (food market), and visited the Erotic Museum, amongst other things. With the heatwave currently hitting the Iberian Peninsula, we headed back to our Air B’n’B for a mid-afternoon nanna nap and a shower to freshen up.
That evening, we headed back into town for dinner, and then proceeded to make our way down to the main beach which was meant to be “goin’ off”, but actually was quite subdued. As we made our way back toward the metro station, we caught a glimpse down a side street of what looked like some fairly intense activity involving fireworks and a large crowd in a small space. We headed down the street and found ourselves in a smallish (roughly 30 metre by 30 metre) square called Placa de la Barceloneta. In the middle, people were lighting all manner of fireworks which they were holding, throwing, swinging above their heads… y’know, all the kinds of things that a nanny state like Australia would NEVER let you get away with. And the crowd was truly… goin’ off! It was here that I shot the red silhouette image you see below. This would be (and still is) one of my favourite images from the whole trip.
Europe 2017 – day 03
Our two nights in Carcassonne done, and it was time to leave France. Rather than take the expensive and boring motorway down the coast, we decided to head to Barcelona via the high country and ski fields that straddle the French-Spanish border in the Pyrenees mountains.
But a first stop had to be the little hilltop hamlet of Rennes-le-Chateau, immortalised in the Dan Brown novel, The Da Vinci Code.
This too proved to be a source of great images.
Then, it was on to our high country jaunt through villages such as Formiguères. We stopped here, grabbed some ham, cheese, tomatoes and baguettes, and had ourselves a nice little roadside picnic about 5km out of town.
As we headed toward Barcelona, we flew past (on another inevitable motorway) the mountain range at Montserrat. I would have liked to have stopped to shoot it, but if you stop on the motorway, by law you have to put out an orange warning triangle, and wear a fluorescent vest. Too much effort. And I didn’t want to get off the motorway either, as that would require paying a toll, and then getting a new ticket when re-entering the motorway.
So, stuff it. Montserrat photos won’t be happening.
We arrived in Barcelona, and met our lovely Air B’n’B hosts, Alba and John.
They were very helpful, giving us info on getting around in Barcelona on public transport, and mentioned that they were going away for the following night, so we would have the place to ourselves. Apparently, the reason for their exodus was that the following night (a Friday), was a local festival known as the Festival of St Joan. This particular event involved the whole town going crazy with fireworks until the early hours of Saturday morning. Um, right. OK then.
Europe 2017 – day 02
Today, as we were getting ready to start our day, I shot a few images from the bedroom window.
Maybe 15 minutes later, Cath was sitting on the window sill, looking out at the same vista I had just shot. The morning sun was hitting her softly, and from inside the bedroom, it was a portrait that had to be shot. I had her stay put while I set up the shot.
The image you see here is SOOC (straight out of camera), meaning no post-processing has been applied. I’m really happy with this shot.
After breakfast, we decided it was time to head into Carcassonne and start exploring. We already knew that it was going to be a warm one. Western Europe decided to throw on a heatwave, which would challenge us for the first week of our travels.
Wandering the streets of Carcassonne, it hit just north of 40 degrees C, but thankfully, it was a relatively dry heat.
The Medieval City is a walled enclosure which sits atop a significant hill in the middle of moden-day Carcassonne. We walked the streets, admiring the age of the cobblestoned streets, but cautious of the tourist-y nature of the shops therein.
Still, it would prove to be a photographic goldmine, particularly as seen from the new part of town at dusk.
All through the town, there were downpipes which featured outlets which looked like some kind of mythic animal’s mouth.
Europe 2017 – day 01
4 hours later and we were awake at 03:00, with our body clocks not yet synced to the other side of the planet.
It was obvious that neither of us was going to get back to sleep, so we decided to get up and hit the road. Given that we had a big drive ahead of us (to Carcassonne, in the south of France), it seemed like an early start might be a good idea anyway.
We also knew we needed to stop somewhere and pick up local SIM card for our phones. The absense of access to the internet, especially when in a foreign country, can seem downright disconcerting.
So we packed our gear into the car and pulled out onto the road.
And immediately realised that we had been supplied a car with roughly one fiftieth of a tank of fuel. Nice. Now we have to find fuel as a matter of urgency. We found a 24 hour self service fuel bowser, and after a few broken attempts at conversation with a French motorcyclist, were able to get some fuel into our vehicle.
We hit the road again to find that most supermarkets and stores in general would not open until 10:00. We decided we would drive to Lyon, and look for SIM cards there.
We arrived in Lyon, found an Orange Mobile store, and purchased 2 Pay-as-you-go SIM cards. We were told they would be good for a month. Fine. We’ll be headed back home by then anyway.
With phones connected to the interwebz and sanity restored, we continued south for Carcassonne.
Cath had booked us into an Air B’n’B called SIDSMUM, located just outside of Carcassonne, in the little (and very old) village of Prexian (pronounced prec-sharn). A lovely little 3 bedroom house (with a garden which included some sunflowers) run by a couple of ex-pat Brits. They suggested a restaurant for dinner (incidentally, the ONLY restaurant in the village). But despite their monopoly on the restaurant market in town, the food and service were both exemplary. And the view! It was the perfect start to our holiday, as it was exactly what I had imagined life in a small provincial French village would be like. We sat at our table, in a covered, gravel courtyard, looking out over a valley filled with vineyards.
Europe 2017 – day 00
And so we’re off!
This trip has been over 15 months in the planning…. which is kind of a loose description, as a lot of this holiday is going to be booked on the fly.
With the exception of our first night in Geneva, our couple of nights in Paris, and our couple of nights in London, none of our accomodation is booked yet. We’re winging it!
Today saw us do the long hop (14 hours 55 minutes) from Sydney to Doha (the capital of Qatar, in the UAE).
We landed to find that it was 37 degrees C at 06:00! Oh joy. With a 9 hour wait for our connection to Geneva, we decided to catch a bus into the city and check out the souk (a traditional market). To do this, I had to exchange some currency to Qatari Riyals, which I did at one of the currency converters at the airport.
What we hadn’t prepared for though, was the fact that it was Ramadan, and this is a Muslim country. This meant almost nothing was open, and the consumption of food or drink between sun up and sun down was strictly forbidden. How they survive all day in this heat without fluids is beyond me!
After an exhausting walk around an almost deserted city centre, we hopped on the bus and headed back out to the airport. It was as we were approaching the security check that it occurred to me that I was no longer in possession of my passport. A quick mental recap of my movements for the day reminded me that I had had to produce it at the currency converter, and I was certain I hadn’t received it back at the end of the transaction. I went back to the counter, told me story and was advised that I would have to go and check with the Lost and Found desk. Sure enough, my passport was there! Phew. I could think of nothing worse than being stuck somewhere like Qatar without my passport!
I grabbed a couple of images around the airport, just as proof of our having passed through, and then it was on our connecting flight to Geneva.
When we landed in Geneva at 20:30 though, it occurred to us that we had no internet connection and no phone. A kindly stranger was happy to let me borrow his phone briefly to ring the car lease company representative so that we could arrange a location for a rendezvous.
With the car picked up, we headed off to our hotel and fell into bed at 23:00, exhausted. Tomorrow, the adventure would begin in earnest.
Mid-July, and I felt like it had been a while since I’d done any portraiture. I had a quick look around on Model Mayhem and found a local model, Danielle. I reached out, asked if she was interested in doing something, and we promptly organised to do a shoot in her house. She had a babysitter come over to watch her kids, while we experimented with a few different looks. Mostly shot with a single 60cm softbox off to one side, with a handful of images window lit.
Jayden and Bec
In October 2016, I was honoured to be asked to shoot the wedding of fellow photographer, Jayden Laing and his lovely bride, Bec.
The wedding was to take place at Mayfield Vineyard just outside of Orange in central New South Wales.
After my usual assistant deserted me in favour of attending his own sister’s engagement party (I guess I can cut him some slack for that one!), I enlisted the help of another photographer mate, Darren Purbrick to assist.
We awoke to a crisp morning in Orange which soon warmed to a pleasant and sunny Spring day.
Darren headed off to shoot the boys getting ready (at Jayden and Bec’s house), while I spent the morning shooting the girls getting ready at the vineyard.
And like most wedding days, it absolutely flew by!
Before we knew it, we were packing up at the end of the reception, exhausted but happy. But both Darren and I had had a ball shooting it.
Thanks Jayden and Bec for the opportunity! It was a blast!
Meetup #33 – Little Red Riding Hood
In May of 2016, I planned and hosted meetup #33 for my Sydney Photographers Meetup group.
The theme was meant to be a combination of Little Red Riding Hood and autumn colours.
The location I had chosen was Mount Wilson in the Blue Mountains, West of Sydney, which was about to hold its annual Autumn Festival. Unfortunately, we had some unseasonably late warm weather which meant that the autumn colours we were expecting hadn’t really developed. It turned out that we were about three weeks too early.
Our model for the day was the wonderful Ama Garatshun, whom I’ve shot on a couple of occasions in the past.
South West Rocks
Late in June 2016, Cath, Max, Aztec (the dog) and I headed up to South West Rocks for a week of holidays.
Our first experience with Air B’n’B proved to be a roaring success. We hired a lovely 100 year old cottage for 7 nights. It had really high (10 foot?) ceilings, and the whole place was furnished with furniture from the 40’s and 50’s. It was literally no more than 300 meters from the beach, AND the dog was welcome! Couldn’t have asked for more, really!
One of the great things about South West Rocks is the fact that it is not on the Pacific Highway, which runs up and down Australia’s east coast. The highway passes by, roughly 15 km inland. This means that the only traffic through town is people who intended to be there.
We had a great week, walked the beach every day with the dog, and I got to spend some time just taking photos for the fun of it.
A very relaxing week was had by all.
Summer City Rumble
In April 2016, there was a weekend car show at The Entrance called Summer City Rumble. As you can see, it was a sweet collection of collectible and restored vehicles from yesteryear.
Cath, Max and I went up for the day and wandered around for an hour or so.
This is a collection of images I shot that day.
Throughout 2016, I was hosting my photography site on Adobe’s My Portfolio platform, which came as a “free” inclusion with my Creative Cloud subscription.
It was ok, but it didn’t blow me away, and I missed a lot of the features I’ve come to like about hosting on a wordpress platform.
While I like LR as a RAW converter and library manager, I was becoming increasingly annoyed/paranoid/skeptical by Adobe’s constant price increases. It is my prediction that at some point, they are going to turn around and say “Yeah, about that photographer-centric bundle of LR+PS…. yeah, we’re not doing that anymore. It’s the full suite or the highway.” Now, I might be wrong there. Only time will tell.
I have also, over the last 15 years or so, had an interest in exploring Linux as a desktop operating system. Around September of 2016, I installed Linux Mint onto a laptop I wasn’t using for anything else. I figured it was a good way to experiment and learn, without committing my main (desktop) machine to a change I didn’t know enough about.
Naturally, one of the biggest hurdles I would have to overcome should I embrace Linux was finding a replacement for Lightroom and Photoshop. I had heard about Gimp (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), which is Linux’s answer to Photoshop, but I wasn’t aware of a good Lightroom substitute. Well, it didn’t take me long to discover Darktable.
But this blog post is not about Darktable. THAT, I will cover in an upcoming post.
No, this post is about my triple decision to:
a) switch to Linux (for everything except audio and video editing),
b) ditch my Creative Cloud subscription at the anniversary (in March 2017), and
c) move this site back to a wordpress platform ahead of my divorce from Adobe.
As a result of this switchback, all of my old (pre-2016) posts are still here (well, MOST… I ditched a few really old ones), but the few posts I made on the Adobe platform are not. I’ll re-create those soon.
Meetup #31 – Noir Trois
After a week of truly biblical rain here in Sydney, myself and three other members of the Sydney Photographer’s Meetup group got together last night for meetup #31.
Our third film noir-inspired shoot, naturally titled Noir Trois, saw a gorgeous Sydney summer evening, killer sunset and light clouds. We honestly could not have asked for a better night for this.
Tayler Lovatt (our female model from meetup #28 – Comic book heroine) had expressed an interest in doing a shoot in this style, and her suggestion came at a time when I’d been thinking it was about time to do it again anyway.
Although I’d lined up a male model 3 weeks prior, a last minute hiccup saw a replacement cast just 48 hours out from the shoot. Gabriel Robinson had reached out to me via modelmayhem saying that he liked the sound of the shoot and was interested in being a part of it.
And he proved to be a great choice.
The location I’d chosen was a set of sandstone steps in Pyrmont, which offered a variety of angles, shapes and textures.
We arrived early (around 19:30), caught up with old friends not seen in ages, before starting to shoot around 20:15… once the ambient light had dropped enough to be able to shoot black frames. This meant that we could then introduce whatever lighting we wanted to our shots.
I’d managed to source a couple of props… the fedora Gabriel is wearing, the pistol, the handbag (courtesy of photographer, Jeni Nagy) and some gloves for Tayler (which we never got around to using, sadly), plus I printed up a bunch of fake money.
Jeni Nagy had also brought along her fog machine which we had hoped to be able to run from my car (via a DC-to-AC inverter). Unfortunately, I think the power consumption of the fog machine exceeded the capacity of the inverter, as every time we plugged it in, the inverter would power itself off within a couple of seconds. Unfortunate, as the fog would have added a nice layer to these images. I’ll have to ensure that next time we shoot this genre, we have access to an AC power point.
As is typical of these shoots, time gets away from you VERY quickly, and before we knew it, it was after 11:30 and time to think about packing up.
Another successful shoot accomplished. Time to start thinking about the next one.
Meetup #30 – Country girl and a horse
Saturday just gone saw myself and a handful of fellow photographers from the Sydney Photographer’s Meetup group on Facebook get together for another shoot.
Funny story behind this.
Desiree, our female model at meetup #15 at Tobruk Station, reached out to me a month or so ago and said she’d love to do a shoot with a horse. I said ok, I’d see what I could organise.
I reached out to a friend who owns a horse and asked about using her land and horse. She said we were welcome, but that she could put me in touch with friends of hers who have just bought a beautiful horse ranch with nice post and rail fences at Jiliby on the Central Coast.
So, calls were made, deals were done, everything was set up.
Then, about 4-5 days before the shoot, Desiree advises me that she is unable to make it.
Of course, by this time, I have a bunch of photographers chomping at the metaphorical bit.
So, rather than cancel it, I organised another model.
She was super excited, and super keen.
The morning of the shoot, she texts me to tell me she’s crook as a dog and probably won’t be in a fit condition to shoot…. but, she’s found me a replacement, ‘casue she didn’t want to leave me high and dry!
The sky though… thick, grey, boring clouds. Blah.
So, we all arrive between 15:45-16:00. Britneigh (our sick model) and Angie (our replacement model) were there before me which was great. But then, Alana (the 17 year old daughter of the people who owned the place) joined us as well, as a horse-wrangler and second model.
So, we shot some stuff with both Angie and Alana, and Alana’s horse, Charlie.
Then, Alana had to leave to go to a party, so we moved around the property and shot some stuff near the dam, and at a little ‘balcony’ over a stream which housed a table and couple of chairs.
And as is so often the case with these shoots, 3 hour had slipped by in the blink of an eye.
But those who attended enjoyed themselves, as did Angie our model.
I’m taking a break during December, but am currently planning meetup #31 which will be Noir Trois (our third film noir-inspired shoot).
Tayler, our lovely comic book heroine from meetup #28, expressed a desire to be the female model for this. She will do it justice, I have no doubt! Really looking forward to that shoot!
Borneo 2015 – day 19
Friday 17th July
In all honesty, I will be glad to be home, and crazy as it might sound, I think I’ll be glad to go back to work. What I’m NOT looking forward to is the crazy cold winter that Sydney has put on in the 3 weeks we’ve been gone.
When we were up in Kudat last weekend, I was talking to a couple from The Netherlands about it (the weather in Sydney) and they simply laughed at me. I guess all things are relative!
We got ourselves a late check out from the hotel, left our bags there, and caught a cab to a nearby shopping centre to kill a couple of hours… Continue reading Borneo 2015 – day 19
Borneo 2015 – day 18
Thursday 16th July
Today is my paternal grandmother’s 91st birthday, so I gave her a call to wish her a happy birthday and apologise for the fact that I have not, in two and a half weeks of searching, been able to find her a birthday card.
I reminded her that we are currently in Borneo (she has the beginning stages of dementia), and she was happy enough that I had bothered to call her from here and not to worry about a card. This would be the first year since I was about 7 that I have not sent her a card. Perhaps I’ll send her one when I get home just to keep the record in tact, even though it will be late.
I rang her from Jesselton Point Jetty, which was where we were assembling for our day’s activities. We have booked a day with Diverse-Borneo, a watersport company who specialise in dive tours, snorkelling and the like. We are doing some snorkelling, and an island-to-island zipline. Apparently, this zipline at 250 metres (which runs between Pulau Gaya and Pulau Sapi, just a 15 min boat ride from the jetty in Kinabalu) used to be the longest island-to-island zipline in the world. Recently though, a new one has been constructed in the Philippines which is apparently longer.
Our boat ride included the 3 of us, a young Japanese couple who I don’t think had ever seen water before (later, they were snorkelling with lifejackets on!), and a handful of scuba divers who were on their last day of their Open Water Certificate training… Continue reading Borneo 2015 – day 18
Borneo 2015 – day 17
Wednesday 15th July
We’ve got a big day planned for tomorrow, so today was a day to just hang around in Kinabalu. We wandered the streets, visiting some places we’d seen two years ago as well as popping into a couple of shopping centres that were still under construction when we were here last.
The crazy thing about construction here is that companies will build a new shopping precinct, market the hell out of it, and when it’s ready for occupation, businesses will depart their current premises to take up a shopfront in the newly-opened centre. And then, the cycle starts all over again (or closer to the truth would be that the cycles actually overlap, because at this point, ANOTHER centre is halfway completed already). The next one opens, the businesses all move on. Why is it crazy? Because you end up with all these shopping centre buildings left sitting empty. They don’t seem to demolish them too often either… Continue reading Borneo 2015 – day 17