365 Challenge #350 - 360 Degree Pano's on the iPhone

I was reading about a new photography app for the iPhone, and had to give it a burl. Photosynth for iPhone is a free app developed by Microsoft, and lets you take 360 degree panoramas.

I didn't have a chance to play with it in daylight, so here's a low light (almost 360 degree) shot of my apartment - taken with Photosynth, then cropped on the iPhone in another app I love, ProCamera.

Photosynth takes a bit of getting used to - keeping the iPhone camera on a straight plane all the way around can be tricky. The low light conditions in my lounge room also made it a bit tricky - the app tells you to "pause occasionally" in low light.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how Photosynch works in decent daylight, and in a setting that lends itself more to 360 degree panos. It's certainly good value :)

365 Challenge #349 - the parking lot's full at Lone Pine!

We had a great family day out at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary!

Based out at Fig Tree Pocket, in Brisbane's western suburbs, the park claims to be the world's first and largest koala sanctuary, with over 130 koalas.

It was my second visit to Lone Pine, and what I love about this place, is that it's really laid back, and you can get up close and personal with the animals. There's koalas to the left and right, and a huge open area where kangaroos and wallabies roam around.

My two-year old nephew, Ben, was able to pat guinea pigs and chicks, sheep, goats and all manner of animals! The bird feeding session was a riot of lorikeets, rosellas and king parrots, and we saw working sheep dogs herd sheep, and then a veteran shearer relieve one of its fleece.

Lone Pine is a great day out for any Brisbanite or visitor to Brissie, and it's particularly great for photographers. Check it out when you can :)

365 Challenge #348 - The Anzac Spirit

Following the Dawn Service this morning, I headed back into the city to watch the Anzac Day march through Brisbane.

On my walk down to Ann Street, I overheard someone say that the Shrine of Memories was open. It's in the tunnel under Anzac Square and leads through to Central Station. I hadn't been in there - didn't even really know it existed, but I followed a bunch of Diggers in, and got way more than I bargained for.

It turned out the Diggers were part of one of the battalions due to walk in the march. They had their own private service in the Shrine of Memories, playing the Last Post and laying wreaths, before they were whisked off by bus up to the start of the march. I felt incredibly lucky to share that experience with the Diggers and their families - they didn't seem to mind (or notice) that I was there. The deep bonds and mateship that existed between these old guys was beautiful to watch. They spoke to each other so respectfully, while reflecting on their lost mates.

Following that little surprise, I was able to get a pretty good spot on the barricade. It was the perfect excuse to drag out the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens! A guy wandered over, put his backpack down and dragged out a Canon camera, with a 100-400mm lens - we chatted all things Canon until the march began.

It was a great procession of Diggers, bands, vehicles, flags and the odd horses, dogs and sheep. Yes, there was even an Armed Sheep!

The photo of these two gorgeous ladies was my favourite for the day. It's ANZAC mateship, sista style - this pair looked like they'd known each other forever, and as nurses - probably saw things that would horrify most of us.

I had an awesome day, chatting with some of the Diggers, and the people who stood behind the barricade with me. If the Dawn Service is the solemn part of Anzac Day, the march is almost like a celebration. It's so great to see people of all ages supporting the march, and those who fought - and continue to fight - for our country.

There's a whole album full of my photos from the 2011 Anzac Day march on my Flickr photostream :)

We will remember them

It's Anzac Day 2011, and I've just got back home after today's Dawn Service in Anzac Square. Doing the Dawn Service has become a bit of a tradition since I visited Gallipoli in May 2008.

This was a blog post I wrote after attending my first Dawn Service in Brisbane in 2009. Reading over it again, even now, I can imagine being right back there on the Gallipoli peninsula. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life - and the point at which I really understood what the Anzac spirit - and being Australian - is about.

I'm heading into the city again later to see the march through Brisbane. Of course, I'll be taking my camera! The theme for my photos today will be "Being Australian".

* * * * *
Last May, on a holiday to Turkey, I visited the legendary Gallipoli: a peninsula in the North West of the country.

Perfect, clear skies framed our view. The area was calm, peaceful and spectacularly picturesque - glistening blue sea out to the front of us, dramatic cliffs and bushland to the rear.

However, this idyllic setting belied the hell that it bore witness to some 94 years earlier.

Our coach pulled over to the side of the road nearest the water. There it was: one word in bold, simple letters: A N Z A C.

Profound emotion took over me - I felt overwhelming sadness and began to sob. I had lost no relatives in the battle that began there at 4.28am on April 25, 1915 - indeed my grandfathers and forebears had not even fought in Turkey nor had they died in any war.

But I cried for the ANZACS - the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who landed on that small beach in the first joint military operation between the two countries. Theirs was part of a broader campaign mounted by the British and French to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul and secure a sea route to Russia.

I cried at the futility of the situation the ANZACs faced, many gunned down as they emerged from boats that had taken them to shore, thousands more killed in a bloody battle up and down those towering cliffs.

It is said that this battle forced the birth of consciousness of Australia and New Zealand. It was a place where our young men died; and a place where the ANZAC legend was born.

We departed Anzac Cove and wound our way up the hill to Lone Pine, the Australian memorial and cemetary at the top of the peninsula. The poignant melody of the Last Post started to replay itself in my mind. I tried to imagine what those young soldiers must have seen - or what some of them almost saw. The gravestone of one R.H Stevens said he was killed the very day he arrived on Turkish soil.

Chanuk Bair, New Zealand's ANZAC memorial and cemetary at Gallipoli, and the Turkish cemetary were equally moving. Those headstones represented way too many lives cut short, wherever they had come from.

Our young Turkish guide and coach driver showed so much compassion and respect for the few Australians and New Zealanders on the tour that day; indeed Ceylan and Burhan, both beautiful, warm souls, had hosted us in their beautiful country for the previous two weeks. It made me cry all the more to think that our countries had once been at war.

The battle to retain control of the Gelibolu peninsula and the Straits of the Dardanelles was also one of the defining moments in Turkish history. I believe that because Turkey, Australia and New Zealand share such a history; we also share a future in always remembering what that history means.

The bond between the ordinary soldiers and sailors who fought at Gallipoli was expressed this way by the President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1934, on a large stone monument at Anzac Cove:
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives...
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours...
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom, and are in peace,
After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well"

My visit to Gallipoli had a profound impact on me. I had heard much about the ANZAC spirit and the legendary Gallipoli from my early childhood, but had never really personally connected with it. On that day, I felt as intensely proud to be Australian as I felt homesick, sad, humble and grateful. I longed to be back home with my family under blue skies and amongst the gum trees - but I now knew deeply why I would personally never forget those who fought for my country's freedom.

I went to my first Anzac Day Dawn Service last Saturday and was inspired by how many people of all ages packed into Brisbane's Anzac Square at such an early hour.

As the old diggers marched solemnly up to the Shrine of Rembrance to the drumbeat of the military band, I thought very fondly of my time in Turkey. Tears unashamedly rolled down my face as a buggler sounded the Last Post, before the two-minute silence. The mood was solemn, reflective. The silence was palpable.

I feel some regret that it took it nearly 37 years for me to really "get" Anzac Day and all that it represents; but, better late than never I suppose.

I will certainly watch future Anzac Day services with a different perspective, just as I will feel a bit more appreciation each time I walk past Anzac Square or see an Australian soldier. But I think it's the deeply ingrained Gallipoli experience - memories of my day there and of the even more extraordinary events that took place in 1915, that will remind me why we must always remember them.

365 Challenge #347 - the big smoke

Oh, the joys of a 5-day long weekend! I've loved having the time to drag out the camera and flash gear and experiment with high speed macro photography, dusk and long exposure night shots, and today's abstract little project - smoke.

I was inspired by a couple of friends who recently posted pictures of smoke, and serendipitously came across a post on Strobox.com, which showed the set up for shooting smoke with one off camera flash. I love Strobox.com for the very reason that people post the set up for the shot, and the final result, so you can see how they did it. Nifty! You've gotta love the photography community for their willingess to share knowledge.

My trusty black pop up background came in handy (I still haven't been able to work out how to fold the %&*@(%& up! I propped it up against a booksheld in my rather dark hallway, and set up the camera (on a tripod with a cable release) square on, facing the background. The lightstand with a speedlight flash was about half a metre to the right of the camera, and the trusty Flashwave III fired the flash when I was ready.

As with most of these experiments, I took a lot of shots. Like about 100. Thank god for digital photography! It was hard to know where and how to focus - so I focused initially on the incense stick I was using as the smoke source, then flicked the camera to manual focus, and more or less hoped for the best.

It also took a while to get the hang of the patterns the smoke made - the airconditioning unit above the whole set up played a bit of havoc at first. So much easier with the aircon off!

I'm sure that had the aliens landed to see me flapping a smoking incense stick around in one hand, cable release in the other, and setting off the flash every five seconds, they'd have thought I was pretty good candidate for abduction.

Anyway, the final settings for these shots were ISO 100, 1/200, f/11, white balance set to Flash. Speedlight 580EX II flash dialled down to 1/4 power. When I processed the photos in Photoshop, I cranked up the saturation and contrast, as well as the blacks (via Levels), to get this abstract style of image.

365 Challenge #346 - Brisvegas at Dusk

It was another beautiful evening in Brisvegas, and I thought I'd head down to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. I usually shoot from the top of the cliffs, but tonight I wanted a different angle, and headed down to river level.

I took a bunch of shots in color, but had to have the obligatory black and white photo. I like setting up the b/w settings in camera - I know I can shoot in colour and convert to b/w in Photoshop (in any case, I shoot in RAW and jpeg, so one file retains the settings and one does not). The movement in the clouds was cool.

I can't believe this 365 Challenge is up to #346! Less than 30 days of this particular challenge to go, and I'm thinking ahead to the next one...my blog also hit 6,000 page views this week, which was a nice little milestone. Round numbers are good :)

365 Challenge #345 - liquid pour and splash!

Further down this blog, I have a bunch of feeds from other photography blogs, and this morning I noticed an interesting post from the peeps at learnmyshot.com about liquid pour and splash photography using continuous lighting. I knew I had those blog feeds there for a reason!

I'm fascinated with high speed water shots, and while this post demonstrated via a video how you could do it with continuous lighting, I decided to use my wireless flash gear. My highly professional set up is shown below (taken on my iPhone) :). Clearly, I jest.

The 5D II + Tamron 90mm macro lens was set up on the tripod, with the FlashWave-III Wireless Radio Slave Receiver. My speedlight flash was tucked in behind the white background (which is a white light tent folded up). I put a white plastic sheet underneath the whole thing to catch any spills, and then placed my glass on an upturned colander to get it above all the plastic. As per the video, it was just a matter of pouring wine/water into the glass, and using a cable release to fire the shutter. Oh...one more thing, it helped immensely that the camera was set to continuous shooting mode.

Then I fiddled with the camera and flash settings until I got an effect I like. For the record, the shot above was taken at f/10, 1/200, ISO 400 set to WB=Flash. I dialled the speedlight down to 1/16 power.

I took a LOT of shots to get a few that I really liked. This was my pick of the bunch (no pun on the grape theme intended). It bugs me slightly in this shot that the white background has a pink tinge - but the red liquid was casting that reflection and there wasn't much I could do about it. Another tip from the guys in the video - if you're using red wine for a shot like this, dilute it with water 50/50 to let more light through.

Anyway, I'm really pleased that I stumbled across the learnmyshot.com post, and had some time to experiment. Gotta love a long weekend.

Now...please pass the wine!

The high tech set up!

365 Challenge #343 - dusk over Bulimba

The last couple of nights in Brisbane have been awesome - it's nearly a full moon, and the light out on the river at dusk is beautiful.

Between full moons and capturing aircraft as they track across the river on their final approach into Brisbane airport, there's been heaps to photograph out there.

Have a great weekend wherever you are!

365 Challenge #340 - Cats Eyes!


I was staying at my parent's place on the Gold Coast last night, and stalked the two fluffy princesses with the macro lens and flash. I was using on-camera flash, bounced off a white ceiling. I'm fascinated by the detail in the Pixie and Misty's eyes and whiskers.

"The Girls" got their revenge at 4.00am this morning, when they jumped on my head demanding to be fed...that's karma for you :)

365 Challenge #339 - Brisbane City Hall - looking a bit goth!

I went for a wander around the city last night, and as I was waiting for the bus home, I looked up the walls of City Hall.

I converted this pic to grayscale to give it a bit of a Goth look. All it needs is some bats :)

How to photograph paintings/art (behind glass)

Last night was the final session of the Colour II course I've been doing at the Brisbane College of Photography and Art.

It's been a great 8-week course, and last night we learnt how to photograph art - specifically framed pictures or photos behind glass.

Shooting art behind glass would typically throw up the challenges of either the final picture not being well lit; or, the final image showing glare from the glass; or the photographer's reflection showing up in the image; or, when using flash, having that white spot in the image....you could theoretically use a polariser to cut down the glare, but it would darken the image and potentially do funky things to the colours in the painting.

So - the solution was to cross-light the picture (hung against a dark, non-reflective black cloth - as per the first shot). We used the College's studio, with the set up shown below. Two Elinchrom studio lights diffused with soft boxes were placed at about 30 degree angles to the painting. Both lights pointed to the centre of the painting. We later triggered these lights with our (on-camera) flash acting as the master flash.

Dave, our tutor stuck a grey card under the frame (as per the second shot) - when we took a test shot, we included the card in the frame, so we could colour correct using the White Balance tool in Photoshop.

We used a flash/light meter to give us the reading of the light as it hit the painting, and the final settings for my camera ended up being ISO 100, Shutter Speed of 1/200 and f/8.0.

Then it was a case of filling the (camera) frame with the painting, and shooting it straight on at the centre of the painting. Shot 3 is my final shot - with no detectable glare from or reflections in the glass.

So while this set up is not necessarily going to work for shots in a museum (unless you can be bothered - and get permission - to lug studio lights around), it's definitely do-able with my little studio set up. There were a few other nifty hints about how to ensure you completely remove any glare or reflections in this scenario - but you'll have to check out the course to see that in action :)

Two studio lights are positioned at about 30 degrees from the painting.
The flashes were triggered by an LED light sensor.

A white balance card is stuck under the frame to take a test shot, which can
then be used to colour correct with the White Balance tool in Photoshop.

Voila! The finished shot, cropped and with no reflections in the glass.

Cool travel app: My Shot Lists for Travel

I was reading a blog post on Digital Photography School earlier this week, with an enticing promise: The Only Tip You’ll Need for Creating a More Interesting and Well-Rounded Set of Images of Any Destination or Subject.

Given my lurve of travel, I had to check out the article. It was basically a big plug for an iPhone app called My Shot Lists for Travel (this links to the US iTunes Store, as I couldn't find the equivalent page on iTunes Oz).

I didn't mind that it was plugging an app, because having recently jumped on the iPhone bandwagon, I'm always looking for new and creative ways of parting with my money in the name of fun, efficiency or the potential for photographic brilliance!

So I bought the app for just a couple of Australian bucks, although I'm rather annoyed that the US version is $0.99 and the Australian dollar is stronger than the US dollar and we still twice as much...

Anyway...My Shot Lists for Travel was developed by travel photographer Ralph Velasco. According to his blog, "Ralph Velasco is an award-winning travel photography instructor and international tour guide who has photographed in more than forty countries on six continents."

The description of the app says, "Perfect for travelers of all photography skill levels, the My Shot Lists for Travel app for the iPhone and iPod touch is the ideal tool for developing and tracking a well-rounded collection of images that truly captures the essence of a place. It was designed to guide you towards creating an overall cultural portrait of any destination or subject and provides the basis for compelling and interesting images of which you can be proud. Incorporate the app into your daily shooting routine and you’re sure to have friends and family asking you to share your portfolio, website or slideshow, not the other way around!"

I like the concept of a shot list - I tend to shoot a range of categories of photos in whichever place I visit, but I like that this app lists some 50 categories of photos you could potentially take (plus you can add your own), and then gives sample photos (from Ralph's own global roamings) and some brief hints about shooting each category.

With a trip to Vietnam looming at the end of the year, I'm looking forward to using this app, and even in my wanderings around Brisbane. Here are a couple of the screen shots.

Incidentally, Ralph's Photo Walking Tours and Cultural Tours look pretty impressive....something to keep in mind for my next trip, methinks :)

365 Challenge #334 - A storm brewing off Bondi!

Billy Joel's song "Storm Front" came to mind as Lizzie, Mike and I watched this whopper of a storm roll in over Bondi on Sunday afternoon. We'd have probably gone for a wander around the coast had the rain not started to dump down - but a few hours in the Bondi Icebergs, and another few hours in a yummy Italian trattoria made for a lurvely way to wile away the day.

365 Challenge #333 - Sails in Monochrome

Following on from my 80ish Cities post, I had a quick trip to my perennial favourite city, Sydney, over the weekend, and was treated to the most gorgeous day on Saturday. It was an awesome day to catch up with some of my Sydney buddies! It started with a photo walk around The Rocks - an area of my home town I truly adore. I love the historic buildings, the bustling markets, and all the fabulous iconic pubs.

I tried to look at the Opera House slightly differently in this shot, then snuck in a shot of Farrington Street en route to the Orient. Nothing like a quiet drink or two on a warm day! More drinks at the Oyster Bar ensued, followed by the most fabulous "keyseki" style Japanese meal. What a blissful day it was :)

Macro @ f22

We've been discussing macro work, a LOT, in the Colour II course at the Brisbane College of Photography & Art, and our assignment for this week was try to shooting macro at extremely small and large apertures (and all the way up the scale to see what it does to depth of field). We then had to print out the shots and show them at the class.

I shot this ring, in/on my (white dinner plate) studio, just using the glaring halogen spotlights in my kitchen, rather than using a flash. The first was shot at f/2.8, the second at f/22. I rarely shoot macro stuff at such small apertures, but this assignment showed me the difference (and benefit in doing so). Printing out the shots really highlighted the difference a change in aperture makes. The ring was also pretty sharp at about f/11.

So - the next time I go out shooting bugs and flowers, I'll definitely try smaller apertures. And a tripod.



Tarot and photography? What's the connection...?

When you think about photography, tarot cards are probably not the first thing that comes to mind...

I've been fascinated by tarot, astrology, and all things mystic for years. The first time I saw photography incorporated into a tarot deck, was when I met James Wanless about 20 years ago. He ran a "strategic intuition" workshop, and used the Voyager Tarot Deck as part of his methodology.

I bought my own Voyager Tarot deck that day, and still have my much-loved and consulted cards now. What I love about the deck is the rich, emotive imagery in every one of the 72 cards. Each card is a montage of images (mainly photos), that represent the characteristics of that card - some elements are natural, some man-made, and every card is inspiring in its own way. The image below is the first card in the Voyager deck - The Fool.

Earlier this week, in a completely unrelated context, I came across an artist and photographer by the name of Lee Varis, who is developing The New Millenium Tarot deck - a concept similar to the Voyager deck, but very different in look and feel.

Lee's website says he is "a photo-illustrator working in Hollywood. He has been involved in commercial photography for the last 25 years. He started working with computer imaging about 16 years ago and currently works with digital as well as conventional photography in conjunction with computer graphics to create images for use in print advertising."

Here's the Fool card from the New Millenium Deck. I love the style of this deck too, particularly that it incorporates digital photo images.

Tarot, and "oracles" in whatever form they come, have been around for thousands of years, I really love how uber-creative people like James Wanless and Lee Varis are incorporating digital photography into tarot to give it a modern-day spin.

Going bush - to Goondiwindi!

Copyright Victoria Hotel: www.victoriahotelgoondiwindi.com.au
 I've never been to a photography convention, and I've never been to Goondiwindi - a small town about 4.5 hours west of Brisbane.

When I received an email the other day announcing that the 2011 Photography Society of Queensland's annual convention was going to be held in Goondiwindi over the June long week, I had a squizz at the program and decided I'd make the trek out west to check it out.

PSQ 2011 has a range of speakers about all things photography. Some speakers - such as Bluedog Photography's Danielle Lancaster, and World Photo Adventures' Darren Leal, I've heard speak previously and look forward to hearing again. The keynote speaker is photojournalist Nigel Brennan. He and Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout, were held hostage for 462 days in Somalia - can't wait to hear his presentation!

Over the three days of the convention, there's also workshops in the afternoons and a star trails shoot on the Saturday evening - it will be great to get out under the stars for some long exposure shots.

I'm sure the drive out west will be an adventure in itself! I love checking out new places, and figure it's about time I start exploring my back yard here in Queensland. Bring on the long weekend!

365 Challenge #330 - The Cello

I don't have access to many musical instruments, so this morning when the chance came to photograph a friend's cello, I jumped at it.

It seemed that sepia tones would best suit this beautiful wooden instrument. I was particularly infatuated with the bridge. It reminds me a of a little man flexing his muscles :)

365 Challenge #329 - Shorncliffe Pier at night III

It was a beautiful balmy evening in Brisbane last night, and Shorncliffe Pier provided the perfect backdrop to capture sunset.

These starbursts came for free!