Colours of Old Hill Street

Whatever way you look at it, Singapore is a colourful city. It boasts a colourful mix of cultures, cuisines and language, and it boasts a rich array of colourful architecture.

With 927 windows in a variety of colours, Singapore’s Old Hill Street Police Station is a striking landmark as you cruise up the Singapore River from the Marina Bay towards Clarke Quay.

The building no longer functions as a police station, but its presence, colour and architecture tell a story – a story that is rich with the history of a building that has served as a colonial era police station, a Japanese wartime kempeitai and into the modern era as a government building.

View Colours of Old Hill Street

This post also appears on:

Balancing Equipment Care with Getting the Shot

British landscape photographer and YouTuber Thomas Heaton recently produced an interesting video about looking after your camera gear.

What is cool about the video is that while Thomas stresses excellent care procedures and suitable cleaning techniques (who can forget “always blow before you go”), he puts just as much emphasis on not getting too precious about your gear.

As landscape photographers we should be out in the elements and we should be exposing ourselves and our kit to horrific conditions like wind, rain, sand, ash, dust, dirt… Because that’s how we make the images. If you’re only going out in perfect conditions you’re never going to have the chance to capture those truly compeling images.

I have to agree with Thomas’ thinking — there is an inverse relationship between great images and great conditions.[1] Being out in inclement weather and in rainy, windy, sandy or dusty environments provides opportunities for great images[2].

I see my landscape and underwater photography as being participative photography[3]. As a photographer I am not passively observing the environment that I am capturing – I am part of it. The story is my story, not someone else’s.

I don’t see my story as being that guy who only goes out when it is perfect. I go out and enjoy the experiences life has to offer, and often my camera goes with me. Yes, I have to clean and look after my gear, sometimes it needs to be repaired, and occassionally I have lost or damaged equipment. But it is worth it.

As Thomas said:

Get out there in the elements and take photographs, because that ultimately is what it’s all about.

Feeding Time by Des Paroz on 500px.com

 


  1. At least above water. For underwater images good conditions make your life much better–not just for the actual image, but also for the shooting ;-). That said, some of my best images were made in poor viz.  ↩
  2. Importantly there is a threshold somewhere where this inverse relationship stops, and you’d better take shelter. Your personal safety must never be comprimised for the sake of an image. Don’t be out in the midst of a cyclone or in close proximity to lightning storms just to get a shot.  ↩
  3. I think I borrowed, or at least adapted, that term from the late Galen Rowell.  ↩
This post also appears on:

A lesson re-learned

I sometimes wonder how often we have to re-learn a lesson we’ve previously learned. It can be an especially intriguing conundrum when we make a mistake that not only have we previously learned, but one for which measures have been put in place to minimise associated risks.

Recently I went out for some sunrise photography at Cullen Bay in Darwin, a picturesque bayside suburb with a marina and even a lock to allow the bay and marina to stay. It is a stunning location for sunrise photography, especially with an aspect that features the sun rising over the picturesque marina.

Cullen Bay

My preferred vantage point for such photos is on the corner of a boardwalk that extends out over the bay. The boardwalk is constructed of wooden boards that have a 3–5cm gap between them, so I tend to take care when fitting filters, lenses and other accessories to my rig.

In an effort to ensure I have what I need whenever I go for a shoot, and to ensure each piece is secured properly I have a standard way that I stow my gear, firstly in an inner bag, which then goes into a messenger bag or backpack, depending on the shoot. Stowing stuff is important to make sure I can find things quickly, and that it doesn’t fall out.

This time I took along a spare battery that I took out of the charger, and literally three into a top compartment of my backpack – not in the normal pocket I put batteries in on the insert bag. The top compartment is where I stow things like a flash unit and filter kits[1].

I carefully laid my backpack down on a table, setup my tripod and camera, and decided to add a graduated neutral density filter. With the backpack laid down I opened the top compartment, and straight away the spare battery fell out, bounced onto the boardwalk below, and then straight through a gap and into the water.

So the spare battery, not a cheap accessory, was quickly lost into Cullen Bay.

The lessons learned:

  1. Have a set way to stow gear for securing and quick retrieval.
  2. Use it consistently.

The lesson could have been more expensive. And it is a cheap lesson if I re-learn it, and apply the lessons consistently.


  1. I am actually looking for a better set up for stowing my filter kits, so will hopefully have a better approach sooner than later.  ↩

The Blast Furnace

The Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography

I recently read a fascinating ebook called The Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography by Scott Wyden Kivowitz.

I am quite keen on progressing my street photography skills, but I don’t always feel comfortable just taking a photo of someone, and I don’t relish the idea of approaching a stranger to ask their permission to do so.

In The Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography, Scott provides good strategies to give it a go.

The Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography is available from the author’s site as a PDF, and is also available from the iBook and Kindle stores.

The Blast Furnace

On Boxing Day Belinda and I got out of town for a couple of days, traveling up to Lithgow along the Bell’s Line of Road, and coming back via the Blue Mountains.

It was a beautiful couple of days exploring Lithgow, a town that I had not visited previously. It is a place that is full of history, including having been the original home of Australia’s steel industry.

The Old Blast Furnace preceded the steel works in both the Hunter and Illawarra regions.

I found it amazing that this old structure is still standing, albeit in a quite dilapidated state. I also found it amazing that you can freely wander about the site, given there are a lot of deep holes and pits.

I was pleased that I could wander around as it is a photogenic site, and I hope that photographers and others can continue to explore locations like this.

As I wandered about the Blast Furnace, I could not help but wonder about the efforts and hardwork of the people who built and operated the old Blast Furance.

View this image on 500px, Ello or Flickr

The Wreck at Homebush Bay

Photography Podcasts

I love podcasts[1], which are a great way of getting quick info on a huge variety of topics whilst on the go – driving, commuting, running, walking, etc. I am really enjoying some great photo podcasts at the moment, and would suggest the following five to anyone interested in photography.

  1. This Week in Photography by Frederick van Johnson
  2. The Digital Story with Derrick Story
  3. Your Itinerary – a travel and photography podcast from the TWIP stable, and hosted by Micro Four Thirds photographer Rob Knight
  4. Photofocus – podcast founded by Scott Bourne and hosted by Richard Harrington.
  5. The Photowalk Guys – an Australian podcasted hosted by Ben Frewtrell and Rob Potter

The Wreck at Homebush Bay

The SS Ayrfield is one of several old shipwrecks around Homebush Bay in Sydney’s west.

As an avid wreck diver and underwater photographer I have always enjoyed the challenge of trying to get images of shipwrecks. Challenging it is, as trying to get even a small wreck in an image is complex when you need to shoot through what is often gloomy water.

To have the opportunity to capture images of a wreck in its final resting place, while shooting from shore is wonderful, and you can really take your time to make a variety of images.

Built over 100 years ago, the SS Ayrfield was one of the ‘60 milers’ – the name given to the numerous colliers that worked between Sydney Harbour and the coalfields of the Illawarra and Hunter regions.

In 1972, the Ayrfield was sent to a ship breaking yard at Homebush, and is one of four wrecks that remain in place.

Homebush Bay was once a hub of Sydney’s heavy industry, and became a dumping ground for a lot of industrial waste, including the old ship hulls.

Having been cleaned up, Homebush Bay became the home of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, and is now a residential, sporting and entertainment and business district.

The old wrecks remain in place, and are popular sites for photography, particularly with the setting sun.

View this image on 500px, Ello or Flickr


  1. I have hosted a podcast on karate, scuba diving and personal productivity in the past. My podcasting is on hiatus at the moment.  ↩

Zig Zag Station

Ello

There has been a lot of positive discussion on Ello about the future role of this relatively new social media platform. People like photographer Thomas Hawk, Ello co-founder Paul Budnitz and Ello user @bigpoppae have made eloquent posts in support of the site.

To me the very thing that makes Ello appealing is that there is a small community of people, most of whom share a creative bent – be that photography or other artistic endeavours.

I rarely use Facebook. I occasionally use Google+, and regularly use Twitter. But I find that Ello is the site that draws me in most, and I plan to interact there more than any other site in the coming year.

Zig Zag Station

The old Lithgow Zig Zag Railway line in Australia’s Blue Mountains operated from 1869 to 1910, after which it was replaced by a new deviation that operates to this day.

The Clarence Station was the centre of a railway town during this time, but today the restored station is the main remnant of the old town.

Around the old station lie a number of engines, carriages and other rolling stock that formed part of a tourist railway that operated from 1975 until 2012. Many of these items were damaged in the bushfires of 2013.

It is possible to wander about the site and view the rolling stock and station, with no fences or signs keeping people out. That said, some areas have asbestos, so it is best to avoid trying to go into any of the rolling stock.

The site is a bit overgrown, but represents an important piece of the early settlement beyond the Blue Mountains.

View this image on 500px, Ello or Flickr

Operatic Sunrise

Buying Photo Gear

I’ve bought some photo gear lately – mostly from Australian retailers. I am always amazed about how unsatisfying the experience is for high value items.

Retailers always remind me that the price includes ‘Australian warranty’ and ‘Australian GST’. By law in Australia these things must be included in the price quoted, so emphasising these factors is redundant.

I guess that retailers are sensitive to competing with (overeas) online vendors, but in many respects the lack of expertise offered and the references actually drives me towards online purchase.

Especially when I buy a lens and the standard upsell attempt of a filter is the best value add offered – even more so when the particular lens doesn’t have a filter mount.

I wonder why there aren’t photo retailers that better emphasise the photo experience, and treat the whole thing more like Apple does with their retail operations.

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone all the best for a safe, happy and successful 2015.

Operatic Sunrise

Today is New Years Eve, and the world’s eyes are on Sydney Harbour as one of the major focal points for seeing in the New Year.

This image of the Sydney Opera House, one of Harbour’s iconic landmarks, was made at sunrise a week ago, and I think it beautifully captures the dramatic air of this unique building.

As we move into 2015 I look forward to taking in as many sunrises and sunsets as I can!

View this image on 500px, Ello or Flickr

Narrabeen Pool

Sydney has a lot of wonderful ocean pools, most of which are photogenic, particularly at sunrise and sunset.

The pool at Narrabeen on the Northern Beaches is perhaps one of the most interesting photographically, and is an extremely worthwhile destination for pre-sunrise photography.

The beautiful light in the morning twilight, coupled with still waters yet to be disturbed by keen swimmers makes this an excellent location.

This image, of course, use HDR techniques to capture the beautiful range of colours visible to the eye, but invisible to most cameras.

This image was created with a Panasonic Lumix GX–7 micro four-thirds camera and an Olympus 9–18mm lens, at the widest range.

View this image on 500px or Flickr.

Links to Sunrise

Links to Sunrise

Sunrise at Mahon Pool, near Maroubra in Sydney’s east.

The chain fence around the pool was the key feature for this image, and I used it to form the basis for the composition. The chain fence is a leading line through the photo, and the key linking feature—the link between the pool and the ocean, the link between night and day (sunrise), etc.

The ‘golden hour’ before sunrise is generally a magic time for photography. A site like Mahon Pool is magic on a slightly cloudy day at sunrise, with the intense redness being reflected into both the sea and the pool.

Not only is Mahon Pool a great spot for sunrise photography, it is also one of Sydney’s best shore dive spots, but only in a calm sea, due to the rather exposed entry and exit point.

View Links to Sunrise on 500px
View Links to Sunrise on Flickr

A Morning at the Opera

Sydney Harbour is one of the most scenic harbours in the world, at least in part due to some of the world famous landmarks like the Sydney Opera House.

The image was made from Milsons Point using a Nikon 18–200mm telephoto zoom. Finding the right position was challenging because I had to shoot under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

With the sun coming up somewhat behind the Opera House, I exposed three images and tone mapped them using HDR. A little bit of sharpening was also applied.

Sydney Harbour is a beautiful waterway, and I enjoy exploring different parts of it for sunrise and sunset.

See A Morning at the Opera on 500px
See A Morning at the Opera on Flickr