Photographing a local area is not just about photographing the obvious, take for example this abstract take on waves smashing on the rocks.
I could get lost in this photo. I took this shot from on top of the cliffs down onto the rocks which was a distance of almost 60 meters. I love the colors and the shapes that have been created as the water has smashed up against the rocks.
Because I am using a telephoto lens, the depth of field is very small so some of the droplets are in focus and some are not. I think the photo works, because it tells a story of the beauty that comes out of the violence of the water smashing against the rocks. I think the in-focus/out of focus nature helps take the eye on a bit of an exploration of where the sole of the picture is. I think it’s in the darker patch down near the rock.
For years I have walked past these pillboxes and never so much as taken a second look, but with a little bit of research, not only have I been able to get a fantastic shot but also uncovered some interesting local history and community activity that achieved the preservation of this area for public use for ever.
This pillbox is near and perhaps part of the Malabar Battery which was a coastal defense installment built in 1943 during World War II. The battery is located on Malabar Headland and is also known as Boora Point Battery built to complement the existing coastal defense batteries at nearby Henry Battery, Banks Battery and Bare Island Fort.
The historic value of the area is fantastic and ironic at times because even the graffiti, which we all despise on our public building these days, is considered valuable as some of it also dates back to World War II. You have to love that!
The reason I have titled this image ‘Now Watching You’, is because it reflects the theme of the graffiti, which has large eyes with tears in them (one of which can be seen in the photo), and the former duty of the pillbox which was to watch over Sydney during the war.
While its present duty is just to watch every sunrise for the rest of its life, with the crying eyes on it, it also seems to be saying, don’t forget me.
These gas storage cylinders at Port Botany are massive, all the more because you’re so close you can almost touch them, but how to convey that in a photo.
By the time I had finished solving the problems of the world with my newly found security guard friend I had shot off about 20 frames. Most in landscape, some portrait, some facing up the other road but the one I kept returning to is this one. To try and get the best choice in Lightroom I took a number of exposures varying the time of the exposure and even the aperture.
I varied the exposure because the bright light which is off the right out of shot, would over expose some parts of the cylinders if I used a long exposure but leave some parts in the shadows if it was not long enough, so getting the correct exposure was a bit of an experiment. The reason I varied the aperture was that I wanted the right amount of burst coming from the light down in the bottom left corner because I know a small aperture gives just that effect with points of light at night. The other problem I was battling was flaring which I did not completely get rid of but decided to leave in because its not too distracting.
White balance was a problem as it always it around industrial sites though I was lucky because it was mostly from one light. I did not try to adjust it in the camera but left it to deal with in Lightroom when I got home. I found that the most pleasing effect was by leaving it to LR to decide by selecting auto.
As to if I got the imposing nature I was after, well I think I did, and the key was in getting down low to take the shot the crane that happen to be there that night into the shot. Including it in the photo sets off the size of the cylinders better – to see what I mean, cover it with your hand and see the different impression you get of the cylinders. Having the first cylinder almost touch the edge of the top right hand side of the frame also helps give it that too big to fit in feel.
I love night photography – some of the most magical images I have seen are night shots. The colors are more intense, the mood you can achieve at night is often stronger and subjects which are just boring or drab during the day seem to ‘pop’ out in night photographs.
The photo above was inspired when recently reading Lance Keimig’s book Night Photography: Finding your way in the dark. Keimig covers all aspects of night photography in fine detail, but one chapter in particular inspired me to be a bit more adventurous than is normally my nature. In chapter two of his book, Keimig makes the point that getting about in the dark with a camera will often draw negative attention to you, so he gives a to-do list. Some suggestions include taking samples of your photos to show security guards that your there just for the art, he suggests you never run because that will always result in a chase and most importantly, if you want to get into restricted places, permission is better than sneaking in.
One Friday night, with nothing better to do, I thought I would take a drive down to Port Botany to see if I could get a shot of the shipping containers. I had always admired Jeffrey Smart’s paintings and I wanted to see if I could get some of the feeling he captured. I traveled around but could not get anywhere near them, they all seemed to be far behind locked gates. Way down the back of the Port I found myself amongst these massive white gas storage cylinders. They looked very imposing and I got to wondering if I could get that feel in a photo. There was no one around and I did not have to climb any gates so I parked the car, set up the tripod and started to make my exposures. It must have been 2 minutes and a security guard wanted to know what I was doing.
To cut a long story short, it turns out he was a Canon man and had a strong opinion about my Nikon. One and a half hours later, not only had I included some of his suggestions in my shots but the young man who had recently arrived in Australia from Turkey had given me a better appreciation for Islam, and Turkish politics, I had been able to explain some of the finer points of Australian politics to him and we had both agreed on the good and bad points of capitalism and globalisation. WOW! Photography – a new way to meet people.
Back in the car on the way home at 1am, I had given up hope on a container shot until from the corner of my eye I spotted an open gate – with no one around. I hit the brakes and wondered how far I could push my luck.
I calculated that if I was careful (read invisible), I could get a token shot or two. With high hopes, I dove the car through the gates and parked just inside. My heart pounded because I had not done anything so stupid since I was in my teens. I got the tripod out of the back of the car and you can imagine my dread as in the distance, towards the back of the yard, I noticed a small figure run for a container fork lift and gun his engine. Turning the machine between the stack of containers I lost sight of him but could hear the roar of his motor echo as he came closer and closer.
I knew I had seconds before he would be on me but Keimig’s advice stayed with me – don’t run I thought. In the moments before he arrived I noticed the security camera above my head. Clearly one for the dramatics, when he arrived, he had his drive lights turned to high beam and the fork was lifted to its top position 20 meters above the ground. Stopping right in front of me the rather big Mauri man looking down on me shouted over the noise of the engine,
‘what are you looking for mate?’.
I explained, holding up my tripod and camera,
‘I just want to take a couple of shots mate, is that OK? I won’t be long’.
My jaw almost hit the ground when he answered,
‘sure mate, that’s OK, just leave when you’re finished’.
And with that, he backed up the machine, lowered his fork and returned to the back of the yard.
The product of the next 15 minutes was the shot you see above. Enjoy.
Welcome to the South East (Sydney) Lens – a blog about the beauty and life around the south-east suburbs of Sydney – as seen through my camera lens.
I fell in love with photography more than 35 years ago when I got my first camera, a Praktika, as a Christmas gift from my parents. With my passion growing, while at University, I saved for almost nine months and proudly went into a photo shop in Market Street (an institution at the time but who’s name escapes me now) to pick up, the then state of the art, Nikon FA. The FA came with me everywhere I went – ah the memories, ah the photographs!
When I married, photography took second place to family, a career and the mortgage but now with more time and a better appreciation for the ‘important’ things in life, I am rediscovering my passion for this beautiful art. It has been a steep learning curve, not only rediscovering how to ‘see’ like a photographer again, but because now its all digital, in fact, it has been an absolutely fascinating journey which I now look forward to sharing on this blog. I have even found out a few new things about myself along the way – they say age does that to you.
This blog is also about the place I was born and have lived all my life – south-east Sydney. For the photographer the area provides abundant opportunities to capture fantastic and fascinating images. From its natural beauty, to its industrial landscapes, to the people who live here, it has been a joy for me to rediscover the area through my “newly found” camera lens.
I look forward to sharing and receiving your comments so come back every second day or so and have a look at what I have found. I hope you enjoy the images and my humble understandings of the photographic process.
One last note, I would just like to acknowledge a fellow blogger Judy who has inspired me to have a shot at sharing my love for photography and experiences as I learn. Judy writes a blog called Raising the Curtain so have a look, its lots of fun. Thanks Judy.