Saturday, 31 January 2015

Port Macquarie, NSW Australia

A few years ago me and my sister was driving up the NSW North Coast to Grafton to shoot Jacaranda tree. Grafton is the capital Jacaranda in Australia I think. On both sides of the road there were Jacaranda trees. When it was full bloom it is a view to behold.

Anyway about this photo, we were staying in a caravan park in Port Macqaurie and not Grafton. The caravan park was virtually next to the ocean. I could hear the waves crashing into the shore line. It was close to nature as you could get. There were many wonderful beaches in Port Macquarie, I rushed my sister to check out the sunrise along the beach. We drove to this beach and I saw the rocks, I thought to myself this could make an interesting photo.

I had a few shots at it, with different composition. I have to plant my tripod closer to the waves to catch the reflections. Yes I was using a table tripod on a beach. It did the job. I put on a 2 seconds timer so there was no camera shake with my hand touching the shutter button.

My sister then rushed me to go to another location. The afternoon before this day, we scout locations for sunrise and sunset and my sister want to check out the light house. So I only have a few shot of this beach and the rocks unfortunately.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Flower Friday: B&W


I trick you didn't I? You though it was black and white didn't you? When it comes to flower, it is best to shot in colour. I know some people only shot in black and white, and that's alright. We're all different but for me personally I prefer my flowers to be in colour.

Why would a guy interested in flower you might ask? My usual answer was to get inspirations for my next smokey eyes. I am also a make-up artist. I play with colours all the time. Just like a kinder-garden kid that wants  to play with crayon. Somehow as adults we've lost the sense of adventures. Every kids is an artist and somehow the modern education system doesn't nurture the artist in us. It is a left brain dominate education system, it simply kills the right side of the brain where the creativity lies.

Starting to learn about photography and post processing with Photoshop, I have trained my eyes to see things more creatively and nurture the inner artist in me that was being suppress for so long. The learning curves for me was easier as I play with colour all the time with make-up. The skills in make-up make me understood a little bit about art with colour, lights and shadows and composition. So picking up photography was somehow feel natural.

As for you, when was the last time you play crayon? If you forgotten, it is now to play again. I always suggest people pick up photography. You have a camera already. That's your smart phone. Makes interesting photo with it, play with colour in post-processing with Snapseed or similar apps. See what's the artist in you can create. Surprise yourself!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Crystal Brook Lavender Farm, Laggan NSW Australia


Crystal Brook Lavender Farm
What is like to spend a day in a lavender farm? For me personally I love lavender (Lavendula officinalis), the smell of just calm me down straight away. All the stress of life just goes away. When I first stepped into the farm house I could smell the aroma of lavender already, a distinctly essential oil of lavender. Who has ever smell it could never forgotten it. Apparently the olfactory sense is the most potent in our memory. It just stays there and called upon when needed.
Fresh Lavender
The farm was small, I had a preconceived idea of Provence, France where they have acreages of lavender farm. There's no such place in Australia which is unfortunately because we have the land and the climax to grow many medicinal herbs like lavender. Not to mention the photo tourists like myself who will drive two and half to get to the farm. So when you have something interesting people will come.


The distillation process is an interesting one, and seeing first hand makes the trip worthwhile for me. I knew it was a labour intensive and the process to produce high quality essential oil is an art form as well. Apparently if you use copper the smell it actually better in the end. I don't know if it true or not but that what I've heard.

Dried Lavender Bunch
Oil and Water from Distillation
There was a cooking class demonstration and I was introduced to cooking with herbs at home. Herbs and spices are great in cooking. Too bad I'm not much of a cook, but I bought the herbs book though.. I am a herbalist so that's interest me more. I am include the map so you could get to the place and the link to the farm website if you want to know more or visit the farm. Click here for the farm website.




Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Great Pillars of China



This was taken New Year Day 2014. After watching the fireworks display in Sydney CBD I had an idea, how about going watch the sunrise this morning? Bondi beach was the obvious choice but it probably crowded. So I suggest Baldhill Lookout, Stanwell Tops an hour drive from Sydney. I though that was a crazy idea and no one will be there. To my surprise, there were people, who had the same idea.

After waiting for the New Year sunrise, it was not the best. But I guessed not many people have the experiences of watching the fireworks and watching the sunrise out of the Great Pacific Ocean ever in their life so I am considered myself lucky. Hey I am living in a the lucky country, can't complaint there.

I though the idea was crazy because we have to drive 1 hour to get to this spot. There are so many great beaches to see the sunrise in Sydney. We didn't have to drive 1 hour and especially we had stay up all night. So a bit dangerous driving on the highway.

I shot this photo using a Canon 7D, I am using a M43 system right now and probably shot 90% of all my photos in 2014 with the M43 system. It's light, compact and very capable system. Why I am reverted back to using the Canon 7D? I was using fill flash and I didn't want a dark shadows so I have to resort to flash. I under exposed the sky and using Canon TTL system on the flash. I am currently using a Canon 430EX, yes a very old flash and not as powerful as current models. But it somewhat did the job for most of my photography needs.

The tittle of the blog post is interesting? "The great pillars of China" when I first look at the photo, I though to myself. What could be a catchy name for it? Yeah I copy the name from the Great Wall of China. I haven't seen the Great Wall yet, it is on my to visit destination of the world. But in the meantime I have to see my own backyard first. The great continent of Australia. Have you done anything crazy lately? Do it you only live once right? Make sure it legal and not affecting anyone or your own well-being.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Natalie

Natalie

Shot this with a DSLR (Canon 7D) a few years ago when I first started to learn about photography. Did anyone like the make-up? Yeah I did it. It's called a split winged eye-liner in case anyone to know. Simple yet very sexy I reckon oh...sorry simple for some.

I was a second shooter in the this particular photo-shoot. After I've done the make-up I ask the stylist if I could photograph as well. The stylist was organising the shoot. She said yes and what I what know about about photography with landscape initially now transfer it to taking portraiture with people. It's easier to work with models and you're simply shoot. They know how to pose and make the job very easy.

After the shoot, the other photographer who happens to be a professional real-estate/architecture photographer commented that "he's an artist, he put things into the frame." Right there and then I knew that I have a talent for the camera.

I shot this on fine JPEG on the 7D hence there's no retouching on the final image. I could retouched it now but it's degraded the quality a bit. But then again there's nothing wrong with the photo or the model. What's there to be retouched?

Monday, 26 January 2015

Australia Day 2015 Street Moments

I've just got back from Sydney city and start to processed the best moment I think of the Australia Day 2015. Australia is a multicultural society and this photo depicted it really well I think.

Technically it might be just slightly out out focus a bit. I was holding a camera in one hand and the other hand I was holding on to an umbrella all day. So I can excused myself. When it comes to street photography you can't always get it right. The moment is more important than the technical. If it was a clear day and I wasn't trouble with a tripod to do video at the same time as taking photo, then I'll be more disciplined. But it happens so fast. I bump up the ISO to 800 as I have taken the other shots but with a slow shutter speed. All blurry so only I can see it.

After the end of the boat and Navy parade out on the harbour, I was walking back toward Circular Quay and saw this young group putting on face paint. I though the moment was interesting. It so candid and that what I enjoy most about street photography. Capture a piece of life/time and sharing what's interesting about it.

As for Australia Day? This was the first time ever in my life that I've came to the Harbour to celebrate Australia Day. I've never seen the Harbour with so many boats, maybe New Year Eve. But the another day is Australia Day. You get small to big ships/boat. There was boat races to entertain everyone around the harbour foreshore to celebrate Australia Day.

Even though this particular Australia day was raining, people still came out to celebrate. A true Aussie spirit. There was entertainments for kids and adult all day. I didn't attend the whole day but next year I'll be more prepare and stay up there longer to take more photos and videos.

Chipping Norton Lake, Sydney Australia



1st time trying out time-lapse photography was here with a DSLR. I failed miserably with it. There was too much flicker in the final video. I've learnt to overcome it with the twisted lens method. Basically shot with the lens half detached from the camera. Oh well 3rd generations (mirrorless) camera never have that problem.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Custom House "Sydney's under my feet"



First time I actually went into Custom House. Usually I shot outside and so much to shoot outside with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I went in this time and was surprised there was a miniature Sydney model on the floor. I went up the stairs to get the bird eye view of it. And wait for the right moment and I capture this beautiful father and child moment I think.

Usually with public buildings they reluctant to let anyone use a tripod, this was shot wide open on a f1.4 lens, so it pays to have fast lens in this kind of situation. I could have shot the model just as it is but it would be an okay photo. I wait for the right subject to enter into the frame to complete the composition. Notice that the father and daughter are in the "Rule of Third".

With street photography, you find the background, set the stage and let the performance enter the scenes. Most good street photographers will do that. Please use a wide angle lens. It is street photography so you want to use a 50mm or 35mm, if you really keen then use a 24mm wide angle to get the viewer to be involved in the scene. Bring the viewer with you when you shoot something. That's the art of street photography.

Mirrorless camera is compact and not in your face type of camera. You have great choices now with the Micro Fourth Third System, Fuji and Sony all offer great cameras for street photography. I didn't mention Leica did I? I haven't had the privilege to shot with it yet, but it is the original street photographer camera.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Burragorang Lookout, Nattai National Park NSW Australia.



One hour drive away from Sydney in all directions and you are in National Park territory. First time I've discovered Nattai National Park, a massive park and still very rugged. Many great walking tracks and the famous "Star Trail" track is waiting to be explored for the adventurous.

Nattai National Park is a less explore parks because most of the parks are protected by Sydney Catchment Authority. Sydney's water is supplied by Warragamba Dam and the Burragorang Lake is a big reservoir of fresh water.

I was exploring this part of Sydney on a cloudy so I converted the photo to black and white. The trick to black and white is dodging and burning. The classic dark room trick to makes the photograph stands out. Ansel Adams was the master at it and the rest of us just follow the masters that comes before us.

For this photo, I used burning more than dodging. It is so bright that I have to darken some parts down. I also contour the edges of the mountains to make it stands out even further. It is somewhat of a local sharpening trick but you use the brush tool instead of some sharpening techniques. It is more effective than the overall sharpening. You're directing where you want the viewers eyes go in your frame.

I used Adobe Lightroom 5 for local adjustment, it is adequate but not as powerful as Photoshop when it comes to local adjustments. For most editing, I'll use Lightroom and now and then I used Photoshop if Lightroom doesn't do it for me. It is cheap now to get both programs on a subscription basis and it's open the door for so many people to photography and the fun you can get out it. It's is adults back in kinder-garden again. I just love it!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Flower Friday Series


Someone suggested photographers post more photos of flowers. Usually we don't post photos of flowers unless it is amazing photo or really different. Because flowers are beautiful already, and difficult to make them look even more beautiful in photo. Also many great photos of flower exist already. Just imagine rose for example, how many million photo of rose already on the net? So it is hard to interpret it beauties in a different ways.

But I'll try my best with a series of flower on Friday. Here the first in the series. As a colour photographer, my eyes draw to beautiful and colourful things naturally. So it is hard to resist not taking a photo of flower when you see one. As if the flower says to you please share me with the world.

Many writers and poets have described or compared flowers to a woman life. The cycle a woman goes through in life, from birth to death and everything in between. Where is the the peak of a woman beauty? I'll let the women answer it for me. A sensitive subject I know.
Also as an excuse for me to share some of my flowers to the world. I know my taste might not be for everyone. But I'm sure it's unique so check back on Friday to get my latest flower series.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Custom House Christmas Tree 2014



Sometime f8 at 1/250 can be boring. I experiment a little bit with my camera and see what images I can create. Something different, not necessary better and was done in camera which I enjoy more than post processing.

Ingredients:
  • ISO 160 | Aperture f16 |Shutter 13 seconds
  • A sense of exploration.
Method:

  1. 1) On a tripod for half the exposure (this to ensure some part of the photo still remains sharp)
  2. 2) Move the camera to taste. (experiment with a few movements or move camera upside down, sideways etc)
  3. 3) Check your result and repeat the process.

I taught this to a random girl on this particular night with DSLR on Auto. Show her how to shoot in Manual and she got similar but different shots, all unique though. I got a big "Thank you" and all is what I need. She really amazed and surprised that a camera can do that.

Try it and see what happens next year with Christmas Tree or carousels someone suggests to me. A big thanks to Thomas Hawk for pointing it out to me. My next experiment with this techniques if I see a carousels. There's one in Darling Harbour actually or a circus usually they have it.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Mount Wilson, Blue Mountains NSW Australia



Every falls I go up the mountains for the fall colours. Usually I have to have a few trips to check out the colour. Mount Wilson is probably the best place in the Blue Mountains for Autumn colours. I love to shoot a models or couple up here one day for engagement.

One element that is missing from the photo is some fog. Hopefully this year I have fogs up there and it could add some mystery to the photo. Fingers cross.

With falls colours that is in the photo above, there must be some post-processing work in Photoshop. The natural colours of fall leaves doesn't look like that. It is an artist/photographer expression of reality. Some people thinks great photographs just magically falls out of the camera as it is. Usually it's not the case, it is the person behind the camera that's the most important to an image.

If you look at the great landscape photographer Ansel Adams, he manipulated the negative in the darkroom to fit the artist expression. It is the final print that is the performance of a photo, and the end justify the means in my opinion. I just simply want to be entertained and stimulate by great images. Photoshop and camera equipments are simply tools.

If you want to learn how to create similar photo in Photoshop, Scott Kelby has some create stuff to share. I have embedded the Youtube video where you can learn this specific techniques. It is easy once you know how to use it. Check it out at below at the "one hour mark" for the fall colours technique. I highly suggest you watch the entire video if you want to get start in Photoshop. You cannot learn Photoshop in a few months. It takes 2-3 years to have mastery over Photoshop. I once heard another photographer said "to have mastery over any skills you need to spend 10,000 hours on it."


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Flower Friday "Garden of Roses"



Just before anyone comment of the blurriness of the photo. It was like that on purpose. Yes this is an impressionist painting not a photograph. Oh that's how I feel anyway.

I've done this in camera with no Photoshop. Yeah, I know you could take a sharp photo and use the filters in Photoshop to make a photograph become paintery like. When I first tried out those filters, I said to myself, that was fun. But when I experiment with paintery looks in camera, now that's really fun.

With this techniques, you're get 1 keeper out of 100 shots. The blurs might not be what you want or it is too much and it's become too abstract. Experiment with shutter speed, try it out at 1/30 or 1/15. Shake the camera, warning this might break the mirror in your DSLR and your camera become mirrorless. Another camera movement is "Z", you might not have enough time to do the full "Z" so lower you shutter speed even further.

Try it out let me know how you go. You've might get hook on this techniques and never take the flower photograph the same. Please take the sharp photos first and start to experiment with blurs.

Ello and Social Expectations


As I have passed 100 posts on Ello, I was thinking to myself, what are the attractiveness of social media? A simple answer that I could come up is...it is simple. It makes someone voice on the net be heard. I used to have Twitter accounts...yes Twitter accounts. I have about 20 accounts I think. There was a software that I was using to follow people and if they don't follow me back within 3 days the software un-follow that particular person. So the game was how many followers you can get.

I am using Facebook and have a fanpage as well. Most of my friends are on Facebook and basically it's okay that the quality of the post is not great. But they your friends so it's alright. To catch up on what's they doing, I simply quickly browse through the posts. Don't know how the algorithm work on Facebook and the advertisement? It's part of life and you simply cannot get away from it unless you pay.

As for Instagram? I don't get it.

Google+ is a great viewing platform to showcase my work. You get tonnes of views for your photos. And some of your post could be search engine optimised, especially on Google search engine. Make Google your friends.

For Ello, I've heard from @thomashawk while watching TWIP. I see great artists in here that is on the same boat as I am. They want somewhere on the net where they could have a voice and Ello and other social network makes it so simple that they have forgotten to do it for themselves.

Ello is still in Beta and invites only to get into the social network. They are fine-tune the technical challenges and makes the social network more enjoyable for the members. But as a business person myself, the Venture Capitalist (VC) will want to ask themselves. When can I get my return on investment (ROI)? What business model is Ello based on? From what I have read online, they want to copy iTune or Ebay business model. Pay to upgrade for extra features or services.

What's make Ello unique? Or is it unique at all? The anti-Facebook, no advertisement and community based is "cute" and simply a marketing gimmick. The early creator of Ello had a noble idea but I can't see myself paying extra features that I can get elsewhere virtually free. The attractions of social media is the instant feedback you get back after a post. An immediate reward either positive or negative, your voice is answered.

What could Ello do and still remains viable business model?

I have done some random research on some of the people active right now on Ello. What I've noticed is about 50% or more don't have a personal website. They have other social networks like Google+, Facebook and Twitter account but a personal website...NO. Why is that? The answer is simple, it is easy to have an on-line presents immediately and a community to response to your voices or audiences. Either with friends on Facebook, total strangers on Twitter or Google+.

The backlash from Facebook is not your post is not seen by friends and family. The online voice is restricted by "Big Brother", unless you pay "Big Brother Facie" ofcourse. In business we have to talk about exchange of value, what values does social media brings to the table? TRAFFIC either by pay advertisement to drive traffic to sites for other exchange of values, goods or services or ideas.

Ello is not and never allow advertisement on the site? The critics are out pointing to this facts. How else will they survive and grow? They can't rely on a few merchandise sales to fund the growth, there must be a long term solutions.

The solution

500px business models for photographs but apply to text, photos,graphics etc. Let me explain myself, currently on 500px, photographers can upload as many photo as they want and they basically can select which photos to be in their portfolio on a personal website, with domain attach, and it instantly go online. Any changes to it can be done instantly. What's stop Ello and all the posts to have the same characteristics?

People want to own a personal website, a virtual land on the world wide web. Who ever can make it easiest and pain free own the markets. There's online click and drag website builder like Wiz and SquareSpace but they lack the community aspect to it. You want to have a dynamic website that constantly growing and also constantly indexed in search engines. I personally want my work to be discovered by other people outside social network. And I'm sure other artists on Ello feel the same.

Ello never allow advertisement on Ello website, but I want to have an option to monetized my effort on my personal website host/DNA/engineer by Ello. For adds on, like shopping cart and email list, I am willing to pay for it and it certainly provide great values to me.

Summary

Right now Ello is in a great place to make great changes to social network. With a great brand awareness but lack directions in my opinion. Ello don't want to be a anti-Facebook but a leading content provider for the people. A voice if you prefer for the information age. Only then Ello can find the right niche and serves some values to the people. Otherwise it is just another "cute" friend or social network that I find online.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sydney's CBD Light Trail

When it comes to light trail photography, the best places are the city bridges and/or above footpaths. However, not many places in the city where you could actually put your tripod to get a really long exposure to get the light trail.

A few years back I've came across this bridge which I have link to on Google Map so you can have similar shots. Hopefully by then they don't put up any wired/meshed fence to block the view. With this particular spot you can actually put your tripod down and compose the shot. You need to get really close to the fence or let you wide angle lense next to the fence. Get creative with you tripod placement. I have done some creative tripod placement in the past and I know you could do similar things.

The best time is probably just after sunset, depends on where you live it could be 15-30 minutes after sunset. To get the trail your shutter speed must be as least 30 seconds. That's mean that your aperture must be low. For most of my night photography, my aperture is set at f.8 but if you want the stars burst effect you want to go f.16.

The benefits of shooting after sunset is the blue hour phenomenon. There's only a brief moment where the sky turns to blue and the ambience light from the city matches the sky. My favourites time to shoot the skyline.

There's also another secret spot which most photographers missed altogether. It is behind the Art Gallery of NSW and it's about 50 meters from this particular spot. You still can get great shots but without the CBD view.

Try it out and leave a comment below if you have tried the spot or the secret spots. I love to see your shots. Happy shooting!