sydney, meet diana

I haven't shot extended exposures before because to be able to do it on the Holga, one must undertake irreversible camera surgery. This is one of Diana's advanced features, so I thought I might as well give it a go on my debut roll.

We - that is to say, myself and my travelling companion, whose face appears below - sat on the very shallow ledge of a newsstand (or some such small street-corner construction) in the middle of Sydney on a Sunday night for approximately two-and-a-half minutes while the open-shuttered camera sat precariously next to us, absorbing all that you can see above. It isn't the best setting for this kind of thing, nor is it the best result for this kind of thing, but I don't have a tripod and, as I discovered, it is rather difficult to find a suitably stable surface on which to balance a camera at Sydney's CBD intersections. I'm including it here because a) it isn't awful, and b) it's new for me.

So, I no longer have to shamefully admit that I've never been on a Sydney ferry... above is the on- and off-board view from my outdoor seat (who sits inside on a ferry?! A lot of people, apparently).

I used the straight-up colour film that came with the camera, and I'm not used to how the images look; I've been so preoccupied with slide that standard colour rarely gets a look-in. This image in particular has grown on me, though. The colour is very plain, and the city skyline decidedly unspectacular. These qualities are precisely what draws me to it - the whole thing really recalls the eighties for me. And I don't mean the garish fluoro-and-shoulder-pad eighties that lines the walls of General Pants Co and its ilk, either. Instead, I see the washed-out colour of bad home photography, the ugly corporate buildings and yeah, OK, the white sunglasses. It's the unsightly side of the era - the side that is perhaps forgotten or unknown among the young eighties revivalists. It interests me.

So here are the first shots from my new lomo. And the first shots from the aforementioned Sydney trip. The images aren't spectacular. But just like the trip, there are aspects that are very interesting.


blondes have more fun

So my sister has this car. Sometimes it doesn't have a roof. She drives around, when it isn't raining, without a roof. Sometimes she drives through the hills, when it's sunny. And it looks like this.

Come late January 2010, she's gonna be looking like this from the south coast of Victoria, right across the dry brown land - battling wild kangaroos, camels, horses and backward bogans - all the way to the upper reaches of the Northern Territory. See, she decided to move to Darwin. And she's taking our cousin-slash-honorary-brother with her.

She's kind of prone to spontaneity, especially of the outrageous variety, and for better or worse she lives for the moment. When I think of my sister, the image of her blonde hair and multicoloured headscarf flying in the breeze with youthful abandon as she cruises the open road is apt, to say the least.

In lieu of my (only) sister, I will have to turn to this cheeky blonde monkey for some uninhibited fun on my visits home next year. Here she is - my cousin's irresistable second child - playing hide-and-seek while her younger sister (also known as my delightful goddaughter) watches on inquisitively. Also pictured is the tree that hid more than a few of us during the brief play session one bright Saturday afternoon.

If my beautiful little girls are too busy sleeping, playing with others or, god forbid, growing up, I might end up having no-one to frolick with. And then I will just have to go back to being a grown-up.


up, up, away

Remember when I said I love Sydney? Well I'm quite chuffed because this weekend I'm off to the unofficial Aussie capital again for a little pre-Christmas sojourn.

This aerial shot is not of Sydney, but I took it the last time I was on a plane. The scene depicts the Gold Coast, which I flew into and over when I experienced some splendour in the grass earlier this year.

On my last visit to Sydney - which was in fact exactly one year ago - I ran amok in the intoxicatingly vibrant Kings Cross, reconnected with my inner bohemian at the Glebe market, did the tourist thing at the House and the Bridge, spotted Kanye (complete with heavy-set entourage) on the streets of the CBD and pretended I was a rich person at The Rocks. All of which with my very adventurous sister in tow. Here she is walking down one of the many streets in Sydney that exist to me only as a memory rather than a definable location:

This time around I intend to laze in the Botanical Gardens, get all cultured at some (hopefully free) galleries, take trains and buses and legs on the trek out to Bondi, hang out with the ultra-cool indie kids at Oxford St and lose my shit at the Lomo store in Paddington. Most of the time, I imagine, this guy will be my worthy companion:

Oh, and I will also debut my gorgeous-looking, spanking-new hot pink Diana, in conjunction with my trusty Holga, in order to hopefully get a nice selection of two-dimensional keepsakes.

Maybe next year I'll try somewhere new, but for now it's all about Melbourne's perky blonde sister.


back to basics

I don't know who this girl is.

At a Greek festival held in the city earlier this year I decided to try and get a shot of the classic clowns. I stood there for so long, waiting (im)patiently while child after bratty child took their turn, hoping to get the clowns all to myself for a rugrat-free shot. The opportunity never arose, and so I reluctantly took the photo while my oblivious subject waited for something interesting to happen.

I was quite self-conscious taking this, because I never know how people (such as her mother) will react, and to seek permission would be to ruin the moment. Evidently the child's mother didn't take any notice because there were no immediate repercussions. I almost wish she had noticed, though, so perhaps I would have met her and could have eventually shown her the photo. But that wasn't to be.

Though I very much regret the visible wall in the foreground, I cherish this photo because of the subtle moment it has captured that just couldn't be posed, which to me enhances its loveliness. It's also a nice reminder that among all the flashes of colour, double and triple images and cross-processed hues (and no doubt that's just the tip of the plastic-camera iceberg), this gadget is more than capable of the essentials.

I don't know who this girl is, but by god, she's beautiful.


photography 101

You know how my 'about me' description says that sometimes my photos are terrible? Well until now I haven't posted any photos that I consider to be terrible. Hell, I've rarely even posted photos that I think are ordinary. Why would I? Well, I'll tell you why I am now: the only way I am going to avoid getting back a handful of failures every time I pick up a new batch is to learn from my mistakes. And, of course, from my successes. So, here are some don'ts and dos that I can take from my latest roll...

(don't judge me too harshly!)

don't take shady photos without a flash

This was such a sweet image in my head! A sweet Japanese boy in a sweet Japanese garden on a beautiful spring afternoon. The lush green, the crystal sky, the multi-coloured icy pole. But alas! There is none of that because I neglected to switch on the flash. Lesson Number One: if your subject is shaded with a bright background, use a fill-in flash to avoid images such as the dull, lifeless mass at the top of this post.

* * *

don't take flash photos from a distance

Seems obvious, huh? Like when you see all the flashes going off in the stadiums at major sporting events and you just want to scream It's not going to make any difference!! At the time I took this shot, however, I was just concerned with getting everyone in the frame. Which has resulted in an unevenly lit image where the subjects in the background are barely visible (and what is visible looks rubbish). The worst thing about this is everyone looked smokin' hot that night, and the photo doesn't come close to doing these incredible ladies justice! Lesson Number Two: if you are lucky enough to be surrounded by such babes, don't be afraid to get in close.

* * *

don't unload your film with the lights on

OK, I'm definitely open to light leaks. Sometimes it can look amazing, and add a whole new dimension to an image. Sometimes, though, it ruins photos. I don't think this image would have been amazing had the light not leaked in, but it would have been better than this. Lesson Number Three: if your camera does a mediocre-at-best job of winding on film, unload the film in a dark room and keep it in a light-proof vessel of some description right up until you hand the thing over for development.

* * *

do get interesting silhouettes in front of a bright sky

The beautiful stars! I was super early for work one day so I stopped in the city to do a little skyward sight-seeing. I love all the tram wires over Bourke St Mall any time of the year, but when the Christmas decorations come out, the whole thing just bangs! I'm thrilled with this shot. The gorgeous colour of the sky (which unfortunately hasn't scanned as vividly as in the print), in addition to the glare off the Myer building, really conveys that distinct clarity and intensity that seems to only exist in the early mornings of super-hot days - you know, when it's not quite hot but you can just feel that it's going to be a scorcher? Dream! Lesson Number Four: a clear blue sky makes an excellent backdrop for anything that you want to silhouette.

* * *

do take photos of dream babes

My oh my, these girls are so beautiful! There really isn't much more to say - just look at them! See Lesson Number Two.

* * *

do take multiple exposures involving the sky, trees and people

There's that sweet Japanese boy! And he's visible! (Yes, this time I did remember to use a flash.) This photo conveys everything I feel about lazy spring afternoons in the park. It also puts me in mind of The Virgin Suicides. Maybe that's just because Brodie pointed out that Sofia Coppola likes to use shots of trees... But I digress - this image has my unabashed adoration. And makes the disaster shots above totally worthwhile.


farewell, winter

As Melbournians look ahead to a sunny week of low-30s and high-20s, it seems the time has come to pull the Havaianas out of the cupboard, wash the summer blanket that will replace the heavy winter doona, and drag the fan down from the garage shelves. (At least, this is what I have done today.) The days are longer, the nights warmer and the people generally happier at the reassurance that summer is knocking. Admittedly, this photo was taken in winter, but I'm posting it because with its beautiful beach, clear sky and vibrant colours (red and yellow being synonymous with those lovely lifesavers), I can't find an image of mine that better captures the Australian summer.

After seeing how brilliantly this slide film enhanced the colours of the beach, I thought, wow, I should take more slide photos at the beach. This was before I found out how vastly different the various slide films are, so the result is not at all what I had in mind. See for yourself:

As is often the case with my photos, upon seeing this for the first time my initial reaction was shock and disappointment at its distance from the imagined outcome. But, like other such photos, it has grown on me and I like it for what it is.

(But I still like the other one more.)

In any case, Hello summer! It's good to see you again.


get your creep on

Maybe it's the spring air making me giddy, maybe it's the fact that it falls on a Saturday, maybe it's the news that ACMI is hosting a Tim Burton exhibition next year – whatever it is, I am beside myself with excitement about the imminent arrival of the year's spookiest day. In honour of this ghoulish celebration, I have pulled out my most nightmare-inducing images in order to further incite my enthusiasm.

I had absolutely no intention of producing what became the above image; it was taken in the city with the aim of capturing a lovely building. Instead, I got these marvellously ominous silhouetted trees combined with ghostly lampposts and a brooding sky. In some kind of perfect coincidence, a light leak burned the number 13 into the image.

Oh, if only I could say I orchestrated the whole thing!

Why are barren trees so foreboding? I find this image eerily beautiful. Again, an unintentional but definitely welcome effect.

If anything's going to produce nightmares, it's the thought of Laird's ghost watching over you... Actually, I think this is a wonderfully successful multiple exposure. But it's still creepy!

Melbourne has some fantastic macabre-themed events going on this Spooky Saturday (my personal recommendation being the wonderfully morbid Graveyard Train, plus others, at Old Bar), and I for one am keenly anticipating the opportunity to celebrate all things dark and gruesome... Or perhaps it's just a great excuse to party.

Happy Hallowe'en!


painting the town holga

Before venturing out on a Friday or Saturday night I am invariably faced with the question to take or not to take?. Last night was no different, except that upon deciding on the to take option I moved on to the question of which to take - the beautifully bulky Holga or the decidedly shinier (and usefully, purse-size) digital snapper. I weighed up the options and considered the evening's events (and outfit), ultimately opting to head out with the dime-a-dozen silver Kodak. Thank god, because I left it in a bloody taxi.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not thankful that I lost my handy little box of whirrs and beeps. Quite the contrary: I'm thoroughly annoyed that I no longer have the option of a digital pointer-and-shooter; I'm slightly disappointed that I have forever lost the few images I had taken up to that point in the night (11:30pm, approximately); and I'm absolutely mortified that somewhere in the city, a stranger has access to 250+ images of the last six months or so of my life. Rather, I'm deeply grateful that when the camera gods decided they had to take something from me, they didn't set their sights on my Holga.

There are a few reasons for this:
  1. My Holga was a gift from several close friends for my birthday last year, so it has sentimental value. (In contrast, the Kodak was a gift from my ex-boyfriend.)
  2. According to several sources, every Holga is unique in its light-leaking and image-capturing properties, implying that each camera has a distinct character. I quite like my Holga, and I'm not really open to the idea of getting used to a new one.
  3. Even though the Kodak cost more money than the Holga, the idea of losing the $15 film in addition to the plastic camera kind of stings.
OK, so my point here is that in contemplating the relative pluses and minuses of losing my digital camera, I began thinking about all the great nights out I've had with the Holga, which led to the inference that this would NEVER happen with my Holga (I'm reaching for the nearest wood right now), which in turn reinforced my belief that, at least for me, automatic digital cameras are more trouble than the mediocre images they produce are worth. (A sidenote: please don't be offended if you are an automatic digital camera user. You probably take awesome photos. I'm just bummed out that I lost my camera.)

In an attempt to focus on the positives (and not the fact that some perv might be looking at images of me and my loved ones even as I type), I am taking some time to reflect on all of the glorious late nights and early mornings the Holga has spent dangling (un)graciously around my neck, and the subsequent images that make the nights' events more lucid while somehow managing to look damn fine, too.

laird @ ac/dc lane

When Laird ducked out of Cherry in the wee hours for a sneaky smoke, I took the opportunity to position him in front of some sweet graffiti so I could snap this (see above). It was to be the first of many graffiti portraits, but for whatever reason I haven't taken another since.

jayney, laird & ella @ 446a

These images are about all I have to inform me of a fateful Brunswick night involving sequins, vodka and a boy named Ming. Jayney is pulling some typically amazing dancefloor moves (admirably managing to contain the contents of her drink), while Laird and Ella share a fabulously animated moment between housemates. 446a, we need another party!

grizzly jim @ the derby

I don't remember why Jim began impersonating Jack Nicholson. All I know is I reached for the camera between my own hearty chuckles in order to commit the moment to film. I am very glad that I did.

een & pete @ the birmy

Proof that good shots at the Birmy are not limited to those focused on the stage, Een responds to my suggestion that I take a photo by pulling this face. If the photo also captured me, I imagine my expression would resemble Pete's.

Holga, I know I haven't always been kind to you. I've knocked you around, I've abandoned your lens cap, I've used you in shameless attempts to talk to really really good-looking people, I've subjected you to the odd spilt beer and there's a rattle in you that I can't explain. But just look at all the great times we've shared! Please, don't follow in the footsteps of that silver floozy. It's you that I love.


seeing double at the birmy

Getting up close to the tiny stage in the corner of the Birmingham Hotel's cosy bandroom is remarkably easy, which partly explains why I have a few photos of musicians playing below that distinctive ceiling. All of the photos I have from said stage are black and white, and more than a couple of them are multiple exposures. This is largely because the dark walls behind the stage create a particularly apt environment for successful multiple exposures, and I feel that the dreamy/ghostlike effect is well suited to images of live bands. Often this effect is pleasantly overwhelming (see the triple-appearance of Quang, above), but it can also be subtle. Take this, from a recent Greasers show:

At first glance it looks as though this could be a single exposure, but a closer look reveals Quang's head merging with the ceiling and Dom's pants disappearing into the drumkit. There are also a couple of images of the ubiquitous drummer in there, which add to the ethereal atmosphere.

When I look at this one, also from a Greasers show, I'm not immediately impressed with the photo. But the great thing about multiple exposures (and this camera in general) is that they're always interesting, because it's a scene that can't necessarily be seen with the eye. Unless it's a really drunk eye, perhaps...

Finally, I have to include the first photo of this kind that I produced. Not because it's a great photo, but because its technical success inspired the other images in this post. And also because it was taken during an amazing gig put on by the phenomenally good Ground Components (believe me, the music is better than the photo):

There are a couple of great (single exposure) photos from that evening... but maybe I'll go on about those another time.


look up

I love Melbourne. And I don't mean the vast sprawling suburbia that constitutes this great metropolis of ours (though I do love that too) - I mean the very heart of the city. One of my favourite things to do while wandering the various streets and laneways is to glance skyward and take in the beauty of some of our old (and new) buildings from street level. For example: the GPO building on the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets.

I think everybody should do this more often.


something old, something new

This is definitely something old. In fact, it's almost a whole year old. But I still love it for several reasons:

1. It's from my first ever Holga roll, and kind of signals my return to interesting (and film) photos. I actually thought it was a colour film so I went around Sydney taking all these photos with this fabulous colour in mind. When I got the film back and realised it was black and white I was terribly disappointed, but after spending a bit of time with the prints I realised they were kind of beautiful anyway.

2. I hate tourist shots. We're all guilty of them, probably because we want to capture the emotion we feel when we see famous landmarks while also proving to people that we are well-travelled, but that doesn't change the fact that most of them look exactly like the publicity shots we've all seen a million times (only ours look decidedly worse). I was thrilled that I managed to get two of the most photographed icons of Sydney/Australia to look different.

3. There's a lot of atmosphere in there, at once old-fashioned and also kind of haunted. There are lots of potential stories that come to mind when I look at it.

4. It was my first (and probably still one of my most successful) double exposures.

5. I love Sydney. This was from my first trip there and I was captivated. So, you know, it's sentimental.

My beautiful old friend Pete has many endearing qualities, most of which are captured in this photo. We were between drinking holes one night, temporarily stopped off at someone's house, when Pete spotted this guitar in an unknown bedroom and picked it up to kill time. It was all very spur-of-the-moment and laid back, just like him.

This was the first time I realised that straight colour film could produce some beautiful photos (after a series of very underwhelming trials). Thank you, yellow flash.

This is something new, in that it's from my most recent film. Also new is the realisation that different brands of slide film accentuate different colours; this one really brings out the reds (unlike the blue-heavy slide film I have used in the past). I do love this building, situated in the street and suburb in which I now reside. There isn't really much more to say on this one - except that my very law-abiding housemate broke-and-entered with me to witness the taking of the shot, and was subsequently disappointed with the finished result. Oh well.

So I guess I should also say hello!, this is my first blog post on my first blog. I don't really know what I'm doing but I'll keep doing it for at least a little while longer (until my enthusiasm wanes). At this point, though, I am very much looking forward to regularly sharing my images, some old and some new, with a potentially unknown cyber audience. Hooray!