more psychedelic palm trees from the fitzroy gardens

And so it continues - the exploration of these wonderful shapes silhouetted against a spring sky. The journey is far from over, though; what I'd like to achieve is a completely blank sky, with the chosen pattern appearing only within the silhouette. I've done it once before, with the Holga:

But the F4 is a million times more accurate, and as such doesn't so easily overexpose. Which just means I have to keep experimenting. It's hard to imagine what the daisy(?) photo would look like with a clear sky, so I can't really determine whether or not it would be better than what you see here. On the one hand, I quite like the consistency of the floral yellow soldiers throughout the entire frame, and the glow around the palm. On the other hand, a clear sky would really accentuate the tree. It would literally be a burst of flowers. I'm looking forward to achieving what's in my head.

I took quite a few of these shots on a recent Sunday trip to the lovely gardens, with picnic rug, book and Yan-Yan in tow. None of them achieved the desired result - which disappointed me at first, until I realised that if you're a self-taught photographer then straying from the path is all part of the learning. The most successful image from the day is successful precisely because it didn't give me a clear sky. I just don't think it would look as good:

The faded background (outside of the palm) highlights the subjects so vividly, and the composition is, for lack of a better word, really cute. The inclusion of people is also a plus for me, because when it comes down to it, inanimate objects just don't excite me as much as the human form.

So I'll keep trying, pushing, changing, until I get what I think I want. And then I'll probably push some more.


a wedding

I have rarely agreed to take photos for someone's event, purely because I am not confident enough that I will deliver what they want. After all, I am not a professional photographer. Very far from it. But when my lovely cousin Emily asked me to bring my cameras along to her low-key beach wedding, it was quite something else; this was family. Once I had repeatedly warned her that I'm not really that good, and that any photos I take may not turn out very well - and after her own reassurance that she wasn't fussy and was not looking for anything spectacular - I wholeheartedly obliged. In fact, I was honoured. Honoured, and nervous.

I took all four of my film cameras - two SLRs and two lomos - with the idea to shoot colour and black and white simultaneously. I also borrowed a friend's point-and-shoot digital in order to bulk up the volume in case of any film-related disasters. When the day came around, I was feeling relatively prepared. My cameras were loaded and batteries were charged. 

The conditions were bright and windy, posing two problems and one benefit: harsh shading, windblown faces and hair, and beautiful colours, respectively. It wasn't ideal for photos, but I supposed it was just a matter of making do with what we had.

On the plus side, everyone looked their beautiful best - none more so than the glowing bride Emily, whose magnificence is best captured in the photo at the top of this post. It's my favourite photo of her from the masses I took, because in addition to being a knockout, she looks so confidently happy. Which, I imagine, is exactly how a bride should look on the day of her wedding.

I found the 'essential' photos the most challenging - that is, photos of the actual ceremony, family portraits, the group photo - because I had such little control over the action. I don't doubt that a professional photographer would turn such restrictions into wonderful images, but these were probably my weakest. Which is not to say that they are awful - I quite like the above photo of the monumental kiss. But it is undoubtedly flawed: the sky is completely washed out and the bright sun has taken away a lot of the detail. 

Colour was better for the ceremony because the glorious beach blues it captured prevent the white wedding party from blending into the background. I quite like the cropping of this one because it allows us to focus on Em and Dan's two gorgeous daughters, who took part in the ceremony with what seemed like equal parts excitement and mystification.

And as far as a family portrait - with all heads in the frame - goes, this is pretty hard to beat. What a lovely moment.


Here's another 'essential' photo that turned out beautifully. I think this one is irresistible because it is so perfectly classic. With the simple, timeless white dress, the nondescript white shirt and tie, the traditional pose (the masculine groom leaning down to kiss his petite bride, his large hands gently encasing hers) and the lovely black and white, it could easily be a photo of any newly-wedded couple from any decade. As such there is a nostalgia attached to this image (at least, for me) because it would be right at home in most people's family wedding albums.

While the essentials were essential, the photos I was most eager to take were those moments between official poses; the detail that goes on when people are preparing for the camera. When I accompanied Em and Dan and Co. to get ready for the ceremony, there were plenty of these, which I did my best to identify and chase. The moment above is probably the most precious to me - but tragically the window behind them knocked the exposure out and the resulting image is undefined and grey. On top of this, some dust has interfered with the scan leaving Emily with an unsightly ring on her forehead. Despite its aesthetic flaws, though, I still love this photo to pieces.

I don't think this is a brilliant photo technically speaking, but Daddy + Daughters looking expectantly up at the new (unseen) bride is a pretty priceless image.

Likewise, the soon-to-be-mother-in-law attempting to attach the flower to the groom's shirt is at least a little bit precious.

And one of the irresistable princesses, patiently allowing her dress to be tied and re-tied by any number of flustered adults.

And this - my favourite of all the images I captured that day. The ceremony was over, and the girls were evidently having trouble with their shoes and needed to fix them, or remove them. (Maybe they had to pour out the sand.) And just like on any other day, they went straight to Mum for help. So here are two little angels, literally leaning on their mother - grabbing onto the pristine wedding dress that everyone else was afraid to touch for fear of soiling it. It's so special because it shows that untouchable relationship between a mother and her daughters, and while (again) it's not technically brilliant, I think it's near-perfect for the reasons described above.

It was a lovely day, and a wonderful celebration. There were a lot of photos that you don't see here that didn't work out very well, and it's easy to be disappointed by that. However, I hope there are enough successes that Emily and Dan will be able to compile a nice set of memories. I think there are.

(And I probably won't be agreeing to photograph another wedding any time soon. But I'm so very glad I was able to do this one.)


three party portraits (including joe vs the floorboards)

It was an art gallery opening, I think. The white paper letters belonged to one of the minimalist installations - or decorations. Whichever it was, it had partially collapsed, leaving Sesame-Street-style block letters strewn across the suitably rustic floorboards. I was standing with Joe, and perhaps some others, when I looked down and saw 'O' and 'E' at our feet. That almost spells Joe! I pointlessly exclaimed. A lightbulb flashed behind taka's eyes and he vanished, momentarily returning with a wonderfully jagged handmade 'J' to complete my picture.

I've never been able to successfully recreate my 'people vs walls' (etc.) portraits in black and white. The detail generally gets lost without contrasting colours. This, though - this is something else. The exposure in both compositions is just right, and the haphazard position of the letters adds interest. Joe's warm smile also contributes significantly to the image's overall success.

It was freezing out on the balcony but the liquor was flowing and spirits were accordingly elevated. Someone spotted the camera conspicuously hanging from my neck and proceeded to orchestrate a group portrait. I didn't have the heart to tell them that the Holga flash isn't strong enough for such a far-away shot, so I chose to waste a few dollars on a photo that wouldn't work in order to avoid rejecting a stranger (or was it taka?) and the ensuing social awkwardness. Get in closer! I yelled in an attempt to hide my cynicism.

But hey! It worked after all. Some people look great, some people look blurry, some people have their eyes closed. Consequently, some might say it's not a great portrait. I say, if I'm trying to accurately capture a group of people at a party then the combination of closed eyes, blurry faces and hot babes is not a bad representation at all.

The buzz had died. The music had deteriorated. The cold had reached the bones. It was time to leave. Of course, not everyone shared my fatigue - and I did have one more shot left on the roll. Attentions were adequately hazy, allowing me to get in close without being noticed. I doubt even the split-second beam of intrusive brightness alerted these subjects to my activity.

In a way, this is my favourite kind of party portrait. Although it doesn't have the aesthetic flair of the Joe photo nor the jovial vibe of the group shot, it's a moment that would have existed exactly as it is with or without my presence. It's more real than the others precisely because of that. Also interesing is that even though Adrian (on the left) is fully visible and takes up around 40% of the frame, it is undoubtedly a portrait of Seán. I suspect it's because Seán is the more active partcipant; he talks while Adrian listens.

People have asked me if I feel self-conscious or embarrassed when I venture into the night with a camera floating at my chest or nestled under my arm. And I say Never. Because if nothing else, photography should provide a view into a time and a place. Memories for those that were there; insight and vicarious experience for those that weren't. If the photos happen to be interesting at other levels, all the better. What I will hopefully end up with is an ever-growing collection of images that can potentially tell a million stories. Which is totally worth any suspicious or judgemental looks that might come my way.