Friday, May 30, 2014

Circular Economies, Photography and Water

We have come to Bondi to meet with Candice Quartermain.   Steve met her husband at a Planning Conference in the City and learnt of her passion to promote the ideas of a Circular Economy.  The Circular Economy website explain that our current model of dig, process, use, and chuck is by definition

unsustainable.  Candice has a commitment to promote and inspire this change.  As explained on the website:
“A Circular Economy is an alternative model that anticipates and designs for biological and technical 'nutrients' to be continuously re-used at the same quality, dramatically reducing our dependency on sourcing new materials.”

Read all about it:

We catch up over lunch at the Queen Victoria Building and Candice is excited to see me as she has gleaned from our website that I am a photographer.  I am equally excited to learn about our shared passion and before long our conversation moves from circular economies to collaboration in photography.
 As I share thoughts about my technical interest in water and my desire to document some of the environmental issues associated with this precious resource, Candice suggests we collaborate on this idea.  I have always wanted to combine my creative passion for photography with my professional passion for water so I feel excited by this idea.  We’ve started sharing ideas and soon we will firm up a plan to begin shooting.
It is also exciting to hear how Candice is slowly turning her passion for photography into a source of income.  Her website Canter Creative showcases her down to earth photography practice.  Check it out if you are interested in engaging her for a family portrait shoot or for your wedding photography.

I love the spontaneity she captures in her photography.  It is so different to the posed photography you usually see at weddings that convey little of the joy experienced on these occasions.  Her website explains that she founded Canter Creative because she wanted to move away from creating for consumption and toward creating for contribution.  It is obvious from her photography that she is achieving her passion for visual story telling through photography.  I am excited to be collaborating with another person who shares my passion for documenting stories through the medium of photography and I am looking forward to this collaboration. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Buildings & Monuments

I’ve signed up for the Sydney Morning Herald Clique Photographer’s challenge.   Members of Clique receive a monthly photographic assignment from Fairfax Media photo editors, designed around different topics.  The winning photos will be published by the SMH on the last Friday of every month in print and online.  Even if your photograph does not make the list of finalists, you can still get feedback form the photo editors.  It’s a great opportunity but I am struggling with deciding which photography to enter for the March challenge – Building and Monuments! 

The challenged of course is to photograph the building or monument in a way that reflects its personality.  The judges want to see the character of the building but often photographing the obvious landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House is best avoided since so many amazing photographs have already been taken of such places   

In the end I choose a photograph taken when storm clouds seemed to envelop this western Sydney suburb that I happened to be passing through.  We pulled off the main road to be storm chasers for a few hours.  I love the way the couple is busy cleaning their driveway seemingly oblivious to the approaching storm. 

I don’t win the challenge or even make the list of finalists but I am pleased with the comments I received. 

A strong image with good use of colour, composition and lines.

Incorporating a human element in a small way may have helped make your photo be even stronger. Loved to have seen a kid on a bike for example, closer to the camera and in the middle of the road to give this image an added dimension. Very nice though.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Photo Books and Photographs

The idea of self publishing my own coffee table book has been lying dormant in the recesses of my brain ever since I came back from my solo trip around the world in 2010. At the end of that journey, I designed and printed my first coffee table book using Blurb and the thrill of seeing something I created was always revived every time I turned the pages of that book.  Since then, I have created two more books and with my second photo exhibition fast approaching made a commitment to myself to realise that dream of self publishing.  The fact that Steven my partner also had a similar dream to self publish a nonfiction book makes this even more special. 

His book called Rethinking the City and my exhibition and book titled Fate or Destiny are wonderful complements to each other.  The fact we will be launching in August to celebrate his 50th birthday is especially meaningful. 

Photo from HeadOn Website
We had only just got home from our road trip to the conference when we heard there was a Photo Book Day as part of the HeadOn 2014 Festival events.  I believe that when you put ideas out to the Universe that align with your Destiny, the Universe conspires to help you realise those dreams.  You pick up a book or you meet a stranger who validates for you the thoughts you have been mulling over.  The chance to actually mingle with like-minded souls with similar passions was too good to be missed so we decided to head out to the city. 

A number of leading photo book editors and publishers have come to Sydney for this event.  Many of the people I speak to have come down from Melbourne.  I am pleased to see that the online coffee table book publishers such as Blurb and Momento are also here.

We learn a lot about the process from chatting to people but also from sitting in on the free seminar at the end of the day.  I had been grappling with the fact that printing a coffee table book is incredibly expensive and learn that this is the balancing act that all artists are struggling with.  The unit cost of offset printing becomes more cost effective, the more books you can afford to print. However, if you don’t have an audience to which you can market your book, then the exercise becomes meaningless as you are left with a large consignment of books which must be stored!

The idea of printing a coffee table book is to have a portfolio of work that you can show to people.   It can reach a much wider audience than an exhibition of your photos ever will.  It is also a chance for you to share deeper ideas if you chose to include more text and writing than is possible in an exhibition.  I come away feeling inspired, motivated and more determined to make this happen. 

I know there are many avenues out there today for people who are keen to give it a go.  Crowd Funding is one of these avenues and Pubslush another.  Pubslush ( is a new publishing company that uses crowdsourcing to select books for publication. Authors submit their manuscripts via the website and visitors vote on which ones they like the most. 

Most people have a desire to be heard.  I think this is a natural human condition.  When you discover the medium where you can express yourself the best, I think you come close to realising the reason for your existence.  I am lucky I have two.  Writing and Photography – they are both my babies and I love them equally. 

“Being heard is so close to being loved 
that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”  ~ David Augsburger

Vivid Sydney

The first time we had been to Vivid I had been amazed at how the lights and music transformed many of this city’s iconic buildings.  This time I knew what to expect so the impact was less but it was still an enjoyable experience.  Word must have got around because the crowds had definitely increased. 

 I was however thankful that unlike the last time we were here where we huddled under an umbrella to shield ourselves from the beating rain, this time we were wondering why we had worn so many layers, it was so warm and barmy even late at night.  We did the walk from the Opera House to the Terminal building and took loads of photos.  It was a good night and I was glad we had made it to Vivid once again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

FMA Conference & Deniliquin

We reach Deniliquin on Tuesday, in time for the welcome reception.  Once we got out of the Snowy region, we drove through quite bare countryside which has its own stark beauty.   Most people would find it hard to connect with this kind of landscape but wide open spaces have a certain appeal to me although they would not be the landscape I choose to live in. 

Deni as the place is referred to locally has become quite renowned for the ‘Play on the Plains’ festival.  This festival includes the famous Ute Muster which attracts utes from all over Australia creating world records.  In 2010 for example, the Ute Muster attracted more than 10,000 utes to the festival and set an even stranger record for the most people wearing blue singlets.  In case you were wondering – there were 3,500 of them.  Perhaps I need to come back during the time of the festival.

The FMA conference attracted more than 250 delegates even though Deni is not the easiest place to get to.  Many like us, decided to do the drive from Sydney.  Others flew in to Albury and did a lesser 2 hour drive instead.

We start the conference with a welcome reception where we catch up with colleagues from around the country.  I really enjoy this conference.  The papers are always interesting to listen to and the networking opportunity over the course of the week is hard to beat.  We were approached by a number of consultants regarding the opportunity to collaborate on Flood Risk Management projects so from a work perspective it was a great week. 

We leave for home on Friday, breaking journey in Gundagai for a night.  There’s a long list of things to follow up but that’s why we make the effort to attend conferences such as this. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The History of Gundagai

We spend day three in Gundagai.  Situated on the banks of the Murrumbidgee, known colloquially as ‘The Crossing Place’, it is quite an iconic town with an interesting history.  

In 1852, the local aboriginal people sensed this devastation early and warned the white settlers that they should move to higher ground.  They chose to ignore these warnings and more than 89 of the 250 residents lost their lives.  That’s a third of the town.  More people would have died had not local aboriginal men including Yarri and his mates help rescue about 40 people, with the use of their bark canoes.  The aborigines were later recognised for their bravery. 

Where do you run to when flood waters reach these heights?

There are hints of stories about bush rangers and floods.  Of the first Australians and the European settlers who came later.  In the mid 1800’s there were many floods that caused devastation to this frontier town called Gundagai.

Only three houses were left standing after the flood waters receded.  When another flood hit about a year later people finally realised that it was better to move out of the floodplain rather than struggle against nature.  The entire town was then rebuilt on Parnassus Hill and Asbestos Hill.  The Murrumbidgee River has risen over seven metres on nine separate occasions since the 1852 flood.  We find the flood marker downtown and I am amazed to find the marks 
towering above my head.  

The town was also the target of bushrangers from the early 1800s. Later on the infamous Ned Kelly gang also paid them a visit. 

Gundagai is also a town of bridges.  In 1865, the first wrought iron truss bridge of NSW was built in Gundagai spanning 314 m across the river.  More bridges were subsequently built but the old bridges remain a tourist attraction and quite an amazing sight.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Leisurely Day in Tumut

We wake up early in Tumut.  We are staying 3 nights here and will spend our first full day exploring the surrounding countryside.  We have decided to drive the snowy mountains highway to Talbingo.  

Once again it is a beautiful drive and we take our time stopping to have a look at one of the Snowy Mountains dams and pulling in to a camp site for a walk and a picnic lunch. 
It was while we were walking down to the water that we spotted the emu and the kangaroos grazing on the wide open plains.  I had a great day testing out my new telephoto before we finally walked back to the picnic tables for lunch. 

We had a really enjoyable day.  We drove down to Talbingo and had a look around the town.  It was quite deserted but it was quite picturesque with the vibrant colours of autumn.  On the way back we checked out a few of the campsites and vowed to come back for a more leisurely visit.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Goulburn Pit Stop

It is the NSW Flood Conference and we are on our way to Deniliquin.  We have decided to leave early and spend a few nights in Tumut on our way there.  It is of course another chance for me to do a bit of photography and for us to enjoy the Snowy Mountains area during autumn. 

 We head out on a beautiful warm sunny day, and we are both looking forward to the break. 

We break for lunch in Goulburn.  It is Australia’s first inland city and one of its claims to fame is that it is home to the Big Merino, the world’s largest concrete sheep.  Settlement in the early 1800’s resulted in displacing the local Gandagara population and the accidental introduction of exotic diseases saw the population dwindle further.  

The city is strategically situated at the confluence of Wollondilly and Mulwaree Rivers and for centuries the aboriginal people lived off the fertile ground here.

It is a beautiful day and after hours of driving we decide to go for a wander before we sit down to lunch.  The burnt oranges and reds of the leaves add a wonderful feel to the streetscape.  I have fun experimenting both with the colourful landscape as I do with the fallen leaves before we eventually head back for lunch and then hit the road again.

Friday, May 16, 2014

HeadOn & AddOn 2014

I was excited to receive a VIP invite to the HeadOn opening night and special preview of the photographs chosen in the much coveted ‘Portrait’ category.  Last year I was shortlisted for the Portrait Prize but this year I am not so lucky.  The event is being held at the Paddington Reservoir space, a perfect venue to
With Charles McKean Curator of AddOn
browse photos and mingle with other enthusiasts.

The collection of portraits is incredible but there is one element that always strikes me about this particular competition.  The chosen images always seem to be telling a story about the hardships of life.  Perhaps these are the stories that capture the most emotion but I think there is just as much merit and skill involved in capturing joy.  I am drawn to the image of a young girl cradled in the hands of her carers.  I take a number of photos of this image and later on that evening I learn it wins the coveted first prize.  There are stories of migrants, people suffering from cancer as well and a couple of images depicting aboriginal Australia. 

With Loraine at the AddOn Opening Night
It’s a beautiful evening and we enjoy the exhibition.  Besides the portrait prize, there are a couple of other exhibitions including Benjamin Lowey’s collection shot solely with a mobile phone.  I am impressed with his work although I am not really interested in taking photos with a mobile phone myself.

A couple of months ago, I had attended a pre festival workshop on setting up an exhibition.  There I met Loraine MacLarty whose work with the organization FRANS and disabled people has been selected to be a HeadOn exhibition.  She invited us to her opening night and we were able to join her friends and family at the Tap Gallery for an enjoyable evening.  Her work gave us an insight into not just what disabled people go through but also a real appreciation of what their carers lives are like.  Ultimately, a good photograph must tell a story and give a little insight into another world.  Her work certainly does this. 

One of the highlights of the HeadOn festival is AddOn and this year I was excited to receive an invitation to submit a photograph to AddOn an exhibition curated by Charles McKean and Festival Director Moshe.  The exhibition showcases a diverse collection of square images taken by more than 150 photographers ranging from professionals, amateurs, artists to politicians and celebrities.  We received an invitation to the opening night of the exhibition and it is interesting to see that amongst the list of artist is a name I recognize – that of our one time state premier Bob Carr!  The photographs are displayed without titles or photographer credits and the viewers are encouraged to interpret the images for themselves.  At the end of the exhibition, each entrant receives the photograph of someone else and you also have the opportunity to purchase a book published with all of the images.

We meet up with Loraine once again as she too has submitted an image for this exhibition.  The event has been going on since 2011 and Charles gives out little keep sakes for those photographers who have submitted to AddOn four years in a row. 

From AddOn - At the Exhibition

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Wyong Shire Exposure

We are spending the weekend at Wyong Shire to take a break from the routine of our daily lives as well as to give me a chance to shoot some photos for the Wyong Shire Photo
Competition – Exposure.  We have booked an airbnb home stay in Bateau Bay and arrive to find our delightful hosts Judy and Murray at home and waiting to show us our new home for the weekend.

Their studio is beautiful and has won an Australian architectural award and I am not surprised.  It is a very comfortable space and incredibly well equipped with everything you could possibly want for a weekend escape or longer stay. The studio is a great base to explore the surrounding area which is spectacular if you are coming up to take photos, to go hiking or to enjoy the beautiful beaches. Jude and Murray were very welcoming and hospitable and we loved the extra touches like having a newspaper to enjoy in the morning. 

I wished we could have lazed around in the apartment but we were here to take photos.  It was lunch time when we arrived on Friday, so after a bite to eat we headed out to check out the area.  I was keen to see the pelican feeding so we walked made our way to the popular spot, stopping to take photos along the way.  I had stopped to sit down under a tree to stake out the scene a little better when a lady sat down and started chatting to me. 

She turned out to be a popular country and western singer by the name of Belinda Fielding who was here for a shoot.  She uses photography in her albums as she too loves that connection with nature so it was great to connect quite serendipitously with another likeminded creative soul and get a little peek into her world.  We chatted for awhile and after exchanging social media contact details we continued on our way. 

I enjoyed the pelican feeding.  Many of the judges at our camera club frown on pelican photography.  I am not quite sure why, but it falls in the category of cats and for some judges sunsets.  Getting an award for a pelican shot is hard, no matter how good your capture might be.  None the less, I am keen to give it a go.  The pelican feeding is the Central Coasts most popular tourist attraction and has been happening on a regular basis for more than 20 years.  We enjoy the display and I capture some good photos.

We drive around scouting out a few places for sunrise the next morning before heading out to Long Jetty to capture a much photographed scene – the jetty at sunset.  We arrive to find another photographer already there.  Undeterred, I set up a little distance away and realise I
have an excellent spot to both capture the boat shed as well as to photograph the jetty with another photographer at work!  I get some great shots and after he heads off, I capture a beautiful long exposure of the jetty itself which I think will be the key photo for my upcoming exhibition – Fate or Destiny.

I am happy with my shoot and we head home to make dinner and relax a bit before we hit the sack.  We want to be up early for sunrise, so we don’t make use of Jude’s hot tub although it would have been lovely to have a good soak before bed.

We wake up early and head out to one of the high vantage spots but realise quickly the 
foreground here is not ideal.  We drive around and make our way to the beach but unlike my sunset shots I am disappointed with my sunrise capture. We head out to the surf club for a late breakfast as well as to shoot the surfers enjoying their morning surf.  Growing up in Sri Lanka, surfing was never something we indulged in although I now learn that Sri Lanka’s beachers are a drawcard for surfers from around the world.

We spent the afternoon at Ken Duncan’s gallery.  We were inspired both by his photography as well as his life story.  We ended up buying a couple of his amazing coffee table books and then having a relaxed lunch in the cafe. 

Steve is feeling a little tired so we head back in the evening and give the sunset a miss.  I cook dinner in the studio and we relax.  Tomorrow we head back and as I process my photos I realise that deciding on the 3 photos for submission will be tricky.  I settle for 3 categories and
enter for: Postcards of the Shire, The Natural World, and A Picture Tells 1000 Words.

A month later I learn that all 3 of my photos have been shortlisted from a total of over 300 images.  I am ecstatic.  Photography is a very subjective discipline and I am always delighted when I get good feedback or when my images are selected in a competition.  The 3 images have to be mounted and taken to Wyong Shire for an exhibition where they will be available for judging and also for sale.  Some outstanding images in each category will be published in a calendar to be given to exhibition entrants and distributed around the Shire.

I’ve got my fingers crossed. 

"Discovery is to seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."  
~Albert Gyorgyi

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Cadence of Emma Ayres

We were in for a treat when we signed up to listen to the author talk by Emma Ayres on her book titled Cadence.  She took us on her personal journey and we travelled through the stories of her growing up in England, learning to play a musical instrument, cycling across two continents, working in HongKong and finally ending up in Australia and landing a job with ABC Radio. It was an evening of laughter and inspiration and the audience of North Shore residents were captivated.

Emma was well known to most of the audience as many wake up each morning to her breakfast show on ABC Classic FM.  For her, it was a wonderful opportunity to actually meet the listeners she talks to each morning and to share her story.  She is a wonderful entertainer and full of humour, most of which is directed at herself. Her story starts during her childhood years when her mother askes her a questions she identifies as life changing, ‘what instrument do you want to play?”  She chose the cello but somehow ended up learning to play the violin.  Through the years she graduated to playing the viola and finally found the time and space in her life to learn the cello as well.
Emma_ayres140x150 Her book is part memoir and part music guide but what fascinated me was the cycling adventure she undertook from Shropshire in England to Hongkong with a violin called Aurelia strapped to her back.  Having embarked on a solo backpacking adventure myself, I am amazed that she was able to complete this trip with just what she carried on the panniers of her bike.  She did have people visit along the way though and they often brought with them some of the gear she needed.  She cycled through some incredibly difficult country including the over the Karakorum Mountains, along the most westerly part of the Great Wall of China and is one of the few people to have cycled across the Taklamakan Desert.

Emma explained that when she is struggling with making big decisions, she poses the question to her 90-year old self.  The answer of course is usually – yes, go for it!   This idea resonates with me.  I often picture myself lying in a hospital bed at the end of my life and ask myself what it is I want to look back.  Never has the answer been that I should be stuck in an office working myself to the bone J and most of the adventures I have undertaken have been because I firmly believe in the principle of ‘Living in the NOW’, and am not prepared to put my life on hold till I retire!

We loved listening to Emma.  She entertained us with her humour, music and her stories and inspired us with her courage and honesty.  She has had an incredible diverse life which has included playing with for Radio Television HongKong as well as with the Afghan Youth Orchestra.  

The author talks are a wonderful local resource that brings a buzz to the library and brightens up a mid week evening for the local community and we feel lucky to live in local government area where the arts are celebrated in this manner.