Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Archive for May, 2010

Greek Tragedy?

The recent financial woes in Greece got me thinking about photographs in my collection that were taken during a visit in 2006.  Any visit to Greece can elicit superlatives of this fascinating country.  It seems though, that Greece has a long history of troubles.  Within my adult lifetime I have been prevented from travelling there in the early 1970s because of riots and the deposing of the monarchy.  In 1985 my family was caught in a major student demonstration at the anniversary of student deaths at the hand of the military,and later in the same day witnessed the edge of a demonstration in Constitution Square, Athens.  Even during our last visit to Athens in 2006 we observed a detachment of riot police assembled at a street corner readying themselves for a teachers’ protest.

Riot Police -Athens, Greece

Meanwhile, life continues as “normal” away from the trouble.  Citizens go to the markets to buy their produce;

Fish Market - Athens, Greece

tourists visit the major attractions;

Tour Guide - Athens, Greece

and the National Guard “change the guard” at Constitution Square.

Changing the Guard - Constitution Square, Athens

Perhaps this ancient civilization never did get everything right, but what it did do well formed a major pillar in the building of western civilization as we know it today.  Maybe the quotation on this tee-shirt seen in an Athens market has more than just a wee bit of truth about it.

You cannot explain everything to everyone


Surf’s Up!

Surf's Up! - Takapuna Beach

Two days before the storm.  Wind and waves start to build up and local surfers gather to ride the early waves.  Two days before a storm the view to the horizon is clear. When we can see Great Barrier Island without haze we know a storm is coming.  Today it arrived.

Storm Day

Today the storm arrived.  It was more wind and overcast really, but not enough rain to soak into the ground.  The fine sea spray got onto the lense and made it hard to take photographs.

Storm Day - Takapuna Beach

Grey days make for difficult exposure.  Getting focus when sea mist gets onto the lense adds to the difficulty. Catching the atmosphere was the aim.

Buddha in the Mist

Jwabul Buddha Statue at Sinheungsa Temple - Seoraksan, South Korea

Two days after our arrival in Seoul, South Korea in 2008 we were whisked off to the mountains of Seoraksan in the eastern part of the country. The Sinheungsa Temple lies in the Seoraksan National Park.  The giant 10 metre bronze Jwabul Statue is at the entry into the temple complex.  A fascinating aspect of many of the temple sites is the hand-inscribed tiles that can be found nearby.  Visitors can make a donation and leave a message, apparently  in the hope of good health or fortune.

Bridge in trail to Sinheungsa Temple - Seoraksan, South Korea

The trail to the Sinheungsa Temple crosses a stone bridge and follows the river to the temple gate.  Inside the gate a courtyard is crossed to reach the temple.  It rained the whole time during our visit and large puddles had formed in the courtyard.  The colourful temple stood out from the damp green surroundings and overcast grey skies.

Sinheungsa Temple - Seoraksan, South Korea

Further up the river valley is a large spherical rock called Heundeulbawi which sits on top of a larger flat rock into which Chinese characters have been carved. Heundeulbawi is about 5 metres high and can be slightly rocked with some effort.

Heundeulbawi - Seoraksan, South Korea

The rain and mist added eeriness to the surroundings and helped to make the visit more memorable.  The next day the sky was clear and the views from the top of the nearby cable car were clear to the horizon.

Dol hareubang (Beoksu) Statues – Jejudo, South Korea

Dol hareubang (Beoksu) Statue - Jejudo, South Korea

One of the first things you see when you visit Jeju Island (Jeju-do) are statues carved from the soft volcanic rock.  The statues are to be found all around the island.  There is even a statue park near the island’s capital, Jeju.

The large mushroom-like statues are considered to be gods offering both protection and fertility and were placed outside of gates for protection against demons travelling between realities.

We found them at all the places we visited on the island.  At any tourist site you will find shops with replicas and goods packaged in plastic containers in the shape of one of the statues.

Haenyo – Diving Ladies, Jejudo, South Korea

Our visit to South Korea in 2008 took us to Jejudo, the largest island off the south coast and legendary spot for honeymoon couples. Many modern honeymooners now choose to go to Hawaii instead.

Jejudo is also the home of the Haenyo, the diving ladies who dive for seafood along the southern coast of the island. We encountered them at Seongsan ilchulbong in a UNESCO World Heritage Park.  Although the women, mostly middle-aged to senior citizens, put on “performances” from 1.00 – 2.00 pm each day, they are clearly very proficient at what they do.

Haenyo - Diving Ladies, Jejudo, South Korea

Dressed in their black neoprene dive suits, fins and masks, they swim with white polystyrene floats that hold their catch bags, and dive amongst the rocks offshore for seafood.  Here a diving lady shows a small octopus that is clinging to her arm after she reached into her dive bag.

When the women dive they hold their breath for about 2 minutes as they dive over 10m below sea level. Most have been diving since the age of 12 to 14 years old. There are about 5600 woman divers on Jejudo, and the numbers reduce each year as the elder members retire.

It is a pity that the women have become little more that a tourist attraction and less of a part of the cultural life of an ancient island way of life.

Autumn/Fall Colours Revisited

I have been sifting through pictures I have taken over the last year and reflecting on what I have learned, particularly with composition and processing.  This image was taken last year at Morris & James Pottery in Matakana, Northland.

Autumn Colours - Morris & James Pottery, Matakana, Northland

I knew what I was trying to capture when I took the photograph, but when I first saw the image on the computer screen I was disappointed. There was too much in the photo and the vibrancy of the colours shown in the window frame, pots and tree were flat and uninteresting.  I passed over the picture and went on to another.

Today I have revisited a number of images I took that day and had another close look at them.  This image was cropped from a larger picture that was cluttered with extraneous intrusions from three sides which made it a “nothing” shot.  Upon revisiting the photograph with the benefit of time having elapsed I was able to see what it was that I had originally wanted to capture.  Here is the result.

Lost and Found – Today’s surprise find

These photographs were taken with a Zenit 3M 35mm SLR circa 1968 when I was a student. They were probably taken on Ilford monochrome film, processed in the kitchen, and enlarged with a home-made enlarger. The prints, on a soft velvet paper, were mounted on a card. Over the years they were filed away in some forgotten place and discovered again today, some 42 years later. The mottling in the sky of the rigging shot is probably a result of glue reacting with the developing chemicals.

The Chilean sail training ship “Esmeralda” was a regular visitor to Auckland at that time and allowed visitors aboard when in port. These images were taken during such a visit.

The photographs were scanned into Lightroom and where they have been retouched.

I still own the original Russian made camera.

Rigging - Chilean Naval Training Vessel "Esmerelda"

Stern Light - Chilean Naval Training Vessel "Esmerelda"

Nifty Fifty

A present I received last Christmas was a Sony DT50mm 1.8 SAM lens for my Sony Alpha DSLR – A200 camera.  The “nifty fifty” is a lens recommended by many photographers not only as a great portrait lens, but also as a lens of discipline to help improve the way images are perceived and conceived.  Up until recently I had not made great use of it, even though it was always in my bag.  A few weeks ago I took my walk around Sigma DC 18-200mm lens off the camera and went for a walk with the 50mm lens attached instead.

Cactus Flower Buds

I must say that the constraints of a fixed focal length lens make one very disciplined.  Shots have to be more carefully and deliberately framed as the luxury of being able to “zoom” at the camera is removed. Get closer, move further back, be totally aware of what’s in the frame, work at it.  This can be quite frustrating, but also liberating.

The other significant gain is the greater range of depth of field.

These cactus flowers were found near the water’s edge “around the rocks” near my home.  It was late afternoon and the sun was heading for dusk.  The cactus bushes were in the shade.  Spiders had made a home amongst the spines and buds.

Cactus Flowers

Cactus Buds

Abandoned in Black & White

I’m still a learner when it comes to taking and processing photographs.  Black and white is still a bit of mystery. Some photographs suit a monochromatic treatment better than others. Other photographs which are disappointing in colour develop a new life in black and white.

Abandoned Barn, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand

I love old buildings as subjects to photograph.  The light on this one caught my eye as we rounded a corner on the gravel road between the Purakaunui Falls and Jack’s Blowhole. Long grass, bleached and warped weatherboards, lifting corrugated iron roof and leaning power pole bereft of power line added to the interest.

I was delighted to have discovered the building.  However, when I got to see the resulting image I was disappointed.  As an experiment I changed the image to black and white and adjusted it for the balance of tones.  The resulting image scrubs up pretty nicely in my view, but that’s just my view.  What do you think?  Remember though, I’m just new at this stuff.