Photography


I’ve been so busy recently! Where does time go? I’m busy with my creative writing course and learning heaps about fiction writing. I’ve also been taking a photography course. I tend to take them regularly so I can keep learning.

The latest course I’ve been doing is with a New Zealand food and landscape photographer who is old-school. Amazing photographer and he encourages students to only shoot in Manual mode and preferably in black and white because it is so dramatic.

I’ve been busy running around the property snapping away. Some shots have worked; some haven’t. C’est la vie!

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Just a bench in the secret garden but gets a bit dramatic when shot in B&W.

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Great drama!! Probably too dark but I quite like it.

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Lots of textures.

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Good old Kiwi ferns.

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Had to take this shot in colour – my beautiful girl, Zsa Zsa.

I regaled you in my last post with a photo of me at around 17 years old. The stand-out in that photo was the weird white jumpsuit I was wearing. I know it’s a jumpsuit because the next photo in the album (below) is of me with my Dad. Probably taken the same day I’d guess and, from the setting, I can tell it was snapped at the bottom of the front steps leading to the house (but facing towards the house). Guessing my mother took it and I’m talking about the house in Sydney where I grew up.

I was always running around with a camera from about the age of 10 or 12 years and so was Dad. He was a keen amateur photographer and, since he’s in the photo below with me, it must have been taken by Mum. She knew zilch about photography and wasn’t interested but she could point and shoot.

I haven’t seen this photo in YEARS and it’s one of the few I have of me with Dad. Happier times in many ways. Whoever said that school days and the young years are the best days of your life got that 100% right. Didn’t have to worry about elderly parents; having a mortgage; finding a job; or dealing with all the lunatics out there!

If I had my way, I’d get in a time capsule and return to when I was about 8 years of age. Happy, happy times. Doesn’t mean to say I’m not happy now but there is something carefree about your childhood and teenage years that can never be recaptured. But the photo below does capture so much for me; I can remember it like it was yesterday!!

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The Bhutanese don’t celebrate Christmas as it’s a Buddhist nation. In fact, their calendar is quite different. We’ve spotted one lone, small Christmas tree in a new restaurant but that’s it. I’m missing the elaborate Christmas decorations, sparkly tinsel and traditional Christmas fare back home.

Zeph and Zsa Zsa are at the kennels enjoying themselves. I’ve been in regular contact with their breeder and she tells me that Zeph is awaiting his cigar LOL. His puppies will be born on New Year’s Eve. Zsa Zsa, who I admit was a little on the rotund side, has apparently slimmed down. The challenge will be to keep the weight off her as she loves her food.

So Christmas in Bhutan. We’ll be going to Paro to stay for a few days. It’s about one hour from Thimphu and is a much nicer place in my view. The streets are flat (although you can still fall into a few holes) and there are lovely handicraft shops. We’re going to stay in a hotel that is over a 100 years old and I’ll get some photos for you.

Meanwhile, the colours of Bhutan. Incredible. You get used to the vibrant yellows, the fuchsia pinks, the emerald greens. But when you look at your photos, the first thought is wow, look at those colours.

So if you celebrate Christmas, a very merry Christmas to you and I leave you with some photos of the colours of Bhutan.

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I can’t take my eyes off the photo below. Have you seen it before? It dates back to October, 1839 when pioneers in photography were experimenting with the daguerreotype (the first practicable method of obtaining permanent images with a camera, developed in France).

The photo below is considered to be the first self-portrait and is of Robert Cornelius, a Dutch born American chemist. According to stories I’ve read, Cornelius set up his camera at the back of his father’s gas lamp-importing business on Chestnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia. It was a sunny day and his knowledge of metallurgy and chemistry gave him a great interest in photography.

At the dawn of photography, it could take up to 30 minutes to get an exposure. I don’t know how long this quarter-plate daguerreotype took Cornelius but you can see his arms are crossed and, what I find AMAZING, is how contemporary he looks (not to mention pretty good looking). He kind of reminds me of Colin Firth playing Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. We are talking 174 years ago people and, when I think about dudes in the early to mid-1800s, I don’t imagine them to look as hot as Robert Cornelius!

Apparently, he went on to operate two of the earliest photographic studios in America. He later seemed to have lost interest in photography or perhaps the market became saturated with photographers and studios. Cornelius went to work in the family gas lamp business and died in 1893.

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For today’s post, a photo I took recently. I get obsessed with tree silhouettes during Winter. Plenty of trees around our property to get obsessed with let me tell you. And late in the afternoon, when the light is soft, they look great against a bright blue sky.

Apart from the two dumps of snow we’ve had, Winter has been pretty mild. The last few days have almost been T-shirt weather. A local farmer who had his cows with us during April said it would be a mild Winter. Guess he was right. But we still have August to go.

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I first visited Russia back in the old USSR days. The USSR stood for The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (aka the Soviet Union). It was 1991 when the Soviet Union crumbled but I think my first visit was in 1989 or 1990. A stand-out memory for me was seeing queues of people lining up outside some dingy-looking shop, waiting for bread. I also remember the sad, despairing faces of people as I whipped around Moscow with the friend I was travelling with.

Both of us spoke Russian. She much better than me. I have Russian ancestors on my mother’s side and I studied Russian at Uni for a few years. My Russian is pretty rusty now but, back then, I could carry off a reasonably decent conversation. My friend, however, spoke it fluently and we tried very hard to melt into the local landscape.

We travelled by train somewhere. I remember descending down a long, fairly steep escalator into this huge cavernous space of some metro station in Moscow. We were talking on the train. She was doing most of the talking because her Russian was so good. We were confident that no-one would suspect we weren’t locals. But everyone knew. People were staring at us.

Dissecting our experience, we felt that her watch was the give-away. We weren’t wearing jewellery and both of us dressed down (we thought) but, of course, our jeans and clothes were Western. We were also approached by the KGB on some train station. Now that I think about it, we were nuts going to the Soviet Union. Young and stupid perhaps.

We returned just after the collapse of the USSR – either late 1992 or 1993. And this time we chose some Homestay programme. In Moscow, we stayed in the tiny, tiny flat of a single mother and her young son. I remember the police knocking on the door and asking for our passports. We said Nyet to that! The kitchen was SO small with a tiny bench where we all crammed together for breakfast and dinner. The apartment buildings all looked the same and we were often lost in our efforts to distinguish which Stalinist apartment block was ours. The overwhelming memory I have is the smell of urine as you entered the building.

In Saint Petersburg (formerly Petrograd) we stayed in the very large apartment of a former KGB General. I seem to remember he was a General but I know he was former KGB. I don’t recall much about this apartment except a misty memory of plush dark velvet and oil paintings. We visited Catherine Palace just outside of Saint Petersburg, the Hermitage Museum, the Peter and Paul Fortress. A vivid memory is the golden onion domes and multi-coloured domes of The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood.

Another recollection is standing in Red Square when it was snowing. I was wearing some fur cap I bought in Moscow, which was later confiscated at the airport for some reason I can’t recall. I turned around and saw….McDonalds on some corner of the square. I was shocked; so this must have been during my first visit.

I tried to buy some diamond ring from the time of the Russian Revolution (1917). It was unbelievably cheap considering the Aussie dollar against the ruble in the late 80s/early 90s. Alas, I was told in no uncertain terms that religious or historic relics could not be bought by foreigners and taken out of the Soviet Union. I consoled myself with a Russian camera instead – the Smena 8N.

And I finally get to the point of this post. I’ve dusted off another Soviet-era camera I have – the Zorki 4K made in 1974. It’s a 35mm film rangefinder camera and has a Jupiter 8 50mm lens. It comes complete with a user manual in Russian but I have an English translation thankfully.

I’ll be taking it with me to the local A&P show this weekend. A&P shows in rural New Zealand are a big thing. They’re all about agricultural displays, equestrian events, woodchopping, donkey and alpaca displays and so on. Rather like I remember the Royal Easter Show in Sydney when I was a kid. I’ll be shooting with Ilford XP2 black and white film. Fingers crossed that the Soviets don’t let me down!

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My Zorki 4K – manufactured in 1974 in the old Soviet Union.

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USSR – haven’t seen these initials in a long, long time. Cold War anyone?

For today’s post, here are some photos of Paris. I only had my iPhone during my time in Rome. I had to pack for 2 months, so the thought of bringing my Nikon with me didn’t appeal. I actually like the iPhone as a photographic medium, especially for street photography. It gives a graininess to photos that I quite like.

But on my return to NZ, I plan to whip out the Nikon plus some of my Russian cameras. I want to get back to working with film.

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