Tag Archives: sydney

Australia from Four Cameras — (4 of 4)

  • Moto RAZR (phone camera)

The least technically capable camera I carried in Australia was the one built into my cell phone, the Moto Razr.  And when I say ‘least technically capable’ about the imaging quality, what I mean is that it is pretty atrocious. The shutter is remarkably slow, the color calibration is bland, the orientation and ergonomics are awkward and unpleasant. That said, although it was less capable than my other ‘real’ cameras, in non-traditional ways, it was the most capable.

With all its limitations I was able to do some interesting things. The panorama feature was slightly redeeming – I could wave the phone in a circle, and it would stitch together a wobbly but coherent frame.  I could instantly share pictures by uploading to Instagram. I could take “selfies.”  Most importantly, I was able to use pictures as a surrogate notepad, for ‘mentally bookmarking’ things I needed to remember later – like an interesting newspaper article, the name of a beer I tried, or a rental listing in a property office’s window.

I was able to take pictures less pretentiously, of things that I didn’t particularly need a great photograph of, but did want a great memory of. And when I did want a great photograph, I was usually carrying another camera for that, and if I felt that impulse we now have to instantly ‘share’ the scene with the world, I could snap the same (less technically sound) frame with my phone, and upload it right away.

Australia from Four Cameras — (3 of 4)

  • Olympus E-PL1

The E-PL1 is an amazing camera. What I love about it (aside from the image quality) is its inconspicuousness. When shooting street photography, or casual travel scenes, pointing a big DSLR neck-weight can easily tip off potential subjects that their image is being captured, and may intimidate them into feeling a need to ‘perform’ for such a large camera. The small body E-PL1 is a much friendlier camera to be in front of – it looks small and harmless, and leaves people to behave as naturally as they would if a camera weren’t around.

It uses the same 13 megapixel sensor that the much larger E-30 does, but in a compact “micro 4/3” body system. The Micro 4/3 line of cameras offer big quality in a small package, and with a lens converter, I can shoot with the same glass that I use in any other E-system camera. (So with the E-PL1 and the E-500, I traveled with three interchangeable lenses, and one kit lens for the PL1.)

The E-PL1 is also the only camera I have capable of shooting video under manual control settings. This opens up a whole world of creativity, and I have only just begun to explore the possibilities. Any scene I encountered with defining movement was available to be recorded in a short movie clip.

Australia from Four Cameras — (2 of 4)

  • Olympus E-500

The E-500 was the first DSLR I ever used, and I’ve been shooting with it for nearly eight years. I learned how to operate manual controls with this camera, and built a muscle memory with it that I can’t quite replicate with any other camera body. The E-500 doesn’t have the live-view features or the 13MP sensor of the E-30, my other Olympus camera body, but I chose to travel with the 500 because it’s smaller, lighter, and I am more familiar with its nuances. Comfort with a tool could be more important than features, bells, and whistles.

Even with its older sensor and more limited features, it’s very capable of producing gorgeous images. I’ve always been impressed with its color accuracy, especially shooting in .jpg with no post-processing. Rich blues and greens make it great for landscapes.

Australia from Four Cameras – (1 of 4)

It’s the biggest question I face when I get ready to take a trip – which cameras are coming along? 

For my trip to Australia, I ended up packing four cameras, four lenses, and 38GB of memory cards. Each camera served its own unique purpose, and I gave all of them almost equal use.

  • Olympus FE-170

This camera was put to market in 2006, making it the oldest of my crew. I found it on eBay for under $100 back in 2007, so you could probably put 50 cents in a vending machine to get one today. It’s a small 6 megapixel point and shoot, with 38-114mm (equivalent) zoom. By today’s standards, it is very limited in image quality, but it has something none of my other cameras did – an element of “disposability.”

At 4.4 oz, and with only two buttons I needed to press, it is exactly what I needed to carry while running the Sydney Half Marathon. I didn’t care if sweat was seeping into the buttons, I wouldn’t have been heartbroken if I dropped it. I had already tested its durability – It also traveled with me to China several years ago, and ended up shooting some of my favorite images of a camping trip in the desert.

two Sundays in Sydney

Sunday, Sept. 22

Calexico, the American alt-rock band, performed at the Sydney Opera House. Like most tourists in the city for the first time, I might have been content to watch someone scrub the stage with a mop just to get a glimpse of the inside of one of the world’s most fascinating structures. Thankfully, Calexico, a band I enjoy very much, brought their drums and guitars and saved the janitorial staff from the task of entertaining me.

Last year, I was introduced to Calexico’s funky blend of rock and traditional Mexican folk music by their performance on the Austin City Limits TV series. At the Opera House, they sounded great, and were enhanced by the building’s superior acoustical design. What surprised me, from my seat in the furthest row back from the stage, was how sedated the crowd was. When I’ve seen videos of Calexico performing elsewhere, it’s clear the crowd is enjoying the hell out of themselves with loads of dancing and clapping.

In the Opera House, I gasped at seeing people actually dozing in their seats, getting up and leaving in the middle of the show, and generally giving a lackluster response to the excellent performance the band was offering. The only logic I can apply to this disappointment is that many in the audience had purchased tickets just because they wanted to be inside the venue, without any knowledge or interest in the band themselves. (I hate to generalize, but some of the snoozers looked as if they came from non-rock-music-listening places. Or perhaps they had all run the marathon that morning – but so did I, and I managed to stay awake.)

As beautiful as the Opera House is, and as precise and lovely as its acoustics are, it might not be the best place for a rock band to set up. The seats are bolted to the floor. No one is dancing. It probably happens to everyone who plays there, and it might be more noticeable in the very back row. But for someone who thinks of concert-going as others might consider church, it was bizarre to witness.

Calexico, Sydney Opera House, 9/22/13

Calexico, Sydney Opera House, 9/22/13

Sunday, Sept. 29

Who knew that the Enmore Theater could ask for twice the gate price that the Sydney Opera House could? I certainly didn’t, but by the end of the night, I had no complaints. The Enmore has the appearance of (and could well be) an old converted movie house, snugly positioned in the hip Newtown suburb of Sydney. If I had to guess, I’d say that this place was showing Chaplin movies to a packed house in the 1920’s.

The opening band, Alpine, natives of Melbourne, were the soundtrack to several of my road trips this summer, so getting the chance to watch them in their native country as they’re just starting out was the icing on the cake for this show.

Rolling Stone and TIME magazine have both called Alpine a ‘Band to Watch’ within the last six months. The group’s airy vocal harmonies come from Phoebe Baker and Lou James, who complement the fuzzy cloud of perfect bass riffs with some mesmerizing dance moves. I was rocking out and had almost forgotten that FOALS was backstage getting ready to perform.

Several months ago, FOALS gave one of, if not the most, memorable performance I have ever seen in the 15 years I’ve been going to Washington D.C.’s 9:30 (here’s a video clip from the crowd) so I was excited to find out they were playing the Enmore Theater in Sydney while I was visiting.

The FOALS sound ducks in and out of labyrinthine beats and wizardly guitar riffs, and the danceable, screamy rock gets ratcheted up by the lead singer’s affinity for risking dismemberment while leaping from balconies and shoving his way through the audience, guitar strapped all the way.

The set at Enmore was just as intense as what I saw in Washington, with an even larger audience. (Here’s a video clip from the balcony – thanks, Youtube) Again, lead singer Yannis Philippakis abandoned the stage to perform half of the song ‘Two Steps, Twice’ from the crowd, climbing and leaping from the balcony.

Following the show I was lucky enough to find my way to the same bar that FOALS was claiming for the night. After walking into a fake hot dog shop storefront on Wentworth Ave. and passing through a cleverly disguised false door, I made it to the Soda Factory and stayed until the early hours of the morning.

FOALS set list, 9/29/13

FOALS set list, 9/29/13

I had a brief chance to speak to FOALS singer Yannis, and mentioned I had been at the show in D.C.  He was quick to praise 9:30 as one of his favorite clubs and went on to say that the D.C. independent music scene (Fugazi and Dischord Records) had been a big influence on him as a teenager.

It’s hard to emphasize how great it was to be on the other side of the world hearing a guy I just watched jump off a balcony into a throng of screaming fans tell me that he loved the city I came from. Rock on, Yannis.

on Walking the World

You can tell a lot about a city by its crosswalks.

In Sydney, the ‘Art and About‘ program installed large banners throughout the city illustrating the slight variations in ‘crosswalk people’ around the globe. The little blinking green man who helps you avoid becoming a traffic accident isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when considering ‘what piece of public art defines where I live?’ But… ‘God is in the details.’

A few examples:

In Warsaw, Poland – the Crossing Man is shattered, wrecked, in pieces. What brought him to such a state of discombobulation? How does he even walk like that? Not only are his limbs disassociated, but his head is monstrously large. It’s as if Warsaw Man lived through WWII and hasn’t finished rebuilding. Perhaps the city is still figuring out how to become whole again.

Warsaw Crossing Picture

In Chicago, USA – the Crossing Man is orange, hunched, an arm limply stretched out in front of him. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. His head is not attached to his body. He leans on one leg as though he could crumple at any moment.

Chicago Crossing Man

In Santiago, Chile – this Crossing Man appears frozen, fixed by the shine of his own luminosity, bursting from tiny bulbs within. His pose doesn’t suggest walking, but hesitating. Like a deer (or kangaroo) in headlights, he is frozen. His head floats above his body, his back is set straight. What is Santiago resisting? Who has frightened it?

Santiago Crossing Man

In Paris, France – the Crossing Man can’t be bothered with anything. His head is screwed on tight. His knees aren’t bent, maybe he isn’t walking, but just waiting for someone else to walk for him. Hands in pockets, he is casual, haughty.. and if he is run down by a car… Merde, C’est la Vie, at least he looked like a gentleman as it happened.

Paris Crossing Man

In Stockholm, Sweden – the Crossing Man is defined by his spine, the only visible component of his interior, which radiates through his torso. His legs are much stronger than his wispy arms. His head is small. Stockholm Man is on the move, quickly, perhaps propelled to find his way indoors by the chilly Scandanavian air.

Stockholm Crossing Man

In Boston, USA – do not get in the Crossing Man’s way. He is coming through, his arm cocked back, shoulder ready to charge any obstacle in his path. His outline glows, his inside is dark. He leads a private internal life. With his rear leg straight and his forward leg bent, he is almost crouched, poised to move briskly. Without feet, he makes his way by the power of his middle.

Boston Crossing Man

And finally, in Sydney, Australia – the Crossing Man is an idealist. He appears to have gathered the qualities of other cities, taking the best and leaving the questionable. He has a good neck. His arms evoke action, without aggression. His legs, in long stride, get him along his way in good time, at no risk of injury by overexertion. His salutary proportions make fellow pedestrians want to wave and shout, ‘G’day, Mate!’

Sydney Crossing Man