Mel Sinclair Photography: Blog https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog en-us (C) Mel Sinclair Photography mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) Mon, 14 Jun 2021 10:13:00 GMT Mon, 14 Jun 2021 10:13:00 GMT https://www.melsinclair.com.au/img/s/v-12/u108572073-o23952221-50.jpg Mel Sinclair Photography: Blog https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog 120 120 Retrospective 2020 https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/12/retrospective-2020 2020 needs no introduction. We know its been one of the strangest, most disconcerting years thus far. I'm not going to touch on the bad parts of the year, rather, the good bits that came from a time more introverted than ever. While my inner introvert loved the isolation and time to work on my own projects, I yearned for the action of chasing down a new location and exploring places I hadn't yet been.

Now, we know that we've made sacrifices and that life has changed for a while. 
We're a little more cautious, more suspecting, a little less free and very much still wondering what's around the corner.

Of all the years that I've been capturing the landscape, this is definitely one of the most quiet. But for good reason.

Each year that I've written a retrospective, it's been a photo from each month. It's been a bit more about the travels, the people, the adventures and loving that along the way. 

This year, for me, has been about rediscovering my local spots, the ones that I shot years ago before I fully discovered the wider world. Those places that I finely tuned my craft on. The places that just feel like home, even though they aren't.

When Australia was put into lockdown at the end of March, the message was "stay at home, stay in your suburb, only go out if you have to." so naturally, living in the suburbs, I didn't have access to much. 

Gyms closed and as winter crept in, we all started sleeping in. Some epic fogs painfully came and went, travel restrictions were unclear and travelling was heavily restricted.

Around April, we were advised that we could travel up to 50km from our place of residence. There was restrictions on how many people could be in the home, and around the time of my birthday, this was only around 2 people. Needless to say it was a quiet one. More time was spent on the couch than ever before, and photography reflected whatever I could find in my garden or around the house.

The borders closing to Tasmania killed off my trip to Fagus week, our flights, accommodation and car hire all cancelled. Thankfully, I had planned for 2020 to be a year of local exploration, so I did not have to fight international flights to be refunded. This however meant that I kept working at my other job throughout the lockdown and never really had to leave the house for weeks on end except to do groceries. The introvert in me loved it. THe landscape photographer part of me hated it, I wanted to be out, creating and exploring.

Towards June/July/August those distances were revised and these opened up access to my old photography locations out West of Brisbane. I began sacrificing those sleep-ins for some much needed exploration. I gave an online presentation to the AIPP about my Landscape photography and creative journey which was a lot of fun. It was also when I produced most of the foggy landscapes that I have in my portfolio this year.

September / October / November and thus far December has been pretty quiet, save for a few storms that have come past. While I still love the storms, I haven't been chasing at all this season, rather, just capturing what I can from a few local spots. I'll continue to do this throughout summer, driving backroads and exploring all over again. Here's hoping with the rain it'll finally be moister and more potential for capturing rainforest scenes again.

In 2021? More of the same. Some domestic travel is on the whiteboard  for Tasmania in April and possibly another state in October/November next year. I won't be rushing overseas until this madness settles down, and will instead spend my money in my home country.

For now, without order or formality, here's my favourite images to come out of this year!


 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2020 blog covid19 isolation limited lookingback melsinclair photography restricted retrospective https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/12/retrospective-2020 Sun, 13 Dec 2020 08:22:04 GMT
Just Yosemite- Picture Blog https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/10/just-yosemite Almost a year ago, I embarked on a trip to the USA, and it seems like such an age ago now.

The impact of events in the world this year has blown me away, and so I have found myself peering into old catalogues to update this website gradually, as well as share some of my favourite stories and works in progress. I've failed pretty miserably at updating this website, however I'm just starting to get my USA pictures from 2019 online.

I was totally not expecting Yosemite to have the impact that it did. Casting aside the knowledge of Ansel Adams and every other photographer before me was tough, but I wanted to experience it, instead of hunt down the famous compositions. 

These are all images that are available to purchase in my USA Gallery.

The watermark that appears is an anti-screenshot device and will NOT be in the final purchased print, it is aimed at preventing those that want to take a screenshot then print/use without paying me. 

As I go through my USA/Canada trip images, this gallery will expand for the USA. Also keep an eye on the Canada gallery, as this will be updated too.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2019 autumn blog fall landscape melsinclair nikon november photography pictures yosemite https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/10/just-yosemite Sat, 10 Oct 2020 03:29:59 GMT
Quarantine https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/4/quarantine In my last my last blog (1000 words) I wrote about three images from my peers that inspired me. This inspiration must have rubbed off a little.... because the idea for this image, just came to me in a split-second thought. It's uncanny how sometimes you just get an idea and it works. 

Normally, I'd have kept this image under wraps, held it close and not released it to the world in favor of how it might be received in an awards situation. Instead, I have decided to post it, because we're all in the same situation.

I wanted to mark this crazy time in my life, because as seemably quick as it has become normal, when restrictions are lifted, we may soon forget the sacrifices that we had to make. So for future reference, I want to immortalize it in a blog post. So here we are.

I wanted to have it mentioned in a way that I could look back and say “wow, remember that time that we spent weeks/months on end at home to hide from the virus and the world fell apart a little bit, but it was kind of okay (except for millions of people who lost their jobs) but because we had video chats, Facebook and other technology and were able to stay in touch.”

How crazy is it, that in a modern world with all of our technology that knows who, what, where, when and how, that we’re all relegated to staying inside and suspecting everyone else of having the virus, so naturally we stay away. When we go out, we stay a minimum of 1.5m or “one shopping trolley” apart, and how many times have you done a line dance in a supermarket to adhere to this rule?

We’ve never known a world like this.

Yet here we are.

As a creative, we have a powerful voice to tell stories through images. We can put into words things that people feel but don’t speak about. Right now it feels like I should be documenting the current state that we find ourselves in, that I should be out and about taking pictures of how deserted the streets, shops and public places are; but alas they’ve all been shut down, and the fines for doing said exploration are enormous.

So what then?

I gave myself a Photoshop challenge before the Easter break, it was pretty simple.

“Make an image that depicts the current situation of social distancing, isolation and the constant invisible threat all around us.”

Now lets remember that my key strengths are going out and taking a photograph that's pretty similar to the state that I shot it in. Photoshop composites are not my strong suit, but I'm trying to get better.

Further to this, I said to myself that I wouldn’t use any word in the image of “Coronavirus” “Covid-19” “biohazard” “Social Distancing” or such logos and symbols. The challenge was to speak through pictures.

So how did I do? Leave your comment below.

If this isn't your thing, go check out my "Latest Works" gallery for a preview of what I've been up to on my personal Facebook page, sharing Landscapes new and old to ease the amount of Coronavirus/Covid-19 posts that appear in everyone's News feeds.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2020 blog challenge composite coronavirus covid-19 image imagery melsinclair photoshop skills trial https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/4/quarantine Sun, 19 Apr 2020 23:43:57 GMT
1000 Words https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/3/1000-words A picture tells a thousand words…

Our job as photographers is to capture life's moments. This includes our happiness, sadness, highs, lows and best aspects of all that we do. From the joy of birth, to the amazement and wonder of watching newborns grow, to young and old families enjoying each others' company, laughing and discovering the world around them. Fast forward to school formals, engagements and weddings.... This is what we capture for our clients, it's pretty predictable and can become quite repetitive. 

So where then do awards images sit? Usually quite awkwardly in the middle. An idea that the photographer has is granted permission by the client, and usually a short inclusion in a paid family shoot results in an image that can be used for awards. But only the truly spectacular images reap the Gold with Distinction awards - the 95+ out of 100...

~*~

How many images have you seen in your lifetime that truly speak a whole essays’ worth in simple terms? In a picture?! Ones that convey less popular emotions such as grief, loss, absence or frustration, or simply transport you somewhere else?!

Very few artists can show a world such strength in their narratives, but some of these artists, of whom I am proud to know through AIPP Queensland (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) have done just that; capturing a part of our worlds that we seldom discuss, gloss over or make-seem-normal.

In this blog, I am going to analyse and discuss the images and their impact, and how they have gone beyond “a picture of---“ and used strong visual language, through simple images to display craft and skill to create an image (or series of) into “this is the story of---“ to show you just how accessible an award-worthy image can be in terms of shoot and presentation.

The stories told are common, ones that we can all recognize, but strike us in the heart with their truthfulness and their sadness, and make intangible feelings a reality through photography. Call it what you want, I call it true artistry. 

All three of these images have had an impact on the way I see awards, and the way that I strive to tell stories through my images. These three photographers are also Queensland residents, and people who I am honored to call my friends. They’ve all given me permission to share and discuss their images in this blog.

I still remember the first APPA that I attended, in 2015, and while the experience is a little blurry in my mind, I'll never forget seeing this print be judged. 
 

Colleen Harris - "Dead Baby" 

 

In the AIPP Judging system, we look at live, real prints. Judging is conducted by having a large, plain wall, and a cut-out window containing a triangular turnstyle which holds prints. When a print is spun around on the turnstyle during judging, there’s a second or two where judges stop to look from afar, before jumping out of their seats to get within centimeters of the print, examining its parts, looking at technical aspects and reading its story. 

As each judge read Colleen's print, one by one they were asking the panel chair to step off the print, visibly emotional. Stepping off is when a judge feels like they can't judge the print for whatever reason, we respect their decision to do so. Eventually none of the original panel was left and a panicked panel chair was scrambling to find judges. New judges stepped on and went up to see the print, they too were emotional but held it together. 

From the Audience, a large crowd was gathering, and I could see the image on the audience screen. Wow. I too was speechless. The room was electric with eager eyes waiting for the score on this print, people were gathering behind the last row of seats and blocking the doorway out. I was watching the body language of each judge and each bystander like a game of football. Back and forth. It was seriously something else.

Image Copyright - Colleen Harris  (reproduced here with permission)

So what's the story?!

We are taken on a fast trip through a family's ups and downs , we feel like we're sharing the joy and warmth of the newborn, yet in blank white there's the uncertainty, we too are transported to immense loss. Twelve images of the first twelve months of this baby's life. One, two, three, four, the predictable growth of any new addition to the family. But then an empty, faded fifth, and sixth and seventh. At eight, a tiny coffin and oh gosh.. This poor baby didn't make it. More emptiness, a visual representation of great loss and mourning, and then on twelve, the first birthday cake. A point in time marked, but never lived.  I had never seen judges cry to that point, but a suggestion in the print has resonated with a personal experience and that's all it takes.

The tiny coffin was a clever fabrication that just helped sell the story. Macabre, but a story well told. 
 

Examining the technical aspects, it's a relatively simple shoot. One set, one chair, a client obliging for the use of their images in this way, some flowers, a cake and a tiny coffin. Any one of these images on their own would not have scored as high as this did, and it was the implied narrative that drove this one home. Each image in a series like this needs to hold weight, it needs to be there for a reason, as important as the rest. That's a challenge with an image that uses several parts to form its whole. Each square was a moment (implied) too horrible or too hard to put into words. 

Later, I’m told, the baby didn't actually die. Colleen was able to get the clients’ permission for such a story. I’m sure there’s a whole blog on convincing a client to work with the photographer for a conceptual shoot such as this one, but in both professionalism to get the permission and the visual aspects that made this image such a tear-jerker, this is what we strive for in creating excellent images.
 

Stef Dunn “Help Me”

Anger.

Mental Illness.

Big Pharma.

~repeat~

Image Copyright - Stef Dunn (reproduced here with permission)

Stef’s image captures the desperation of those who are stuck in the clutches of needing a plethora of drugs to survive or recover from a (or a few) medical conditions, but unwillingly get caught in the middle. There are those who are stuck with the addiction to substances that were in legitimate prescriptions who now turn to harder drugs to feed that need, long after their scripts have expired. There are those who have a sense of self but only between doses wearing off…

This image was created for displaying the anger that the photographer felt for what Big Pharma has done to his friends and loved ones...

Undeniably, this image also displays a helplessness. "I don't want the medication // But I need the medication to survive."

Stef told me that he stuck the sheets with blu-tack to the bathroom wall and assembled them then and there. No composition in photoshop required, just a single capture image and some light editing in post production. Stef also commented that he didn’t make the image specifically for the awards, rather it was an idea that he had floating around in his head for a few years that finally came to fruition when he had worked out how it was going to be made. Through his frustration with the big drug companies and their willingness to push drugs onto people, he has created an image that speaks to anyone who is angry with the world and how Big Pharma controls it.

The judges understood the image instantly and recognized the current social comment regarding prescription medications. As if it were a modern-day SOS scribbled in the sand, for a person awaiting rescue from a predicament they cannot escape. 

Video from the judging. For Stef's image, browse to 50:26

 

 

Kris Anderson “Senseless”

Image Copyright - Kris Anderson  (reproduced here with permission)

We call them Smartphones, but they’re sucking our lives away.

They’re taking our time away from the real things of value in our lives, and replacing it with useless junk, cat videos and endless emails and IMs to respond to at all hours. They were meant to help us, but have instead hindered us, stolen time away from those that deserve it the most; our loved ones.

This image, titled “Sleepless” has captured the essence of both the 'cool' and the 'curse' of our digital dependence, simply showing us what we’re missing out on by looking at a screen instead of our loved ones.

There’s four images, and it’s easy to see the repetition through this picture. A dad having a picnic with his family, except he spends the whole time on his phone, not interacting with anyone. The children are trying to play with him, to gain his attention, but eventually they leave, but he's still on his phone. He doesn’t notice. It rains. He doesn’t notice. And just once he’s drenched and its dark, he notices. But where have the people gone?!

To this date I haven’t witnessed what an emotional roller coaster that this image was. I had seen it previously in Colleen Harris’ image (mentioned above) but in recent times we had been lacking from this kind of emotional trip. Kris has made a name for himself with his vivid depictions of social commentaries, and this image is no different.

Does it make you examine your own social media habits more closely? 

 I’ll leave it to the video to demonstrate the judges impact to you:

So, in all of these images, has any spoken with you?

Have a good look at how these images are constructed, the simple ideas that led to their creation and the social commentaries that they illustrate. Simple images, complex ideas, moving narratives. The difficult part is that we have days, hours, weeks or months to construct these kinds of images, and a judge gets 30 seconds MAXIMUM to read it. Is your story able to be told in a picture in 30 seconds? That therein is the challenge.

When I think of an award-worthy image, they’re above.

Try not to look at a photograph as your end-of-line; there’s more to it than that. Consider each image in this blog against each other, how would you have interpreted them? Do you agree with the way the image was presented? Remember you can only judge the final product, not the bits of story around it.

In looking for images that strike the judges, you should always seek to tell a story of, instead of just taking a photograph of, however that may be~



 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) amazing anderson artists australia awards clever colleen commentary contemporary dunn exellence harris imagery inspriation kris photography smart stef https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/3/1000-words Sun, 15 Mar 2020 08:10:05 GMT
OMG Awards https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/3/omgawards

I've judged a few photographic competitions thus far in my career. Only a few, not a lot and I've definitely entered more than I've judged. Go to my about section if you really must know what I've done awards-wise.

So how is it to see both sides of the fence? We can, as judges talk endlessly about what makes a good award image, what will potentially do well and how to create those images, but what about the mental preparation that goes into it?

Your mindset is your secret weapon.

It is the difference between a good award experience, and a terrible one. It's the determination that you show, the preparedness, the sportsmanship of the awards that will put you in a better place mentally, to face the unknowns of the competition.

Let's have a look at what we do know about most competitions:

Some universally acknowledged truths:

■ High Pressure

■ High Stakes

■ Good Exposure

■ Unknown competitors

■ May have cost a lot to enter

■ Entrants hoping to win the big prizes

■ Reputations to uphold

■ Everyone thinks their photos are the best!

That's quite a list, I can feel the pressure already! 

Some Tips to help you prepare for any competition:

1. If you're like me, you've always got images processed and ready to go for competitions. I've got a folder inside my main exports library titled Awards and the year, so Awards 2020. Inside this folder are full JPEG images processed to perfection and waiting for the right competition to enter into. I've got all my current images that might be good fits for competitions upcoming. I've also got a catalogue of these original files and export presets with the file size, type and quality ready to push my images out when I need them.

2. I've also got a spreadsheet of upcoming competitions, their hyperlinks from last year and a few details of the types of competitions that they are, and what usually does well in them. This is a personal list, and each persons may be different. If you're super sleuthy you can also add these deadline dates into your calendars and set up reminders for critical end dates.

3. You never stop producing work that could be a good fit. It's fair to take a breather from shooting but you should always be on the lookout to create your best work, not just for a period of time where awards are happening. If you rush it, it will never be as good as when you took the time to delicately craft it without a deadline.

BE A SPONGE

■  ABSORB: As much inspiration and information as you can from all sources. Never stop creating, make too much work, then you have a big pile to pick from later.

■ WATCH no, BINGE past awards videos to determine if your work is a good fit for the competition. “AIPP Awards” Channel on YouTube

■ BOOK yourself in for all the print critiques and SIT UP THE FRONT so you can hear all the critique!

■ READ the Rules document from cover to cover. Know what you can and can’t do within the category you’re planning to enter.

Set yourself up for success:

* Promise to put up your best work, your most different work. Match the competition brief, but don't be afraid to interpret it in differnent ways, so long as you keep to the competition rules.

* Be quietly confident. But disconnect yourself emotionally from your images that you enter. The judges and the audience don’t know which ones are yours.

* Promise yourself that you’ll prepare well in advance

* Block out the dates in your calendar to attend judging.

* Watch past awards videos to determine if your work is a good fit for the competition.

*Look at images that have previously won– what is common about all of them? What style of images get awards?

 

5. Make positive Mantra cards and stick them around your workspace:

I will value the outcome, irrespective of how my images score!
I will research, plan and prepare as early as I can!
I will enter my best creative work
I will attend the judging, cheer on my peers or sit with them if they are nervous during judging!
I will attend all the print critiques and ask questions if I need further clarification
I will attend the presentation dinner and party with the winners!!
If I am disappointed with the outcome, I will seek feedback
I will volunteer my time to help run the awards!
I will enter an extra print as a “passion print” to test myself in another category that I do not usually enter.

I understand that not doing well when you thought you might, is massively disappointing. Competitions are a game of skill and you can't control everything, so let's take a look at what you can control for yourself.

When you enter any award, the universal truths of what you gain are:

Self-Confidence to enter future awards

Professional Benchmarking: Where are you in comparison to the industry/ your peers/ your mentors?

Networking: In some competitions like AIPP State and National Awards, we hold these judgings live, you  can meet other like-minded photographers at these events, and at the presentation dinners.

Inspiration - What are other people doing with their photography?

Education - Learning!

Social Connections - see Networks but less formal :P

Opportunities- You may meet a future mentor or freind.

Experience

Community.

So why the hell not enter something, somewhere? Boost your confidence, boost your profile, prepare yourself for bigger competitions upcoming!

You've got everything to gain, and if you don't enter, you are taking a pass on what could be an awesome learning experience.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) blog competitions melsinclair omgawards photography https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2020/3/omgawards Fri, 06 Mar 2020 20:48:48 GMT
Yosemite https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2019/12/yosemite Yosemite.

You've seen the incredible works by Ansel Adams, their other-worldliness depicts scenes from a lost era, of details, textures and beauty. So in knowing what a special place this is to so many people that visit, landing foot in the park was nothing short of transformational. There's something special in the air, a mood, ripe for creation, an enchantment leading you around each bend, with every footstep trodden...

If you've been a frequent reader of my travel blogs and have come up a little disappointed this time, in advance, I'm sorry. I was too busy living in the moment and enjoying my time to think about getting this all up day after day. So, in part to keep the memories alive, and to relive my holiday one step at a time, instead of blogging about the days that we had and showing a variety of photographs, I want to try just sharing one with you each post.

~

This was Yosemite, a morning at the end of Fall (Autumn for us Australians) with a skerrick of cloud and a banging reflection, Half Dome showed her face. Golden, browning and leafless trees rustling in the breeze and bathing in the last sunlight.

We'd had several weeks of little to no cloud, each morning waking up in the hope that our luck had changed and we'd be given some white fluffy stuff. Most mornings we were disappointed but kept shooting anyway. 

~

We'd gone to Yosemite to see what the fuss was about, to stand where many have stood before us and captured our own impressions of such an iconic park. We'd gotten lost in the many looping roads through the park, finding cute little corners and viewpoints in which to appreciate the buzz of activity around the climbers on El Capitan, and all the watchers that clung to the side of the roads, eagle-eyed with binoculars. Finding tiny human specs of life traversing that towering wall, a game of "where's wally" for the sharpest eyes. 

There was certainly a magic aura about the place.

It did however feel like they were just salivating for winter to begin. Animals such as wolves and deer foraging for their last feeds before heavy snowfall, chipmunks and squirrels scavaging the last of the seasons food. Coloured leaves falling haplessly to the ground and a cool air wafting through the valley, a sign that the season was changing and there was soon going to be less people around. Boarded up toilet blocks, chimneys wrapped with plastic and secured to avoid snow getting where snow wouldn't be appreciated. 

~

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2019 blog landscape melsinclair photography USA yosemite https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2019/12/yosemite Wed, 04 Dec 2019 11:00:41 GMT
A Question Of Safety https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2018/11/a-question-of-safety

There’s an unnerving and disturbing trend in Australia at the moment. Unless you’re also from here, or have been living under a rock, you’re sure to have heard about the escalating violence against women. You’re sure to have heard about the several women, who, in 2018, are being found murdered in parks, on beaches or on football fields in the middle of the city. I won’t linger on the particulars of each case, but you’d have to be an idiot to think that this doesn’t affect the rest of the female population from their social liberties and freedoms.

As a female landscape photographer, I feel especially threatened.

I love shooting sunrises, the more remote the location the better. I love capturing the first glimpses of daylight as it bursts from the horizon, I love going on my own so I can get lost in my thoughts, in my creative process, and just enjoy it all. With the best scenery being out of the way, often in deserted locations, questionable mobile phone coverage so I can’t be disturbed by emails or IMs…. Now, I can’t help but feel that the freedom to explore before dawn, with my bag, tripod and torch are now something I should not be doing, on the off-chance that I run into “foul play”.

 

Today, I shot sunrise at a place I hadn’t even scouted out before. It turned out great, and I was loving it, but I just couldn’t reach that Zen, because I was constantly looking over my shoulder, with the feeling that I was being watched. Alas it was only by sparrows out in the early light, but the possibility was there that someone not in their right mind, or driven by a drink (or drugs’) grasp, could happen upon me doing my thing, and find me as an easy target.

Several years ago it wasn’t even a concern for me. It wasn’t an issue. I took my mum on a shoot one afternoon on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. At the time, she asked me if I was worried about my safety, and also at the time, I had replied that I wasn’t. My next remark is that I had my tripod, a heavy, blunt object that could be used in self-defence if need be. At the time I realise that was naive, and now I find myself second guessing my safety to the point of paranoia.

I’m starting to hear the chorale of voices saying “Just take someone with you.”

That’s the easy answer, but doesn’t even address the problem!

While that’s what I’m starting to do, it doesn’t always appease the need for alone time, the sense of exploration and freedom you get by going alone. It’s really hard to find other female photographers who are thinking on the same level, who want to do the same shoots, who have the same attitude towards their photography as I do. I could agree to meet a male photographer friend at location, but time and time again, I’m finding that men’s wives/girlfriends feel that I’m not a good social choice, that they’re somehow threatened that something other than photography will occur. (No need to fret, I’m happily taken.)

Take the incident in Cairns of Toyah Cordingley, less than a month ago. She probably didn’t think she’d be in danger taking her large dog for a walk along a beach. People used to be scared of big dogs. She was doing something she loved – in broad daylight. If she’s not safe in the middle of the day with a large dog, where does that leave me with my camera on my tripod, my bag on the ground and me focusing on what I’m doing, rather than what’s behind me?

It makes me so angry to think that the actions of a small few will taint the peace and focus that I enjoy when out shooting. My right to practice my craft and not feel watched, not to feel paranoid, and not have it ruin the very thing that brings me happiness.

Are women’s social freedoms no more?

Must we be escorted everywhere by a man or risk being robbed, raped, abducted and/or killed, for just going out in public?

While this is a generalisation, the facts are pretty damning. It can happen to anyone, at any time, no matter where you are, but the chances are higher if you’re a woman, and you’re alone.

You know what the headlines would read. It’d be my fault. My error of judgement for going out un-escorted, for not arming myself with pepper spray, an emergency beacon or some way to raise an SOS. The media would dig through my Facebook and look for an image that depicts me doing something else dangerous or questionable, or wearing something skimpy, and use that as my profile picture on a story. They’d dig up some old content to cast a shadow on my character.  They’d extract posts I’ve shared and show a juxtaposition of content that shows I was concerned about my safety, but not enough.

It’d be tragic and awful.

But entirely preventable!

It’s simply not fair.

Raise your men to respect women. Correct those who feel otherwise towards their fellow humans. This is everyone’s responsibility!

And something has to be done about it before we lose more women to the hands of cowards.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2018 australia blog domesticviolence dv landscape melsinclair Musings on-location photography safety violence https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2018/11/a-question-of-safety Sat, 10 Nov 2018 01:15:37 GMT
Student Assignment Answers https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2018/9/student-assignment-answers

^ Dead or Alive, NZ 2018
NOW UPDATED FOR 2020: Some more honestly, some slightly more jaded answers, you be the judge....

If you've been reading my blogs for the last few years, you'll know that I'm quite passionate about education, but really don't enjoy handing information over on a silver platter, just because it is asked. I know students have to learn from someone, but as professionals, are we really doing the best thing by them by handing over the information they ask for, or should we instead be modelling the responses we expect from the upcoming generation?

A professional photographer can always tell when it’s ‘Student Assignment” Season, when the flood of requests for all the same questions come in. Who are you? Why did you choose your genre? How long have you been in the industry…?  

All of them come as emails from my Contact page, and almost all of them are sent in the early hours of the morning, telling me that the senders are pulling all-nighters to get their assignment done before the deadline. Some are polite and understanding. Some are rude and arrogant. Most are lacking basic punctuation, spelling and professional courtesy. I'm left feeling exasperated between helping them vs putting in the time to write out honest answers, for which I never actually EVER hear back from, not even a  thank-you.

I guess it wouldn't be so bad if the questions weren't so blatantly copy/pasta. It’s largely just ‘gimme gimme gimme, I have an assignment due and I need your response ASAP.” Sorry brah, a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

Most of these questions take a considerable amount of time to respond to, any working professional will tell you a full history is cumbersome and requires a short story, complete character development and an epic tale of fighting the dragon and surviving, so a friend suggested that I answer them in a blog.

Lecturers / Educators: Please note; I'm not against you setting these questions for students to contact professionals and interpret their answers. I'm sure you all give the students plenty of notice for their assignments. Maybe you could switch up the format each year? Maybe a Panel Q+A? Maybe you could host a zoom/video conferencing session and allow the students to ask us stuff and all that?  Maybe we could come in and show the students what we do? Maybe there's a small lesson on professional etiquette and networking to be had, before they're unleashed on busy photographers? 


^ Icefields Parkway, Canada, 2019

Let’s have a look at how you should NOT approach the situation…

The message I received the other day stated:

“Need help with project

“I chose you as a nature photographer and I would like to know about some of your background, education, how you got into photography and why you specialize in nature photos specifically.”

Let’s break down the many things I had an issue with, and thus, after several of these this week, broke my ability to care about these kinds of requests.

  1. Who are you? What course are you studying? (Believe me, it helps me shape my response)
  2. How did you find me? (Give me a little bit of a return, did you find me on google, a friend recommended you, a relative knows me…?)
  3. Do they teach professional networking skills and etiquette, basic manners even? (in other words, BE POLITE)
  4. Do you even punctuation? (this is important for professional image)

Edgy wharvesEdgy wharves

^ Trondheim, Norway 2014

The contact before that person was a little better, but still lacked some basic courtesies when you’re asking someone to write an assignment for you;

“Hello Mel, I'm currently doing a Photography course in TAFE and trying to finish up some last minute assignments. I have had a look at your photographs and I really admire your work and I was just wondering if you could spare a minute to answer a few quick questions for me that would really help me out a lot, I'd appreciate that. If you find the time to answer these as soon as possible that would be awesome. Here are the questions, again thank you very much for your time!

- Name, location:
- Style, genre:
- How long they have been operating? How did they get their start in photography?
- What brands/equipment do they use?
- Do they shoot a variety of studio/indoor outdoor? How does this effect their style?
- How do they remain current/up to date in today’s market?
- Do they travel a lot for your work?
- What is their favorite part of their job?

New questions for 2020, I can see some interesting changes;

- What equipment do you use to achieve your results? Are there any filters on your subjects?

- Are you an Elinchrom fan? If not, what lighting and modifiers do you use?

- Your content is great! How long did it take to achieve the quality of your images? When and how did you get the lucky break that you needed?

Cheers man, points for copying direct from the assignment brief. I didn’t realize my name was They and Their. I pulled this guy up on his tardiness for his deadline, and for copying the questions and not personalizing them. He replied,

“Hi Mel sorry for copy/pasting the questions. I had already found the answers I could but since I couldn't find everything I decided to start from blank and let you answer them in your own words that way everything is up to date and correct. If you don't have the time I understand completely. Sorry for contacting you last-minute I don't often leave things till last minute if I can but I have been quite sick for a week or two and I now need to finish the assignment either way since this is the last week of the term. And this is the last task left to do and I have 1 out of 2 photographers done. “

Again, a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. Grovelling isn’t going to help you. I was once a Uni student, and a TAFE student. I managed to get things in on time.


EmergencyEmergency

^ Last Resort, Iceland 2014

Let’s have a look at how you should approach the situation…

“Hi Mel, my name is (person) and I am studying a (diploma/certificate of coursetitle) and I found your website on Google. I’m wondering if you have the time to help me answer some questions that I am required to ask of an industry professional. My deadline is (date) and I’d really love to include your responses in my assignment, as I really enjoy the colours and subjects you portray in your work.

Optional: “I apologize I do not have the means to pay you for this time taken to respond, however I would greatly appreciate 5 to 10mins to respond to these questions.”

(Then write the questions in your own words, OR)

“So I’ve managed to have a look through your website, and I’ve answered almost all the questions I have for myself, I just need you to answer just a couple more;

What’s the favorite part of your job?

What was is the most difficult thing about staying current in your industry?”

Thanks so much for your time, I look forward to hearing your responses.

Cheers

Student

Now if I had of received that email above, I’d be more than happy to reply, because those questions bring me a level of happiness that someone cares about my time too. It offers me a fun question to answer and a serious one.


So since I know these two aren’t the last, I’ve written this blog. And it all boils down to this.

I’m not going to write all of your next assignment. I'm going to teach you how to fish.

^ Last remains of the S.S Dicky, Queensland, Australia 2016

Name, location: Info and about page has it covered.

Style, genre: Have a look at my Galleries, if you have eyes, you’ll figure it out.

How long they have been operating? How did they get their start in photography? Get some of this from my Info page, ask me about this in your contact

What brands/equipment do they use? Check out the hashtags on my blog posts…

2020: What equipment has changed in my time of being a photographer? Am I using a mixture of older and newer equipment? Well sonny,  the first part of your question can be answered in the equipment above. All you need to know is, my equipment is no older than 5 years. Make up your own mind whether that's old or new.

Do they shoot a variety of studio/indoor outdoor? How does this effect their style? This one is for YOU to answer, not for you to put forward to the photographer to ask!

How do they remain current/up to date in today’s market? Again, if you’re polite you can ask this of me, else, form an opinion of your own.

Do they travel a lot for work? Uhhh, maybe the Galleries separated by COUNTRY might give you some indication of this.

What is their favorite part of their job? Ask me: be nice.

2020: In terms of location, do you prefer Indoor or Outdoor shooting? Oh man, this is a tough one.... Whew I'm going to have to actually THINK about this response....

2020: Am I an Elinchrom fan? If not what lighting and modifiers do I use? Gee, I dunno, I mean, it's seriously a hard question to answer if you've seen my work... Does THE SUN count? Does a storm or inclement weather of any kind count? I mean I know what types of equipment that Elinchrom makes, but that doesn't mean that I'm a fan...

2020: How long did it take to achieve the quality of your images? When and how did you get the lucky break you needed? I don't know if I'd call it lucky. I heard a quote once, "Luck is the last dying wish of someone who believes that winning can happen by accident." HARD WORK, PERSEVERANCE, GUMPTON, THICK SKIN, IGNORING-THE-INTERNAL-SCREAMS-THAT-YOU'RE-NOT-GOOD-ENOUGH and DARING-TO-BE-A-LITTLE-CRAZY  is how you get yourself out there.

Congratulations if you've made it thus far, I'm sort of impressed.


So it breaks down into really only 2 or 3 questions you have to ask.

^ USA Abstract: 2019

So those last three responses?

How long they have been operating? How did they get their start in photography? 

I started by taking landscape images as a hobbyist after finishing a Fine-Art degree at Uni in 2008. Paints, printmaking and sculpture supplies were difficult to come by in rental houses, so I picked up a camera as an alternative artistic outlet. As my passion grew, I started getting more and more exposure by posting on early websites such as Flickr, 500px and on my own website, linked through Facebook.  As time passed, I was chasing the light on the land more actively than before, and gradually started to think about becoming professional. To make myself as desirable as possible, I brushed up on my writing skills, posting travel blogs each time I went somewhere, and I learnt some videography in my spare time.  I started out part-time, intending to become full-time as soon as I could.

I did all of this while working in another field to generate the business to a point where I could cut and run,  to become a full time professional. Unfortunately, landscape photographers face an uphill battle to become professional in today's market. I make lots of my income via selling licences to companies and other users of the images, and so it generates a passive income.

In late 2017, I had a house fire, and lost everything. I lost a lot of gear, images, trophies, certificates, books and I lost the motivation because it's just so hard to recover from that. I've remodelled my business and I'm considering what comes next. Because of it all, I still work in another industry (IT)  and am considering taking the skills and knowledge I use everyday work and applying them to lectures. I'm still deciding what's next.

2020 Update: I've decided that it's OK to still be treading water with my business. Thankfully my royalties agreement with Ravensburger is still going and providing me with a bit of income on the side. 

How do they remain current/up to date in today’s market?

Simply just listen out. Turn up to events. I'm a member of the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) Queensland, I participate in events and have been on the council that runs them, there's a variety on all the time for different genres, and it's so much fun and so informative. I'm keeping tabs on my peers, our awards allows us to challenge each other and to push the boundaries of our creativity further. I'm always reading and watching and absorbing ideas around me. Just joining a member organisation to participate, listen, attend events and chat to those at the top of their game is the best resource. Be challenged by your peers!

Professionally, I'm writing blogs such as these and working on what I can do with limited time again.. I'm still selling licences to images and planning when and where to take more. There's no shame in taking a pause to figure out what comes next, and it takes however long it takes. 

2020 update: I hate to sound bitter but this is a hard year and a hard market. I've seen even the best photographers closing up shop or diversifying their business portfolios so they can put food on the table. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not up to date in todays market, I dislike Instagram but still use it, I dislike Facebook but still use it, I don't buy into TikTok or Snapchat or any of those other social apps. I like my website, I love my website, I hate marketing. Id rather people see my pictures and feel something, instead of blatting it into their faces like a two year old with diahorrea. 

Oh, and work smarter, not harder, hence this blog!

What is their favorite part of their job?


You're going to laugh, but it's simply the zen time. I'm quite the introvert, so people and loud sounds and all that exhaust me. So I love the quiet time of being on-location with a scene, photographing something I don't have to direct or tell it how to pose, I just move around to suit my subject and that's the best part. When the research of finding the best conditions all align and I capture a scene I've wanted for ages, well there's nothing better than that.

^ Floating, Antarctica 2017

Simples?

So next time please, assignment-frenzy-time-short-student, PLEASE treat me like a human being, speak to me like I’m your mother or your father or your grandmother and BE POLITE. Manners get you a long way.

Who knows, one day we may meet.


 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2018 2020 answers assignments blog melsinclair musings photography students tafe university https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2018/9/student-assignment-answers Thu, 27 Sep 2018 07:13:24 GMT
Heartwork https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2018/8/heartwork It's been a while between blogs, I haven't felt like I've had much to say that others would want to read. I guess I should get out of that mindset, I do enjoy writing even if I'm not as good at it as I used to be.

Heartwork

I wanted to write this while it was still fresh in my mind, so as to not have the message or the images forgotten, or lost in the noise of life.

This is the blog of the story behind my entries from APPA (Australian Professional Photography Awards). While I did not receive any professional awards for these images (sadly) they scored among the “High professional practice” grades. Essentially meaning that I’m on the right path, but they weren’t quite “finessed” the way the judges wanted.

If you have been following my story since my house fire, then listen up, this is a part two to the blog Curve Ball. If not, I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to read it. The short of it is that these images and the creation of them, was a kind of therapy for me, of sorting out the tangle that I have been going through, and will be for some time. One of the biggest struggles is that people automatically assumed that because X time has passed, I must be good now, functioning and over it. Definitely not the case, but there’s slowly more good days than bad days.

When you lose everything, you really lose more than you think you will, and not all of it at once: - your sense of identity, your place in the world, your confidence in what you do… it opens itself up as questions when you don’t need it to, and it sent me into a tailspin of trying to find my place in my world, again.

So it seemed only fitting to tell my story in images, to try and convey the sense of confusion, frustration and often idiotic things that occurred. Each image represented a feeling, a packet of shit in which to swallow and just “get through” as best I could. There’s no guides on what to do, how to handle it and how to talk about it, so here goes.

Hounded

Have you ever had that feeling of being totally hounded from every single angle? Relentlessly bothered, reminded, pushed and drained to the point of madness? That’s what this image is about.

Some of the statements in the back are true, and some are false or exaggerated, and it all begins to blend in and mix when you’re just so endlessly nagged for things. It’s hard to find any kind of positive, when things are just on such a downward spiral.

You’re spending money to live, but it just feels like it keeps draining from you, for months on end, for all sorts of reasons. People take cheap jabs at you because they feel entitled to do so, because instead of sympathy we’re in the generation of “what’s in it for me?”. Some of the old neighbours took cheap stabs at us, believing that if they complained to the local council enough, that they’d be forced to step in to help us. Ha. Funniest thing ever because the council does not help, it just sends more nagging, threatening bureaucrats to further torment you until you roll over and say “yes.”

Scars

Scars is a reaction to our treatment of mental illness and the unseen nature of it if you’re not a self-harmer. Too often we see a person but because there’s no wounds, no scars we assume that they’re OK. My common feeling here is that if I had of broken my leg, there’d be a cast and you’d be able to see that my body is still healing. With mental damage, the thoughts, and inner demons never really leave you alone, and you feel damaged and isolated. The idea behind this was to show a feeling of experiencing this, because you can’t apply a dressing to a mental illness. Band aids are the thing we put on damages to our body, so someone applying these to their mind could also be understood to still be healing.

Brain Fog

This is a big one.

After the trauma, things are so very messed up in the mind.

In the attempt not to forget, the brain will remind you over and over and over again to make sure you don’t forget what happened. But this also erases vital function stuff. Remembering to do some silly little things, reminders of what has changed, even down to cooking dinner and making sure you are where you have to be, in order to conform to daily life.

It all gets blurred and lost in the mix, it’s hard to remember, retrieve and use for later. Short term pain, long term pain, it’s never easy and took me around 5 months to fully get over this part.

Darkness

This is another big one that I simply think that I overdid in the “holy crap it’s too simple” feeling I had during the creation, so then I went and added more stuff that just cheapened it in the end. But with all things comes reasons, and I feel like the judges didn’t have the time required to read the image the way that I had intended.

Darkness is an implied situation, the hands aren’t real in any sense of what we take for being reality, but they’re very real for the person at the window, trying to escape their grasp. They want her back, in the darkness, not caring about anything except the darkness. They’d be happy if she was on the floor, melting into her sorrows of losing her pet, focusing on how alone she feels without him and not moving forward with any kind of assistance. When she feels like she’s strong enough to break free, there’s only one offer of help, on the other side of the window, and she doesn’t see it because she’s shut her eyes to imagine what it’s like beyond that darkness.

It was remarked that it was too cartoon-ish for a serious issue, but that’s just it – how do you show something that’s not real without taking it into a cartoon style. Something I'll have to work out in time with my muse and talking about the issues more widely.

The concepts will get reinvented, the images perhaps. I'm not entirely sure at the minute.

I’m determined to keep going with it all, to push myself more and recover from not achieving what I wanted to achieve, that's hardest part.

Feel free to leave a comment and mull it all over, I'd love to start a conversation about these emotions and situations, I get something different out of what people have to say.

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2018 appa ball blog composites creative curve melsinclair musings photography https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2018/8/heartwork Wed, 29 Aug 2018 01:15:53 GMT
Plucked! A Lychee Picking Photostory! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2018/2/plucked-a-lychee-picking-photostory

All images shot on the Nikon D850

Vairous lenses;

Tamron 90mm 2.8

Nikon 20mm 1.8

With thanks to the Shea family for inviting me along for a weekend of Lychee picking. It's a family-run business and the Lychee harvest occurs once a year in February.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) australia blog d850 dalwood farm landscape lychee melsinclair nikon nsw photography photostory processing https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2018/2/plucked-a-lychee-picking-photostory Wed, 21 Feb 2018 13:13:59 GMT
Bariloche: A day of contrasts https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/bariloche-a-day-of-contrasts

The one thing I love and both hate about photographs is their power to deceive the viewer about what they’re actually looking at. If I’m shooting a sunrise at a beach that you wouldn’t otherwise even throw a towel down onto, you’d never know from the photograph because as a landscape photographer, I don’t take photos of things I can’t make seem appealing.

Unfortunately, the same does also apply to those taking photos of their hotel or hostel. They need to show what it looks like inside, but the photos can lie, and they most definitely did for our hostel that we stayed in last night. You also can’t photograph a lingering smell, which is why I think we fell for this accommodation thinking that it was going to be OK.

We got off a 24-hour long bus ride around 8pm in Bariloche. The first 8 hour bus ride from El Chalten to Los Antiguos was bearable. They fed us vegetarian Empanadas, a juice popper and a small chocolate bar. We had one stop where we sought water and a toilet break, and other than that, it was all smooth driving throughout the night.

Changing buses at 7am was great fun, the late stragglers holding up the trip, but thankfully bev and I were up the front of the bus. We had nobody reclining seats into our faces and a clear view of the open road ahead of us.

We could see when the road surface was shit, the potholes or the long sections of unsealed road.

I found the whole experience somewhat unpleasant, I just couldn’t stand the claustrophobic feeling that I got each time I climbed back on the bus. The recycled air and the lack of places to move about to… I am thankful that I don’t have any more bus trips to do.

When  we arrived at Bariloche, we were relieved, finally after watching the bus drive through pretty much the Argentinian boondocks, we had arrived at our summerly-ski town. Our happiness was shortlived as we realised that our accommodation was halfway across town, up several hills and that we’d be lugging our bags up those same hills with us. We seemed invisible as taxi after taxi passed us by and left us trudging up hills exhaustedly. Finally one stopped and got us closer to our hostel.

We then waited outside the locked-front-door for close to half an hour while the owner returned from somewhere with a dog that looked pleased to be home.

Our accommodation, once we checked in, was less than what the photos had shown.

As I said earlier, smells don’t show in photos.

We had that ripe, fresh-paint smell, accompanied by bathroom-didn’t-drain-properly and owner-hasn’t-opened-the-windows-in-a-while scent.

The bathroom was dinky.

By this I mean, the shower was in the middle of the room, a curtain wrapped around it hopelessly, the curtain rail was plumbers pipe and didn’t really work and soaked your clothes if you had them anywhere in there with you. Giving up, we sought food closeby and then collapsed in bed.

At least the beds were comfortable.

~

In the morning, it was time to transfer to our hotel for my final week here in Argentina, something a bit more upmarket in Hosteria Del Lago. A short cab ride revealed a lake, alpine-styled ski village hostels, restaurants and it’s all just so stunning to look at. Large bunches of blooming roses are everywhere and it’s just so pretty.

What a day of contrasts. It’s been Bev’s birthday today so we took some time to go to the city, have some ice cream, some drinks and nibbles and then returned to our luxury (in comparison to our accom this morning) hotel. Had a swim, explored the shoreline.

Can’t wait to see more of this area over the coming days. Can’t wait to show you more of Bariloche!

It's summer here, so the roses are stunning! These ones are for you mum!

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 antarctica argentina bariloche blog melsinclair nikon phonephotos photography sony https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/bariloche-a-day-of-contrasts Sun, 24 Dec 2017 02:05:10 GMT
Standard Traveller : El Chalten https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/standard-traveller-el-chalten

^ FitzRoy mountains. So beautiful at sunset.

This is the kind of town where you can feel the lust for the mountains, the endless desire to get blissfully lost in what the national park has to offer. We cast aside our dependencies on the digital world and traipse into mother natures’ best creations as we explore the natural world. Existing way before any of our electronic inventions have, nature is that which remains relatively untouched by man and continues to thrive.

This is the kind of town where hiking and mountaineering is the currency and the most obvious thing to do. Weather aside, people will trek tens of kilometres to see relatively nothing; a mountain shrouded in cloud is still as valuable as seeing that mountain on a clear day. It is the effort, the willing to go that extra mile to see the clouded mountain that counts; a visit into the national park is a must-do and remains the main drawcard of El Chalten. The welcome sign says it all, welcome to the hiking town.

The melting pot of cultures culminates at the many brewpubs and restaurants around town, that the only suitable way to celebrate conquering a mountain is to drown your liver in the local drop, whether that be based on hops or grapes, the many Resto bars around is testament to the popularity of drinking here, beyond the rules of a standard pour.

^ A "Blooming Onion" as an entree. What is it: An onion, cut into sections so as to resemble a flower. It is coated in a spicy crumb and deep fried. What's it taste like: Raw onion with a weird deep fried crumb and chilli sauce that isn't spicy. It's like someone said "Onions are as cheap as potatoes, and they're versatile, let's see how much money we can get for this deep fried invention." It was a blooming waste of money.

There is no single happy hour, indeed all hours are happy, overflowing with incredibly cheap drinks and nibbling food that beggars a head scratch. Here, it is not a risk that you will get drunk; this is certain, rather the risk is that you will run out of cash, as the ATM also has as well. It becomes a quest to find a shop that accepts VISA, as you desperately want to buy something local to prove that you visited a town where the ATM runs out of cash, the tourist shops don’t have card facilities, and even your hostel wants you to hand over a wad of pesos in exchange for your 5-day long stay.

In a world where we’re advised not to travel with large pockets of cash, that indeed does not apply to El Chalten. Dubious looks from people are exchanged when I tell them that this tourist town mostly does not have card facilities, indeed it seems bizarre that this town would even shut down over winter, but alas it does.

When our feet are worn from the trails and when our hearts are full of the satisfaction of getting back to nature, many a traveller staggers back into town, eager to put points on their social noticeboards to say “I came here, I conquered a mountain, I need to tell the world, I am a legend.” And so by the droves they wander into the local hotels, bars, restaurants in search of the newest drug to hit the town: WiFi. It’s never been so obvious in a town like this. What is loud chatter and talk on the trails is silence and bowed heads in the cafes, bars and pubs. Many a meal is shared in silence, humans hooked up to their digital umbilical cords. Social engineering has turned one half part of hiking desire into the chance to earn a badge on your social slavery pages, a proof that you dealt without your device long enough to walk 5, 10, 50km to the tunes of nothing but birdsong, wind whistling through the trees and the sunlight colouring your skin to prove that you left the comforts of home. While I know I am not absolved of this guilt as well, just as keen to keep in touch with those at home, I am too beginning to wonder if our digital dependence is ruining travel. The idea of truly getting away from the reaches of home is becoming harder and harder to attain. Yet we all seem to accept that this is the norm now. True disconnection is visible in the lack of patrons in a certain shop, if there is no WiFi, guaranteed there are no zombies staring down at their electronic bricks. There may actually be conversation, intellectual debates and discussion between humans as it was meant to be.

When we have fed at the electronic trough like pigs, we once again switch off our devices, having gotten that fix that is enough to last another few hours. Back into the mountains we go, or back onto a bus to take us to the next place to again explore and repeat this endless cycle of dependency.

^ The allure of mountains, discovery and back-to-nature feelings. aww

The allure of travel is always there, I will always continue to want to go to new places, take more photographs and get some time apart from the busyness of home. But what I have vowed to do is spend less time looking down at my phone and instead taking in what is around me, before that becomes virtualised too.

Being here has taught me that while nature is alluring, we are threatening to override that with digital-social comforts, and it’s a bit too scary to see on the level that I’ve seen it so far. We are too afraid to be disconnected, isn’t that just a bit concerning?

Digital drugs aside, El Chalten is a beautiful town to visit for a few days. Take some time and go into the national parks, they’re unlike anything we have at home in Australia. There’s many things that are so different and so great to see. The mountains are spectacular, the weather is always going to throw interesting light at you, and although you may not get the conditions you hoped for, go out anyway.

^ Because Tent

 

 

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 antarctica argentina bars blog december landscape melsinclair nikon nisi observations photography travel travelblog travelling wifi https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/standard-traveller-el-chalten Thu, 21 Dec 2017 17:47:37 GMT
EL CALAFATE to EL CHALTEN https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/el-calafate-to-el-chalten When you land at El Calafate airport, you see, well, practically; nothing, except shrubs. All hail the mighty shrubs! A hodge-podge of assorted shrubs as far as the eye can see. Looking closer, there’s not much structural stuff around, it’s mostly just tumbleweed and the odd shrub that either blossoms or doesn’t. There’s several different varieties of these anonymous shrubs, but together they pretty up what is practically nothing in the way of geological or developmental signs of life.

^ An interesting "nothing"

We woke up in El Calafate, which was bizarre to think that it was the first night in ten that we didn’t wake on a boat rocking and crashing among the waves, sliding side to side in our bed. The funny part about this was that we had come to accept the motions as completely normal, and getting to sleep without the endless rocking and rolling was such a strange concept. The stranger part was that it had felt so long ago, but it was only that morning.

On arrival in the El Calafate man street, we knew we had limited time to organise a bus north to El Chalten, so it was the first order of business when we got into town. Once sorted, we found a cute bar, the LibreBar, or Library Bar, a wall full of books, shard-like glass panes overlooking the busy street. The food was pretty standard for a cute dive bar, rich homely stews and chunky potato sides. We sat people watching for hours until heading back to the hotel to mooch more wifi and get an early nights’ sleep.

^The Library Bar

^ A house with wine and beer bottles to form the fences. Every single wall.

Early this morning, after breakfast, we had limited time to see things before the bus came to take us to El Chalten, so we decided instead to go for a walk around the local area and check out the architecture and the peoples-way of life. What we found was a mix of traditional and modern architecture, sometimes both on the one property. Because it is now Spring-Summer, there are a multitude of flowers in bloom In peoples; homes, and they’re all so different and beautiful. We had several dogs follow us around the local streets. Some escaped yards to follow us on our walk. Some decided to bite each other, but were always friendly to us.

Strangely, there’s parts of Argentina that remind me of India, for the “not-bad but something is missing” feeling and it’s starting to blend into some sort of a educated-guessing experience, which isn’t entirely a bad thing all together. All the learnings from other countries are starting to make sense a little more without Google Translate. Where the language used to stump me a little, I’m starting to associate words with what I think they are in English, or Inglis, if you’re speaking in Spanish. Is there such a thing as Spanglish? Of course, after so much trouble with AirBnb here in Argentina we restorted back to Booking.com to take care of the accommodations last minute. Some have been pretty hit and miss. Just like our hostel here in El Chalten. It’s nice enough, it’s tiny, but you don’t come here to see the hotel.

Our bus ride here today was nothing entirely special to write about, more of the nothing scenery as far as the eye could see, separated by the occasional aquamarine lake and a few rusted-out wrecked-cars the odd poplar tree in full plumage.

It gets dark so late in the evening, even after 2 weeks I’m not used to the concept of sundown at 11pm, it’s 10pm before the light is beginning to fade enough to sleep. The English-Spanish language barrier is a bit of an issue as it’s obvious that there’s lots of local Spaniards staying in town at the moment. There’s some grandparents and kids at the hotel/hostel that we’ve got, and they just wouldn’t shut up. Google translating “Please be quiet I’m trying to sleep” and the less-polite “Shut the F*ck up I’m trying to sleep” resulted in several replays of the pronunciation in our room, but our hostel sharing children quietened down soon after this, so maybe it did work after all. It’s not nice to make noise late at night in a place where you share common areas, but I don’t think it’s something these residents have had to consider.

Our lazy afternoon was spent exploring town and having a few cheeky “Happy Hour” drinks at the establishment that have appeared since I was last here over two years ago.

Tomorrow is our first foray into the Parque Nacional (National Park) and to check out Laguna Capri.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 america argentina blog calafate chalten el landscape melsinclair nikon photography pictures south travelblog https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/el-calafate-to-el-chalten Sun, 17 Dec 2017 01:53:52 GMT
ANTARCTIC EXPOSURE: A review https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/antarctic-exposure-a-review “Do you get sea sick?”

“I don’t think so, I’ve survived many boat trips before this one and never had a problem. I’ve got a strong gut, I’ll be right.”

But I was most definitely not ‘right.’

The Drake Passage dealt us some incredible sea-torture for a continuous trip of around 40 hours each way. What crosses the Drake Passage, must cross it again to come back.

Tuesday 5 December:

We wake in the gorgeous Arakur hotel with a grand view over Ushuaia from every single window that faces east. It’s got lofty high ceilings, big thick chunky twin bed frames that are just so snug and solid. Chocolates on our pillows and a bathtub that has a view over the rest of the room.

We’ve decided to spend the morning in the pool, spa and sauna instead of going downtown (again) for yet another leisurely stoll. Things here have so much markup on them, it just wasn’t economical to buy much from the local area unless you really needed something.

We’re delayed by a day due to the 8 metre-tall waves in the Drake Passage and end up spending a night in the Ushuaia harbour, awaiting a better crossing report. By this time, most of us are pretty tired of seeing Ushuaia as we’ve either done our own exploration or have no desire to buy overpriced clothing and souvenirs.

Wednesday 6 December:

We’ve unpacked our bags for 10 days living out of our cabins, we’ve gotten used to the layout of the ship and now all we want to do is leave this harbour! After a night with a view of Ushuaia, we woke to find the city was covered in snow.

Alas it melted before a vast majority of my fellow passengers awoke to see it, but I was able to get my 200-500mm lens out for the first time and give it a go. I’m so pleased to report that it was beautiful and flawless, I’m so glad I chose this lens over other options.

Finally, after breakfast, the boat begins to leave the harbour. We’re going to start sailing even though the low pressure system that held us up last night, still hasn’t cleared. But as the expedition leader, Jan, reminds us, they’ve always got a Plan A and a Plan B. We’re headed for Harberton – the most southern farm in the Tierra Del Fuego region.

Itching to get some real photography started, I sought permission to break from the group and shoot some interesting objects that I had spied on the coastline around the settlement. I couldn’t figure out what the farmer was telling me they were.

“Barnos.” He says, clearly.

“Barn-aus?” I say

“Banos” he replies, smiles and walks away.

I’ll soon understand what these are on inspection.

Outhouses. A famous Loo with a View. The smell gave it away and I chose to keep my distance and keep shooting.

I’m sure he was quite amused by my willingness to take photos of his lavatories.

We get back on the boat after the excursion and proceed to familiarise ourselves with the undressing of all the layers.

Gloves and Beanies

Lifejacket

Red Jacket

Tshirt

Thermals

Socks

The red jacket is provided as part of the cruise package and it’s a doozy. I know I’m only going to get to wear it once, maybe twice at the peak of the Queensland winter. It’s so warm, packed with pockets and truly a great souvenir of the trip itself. How I’ll get it home is anyone’s guess. I’ve just got to hope that the smaller-domestic airlines are forgiving for one or two kilos overweight check-in luggage. We shall see.

That evening, we begin to cross the Drake Passage, and I realise with a sense of dread, that I am so woefully prepared for this journey.

Thursday 7th December

The perils of the Drake Passage don’t make themselves known immediately. They creep up on you and attack when you think that you’re doing okay. It begins during the daytime, at first, some occasional big waves. We scored cabin 336, which is up the front end of the boat, also one of the least stable places to be as there’s so much more sudden movement. The ups and downs I can deal with, it was the side to side, the water splashing the windows and the ship-tilting.

I found that lying down in bed was the only way to prevent my stomach evacuating itself. I felt dizzy and disoriented. I took one sea sickness tablet, but I’m uncertain if it really helped me.

I spend Wednesday afternoon and night in bed. It’s the only place that I can deal with the movement of the boat. Walking around is similar to the way you feel after several drinks, although this time there’s way more invisible potholes. Either this or the floor will jerk away from you, push you into a wall or cause you to face-plant the floor. Don’t even try to have a shower during the height of the movement, you’ll be tossed around like a ragdoll on spin cycle.

Thursday morning rolls around and I’m starving. The food here is amazing, but the sea sickness doesn’t let you forget that it’s in control. I sit down for breakfast but I don’t last long. The dining room is at sea-level and the jerky movements of the ship are even more noticeable than upstairs in the cabin. I ask the waiter for a sick bag, and promptly fill it up.

Everyone around me is staring. Not saying a thing, not doing a thing, just looking.

Yup, I’m the one that thought I could beat a little sea-sickness. I’m now that-person, the one that everyone looks at or treats with a certain annoying-delicacy as if I’m going to break at any moment.

I take the rest of my meal to-go and promptly leave the dining room in extreme embarrassment. I shower and climb back into bed. This is just how it’ll have to be until we get to calmer waters. There’s only another 24hrs maximum left of this, I can stay in the cabin for that long. But alas, guilt gets me up again.

I force myself to get up and walk around, get some fresh air and have some of the sweet biscuits at the tea station. These help a little, and there’s far less people staring at me and asking me if I need help to walk around the ship. I retreat back to my hiding hole and pass the time on my laptop.

At some point in the late PM/ Early AM we finish our crossing of the Drake Passage and enter the calmer waters of the South Shetlands.

Friday 8 December: Yankee Harbour

Waking up in these gentle waters was a blessing. I was finally able to eat a decent breakfast and walk around the boat without feeling like I was going to be playing dodgems with the walls. I said a virtual happy birthday to my mum (Happy Birthday Mum). Not having WiFi has been both a blessing and a curse. I can deal with a few days of offline, heck even a bit more, but everything considered, I’m beginning to get anxious about what’s happening at home.

But, it’s the first day of landings on the shore and the adjoining islands in the Antarctic region.  Today we’re at Yankee Harbour, and using our new knowledge of penguin and seal-etiquette, we climb aboard a zodiac to be taken to shore for what is an incredible day already; the sun is shining, the sky is clear and it’s just a perfect introduction to the white continent.

Moments before the zodiac lands on the shoreline, we hear the penguins (Gentoo) calling out on their nests. They’re climbing their penguin highways (paths they follow from rookery to ocean) and diving amongst the waves of the pebbled beach. They’re cute and clumsy, playful and funny. I spend hours photographing them and one sleepy seal lying on the frozen snow. There’s so many of them and they’re mostly sitting on their eggs. They steal rocks from other penguins nests to build their own, they randomly poop wherever they want and they walk like they’re wearing clown shoes.

The landscapes around the harbour are spectacular. Pristine white caps of glaciers surrounding us, pitched against intense blue sky. The occasional beam of sunlight caresses the curvatures of the glacier, highlighting subtle features. The photos are deliciously simple, an example of the amazing light.

As the time to go back to the ship approaches, a fog cloud rolls in and covers the surrounding mountains. It’s my first glimpse of how the weather down here works, and to summarise it quickly I’d say it’s swift and brutal.

Everyone’s on a pretty big high after the landing today, and I choose to go to bed not long after dinner. They’ve hyped us up saying that we’re going to do our night of camping on Saturday night. So as per anything we do on this journey, we’re briefed about this and given our sleeping bags, liners and bivvy bags.

Saturday 9 December: Useful Island + Neko Harbour

It’s an early landing and a short one due to weather. We’re at Useful Island, where there’s yet another penguin rookery, a cool view and lots of loosely-packed snow. The mountains surrounding the area are covered in heavy snow clouds, fog and can barely be seen. We learn how much fun it is to walk in loose snow, often falling through it up to our knees or higher. Moving around with a full camera bag and tripod proves cumbersome. After this excursion with the tripod, I re-evaluate how much I want to be lugging it around.

The ship then manoeuvres itself into position in Paradise Bay, drops anchor and again we’re treated with different scenery. In the late evening (which looks like late afternoon because of the extended days of sunlight) we’re whisked off to our camping spot at Leith Cove, a little island loosely connected to the mainland and surrounded by towering peaks. We dug our trenches for our sleeping arrangements, we have to be beneath the snow-wind line in order to get a comfortable night’s sleep. After the long day that we’ve had, I’m actually really tired. After shooting sunset at 11pm, I climb into the sleeping-bivvy bag arrangement which is more like a straight-jacket and begin to get some sleep. It’s surprisingly not that hard to get to sleep, all things considered, sleeping in a shallow “grave” of snow was a tad morbid, but was a bit of fun.

Sunday 10 December: Leith Cove + Wilhelmina Bay

When I wake, sunrise has already happened and there’s a snowstorm just beginning. Most of my fellow campers have already packed up and have filled in their sleeping bag holes and are down at the shoreline waiting for the zodiac to arrive to take them back to the ship. I pack up my things without wasting time and join the queue for the return to the ship.

I decide to brave on the day without a nap and not miss a single landing. I’m tired as I only got a very light sleep during camping. As stunning as it was, the desire for sleep is creeping in and the weather is starting to suggest that I get some zzz’s.

We’re doing a landing today at Brown Station, an abandoned Argentine research station. It’s quite picturesque, and I really love all the shots that I’ve gotten from this location. It was snowing heavily and it wasn’t difficult to really get a great image of the landscape. I’m fascinated by snow, I don’t think it’ll ever become boring for me.

The weather has closed in by now and our afternoon plans are simply to go and visit another bay to allow us to see a different type of harbour; one that is still filled with sheet sea ice with picturesque cracks through its structure. We can’t break through it, as we’re not an icebreaker, but instead, the catering crew throw us a BBQ on the back deck with views around this beautiful bay.

Finally finding my time to have a nap, I quietly slipped away to the cabin and curled up on my bed, waking only for dinner and to grab a green tea.

Monday 11 December: Brown Bluff + Sailed north towards south Shetland Islands

The weather was not kind to us today, and started out with sleet showers and -4 degrees as our daily maximum. Our expedition crew was hopeful that they’d be able to get a landing sorted for us at Brown Bluff, a towering volcanic mountain, stained brown and yellow by the natural formations and no doubt helped along by penguin guano.

Climbing into the Zodiacs had become a well-rehearsed ritual, loading the bags and making sure they’re secure between your feet so they don’t move around. The zodiac driver warned us that it’ll be a wet ride, so I made sure to secure my camera and lens on the BR strap and keep it tucked away from any stray water. As soon as the boat pulled away from the Marina at the back of the ship, one giant wave splashes over the side, sprays me in the face and water catches behind my sunglasses. I’ve never felt water so cold, so close to my face. IT was stuck there until we got to the shore and I could attempt to bring my face from numb to OK.

Brown Bluff’s visit was for seeing another type of Penguin we had not yet seen; the Adellies. Mostly all black aroud the head, they differ from the Gentoos also in the fact that the Adellies have hatched most of their eggs and were far more playful to photograph. We did this all the while being pelted with sleet and winds so intense you had to huddle together to preserve warmth when waiting for that zodiac back to the ship.

Given the weather was so terrible on our way down, our afternoon plans had been to see Gourdin island, but again, this plan had to be cancelled, the weather was not playing the game. Disappointed, we headed back towards the South Shetland islands once more in the hope we could make a landing on our final day in the Antarctic.

Tuesday 12 December: Arctowski station (Polish) research base + Half-moon Island

We awoke in a harbour not far from the Polish Research Station Arctowski, and spent the morning wandering around photographing penguins (bet you didn’t guess that) and seals (ahooo, again) all under the backdrop of lingering heavy clouds and blustery powdered snow wafting from the shore to the sea. I chose not to go inside the research station, the queue for this was too long and I was really only interested in the landscapes around. The beauty of the pictures speak for themselves, I still don’t think I’ll get sick of looking at penguins.

The final landing of the Antarctic voyage was spent at Half-moon Island. It’s a quiet little harbour with a multitude of penguin rookeries from different varieties all mixed in. Mostly, we were here to see the Chinstrap penguins, funny little guys that look like waiters with military hats. As this was an after-dinner landing, we got some sunset color and a chance to see the Antarctic region out with some of the most gorgeous landscapes I’ve seen yet.

That evening, after an intense 5 days of photographing different elements of the Antarctic, our ship quietly slipped into the Drake Passage once more, to return us to Ushuaia. We knew what the passage was like the first time, but this time however, I’d scored some sea sickness patches from one of the expedition team, and so I was ready. Thankfully I did because the waves we had coming back were more intense than going down. It was like trying to sleep on a trampoline.

Wednesday 13th + Thursday 14th: Drake Passage, Beagle Channel and returning to Ushuaia

Our cabin was suffering the worst of being at the front of the ship, you could feel the motion of the ship ducking down a wave, and in bed, you’d get a moment of levitation until your body fell back down into the bed. It was usually then when the ship would rise again, and you’d sink a little deeper back into the bed.

Then the winds would kick in, and you’d be tossed from side to side like you’re a lamington being coated in coconut, the only real threat was falling out of bed. You’d time your movements so that if you’re getting out of bed, you wait for a moment where the ship isn’t tilted to one side and the threat of face-planting is at a minimum.

Oh the joys.

And now begins the next part of my trip, two weeks exploring El Chalten and Bariloche – some of the most amazing parts of Argentina’s Patagonian region.

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 antarctica argentina blog landscape melsinclair photography scene travelblog https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/antarctic-exposure-a-review Fri, 15 Dec 2017 19:51:33 GMT
USHUAIA: End of the earth https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/ushuaia-end-of-the-earth What can I say, Ushuaia is stunning!

I arrived yesterday after a flight that was otherwise ok, except for a flight attendant trying to get me to move to half a seat from the perfectly fine and whole seat that I had to myself already. A man who can only be described as 1.5 times the width of a standard seat, obviously didnt fit into the one he was allocated, so he decided to walk to the front of the cabin and sit in someone else's.

When they showed up for the flight, the attendant was trying to get me to move to the half seat next to this large man. there was no way in hades that I was going to move, but managed to convince the flight attendant that I was fine where I was, as I needed the under-seat storage for my camera bag, given the overheads were all full. In the end, she relented and moved the large man to a business-class seat which was wide enough to fit him, the couple that were to have the regular seats got theirs and I was left alone. I'm usually quite amiable to changes like this, but I wasn't going to fit in that seat anyway and I didn't pay for half a seat for a 3.5hr flight. I wish people would take more responsibility for themselves if they're larger than a standard seat and book two.

I've got a few hours to myself this morning before Bev arrives, so I wanted to quickly show some pictures of this area and then get back out there, as it's another stunner.

The moon rose over the mountains yesterday, but it was hard to get a clear shot because of the plethora of powerlines going everywhere. In the end I decided to go with it and shoot those powerlines, however ugly they may be, they paint a portrait of this town.

I love exploring and noting all the cultural differences. For example, this is a houses rubbish bin: (I love it how it won't get too smelly cos it can breathe and it's at a height that can't be broken into by hungry stray dogs).

The rest of the pics are touristy-type images of Ushuaia and the moonrise which I wasn't quite prepared for. Might get a chance tonight to go out and shoot it a bit better!

Enjoy ~

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 america antarctica blog cultural differences melsinclair photography quirks south street town ushuaia https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/ushuaia-end-of-the-earth Sun, 03 Dec 2017 12:44:05 GMT
Buenos Aires: Recoleta Cemetary https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/buenos-aires-recoleta-cemetary I’ve been in Buenos Aires for 48 hours now and I can honestly say, it’s nothing like what I read.

See, I made the mistake of reading reports from travellers about the safety of different parts of the city. I read pages and pages of those who had been pick pocketed, robbed and held up in the BA’s less-desirable neighbourhoods. It had gotten me scared about coming to this place beyond all reasonable expectations. I had friends tell me about their horror stories of being robbed in taxis and being followed home. Suffice to say, my backup plan was to lock myself in my room and never appear except to leave for the airport again.

What I hadn’t planned on, was a thrilling view of an aluminium roller-door from my hotel room window. I had managed to pull the roller up enough to get natural air and kind-of tell what time of day it was depending on the shadowed-light, but in its lack of detail, I began to wonder if the outside really was as dangerous as the tales I had read...

On my first day, I set myself a task to go out for a walk, no phone, no camera – just walk, watch and observe. What I saw for myself was people who were respectful of each other; a busy morning commute. Some people wore their backpacks on their front, some were well dressed, some not. Some walked with their phones in their hands, others didn’t seem too concerned at all about it.  What I soon realised was that I had read about tale after tale of misfortune, traveller naivety and lack of personal awareness. You really need to have your wits about you. I didn’t come across anything to make me feel unsafe today, but no doubt there could have been other places where this applied.

What struck me the most was the towering apartment buildings which shot up beyond the storefronts and the restaurants. It’s true what they say about Recoleta, it’s truly the Paris of South America. The architecture is beautiful to be surrounded by, of course, there are the exceptions to the rule, but overall it’s been rather pleasant. ((Since I have been trying to avoid excessive attention to myself, I haven’t been wearing my GPS SPOT tracker, but I should be logging once I get to Ushuaia on 2/12.))

I set myself a task to wander in the rough direction to land in Recoleta Cemetery, and after some side-street exploration, I made it there just fine. Walking in, I realised just how big this place was, and how interesting all the crypts were.

It’s a village of the dead, family mausoleums and individual resting places. Some are decorated with such homely touches, displaying family members and dried flowers. Often there’s a compact staircase that winds down into the earth, multiple layers of coffins of different sizes stacked together. They’re not buried in dirt, rather encased together in marble with ornate fixtures and holy paraphernalia scattered about. The odd few are in need of some maintenance and upkeep, but these are just as interesting as the super shiny-super modern ones that are also around as well.

It's easy to get lost in this place, equally as easy to lose a whole day as you pursue different types of imagery ideas. What I found the cutest was the Cemetary cats, volunteers come in to feed them at 10am and 4pm each day. Before this however, the cats are already lurking waiting on their next meal. They're friendly (though I wouldn't touch them) and are just lovely to turn a corner and see them hanging around.

I tried to take some different photos of the cemetery, indeed it was one of the few places I have felt comfortable taking out my camera and taking some shots. The history and the different styles of graves from different eras of art history is incredibly fascinating.

See below my selection of 10....

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 aires america antarctica argentina blog bsas buenos december melsinclair photography south ushuaia https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/12/buenos-aires-recoleta-cemetary Sat, 02 Dec 2017 02:16:40 GMT
Curve Ball https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/11/curve-ball I'm going to take a small break into reality for a moment and talk about something that I need to talk about.

Last week, last Tuesday, I had one of those life-jarring, steaming-fat-turd things happen; my house burnt down.

One of the things that has been helping me process this huge burden and absolute headtrip, is writing it out. I've been writing stuff for myself all week, but this is my first chance to write something for everyone - to hopefully help you understand where my head has been at, maybe give you a glimpse of what it's like.

It's one of those things that, unless you have experienced sudden and total loss - complete, down to not having a toothbrush or only the clothes on your back, I don't think you can fully comprehend how it actually feels.

Granted I had some things of mine still, thanks to an enduring laziness that has crept in over the years to keep everything spick and span. Casually thinking "I might need that scarf again soon, even though it's almost summer,' or, 'I'll leave my tripod in the car because I'll never use it at home." meant that some things that previously had no meaning, now mean something to me; they survived.

The psychology of this is more than just having some stuff that made it through the chaos through no effort of my own, they become remnants of what was - the perceived value of them is now more present than ever. They represent an identity - what I used to wear, what I used to prefer over other things. Learning to be comfortable in donated clothes, for example, has been some what of an existential struggle, but one I am getting over by simply not giving a shit what others think.

At the time of the fire, I lost my furbaby Bailey - a late-in-his-life adopted Maltese Lhasa-Apso with a kickass attitude and an overbite. He loved to sing to Bernard Fanning, Nelly Furtado and Bob Sinclair. He loved long walks in the park, eating corn cobs, belly rubs and playing Catfishing on my ipad. He loved girls, hated some men and really hated children. We were best buds, I doubt I'll find a dog as personable as he was.

My cat Charlotte - an ex-stray kitty with street cred - she was an independant soul who loved the outdoors, drinking water from taps and was a master manipulator, disappeared at the time of the fire. Because she had mastered the art of running without setting off her collar bells, she was well, a ninja. She hated loud noises, even unloading the dishwasher or closing a door would see her scurrying for shelter. With this in mind, I had no doubt that she was hiding somewhere, waiting for the commotion to die down before remerging and hopefully, finding her way back to us.

Two days ago, Charlotte found us. We had just finished dropping letterbox flyers for her in the neighbourhood. One of our previous neighbours was leaving just as we were arriving back to the car, "I just saw her enter the yard, she said excitedly, 'through there." It was the best lead I'd had since I'd seen a cat that looked exactly like Charlotte minutes before.
Cautiously, (and hopefully) I entered the scorched backyard, bits of wood and roofing tile scattered about the burnt dirt, bits of things I recognised as house or contents scattered around. I called out for her, trying to calm my pounding heart, would I find her?

"Cha Cha Cha... kitty kitty kitty..."

Wait. Anyone who has ever had to find a cat will know the importance of the pause in the calls. You need to make them think you're not panicked, or that maybe you've lost interest.

"Puss Puss Puss..."

I'm looking around madly for a grey cat in a very black-grey-white-brown scene. I'm scouting the trees, the bushes, the house, trying to find the pattern that suggests that a cat might be around close by.

"Charlotte...."

I hear a sound and stop, my head snaps back to where I think I heard it. There's a squeaking sound coming from inside the wreckage of the house.

Again "meep... meep...."

And there she is. Sitting on the blackened and fallen beams of what was the structure of the house. Inside the fallen chaos, right where her food bowl would have been.
She's scared, not amused and staring at me as if to say "What the hell happened here Mel! Seriously, what the freaking hell. I'm hungry!!!"

We quickly sourced food from the neighbour, and a towel that I wish had been a straight-jacket. The commotion that ensured next was like trying to pack an octopus with claws into a shipping crate with holes. She got us good, she wailed, she whined. Eventually, we got her into a room at the neighbours house. We got her some food, litter and comfort.
It was at that moment that the weight I had had on my shoulders lifted; everyone was accounted for. There were no more things left for me here at this place.

((The rest from here is pretty raw, I need to write it for my own memory which I know will make things up and fade... just a warning, this is rough))

But I'll take you back, because the more I talk about it now, the more I think it's helping me.

Around 3:30pm last Tuesday afternoon, I get a call at work from my other neighbour who I barely speak to, but only because we lead such separate lives.

"Mel, your house is on fire."

WHAT. From here on in, my head is a mess, "What, What." I yell into the phone, rousing the attention of my colleagues. "Fire, my house is on fire...."
My head is spinning, I cannot make sense of this feeling - like I'm going to faint. Through some semblance of survival mode kicking in, I get on a bike with Sam and we race out to my house.

I can see  the plumes of smoke rising before we even reach my suburb, knowing that that was my stuff - my things - my everything BURNING, I can feel my body going into shock, I get that feeling where I feel like I've been impaled and I can't comprehend. I close my eyes and silently hope that it isn't as bad as it looks, I can't imagine what's going on and I know that I'll know soon enough. My head fills with white noise.

We arrive in the street and it's blatantly obvious that this isn't a small fire. The street is cordoned off with police, fire and ambulance officers. We're initially stopped, but it's my house and I tell them so. An officer escorts me up to my neighbours fence, as close as they'll let us get to it. Other neighbours are all in the street watching silently, all standing in groups outside their homes. I feel like I'm suspended in time and now the subject of a reality TV show. I wish I could tell them to go about their day as normal, they don't need to witness my grief, but there's nothing that can be done except watch.

I see my neighbour who called me, Cheryl, my dads partner, and A policeman. The impact of the scene hits me.

Hot tears stream down my face as I realise my life is going up in flames and how damn useless I am standing here.

 

Above: Bailey and Cowgirl in happier times

My dog, my bailey, my sweet boy is trapped inside. Bailey... my bailey. Charlotte. My furbabies... my knees are weak and I feel like I'm going to collapse from the hopelessness of it all.
My computers, my backups which were inside the house, my everything. My trip stuff. Holy crap I've got a trip in 2 weeks and I've now got nothing left.
Loop
Bailey... bailey, can someone help him!
Loop

The looping is a repeating of the thoughts, feelings, time suspension and helplessness that comes with watching your things burn. It's that feeling that there's nothing you can do when all you want to do is storm the house and grab the things that matter. Firies tell us they won't sacrifice a human life to save an animal. In that moment I know from what I'm seeing that there's nothing that's gonna save my bailey. My sweet boy.

Flames are licking out the ceiling which has collapsed, the living room is gone. Blackened. Smoke shoots out the windows of my study, my bedroom, the other bedroom and well, pretty much everywhere. The garage is on fire, smoke billows through the neighbours house and down the street. Burnt bits of trees, papers flutter out and rain down over the houses, trees and everywhere it can reach.

A car has been pulled from the garage and whoever discovered the fire has pulled away all hazardous things from it.
The pungent smell of melting plastic and burning wood has engulfed the street. Time suspension continues,  the looping in my mind continues. I feel numb.

My phone is ringing but I can't answer it. I can't talk, I can't make sense of my own thoughts let alone have to put them into a sentence for someone else.

We're ushered into our neighbours' house so that we don't inhale any more smoke, but I know it's because there's some difficult things happening which they don't want me to see.

A police investigator interviews us, what we did that morning, what was on during the time we were out, what did we have in there, etc.
I sit down and we're given a glass of water. I don't remember much except holding sams hand really tight and staring into the blackness of the kitchen bench. People rush in and around me, different factions of family, police, support workers, chaplains, and Louie, the Logan House Fire Support Network guy.
He introduces himself, what he does and this amazing angel guides us through what we're meant to do from here. When noting makes sense, when the media are knocking on your door asking to speak to you, in the most tragic of circumstances, he arranges and guide you through it. They set up the GoFundMe for us, they started promoting and doing all the incredible things that require more courage than I could ever muster.  He brings water, towels and tooth brushes, he brings a book of what to do. He arranges things, gives advice, acts as a point of contact for everyone experiencing these kinds of sudden losses.

Appearing on camera infront of the media is the absolute last thing anyone in this situation EVER feels like doing. It's disaster porn. My hair is gross, my nose is red from crying, I'm in my least-favourite work shirt. Urgh. All meaningless things to worry about, but when there's nothing to do, the most irrelevant emotions are stirring around and not being helpful at all. It's the whole train-wreck of a situation kinda thing. You know the type. While horrible to do, it is a necessity, he explains. Indeed many people I know were dumbfounded to see mine, my brothers and fathers face on national TV after we'd lost pretty much everything.

My memory is a bit burry after this.

At some point Louie comes in and confirms that they have found the dogs- my Bailey and Cheryl's Cowgirl and confirmed they are deceased.
Another round of tears, looping memory and complete time suspension.
A family friend reports he is taking the dogs direct to where they will be buried with family. More tears.

My mum shows up, comforts me. My brother is around. At some point I hear a giant crashing sound from the direction of my house. People are going over to the balcony of the house where we are and looking at it. I can't bring myself to go and see, so I sit at the counter and stare. The next day I'll realise the noise was the roof collapsing into the ashes as the supports for it had burned through.
Facebook is going off now, my phone is ringing off the hook and messages are sweeping over it. I put it in silent and push it aside, I don't have the energy to reply to people right now.
I feel suspended like a puppet, strung by strings put there for me and powerless to stop them.

After what feels like several long hours, darkness falls and the firies are still there. Police tape is across the drive and parts of the house are still being extinguished.
The silence that has fallen around the house is only broken by shouts from the firies communicating to each other. The house is blackened, part of the living room roof has collapsed and it's still too hot to go inside for the firies, we're told.

The watchers in the street have gone back to their lives, the ambulance has gone and the police are wrapping up their work. They guard the house overnight until its no longer deemed a crime scene.
Getting back to my now-home was nothing short of surreal.
I realised everything that I had left behind in my car, at sams place. The small collection of stuff I had amassed here now held tremendous value, because it remained.
I slept a little bit that night, but only due to the help of a few stiff drinks and pure exhaustion.

I woke the next morning with the weight of what had happened on my shoulders again.
Realising that I wouldn't see Bailey again, that I didn't know where the cat was, all sorts of emotions rushed over me.

We weren't due back at the house until the afternoon, we expected the forensics guys to finish up late afternoon and hand it all back to us.

The untold part of this story so far was that I had two weeks until my trip of a lifetime was due to begin. I had booked, planned, spent and saved money for an once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica and Argentina. I was two weeks out, I had bought my clothes, medicines, luggage, jackets, tents and all the bits and pieces that I needed. The fire had taken it all away from me in a flash. All of a sudden I was two weeks out with nothing bar the few bits of clothing that I had lazily left in my car. I had no passport, no printed tickets, no travel money and no idea how I was going to replace it all in two weeks on a miniscule budget.

I spent Wednesday morning running around official places to get my passport remade (since the old one had been destroyed), the afternoon held a different story for us.
We arrived at the house early, smacked in the face by the reality of what greeted us when we returned. Policeman and firefighters, showing up sporadically to put out spot fires and hotspots that had kept flaring up during the night. We got out what we could, but most had to be left behind due to the soot and smell of burnt plastic. I'm learning that that smell doesn't come out of anything easily. The hardest part of salvaging is dealing with the drive-bys that find my loss and grief as some sort of entertainment. Our street was a quiet one before this happened, I knew every car that drove past regularly. Now, it was central station, it seems rubbernecking has become  a family sport. Car after car of people slowing down to get a good look at what was left. And me standing there facing all the things that I had lost. I had begun to feel quite angry by this, as I'm not a sideshow attraction, but it felt like that.

The whole house was blackened and charred, the linger smell was that wood-fire smell that's both sweet and sinister. Windows are smashed, grass is blackened, trees around are dead. The whole outside area feels like loss. Screens in my computer room are melted and sunken forward. One even has melted completely and ejected the electronic components from its grasp.
My computer case paints a picture of intense heat, memory cards melted onto the top, twisted plastic, bubbled perspex.

Each time I show up to the house from this day forth, I know it has happened, I can only accept it.
When I go away, somewhere else, that's when it doesn't feel real and it begins to seem like a nightmare or bad dream. I feel like I can almost sense myself walking through it like everything was there and nothing was out of place. It's almost hyper-real how much recall I have with this, I will wake up in the night swearing that I was just there.

But from all darkness, there is light.

After the intense heat that my computer and its hard drives went through, I still recovered 12TB of backups and current data. Some of these drives were submerged in water for up to 48hrs before we dried them and riced them, and they still transferred data. BIG WIN

But, the biggest, most amazing part of this entire hopeless situation, has been the immeasurable kindness from those around me. I have been simply floored by the heart, thought and support from friends, peers and colleagues. Everyone has come out in support, and for someone like me, this is massive. I have been left speechless by the offers of support and things arranged to help me get back on my feet. The community support has been phenomenal. I have been blown away by the offers of assistance.

I really wish to thank everyone as much as possible, namely:

GoFundMe Backers - thank you so very much for what you have donated, whether big or small, it truly means so much and the funds that are raised will go towards moving on from this situation as best we can.

My AIPP  Community and close friends  - Sara McKenna, Colleen Harris, Wanda Anderson, Melissa Anderson, Katrina Christ, Roxanne Gorman for the amazing care package/ clothes drop you all put together which I am still finding great value in.

Leighton Jones Real Estate Kenmore - For an extremely generous donation and ongoing fundraising activities on our behalf.

Logan House Fire Support Network - I know you will say you're doing your job, but it's seriously unlike anything else and we're all so grateful.

Nikon Australia - Helping this photographer put her kit back together in time for her trip to Antarctica.

Kathmandu - For also helping me put my technical clothing situation back together in time for this trip.

Lisa Kayes - My amazing travel agent for collecting gift cards and support from your friends.

Work - for being patient and understanding.

Mum - for being amazing and supportful as always

Helen and Dennis - for the same reason as mum :)

So now that I've got that off my chest, onwards with a travel photography blog yes?

I'll be posting what I can, where I can.
There will be no internet for 2 weeeks while I'm in Antarctica - Data rates are prohibitively expensive and well, I'll just want to be out amongst it as much as I can!

Stay tuned for the next post in a few days as I realise how much I've got left to do!

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 antarctica argentina blog fire house melsinclair reallife https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/11/curve-ball Thu, 23 Nov 2017 12:29:28 GMT
Platypus Playing https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/7/platypus-playing What seems like weeks ago, was actually months ago now, I was in Tasmania, more specifically, Cradle Mountain. There, on our first day, there was an unusual amount of rain slowly, yet persistently, falling from the sky.  I took the opportunity to shoot in the rain with my D810, a decision that would later render the  camera unusable for the rest of the trip. Anyway, while I was trying desperately to dry out my camera and get it going again, my mum was off doing the Ronnie Creek walk, and chanced upon this happy Platypus, splashing and playing in the flooded tarns. She asked that  I post these videos for her, and I've wondered how to incorporate these into a post, so instead, here's a dedicated post. Video credits to my Mum, Leanne Sinclair.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 Nikon april cradle mountain platypus tasmania video https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/7/platypus-playing Thu, 06 Jul 2017 10:36:35 GMT
Five Days around Tassie https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/5/five-days-around-tassie Two blogs!

I'm ashamed, I've only posted two blogs the entire time I've been in Tasmania.

But, I've been busy, I've got photos to share and I hope that you're keen to see what I've been up to.

The last blog I was at the National Park Hotel after just wrapping up at Cradle Mountain. After missing a killer sunrise at Cradle, I vowed not to miss another unless the weather was saying 100% nope with driving rain or even a tornado. 

As I did every night before going to sleep, I checked the weather forecast. Fog

Did I read that right? 

Yes, FOG.

There was a solid promise of Fog from Meteye.

Early the next day, I woke with that headache that I get every sunrise. The "I'm going to regret the sleep deprivation" headache. It was a sign, a sign that I should have gone to bed earlier, I knew I wasn't going to get a nap, I had to drive to Eaglehawk Neck after shooting. I had mum in the car, and I'm sure that she didn't quite understand the need to drive past the same spot repeatedly, but I didn't care (too much). I could have lingered for hours after sunrise, but time was not on my side. What I did get however has put a big smile on my heart, a feeling that I finally have work again that I'm super pleased to share.

Chronologically:

The whole reason I was hanging around Mt Field was of course, to shoot the easy-to-access waterfalls. There wasn't much water in them, so it was up to some styling to get the most out of what was there.

Fog around Ellendale

The drive to Eaglehawk Neck was mostly without interruption, save for perhaps the essential food stops for Salmon, Raspberries and water. I really struck lucky with the tides, I got low on both mornings that I was at the Tesselated Pavement, and the second sunrise I opted not to even do because the first one was unbeatable in that regard. I'm thankful that Tasmania has continued to give me good weather.

On our last morning at Eaglehawk, my mum and I combed the part of the beach we still hadn't explored. There was rockpools and a number of really different natural patterns and things to see. It's a little bit of a treasure trove, so bear with me!

Once Eaglehawk Neck was done and dusted, it was onto our final destination, where I blog from tonight having just had the most amazing sunset. The water calmed down just enough to see the beautiful blues and greens shine through, and high clouds lit up like firecrackers in the afternoon sky. 

Driving up to the East Coast from Eaglehawk Neck was initially very confusing, but once we found the right road it was smooth sailing. I can't remember ever noticing the number of vineyards scattered around the hills before, and temptation finally caught up with us as we passed the Devils Corner Cellar Door. Here's the view the winery is set against:

 

Tomorrow I head back to Brisbane, and I'll be ready to share over the coming weeks, the results of this trip. Feeling on top of my photographic game again, I've seen so many different angles of Tasmania this time. It's been wonderful Tassie, as always! 

Thanks also to those following on Instagram... I've been trying to give the "seconds" which come from the phone some life while I process what I have from the camera!

Sunrise this morning at The Gardens was pretty, but not a cloud in the sky. For most people this would be heaven, but sometimes I find it hard to be enthusiastic about clear skies, instead chosing to focus on the way the light fell on the scenery.

Today was spent exploring The Gardens and Binalong Bay under the normal midday sun. It was quite hot after a while! After some really cold mornings, it was great to finally crack a sweat. The sand is so whate, the water so crisp and turquoise! A true feast for the eyes! No wonder it was voted #2 beach in the world this year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, before i go, here's that sunset I was talking about! Binalong Bay tree, Binalong Bay, Tasmania. Love it! High cloud in the sky that lingered from mid-morning started the most incredible sunset. I truly got my wish for the clouds to stick around!

All images shown here are intellectual property of Mel Sinclair. Please do not reproduce images outside of this post without permission. These are not final edits.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 D750 Nikon Tasmania bay binalong blog eaglehawk fires gardens landscape melsinclair neck of pavement photographer photography sunrise sunset tesselated the https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/5/five-days-around-tassie Wed, 03 May 2017 11:31:57 GMT
Focus on the Fagus 2017 https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/4/focus-on-the-fagus-2017

Fagus leaves:  Minimalistic: Double Exposure taken on the D750

Focus on the Fagus was back on again this year, and after three years since I had been to the event at Cradle Mountain, I just had to go back. I took my mum with me this time, as she had never been to Cradle Mountain before. I knew that she would be welcomed into the group as a non-serious photographer, a hobbyist just to enjoy the walks and the company that often goes with that. 

The idea of Focus on the Fagus is simple: We're a bunch of keen photographers from around Australia, all once joined by the website and art-sharing website "Redbubble". We descent on Cradle Mountain for a once-a-year week to witness The Turning of the Fagus (Northofagus Gunii), a small deciduous beech tree (aka Tanglefoot) and see it change from Green, to yellow, gold and red. If we're lucky and we've timed the week right, the fagus will present in a variety of illuminated shades of autumn. At the end of five exhaustive days of hiking and exploring Cradle Mountain- Lake St Clair National Park, we have a competition day on Friday. The idea is pretty simple - Submit two files at the end of the day, that best vision the Fagus. All photos submitted to the competition must have been taken on the Friday of the competition, from 12:01am to 4pm. The winner receives the Cow and Calf trophy, plus their name on a shiny plaque on the master trophy.... this is kindly sponsored by David Murphy and the Cow and Calf Gallery, Stanley, Tasmania.

_____

I can't believe how fast the past week has gone, time just flies when you're busy hiking, taking photos and being up at all hours doing crazy hiking things. I took it relatively easy this time around, I was rather tired easily with having just had the flu shot (possibly not my smartest move prior to a week of hiking) but nevertheless, it's a holiday and it's not always about going flat out at every given moment.

Arriving in Tasmania late on Saturday 23rd, my mum and I stayed overnight in Deloraine before heading to Cradle on the Sunday, via Woolworths for the shopping required to keep us relatively in-budget for the next week. I think we bought way too much, but that's always the way when you go shopping hungry. On the night of our arrival, I chanced upon a tunnel of trees and made plans to go back the next day and shoot it properly.

Sunrise was cloudy, so the tunnel of trees was in muted tones, alas was alive with yellow leaves scattered along the bitumen.

We got up to Cradle later than everyone else, who had already gone out on a hike to explore the foggy mountain. I took mum to see the famous boatshed and we had an easy afternoon adjusting to the cabin. 

Cradle Mountain is a place that is very special. The walks aren't necessarily all that easy, but the smell of the fresh air an the ambience of the mountain is entrancing. The weather is ever-changing and it is hard sometimes to even get sunshine. The walks all showcase a different part of this amazing part of the world, and each year i come back, I'm always exploring something different.

Monday morning rolled around quickly, and, as it does, I decided that since it was a rainy day, that I'd explore some of the rainforest tracks near the Peppers Lodge that I hadn't really seen before. This of course was fateful, after getting several shots that I was happy with, it began raining. Although the rain wasn't as heavy as I thought it might have been, my camera gear got wet. This of course, was nothing new, but alas when I got back to the cabin to switch my gear around for an afternoon walk, the camera wasn't responding. I dried it off and made sure to clean the different buttons. It showed it was working after this, and so I repacked it into my bag for the climb up to Marions lookout wth Rob and Mark. 

I'm pleased with the shots I got that morning, but I'm still really sad that it came with the temporary (I hope) demise of my camera. It still needs to be in Rice, but I don't have that facility at my disposal now.

The creek that runs past the King Billy Forest Walk, and the aforementioned walk itself, the last shots I got with the D810 before it succumbed to a surprise water attack!

Anyone who has done the difficult hike up to Marions lookout via the "Fast" way (actually very difficult going up with 10kg of camera gear on the back) Steep but work the effort. I discovered on getting up to the top, that my camera was not OK, and as such, had to get only phone shots. It gave me some time to get to know my what my phone was capable of.

That's ok.

Tuesday I took mum into the Ballroom Forest for a look. The water was flowing well and it was a great moody day to be wandering around an Ancient Rainforest. I think I visit the Ballroom each time I visit Cradle. Again, there's something special about that place.

Enchanted Forest Detail. Nikon D750

Wednesday was the "Wednesday Warriors" - basically a large group of us chose a difficult walk and made it ours. We did the Horse Track which goes around all of Dove and Crater Lakes, up to Marions and out past Weindorfers to Wonderland (our own name for a fagus patch). Wonderland was suprememly excellent. What made it even more special was the arrival of snow. It was so amazing to walk in snow that was settling as we were hiking through it. I simply had so much fun that day that I think the memory will last a while.

The photos truly tell how fun I thought it was:

Crater Peak

Wonderland, Reflection

Frozen Fagus

Looking over Crater Lake from Marions

Snow on the return. 

Sunset

Thursday was another short day, I had been feeling like a cold was coming on, and after the extreme hike of the day before, I chose to take it easy, shooting sunrise and taking mum up to Crater Falls and Crater Lake. I shot a few frames here and there.

Buttongrass

Trees and Buttongrass

Tentacle Tree (Snowgum)

Minimal rise (Rain and Snow)

Crater Falls (Lower cascades)

Tarn

 

And finally, it was Friday:Competition day.

I had dreamt of the perfect shot and woke up to realise that it was both stupid and a big waste of time given that we onyl had one car, wherever I went, mum had to go too, and there was no way she would be able to climb the Marions steep track. So we went back to Houndslow Heath where I'd been several times before.  Since this track requires constantly watching your footing, most of my day was spent looking at my feet. As such, i noticed the reflections in the puddles, and came up with my Second placed (Runners up) image:

And that's about it! I haven't had much of a chance to do anything except driving today. 

I promise I'll be able to get more blogs out now. Now that we've got WiFi pretty much everywhere we go, I'm hoping to be able to share more!

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2017 April D750 D810 blog cradle crater creative discovery dove forest holiday lake landscape lookout marions melsinclair mountain nikon parks photography roadtrip sunrise tasmania waterfall https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2017/4/focus-on-the-fagus-2017 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 09:44:57 GMT
BENQ SW2700PT Colour Management Monitor https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/12/benq-sw2700pt-colour-management-monitor Over the last few weeks I've been busy making a number of changes to my website, as I felt they were long overdue. One of those major changes were the readability of this blog, and after much feedback, I decided to take it back to white background and black text, it needs to be easy on the eyes so the content can be enjoyed. I hope you like the new design.

If you read my last article on "Useful PC tools for windows photographers" you'd know that I've been trying to write about products that are available that really do make such a different, more notably in the computer-realm. I like to write about products that can do as good a job, or better than their market leaders, potentially saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars, and hours of research.

The underdog products  perhaps? I'll let you decide. 

The BENQ SW2700PT should be on your wish-list. It boasts some incredible specs for its price; a no-brainer for those looking to upgrade their monitor for dedicated photo editing. 

The secret, to my editing workflow, is to inject as much vibrant and subtle colour into an image as possible. Softness and delicacy are traits of an image that I pride myself on, and a reason my images are well received when released.

As a professional creative landscape photographer, colour management couldn’t be more important to me. It wasn’t always this way; I used to believe that it didn’t matter what colours I saw, because someone else would see something different on their screen; so what changed my mind? My photographs and the colours that I was missing out on. How did I know? Colour banding on edits when I viewed them on my pro-labs screens.

As my photography got better, so did my desire to begin printing my many artworks. This proved to be the turning point, and soon I realized that I really did need to educate myself on this, I could no longer afford to keep printing and reprinting to get my images right. I was flying blind, and it was becoming expensive with paper and ink costs, not to mention the slipping patience of my pro-lab.

Turns out there’s a huge difference between an sRGB and an Adobe RGB colour space; not all monitors are created equal! Of course, if money is no issue, industry professionals will gravitate towards an Eizo. They’re the industry leader, but costing around a price of an international adventure for four; they’re not for everyone. I’ve always been interested in finding the equipment that costs much less and performs very similar, if not better than its market competitor.

Enter the BenQ SW2700PT Colour Management Monitor.

First Impressions

As soon as the courier delivers the box, I’m excited. I’m a bit of a screen-geek, I won’t lie. Every screen I have, I’ve researched head to toe before I chose the one I want. With the BenQ, it was an easy decision, it blew away everything else in the field in both technical capabilities and price range. I knew I had to have it. The SW2700PT is also capable of performing yoga-like manoeuvres wherein, it can rotate tall to display in Portrait mode. This is particularly workable for those who read long documents, websites, blocks of code or are constantly working on vertical panoramas.

Taking the screen out of its delivery carton, attaching the base and assembling the shaded hood, the monitor is already looking grand on my desk. It demands attention and the suave brushed-metal detail is beautifully machined, the indentation for the remote holds it snug and the cable management conduit is easily the yin-yang of the setup. BenQ have managed to design a screen that does not wobble or jiggle even when the desk is bumped, this most surely comes from the stable back spine and the solid base.

As if that weren’t enough, there are also two USB3.0 ports built into the left-side of the screen, as well as an SD Card reader. The supplied OSD Remote has three colour presets built in to these switches; sRGB, Adobe RGB and a dedicated Black and White mode. There’s 6 buttons along the right-hand underside which are emboss-labelled which also control the screen if you ever happen to misplace the OSD remote.

Attaching the shaded hood is a moment in itself. As if by magic, the screen appears bigger, braced in a dramatic-black cloak, instantly becoming the alpha of my desk. More overwhelming when you see it from the back, it really is the tall, dark, handsome stranger. There’s a small sliding port at the top for slipping a calibrator through, it’s a nice touch, it is all designed so well.

Creative Professionals… Listen up! This is for you.

This gorgeous monitor has been made with thought to all creatives; photographers, designers and videographers who want quality without having to fork out a small fortune.

The BenQ nestles itself comfortably into two key markets; the photographic enthusiast who knows they need colour accuracy, and the professional market, offering itself up as a formidable opponent to any NEC or Eizo currently available. Here, the BenQ comes out as the cheapest option, but this is by no means a negative on its quality. Locally, here in Australia, the SW2700PT is available for $999.00 from popular retailers such as Umart online, Mwave.com.au and JB HiFi.

With professional features like these, it’s vying for attention from the graphic-arts and photographic professional; who knows good colour is not a negotiation, great ergonomics and the important features of the correct editing panel.

Let’s take a look at the finer specifications:

Key Features

  • 27inch semi-gloss screen
  • 2560x1440 (QHD) native resolution
  • 1000:1 native contrast ratio
  • 350 cd/m2 brightness, 5ms response time (GTG)
  • DVI-DL (25-pin), DisplayPort 1.2, and HDMI 1.4 inputs
  • Palette Master Element colour calibration software
  • Black-and-White photo mode
  • Wide Colour Gamut (99% AdobeRGB)
  • 14-bit 3D Look Up Table (LUT)
  • On-Screen Display Control (Remote)
  • Shading Hood, with gap for calibration device
  • USB 3.0 hub, Headphone jack
  • Landscape / Portrait orientation
  • 2-year warranty

 

Compatible Colorimeter Devices:

i1 Display Pro

i1 Pro

Spyder 4 (any version)

Spyder 5 (any version)

Incompatible / Not Recommended Calibrators

These calibrators are either simply not compatible, or do not measure current monitor technologies reliably. If you have one of these, it's time for an upgrade!

i1 Display V1 & V2

ColorMunki Photo/Design

Spyder 1, 2 and 3 (any version)

So what does this all mean?

For those that aren’t quite as tech savvy as they’d like to be, let’s break it down into simple words.

The IPS (in-plane switching) technology in the monitor offers viewing angles close to 180° without any changes in the display of the image in terms of contrast and luminosity. It doesn’t darken or change colours when there is a change in viewing angle or when two people are looking at the same screen while editing the photographs.

The SW2700PT monitor features 109 pixels per inch density across its gorgeous 27 inch screen which can display over 1 billion colours on its 99% Adobe-RGB panel. Most screens that cost you a lot less will be sRGB screens. For beginners to display profiling, it is useful to note that you still cannot reach the same amount of displayed colours with calibration of an sRGB monitor. If your display can't show them, you won't see them, and your final print may not be coloured as you had intended.

While this isn’t a downside for most applications, for photo editing, you definitely need something more. On other cheaper displays, you’re not seeing all the colours your file has, especially if you shoot in AdobeRGB which is an option on many professional-grade DSLR cameras. Most modern day printers are compatible of printing photos in Adobe RGB color space, thus using this monitor would save you from wastage of prints as you have to make estimates while using an sRGB monitor.

 

 

The AdobeRGB colour space displays 30-35% more colours than an sRGB display, this is made up in the blue and green spectrum, and are true to colour when matched with a printed lab-grade sample. The monitor offers a 10-bit colour depth, with an excellent 14-bit colour accuracy for showing shades and tones. In comparison a standard 8-bit display monitor can display approximately only 16.8 million colors.

In short, this is an amazing feat for the price and worthy of applause. The high-resolution of the 2560x1440 QHD native resolution means that your screen will be crisp, vibrant and displayed at a high resolution, so you will have plenty of image real-estate on the screen when using editing programs such as Lightroom or Photoshop.

 Regarding the connections to your PC, the BenQ offers several different connectivity technologies. Depending on your setup with your computer, your graphics chipset will have a number of display outputs for the connection of monitors. Whether you are running a PC or a Mac, you should at least have a HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort (DP). Here’s a graphic of the types of ports the SW2700PT supports.

If your computer has none of these, you should consider getting a graphics card (GPU) installed if you are using a Windows PC. For Mac and laptop users, it may mean looking at an upgrade. Your local computer retailer can give you advice on how to proceed as each and every system is different.

Just like higher-end displays, the BenQ comes with a black shading hood which is easily assembled out of the box. This helps reduce ambient flare, an essential if you don’t have a darkened space in which to edit. I never fully understood the use of this hood until I examined my ambient-light measurement and saw how it changed the appearance of my colours on-screen... This is especially pertinent because I personally edit across several screens, opting for a second screen to show me web-colours (sRGB) while I edit live.

Calibration with BenQs supplied software, Palette Master Element is an easy process. Simply plug in your colorimeter of choice, load the Palette Master Element software in Basic Mode and follow the guided steps to complete your calibration. Make sure you have the correct Colorimeter before trying to profile your SW2700PT, I use and recommend the X-Rite i1DisplayPRO. It represents the best value for money versus operation. Read more about the i1Display Pro.

A “place calibrator here” shadow will appear, showing you how to complete the profiling:

Palette Master Element, unlike the software that comes with the i1DisplayPRO directly writes the profile into the chipset of the screen. For this reason, be sure that you plug the i1 into one of the USB3.0 ports on the left side. At the rear, on the connections panel, ensure that you have also plugged in the USB cable to the accessories connector:

 

Those who are more adventurous and want complete control over Gamma, White Point, Luminance and Blacks can select the Advanced Mode and really knock it up a notch, although, if you’re new to this caper and don’t know what those things are, best stick to the Basic mode; it’ll make a perfectly good profile, without confusion. I made sure to set reminders in my calendar to check the profile once a week for optimal correctness. It will run you through a variety of steps to check that your profile is still accurate and ambient-lighting conditions are still the same as originally-calibrated. 

Overall an impressive monitor for both photography enthusiasts who want to calibrate OR who may choose to work at factory settings without calibration, and for professional photographers who need precise colour accuracy. Having had the SW2700PT now for over a month, I am extremely impressed with how it stacks up against my other AdobeRGB screen, the LG 31MU97 (Pictured below on the left). Consistently the BenQ is displaying greater colours, despite both being calibrated at the same time, under the same conditions. I attribute this to the hardware calibration that the BenQ offers internally, versus calibrating the LG through the Graphics Card. The OSD remote has come in handy for quickly switching colour spaces when comparing a print edit to a web/online edit.

My only negative to this impressive line of specs, is a lack of HDMI 2.0 capability. This is easily negated though, I can still utilize the full range of features by using a Display Port connection. 

 

I wouldn't have written about a product if I myself wouldn't use it. 

This monitor needs to be in so many peoples' processing setups.  We as photographers spend thousands on the best photographic equipment, but for some reason the dedication to this falls short when it comes to the computer-side of things. We moan loudly when something fails or something breaks, but we don't speak highly enough, or as often as we should, about a product that works.

So here it is.

Get yourself one, you'll wonder why you didn't get one sooner.

Have you got one of these? Leave your thoughts and experiences below

Are you curious about monitor technology and want to know more? Please post a comment

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 benq blog calibrated calibration color display hardware i1display melsinclair monitor photography processing review tools utilities windows https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/12/benq-sw2700pt-colour-management-monitor Tue, 27 Dec 2016 05:49:46 GMT
On Writing. https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/12/on-writing

I have never really considered myself a professional writer. I am a dabbler, a hobbyist. I have an interest in describing factual events, in unorthodox and fruity ways. Much like how my photography started, it was an experiment, another outlet in which to create in.

It was somewhat accidental.

I have forever been a grammar nazi, one of you who feels the constant need to correct the failings of minds not focused on language, feeling as though I am watching the world of English evolve and devolve at the same time. I believe that telling you a story allows you to create the images in your mind, a skill as powerful as taking an artful photograph.

I studied snippets of writing:- and by that I mean as many of the Creative Writing units I could, in my Creative Industries degree, nearly ten years ago now. We examined the literary works of Jeanette Winterson, Christos Tsiolkas, Matt Haig and several others which haven’t necessarily stuck in the mind, but nonetheless have evolved my style of expression in a post-modern form of writing, which I think I have adopted. I enjoy telling you stories from my point of view. I enjoy telling you about the crazy things that happen when you try and take photography seriously. I enjoy pushing and questioning the things we do, why and how. I’ve been to some pretty far out places, it comes with being a landscape photographer.

Years ago, I actually read books, and by that I mean, finished them to completion and digested all that had just happened and how it had changed me, my mind and my thinking. I loved the self-reflection that I gained, how the book had challenged my ideas and opened up new railroads of thought. These days, finishing books is an achievement, it's not always as easy as it sounds.

 I remember consuming as many books by Stephen King as I could. One which surprised me was his book about writing and the personal journey that it took, “On Writing.” While this was a memoir written while he was being treated for a medical condition, I felt it necessary to have a casual conversation with myself about where I am with this “writing” thing.

I know I write infrequently.

I know I should write more, more often. I know that. I say this as I apologize to myself and those who do read some of the stuff I publish online.

I’ll have bursts of when it comes to me, and large periods of when it doesn’t. I never wanted the writing to feel forced, it becomes too tightly wound, too bound to traditional styles to sound free-flowing and expressionistic as I desire it to be. Sometimes, I’ll muse a sentence, a paragraph or just a quote. Pressure to produce creeps in and I’m left with a blinking cursor prompting me, teasing me, and eventually I’ll give up. If it doesn’t flow, it has to go.

I was taught quality over quantity, I’d rather sporadically post something of quality, than a whole heap of average, limply-strung words. The same goes for photographs, if it’s not going to blow my socks off, what hope do I have for everyone elses’ impression?

I still shoot, I still write, but I don’t publish everything I create. It's an evolution.

That’s the power of it.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 Musings blog creating inspiration melsinclair motivation muse photography writing https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/12/on-writing Sun, 04 Dec 2016 01:57:09 GMT
Saved my Bacon! Some useful tools for Photographers with PCs https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/10/saved-my-bacon

I've been thinking about writing some more useful blogs in the coming months, mostly centered around some of the things that I've come across that are worthy of a mention, a review or a closer look at.

I'd like to start this trend by posting about some of the programs that have saved me from certain failure, really cool tools that everyone should have, and tools that made the job simpler when times were getting a bit stressful with a PC problem or photography problem.

So I have a little bit of IT in my background, I'd like to say "who doesn't" when it comes to technical arts such as photography and video producing. The programs listed below are purely for the PC/Windows photographers around us. Those that know you don't have to drop a $1000 premium to get the same thing on a mac ;)

If you have any to add, I'd love to hear what it is and your review in the comments below!

DisplayFusion

Website

"DisplayFusion will make your multi-monitor life much easier. With powerful features like Multi-Monitor Taskbars, TitleBar Buttons and fully customizable Functions, DisplayFusion will make managing your multiple monitors painless"


I cannot live without this one! Which is also why I have put it first!

I run a triple-screen setup here on my processing workstation. It helps that I can have a different toolbar on each screen and tailor the apps that show on each one. Display Fusion lets you do that. It also lets you customise the image on each screen, plus all the usual things like screensaver, windows login screen, performance of screens, orientation and the lot. There's so much to make the Windows user experience much, much better, especially if you have more than one screen.

Cost: Free (though the paid version is for life and is wonderful!)

Opanda iExif
Website

"Opanda IExif is a professional Exif viewer in Windows / IE /  Firefox, From a photographer's eye, It displays the image taken from digital camera and every item of EXIF data in the image from beginning to end. "

The beauty of this simple program is that, if you take a frame on your DSLR that is set to Jpeg, you can get the actuation count (number of times the shutter has opened and closed to expose a shot) which is useful if you need to know for warranty, selling your camera etc.

Those who wish to do more exif tinkering can get some of the editors available by this same developer, although it becomes chargeable.

Cost: Free (freeware)

Operating Systems: XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8 and 10 (compatibility modes may be required)

 

Hard Disk Sentinel

Website

"Hard Disk Sentinel (HDSentinel) is a multi-OS SSD and HDD monitoring and analysis software. Its goal is to find, test, diagnose and repair hard disk drive problems, report and display SSD and HDD health, performance degradations and failures."

Hard drives are our biggest worries when it comes to storing large amounts of images. You need to know how old your drive is, how long it's "ON" time has been and how it's fairing in terms of health. Use Hard Disk Sentinel to monitor your drives and plan for replacing them before it's too late.

Recuva (Memory card and hardware data recovery)

Website

"Recuva can recover pictures, music, documents, videos, emails or any other file type you’ve lost. And it can recover from any rewriteable media you have: memory cards, external hard drives, USB sticks and more!"

You don't necessarily need to pay for SanDisks' Recovery Pro unless you know what else is out there.

It should be noted that this is a last-ditch option to recover lost files and accidently erased memory cards. You will have to refer to the online guide that details how to use it exactly, but I have found it to be a great utility to take travelling with me.

Cost: Free - though a paid version has more features and options for recovery.

 

Audacity

Website

I had to give Audacity a shout in here. It's so simple to use and so effective if you are looking to record any kind of spoken audio into your computer for use in videos and presentations.

Cost: Free

 

SyncToy

Website

This is a Microsoft product! A very well kept secret too, it's a pretty useful one for us PC people who hate running backups to other drives.

SyncToy makes it really super simple, and allows you to have multiple backups to different folders saved as quick-runs.

While any backing up is a chore, select the "Contribute" mode to keep filling up a drive with new data, instead of erasing one or looking for like-like copies.

Cost: Free!

 

Hemmingway App

Website

While not a strictly-PC-only tool, Hemmingway makes writing simple. If you really suck at grammar and punctuation, browse to the website or download the app and input what you've drafted. Hemmingway will show you where your sentences are too long or your grammar incorrect. It basically makes your writing easier to read, and makes it look like you know your stuff.

Cost: Always free!

 

Ninite Website

Website

"Install and Update All Your Programs at Once. No toolbars. No clicking next. Just pick your apps and go."

Have you ever been through the horror of losing a drive or having to find software to reinstall or fix? Ninite has your back. Just select what you want and download the exe (executable). Everything you wanted will be in a prepared download and ready to go. Saves time, effort and pulled hair.

 

Snipping Tool

Built into Windows 7 and above, the snipping tool is a much easier way of taking screen shots and screen captures much quicker than the old combination of Ctrl+PrtScr or Alt+PrtScr.  Simply hit the Windows key and start typing "Snipp--" and windows will find you the Snipping tool. Use it to instantly take a picture and scribble, highlight or copy to the clipboard.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) PC blog displayfusion hemmingway iexif melsinclair opanda photography recuva sentinel tools useful windows https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/10/saved-my-bacon Wed, 05 Oct 2016 11:10:48 GMT
Why are we still asking: “What settings should I use?” https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/9/why-are-we-still-asking-what-settings

This question has been grinding on me for some time now, and it is predominantly one that I come across in camera clubs and casual meetup groups. For clarification, I’m not attempting to lessen the experience of photography for anyone, merely putting the idea out there that answering this question is potentially misleading for the person asking it, and I’ll explain why, soon.

I understand that not everyone wants to be a professional photographer, and, not everyone has the time to research every single genre of photography to learn where to start, but why are we handing across details like it's definitive?

I once had a person to tutor, let’s call him Kevin.

Kevin was interested in learning about composing a more-powerful photograph and had enlisted my help to show him how to think in the field when finding the right balance.

Kevin was well-off in life and had gone out and bought the top-of-the-range camera with all the bells and whistles. He was super proud of his gear, but something was missing; self-discovery. Kevin expressed some disappointment that even the top-of-the-range camera couldn’t beat the photos he was getting on his iPhone. So immediately, I knew something was amiss.

After an easy hike into a rainforest to shoot some very-safe waterfalls, we set up our gear and I began to show Kevin on my camera, the sort of shots that photographers often seek in these locations, and how to go about it. He went away back to his camera, on the proviso that I was there to help at any time he needed it. I did not want to hover over him, instead let him figure out his settings and work together to refine the final composition.

After a few minutes, it became clear that he was struggling. I walked over to his tripod and told him to talk out loud about what he was trying to do, while he did it.

He verbalized that he had been told that waterfalls needed X ISO and X Aperture in order to achieve a X- timed exposure. It wasn’t working. His exposures were too dark and not at all like the final product that he had envisioned. He showed me a photo on his phone and said, “(this photographer)” told me to use X ISO, X Aperture and I could get a shot like this.”

I looked at the photo, and then back at our scene.

It was clear that Kevin hadn’t fully understood the purpose of the meter in the camera.

“Kevin,’ I explained patiently, ‘forget what (that photographer) told you to use, it’s not going to work here, now, to get you the correct exposure. If I gave you a weather report for this day last year, what would you think?”

He looked baffled, before replying “Well that’s clearly useless.”

“Exactly. Camera settings are the same, the only close-to-reproducible scenario is in the studio, which, we are not.”

“But-‘ he began, and stopped.

“Kevin, those settings worked for (that photographer) because they were the true settings at the time, in that light, on that day, in that location, taken by that camera and that lens. None of these things are here now. We’re not at that same location, on the same day, using the same camera.” I tried to explain.

“Yes, but then how do I shoot this scene?” he asked honestly.

“Well, you need to…’ I paused, trying to figure out how to explain this, ‘ start by using one of the semi-programmed modes, like Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority. Pick one of those modes and see what your camera does to the other settings to adjust for the shot. Start there.”

So we started in Aperture priority mode, and I explained how he can use it to pick just one of the settings and let the camera do the rest.

I showed him how to look at the data in the image review, so he can glean the other details as a starting point. ISO, Shutter Speed and focal length.

As the shoot wore on and he became more confident with adjusting his camera settings, a wonderful thing happened. He began to experiment. He stopped going back to Aperture or Shutter priority modes and began trusting the meter. He began to slowly take a grasp on how the settings change minute to minute as the light changed and adjust for that. We were able to continue the session with adjusting our shooting angles for composition and really have some fun playing with different viewpoints.

In the end, while walking back to the car, he confessed.

“I’d never actually thought of it like that, Mel,’ He began, ‘that settings mark a point in time, a true moment to the image, but not to the habits of the photographer. I’ve been around so many meet groups where we get told where to start, we never actually discover it for ourselves. I wonder all the times I’ve deleted a shot because it didn’t fit the shape of the “right” exposure that I thought I was looking for.”

It was here that I realized that in fostering a sense of community within photography, certain groups may not really be letting photographers discover their own settings for themselves.

 

We have digital cameras. We have memory cards, we have image preview and we have time.

So why are we giving away the settings that may suit someone elses’ shooting styles? Why are we not encouraging more experimentation in meet groups and giving the power back to the photographer to determine what they like as the perfect exposure?

For those of you that will argue a starting point for any new location is needed, just do what I do, start with ISO 100 and move either up or down from there, depending on the style of image you are looking to come home with.

The merry Meter will do the rest for you, it’s your wingman on-location.

Look at the meter and look at your scene, constantly. As photographers, it’s what we do.

And for those of you who wonder where filters come into this mix of exposure times? Let’s just say you set up the camera, take a test shot, and ascertain your settings. Only then do you mount your filter adapters, and test one filter at a time until you have reached the desired exposure time for the desired image outcome.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) Musings blog cameraclubs casual clubs discovery education groups lessons meetup melsinclair photography practicality self settings shooting theory https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/9/why-are-we-still-asking-what-settings Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:09:15 GMT
Just Iceland Pictures https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/9/just-iceland-pictures

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 aurora blog iceland icelandlandscapes landscape melsinclair mynikonlife nikon northernlights oneofakind ooak photography photos seascape stokksnes sunrise sunset travelphotographer waterfall https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/9/just-iceland-pictures Wed, 07 Sep 2016 23:02:13 GMT
AIPP APPA 2016 aka "Mel's Gamble" https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/9/aipp-appa-2016-aka-mels-gamble For someone who writes so often, I'm having trouble adequately expressing how amazed, honoured and surprised I am, to have done so well in this years AIPP APPA / Incite 2016.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be a Finalist for Creative Professional Photographer of the Year!

 Every single year, professional photographers in Australia look forward (usually with mixed emotions between excited and trepidation) for the upcoming awards, so it's no secret that we put so much time, effort and emotional energy into getting images ready, ballgowns and livers ready for the meeting of so many great photographic minds. 

My experience this year was somewhat different, being away for APPA meant that I was tuning into the Livestream from the other side of the world to watch my images come through the judging machine (ie, the wonderful process we all love; the debates, the discussions). Fighting tiredness and jetlag, I saw some images come through live, others, I had trusty, awesome spies in Kris and Wanda Anderson, keeping an eye on the progress of my images.

I know this is a lot of preamble before revealing my images to you; but it's because they're more than that. They're packets of emotions, I've not created a photographic body of work that meant so much to me before. This is a cooee back to my Fine Art days in university, some skills and some concepts which I have revived from those lessons nearly 10 years ago.

I loved Printmaking - linocut, woodcut, etching... I did every single Printmaking subject on offer at TAFE QLD. I had my own home inks, glass plate, rollers and press. There was an intimacy of creating an image by hand, with the assistance of several photographs, photocopies, and sketches. I got used to seeing things in stark black and whites. It became second nature. Fast forward several years, and sadly I no longer have the time for a printmaking studio, but that doesn't mean I can't think like I still have one. I love taking photos and making them the best they can be. The direction that I took for this portfolio was to challenge the idea of the traditional photographic print, with a romantic smile back to printmaking.

As for the technique? I don't want to ruin the mystery. The whole idea for this series was to challenge the traditional notions of a print. Even showing you a digital image is a bit of a troll... you'll never really get it until you see it, wrap your mind around it and then see it in a new light. You could argue that I should have just done the images in photoshop, but where's the fun in that?!

 

#1: "Flight of the Birds" Illustrative Category: Silver Award

My Grandpa used to love sitting in the sun and watch the birds dance and sing. Often I never understood the joy of watching them, but as I get older I'm starting to appreciate the smaller things - getting away from technology and just watching them do their thing. I wanted to create an image that was an homage to my grandpa, but also had modern touches ie; powerlines.

 

#2 "Breakout" Portrait: Non-Commissioned - Silver Distinction Award

Breaking out, moving away, changing, transforming...

We all want to change something about ourselves but those who are trapped in a world of discomfort, depression or anxiety are stuck in a shell that sometimes becomes impossible to break free from. Your sense of self is diluted and defined by the things you don't understand, you feel isolated and alone. It's like a hand reaching up from below to strangle you. The idea that you're breaking, and trying to pull that apart from your identity is not as easy as it seems.

Big huge thanks for this image by the incredibly talent Kelli Misk-Alpine Designs MUA and my bestie Amber Smith for the human canvas!

 

 

#3 " Lilac Wine" Landscape - Silver Distinction Award

A hark to one of my favourite covers of the song "Lilac Wine" by The Cinematic Orchestra. Look up the video on youtube - and you'll see what I was seeing. This is my favourite spot in South East Queensland, Lake Moogerah. 

In winter, the most beautiful fogs roll through at sunrise, it's so peaceful and I have photographed for hours. This image is a single capture, but extrapolated into different layers, pushing some back, some forward and really using the qualities of my paperstock to add to the mood in the image.

 

...

And finally...

... 

#4 "The One" Landscape - Gold Distinction Award

This is the one that started it all. I wanted to show the beauty and simplicity of trees in fog, without needing to have any fog present at shooting. It was about having the paper quality create that subject separation for me. If you saw this image at Qld State awards, you'd remember a slightly older version, but it was about developing it further.  I poured and entire weekend into re-shooting this location, getting the trees right and making sure I had different trees to use in my composition.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I'd get a Gold award for it at QLD States, and then a Gold Distinction at APPA. 

It's reward for the amount of hours, reprints, sleepless nights and money spent on making this image the best representation in my minds' eye. 

As for strategy? I am still working in this space so it was my gamble that paid off. It was a risky move no doubt: - it could have so easily backfired on me. It's all risk, gamble and reward.

But what is life without risk?

It's boring, it's really really boring.

 

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 AIPP APPA Award Silver anxiety birds blog challenge depression distinction gold illustrative landscape melsinclair nikon photography portrait print silver travel trees https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/9/aipp-appa-2016-aka-mels-gamble Sat, 03 Sep 2016 13:02:53 GMT
Interim https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/interim  

This blog, on the outset is going to be vague and quick. Tiredness is something I’m not entirely mastering at the moment. I’m always surprised how it hits me, but 10 hours difference is night and day compared to what I’m used to.

It’s hard to say exactly what I’ve been up to, other than sitting around relaxing, camping in exotic places and losing myself and several hours of sleep per night, running around and taking photos.

The last week and a bit has blended into one big melted chocolate bar of fun, finally getting some colder weather and enjoying wearing fluffy fleeces and windproof wonders in the face of bastardly winds.

London was wholly a relaxing break after India, designed to let me nap, catch up on the essentials and get some personal admin work done. To this end there were few outings with my camera, and instead I attempted to understand Londons’ complex tube network, often with varying results.

I got into Iceland on Saturday afternoon, and was soon met by Josh and Jimmy, a mutual friend united by OOAK.

We first visited Snaefelsnes to do a fly-by of Budir church and Kirkjufell mountain before getting a ferry the next day from Stikkisholmur, to reduce some time driving the winding roads of the west. We were on our way to Dynjandi, a waterfall we had visited on our first trip, but didn’t make it back to the second time due to snow and avalanche risks.

From here we were after some northern lights action. Looking at the weather forecasts revealed that we were already in the right place, with cloud cover not forecast to affect us until later in the evening. Turns out it’s only taken 3 trips to Iceland to really get some awesome aurora shots. Funny that.

Now I’m back in Reykjavik and resting before the One of A Kind tour starts on the 1st of September. It’s going to be a nutso 10-days around the island, I only hope that I can teach someone something that they remember for a while. I’ve only ever wanted to impart some knowledge, so maybe this will be my chance.

As usual, here's a smattering of images from the last few days:

London Graffiti

Classic Big Ben

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) aurora ben big blog dynjandi iceland landscape lights london melsinclair nikon northernlights photography travelling travelphotography westfjords https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/interim Tue, 30 Aug 2016 22:46:29 GMT
Curious https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/curious

The word ‘curious’ has been floating around in my head for a few days now, so I think it’s finally time for me to blog it out.

As you all know from reading my blogs, India has been both a great and an eye-opening experience. It’s not for all the first-world comforts that I miss, rather, the civil liberties to blend in and be relatively anonymous on the street. The need to be anonymous is a huge driver of my travel photography. I prefer to be a ‘watcher’ not a smiles photographer.

As photographers also, we know that a big part of coming to these countries for photography is a boon because we get to see scenes that we don’t in our home country. It’s the very nature of travel. But when you look at it from the perspective of an image-creator, the details are in your approach to it. You can’t always use a long lens and spy on people, sometimes you have to get into their faces and be rather persistent. It’s about capturing that ‘reality’ not the augmented one.

You’re telling a story, not making one up.

To be good at this caper, I think, one needs to be curious but also a little callous. You need to, of course, know when to use what skill. Actions transcend languages, so many people forget this simple concept. A smile is always a smile, a hand flicking at you is always ‘go away’, a thumbs up is always a good thing and I’m certain we could all find a toilet with a crossed-legs-panicked expression.

When the curiosity dies, as does your emotional connection to creation.

Since my curious shooting here has ended, I’m going to take the opportunity to share my favourite images from the India that I witnessed.

These are all preliminary edits, my finals will be done one I am back home with my bigger processing capabilities. 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 India Rickshaw RickshawRun adventurists and australian black blog creative curious documentary explorative female kochi landscape melsinclair people photographer photography portrait shillong the travel travelphotography white https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/curious Sun, 21 Aug 2016 01:55:48 GMT
Highway of Endless thought https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/highway-of-endless-thought I’M REALLY OVER THIS COUNTRY TRYING TO TAKE A SELFIE WITH ME, TRY TO RUN THE TUK OFF THE ROAD AND THEN ATTEMPT TO GET AWAY WITH IT.

Throughout the last couple of days, India has really drummed into me, how lucky I am to live in Australia. Sure, things are massively more expensive than here, but the way of life, the social liberties and the cleanliness of our society is so much better than what it is here.

Road Rules.

Think about it for a second, rules of the road, enforced by police. What a luxury!

Don’t get me wrong, India has been a whirlwind; an overload of information, concepts and ideas. Simple things that we take for granted are luxuries in Australia; a cold drink, fresh ice cubes and pristine white beaches. So why the deep and meaningful?

For the last few days, we’ve been conquering the long, never-ending highways. The endless concrete landscape doesn’t offer up much for the budding landscape photographer, so there’s heaps of time to think and ponder.

I’ve been in India for nearly 3 weeks so far, and the sheer overload is exhausting. This is a visual overload, as well as mental. There’s things that they do here that we’d get in trouble for at home, and there’s other things that happen here that I wish happened at home, so that contrast is difficult to deal with at times.

So, what do I love, so far, about India:

Cheap price of food and massive variety and availability. Mind you, the variety changes from state to state, and sometimes there’s no room for fussy eating, it’s this or nothing. I can deal with that.

This place has heaps of potential for a serious photographer. I really want to come back sometime and do it properly. For the kind of the event that we’re doing, there just isn’t time to stop in some of the more beautiful places to really do them a justice. I see shots all the time that I want to take, but they’re going to have to wait until later.

What I (still) really don’t like:

How foreign tourists are like trading cards. Everyone wants a selfie with a tourist, probably so they can talk to their favourite grocer in the morning about the foreigners who were in town yesterday and here’s that photo. I don’t know why it annoys me so much, it just does. I really don’t like the extra attention that I get here at the moment. I’m just not that kind of person that can wave and say hello to everyone, I have to be in the right mood. Mostly though, it’s been a space invasion. They want photos with me but they don’t want me to take their photo.

If we in Australia treated tourists like that, it’d be frowned upon. But here, we’re trading cards, just another thing to be consumed by it all.

The scariest part of today has been driving the back roads.

They’re bumpy, badly kept and there’s no lines, meaning no strict enforcement of space and equality. So add to this, when a car goes to pass, the passengers notice that yup, we are indeed WHITE PEOPLE.

OH MY GOD!!!!

IT’S A WHITE PERSON, NO WAIT, THERE’S 3 OF THEM!!!

QUICK, GET A SELFIE!!!

And so they drive dangerously close to the tuk, verge in and get as close as possible, while still driving at 60kmh, regardless of whether they’re running us off the road, to try and take a picture. Of us. In our tuk. At speed. This has happened several times today, something of which should be water off a ducks back. But it’s not. It’s really, really getting to me because each time they do this, it puts our lives in danger because we’re in a tuk with no airbags, and they’re in their cushy air conditioned airbag sedan. We’re the animals on their safari.

This has also happened with motorbikes. They overtake, cut us off in attempt to drive us off the road, and then they stop motioning for pictures on the side of the road.

Two days ago, when driving from Chandipur Beach to Visaparatnam, a local Press/Media car tried to do the same thing. Over and over, overtake, cut us off, pull to the side of the road and try to get us to talk. They tried this for two times before driving far ahead, pulling to the side of the road, then running into our path when we passed by.

We told them we wanted to get chai, and so they led us on a wild goose chase into town. They found a restaurant and then in the most disorganised fashion, tried to organise us all in. Bevan refused to leave the tuk because our possessions were all still loaded up. Bev and I went in, and then we sat there, while they didn’t engage or talk with us, we just sat there, for 10 minutes in a busy café. Eventually, we got sick of this charade and got up to leave, they finally realised that the lack of communication probably was shooting them in the face, and brought us the chai.

Then, through disjointed Hindi and English we nutted out the basic details of our story. We still don’t think that they’ll get it right.

The Rickshaw Run is in its final few days as we prepare to get to Kochi after some final bits of sightseeing, all going well.

But, day after day we make it to the hotel ragged but alive, hungry but thankful that this is a holiday and not our way of life. 

When the speedo breaks, technology has your back!

Trucks have such intricate designs... here's the front of one

The chef

Highway scenery

Truckstop breakfast

The proud baker

Old lady outside a shop / on her street

Local baker making funnel cake

Got blessed by a guru. The gold spot is now gone, but Im not sure he brought us luck?

A whole family on a bike

Old man I photographed in Chatrapur

Market sellers / stallholders in Chatrapur

This one is for my pathologist mum... I thought she would get a kick out of how old fashioned it is!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 blog chandipur chatrapur cultural differences highway india indiaadventure indiasomeday landscape melsinclair photography rickshaw https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/highway-of-endless-thought Sun, 14 Aug 2016 16:29:04 GMT
Short and Sweet: https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/short-and-sweet Short and sweet; that’s the phrase that best sums up today.

Forced by mechanical breakdown, our tuktuk was off the road until past 9am where waiting for a mechanic was the most excruciating thing ever. Our hotel staff at Hotel Orbitz were great, but definitely did not know the finer points of good service. We were not just waited on, we were babied-on. Someone was there to pour our water, someone was there to offer us more food, someone to get the food and someone to make sure the whole thing was running smoothly, even if it wasn’t.

We were glad once again to leave this “luxury” hotel by Indian standards, it was very disjointed and after several photos with hotel staff, we were off. It seems to be the norm here at the moment “A western tourist visited my shop or hotel” so they take selfies with you. It’s like we’re collectors cards. Since the day was short and sweet, so is this blog.

Not long after leaving and finding the right roads, we once again entered into this beautiful landscape of back roads, dirt tracks, big palm trees and copious rice fields.

It really makes you realise that life is not all about money and greed. One that a bank cannot take your happiness and it’s your choice how you deal with things. The world is bigger than a sense of time, and connection to the earth and your family and friends is worth more than the numbers you possess.

Not long after finding out roads, we got caught in another huge thunderstorm which once again opened the heavens above us and drenched us in soaking rain. Not a single part of the tuk was dry after going through this patch, it was all completely sopping.

Aside from the rain, it’s been such a fun day. I’ve really gotten used to the capabilities of the Nikon 20mm 1.8 in terms of candid shots. Got some funny ones today.

I was thinking of starting a series called “You carried WHAT, HOW?!”

Cover photo would be:

Below are some other shots from today!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 candid india indiasomeday landscape melsinclair photography portrait rickshaw rickshawrun storm streetphotography theadventurists thunderstorm travelphotography tuktuk https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/short-and-sweet Tue, 09 Aug 2016 14:54:30 GMT
Running Ragged https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/running-ragged Rickshaw Run – The fifth day.

Leaving Bhaglapur was one of the best things that we did today. Oh and shooting sunrise over the Ganges. Hotels really don’t understand much western reasoning. I think the weirdest thing is that most hotels aren’t quite completed before their rooms are put up at full price. It’s strange to us, but surprisingly normal here. There’s tax cuts for not finishing a building, so most places finish construction but leave a few key things like boardrooms or proper rooftops, unfinished.

It was the Hotel Charmayne Inn Bhaglapur. Sharing a building with a whitegoods shop. It looked swanky from the outside, but inside it was yet another collection of kitsch indian design and a low-rent budget. Camphor balls in the bathroom made it smell like a urinal, not-quite-complete tiling that was a little messy, but did the job. The thing I hate the most about indian bathrooms are the shiny tiles. They’re so freaking slippery especially when the act of showering involves filling a bucket, washing yourself with soap, and then tipping more hot water (or mostly cold) over yourself until you’re washed. This makes for an old-fashioned slip and slide on shiny tiles. Hope you like a split head.  Because a lot of the country live in abject poverty, those who have jobs make sure that they keep them. In most of these “pricier” hotels, you’ll find you have a staff member that does the things – this person will top up your water glass, offer you a new piece of Roti when yours has been eaten, even if the basket of bread is sitting right next to you on the table. No, you can’t take it yourself, someone is employed to put it on your plate. Same if you’ve finished eating but there’s still some curry in the bowl, “You haven’t finished it, you can’t be full, here ma’am, eat more, what about dessert?” The only way to say no is to walk away.

Knocking at the door at 11pm. Everyone wakes from their slumber in a groggy state, knocking again. Nope. Not dreaming this one. Bevan opens the door and there’s two staff there, “Water sir?” They woke us up to give us another bottle of water, which we will probably pay for.

It’s like being a baby again, except nobody will be there to wipe your bottom.

Mostly you’ll find strange drainage issues, leaky roofs and light switches that don’t do anything. It’s a good hotel if the electricity stays on constantly. Every town in India usually sees the power go out intermittently. Usually you’ll be going about your thing, washing your hair in a slippery bathroom, working on your laptop, trying to get 5% charge into your phone, or in my case, riding the elevator – when the goddamned power goes out!!!

It was at this point my heart stopped. The elevator was big enough for 3 people, it was dark, there was no call buttons and the doors opened between the floors. My heard began to race and just as I started to feel the panic creeping in, the power comes back on and the lift continues to the ground floor. After that I make a promise to myself not to take any more lifts in India and use the damn stairs. At least they don’t rely on power to operate.

India is not without its share of crazy festivals, the orange-dressed Shiva’s had taken over the streets on their month-long pilgrimage to the Ganges to celebrate monsoon – or something like that. Nobody could really accurately tell us what was happening in English. Our hotel manager had mastered the word “yes” and so this was his answer to everything. These crazy orange-cloaked people, about a million of them – that’s how many crazy mofos are on the road driving like they have nine lives. They’re a very loud and proud cult, not only by choice of Pantone shade of their garments, but by their presence.

They drove down the streets of Bhaglapur with several trucks stacked high with sound monitors. A sheer wall of speakers pumping some kind of trance-ish hindi EDM and them sitting right beneath it, for hours on end. No wonder they’re deaf. The music would have been rather enjoyable if it wasn’t forcibly shoved in my ears along with the medley of truck and bus horns, bikes and cattle all contending for a piece of road real estate.  It’s maddening and dangerous and requires the body to produce its own Red Bull in order to stay alert and watch your six.

When we finally got out of dodgy, we decided to take the road less travelled and less mapped. It was a left or right option. Right was on the map, as was left, but our road atlas only had left and google maps had right. We chose Right because the road was smaller, and there was less chance of being harassed by bus drivers whose only intent was to make us scared.

Because of this gamble, we ended up in some of the most serene landscape I have experienced thus far in India. Bizarrely, we found gum trees lining the road, palms and an expanseful landscape of rice fields and farmers grazing cattle. This went on for 70km or so, and by the time we got to the end of it, we had been hit by the same thunderstorm four times. Each time it pelted down roads and flooded the potholes. It was by now that our windscreen wiper had given up the fight and was merely a hood ornament designed to distract, it wasn’t serving a purpose. There were less trucks and heaps of crazy idiots stacked high on cars and dressed in orange.

It was a long day, but a mostly pleasant one. Mostly...

Lunch was a roadside stop to find some Samosas, as was our usual ritual. I don't know where we had stopped, the town names aren't automatically in the town or on a sign. Not long after stopping, we were mobbed by tens of Indians keen for a peek at the white tourists in their little village. I'd gotten into a habit of sitting inside the Rickshaw and wearing one of my rings on my wedding finger. Women travelling alone in these parts is something of a red-flag to some in the less populated cities. It's just easier to avoid the riff-raff in this way. While Miss Bev went and searched for food, Mr Bev stayed with me and the rickshaw, being a human shield for the locals coming out to take a look. A little while later she comes back with some food for all of us, and we eat it in the Rickshaw before continuing on our journey.

The journey was uneventful for the next hour or so. We had travelled some distance from Baghlapur, and were trying to make it a few more hours south when I felt the hot, sharp rushing feeling in my intestines. I mentioned to the Bevs that I'd like to take a toilet break sometime soon, whenever a public restroom was easily found. I'm fine for a decent minute or two until I realise that that hot, rushing, sharp, immediate pain wasn't going to end in a leisurely bathroom break.

The bumps on the road are plentiful and my butt cheeks have the memory of trip firmly implanted in their muscles. My stomach is now in incredible pain as I try to hold on, but realise one of two things are going to now happen: 1) I won't make it to a restroom 2) I'm going to have to 'go' whereever I can find. I tell Miss Bev that I simply cannot wait. I . Literally. Can't. I can feel the hot, sharp, rushing pain move closer to earthside as I unclip my BlackRapid camera strap, hand the camera and the strap to Bev and scream "Stop , Stop, Stop!" Mr Bev pulls aside and I vaguely remembering "I need to go to the toilet now!" 

Miss Bev is on foot behind me as I stumble out of the Rickshaw, searching desperately for any sign of a public toilet. Met with a wall of houses, I'm frantically looking up alleyways, into peoples homes all while trying to hold my buttcheeks clenched tight. It's a losing battle. I run two houses  up the street and spy a cow in a paddock. BRILLIANT~ Cows poop in the paddocks all the time, what's the difference. It's behind a tall-ish fence and I'm sure it will afford me the luxury that I crave. I find a wall to lean against and squat down. Bev is hanging out at the gate, making sure nobody can come and interrupt me.

Almost instantaneously, a wall of hot, sharp, acid-like, maybe more napalm-like slop leaves my sore butt and I sigh in relief as the evil makes its way onto the ground. I'm afforded briefly around 10 seconds of peace before I'm interrupted. Bev has been holding back a hunched-back angry lady who is yelling at me in Hindi. Soon her whole family joins as they tilt their heads to examine the liquid that I have pooped against the wall of their house. We try and find some common language so I can tell her that I'm genuinely, truly sorry, but alas there is none. She's getting angry, her sons are getting angry and tensions are not easing. I ask bev to chuck me the wipes and they land pleasantly next to my feet. She chucks over a bag too, but looking at my leavings, there's no way I can scoop up poop soup with these wipes. I clean up my butt and throw the wipes in a bag, very slowly while communicating with Miss Bev, the new plan.

"Tell Bev to start the rickshaw, now" I say to bev. We're going to have to leg it. I'm slowly packing up my wipes into the bag.

"Now when we're done, I'm going to pretend that I'm going to clean this up, but really, we're going to RUN for the rickshaw." 

I continue to try and say I'm sorry to the angry lady who is shouting in furious hindi at me. You don't need to be an expert on language when someone is really, really pissed off.

I pick up my pants, and delicately, the bag containing my soiled wipes. "Ok lets go" I say to Bev. I move towards the gate, continually apologizing in English. We turn and spring to the Rickshaw. The more-athletic villagers chase us, and almost, rickshaw stalls, but starts again as we leap out of there and don't stop to say sorry for the billionth time. I feel like a jerk but I had no option.

Later that night I take a decent shower and we're all so exhausted that we fall asleep in the soothing air conditioning of Hotel Orbitz. The rickshaw fully broke again this afternoon, and with our afternoon cut short, limped it into Giridih.

There’s so many photos and yet so far to go. I’ll be definitely sorting photos for months after this trip. 

The tuk parked at the ganges view with locals.

Under the shade of a tree after escaping the crazy towns.

Ganges sunrise

Those orange guys shouting "walbum, walllllbummm, wallbum" or thats what it sounded like.

Chai is served in terracotta cups here. more hygenic and they throw them away. We kept ours though. They'll remind me of this city, always.

The open road and our glorious steed.

Chef cooking sweets

Rice farmers

The Lotus temple, with thunderstorm.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 adventure adventurists august bhaglapur bihar blog charmaynne farm fuel giridih hotel India indiasomeday inn liveoutsideyourcomfortzone lotus melsinclair Nikon orbitz photography quality rickshawrun roadtrip temple thunderstorm trees tuktuk whathaveigotmyselfinto https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/running-ragged Tue, 09 Aug 2016 03:12:08 GMT
Rickshaw Run Day 2, 3 and 4 https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/rickshaw-run-day-2-3-and-4 Get comfy in your seat, make yourself a coffee or get the popcorn, ths is going to be a long post.

Oh my gosh internet, I am glad to see you!

The last few days have been bedlam, seeing me finish every single one in an exhausted heap. Where was I at? Did I tell you about waking up in the convent on the hardest beds imaginable? I imagine it’s akin to sleeping in prison – no comfort whatsoever. I had become convinced that even the floor would have more give in it than what would pass for a bed. Mind you, the room in the convent did look a little military, but it was a lovely night I guess, there was something about it that made it befitting of the first night of the Rickshaw Run – the randomness, the make-it-up-as-you-go and the stifled laughs.

We headed off early after sunrise and had a few KMs to drive through some stunning scenic wooded area of the East and West Garo hills. It is an area that is mostly in flood at the moment. Because it is so scenically beautiful, I would have loved to have spent more time capturing it, but alas we had to pursue onwards.  We had to cross the large river from Meghalaya into Assam, and get to the next major town before sunset.

As it turns out, the main highway connecting Meghalaya and the rest of India leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a two-sided carriageway by design, but only one and a bit of it is completed. Everytime there is a river, which is about every 50-100m, the road tapers off, turns to rough, course gravel, and you have to go head-on with crazy, manical bus drivers, truck drivers, motorbikes and cars. It’s dog-eat-dog out there, and only the equally crazy survive. In order to earn respect on these streets, you need to drive like them.

Also another thing, it’s customary here to honk or lean on your horn when passing another car. Its not a rude thing usually, it’s “I’m behind you and I want to overtake you.” That’s all well and good until you get the trucks and the buses who have the loudest, musical horns which just pierce you eardrums and almost paralyse you. Being meek and giving way will mean you will be stuck forever, until a roadtrain or bus comes up behind you and deafens you into the disability scheme. Annoyingly, they do this whether you have somewhere to go or not. If the traffic is at a standstill, they’re driving on the shoulder into oncoming traffic to get around.

Add the difficulty of the roads which are in incredibly poor condition. It’s not really a road by this time, in this state. It’s more of a goat track with the occasional splash of bitumen, added as an after-thought. Mostly the women end up doing road repairs and they’re just throwing gravel into the craters to fill them up. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. The potholes are meant to calm down the crazy truck drivers who are mostly high on a number of drugs not available where I’m from. Added that there’s no such thing as a speed camera or roadside drug testing over where, and well, it’s a rough place to be.

But wait, there’s more.

Because cows here are sacred, they’re allowed to go wherever they desire. The same goes with the goats and the dogs, the occasional pigs and sometimes you even find grain sellers drying out their maize in the slip lanes of major highways. The back of trucks ask you to “Obey the road rules” but one has to wonder, what the hell are they?!

This occurs on big roads and little roads alike. The tuk tuk is not suited to navigating the potholes that the trucks drive through like it’s just a speed bump. Often it’s a mix of all the rides at Dreamworld combined into a scary indian-inspired mix of terror and thrill.  Sometimes more terror, sometimes more thrill. It definitely makes a stiff drink at the end of the day well-earned and welcomed.

Monsoon has well and truly hit, we’ve been getting up early around 4:30am and departing the accommodation by 5pm in order to take advantage of the non-existent traffic and the fact that you can get a chai and an Aloo Paratha or Roti and pickle or something and something that looks like food, from any roadside stall along the way. Really starting to appreciate the breads made and cooked in the tandoor or in oil. However they do it, you get to eat it the second they come from the pan and so you know it’s fresh and isn’t going to give you any grief.

I’ve had some issues over the last few days, namely with dehydration. The temperatures down in the rest of India have been a little excessive, so I find myself really suffering in it. I’ve gotten a bit of heat rash which I’m treating and sometimes a sensitive stomach once I take my anti-malarials. The doxy has given me a killer tan this far, reminding me of how white-girl I was before I got here. My fitbit serves as a reminder of that, I have this really neat little tan.

Yesterday was the day that started out with so much promise. We left our hotel in Gossaigoan for Siliguri or Darjeeling. After getting lost on local roads and realising that we were nowhere near the tea terraces we had hoped for, we pulled over for fuel. Filling up was a bit of a drama, every motorcycle was gathered around a single pump. It was like lining up for a drink at a music festival. Sweaty, rude and not at all pleasant, we got our tank, plus two plastic jerrys filled up and we were off on our way.

For about 10 metres.

While trying to get back onto the road, our noble tuk splattered and stalled repeatedly, until we finally gave in and decided to park it to take a look.

Well, I have never seen anything like it. This is just a main road going through town, but somehow, all of a sudden this huge crowd of locals had gathered to watch what was going on. Its rubbernecking to the extreme, and something I’ll never ever get used to. So we’re clearly the whitest white folk that have ever broken down in their village, and we were the star attractions.

Mr Bev was at the back of the rickshaw tinkering, trying to figure out what was wrong. We had the wheels chocked with a rock, and while we were standing around wondering how we could help, we saw one team go past, this one had one of the camera guys for the documentary in it. We flagged them down and got them to stop. They were happy to keep us company on the long fix, filming sections of this insane crowd that had come to watch. At one stage, there were so many people that we caused a traffic jam. Trucks cruised past and blocked traffic to have a laugh about the silly westerners that had come stranded.

By far, one of the most weird things I have encountered so far, is the fascination with western travellers. This is most likely due to the fact that where we started in Shillong wasn’t a massive tourist hub like the south. They really love their selfies. REALLY love their selfies. So for the next two hours while Mr Bev was trying to get the problem sorted with the help of local mechanics, the endless line of selfies was a thing. The crowd stood there like cows on the road, no idea whether this is a professional sport or not. I’m getting rather tired of being looked at like a captive animal, no matter where we go, people stop and stare. Constanty.

Those who know me personally know that I don’t really get into this narcissistic hobby and couldn’t really give two shits about selfies. Problem is that Indian men and women really love taking selfies with foreigners, and multiple to make sure they turn out correctly. So far my most annoying one was the morning before the breakdown. We stopped to check on something, a local came in and took a selfie with each of the bevs, then saw me and kept snapping shots, each time putting his cheek harder against mine. Personal space invasion. It was disgusting.

So after two hours of a breakdown, we got back on the road with our friends Mitsy and Eamon who decided to join us in Siliguri for the night. Seeing Darjeeling had been dashed by the breakdown, we had to just continue on as there was not much more time to go and get accommodation before night set in. Finally we found a place, yet again with the rock-hard beds we had begun to loathe. There is simply no way to get comfortable on them.

And fast forward to today. After a really average sleep on our sack-of-shit beds, we headed to a local tea garden in Siliguri to capture the morning light over the tea fields, before heading south towards Purdina and the Ganges river to mark yet another day of travel well earned. We caught a couple of monkeys playing in the field and this in turn provided something different to photograph other than the landscape. I’ve been finding myself sliding more into the travel documentary style of image rather than a straight landscape. It’s refreshing and I’m embracing it.

It is becoming rapidly apparent that the further south we travel, the traffic just gets worse. The ballsy attitude that one needs to survive here needs to get tougher and the roads just become more congested. It’s a wonder that there isn’t a higher road toll, I simply cannot describe how scary it can be sometimes. It’s character building I tell you.

Crossing the Ganges bridge today was, by far, one of the craziest drives that we’ve had so far. It’s just like a puzzle piece, everyone has a place at a certain point in time, and you need  to be hypervigilant because one lapse of judgement could be bad. It’s about being so switched on that your eyes may as well be propped open with toothpicks, don’t you dare blink.

And now, after this crazy long time on the road filming and taking photos, were in Bhaglapur where we just happened to come across a Hindi celebration festival where there’s people riding around giant speakers on trucks blasting some traditional music. There’ some kids dressed in orange and white t-shirts with script on them, and they’re wet. I assume they’ve been bathing in the Ganges, this supposedly sacred body of water, with bodies in it.

And here's a smashing of images from the last few days!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 India RickshawRun blog conditions crowds dogs gardens highway in india indiasomeday maize melsinclair monkeys people photography quirksofindia quirky road strange tea theadventurists things travelyourway https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/rickshaw-run-day-2-3-and-4 Sun, 07 Aug 2016 14:15:09 GMT
Rickshaw Run Day One! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/rickshaw-run-day-one And we’re off! This out-of-this-world crazy adventure that we’ve undertaken has finally seen us depart Shillong and head into the hills with our common sense flung out the window the second we signed up for this journey.

We always knew that the Rickshaw Run would throw us some curveballs and the first day has proved no exception. We’ve driven 180 kilometres, at 30kmph through sun, wind and unrelenting pelting rain. We’ve run out of fuel twice, by design not by accident, and we’ve waved and shaken hands with so many people who think the circus has come to town.

It is with that free will that we set off from Shillong this morning, full of hopes and dreams, knowing the road would surprise us. We knew that we didn’t have our first night sorted out, that was left up to chance and our inventiveness in finding lodging preferably with a roof. We ended up in Shallang before daylight ran out, in need of accommodation and having an entire village laughing at us for our foolishness. I’ve still got to get used to the stares from locals when we stop in a town, the confused looks and glee from small children.

We asked and asked, both in Nangshoin around midday and then again in Shallang. No guesthouses. But there was a Cathloic Convent.

So, we’re staying at a Convent tonight. In Shallang.

Father Bartholomew was ever so gracious to take us in, the alternative of which was looking like a roadside hayshed or asking a family if we could sleep on their floor. After some of the best Chai I’ve ever had, some jackfruit crisps and talked about the area.

He then agreed that we could stay here, and showed us our rooms.

It was gods’ will that we would be here tonight, perhaps the chance I have to make a change in my life, but we will see. I’m staying at the convent, having a Gin and Juice on the back porch with the mozzies, thinking that life is great and that this is going to be the most pious 12hrs of my life.

We’ve got dinner with the congregation tonight at 8pm, we’re hoping that we can break it to them that we’ll be leaving at 5am. Else there might be a service. Dunno.

Life is about adventures, and this is most certainly one of those.

Day one done and dusted, it can only get more interesting from here.

Here's the images from Today

At a servo just outside of town, first fuel stop on the open road

At the starting line

Stunning country scenes

We drove into the storm

About to drive into the storm, again

Basic lodgings at the Convent. Better than sleeping beside the road!

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 assam assamsomeday blog d2bhealthy gosssaigaon india indiasomeday landscape meghalaya melsinclair ontheroadagain photography rickshawrun roadtrip shallang shillongtokochi theadventurists https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/rickshaw-run-day-one Fri, 05 Aug 2016 13:59:57 GMT
Behind the tourist face https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/behind-the-tourist-face It’s getting very real now.

We saw the rickshaw yesterday and she’s a beaut! Some final touches and she’ll be totally ready for this crazy caper. More teams are arriving and one by one we’re starting to all get to know each other. After all, there’s a fair chunk of us all staying in the same guest house and fighting over the same wifi.

These next few days in Shillong are all about getting to know the Rickshaw, how it drives, how to fix it when it breaks (because it will) and making it as homely as possible before getting real acquainted with the Indian backstreets and highways.

I’ve had my first reaction to food thus far, not because it was bad food – the bevs ate the same plate as I did and they weren’t sick – so I put it down to the complex flavours that were in the dishes. Last night was made particularly unpleasant by one of the neighbours of this guest house. A man who is clearly very sick by the tone of his deep soul-choking cough, unrelenting morning, noon and night. I feel sorry for him because it must be hell to live like that, but that’s how it goes around here. Accept it or don’t – but it’s easier just to accept that you can’t help everyone.

There’s some complex begging going on in the main streets of the Police Bazaar (one of the main “malls” if you want a western comparison. It’s not simply a very poor person rattling a cup. They do that, but it’s the ones targeted at tourists, in particular female tourists that really makes my skin crawl. I was forewarned about it, but it’s just so low that I couldn’t ignore explaining it here.

Here’s how it works:

A woman will come up to you cradling a very young baby. It’ll be wrapped in her sari, or it will be concealed. She’ll show you the poor little baby with big eyes and she’ll ask you to buy for formula to feed her baby. She’ll take you to a local seller, pharmacy or some sort of corner store that sells it. She’ll try to con you into buying multiple tins/boxes. You pay for however much she cons you into buying. She’ll be very thankful and appreciative. When you leave, she’ll go back to the store right away, and return it. The shopkeeper will be in on this scam. He will take a cut from the return and give the beggar a percentage of the returned money. He then gets to restock the item on the shelves. From here, the scam continues.

The baby gets none of this, still living a continuing cycle of poverty and malnourishment.

~~~~

Anyway, there’s been some strange things we’ve seen here on the streets, in the markets as well.

We’ve seen a haul of pigs arrive to the market in a share taxi. I’ve seen a live chicken killed and prepared for sale. We’ve scoured markets for packaged items that are in-date. We’ve eaten some delicious food in some delicious restaurants that cost us no more than AUD $2.50 to feed the 3 of us until we were stuffed. The oddities keep coming, but that is the way it is around here we’re told. Perfectly imperfect India.

Anyway, here’s another image haul that  I posted on Facebook yesterday.

PLEASE BE WARNED THAT SOME OF THESE IMAGES MAY OFFEND. IF YOU DO NOT LIKE TO SEE HOW YOUR MEAT IS PREPARED, PLEASE DO NOT TAKE IT OUT ON ME. I AM MERELY THE PHOTOGRAPHER CAPTURING LIFE AS IT IS HERE.

Two pretty photos first, then the real ones begin. Don't say you weren't warned.

Building scaffolding. This is safety in action.

No part of an animal is wasted. A local butcher carves meat at Bara Bizaar.

Nikon shops everywhere!

An edit of Bev standing at the end of an alley.

A man works in his Laundry using an old-fashioned coal-powered iron.

Beef is sold at a backstreet butcher. Lights are powered by car batteries. There is no cooling, meat is cut and sold.

Pork is sold at a backstreet butcher. This is common and completely normal.

A man rests next to a fruit merchant, downtown Shillong.

Recycling in action. You drink the soft drink at the shop and deposit the bottle in the crate at the same shop.

Lime is mixed with betel nut and chewed. The lime is commonly rubbed on walls like chewing gum is for us.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 India beggars blog butchers fruit landscape markets melsinclair merchant photographer photography rickshaw run scams shillong shopping someday somedays the travel tuktuk https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/8/behind-the-tourist-face Mon, 01 Aug 2016 02:04:46 GMT
Rickshaw Running 2016: Archery https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/archery If someone had said to me a year ago that Archery is a sport – nay – a way of income for the Assamese people, I’d have never believed you. This afternoon we headed down to the Shillong Polo Club to see the daily Archery being played. Initially standing in the public area looking very much like tourists, we soon found our groove and were treated like royalty by the organisers. Tourists are uncommon in those parts. History which has drifted from Nepal and Bhutan into this region of India, has brought this ancient sport back to the fore. It is a means of income for many, and a source of addiction, just like any gambling is.

 It’s a special thing to see though; men and boys squat low with a handmade bow and a quiver of unique arrows. Over a few minutes, hundreds of arrows are flung at a straw target.

To bet on this sport, one has to guess the number of arrows in the final target, out of 100, but only down to the last two digits. Today’s round one total came to 759, so 59 was the winning number. Second round had 612 arrows in the target, so the winning number was 12. You get to pick as many numbers as you like for a set fee.

There is beauty in the detail of this sport, so I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

 

Many archers wait to start the round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An archer sorts and checks his arrows before the next round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The crowd watch the counting of the final number of arrows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Officials count and double check the final amount of arrows that landed in the target.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An archer checks the integrity of his arrows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Officials continue to sort and count the final number, starting with a pile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrows in the target

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archers wait for the next round to start

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An archer lines up his shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bookie watches all official proceedings, even helps with the final tallies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My lucky numbers?! Not so lucky, but oh well.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 and archery assamsomeday betting black blog India indiasomeday melsinclair nikon photoessay photography shillong travel travelsomeday white https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/archery Sat, 30 Jul 2016 14:46:33 GMT
Rickshaw Running 2016: Nooks and Crannies https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/nooks-and-crannies Since getting into Shillong a few days ago, some things have become very apparent:

  1. The internet is a fickle beast, you get a good few minutes, and then it falls off. Rinse and repeat. Too bad if you’re lost… I wish I’d brought a compass right now.
  2. There is no standard for electricity wiring. So long as it gets there. Watch your head when you walk if you’re tall…
  3. There’s no such thing as a bin on the streets for all your waste or recycling…
  4. There’s rarely lines on the road. It’s a free for all.
  5. They don’t shower. They fill a bucket and then tip it all over themselves, the bathroom floor, the toilet, their dry clothes…
  6. Butchers are street vendors WITHOUT electricity in most cases. Hence why I’m going to be vegetarian here.
  7. This is life, in its rawest of functions. Embrace it because else the realisations will cripple you.
  8. They don’t have a system where you can dial a taxi from your phone. You have to hail one the old fashioned way. Even if that means running into traffic and catching them like Pokemon.
  9. They get up late. It’s like Melbourne.
  10. There’s no “grocery” stores. It’s all markets. Each nook or cranny has its own speciality. It’s like going on a treasure hunt, all the time.

We've been poking around Bara Bazaar, the largest market that I've ever seen. There's fruit and vegetables, spices, meats (more on this in a moment) textiles, cooking goods, clothes ... everything you'd expect in a market.

So the meat thing... in this part of India, the far north-east corner, the bit that everyone forgets is India, there's a large Catholic population. It's not all buddhists (those are the people that worship cows and wouldn't eat them) There's a little bit of nepalese influence and so in these parts, its not uncommon to find beef on the menu. As we venture into the more "mainstream" parts of India, that will definitely be off the menu. But alas, as already advised, I'm going vegetarian to avoid any larger issues with meat health and safety. In these parts, it's also uncommon to have a fridge, so meat is sold without the use of it, even in Monsoon. Women are out early, buying meat for the day, plus all fruit and vegetables, spices and rice.

The Bazaar is a bizarre place to walk, I feel out of place, but with a male in our group (male Bev) I know I'm protected. I'm uncertain of what it'd be like to walk alone or in an all-female group, however the people here are still friendly. The mornings are bright and beautiful, in the afternoons, the storms roll in with a smug predictability. The clouds linger low, the people cease rushing around and almost disappear. Then the heavens open up and all trapped in its path are showered. Though I have formed a new appreciation for how people live and what they consider to be modern, civilisation...

What I haven't gotten used to is the sound of the Truck and Bus Horns. Oh lordy, I can still feel the shrill sound of the pitch in my bones.

Alcohol here is also not very widespread. There's no chains and they're all independant stores. They're mostly named "Wine Stores" and the wine is like off-grape juice. There is no refinement, it's like a wall of sugar and juice thats sat in the sun for hours on end. If you're in India and after a drink, go for beer or sprits. THere's also no interaction with the store, the wine and reading the labels. It's liek a ciggy counter here in Australia. You tell the attendant what you want, and they give you options.

The Gin and Tonic will have to do for a while. There's no fridge and not much Tonic around. Juice it is. Gin and Juice. Tonic is only for the larger cities. Though it's hard to want to dull the senses, there's so much to be alert for. Melatonin is my friend for now, helping me get to sleep on the rock solid beds.

Save the wine experience for France. Seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 alleys assamsomeday bara bizaar blog butcher india indiasomeday landscape market meghalaya melsinclair photography police pork quirks shillong streets travelphotography travelyourway vegetables https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/nooks-and-crannies Sat, 30 Jul 2016 01:43:25 GMT
Rickshaw Running 2016 - Double Decker Living Root Bridges https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/double-decker-living-root-bridges They say that you make a few inspirational trips in your life, a few that stick with you. I think today was one of those days. We're in Cherrapunjee, up high in the mountains of India, among lush forests and heaving streams. It's the Monsoon season, so its hot, sticky and moist. As soon as we wake up there's a thin sheen of sweat on my brow, and it sometimes feels like someone has cranked 90% on the humidifier. But this is life.

I now have this amazing appreciation for the hard workers around India, the mothers, fathers, children and their way of life. How incredibly fit these people are, I was lost for words, several times… Large sacks of food, building materials and everything else carried in on foot. Up hills, across tensioned cable bridges, rain, hail or shine.

Not many people had heard of this wonderful part of the world, and not many photographers from Australia had photographed these living, breathing and bridges that are totally alive, thanks to the power of nature and a few ingenious folk of the region. Each of these bridges takes at least 15 years to bring to fruition, and most are over 50 years old to even support human weight. We watched the old man pull up the new dangling growths and entangle them into the existing part of the bridge. It was one of those moments where the penny dropped "well DUH of course that's how they're made!"

They’re so grand, you hear about them when you read about the region, but seeing them – and the only double-decker living root bridge in the world, nothing prepares you for how cool and how beautiful it is. Lush green and moist forest, surging pale-turquoise water rushes over the largest boulders I’ve ever seen. The smell of earth is intoxicating, the purity of oxygen takes you to a dizzying high. It’s all just overwhelming.

Walking across the bridges is a cooee back to childhood. It’s like the very best treehouse you ever had, times a million. There’s a playful innocence, an adventurous wonder and a bit of blind faith put into crossing these amazing bridges. They blend in so perfectly with their surroundings – after all, they’re just trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get there though, that’s the tough part. You can take a car to the starting point of the walk, from there, it’s 1600 steps down to the junction where you choose which bridge you want to see. If you choose the Double-Decker Living Root Bridge – the only one of its kind in the world, you’re signing yourself up for easily another 1000 steps, a couple of suspension bridges and passing through some amazing little villages along the way. If you choose the long root bridge, you’re taking a bit of an easy way out, this one is pretty straightforward, but I think is one of the prettiest, besides the double.

These bridges are well worth the efforts, just make sure you have some sturdy legs for a 2-hour near vertical ascent of steps when you finish. I'm not joking, there were thousands of steps. What goes deep down into the valley has to come back up again. 

But the payoff, whooa. Seriously epic.

There's even little homestays in the valley, so in theory you could stay a night or two, bathe in the fresh waters, explore the other bridges in the area and seriously soak it all up before returning to reality. We spent about an hour wandering around the base of the bridge, and most likely because I was photographing from every angle. And thats what you have to do, exhaust a location because you never know when you're going to come back. There's so much untouced beauty, no tourists- nada.

When the time came that I was done, and the Bevs were done, we began on our trip back up the hill. Monsoon made the hike back up the hill seriously strenuous. Add an extra 10kg of camera gear and the stairs were absolute torture.

I was suffering for my art... and it hurt, I just hope I did the location its best.

One foot in front of the other, up and up and up. I'd go 20 steps and need a break.

The air was thick and soupy, the clouds were greying up and I could still see a mountain of steps in front of me, stacked up like dominoes. My head was pounding as if it were my heart, my face hot and exhausted and my eyes felt like they were bursting out of my skull. Up and up and up. One.Step.More. In a testament to her athletic ability, Miss Bev was ahead and had reached the top before us all, calling for the Taxi so that it was waiting for us when we all got to the top. Up and up, my muscles ached, my mouth was thirsty for a sip of cold water, but alas I'd have to wait. We bailed into the taxi like sacks of potatoes, utterly drained from the day. Getting out of the taxi to our accommodation, legs heavy and feet sore. I couldn't wait for a shower, even if it was kind of on the cold side. Anything right now would be refreshing.

After showers and clean clothes, different shoes, we gathered around the fire in the Bevs room and ordered in food from the restaurant to the room. We ate on the floor in front of the fire and got to bed early. Totally drained. That night, my feet felt as if they had their own heartbeat. Each step was like trying to break my arch and stumble into the bathroom, tiled by cold, uneven bits of slate. Tomorrow we'd be heading to Shillong, the starting point of our Rickshaw Run. It was to be a few days of getting the Tuktuk together getting our lives together and everything prepared for this mad race.

The internet here has been touch-and-go. Like a gypsy rolling in and out of town...

~

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) blog guwahati india indiasomeday livingrootbridge meghalaya melsinclair people photography shillong travel https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/double-decker-living-root-bridges Thu, 28 Jul 2016 13:01:21 GMT
Rickshaw Running 2016: Cherrapunjee https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/cherrapunjee Day 3 in India.

I woke early in Guwahati due to:

  1. A very hard bed
  2. Being jetlagged and stuck in AU time
  3. Poor ventilation of room – can’t open the window, mozzies will eat me.
  4. Excitement for the day ahead – time to see the luscious borderlands! We're heading to Cherrapunjee (or Cherrapunjii)

Before we headed out, it was time for breakfast, so we wandered down to the local fish auctions...

It was the day that we were going to do the “long” 150km drive at 40km/h due to the impossibly winding roads and some really questionable driving from other vehicles.

It was Cherrapunjee day, to head into the mountains and to see what the “Scotland of India” was really like. I had looked at all the websites and images I could get my hands on, I was prepared to be wowed by the scenery, and I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

The drive up was fairly fun, despite the slow going traffic, we had Bohemian Rhapsody to listen to, plus a heap of hits from several years ago, this helped keep the spirit jubilant despite the driving rain. The no-seatbelt in the back thing was a bit odd to get used to, but the leather seats made for some old-fashioned corner fun, with miss bev and I sliding around.  The clouds were definitely clinging to the side of the mountains; we couldn’t see a thing over what was supposed to be a very beautiful view. Arriving into Cherrapunjee itself, we couldn’t see much for the low clouds and the constant rain.

We found our accommodations – gorgeous little cottages, each completely different, I have a white-themed one and the Bevs have this racy animal-print inspired villa. It’s a little bit cosy with a roaring fire and this outdoor shower. You don’t come to Sa-i-mika Park because it’s perfect – it’s not – but that’s where its charm is. All the comforts of life, but not a television set in sight. Replacing it is the most stunning green rolling hills, a cool breeze and each villa has been made with available materials from the surrounding areas. It’s like that proverbial cabin that you seek out in the woods – a retreat from the busyness of life, and it’s just splendid. Each morning there's low cloud and it looks foggy. Disoriented one morning, I thought I'd been transported to Soviet Russia, the old and makeshift play equipment giving me the full haunted experience.

Ironically, some are made of wood, straw and some of stone. The wooden ones have fireplaces, and the blankets smelt like someone had let the fire go all night while they slept. Thank goodness for sleeping bag liners. Overall though, it had to be one of the most memorable stays in India.
 

 

As we were tucking into lunch, the thick, heavy clouds that had stuck to the mountains began to show that they were lifting. A window, literally a window appeared in the clouds, parted and bared blue sky. As the hour progressed, it spread, until eventually we were in full sunlight.

This, as we were told when we found the manager, was the first time in two weeks when the rain had stopped. We organised a driver quickly so we could get out to make use of the sunshine.  Our driver arrived faster than we expected and we set off to see the sights of Cherrapunjee wondering when or IF the weather would set in again.

As it turns out, it stayed clear all afternoon. Clouds revealed magnificent waterfalls, sunlight broke through grey clouds and it actually became quite warm. Another thing that we noticed; locals were doing washing. This, ordinarily wouldn’t be anything interesting to us, but since people dress so colourfully around here, the washing is vibrant and perky. Silhouetted against the sunlight or over-exposed, the humble washing became a star for my lens. The townsfolk were consumed by washing – first sunny break in 2 weeks, everything was getting washed!

Tomorrow we hit the famous Living Root bridges. It’s going to be a long day of hiking and exploring the lower reaches of Meghalaya. I can’t wait to show you what I come back with!

Since it’s probably my first chance to show you any photos from India, I’ll let the images do the talking for the rest of the post. There’s been some cracker moments, and these are just the preliminary edits. I know I am going to fill tonnes of memory cards capturing this amazing part of Assam.

Updated: more photos from this amazing part of the world.

^^Looking over the mountain and into Bangladesh. We never actually went down there, but had a good look at the Deltas flooding.

^^ Among the clouds!

^^ Looking down into the area around Nongriat village

^^ As we'd gotten to Cherrapunjee a few days after 2 weeks of rain, everyone was putting their washing out! I couldn't resist photographing peoples laundry, it was fascinating!

^^ Who needs a fire station when you get THIS much rain each year. Apparently its around 11,400mm of rain, which is 11.4m of rain each year! Wowzers.

Sa-i-mika Park,our accommodation for 3 nights.

^^ Dining room of our accommodations.

^^ Bev is a turtle? Using local rain covers.

^^ waterfalls lookout point.

^^ Toll booth on the way up to Cherrapunjee from Guwahati.

^^ The Inn that we had breakfast at. There's no designated breakfast food in these parts in the north, we mostly had Roti and a dipping sauce.

^^ Marvel at the unfinished buildings.

^^ FIsh Markets.

^^ The only photo I got of my hotel room in Guwahati. I must have been tired to only capture this one.

^^ CHAI

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) assam blog cherrapunjee cherrapunji India indiasomeday landscape meghalaya melsinclair photography rickshawrun https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/cherrapunjee Thu, 28 Jul 2016 01:07:29 GMT
Rickshaw Running 2016: Guwahati - Day 2 https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/guwahati-day-2  

I had to wake early today to get to the domestic airport for my flight to Guwahati to finally meet up with the Bevs. Having some jetlag of sorts, I first woke around 2:30am, 3:10am and finally 4:30am before I decided it was dumb to sleep and started packing my things. For those uncertain of the time difference, we’re 4.5 hours behind, so my 3:10am is just after 7:30am in Australia – my pre-programmed “holy crap I slept in” body alarm.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and value on IndiGO air, the cabin was clean and super-efficient. I’m not sure why I expected anything else, being here a day has made me realise that I need to lower my standards a fair bit, and then everything makes sense.

As I was told, there was a driver waiting at the airport to pick me up, a lovely fellow with lots of smiles to give. Turns out he was an Uber driver. How they make a buck I don’t know, traffic is like migrating fish all stuck at the entrance to a pipe. Not long after he’d picked me up, he says “I don’t speak English” in perfect English. I wasn’t sure if this was a ploy or just a well-practiced verse. Turns out it was the latter. We spent most of the car ride attempting a conversation in broken indian-pigeon English, but in the end it was useless, so I sat back to enjoy the ride… as best as I could, having no idea where I was or how long it'd take to get there. As I came into town, I was checking the doors to make sure they were locked and that my camera gear wasn't obvious to the passer-bys. I don't know why I thought this would be an issue, but I was on alert as I had no way of contacting the Bevs, so all my faith was in a guy I couldn't communicate with.

I had plenty of time to practice not-being-shocked by the things I saw on route from the airport to the hotel. Practicing my ‘putting down the eyebrows’ when something was confronting was an active way to realise that this is just the way it is; accept it or don’t, but it’s easier just to accept.

A local shoe salesman in the Guwahati bazaar.

By far the biggest shock for me is the animals that line the streets.

Oh, and the streets, but more on that soon.

Since cows are gods, they can go wherever they like. My car who picked me up from the airport patiently sat behind a cow waiting for it to move of the road before continuing. I watched monkeys scatter from awning to awning as they chased each other. Commorant-like birds picked at garbage waiting for collection and dogs roamed the streets like little old men.

While most would feel sympathetic for the animals, my experience with homeless dogs in South America woke me up to the fact that you just can’t really do anything to help them, just accept and don’t let it get you down. If you feed them, they'll follow you. They're not domesticated so best treat them like dingoes. They’re as common to them as the Ibis is to us, that funny little junkyard-bird with the long bill that roams the streets. Same same, but different!

The streets are odd. They’re mostly raised platforms, at least 30cm in height in most places. In shorter stature, poor miss Bev is having the workout of her life going up and down these pavements. Because the pavement is uneven, most people walk on the side of the roads, mingling with the cars, bikes and rickshaws. Its an interesting combination and something I’m slowly getting used to.

Richskaw driver having a nap

India so far:

So far, so good. I’m really loving how much of a culture shift it is, the photographic opportunities are really good and I can’t wait to get to Cherapunjee today to see “The Scotland of the East” or “The abode of the clouds” as they call it. Whatever it is, it sounds a-ma-zing.

The food is awesome. While I’ve had a rumbly stomach eating some things, it hasn’t turned bad for me... yet. The local cuisines around here are delectable, cheap and cooked with love and pride. We chanced across a slightly-pricier place last night, a cozy yet upscale place in the backstreets of Guwahati called Hot Pot which was an Indian, Chinese and Asian fusion restaurant. We dug into a Pork Curry which had large chunks of slow-cooked pork, enough spice to be pleasant and this amazing butter masala paneer curry. I had to order an extra roti to enjoy the sauce in this one.

Almost time for breakfast! I wonder what an Assamese breakfast is like. The Bevs are also taking me to see the fish market because of the photographic opportunities. It’s 5:30am local time here, early start for a long drive up a slow distance.

Catch you all tomorrow, hopefully with more active internet.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 assam blog India melsinclair photography rickshawrun https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/guwahati-day-2 Thu, 28 Jul 2016 01:03:03 GMT
Mad Mumbai https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/mad-mumbai “Ruthless, ruthless, ruthless” he exclaimed passionately, his beard silvered age and no doubt, experience. The syllables rolled off his tongue like a Russian post-war car struggling to start.

“They’re Ruthless around here, be careful, please.” He looked into my eyes, thinking that a naïve girl from Australia was here for an adventure. He wanted a promise back, so I said, “Okay, I understand.”

“Have you been to India before?” He asks.

“No,’ I reply, hesitantly, ‘first time…”

He lets out a deep chucking laugh as if he were at a comedy show. I begin to look a little worried.

“I do not want to scare you, but you need to be careful. Are you meeting people? I hope you are, I will say no more.”

I hadn’t felt unnerved until I had boarded my flight for Mumbai from Abu Dhabi, but now, in the shadow of the window seat that I had, I felt a little wary. Our conversation was interrupted by a national who sat between us, and from there, the discussion was kept minimal.

The flight from Abu Dhabi was long, hot and packed. I had a vegetarian meal that had quite a bit of spice in it. The rest, as they say, was uneventful.

On the tarmac, we get into the shuttle buses to take us to the main terminal, and again I run into this well-travelled Russian chap. He starts telling me about the slums that we had passed on landing and talking about the caste system and the beliefs. He reveals that he’s a concrete worker, a businessman of sorts. A bit jaded with how it all works, we walk into the main terminal and he translates that we need to get another passenger card filled out.

He’s short of a pen and there’s people everywhere. I loan him one of mine.

Waiting in line for the final immigration card felt forever. But finally I got my stamps and was on my way. Through the arrivals hall, collected my bag and made my way out. Tried to get swindled into converting some currency, I withheld, for now, travel money card will suffice.

As I’m about to get called over to finish my immigration, he walks over to me, hands me my pen, plus 2000 Rupee.

“I won’t accept no for an answer, here’s something for coffee.” He replies. I look at the notes. Before I can even surmise a response, he has disappeared.

It all hit home when I met up with the airport charter to get taken to the hotel. Rickshaws, everywhere. It’s sinking in.

This is real.

This is happening.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/mad-mumbai Sun, 24 Jul 2016 09:50:49 GMT
Pre-India Madness https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/pre-india-madness NEWS, OMG NEWS, SO SORRY ITS BEEN SO LONG, I'VE BEEN TOO BUSY!

Oh my gosh, I've been so busy preparing for India, London and the upcoming One of a Kind Photography Adventures Iceland trip!

I've got an incredible 7 weeks overseas and I feel about as prepared as I did when I booked my flights. It's been madness. Between work and figuring out my entries for AIPP APPA this year, I've hardly had any time to blog!

So much has happened!

My RAW showcase went well, sold a few prints. Funnily enough my picture "Sun Dancer" was the most commented on image, most couldn't believe that the beautiful scene was from Brisbane! Just goes to show why professional image makers are the ones to get when you need to polish a turd. (sorry nudgee beach, you're ugly but I love you still).

I sold a couple of prints and had a great night connecting with the larger art-loving community in Brisbane.

What Else?

TASMANIA

I went down to Tasmania to visit my good friend, have a few days in the country and dabble in some photography. Mostly it was to catch up with some friends and get away from the city. Since Winter was dragging its feet getting to Queensland, I decided that a weekend in Tasmania was just what I needed to get the photographic bloods flowing again.

It worked, I came back with some images that are really different. Despite the heavy rainfall that set in towards the end, and the horrific flooding that followed, I made it out safe without any interruptions. Crazy to see as much water that I did. I count myself lucky in not getting stuck by floodwaters.

Right!

INDIA - I'M STILL DOING THE RICKSHAW RUN

Wow, so many things have conspired since we last talked blog!

I know, I know I've been shocking.

So, 23rd July I depart, and then I'm doing this crazy thing in India for a month. London for a week to catch up with a very good friend and do some sightseeing, and then over to Iceland to take the OOAK Tour with Timothy Poulton. Crazy times! I intend to blog as much as possible and make this one of the craziest travel journals ever. Are you in?

I'm going to be travel blogging here and on our Rickshaw Run blog page. Of which I'll provide links to later.

We've got a dedicated Instagram account for the trip stuff. I'll make all this clearer when I'm not downloading my brain.

If you have read any past blogs where I detailed my daily happenings and shenanigans, then you'll know how entertaining they can be.

If you've never heard of the Rickshaw Run, here's a little idea:

 

 

Other than that, I've been picking around things locally trying to catch the elusive fog on my free mornings. It's proving a little difficult.

I had a chance to get the NiSi 15-stop filter to aide my long exposures to make them looooong exposures. It's pretty awesome what you  can get from this filter!

Previously, I also had the chance to get onto the rooftop of one of the city buildings for an event, so naturally one takes their camera and shoots pictures along the way:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHY ISNT IT FOGGY

 

 

South East Queensland,

We need to have a little talk.

One of our favourite members of the community has gone missing, refusing to come out of hiding. Are you being a rude host? I think you are.

It’s Lady Foggingwell, she’s usually gracing the serene estuaries and caressing the surface of lakes around this time, but she is nowhere to be seen!

 

New South Wales has reported that she wasn’t late, she has been seen around the New England area as promised, but she refuses to enter the sunshine state. This cannot happen. I demand you make her feel welcome at once!

 

Now I see you haven’t been a very welcoming host. You have failed to produce the humidity levels that she likes to live in, you brought those rude cousins from the South, the Westerlies  and let them visit early. You know Lady Foggingwell doesn’t get on with those types.

 

We’re well into winter now South East Queensland, it’s July after all. Let the citizens have their long sleeping in days, let the humidity drop and be a good host! For goodness sake you’re embarrassing all of the photographers who rely on Lady Foggingwell to change up their scenery.

 

Get your act together!

Kick out the westerlies, make Lady Foggingwell feel welcome and drop the humidity, that’s all you have to do.

Honestly is it too much to ask?!

Okay

Enough of the loopiness. Yes I'm angry at the weather. I know that I can do nothing else about it. Now, who has a rain dance?


 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 blog iceland india landscape melsinclair photographs photography preparations rickshawrun sample tasmania taste https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/7/pre-india-madness Thu, 07 Jul 2016 11:03:39 GMT
Puzzling! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/5/puzzling

 

So I'm pretty stoked (Australian slang for amazed, overjoyed) about this!

Ravensburger worldwide have bought my image "The Epitome" for publication on 15,000 puzzles over the next 3 years! This is a worldwide distribution and I'm so incredibly thrilled!  I love puzzles, my mum and I used to do one every Xmas holiday when she came home from work, it was our thing. We'd sit down with the puzzle board and assemble something new that we got each year. It was a ritual, sit by the Christmas tree, work on the puzzle for an hour or so. 

I would have never imagined that 20 years later, one of my images would be a Ravensburger puzzle, big childhood box ticked right there! Given that they have survived the digital age and are still producing puzzles, that has got to say something about how you just can't reproduce the tactility of an actual puzzle digitally. There's nothing like the smell of a new puzzle, the intimate click-sounds they make when you find a match...

I can't wait to receive my copies! This is one for the trophy shelf for sure!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 blog contract deal epitome iceland jokulsarlon landscape melsinclair photography puzzle puzzles ravensburger https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/5/puzzling Wed, 04 May 2016 11:22:56 GMT
The New Superhero! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/4/the-new-superheroes Have you heard the word around town?!

There's a new kind of Superhero on the block.

One that will make your mind explode with their awesomeness, stalk their every move across the globe and line their pockets with your hard earned big-ones to follow them in their enviable steps. Coughing up tens of thousands to praise the ground they walk on, their shit will turn to gold the minute the sun rises, a currency they use to entice more and more believers.

 

No, not you Captain Planet, go back to the 1990's!

Move aside all your wannabe-environmentally-passionate people, put down your placards and shush your heckling. Never fear, there's someone here to save the planet!

They move in shadows, they're all over the world but you'd never know it, stalking the light like panthers over a herd of wild boar. Always watching and waiting, for the right moment to pounce, for the right conditions in which to nail their prey. On mornings where most would be snoozing in because it's too dark or too cold, this superhero is out stomping the mountains, valleys, lakes and beaches, in search of the elusive prey with a desperate starvation for victory. He is proudly striding through lush greens in search of the catch, the one that will bring him pride and acclaim throughout the community. Victory is the only thing that keeps him alive, it is an invisible force more satisfying than sex, more nourishing than food and water. Adoration, admiration and applause are the drugs that keep the hunt going day after day, year after year all over the world.

"It's all for the greater good,' he tells himself, 'I'll win the admiration of the flock and fame and fortune will befall my coffers."

Wow, he sounds a lot like the villian here, don't you think? He tells me no, he's the Hero. He does the saving of stuffs...

Who is this new superhero, I hear you ask?

Captain Aperture!!!

 

Praise the almighty!

Captured in his own environment, standing in tall, domineering and powerful poses, he watches over his kingdom with a sense of entitlement and awe. Like Simba thrust forth from his fathers arms up on pride rock, all his followers proudly like, comment and share his posts, trading adoration from other members of the pride. Backslapping and well-wishing follows. Naysayers have their presences diminished, the hero does not need false prophets, he survives on the adoration and the commissions gleaned from worldwide charities, because along with his popularity, comes great fame, fortune and endorsements. Everyone loves this guy.

"I'm drawing awareness to the plight of the endangered African Blue-Bearded Billybobs (not an actual bird) and saving their wild habitat from destruction for earth-polluting factories by ruthless money-happy corporations!"

Every single word from their mouths is about how a single like on Facebook puts invisible dollars into the bank of their ego. The Photographer is the new form of celebrity. It's unbeknownst why humans seek out this kind of attention. The idea that you can be something more than someone who just takes pictures. It has to be more than that, doesn't it? Hello? Doesn't it. *crickets*....

He is the one dressed as plain as you and I, the one that eschews environmental information like a broken record. Saving the forests of somewhere and preserving the habitat of *insert endangered animal / place/ species* , the photographer is your new hero.

ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY CAPTAIN APERTURE!

He ascends summits with a single bound, captures an entire evenings' images with a single capture and will save the many wilderbeasts from starvation with the leftovers of his freeze-dried nosh. He is as elusive as a puma, as sly as the fox.  Saving compositions from mediocrity with one elegant swoosh of his cape. He is the one who stands in front of the sun, he is the environmental crusader we have been thirsting for!

 

(He has an awfully small lens though!)

**Apologies to anyone I may have offended. Actually no, I don't apologise. LAUGH. If you didn't you have a cold, dead heart.**

***LIGHTEN UP! IT'S A JOKE***

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 awesomeperson blog haha itsajoke justforfun landscape melsinclair musings parody photography superhero https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/4/the-new-superheroes Wed, 13 Apr 2016 12:26:07 GMT
Monochrome: It's not JUST Black and White... https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/3/monochrome-its-not-just-black-and-white It’s gorgeous tones, shadows and rich, crisp contrasts.

It’s the overwhelming white of freshly fallen snow, and the deepest blacks on a new-moon night.

It’s the stars in the sky, where no colour needs to be present to describe their delicacy.

It’s details, precious moments and memories.

These moments all are from different stories, different places. Each is not perfect, rather, it is about the time, the place and the feeling of it.

This is what the light does; it shows us where to go.

This is what love does; it makes us keep going, keep hoping and keep our eyes open.

This is life, from the banal to the busy and right around to beautiful, this planet is an incredible place to be.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) alpaca and australia b+w beauty black blog building cat day dog feeling iceland japan landscape light melsinclair monkey night patagonia photography process reflection square urban white https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/3/monochrome-its-not-just-black-and-white Sun, 27 Mar 2016 12:38:15 GMT
Long Exposures with NiSi Filters (Part 1) https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/3/nisi

It’s hard to look through an online gallery of images without finding one or two that describe the capture technique was “long exposure.” For the newcomer to intermediates in photography this may initially seem quite confusing, but it needn’t be. In this article I will attempt to break down the myths about filters that confuse photographers who are new to using them.

Often the technique is so widely used that photographers will not necessarily name it. Images with milky blurry water, waterfalls that are clean like ribbons and skies that are long and streaky are the telltale signs of a filter. This allows the aspects of a scene that are stationary to be sharply focused, while blurring or fading or smearing any moving element. On the rough edge of the spectrum, incorrect filter usage stands out and often looks cheap. It’s all about balance.

Some will argue the correct definition of “long” exposure and what that entails. For the sake of this discussion, we’re going to look at different lengths of exposures in a landscape setting so you know what you want to achieve, and then work back from there. My definition of long exposure is any exposure that takes 0.3 seconds or slower, anywhere up to 30 seconds natively what most DSLR cameras will support, and then up to infinity depending on your filter setup, time of day and whether you have a timer remote.

^ A beautiful example of the power of a Reverse Graduated Neutral density filter. Iceland 2014

Fantastic Filters and what to use them for...

There are almost too many types of filters to name, but for a landscape photographer, our choice is only limited by our creativity and persistence to make it work. Here’s a quick look at some of the types of filters you’re likely to come across when considering what to purchase.

Ultraviolet (UV) – Some people will tell you to use these to protect the lens from accidental damage. I don’t believe in these anymore, because when I graduated to professional glass, my images were so much better with the filter off… This filter will always come as a circular screw-on filter for the front element of the lens.

Circular Polarizer (CPL) – Like sunglasses for your lens. Helps makes skies bluer, water clearer or more reflective, aids long exposures and boosts greens. Typically a circular screw-in filter as well, circular polarisers also have made their way into the 100mm square filter systems. They work best for their abilities to rotate around a lens, depending on which effect you wish to use. These have fallen out of fashion somewhat, with some photographers believing that they cast ugly light. These days, I can’t live without a polarizer.

Infra-Red (IR) – Seeing light not natively seen by the human eye. Most cameras will have this spectrum blocked out, but by the use of a filter you can shoot these types of black and whites. A permanent camera alteration by a professional repair mechanic can make an old camera do this by default, but is irreversible and a niche conversion. These are almost always a circular filter as well, as any light leaks will ruin your image quality.

Neutral Density (ND) – Aims at stopping down, or removing, available light. This means it will give you a longer exposure, day or night, and allow movement to be blurred. ND filters go anywhere from 2 to 1000, there’s single types of ND; ND2, ND4. ND8, ND400, ND1000…. VariND filters, I personally don’t recommend as the effect is not easily reproducible. Neutral Density filters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, namely either circular or square, depending on your setup.

Graduated Neutral Density (GND) – A landscape photographer’s weapon of choice. These filters start at the top of the filter in a graded neutral density and fade to clear. Exceptionally useful for pretty much everything during the beginning and end of daylight hours, really helps control light and turn something excessively bright into art. There are many different grading of intensity of the graduation,

The NiSi system –Not just another filter holder

I’ve been into DSLR photography for almost ten years now. I’ve been specializing in Landscape for seven of those, and in that time, I have seen a lot of changes in the products and equipment that we take for granted! One of the types of things that haven’t required too much technology to make them useful, is filters. The only parts of these that improve are basically the coatings.

Enter the NiSi V5 system...

This is a complete reinvention of how we use filters, clearly the conundrum of whether to polarize or filter, or get all tricky with loading the filter adapter ring onto the front element of a polarizer and then winging it annoyed someone out there, enough to change it. The beautiful NiSi filter system is as useful as it is sleek. Nothing plastic here, just solid, aviation-grade aluminum. The polarizer comes in the V5 foundation kit, no other systems include this in their filter holder kit.

The best part, is that the polarizer lives in the middle of the mounted holder, before you add your 100mm optical glass filters.  Two toothed-wheels appear from the outer edge of the holder (see photo), on the camera side of the setup, allowing you to rotate your polarizer without putting fingerprints over them. This is the NiSi difference, and I have got to say, it’s one of the reasons why photographers are changing from other systems to NiSi.

Different graduated neutral density filters are used for different purposes. NiSi stocks a full range of high quality, low colour cast filters. NiSi filters, unlike their competitors, are made from Optical Glass, much better than resins or cheaper glass.

An Essential Landscape Kit, typically consists of:

  • A sturdy filter holder – the NiSi V5 filter system is my choice
  • A 10 stop ND Filter – typically known as a “Big Stopper”
  • A 3 stop ND Filter
  • A graduated neutral density filter, typically 0.6 in grading or stronger
  • A Reverse graduated neutral density filter
  • Polarizer
  • Lens cloth for cleaning and ROR (Residual oil remover)

 

Pausing time

For the purpose of discussion, it is impossible for me to tell you what settings to use to achieve a longer exposure, as every single camera, lens and light readings are different. Instead, let’s look at what certain timed exposures can do to a scene.

0.3 to 1 second

Moving elements such as water, trees and clouds will be still quite sharp, but with an “aliased” look to them, meaning some movement will be caught depending on how fast they are moving. You’ll get magic with photos of the ocean, and it will be a very languid, seductive sort of effect. It is both frozen capture and movement in one shot. Suitable for very simple compositions that need extra detail in water.

1 to 5 seconds

More movement will be captured, and this will make water go milky, and other moving objects may show a bit of undesirable movement if you haven’t thought about what it will effect. Use this to your advantage in shots that need some simplification by slowing down the shutter. Unless the water is moving slower than this can capture, this is about as fast as an exposure needs to be, to make water milky. This is the point where streaky clouds will benefit from the longer exposure, but not so much the trees. If you prefer solid trees and moving clouds, take a fast exposure without filters and while keeping the tripod in same place, camera at the same settings, take the long exposure and blend the two in post.

6 to 10 seconds

This is the realm of the perfect exposure inside a dark rainforest on an overcast or cloudy day. The deep shadows will mean longer exposure times. Thanks to the NiSi system, you can load a 3 stop or 10 stop filter onto the lens to achieve the longer shutter speed, combined with the polarizer’s amazing abilities to see through water and boost greens, it’s your ideal rainforest companion!

Bulb Mode

Enter the world of star trails, hyper-lapses and “empty” tourist destinations during the day. Exposures taken in Bulb mode with a remote timer can go as long as your battery holds out, provided you are shooting under the right conditions not to overexpose. The possibilities really open up around this point. Granted you don’t need to use a set of filters for star trails, exposure times and filters can be played with to create different effects. Have you ever tried light painting? The possibilities are infinite, only limited by your creativity and imagination.

Filters 101:

I get asked about filters and what to use them for a fair bit. Here's some of the common questions and my responses.

Q: How can the use of Filters improve my Photography?

A: The point of filters, by their very title, is to filter in or out, available light, giving you better control over your exposure and enhance

compositional elements. This opens up an entire world, helps your camera perform to its optimum levels and gives you a more balanced image to process.

Q: When I use filters, should I meter my scene and then put the filters on, or load them all up and then meter the scene?

A: Definitely put your filters on first before metering the scene and shooting. Filters are used to slow down our shutter speeds, thus allowing movement to show in the image. Your camera is great at figuring out what to do in most cases. But this isn't a definitive, get your filters on and get experimenting~! In some cases you will need to pre-focus a scene if the filter is too dark and the camera can't read the scene. For this, focus, lock it and then carefully -ever so carefully- load up the filters, but don't bump the zoom or aperture rings!

Q: "Filters are cheating"

A: "No, they're not." They're the same thing as wearing sunglasses in the daytime, they help you see better by blocking out all the extra light.

Q: How can I control the sunlight on the horizon when it first comes up?

A: Use a Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter. These are purposely darker where the sun will typically rise or set on the horizon, thus giving you more control over the first rays of day.

Q: What about Color Casting?

A: The NiSi filters which I use, have a very low colour cast. In almost all cases, this cast is correctable in post processing, allowing you to make it whatever colour/tint you want. Most landscapers find this to not be an issue and actually enjoy any colours cast into an image. NiSi filters are made with Optical glass and offer a low colour cast, I simply cannot fault the quality of these filters.

Q: Where can I buy NiSi filters?

A: In Australia, this is the best place: http://nisifilters.com.au/

Got a question about filters? Post a response in the comments below or use my contact form to ask me!

In the coming months I will post Part 2 of this article, I did not want to do it all at once, as it would be a lot of reading. Let me know if there's anything you want me to cover!

EDIT: To get a set of NiSi filters of your own, use the code Mel10NiSi at the website above to receive 10% off your order. Hurry, this doesn't last forever!

See you soon!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 NiSi article blog filters information landscape melsinclair nikon nisiambassadoraustralia nisifilters pausingtime photography https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/3/nisi Tue, 15 Mar 2016 11:35:08 GMT
A Moment: Saturday https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/2/a-moment-saturday I speak a lot about the feelings of single moments, or packets of moments where the feeling and the emotional side of things is overwhelming. Putting this into a photograph isn't always as easy as it sounds, and sometimes it's better described in a blog. Not always do I have the words to describe how it feels, but I think this one was particularly pertinent, so I've decided to publish it.

Friday:

At the end of a long week at work, not a bad one, I had begun to feel that fuzzy-edged feeling that most people get, and solve with a pint. After several months of fighting a battle I didn't want to fight, today it had reached a head and I had felt more lost than ever, more unheard than ever and more frustrated once again, at the things I couldn't change. I love my job, this new one that has fallen into my hands by the good graces of those who believe that I have something to add. It's a tough thing when you lose that belief in yourself, you let others' impressions of you change who you are. It's not that you consciously do, but such long-winded battles scar us in ways that begin to make you think that it is you who is the one at fault.

Not to again let myself fall prey to these ideas, the fire that has burned within me for several years, Photography, always knew what the antidote was; Nature.

Saturday, 12:01am:

I felt an overwhelming urge to escape the city as fast as my car would take me, no matter how drained i felt, I knew I would get my cure from the earth, the sounds of it alive around me, the colour of the night sky and the wondrous colours that, for a few moments more, always signal a new beginning, every 24 hours.

It didn't matter how good the photos turned out. It didn't matter whether I got any keepers or whether I had wasted fuel to get there. It was about the escape. After moving around the area I had chosen to explore by expired-full-moonlight, I settled back on a place where i knew my zen would be returned to me. Feeling the effects of the pint and the overwhelming sensations reaching my nerve-endings, I set up my camera, firing off some test-shots to get my exposure right. With a full battery I told my camera to take 1001 shots, whether it reached that many or not, and go.

Every 33 seconds I heard the sound of the shutter engaging up, down the next 30 up in 3, down in 30 and repeat. Its regularity was calming, and I lay back between the rows of lavendar and stared up at the moon above. The clouds were racing, in fascinating shapes and low to the hill where I lay, lulling me into a meditated sleep. The wind was howling, rustling the bushes and stirring up the lavendar around me, creating an aroma primed for peaceful slumber. My camera didn't need me now, it knew what to do until the battery ran out, or until it reached 1001 shots. It provided the comfort, the purpose and reason as to why I wanted to fall asleep in a lavendar field, and wake up confused, but at peace.

As the breeze agitated the bushes around, the stars rotated through the skies like a record player playing the sounds of crickets, air, earth and the occasional bird, singing out into the cool, empty air. Not a soul in sight bar my friend who had come along for the ride.

I woke somewhat abruptly, but knowing that now I had come to the sunrise, the arrival of the new day and the small miracles that happen when the sun heralds a new day. I stopped my camera, nowhere near the 1001 shots but still going on a battery using its last vestiges. I stopped the process, grabbed my other camera with a full charge and began my ritual of documenting the sunrise from my point on the windy hill.

After all the light had come and gone I felt that sense of satisfaction; from here on out it didn't matter how the images had turned out, I had gotten my recharge from the wind, sky, moon and earth, I had gotten a series of shots that I could still use for an experimental image, and I had cleansed myself and my mind, from a place that I didn't want to go again.

It doesn't matter how the shots turned out, it really doesn't. What these images now mean to me, is the fact that they were there for me, the fact that I could escape into a completely different way of thinking, to create something positive from a heap of negatives.

And that, is the power of having an urge not to break or destroy things; to make things. The creative soul needs to create, in any way possible.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) Musings blog city escape feeling healing landscape melsinclair moment moon moonlight photography startrails sunrise https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/2/a-moment-saturday Sun, 28 Feb 2016 21:15:55 GMT
Same Mel, Different Focus https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/2/same-mel-different-focus It's 2016, when did that happen?!

So sorry that it’s taken me so long to get a blog up this year, it’s not as easy to create content as you would think. It’s been a bit of a struggle in the last few months to find some time to knock up a quality blog and then spread it around. What I have started doing again, and for the greater good, is Instagram. If you don't follow me, here is your sign: @melsinclair_au . I'm back into the routine of posting daily content during the week, follow me! It's going to be a crazy year!

I began to encounter the problem so many photographers are talking about now – reach. Once a reach that would span the thousands, now only gets the hundreds. In the interest of staying relevant and true to myself, I’ve had to redirect these efforts and find new ways to reach new people. I could post on Facebook and drop links until everyone gets sick of me and stops reading all together, so I don’t want that either.

It’s all due to Facebook filtering my posts, unless I cough up the cash still don’t help me get to those who liked my page right from day dot. This isn’t translating like it used to. So, I’m going to start making much more targeted blogs. These take time to make, much more time, but I’m hoping they will be more useful to those that do stop past and have a read.

I’m going to be putting together a few more videos, most of my writing efforts this year are going into Dynamic Range for both educational and discussion-based articles. This month I talk about entering photographic competitions, what to do and what not to do. My first article committing to practical advice, rather than the inflammatory speech about everything that is wrong with the photographic world. Issue 3 is coming out very soon, please do me and this wonderful magazine and get on board with the initiative. We're not trying to change the world, we're just trying to give everyone a voice

I’ve also taken up a post to mentor some lucky Brisbane photographers, a position I hope teaches me things about myself as well as those that are giving it a go and seeing what I can stir within them to create more powerful work. It’s a massive undertaking, but hopefully this is a success and it’ll help me grow in more ways than one.

Furthermore, I have a pretty busy schedule of guest presentations at camera clubs around Brisbane.

I’m currently working on an article for the next Dynamic Range, which will be a precursor to a video that I’ve written the storyboard for, and just need to find time to film. The weather here in Brisbane hasn’t been all that conducive to standing out in the sun filming a video take after take.

Where inspiration strikes like a lightning bolt, I’ll still be posting blogs on a whim, probably much less so as the year rolls on.

I’m away for 2 months at the end of July to the end of September, firstly in India for The Rickshaw Run, a cause we're still trying to fundraise for! After that it's onto Iceland for the One of a Kind Photography Adventures mad crazy tour of the enchanting island. All hard work continues up to this point.

Same Mel, Different Focus.

Find me locally, I’ll be around the Brisbane scene a lot more than I used to.

Check the calendar for presentation dates and see where I’ll be next.

As usual, give me feedback!

tell me what you want to see, maybe what you don't? Tell me about your day or what you're looking forward to this year? Give me a dare for when I'm in India or Iceland that won't get me arrested?

The comments section is there for you, tell me something, anything, at the very least, leave a hello :)

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 august blog brisbane camera club direction education iceland india instagram july landscape melsinclair mentoring new nikon nisifilters ooak photographer photography post rickshaw run schedule september targeted teaching https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/2/same-mel-different-focus Thu, 04 Feb 2016 10:26:30 GMT
Closed Chapter: 2015 Retrospective https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/1/closed-chapter-2015-retrospective  While I published this on Youtube last week, I also did not post it on my website. Oopsies!

Please share it around, I'm so proud of putting in the effort to narrate something this year.

I'll let the video do the talking!

And after, here's something I took on January 1st.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2016/1/closed-chapter-2015-retrospective Sat, 02 Jan 2016 10:46:48 GMT
New Toys! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/12/new-toys I don't have Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS).... 

I have what I would like to call Gear Professionalism Syndrome (GPS).

At some point you realize that you're better to bring all your stuff up to professional spec, rather than continue to spend on anything less.

This was kicked off by aligning myself with NiSi Australia, makers of some of the most remarkably well-made filters.

Their beautiful filters produce low colour cast, adding precious control to your images in even the most challenging situations. They come in the most study housings to survive the trips I'll be putting them through, and are made of the highest quality optical glass. Opening the boxes and setting them up into their homes was a bit of an intimate experience, the attention to detail even on the cases is breathtaking. No doubt the cases will acquire even more character over their life in my bag and outwith me in the wild. Have a look!

I've been thankfully able over the last few months to slowly upgrade my gear to pretty-current spec. I now possess both the Nikon D810 and as  my landscape primary. My backup camera,  and for everything else that I shoot, I have the Nikon D750. Having two FX cameras has been pretty special, and now allows me to focus on improving my FX kit.

While I was in Japan, I began to experiment mostly with shooting primes due to weight limits and having my bag on my back for the entire day. I found myself favouring both my Nikon 50mm 1.8 and my Tamron 90mm 2.8 for the low-light and macro functions. It was particularly crippling at times to not be able to use a tripod in many temple grounds, so one had to get quite creative, and this often involved selective DOF and some creative leaning. I began to crave a wide-angle that had a lower light rating, it had struck me that I was now shooting mostly around 20mm in my own practice.

I had seen a few months prior that Nikon had released a new 20mm f1.8 with Nano-coating. My ears pricked up reading that press release, a prime wide angle, low light. It ticked all the boxes. I messaged my friends at Nikon and eventually one was coming into stock just as I was getting home from Japan, so I jumped on it. Call it a reward for my efforts in achieving my AAIPP at APPA this year, If I needed any more reasons, I knew I would find one. I now have a beautiful lens that will be my creative tool for many years to come.

I took it to a friends BBQ this weekend just passed. I chose to test it's abilities at 1.8 using two subjects I knew that were notoriously hard to shoot; Children and Pets. My friends got some cute photos of their children, whether human or animal, and I got to have some fun testing out my new baby.

I'm pleased to say that at the same time, I also fell in love with this lens. the colours are rich and the focus is just perfect. It performs well in shadows and in bright light. My test shots are probably some of my best of children and pets that I've taken in a while. I'll let the images do the talking, it was so much fun! I love this lens, I love you Nikon! Thanks for making an incredible piece of kit!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 1.8 2015 20mm Australia Filters Graduated NiSi Nikon bbq blog case children density details filters glass grad grads landscape lens macro melsinclair neutral park pets photography quality reverse shots test https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/12/new-toys Mon, 14 Dec 2015 11:48:07 GMT
Japan Day 11-16:Tokyo! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/12/japan-day-11-16-tokyo Admittedly, thee last few days I've been lax with posting updates, as not much serious photography has happened, due to some really bizarre restrictions here in Japan. Second is that I've been actually ON holiday, enjoying easy sightseeing, shopping from dawn til dusk and generally relaxing, something I felt I was overdue for.

So it's with no surprise that I haven't posted as much, but that doesn't mean that i've not been out with the camera, just not posting much. This is the post to solve that!

I wanted to cover off some strange things here that have definitely impacted upon my photography, but also some things that I've come to love in general.

1. TRIPOD NOT ALLOWED

Okay, So I get they take up space at popular attractions, but sometimes, this sign was even in places that have heaps of free space. What frustrates me is that this has ruined my desire to even take beautiful photos of the cities, temples and absolutely stunning monuments, knowing that next time, unless I'm out in the regions, leave it at the hotel. This has applied to Parks, Gardens, public places. Pretty much anywhere they can put up a sign, it's banned. 

This has been my No.1 frustration here, though it has given my other lenses, the lesser used 50mm 1.8 and the 90mm 2.8 a decent run on the camera, it has left me wanting the wider 20mm 1.8 so that I never ever get left in this position again, so that I know if I ever do need to shoot wide, it won't come with an F4- punishment. It's changed the outcome of my shots, and I've tackled it like a challenge, rather than a hinderance.

That said, it doesn't take away the frustration of knowing I would have done better with a shot had I been allowed to set up properly.

My free reign of Japan has been hindered by the nature of this trip, it wasn't photographically aligned or designed, so it has forced me to give up on chasing sunrise while I have been here, as it was just well out of the question.

2.  FOR A CULTURE SO POLITE WITH FORMING LINES, THEY LOVE THE PUSH, SHOVE AND BODYSLAM

Another train story. People queue up behind the dedicated boarding circles or triangles on their chosen carriage, before the train arrives. Once all who have lined up have boarded, there is no end of fitting more people in until you are actually grinding with a stranger as the train sways, bumps and stops, for however many stations until the mass of people disembark at a popular station. No room on the train? No worries, you dive into that doorway with the passion of a salmon swimming upstream. You throw yourself henceforth into the madness of people like a rockstar doing a stage dive, even when you think there is no room left, trust me, there's always more. You push and shove through the crowd like you're the most important person on earth, as there is no space for the weak, no free aisle for those who want to give up the fight.

The same goes for crowds at popular attractions. Wait an hour, two hours? No worries! You all must be channeling the patience of your dieties, because that is some serious, olympic-precision waiting right there.

3. WEDDINGS

From what I observed of weddings, there is no such thing as designing your own. The formal part of the ceremony is regimented at temples, with very strict rulings and formal photographs to be had. While we were in Harajuku one morning, there were 4 weddings happening simultaneously at the same temple, all following the same proceeding, and all brides in the same outfit.

4. FOOD

So a big part of any travelling is eating the local cuisine, and while I have been battling a bout of food poisoning for the last 24hrs, the food has been awesome to me, and I have no regretted trying anything that was in front of me.

I've had Omnomnomnomnomiyaki (Okonomiyaki) the delicious pancake whose recipe varies region to region, the most enjoyable was the one with cabbage, bean sprouts, batter pickled ginger, spring onions and some weird matcha powder with kewpie mayo, and that lovely brown sauce. Other variations have been noodles, oysters and shrimp, but all were so delicious! I've fallen back in love with Takoyaki, getting mum hooked on it at the same time. Those delicious fried balls of hot octopus, drenched n that same amazing brown sauce, bonito flakes and kewpie mayo, it just can't be beaten. The first place that we found selling them, I was so excited that the server gave us an extra one each, it was fab!

From drinks, to their love of Ice cream even if it's freezing, I've had vanilla, soybean, green tea and black sesame flavours, with the black sesame being the tastiest, despite looking like I was eating concrete. The range of drinks available at a convenience store is mindblowing, it would easily be double what we get at our biggest stores, with each line being a different drink, not an entire shelf.

4. BAKERIES

Dear Japan, your bakeries reign supreme. The sheer range of  sweet and not so sweet buns, pastries and offerings has been staggering. I can see why the eastern waistline is widening, because of these foods so readily available. That said, I'm busting for a meat pie or sausage roll as soon as I can get my hands on one at home, why have you not discovered the four n twenty yet?!

5. HOW DIFFERENT YOU STILL ARE FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD

This was my 3rd trip to this land. There are some things that have stayed the same, some that are changing. Like a modern culture, I know you are constantly evolving and expanding, however thankfully some of the things and experiences that I had several years ago have not changed. I still loved the crazy stores, the crazy range of things, the wacky kitchen gadgets you have for well, everything. I've now got a very important fine-cabbage peeler, a lemon sprayer, but I resisted the urge to buy a soy-sauce mister. When I get home I'll post some pics of these things.  Robins' Kitchen has nothing on Tokyu Hands, Loft or any of the others. It's like Ikea but for smaller things, amazing things.

Tonight, I head home. It should be noted that none of the pictures in this blog are the final versions, I never trust my edits on my laptop until I get home to the calibrated mothership. Thanks all for reading! I'll post a wrap-up when I recover from fitting everything I bought into a 30kg case...

So finally, lets get to some of the images, from both my D750 and my phone, from the last several days.

Akihabara Electric Town. The close the roads on sundays between 1pm and 6pm, so it's free reign. Still, even though there was this free space, no tripods allowed.

^Rikugien Garden

^ The Markets at Yanaka. Thanks to Bill for taking us here and showing us around!

^Yanaka Sunset. So pretty!

^ Mt Fuji from Lake Ashi museum

^ Pretty puddles

^ Late Autumn

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 D750 bakeries blog food japan landscape melsinclair nikon osaka photographs photography rikugien tokyo trains travelling tripod https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/12/japan-day-11-16-tokyo Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:35:06 GMT
Japan Day 10: Hiroshima and Miyajima Island https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-10-hiroshima-and-miyajima-island I was going to blog about this at the end of today, but it left such a mark on me that I decided it couldn't wait.

Before I get into the really heavy stuff, I also want to tell you about Miyajima Island.

Next time I go to Japan, I'm coming back to spend some decent time at Miyajima... it's so mountainous and diverse, I just know there's some great photography hidden in those hills, I just need time and some souls. Unless anything changes, this will be in 2017, as I think I'm burning the candle at both ends in 2016.

Miyajima, while completely saturated in tourists, probably had the most tasty food on one street! Oysters, shrimp, things wrapped in bacon, maple cakes... It was so beautiful, and if it weren't for the rain, I'd have stood up in protest about coming back to the mainland. Miyajima is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine, a temple fixed into the bedrock and floating on water at high tide. As luck would have it, it was low tide, and so the temple was a series of decks overlooking green mud.  I will be spending time here to shoot it properly at the proper time of day for sure, I just loved the place and the 3hrs I spent here were definitely not enough.

In the spirit of Hiroshima, that I visited afterwards (more on this after the pictures) I've processed the days photos in Black and White.

^ Hiroshima Castle

^Itsukushima Shrine at low tide

^ The famous Torii gate in water, low tide, Miyajima Island.

Now onto the hard stuff.

Today, I visited Hiroshima.

The A-Bomb Dome, The Peace Gardens, The Museum.

I've never been much of a History buff, one capable of reciting the facts, but this hit me.

You've got to think about where we are in the world right now, the current political tensions between continents, the fact that there are 16,000 nuclear warheads in the world today. After seeing the memorials, hearing the stories and realising the facts, this could be any one of us if these tensions escalate. Hiroshima's nuke didn't hit the ground, it exploded mid-air, I don't doubt that in this day and age, what those in the world are capable of. Those that possess these weapons, presumably to use against another human continent. I have the one question; why? Have we evolved into a species so uptight and unforgiving that we must hold in arms, 16,000 of these earth-destroying nightmares in order to protect ourselves? 

What ever happened to love and compassion for our fellow humans? 

It really struck home, these people were just going about their daily lives, when it was all wiped out in seconds for a majority of people. The survivors were the unlucky ones, living with severe radiation sickness until their untimely passing anywhere from a few days to a few months, years or decades later. The human casualty is huge.

We have to make sure an atrocity like this never ever happens again. Unfortunately I'm not so certain in that, but I hope that it never does.

The first few photos are of the Paper Crane memorial dedicated to Sadako Sasaki who the famous "1000 paper cranes" story is about.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) Hiroshima Itsukushima Miyajima Shrine a-bomb and black blog melsinclair moving museum nuclear photography reminder sadness sombre tribute weapons white https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-10-hiroshima-and-miyajima-island Wed, 25 Nov 2015 22:36:29 GMT
Japan Day 8 and 9: Osaka https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-8-and-9-osaka Hello!

Checking back in again for an update on how my holiday is progressing.

To give you a proper rundown of my day, would be to photograph all the receipts from stores that I've been in, timestamped so you know I'm still good. But that'd be too embarassing, so let me retell it the way I do.

With the weather forecast saying that today would be sunny and clear, I didn't need a second invitation to get out of the mass shopping malls and go to an attraction. We chose Osaka Castle as it was close by, our other options meant travelling out of town, which we will be doing tomorrow on a tour to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island. So the choice was made to stay local and shop later.

Yesterday (Monday) was a public holiday in Osaka, and a rainy one at that. Since the weather has been a real pain in the a$$ for the last week, we didn't need to be convinced that Monday was a shopping day. We walked from our hotel in Umeda to Shinsaibashi and then onto Namba for Dotonbori. 

As you can see, it's really hard to see anything except advertising and signs, but I'm sure this is the idea...

It rained into the evening, so the idea of sitting out in the rain to take night photos of Dotonbori wasn't all that appealing, people are always everywhere, so I took my sore feet back to the hotel and soothed them with wine.

We got up early today to begin our journey on the train to Osaka Castle, it was a blue skied and sunny day, the autumn leaves shone on their branches, it was beautifully calming and majestical.

The castle was beautiful, and we braved the physical extertion to take the stairs 8 floors to the top, instead of the other lazy sobs who were taking the elevator, and therefore having to wait nearly twice as long. The view from the top was magnificent, it really showed the divide of old and modern Osaka. 

Shopping wise, I found Yodobashi Camera, but was very restrained I thought. It was camera candyland, there was something in every section that I wanted, however I am not made of money, so I couldn't afford to spend big. The sales guy kept trying to sell me a Tamron or Tokina lens when I was asking about a Nikon, saying that it'd be cheaper. Sure I was dressed in hiking gear, but did I really look that poor? I gave in and told him that I'd love a Zeiss,but they were too pricey, so he gave in and then started selling me a Nikon. I still didn't buy the lens though (20mm 1.8), figuring I need to think on it a little longer before committing.

I'll let the rest of the post illustrate the days, thanks for reading!

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Castle Japan Osaka blog camera hiroshima landscape melsinclair osaka-jokoen photography receipt sky sun yodobashi https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-8-and-9-osaka Tue, 24 Nov 2015 09:56:04 GMT
Japan Day 7: Monkey Park and Iconic Kyoto https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-7-monkey-park-and-iconic-kyoto What a day of walking! Over 16km covered from 7am to 7pm!

Our day started in Arashiyama, yet another fine day, to finish off what we didn't get a chance to see on Wednesday; Monkey Park.

Feeling a bit "temple-d out", we sought an experience for the bright and sunny day that wasn't yet another temple. Arashiyama and the Monkey Park that we missed was thrown into the mix, and before we knew it, we were walking off the train at Hankyu Arashiyama and on our way to the park. Once inside, our walk to the top of the hill was a 20-minute near 30 degree climb, enough to get the blood flowing and the calves aching. What waited for us, were several cheeky monkeys, some young, some old. They were all playful and entertaining. The first two hours of our day passed before our eyes, but it was so much fun watching the Monkeys play, fight, umm "erm", and snatch food from the humans inside the safe human cage.

Here are some pictures that best illustrate the monkey experience, with my own captions. Feel free to comment and add your own!

1. "Hey, that was my fruit!"

2. "Yeah buddy, you know what you did!"

3. The true definition of "A hand out"

4. Monkeys live with this view!

5. "I see you, WITHHOLDING MY FOOD!"

6. "Hold still, I nearly got it." (Also my favourite image of the day!)

7. "Frank, if you're going to go for it, then do it with purpose, what's this half-assed effort?!"

8. "You say we evolved TO THIS?! Evolution my ass."

.9. "Yep, I still got it, not bad for an old chimp like me."

10. BANANA! Mine!

12. Humans in the cage!

After the Monkey Park, we headed down to the river of Arashiyama, as the sunny day illuminated the water and the autumn leaves, to spill several splendid colours across the scene. It seemed that Japanese families were renting boats and rowing out on the river. The mood was jovial and we didn't want to leave, so instead we hung around the banks to see what would float past:

And the conclusion of our day came by heading to Kiyomizudera temple, which, although I had been before, I was hoping to glimpse a sight of that big famous deck. Not to my pleasure though, as it was undergoing renovation! So with that plan foiled, I hung out at a popular sight and shot what was around me instead.

Tonight is our last in Kyoto, and tomorrow we move on to Osaka for a few days, including an upcoming tour to Hiroshima and then to  Tokyo, My Fuji and some more sightseeing. Finally getting to see a big camera store soon as well!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-7-monkey-park-and-iconic-kyoto Sat, 21 Nov 2015 13:01:33 GMT
Japan Day 6: Nara https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-6-nara Today we headed south to visit Nara.

The main attraction here is the massive hall with the massive buddha statue, but only after you've waded through thousands of hungry deer (see: "messengers" of the gods) who are trying to get all that you're worth.

It was our first sunny day after several of heavy rain, so it was all the more special when the clouds did part and the sun burst through. I had been looking forward to Nara, as I had very fond memories of last time, but it seems that most of the Autumn colour had come and gone, leaving nothing but a wasteland of sticks, dirt, and bloodthirsty, hornless deer.

I bought two packs of "Deer Crackers" the food that the parks make you buy, so you can feed their "sacred" messengers for them - 150yen a packet, deer crackers. Knowing that anyone holding such crackers would be irresistable to these sacred messengers, I gave mum a packet of the crackers and told her to feed the ones she found most deserving, knowing full well it wouldn't go that way.

The following video demonstrates so perfectly how this went down:

Cheers for being a good sport, mum!

The rest of the day wasn't great photographically, as it was ore of a tourist -kind of day.

TOday's main destination was Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden structure in the world, until 1998 by which time it was overtaken by something else. It was made in the year 700, so congrats to those people back then for buiding a structure so impressive!

Towards the back of the temple, there is a hole in a pillar, said to bring "good health" to those that can crawl through without getting stuck. Though I think if you can get through in the first place, and don't have the girth of buddha or sumo themselves, then you've already set yourself on the path for good health.

I convinced mum to partake in the fun and here's a candid shot of her getting through. Mind you I found this one the best.

 

In the spirit of last night, here's more images of how the day went!

To finish up, I went onto the roof of Kyoto Station to see what was up there and watch some of the sunset, it was really beauitful and I got a chance to play with a bit of urban landscapes...

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 blog deer japan kyoto melsinclair nara photography temple todai-ji video https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-6-nara Fri, 20 Nov 2015 10:09:08 GMT
Japan Day 5: Arashiyama https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-5-arashiyama Today was the day I had long anticipated; my visit once again to Arashiyama.

Unfortunately for us, the weather is still overcast, though, fortunately it did not rain like yesterday. Still, 16.25km of walking is not a bad effort in just 12hrs. We visited most of the main temples and Bamboo Groves, but it got to the stage that fighting people off was a pain, and made the experience less enjoyable as everyone was trying to be a professional with their shots.

Instead of narrating too much, I'm just going to put up a heap of photos that hopefully demonstrate the day...

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Arashiyama D750 Japan autumn bamboo blog landscape leaves melsinclair nikon photography statue stones temple https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-5-arashiyama Thu, 19 Nov 2015 11:35:37 GMT
Japan Day 4: Fushimi Inari Shrine https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-4-fushimi-inari-shrine Day 4: Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine and Temple Grounds

Yet another rainy day in Kyoto. We were prepared for it this time, having seen the forecast, the choice was made to head to Fushimi Inari shrine. I had previously read advice that the temple is best photographed at sunset, though through conversation with a work colleague, he advised us that it’s an entire-days effort, and he was not wrong.

The main attraction of this Shrine is the “10 Thousand Torii Gates” all in varying shades of vermillion, depending on their age. Mum was joking that if there were 10,000 then I definitely photographed more than 9000 of them. I’m glad we budgeted the day, because it took about that long to climb to the top of the mountain through the many thousand gates.

Thankfully the crowds thinned the higher we went, this made those gorgeous images possible, despite the often torrential rain. Up higher we had misty air, wonderfully peaceful.

This was pretty much just a day of nonstop photos and some temple seeing. Heaps of easy steps led all through the temple grounds, it was just a matter of how much time there was to do it. Bathrooms were scarce which made for some hard climbing, but overall we had a great day out among the vermillion gates.

I’ll let the photos do the talking tonight…

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Fushimi Inari Japan Shrine blog gate landscape melsinclair photographer photography rain temple torii travel vermillion https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-4-fushimi-inari-shrine Wed, 18 Nov 2015 09:20:18 GMT
Japan Day 3: Kinkakuji and Surrounds https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-3 What a day!

Let me preface this post with this picture, so that you can understand my predicament:

So my Sirui N2204X was pulled to pieces and stuffed into my F-Stop Tilopa BC! I managed to get it all in there, big win!

We've had green and black ice cream (more on that later) we saw two temples and got soaked in rain, but hey, it didn't dampen our spirits (or the wine at the end of the day!)

We chatted to locals through Google Translate, we walked a little over 12km, the last 5 of that in the rain, we drank tea and ate a square white cake that tasted like taro and beans. I bought a fortune from a machine and I prayed at a temple, rang a bell and hoped that it comes true. 

I'm beginning to get the hang of the subway system, it's not so much about where you're going, its how far which equals, how much. Once this happens, its up to you to find your way through the underground maze of tunnels and exits to the right platform. Ridiculously efficient, on time and clean. I'm pretty certain that subway floors are cleaner here than they are at home.

This morning we woke up earlier than the previous night, actually mananging to sleep on these somewhat-hard pillows. It feels like they have beans in them. Cultural differences. We had breakfast at a place that I had come to remember fondly from my past visits to Japan, none other that Matsuya Kitchen, an impersonal eatery where food is ordered through a vending machine, tickets given to the attendant, and hey presto, food arrives. Delicious food, nutritious Japanese food at any time of day between 5am and midnight. Yummo!

Breakfast was a delicious shredded meat with onions, rice, miso soup, seaweed, raw egg, pickled lettuce and a glass of water, for 360yen, equivalent is around $4 AUD, so eat that maccas, who wanted 500yen for a mcmuffin! Mmmm mmmmmmm!

After that, it was off to the 205 bus to catch the ride up to Kinkakuji temple for the 9am opening. I had been forewarned about the crowds and told that if you don't try get there for opening, that you'd be battling heaps and heaps of people to try and get a shot. Not at all wrong, there was still a crowd, but it was apparently smaller than what it would have been at any other time of the day.

 

We spent way too long trying to take photos of the carp swimming around, different angles of the temple and the many features of the grounds. Mum bought me a charm from Kinkakuji for "Dreams come true" and I bought my cat a Good Health and Long life" charm. Not sure if I'll put it on her collar or if I hang it over her food bowl.

We roamed the temple grounds moving from area to area, capturing angles of the gardens, trying our luck on fortunes and enjoying a traditional green tea and cake. We chose to sit inside, seeing the outside world and crowd from a far was intensely calming and clarifying. We had some frothy tea and a strange white hard "cake". It seemed to be tasting of bean and tapioca, lightly sweet and had some gold leaf on the top. But, not too sweet, just right. As we were about to leave, some japanese girls asked us to be in a photograph with them, they proceeded to gather around and ask about where we were from. Explaining that we were mother and daughter, they seemed all the more interested. It was great to break down language barriers (thanks google translate) and have an interaction.

We then proceeded to leave, but chanced past the ice cream stand. We have been seeing green ice creams everywhere, figuring that they were green tea (duh) we decided it was a good idea to go half of the "safe" vanilla route and half of the green tea in a cone. It was so good, I can' believe I hadn't tried it before.

Needing change for a coffee machine, mum thought to buy another Ice cream, this time a Black Sesame ice cream. It was dark grey like cement, but it tasted nutty and sesame-ey and was probably the best flavour of them all. It made my tongue black but it was worth the last 5km of walking we did in the rain all the way home.

We finished our temple seeing with Ryanoji Zen Garden - a dry rock garden where not a single blade of grass exists. Disappointed that the school kids on tour weren't quiet for the garden, no doubt if you were there on your own you could really soak up that oozing zen, but having the chance to see it, I can understand how peaceful it could be. We walked around the gardens leading up to the main temple, I, photographing coloured leaves and mum catching her own perspective on the whole thing. It was so lovely.

By now the heavens had opened and what had started as a slow spittle of rain had turned into a heavy downpour. This dampened our passion for temple hunting somewhat, and we turned back towards civilisation, via a Takoyaki stand (oh my god) to warm the cockles after driving rain in the streets. Getting back to our hotel drenched but tired, we have been here since, albeit for a break of dinner, to blog and tell you about our day.

What a day it has been.

Tomorrow is set for more rain, not really sure what to do as most temples require closed heavens and sunshine.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Japan Kinkakuji Ryanoji autumn blog ceremony fall kyoto leaves melsinclair notripod november photography rain tea temple walking https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-3 Tue, 17 Nov 2015 12:11:47 GMT
Japan Day 1 and 2:: KYOTO! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-1-and-2-kyoto Hello world!

I made it safely to Japan in the comfort of Australia's finest airline (that's you Qantas ;) ) a 9 hour flight went by pretty fast, thanks to your selections on the inflight enterainment system, I caught up on all my HBO shows. Didn't even get time for a movie, but that's how the cookie crumbles. Our inflight meal was pre-selected on Q-eat a new thing where they ditch the 6 or so different things on your tray in favour of one large meal that's actually pretty good. Mum was seated in 34D and opted for the pre-ordered fish, a delicious meal, but with an ominous sign on the lid...

First day was relatively uneventful, as much as being in transit and getting places can be. The usual mystique and wonder followed as I showed mum different ideas and concepts, taught her how to use chopsticks and made her watch the kids' channel of the TV so she could pick up intonation of the language that I knew from watching so much Manga in my younger years. Eventually she had begun to get the hang of it, and she was beginning to drag her vowels the way it was intended, Understandably its hard to get the grip of such a foreign language, drop the Australian twang and take on the approach of more rounded words.

We landed at Narita International Airport, stayed overnight at the Narita Rest House, a somewhat 80's styled and never updated airport hotel, a place stuck in time where ceilings are low and smoking floors once existed. And probably still do. I'm not the tallest chick in Australia, but even I felt like my head was skimming along the roof as I walkled. Mum, a tad shorter than me, was able to reach up and touch the roof.

^Good to know its nearby!

Our first dinner was spent in the Airport restaurant, where mum had a Beef Yakiniku, I, a slow cooked pork Ramen. So yum, so perfect after some interesting plane food. Next day, wake up and head back to Terminal 2 where we got our tickets on the Shinkansen through to Kyoto. The people are all so very friendly and helpful in getting us where we needed to go.

Most of day 2 flew past before I had even a chance to capture it properly, the first few shots were taken on my phone, and if you were on my Snapchat, you got a few extras... you know what I'm talking about!

Arriving in Kyoto shortly after 2pm, we navigated a complex subway system to get to our hotel in Saiin. Two stops on this line, two stops on the next. Eventually, after ditching our bags, exploding our suitcases into the room that we shall call home for the next 5 nights, we decided to catch some of afternoons' light at Gion, complimented with some night time illuminations.

The crowds were insane, but I fully expect them to get worse over the course of some days in the city. It's funny how tiring it can be overtaking people and understanding why people just STOP right in the middle of the footpath. Nevermind.

Here's some shots of downtown Gion and the surrounding Yasaka Shrine, about as far as we got in the crowds before stomachs rumbled and eyes began drooping.

Today we're off to Kinkakuji (The Golden Temple) and around the area to the other shrines/gardens!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Japan Kyoto architecture blog gion imonholidays landscape melsinclair november photography protogdoesholidays shrine touristtog yasaka https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-day-1-and-2-kyoto Mon, 16 Nov 2015 21:48:33 GMT
Japan Bloggy Blog! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-bloggy-blog

JAAAAA-PPAAAANNN!

As usual, time is an arbitrary thing, because it has completely disappeared, meaning, I'm off to Japan tomorrow!

I always say that time has flown, and while it seems that way, it's also dragged so torturously slowly.

The above photo is what I would have classified "the best that Ive ever taken" back in 2008 when I had no idea what to do with a camera. I know I'm going to smash it out of the park this time around, I cannot wait! Booyah!

I'll make this quick as I still have packing stuff to do!

I'll be blogging here as much as I can, I'll be Facebooking and Instagramming as much as I can as well.

My mum, who is coming with me, also has her own BLOG.

So check out all of those, and I'll see how fast it takes me to blow a 3GB Data Cap ;)

See you all in the Blogosphere, Facebook boulevard and Instagram land!

 

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Japan Links November blog facebook instagram landscape melsinclair mum photography trip https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/japan-bloggy-blog Sat, 14 Nov 2015 06:19:21 GMT
Notes from an Epson Pano Judge https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/notes-from-an-epson-pano-judge Twisted WebbTwisted Webb

^ I didn't enter this in this years' competition, but as a Panorama, I still really like it

The Epson Panorama Awards has come and gone, how did your work stack up?

A congratulations to the winners and finalists must be mentioned, it was a tough year and you all did very well!

Ever since last year, I watched others judge the Panorama awards and wondered what that would have been like. I remember the blog that Dylan Toh wrote about last years' judging experience, Dylan's notes no doubt made me agree with what he had to say as a judge. I still felt like I had something to impart to this years' entrants, so here goes.

Before I get too deep into this blog, gaining this experience wouldn't of been possible without David Evans offering me the chance to judge the 2015 awards. I extend my deepest thanks for the invaluable opportunity to do so.

It was a tough field no doubt, the judges indeed saw their fair share of great images to sift through and rate. As an amateur judge, we collectively looked at nearly two thousand, a tally that made the eyes go square, but taught me so much about my tastes and how I look at images.  

I began my judging tasks thinking that I could judge 300 in a night, boy how wrong I was. Each image deserved my unwavering attention, and you’d be surprised how long this took. A proper appraisal process involved:

  • Immediate impact: - first glance, how "blown away" was I? What did the image stir within, and how does that rate?
  • Subject - Was it an "iconic" scene or one seen cleverly and captured deftly.
  • How was the image composed? Could I differ the level of technical mastery, or could I try to understand what the photographer was showing me?
  • Editing - Could I tell what had been done to the image in post production? Did the photographer take care in avoiding the easy mistakes before submission? Was the editing flawless or could I pick it apart (more details soon)
  • Panorama - Was it a Pano for entry's sake? Was the image perhaps a crop of a larger image, or did it display the hallmark distortion of a large panorama. Or, was it shot so well that I couldn't pick apart any technicalities with the panorama?

Overall we, as Amateur judges, examined just over 2000 images in both Landscape and Built Environment and I definitely learned a thing or two about what to do, and what not to do.

Keep in mind the images that you entered. Did you achieve the score you wanted, that you thought you might? If not, look back over those images after reading my points of feedback. Several times I wanted to reach out to the photographers and ask them why they had made such choices that reflected in their images. Often images fell short on just a few technical or proofing points that could have easily been rectified by looking over the image before submission.

Some of these are going to seem basic, but they are a must for anyone about to enter a competition. The smallest detail overlooked could be the difference between an award and no award.

Make sure you haven't committed any of these sins by failing to check your work!

The Basics:

Always clear up dust spots, examine your image at 200% or use the dust spot removal tool to remove.

Horizons: Are they straight, or do they need to appear straight(er):- meaning, is the current composition making the image feel lopsided, should it be over-corrected so that it appears straight?

Haloing: Have you edited your image to add some brush lightening to pull out shadow details?  Check that the area around that selection isn’t haloed and can it be avoided by making a more careful selection?

Colour Banding: Have you pushed the post processing so far that colors are banding and breaking up visibly in the image?

Chromatic Aberration: Does the edge of the image show extreme fringing of yellow/blue or green/pink, and if so, can it be removed, lessened or cropped out?

Shadows: Have you shot an image so dark that you have had to heavily retrieve the shadows in post production? Images will show a "textile-like" potching, texture in red/brown where shadows have been over-corrected in their brightness. This editing mistake is so obvious on a properly-calibrated screen. It is unattractive and is difficult to hide without putting those heavy shadows back where they were.

Don’t use fancy effects such as the paintbrush effect in Photoshop – it’s tired, overdone and cheapens your image.

Don’t soften your image so much that you lose important detail

Don’t invert your colours.

Don’t over sharpen or contrast your images

The Composition:

Empty Space: the use of empty space is both a compositional tool and necessity to sometimes balance out complex compositions. When used well it is very powerful, but it has to have a purpose, is it in the right place and how does it change the image? What you put into your frame is just as important as what you omit. Leaving extra “things” in for mood may end up detracting from it. What you leave out is just as powerful as what is in.

Is colour a part of the story? If not, take it out, simplify your image – the story will be stronger without it. Sometimes colour can try and destroy or dilute the power of the image, if it doesn't need to be there, if it doesn't form an integral part of your message, then take it out. Chances are you'll draw more attention to the subject matter by the use of tone and shape.

Artistic Angles: Have you tried a new take on a well-shot location; does the angle suit the subject, what are you trying to show by using a certain angle? Don’t center your subject in the frame unless your story/focus is on the central object. Get down low, or go above? That's up to you. Judges will react to images of well-known locations shot in different ways to the popular. They will reward as such. A scene that is captured in the way that thousands have before you will not invoke the powerful reaction that you might have sought.

If you’re going to shoot a pano, do it with purpose. We're all professional image makers in our field. A well done Panorama sings with the orchestra in elevating your image to new heights. The mood, the impact, the purposeful use of colour, the perfect stitch; The power and impact cannot be made up. Was your image previously a 3:2 ratio that you've Pano cropped? Fair enough if you have, but the true panoramas shot well always sung louder than their cropped counterparts.

We know what we look for in our own work. We make sure that any panoramic stitch errors are not showing consciously. Sure sometimes mistakes are made, but you can't hide those big stitch errors that show mismatched edges, like puzzle pieces that don't fit together. Remember that you submit your image at 3000 pixels long. We can zoom in to look at this 100%, there is nowhere to hide. Don’t think the judges won’t see a small error, we can zoom to 200% where all your errors are laid out bare. All is revealed, no small error is hidden.

The Finishing:

Presentation: Is the image ready to be submitted? Is it the right pixel dimension, the right quality /dpi/ppi?

Have you made sure that you did not put your watermark on the image? Any marks that identify the image creator to the judge is a big NO-NO! Do not worry about the competition using your image to promote itself, unless the terms and conditions state that, which you agree to by paying for an entry! Sometimes I would spy a very tiny watermark attempted at being "hidden" among a patch of trees, or it was boldly posted at the bottom, making me think that the photographer has not adequately proofed their image before submission.

There are penalties when we can identify the creator, as judging is meant to be anonymous.

Remember:

Some things can be overlooked, but others not. What does well in one competition won’t necessarily do well in another. Judges tastes are different and you have to tailor your work to their tastes. Judges profiles are there for a reason, plus, it’s like an assignment to get your image tuned the way you think it works.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Epson Musings Panorama aberration amateur awards banding blog chromatic cleaning colour competition composition dust editing feedback finishing for image judge landscape melsinclair musings pano photography professional spots story tags watermarks https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/11/notes-from-an-epson-pano-judge Mon, 09 Nov 2015 09:26:02 GMT
Are You Ricky Shaw About This?! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/are-you-ricky-shaw-about-this So I’ve signed up for something that is easily the most insane thing that I have ever EVER done...

no, really....

I have spent the last month penning an article about a woman who is so strong, and has made me think twice about my comfort zones. Writing her story, has forced me to think about the opportunities that I let pass because they seem too risky. There is never a “perfect” moment to do anything, there is only now, while you are living and breathing to get something done.

I love the spirit of the Adventure, I love my photography, I love getting lost in the moments and having a hilarious story to tell afterwards. It’s a plan hatched over several mornings before coffee, for a journey so wild and far away. I’m going to India, to do something so crazy I’ll have to sign several waivers on life or limb before I get there.

I’ve signed myself up for The Rickshaw Run, described as “easily the least sensible thing” to do on a holiday, or ever, for that matter.

If you've never heard of this crazy caper, watch the video below:

India was one of those places on one of those lists that I had said I wouldn’t visit, and probably still NO if you had paid me. How things change! Definitely not on my own, but with two other thrill-seeking, trustworthy and reliable comrades, Bevan Blackshaw and Bev Brooks, or B1 and B2, well versed in the lays of India-land. There’s a real possibility, (so real that it’s virtually a promise) that our little 7-horsepower rickshaw will break down, will be driven on roads classified as “swiss cheese from hell” and through some of the most mind-boggling landscapes over our 20- day, 3500km of unexpected, unparalleled  and chaotic tour of India, and everything that it entails. Tiring, gritty, dirty and challenging.

Because what is life without actually banging on the door once in a while and seeing what else is out there?!

I am stepping forth, climbing into thy rickshaw, and am preparing for nothing other than utter mayhem, a fuck-load of problem solving and some laughs. Oh and to be the photographer/writer who is living it.

The incredible journey will take us from Shillong in the far North East of India, to the far-southern tip of Cochin. Three brave warriors crammed into a rickety three-wheeler plus our luggage and a crap-load of cameras. You'll get me photographing and videoing the heck out of this trip, complete with rolling trip commentary and as much as i can physically shove up whatever connection to the 'net I get.

The run begins in August 2016, well technically July 31 and finishes August 19, 2016. After a few mind-bending beginning-of-the-race parties, fun games of cricket and a rough adjustment to the Indian Monsoon season (yes I’m going during the MONSOON, I told you this is nuts) it’ll be one hell of a ride to follow!

Part of the signup conditions is that we have to raise around about $3k to enter. Proceeds go to CoolEarth, a rainforest conservation charity that is the mandated charity for the Rickshaw Run. Other proceeds actually go towards our health and safety, plus the administration for such a feat. But this doesn’t stop you getting on board to help me and the other mad-keen Aussies out.

Over the next few months, if you’re in Brisbane, we’ll be hosting some events where you can come along, meet us and sample some of our home-cooked, home-made wares, support us in our quest to raise the required funds, or donate to us to aid us on this crazy endeavor.

We are going to need as much help as we can get, whether it is a pledge of money, goods for our fundraisers, goods for helping out this awesome photographer deck the rickshaw with the coolest camera equipment to get the action from every angle, or offer us free massages when we return. In exchange, we can shout you from the rooftops or paint your logo proudly onto our noble steed, mention you in our video and media blogs, Instagram and Facebook. Click HERE to sponsor me now to email me and get the ball rolling...!

But wait, there’s more…

 

...

Mel is continuing on past India to another place, the Yin for India’s Yang.

Once this crazy adventure ends in Cochin, after she is justifiably fired up from three crazy weeks crossing the continent, she will get on a plane to Heathrow, stop past some family and friends in London for just a few days of R&R to pick up another suitcase, packed full with different clothing.

I’ll rock up to Heathrow once more, charged and ready for another adventure.

 

In September.

 

For The ONE OF A KIND PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURES tour of ICELAND!

Two HalvesTwo HalvesSouth Iceland Silver SolfarSilver SolfarReykjavik, Iceland

We still have spots available for any keen photographer to come on this journey of Iceland, and hey, I'll be all fired up for another crazy caper with you mad-keen bunch of photographers!

Iceland is going to be beautiful. Think 3-hour sunrises and sunsets. The chance to glimpse the Northern-Lights, to taste the purest water in the land, see some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes imaginable. You’ve seen the photos, now come and do it for yourself. You know you want to!

It’s going to be nuts. You have the chance to be a part of it. Want to feature in my Iceland chapter? Come join OOAK – Myself and the infamous Pano-Master; Timothy Poulton as we wrangle all things Icelandic.

SO MUCH going on!

 

So, you have a choice.... are you with me?!

For my RICKSHAW RUN ....You can follow, support and cheer B1, B2 and me on our marathon few-months leading up to the Rickshaw Run and then the Run itself. TO see our progress, contact us or pledge to our cause, follow us on;

>>>>>Our RICKSHAW RUN Team Journey Facebook Page<<<<<

 

TAKE ME TO ICELAND, OOAK!

If you’re absolutely dying to see Iceland, courtesy of myself, Timothy Poulton, and our local Icelandic Guide on a One Of A Kind Iceland tour, then please see the event details. September 1 to 11th 2016!

If you’ve heard about this insane quest through myself, and wish to sponsor us in any way that you know how, please, contact me by comment or by form on this webpage, we’d love to hear from you!

So? Thoughts?

I'm crazy right!

I can't wait!

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2016 Iceland India Monsoon Nikon Rickshaw Run Sponsors The australian blog crazyinsanephotographer epictrip escapethecomfortzone follow followme insaneaussie instagram ivelostityeah landscape media melsinclair oneofakindphotographyadventures ooak photography rickshaw sponsorsneeded watchme website https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/are-you-ricky-shaw-about-this Tue, 27 Oct 2015 12:42:08 GMT
Cover Story: Rogue Lawyer https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/cover-story-rogue-lawyer People remember images.

Images tie peoples' memories to things, places and events.

Whether it's the logo on the milk carton or the front cover of a book,  whether we realize it or not, these images tie our experiences to our memory.  They become part of our experience.

A few months ago, I signed up to a website called Imagebrief.

You can read about the objective of this website by clicking on the link. In short, I wanted to do something with my images that were just sitting around, not going anywhere or were perhaps still great, but didn't have the resolution needed for modern printing.

I signed up, made a profile and browsed the briefs. Found some that suited my work and submitted images, expecting nothing but willing to see what came along. Several weeks later I received emails, submitted larger images for them and agreed to terms and conditions.

During the editing process, they said that the figure I had included in the image "wasn't  rough-looking enough" and could they have permission to edit the image. Of course I obliged. Sorry Josh, you're not shady enough, but you were there in spirit!

When the place that the image was going to be used was revealed to me, I almost fell off my chair with disbelief:

The cover of the newest John Grisham "Rogue Lawyer" released October 20th.

Credit where credit is due

A keen writer myself, I feel like it's important to have a little of the origin known.

Since this image is going to get pretty well known on the cover of the Grisham, I wanted to tell the story of the night it was taken, and a little bit about a part of the world that has become my favourite for photography.

May 2010.

Friday nights; a cause for celebration for surviving the week. My housemate at the time particularly had something to celebrate, and subsequently kept me awake. In the early morning hours of Saturday the following day, I was contacted by Josh, a long-time friend, also unable to sleep. We decided to go for a drive to see if there was anything "photographic" around at 3 in the morning.

We only had to drive a short distance before finding a foggy intersection and deciding to stop and shoot it.

The fog was thick and it hung in the street light like an alien form. The road was freshly wet from the previous rain and glistened under the diffused light. Back then, this road was new, not many wheels had spun on its surface; it was clean. It was merely a giant intersection that disappeared at opposite ends; one to a power station, the other into dirt roads and farmland. By geography, we were in Ipswich, a short drive down a freeway, through a valley so often fed by numerous ponds displaced by housing development takeovers. Joking around, we started to realise that this was an image from a horror story. The old "Foggy night mystery" was unfolding. For lack of any other subject, we used ourselves...

As the sun continued to rise later that morning, we headed for the farmland to shoot the stars and the foggy sunrise. While it was nothing of note, the real work had already been done. This little valley has become a fave of mine ever since. While development is again changing how photogenic  this valley is, it goes to show that you don't have to travel halfway across the world for a gem of a shot.

Some others from the same valley:

The UnveilingThe UnveilingRipley, Queensland Know Your MagicKnow Your MagicRipley, Queensland

*** All images featured within are copyright of the Publisher or myself, Mel (Melanie) Sinclair unless otherwise stated. Permission MUST be sought before use***

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2010 2015 Imagebrief Melanie Sinclair australia blog fog grisham intersection ipswich josh landscape landscapephotography lawyer melsinclair melsinclair_au night nikon photographer rogue https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/cover-story-rogue-lawyer Sat, 24 Oct 2015 06:38:33 GMT
APPA Images https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/appa-images Over the weekend just passed, I've spent several days down in Melbourne for The Digital Show, in particular, to watch my entries being judged as part of the Australian Professional Photography Awards, or APPA, a national competition for the members of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP). Our National awards are a big deal and are a great thing to watch and see where your work places in the categories, if nothing else than for professional development. 

It's fair to say that I keep my APPA Images under wraps until I actually have them judged and scored. This is something that most will probably find strange or confusing, but it doesn't have to be; it's designed to create maximum impact on the judges. I've been rather vocal for a while now about why I keep my APPA prints separate from my main practice, and it's because I have this going for me: for experimentation, growth and challenging myself. It's like having an assignment to complete every 6 months, the challenge to create something new, to think newer or be inventive. 

While I do this in my Public practice (ie, what you see in my Galleries and online) APPA and what I'm working on behind the scenes is my Private practice. Since I'm pretty happy with my results, I'll post my images to show you what I submitted. I don't want to make a big deal of them, but hopefully I can explain a little about each image and give you an idea of how I created them.

I'm always up for feedback, but please refrain from attacking the judges or the judging process of the AIPP. I will remove inflammatory or derogatory comments if they are posted. If you have concerns please contact me privately.

I have since received my image corners in the mail, so when I get home I will update the images with their respective photo/award logos.

 

 

 

^ "Efflorescence" 

Location: Patagonia, Chile.

Score: Silver Distinction, 85

This is one of my images created as a single capture. I was hiking through the underbrush in Patagonia, a most majestical path adorned by trees. The light was soft and filtering through the trees. Pano cropped, some shadows desaturated and the tree colour augmented. 

 

^ "Snowy Road" (previously unreleased)

Location: Ben Lomond, NSW, Australia

Score: Silver, 80

This image came about by accident, one night playing around in Photoshop attempting to see what would happen with effects on an image. I began layering the single capture over itself and motion blurring it to create the "tunnel" of the road. I added back in one of my snow textures and made a channel of light. I wanted to recreate the feeling of driving in a video game, it sort of feels like it...

^ "Disappearing Dicky" (previously unreleased)

Location: Dicky Beach, QLD Australia

Score: No Award, 78

This was a commentary image for the last time that I was around the S.S Dicky before it was removed from the beach, due to being a public safety hazard. While exposing, I simply panned the camera left and right to create the "disappearing / erasing". This was intended as a social comment on it's disappearance, highlighting the fragility of the natural environment and how we as humans interact with it.

 

^ "The Usual Suspects"

Location: Willowbank QLD Australia

Score: Silver Award, 80

When I first drove past this location, I immediately had to stop and shoot the trees so perfectly profiled on the edge of the hill. It was an absolutely beautiful winters' day and this scene was just magical. I added in a cloud texture and put in some different motion. I think it worked out pretty well, I like the image and how it feels. The infinite sky and the right blue tone just makes this feel so delicate and simple.

 

***All images presented on this blog are the copyrighted and protected by Melanie Sinclair as the artist and creator unless otherwise stated. Please seek permission to post elsewhere***

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015appaimages AIPP APPA Images aippmember blog judgingprocess melbourne melsinclair october photography thedigitalshow https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/appa-images Wed, 21 Oct 2015 08:30:46 GMT
(WR)APPA Up! Pt 2: Saturday and Sunday https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/-wr-appa-up-pt-2-saturday-and-sunday (WR) APPA Part 2 – Saturday and Sunday

Admittedly, I got so caught up in the shenanigans of the entire weekend that WR-APPA hadn’t been written for Saturday and Sunday because I was simply having too much fun.

While Saturday wasn’t my category, I went along to cement a friendship and say hello, finally, after several years; to Suellen Cook. Suellen is an amazing illustrative photography artist- creating dreamlike and imaginary scenes from photographic beginnings in photoshop – A skill I so wish I possessed. Not only sweet and smart, but humble and just as I had imagined her to be. I made sure I watched illustrative being judged, as had always flirted with the idea of entering this category. Simultaneously, I figured it out was super competitive, but also very complex, it was not the space I wanted to compete in. I spent several hours absorbing the judging and review process, trying to gauge how the judges would be when I got my work judged – On Sunday. Nerves on Saturday afternoon had begun to kick in pretty bad, so I decided to go for a walk around Melbourne, to try and clear my head. Unsuccessful, I returned to the afternoon judging session to again soak up more wisdom.

Saturday night was spent battling crowds again at Hophaus, a local brewpub overlooking the pretty Yarra forecourt and Southbank, diving into drinks and talking shop with several new friends.

I slept well until realising that Sunday had rolled around and judging was to begin at 8:30am that morning. Being that daylight savings is active here, it was the same as 7:30am in Brisbane, a slight adaption to the clock that I have forever struggled with while here.

I rose early, eating well before a big day ahead and managing to get across to the convention centre well ahead of time, so early in fact, that it was pretty much the hours of the judges and the cleaners from the night before.

I choose to take my seat in Room 2, it seemed balanced and I knew most of the judges judging in that room. Image after image, I cannot describe how nerve wracking it was to see so many gorgeous images pass by before I even saw my first, something like two and a half hours into the judging session before my first image came up in room 1, scoring a Silver award at 80. It was the image that I’d had higher hopes for, but was pleased with the Silver having seen the spread of scores suggesting “high professional practice” in the 70s.

Just as I began to breathe easy, I began walking around to starve off nerves and keep the mind flowing, on doing so again, another image came up in Room 1, this time, it only scored a 78 – two points off silver and a non-award, but a half-point.

It was several more hours of watching friends’ images being scored and passing on results, guessing entrants and seeing what came through before I saw my image ‘Efflorescence” in room 1, the only one of the 4 entries that I had released publicly, be scored a pretty even run of 83, 84, 85, 83, 83 – a middle level silver which placed its’ average at 84 and sent it for review for Silver Distinction (85+). The reviews happened at the end of the day, by which time I had scored another 80 for my snowy road and collected two guaranteed silvers, securing me my Associate (AAIPP) award after totalling 5 points in a year of membership – the soonest I could have ever gained this achievement.

In review, my image went into room 2 and was only one of several which the judges decided to upgrade to Silver Distinction. After all the headaches I had given my printer in trying to produce this image, it felt like such a huge achievement to score the prize with this image. Over the moon!

Sunday night concluded with a judging wrap-up cocktail drinks party at Crown Metropol’s Skybar – an incredible terrace overlooking all of Melbourne. We drank, exchanged stories and partied into the evening!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 APPA Musings aipp blog images judging melbourne melsinclair october photography scoring sunday up wrap https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/-wr-appa-up-pt-2-saturday-and-sunday Wed, 21 Oct 2015 05:35:42 GMT
(WR)APPA Up - Pt1: Friday https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/-wr-appa-upfriday Today was the first day of APPA for 2015, and as the first time I've been able to see the live judging process, I must definitely have to say WOW. 

I'm impressed!

Wrapping up, or WR(APPA)'ing up, I've had an absolute blast experiencing all that has happened today, from talking to the brands and their reps, to the company directors and passionate team members, I'm most definitely feeling the great vibe we have in Australian photography.

I got to sit and absorb the judging process, watching the careful deliberations of judges so intent on delivering the best feedback to entrants, such attention to detail and craft, and all in a positive vibe, not a single negative emotion in the room, very uplifting indeed. I got to run into the inspiring creators of Dynamic Range magazine of whom I have been writing for, and I got to meet faces to monikers of whom I had only seen online.

I sat in on a few hours of Science, Wildlife and Wild Places, a few in Travel, some in Birth and eavesdropped a few in Portrait (Non Commissioned). The mastery of the images presented made it clear that they were all a cut above the rest. Every single person that puts themselves forward for APPA should be proud of themselves, regardless of the outcome, it's a process that can either build you up or break you down so easily, and I believe that you're stronger for entering in the first place. I was particularly curious about science and wild places, having considered many of my own images for this category, before deciding to play it safe and enter Landscape as this would not draw questions about the category I had chosen. 

I learnt that an image is as much, or as not as much as what category you enter it into, and found myself watching categories being judged that are well out of my comfort zone (such as Birth) because it gave me a greater appreciation for imagery created at all levels, not just what I was familiar with. It is also the importance of what you include in the frame, as much as what you don't include in that same frame, that the vast variety of choice we have is all about what we do and don't do. I learnt about narratives on the wider scale, I learnt about how the process isn't really complete until you have been here and been open to whatever feedback you receive on your day of judging (judgement).

I was like a kid in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Cameras. Lenses. Tripods. Filters. Accessories. People who knew what they were talking about! Educational sessions. Free Coffee. Freebies (thanks Nikon!). 

Nikon by far have the best stand. There's cool freebies to win, they're so interactive, and if you offer your mug up to being instagrammed by them, you get a free coffee. Woohoo! I won a lens mug, some lanyards and a really cool little D800 pin. The sales staff were great and I got to put a face to DL!

Surprisingly, Canon were nowhere to be seen?! I would have thought they'd have a big stand promoting their new gear, but they seem to be late to the party and have missed out?! Anyway, there was plenty more Olympus, Sigma and Fujifilm to go around.

I"m really looking forward to day 2 of the show. To see more familiar faces and mingle with more of the crowd.

Here's some phone snaps from Day 1!

^ Part of the show floor

^ Posing for a photo with ISO100 Photography and fellow OOAK Team chicky Sarah Hatton

^Nikon's dominance in the land is well known! Love you long time Nikon!

^ Canon AIPP APPA Silver award wall (one of several)

^The Hallowed Gold-Award wall! The wall we all strive for!

 

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 AIPP APPA Musings Nikon WRAPPA australia awards blog digital fujifilm industry melsinclair photography show tds the up wrap https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/10/-wr-appa-upfriday Fri, 16 Oct 2015 12:11:51 GMT
Riverfire and Image Catch Up! https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/9/riverfire-and-catching-up Breaking the awkward-silence on the blog tonight to share some images and a little of the stories behind them from recent shoots....

Read on below for a brief breakdown of what has been consuming my time.

Riverfire!

Last night I had the rare opportunity to shoot Riverfire from a friends' balcony.

It had been ages since I had picked up my camera, and while I have  become rather blase about shooting around Brisbane, I figured it took little effort to get there, so why not. I took my new backup camera, the D750 for a whirl to see what she's capable of and to put it into use. Its purpose is everything other than my artful landscapes, as my main camera, the D810 takes care of those very very well. I didn't want it to do everything, so I bought it's little sister, loaded full of features to be everything else I needed.

Below are my 3 favourite images from the night, of the hundreds I still have left to look at, and stitch into a workable video/ event report.

So before I get too far into this, let me just apologize for the silence.

I'm Sorry!

Life, as it has been recently has been FULL and complicated. I've had so much going and there's still so much going on.

I'm in Melbourne for APPA/ The Digital Show and catching up with photog mates and old friends. That's happening mid October. Then, Mid November I'm off to Japan for 2.5 amazing weeks of Autumn! Expect an absolute spamming of all sorts of images. I'll try to shake it up, I'll try to get to some out of the way places!

I've been working away on the new issue of Dynamic Range magazine, of which I have become a regular contributor. I have a great article in the works about a great photographer, I can't wait to reveal that piece. I wrote another piece for another blog which I hope will be forthcoming soon, and also got interviewed for a Podcast which I will let you all know when it is out.

I have also been working on my entries for National Awards (APPA). While some don't get why I'm in the AIPP, long story short; this is for me, I just love experimentation and it seems the place to do it.  Then I have been investing time for myself, trying to relax more, mixed with time at the gym, working out and hiking with friends.

And then, at some point, you just don't want to be around a computer so you get up and do something else. There's been heaps of that too.

But even though Photography has been keeping me busy... Photography is also my zen, so there has been a couple of times I have stolen some mornings and evenings to go out for a shoot. Let's look back at some of the shoots I've done recently that I didn't report back on... until now!

Surfers Paradise

I stole a morning about a month ago to go down to Surfers Paradise for sunrise with a few other photographers. I had never shot this very classical view of Surfers from the beach, so thought that it was about time that I did. I'm happy with the results I must say, it was a beautiful day emerging.

S.S Dicky

Earlier than that, I went out to shoot the S.S Dicky before it was removed from the beach at Caloundra. A great loss for photographers who came from far and wide to say goodbye to the old girl. I have been shooting the Dicky on and off for a few years, so it was a little sad walking away after the shoot, knowing full well I would never see it on the beach again. Here's what remained at the end of May.

July Snow - Armidale

Over an extended weekend in July, snow was forecast to fall on the Tablelands around Armidale to Tenterfield. I headed south in my 1month old car with a friend Matt, and we drove through some pretty dicey conditions in search of the best scenes to have snow on/in. Gostwyck chapel was our key point of focus, and even though we got there and it was cold but not snowy, our wish was granted just being there. Here's some of the amazing shots that came out of the weekend!

Reminiscing over Iceland 2014

This time last year I was in Iceland! A year flies, wow. Just insane. The magic of the place still stays with me.

In order to keep living in these dreams, I just go back and process more work that I have lying around. The B-sides, the seconds, these all get processed into newbies. There's always something to be found in the archives with a newer mentality, it's great fun. Here's some fun stuff:

Testing the D750

I had begun to think about all the crazy places, hikes, trips etc that I do, and worry that if anything happened to my D810, that I'd be stuck high and dry. I love it as a camera, I can operate it in the dark, half asleep or drunk, I know where all the buttons are and it is my workhorse. I haven't had a backup camera in about a year, and, in thinking this, jumped on the opportunity to buy another FX body that was better at some things than the D810, and housed in a smaller body. The idea came about when I realised that I'd be lugging my D810 around Japan in a few months time, and that I probably didn't need anything that big. Along came the D750 at the right time, and I have to say it has fit in rather nicely! I'm loving the quality of the image. Hell, I'm a Nikon girl. It's true to form.

I've taken it out at night to a dam not far from me. It was unlit and quiet, minus the odd mozzie that would zip past my ear. It begins to get so quiet that your mind plays tricks on you as fish jump out of the water and any sound is amplified in the darkness.

I then took it into a daylight situation and had a play...

And now that brings us to the end!

I'll do my best to be more punctual here on out!

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 D750 Musings Nikon blog brisbane camera church dicky fireworks landscape melsinclair new news photography riverfire s.s snow sunrise sunset update vines vineyard whatsnew https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/9/riverfire-and-catching-up Sun, 27 Sep 2015 12:12:43 GMT
What Is Inspiration? https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/9/what-is-inspiration Hiding All The StarsHiding All The StarsLake Moogerah, Queensland

 

Yesterday, I was walking home from the bus stop, pondering in my head how to write a positive article for once. I say “for once” because that means that it’s one that doesn’t boldly challenge beliefs, make enemies or force a point, as so often is my usual style. I wanted to write something uplifting, something light, not something dark… Something that still makes us challenge ourselves, but in the most well-intentioned, positive way.

 

As I slowly walked home, music liberating my mind and aiding the blood flow through my legs and into my head, it chances upon me that I need some inspiration. “But what is that?!’ I ask myself,

‘What is Inspiration?!"

 

We say “Inspiration” all the time, but what does it mean, how do you implement it, how is it used, exchanged and monetised?

 

At the time, Inspiration started to feel a whole lot like Motivation. Because the act of “Inspiring” seemed to provoke a “doing” response from those who have been “inspired.” It promoted the idea inside their minds that they had to get out and do something, create something or begin something.

So I asked the Oracles, everyday people, my Facebook friends and followers, that same question.

 

‘What is Inspiration?!"

 

Plain, contextless, no attachments to photography or hobbies, what is it?

 

The responses I got were heartwarming in themselves.

I paraphrased them into a workable quote, hope you enjoy!

 

Inspiration….

 

“Makes me excited to create” it’s a feeling of things starting, a drive…

“It’s a challenge - the desire to capture the same scene through your lens as what your eye witnesses”

“A reminder of beauty, that there is still goodness in the moments, whether large or small.”

“A visual feast, an affirmation.”

“A discovery, whether unexpected or fleeting, but always welcome, something that stays with you.”

“It’s in each one of us, every single person can inspire the next, we all have untold wisdom and something to gain from our peers, we inspire them, they inspire us.”

“Motivation for self improvement, a benchmark.”

“Inspiration is a chemical response that triggers envy, which then in turn tells us that there are no barriers, that we can do it too.”

 

What I enjoyed the most, is that it's something that can't be bought. You can't get a shot of it in the arm and you can't (and I have tried) to drink it in. I think the important reality here is that we all have different worlds, different perspectives and different takes on what gets us "going" creatively. It is intangible, a feeling. What works for one won't for another.

 

You are the secret ingredient. It comes from within.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Musings blog inspriation melsinclair photography https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/9/what-is-inspiration Tue, 01 Sep 2015 11:17:07 GMT
Dynamic Range https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/8/dynamic-range I’ve got a question for you,

“How many females have you seen representing Canon, Nikon, Sony or PhaseOne as Brand Ambassadors, spokespersons or sought-after speakers?”

I can name one from the Australian / New Zealand line up, after all, companies operate in sectors. Further to this, how many women do you see contributing articles in photographic genres which are deemed to be more male-centric or male-oriented, such as Landscapes, Outdoor/Adventure, Sport, Events, Fashion and Architecture/Commercial? How many photography magazine editors are female?

What do you think the ratio of women to men in photography is? I’m guessing it’s nearly 1:1 by the time you tally up the world and put it together.  So why then are we so poorly represented?

Rejections are tough, heartbreaking even; I’ve had my fair share of rejections, mostly silent, an email never replied, a phone call never returned.  As a regular blogger I’ve been writing articles for magazines, requesting the submission guidelines before posting, and not even gotten a response. I know plenty of my peers who successfully submit and get paid for articles, yet I won’t even get an email reply politely declining or providing the guidelines I so respectfully asked for. The magazines keep going, so they’re replying to someone.

I’m not alone either, us female photographers are beginning to notice the rejection by omission or the excuses made not to give us the time of day in the media. We’re told to “just forget about it”, to lie down, give up and let someone else take charge. If you’ve been following me for a few years now, you’ll know, don’t you dare tell me not to do something, that I can’t achieve something because I’m a woman, because I’m going to use the full force of my motivation, to prove you wrong.

When Leanne Cole, the editor and founder of "Dynamic Range", asked me to submit an article of my choice, I was ecstatic.

I was being asked to submit to the inaugural issue of a magazine aimed at showcasing women doing great things in photography, because like me, she was tired of the rejection by silence or poor excuses about not accepting articles.

Some very passionate women in Australian photography have helped bring Dynamic Range to reality, we hope that it can become a popular publication, with informative, inspiring articles that will be sought after for issues to come.

 

I encourage you to visit the Dynamic Range page, purchase a copy of the magazine for $5 ( at this LINK )  and get on board.

We need like-minded women to write, review, submit images for critique and to get involved. We need people to share the page from Facebook, to various media, to get the word out there that we are going to work towards making the ratio of female-created content in photography of greater focus and importance. We would love corporate sponsorship, gear to review and products to advertise.

IN this first quarterly-published magazine, I wrote about a place that will forever have a special place in my mind, Iceland. I am so very honoured to have been featured as the cover image, my image The Epitome, taken in Iceland in 2012.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Dynamic Iceland Range august blog epitome issue magazine melsinclair new photography purchase showcase women https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/8/dynamic-range Wed, 05 Aug 2015 08:56:38 GMT
Situational Awareness https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/8/situational-awareness I live on a hill, in over-populated suburbia (or so it feels).

Crying babies, barking dogs, the shrill of cat fights pierce the nights, mornings and every other time in between. Kitchen smells drift between yards, lawnmowers slash the silence and loud engines roar through the tight streets. Tantrums. Tempers. The noises flood my brain. They’re both familiar and unwelcome, but part of life that I cannot change.

The sun rises through my bedroom window, a natural alarm. Its warm light is cast so lightly over my face, I cannot ignore it; I know it is morning. If it’s not the sunlight then it’s my neighbor’s son yelling at his parents, a defiant act of youth so rudely engrained in modern culture. I often wish I had a tranquilizer dart in which to shoot through the window, a shred of a fantasy born out of too many rude awakenings.

Tens of minutes after waking, I drag my sorry, sleep-deprived carcass to the car, bus or train – pulled by a silent force. I travel an uncertain time, sometimes standing in a stranger’s armpit to get to the big smoke. My legs carry me inside the building as I vaguely come-to, not wanting to admit that it’s either Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

I work in an office. I work with sounds, errors, numbers, response times and stats. I am a slave to the stats, tiny measures that tell others whether I’m pulling my weight or not. There is no room for creativity – it is a mere buzzword for doing something differently that has already been done before. Beeps and blips, heated and casual discussions, talk and promises, but always constantly; problems. Problems to be solved, sorted or fixed.

After all the things broken for the day are fixed, I repeat the mornings’ ritual to return to my home, my haven away from the world.

My analytical world is sensory overload.

Enter Landscape Photography.

Given this is my chosen genre, I cannot have the luxury of calling this my "fulltime".

If the day begins with an ‘S’ then I am free. I am on my own timeline and can explore. I have 48 hours in which to do whatever I wish. Whether it be bush, bay, cities or oceans, I can go where I desire, answering only to myself, without stats, pressures or measurable outcomes.

It is on these days that I voluntarily spring out of bed hours before I normally would on a weekday, I am energized with the stress of five days to turn it all around and escape to Zen; to forget all the “stuff” that happened in the finer details and disappear into the creation of one of my images. It’s a drive to a place devoid of people, complimented by tunes of my choice and an open road.

Where I go is up to the weather, I tailor and tune each of my locations to the variables as best I can. Occasionally I throw caution to the wind and just start driving down a highway, knowing that I will have something, somewhere in which to shoot. There’s always something, it just depends how you look at it.

Most photographers will tell you that they just love to shoot, but not really be able to tell you why. We mostly all say that it’s an escapism, that centuries of industrialism has meant that creatives were the witches- hunted down and turned into salary workers. Who needed creativity? It was a dangerous state of mind that went against popular thought.

Creativity is the dark and the light, the practice where there is no correct answer, no wrong answer, just good, better and best. It is to use parts of the brain that is best associated with childhood, the imaginative and the arbitrary. On this side of the fence, it is about keeping the brain fresh, active and constantly imaging. Without imagination, how do we possibly hope to come up with new ideas to interpret into our work?

I need to create, I need to keep thinking about what to do. I have so many ideas, but how to extract them so easily and translate them into a work – whether written or photographic, that is the question.

It’s not just simply a matter of creating for creations’ sake

Or is it?

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 blog home melsinclair muse musings photography saturday sunday twohats work https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/8/situational-awareness Mon, 03 Aug 2015 07:25:30 GMT
9 Photography Mistakes That You Are Probably Making https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/7/9-photography-mistakes  

Over the years I’ve seen some trends come and go in Photography, and while I am biased to the Landscape genre, I’m certain that elitism and big egos exist in other genres. From the community aspect, to the lack of it, here are some common problems people make when trying to “make it” in this big old world. Take each of them as you would a passing joke, but the overriding message is, LIGHTEN THE HELL UP! TAKE IT IN JEST!

 

I could have written so many more... If you want more, comment below!

 

1.       Giving your images Groaner names

The Path Where You WalkedThe Path Where You WalkedMt Alford, Queensland

^Guilty! Formal, full name was "The Path Where You Walked Will Blossom Again" later shortened to "The Path"

Oh boy, this one would have to take the cake of incredibly annoying! Why?! Because they’re all so cliché, or they so clearly came from the name of your favourite song, dad jokes or common phrases that have been used beyond death. Have a think about your images, don’t just call it “The Long Road” for a picture of a road, and think about what the road represents, or, give it an ironical name. Be clever, think about your title… Don’t be boring and predictable! Don’t add fancy character map crap, no sentences - exercise some constraint and be straightforward! It’s like naming a pet, you need something smart, sassy and respectable. You don’t want to be calling out awkward names in the dead of night!

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it too, I’m guilty as well… I think we all are! The title of your work will either draw the viewer in, turn them away, or leave them wondering what the reference is. If you have a few words to say on an image, put it in the title. It’s a much more powerful place to add your inference. Hardly anyone reads the description anymore!

I’ve sold several images based on their titles invoking a memory with a viewer. They ended up finding different meanings in all of my images, ones I hadn’t even considered.

 

2.       Getting caught up in Gear-Wankery

^ Loooookkkk at all my gorgeous brands! BUUURRRAAANNNDDDD!!!!

The deep truth here is that everyone wants the reassurance that they made the right choice in the gear they bought. They want to defend their purchase choices by slagging off others for theirs in order to feel like bigger men. It’s one thing to really love your gear, and it’s another to mock others because they bought something that you don’t think is worthy.

Start small and grow with your gear, don't grow into it.

Debating whether Nikon is better than Canon or Sony or Pentax or PhaseOne or Sigma are better than one another for a few differing features only holds water as long as people keep arguing about it. The photographer makes the images, the camera is the slave that captures it. Sure, some cameras handle different subjects better than others. Everyone buys what's’ in their means, you don’t know their life, so stop judging the photographer on the camera they use!

Same goes for those who love to tell you that you paid too much for a certain item or accessory. Please, get over it. Grow up and focus your energies on your photography, because chances are you’ve spent so much time in forums arguing over the finer details of depth of field in an 85mm 1.4 lens than you have not paying attention to the halo’ing in your post processing.

 

 

3.       Calling yourself “Award-Winning” When You’ve Never Won A Top Prize

Two TeepeesTwo TeepeesBurnie, Tasmania

Oh lordy. This one is sure to rub some of you up the wrong way.

Those lovely little merit awards that you get in online and international photography competitions, are NOT top prizes. Calling yourself award-winning should only be reserved for when you take out the GRAND PRIZE or top of your category. Over 45% of competition entrants receive a Merit award - which is meant to say “hey, your image is up there with the benchmark of the competition, here’s a bronze, silver or gold star” when entering online comps, this makes you neither special nor worthy of such accolades. You are misleading and falsifying your success in order to gain from it.

I know that there will be an indignant few who feel it is their right because they paid to enter, however, you are shortchanging the person who did win, the sponsors, the competition and the general public, all to give yourself a shinier appearance. It does the opposite.

 

PS. You know that Garbage Collectors now call themselves Waste Disposal Consultants.

Lol, right? There’s some difference in the perceived professionalism right there.

 

4.       Claiming Purist Photography is SOOC Images Because You Can’t Process

^ I've been accused several times of "Faking" this... hmmm okay...

SOOC or Straight Out Of Camera is a great shooting technique and an important one in your journey of self-discovery through the lens. But, there are some caveats.  Like all things in this world, we have choices, we have beliefs and morals. At least, we used to. As red-hot as the debate over which camera to use, is the one that an image is too over processed, or it’s “photoshopped” because it’s either too unbelievable or beautiful to possibly be real.

The flipside of this camp of belief, is that if you’ve done anything to it in Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture or your chosen post program, then it therefore loses its artistic merit because you have supposedly “cheated.” Post processing is not cheating, neither is SOOC a purist form of photography. Most often the vengeful keyboard warriors come out in support of SOOC because they do not know, or want to know, how to post process an image. Sometimes (but not always) this reason is financial, technical or educational; Adobe is attempting to rectify this with the cheap $10 per month Cloud subscription to services, so what’s the excuse.

Why all this unnecessary hate, slander and vitriol?

 

5.       Trying To Master Every Genre

^ I used to love shooting nightclubs. Not so much anymore, the flame burnt out after I found Landscape.

Jack of all trades. Master of none.

Never before has this rang truer than to the average camera owner.

I get that you love this powerful conglomeration of electronics, glass and magic all sewn up into the sexy black housing, it makes you feel invincible, it makes you feel professional...

But really, are you doing yourself or your practice any favours by claiming that you shoot everything well- whether it is living, dead, human, flora, fauna, man made, natural or intergalactic?

 

But what are you awesome at?

How many world-wide professionals do you see that shoot every genre? I’d say none to not many, because the constant pursuit of EVERYTHING is enough to tire out the average kid on adult-strength uppers. Pick one or two main genres, keep some others on the side for fun. The ones that light a fire in your belly, put a smile on your face and make you feel addicted to doing more, are the ones that you are good at and should keep pursuing.

The ones that don’t give you that rush, time to give em up, eh?

 

6.    Trying to be Awesome From The Very First Day You Pick Up A Camera 

Warming VatnajökullWarming VatnajökullSouth Iceland

^ Accept that you have a journey ahead of you. See what I did there ;)

All good things take time to develop.

Fine wines age for years, and in this case, is the perfect metaphor.

In the beginning, you’re still finding your focus, still developing a style and you’re a bit rough around the edges, haven’t quite settled and this is perfectly normal. Take some time to explore, learn, grow and realize who you are as a photographer before choosing to specialize in something. Trying to be everything in a month, you may achieve it, but you may struggle to understand the hows and whys. Mind you, talent still exists, but it is foolish to expect that you’ll get it from the very first shoot. Like wines, you can be the Shiraz-Cabernet, but if you try be a blend of all the different varieties, you don’t taste any good, which cheapens you.

 

Yes there are prodigies out there. There are those who just get it and create magic. The secret is not to pretend like you're one.

Accept that because you are still learning, the camera will not possess you and enable to you to create images that are amazing. It’s inside you, somewhere.

 

7.       A Silver Platter Please, I’m New To This...

The Last CaressThe Last Caress

^ Give me all your best locations, NOW! CHOP CHOP! One of my most requested.

This also relates to the point above. The urge to get amongst the hottest and best can be an intoxicating experience. There are new photographers being made every day. People will pick up a camera and begin to get the hang of the basics fairly quickly. Expecting seasoned shooters to disclose all of their hard-earned research so that you can diversify quickly is beyond frustrating. Be prepared for most to say no. There is great learnings that come from picking a location, shooting it and evaluating the efforts vs results. This is an important lesson for everyone, not just the beginner.

 

Some offer up locations readily, but those that are not disclosed may be for several reasons (such as permission gained to enter private property), which you should respect and not ask for implicit instructions in order to get to the same spot. Not everything is a readily-reproducible formula, learn this and understand the ways.

Be patient, be respectful, there are no silver-platters.

 

8.  Attacking someone personally when offering constructive criticism:

Natural BridgeNatural Bridge

^ My own backyard. Images taken here are frequently debated...

 

I often have seen this in forums, which is why I don’t visit forums anymore;

 

“I don’t know why the photographer chose that angle, it is not flattering and makes the model look fat. Photographer is clearly stupid and cannot tell the difference between ISO and fstop”

 

You weren’t asked to host a Roast for the photographer, so quit it with the personal attacks. I’m getting so tired of seeing destructive remarks for personal reasons, when an image was presented. Judge on what is in front of you, try to make light of what they could have done, but remember, without seeing the surrounds, you’re only guessing. Make inferences about the image, not the creator.

I feel somewhat sad that I have to talk about people like they’re in kindergarten.  Play nice or NOT AT ALL. This follows on from knowing when to say something, and when to keep your mouth SHUT.

 

9. Attacking others’ images because they’re not as good, or worthy, as yours

 

ChimeraChimera

^ Soothing... Calming... BE CALM DAMMIT!

 

Following on from the previous point, this one deserved an entire section of its’ own.

This is sadly becoming more and more truthful as the days pass. It seems to be growing in unfortunate popularity to sully, dismay or put down an image or the creator if an image is not deemed worthy of its position in popular ranking, or for a variety of self-centered egotistical reasons. This is childish bullying behaviour and has to stop.

This may even occur for the following and completely useless reasons:

 

  • Photographer A does not believe that Photographer B’s image is real / authentic / not photoshopped and therefore sees fit to publicly question its status in often put-down, raw assertions of false-authority or showing just how egotistical they are.

  • Photographers A+C-Z have ganged up on B and with the unfortunate power of group bullying, have sullied the well-intentioned efforts of B.

  • Photographer A believes they are the KING of the genre and therefore the authority on what is and what is not a meritable image.

  • Photographer A is protecting imagined “territory” from which they take tours and feels it necessary to attack Photographer B’s efforts in a desperate grab to retain the clientele wishing to visit said territory.

  • Photographer A is jealous that Photographer B created something they didn’t do first, and attacks on whatever technical detail they can, whether small or large

  • Photographer A has clearly never heard the phrase “If you have nothing positive to contribute, then shut your mouth.”

  • Photographer B supposedly says something in a description that Photographer A takes offence to, even if it wasn’t directed at them.

  • Photographer A is a egomaniacal jerk.

 

If you’re feeling offended, it’s probably time you examined yourself and thought about why.

Though, if you feel the need to prove me wrong, please, comment below.

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 9 beawesome blog brands clickbait egos examples funny givemeallyourlocationsnow hahahaha havealaugh ilovefstop ilovenikon ilovesirui itsstillmeanttobefunny jerks landscape melsinclair mistakes musings notsoawesome photographers photography sooc trolling https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/7/9-photography-mistakes Thu, 02 Jul 2015 07:39:51 GMT
Chapter 7: El Chalten to De Agostini https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/6/chapter-7-el-chalten-to-de-agostini After seeing what seemed like endless paddocks of powdery, ashen-dirt stained fields, crossing the border to Argentina was not as we had imagined in our minds-eye. Vast expanses of nothing but fences, the odd sprouted mountain, derelict buildings and the odd sign were the highlights of more than five hours of cruising. It began to make us wonder if there really was this oasis of hiking and exploration, our immediate surroundings were convincing us we were crazy.

We were surrounded in so much nothing that if we had of broken down we wouldn’t know how to describe the location. No GPS in our possession, we were going on instinct, rough, misguided… hopeful. The odd sighting of the Spanish-looking-guanaco-llama-like creature picked at the grey-green pubic hairs holding earth together,  pausing and staring up at us with accusation, “what the hell are you doing here, what the hell am I doing here?!

This all started because we got lost on the simplest of intersections. Devoid of helpful or any signs, we began the blind guessing of direction, only through some raw connect of broken English screwed with Argentinian Spanish, a lot of hand waving and map pointing at a gas stop I’d never make at home, the perky X-Trail arrived in El Chalten, Argentina a little before dusk. Relief swept over the crew as we spotted the other car from our troupe, parked at La Cerveceria - a culturally appropriate place for quenching dry mouths and filling empty gullets.

Brews and ales, pizza, pasta, dessert and cheer, the very next day would sign in the start of some more serious hiking. Cheeks were warmed, spirits lifted and hopes elated as the wonderful hostess brought us round after round, ‘til the better of us were deciding to hit the hay, and the rest so rightly followed. Sunrise was the beginning of a new and frosty day.

Frozen puddles, stiff grass and that wonderful feeling of being able to see your own breath greeted us as we trod the distance to the waterfall, the rushing water echoed through the leafy canyon somewhere beyond our path. The sunrise teased us by peeking its rays through the taller trees, giving a sense of urgency and panic. A few shots into the shoot, frustration set in and we changed locations, screaming off to the road into town, to witness it cradled among the mountains; the knifes’ edge of the Andes.

^ OOAK Patagonia Crew 2015 Photo: Jake Anderson Photography

We stopped to take the best group photo ever!

Breakfast. Packing. Shopping. More Breakfast. More Packing and we were off. We knew we were saying goodbye to our technology, our showers and our worldly comforts once more.

The introduction to the hike was short and steep, a stark reminder of the heights we were to climb soon. That said, once inside the park, the paths were winding and rocky, but it wasn’t long until we could spy the mystical Tors In the background, inviting us into their park and into their world. Ducking and weaving around the little rivers, surging through tunnels of tall shrub trees, it was so blissful to turn a corner and end up in a new part of the scenery, like acts in a play. We all knew we were settling in for a long walk, our packs heavy but our spirits were full and elated in the morning sun.

^ Skinny pathways, Having Fun. Photo credits: Clair Norton/ Clair Julia Photography

Only a few had an idea of how long we really were going to be walking for. The rest, like myself, just thought to begin and when we finish, that’s when we finish. The path to begin with was of mixed terrain; it all was really. More trees, more mixed forest and more dicey pathways, sections of ice, mud pits and slippery rocks . I could hear my bag dragging against the fine bushes as we passed through tunnels of vegetation, my jacket beginning a leaf collection by the time I stopped to rest.  We moved through scenery like that of an ikea serving suggestion. Filtered light, tall, open forests, mossy and damp from dew and rainfall, rocky rapid cascades next to a pastel aqua stream, paths often not so obvious, but that didn’t matter, we could feel the direction. Low branches, high ones, stepovers. The path was so varied of terrain that it was fun to cross. Log-tied bridges, but never losing sight of the tors that marked the map of where we were going.

^1.  Forest! ^2. Campground!

De 'Agostini camp ground, it was around these parts, so very convenient to the locations we wanted to see. Truly a stunning part of the world.

By late afternoon on our arrival, light had softened amongst the forest, tents were up and bags were lightened up, it was time to explore. For the boys, that meant strapping on harnesses and getting as close to the glacier as they could. Storming over the hills dressed like arctic ninjas, chancing upon another tour group. Shock and awkward glances, nods exchanged.

I however, had dissipated from the group, I was exploring the forests that we had passed during our hike. I was intrigued, I had to investigate. I found a spot to stop and take in the scenery, in the shade, in the warmth and caught up with my dear diary. This was a habit I had only begun to get into at the end of the tour, motion sickness from writing while in a car had stalled most of my plans to be active with writing, but nonetheless, this was my moment.

I followed my instincts up hills, roughly through the short-statured trees. I had to walk bent over or at a crawl most of the time, I was taller than the trees, and SURELY in my bright blue jacket I figured someone would see me, but no. Hiding in plain sight, I was loving it. Keen to shoot something different from everyone else the next morning, I was out and hunting for something other than the lagoon, this autumn color was beautiful and needed to be showcased.

While the clouds parted for sunset, I continued to poke around what scenery there was. But I know I had found my perch. Returning to camp I had the most delicious Back Country Shepherds’ Pie, mash and meat and vegetables. I am sure it tasted better because I was in the middle of nowhere and it made this simple, sometimes bland meal, taste amazing.

Nourished, I climbed into my tent and set myself up for the morning. Writing some more and settling in for some decent sleep before it got too cold once more.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 America Argentina Chalten DeAgostini El OOAK Patagonia South april autumn bag blog campground explore foliage forest fstop hike landscape march melsinclair nikon oneofakind path photography roadtrip https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/6/chapter-7-el-chalten-to-de-agostini Mon, 15 Jun 2015 10:17:37 GMT
Chapter 6: Jump the Line - Border Crossing https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/5/chapter-6-jump-the-line

^ Just a few (not all) of the immigration stamps!

Several days had passed since we first entered Torres Del Paine National park, and now it was with rather sad but excited faces that we were leaving, crossing the border to Argentina and hopping into a whole new park for the next few days.

The Torres had been our first real taste of Patagonia; suffice to say we were hooked on the scenery and the intense colours at every single location. Bundles of memories had been made and now it was time to see what it was like on the other side of the fence.

Our last day amongst Torres Del Paine, waking up at Las Torres we saw foxes over breakfast, running around in the pre-dawn light as rain softly fell from the darkened skies. It was the kind of day where you just wanted to watch it pass. Climbing into the cars while it was still wet, we were headed for the border, to cross into Argentina. Arriving at the border gate, parking in front of a striped and extended boom gate, followed by gravel road, it was as you would walk up to an airport border security desk, silent, behaved… ordinary.

Passports stamped, processed out of Chile into… somewhere else. Yes we were going to Argentina, but you don’t get that stamp until you’re in Argentina, or in this case the little dilapidated house on the side of the road that ventures into Argentina. Either way that next stamp was to wait. Processed through, the boys began dealing with the cars that we were crossing in, while the rest of us went and waited patiently. After much to- and fro, the boys came back to the cars with sullen faces.

We had been denied entry!

It had something to do with the cars, but regardless, we couldn’t camp at the border, so it was back to Puerto Natales while Tim awaited the missing documents to be sent to us, by bus. Nevertheless, it was a night in the hotel that was needed to again recharge batteries and regroup before heading off again the next day for attempt #2.

^ On the line : Me at the Border! Photo: Clair Norton/ Clair Julia Photography

Fast forward to the next morning, and here we were again at the Border of Chile, Nomansland and Argentina. Straight out of a comedy skit we bailed from the cars, passports and documents in hand, ready for round two. Walking purposely into the building intending on coming out triumphant, forms were filled, lines were formed and passports were stamped. By now we were beginning to amass an impressive number of entry/exit stamps from Chile, a story to be told from just the passports themselves. The rest of us stood at the back of the room nervously watching whether the documentation for the cars would be accepted, and, then as it were, we were allowed to go on our way. Surprised and relieved, we were finally getting to El Chalten by nightfall.

The gates of the border were opened and we drove our cars through victoriously, after all that we had been through to get in, we weren’t looking back. It was only a short drive through nomansland, before reaching the hut of the Argentinan passport control. A dimly lit room with poor signage, two guards at kitchen tables and a big pile of manual-entry paperwork beside them. No computers, not even a lightbulb on, I’m surprised they even saw the page. Clearly the law was lax around these parts.

Some more stamps to add to the collection and into a snowy, cold southern Argentina we went. We were headed for the town of El Chalten, sitting below the majestic spines of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, or Fitz Roy. We had made it. The miserable grey and the emptiness of the landscape made it feel rather "soviet", there really was nothing except power lines and white-bathed hills.

To celebrate, it was time for beers, pizza and pasta and the most amazing apple pie. It would be a few days on dehydrated food from here on out. The next day would herald the beginning of the adventure into the park.

Excited; we were.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) Argentina Chile Patagonia blog border chalten crossing del el fitz landscape march melsinclair national oneofakind ooak paine park passport photography roy stamps torres https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/5/chapter-6-jump-the-line Wed, 20 May 2015 10:35:14 GMT
Chapter 5: El Chileno to Base Las Torres https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/5/chapter-5-el-chileno-to-base-las-torres After ever-so apprehensively booking into the Refugio for the night, when torrential rain caught us off guard, we awoke to hopeful skies beckoning us out. The skies were reassuring, while not totally clear, the lack of dampness on the ground and the rushing rapids told us that most of the heavy rain had gone; it was safe to go out once more. Not that it had not been before, but much less damp, taking away a degree of difficulty that we had surrendered to previously.

 

We fetched our smoked clothes from the hazy room and dressed promptly, it was not yet known how the weather could change, but we wanted to get out and into it before we had a chance to think twice.

 

 

Once out, the air was crisp, the skies trying to clear and the waters were raging down the valley. Not far from leaving the front door, we passed over bespoke bridges made from logs, carved, placed and tied into place. Forests were alive with colour, if I hadn't been in such a rush to get to Las Torres I'd have taken it a bit slower and really thought about my compositions. Given that I now had to put down the pack to get to my camera gear, every time I did this it had to be worth it. The forests were just too beautiful to pass without taking a shot.

^ Flexing some muscle, this is what it felt like!

 

Winding paths ducked and weaved around and underneath the growths, the cool forest air smelt damp and musty, the breeze hurtling this through my lungs and kicking out the smoky stale from the night before. I must admit I travelled a little slower while under the branches!

^ Trees

 

Eventually, we escaped the treeline and came upon the sign warning us of the 45-min ascent to the Base Las Torres. While scenic and in places hectic, this walk was challenging but passed relatively quickly. The first fifteen minutes was weaving and treading through a creek, small cascades underneath multi coloured trees, the boots getting splashed with incredibly fresh water and the arms being tested by the hiking pole supporting myself and Monster (my pack). Clair and I chased each other up the cascades, eventually breaking free of the creek and onto bare, exposed sandy face of the adjoining mountains. It was here the difficulty increased tenfold; it would only take a little bit of wind to knock me off my feet and down into uncertain doom. I bogged in for the hard fight, leaning forward and attempting to shift my centre of gravity lower.

^ Breaking free from the treeline

After what seemed like forever, weaving, ducking, watching every step, we rounded the mountain and saw Mirador Las Torres. The stunning, dominating fingers sticking out into the air. The ambient temperature up here had to be around freezing, it was so bitterly cold that I was forced to bring out the hand warmers. Shooting for this reason is difficult for me, the cold, frozen sticks that used to be my fingers fail to function, every clenched fist is stabbing pains up my arms, touch is exaggerated and even trying to warm them up burns.

 

All around us, the mountain was breathing and heaving, it was alive. Rocks would tumble unannounced from the crowded embankment and into the water with a groan and a clamber. It was as clear as if it had happened right beside us. Mountains cracking, whistling and cooing in the cold morning air, a falling blue light cast on the lake with a grey-sheet sky above.

 

But at least it was not raining.

 

As a group, we made the executive call to head back to Las Torres hotel for the next night, some wound licking and clothes drying would need to happen before a long drive in the car to Argentina the next day, commencing part two of the tour.

 

^ Still ever-so beautiful! Too bad I had to watch where I was going!

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 America Patagonia South april ascent base blog chile del explore hike hiking in landscape las march melsinclair national paine park patagonia photography refugio roadtrip. torres https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/5/chapter-5-el-chileno-to-base-las-torres Tue, 12 May 2015 10:22:26 GMT
Chapter 4: Refugio El Chileno https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/4/el-chileno

^ The Bar was at this luscious place, also the start of the hike up! Source: Las Torres Hotel

By this point in time of the trip, we had passed the half-way mark and were ready to embark on the greatest ascent of them all. The journey from Las Torres to Base Torres, via El Chileno.

There’s days that are sent to you with the intention of challenging you, and there’s sometimes days that break you. Today, for the most unexpected reason, broke me. I’m not proud of it, but it happened and there’s no point hiding from it.

My phone screen broke, so bad that it wouldn’t operate anymore.

I was without my translator, my pictures from home, music to keep me psyched, a camera to take happy snaps and a notepad when paper would get wet. I was sadder for the fact that I wouldn’t be able to record my journey through snaps from this point forward, as I knew that taking the pack off my back to get my camera out was just so impractical.

I had to commit so many facets of the trip to memory from here on out, I’m actually beginning to imagine that I took photos where I didn’t actually. Call it a missed opportunity, but this perhaps where we should all be. Rich in hindsight yes, but going those last days without a phone made me realise my dependence on it. It’s not about the function of the phone, or the connection of the internet, it’s about how much of our lives we’ve put into the device to manage; it was sobering.

^ "Bar Pionero" Image Credit: Las Torres Hotel, Patagonia

But onwards we went, after a refueling stop for a pizza lunch and some wine to wash it down with. The day was crystalline clear, a few clouds hung about, creating the perfect backdrop for the plush green grass beyond the glass atrium. Once the bellies were full, the moods were lifted, we stopped by the small little sales hut for a bottle of Pisco (kind of like herbal gin) stuffed it into our overflowing packs and hiked onwards and upwards. It was a walk that we knew would be tough, we knew it was going to be a bit of work. Walking the long flat before the first short up, I was determined to get my game face on, if only to prove to myself that it was only a hill, and I was going to get up it!

The track was worn from hikers’ past, the deep rutting’s and alternative paths worn into the grass and beyond to dirt. The paths twist and turn around rocks, trees and make their way up beyond view and into the valley. It’s getting cloudy now and as I walk I’m noticing how much cooler it feels. I stop to take a lungful of Ventolin and it begins to lightly spit, tiny droplets of water fall from the sky and I’m just hoping it doesn’t get heavier.

Hopes fall on deaf ears, the heavens open and give us a good ol’ Patagonian drenching while we’re climbing the hardest parts of the track. In what felt like a matter of minutes, I went from dry and confident, to pretty sure that even my Goretex was soaked to the bone (or so it felt). Rain drove into our faces, testing our willingness to be there. For what seemed like a short walk, it was most definitely made way too uncomfortable by the driving rain. Streams were forming and rolling down the hill ahead of me, the water now milky with the pale brown soil going along for the ride. It was as if a chocolate milk truck had let its load go, tumbling down past my now sodden everything.

Even though the pack was digging into my shoulders, it was all about the mind, not the body. One had to imagine that it was as light as a feather, and didn’t matter. I was getting up that hill, and it had to be with the pack. I trained for this. I was ready, I was doing it, I was going to!

I began to realise that if all my essentials for life are in my backpack, what the hell else was I worrying about. Why did all the other stuff matter so. It’s all here on my back, camera, food, sleeping gear and tent, life goes on, you can do it.

By the time I had reached El Chileno, I did not see anyone else, and even questioned whether I was going in the right direction, crossing the log bridge leading to the refugio several times before realizing there only was one track.

Once up the track, I saw Rob under an awning, out of the rain for just a second. Piled-to-near-overflowing were others’ backpacks, and it took a second for me to register that the refugio was open, it was warm, out of the wet and toasty warm. My heart melted a little and I sought temporary refuge inside. As a condition of entry we all had to remove the fish tanks from our feet, and squealch inside with sopping socks.

Warm and lively, the refugio was swollen to capacity with people taking a break from the rain which continued to drive hard. People hugging mugs, holding beers and eating chips were scattered around the room, the warm aromas making it temporarily feel like home and become intoxicating in the mind as compared to the cold, woody surrounds outside offering nothing of the sort. The parts of this beautiful building that I remember the most is the large, open communal area, facing the onwards wilderness with large panelled windows, high wooden ceilings and foggy glass, caused by the internal wood-fired heater and the moisture outside condensing. A big pile of pre-made pizzas and cream or caramel buns sat stacked on a silver platter each, the smells making the woody, sweet but salty air all the more enjoyable. Soft music was played from reception and it was a space that did not feel hostile in the slightest.

One by one as our party stumbled past, we all flowed in, each wondering what to do next as the rain didn’t really let up. Sopping wet and spirits hampered by the wet night ahead, we checked into the final beds of the refugio, all fitting neatly into a room with enough beds for the group.

^Hanging with Clair and Sarah. I don't mean to look weird in photos, I'm usually tired Source: Vanessa Farmilo

That night we reluctantly bunker down and take over a drying room for our clothes. What looked like a room before we got there was now just a maze of drying lines, strung up with hopes and dreams of putting on a semi-dri garment in the morning. We had a dinner of fish and mash, prepared by the host and his mother who were soon to be closing up the refugio for the wintertime. The meal was homely and tasty, supplemented by some drinks and a hilariously fun game of Jenga.

There was always this feeling though, that we should have kept going up the path, that we should have just put on our big boy or girl pants and kept going. I don’t think it was the rain that stopped us, it was the severity of it. The way it just kept going, at every angle.

As the night drew to a close and we retreated to our bunks, plugging in earplugs and listening to the rain on the roof, we were never more satisfied to be falling asleep in the warm, dry confines.

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) America Chile Del National Paine Park Patagonia South Torres adventure blog chileno el las melsinclair nikon oneofakind ooak photography rain refugio roadtrip torres https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/4/el-chileno Thu, 30 Apr 2015 10:11:10 GMT
Patagonian Short Stories https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/4/patagonian-short-stories

There are so many little snippets, tiny little memories, stuck to metaphorical post-it notes that I want to preserve from my time in Patagonia. The many differences, whether cultural or physical can stay with you; if nothing else, that is why we travel. I didn’t write as much in my journal as I expect I would have, or should have, but together, all these short stories help illustrate the downtime, those fragile little things that will soon be lost to the mundanity of my daily routine.

These are those snippets, the little shreds I don’t want to forget…

“Bitumen Strips” aka Roads

I the point of a road was to lead you to your destination in a timely and relatively-routine manner, then roads really ought to be renamed to Bitumen Strips in certain parts of regional Chile.

The attitude to road rules is rather lax, bordering on non-existent. Drive on the right hand side of the road yes, indicate when turning, have your lights on, stop and start when you need to, all the usual things. Never mind that there are hardly any lines, this strip of bitumen will take you there, it is better than gravel (marginally!).

When queuing for traffic lights, it is important to remember that there is no order. Just get in line, somehow. By one way or another if you’re turning, the others on the road will sort themselves out… you hope. The speed limit on the roads is mostly 90kmh, but nobody – nobody- will know if you go less, more or greatly over that. There is no traffic enforcement of any kind around these parts. If you’re dumb enough to break the rules, you’ll probably break yourself first.

Just watch yourself on the gravel. There’s nobody around to help you if you don’t.

Blister


Oh annoying little blister, how I am so disappointed to see you. 
You appeared after a long day on the trails, in my warm and moist shoe.
I put on double socks, to prevent your arrival,
But it is clear that I was so wistfully in denial.
The pain you inflict on my foot seems so minor, 

But a hard day walking, you are my reminder.
Your presence shall be celebrated with a sharp prick,
I cannot afford the discomfort,  you must go quick.
None of this weeping you hear, none of this pus,
For a little blister I've already made such a fuss.
You are the reminder that I should probably slow down,
But not until the hike's finished, when I arrive into town.

 

Restroom Repugnance

Sometimes it only takes going to a fuel-station bathroom to realize that you’re actually in another country. Don’t let this fool you, it’s only once you get “out there” beyond the comforts that you notice it. At first, all seemed normal. In the big, plush hotel suites that we soon became accustomed, the sanitary system was relatively robust. You went, you wiped, you flushed (didn’t you?!). The further out of town one went, the routine changed a little.

You went, you wiped, you-threw-the-paper-you-used-in-a-growing-to-overflowing-bucket-next-to-the- toilet, you flushed. You walked out of the stall hoping you didn’t just clog the toilet.

Or.

You went. You wiped. You still put your paper in the towering pile of used sheets and hoped that none of it was going to overflow. You flushed. You realize you clogged the toilet. You flapped your arms around in abject horror and shame, wondering how to remedy the situation without drawing attention to yourself. You watch as the stained water doesn’t quite gurgle over the edge. You breathe a sigh of pained relief. You give in. You call attention to the matter by calmly walking up to the hotel staff, and, keeping a straight face, you alert them to the plunger needed in stall 3.

While I am not speaking from experience here, I came awfully close to being.

In Argentina, the situation was slightly different.

After several hours in the car, if you made it to a bathroom, you were one of the lucky ones. Finding the loo was never a difficult task. Making a bee line from the car to the facilities, I dived in a stall and, feeling completely relieved, started searching for the vital next step. Where is the---!

No hallowed stainless-steel dispenser of dignity.

Peering between the cracks in the cubicle, it was on the wall, next to the washing and drying facilities. Worryingly, the sudden but horrifying feeling is dawning that you darted past the paper in your mad-rush to the stall, and now there you are stranded. Nobody speaks English, or pretends not to hear my feint cries for assistance. Stuck. People come and go, attempting a few words, my pleas are ignored. I hear some people come in speaking a fluent British. I’m saved! Hello! I get a reply. Embarrassingly, I explain my situation. Some paper soon appears below my door, “I understand’, she says sympathetically, ‘I was in your situation yesterday.”

I never got to thank her properly, other than through the door.

From then on, the actions used in the bush were repeated in the city…Keep some tissues in your pocket.

___

Back to the Chapters next week! Coming up, Las Torres!

 

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mel@melsinclair.com.au (Mel Sinclair Photography) 2015 Patagonia america argentina blister blog chile dramatic feet funny hiking loo melsinclair photography roadtrip short snippet south story toilet https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/4/patagonian-short-stories Sun, 26 Apr 2015 05:06:48 GMT
Chapter 3: Paine Grande https://www.melsinclair.com.au/blog/2015/4/chapter-3-paine-grande  

As hard as it was to say goodbye to Lago Pehoe, it was time to move on to see another angle of Torres Del Paine. The mountains had been teasing us for days, being so far away, it was time to get amongst them and experience a slice of what true hiking aficionado’s come to Patagonia for.

^ My bigass bag

We arrived rather hurredly to the Catamaran which was waiting for us. Embarassingly, after grabbing our bags as they tumbled out of the car, we ran – nay – shuffled, that awkward way that you do when you’re not quite sure of how to speed up the cadence when under the weight of a pack and under pressure to make a departing boat.

All aboard finally, some of us making the shuffle with grace, others just content to take their time, we angled through doorways with our huge packs, took on weird looks from everyone else on the boat and took some kind of assigned seat without attracting any further attention. First though, we had to go up onto the roof to see another grand view of the huge peaks, from my personal view, we had a large mountain/lump in front of us, which blocked most of the view. Others on the boat did not discriminate though, this was worthy of a photo.

^ Excited!

^ Tim and Rob chillin'

The boat ride was quiet for most of us, as there were a range of other people on board, we sat and watched the world go by, as if silently, momentarily, we behaved like normal citizens. Whatever normal was.

Disembarking at the port of Paine Grande, all packed up thinking we were about to go for a decent hike, I marched off the boat, pulling my best “it’s not that heavy, this is what I always carry” face. We marched all of about 200m or less, to the camp site register, and then proceeded to set up camp. No bigass hike with the pack, no bravado needed. What Sarah and I did need however, were instructions on how to get the tent up, as the previous time, it was done for us swiftly and sans instruction. This time however, we were on our own. Managing to get it erected without too much hassle, the sleeping gear went inside and anything not deemed necessary for photography was chucked in also.

The trip from here fragments for certain the group, depending on what they chose to do each day with hiking and exploring. After throwing non-essentials into the tent, I set out with Jeff, Jake, Rob and Craig to check out the Grey Glacier walk. Although overcast, I was keen to see what was up beyond the ridge that (seemed) to shelter us from the wind. (oh how wrong I was!)

Most of this walk was pleasant without too much opportunity for photos, that is until we reached the top of the first steep ascent, and looked out over the giant causeway created by the receding glacier. The rest of the walk took us through winding forests, tall straw grasses, across streams with hastily built bridges, up and over rocky ridges and of course, as it is in Patagonia, through much mud.

^ Rob's back and Craig

^ The difficulty/ ascent level map! Doh!

^ As close as I got before we (regrettably) turned around

When the heavens opened up, 3km before we were due to reach our destination, for whatever reason we sheepishly decided to give in, figring the weather wasn’t going to clear and give us a worthy sunset. While the latter was true, I feel conflicted that I never really reached the glacier. That said, it was a damn good walk, and the first long hike of the trip.

Returning to the camp site in near darkness, and, pretty wet from the continued rain that fell on the return, I soothed my soaked little soul at the camp kitchen for an unexpectedly awesome meal of chicken, and caught up with those at the table and heard about their day.

That night the tent flapped and billowed about in the wind, waking up thinking that I was on a boat with large sails perhaps was justified, yet at the time felt slightly mad.

Sunrise was passed on because of the continuing grey skies and intense wind, much like breakfast should have been, as it was lacking substance and perhaps overpriced. A RedBull later and that problem was solved, the girls and I took off for our adventure up the French valley, however hard that would be. We set off excitedly for the day ahead.

^ Lovely day for a walk!

^ Wind creating the white caps and spray!

^ Moody delicious light!

We took the walk at a leisurely pace, opting not to rush and this was one of the most entertaining days that we had (or so I think), as the varying path, scenery and wind levels made the trip rather fun.

While we never made it up the entirety of the French valley, we had some awesome fun along the way. This is perhaps the day that I took the most photos on both my phone and my camera, ones that I think demonstrate just how changing this path was.

One particular section caught Clair off-guard, and most of us, now that I think about it. It was the equivalent of running the gauntlet, without the running. A mud puddle where track should have been. The boards of which were bogged, down IN the mud, rendering not much use to all of us. Being careful where we trod was paramount, though some of us slipped up. Thank god for gaiters, hey Clair!

 

^ Uh, you're kidding right? RIGHT?

^ Oops!