Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Old bridge

Very old. In fact, it's called the Old Bridge, or Ponte Vecchio in Italian, and it is situated in the beautiful Italian town of Florence. It is believed that the original bridge across the Arno at this, its narrowest point, was constructed by the Romans. You cross the Ponte Vecchio through an arcade of galleries and shops, many of them jewellery related. The bridge was fortunate to have survived World War II, apparently at the express instructions of Hitler.

The bridge is a tourist attraction in its own right, and is situated in a city that overflows with tourist venues - think David, the Duomo and the various Medici palaces. Be prepared for quite a crowd if you should visit it.

This photo is over 20 years old. I walked away from the bridge to try to capture the reflection of its three arches in the water below. The colours seem to me to be particularly Tuscan, and although some would argue that the bridge is no architectural marvel, its history and iconic stature certainly make it a pictorial must.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Back to Brisbane today for our largest and highest bridge, the Gateway Bridge. High enough for all but the biggest ships to pass under, the Gateway dominates the skyline at the mouth of the Brisbane River. Construction has commenced on a duplicate bridge to cope with the increasing Brisbane traffic.

The Gateway Bridge was completed over 20 years ago, after years of construction to achieve its 260 metre length,making it the longest bridge of its type in the world. The original bridge caused the Royal Queensland Golf Club, situated on the river's northern side, some major alteration, and to allow for the new bridge, the club's layout has this time been completely reconfigured.

This picture was taken from a marina on the southern side of the river, looking back over the bridge towards the city. I took the photo at sunset after a pleasant afternoon spent on a boat cruising the river.

EXIF: Canon A620; auto


Monday, April 28, 2008

The Mad Hatter

My friend and fellow blogger, Janet (check out her food history blog, The Old Foodie), on seeing my series on bridges, asked me whether I had any pictures of old stone bridges in English villages. Well Janet, if I've been there, and it has a bridge, I probably have a photo of it! So, I trawled through my images (memo to self: catalogue your images - key words are your friend!) and found this picture. I knew that I had taken it in the Cotswolds in May, 1986; but beyond that I had no clue.

Following the most optimistic of thoughts, I went to Google and searched the name of the tea room just over the bridge, The Mad Hatter. And, eureka, I found it: Bourton-on-the-Water, in the Cotswolds as I thought - a delightfully English village setting.

It is worth clicking on the image to see it in more detail. There is a lovely blue sky, that green grass that you only seem to see in England, stately brick buildings, the bridge over the River Windrush- and even a duck (more if you look closely!)


Friday, April 25, 2008

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Today, in Australia, is Anzac Day, the day when we recall the sacrifices made by ordinary Australians who found themselves caught in situations not of their making, but where nonetheless they were expected to risk their lives. Most of us alive today are fortunate not to have been placed in that position, but recognise that our lives would be totally different if it were not for the efforts of those who were.

This bridge is near a little town called Kanchanaburi, 130 km west of Bangkok in Thailand. Allied prisoners of war were forced to build it as part of the Burma railway during World War II. The infamous Burma railway caused the death of more than 16,000 men out of the 60,000 who were engaged in its construction. Many of the survivors had been systematically starved and subjected to brutal treatment at the hands of their Japanese captors. The bridge still exists, and is still used,although these days its major function is as a memorial.

I visited the bridge in 1992, and was fortunate enough to witness a fabulous sound and light show that recounted the story of the bridge and the soldiers who constructed it. Like all war memorials, it provides an extremely moving experience, and causes one to hope that others will not suffer as these men did. I can still recall the chill I felt as I walked across the bridge.

Many people would have seen the famous film, starring Alec Guinness and William Holden, that won several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Guinness) and Best Director (David Lean). Because the bridge had to be destroyed for the film, a replica bridge was created for the movie in Sri Lanka.

This is not my photograph; it is reproduced here courtesy of wikimedia.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pont Alexandre III

Paris is exotic; the Seine is romantic; and the bridges over the Seine are extremely evocative. This is recognised as being the most beautifully ornate of them all - the Pont Alexandre III which connects the Champs-Élysées quarter and the Invalides quarter. Visible in my photo is the sculpture from one side of the single arch (there is a slightly different one on the other side of the arch) and some of the unique art deco street lights on the bridge.

The bridge was built for the Exposition in 1900. The architects were under instruction not to obscure the views on each side of the river, and so the design features the single support arch under the bridge itself. There are statues on the four pillars at the bridge ends in addition to the sculptures on the arches.

And, I don't know what they do to the gilt statues in Paris, but they certainly stay bright and shiny.

EXIF: (both) Sony Cybershot; ISO 100; 1/500 sec; f8.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Not every bridge is as beautiful as the Golden Gate, or an engineering marvel like the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is a very modest, but very practical, rail bridge in the Kruger National Park in southern Africa. I don't know when it was built, or by whom. I don't even know the name of the stream that it crosses in this photo.

Yet so attracted by bridges am I that when staying right near this bridge in Kruger just over a year ago, I went out specially to take this photo. I guess that it is a kind of memory cue for me, because it instantly recalls the Kruger visit during
my first ever trip to Africa.

And memory is a peculiar thing, because the very next image that it brings to mind is this one:

A lurking menace, right by the bridge, and within a crocodile's crawl of where I was sleeping at night! Now I wonder how they constructed the bridge - were there camps of men in tents on the river bank while it was being built? Did the hustle and bustle of men and machines scare the crocodiles away during the building process? Or, were the crocs lying in wait for a careless, tasty bridge-worker as a dietary change from their normal fare?

I'll never know the answers to those questions, but boy, I enjoy thinking about them.

EXIF: - (bridge) Nikon D70; Nikkor 80-400mm VR; ISO 200; 1/320 sec; f5.6.
(croc) - ISO 800; 1/100 sec; f5.6.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Speaking of bridges, here's a beauty!

Yes, I know that probably every tourist to San Francisco has taken this exact shot, but I wanted my own. And not only that, but when you are standing looking at the thing, it's so darn spectacular that you have to photograph it.

Profoundly fortunate to find a day that was clear and bright (in other words, no fog) with a beautiful blue sky that dramatically contrasted the colour of the bridge, I couldn't resist taking this picture.

The Golden Gate Bridge had the longest span of any suspension bridge in the world when it was built across San Francisco Bay. Whenever I think of San Francisco, which is one of my favourite "big cities" in the world, it's just as impossible to avoid thinking of the bridge as it to avoid thinking about hills and trams. San Francisco's restaurants and its diverse neighbourhoods make it a wonderful spot for a visit.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Underneath the arches

This week we are going to be looking at some bridges. I've always enjoyed photographing bridges - it must be because I desperately wanted a Meccano set to be able to build them when I was young. Bridges and doorways are amongst my most photographed subjects, which would be pretty boring to many people, although I do know of one person who was contemplating a coffee table book of pictures of the bridges of Venice.

To start, I am providing two bridges for the price of one. Taken from a Brisbane CityCat, this picture shows a series of arches of the William Jolly Bridge (commonly called the Grey Street Bridge) in the background (bottom of image); and the single arch of the Merivale Rail Bridge that connects South Brisbane Station with Roma Street Station in the foreground (top). I like the repeating patterns of arches with the blue of the sky and water surrounding them.

One of my current gripes is the current ridiculous climate that surrounds the photography of infrastructure here in Australia. Apparently, terrorists would begin any campaign by taking photographs of power stations, railway stations and bridges. Go figure. It's not like Google Earth and the soon to be launched Google Street View wouldn't provide the info. But governments desperate to be seen to be doing something have provided public servants with ridiculous powers to prevent you and me from taking pictures around infrastructure. A person was forced to delete pictures taken at a suburban railway station recently, and threatened with an "anti-terrorism fine" if he didn't comply. I bet the thought of being fined by Queensland Rail would have any terrorist quaking in his boots!

Don't get me started!

EXIF: Nikon D70; Nikkor 70-200mm VR; ISO 200; 1/500 sec; f9.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pont d'Iéna

Taken from the Eiffel Tower, whose shadow can be seen stretching across the Seine in the left of the image, this photo was taken during my first visit to Paris in 1986.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Street light

It is interesting to notice what the camera sees in comparison to what the eye and brain are seeing. Our brains make instant adjustments to whatever signals are sent there from the eye, so that, for example: white is white to our brain, regardless of the ambient light. However, photographers know that white also reflects any other hues present in the ambient light and can look pink, or blue, or grey. That's the reason that we have a white balance adjustment on our digital cameras - so that we can tell the camera's brain that the signal that the lens is showing as pink or blue or grey is actually white.

In this picture, taken early one morning, I saw a white light near a dark building, against a sky just lightening at dawn. My camera, with its fast lens, shows the yellow glow of the street light, the red colour of the bricks in the building and the blue sky with white fluffy clouds. Amazing!

EXIF: Sony Cybershot; auto.


Thursday, April 17, 2008


Athens has the most frequent and spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. There is something about the air (probably pollution) that makes the setting sun a brilliant sight on most evenings in Athens. When I was last in Athens, I was staying in a hotel quite near the Acropolis, and there was a flat roof on the hotel that was a perfect viewing platform for sunsets. The presence of some friends and a bottle of wine was another reason to get up there on most afternoons.

Sunsets suffer from the same issues as sunrises. The photographer must get something of interest into the frame in addition to the sunset. In the image above, I have one of the wonders of the world silhouetted against the early sunset, so the photo works on a couple of levels. Compare that to the image below, taken a little later, where although the sky is more dramatic, the flat Athens cityscape
in the foreground does little to enhance the picture.
EXIF: Canon A620; auto.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008


A sunrise can often be a difficult thing to photograph. Usually there is a marked difference between the brightest parts of the image and the darker parts, making metering problematic. You have to be able to avoid blown highlights and yet provide some detail in the darker areas. Of the two choices, I prefer to lean towards avoiding blown highlights because, in my view at least, nothing detracts from a picture so much as large areas that are overexposed. For this reason, I usually bracket my exposures when I am taking photos at sunrise or sunset. This allows me to compare several images and select the best one.

Another issue about photographing sunrises is that sunrise pictures can become boring. It is important to have some other points of interest in the image besides the actual sunrise - clouds, boats or even buildings. Without reference points, the viewer can get lost in the sun and sky.

Although the picture above has captured a dramatic sunrise over a darkened horizon, and there are some impressive cloud formations above that, I think that the image could have been improved if there had been a tree (or a balloon!) present.

EXIF: Nikon D70; Nikkor 18-70mm DX; ISO 200; 1/400 sec; f7.1.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The image editing software available today gives the photographer almost unlimited creative opportunity; in fact, to such an extent that there is an ethical dilemma of sorts surrounding the "improvement" of photographs. Some people call it cheating, while others cite the licence that painters have in terms of their representation of people and objects, where imagination is the only limiting factor.

Most newspapers and magazines have an editorial policy that precludes any major alteration of images for publication. Global enhancements, such as tweaking contrast or increasing colour saturation may be permitted, while more advanced post processing may not - at least unless a specific disclaimer is provided. However, photographers who are producing images for themselves are not limited in this way.

My photograph today is a montage. I have used Adobe Photoshop to increase the size of the balloon. Both the sky and the balloon were in the original photograph, but I wanted the balloon to be a more significant part of the image than it appears in the original. All I had to do was to cut the balloon out of the original and save it; then enlarge it and paste it back over the place that it came from.

Is it cheating? You can be the judge!

EXIF: Nikon D70; Nikkor 18-70mm; ISO 200; 1/320 sec; f9.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Natural Arch

Landscapes are among the most commonly seen photographs. The renowned pioneer photographer Ansel Adams specialised in landscapes and helped promote the genre to its current levels of popularity. Magazines such as National Geographic devote their pages to landscapes from all over the world. Indeed, you could argue that, for many of us, it is via landscape photography that we have formed our impressions of the world.

Landscape photographers need to be hardy souls, because their art form often involves lots of walking and climbing while carrying a load of cameras, lenses, flashes and a tripod. Although today's cameras are much smaller than the large format cameras and heavy tripods that were carried by Adams, there are still many kilograms of equipment involved. But the results are rewarding, whether the images are to be shown in National Geographic or hung on the wall at home.

Today's photos are from the Natural Arch, which is on the border of Queensland and New South Wales in Springbrook National Park. Water has eroded a hole in the roof of a cave, and created a waterfall that sparkles in sunlight, lighting up the interior of the cave. The images are best viewed at a larger size - just click on them.

EXIF: Nikon D70; Nikkor 50mm; ISO 200; 1/2 sec; f8.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Morning light

One of the great things about living near the river is that you seem to be more conscious that things are always changing. The light varies according to the time of the year and the weather, and the traffic on the river is dependent on both. The CityCats are around all year, of course, but the recreational craft are a moving feast. During the Christmas period party boats bring noisy revellers past in the evenings; while at the beginning of spring the river is awash with boats going to and from the Riverfire celebrations.

Autumn and early winter bring out the rowers, a hardy breed if ever there was one. Training usually starts before dawn, and the rowers in their shells are accompanied by a coach in a power boat, complete with a megaphone. Then there are the fitness fanatics on their surf skis and kayaks, so low in the water that you fear for their safety.

Todays picture, of a school rowing eight at sunrise, was taken on the boardwalk that runs past my house, and it is always a very relaxing place to spend some quiet time in relaxation.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Portfolio shot

A friend asked me to help her by taking some photos for her graphic design portfolio. As I had never done anything like that before, I agreed. The procedure was that she would set up the shots that she wanted and I would provide the technical expertise to take the photograph. She wanted to illustrate various aspects of design, and the picture above was a product shot.

This particular table-top was a pretty simple set-up - lighting
off camera, viewpoint slightly above subject, make sure exposure is correct. We needed a plain white background to focus the viewer's attention on the subject, which in this case was a premium beer. I think the image turned out fairly well, although if I were to take the same picture again, I would do certain things slightly differently.

For instance, I think the photo would be improved if the glass had more beer in it. And the opened bottle of beer should have come straight out of the fridge so that there would have been condensation on the bottle to replicate the condensation in the graphic on the carton.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Blue sky

This is the type of shot that can be a nightmare for a photographer. Taken during an aerobatics demonstration, where there is a lot happening very quickly, we have a bright sunny day and a clear sky with a plane travelling through your frame at great speed. Metering is the first issue - how do we measure exposure to make sure that the planes are lit OK and the sky isn't blown out? A spot reading on the plane helped there.

Then we need to have the plane sharp and yet leave the impression of motion. Fortunately, there is a propeller on this plane, and the shutter speed was able to freeze the motion of the plane but still illustrate the
spinning propeller. A further issue is composition. I was able to wait for the stunt plane to be climbing vertically, and compose the image so that the trailling smoke was stretched diagonally across the frame.

I resisted the temptation to use a longer lens, because I wanted to show the vastness of the sky. A longer lens would give a bigger plane in the image, but I didn't want to lose the feeling of space.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blue windows

Well, it seems like I'm having a blue week. Todays image is about the repeating patterns of windows in two Brisbane office towers. I took the photo from one of our CityCats, the catamaran ferries that shuttle Brisbanites up and down the river. Taking a picture from a moving vehicle, be it car, train, plane or boat, usually presents a few problems for the photographer.

In this instance, I was standing on the front deck of the CityCat, so I did not have to contend with glass windows as you would in the other types of vehicles. My only problem was the movement of the boat, and to a certain extent I had some help there, as I was using a Nikon VR lens. The VR stands for Vibration Reduction, and there is an Active setting on these lenses designed to be stabilise the lens when you are shooting from a moving vehicle. I doubly protected myself by selecting a relatively high shutter speed in any case.

As well as the patterns of the windows in the building at the front, there are secondary patterns in the rear building too, so that even though it is the same colour, the eye can perceive the difference. I deliberately did not include the top or the base of the buildings to make sure that the image is about the colour and patterns rather than the buildings themselves.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Blue poles

The famous Jackson Pollock painting "Blue Poles" caused plenty of controversy here in Australia when it was purchased for many millions of dollars back in the seventies. This is not that work, and much as I like it, it probably isn't worth millions of dollars. But, if someone were to offer me that kind of money...

This image evokes a kind of peacefulness to me. The colours (I guess there is only one colour in various shades) are cool and relaxing, and the stretch of still water is very restful too. The jetty and posts, and their reflection below, provide a counterpoint to the water, and the posts are a contrast to the water more by shape than by colour.

I don't even remember where I took this picture, or when. I didn't keep records, and in the pre-digital age, the camera didn't either. But the place and time are irrelevant to me - I just love the ambiance.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Yellow and blue

Although a very simple subject, I couldn't resist this yellow crane at a building site one autumn afternoon. The initial attraction was the bright yellow paint of the crane against the background of the blue sky. These colours are very complementary to each other (think of the flag of Sweden, for example). Secondary to that was the series of lines within the structure of the crane.

I resist the urge to constantly have a defined subject in my photographs. Sometimes abstract items or themes appeal to me, and the challenge is to present them in a way that others might also find appealing.

With this picture, I just wanted the clean lines and the colours, so I made sure that the crane was properly sharpened, and then I gave the colours a slight boost in saturation to make them the primary impact within the image.

EXIF: Nikon D200; Nikkor 710-200mm VR; ISO 100; 1/100 sec; f11.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Party pix

What do you do when you are taking photos at functions or family gatherings? Do you take candid shots, or do you prefer posed pictures? Perhaps it isn't a clear cut decision and you use both methods. That's what I do.

I love candid photos, because they are usually the ones that show people as themselves. If you want to see a person's character, you will be more successful with a candid. Having said that, there are some logistical issues with candids. You usually only get one opportunity at a candid, as the element of surprise is lost once your subjects are aware of the presence of a camera. So any problems, such as a cluttered background or blinking eyes, might mean that you are unable to record that moment. Things that you need to pay attention to though, are such things as bouncing the flash where possible so that you avoid the harsh shadows, and using a shallow DOF so that the background is out of focus and your viewers can concentrate on the subject.

Sometimes a candid turns out to be posed, as in this photo of the two pretty young women at a party. I was planning on a candid, but once they knew that the camera was pointed at them, they provided their own pose. And I couldn't have done it any better!

EXIF: Nikon D200; Nikkor 17-55mm DX; ISO 200; 1/60 sec; f4.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Software update

Today we are looking at two of my favourite photo applications - Adobe Lightroom and Nik Software's new product, Viveza.

Adobe, the manufacturers of the gold standard photo editor Photoshop, released their new Lightroom program about a year ago. Lightroom combines a photo indexing and library system with non-destructive global editing functions. Adobe say that Lightroom was developed with the input of professional photographers to ensure that the software would be suitable. I have been extremely happy with the program since I started using it, to such an extent that it is now my main imaging software. Lightroom announced the public release of Version 2.0 a few days ago. The beta can be downlowded by any Version 1.0 owner, or as a 30-day trial for those who don't yet own Lightroom. Apart from cosmetic improvements and support for multiple monitors, this beta version also includes a new spot and blemish remover. Details can be found on the Adobe web pages.

Nik Software have also announced a new editing program called Viveza. This program has the ability to adjust brightness, contrast and saturation on areas within the image without the need for layer masks. Nik claim that their U Point technology is the most powerful and precise tool available to control light and color in photographic images. I have been using it recently,and my early investigation would certainly support their claims. It makes selections and masks a thing of the past in most circumstances, and does a creditable job even where selection would be very difficult. Nik Software has all the information on their web site.

EXIF: Nikon D70; Nikkor 18-70mm DX; ISO 200; 1/500 sec; f9.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Apparently scientists are trying to discover when and why these rocks were put down in a circle at Stonehenge. A report in a British newspaper indicates that the first dig allowed since 1964 began yesterday, beginning a 1.5 metre deep trench that might provide details about the origins of the site. Some believe that the stones had some astrological or ceremonial basis, so it will be interesting to see what the scientists are able to discern at the site.

My photo above was taken way back in 1986 when I visited the Salisbury Plains where the rocks sit. On a dull, overcast English afternoon, there was certainly something eerie about this circle of blue stones. I could well imagine some pagan ritual occurring under the full moon, possibly involving animal (or even human) sacrifice. Of course, that may well be an over fertile imagination - perhaps the archaeologists will tell us that it was an early butcher shop!

In any case, it certainly exercises the mind to think that these 20-odd ton rocks were brought more than 30 miles from where they were quarried to their current position, without pack animals according to some experts. The rocks were cut using stone tools and arranged with a horizontal row of stones on top of the upright stones. It will be fascinating to see what else is discovered.