Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two weeks to go...

One of the most challenging things I have done as a photographer is to photograph women in the final stages of pregnancy. This is a time when to us they look beautiful, but to them they are feeling fat, uncomfortable and ready for the whole experience to be over. To get them to relax enough to capture this special moment in their lives can be a real challenge.

Today's model is Elyse and she is two weeks away from giving birth to her daughter. With her mother to keep a check on how she was looking (and to provide the clothing) we managed to achieve some stunning images of Elyse that I hope she will enjoy for many years to come.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cute and Cuddly

One of the things I expected to see lots of when I went to the Melbourne Zoo were the animals that we associate with Australia. The kookaburra, the koala, the wombat etc. I don't remember seeing a kookaburra but I have to assume they were there somewhere - we didn't make it round the entire park. The wombat's both had their noses in their feed bowls and were scoffing it down so fast I am surprised they didn't try to eat the stainless steel bowls as well! There were a few kangaroos about the place but they were all laying about resting. I found them rather boring to look at, I would much rather have seen them bounding about in the outback totally free than looking rather bored in a smallish enclosure.

The koala's (there were two of them that I saw) were both up in a tree. Ok so that's where they are supposed to be but it wasn't easy to either see them, or photograph them which I found rather frustrating. I have always thought they looked cute and cuddly but to be honest I didn't much to make me want to hug one. They have rather beady little eyes and appear to be watching everything that is going on around them from their perch up high, and of course if they see a camera pointing at them they hide behind a pole or a branch! Well that's my story anyway.

There were four tiger cubs at Melbourne Zoo when we visited. They were in an enclosure with their mum and they were all cute and fluffy. Big playful kittens! Their paws looked oversized for their bodies so I am assuming they will grow into those paws and will become a force to be reckoned with. I shot lots of photos of the tiger cubs but only a couple of them were actually any good. They were so fisky and bouncing from place to place in their play that it was almost impossible to get a good shot. A missed opportunity perhaps - or a learning experience.

Monday, September 20, 2010

More from Melbourne Zoo

When we were visiting the Melbourne Zoo park I have to admit I wasn't at my best. The 4 hours on the plane the day before had taken a huge toll on my back and I was not in a good way. It may have clouded my judgement somewhat of the zoo itself, reading back I was rather harsh about it. It most certainly did cloud my photography on the day. Pain has a way of interfering with how you see things in general and when you add a camera lens you can look at something and just go "bleh" when another time you might have seen an awesome image.It has been a couple of weeks now and my back is still in recovery mode (another four hour flight home!) but I am getting there. I haven't picked up the camera much but I do intend to change that very soon.

The Canon Photo5 competition is on again and I am going to have another go at entering. Last year was a learning experience, this year I have more of an idea of what to expect. You get sent a box with 5 objects in it and 5 challenges. The images must contain the objects in them and you can be as creative as you want to be. It should be fun!  I will post copies of my entries here once they have been uploaded to the competition site. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 10, 2010

More from the Masquerade

  Here in Wellington there are several different taxi companies, all very easy to identify by the signage on their white cars. Well most of them are white, there is one green cab company and indeed their cars are green. In Melbourne however we found that things are a little different. For a start, the cars are all yellow, with the exception of the ones with green tops. But the different companies have names like Silver Top and Black Top as well as the Green Top cabs. Ok, so then you would expect to see these colours on the top of the cabs just like the green ones yes? Wrong. The silver top cabs are just yellow and so are the black tops!

I promised more photos from the Masquerade and here they are. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of entries into the competition so there isn’t a huge amount of different costumes to show you. It was also difficult to photograph them in the theatre without either a tripod or a flash (flash photography wasn’t permitted) but I coped. At the end of the masquerade they bought all the contestants back on stage for a photo opportunity and it was a major free for all. The crowds around the bottom of the stage with their cameras didn’t allow too many clear shots but again I got a few. I was a little disappointed in the whole masquerade, we were expecting way more than we saw.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Home Sweet Home

I have spent almost the entire day going through the photos from the trip and I have to say that I think I have saved the best to the last. These two images were shot on our last night in Melbourne. We had to wait until the rain had stopped, it was bitterly cold and I was using a very cheap light tripod that I didn't entirely trust but I just love the photos.

Reflections on the Yarra River
Walking bridge over the Yarra River
Tomorrow I will have some more of the masquerade photos from AussieCon4 to show you.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Melbourne - Day Six

I have been out with a couple of friends now driving around Melbourne and I am sure you have to have special lessons in driving to understand all the differences to driving in New Zealand. The one that I found the hardest to get my head around was the hook turn at lights. To turn right you have to take the left lane – what’s with that? Those in the right lane go straight ahead while you park in the middle of the intersection off to the left until the lights change. When the traffic going in the other direction get the green light you then make your turn before they can move. Apparently it is safer to do it this way with the trams that run right down the center of the road but I am not sure I understand exactly why. I was talking to a friend about this (she’s been here for several years now) and she refuses to do it, often going further out of her way to make the turns required to get back to where she wants to go. I think I would be inclined to do the same.

When I first mentioned we were coming to Melbourne, I was told that they never have much rain in Melbourne and winters are pretty mild. Ok so it’s not winter any more but is that any excuse to rain every day? There was even a hail storm this morning! Many places in Victoria are suffering from floods and the rivers are looking really dirty. Seriously guys, we might be used to a wetter climate back in New Zealand but you didn’t have to try and create that for us here – we were looking forward to the drier weather! Tonight is our last night here and I am really keen to get some nice reflection shots of the river at night. I was really hoping the wind will die down and the rain will stop to allow me to achieve that - unfortunately the while the wind has dropped, the rain is still here. I went out for a bit and shot from shelter but I haven't got what I really wanted as yet. Maybe later tonight.

Tomorrow we have breakfast and then head back home. It has been fun to be away, to catch up with friends and to enjoy the luxury of the Hilton, but I am really looking forward relaxing in my recliner and sleeping in my own bed again.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Melbourne - Day Five

The venue for the convention is a huge place – rooms on three levels which means we are traveling up and down the escalators a lot. I am wary of stepping onto escalators after an experience many years ago when my foot gave way on me as I stepped onto one and I nearly fell down. These days I take great care to step onto the escalator with a firm footing and hold on to the side for balance. So having done this many times through the day without any problem what I encountered on the same escalators in the evening was just a little disconcerting. They appear to go very slowly right up until you step on them and suddenly they go much faster! They caught me out the first time but I am smarter now, I stand and wait for them to speed up before stepping on. Apparently it is an energy saving feature but not one I have encountered before.

Then there is the talking elevator. For some unknown reason in the day time it feels the need to not only tell us what floor we are on but whether we are going up or down. Yet in the evening we are supposed to know exactly where we are and which direction we are going in as we are totally ignored when we enter during this time. The elevator is either too tired to talk to us in the evenings of only works an eight hour day. Maybe she only talks to the executive floors at night.

I think the thing that we have found most irritating during the entire convention so far is the fact that nothing is open before 10am. Not even the coffee shops! All the convention items start at 10am also, so getting that morning cup of caffeine on the way is near impossible. You either have to arrive late or caffeine depraved. Actually not being a coffee drinker this doesn’t actually affect me, but my husband found it most frustrating when hunting for a coffee yesterday.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Melbourne - Day Three

Waking up in the morning and looking out at the view from our hotel room is just stunning, especially when the sun is just starting to rise. We haven’t been able to bring ourselves to shut the blinds at night, why shut out such an awesome sight? Not long after I shot this image there were a bunch of hot air balloons off in the distance. Someone was enjoying a champagne breakfast in a basket! What an awesome way to start the day – we really must do it someday. Not this trip, but someday.

I have been taking all these photos from the hotel room window (which is the entire wall) from the 11th floor of the hotel and it has taken me three days to really notice just how grubby the windows are. It is amazing that the camera manages to see past the dirt and focus on the distant view and not the close up glass. If the sun were shinning on the window when I photographed it, I am sure it would be a totally different story.

Today has been a convention day and we have fully immersed ourselves into the con culture. Meeting up with friends, faces from many years back and making new friends. We have attended panel discussions about everything from elves and dwarfs through to online comic strips. We even managed to fit in a short burst of shopping to replace the smashed up suitcase. Tonight there is a bid party that we are going to attend (its 6.10pm now) after dinner and then if the weather is right I might manage to get in some night shots along the river. I will sleep well tonight!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Melbourne - Day Two

Our first full day in Melbourne and it started with breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Simply put the food was good. They even toasted up some really nice gluten free bread for me. After breakfast we headed out in search of the tram that would take us to the zoo. We probably left a bit early but our body clocks were still on New Zealand time and it felt much later than it actually was.

We arrived at the zoo before it opened and it looked promising in that there was only a couple of others there waiting. I thought it was safe to assume that there wouldn’t be too many other folk wandering around with us but boy was I wrong! I reckon just about every school in Melbourne choose today to go to the zoo.

On the whole I felt the zoo was a bit of a let-down. New Zealand zoos are much better in regards to providing opportunities for viewing without ugly netting in front of you. That may seem somewhat harsh, there were some newer enclosures that were good and to be fair the whole zoo looks like it is in the middle of a major upgrade but for me on this trip I was somewhat disappointed. Perhaps my expectations were too high.

After the zoo we headed to the markets and shops to spend some money. First on the list was sim cards for the phones so we had a means of being contacted by friends while are in Melbourne. Should have been as simple as buying the card and inserting into the phone but no…  you have to activate it. You have to know the exact address of where you are staying, their phone number, street number and post code before it can be activated.

“I am sitting in the market; I have no idea what street number the hotel is.”
“One moment please I will just check with my supervisor.”

After about 20 minutes of spelling things out to the person on the other end of the phone letter by letter we got the following response from her supervisor.

“It might be better if you activate your phone using our online system.”  ARGH!!!

So the phones had to wait until we returned to the hotel and had all the relevant data to fill out the form. I have yet to do this task as I am sure it is going to be as unpleasant as the phone call was.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Melbourne - Day One

Finally the day arrived for us to leave for Melbourne. Everything was planned right down to the last minute including making allowances for traffic jams and delayed flights. Nothing could go wrong! We had an uneventful flight up to Auckland where the weather was perfect. We walked from one terminal to the other and went to check in for our flight to Melbourne. This is where things started to fall apart.

The last time I used my passport was six years ago and while it hasn’t expired, there was one thing that I didn’t take into account when making the flight bookings. Five years ago I got married and changed my name, so when it came time to check in I was turned away because my passport didn’t match my booking. $50 and ten minutes and with the nice lady at the counter and they let me check in. Everywhere I went I was called Ms Finn – much to the disgust of my ever patient husband. He is not going to let me live this one down in a hurry.

The flight from Auckland to Melbourne was long and cramped. A head wind slowed us down by 20 mins so when we finally landed I was relieved to be able to stand up and walk again. I did enjoy the fact that everyone could watch their own choice of movie or whatever with the individual screens on the back of the seats. I haven’t seen that before so was like a kid with a new toy for a bit. On arrival in Melbourne we found one of our bags had been damaged. It will probably not make the flight back with us which is another added cost.

We get turned away at the immigration window because I have filled out the form wrong and once I sorted that out we got singled out by customs for extra checking of our luggage. We chose to get a taxi to the hotel and wouldn’t you know it, our taxi driver, a nice young man from Ethiopia, had never been to the Hilton South Wharf so had no idea where he was taking us. He aimed for the convention center and luckily got it right – even he was happy about that!

The views from our room are awesome! Watch this space for lots of photos because my fingers are already itching to get to the shutter. It should be noted that I don't have great software for processing these images, they are just a taste of what's to come rather than the finish image.

View from the hotel room.
 View from the hotel room.