The creative life

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I am fortunate. Not everyone has time to invest in their creative life on top of their day job. Well, maybe it is not precise. Not everyone is aware of the importance of investing in what you are passionate about. I am fortunate enough to meet a few creative people who had the lasting impact on how I face my life.

This week I was not at my happiest. Not that I faced disaster or lost something important. A few things happened that upset me. In between the new moon and the full moon, a lot of things went through my mind. Some upset me, some made me nervous and others filled me with a little joy. One day, after a day of upset, I put the headphones on, played music a bit louder, and grabbed the camera out of my bag even before I started to cross the street. I flicked the switch – from where I was during the day to the other, creative side.

blue

blue

One evening I was walking fast towards my platform when I saw this poster. I’ve got to make a few more shots. Maybe I’ll do it with the old mobile camera. I know exactly what I want. But I’ll need to use some patience…

silhouette

walking

I even managed to add another photo to ‘The Other’ series I’m working on.

The Other

Some images come more or less by accident. But let’s recognise it as it is. It may lead to something next.

untitled

Thank you, for all the inspiration in my life. Thank you for helping hands. Thank you for your encouragement. And thank you for your comments and Like’s. You make my day.

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Camera for a leftie

There are plenty of left-handed people in this world. It is known to be particularly common among the creative people. One theory says that it is because of the function of right brain, being the creative side that gets developed by using more actively (by the left hand side of body). But looking across the history of cameras, there are really only a single handful of models that were designed for use with a left hand. Try holding your point and shoot with your left hand – it is not easy to use it without twisting and spraining your wrist.

When I was a student, I was working at a photographic service shop in downtown Osaka. It was at the height of bubble economy. There were many very interesting (but not mainstream) cameras in store. I remember there was a Minolta (now under Sony) camera that was bulky, heavy and looked like binocular (horizontal hold shape), and had an ‘auto zoom’ with eye detection on the eye cap on view finder. When you look through it, camera starts zooming and judge how much you would want to zoom, on your behalf! Anyhow, in such times, there was Kyocera that made left-handed model in their ‘Samurai’ vertical hold models (which look like the small cam-corders that became popular years later).

While discussing with a handicapped friend on his blog about left-hand operation camera, I hinted that maybe the solution is to have one made for him on request. But it is not that complicated. Have a look at the photo of an SLR with a vertical-position grip. It has extra battery inside, and a set of shutter and primary operation buttons/dial on the same position as holding the camera at horizontal. Look at this – how difficult could it be to hold this camera with left hand? Compared to twisting your wrist to use one designed for a leftie, it should be much easier.

縦位置用グリップ

Obviously, I would not recommend that on SLR. There are too many operations that are not easy with only a left hand. Also the weight on a single hand is going to hurt your arm, shoulder, back, etc. Then I came across this image :

 

If you think about the vertical position grip I mentioned earlier, it is just a grip with a remote switch and a few bits put together. So, if you could find a remote trigger like this guy did on his mockup, you could have a shutter on the left hand side. If you could somehow mould shape or make a grip out of a block of aluminium or something, and nicely fit the trigger, add a zoom control and that’s all it takes.

On a small compact camera, taping up a control on the left or on the front of the camera could be a good start. What do you think?

Four Seasons in One Day

It was after I moved to Melbourne that I learned Crowded House was a band that came out of Melbourne. They may be singing about the changes of heart, but that is the term that is used to describe the changing nature of weather in Melbourne. It is particularly the case in this time of the year when the winter is ending and warmer air is beginning to come in, activating the weather system.

You could almost call it spring. I swapped my black down-filled jacket for the lighter wind jacket as I drove from home to station for an early train. By 8am I was in the city. The sun was shining down on only one side of the street as the other still in the shadow of tall building. I enjoyed the contrast I could see through my polarised sunglasses. When was the last time I enjoyed looking at the sunshine in the morning? Winter is almost over, for sure.

In the late afternoon, I was down at the bottom of William Street, waiting at the red light on Flinders Street when I saw the strong storm cloud in the sky ahead to the east of the city.

(Click on the image to view on Instagram. Like, Share, Comment, as you wish!)

Within seconds it started to rain, and we shared umbrella and walked on.

Next moment, we were running for a cover as the hail started to come down like white pebbles from the sky. In another few minutes the hail stopped coming down, so we walked on, hearing the pieces of ice break under our feet.

Up in the terrace on the roof top above Federation Square, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining down again. Straight out of window to the south to south east hang a half circle of rainbow.

Coming home before sunset, I saw another strong storm cloud passing. Shafts of rain are visible in the distance. Up above, bright glow in the cloud, hinting there is more light of the day.

The brown leather shoes, socks and bottom third of my chino’s were drenched.

While still deciding on the new street camera, and for once I left my SLR (which is in my Crumpler bag every day) at home, all I had was the 2-year-old iPhone with Instagram app. The effects are a little too strong to be truly useful, but it is a toy and it does make some images with impact and let you quickly share on social network. Here is my Instagram album on Facebook. Yes, I take photos of my lunch and coffee.

Cups

At home on Saturday evening. After sending emails, reading the same novel again and while watching an old film on the monitor on coffee table, I was inspired by what was going on in front of me. Light is putting on the show for me. All I had to do was to concentrate on what is going on, and capture it.

cups

 

cups

 

cups

I still have not decided on the replacement street shoot camera since my beloved Panasonic and its beautiful pancake lens found a new home. But at least, my ‘bigger one’ has this lens that capture that delicate light on smooth texture.

Another day on the rainy street

The Other

Another rain on the forecast. I leave my bike at home and take a train in to the city. As the sun sets, I walk around the city centre, looking for the inspiration. No music – my headphone died a few weeks ago when I lost yet another rubber ear pad. New headphones are waiting on stock to arrive… come, my music! In the meantime, I hear the inspirational author speak, “Just keep showing up at work.” (If you are not on my Facebook page and have no idea what I am talking about, check out this TED talk.) I show up, and wait for the genius to arrive and put that image in the back of my eyes, literally, so I can see.

At the moment, I am chasing two images – that must mean there are two images stuck on the back of my eyes – one on each? One is ‘The Other’ series. And this I can only do on the wet street. I haven’t seen it anywhere else. So that is more or less a part of the theme of what’s beyond that reflecting surface, that I started a few years ago. I have yet to get a solid style on this yet, but as I keep working on it, I am sure something will come of it.

The other is this black shadow thing. I posted the first image of that series on my Facebook page the other day. Today I decided to call it shadow noir – ‘black shoadow’ sounds too literal, and what I am after is probably very far from literal or clearly visible.
untitled
 

shadow noir

And something not so serious…
surface
 

surface
 

walking

I love the rainy days. See you on the street, when it rains.

walking

Abbotsford Convent

Abbotsford Convent

Last weekend was a bit of fun. I had an opportunity to photograph something passionate creative people are designing and pushing towards production. A friend took me in on this rare photo shoot opportunity, and he even gave me space that allowed me to focus on one image I had in mind. Well, that was really the only image I had in mind, since I did not know what the location was going to be, and I had no idea what kind of lighting, backdrop or anything, that I could photograph. I used to be more responsive or reactive in my photography. I come across something, point my camera, and click. Hope for the best. But since the point in time when I started trying to build my own creative process at photography school, I think it has changed. These days, I spend a lot more time visualising my image, working on the concept, the message, and like boiling the stock in a pot, really condense it down to the essence of what it is that I really want, void the unnecessary extra weak stuff. So the same is needed when I shoot at a party, an event, a portraiture or a product like I did last weekend. I would go location scouting, or search internet for reference images, flip through magazines or walk around art gallery, to build up some direction and ideas. That is not final, of course, as I should be flexible enough to react to let that “surprised eye” do the work (words of Henri Cartier-Bresson). What I wanted to say is that it was a little frustrating and more scary going into a location without knowing what to expect, not with some blur vision or clippings of reference images in my sketch book, when I walk into face what I was about to photograph. Given that limitation I am happy with the few photograph I came out with after a few hours’ shooting, and now I have a much better idea of what images can add to that. I am also very interested in seeing what my friend had shot, as he was also walking around the place taking lots of photographs covering different aspects of the project. I hope one day I’ll get the permission to share some of those images with you, mine and his, as these passionate people’s project is looking really promising.

Abbotsford Convent

On the next day, I caught up with another friend for a brunch. He suggested the Convent. We sat down in the windy and slightly chilly outdoor table of a cafe. The service was somehow shockingly badly organised, but surely there was some reason like the regular floor chief was off sick or something. My friend’s order was being delivered, passed our table #24, around the corner and disappeared inside. He had to grab a waitress later and ask for it, which came back 10 minutes later. My soup with toast, which came much earlier than his fruit toast fortunately, was not quite hot (which I did not complain and took in). I went back to order coffee and pastry, and only coffee came. It was my turn to catch the same helpful waitress with Chinese accent, but the coffee was cold and little of it was left in my cup by the time the raspberry danish finally arrived. To change our moods, we decided to have a walk around the place. It had been some time since I went there last, and the sky was blue, not a bad Sunday.

Abbotsford Convent

Abbotsford Convent

I remember the first time I came here years ago. It was some kind of ‘open house’ thing, with a tour showing different parts of the former convent. I remember the moldy smell of the old function room upstairs, or the large kitchen with a couple of big ovens that used to bake bread every morning in the old days. And around the back, the place that looked a bit like a factory, a ruin. Now it is completely fenced off. There seems to be some installation work done by artist, but there is no way it can be properly engaged when there is a wall to wall fence blocking the view. My camera is less than an inch on the fence to take this shot inside the ‘ruin’, to blur the fence. But that is still such a shame. I can appreciate that some kids would vandalise the place otherwise. I get that. But… I just wished more members of general public could appreciate this beautiful place with a sense of time and history. Sitting in a temple in Kyoto, you’d feel that time flashing past. Sometimes you could almost see the shadow of some one who was there hundreds of years ago. In Cambodia I felt the shake run through me when I could feel the presence of one of my favourite film makers who was inspired by that place in making some of his films. This convent could have that depth, too. If you could let people be… but how can we avoid those kids using this place to practice their spray skills without the security lock-down?
Abbotsford Convent

I came back out to the courtyard and my friend who had little sleep after party the night before was enjoying the sun on the grass. It was much warmer here than on the wind-blown terrace of the cafe on the other side. Now our mood was much more positive. We were glad we made our little trip.