Random Art Graffiti around Christchurch

A while ago Christchurch hosted several local and international graffiti artists to come and take advantage of all the empty wall spaces around the city.  Some truly lovely work was the result and I captured some of that while out with my camera on Saturday.

Smaller artistic pieces are also around and about and should also appreciate for their humour or quirkiness too :)

I am a big fan of graffiti as an art form and hope you enjoy this slideshow of the images I captured.

My favourite is The Dancer, which one do you like?

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The Copper Cathedral

Taken a week after the Sept 4 2010 quake, this was the Cathedral in all its evening glory – click to embiggen

In my post yesterday I mentioned finding the wonderful scale model of the Christchurch Cathedral which had been made by inmates of the local prison.  While this city is not the one I was born in, it has become home to me, and that was realised after the Feb22 quake which badly damaged the Cathedral.

Authorities continue to squabble debate the issue, unfortunately after some rash demolition decisions were made, which raised the ire of much of the city residents.  It was at that point that my own personal connection became realised.  Up til then I had not understood the stress friends and workmates were having at the demolition of random buildings, but when the Cathedral was slated to come down, I felt extremely emotional about that.

The Cathedral in March 2012 – the bell tower is now reduced to a mere stump – click to embiggen

It is a beautiful and iconic building, and various parties are lobbying to rebuild it, some of them are offering to do it for free ie lending their knowledge and experience so that another heritage building is not lost to the world.

Clearly these inmates felt some form of connection as well, and created this lovely replica out of copper scraps from their workshop sessions.

No more words from me, I will leave you to enjoy these gallery images

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Christchurch endures 4 years and counting post quakes

Just over 4 years ago Christchurch was hit with two major earthquakes, Sept 4 2010 and Feb 22 2011.  The first quake was a wakeup call (literally – was around 4.30am) but luckily there was only lots of building damage.

This building had a brick front wall, it came completely off

185 people were killed in the second quake, two multistory buildings collapsed completely, and nearly all buildings in the CBD suffered damage of some kind.  Roads broke up and the central city area was cordoned off behind a Red Zone that lasted over 2 years.

The Grand Chancellor building, one corner has completely broken, destabilising what was the tallest building in the city.

A few of my earthquake images are online – for a long time I was too shattered to go out with my camera.

Fitzgerald Ave by the river, the road has slumped 3-4 feet down

All the pictures above were taken 2-3 years ago.  The good news is they fixed the road above about 2 years ago, I drive over it to work every day.

The bad news is the rebuild is going really really slowly.  Many buildings are yet to be demolished, asbestos is a problem now.  Arguments with insurance companies and government departments mean people whose houses were damaged so badly they have been demolished are STILL waiting for things to be finalised and are struggling by living in rentals or with relatives.  Or they have reached the rebuild process and having major issues because things are now much more expensive (especially foundations) and holdups are common.

Everyone has a story to tell, some are lucky, some are lucky to be alive, some are in a living hell and in the meantime we all have to live in a city where the central business area is gutted and damn near nothing is there – literally.  Imagine for a moment, that the center of your city just vanished overnight along with ALL the businesses and services they used to provide.  Your favourite coffee shop or cafe, all the department stores, libraries, banks, council offices.  Everything completely gone and unable to be accessed.  Thats what we had to deal with from Feb 22 and we still are.

I went out with my camera yesterday and recorded the center of the city as it is now.

A building still waiting to be demolished 4years on

The fences have been up so long the weeds are well established and growing through them

The bones of what used to be a building. They have to excavate all the way down now so that proper foundations can be put in. The deep holes fill up with water quite quickly.

If the concrete pillars are the bones, I think these steel rods are the veins – they certainly don’t look like steel rods here

Someone with a sense of humour added these plastic ducks into the building site pool of water

Some social commentary on a building yet to be demolished

This large grassy area used to be a city block, ALL the buildings have been removed in several blocks and grass has been planted to give some life to the area

But before you think this post is all “Woe is me, its all horrible and sad and broken”, well it’s true, it IS like that here.  Yet the people and through them, the city itself endures.  There is a certain grimness and gritting of teeth as you navigate yet another road closure on the way to work that wasn’t there yesterday, as you inquire of your friends and workmates where to find a place that does X or Y because many businesses shut and never reopened, and if they did open, you have to find them.

Its hard and tiring and wears you down, tempers are short, and we dread it when it rains (the roads flood really badly now cos the water table is higher), and its so much hassle to go across town to get to the places you need to, and the traffic is awful all the time cos of road closures.

But there are glimmerings of hope, construction is happening all over the city, and in the suburbs random buildings are going up as quick as they can make them, and there are some parts of the city that have been rebuilt – New Regent Street was a heritage area and fortunately survived the quakes well enough that it was fixed up and partially reopened about a year ago.

New Regent Street

They had these funky painted frontages over shops that are yet to open in New Regent St and I met these Orange Ninjas who obliged me with their most dangerous poses

People are making an attempt to soften the harshness of the demolition sites, bringing vibrant art to available walls – we had some international graffiti artists do their thing, and its AMAZING

On the wall of the only strip club in town :)

FESTA brings all sorts of art to Christchurch, Lux City was a light show last year, and this year it was CityUps – installations from architect students showing their vision of a Future Christchurch – I was there watching as they were putting everything together.  The energy and enthusiasm and sheer sillyness of some of the creations was entertaining.

I I didn’t go to the night light show because when I went to Lux City it was HEAVING with people.  We are starved for positive stimuli and entertainment here and it is heartening to see people out enjoying these events, but not necessarily ideal to be out in the dark trying to take photos :)

By now the chilly easterly had sent me off in search of somewhere to sit down and have a snack, so I headed to the new heart of shopping in town, The Colombo, where they built the new Belgian Beer Cafe in the carpark!  Not kidding, thats how desperate we are for suitable space and how creative we have to be now.

The first instance of this was our Re:Start Container Mall, where a group of business owners got together and imported a whole heap of containers and set them up as shops on the land that their buildings used to be.  They were a huge success, so much so that instead of removing them when the sites are being rebuilt, the Council agreed to move them to a smaller site, so they could continue to trade and provide services (and photo opportunities) to the public and tourists.

Its that kind of crazy that is holding Christchurch together, the random Gap Filler events (pianos on empty lots, sowing wild flowers, DanceOMat), Festa events and the sheer endurance of all the people who live in our damaged city.  All the workers who came from overseas to do their bit and work in construction, funding the pubs and food trucks, all the business people who search long and hard to find new premises and work so hard to start over, the delight when you find a new hairdresser (don’t laugh, they were a major casualty of lost businesses!), all the new restaurants that have opened up (OMG Mexicano’s caramel popcorn icecream!)

Its hard, and its every day.  And its frustrating because the rest of the country is like “are you *still* going on about it, that was years ago!” which is true.  But its not fixed and probably won’t be for years.

We endure, and through us the city goes on.  We embrace the artists and creative minds that care enough to want to help lighten our day in some way, we stop and smile for a moment at the absurdity of plastic ducks in a water logged construction sit, and we take the opportunity to try out a new place to eat, to sit in the sun and forget our hassles for a moment.

Its not really talked about every day, because we all know that the slog is still ahead of us, but we are a stoic bunch, us Mainlanders, and we don’t hope too hard, because we don’t want to lose even the faintest grasp on it.

There is hope, a fragile and precious thing right now. As time goes on maybe it will get a chance to grow and flourish, along with the city that so desperately needs it.

Copper Cathedral

Why do I think there is hope?  Well I found this in The Colombo as I walked in, it is a scale model of the Christchurch Cathedral, very badly damaged in the Feb 22 quake, and more so by the people who should be caring for and restoring it.  Ongoing debate still rages about what should be done, while it stands there in ruins, testament to everything that has gone wrong since the quakes.

Yet this glorious creation was built by inmates at the local prison.  One guy, frustrated at being inside and unable to assist post quake started building this out of copper.  More and more guys joined him and this absolutely astounding thing of beauty was the result.

If prison inmates can envision and create such a thing, I think there is hope for the rest of us too.

Thanks for reading and have a great day :)

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Making Mistakes

So there are some bad habits I have in my photography process, and some things that I do for the first time and have to then learn from them.  It is only by trying and failing that we actually do learn, so I am not too hard on myself most of the time.

But if those mistakes cost me what could be a once in a lifetime shot, it can be a bit frustrating. Mostly its just day to day stuff like this:

1.  Forgetting to charge my spare battery

2.  Forgetting to take the CF card out of the computer after I upload images (and forgetting to wipe it too)

3.  Not having a regular cleaning routine for my kit – including hardware and the bags (sand!)

4.  Forgetting to check my settings on the camera BEFORE I go out for a shoot (REALLY BAD AT THIS!)

5.  Not always allowing enough time to get to a shoot and be there to properly take advantage of the outing

6.  Not stopping when I am driving – sometimes I am OK but most of the time I think “will get it on the way back” but then I don’t

7.  Being a bit rough on gear – like putting my tripod in the sea and it fills up with sand in the legs (tho I recently found out how to take it apart and clean it, worked a treat)

8.  Not bothering to get my tripod out when I really should – but getting better at this one esp now I have my new tripod head

9.  Sometimes not being brave enough to go for a particular image, it might be in a place that is challenging for me to get to or a style I don’t feel comfortable in (like street photography)

10.  Getting so caught up in the moment I forget a critical thing

This shot would have been 100% sharp if I had remembered to TURN OFF MY CAR ENGINE!

Sound familiar? All of the shots above were taken when I did something silly or had no idea what I was doing at the time.

Make me feel better :)  What are your mistakes?

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Being at eye level with your photography subject

On my recent guest blog post about Composition, I talked about two elements I want to combine here, focussing on the eyes and BEING at eye level with your subject.  This is very important with bird and wildlife photography when the creature is often much smaller than you, and usually at ground level.

When I started with my camera this was something that it took me a while to learn so I made lots of shots that looked like this:

See how my camera is angled down towards the subject, or they are looking up at it, so you can see that I am at a greater height.  In the case of the otters, there was a fence in the way, so this was the only angle I could shoot at.

For the ducklings I was trying to capture all of them in the shot, so doing it from a higher angle was how I managed it.

But it loses the direct connection and intimacy that you get when you are down at the subjects level

This particular image was my personal ‘eureka’ moment.   A family of Paradise Ducks had made a stretch of river close to where my work office was home, so one evening I headed out with my camera to shoot the ducklings (yes I have a thing for them :)

I took this shot stretched out flat on the grass (in my work clothes) in the dirt (and other things) as this brave little fellow explored his world in a patch of late afternoon sunlight.  It has many compositional elements, side lighting, catchlight in the eye and I am down at his level giving a direct connection to him.

This is a foal only a few days old at a breeder show, and he is very concerned at my presence, having one ear fixed on mum a short distance away.  I am crouched down on my knees for several reasons, not to scare him further, shooting between fence rails and again being down at his level.

Can you tell I also have a thing for otters :)  This is the group of 5 boys at Orana Park, and they gathered at the concrete edge of their pool and thankfully were about my height.  Contrast this to the other otter image above to see the different feel in the connection with them.

At feeding time the otters are trained to jump up onto these stumps to receive a fishy treat, happily elevating them to a level I could take a direct shot of, making you feel right there, watching the action close up. Its not quite as engaging because he is not looking at the camera, which also shows the importance of getting the “look” to fully engage with the subject.

This is a great “look” – to me this image has a different feel, like he is sizing me up as a tasty snack.  This is a goanna that is a good 6-7 feet long and HUGE claws.

Sometimes it just isn’t possible or more importantly SAFE to be at eye level with your subject, therefore do the best you can with what you have :)

He was about 25 feet long

These guys were about 10-12 feet long

Hope that these examples of the good and the bad help explain why it makes a difference to change your shooting height and be at eye level with the subject, focussing on the eye, and getting that important catchlight.

Happy Shooting!


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Leading Lines in Photography Composition

Yes I am thinking a lot about composition at the moment, can you tell :)  This time it is ‘Leading Lines’ which are an important element to use well when they are available, but one that will only be available in certain circumstances.

What is a leading line?

It is a line within the image that takes you into, through or across the image.  Often in an obvious way, but not always.  It may take you to a specific point in the image or simply lead you through or around the image.

Paths, roads and train tracks are commonly used leading line composition elements.  However nature offers us many more options.

Clay Cliffs at Omarama

A curving path is an excellent leading line example, here where it leads your eye up into the image

Lake Pearson Autumn colour

Draw a line from the right at the top and bottom of the trees, and they lead into a convergence point to the trees and poplar at the end, drawing you across and into the image

Tyre tracks in snow

Tyre tracks in snow take you across and into the image

Glenorchy Jetty

The flat path of the wooden jetty and the fence down one side lead your eye down into the image, and then the texture in the mountains leads you across it

Light show

This is the most obvious leading line example I have, this was a huge light sculpture and the circle at the middle is where all the cables are suspended from

Sometimes especially in landscapes the lines are a lot more subtle and you have to look a bit harder to find them.  That can make for a powerful effect within your image, as it isn’t as obvious to the viewer

Blue Moon Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables

The light of the moon across the water (this is taken from a boat) leads you up to the main event, the full moon shining on the Remarkables

Macrocarpa stand in The Catlins

The eye follows the line of trees from the left to the right then up into the centre trees out into the sky.

Water droplets on flax

So, do you feel ready to tackle adding leading lines into your composition toolbox?

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What gives an image the WOW factor?

I was talking about this with a fellow shooter recently, he was frustrated at his composition attempts in some landscapes and puzzled about the fact that images he really liked didn’t get the feedback he expected when posted online.

Now this is a phenomenon I am completely familiar with myself, and I have put it down to one simple fact “there is no accounting for taste but if people are liking one of my images (even if its not the one I prefer they would) then THAT’S OK WITH ME TOO!”

Here is one particular example – two sunrise shots taken on the same morning about an hour apart

Taylors Mistake sunrise – click to embiggen

This image has 537 views, 6 faves and 2 comments.  When people see it on my phone or iPad, they go “oooh look at the colours”  or “where was that taken”

Taylors Mistake, the right headland and the incoming tide – click to embiggen

This image has 1213 views, 21 faves and 5 comments.  And I truly have no idea why.  Its a nice image, its got lovely warm golden tones, and a bit of sea foam and haze and has a nice feel of depth.

Honestly I have no idea why people seem to prefer the golden image to the more spectacular (in my opinion) purple and pink version.

What gives this image the WOW factor the top one doesn’t have?

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