The Bridge and Opera House

The Coathanger

Distant memories
Frozen in time
Remind me of
My harbour home

Opera HouseI was going back through some of my archives earlier for another collage and I found these photos from about four years ago. I took them during a trip to Taronga Zoo and didn’t do much with them at the time… I think I gave them a quick edit and then they sat in my archives, mostly forgotten until now.

I’m glad I found them again today and took the time to edit them properly. I like the results – it can be difficult to photograph subjects that are as well known as the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, particularly from a distance, as it can be hard to find new angles and perspectives but I like how the framing is a bit different and how the edits help evoke a more vintage feel.

I was also happy to find the one of the Opera House as despite living in Sydney for so long (twenty five years!), I actually didn’t take that many photos of the Opera House. I took lots of the Harbour Bridge and lots of Centrepoint Tower but only a couple of the Opera House for some weird reason. So I’m glad to have this for my collection.

It was nice going back through the photos as well as I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic for Sydney lately. I’ve settled in well up here but in many ways I think Sydney will always be my home and it was nice revisiting some memories.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2012
Haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Sydney Photo Collage

Sydney Photo Collage

I finished the first of my Sydney photo collages earlier and thought I’d share it after sharing the Newcastle one yesterday.

I like how it came out, particularly the way the photos stand out from each other but also how the repetition of colours and styles gives it a feeling of consistency too.

I was aiming for something slightly different with this collage as the photos were all taken around where I used to live in Randwick and other places I used to visit regularly in Sydney, like Centennial Park and Queen’s Park. In fact the photo above the bottom right is of the Parish Centre at St Jude’s Church in Randwick, which is where I used to live with my parents in the early 1990s when they worked as vergers at the church (pictured on the left).

I chose the photos as I thought they worked well together and that it would be nice to have a reminder of my life in Sydney. It’ll look very nice once it’s printed and hung next to the Newcastle collage on my wall.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2016

Newcastle Photo Collage

Newcastle Photo Collage

I’ve been busy moving over the last few weeks. I’ve been thinking about moving for a while and after the break in a few months ago and some other safety issues, I finally decided I’d had enough and needed to get out. So I’ve put most of my possessions in storage for now and I’m staying with my mother in Belmont while I recoup some of the costs and eventually start to look for a place of my own.

I am happy to be out and in a safer area but I guess I have slightly mixed feelings as this is the second time in three years I have had to put everything in to storage and leave home. On the other hand it’s the first time in a long time that I feel like I’m not looking over my shoulder and worrying about ice addicted neighbours which is a big relief. And it’s nice being with mum again and being able to help her and shares costs, etc.

More than anything I think this will be a good opportunity to find some peace and heal after a long period of uncertainty and instability. It’s a stunningly beautiful area right by the lake and this little cabin already feels more like a home than where I’ve been living did.

Home Sweet Home

So at the moment I’m still settling in and since I packed most of my photos I thought I’d look at printing some new ones to make my room a little more inviting. What I really want is to create a kind of gallery feel so I thought I’d create some collages.

The photo above is the first one I’ve done so far. I compiled it in Photoshop and it’s made up of photos I’ve taken around Newcastle and Lake Macquarie since we left Sydney three years ago. It seemed like a good place to start and I really like how it’s turned out and the contrast between all the photos.

I also plan to do two collages of photos from Sydney and another of photos from New Zealand, which I’ll then print to around poster size. It should create a nice showcase and hopefully be a bit of a talking point too.

I hope you like it. I’ll post the other collages as I do them too.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2015/16

An Afternoon at Fort Scratchley

Fort Scratchley canonCannon outside the fort

I went on a group photowalk around Fort Scratchily in Newcastle yesterday afternoon. I’ve not done that many group photowalks before and I enjoyed it. It was nice being with other photographers and I think other people seemed a bit more comfortable around us as well which was nice.

The weather held off for most of the time, before absolutely bucketing down. I was well and truly soaked by the time I got back. It made for some interesting and atmospheric photos though so I can’t complain too much.

Fort Scratchley is an interesting place. It sits atop Flagstaff Hill, giving good views over the Tasman Sea and the Hunter River, and was originally built in 1882 to defend against a possible Russian attack. It’s probably best known for returning fire during the shelling of Newcastle by the Japanese on June 8, 1942.

It’s a museum now and an interesting place to spend an hour or two wandering around. It also still keeps the seafaring tradition of firing a gun in tandem with a ball drop, which happens at 1pm every day and is interesting to see.

I’ll have to go back for a proper tour at some stage, hopefully when the weather is a bit better.

Most of the photos came out quite well and the overcast sky lent itself particularly well to black and white photos. I wanted to give them more of a contrasty, filmic look and I really like how they came out.

A few of the photos had rain spots on them as well but I actually quite like the effect. It reminds me a bit of the discolouration and scratches you’d get with film sometimes which I find interesting.

So that was my Sunday. Hope you had a nice weekend too.:)

Fort ScratchleyApproaching Fort Scratchley

Fort Scratchley

Looking towards Newcastle

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Painterly Sunset

Painterly SunsetI took this image a few evenings ago near Belmont wharf. It was a lovely sunset but I’ve shared several similar photos recently so I thought I’d try one of my more artistic edits with this.

Basically what I did was edit it normally, then I edited it again to strip out most of the detail, resulting in an image a little more like a painting than a traditional photo. It doesn’t always work but I like the effect here and how it accentuates the colours and the calmness of the water.

I’m still trying to think of a name for these kind of images. They’re not really paintings but they’re not traditional photos either. At the moment I’ve been calling an image a “painterly” but I’d appreciate any suggestions?

Image © CJ Levinson 2016

The Lake at Night

The Lake at Night

At night
The world seems different
Quiet and still
Like a calm ocean

I took this along the lakefront in Belmont the other night. It was dusk and the streetlights had just come on, creating this beautiful foreground glow with the last light of the sun dying over the lake.

It was actually so well lit that I needed to do very little editing afterwards, which is rare for a night shot. This was a 1 second exposure by hand as well and I’m impressed with how sharp it turned out.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Sitting by the Window

CJ by the Window

Each morning
I look in the mirror
And fix my mask
To face the day

I took this photo yesterday. I wanted a photo for a new profile pic for my social media sites and possibly for an about the author photo. I’d been meaning to practise taking more self-portraits as well (mainly to experiment on myself first so I can feel more comfortable directing lighting and poses) so I thought this would be a good start too.

I’m usually quite difficult to photograph so this is quite a good one for me. Most photos of me come out looking a little strained and flat. The reason is because it’s quite hard to capture a posed photo of someone when they’re in pain a lot of the time; sitting still and holding a pose is difficult and I usually look better in more spontaneous photos. They tend to capture the real me, not the me hiding his face behind a mask.

I think we all wear masks in life; there is the real us and then there is the persona we want others to see, the mask we wear to project an image we find desirable. I find with chronic pain that is doubly true as I don’t want people to see I’m in pain and so I have a carefully created mask I wear that I only take off when I’m alone or with very close family and friends. It helps to hold me together in public and let me function when the pain is awful and for me, my smile and my sense of humour are my mask. They help deflect questions and attention and tell people I’m okay.

The haiqua above is very much a reflection of my daily routine; before I go out or see someone, I always look at myself in the mirror and make sure my mask is in place. Sometimes it is harder than others depending on how much pain I am in or how tired I am but I never go out without practising a smile and making sure it is in place.

Ironically though that mask usually tends to fail with posed portraits like this. I can’t sit still and hold a pose for long very easily and trying to hold a smile in place tends to end up looking rather strained or flat in the photo. That’s why I quite like this photo as it doesn’t have that look and for once I got it without having to take a few dozens photos to capture it. That could have been luck or maybe it’s that I’m now starting to understand more about posing and so I’m starting to get better at capturing the real me sooner.

I could have done more with it; some gentle lighting across my face would have softened my face and removed some of the shadows under my eyes and a flash might have created a little more separation. But to be honest I didn’t want to do any of that. This is close to the real me and the real me usually does have those flaws and shadows from being tired and in pain. If the goal was to try to capture the real me then removing those wouldn’t be an accurate representation.

I also like that there isn’t too much separation and you can see the photo frames and some of my books etc properly. They’re a part of my life and I wanted to show that too and make it more of an environmental portrait.

CJ by the Window 2

I took this photo at the same time and converted it to black and white in Lightroom afterward. I like it as well, particularly the black tones, but you can probably see my expression is a little more strained in it. I thought it was a useful comparison anyway.

Photos and Haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

From the Archives

28-10-2013

Time is like water:
Shapeless
It winds a
nd flows
Changing all it touches

I was going back through my archives earlier tonight and found this photo amongst them. It’s from October 2013 and I took it near Tamarama while exploring the Sculpture By the Sea exhibit.

I’m not sure why I never processed it… the composition and light are interesting and I can’t imagine not wanting to do something with it. The only thing I can think of is that I took a lot of photos that day and had a lot going on as well so maybe I put it aside meaning to get back to it and never did.

Either way I like the photo and how it came out. The colour of the water is beautiful and it has just the right mix of mood and atmosphere to go with the vibrant colour. I’m glad I went back and processed it.

I have a number of other photos in my archives I haven’t processed yet, including some from that day and the trip to New Zealand last year as well. I’ll have to go back through them properly… hopefully there might be a few more forgotten gems too.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2013, Haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016