In Transit

© CJ Levinson 2013

I am lost
And have no home
But I have all I need –
Love and my dreams

Caves Beach in Black and White

A home is more than
Bricks and stone:
It is the memories
In your heart

Caves Beach Sunset

I took the photos in this post over the course of the last week. All of these photos are from around Caves Beach, which is a small town about two hours north of Sydney, near Newcastle. My mother and I are currently staying here with my grandparents and I took most of these from their balcony, overlooking the ocean.

Caves Beach is a beautiful location and is wonderful for photography. I’ve been spending a couple of hours every day exploring the beaches and lakes nearby and it’s been very therapeutic after a stressful few months.

My mother and I are here because we are essentially homeless at the moment; we both had to take out AVOs against my father as he became increasingly violent after his suicide attempt, which was one of the hardest and most painful things I have ever done, and without his additional income to support us, we were unable to pay the rent on our flat in Sydney and so our landlords kicked us out. All of our belongings are currently in storage while we try to find somewhere more permanent to live and it has just been the most awful time, first coming to terms with what’s happened to my father and now losing our home too. But coming here, being surrounded by such beauty, has been very therapeutic and has given me a chance to reflect on everything that has happened and begin to heal and I feel thankful for that much at least.

Orange Moon Rising Over the Lake

I’ve taken a lot of photos and will be posting more of them over the coming days but I think my favourite so far is the sunset above. I love the colours and how peaceful it feels but also the promise a sunset brings: how, as the sun goes down, you know it will rise again on a new day. That is how I feel at the moment: that despite everything that has happened and losing our home, tomorrow is a new day and will bring better things. Hopefully it won’t be long in coming.

Photos and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2013

Across the Paddock

Across the Paddock

Dry land
Sweltering heat,
The perfect fuel
For a terrible summer

I took this photo just before Christmas, looking out across a small paddock while visiting my uncle’s family with my parents. They live in a small rural community north of Sydney and many of the surrounding towns and suburbs were surrounded by bushfires in the weeks after Christmas. Thankfully my uncle and his family were reasonably far away from it but it’s not hard to imagine the kind of conditions firefighters were facing, with so much dry bushland fueling the fires. Hopefully temperatures stay lower for the rest of the summer and the fires die out… it really has been hell on earth.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2012-13

Have Yourself An Aussie Kind of Christmas

Christmas Salad

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating in their part of the world today. I hope you are having a wonderful day with your family and friends.

To celebrate I thought I’d post another one of my Aussie Christmas songs. Last year I wrote Deck the Ute, an Aussie version of Deck the Halls, and this year I settled on Have Yourself An Aussie Kind of Christmas, an Aussie version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

I’ve written five of these Aussie Christmas songs now and this was by far the hardest one. It took me a long time to choose a song and I think I’m starting to run out of well-known songs as most of the best known ones don’t really suit an Australian translation (Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! for instance), so I’ll have to think carefully about which one to do next year. In the end I chose Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas because it’s one of my favourite Christmas songs and also because I wanted to do something a little different this year and try to show what it feels like for Australians spending Christmas overseas, longing to be home with their families and friends. Given the number of Australians who have to leave home for work every year and also our soldiers currently deployed overseas, I thought it suited the rather melancholic feel of the original song.

The two best-known versions are probably by Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra; Garland’s is personally my favourite as it’s more serious and sombre in tone (although nowhere near as depressing as the original lyrics written for the song in Meet Me in St. Louis, which Garland had changed), which often reflects my mood at Christmas, but I like Sinatra’s version as well and so decided to combine the two to reflect both versions and make it a bit longer as well.

I hope you enjoy it. And Merry Christmas. 😉

Aussie Santa Xmas Train

Have Yourself An Aussie Kind of Christmas

Summer sunshine is far away
This cold winter has set in to last
I’m dreaming of a place I loved but could not stay
And warm Christmases of the past…

Have yourself an Aussie kind of Christmas
May your winter days be bright
Some day soon this longing will be set right
And you’ll be home

Have yourself an Aussie kind of Christmas
Tell Santa Claus g’day
One day you’ll see him fly over Sydney in his sleigh
Once again

Here we are in this new century
These happy years of promise and awe
I long to see my loved ones once again
And to hold them close once more

In my heart I know they won’t forget me
And one day I’ll be home if funds allow
Until then I’ll just have to save up somehow
And try to have myself an Aussie kind of Christmas now

So have yourself an Aussie kind of Christmas
Throw a shrimp on the barbeque
One day soon you won’t feel so blue
Anymore

Have yourself an Aussie kind of Christmas
Grab a beer and watch the kids play
They’ll be all grown up one day
As life moves on

Here we are in happier times
These memories we cherish and adore
I find myself thinking of old friends
And wishing I was near them once more

Over the years good mates always stick together
So even when distance won’t allow
We’ll still find a way to celebrate somehow
And try to have ourselves an Aussie kind of Christmas now

Looking Down Union Lane

Down Union Lane

A thousand pictures
Across two walls,
Telling the stories
Of our lives

This is another photo I took while in Melbourne last month. It’s of Union Lane, a small lane off Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne. The location is well known for its street art and graffiti murals, the main bulk of which was approved by the City of Melbourne in 2010 and consists of art by dozens of artists painted over 5 months. You need a legal permit to officially paint here but unfortunately it’s also a prime target for unauthorised graffiti, as you can see in the photo.

Standing at one end and looking down these long walls of graffiti is quite a sight, a feeling I was trying to recreate with the photo. I didn’t get a chance to see Hosier Lane, which is even more well known for its street art, but hopefully will get to do that the next time I’m in Melbourne.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2012

Union Lane 2

Update: A version I edited in black and white as well.

Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station

I am like
A train leaving its station:
My journey goes
Ever on

Flinders Street Station, at the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets in Melbourne. This was one of the photos I really wanted to get while I was in Melbourne last week as it’s such a beautiful and iconic building. I think it came out quite well in the end and doesn’t look too touristy, which was something I was trying to avoid.

The station is the oldest train station in Australia and was originally designed by James Fawcett and H.P.C. Ashworth in 1899 as part of a design competition, with construction on the main building completed in 1909. Sadly Ashworth didn’t live to see the completion of his design as he died from illness in 1903 at the age of 32.

Over 110,000 commuters and 1,500 trains pass through the station every weekday; during the mid to late 1920s the station was the world’s busiest passenger station, with over 290,000 passengers and 200 trains passing through the station daily.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2012
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The Clouds Gather

Clouds Gather Over the MCG

Dark clouds
Gather overhead
Like stormy skies
Hanging over my heart

I took this photo during a short day trip to Melbourne on Saturday. Despite living in Sydney for most of my life, it was actually my first trip to Melbourne (just something I’ve never really got round to before) and I went with my father to see some of the fabulous Christmas decorations around the city, particularly the Myer window displays. We then stopped in at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch a session or two of Victoria taking on South Australia, which is where I took the photo.

It was a good day’s cricket, with Phil Hughes scoring a hundred, but what surprised me was how few people were there. There couldn’t have been more than 350 people at the ground and as you can see in the photo, almost all of the stands were empty. I know Sheffield Shield games don’t attract huge crowds but I thought there’d be at least a few more people watching than that. It happens at most other grounds as well unfortunately and I don’t understand why as the quality of Shield matches is usually very high. I guess most people are just more interested in international matches and T20s.

The haiqua came to mind while I was sitting watching the cricket and the clouds, thinking back over the past year. It’s been an eventful year, both personally and around the world, and that’s made me feel a little reflective and sombre lately. I guess that’s what inspired the haiqua’s tone.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2012

Rainbow Lorikeet

In my dreams
I am a bird
Flying high above the world,
Truly free

A rainbow lorikeet perched on our balcony, looking around to see if anyone’s home. Several lorikeets have been visiting us every day recently and they’ve been very friendly. This one posed for a photo in return for an apple slice.

If you haven’t seen them before, rainbow lorikeets are a species of Australasian parrot most commonly found in the eastern states. They’re beautiful and very colourful but can be very loud at times and quite aggressive, particularly when defending their territory.

I edited the photo to look more like a painting as I wanted to give it a bit of a different effect. The original photo is here if you want to compare them.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2012

Bronte Beach Panorama

Walking across
Ancient shores,
Thinking of a time when
This land was free

Went for a walk with the wonderful @AlexandraRobin3 on Sunday and took this shot looking across Bronte Beach around midday, just before the beach started to fill up for the day. It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of fun taking photos, although we got badly sunburnt unfortunately – think it’s worth it though when you get shots like this.

Bronte’s one of my favourite beaches in Sydney; I like Coogee and Bondi too but Bronte has a different, more relaxed feel and it’s a great place to spend the day. If you ever visit Sydney, I highly recommend doing the Bondi to Bronte beach walk. It takes in most of Sydney’s most famous beaches and has beautiful views.

The finished photo is actually a panorama consisting of four separate photos which I combined in Photoshop Elements to give the elongated effect. I took it with my Canon 7D but most cameras (even phones) can do it if you like the effect – you just need to remember to keep your photos level and let them overlap enough so that you can join them together in something like AutoStitch (free) later.

The haiku was inspired by a feeling I had later in the day, when I was sitting with Alex and looking out at the ocean, thinking about what it must have looked like 250 years ago to the original Aboriginal landowners, before the intervention of Europeans. There’s a lot I’m proud of about modern Australia but I often feel sad about the amount we have lost as well and particularly how we have treated the first Australians… I couldn’t help but think of that while I sat there, watching the waves crashing against the sand, and so I guess that found its way into the haiku as well.

You can click on the photo to make it larger as well if you’d like to see it in more detail.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2012

Outside the Coach and Horses


Bright lights
Busy streets

Stretching without end:

Will they lead me home to you?

Looking across at the Coach and Horses Hotel in Randwick. The Coach and Horses is about five minutes from where I live and I often pass it on my way back home from a walk. It dates back to around 1859 and is still located on its original plot of land, making it one of the oldest still-functioning pubs in Sydney. It was also one of the first local buildings to be connected by telephone at the turn of the century.

It’s a very distinctive building but I’d never actually taken a photo of it before, so I’m quite pleased with how it came out. I think shooting it at night really helps to capture the mood of the building and I like the blurred movements of the cars as well… they help to make the scene feel more alive.

A few people have asked previously why I didn’t edit out the power lines in the photo. Well, the simple answer is, I don’t like editing my photos extensively unless I have to. I have nothing against editing but I dislike changing the feel of a scene completely and in my opinion, I would have if I had removed the lines here. It also would have taken a lot of time that I don’t really have at the moment, which was a consideration as well.

Overall I see my role as a photographer, particularly with landscapes and architecture, less about capturing reality per se as trying to best convey a scene the way I saw it in my mind and there are many ways of doing that (from in-camera to post-processing and HDR) but I don’t see the point in changing something so much that the original scene becomes less recognisable – like changing the colour of a wall, for instance, or removing a feature that relates to the main subject. To me, editing the lines out here would have removed too much of the reality and story from the photo and made it less interesting. I know not everyone agrees but that’s my philosophy and I’m happy with the photo the way it is.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2012