2018 Favourites

With today being the last day of 2018 I thought it’d be fun to post a collection of my favourite photos from the past year. I hope you enjoy them.

2018’s been an interesting year for my photography. I actually didn’t start taking many photos until about April but it’s been pretty much non-stop since.

Part of that’s been that I decided to do a calendar for the end of the year. I thought it would help inspire me to get out and shoot more, which it did. It ended up being a really fun project.

Along with my landscapes I started doing more portraits as well, particularly studio portraits which have been fun and have helped my understanding of flash. I’ll be doing more paid work in 2019 so it’s been good practice for that.

In general I think my photography has improved a lot this year. In particular I’ve refined my editing a lot and I’ve found myself focusing on combining long exposures with movement which has created some really interesting images.

I also won the Lake Macquarie Float Your Boat photo competition and my calendar sold much better than I expected it to – it actually sold out twice and it came together very well in the end.

I also switched to Sony from Olympus midyear which was a bit of a learning curve at first but has worked out really well in the end.

So all in all 2018’s been a pretty productive year. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 will bring. 🙂

Happy New Year! Hope it’s a good one for you.

Belmont Baths and Jetty

The new Belmont baths and jetty opened on Saturday. The old finger jetty was destroyed by a severe storm several years ago and the council used the opportunity to design a new one and reopen the community baths as well.

I live in Belmont so I’ve been watching the construction closely over the last few months and I popped along on Saturday to have a look now it’s all finished.

I quite like them. The jetty is fantasic and the baths look like they’ll be great on a hot day and they’re an interesting design. I was a little surprised by the boundary posts though; I thought there would be more connecting them than the shark nets but I guessmaybe that would have ruined the view.

I went back for a proper photowalk on Sunday to explore some more and catch the sunset. I like how the shots came out and the different views of the baths and jetty and the lake. They’re definitely interesting to photograph, I think it’ll be an interesting area to go back to every now and then.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2018

Self Portraits

I took these self portraits a couple of nights ago. I’ve been thinking about starting to do more studio-style portraits and as I wanted to see if there was enough room to do them at home, I thought I’d try it out myself.

I took them in our lounge and I honestly wasn’t sure how it’d go at first but it actually worked out quite well. We have some dark blue velvet curtains which were great for the background and I used two flashes on light stands and stood about a metre from the curtains which more or less turned the background black. I had my camera on a tripod and triggered it with a remote which gave me time to pose and try different things.

I didn’t do any full body shots as I didn’t want to move any furniture out of the way but there would be enough room to do that if I wanted to in the future which is good to know. In this case I was more interested in shooting from the waist up anyway.

The main thing I found a bit hard was positioning the flashes given it’s a small room and if I wasn’t careful the light could spread too far; sometimes the background looked totally black in camera but later on my computer I found I could make out the curtains. So I think I’d use a proper background next time and maybe step a bit further forward to fix that. A textured muslin background would look good too.

They came out well overall though and for just a fun experiment I like them a lot. I particularly like the shots with the masks. I’ve been thinking a lot about the masks we wear in our everyday lives lately, how the person we are in public differs from the person we are in private. I wanted to try to convey that in the images: the tie and jacket contrasting with the mask, a scream of repression.

With the Venetian masquerade mask I was particularly thinking of the Uncle Sam Wants You poster from World War I and how governments use masks of propaganda to convince people of their cause and given a lot of what’s happening in the world at the moment, I thought doing a take on that pose was interesting. Looking at the final image, it feels a little accusatory which I like as well… it gives it another dimension and I guess it’s a reflection of what I was feeling in that moment too.

I also thought the masks just looked pretty cool too which was the main thing!

I hope you like the photos. I really enjoy making creative self portraits like these, I’ll have to get back to doing them more regularly.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2018

Through the Grass

Through the Grass

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”
—Dorothea Lange

I took this shot on the weekend near the 16s in Belmont. It was just before sunset and I really liked the way the light was reflecting off the water and falling on the grass. There was a nice breeze too and the whole scene felt very warm and peaceful.

In editing it I wanted the photo to have a bit of a vintage, filmic feel as I thought it really leant itself to that style and my landscapes seem to have been moving more towards that lately. I guess it’s normal for our tastes to change and I feel a bit nostalgic for film as well sometimes. Maybe I’ll have to pick up a film camera second-hand to play with.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2018

Looking Across Warners Bay

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” — Ansel Adams

I took these photos a couple of days ago at Warners Bay. It’s a beautiful area, one of my favourite places to sit and take some photos as the sun goes down, although unfortunately on this day it was a bit clouded over. The clouds gave the scene a nice atmosphere though and the light was very soft and even.

I was in two minds about going originally as I thought it might rain but I decided to risk it as I hadn’t been to the foreshore in a while and I really wanted to get a shot with this sculpture that was installed there recently.

The sculpture is called Soloist by Alex Seton and it’s a very interesting piece, definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area. Ironically it was actually an accident that it ended up on the foreshore at all – Seton had been commissioned to do another work by the Lake Macquarie City Council for its Creative Lake Art Trail but the piece wasn’t ready in time, so Seton lent Soloist in its place until the other work could be installed. But the sculpture created a lot of interest and debate and it’s now staying permanently.

I really like it and I think it suits the landscape perfectly. There is something very meditative about it and it makes me think of the importance of finding your peace in our hectic world, of allowing yourself a moment to just sit still and be. I guess that was the feeling I wanted to try to capture in the photos. I think they came out quite well in the end.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2018

I Can’t See New York

Seventeen years ~
Feels like a lifetime,
And yesterday ~
We remember

In some ways it’s hard to believe that it’s been seventeen years since September 11. It seems like an age ago – it was more than half my lifetime ago now, in fact. The world has changed so much.

And yet in other ways it barely feels like much time has passed at all. I still remember seeing it so clearly on television; watching the second plane crash, the towers fall. The horror, the shock, the disbelief.

Perhaps that is the way of historic moments though. In searing themselves into our consciousness, they change us, change the world. And so when we think of them it’s almost like time continues to stand still, even after so long.

I wanted to do something to mark the day besides a short poem, so I thought I would share a song as well. Tori Amos is one of my favourite artists and it was actually through this song, I Can’t See New York, that I discovered a lot of her more modern music.

It’s from the 2002 album Scalet’s Walk, which is about a young woman’s journey from one side of America to the other, exploring Native American history and learning about political extremism and American culture, as well as a thousand other things.

The album is a masterpiece and as Amos’s protagonist approaches the end of her journey, she puts her on a plane above New York, circling above ash and dust, confused and terrified as a plane crashes and 9/11 unfolds.

It’s a hauntingly beautiful song and I’ve always thought one of the most powerful songs about that day. So many years later it still captures that awful sense of confusion and sadness so very well.

My thoughts to everyone in the US today.

Haiqua © CJ Levinson 2018

Rise to Save Our Coast

Rise for Climate Newcastle Panorama

Rise for Climate Newcastle Panorama

The Rise for Climate event was on this Saturday, September 8. You may have seen some of the news reports about it over the weekend but if you didn’t, Rise for Climate saw hundreds of cities and towns around the world join together to hold peaceful protests and rallies calling on the world’s leaders to take action on climate change.

It drew some huge crowds around the world, particularly in the US and San Francisco where thousands marched ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit to be held in San Francisco next week.

Here in Newcastle, the RISE to Save Our Coast rally at Newcastle’s beautiful Bar Beach was organised by Stop Seismic Testing Newcastle and was attended by hundreds of people from all across Newcastle and the Hunter. It was a great event and the energy was fantastic despite it being a very cold and windy day.

Originally I didn’t think I was going to be able to go to the event as I had plans in Sydney for the weekend. But I ended up having to raincheck and in the end it worked out well as I was able to attend after all.

I shot the rally with a couple of other members of the photo group I’m part of and it was a busy hour of shooting but a lot of fun. It was very overcast and damp which was challenging at times but the atmosphere was amazing regardless and the clouds actually gave a nice soft, moody light that really suited the feel of the event.

Afterwards I went to a McDonald’s nearby and frantically edited some of the photos on my laptop to upload as soon as I could. We wanted to get them up within an hour if possible so the rest of the world could wake up to the event – it was tight but we just managed it. I don’t think I’ve ever edited so fast in my life.

I’m pretty happy with how the photos came out. I’d never shot an event like this before and I think most came out well and I definitely learnt a lot. On top of that this was only the second time I’d used my new camera so in the midst of running around like a demented chicken, I was still trying to work out how everything on the camera worked. Note to self: maybe don’t switch camera systems right before an event next time, CJ.

More importantly, though, it was great to be a small part of a cause I really believe in. I’m a pragmatist so I don’t expect the world to change overnight but unless we as citizens speak up and call for change, there is no incentive for our leaders and politicians to ever act decisively on climate change (or any issue). I see events like this as a vital part of that.

And, hopefully, part of leaving the world a better place for our children and grandchildren to live in.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2018

Pinny Beach at Dusk

Pinny Beach at Dusk

Purple skies
Clear water –
Memories of another life
Long ago

I took these photos a couple of weeks ago. I had been planning to arrive for a sunset shoot but I ended up being slightly late and missed it. The dusk was still beautiful though and I think the photos turned out well anyway as the light was so interesting.

It was a bit of a strange photowalk for me as this part of Pinny Beach actually adjoins Caves Beach, the suburb in Lake Macquarie where my mother and I stayed with my grandparents after we had to leave Sydney following my father’s suicide attempt.

It was actually almost exactly five years to the day that we left Sydney when I took these photos and going back was a bit surreal. Caves Beach is a beautiful, peaceful place but it was not a happy time and I still see echoes of our experiences there when I walk around, particularly of our early days there and my grandparents’ dementia.

In retrospect I probably should have picked a different day and week to go but I’m glad these photos came out of it at least. Photography has been one thing that has really helped me to process and heal during these last five years… it’s very cathartic and I’m glad that I could capture the beauty there that day. Five years ago I probably wouldn’t have been able to recognise it and I guess that shows how far I’ve come.

Photos and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2018

My Favourite Photos from 2016

A belated Happy New Year to everyone. I hope 2017 is a good year for you and a better one for the world in general.

I thought I’d start off the new year by posting some of my favourite photos from last year. They’re a mix of landscapes, portraits and street photos and there are a few images here I haven’t shared before so I hope you like them.

2016 was a pretty good year for my photography. I had several sales, started doing some portraits and in general I think my photography improved a lot during the year. I had a few setbacks as well – most notably a broken foot which has sidelined me for a while – but overall I’m pleased with how the year went and I’m happy with how all of these photos came out.

My main photography goals for 2017 are to keep improving and testing myself and to increase my exposure locally. I’d also like to experiment more with using flash creatively – which probably means buying another flash, so we’ll see!

I hope you enjoy the photos. How was your 2016?