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?

Self Portrait in Black and White

Self Portrait in Black and White

Sometimes I wonder
Who I am in this strange world?
I am simply me

I took this photo as a bit of an experiment. I’ve been playing around with flash in my spare time, trying out some different settings and ideas so I know I’ve got a few more styles to default to for portraits when I need them.

I’ve been using myself as a stand in and wasn’t expecting to use any of the photos but I actually really like this one. In this case I was experimenting more with creating mood and atmosphere and I think it’s quite effective, particularly in black and white. Reminds me of some of those dramatic sports profiles you see in magazines sometimes.

For anyone wondering how to create a look like this, it’s actually quite simple. I only used one flash (off-camera) and used a black reflector behind me to create the background (a black bed sheet or piece of fabric would work well too).

I had my camera on a tripod and sat about half a metre in front of the reflector and angled the flash across the right side of my face. At about 1/8th power that allowed the flash to illuminate just that side of my face without reaching the background.

It’s a simple setup and while this looks moody and dramatic, it works well for normal portraits too. It’s very versatile and a good setup to learn if you’re just starting out.

I don’t take that many self portraits but I’m fairly happy with this one. Might have to keep experimenting and do some more of them.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2016

Sunset Reflections

Purple Reflections

Reflections stretch
Across the lake
As I sit and think
About the world

I took this photo a couple of days ago. It was the day after the US election and I went down to the lake in Belmont to try to clear my thoughts.

I’m not going to say too much about the election as I plan to touch on it in a Q&A post soon but I will say that Trump’s win shook me a bit. Obviously I’m an Australian and not directly involved but the US sets the cultural tone for the world and affects all of us; we often say that when the US sneezes, the rest of us catch a cold, and that’s why we were following the election closely too.

It was an extraordinary result but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that many of us aren’t concerned by it and that was my immediate reaction. Not just because of Trump’s rhetoric but particularly because internationally we have little idea of what to expect from a President Trump and his presidency leaves the US-Australia Alliance, NATO and the future of the Asia-Pacific region up in the air.

So yes, like everyone I was a bit shocked by the result and as it continued to dominate the news the next day, I felt like I needed to clear my head and try to get away from it for a while. So I went down to the lake for the sunset.

It was a beautiful sunset and I just sat and watched it for a while as the sky turned a beautiful shade of purple and the reflections started to stretch across the water. After a couple of minutes I set my camera on my tripod and took a couple of long exposures to try to do the scene justice. This was one of them and I’m happy with how it came out, particularly the vibrant colours.

I felt better for my time by the lake. It was very peaceful and I think sometimes it helps just to get away from the world for a little while and not think about things too much. This definitely did that for me.

Sunset

I saw this woman walking her dog by the lake a little earlier as well and took a quick photo. She spent quite a few minutes standing there, watching the sun go down. I guess maybe she was reflecting on things too.

Photos and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Pigeons Above the Gate

Pigeons Above the Gate

Life is
Full of surprises ~

We must try to welcome them
When they come

The weather has been really weird around Newcastle lately. We’ve had some really nice, warm days and then some bitterly cold, wet ones – sometimes we’ve had both in the same day and it’s been very frustrating.

That’s pretty much what happened yesterday. I was going to meet a group for a photowalk around the Newcastle Baths in the evening but I didn’t get there in the end as it poured with rain. I got about as far as the Customs House Hotel before the rain came and then it didn’t stop for hours.

I managed to find cover underneath an awning in Foreshore Park and while I sat around for a while, waiting to see if the rain would stop, I spotted this interesting gate nearby.

I found the different textures and the colours quite striking and I also liked how the pigeons were all in a row, sheltering from the rain. So I snapped a quick shot and I’m really pleased with how it turned out and the symmetry in the photo.

When I left to go to the Newcastle Baths yesterday I had a few ideas in mind but I certainly didn’t imagine I’d come across a photo like this. And I probably wouldn’t have if it hadn’t rained. It just goes to show how you should always be open to the world around you and not focus on just one idea or thing. You never know what you’re going to find.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Water on the Rocks

Water on the Rocks

Nature’s full power
Can be a terrible thing
But beautiful too

It was very windy this afternoon and the water was very choppy on the lake when I went for a walk earlier to watch the sun go down.

I tried taking a few photos of the water but the choppiness made the images seem a bit too busy so I thought I’d try to give the water a smoother look instead.

I took this at 1/3 of a second and I like the effect; it’s smoother but you still get a sense of movement and power which is what I wanted too.

I actually took this handheld as I didn’t have a tripod with me. The image stabilisation in my Pen F is excellent and helps me to get sharp shots I never would get otherwise. I can’t imagine shooting without that stabilisation anymore.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2016

I’ve Opened a Store!

My Etsy Store

Just a quick note. From time to time I get emails from people who like my photos and want to know if they can buy them or if there is a way to help support my blog. Until now I’ve mostly done all of that via email but hopefully now I won’t have to…

… because I’ve finally opened a store! 😀

It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while and after getting another few emails recently, I thought now was a good time to give it a try.

I’ve set it up with Etsy and for now I’ve added a selection of my favourite photos and will be adding more soon.

All the photos are digital files so people can print them themselves or through a printshop (saving money and time on postage). Or alternatively they can be used as wallpaper, printed on canvas or however else someone wants to use them.

Each photo is $5 and I thought that was fair given they’re digital files… about the same price as a cup of coffee. There’s also a 20% discount for buying 3 or more.

I’ve called it Shutter & Pen to match this site and over time I plan to add some pieces of my writing as well, like my haiku printed on some of the photos and possibly an ebook I’m working on.

Anyway it’s all set up now so if you’d like to check it out, I’d love to know what you think.

I can also do special one-off orders so if there’s a particular photo you’d like that isn’t there yet, just let me know. 😀