Steven//

The Pinnacles of Phillip Island – Seriously Epic

The Pinnacles of Phillip Island - Seriously Epic

The Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai on Phillip Island are pretty close to Melbourne. All up, the drive is about 2 hours from Melbourne, but living in Australia, that’s not massive. As you walk down to the beach, it’s a pretty typical Aussie surf beach. Big waves, lots of sand, mist in the air, windy, and cliffs on the horizon. The entrance to the walkway is about 1km east (left) from the beach car park, so it’s pretty cruisy walk to the walkway which is the beginning of Cape Woolamai. You start to climb and get a better picture, but it doesn’t really prepare you.

The walk from the car park is about 45/60 minutes (depending on how often you stop for a click), and it’s not a tough mission. Along the way, there’s plenty to see, but nothing really prepares you for the real highlight of The Pinnacles. When you get there, you’re looking down from an observation platform and things look amazing, but still a little small. When you head down, it really gets put in perspective, and you really appreciate how large those rocks actually are. Each on of those pebbles are big enough for two to stand on. And there are thousands of them!

Lucky for me, this weekend I decided to head down and see how I’d go. To be honest, I thought it was going to be a bad move. The weather was wild, and I thought this could be a real fizzer. So, have a look through the photos below. You can see the weather starting off pretty rough, and as time goes on, the clouds blew over and the colour in the sky comes on strong to put on a show. Loved it!

Icing on the cake

Just to put icing on the cake, at one point we saw a pod of dolphins about 20 strong! Talk about an awesome little mission. Too far out with my wide lenses on, but still, it’s about more than the photos.

And a little freebee

You can download pretty sweet resolutions here, but if you’d like a super high original resolution of “Saving the best moment for the end. Amazing.”, I’ve got a download link for my favourite Pinnacles Sunset Photo. Feel free to use for personal use however you’d like – just don’t sell it…

1963 Mini – A British Icon with Modern Melbourne

1963 Mini - A British Icon with Modern Melbourne

Mixing classic and contemporary isn’t usually as pronounced as this. But it just works…

Tim O’Grady, restored this little beauty as a pet project, and it took quite a while. When it finally hit the road, what better way to celebrate than taking it for a spin and shoot. I don’t know bugger all about cars, but here’s what Tim had to say.

So the car is a 1963 mini. I swapped it for a lawnmower that I had found in a hard rubbish collection. I’ve had it since I was 13. At the time it had been T-boned by an F250 truck and had been scrapped for parts. I took the shell and all the parts I could get my hands on. All the body and mechanical work was done by Dad, John (the original owner) and myself. I owe a huge thank you to Fiona and mum for work on the interior. It has been made to resemble the performance minis of the 60’s and I’ve tried to keep things original but with modern touches. The car looks exactly as I wanted it too and I’m really happy I stuck with it.

Mornington Peninsula – 90 Minutes from Melbourne

Mornington Peninsula - 90 Minutes from Melbourne

Stuck in a routine

It’s funny how when you’re a local, you tend to not really absorb the great things around you. Using myself in Melbourne, as an example, how much does it take to do something like visit the Aquarium? Or go for dinner on the Restaurant Tram? Or even head down to the Dandenong Rangers for a day out? What I’m getting at, is there is so much to do for locals, yet we often wait for friends of family to visit (from afar) as justification for doing something interesting.

Weekend road trip to the Mornington Peninsula

This last weekend, a group of friends headed down to the Mornington Peninsula, and considering it’s only 90 minutes out of Melbourne, it’s pretty remarkable how much of a change of sights we get (and the fresh, sea air!). I mean, you know it’s going to be different, but it’s easy to forget that beautiful nature isn’t really that far away when you get stuck in a routine of work-eat-sleep-chores-socialise, then repeat. And the photos below really only represent the beachy side of things; the winery and food missions we did were awesome! Only they were more about food and boozing (um, tasting) than photography.

So, needless to say, I tried to make the most of it, and for me, that means getting up at sunrise and trying to get that beautiful glow. Walking around with my camera really is how I find my own space, and I’m always wanting to capture something different (at least for me).

And on with the photography

I hope you enjoy the random splattering of shots from the weekend below. And feel free to download them as your wallpaper – they are pretty high resolution, so just right (or option on a Mac) click and chose to ‘save link as’  for the image. Let me know what you think, share it round/up-vote on social if you dig!

Cheers, Steve

P.S. For a bunch more Mornington Peninsula stuff, check out the Tourism Victoria Visit Melbourne site.

Supporting Makers to House Breakers

Supporting Makers to House Breakers

Update 31/07/2015:

Bryce Wilson (AKA @drjft) has contacted me and request changes to the article below. Specifically, with reference to him using stolen gear for the photographs discussed, and that he profited from this stolen gear. As such, I’ve removed this content.

Intro:

Let me get this out of the way. I’m not accusing Bank of Melbourne of any wrongdoing, but it’s more of a strange story on the content marketing landscape. In no way have Bank of Melbourne actively supported robbery (obviously), but inadvertently, they have supported a thief and trespasser. Equally, I advised Bank of Melbourne of this post prior to publication (I didn’t want to create a a real headache for someone), and they have since taken the posts down. Also, mentioned Instagrammer @drjft has also gone ‘private’, so the topic of which I’m talking is of real relevance. 

Instagram; Started with creators & makers, and increasing in curators

Lately, it seems like I’m getting ‘followed’ by more and more businesses / brands / corporates wanting to explore new territory with regards to their content marketing strategies. I’m generally for it, as it’s a great way of embracing content generated by the creators, and these brands are always on the lookout for a way to curate to new markets. Equally, if a brand is generating great content, that’s an even bigger tick. But the actual content generation seems hard, expensive and the exception, so curation is all the rage right now…

(Quality) Content is King

If I get followed by some known brand – and I’ll use @bankofmelb for this – I’m generally curious on 2 fronts. 1) What type of content are they posting, and 2) What is their agenda (cause, it will have an internal ROI)?. So on @bankofmelb, what do they stand for?

Bank of Melbourne Bank of Melbourne's official Instagram. Celebrating the people, places and stories of our home state, through the lens of a local.
Bank of Melbourne Bank of Melbourne’s official Instagram. Celebrating the people, places and stories of our home state, through the lens of a local.

Good idea, and nice content too. It’s all curated, or ‘regrammed’, with a little comment crediting the original author. But one post jumped out at me, and it was really exceptional.

Beautiful Photograph Taken at Melbourne Heights
Beautiful Photograph Taken at Melbourne Heights. Bank of Melbourne have since removed this, after being notified of this story.

I didn’t quite know how they sourced that photo (I know Melbourne pretty well, but that looked like a hard space to find). Anyways, I followed @BankOfMelb back, and that was a couple weeks back. Last night on Channel 9 News, I saw an interesting news report that revolved around a Melbourne Instagrammer. Turns out, the picture above, was taken by @drjft, who was the prime target. Basically, this guy climbs illegally, and then gets exposure based on the uniqueness of it…

    1. We’ve got a corporates ‘regramming’ photos
    2. We’ve got a now-known criminal who has illegally taken these photos (and it’s not unfair to draw the conclusion he used a stolen camera to take this specific photo, from the video above)
      • Note, 31st July 2015: Bryce Wilson has informed me that the stolen equipment was not used for these specific photos, so this conclusion was not the case.  Equally, he apologises wholeheartedly for the grief he cased from the stolen personal possessions, but has no qualms with the fact he does trespass to gain access to take photographs.
    3. We’ve got a corporate capitalising on this… Seems kinda strange, huh?

I know Instagram isn’t a cash cow for business, but as per the original agenda of a @BankOfMelb being on Instagram, ROI isn’t unexpected. Equally, I’m not saying that Bank of Melbourne we’re aware of this illegal activity, but reading the comments @drjft’s original post (below), you’d think it be safe to suspect they knew it was slightly dodgy…

Conversation between @BankofMelb and @drjft
Conversation between @BankofMelb and @drjft

I’m not wanting to make a harsh judgment call on Bank of Melbourne, as this hasn’t really been their doing. Increasingly, businesses are doing this more and more, and this is a real ‘watch this space’. The current corporate-content landscape is very interesting and it’s early days. In the future, the notion of regramming will come under more scrutiny. It’s only a matter of time for a big corporate to regram something that a person has has uploaded, that they never had permission to. And that could cause some real legal headaches…

What do I want out of this?

Firstly, content curation is isn’t risk free or easy. Equally, creating content isn’t easy, but it seems that content curation is often looked at as the ‘easy way for cut-through’, because it requires less ‘doing’ and more ‘finding’.

Secondly, if curation is to be the approach, understand the risks. What are the legal ramifications of uploading an image to a social media platform, that you don’t actually own it. Say you get permission; is it legal permission, or anecdotal? If it’s by means of a hashtag, or a ‘reply to a comment’, what happens if that person decides to delete it later? Will there be a record if they wanted to take you to court? I really believe this will get messy with the increasing desire for litigation, and this is of greater significance to brands with more to lose (cash / reputation / whatever).

Lastly, I want  marketers to take care with how they operate and understand the landscape. Understand copyright, understand terms of service, and understand that social media marketing puts people in the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons.

Is this just an unlucky coincidence (which I think it is, partly), or will this type of possible PR headache come up more and more (I think it will)? Or, does it even matter (as a creator, I think it does)?

And just a final word on Bank of Melbourne; I really do like their For the Maker campaign. It’s something that I personally align to, and their advert (below) is a real piece of work.

Lensbaby Edge 80 – Big Things Made Small

Lensbaby Edge 80 - Big Things Made Small

I’ve had my Lensbaby Edge 80 for around two years (at point of writing this), and I’ve never really put a group of photos together that demonstrate the kind of fun you can have with it. It’s not a lens that I’ll have with me all the time, but every now and then, it’s really cool to drag out and have a play.

In terms of how I use it, I really like to try capture a long or elevated shot, that gives the flexibility to make a tilt-shift type effect by bending the lens in its mounting (see this geeky YouTube to learn some more). It’s not something I need to do at any serious level, so the price point (compared to a tilt-shift) really makes sense, and I’m a big fan of it.

There’s something cool about doing this stuff in-camera, and the blur you get when bending it around, is very optically-real. What I mean by optically-real, is this is an effect that happens as a result of real optics changing, rather than trying to mimic the effect in Photoshop. Sure, Photoshop can do this kind of stuff, but at the same time, this lens will also work with 35mm film (I must try that!). But, who cares really, as long as you’re having some fun with it.

I hope these shots can give a little taste of what you can produce. Mostly Melbourne below, but I did recently take it with me to Vietnam for something a little different.

Southbank Stroll – Walking at Dusk

Southbank Stroll - Walking at Dusk

Walking around Southbank really is a treat. There’s so many photo opporunities, and it’s no surprise that there’s trigger happy snappers all over the joint. These shots here are from my walk home. Pretty easy to take your time when the sun is going down, and the city lights really come to life just after sunset.

White Night Melbourne 2015 – A Time lapse

White Night Melbourne 2015 - A Time lapse

What a massive night!

White Night Melbourne has just happened, and it was a big one. I headed along to try capture as much as I can with my camera (along with the rest of the world), and I’ve made a little time lapse clip from how I saw it. Massive cheers to Holy Moses Heartache for allowing me to use “Good Times” on the track. Check them out on Facebook, and buy their album Cheers on BandCamp.

White Night Melbourne 2015 in Time Lapse


All nighter required

And some photos

The photos below are all from the clip. Each video sequence requires about 250 raw images to be taken, and I’ve just grabbed a few out for some visual love below.

Melbourne on the rails – with FREE RAW files

Melbourne on the rails - with FREE RAW files

If you wanna jump to the free raw files, feel free!

My brief history of RAW photography

When I was getting more interested in digital photography, I kept on hearing “shoot RAW, shoot RAW”. I didn’t really understand why you need RAW files, or what benefits that gave. Not only, I used to shoot JPEG because RAW files were so big, and I’d think “if I wanna shoot something decent, I’ll shoot RAW, even if I don’t really know why”. Inevitably, I forgot, and yep, I’ve got a bunch of old JPEGs I can’t do too much with from a technical standpoint (or at least, a limited amount). It actually pisses me off, still!

Why the free RAW photos

Heads up; Each RAW file is about 20Mb, so don’t download them on your mobile.
So, on the back of my history of not knowing what I was doing, and the fact I feel moderately competent now, I’m giving away 3 DNG RAW files as a bit of a starter. Something to play with, something to do what you want with, if you’re interested, and want to experiment. Of the files, I’ve got one under exposed RAW file, one over exposed raw file, and one correctly exposed raw file (according to my aperture priority settings). These are the kind of files you need to make a HDR image (some explanation below), if you want, or you can just grab the picture that you think will best suit your play-time.

What tools to use for RAW files?

Firstly, RAW files are like the negative of the digital camera, and not your normal JPEG or GIF that you’d see on the web. They are loaded with meta data that gives information on how to display the image, what gear – like lens, f-stop, etc, was used to shoot it, where it was shot (if possible), and more. Also things like white balance. If you shoot JPEG, your white balance is locked in to the file, and you’re going to struggle to fix it up, if it’s not quite right. BTW, white balance is the colour temperature, and while it’s all rather complex, don’t stress now. Look it up if you’re curious. But, needless to say, RAW files give you flexibility, but you need a tool to open them up. Equally cool with RAW files is the ability to manipulate shadows, highlights, and generally, get more from dark or over exposed shots. There’s so much data in the blacks and whites, you can often save a photo that you might think too dark or bright.

The actual tools

Warning; you’re going to need a Mac or PC for this, and to take out a trial.
I’ve only got strong experience with Apple and Adobe. I’m a former Apple Aperture (trial available) user who’s switched to Adobe Lightroom (trial available), and I’ve got no thoughts on going back. Even further back, I was using Apple iPhoto, which is also very good, and free if you’ve got a Mac.

With any of these tools, I’d suggest you just download the RAW files, load them in, and play away with the sliders. Drag up and down the exposure sliders – see how far you can push it, to the point of getting noise, or going black. Play with the highlights and shadows sliders. You can tell the program to only manipulate the white areas, or the black areas. For example, you’ve got an image that’s pretty spot on, but these a sunset which is just too white. Drag down the highlights, and you might be able to save an image.

What’s HDR?

HDR is the process of mixing a few images (in most cases) of varying exposures to really make the most of the available light. Sometimes, one photo has some area that’s just too bright or dark. If your out shooting, and you can see this at the time, taking a few photos of under, over and correct exposure, allows you can do more in post production. Tools I’ve used, and would suggest as a starters are NIK Software by Google, which includes HDR Efex Pro, as well as Photomatix. In any case, download the trials, and have a play with the RAW files I’ve supplied (or your own).

What about the sad sacks on a mobile

Fear not, mobiles have some real serious options. But you’re not going to get the same high-end results, at least for the next couple years. On mobile, you are really going struggle with RAW images (it’s possible, but right now, it sucks), and you’re going to have live with JPEGs. Don’t stress, though. I’m increasingly doing mobile edits, and I’m constantly surprised with the results. Personally, I’m using Snapseed (for Android, and iPhone/iOS), and often with a final touch in VSCOCam (Android and iPhone/iOS).

Snapseed does some neat HDR stuff, from a single JPEG, and it’s pretty cool. In fact, download one of the pics below (or tap here for a hi res JPEG)  and have a play for some mobile edit joy… If you do, let me know!

Last thing about HDR

There’s a tonne of haters on HDR. Personally, I don’t like the photos that are too-far-pushed. That’s totally subjective, but just do whatever makes you happy.

All the links from above

 

What did I do with my shot?

This first shot below is the result of the bottom three photos. Those bottom three photos are pretty much ‘straight out of camera’ (but made JPEGs for the web). You can download the RAW files and, depending on how you go with your own process, come up with something similar to what I’ve done. That’s not to say you should, but this was my idea.

I’ll give you a high level overview, but not the exact process. Try have a play, yourself. But basically, I modified the white balance of all three files in Lightroom. I wanted more blue. then I did some minor tweaks to highlights and shadows, and applied some lens corrections. From there, I decided to export it for HDR work in HDR Efex Pro. It’s pretty simple, and very easy to go overboard. That doesn’t matter, just play around. When I was happy enough, I saved the output file and got it back to Lightroom for some final touches. Here, I increased the contrast, toggled the clarity and vibrance, and buggered around with the saturation for longer than I should. But, that’s basically it.

Last note

Much of what I’ve stated above wont make sense until you start playing with the tools. This isn’t a tutorial, but if you really wanna have a crack, feel free to ask me in the comments below. Google tutorials, find your own way. The way I have approached photography is really by touch and break. It’s not for everyone, but that’s just my two cents.

And if you like this kind of post / give away, please give me a little share / thumbs up / comment below. Whatever way works for you 🙂

Melbourne Street Art – A Sunday Walk

Melbourne Street Art - A Sunday Walk

It was a pretty cruisy Sunday, and with a bunch of things on my mind, felt like it was the right time to get out for a walk. I decided to head back to two old favorites; Hosier Lane and Croft Alley.

Depending on your luck, you can get a real wet (paint) experience, or something a little more roughed up. You know your getting a good show when you can smell the paint. You get wild colours, awesome reflections and a generally un-touched experience. And don’t lean on the walls. This Sunday, though, was a little rougher. It’s not my first choice, but still, I dig it.

As for the photos below, if you know the artists, please let me know. I’m not totally across who does what, but happy to link back.

Croft Alley

Croft Alley doesn’t get as much action as Hosier, and as such, the pieces are older but they last a bit longer. There’s not as much tagging going on, so pieces are generally kept in better order. There’s also way less people, but it’s seriously worth the little walk. Equally cool is the Croft Institute at the end. It’s been a few years since I headed there, but if you’ve never been and in the area, give it a look.

Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane (and Rutledge Lane, which is basically the same thing) are the showcase for Melbourne’s street art. The streets are constantly changing, and there’s only a few pieces that stand the test of time. That said, despite the apparent outrage a few years back when Rutledge went blue and that it was going to be changed forever, it’s back to normal. There’s always people, there’s often tags all over pieces, but it’s the centrepiece of Melbourne’s street art for good reason.

 

Docklands at Night

Victoria Harbour, Bolte Bridge and The Melbourne Star

Wanna free high-res, free for all use, version?

Print it, share it, send it, copy it, edit it… Do whatever you like. It’s free. Just please don’t sell it.

If you do something with the print, let me know in comments below. Love to hear if you get it printed, put it on a website, use it on a design, or whatever it might end up as.

Also, a big thanks to the team at Melbourne Official Tourism on Twitter, too! Follow them!

Download your 8000px Docklands at Night Photo now!

Cheers, Steve

Victoria Harbour, Bolte Bridge and The Melbourne Star
Relaxing by Victoria Harbour

Free Tram Zone Delivering Unexpected Results for Yarra Trams

Free Tram Zone Delivering Unexpected Results for Yarra Trams

Free Tram Zone, Two Weeks In

It’s been two weeks since the Free Tram Zone has been introduced on Melbourne’s tram network, and some results are starting to become apparent. And they might not be what you expect.

The program of allowing tram commuters to travel for free within the relatively small bounds of the city has produced some unexpected findings. Most notable is the body-odour parts-per-million count (BO PPM) increase, and an increase in usage due to the no-pay model.

Unexpected Results

Of the findings, the most notable is the statistically significant increase in BO PPM. When introduced, it was expected the free travel would result in punters not physically exhausting themselves while getting from one side of the city to another on foot, and get some refuge in the air conditioned trams. This expected outcome was welcomed by the Melbourne Retailers Association, as it would mean an overall reduction in BO PPM in city shopping centres. But instead, the inverse has been observed.

Smelly on the inside
Dirty on the outside, smelly on the inside

Sadly, there are record numbers of homeless living on Melbourne streets, and the trams now also provide refuge from the heat for both the homeless and the elite. Equally, the free transportation provides increased opportunity for the true bogan, often with a ‘ciggi stubbed’ behind ones ear, to travel without concern.

And the sad truth about both stereotypes above, is they generally have an increased BO, resulting in an increase BO PPM in the Free Tram Zone.

In essence, the Free Tram Zone has become a ‘get what you pay for zone’, and now that it’s free, there’s much less control of what is going on.

Secondary Outcomes

Another outcome from the free zone is lack of authoritative presence, no due to the lack of revenue raising opportunities. With no fare evasion fines to be given, there – at least anecdotally – is no presence of Yarra Tram / MyKi security to keep the unruly contained. The ‘Ah who cares, it’s free’ mentality is resulting in an increase in discomfort from an audible standpoint, as well as increased boganisation of commuters.

Great marketing pitch for the Free Tram Zone
Great marketing pitch for the Free Tram Zone

Secondary to the BO PPM increase is an overall, and unplanned, increase in tram crowding while in the free zone. It’s “one of these things that the Coalition thought up and Labor backed, but the question is whether there has been any planning around it”, according to the PTUA’s Daniel Bowen. The lack of incentive to walk around the city has caused both an increase in patronage, and a median weight gain from city commuters. This two-pronged attack on space has resulted in a decrease of airflow in the tram. Subsequently, the air conditioning simply can’t hold up due to both the amount of heat emitted from the larger commuters, as well as the reduction of air in the tram itself. Air conditioners need airflow, and it’s simply not there. And again, this has a negative impact on the BO BBM.

So, all in all, this is a subject to watch. These results, while conclusive from the data sourced, are from a summer introduction of the program. Seasonality wise, this will no doubt change as winter comes, rain increases and temperature drops. And remember, don’t touch on.

The printed handout indicates where the free tram zone is.
The printed handout indicates where the free tram zone is.

Streets and Laneways of Ho Chi Minh City

Streets and Laneways of Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (i.e. Saigon) is wild. The roads are a sea of scooters, where the scooters swim like a school of fish, but between the main roads, there are connecting pathways which allow for a much calmer way of life.

Coming from Melbourne, Australia, Laneways are just an iconic part of the city, and as much as Ho Chi Minh couldn’t be more different, the back streets and laneways share some similarities. They’re more relaxed, while still being a place to eat; just not as mainstream. You still get traffic, you still get a bunch of people, but for something so close, you see something very different at a much calmer pace.

In terms of exploring, the laneways tend to keep tourists away for some reason. I think it’s got to do with the tribal mentality of ‘hanging out where my people are’, but that doesn’t seem to matter for locals. It just allows curious people to get a bit more of a real look at the daily life. And it’s really cool.

While in Vietnam, I shot a tonne of streets, people, laneways, traffic, etc, but with this post, I’ve tried to put a little more focus on people in the environment. As for a look at broader crazy traffic or specific shots people, those posts and pics will coming soon.

And just for good measure, there’s a few photos of some of the busier streets with people mixed in.

Exploring Dương Đông in Phú Quốc

Exploring Dương Đông in Phú Quốc

Phú What?

Phú Quốc is about 40 minutes by air from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and is a small island about 50Kms tall, and 25Kms wide. The main town of  Phú Quốc is Dương Đông, and I had the pleasure of spending a couple days here to see out the end of 2014. Such a nice little town, and a real change of pace from the craziness of Ho Chi Minh City.

Dương Đông

About half way up the west coast is the main town Dương Đông. It’s got a great night market open from 4:30pm, and up the end of the market is the Dinh Cậu Lighthouse. It’s an awesome spot, with a great view of the town and market below. There’s fisherman, people, and at sunset, a great atmosphere.

So, that’s where I ended up on Saturday 27th December, 2014.

Scroll on for some photographs, and click to see a higher resolution version.