Mount Agung, Bali. An Eruption Looms.

Mount Agung, Bali. An Eruption Looms.

We arrived in Bali around the end of July, and the main volcano of the island, Mount Agung, started stirring. Not that you’d really know. Minor earth tremors, things of that nature. Needless to say, it’s been a slow build. Up until last week – that’s where things have really reached boiling point.

We had planned a road trip around the North East and as such, got some great views of the massive structure that stands around 3,000 meters above sea-level. And sea-level is kinda where this mountain starts. It’s incredible. The roads, all around it, just gradually go up and up and up.

Either way, being so close to this rumbling icon has put a spotlight on some pretty interesting aspects of reporting. And a couple of my pictures have been picked up by international media, to help support the narrative. For example, The Guardian, Daily Mail and Perth Now to name a few. As I write this, I’m talking with producers from the BBC Word Service Radio. It’s a seriously hot topic issue. Especially now the alarm level has been raised to the highest state of ‘4 – Eruption imminent’.

News is so slow to get out. You see a tweet indicating the alarms have reached a critical new high, only to realise it was a scheduled tweet to ensure this mornings link gets seen. So, no actual change. News media using various sources, being a little out of date. Then there’s mixed messages.

You also see messages for international tourists, saying no need for concern.

What I didn’t expect was to be labeled irresponsible. As in, me being irresponsible.

Here’s my initial tweet:

From my tweet, I didn’t anticipate some of these replies. I take their point, but still caught me by surprise.

I get it. I didn’t exactly say what was going on. But I did was keep the tweet short and use two pictures to tell the story. I had – falsely – hoped that would demonstrate the activity with a picture. Equally, I didn’t say “LAVA Steaming down mountain”. Which, some people are absurdly doing. This type of event attracts headlines the hooks people in, and increasingly prank news (perhaps referred to as Fake News – this ain’t that).

Looking at media, reports of smoke, lack of clarity on the source of the smoke. It’s from the bush fires. In a broad sense, the mountain is a volcano, and there is smoke coming from it, but it’s misleading. Reports of monkeys running down the hills. Are they escaping the fires?

I’m not saying there aren’t causes for concern. But broader media – social and traditional – love to drum up a dramatic story. That was never my intention. I saw the beautiful volcano. It was a clear night. There was a fire burning.

The volcano under the starts had been a bucket list photo I’d been chasing since I arrived.

Have a look at the pictures below – many have been tweeted. You can see how images, with the right or wrong caption, can tell (or support) a different story.

Last up. Something that was level at me was the following. Have a look.

Black & White Koh Lanta

Black & White Koh Lanta

I’ve been in a bit of a photography rut

Given my amazing surrounds of Thailand, that might be a slight surprise, but I never quite anticipated the hangover of my 2016 photo-a-day conquest I forgot it was a leap year – that 366th day really got me. Something about needing to find a subject or scene, every day, that was compelling, interesting, etc… It just got me down a little by the end and resulted in me being a little reluctant to pick up my camera in 2017 (well, so far).

That said, I’m never one to get stuck in a hole and moan. Given that, I thought to myself “what can I do to dig myself out of this”. Rather than picking up my camera, I decided to embrace a principle that I really believe in. Thats is:

Constraints drive creativity

I decided that I was going to try something different, use something different and focus on simplicity. That is, to create a collection of photos that use my mobile phone camera and shoot in black and white. And it’s grown on me.

Most of my photography is amped up. Bright and vibrant. Heaps of detail. But these shots below, there about less. And I’m pretty happy with it. There’s less depth of field, but more focus on contrast. I hope you enjoy them.

As for the how, these were all shot using my ageing Samsung Galaxy S6 using Adobe Lightroom Mobile. The process of shooting in black and white means I’m looking at things with a different lens (well, in my own mind) and the power of raw shooting, full control on a mobile phone is honestly quite remarkable.


Week One in Phuket, Thailand

Week One in Phuket, Thailand

Our South East Asia trip started in a really casual manner. First job after getting off our flight ( which was as smooth as you could hope considering we were delayed in Melbourne due to lightning and landed in lightning) was getting to our Airbnb joint. Instructions were a little vague, we were a little tired, but we figured it out. I mean, obviously. Our place was past most of the action of Patong and Karon, down the Southern end of Phuket in a town called Kata. A pretty sweet little find, in hindsight. Continue Reading..

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…

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.

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.