That is the only way to describe this trip. I spent a week in Houston Texas then jumped on a plane and went to Perth, Australia for another week only to then go to Jakarta Indonesia and Stavanger Norway before coming home to London. That is 24,000 miles traveled in three weeks, and I will not even try to calculate the amount of time spent on planes.
With such a crazy business trip covering some weekends I decided to carry a camera to use during the down times. I decided to travel light again with the Leica ME and my Zeiss 50mm lens. I did not have much time to use it but managed to spend a weekend in Perth which gave me the chance to run around town taking a few pictures.
I really wanted to capture some color film shots of Perth, however with all the security I would be going through I feared that the film would not survive such a constant assault of X-Ray. So I was left with my digital option which brings me as close to film as I can reasonably get.
Below are some of my favorite shots from the trip. All of these images sum up to represent my view on Perth Australia. The nature, beach and fun loving attitude of the local population. A wonderful place where my family and I were able to spend 4 great years getting to know.
I had a long business trip this week and at the last moment I threw in my Leica ME camera with the Zeiss Planar 50mm F/2. My business trips are very busy without any time to run around shooting pictures but I figured I could grab a few at the airport and so I did. Most of the time the camera stayed in my bag, but the few times I pulled it out I certainly enjoyed it.
This would be the perfect, travel light, photography set up. A single camera, lens and battery combination. No card reader, charger or anything. I figured that once the battery was out I would be long finished. Same with the memory card.
I had to take the train into town and then head back to the airport to fly out of town. This made the images I captured a bit of a story as it was capped on both ends of the trip with shots of the transport I was using.
Watching people when at the airport, or at a train station is very entertaining. Everyone is in their own world and rarely interact with one another. This is especially true on London's rail system where a train can be crowded with hundreds of people, yet you could hear a pin drop in its silent.
The picture above was taken at a train stop when the doors opened and I saw this young lady standing in such a fascinating way that I had to pull the camera up and steal a shot.
The shot below was taken at a station near London. I loved the shadows and the fact that all the people seem to bunch up on the left and right of the frame. But out of nowhere there is a gap, enough light showing through to highlight the woman waiting. Just enough light reflecting off her face.
Below I took a shot I call "Fred Perry" of a man heading towards the city, lost in thought as he reads his phone, keeping up with the daily news or chatting with a love interest. I was attracted to his concentration to a devise so small.
While returning to home on the train, I saw this young woman's reflection on the glass. She seemed to stare out, deep in thought and oblivious to everything around her. Her expression, as I could see it, was as if she was a million miles away, frozen in thought. The while the train speed her along to her home.
In the photo below I was drawn to the amazing blue seen in the sky at 38,000 feet. The powerful engine seems to anchor the image in place, while the texture of the clouds give the scene some life. When I look at this picture I can still hear the hum of the engines.
I took the picture above of the Perth city skyline a few years ago. It is a picture that received a great deal of praise on various photography forums. It had to be an HDR image because of the very wide dynamic range however I worked hard to reduce the color saturation that normally comes with popular HDR images these days. I never really liked the image because, in spite of my best efforts, I could not pull down the color saturation to a nice balancing point. This photo, lacks the color balance to make it a truly good photo. The truth is that I love B&W images but I struggle with the place color should have in photography.
I view color like vanilla. Everything these days seems to come with a hefty dose of vanilla. Across cultural or religious spectrums there is a love of vanilla. We add it to everything including coffee, air scents, shampoo, soap, everything seems to come with vanilla. So if you want to make something for mass consumption just add a large bit of vanilla.
I like a hint of vanilla in some of my foods and drinks but like so many things in life a little of a good thing leaves you wanting more, too much of a good thing leaves me desperately looking for something bland to counter balance it.
The same applies to color. Trey Ratcliff does some amazing travel photography and he helped find a proper place for HDR images in modern photography. But again he often relies on hefty wallops of color to draw viewers in. This saturation of color leaves me gasping and desperate for something more subdued.
In the hands of a good photographer, color can be a wonderful tool. Look to the work of William Eggleston and you see what I mean. He is one of the first photographers who successfully used color in artistic photography because he found a wonderful balance.
When people first get into photography they all seem to go through a color saturation phase and receive positive feedback from the vanilla accustomed mass consumers. Some never go beyond this phase, and continue to use wallops of color in their photography. Nothing is subtle, everything is over the top. It is like Jolly Ranchers for your eyes...
The first is a google search of color photography and the second is an image I took in 2012 when I was deep in my color saturation phase. Shooting in B&W strips this concern away but mastering color in photography seems to be a lost art these days. Digital photography allows us to play with color with the simple movement of a slider, and so enhance the flavor by adding tons of vanilla.
I encourage you to look at your own photography and ask if you are using color in a balanced way or are you inundating your viewer in wallops of color, completely over-riding an semblance of balance.
Digital cameras seem to go out of style in record time. There is a constant marketing push to buy the latest, and we consume this marketing like crazy! Consider all the photography web sites, blogs and YouTube channels that we like to look at. Most of these (dare I say all?) will tell you two things,
1. It is not the gear, it is the photographer
2. You do not need the latest camera to take a great image.
But these same sites will review the latest camera and list all of the "improvements" that have been made. Many of these are fantastic and we consume their material and enjoy doing it. We mockingly complain of having G.A.S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and many, even myself, will argue that we enjoy acquiring gear.
I am beginning to think that we cannot have it both ways. If we are truly interested in photography, and wish to develop our skill set, should we not spend more time on our photography and less time on our gear? With film this is easy as any film camera you get is not likely to be replaced with a newer model. But with digital we can always be convinced of the improvements that the newer model will give us.
Is my Nikon D300 which shoots 12MP not the same great camera that I bought in 2009? Since I have purchased my Nikon D800 with 36MP I have only printed large prints a handful of times, and my D300 would have been just as capable of handling them.
So I have jumped off the digital gear train. The last camera I purchased was a second hand Leica ME. Its 18MP sensor is not as "advanced" as the new M240 sensor but its quality is just as impressive as the day it was first released. Perhaps it is time to keep shooting our digital cameras until their useful life is expired and then go out and purchase a used camera as a replacement? Perhaps it is time to spend the money that we would have put towards the newest incarnation of our camera and spend it on a trip to enjoy the old camera.
Cameras can go in and out of style but good photography is timeless. I will stop chasing the latest digital camera and try to capture better pictures. Except for film cameras....I can't stop buying them.....that addiction I have been unable to shake off!
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.