Brendon Kearns

photoweblog

Author: Brendon (page 1 of 6)

Site Update

I spent the past couple days dragging the website out of 2009 and into the modern era- here’s a quick note on whats changed:

I’ve updated the WordPress theme on my blog to Hemingway Rewritten by Anders Noren– a recent take on the old Kyle Neath/warpspire version I had been using.

I chose it for its simplicity, and then made it even more minimalist through a series .css edits to reduce font size, tighten up some gaps, and change around a few colors. Likewise, I made edits to the .php files to reduce it to the centered one column design that I prefer.

I nearly went with Dmitry Semenov’s Touchfolio in an effort to replace the seriously dated indexhibit portfolio I had on my landing page, but in the end chose only to use his RoyalSlider plugin as it fit neatly into my existing WordPress install.

I’ll likely make some final tweaks over the coming weeks, but its nice to finally have the entire site manageable from a single dashboard- thanks to all the developers whose work I’m leveraging- enjoy!

 

Dà Lật Days

From Nha Trang we moved onto Dà Lật – a former French colonial resort town that was spared bombing during the war. It's since become a holiday destination geared primarily at Vietnamese on vacation or honeymoon. Due to its temperate climate it's known locally as the 'city of eternal spring' and is the source of most of Vietnam's flowers, wine and produce.

Our arrival coincided with the start of the rainy season- the bus pulled in late in the afternoon after a four hour ride through heavy fog and drizzle atop the surrounding mountains. We spent the ride passing by motorbike drivers in wind-blown ponchos who, with legs tucked up out of view and the visors on their helmets dropped, looked like something out of Star Wars as they glided along the mountainside.

“Normal room, normal price”

We settled into a local guesthouse situated at the bottom of a hill called Chu's House for $10 a night- we liked it so much we remained there the entirety of our stay. The staff were friendly, cleaned the room each day, and poured double sized glasses of wine at night for 25,000₫ (~$1.25) each.

The only downside was that they, like most places in Vietnam, had one soundtrack they would put on repeat for foreigners. A lot of our time was spent drinking wine while listening to covers of Simon and Garfunkel's “The Sound of Silence”, The Carpenters' “Sha La La La” or, for some reason, The Cascades' “The Rythm of The Rain” – a song neither of us had ever heard before coming to Vietnam but which followed us from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh.

At times we wondered if a salesman had come through each town and sold every business the same “Soundtrack for Tâys” to be popped on ten minutes after noticing tâys in your establishment. After a couple failed attempts at explaining that we were okay with Vietnamese music, we gave in to “Fields of Gold” or whatever mellow cheese was enqueued and tried to appreciate the intent behind the beaming smiles and knowing nods that seem to say “Hey- we know tâys, check out this sweet compilation we got just for the occasion.”

Chu's House was also close to a vegan resturant called Hoa Sen- due to the Buddhist influence, the Vietnamese eat vegan meals on certain days of the lunar cycle and Đà Lật was full of vegan resturants.

A feast's worth of food at Hoa Sen for ~200,000₫ (~$10) – eggplant fritters with tamarind sauce, lotus rice, pyramid dumplings (already eaten), fermented bean curd with braised veges and soy pieces with lemongrass and chili

A clean and herby breakfast of Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang noodle soup at Hoa Sen for 30,000₫ (~$1.50)

First eggs over easy we had seen in Southeast Asia

Aside from Hoa Sen, we became regulars at Góc Hà Thành which had the best western breakfast we've found in Southeast Asia. It's on the main backpacker strip and owned by a husband and wife who work the kitchen, wait the tables, juggle their young kids and chat with customers. The street has a strong community vibe as the husband often hangs out smoking cigarettes with the shopkeepers next door. Kids from up and down the street play on the sidewalk or loiter around different shops for amusement.

One of the best parts about the backpacker area of Đà Lật was its sparseness. There wasn't much to it except for a road that meandered up a hill. The traffic was by far slower than we were accustomed to elsewhere in Vietnam although no less dangerous- over breakfast one morning we watched a light rain lead to three guys laying their bikes down around a sharp corner and one lady driving head on into the side of a parked van.

Impatience leads to burned fingers

Apart from resturants, there were some good cafés and Vietnamese coffee to be had at about 15,000₫ (~75 cents) a cup. We liked Góc Hà Thành, Muse, and Bicycle Up Cafe best but the local chain Windmills was a good alternative for a more western style latte or an Irish coffee.

Bowls of shellfish for steaming or grilling

Like everywhere in Vietnam, Đà Lật had copious amounts of street food vendors. We happened upon the Lễ Hội Văn Hóa Miền Đông Đà Lật (Festival of Eastern Cultures) where they had closed off the center of town at night and set up market stalls and food stands along the streets with a few stages for entertainment.

Rice paper grilled over coals with quail egg, tiny shrimp, sesame seeds, green onions, and chopped chillies.

Aside from the Bánh Tráng above, we didn't try much of the street food as most contained meat and we were excited to be back in an area where it was practical to be a vegetarian. If you are in Đà Lật and looking to try what the street side can offer, we found vietnamcoracle.com had the best run down of the area.

You can put your Soilent Green fears aside

The Bành Tráng lady we visited was set up in an alleyway across from a bakery named Liên Hoa that had a wide range of baked goods, we returned a couple times for the coconut cakes at 5,000₫ (~25 cents) each.

During the day time the central market is open and sells fruit, produce, and flowers in the bottom while tailors and clothing vendors populate the upper portion.

Elsewhere in town we visited Đinh 3 (a.k.a. Palace 3)- the third residency of the former King Bảo Đại who was ousted during the Vietnam War. The decor had a sleek World War II era vibe but the form of the structure itself reminded me of the YMCA that I took karate classes in as a kid.

Seeing this kind of architecture out here was surreal as most traces of the French occupation are no longer that obvious. I recalled a scene from The Quiet American where Fowler, the aging British journalist, bets Pyle, the naïve young American, that in five hundred years there may be no New York or London but there will still be rice paddy fields, produce being carried to market on long poles, pointed hats, and boys riding water buffaloes. It indeed felt like the tide of day to day Vietnamese life left only a few uneroded oddities remaining.

From the Palace we were able to walk to Nhật Liên, an upscale vegetarian restaurant, and on to another attraction known as “Crazy House”. It was nice to have things close enough together that we could cover distances on foot instead of hailing cabs although we seemed to be the only tourists walking to destinations this far out of the city center.

One of the half finished towers at Crazy House

Still crazy after all these years

Russian girl vogueing atop Crazy House

Crazy House turned out to be an elaborate structure of concrete and rebar painted to look like a big tree house out of a 70's cartoon. It's still under construction after twenty some odd years of opening even though the proprietor is now elderly and rarely makes appearences. Like a lot of things in Đà Lật, it was set for maximum kitsch factor but ultimately felt like a narcissistic display of wealth as it failed to hold any religious or administrative purpose in the community.

Further out of town we visited Linh Phước Pagoda – it contains a massive Quan Âm (akin to The Virgin Mary), a multileveled tower of increasingly celestial Buddhas and a main pagoda that contains a shrine area dedicated to its founder.

Interior of the tower

The elaborate designs on the buildings are constructed from fragments of broken pottery. At the base of the main tower is a large bell on which people stick pieces of paper with handwritten wishes before sending a hanging wooden ram into the side. The operation was overseen by an old nun who, during our descent from the tower, motioned that she wanted to lock us in during her lunch break. We were under the impression that monks aren't supposed to have physical contact with the opposite sex, but she had no problem poking and prodding me in the gut for a few laughs.

Pigsy

Katie liked the statues of characters from the TV show Monkey Magic that had been hidden away in the parking lot behind the main pagoda.

In contrast, we later visited Thiền Viện Trúc Lâm which was a much more somber complex housing a sect of Zen monks.

Bodhidharma with his iconic beard, bug eyes and shoe on a stick

We found this temple interesting for its Bodhidharma-centric imagery and well groomed grounds. If Linh Phước was visually akin to a Catholic cathedral then Trúc Lâm was more a Puritian chapel with its plain and simple style. Likewise, the monks appeared much more serious as they stood and stared silently within temples, tapping the side of a small metal bowl to release a reverb upon each person's entry.

The ride out to the temple can be done via taxi or cool gondola ride that carries you over the pine forests and provides a view of the surrounding greenhouses.

View from the gondola

Back in town, we took a walk one day around Lake Hố Xuân Hương and out to Đà Lật Flower Park.

The park is full of flower beds and dotted with gazebos, swing sets, benches, and statues of characters from western fairy tales and Vietnamese folk stories. Up on a hill to one side of the park are rows of greenhouses selling shrubs, flowers and small trees- adjacent are hedges trimmed into animals around pieces of modern art.

In the end, we were in Đà Lật for sixteen days total but only saw a subset of everything there is to do in the area. We never took up one of the numerous Easy Rider guys who constantly called to us, but in a way that was the best part – for the first time in Vietnam they were the only guys around shouting at us. And they were actually cool guys who offered a real service – for a small fee they'll ride you all through the mountains, over to outlying villages, lakes, vistas – whatever you want on the back of a chopper.

Dollar for dollar Đà Lật was the best place we've been and we'd recommend it to anyone looking for a cheap place to retreat for awhile.

How cheap is cheap? To make things more concrete, I tracked some daily costs as follows:

 

Typical Tourist Day

Breakfast: 80,000₫ @ Bicycle Cafe – Two Viet style coffees with condensed milk (cà phê sữa nóng), one weird juice drink we thought was a breakfast item, and a tomato and cheese omelette with a baguette

Taxi to Tourist Attraction #1 “Crazy House”: 40,000₫ with tip

Entrance Fee to “Crazy House”: 80,000₫ (40,000₫ each)

Lunch: 153,000₫ @ Nhật Liên – Braised Malaysian style spicy tofu, sautéed spinach with mushrooms, spring rolls, free tea, a bottle of water, and steamed white rice

Entrance Fee at Tourist Attraction #2 “Palace 3”: 30,000₫ (15,000₫ each)

Taxi to Lake Hố Xuân Hương: 35,000₫ with tip

Drinks: 70,000₫ @ Nhà Hàng Thủy Tạ – Two glasses of local wine by the side of the lake

Afternoon Coffee: 64,000₫ @ Windmills Cafe – Two Western style lattes

Dinner: 220,000₫ with tip @ Bingo Pizza – One large vegetarian pizza with jalapeños added, two cokes and a soda water

Bottled Water: 10,000₫ @ convenience store – 1.5 liters of local mineral water for back at the room

Accommodation: 210,000₫ @ Chu's House – Basic room with double bed, private bathroom with hot water, and a window with low street noise

Total: 992,000₫ = ~$47 USD (~$50 AUD)

 

That comes out to about $23.50 USD (~$25 AUD) per person for a pretty packed day of checking out tourist attractions and eating a couple big meals.

But that's not everyday, since we often like to alternate between chilling out and venturing out, so if you were to take away the cab fares and entrance fees the new total would be 807,000₫ or ~$38 USD (~$40.75 AUD) which equates to roughly $19 USD (~$20 AUD) per person.

If you really wanted to take it one further and cut out luxuries like the coffee and alcohol it would drop down to 643,000₫ or ~$30 USD (~$32.50 AUD) which equates to roughly $15 USD (~$16 AUD) per person.

This is in keeping with another day I recorded:

Simple Long Term Traveller Day:

Brunch: 138,000₫ with tip @ Góc Hà Thành – Two Viet style coffees with condensed milk (cà phê sữa nóng), two omelets with French toast and fruit

Afternoon Coffee: 64,000₫ @ Windmills – Two western style lattes

Dinner: 201,000₫ @ Hoa Sen – Two pyramid cakes, a plate of fried eggplant, lotus fried rice, fermented soybeans with braised vegetables and lemon grass chill fried gluten pieces with a plate of fresh herbs

Bottled Water: 10,000₫ @ convenience store – 1.5 liters of local mineral water for back at the room

Accommodation: 210,000₫ @ Chu's House – Basic room with double bed, private bathroom with hot water, and a window with low street noise

Total: 623,000₫ = ~$29.50 USD (~$31.50 AUD)

 

If you then wanted to go even further, you could eat twice a day while regulating yourself to street food and local eateries (putting your meals in the 40,000-60,000₫ range), skip the tourist attractions, haggle your way into a room for 170,000₫ a night and live on roughly 300,000₫ per day; divide that by two and you're looking at about $7 or $8 per person.

Keep in mind that this is for two people sharing accommodation costs- it might run you a few bucks more a day if you're on your own depending on if you want a separate room or are just going for dorm beds at hostels.

There were days where we'd wake up late, get a bowl of pho for lunch, eat at the markets for dinner, maybe get a coffee in between and wouldn't spend much more than $20 all day with nothing to do but read, take a walk through some temples, snap a few photos, do a little bit of life planning or listen to a podcast while playing cards. Not exactly nonstop travel adventure- but for two people in their early 30's, it's nice to have a break and regroup before jumping back into workaday life.

 

 

Đà Nẵng, Hội An and Nha Trang

We took the next stretch of the Reunification Express from Đồng Hới to Đà Nẵng. We're getting more comfortable with doing our own dirty work, so on boarding we motioned to the guy chilling in our seats to hop up.


Đồng Hới station early in the morning

This was by far the prettiest train trip we've done in Vietnam. The track goes along the coast so you get a passing view of fishing villages and deserted beaches edged with trees. You can buy pretty decent food on the journey too – we picked up some tofu in tomato sauce and a giant disc of addictive local peanut brittle stuck on top of a rice cracker (called kẹo đậu phộng), put in our earphones to drown out the pop music on the overhead TV, played peek-a-boo with the little boy in the seat in front of us, and enjoyed the ride.

Đà Nẵng is Vietnam's third-largest city and, like most of Vietnam, is under major development – skyscrapers and apartments are flying up all over town, and the coastline is filling with resorts. It's also the gateway to Hội An, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Vietnam's tailoring Mecca.

Enjoy Hội An

We'd heard a lot about Hội An's chilled out riverside atmosphere and its famous lanterns so we headed straight there instead of hanging around Đà Nẵng, despite our taxi driver's attempts to take us to a stone carving village, a pagoda, his sister's jewellery shop and the ruins at Mỹ Sơn before dropping us on the hotel strip. We walked around looking for a decent room. In front of a skeevy looking backpackers' hostel we got talking to two Australian guys who were eating tiny snails out of a bag using a long skewer (this is a common pastime in Hội An). 'How are the rooms?' we asked. 'Well, the door closes…', one guy replied. At the next guesthouse the only available room was what looked like a converted birdhouse on the roof.

Eventually we settled at Hội Phổ Hotel and headed out to get acquainted with the town. We immediately loved the pedestrian-only areas and the well-preserved old buildings. We checked out the riverside, fought off offers for boat cruises, grabbed a cheap dinner then stopped in for a terrible cocktail before hitting the sack.

Our festive hotel room at Hội Phổ Hotel

Stepping outside the next morning the famed old world charm was overridden by the stronger sense of desperation coming from all the people who had moved to Hội An to try to get ahead. Shouts followed us down the streets – 'Hello! Where you from? Where you going? You want a suit? Shirt? Dress? Come into my shop please!' Apparently the number of tailors in town has increased from around 140 in the early 2000s to over 600 these days, and there are not enough tourists to go round. There's an almost mafia vibe to it all, with the hotels trying to get you to use a particular tailor so they can collect a commission, and the tailors interrogating you about who sent you and what tailors other hotels had recommended – even the cab drivers are in on it.

The night prior we had agreed to a $15 room after having no luck finding something decent in the $10 range. We offered to stay for four nights if they were willing to drop the price down to $12 as the place appeared to have some empty rooms – they were cool with us staying one night but when it became clear to that we wouldn't be going to Kimmy, their recommended tailor, or booking any package tours, their friendliness cooled and the lady behind the desk picked up the telephone, pretended to speak to someone, and informed us they were fully booked the following night.

We packed up our stuff and started doing the rounds again – we ended up down the road at Hop Yen Hotel. They were out of $10 doubles but we snagged the classiest room in the building for $13. Check out the totally rad feature tile.

With a few sprays of DEET around the doorframe it felt just like home

If that seems like a lot of effort for what ended up only being a few bucks difference, it was. Since we're traveling long term, we try to stick to our guns on keeping accommodation costs consistently low. This is especially true when we're unsure of how long we'll be in an area – switching guesthouses frequently can knock out a couple of mornings but a few dollars difference a night multiplied can quickly add up to what could have been another night's stay. In this case, we only stayed in Hội An for five nights so it would have made more sense to stick with a $15 room as we lost a morning waiting around until check out time to pop our heads into different places to see what was available and ended up only saving 6 bucks in the long run. It's always a fine line when it comes to time versus money.

We spent the rest of the day checking out a few historical sites – Hội An has a number of museums, assembly halls, temples and preserved homes of notable local figures, and for 120,000đ you can visit five of them. Our favourites were the Cantonese Assembly Hall with its fountains, gardens and shrines, and the Japanese Covered Bridge, which was built in the 16th or 17th century when there was a big Japanese settlement in town.

Cantonese Assembly Hall gate

It was just after Tết when we visited so the altars in the Cantonese Assembly Hall were laden with incense sticks, different food offerings and flowers. Big coils of incense hung from the ceiling.

Dog god by the entrance to the Japanese Covered Bridge – the other entrance contained a similar statue of a monkey god. In the center of the bridge is a small altar to Bắc Đế Trấn Võ, the Vietnamese god of weather, who we thought might be the same as the Chinese Taoist deity Xuan Wu.

Detail from the Covered Bridge

The real highlight for us, though, was the food. Vietnamese food is a lot more regional than we knew before arriving. Every region – north, south and central – has its own cooking styles and some cities also have their own particular specialties. The food in Hội An was a lot lighter and more varied than the meat-and-rice/noodle combinations up north. Being beside the river means lots of fresh seafood (Katie's been on a steady downward slide from vegetarian to a vegaquarian who occasionally gives up and eats meat) and one of the major central and southern Vietnamese dishes is bánh xèo (crispy pancake), a favourite Vietnamese food from home. As well as the ubiquitous phơ, there were a bunch of different noodle soups to try – cau lầo (vege version included crispy tofu, vegetables, fat udon-style noodles, a little broth, bean sprouts and fresh lettuce and herbs, with croutons on top), bún bò Huế (spicy Huế-style noodle soup) and mì quảng seemed to be the most popular. White rose dumplings – steamed dumplings stuffed with prawns – and duck spring rolls were two other notable local dishes.

One of many crispy pancakes consumed

Mì quảng (rice flour noodles in pork and shrimp broth, topped with pork and shrimp, quail eggs and herbs) from Streets Restaurant

20,000đ (~$1) vegetable phơ from Restaurant Như Ngọc, the food stand across from our hotel

Tofu, prawn and lotus flower salad from Fusion Cafe

There are a number of shops and eateries in Hội An that focus on providing work and training opportunities for people who have disabilities or are otherwise disadvantaged, which was really cool to see. We liked Streets Restaurant and the Reaching Out Tea House, a silent tea house run by people with hearing impairments. You fill out a paper form with your order and you can talk to the staff using little wooden blocks that say 'Thank you', 'Water' etc. or by writing them notes.

The teas, coffees and biscuits on offer were amazing, as was the tableware, which is all designed and produced by artisans with disabilities. And after a few days of being shouted at by tailors the silence was very welcome!

We did end up getting some clothes made by a tailor called Miss Forget-Me-Not. We brought some favourite clothing items along and she and her staff copied the patterns for us and ran up two pairs of linen pants, two blouses, a shirt and a skirt in the space of 24 hours.

After a few days we were keen to get to the beach, so we headed out of town. In hindsight, we probably should have stayed in Đà Nẵng and just done a day or two in Hội An – driving back to Đà Nẵng station the city seemed a bit more chilled out, the beach looked beautiful and more suited to swimming than the choppy beaches in Hội An, and there wasn't a tailor or lantern in sight.

Waiting room at Đà Nẵng Station

Our next destination was Nha Trang, a beachside town about halfway down the Vietnamese coast. It's a fun place to chill out and re-up on Vitamin D. There's not a huge amount to do except drink coffee, relax on the beach, hit the bars and enjoy a big dinner.


Designer dogs

Nha Trang is by far the most touristy and developed place we've been in South-East Asia, which has its pluses and its minuses. Everything is very easy – all the locals speak English, the streets are relatively clean, there's restaurants galore, a KFC, outlet stores (with western sizes), a massive shopping mall with a cinema and rooftop bar, and all the seedy massage parlours your leathery old heart desires. They even have a brewhouse that produces its own craft beers. But it also makes the place very generic – you end up feeling like you could be anywhere in the world, from the Gold Coast to Kuta to Cancun. The legions of glammed up Russian tourists only added to the strange sense of place – there are three direct flights from Moscow to Nha Trang each day and all the shops have signage and menus in Russian as well as English.

We got to talking with a local at a coffee shop who was afraid that the mass influx from Moscow was ramping up property development while driving up prices in what he feared was a bubble that could pop as soon as it becomes too expensive for the average Russian tourist.

Moloko for sale at the local supermarket

Despite how touristy it is, everything is still cheap. We stayed at Saint Paul Hotel and had a spotlessly clean air-conditioned room with a window, cable TV (we enjoyed watching The Matrix with Vietnamese subtitles – 'Tam biệt, Anh Anderson!') and a fridge, 3 mins from the beach, for between $12 and $14 a night. You can get top-notch breakfast for two at Le Petit Bistro for 110,000đ (~$5.40), and Sydney-standard lattes at Cuppa for 40,000đ (~$2).

Lying on the beach costs nothing, unless you decide you want the 'VIP' treatment, which gets you a sun bed, fluffy towel and access to a shower and pool for 100,000đ (~$5) a day. We never went for that deal, but occasionally rented out a couple chairs with an umbrella for 40,000đ (~$2).

Nha Trang beach

Entrance to Long Sơn Pagoda

To break up the hedonism we caught a green cab out to Long Sơn Pagoda. Unlike at other religious sites we've visited, we didn't see any monks around except the one who was running the attached restaurant. We didn't see any locals stopping by to pay respects either and it had the vibe of a once active temple turned tourist trap.

It was more intense than expected as children, the elderly and people with disabilities begged along the stairways, others installed themselves at the entrances to each section and asked for payment to come in (there is no entry fee), a guy with neck tatts gave us incense sticks (and then demanded 50,000đ) and we had to waive off young people who tried to give us uninvited 'tours' (i.e follow you while talking and then ask for money) – the only sacrilege appeared to be putting money into the official donation box.

Buddha at Long Sơn

Next we drove to Po Nagar Cham Towers, the ruins of a Hindu temple built by the Cham who once ruled part of southern Vietnam. Po Nagar is run like a well-oiled machine in comparison – entry is ticketed, the grounds are manicured and professional guides can be hired for an extra 22,000đ. Proper dress is enforced – those who wanted to take glamour shots in their short shorts and strappy tops were dismayed when staff issued them with dour grey monk robes to cover themselves. The towers were cool to check out, but the ruins at Ayutthaya and Sukhothai in Thailand are pretty hard to beat.

Cham towers

Nha Trang as seen from Po Nagar

The food in the touristy area of Nha Trang wasn't exactly exotic but there were plenty of good cheap restaurants serving Vietnamese, Indian, Italian, Russian, Spanish and standard western pub food. Our favourite places were Yen, Lanterns and Ganesh Indian Restaurant (the only place we've found in Southeast Asia that actually put paneer in their palak paneer).

Best chicken phơ from Yen

Seafood paella, glass of sangria and salad for 6 bucks from La Mancha

After a week and some change it felt like time to move on. We went down to the Phuong Trang bus station and bought a 145,000đ ticket to Dà Lật. Back in Hanoi we'd had a few beers with a Canadian woman who had loved Luang Prabang as much as we did – when we asked her what her favourite Vietnamese city was, she answered without hesitating: 'Dà Lật!' Sold.

 

Life in Australia: Summer of 2012

I’ve been carrying around the mju II now and again for the past few months- when I returned from Byron, I decided it was time to clear out all the stray C-41 around the apartment.

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I should have some more posts coming soon as have a few rolls of E-6 slide film in need of development and an assortment of black and white that I’m in the process of scanning. Recently, I purchased 2 big boxes of travel slides from the 60’s, a collection of negatives from WWII, and an assortment of Australiana- stay tuned.

Byron Bay via Hipstamatic Tin Type

I brought my mju II along on a recent trip to Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, I had loaded it with color film expecting some bright sun but the primarily overcast days were lending themselves more to black and white- I downloaded the tin type package for Hipstamatic and ran with it.

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A large pine on the northern end of the beach

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The pass on the way to Wategos

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The path leading to the most eastern point on the Australian coast

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Tea tree lake at The Arts Factory

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Lounge singer on the closing weekend of La Playa

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A woman out on her hen’s night

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This was my first time really trying to work with an iPhone as my old 3G couldn’t handle most modern apps, these were taken on a 4G model I was given by a friend who recently upgraded. I dont feel these look much like real tin types I’ve come across in second hand shops but that could be my using it to photograph whole scenes as opposed to portraits which I believe was the traditional use.

Collodion wet plate developing aside, I doubt even shooting for real tin types is as easy as using the app- I think the main draw was that I could use my ability to see in black and white with a quick auto focus to get a novel result in about any situation, it worked well for a vacation where I didnt feel inspired to do much outside of bounce from pub to pub and explore some nature.

Odds and Ends: U.S. Trip

These are a few shots from my last trip back to the states earlier this year

I’m a little late in finally getting around to them as I’ve been hitting an inspirational lull when it comes to my normal modus operandi of black and white street- I’ve taken the down time to begin a re-work of my portfolio site, order up a set of cards (via moo cards) and branch out by experimenting further with the porta 160/mju II combo.

My need to do an artistic rethink coincided well with the arrival today of Stephen Shore’s The Nature of Photographs. I forgot I had ordered it through Phaidon about a year ago as it ended up locked in perpetual back order status until enough demand accumulated for another container of stock to land in Australia- I’ve made it about a third through and I’m liking the general format in which it presents snippets of Shore’s insights and accompanying images.

More mju II Color

Since acquiring the mju II a couple of months back, I’ve been exploring color a little more than normal with some accumulated portra stock from my fridge- I find its handling better than my GRD III for speed out of pocket. If I use my three middle fingers when reaching for it, I can be opening the clam shell casing and have it ready to fire by the time I can get the viewfinder to my eye.

When it comes to analog AF’s, I hit the jackpot this weekend when I found a Ricoh FF3 Super and a series one Olympus mju for $6 each in the second hand goods store for the Cat Protection Society of New South Wales. Normally I assume every Salvos and St. Vincent’s across the greater Sydney area has been cleaned out of classic camera gear by the type of old men that rule the Ultimo Camera Fair thrice a year but I guess no one thinks to wander into a place like the Cat Protection- I only ended up there while trying to find a half-gallon canning jar to mix up Philly Fish House Punch in for the coming summer- not an easy find out in Oz.

Sydney Winter: Part II

Das Racist with Lakutis performing at the Oxford Art Factory

I’ve taken a little hiatus from shooting around town but I’ll be back in action this Friday at Oxford Art Factory to cover the ‘Big Things Tour’– in preparation I’ve purchased a speedlite 430 and charged up ye olde digital Rebel XSi

Sydney Winter: Part I

Dolmades in Glebe

I recently acquired an Olympus mju II and have been enjoying the new found freedom from manual focus, allowing a return to a more reactive and looser style akin to when I bought my first DSLR.

In celebration, I thought it would be good to drop the M6 for awhile, put aside the black and white film stock, and try to get outside my normal ways and means of capturing photographs to make this small Paul Graham inspired series that I’ve dubbed “Dolmades in Glebe”.

Despite the camera’s outward appearance (which looks a lot like a cell phone from days gone before smart phones) it handles surprisingly well and I’m generally pleased with the quality of shots I’ve got back on the initial test roll. If you look close you’ll notice it even has the option of imprinting the date onto the shots via its quartz date functionality- I’m assuming my model is from ’96 as this is the default year it loads when the batteries are replaced.

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