Weather systems

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When you think about how important the weather is for us, it is rather amazing that most people don’t think about how it comes to be. Of course we all have that weather app (or if you are like me, you have about five of them as they all tell a slightly different story for today’s weather).

And we read about – better: skim over –  climate change, El Nino and all other things we take for granted. But most of us don’t look any deeper. It rains today, bugger.

Any sailor and any pilot will have a different view. We are deeply interested in the weather, now, in an hour and for the duration of the trip. And we want to understand where that weather originates, what makes it happen. Because we know that with the slightest change of factors, the weather changes also.

It’s not magic. It is all about systems, lows and highs, cyclonal and anticyclonal movements, air movements, air density, humidity, wet bulb temperatures and a bit of a guess. The last is what the weatherman does. And if he or she is good, that’s magic.

Melbourne is a bit awkward. We are close to the roaring fourties, have an awful lot of water around us and have a desert – or better: an overheated dry land mass – starting less than an hour’s flight away. That’s why you read things like “four seasons in one day” and “if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes”.

It makes for beautiful skies though. So sitting in my fav seat and just staring out of the window is never dull.

Dimensions

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One of the strangest phenomenons of Melbourne CBD is that it feels like a village. You just don’t get the feeling of a “big city”, let alone a “metropolis”. Suburbs are like side streets, outer edges like suburbs. And CBD feels like … what? A small town at best. Cozy, warm, faces you think you recognise from last week’s shopping.

I have been looking at this for quite some time and am not sure I got it right, but I think it has something to do with scale. Everything is in proportion. So you look around and you have small buildings and big buildings. A skyline that looks “normal”. Until you realise that every building is 100+ meters tall … If you would take any one of them and transport them to Amsterdam, it would immediately rank in the top ten tallest buildings. And stick out, well above the skyline.

But there is another dimension at play: small village politics. You read a general complaint about how a certain street is “still not taken care off” in the local paper, really just news at suburb level at best, and a few weeks later the constructors move in. Some counsil member feeling personally responsible. Or perhaps, and I know this is bleak, having created the whole thing anyway to enable this one company to make some money. And it somehow feels right. That’s what happens in a small community.

4,5 million people sounds to me like a small state. So I expect “state style management”. Not the cajoling I remember from small villages in the home country. But then again, it is effective. And whatever, Melbourne is the most livable city on earth. For the sixth time in a row. So they are doing something well. Really well.

The light 

When asked and when actually having taken notion of what I do photographically, most people will say that I’m a landscape photographer. The light touching far away ridge lines, the perspective leading the eye into the picture. But I see the light also in smaller detail, sometimes captured and mesmerised by small waves of glimmers playing over the tiny heads of grass stalks. Spickle spackle catching my eye. And the wind creating this slow movement, undulating, like waves rolling into some coast. Catching, above all, my imagination. 

I’m always a bit at loss when I see other people just walking by. As if that detail doesn’t exist. At best someone stops and looks at what I’m doing, not seeing. Hesitatingly questioning my actions. 

No bloody use trying to explain.

But sometimes I see a smile, a nod. That’s … golden. We are sharing these little glimmers of light. Seeing the beauty of what’s around us, right at our feet.

That’s enough.

Musica est

Every once in a while I must go to a concert. I realise that the performance may be “just Okay”, but live music is like a medicin. Whatever the actual quality, live music beats any studio recording.  And sometimes it all just fits. Musicians on full alert, instruments and amps tuned just right, audience vibrating. Yesterday was one of those. Just perfect. 

The first time I was introduced to Steven Wilson he was a lesser known virtuoso playing around with his band Porcupine Tree. At that time I already thought it was top of the bill. Not understanding that whatever level you are playing at, you can grow. He did. Man, did he grow. 

The funny thing is that it is not about all the techie stuff. It is rather about the focus, the commitment to perform to perfection. Without losing the “live” in the act. Putting your mind to it doesn’t mean the end result is “perfect”. Some dissonance makes for a wonderful experience. 

Oh … it is about emotion. Of course. And with modern performing arts, music and visualisation go hand in hand. Who would think of dropping a veil between the band and the public to super impose video on it. Spooky. Trippy. 

Simple.

Effective. 

Yesterday’s concert was great, perhaps in the top three of what I ever experienced. Notice the “perhaps” … it just depends on what measuring stick you use. Perhaps I just try to say that it was … top. 

Sunsets

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Snap shots

The sunsets here in CBD (Central Business District, Melbourne) are amazing. I’m sure it has to do with the actual light, but also with my being happy in this strange city. A population of 4,5 million people and it feels like a bunch of villages linked together.

From day one after having arrived here in August 2015 I have the feeling that there is somehow more light, more oxygen, more energy than in the Netherlands. And part of that is true, as Melbourne is about as far from the equator as Gibraltar or Cyprus is in the northern hemisphere. That should mean that the sun is higher up in the sky. I read somewhere that the light is comparable to Southern California.

However, the sun is ferocious: it can be 21 degrees Celsius in the shade and one step out of it and you need a hat, long sleeves and sunblock. No kidding. About 30% of the Aussies have or had some form of skin cancer. No fun at all.

But beautiful sunsets.

Religion

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I am not religious. Not even a bit. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that the world around me is in one way or another. Looking at Islam, Christianity or Buddhism I do also see that some base principles are similar. I guess that, next to being an anchor and a mirror, religion can also be seen as a set of base rules. Meant to ascertain that we live together without killing each other.

Hmmm. Perhaps I don’t get the real meaning, seeing that it is actually used quite often to justify murdering whole groups of people. 

What I do know, is that I like to visit churches. Not each and every one and certainly not every week, but sometimes. It surely has something to do with the spaciousness, the arches and the way the seats form lines that disappear in the gloom.

Makes for some terrific photography opportunities. 

Although it is not my thing to be on my knees, I don’t mind someone else finding solace in prayer. It is all a question of respect. So I ensure that nobody is in the picture.

Which again adds to the impact of the photo.

Who keeps the lights on


Australia is an amazing country and Victoria is a really nice state. And living in Melbourne is … well, what can you say about a city that has been deemed the most lovable city in the world for six years in a row. I agree. And I’m not really a city person. But then again, Melbourne feels more like a big village. 

But I have some concerns. It started with just looking around and seeing all the beautiful buildings and how clean the streets are. Everything well kept. The Melbourne star, a giant Ferris wheel merrily turning from 10am to 10pm, all lit up. Everybody unconcerned and happy. The smallest building project surrounded by friendly staff warning you of dangers and stopping traffic to ensure you cross safely.  

Set against an increasing unemployment rate, now around 6%, I suddenly wondered how they paid for it all. So who is keeping the lights on?

I just filed my first income tax declaration and was stunned about how quickly that was done and dealt with. I received my returns in the bank on the day I received my final statement and approval. All within a few weeks of filing. Interestingly, there was an accompanying letter, explaining where my tax dollars went. And here things became … weird.

Some 40% is spent on welfare. Okay, I get that. That’s what you see when you look outside. And slightly less than 20% on health. All good so far. 

Around 8% of income tax is spent on defence. Wait … WHAT? That can’t be true. But it is. I understand that I should look at the GDP number (more like 2%), but this looks like quite a bit of cash being spent. 

So how do they pay for all the other stuff? And how do they keep on doing that? I mean, this is a massive country with a very small population. So even when you compare all the numbers to EG the Netherlands, you’d have to factor in that everything here is bigger, further away, less easy to reach. 

I’m going to read a little more about this, as this is really interesting. Everything points towards a serious breakdown, like we had in Europe. Banks, mortgages, salaries, all way out of whack with how I perceive reality.

It must be me, not understanding. It can’t be them, can it? 

CBD energy

 

Docklands: I can hear the crowd yelling, 60,000 strong. Etihad stadium is about 1 k away and the wind is not favouring the crowd. Still, energising. Like a wave. It reminds me of the place we used to live, Wellington Crescent, on the east side of CBD. It was a rotten apartment, but we sure had some fun in the neighbourhood. 

Right after we arrived in Melbourne we were invited to go to the “footy” in the MCG. Our first Ozzie adventure. And as we lived right around the corner, we walked. It was a warm evening, September being spring. And the closer we got, the more I had the idea I was watching Star Trek or some other sci fi movie. Everything was vibrating, shimmering, out of focus. Lights and colours and noise and … overload of impressions.

Of course I brought my iPhone, it being my camera of choice. And right when we crossed the railway tracks I suddenly saw what I felt: a space ship arriving.

Click …

Simplicity

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I remember my first camera, a grey and black plastic thing that had only three settings for the light available. With a crick crack handle to move the film forward. I can’t remember any photos I took with it. But at some stage, I think a birthday, I suddenly owned a real Canon 35mm camera. And I certainly remember all the captures from that one. Already playing with light and looking through what was obvious.

Then I lost it for years, to pick it up again during a trip to Costa Rica. With hindsight I should have spent some more money on that first new camera. But I was switched on.

And I slowly moved from entry level to more or less professional, at least camera wise. And I worked my editing skills to perfection. Reading stacks of books and articles. Even had two photos selected into a Leica year book. Bodies, lenses, tripods, Photoshop CS, Lightroom, an 8 colour printer and the best paper I could buy to be able to mount some of the nicest photos on the wall.

Then I got bored with it. 80% of the people around me couldn’t give a damn about it and the rest turned out to be pixel peepers. What should be creation became process monkeying to some kind of perfect standard. So I quit.

Im not sure when it started again, but I know my iPhone became my camera of choice. No more expensive SLR’s, no more fiddling. Just catching that moment or that special light, minimally working the photo became my trade. With one signatory addition: the white frame, based on the old Polaroid. Slightly more at the bottom. With a scribble to add some flavour.

And sometimes colour is enough, without anything to really capture your eye.

Simplicity.

The light fantastic

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The 15 minute walk back home at the end of the working day is really something special for me. I’m used to having to battle myself through traffic jams, losing up to 90 minutes one way on average. And although the first year in Melbourne was already a terrific change with me taking the tram most of the time, the move to Docklands was the best thing we did in a long time.

Imagine: you literally leave the hectic life of CBD behind you and walk through what is almost a time tunnel to the calm of the marina. Some wind on my face, kayaker bullying their way across the open water, people sitting on benches and enjoying the last sunlight.  And the light is almost always superb.

I think I could take a picture every day without ending up with one double. Which is not a bad way of ending the hectic working day.

Sunset

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I’m a lucky guy. Living about 15 minutes walk from work, that’s walking, no traffic jams or people breathing down my neck in a tram or bus. It would actually take longer if I’d use public transport instead of just let my feet do the work. Let alone trying my luck by driving my car.

The morning walks are Okay. Just slipping out of the building, head still somewhere between waking up and breakfast, already geared up for yet another day of lost souls trying to use me as a bouncing board towards whatever is their success of the day. Walking too fast to actually see my surroundings.

Early evenings are magnificent. I’m taking slower steps, somehow already gearing down and kind of moseying down the way home. Not in a hurry, as all is well even if I arrive a few minutes later. And the light is always a surprise.

I was a bit late for the last bits of the week and the walk home and didn’t really look around. Got into the hallway, up in the elevator, into the apartment. Jacket off, shoes off.

Sigh.

Until something red caught my eye, just there, right from the balcony.

O wow! What a way to start the weekend.