Last night I received the sad news that an old friend had passed away. I have previously posted about the Ellis Brothers here. Alec Ellis passed away earlier this year and Mort suddenly died a couple of days ago at the ripe old age of 98!
Like their brother Ossie, they were still active at the time of their passing so thankfully they all died ‘with their boots on’, Mort had been down to the nearest town, Sheffield, to get some groceries earlier in the week and looked fine according to a friend.
Thankfully, I had called in to see him back in August when I was last in Tasmania and he was still in fine form, living simply in his shack at Cradle Mountain, expounding passionately on the evils of man’s greed and it’s effect on the natural world, still tinkering with his perpetual motion machine.
Axeman, trapper, cheesemaker, fisherman, miner, sawmiller, ferry-captain, these were just some of the occupations that Mort found himself in during a knock-about life that had it’s fair share of hard times. Tough men during tough times, but for all that, Mort,Alec & Ossie were incredibly generous, with a twinkle in their eye and a humour that was uniquely Tasmanian.
When I last saw him, Mort was a little bemused to find himself on the cover of a book, “Through Their Eyes- Glimpses of a Changing Australia” by Lucy Taylor, Published by Brigalow Press in which the author had travelled Australia recording the stories of people such as Mort. Well worth reading to hear the perspective of a generation that has seen more change than any other!
This time I didn’t make any photographs of Mort, in the past he has been very patient & generous with me and I was able to capture some nice shots of him and I have some great memories of a good friend to me & my late father.
Although he was not particularly sentimental and he always maintained that there was no ‘afterlife’ as many people would like to believe, I hope that if there is, he catches up with my father and his two brothers over a cold Boag’s or two and have some of those spirited debates that they were all so fond of having!
Apologies for being absent lately, I just haven’t been doing anything particularly noteworthy over the last month. However, just recently I had the pleasure of spending some time with a Fender steel guitar and some handmade timber guitar stands which are made by a friend of mine.
These items are both works of art but photographing them was an exercise in controlling & shaping light to show them both at their best!
I had the guitar for a couple of days before the stands arrived so I had a little play with a couple of speedlites, coloured gels and a white wall to see what I could come up with.
I quickly learnt that polished steel will show up any imperfections pretty quickly so I spent a lot of time wiping off fingerprints! The other thing I learnt was that even though you need a broad area of light (ie bounced flash) it was sometimes the smallest angle change that made all the difference to the reflection on the guitar.
When the stands arrived I had an idea that a spotlight type of lighting similar to a stage might work ok so a snooted Speedlite held above the stand gave me the light to show the stand to advantage without light going all over the place!
Once again it was a game of small adjustments and the best way to attack this is to adjust one flash at a time and build it up from there. The end result was what I was aiming for and my friend was more than happy!
The Mantis Guitar Stands are more a piece of furniture than something you would use at a gig. Each one is hand-crafted from re-cycled boatbuilding timbers such as Huon Pine, Mackay Cedar,Teak & Beech to name a few. Steam bent and laminated with epoxy glues, each stand is an individual.
They really are a beautiful piece of work and I hope the images do them justice! If anybody would like some more info, send an email to wokkasmith @bigpond.com
I’m off to Tasmania for a couple of weeks, see you when I get back!
Some days you just have to walk out the door!
As I mentioned recently I seem to have fallen down a hole that involves artificial lighting, more specifically, Off Camera Flash or Strobism if you like. In theory it sounds fairly easy to get your head around but in practice it is a mine field at times! You need to look at light in a whole different way than you are used to and start to see the nuances in light which most of us take for granted.
I have been studying the Masters of Light ( Joe McNally, David Hobby and a whole bunch of others) and then gone out to try and put some of that theory into practice, with some truly horrible results at times (Slow learner!) and the rare success that keeps me going on this Quixotic quest!
I recently stumbled across a Perth photographer by the name of Brodie Butler who does some outstanding work with cars and glamorous girls and shares some of that knowledge on his blog. Although most of the work he does involves Elinchrom Studio Flash, great car images can be done with Speedlights and imagination!
I had a crack at an auto shoot the other evening with my two 580 EXII Speedlights and I am pretty pleased with the result!
Ok, it’s not a Lamborghini, but this represents a significant upward tic on my learning curve!
A lot of auto images are shot at dawn or dusk using the sky as a gigantic softbox and take advantage of the sky reflecting of the polished panels and windows of the car.
Once again, apologies for my absence! An infection in my leg has forced me to spend a lot of time off my feet over the last couple of weeks, so photography has been on the back- burner for a while. 😦
I was sorting through some recent images shot before all this happened when I came across this one of the ‘Blood Moon’ that happened a couple of months ago. This particular blood moon happened at moonrise on the full moon, so the moon was very dark for about 20- 30 mins after sunset. By the time I could actually see it, it was nearly dark and this image had a 30s exposure time at is0800, so there was movement in the moon over that period.
In the interests of experimentation, I decided to see if I could perhaps improve the image with a stationary moon.
After cloning out the original moon I dropped in another full moon that I had on file with a red & yellow gradient over the selected moon. After a couple of false starts I finally got the moon to look as close as possible to the original and ended up with this image.
Before heading to Ypres for Anzac Day, I had been doing some research to find out more about the Ypres Salient and Australia’s involvement. I discovered that about 20 km south of Ypres, amongst all the other Commonwealth War Cemeteries lay one of the only two Australian only cemeteries on the whole Western Front. Ploegsteert or ‘Plug Street’ as it was known to the Allied soldiers was the sight of some intensive combat and also one of the first places where the Germans deployed the deadly Mustard Gas.
The fact that an all Tasmanian company – with men from the same district as my family came from – had been mentioned by an official historian sealed my decision to visit the site.
Traveling through the Flemish country side, it was hard to reconcile the peaceful farm lands of today with what surely must have been the closest thing to hell on earth back then. Only the stark white headstones of the numerous Commonwealth War Cemeteries scattered over the landscape gave any indication of the bitter struggle that had happened here. it was also sobering to reflect on the fact that the remains of thousands of young men on both sides lay beneath these fields, but had disappeared, perhaps forever.
It was a suitably gloomy day as we found our way down country lanes and a final short walk through the woods to find this peaceful last resting place of some Australian Diggers, ironically in a cemetery called Toronto Avenue.
In this quiet little corner of the woods lay the immaculately kept ( as all Commonwealth War Graves are) resting places of 78 Australian soldiers (mostly from NSW). Wreaths had been laid at the central Memorial and each headstone had a small plywood cross inscribed with a message from schoolchildren back in Australia. Even in this far-flung corner of the world they were remembered by their countrymen.
At the end of one of the rows of headstones was a poignant reminder of family bonds. Private J.S Luff had left behind a young family in 1917, in 2013 his Grandchildren had paid him a visit to leave old photos of that family and to let him know that he had not been forgotten.
April 25th is a very special day in Australia. ANZAC Day is a day that commemorates all the Military personnel who did not make it home from the various theatres of war that Australia & New Zealand have sent troops to since the Boer War at the beginning of the 20th century.
ANZAC actually stands for the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and sent to fight in the ill fated Gallipoli campaign in Turkey in WW1. It was there that the ANZAC legend was born and the Australian Diggers are remembered with a traditional Dawn Service and street parades throughout Australia.
Australian troops were involved in the horrors of the Western Front in Europe, where for four long years the opposing sides waged bloody & futile trench warfare with neither side able to score a decisive victory while whole towns were sometimes wiped off the map in the heavy shelling. ANZAC Day is also commemorated in small towns in Northern France where there are many Australians buried.
This time last year, I was in Belgium and had a loose plan of being in France for Anzac Day. When I mentioned this to some Belgian friends, a town called Ypres in Flanders was mentioned as having ANZAC Day ceremonies and that the Last Post was played every evening. I vaguely remembered reading about Ypres and WW1 so I thought “Why not”?
The Ypres Salient was a part of the Western Front that is not as well known about in Australia as Gallipoli or the battlefields of Northern France, yet there are many Commonwealth War Cemetaries, large & small, scattered throughout the peaceful farming lands of Western Flanders in which Australians are buried
The Menin Gate in Ypres is a huge Memorial to the 55,000 Allied soldiers who fought & died in this part of the Western Front and have no known grave. Each of their names are inscribed on the walls of this Memorial.
Of that number, approximately 6000 are Australian, 7000 Canadian, but the majority are by far from Great Britain. It is indeed a humbling experience to walk around this Memorial and when you think about the numbers of men who lost their lives during this futile ,bloody conflict, the thought inevitably comes that those who glorify war have really missed the point & perhaps the politicians who send young people to war should be sent into the battle themselves!
Winston Churchill , when he first saw the utterly ruined town of Ypres, said that the town should be purchased and left in it’s ruined state as a reminder to future generations never to let a conflict like this happen again. The citizens of Ypres had a different view and so the Menin Gate was built to honour those who had disappeared into the Flanders mud. Sadly, the world did not learn from this madness!
After the town was rebuilt, the citizens of Ypres have honoured the Allied soldiers who were stationed in the area, every evening (apart from during WW2) by playing the Last Post. ANZAC Day draws large crowds to remember the fallen from the ‘War to end all Wars’!