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A few Words on Creation

Hasselblad 503CWi and Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar f4 lens with Kodak Portra 160VC Professional film

By living the life of the artist you add, on a daily basis, to the miracle that is life. Many say that the very existence of life is a miracle. While we tend to load the word miracle with religious connotations, the word itself is simply the ancient world’s way of making sense of the miraculous or unexplainable. And assigning responsibility for such events to an all knowing, all-powerful creator-being is not an unreasonable approach to take. I have no issue with that concept either historically or in contemporary societies. The problem is when politics and power are imeshed so deeply into the teachings that they become synomonous with the religion in question.

While I have an interest in world religions, as a fundamental component of culture, I do not personally subscribe to any one message or faith. And while I admire religious devotion I abhor dogma. My desire is for a multi-faceted approach to the eternal, one that has room for science and faith, expression and ritual, male and female. I encourage pluralism and debate and dream of a society where the only wars we engage in are against the terrany of oppression, corruption, hunger and disease, and our own innate negativity.

So, why we are not god’s, our choices, attitudes and endeavors can, at their best, be described as god-like. It’s about intent and energy. The purer the intent and the more focused the energy the closer we put ourselves to the source: the great, ongoing mystery that is creation. Creativity is taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. And, through our photography, each of us has the choice to participate in the ongoing mystery that is creation.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Wheel of Law_Lhasa_Tibet

Hasselblad 503CWi camera and Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar f4 lens with Kodak Portra 160VC Professional film

The Wheel of Law represents the teachings of the Buddha and the endless cycle of death and rebirth known as Samsara. The hub represents moral discipline, which stabilizes the mind; the spokes wisdom to dispel ignorance; and the rim training in concentration to hold everything together. The wheel’s eight spokes are also a symbol of the Noble Eightfold Path from the Buddha’s teachings while the motion of the wheel is a metaphor for the rapid spiritual change possible by adherence to these teachings. The Wheel of Law is often a central element in a Mandala, which is a geometric representation of the Buddhist universe.

The wheel or chakra is a significant symbol in Buddhism. The Buddha’s teaching are referred to as the Dharma, so the term Dharmachakra, which literally translates as the wheel of law or transformation, symbolizes both the Buddha and his teachings. When flanked by two deer, as is commonly the case in Tibetan Buddhism, the wheel symbolizes the Buddha’s first sermon at the deer park in Benares, known today as Varanasi, in present day India.

Today’s image features the Wheel of Law photographed on the rooftop of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The image was made with a Hasselblad camera on medium format color negative film. After scanning the image was processed in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Cloud Power

Hasselblad 503CW camera and Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar f4 lens with Kodak Portra 160VC film

This dramatic image was made at sunset in Central Australia. The powerful shape of the clouds, their brightness and warmth contrasts with the flat, dark blue of the surrounding sky. It was a glorious sight to behold and a perfect way to finish a great day of photography.

The original color negative was scanned prior to processing in Adobe Lightroom 2 and Adobe Photoshop CS4 where extra saturation and contrast further enhanced the scene.

Hasselblad 503CW camera and Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar f4 lens with Kodak Portra 160VC film

Shape is a major design element. My concern with the above image is whether the image’s dramatic color contrast was  overpowering the shape of the cloud.

Just for fun I decided to try a black-and-white rendering with an even darker sky. The idea was to produce the look of a night sky. A subtle split tone, with a blue-black sky and yellow-orange cloud provided the final touches. I think it’s an interesting alternative, particularly for those folks that are bothered by highly saturated images. Which do you prefer?

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

A Life Contained

A Life Contained

Leica R8 camera and Leica 90mm f2 Summicron lens with Kodak Portra 160 Professional film

I photographed this gentleman while on an outing with the Leica Society, a camera club based in the Melbourne suburb of Canterbury. While I’ve attended many camera clubs as a judge or guest speaker, the Leica Society is the only club where I was registered as an active member. Unfortunately, a full work schedule stopped me attending meetings and outings, which is a shame as the members were a great bunch of people.

My impression of the above subject was of a kind, wise soul who had seen a great deal during his long life. I concentrated the composition on his face and allowed the texture of his face and beard to dominate. I feel that the warm tone I’ve applied to the image helps illustrate his humanity.

And then there’s that eye. The intensity of his gaze drew my attention, as it did that of the camera. It’s a key focal point within the image. If you were to divide the image up into a grid by drawing 3 equally spaced lines from top to bottom and from left to right you’d notice that his open eye sits close to the intersection of two of those lines. Placing a key element or focal point 1/3 of the way across the X and Y-axis is a great way of adding extra emphasis to it.

After scanning the original color negative was processed in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop CS4.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Golden Rock_Kyaiktiyo Pagoda_Myanmar

 

Hasselblad 503CW camera and Hasselblad 150mm f4 Sonnar lens with Kodak Portra 160VC film

Hasselblad 503CW camera and Hasselblad 150mm f4 Sonnar lens with Kodak Portra 160VC film

At just 5 1/2 meters high the tiny Kyaiktiyo Pagoda may not sound that significant. But, given its position atop a large gold-leaf covered boulder (known as the golden rock) and perched, delicately, on the edge of a cliff on the top of the mountain, you may begin to appreciate this truly splendid Buddhist icon.

The 10 km hike up the mountain ascends over 1,000 meters and is quite arduous, particularly when you’re loaded down with camera gear. I managed to get some of the way up in the back of an incredibly crowed pickup truck. It was exciting and I would gladly have taken the ride all the way if allowed. Maybe the experience that followed was meant to be earned, as in all pilgrimages.

Arriving just before sunset on my second last day in Myanmar and, despite the rush and associated fatigue of the trip, the site of the golden rock and the atmosphere that surrounded it made that day a highlight of my time in Myanmar (Burma). It is a most serene location and, despite the fairly large crowds, the beauty of the location and the devotion of the pilgrims was an experience I will long savour.

I was fortunate to be able to photograph the golden rock at sunset and, again the next morning, at sunrise before driving back to Yangon and my flight to Bangkok. After a short rest I travelled onto Laos and more adventures.

The above image is actually made well after sunset and illumination was provided by a series of artificial lights, such as those on the bottom left of the frame. The warm color cast by these lights further emphasized the golden color of the rock and pagoda. The exposure was quite long, in excess of 30 seconds. Naturally a tripod and a cable release was required to reduce camera movement during the long exposure.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

The Travel Photographers Kit Bag

 

Hasselblad 503C camera and Hasselblad 180mm f4 Sonnar lens with Kodak Portra 160VC film

Hasselblad 503C camera and Hasselblad 180mm Sonnar f4 lens with Kodak Portra 160VC film

One of the great compromises we face, as photographers, is what gear to bring and, therefore, what to leave at home when we pack our bags. The experienced traveller understands the necessity to conserve space and reduce weight. Some decant their shampoo into a smaller container, dispose of excess packaging surrounding medicines (while including important documentation such as original prescriptions, product identification and dosage instructions) and choose lighter weight, new technology (e.g. fleece) clothing that efficiently manages a range of varied climatic conditions. A beanie, scarf or neck gaiter and gloves are great items to include for colder weather, while a sarong can become a pretty universal item (clothing, towel, wrap, etc) for the girls.

The camera bag allows us to include all our photographic gear into the one place. But remember, you have to carry it. Those taking a lot of gear may prefer the backpack version rather than the traditional carry strap shoulder style. Backpacks also provide fairly solid protection for your camera and lenses and enable you to take some of the weight off the shoulders and spread it more evenly over your back and hips. Try walking for hours with a more conventional camera bag slung over one shoulder and you’ll appreciate the advantage offered by the backpack.

However, while backpacks that sit snugly onto your back do allow you to balance the load quite evenly, the lack of air circulation around your back will tend to trap any sweat between your back and shirt. This is a real problem in high humidity climates.

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Buddha Reflection_Saiging Hill_Myanmar

 

Hasselblad 503CW camera and Hasselblad 150mm f4 Sonnar Lens with Kodak Portra 160VC film

Hasselblad 503CW camera and Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar f4 Lens with Kodak Portra 160VC film

Despite their relative expense and technological sophistication cameras remain relatively dumb tools that need to be mastered and given direction by the user.

Photographing reflections provides an interesting problem. Cameras do not recognise subject: they have no idea as to whether you are photographing a baby, a bahmitzfa or a birthday cake. As the camera has no concept of water or mountain, how could it possibly know what area of the scene should be focused upon. In the case of a reflection an auto-focus camera will usually focus on the surface of the mirror-like subject (water, glass, etc). More than likely this will emphasize surface scum, smears and the like and render the actual reflection, which occurs underneath the surface of the water or mirror, somewhat soft.

The solution is to manually focus on the reflection itself and use Depth of Field (DOF) to control the relative sharpness of surrounding areas.

The above image was made inside a temple on Saiging Hill, not far from Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma). Critically focusing on the reflection of the Buddha statue allowed me to place emphasize on it and use the surrounding mirror work to provide a kind of layered appearance, thereby emphasizing the illusion of three dimensional space.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

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