I had signed up for the Google Plus hosted <Sydney Photowalk Downunder > very ably organised by Michael Sutton.
I was going to join them for the second part of the walk starting at a – not too bad – 10am saturday start.
After the eager beaver earlybirds had done their 6am-10am bit, I along with others, would saunter in and join them smug in the knowledge I had gotten my beauty sleep.
And, I-need-all-the-beauty-sleep-I-can-get-on-precious-weekends.
(Have you seen my new salt n pepper beard?) 

Then things changed.
The walk had been consolidated…
There was only one start.
Registration was 6:30am at King street wharf in Darling Harbor.

Did you say 6:30am on a saturday morning?
Like supermodel Linda Evangelista famously (kinda) said “I don’t roll out of bed at 6am on a saturday unless there are more than 3 or 4  zeros in the figure on the cheque or I’m flying off to a luxe destination of my choice”

5am wakeup call!!!

Ok! So I woke up and actually made it in time to get my green Google+ Tshirt.
The wharf was a sea of red, green, yellow and blue people – like an early morning Wiggles nightmare and no Dorothy the Dinosaur…
But then I started meeting & mingling with the folks who all looked ready to go – and made a bunch of friends.
A number had already started shooting the melee on the wharf and all us Googlers.

There was James Tobin from Channel 7 TV doing live crosses – would have made a good 4-color picture  – we had RGB +Y on the wharf.

The sun takes it’s own sweet time to wake up as we pile on the Matilda cruiser.
Yup – it’s autumn already and daylight savings time ends on sunday morning.

And we’re underway – strangely rocking & rolling even though the sea looked calm & glassy. Maybe the captain is checking to see how many of us are actually awake and whether we can take steady pictures inspite of the boat’s antics.

The boat has stopped as if for a traffic light between the harbor bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
Oh ok…it’s so that we Sydney-siders can take early morning pictures of the two icons we have only taken 637 pictures of before.
We live here, captain, we’re not the usual touristos you get on your boat.

But then I realise something.
This is actually NEW!
I have may have taken  hundreds of pictures on this harbor – several hundreds. Stopped counting.
But I have never taken any pictures at 6:30am from the middle of the harbor.
Never, ever!
6am in  ShangHai,
6am in Paris, London, New York,
5am in Jaipur – YES! But none in my hometown. I hadn’t realized that till this moment.

I start paying attention.
The light is different.
It’s actually from the East!  😉
Isn’t that novel?
Isn’t that new?

I love the nuances of light and usually am the first to see subtle changes.
Being a pilot as well as a photographer, I have trained myself to even forecast the weather – like a farmer – reasonably accurately.  About  25% of the time. Maybe.

But I started this morning in autopilot mode – wakeup, shower, orange juice, pick up camera, hit the road, get to wharf, get my tshirt, pop it on, look around…shoot some frames…whatever…

Now I snap awake.
Yes, it’s the same light I’m so used to, but it’s coming from the other direction 😉

Whilst everyone else is busy shooting each other and the harbor bridge and the opera house – I look around for shadows and streaks of light.
I find it. On the Sydney Wharf  Theatre is a checkboard-ish shadow pattern of the harbor bridge. Cool.
I’m chuffed. It’s going to be that kinda cool day.
Two great shots in the can already and we have only just begun.

I must have had that ‘cat’s got the cream’ smile on my face because now people start walking up and engaging me in conversation.
I talk with some interesting people one of whom asks me why I never once review what I just shot (chimping).

I reply I never chimp.
Three reasons:
1. It wastes time – I could be taking more pictures or having a conversation with wonderful people like you.
2. I’m fatalistic about my images – I either got it (clever boy Harry!)  or messed it up (You idiot Harry!) – meh, whatever!
3. When you’ve being doing something for over 25 years, you get reasonably good at it – or not. So I mostly come back with a reasonable take.
Also, I started in old-fashioned film when chimping was not an option. We chimped by shooting expensive polaroids – one or two when we shot cover girls or major work.
But mostly, you trusted your expertise, experience & skill to get the shot. And mostly, it worked out well.

So I don’t chimp. I edit on a large color-corrected monitor when I get back home where I can sit back with a beer and examine every lil detail in comfort.
The LCDs annoy me as do EVFs. (cranky olde fart mode now). I only ever use the LCDs to show my models/subject what I just shot of them.

We’re moving again and I meet Michael Wu on the side of the boat with his new Fujifilm X-Pro 1 camera. Did I tell you I love optical viewfinders?
Guess what? The X-Pro 1 has a hybrid optical viewfinder with an EVF overlay for focal length and all exposure details visible in the viewfinder. And, it’s an APS-C sensor.

Fuji has come a long way in a very short time. (X100, X10, X1).
But that’s expected.
When I was shooting Kodachrome & Ektachrome for years, along came this upstart film to nip at the heels of the established emulsions from the Great Yellow Father (Kodak).
The green box Fujichrome was warily tested by pros around the world with very low expectations.
All of whom were absolutely delighted with an amazingly vivid film with a bright fresh  color spectrum.

Soon, it had carved a comfortable slice of the pro and amateur market for itself.
Then it went after the print film market and cornered a good chunk of the market with Velvia, Sensia & Provia.

Fujifilm now is setting a high benchmark for compact cameras.
So that camera, or its’ successor, is going to be my walkaround camera – replacing my rather large 40D/24-70L combo.

I’m thrilled Michael gave me a feel for the heft & look of the camera I wanted to test anyway and as we chat,  we see the light now shaping sectional landscapes – kinda like 3D.
Except it’s reality and it looks gorgeous.
I’m thrilled with the light.

The endorphins must have kicked in, because I’m feeling alls well with the world now.
I fire off a coupla bursts. “Love that burst mode” says Michael – tongue firmly in cheek.
“Insurance” says I.  Sometimes, specially at 6:30 am – no coffee, my hands aren’t quite as steady as that of an 18-year old.
This way, I know I will get a shot sharp & steady and framed the way I intended.

We arrive at Cockatoo island.

And cute 11-year old Isabella I met earlier is now enthusiastically pointing out to me all the places the Masterchef TV episode was set –  the contestants tables were here, the judges were  there, the mystery box was flown in by a chopper and placed there and then they went in there. She claps her hands delightedly.

She recognizes everything!

Michael Sutton strides into view and asks everyone in general whether we are hungry?


Would we like a bit of breakfast then? Well yeah!

He gestures towards the turbine shed and we all troop in gratefully to be greeted by a full-on breakfast catered by a professional crew.
I see danish. I see coffee. And like I said earlier, all’s well with the world.

Breakfast hunger and coffee cravings sated, we now are ready to actually start photographing Cockatoo island. Off we go…

Bella points out some Graffiti on the inner walls of the Turbine Shed. She shoots some – I shoot some.


Then, I shoot my model for the day – Bella

We find this lil Rockstar photographer  surrounded by Paparrazi.  So we shoot him as well. What’re you gonna do? 😉

Then, he wants to shoot us. Turnabout is fair play, I guess. Only, being a rockstar, his assistants are not around and he’s having trouble with the settings…

I wander around for a bit trying to discipline myself and find something new I haven’t photographed here before. I’ve done the graffiti. Sure the light is different but the differences are subtle.  I’m a people-watcher, a voyeur, an observer. I shoot models, people on the street, people at work – is what I do. What can I do with old decrepit sheds. Think Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, think William Eggleston.  Trying to draw inspiration from the Gods of Photography, Art, Architecture, I’m basically wandering aimlessly…I meet Myles who’s not too enthused either. So, to prove a point, to myself and to Myles – I start shooting AT stuff. Sheds, signs, bollards, benches, and old rusted pipes. Guess what? The Gods must have been smiling on me. It seemed to have worked!





I think I did better than OK.
What do you think ? Leave me a comment or two below.
Were you on the walk in Sydney or elsewhere in Australia?
Make contact – I’d love to hear from you.

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