Posts filed under ‘Photography’

Living in peace

Dear reader. I continue to settle into my new country, New Zealand. I’ve been battling it out on a couple of fronts since arriving a few weeks ago, mainly with the removalist company that managed to damage or destroy quite a few of our items, including my grandmother’s 1920s dining room table. You can expect a long, ranting (and possibly incoherent) blog post soon on what happened. I am still incensed by the whole situation. I’ll be back to regular posts soon.

I’ve also been battling it out with THE bureaucracy here. All countries have bureaucracy but I must say New Zealand is pretty good at it. If it’s not something that can be ticked off from some checklist, then authorities here don’t want to know about it.

Having said all this, I can tell you that Christchurch is a lovely place and New Zealanders are a very friendly bunch. Some people seem to be having trouble with my accent. Mind you, I would not say that my accent is broad Aussie, since both my parents were from New Zealand. But I do get blank looks occasionally and a request to repeat what I just said. Note to self: work harder at cultivating the Kiwi accent.

Things here are far more laid back than Oz. The odd cultural thing I’ve noticed is – hardly anyone seems to reply to emails. With the odd exception, you either get no reply at all or a reply weeks later. Obviously, I pick up the phone too but the lack of email exchange is curious. And then there’s customer service: it’s either exceptionally good or exceptionally lousy.

But I’m glad to be living in the most peaceful country in the world. Yep, that’s right folks: New Zealand has been named the most peaceful country in the world for the second consecutive year, according to the 2010 Global Peace Index (produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Iceland, Japan and Austria also rank highly (mmm…Australia isn’t in the Top 10). The 2010 map above shows countries ranked from most peaceful (in green) to least peaceful (in red). New Zealand was one of only three countries in the top ten to improve in peacefulness in the 2010 Index.


Globally, however, the world has been less peaceful in 2010, with violence impacting the global economy by US $7 trillion annually. Following the GFC and the faltering economies of many countries, there has been an intensification of conflicts on many levels from homicides to violent demonstrations and civil unrest. Interestingly, a 25% reduction in global violence would free up US $1.8 trillion annually. The good news for my American readers is that the United States has improved its 2010 score by showing the biggest improvement since 2007.

The top five countries have a number of things in common: stables governments and business environments, respect for human rights, low levels of corruption, high rates of participation in education and freedom of information.

So good news for me living here in peaceful New Zealand. And just to show you how peaceful and beautiful this country is, here’s a photo I took yesterday of our property covered in snow and another I took the day before (a sunny day) showing the beautiful Southern Alps and the gorgeous landscape that you encounter so often here. Woot!

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June 13, 2010 at 10:54 pm 4 comments

Hong Kong moments

Today, I bring you some of my snaps of the ever-colourful, ever-vibrant Hong Kong. I took so many photos, all my cameras need a holiday. These shots are from my beloved Nikon D40.

A number of people at the conference came up to me and said “I read your blog”. That is so great to hear because bloggers (unless of course you’re a famous blogger) do wonder “does anyone actually read my blog?”. My stats tell me that people do but it’s fantastic to actually meet people who say they read the ThinkingShift blog.

And a special hello to Tony and Gudrun in Hong Kong who I know read the TS blog.

The last photo – that’s my Hitchcock moment. Just like the film director liked to pop up briefly in his own films, I sometimes snap myself – in this case, on a bridge over a busy road. I caught my reflection in the shiny railing in between the cars below and the skyscrapers above. Sweet!

April 7, 2010 at 2:00 am 8 comments

Wing Lee Street

Thanks to my blogging colleague, Marc Garnaut of Creative Spark, I experienced Wing Lee Street whilst in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Knowledge Management Society KM conference. Hope you checked out my live tweets and blog posts, giving you a run-down of the conference. BTW: check out Marc’s blog – insightful and with great observations about art, life and society. One of my very fav blogs.

So off I went to track down Wing Lee Street in Sheung Wan. Why bother I hear you say? Because Wing Lee Street reeks of old Hong Kong. Like I imagine the British stumbled across when they first came to Hong Kong. Before the Western-style high rise apartments were built, the tenements on Wing Lee Street are how people used to live. The street has an abandoned air about it: crumbling, a little bit seedy looking. A derelict street stuck amidst the backdrop of pretty, shiny skyscrapers that tower over it.

Apparently, Wing Lee Street was to be consigned to the scrap heap until a little film came along – Echoes Of The Rainbow – a film that tells the nostalgic tale of a shoemaker’s family in the 1960s and won the Crystal Bear for the Best Film in the Children’s Jury “Generation Kplus” category at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival. The film was shot entirely on Wing Lee Street and now cries of protest against demolishing the seedy old buildings are being heard loud and clear. The Hong Kong government recently announced that it will preserve the street and its buildings. A 92-year-old grandmother has lived there all her life and an 80-year-old has worked in a printing shop along Wing Lee Street since he was an apprentice.

As I rushed up the (many, many) stairs to get to Wing Lee Street and turned right into the street, I was met with a horde of photographers. Obviously more cunning than me: they got there early. But I couldn’t help think of the 92 year old granny, sitting there in her once private tenement now the focus of photographer’s lenses and gawky tourists. A bit like a beautiful tiger penned in a small cage, looking out onto the world rushing by. I hope the Hong Kong Government figures out how to preserve the community life as well as the beautiful old buildings.

Some of the steps leading up to Wing Lee Street. Didn't count them all but must have been 200+ phew!

So today I bring you photos from Wing Lee Street and surrounds. Getting there involved climbing what seemed to be thousands of rickety old steps. I was very grateful that it wasn’t the height of Hong Kong’s sultry weather. Up and up I went, passed graceful old trees providing a momentary taste of shade. At the very top of the stairs is a large emerald-green tree. The sun shone through its elegant branches and dappled soft light from the leaves flirted playfully across the steps. Turn right and you’re into Wing Lee Street.

The apartments seem to be stacked one on top of the other, giving the impression that they’re about to topple. The entrance ways are festooned with steep staircases, Chinese red lanterns and images for good fortune. Washing flaps in the breeze as it dries on balconies. On the street, photographers and tourists gawk and gasp, whilst inside the everyday life of a community lives on, oblivious to the circus going on outside.

As I left the street and started descending the stairs, I came across a beautiful Weimaraner dog (had to snap him), some colourful buildings and a couple of gals dressed up for …who knows what! That’s what I love about Hong Kong: around any corner there is richness, texture, colour and a few oddities.

As you reach the top, you see this gorgeous emerald green tree shading the steps.

Beautiful textured wooden doorway, rich red adornments and rickety staircase

Beautiful richly textured wooden door, Chinese adornments and steep staircases

Cherry red Chinese decorations

Colourful tree against an equally colourful building

Gorgeous pup! Wanted to steal him but didn't think he'd appreciate the flight back to Oz.

Some of the colourful people in the area

Rickety balconies

Wing Lee St with modern apartment buildings towering over it

Old tenements festooned with washing hung out to dry.

Entrance to Wing Lee St

April 2, 2010 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Come play with me

I’ve been a bit side-tracked this week. I finished the first roll of film from my new Superheadz Pink Dress superfat lens camera and I’m starting to upload to my photo blog. The first photo is up and shows the Sydney Opera House from a slightly different perspective. It’s always exciting to get back your roll of processed film, especially when using a lomography camera. You just don’t know what to expect. And speaking of the unexpected. Have you seen the photos of cheetahs toying with a cute little impala?

I’ve been to Kenya I think four times, maybe three. I rode around for hours in one of those safari jeeps decked out with a zebra pattern. Around and around the Masai Mara, looking for cheetahs. Maybe a mother with cheetah cubs. I managed to get one shot of a cheetah speeding over the Kenyan landscape. All you could really see was this small blurry dot. So you can imagine how jealous I am of these photos.

So here you have three male cheetahs with a baby impala, who in some of those photos looks a bit like the deer in the traffic light. You can almost hear the antelope thinking: “How the hell did I get myself into this spot. Look at those, cheetahs. Dangerous, fast. Can I outrun them? Am I tonight’s dinner?”.  But apparently, the male cheetahs had full bellies from a previous hunt and were tired following their dash after prey. You know, the photos remind me of how you can feel in an organisation: senior management toying with employees. Will they fire me or won’t they? Will there be another restructure? Am I getting a salary increase? LOL.

Aren’t these just the most amazing photos.  The cheetahs knocked down the impala and played with it for about 15 minutes. Lots of licking and affectionate rubbing going on. Then it seems the impala made its escape (although I have read elsewhere that it ended up as a cheetah snack: let’s hope not). The photographers are Michel and Christine Denis-Huot. Sooooooooooooooooo jealous.

February 7, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Google: where’s the coffee table book?

You know I don’t like Google Street View but I will say that some of the images Street View is capturing are a new photographic genre. The Google behemoth sends out an army of cars that often look like this:

and every ten to twenty metres, cameras automatically capture whatever moves through their frame. The images are then stitched together to create panoramic views, which hopefully blur people’s faces or car license plates.

Jon Rafman, who is an artist from Montreal, Canada, started collecting Street View images and has published a photographic essay showing the world according to Google and physical spaces that are reminiscent of grainy street shots from the early era of photography. Rafman refers to Google’s unbiased recording and capturing of reality, which I suppose it is because the cameras and cars just cruise around going snap, snap.  I like how he describes it:

Street View collections represent our experience of the modern world, and in particular, the tension they express between our uncaring, indifferent universe and our search for connectedness and significance.

Frankly, I’ve not thought of Street View in this way before as I’ve been too busy focusing on privacy aspects. But I guess Google is recording our physical world in a way that will be interesting for future historians to explore.  Here are some of the photos Rafman has collected but I urge you to read his photographic essay to see how an artist interprets the visual aesthetics of Street View images. Some of the images remind me of lomography and its emphasis on casual, unpredictable, spontaneous shots. I wonder when Google will publish a coffee table book of Street View images – some of them are really quiet haunting and beautiful. Sad that I have to admit this, but admit it I do. Happy face for Google!

January 12, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Depression-era photography

I’m taking photography lessons from an American photographer. I’m into my third week and haven’t been kicked out yet. You may wonder: how do I take lessons when I’m in Australia and he’s in the US? The wonders of email – he sends me specially designed modules to work through, complete with photographic assignments. I then send him my assignment photos and he critiques. Some of it is tough going for me because it’s going back to basics and I want to get my teeth into advanced stuff. One assignment that’s coming up (and I’m fearing it) is to sit with my beloved Nikon D40 and change the settings over and over again without looking. So when that once in a lifetime shot comes along, I won’t have to fiddle with ISO, white balance and so on. I’ll be ready to go. Yeah, right, good luck to me!

Anyway, onto today’s post. Part of my work with this photographer is to study the work of well-known photographers. He gave me a list of names and off I went finding the photos and researching their lives. One of the photographers on the list was Dorothea Lange. To be honest I hadn’t heard of her. Shame on me! I now know she was a very influential US photographer who is best known for her Depression-era photographs. I particularly like the drama, light and shade that black and white photos are capable of capturing. And so I was stunned by her work. No doubt I’m decades behind everyone else who have known and loved Lange’s work. Well, better late than never as they say.

Check out these photos – superb. She had an incredible ability to humanise the sadness  and struggle of the Depression-era; to connect faces to untold tragedies. And you know: as we navigate the global financial hissy fit, it puts things in perspective when you spend time looking at photos from a period of deep financial and family crisis in American and world history.

Migrant mother 1936. Image credit – Wikipedia

Photo credit: National Archives

This is an incredible photo from 1940 and taken in Kern County, California. The young woman was a migratory worker who, the day before the photo was taken, had travelled with her husband 35 miles each way to pick peas. They both worked five hours a day and earned US$2.25. Mmmmmm…think about that for a moment. These days we have a hissy fit if we’re not paid mega bucks, with bonuses, company cars and parking spaces and so on. But this young woman travelled (possibly walked) 70 miles to pick peas and earn $2.25 (I must find out what that amount would have bought in 1940 – anyone know?). Just look at her face: what do you see? Hardship? Poverty?

Photo credit: National Archives.

This photo was taken in 1933 and is called White Angel Breadline. It’s probably her most famous photo. A San Francisco widow, Lois Jordan, was known as the White Angel. She established a soup kitchen to feed the needy and hungry and this image was Lange’s first photograph actually taken on the street during the Great Depression.

Photo credit: Online Archive of California.

Taken in 1937 when a Government census showed that 10 million people were unemployed. 22 States started paying unemployment compensation and this photo shows a line of men waiting to register on the first day payments were paid out at Social Security Office. By taking this photo from a height, looking down on the snaking line, it really emphasizes the despair these men must have been feeling. The feet of other people you can see just at the top of the photo are intriguing – are these people ready to join the line? Have they accompanied the men to the Social Security Office for moral support?

I have saved the most haunting for last:

Photo credit: Online Archive of California.

This is a photo of a homeless man sleeping in a parking lot in San Francisco c.1934. Yeegads, just imagine how bad the Great Depression must have been that people were forced to sleep like this.

So as we grumble and moan about the GFC and how it’s stopping us eating out weekly at our favourite restaurant or stopping us getting a pay rise – well, let’s thank our lucky stars that we are not struggling and suffering as deeply some of the people in these powerfully emotional photos taken by Dorothea Lange.

September 17, 2009 at 2:00 am 1 comment

Squirrel surprise

I thought I’d take time out today to bring you the funniest photo I’ve seen in ages. And it features the cutest looking squirrel. So a couple were having fun at Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Canada and thought they’d take a holiday shot with the stunning lake as a backdrop. They set the timer on the camera, which was set up on some rocks, and made themselves camera ready….when…all of a sudden, up pops a ground squirrel. The squirrel was curious about the sound the camera was making and voila…the funniest photo:

If you ask me, that squirrel was just waiting for a camera to snap him – he looks very well groomed! What a fun shot to start our week.

Source: Telegraph UK

UPDATE: As this squirrel is now the most famous in the world, you might want to have your photo taken with him (or her). Go here – to The Squirrelizer.

August 16, 2009 at 2:00 am 2 comments

The colours of Russia

I’m about to embark on a 12 week course of photography lessons with a photographer in the US.  He has 45 years’ experience, so I hope to learn heaps! As part of my research, I came across the amazing photography of  Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky (being of Russian ancestry, I’m hoping he’s a long lost relative so I can claim that photographic talent runs in the veins 🙂

Check out this photo – approximately what decade do you think it was taken? 1980s? 1960s?

Noooo!! It was taken in 1915.  Yeegads!  Apparently, there are some give-aways in this photo and someone who knows Russian history might be able to locate the photo as being taken in the early 1900s. Early 1900s – can you imagine – I mean look at the bold blue sky and the general overall colour of this shot! This is century-old photography. Prokudin-Gorsky started taking colour shots in 1909. He wanted to capture the beauty, richness, colour and boldness of Tsarist Russia.

When I think of colour photography, for some reason my mind goes to the 1940s, when colour photos and films became more popular. I think the first colour photo was taken in the 1860s though.

Apparently, Prokudin-Gorsky developed a processing technique that gave him the rich, vibrant colours we see in his photos. The process he developed sounds intricate: he would take a series of three monochrome pictures in sequence but each photo was taken using a different coloured filter. Like this:

He took over 10,000 photos but sadly many are no longer extant. Let’s enjoy some of these amazing early colour shots.

Sources: Wikipedia; Quazen; Flickr (Prokudin-Gorsky’s photostream)

August 10, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

What exactly do you do?

Watching by you.So, for the next five days, I’ll be in Sydney – dog minding. Looking forward to it as it will give me photo opps for “dog portraits”. I plan to roam around the local area too with my Diana F+ camera (much less obtrusive than my Nikon) and maybe take some lomo shots of streetlife. The dogs are two rough collies (like Lassie) and are great people magnets. This is my cunning plan: drag the dogs around with me so people will look at the dogs and forget about me taking photos.

I’ve been pretty busy this week (actually, when am I not!), so today’s post is a bit of a general update. A TS reader recently emailed me to ask what I actually DO because I seem to be involved in lots of things – such as ranting and raving about privacy issues; I dabble in photography; and he made the comment that this blog covers such vast issues, he was wondering what I do for a living.

Well, good question! I regularly ask myself this question 🙂  So today, I’ll answer it and tell you about future plans. My “professional career” is as a knowledge management practitioner (mmm…sounds fancy). I’ve been in knowledge management now for well over 12 years. I have been in the same organisation (part-time) for the last 7 years, where I implement communities of practice (all still thriving and surviving despite the usual organisational ups and downs).  Because this job is part-time, I also have my own consulting practice and over the years have facilitated workshops; coached KM people; implemented document management systems (I’m doing that now as a matter of fact); written KM strategies for organisations and so on.

But wait! There’s more!  I also teach KM at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and this has involved courses such as intellectual capital and knowledge communities. Having been a teacher, I still relish the engagement with students.

But regular readers of TS blog would know that I “reignited” my passion for photography about a year ago and have recently set up a photo blog – ChinchillaBluePhotography – which you can access on the right hand side panel. I’m about to embark on a 12-week photography course with an American photographer – personal, tailored lessons and he will give me assignments and critique my photos. I will find this somewhat confronting but getting critiqued is how you improve.

What you don’t know though is that I’m a secret novelist. At the age of 14 or 15 years, I wrote my first novel, which my dad found, read and promptly declared writing should be my career. I said stuff that, I’m off to Uni to study philosophy and history. And then I disappeared into a coma (ie corporate life) from which I’m only just starting to wake up from.

About 6 months ago, two amazing women on a social network I participate in invited me to write with them. We have written the first of seven books together. We have never met. One lady is an American living in China; the other a French woman living in Texas. We collaborate virtually and have decided not to meet (until of course we go on the world book tour!). We’re now at the editing stage and realise we have more work to do but that’s cool – the experience has been incredible and it’s stirred up my desire for fiction writing.

I now have an idea for a book and will over the next year be writing it. The reason I’m telling you this is because if I say it publicly, on TS blog, I’m more likely to do it. I wish I could remember the novel I wrote when I was 14. I had just finished reading Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, so presumably my novel had that feel to it. It remains one of my favourite books.

So hopefully, one day, in the not too distant future, I can answer the question “what exactly do you do?” with the answer- what I originally started out doing when I was around 14 years old – taking photos and writing novels. It’s funny how later in life, you often return to your earlier passions. Why is that?

July 31, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment


Well, I’ve been threatening it for some time – a second blog – but not the one I thought I was going to launch (which was around environmental issues – that’s still on the backburner). My new blog is devoted to what I’m increasingly viewing as my “next career phase”. I’ve found my passion for photography has gone haywire over the last year. Not only digital photography – I’m now working with film and “toy cameras”. You can read about my love of the Diana F+ camera here.

Way back in the Dark Ages, when I was a teenager, I used to take photos with my father (a keen amateur photographer and bird fanatic). Then I got caught up in the corporate world of lawyers; had a spell as a teacher; and for over the last 10 years, have had various roles as a knowledge management practitioner. Never once did I pick up the camera. Until about a year ago. I literally woke up one morning and said to myself “I’m going to take up photography again”. No idea what triggered this (probably mid-life crisis; no wait can’t have been, that was 20 years ago!).

So I bought a Nikon D40 and a Sigma 18-200mm lens. My beloved Nikon has travelled with me everywhere I’ve been around the world in the last year or so. And then this year, whilst teaching in Hong Kong, I discovered my new love – the Diana F+ and lomography.

I’ve landed a couple of paying photography gigs too. So I thought I’d set up an “online portfolio” of my photographic work. Eventually, I’ll get a professional site designed (I have two young dudes at work who are going to do this – one 26 year old who will design the site and one 22 year old who will design my logo – gotta embrace Gen Y!).

The Grand Plan is that when we move to Europe (yes, it’s happening – news on this soon), I will give corporate life the finger and take up photography and writing full-time.  I have a number of photography books in mind and am co-writing a novel with two outstanding women (an American who lives in China and a French woman who lives in Texas). It’s amazing how much my life and interests have changed since picking up the camera again and writing fiction.

And so to the name – ChinchillaBluePhotography – well, I’m sure Patrick Lambe will mutter “thank God she didn’t name it PhotographyShift”. He well knows I have a tendency to name anything “Shift”.  After weeks of angst over a name, I decided to go with two words:

  • chinchilla – this is my favourite word in the English language and also represents an endangered species. Chinchillas were extremely popular for their fur in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Shy animals, they were relentlessly hunted and killed for their silky, gray fur. Many varieties of wild chinchilla are now on the endangered species list (eg Chilean chinchilla) but despite conservation efforts population numbers are still declining.
  • blue – in colour therapy, blue is associated with the throat chakra, which is about communication.

So if I put those two words together, then it represents two things I hold dear – endangered species and the need for more authentic communication in today’s world. The camera allows me to see and intrepret the world around me and communicate this through photographs and a lot of my photography centres around birds and nature.

It’s early days yet for my new blog but it’s a “shift” in direction for me and is the first concrete step towards where I wish to head!  Here’s the link to ChinchillaBluePhotography and there’s also a permanent link to the new blog in the right side bar of ThinkingShift.

June 28, 2009 at 1:45 am 10 comments

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