Posts filed under ‘Photography’

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

A glimpse into a private life

I’ve been reading a really interesting biography of the American photographer, Lee Miller, who was one of the first female photographers to emerge in the 1920s and 1930s. She was a war correspondent and photographed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. If you want to see some of Miller’s truly outstanding photos, go here. So my head has been in the WWII era and I did a search for wartime photographs as I love the era of black and white film photography. I am now working with B&W film (you can access my Flickr photos by scrolling down the right hand panel of this blog).

Anyway, my search turned up some amazing photos, particularly some unseen photographs of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi era that have recently come to light. Hugo Jaeger was Hitler’s personal photographer and snapped photos between 1936 and Hitler’s death in 1945. As often seems to happen, Jaegar hid his colour transparencies in a leather suitcase (I say often because thousands of Robert Capa’s negatives were hidden away in a Mexican suitcase and, although a writer not a photographer, Irene Nemirovky’s manuscript of Suite Française, was rediscovered in the late 1990s by her daughter). It strikes me that rare talent is often secreted away in a suitcase or lost manuscript.

So Jaeger’s transparencies were hidden because he feared they would be destroyed following the downfall of the Nazi regime. And here’s the interesting part – in 1945, six US soldiers searched the house near Munich where the transparencies were being safeguarded. They found the suitcase, opened it and scoffed the bottle of cognac that Jaeger had placed in the suitcase with the transparencies (sharing the bottle with Jaeger I might add). They left, forgetting the rest of the suitcase’s contents, and Jaegar proceeded to hide the transparencies in 12 glass jars, buried on the outskirts of Munich. Love this sort of story!

Then…after WWII, he revisited the spot where he’d buried the glass jars, dug them up and reburied them in a new spot. In 1955, he retrieved some 2000 transparencies and popped them into a bank vault until 1965 when he sold them to Life magazine.  I’m not sure if Life ever published them but they have now been published to coincide with the 65th anniversary of D-Day (June 6). The colour photos show the private life of Hitler; some incredible interior shots of Berghof, Hitler’s mountain estate in Bavaria and his residence in Berlin. You can see all the photos here but these are the ones I found most fascinating:

Adolf Hitler chats with several young women on a promenade of the German cruise ship Robert Ley (named after a prominent Nazi labor leader) on its maiden voyage on April 1st, 1939.

Inside Hitler’s apartment – his room in his Berlin apartment reflects Hitler’s baroque, often sentimental taste. Don’t know about you, but I’ve never stopped to think of what his interior design taste was like. I can’t quite reconcile the soft, elegant shapes with Hitler I’m afraid.

This is an amazing photo – sentries guarding the entrance to Adolf Hitler’s office in the Chancellery. Hitler was obsessed with over-sized architecture and overly grand monuments that would awe and humble any visitor.

Source: The Telegraph. Photos: Hugo Jaeger/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

I came across some more remarkable WWII photos. Check this stunning shot of a United States Air Transport Command plane flying over the pyramids in Egypt in 1943:

And this one of US paratroopers over Holland – 1st Allied Airborne Army. September 1944.

You can see more incredible WWII photos at WW2 in Color.

June 14, 2009 at 2:38 am 1 comment

At last!

Regular ThinkingShift readers would know that I’m an amateur photographer and use a Nikon D40 camera. But recently, a Gen Y colleague at work told me all about the Diana F+ camera. The Diana was first introduced during the 1960s and was manufactured in Hong Kong. It never really took off as a serious camera largely because the lens never went through much quality control – so you ended up with light leaking through the lens and unpredictable photos. So many Dianas were given away as novelties by companies who slapped their logo onto the Diana. It was disparagingly referred to as a toy camera but was perfectly capable of taking great shots. Manufacturing of the Diana petered out in the late 60s, early 70s but it became a cult camera.

The Diana F+ is a new twist on this cult classic. A very faithful reproduction of the original quirky Diana, complete with light leaks and plastic body. It uses 120 film and looks like something straight out of the 1960s.

So I bought the Diana F+ in Hong Kong recently (the teal and black beauty plus the gleaming white Edelweiss edition) and for the last few weeks have had to learn a completely different style of photography. No messing around with aperture priority or white balance. No fussing over macro lenses. Because with the Diana, it’s all about the moment. You don’t have controls to choose from really and the golden rules of this style of photography (known as lomography) are: don’t think about it and take the photo fast; try taking the photo from the hip; forget about any rules!

I’ve had to learn how to load and unload film and then find a camera shop that processes B&W 120 film, then get my photos scanned onto CD to upload to Flickr and onto the blog. But finally, here are my first shots – taken with 120 B&W and Kodak 120 colour film. I’m still experimenting with colour film to find the right one that gives the amazing, popping, electric, weird colours the Diana can can give you. I’m now totally obsessed!

I saw this little Chinese girl coming towards me over a bridge in Hong Kong. A quick snap and then I went for a double exposure. Her father picked her up and she posed for me. And viola!

A streetscape in Hong Kong – I wanted to get the depth and variety of all the signs.


Streetscape in Hong Kong – I love the way the Diana F+ can give you that 1950s kind of look.


Caught this girl posing against a window full of mannequins.

And finally, two colour shots of a beach in Newcastle, Australia and a dog on the trot.

What say you Marc? Do you like photos with the Diana F+?

May 27, 2009 at 2:00 am 2 comments

NO Google!

You know I’ve ranted and raved about Google Street View before. If not, go here for a start. Google of course has technology that will blur a face or licence plate number but the Google van still patrols streets and areas snapping away despite Privacy International lodging a complaint. Many people in the UK joined that complaint since they felt images led to identifying specific people. One woman for instance moved away from a particular area to escape a violent partner only to find she was recognisable by said partner in an image snapped by Google Street View outside her new home. And residents near Milton Keynes (UK) recently blocked the driver of a Street View car when he started taking photographs of their homes saying the service was “facilitating crime”. Street View is now in nine countries and Google wants to expand the service into Europe.

But seems Greece is saying NO to Google. The Hellenic Data Protection Authority has banned Google from expanding Street View in the country until Google can cough up satisfactory information about how long images will be stored on Google’s database and what measures Google will take to make people aware of privacy rights. Meanwhile the Japanese, who are very respectful of privacy, are also giving Google a hard time and forcing them to reshoot all images taken in that country. And it will reshoot by lowering Street View cameras by 40 cm (16 inches) following complaints of invasion of privacy because cameras were able to shoot images showing private gardens and homes.

Google will try to accommodate by blurring images or lowering camera angles but the issue to me is this – this is private exploitation of public space or a public good. And the law isn’t clear on this as yet. The argument is that what’s in public space is fair game, yet if I roam the streets of Sydney as I have done many times with my camera, I get hauled aside and asked questions about what I’m taking photos of and why. I have even been abused by a man for taking a photo of a public building (a library) and he was just on the street and came over to abuse me.

In the UK, a well-known London photographer, who was going about his business of taking photos of London life, was hauled off by the police under Section 44 (Stop & Search Powers) of the Terrorism Act 2000. So why is it okay for Google to roam city streets and country laneways snapping photos showing homeless people outside a shelter; causing embarrassment and distress between a couple when a woman caught her cheating husband out; showing a man being sick in the street; or a man entering a sex shop in London? I’m sure if I took a photo of any of these people in these situations, my ass would be hauled off by the cops or I’d be abused by the people whose private circumstances I was attempting to capture on an image.

Seems to me that the Google business model is if you’re in public, tough we are going to exploit it. I am pleased to see Greece asking questions and Japan causing Google to adapt Street View to  respect privacy concerns. Now, if the law would just catch up and redefine what can and can’t be done in public space when it comes to private citizens, I’d be very very happy.

May 20, 2009 at 2:00 am 1 comment

The world through my eyes

So I’m still fussing around with getting four rolls of 120 B&W taken on my new Diana F+ camera onto CDs so I can upload them. In the meantime, whilst in Hong Kong recently, I concentrated on getting shots of nature (mainly birds and flowers). Particularly with the flowers, I was interested in the luscious folds of the petals.  All shots taken with my beloved Nikon D40. Enjoy!

Here’s a beautiful Red Lory (Eos Bornea) – you may notice that this scarlet beauty is now the header for the ThinkingShift blog.

This dainty bird is a Bali Myna (Leucopsar Rothschild)

This is the very first shot with my new macro lens (Fujiyama) of the centre of an African daisy.

And finally, a sumptuous orchid.

May 6, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

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