It’s been a while since I took my camera out with me regularly, just as it’s been a while since I wrote a lot of poetry. Between 2003 and 2007, there was a period when I never left home without my camera. I had carted a little film number around for years, but things really picked up with the purchase of my first digital at Stansted airport for a trip to Venice in February 2003, en route to Rome, where I was living at the time. It was a sexy and very portable 3.2 megapixel Minolta with a 3x zoom and a wholly inadequate chip, c. 100 meg – I really can’t remember, though I do still have the thing in a drawer somewhere, its circuit board fried in Gatorade. It was a wonderful camera and the sheer delight with which I pointed it at things cannot be overstated.
In 2004, back in Australia, I really thought I’d hit the big time when I upgraded to a 4 megapixel 10x zoom Olympus, purchased en route to New Zealand. I loved that camera, and dreamed of seeing it displayed in a glass case in the Museum of Me, which I intended to build in the megalomaniac bachelor future to which I’ve since abandoned looking forward. Irrespective of the future existence of said museum, my father’s forgetful abandonment of the camera in a bottleshop in Prague in 2008 has rather put paid to these plans. Still, it took some magnificent photographs of which I remain very proud and which now constitute the High Romantic Era of the inter-Cambridge years, also known as the first incarnation of Cornieworld: 2005-06.
Judge for yourself:
This was a splendid period of endlessly seeking photographs. I often took a bus into town or hung around before and after work, looking for shots. At night I would take my tripod with me, armed with a couple of hefty bifters, and prowl the streets of Glebe in search of gold. I was especially fond of dusk, and made many a mission at this magic hour to shoot the royal blue skies that emerged in extended exposures. I tried to capture the sentiment of those times, when I was also writing an absolutely stupid amount of poetry, in an ineffectual poem, which has long since languished on the scrap heap. I include it here for its attempted evocation of the restless, and overtly melodramatic yearning that gripped me.
This late afternoon’s neither open nor closed,
though most of the day is gone and I’m yet to feel
proud. I stared through the morning as through a picture
window, running an hour late for nothing
and already that sickness, that sinking.
Luncheon came with just a few short lines.
The sun on the palm flower (soft as the flesh
of a sapling stripped by a child’s
tepid inquisition) was hypnotic; milky
smooth as an albino root.
Speckled doves rattled the leaves;
dry, resounding clicks with every branch-hop.
Foliage fell, winking down the sunned backs
of traffic-hardened terraces
through mottled streaks of blaze. Come four o’clock
I’m typing into warming gold and expectation spoils
these clutched-at scraps. Calling, the low sun urges
its partisans, drives me to grab my camera for this brief
hour – hasty magic, when so far north of south.
Go shoot tired vistas, hoping copper light will tweak
their tune. I need to be three places at once: the light-
rail viaduct, the sunken ferry, the bridge
like a leggy woman pissing – that mongrel pylon
never lets me win. In the park trying to work
out how my heroes made it. One low
cloud wiggled like a swung dash across
the rending sunset; an overexposed, sylphid burlesque.
My hands already clammy with that pallor
born of going home, restless to head out again
and squeal in the interrogation of the moon.
In early 2006, in preparation for my return to England, I upgraded again and bought myself Canon 350D. Before leaving I carried it with me everywhere I went, including taking it to work every day, with two hefty lenses. I didn’t mind the weight of it so much, though it was bulky and awkward. I suppose I felt not a little windswept and heroic, and, armed for the first time with a 300mm lens, became quite obsessed with “sniping” people at a distance.
I’d like to think I got some grand results, and once overseas, put it to good use on many trips. Yet it was here that I also slowed in my quest. I lost the habit of taking it with me every day. I got tired of the weight and bulk of it and, increasingly, left it at home. There were certainly many bifter-fuelled missions wherein I rode my bicycle for hours on end seeking shots, and when I travelled overseas I shot like a man possessed. With less regular practice it took me a little longer to warm up, yet, when I went on holiday, I was pretty quickly inspired by the exciting subject matter and took some of my very favourite photographs in this period.
When I returned to Australia in 2008, I upgraded again to the Canon 450D and bought myself an L-series 200ml lens. It is this camera that I am currently using, though I would dearly love to upgrade again and spend ten grand on lenses. That megalomaniac bachelor future seems more distant than ever, though the bachelor part is, shall we say, in full swing.
And so! Having recently moved back to Glebe, to a studio from the back window of which I can see the old flat in which I wrote the above poem and where I dwelt during the High Romantic Era of the inter-Cambridge years, I have once again been inspired to write bucketloads of poetry and cart my camera about with me. It’s a wonderful feeling, as though I have returned to complete some long-unfinished business, and, so far, I’m pleased both with my output and dedication. It’s two in the morning, and really I ought to be in bed, but ABC Classical FM is having a bit of a Bach special, and after a long day of writing, conditions are ripe for hammering the keys still further.
Yet, I have digressed too far, for the purpose of this piece was merely to introduce a few photographs of a rather unique sky I spotted on Saturday afternoon. It seems almost unreasonable to be excited about these photos, considering the subject matter was presented to me complete, and by chance, and I certainly had no hand in it other than being in the right place at the right time. I had gone to Chinatown – pork buns are my weakness (sung to the tune of a certain Kate Ceberano song) – but the clouds, which later proved to be so enthralling, were a hindrance. I was hoping for conditions such as those which prevailed when I took some photos in Chinatown a while ago. Namely, these, for example:
But such was not to be. And so, I took the bus home, all bunned up as it were, and when I hopped off just past the footbridge, found myself quite mesmerised by the following:
Fingers crossed, there shall be plenty more to come. And on that note, I shall bid you good night!