Friday, 30 January 2009

Australia Day / Chinese New Year

January 26 is Australia Day, which coincidentally also happens to be Chinese New Year this year. Every Australia Day, a few of the families on the street where I live go to a park nearby and have a get-together... a picnic and a friendly competition of boules (a form of lawn bowl). It's a nice, 'feel good' time attended by both young and old.

At events like these, I try to make use of the opportunity to take some nice photos. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't so great, the sky was cloudy and it even rained a little.

As you can see, I wasn't the only photographer on the scene... I did managed to capture some 'Kodak Moments' such as this picture of Geoff and Tim.

And these are the 2 pairs of finalists for the Boules Competition. And the winners were... Glynn and Lyn. It wasn't a windy day so the Australian flag you see 'blowing' in the wind behind the winners is actually being held up by another one of my neighbours, Nigel (standing behind the flag).

Sunday, 18 January 2009

AYOF 2009

For the past 4 days, 1550 athletes from 23 countries have been competing against each other in 17 sports in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. The AYOF is held to give young athletes an opportunity to experience the environment of the Olympic Games, and to discover future Olympic champions. To promote this festival, entries to the sporting events are free. The events are held at various venues around Sydney, but the main venue (which is also the venue closest to where I live) is the Sydney Olympic Park, where two of my favourite ‘artistic’ sports - gymnastics and diving - are held.

I find watching gymnastics live and up close a bit different from watching it on TV. Up close, gymnastics is fast and has a certain rawness to it which I like, and it doesn't have that 'polished' feel that all the slow-mo computerised camera work gives it. It’s amazing to watch when everything works and they manage to do their routines perfectly. But even when things do go wrong, these gymnasts just pick themselves up and do it all over again, as shown by Ben Astley during his practise session.

Of course, there are also moments when things slow down, as shown by Sam Oldham from England :)

Sam is one of the top gymnasts from Britain and won the Silver medal in the Men's Pommel Horse event.

Some of the other events I attended were the women’s gymnastics, diving and athletics (which include the 400m, high jump, long jump, javelin and hurdles). Unfortunately, as wonderful as my tiny camera is, it’s just not sufficient for fast sports photography in indoor lighting. I kind of guessed it wouldn’t be good enough but I don't have a better digital camera so I basically had to make do. As expected, a lot of photos came out either blurred, noisy or underexposed. Such a pity since events like this don’t happen everyday (once every two years, actually). I literally took hundreds of photos but ended up with very few I like, and even those had to be heavily post-processed.

I was hoping the outdoor events would not present any problems as it would be with better light, but unfortunately for me, the time I was at the athletics arena was also when the sky was overcast with rain clouds! Some things are just not within our control :)

In the end, I basically gave up on still photos and starting taking more videos.

And finally, I like the actions of Ben Astley from Australia, who remains cool after his routine right up till the time he walks away from the pommel platform :)

Ben unfortunately just missed out on a medal by getting the 4th place in the Individual All-Around Men’s Final, an amazing accomplishment since his standing was 11th before the competition. All top 3 places went to gymnasts from the UK.

The festival ends today.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Hovis (Ads Part 1)

Hovis recently filmed a new ad that premiered in the UK in September 2008. Some of my friends know that I collect ads that I like (yes, I'm a bit weird), and I have to say I love this ad! Maybe it's also because I'm feeling a bit nostalgic about England, now that I have left. When I first saw the ad, I could see that it depicts some of the historic moments in British history, but it was not until I saw the 'Making-of' that I realised how much I missed. (Watch the ad before reading further to see what you can spot.) The ad is 122 seconds long, and celebrates 122 years of British history. It also marks 122 years Hovis has been around. It employed 762 extras, and used over 800 costumes that are accurate to the period. It marks historic moments in British history starting from 1886 to 2008 including the Titanic, the suffragette movement, World War I, the first motor car, World War II, the 1953 Coronation, the Swinging Sixties, England's celebration of the 1966 World Cup, the miners strike in the 1980s and the fireworks of the Millennium celebration. The total cost of the ad is £15 million pounds, equivalent to the budget of some feature films. Some have commented it's nothing special but I think it's 'bloody brilliant' :)

Monday, 5 January 2009

New Year 2009

People in Sydney are a little crazy when it comes to the New Year's Eve fireworks display. I saw in the news that one person actually camped out the night before new year's eve in order to stake out a good spot to view the fireworks. That's one night and one entire day in the same spot, just to get a good view. And unlike the northern hemisphere, December 31st 2008 was one hot day Down Under.

Unlike previous years, I decided to view the fireworks from a hill near where I live instead of going to the city with the crowds. There I was, sitting on the sidewalk with my camera atop a low wall next to me, taking some photos of the fireworks when a possum appears out of nowhere and charges me. In the second or so it took my brain to register what was happening, the possum was on my back. The entire time I was fighting this sugar-overdosed possum, the thought running through my head was 'Don't knock the camera over!' Having had its fun a short while later, the possum ran off but not before leaving a puncture wound on the back of my shoulder a little less than an inch long. What an interesting way to usher in 2009! :) Happy New Year.