Melb2016: Self-Guided Night Photography (Part 6)

If the recent postings are anything to go by, people might be mistaken that this is a photography blog. I suppose it is, and it isn’t. Given that one of my interests is photography, and I rarely have good excuses to display my work, there was a comparative lack of such postings. Now that time is permitting, I will continue the long series of Melbourne 2016 postings with a set of night photographs. Of course, I don’t expect you to read it all – it’s perfectly fine to scroll past all the text and look at the photos only.

To be honest, I never felt myself to be a good photographer. In some ways, when I look at other people’s photographs, I lament that I cannot see light the same way they do, and in some way I feel that my scientific “mechanical” mindset limits my creativity in some way. But then those thoughts soon pass, because I realize it doesn’t matter if you’re good or not, as long as you’re improving, learn along the way and enjoy it. Having other people enjoy your work is just a plus.

In the genre of photography, night time photos are probably the easiest photos to take which people seem to enjoy. It has an entirely different set of constraints – you have to be patient while taking long exposures in waiting for the exposure and subsequent dark-subtraction frame, sometimes you have to work the focus “blind”, and you need to carry a tripod and remote release. But those hardships are, at least to me, small compared to daylight photography where you might need fast reflexes to catch moving objects, and have to contend with constantly changing sunlight, glare and reflections. There are often more people bustling about and hanging around during the daytime as well, and I really don’t like standing in the sun waiting for people to move on. Either that, or getting up early in the morning or waiting for the afternoon golden hours, rushing to make use of the precious window of light. I just didn’t have the time or patience for it.

As a result, I really enjoy pure night photography more. It’s a nice cool stroll around Melbourne in the evening, with not too much light to attract attention.

Wandering Around

It definitely helps if you’ve been on a daytime walkabout and studied the map in the days prior, as it allows you to better plan and walk a more direct route to see the sights. The free walking tour definitely helped a lot. As a result, I decided to start my walk by visiting Flinders Street station first.

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The view is spoiled a bit by the advertising, but no matter. It does demonstrate why you should probably remove any clear front filters from your lens before shooting at night, otherwise risk stray reflections (in green, mid-right) and streaks (streetlight mid-right) where your filter has scratches. In doing so, you have to be careful not to scratch that front-element, so it’s best to put the hood on. Of course, you get the strange people looking at you like you don’t know what a lens hood is for, but we damn well know it’s normally to stop flare from the sun – it just serves a secondary purpose of keeping any large objects away from the front element.

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From the bridge over the Yarra, looking towards Southbank, we can see the iconic Evan Walker bridge in the distance, and the relatively smooth calm water.

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The spire of the Arts Center is also lit-up in blue and yellow, which makes it visually striking at night.

If you guessed I was up here to take a panorama of the skyline at night, you’d be absolutely right.

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I was going to make it a 360 degree wrap-around, but unfortunately, the grass behind also played host to many couples having a good night. So I decided not to disturb them, or you and left them out.

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Looking the other way up the Yarra, the MCG could be seen lit in the distance, but otherwise, it was relatively featureless. I decided that my main walk would start on the banks of the Yarra on Flinders Walk and move towards the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center.

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Upon seeing the bridge from the underside, I couldn’t resist taking a photo, and it was at that time I met a chiropractor who also enjoyed photography for a hobby and had a quick chat. He saw my initial (line-up) shot, and thought it was interesting, so he set-up just a few paces up (in the photo) and shot from there. Always nice to meet a fellow enthusiast.

Walking up the banks, it was evident that Melbourne’s bars and clubs were quite active, and noisy. The venues looked fairly packed, and for noise-pollution control, I saw a person stationed outside one of the venues with a decibel-o-meter just to make sure they were not too loud.

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Continuing along, I reached the Evan Walker Bridge, which had a slight “zig-zag’ to it. People were crossing non-stop, while couples “lingered about”, so a clean photo wasn’t really a possibility. I crossed over to the other side to continue my walk down Southbank Promenade.

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On the way, I stopped to photograph Sandridge Bridge, a former railway bridge converted to a pedestrian and cycle path, with wire frame sculptures on it. By then, I realized that Melbourne’s main city area wasn’t so big, and you could walk from end to end, because I had just reached the other end of Crown Casino.

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The boulevard of trees was lit up, almost like Vivid. People were walking around, whereas some teenagers were having a running race on the right. In the middle, I was peacefully trying to take a photo.

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Crown’s contribution to attracting the tourists? They have a fire show in the evenings, starting at the top of the hour. I was literally minutes away from the starting time when I arrived, and managed to grab a better vantage point on a bridge. Is it that special? I don’t think so … but at least I can say that I’ve seen it.

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Across the road is none other than Jeff’s Shed, which I’ve become quite acquainted with because of the conference. It was much easier to get good shots of it at night, so I decided to pay it a visit. Unfortunately, I had just about exhausted my legs at the time – so I took a rest and came back the next night to continue the walk.

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While they like to call it a “shed” because of its shape, it’s pretty schmick from the outside. The wide pathways are used by cyclists as well, which is a nice touch. It’s nice when the cyclists don’t have to fight with the cars. The deciduous trees weer changing their colour at the time as well, which made for a good shot, but the first few were ruined by some bonehead who wanted to be in the shot, dancing around drunk in front of the lens, then complaining that I “didn’t take a photo of him”. I guess you get those sorts of people everywhere, but persistence pays off.

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At this point, there is still more to be explored. The fisheye photo makes the extent of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre clear. There are also a few more bridges in the distance – Melbourne seems to be famous for them.

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It was also a chance to get a panoramic picture of the convention and exhibition centre sign further down, at the entrance to the plenary building.

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Further down the Wharf Promenade, we meet with Seafarers Bridge.

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I took some time to look back on the centre from the bridge, over the Boatbuilders Yard, which is a restaurant of some sort, with a boat moored beside it.

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At this point, I concluded there was nothing more to see down that way and headed home. What a stupid thing to do. I totally forgot that just a little further down, another over-photographed bridge existed – Webb Bridge. Don’t worry, I came back for it.

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In the interim, I made a quick stop at Southern Cross station to take a look at it, because it was another major stop in the Melbourne City Circle Loop line. When trackwork occurs, they seem to choose one or the other – the Skybus sets down here.

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Hoping not to arouse any suspicions, I took just one quick photo. Their roof had a very interesting “wavy” design which reminds me of the “gravity warping the fabric of space” illustrations, using grids to represent the “fabric”.

When I got home, I immediately realized my mistake, but it was already too late. I had called it off for that night, as I needed some rest. A third night of exploration was called for – this time, the walk would start from the Docklands side, heading back to cover the ground I had “lost”.

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At night, the Bolte bridge looks very blue-white. I suspect their choice of LEDs really contributes to it. The spacing of the lighting being so regular creates a ribbed effect in the reflection from the water. This photograph was actually taken from the end of Webb bridge, not the photogenic part.

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The interesting part that always attracts photographers is the snaking section which is covered by a web of arches and straight segments. Internally it is segmented into several laneways – for cyclists, disabled access and for regular pedestrians. Of course, for the sake of a photo, I disobeyed the divisions, but I made sure there was nobody coming first. At night, I was rather pleased to see the crowd levels were rather limited, but I did see the cutest dog getting a walk – it seemed to like me and my camera, and decided to come close during a long exposure.

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The shape of the bridge from the outside is reminiscient of a snail, or a nautilus. I don’t know. It just has a bit of a shell-like character to it.

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The entrance itself wasn’t particularly exciting, but the division can be seen.

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Right next to it is a floating trash collector with a notice to help keep the river clean. Quite an effective message, at least, from my perspective. I didn’t see much rubbish at all, so they must be doing a good job.

The third night was still young, so I headed back to Union Lane to see what the prospects of night photography were. Surprisingly, the lane was practically abandoned, with just one family taking their shots. I decided to let them get their shots and then head off, to leave me in peace.

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It was adequately lit, quiet and relatively safe. I was surprised it wasn’t packed. Looking this way is a little bit out of place because that bright-light at the end of the tunnel is a David Jones store.

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Much more appropriate looking the other way, into a roadway.

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Absolutely nothing gets spared from a coat of paint. Doors, roller shutters and even fire sprinkler system plaques are all coated. The quality of the work varies from person to person, and visit to visit. I had intended to revisit Hosier Lane, but due to a police operation near Flinders Street, I decided to detour.

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The final stop was Shot Tower, inside Melbourne Central. It was just my luck, as it was partially obscured for restoration work, and they couldn’t resist the urge to hang advertising display boards and have stalls selling clothing right in front of it. It feels like its photographic “value” may have declined because of this. Oh well, too bad. At least I tried.

Conclusion

I suppose with the right amount of fitness and planning, you could easily spend a night and visit most of Melbourne’s good night photography spots. I tried my best, but failed to plan properly, but that resulted in me spending three nights taking night photos in a more leisurely way. On the whole, I always felt safe, and was not ever hassled. The photos, I think, aren’t bad either.

I hope you enjoyed my night-time photography set around Melbourne. But wait, there’s more. More installments that is … we look at some transport related topics, radio, TV and more. Coming soon!*

*-time and energy permitting

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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