Visited: Vivid Sydney 2016 (Part 1)

It’s another year, which means it’s time for yet another Vivid Sydney festival. This year, Vivid is running from 27th May to 18th June, which leaves another nine days to visit (at the time this is posted). Hopefully, if you were thinking about going, this posting might just give you the kick you need to get moving.


As is tradition for me, I visit every year with my camera in the hopes of taking some decent photos, to challenge myself, enjoy the process, take in some art, do some pondering and get some exercise. This year was no different.

This year, I’ve already visited three nights, and I might even make a fourth visit, time permitting.

Grumble Grumble …

Before we get to the photos, I’d just like to take a quick moment to grumble. Yes. Grumble.


I turned up on the opening night, and surprise surprise, there was a bucketload of people. Not straight away, but as the night progressed it got a little uncomfortable to walk. In fact, even early on, it was a bit difficult to even get the tripod out, so for everyone’s safety, I decided to abandon taking photos (unless handheld, which is hard at night).

But this year, more than any in the past, it seems that photography is a big part of it. Cameras have become inexpensive, and everyone has a smartphone with a camera in it. As a result, everyone is busy taking photos.

Unfortunately, the etiquette of people has generally not improved much – if anything, it may have gone down a little. I suppose it’s important to remember:

  • The event is for everyone to enjoy, so do your best to enjoy it without compromising other people’s enjoyment. This means that you shouldn’t jump in front of someone else’s camera to take a selfie in a prime moment, or worse still, start flashing your LED into people’s lenses or eyes – taking a landscape video or photo at night isn’t going to benefit from having your LED flash on.
  • Just because you have a camera or a tripod doesn’t mean you’re somehow more important than someone else. It doesn’t mean you get to ask them to move out of the way impolitely, or start shoving them around.
  • Everyone’s safety is important, so before setting up your camera, think about how the traffic is moving and whether it is safe to do so. Likewise, before stopping to take a photo, think about whether the crowd can accommodate that, otherwise you could cause a stampede or inconvenience for everyone else.
  • Your shot isn’t more important that everyone elses’ – even though it’s your shot. Try to be respectful of the environment and don’t cross any fences or chains to get the shot.
  • If it says not to touch, don’t touch it! Far too many people have been interacting with exhibits which they shouldn’t have, and that can damage them or leave grubby marks on everyone else’s photo.
  • Crowds are an inconvenience, and you are part of the problem. If things are getting a little too dense, try Vivid’s other precincts and come back another night, weather and time permitting.

Having experienced some unpleasantness with people and their phone cameras, and large crowds, I came back on other nights when it was a little more quiet and did my photography then.

On the whole, I’d have to say this year’s Vivid is much the same as last year, although with some places that previously had exhibits no longer having any displays, and some new areas cropping up. Some changes in crowd management strategy has reduced the “cattle herding” long-walks of previous years, while still ensuring good flow. Safety has been improved with high police visibility most of the time, and fencing everywhere which can be a slight nuisance.

As with all night-photography events, I would recommend DSLRs (ILCs and night shooting is a bit hit and miss for some users) and definitely bringing a tripod and remote release of some sort (to avoid relying on a timer for “shake free” shutter releases, as you often miss the good moments on a timer).

Let the Photos Begin!


I started by visiting the Opera House side of the Vivid light walk. As a bit of an engineer at heart, I was very pleased to meet exhibit #05: The 4th State.

2016060718356541Yes, you probably guessed it, it’s a stack of neon transformers, wires, insulators, somewhat “flexible” metal rods forming a ring of Jacob’s Ladders. The sound is impressive, but so is the arcing which rises up the ladder, but also, due to the flexible nature of the wire, causes it to sway. A long exposure makes it look like a blue fire with ribbons of light.


Without the benefit of long exposure, it’s just a few arcs. That being said, for safety, it is enclosed in glass but that gives some nasty reflections which is a bit of a shame.


As with every year, the bridge is lit up too. This year, it’s lit up on the Circular Quay side, which is much more visible than being lit up on the Walsh Bay side.


Part of the reason it is done this way, is because of the Dress Circle Control, which is signified by a bunch of sweeping light beams.


Inside this control room, the colour of the illuminations can be controlled, including the surrounding buildings.


Visiting the forecourt of the Opera House, there were several Intel Sound Cells, which looks like angular clouds, playing music and vision recorded from within the Opera House outside of the Opera house. This seemed the perfect vantage point to capture that rationale.


The forecourt was also home to exhibit #02: Flurry. This was a shell-shaped installation with LED rope lights, which I didn’t end up going inside of, because of the long lines. In fact, many installations this year are “interactive”, and unfortunately, that means it takes time and patience to appreciate them fully.

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But hey, the view from outside isn’t bad either. Neither is the view from most of the way up the stairway.


The Sydney Opera House Projections: Songlines

The projections on the sails of the house are a major feature every year. This year, the title of the show is called Songlines. I especially liked the Aboriginal nature of many of the images, featuring my favourite animal (the crow), as well as many other interesting patterns.

It’s no secret that everyone loves to bunch up on the walkway to the forecourt and take photos of the projections that way, but that only leads to sadness and heaps of heads and smartphones in your shot. My advice is to lose the sound and head across to the opposite side, near the Overseas Passenger Terminal and shoot across the harbour. You get a much nicer view that way. Another hint is that moving projections means that you need higher sensitivity to keep a short shutter time otherwise you will get blurry images.


I appreciated this one, despite its apparent simplicity, because it reminds me of spectrograms. That gradation is the default in Spectrum Lab.

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What can I say? I love crows. They’re so intelligent.


Lots of flowers – because everyone loves flowers …


… and polka dots too.

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I won’t bother describing the rest, but you can see aboriginal themes, with some interesting patterns. In all, I really liked this show, but sadly, due to some boat crossings, I missed some of the other nice features like the snake, turtle and lizard.


This first posting is but a taste of some of what Vivid Sydney has to offer. I’ve only just scratched the surface, visiting just part of one side of the Quay. Of course, the major attraction is the Opera House, and the projections this year were both varied and interesting.

I actually took quite a few photos – too many for one posting, so hang around for the next to see even more interesting photos.

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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