Visited: Vivid Sydney 2016 (Part 2)

We continue our Vivid Sydney journey in this part. While there are many exhibits, I didn’t end up photographing the “regulars” such as Customs House or the Museum of Contemporary Art, solely because it was a nightmare trying to get a good vantage spot, and in some way, I didn’t feel as inspired by their art. Quite a few exhibits didn’t get a photo unless they somehow resonated with me, so you’re only seeing a select few exhibits.

The Royal Botanic Gardens

By far and away, this new precinct was the most interesting part for me. This year, the Royal Botanic Gardens celebrates its 200th birthday, and this is part of their celebration. I wonder just how well their grass will handle the stampede of people visiting …


(click for large size)
and yes, I know there’s a little glitch in the chain when it was stitched, because of the wind!


2016060719156679Rather unsurprisingly, both days I visited this precinct, it was absolutely packed and slow-moving. It was also decently windy, but one night, I saw a DJI drone filming in the area as well. I felt rather amazed to see someone trying their drone in such testing conditions – watching it fly straight up was quite a sight.

Anyway, the RBG precinct is literally littered with LED lights on the trees, bushes and grass. There was a colour moving set of lights on the grass which really gets people lying down and taking selfies.

Seeing that animated GIFs are the new “currency” of the internet, I decided to try my hand at one.


What are all those people walking in here to see? Well, it’s not the LEDs on the side wall, which are quite impressive and require a large power supply unit every few tens of meters. No. They’re here to see the Cathedral of Lights.


Impossible to get a clean shot from within due to the solid mass of people, and impossible to get a clean shot from outside even with time exposure, and by stacking frames. I tried everything. I guess the message is get a media pass and come in on a dress rehearsal.


2016052719056372Each of the yellow spots is an LED with a translucent flower petal head on it. Lots of wire, over a large metal frame. Some people say they’ve seen it before at Floriade, but since I haven’t, it was all new to me.

It was also interesting to note that while LEDs have had a big bearing on the show, as practically every lighting display is running them, the RBG was one of the only obvious places where I spotted good-ol incandescent globes, aside from those hateful faux vintage looking globes in hipster cafe’s.

On the Passenger Terminal Side of the Quay

As I mentioned before, this is the best place to shoot back to the Opera House, but it’s also the best place to shoot a photo of the Quay, which looks very similar to what it did in previous years.


Venturing along the exhibits on this side, I stopped by exhibit #27: Laser Oscilloscope, because it is familiar to me and nothing special, but it seems to attract a lot of screaming children, who scream, see the effect, pause to ponder, and then scream even louder.


Along that side, I didn’t see too many things worth taking a photo of, with just too many people hanging around each and every angle due to their “interactivity”. I wished for some more exhibits that could be admired from a distance, and preferably not needing to be fenced but not inviting too many people to play with it either. I did find some nice effects at #36: Sweep, so I took a photo there. It reminds me of bamboo.


Off to Walsh Bay

Now we head under the bridge to the other exhibits in the Walsh Bay area. On the way, we get to admire the handiwork that is the lights on the bridge – bars of light, cable tied to the handrails. Doesn’t get better than that.


At Walsh Bay, I stopped by #44: Shadow Wall. This was a wave powered exhibit, with a ratchet mechanism that paints a silhouette of a working port onto the building behind, lit by a projector. Many people walking by were fascinated by the bright acrylic to the point of missing the silhouette behind, and grumbling about the slow pace of “wave power”.


Right next to it was #43: Elantica, but it was down and out just like some other exhibits, damaged by the wild storms and flooding rains Sydney experienced in the past weeks. These rains definitely caused havoc, shutting down Vivid for two nights.


It wasn’t that much of a problem for me, because I used my camera’s onboard flash and some blind focusing luck. The reason I took the photo was because of my passion for technology – seeing what was on the exhibit made me slightly angry at their destruction of some of the gear – it looks like some of those cards are digital modem bank cards with modular modems per channel – or some control system with modular relay controls. One of the boards looks like an arcade board with a total of 12 EPROMs on it, still covered with label. Quite a few of the other boards look to have some vintage with EPROMs, 72-pin SIMM sockets, whereas other more modern server boards with LGA sockets can be seen too. I wondered where they got all these boards, as I’m guessing they must have dismantled a Lucent modem bank to get some of those.

I was attracted to #45: Underwater Galaxy as well, which lit the underside of the wharf. Some people, including myself, saw the sign for the exhibit but didn’t see anything obvious until I walked well past it, and looked back.


While there, I got to hear Lukas Graham – 7 Years being played over and over in Sydney Dance Company’s studios, while taking this photo of a beautifully lit, empty pier. It’s not a Vivid exhibit, but it’s very striking to me. LED lighting really gives it a harsh, cool, crisp, industrial feel.


Onto #48: Momentum, where interesting light effects can be made simply by turning the handle. Since I was alone, and I didn’t want to put the camera on a tripod and then run to turn the wheel, I got a static shot … interesting nonetheless and plays on the reflection of glass.


Martin Place Precinct

2016060819036966I do quite like the layout this year, because you can start at Circular Quay and visit some outcrops like Electric Jellyfish (where I met a former student) at the Museum of Sydney on the way to Martin Place, and walk through to Westfields Pitt St., The Galleries Victoria and Darling Harbour in the same run.

The big star at Martin Place would have to be #57: Geometrics. This is a ring of motorized projector lights which shoot beams of light into the sky, sequenced to produce interesting effects visible in the street, and also forming mathematically related patterns from within the ring from underneath.


It also changes colours, amongst other things – above it was showing a V, here it is forming a straight beam, and in other cases, it sweeps a large broad beam back and forwards, and others, across the adjacent buildings.

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The amazing part is that, from the outside, you probably couldn’t tell that the beams were forming such patterns when viewed from the underside.


2016060819157034Since I was at Martin Place anyway, I decided to photograph #56: Fountain and #54: Mountain of Light as well. The fountain displayed a sequential lighting of human figures as if they were being spouted out of the fountain in an “old fashioned” animated sign style.

The Mountain of Light had colour changing LED bars and Kinect sensors in the base which responded to user interaction to change the LEDs.

In fact, lots of exhibits used Kinect sensors … all that interactivity.

Westfield Sydney Precinct

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This was a bit of a fizzler as it wasn’t really a precinct at all. There was the True Life exhibit in front which displayed some different shades of boxes. Inside, it was Enchanted Forest, which …


… just meant a few LED trees and restaurants open late at night, but only on selected days. Judging from the lack of crowd, I came on the right day (to avoid crowds, not to eat). I feel that this inclusion feels a little commercialized, just as Chatswood’s food stall business is commercialized. It’s straying a little away from “lights” into other things.

The Galleries Victoria Precinct

2016060819497062I hoped there’d be something more interesting at TGV, and it seems that there was, but only mildly so. TGV was to play host to an indoor video exhibit, which meant that it could run even on the worst of days.

The exhibit seems to consist of random segments of LED boards assembled into odd screens displaying parts of a video run in “shuffle” with different videos contributed by different artists. As a result, depending where you are at, you will see different slices of the video, appearing as patterns of light and otherwise being incomprehensible.

That is, unless you get into the main atrium, where full screens show the full visual.


Seeing all the screens at odd angles, with the same visuals became a little visually disorientating for me, so I moved on.

Darling Harbour Precinct


As with previous years, Darling Harbour was again part of the show, with a Laser-Dragon Water Theatre show. Whatever that means. I suspect the name was just to spruce things up a little.


This year, they had a main pontoon with a special laser projector that elevates and turns on a tripod, projecting into a water fog which creates a screen in front of it, to create a “floating” effect.


Other than that, there were swept laser beams, lots of fountains, and very little pyrotechnics, sadly. The shows have different music though, adding a little variety, but it was disappointing from a photography perspective.

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In line with keeping people safe, there is a lot of fencing and in most places, you can’t get within a meter of the waters’ edge. This is to stop people from potentially drowning, as has happened in the past. I can’t help but feel there is some irony to that second sign … a view behind a fence being great?

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Of course, being in Darling Harbour means walking the bridge, with obligatory photo.


It also means meeting the monorail station, just like I did last year, and it seems nothing has changed there either.

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It also means a chance to see the Maritime Museum exhibits, which, disappointingly were just recycled exhibits from Chatswood last year. They were looking a little worse for wear, with some of them having quite a lot of flickering LEDs.


Nothing wrong with admiring the Maritime Museum’s boats and submarines though …


… and catching a ferry back to Circular Quay to end the day. Not even the bridge saw the wild weather unscathed.



I’ve given Vivid Sydney a red hot go this year, and while I haven’t got any photos from Chatswood, I did visit there and was again, slightly disappointed. I haven’t visited Central Park, but I suspect I might not have a chance to do so before it ends.

Vivid Sydney is on until 18th June, and it costs nothing, so if you’re interested, you better head on down there quick!

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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