This year has been monumental in so many ways, a lot of projects developing all over the place which is very exciting.
Tracey has been to NZ, USA, Australia’s Central Desert and Top End, as well as a few trips to Shepparton to work with Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation. The year is not over yet with another journey to work on a book project in NZ next month – ADA Booksprint.
Anyway, we have been a bit slack with keeping up with the blog and promise we will do better!
We have come up with an awesome (perhaps insane) idea that would enable us to travel the world, meet fellow travellers and learn more about this wonderful world we live in. We are tentatively calling this idea Old farts couch surfing the world.
So I have a question for you dear Reader. Would you be prepared to offer us a place to stay on our travels? It could be spare room, a couch or even a tent depending on the climate.
How it would work?
Think of it a bit like Humans of New York, where the story has a connection to place and people. The goal is to document the journey online with a mind to bring out a book when we complete the adventure. As people offer us places to stay we will add them into a map of our journey. People can also add in stories as we develop the project.
The idea builds on the concept of our Cultural Strangers project, where we try to reveal layers of place through documentation, conversation and investigation.We love the concept of the world cafe as it seeks to use collaboration to build knowledge and share experiences for the betterment of us all.
If you think that this idea if fun and would like to get involved please contact us.
This post from our travel writer based in India, Rohit Agarwal, is very useful for travellers needing to get a SIM card in India. We found the process a bit daunting when we were there in November, so these hints are very useful. Thanks Rohit!
All set for a holiday to India! Of course you like to stay in contact with your family and friends back home, so while planning your trip do not forget to pack a handset that does not restrict you to one service provider. Certain makes and models of handsets are restricted to use SIM cards of particular service providers or are locked. This could be a strong barrier to cheap communications during your trip, so it is a good idea to pack an unlocked handset which is either dual, tri band or quad band so it can work in India.
There are certain things to note while you hunt for a prepaid SIM card in India. 1. Documentation
To purchase a prepaid SIM card, you will need to provide the following documents:
2-3 coloured passport size photographs,
A photocopy of your passport, specifically the page containing your personal details,
A copy of your Indian Visa,
Proof of your stay in India – a letter from the Hotel or guest house confirming your stay as a guest, and
A photocopy of the proof of address for your place of residence back home.
On providing the above set of documents you should be able to access a prepaid mobile service in India.
2. Which service provider should you choose?
There are a range of mobile prepaid service providers available in India such as Airtel, Idea, Vodafone, Reliance, BSNL & MTNL. Apart from the ease of availability, also consider good network coverage and data connectivity. Though all the service providers boast of good network coverage, the challenge is to provide uninterrupted 3G and 4G connectivity. The larger carriers here are Airtel, Idea, Vodafone and Reliance. If you travel to rural areas or inland regions, then MTNL or BSNL would be the best option as they have better coverage in these areas.
3. SIM cost and running expenses
Buying a SIM will cost you somewhere between 150 to 250 Indian Rupees, and you may need to pay extra to recharge it. Recharge options are customised for different parameters like local calls, STD calls, ISD packages, data packages, SMS packages, etc. When you choose the recharge option consider convenience and optimal usage that suits your needs. Recharge choices also come with validity options. Packages are available for day, month and even annual use. You should be very cautious while selecting these packages. On average, an international call is charged at approx. Rs. 7 per minute and an international SMS might cost you Rs. 5 per SMS. On the other hand, calls or SMS within India would cost you around 1 rupee per minute or 1 rupee per SMS. Also, many coffee shops, bus stands, museums and hospitals provide free Wi-Fi access.
4. Calling from an Indian prepaid SIM
To make outgoing calls from your Indian prepaid mobile service to any city within India, you need to dial the STD code of the city when dialing a fixed line number. If you intend to make a call to a mobile number within India, you need to dial +91 (country code for India) prefixed to the 10 digit mobile number. Similarly while making an international fixed line call, dial the country code + area code + phone number, and for an international mobile number call dial the country code followed by the mobile number.
Many airports in India have kiosks or desks that provide you with prepaid SIM cards. If you have all the required documents handy, using this facility at airports would be a viable option for all foreign travellers looking for a means to connect back home.
This article is the final in a series of 3, by Garry Benson, which covers all the technical steps for succesfully taking shots of artwork suitable for print publication.
On the left, the untouched image – on the right colour corrected image. The original was shot using the ‘Loo Paper’ alternative.
Many digital cameras behave like color slide film – the best images are often slightly underexposed, particularly when bright scene elements are involved. But this means you have a lot better detail in shadow and highlight areas that you can access to if you have access to image editing software. Use exposure compensation to feel out your own camera’s exposure sweet spots, but count on some variation with photographic conditions. When in doubt, bracket your exposures by about 1/3rd of a stop either side of your meter reading.
Most on-camera flash units are too good! They pump out a very strong blast of light, so if you’re close to an artwork and want a subtler light try adding a few layers of loo paper or kitchen roll. You need to experiment to work out the best exposure but make sure that the flash sensor (under the words FZ150) isn’t covered up as it measures the amoiunt of flash light needed.
Sooner or later, you’ll have to deal with other digital recording mode issues like white balance and in camera sharpening, but it’s usually safe to accept camera defaults for starters. Digital cameras have more to do in preparing to take a photo than film cameras. Like film cameras, they have to focus the lens, however they also have to take a pre exposure to get proper colour balance!
The good news is that they are able to achieve better exposed, better colour balanced and in many cases better focused images than film cameras. The bad news is that this takes a fraction of a second and could cause you to miss a great picture.
What can you do about it? There are a couple of approaches that are very effective. The simplest is to just push the shutter button half way down and keep it there until you are ready for the photo, and then press the rest of the way. Pressing halfway signals the camera to immediately choose focus, colour balance, and exposure. The subsequent delay when you take your shot is now quite small, comparable to film cameras. When I am shooting I keep the shutter button half depressed, and I get great shots, even action.
Invest in large memory cards for your camera. One of the most important reasons for using a massive memory card is to enable you to shoot at your camera’s highest resolution. If you paid a premium price for a 24 mega pixel digicam, then get your money’s worth and shoot at 24 mega pixels. Why not squeeze more images on your memory card by shooting a lower resolution and low quality compression settings? Because you could be missing out on a great picture and the quality will suffer. And if you take a beautiful picture at the low 640 x 480 resolution, that means you can only make a print about the size of a credit card.
One of the great hidden features on digital cameras is the fill flash or ‘flash on demand’ mode for when you want it (the name may change in different cameras). By taking control of the flash so it goes on when you want it to, not when the camera deems it appropriate, you’ve just taken an important step toward capturing great photographs. How many flash settings does your camera have? In ‘flash on demand’ mode, the camera exposes for the background first, then adds just enough flash to illuminate your subject. The result is a professional looking picture where everything in the composition looks good. Wedding photographers have been using this technique for years.
A huge gallery exhibition like Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth is a challenge – there’s no alternative but to go with the gallery lighting.
Photographing art in a gallery situation will often present difficulties. When you have work in a gallery it is usually illuminated by spotlights and the colour balance is very ‘warm’, similar to the light you see at sunrise and sunset. Unless you have supplementary lighting or have a good flash unit on your camera, don’t submit these types of shots. The colour isn’t true, often spotlights create lots of shadows and you’re just not doing justice to your artwork.
This image was presented for publication. Notice the blue daylight streaming in from the left; the fluros in the ceiling and the fact that to avoid reflections in the glass the photographer had to move to the left. See below for hints on shooting images through glass.
The solution is to turn off all the spotlights, house lights, fluros etc and just use your camera flash that is colour adjusted for daylight. If you have the luxury of a remote flash head setup place two of them either side of the camera at 45˚ and turn off your in-built camera flash. A cheaper solution is to use your camera flash, place some large sheets of white packing foam (save them when you buy a large item like a new fridge or 50″ LCD TV!!) close to the artwork at 45˚ and they will help ‘fill’ in the shot.
I scrunge up Alfoil on the other side and glue it on the foam sheet – this is for sharper, broken light and is also good for portraits. Oh, and if you’re using reflected light (off walls or ceiling) check the colour – white walls are best but any other colour will change the colour balance. If you’re shooting in daylight any stray window light will be OK as long as it’s not too strong or ‘modelling’ (from one side).
In a gallery open to daylight and no spotlights but fluorescent lights there’s another problem. Unless the fluorescents are special daylight ones the images will look greenish – again, turn off the fluoros and use your flash. One last hint; make sure you are taking the shot lined up to the centre of the work, both vertically and horizontally.
I was shooting a documentary in the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands in Central Australia when the producer received a call from her book publisher – all the gallery shots of paintings were unusable due to the mix of fluoro, spotlight and daylight on the images. Could I help? Well I waited until midday (good daylight balance), turned off the spots and fluoros and shot with a ‘soft’ flash (some layers of loo paper over the flash head) to soften shadows.
Softening the flash effect also helps when photographing works under glass but inevitably glass is a problem. The best solution is to demount the work but galleries (and artists) get a little twitchy when this is suggested. The next best solution is to buy a Polaroid filter.
Sometimes you can use reflections to get a more interesting image. This poster in Avignon was interesting but with the reflections added it achieves a different result…
Polarizing filters need to be rotated to alter the effect they have on reflections. Slowly rotate the filter while looking through the lens and most reflections will magically disappear – but be careful you’re not lit or you’ll be reflected, camera and all.
The old images of ancient photographers hiding under black drapes seems crazy now, but a large (say 2 metre square) piece of black velvet is perfect for blocking out the shiny bits of your camera and tripod, not to mention my shiny bald spot! And it provides a perfect ‘black hole’ background when photographing small objects.
And the most desperate solution if you don’t have a filter? If you have a pair of good quality, clean and scratch free Polaroid sunnies you can use them as a filter by holding them over the lens and rotating them to block reflections. Definitely the last option as the quality of sunnies glass is not as good as the quality of your lens.
So as you can see by the above, the whole process of taking your own great photos of artworks is relatively easy – not! But why not try it, get some experience by shooting lots of images and like this once 15 year old trainee you will gradually learn how to take your own great images of your own great artwork. Just another hint – don’t forget to delete all those crappy experimental shots so only you know how bad they were!
This series of three articles covers all the technical steps for successfully taking shots of artwork suitable for print publication.
Traditional printing methods use patterns of dots to render photographic images on a printed page. While pixels on a monitor are square and in contact with the adjacent pixels, printed dots have space between them to make white, or no space between them to make black.
Colour photographs are printed using four inks, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK), and four separate dot patterns, one for each ink. A dot per inch (dpi) refers to printed dots and the space between them, while pixels per inch (ppi) refers to the square pixels in a digital image.
Digital and film photography are far more alike than they are different, but digital image recording opens up many new, valuable and perhaps unanticipated opportunities. For starters, assume that everything you already know about getting good pictures still applies.
With the cost of another shot at nothing, why hold back? The pros typically take dozens of shots to land a few keepers. Now you can do the same – and there’s no better or faster way to learn. Instant feedback is one of digital photography’s most powerful advantages.
Before digital cameras became affordable for the consumer market, choosing what photos to take was a matter of finances and processing time. Everyone envied the contributing photographers for glossy magazines that had deep enough pockets to afford taking a hundred exposures to get that one keeper for the cover.
Digital photography has made it economically feasible for the amateur photographer to feel more relaxed and experiment by taking numerous exposures and sort through them quickly without the long processing time. Should you take the photo? Take 10 and choose the best!
In reality it’s not the camera that makes a good picture, it’s the photographer. You can buy the most expensive camera on the market, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll take better pictures. Novice photographers – and photographers who have no interest in editing their digital photographs – should generally leave their cameras set to capture JPEGs. If you save them as RAW files and high res JPEGs you have the best of both worlds.
However, to take advantage of the high resolution and quality of the camera’s sensor and image processing system it is pointless to shoot with anything other than the camera’s highest resolution and quality settings. When you take a picture in a JPEG format, the camera does things to it before it’s saved. The image sensor converts analog to digital, adds any specifications that were made, like white balance, sharpening, contrast, image effect, digital zoom, etc. After all of that is done, the image is saved to the memory card.
In a lot of cases, that is the best way to go, because the camera is very smart about interpreting the surroundings and adding the right specifications. Always shoot with the image size on the largest image setting possible and the quality setting on Fine (or Super-Fine if the camera offers it). As I said above that’s why most pro photographers shoot the largest possible images in RAW format (unedited in camera) and JPEG.
Don’t burn your digital images by doing too much post-processing and always maintain the original file as every time you work on a JPEG file (for example) you lose quality as soon as you save it (see the Hints that I’ll include part 3). It’s easy to reduce the size of image files post-capture if you want to send them in emails or post them on the Web but ALWAYS use the ‘Save as…’ command or work on a copy of the original. Be careful – it’s impossible to put back image data that wasn’t recorded in the first place because the camera was set on Small size and Normal (or Basic) compression.
Part 3 looks at practical explanations on exposure and white level as well as some handy hints for artists looking for publication opportunities.
A friend recently sent me a blog post which had relevance to some of my earlier posts about making connections between worlds: especially my post about the Yorta Yorta people and their work with scientists in Barmah National Park.
Most definitions for social media focus on its technologies; however this is a very static and limited view. At tcg we acknowledge that social media is a growing phenomenon enabled through adaptable technology; however, it is also about connecting people and facilitating collaboration, engagement, learning and the progression of ideas.
I definitely agree that often people get ‘social media’ confused with the technology or platform they are using, when in fact it is about the social behaviours of engagement, sharing and collaboration between individuals and communities online.
He then states that when it comes to defining sustainability, there are a number of definitions out there, which vary widely:
“Environmental sustainability refers to the environmental actions or impacts of what we do. In moving towards sustainability, we are attempting to reduce our ecological footprint or to tread more lightly on the Earth. This equates to reducing the amount of resources we use (and buy), the waste we produce and the emissions we produce. With every action impacting on the planets ecosystems, from the local to the global, the world is changing and it is not just the climate.”
I like the fact that Munn links both entities as practices that started as grass roots movements, which have grown corporate legs, getting mainstream buy-in over time. He says:
For example, social media tools and applications, developed for social networking sites, have grown to have wider commercial uses. Think about how Facebook radically changed how organizations aggregate news stories and information through the introduction of news feed. The sustainability movement started out as a co-op for sourcing bio diesel fuel or sustainable produce and has escalated to achieving mainstream attention and buy in.
The other thing that Munn acknowledges is that there needs to be a system thinking approach. This is so true when we think about sustainability, and why it is so important to learn from cultures who consider their environment as intrinsic to all other aspects of life, as discussed about the Yorta Yorta people.
When we consider success in terms of social media engagement, cross channel or cross media approaches work best: as this approach has the biggest reach and provides the best opportunity to communication to people ‘where they are’.
The last paragraph of the article sums up the importance of thinking holistically and having an integrated approach:
Rolling out a sustainability program within a corporation takes hard work, determination, communication and commitment. Social media tools and applications help with the integration, communication, learning, participation and momentum. Once these elements are sorted out internally, the same social media tools and applications can be used to externalize the message and objectives. Adopting a social media strategy within and organization so that it truly integrates all elements only works if it follows a sustainable model. Tagging on bits of technology, or trying to participate in social media externally to the organization cannot lead to lasting or holistic results.
I love to think about these nodes of connection as they are about inclusion and the overlapping of knowledge or being. Western ways of thinking have long promoted silos, separated categories of knowledge that do not have relationships to other concepts or ‘fields’ of knowledge.
For some reason I am now thinking of the difference between mono-agrilcultural methods compared to the practice of permaculture gardening. One method strips the soil bare of nutrients and the other continually feeds over the seasons by way of planting different crops and building layers of nutrients which feed and enrich the ground and the plants in it. Finding the connections between different worlds has the same benefits, by being open to different stories and experiences our own knowledge of the world grow and blooms. Must be time to get out in the garden!
So far I have posted about 70 different places, about places I have visited and places where I long to go. I have not done so great with my commitment to post every day, and now I feel the need to catch up. But perhaps my posts don’t always need to be about a geographical site, maybe taking a moment to write about the journeys of heart and mind is also worth documenting – after all this is the stuff that makes our lives rich and rewarding.
That said, I have thought a lot about the places of experience and the sites of desire. On one level both are the same. Both tell a story about a connection to a person and therefore a connection to many people and ultimately many places. We don’t live our lives in isolation, in fragmented ways, which is one of the challenges of this project.The more I try to separate one place from another, the more these places want to connect in my mind, perhaps as waymarks or perhaps as strange and beautiful designs composed of Venn diagrams, overlapping nodes or line drawings layered over and over, as one traverses geophysical space through the lenses of memory and imagination.
So what are some of these connection points? There are so many – a love of art, culture and history, food, adventure, nature, sustainability and not least the people connections – friendships and sharing special times.
In some future posts, I hope to share some ideas around the interconnected nature of our experience to our environment and sense of place.
Today’s post is another puzzle piece that connects to our dream to travel to India. Earlier this week I was at the KM Australia conference and met someone from Bangalore who works for Oracle. Then today, I saw a conference that looked really interesting, also in Bangalore – so now I am curious and want to visit.
Bangalore is the third largest city in India and also boasts a pleasant year round climate. It has a fascinating history and was once called the “Garden City of India” and the “Pensioner’s Paradise”. These labels no longer apply to Bangalore, as it now a large, cosmopolitan city with diminishing green spaces and a large working population. Bangalore is the major center of India’s IT industry, popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India. The earliest records of a place named ‘Bengaluru’ are found in a 9th century temple in an area that is now known as ‘Old Bangalore’.
I am drawn to Bangalore because it is a hub for companies and people working with technology – I am very interested to learn about this aspect of Bangalore, particularly to find out what sort of media arts community might be there. I also understand there are some beautiful lakes around Bangalore and lots of temples to visit.
The 2009 Ride: Before Setting Out
Contributed by Gerald Maclean
I ended the last post reporting that ‘On 22 September 2009, with seven horses and a supply vehicle, the first Evliya Çelebi Ride set out to follow the first stages of his itinerary.’
But how could it be that simple? Plans for the 2009 Ride had started to come to focus more than a decade earlier, long before our supply vehicle was designed and built.
In the mid-1990s, Donna and I first went riding in Cappadocia, sometimes camping overnight alongside the horses in spectacular landscapes, and we soon began imagining how wonderful it would be to travel across Turkey on horseback.
At about the same time, Caroline Finkel was thinking much the same thing, except that her plan involved travelling on foot. When we met in 1999, the two schemes began to combine, swiftly moving from topics of dinner conversation into serious possibilities.
Donna and I were already part of an academic research group exploring how and in what ways historical re-enactment was a useful method in historical and cultural research, but Caroline introduced the name of Evliya Çelebi for the first time as a way for thinking about the route we should take.
While finishing Osman’s Dream (2005), her narrative history of the Ottoman Empire, Caroline had been working with Kate Clow on pioneering trekking routes across Turkey. Kate was establishing The Lycian Way and St Paul Trail, seeking to promote sustainable inland tourism away from the coastal resorts.
Donna had begun research on Lady Anne Blunt’s manuscript journals of her equestrian travels in Turkey and elsewhere, and I was finishing a book about seventeenth-century English travellers in the Ottoman Empire. So Evliya quickly became a focus for our common interests: he travelled by horse along routes that would take us into remote areas where tourists seldom ventured.
Today, my focus is on one of my favourite places in the world, Sultanahmet – the old city of Istanbul.
We have stayed a number of times in Sultanahmet when we have been in Turkey and it is a place I truly love. Although it is also a destination for many tourists and is often very busy, I am still entranced by the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern and the many, many other landmarks that make this a magical place.
One of the things I love most is when you are walking along, it is commonplace to see old Greek and Roman ruins, sitting peacefully in the park, alongside shops or just jutting out of the ground. These ruins are not anything of note in themselves, but speak more largely about the many layers of history that are contained on this site.
Take for instance the Aya Sofya (or Hagia Sofia), it was built as a church and then was a mosque and now is a museum. Wikitravel says:
Dating from the sixth century, it was originally a basilica constructed for the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I. A masterwork of Roman engineering, the huge 30 m diameter dome covers what was for over 1000 years the largest enclosed space in the world. The church was looted by the fourth Crusaders in 1204, and became a mosque in the 15th century when The Ottomans conquered the city. It was converted into a museum in 1935.
When we visited the Aya Sofya, it was very interesting to see that many of the Christian wall frescos had been covered up with verses of the Koran during its time as a mosque. It says something very interesting both about the layers of history and the contrasts between these religions. To see glimpses of angels mixed with the holy words of the Koran is strangely comforting to me – that even though they are very different ways of worship; both seek to uplift the human spirit to think about what is beyond this world.
Another place we like to go walking is Gülhane Park (near Sultanahmet, and next door to Museum of Archaeology). In the past, this park was the royal hunting grounds and now is a public park. Depending on when you go there are lots of seasonal flowers, including huge patches of tulips in early April, and massive plane trees to shade your walk. The high walls on one side of the park separates it from Topkapı Palace.
One of the places that is a must see inside the park is the Istanbul Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam. The Museum has technological and scientific works by Islamic scholars and is run by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA), the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Frankfurt Goethe University (Germany).
We have made some good friends in Sultanahmet as well, which has made this place even more special to us. Over time I plan to post more about Sultanahmet and Istanbul, as there is far too much to try to cover in just one post.