Friday, December 19, 2008

Star Quality

Aussies Never Give You A Frosty Reception

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


There’s nothing quite like a blue sky to provide a great contrast for strong colours framed by your lens. This image shows you a major Melbourne landmark - the recently refurbished spire of St Paul's Cathedral. I chose this composition very deliberately, to use the yellow and green of Melbourne’s giant Christmas tree as a contrast to the sandstone of the steeple as well as the clear blue of the sky.

When I first shot the giant Christmas tree in our city square for the post Star Gazing, the sky was grey and moody. Then a few days ago, it was a beautiful blue Melbourne sky and I realised I should utilise my lunchtime to go back and shoot the tree again – to show you an incongruous meeting of worlds.


Why is it incongruous? Because the rest of the world celebrates Christmas in winter, while it’s summer here Down Under. So, something that is an everyday sight for me is something of a novelty for you. Hence the incongruity – a classic Yuletide symbol, the tree, photographed against the vivid blue of an Australian summer sky.

Christmas trees are supposed to be photographed under a sky laden with snow clouds. They are supposed to have a hoar frost upon their branches. When you choose your tree, you should be well clad and your feet should be suitably shod to negotiate frozen lakes and snowy hills.

Right? Not in Australia, mate. It's the height of summer here, as you can see from the clear blue sky in this series of shots.

And while I stood there in the city square, pondering the problem of how best to present the tree in a true Australian context, I had a classic D’oh moment.


There, to the left of the Christmas tree (see above) was one of the most natural symbols of this country with its topsy-turvy seasons – a slender gum tree. So there are two trees in this shot, a real gum tree beside the manmade metal Christmas tree covered with huge metal baubles and stars of many colours.

Because it was just after midday, the sun was practically right above me, which led to an interesting situation. As I squinted into the sun, I realised the nearby roof line could make a really arresting silhouette if I framed the shot correctly. And if I really contorted myself to work the angles, I could even get in the glare from the sun as well. Seriously, we’re talking real contortion here.


On the basis of my noble performance, I thought at any moment someone would tap me on my shoulder and offer me a job at Barnum & Bailey’s circus.

These shots were all taken in the space of about three or four minutes, but this frame shows a solitary cloud assuming something approximately like a stylised heart shape. To tell you the truth, I was concentrating so hard on the best possible composition that I didn’t notice the shape of the cloud. All I wanted to do was make sure the cloud was slap-bang in the centre of the frame. It was only much later, when I was reviewing the shots, that I paid attention to its shape.

I guess it’s very apt. Christmas is really a season of the heart.


For other participants in
Dot’s concept, go to Sky Watch HQ.


40 comments:

antigoni said...

Excellent post and your V post, too.

Hilary said...

great compositions. I love that first shot in particular. Good eye, David!

Nessa said...

Those are the most vibrant colors. The air looks so clear and fresh.

Merisi said...

David,
thank you for this beautiful bright blue sky, I appreciate it more than you could imagine! We have had gray day after gray day for more than a week now. If it continues like this, I shall need to buy a supply of Vitamin D pills!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Gorgeous! And we're in a warmer clime, too, but not summer! ;-)

Sheila

Sylvia K said...

What a vivid blue sky! and I love the tree -- both of them, actually. Great Sky Watch! We're having snow and lots of it here in Seattle, but the dogs are having a great time!

Craig Glenn said...

Very nice David. It is such a treat to see how the other half of the would lives! Thanks for skipping lunch for us.

Craig

Jeff B said...

We in the states tend to think of Christmas only as you described, snow, chilly and the such. Thanks for the perspective.

Cheffie-Mom said...

These are amazing photographs. The sky is so clear!

JoAnn's-D-Eyes said...

Its very nice to celebrate Christmas in the sun , This way you have the BEST of all!

Merry CHRISTMAS!! , visit my blog:
www.joannwalraven.blogspot.com

JoAnn/Holland

Sandi McBride said...

It's all a matter of symbolism, isn't it David? Just the imagery of the metal tree gives me the proper chill...winter down under or blue summer skies...sitting here in my office I just got that chill. Lovely
Sandi

Texas Travelers said...

Great photos as usual and I love the title

Troy

Tink *~*~* said...

That sky is such a deep and lovely blue, very satisfying to gaze upon.

Tink *~*~*
My Mobile Adventures *~*~*

Steph said...

What vivid and beautiful photos! Wish we had some of that sun up here in the northern hemisphere.

Guy D said...

Beautiful colors, these are great shots.

Cheers!
Regina In Pictures

George Townboy said...

Great shots!

Sara G said...

Beautiful photo's. Just love the color!!
Take care

Moannie said...

Great shots, David. Loved the juxtaposition of the two trees. Thought you might have been blowing smoke rings, but no, it was a cloud.

kjpweb said...

Pretty cool - not exactly living room material, though! ;)
Cheers, Klaus

RuneE said...

Since I'm all for using the blue sky as a background and likewise anything that concerns the heart, all I can do is applaud loudly.

Photo Cache said...

You really have a good eye. Your photos always impress.

imac said...

Great shots David - Aussies never give us a frosty reception? Tell me that in our Summer David lol...

archiearchive said...

Very nice - we may have a Christmas Spinifex this year :)

San said...

Your photographs just prove it's the season of miracles--especially the heart cloud--that was worth going out on a limb for.

Make merry, friend.

Rune said...

Lovely photographs,thanks for sharing!

joan said...

I love these shots. You are so lucky to have beautiful blue skies, our have been gray and cloudy for days. I think I could live with a summer Christmas. LOL

kayleen said...

For a major metropolitan area, you have the bluest skies. Impressive photos, as always.

Kay Dennison said...

Love the photos! You have a gift.

I'm a-waiting an ice storm due wander in so I envy you your summer sunshine. I think they can count on my being late for work in the morning. I refuse to drive on ice bumper to bumper and I have this thing about getting to the office alive with my car intact. LOL

Cherie said...

I might be dreaming of a White Christmas, but it's not likely to happen where I live either. The sky is much more likely to be that shade of brilliant blue in your pictures.

Stunning! :)

fishing guy said...

David: Really neat shots of the blue Summer skies around the Christmas trees.

Tiaras and Tantrums said...

ha ha - love this - I on the other hand would be gagging to have sunny skies on Christmas!

Arija said...

That is the most Martian Christmas tree I have ever seen! Nice blue sky and cute white cloud.

Mary said...

Have Barnum & Bailey called you yet? ;) Terrific SWF shots -- thanks for the contortions. Your sunny blue skies look wonderful!

Annie said...

Enjoyed your skywatch post for today David.

Annie

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

I always enjoy reading the hows and whys of your shots. It gets me thinking.
It is very different to see Christmas trees in a summer setting.

i beati said...

angles what a difference and the blue blue sky !!sk

Mojo said...

Stunning shots every one. And I can completely relate to the contortions. But it's those little moments of suffering that make a great photo out of one that might have been merely good. All of us that are even moderately serious have at one time or another gone to some degree of "extreme" to "get the shot". It makes us appreciate the end result all the more -- whether it's a shot of our own, or one taken by someone else.

And these are certainly well worth the effort you put into them!

Funny thing is I just read your post featuring the "carolers" and thought about how very different Christmas is in the Southern Hemisphere. Traditional Christmas images are all about the one-horse open sleigh dashing through drifted banks of snow. I suppose that's the heavy European influence that the holiday carries with it. But those images only hold true for half of the world. So in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, this series gives us in the northern half of the globe an added perspective.

Robin said...

Gorgeous shots and great contrast between the sky and the Christmas decorations.

It's good to see some blue sky. It's been cloudy and gray where I live for about a week.

Colin Campbell said...

Long my summer christmases continue. I am totally on board now. A happy ho ho ho to you and your family David. Lovely seasonal shots.

Reluctantfarmchik said...

I grew up with the incongruous Christmas thing too - used to feel SO SORRY for the dudes who had to dress up as Santa in that heat! Cool pictures - great perspectives . . . thanks for the contortions to bring us those interesting angles.