Sunday, September 25, 2011

Adelaide Shots at Random... HDR on the Cheap

Hi all... well been quite busy of late, what with sickness and massive work overload (brain still frying, but can't tell what from). Anyhow, I thought I'd do a little cross promotion and mention my G+ account whilst introducing a few of my practice photos from around Adelaide... and if you're interested, just look for +Adelaide Ben (sorry if the link doesn't work) on Google Plus. Check me out, if you've got a spare moment or two.

Now I'm the first to admit that I don't really know that much about photography. My pedigree is Point + Shoot. It's a simple recipe that sometimes comes ups with a treat (but many times just fills my digital trashcan up). Anyhow I went into this day - well I won't lie, these photos are from late August - just wanting to experiment with different techniques and styles.
Torrens Lake, Adelaide

I'll start off with my multi-exposure photos. Now most people that have been looking at photos on the net would be very familiar with HDR - High dynamic Range photos (just checkout Trey Ratcliff's Stuck in Customs or David La Spina's JapanDave website for some examples - or for more local examples David Fielding, Ken Wah, Danny Tan, and Andrew Domaracki are just a few of the HDR photographers in Adelaide that I've come across). Most images with a large range of lit and shadowed areas are often difficult to take photos of. Most cameras just don't have the sensor range to show a nicely balanced view - and you end up with burnt (white areas) or shadows of death where detail's killed. The idea of HDR is that you take photos at different exposures (say at several stops difference) and then superimpose them (or tone-map the images together) such that the blooms and shadows are filled in and more evenly balanced.

St Peter's Cathedral from Across the Torrens Lake

This is usually done by taking a exposure bracketed set of 3 photos (RAW or JPG) and then using something like Photomatix to do the clever bit. Well - I don't have Photomatix, so I've tried to dodgey up a "subtle" HDR-like photos using Photo Shop Elements 8.0 (the only sort of photo processing software I own outside of free Picasa). The effects are pretty muted compared to the sorts of HDR photos you'll see on the net, but then again, they are also IMO more naturalistic looking as compared to the more extreme range compressions that are commonly seen. Still, these do often offer a very attractive (if slightly surreal) image that's definitely striking.

Rotunda at Elder Park

On the upside, you get a good range of colours and shades in these multi-exposure photos. It is however still very much dependent on making a good framing choice (I don't pretend to be good at that). A crap single photo doesn't suddenly become an amazing set of 3 photos just because you superimpose them.

Another Rotunda Shot

The main difficulty with these multi-exposure shots is movement. Any movement of the camera, or subject, will lead to slight misalignment of the 3 (or more) images. Tripods (or monopods) are highly recommended. Though not always critical. It's important to remember what is moving in the image will not necessarily look good in the final composite (including ghosting and just plain old crap artefacts). The photo below was a little interesting in that it had quite a bit of movement in the fountain, but that this was so diffused anyway, it's not so obvious.
Entertainment Centre + Hyatt Regency Hotel

Now for all those that love Adelaide, or the parklands, or Cricket... here's a last simple shot for all of you. Now as I wasn't using a tripod for these, if you're keen you can see that there's a general loss of detail (hard on this view I know). Also, I said it was subtle. The first photo below is "best guess exposure" from the camera.

This shot is with the the multi-exposure. Subtle it is. But it's sort of good that the clouds, trees, St Peter's Cathedral and the statue itself are all better balanced in exposure. But I'm not sure that anyone would have been particularly worried one way or the other on this shot. And that's perhaps the difference with HDR on PSE 8. It's job is only to produce more balanced photos - not the dramatic works of art that adorn many flickr and G+ sites/posts.
Statue of Donald Bradman and St Peter's Cathedral
So the end of this little post is a simple message. HDR or multiexposure photography can be fun - but it's also a bit of work (and especially in terms of keeping the frame/subject steady between multiple shots). It can be pleasing - even if you're not a fan of the extreme tone-mapping that goes on. But - it's not a replacement for just having fun with the camera and learning how to use it.

PS - if I've missed you in the original collection of Adelaide HDR links, just drop me a line and I'll add you to the list.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spring Fashion - A Flower Homage

Well it's Spring time now - officially - and I thought what better way to celebrate it than through a bit of a homage to our Spring flowers that have done their duty once again this year, and given all of us a lot of joy... and me with a lot of photography practice. I have to say that our garden's not so good, and we don't tend to grow anything too exotic (in fact out the front we largely plant native ground covers to combat the droughts we've been suffering over recent years). Still we try to have a bit of a splash of colour here and there.

Here's a set of photos of our Spring fashion show - taken over the last 3 or so weeks... so some of these were particularly early Spring plants. I'll put names to faces shortly - but in the meantime, have a go at identifying your favourite ones (some of them are pretty easy!)... and while you're at it, leave a comment as to your favourite flower (or just favourite photo).






















So go on, let me know which is your favourite (if any), and you never know what you might get as a thank you note.... 

And next post I'll most probably let introduce you to yet another facet of all things AdelaideBen.... but that will have to wait. Time to get back to work!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hanami Time 2011 - Summer's Coming

Well - it's no surprise that Spring is well and truly here in Adelaide, Australia. It was an incredible 30.5 degC today (at noon). And you could tell it as well. The air was hot and strong, a northerly blasting across Adelaide. It's only just turned Spring, and yet already the hot weather's here.

And Spring means blossoms, and that means Cherry Blossoms - or Sakura - for us. We've got a weeping cherry tree, and another small cherry tree (that blooms much later), plus a Chinese Crab-apple that does a good impersonation of Cherry Blossoms. But every year at this time, we get busy in order to have a picnic under our Weeping Cherry Tree. It's a small thing, but we like to maintain at least a semblance of the Japanese traditions for L-kun to be inspired by. Hanami or blossom viewing is an age-old tradition in Japan, where families and groups of people camp out underneath the cherry blossoms and indulge in food, drink, love and life/

The Cherry blossoms were not at their peak - unfortunately half the tree was past their peak, whilst the other half is still a couple of days away. Still, gotta go with what you have at hand, and with weather like this, today was perhaps the best day for it.

So T-chan prepared some zangi (also known as karaage) - a delicious fried chicken, boiled eggs, sausage salad and some ripe and beautiful roma tomatoes. Meanwhile L-kun and yours truly put together some ham, cheese, lettuce and mayo sandwiches.

Of course - what with the hanami without a drink or two. And those that know me, know I'm partial to some Sapporo Beer. Hmmm.... I feel a hot summer coming on.

So here we were earlier today... enjoying our picnic lunch. 

Meanwhile, I'm a little worried that L-kun's taking just a little too much interest in my beer. Whoa tiger... you've got another 14 years before you're going to be enjoying this. 

And T-chan was also able to enjoy some time with L-kun and I... although she worked hard to get it all together. I love you T-chan. Thanks for a wonderful lunch time.

And after a yummy lunch, and a few drinks, it's time to lay back and enjoy the warmth of the new season. Hmm - that sky looks very clear.... ZZZzzzzz zzzzzz. 

Note: This post is my contribution to the JFesta compendium for September 2010. Don't forget to check out the links to contributors here on of

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Restaurant Review - Spats Cafe and Coffee Lounge

Well, I've already posted on our meal at Mapo Restaurant, but after watching our movie (The Last Ronin which is also known as The Last Chisingura), as part of the 15th Japanese Film Festival, we found that it was raining quite heavily. L-kun was safely sleeping over at a friends house - so the night was still early. What to do? We headed to an old haunt of ours, known as the Spats Cafe on King William Road. Now along with the Elephant Walk on Melbourne Street, this is one of the nice places to go for a coffee and a chat in Adelaide; although you can also grab a bite to eat there as well.

The cafe is a renovated house on King William Road, just south of the CBD. It doesn't look that interesting from the outside.... nor that big. Don't be deceived however. It's quite big extending both up, back and across, and the real joy occurs once you step through the front door.

Stepping across the threshold, it's as if you've been translated both to another time, and another country. I've read it described as Edwardian in style... and whilst it may be slightly more cliche than chic, it embraces the theme with wild abandon. Don't be surprised however that you'll find yourself having a long time to enjoy the ambiance. We arrived around 9:45 pm on Saturday night - only to find a line up inside of about 15 people. It took us about 20min to get a seat. Popularity has it's price. But it does give you ample time to soak up the vibe (but if you're seated in the front room, you might find it a little like being in a fish bowl).

The enjoyable part of the cafe, or lounge as they are alternatively described, is the private booths on the side rooms and upstairs. There you can relax, away from the milling mob of table-desirers. And this is one of the distinctions of Spats. You are encouraged to ensconce yourself in this dimly lit fantasy world of wicker and wonder. Take your time, and don't be surprised that it will be a while (especially on a Saturday night) before you're order is taken. Be patient.

Actually the decor upstairs is quite different from the front rooms. I can't help but imagine it as some seedy opium den or Bordello of the early twentieth century... The reddish glow, the quiet whisper of couples, and friends alike sharing their lives over a plate or cup makes for a welcoming feeling. The lounges are quite comfortable, and it doesn't take long before you'll find yourself feeling more at home than you might feel even at home.

Now you can buy dinner here, and they have a reasonably selection of cafe-style meals (though lending more from an Italian cafe rather than something in tune with the theme). However, T-chan and I tend to come here for only coffee and desserts. The meals themselves are reasonable, but not what Spats is about. 

I enjoyed a fresh pot of New Guinea Gold, a nice brew served in china. Good for the eye, but for a die-hard coffee drinker, just a little too dainty for me. Still, when in Rome...

T-chan instead went for the the Chai Latte Crunch... an iced version of the tea that in my mind really typifies the Imperial, or should that be colonial, era when tea and coffee houses became the place for meeting of the artistic and the exotic.

Now we also sampled some of the delicious desserts for some late night indulgence. T-chan went with the Chocolate Cream Gateau. Quite rich and luxurious, decorated in Spats style with a splash of red, blue and white... much like the lighting. 

I would normally have gone with the banana crepe, but instead went with the Mixed Berry Sundae. Not too bad, but definitely preferred the Gateau.

So there you have it... if you're looking for somewhere to have a bit of a break one evening, and you have a car (and prepared to travel out of the city), then I'd definitely recommend heading south to Goodwood and trying out Spats Cafe and Coffee Lounge. You don't go for the food, though the desserts are worth it -but instead, you go for the broader range of coffee selection, the touch of the mystery and fantasy, and of course, the opportunity to take a pause from a busy week and enjoy spending time just chilling. Just try for a booth seat rather than the front room... And despite the long wait (even when we left, there was a long queue), you never feel pressured to finish up. The drinks and desserts set us back about $30, so whilst it's not cheap, it's a relaxing way to spend the evening. Take your time and enjoy the moment.

Spats Cafe (Cofee Lounge):
108 King William Road, Goodwood
(08) 8272 6170
Open from 6:30pm to 12am, or 2 am Friday/Saturday night.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Restaurant Review - Mapo

Saturday night we had a bit of a break, with L-kun being looked after by some friends of ours (thanks a squillion!). We decided to go out and catch a dinner and a movie. The movie I'll talk about later, the dinner was at Mapo, a Korean Restaurant on Adelaide's premier eating street, Gouger Street. Now Mapo has been around for a long time though has undergone a bit of a revamp from the original Korean BBQ that we knew it as years ago. It's now a modern fusion masterpiece.

Things start of interesting as your entry is announced with a deep resonant gong. The atmosphere inside is simple, and whilst there's a traditional floor seating area, the majority is western table dining. As we had a movie at 7, we had an incredibly early booking for 5:30 to try and give us barely enough time to eat and get to the cinema. As a result, we were the only ones in the restaurant. That's a good and bad thing. The good side - no noise and you get the undivided attention. The bad side - it sort of shows up any deficiencies in the service and makes you realise how much of eating is atmosphere.

Now the a la carte menu was fairly small, and we were a little underwhelmed by the choice available. And I have to say, as T-chan and I don't go out that much, we were surprised a little at the cost. Having said that, when we go out, we don't mind indulging a little.

Mapo Money Bags - "Filled with local tiger prawns, fresh fish & squid served on a peanut puree". These were delicate little delights, with a fairly light seafood flavour. They're perhaps a modern take on the Japanese dish of takoyaki. The puree was nice, though understated. Great texture and a good way to start the night (they normally are served with 3, but they nicely upped it to 4 to make it easier to share). Cost $14.90 (for 3).

Ginger Pork - "Lightly battered pork balls served with a lime chilli sauce". These were quite nice, and my first though was that they'd be hot. But hot they were not (says Dr Seuss). The pork balls themselves were fresh, nicely cooked. The garnish of pumpkin was a particularly nice touch. The chilli sauce on top was perhaps a little too similar to sweet chilli sauce you'd have at home, and the sauce below (I assumed for aesthetics) was largely light and a good splash of red that added to the expectation of heat. Cost $13.90.

Tender Duck Fillet (210g – 250g) - "Marinated duck breast, oven baked then char grilled served on a nest of tempura vegetables. Topped with Chung Jae’s creamy basil sauce". We often order duck, though I've never had a Korean duck dish... and I suspect that I've yet to. This was a slightly different take on a European-style duck and (light) orange sauce. The Basil sauce was nice, but a little hidden away. One of the surprises was a massive grilled garlic, sliced in half. Quite nice, but I feel sorry for the people we shared a movie with later in the evening. Cost $28.90.

Crying Tiger Wagyu Beef (marbling score 7-9%) - "Chargrilled SA Mayura wagyu skewers with tamarind, coriander and chilli sauce accompanied by tempura veg and a tomato and cucumber salsa". This for me was the winner of the night. For the price, I was surprised to see it served on skewers. It was however, delicious. Tender and flavourful. The sauce really did set the meal off so well, and once again the chilli sauce was incredibly restrained. The tempura mushrooms were an interesting selection for accompaniment. The nest made of noodles was brilliant and gave the dish as sense of curiosity. Now T-chan would say to anyone that asked, Ben-chan loves his beef. I do, it's true. So I was pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment from these skewered beauties (even if a little on the pricey side). Cost $34.90.

Now we had unfortunately run out of time (due to our movie date) - but even with a fairly quick dinner, we enjoyed ourselves. We had been wanting to visit Mapo for a long time, especially since it changed it's image. Whilst we enjoyed the experience, a quick meal set us back $130+  when you threw in several of drinks. While I'm not necessarily a buy-by-bulk kinda guy, I felt that this was a little over valued (or am I just being a bit tight arsed?). The only other thing that I felt was that for a asian fusion restaurant, there was a little too much fusion going on, but too little asian (especially Korean). We didn't get a strong sense of the underlying Korean flavours, and these dishes wouldn't have been too exotic in any modern restaurants. Perhaps a different choice of dishes would have changed this view.

Mapo does come with a fine record, and a number of awards including the South Australian Award for Restaurant and Catering 2011 (Award for Best Asian Restaurant in South Australia), and Finalist in the Award for Best Chef in South Australia.... actually the list is too long to do justice. So there's obviously a lot of poeple that have been very impressed. In our opinion, it was a good quality restaurant, with good food and friendly staff that were very accommodating. A good night out!

113 Gouger Street
Ph:  8211 6042
Fax: 8357 2810

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