Each year, the entire city of Sydney, Australia is transformed into a vibrant display of color and light during the three-week festival ‘Vivid’. The festival started in 2009 as a ‘Smart Light’ festival to promote energy efficiency. Both sides of the famed Sydney Opera House became the canvas for visual artist Brian Eno and lighting designer Bruce Ramus. The festival was a huge hit among both locals and tourists alike, and nine years later, it has expanded to include music and speakers who discuss innovation, creativity, and community.
In 2016, more than 2.3 million people descended on the metropolis for the 23-night festival, and while final numbers for the just completed 2017 Vivid aren’t available, it’s safe to say the attendance should easily surpass that.
For the last couple of years, I have watched Vivid from afar, staring in awe at the images that are shared on social media by my photography friends. And every year, it seems that Lauren Bath is always at the forefront of the photos that are shared, and this year was no different.
Having had this festival on my bucket list for years, I sat down with Bath to check out her incredible photos and talk about what it is like to be in the middle of one of the most impressive art shows in the world.
Resource Travel: What exactly is Vivid Sydney? Most of us who watch it from afar just know it for its vibrant light shows. But surely there is much more to it than that.
According to the Vivid website, Vivid is a festival of light, music and ideas but to me, it is so much more. Vivid is a delightful time to be alive! The city of Sydney transforms into a Disneyland of color, good vibes and inspiration. Everyone ventures outdoors to enjoy the event and it is a verifiable photographers paradise as there are light installations EVERYWHERE! From the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge to tiny laneways and new precincts, Sydney is literally alight from 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM daily.
How long have you been attending Vivid Sydney? Can you describe your impression the first time you attended?
I’ve been personally attending Vivid for five years running, each time working for Destination New South Wales to promote the event to my social media audience. The event is now at the point that it doesn’t actually need any more promotion as so many people are in love with Vivid, but I still love to talk about it and convince those that still haven’t made it to come!
You always seem to be adventuring with your best friend and business partner Jewels to some far off exotic land. But this is a much more urban cosmopolitan adventure. Which ones do you prefer and why? What are the pros and cons of the off the grid adventures vs. the city based ones?
Jewels and I basically love to travel together and it doesn’t matter where we go, we always find something to love! I think when you travel with friends this is one of the incredible side effects.
Jewels and I are so in tune with our shooting now that we have a flawless system and we collaborate on lots of ideas. Our nickname for this collaboration is “JewLau”, the first three letters of our first names combined. Together we enjoy shooting any destination.
The pros of any natural landscape destination is that landscapes are so easy to shoot but we both enjoy the challenge of more urban environments and love to shoot food and lifestyle content now.
You recently underwent a camera system change. How did that affect the way you shot Vivid?
Yes, I have recently moved over to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, which is a mirrorless/ micro four-thirds camera. The biggest change that I’ve noticed is my ability to carry more gear further as it is so much lighter than my last camera system. During Vivid this year I shot exclusively on the system for the first time ever and I LOVED not having to cart a heavy camera bag around Sydney, as the working days are long and the weight definitely takes its toll, especially after multiple days.
Jewels and I have both been enjoying the Live Composite feature on the camera and Olympus is the only system that has the technology. Basically you set up your frame and your exposure and then let Live Composite do the rest. Any time there is any new light on the exposure it is added on, basically the same effect as stacking numerous images in Photoshop only we can do it in-camera in a single exposure. It’s perfect for a light festival.
If you had to name your absolute favorite moment of Vivid, what would it be?
For me it would be putting the camera down on the last night and sitting and enjoying my favourite installation “Tidal” without the distraction of my camera. Because I had so many nights in Sydney this year I had all the images I needed and gave myself that luxury to simply enjoy. It was heaven!
What tips can you give to Vivid newbies?
I’d definitely advise newbies to plan your night in advance. The Vivid website is great and so are the social channels. Be prepared for cold or wet weather and pack your bag carefully with all the equipment you’ll need and spare camera batteries.
It’s also a good idea to carry a small amount of cash money as there are heaps of cool food vendors in the city should you need a snack. But above all, just come into it with an open mind and be ready to experience just one of the many cool things that make Sydney one of the most unique cities in the world.
Keep an eye out for the dates of Vivid Sydney 2018 on the festival’s website.