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Sydney May – June 2016 (15 photos)

This is Part 1 of my 8 part VIVID Sydney 2016 series.

Vivid Sydney has returned for 2016. This year the festival again transforms Sydney into an adventure-filled night time wonderland with numerous light installations and grand-scale illuminations and projections.

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In celebration of the 200th birthday of the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, Vivid 2016 expands into the Garden to create a “Garden of Light”, a collaboration between HammerLighting, Mandylights, Ample Projects, Moritz Behrens and Konstantinos Mavromichalis, Lewis Miles and Felix Sheppard and the Technical Direction Company.

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One of the more popular light installations this year, and a personal favourite of mine, is the Cathedral of Light, by Mandylights.

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The Cathedral of Light draws inspiration from traditional arched windows, typically found in historic churches, to create a 70 metre long tunnel illuminated by tens of thousands of LED light globes. The installation evokes feelings of attraction, warmth, inclusion and a sense of journey with its distinctive shape, attractive tone and walk-through nature. The installation draws people out of the darkness and towards the metaphoric light.

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Designed to be viewed from both inside and out, the Cathedral of Light appears as a single solid shape of bright light that illuminates its surroundings when viewed from a distance, radiating soft light outwards from all angles.

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Inside the ‘cathedral’, the space is smaller and much more intimate, and it becomes apparent that the cathedral’s light is not from a single source, but made up of thousands of tiny globes that together make the light so bright.

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The artists draw the analogy that, just like a strong community or congregation, the sculpture is made up of many smaller parts that work together to achieve a stronger, unified output.

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OK, this one was worth arriving early to see during daylight hours.

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Synthesis by Ample Projects. A heritage listed Moreton Bay Fig Tree in the Royal Botanic Gardens is highlighted in an intricately 3D mapped projection show that explores the beauty and function of these ancient wonders.

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Will o’ the Wisps by Mandylights. The branches of a sprawling tree in a dark corner of the Royal Botanic Garden provide refuge for a countless number of mysterious, glowing entities known only as the Will o’ the Wisps. In the dark of night, their form is never truly revealed–instead they glow softly, appearing and disappearing seemingly at random. The ‘wisps’ draw their energy from folklore and legends born from every corner of the world: they are known as fairy fire by Welsh travellers, as Aleya by Bengali fisherman, as luces del tesoro in Mexico and as min min lights in Australia.

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The Sydney Conservatorium of Music is at the edge of the Royal Botanic Garden. It was also illuminated for the first time this year, albeit on only 3 nights.


Now in its 8th year, this is the 5th consecutive year I have photographed Vivid. There have been a few important changes to Vivid this year. Firstly, the festival has expanded into a couple of new precincts, but at the same time a couple of the previous precincts have been removed. Secondly, the nightly displays now run from 6pm to 11pm instead of until midnight as in previous years. This makes it more difficult for me to get my usual “less crowded” shots of previous years. Thirdly, the festival has now extended to 23 nights from 27 May to 18 June 2016, extending past the Queen’s Birthday holiday Monday. This change has caught me by complete surprise as it means I will be flying out of Sydney whilst Vivid is still on, rather than after it has ended as I originally presumed.

Heavy rains and gale force winds have been a feature of this year’s festival forcing the festival to be closed on at least 2 nights so far, with several installations including the Cathedral of Light damaged but repaired soon after.


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This is Part 1 of my 8 part VIVID Sydney 2016 series.

All of my photography from this series and previous years of VIVID Sydney going back to 2012 can be found here:
VIVID Sydney page

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

VIVID 2016: In the Night Garden


106 thoughts on “VIVID 2016: In the Night Garden

  1. Phantasmagorical night shots,great theme!Incredible light effects with flamboyant reflections,a real feast for the eyes.I ,too,like you,was impressed by the Cathedral of Light!The pointed arch symbolises a prayer …

  2. Fantastic! Your work at this time of year is like Christmas for me! The dragon is flying out of Sydney? Please tell me you are coming stateside to grace the skies with your presence….and uhmm….fire? Have a great weekend Lignum.

  3. Beautiful first series to VIVID this year. Very, very clean shots for low light and among the crowd too. Hope you didn’t get jostled too much. The Cathedral of Light looks stunning – sort of reminds me of a behive from your faraway shot, and the humans congregating to it like bees to honey. The Conservatorium looks sort of like a Disney castle when lit up like that.

    Pity to hear about the wet weather. Hopefully that all blows over and doesn’t make another appearance or two again. Perhaps the event was stretched out this year so the crowds will spread out over the month.

    • The first weekend was very crowded. A shame that “Stormageddon” struck the second weekend from friday night to monday morning. But I think most of the bad weather has passed now. The Cathedral of light has been very popular.

      In reality, shutting down at 11pm is a good idea, even though it works against me. The extra nights are helpful though. Too much to see in just a few nights now.:)

  4. Some awesome shots, especially the the Cathedral of Light! Can’t imaging being there. Thank you for the fabulous tour. Dragon is flying out!? Maybe, time for me to fly in Sydney. 😀 🙂

  5. Gorgeous shots. There is something about beautiful light art that really creates wonder in people. I visited Wellington’s LUX festival last year, and must try to get to Vivid next year.

    • It’s like being in a dream or fantasyland. Everyone’s happy. 🙂
      I’ll have to look up the LUX festival. Vivid is worth a visit if you are able to. However, last weekend they shut down Vivid for the first time because of the severity of the storms. Electricity and water don’t mix and the police advised everyone in Sydney to stay home if they could.

  6. Wow! Undoubtedly this is an illuminating extravaganza! What a sight this must be in person. It’s hard to say from just viewing online, but from what I see here, I’d say my favorites would have to be the cathedral walk through followed by the trees. Beautiful!

  7. Great series and introduction to another round of the Vivid light show ~ something about lights at night creates such a great mood. The ‘cathedral’, of course, seemed to be such a draw ~ both from afar and then with your closeup of the actual lighting. Very cool ~ almost as good as being there…almost…

  8. Hi LD, I was waiting for these and am not let down. We watched ABC coverage of some of these and you have added detail. I was impressed many of the designers had English as a second language. This is part of the beauty of art. Like others we will get there sometime!

    • Thanks, Andy. There’s always a sense of excitement as you walk towards the Opera House and then see the lights on. It’s a fun feeling, that you can’t appreciate just from news coverage. Hopefully you’ll get to see it for yourself one day.

  9. It’s always a treat to ‘sneak up’ on one of your posts. 🙂 I absolutely love the Cathedral of Lights, especially your close up shot of the ‘flowers’ of light and that wonderfully atmospheric one shot into the tunnel. Shame about the weather. Any better now?

  10. Wonderful to see Vivid through your eyes, LD. The Moreton Bay Fig is fabulous and clever. I used to run by it every day – nice memories. Fun that it coincides with the 200th. Great post!

  11. Draco! Such beautiful shots of Vivid as always. I was blown away by the displays at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Cathedral of Light and the Moreton Bay Fig Tree were my favourites. Also, is that me wandering through the Cathedral of Light? 😉
    Looking forward to seeing your other Vivid photos.

    • Thank you. Those two you mention were really well done. I’ve been back to it a couple of times.

      Yes, I thought that might have been you, but I wasn’t sure. 😉 I’ll trust my instincts next time. 🙂

  12. Il patrimonio della luce

    Gocce di pioggia dorata
    alzano cattedrali di luce
    la luce sonora come musica
    da est ad ovest s’accendono
    colori di sogni e speranze

    tutto questo è meravigliosamente stupore! mi hai molto emozionata!
    Grazie mille

  13. I’m not sure I could have dragged myself away from the Cathedral of Lights. Thanks for including multiple shots of that specific installation–each is quite arresting on its own and taken together give such a nice sense of what it must be like in person.

    • Thank you. This was wonderful to see and experience, so you can understand why I spent so long photographing it. Sadly no-one came dancing past in the night light – that would have made my night.

  14. Sydney has done it again, absolutely sensational. That fig tree is like an octopus waving it’s tentacles in the ocean. I’ll look forward to the rest of the Vivid series.

  15. Excited to see your Vivid series again. Shame that you don’t get to see it out this year. I really like the cathedral of lights images with the silhouettes against them. They’re quite striking. Looking forward to more !

    • Thank you. Indeed, the Cathedral of Lights was a joy to photograph. So many possibilities. Sometimes I think I should bring someone to model for me. 🙂

      I would have liked to have seen a couple of things again, but there are other priorities like holidays. It’s hard life. 🙂

  16. The beautiful illuminations are back…you always do such a good job they look stunning. A great ad for the festival!!

    The Cathedral Of Light is wonderful! I’m not remotely religious in any way these days, but I find the shape pleasing to look at – interesting that. I wonder if psychologically the shape is agreeable with the human mind for some deep rooted reason? If the lights were pink, not yellow, it would look very girlie – like the lights a lot of young girls have draped around their beds. I should get some myself, and feel 20 years younger! 😉 I really love your close up of the lights too, gives a feeling of walking through the lights.

    Oh, and the tree…wow, I want one in the back yard!!! 😀 It’s great fantasy, also feels a bit 1960’s hippy – which is very cool at the moment. The tall buildings and hotels look fabulous. All buildings should be lit up like that all year round. Would make night life extra colour packed!

    • I guess there was a subliminal effect with the shape of the Cathedral of Lights. It was a beacon of a light in a dark garden, and people just gravitated to it. The shape is also seen at lots of weddings, so who knows? 🙂

      The tree display was fantastic too. The lights were perfectly mapped and matched to the trees. They did a great job overall in the garden, this year.

  17. oh, this year’s Vivid has started, yey 🙂
    that Cathedral of light is fabulous, you’ve done great job photographing it, love the close-up bokeh shot and the early-morning shot… this festival is a true celebration of creativity…

  18. Each year you show us it wonderful visual party, your pictures as are always by night pics amazing. Thanks for sharing this great moment:-) Hope all is ok for you. Bises

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