I have just returned from four days photographing the Vivid Festival. A 23 day festival of light, music and ideas and held in Sydney, the festival is highly respected as one of the largest creative festivals in the world, and is definitely the largest of its kind in Australia.

After kicking off on the 27th of May, it is well and truly underway and set to dazzle an anticipated two million visitors by its final day (18th of June).

It includes a mesmerizing free public exhibition of 80 plus outdoor lighting sculptures and installations, and includes projections onto the Sydney Opera House, into the sky and onto the sides of buildings. To me, the festival really is like a massive rainbow of colour and as such, it takes some time to get around – I think you could spend the whole four weeks there and still not see it all, but it is definitely worth the effort!


While the lights are indeed a huge part of the show, there is more to the festival. A music component and creativity section are also on offer, including a fantastic Museum of Contemporary Art installation from Canon Australia. They will be holding workshops on how to photograph in lowlight time exposures, and you can even go there throughout the whole festival with your SD card and print out your best festival images to take away with you.

From beginners right through to the advanced photographer, they are offering a range of workshops and services throughout the festival – including guided walking tours, helicopter flights, studio workshops and light portraits for your newest and coolest profile pic – so it is certainly worth checking out if you have any level of interest in photography. For more info, check out www.canon.com.au/vivid for more details.

Along with the Canon Collective, I headed to the festival with a couple of photo buddies from Brisbane – Sue Whiteman and Jane Robinson (check them out on Instagram at @suewhit and @_janelyssa_) – and together, we set out to capture as many images as possible in the time we had.

Sydney Harbour, in and around Circular Quay, and the Botanical Gardens took up most of my time. In those areas alone there was close to 50 or 60 lights installations including everything from large scale illuminations to building projections.


I found that you really need to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the displays – some of them are actually quite interactive, including options where you can actually photograph yourself in a picture frame and in front of a love heart. The potential photographic range just blew me away.

If I had to choose a favourite, I would say the Sydney Opera House wins hands down – it was just amazing. Even without the projections, it is an amazing place to visit and the excitement kicks in from the first minute of glimpsing those soaring sails. When you add in the Vivid projections, the whole experience is elevated to a whole new level.

I lost count of how many projections there are in total, but I did try and photograph them all. If you decide to check out the area, I recommend getting yourself up to the fourth level of the International Terminal in Circular Quay (if there isn’t a big cruise liner already there that is) as you can get a really impressive view and some spectacular shots of the Opera House.

A close second would be the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Customs House including Sydney’s Hidden Stories display is certainly a must see for all ages. Flying blue tongued lizards, an underwater reef world and dancing witches enchant, so if you have the time to take it in, make sure you do! As far as spots to vie for, if you can get yourself up onto the railway station platform, you can view the show from a different perspective – just be mindful that you will have only a small window due to foot traffic control in the area.


My final tips would be to make sure you get in there early. While the lights may be on from 6.00am to 11.00pm each night, the time runs away from you much quicker than you expect and it gets pretty busy. The midweek crowds may be less, but while we were there it was raining which meant the amount of people we dealt with was a lot less than we had expected. The water on the ground also certainly opened up a lot of opportunities for reflections of the projections which meant we didn’t mind getting wet!

Also, make sure you get yourself an Opal Card and keep it topped up – the public transport system in Sydney is fantastic from the trains to the ferries and we used it a lot during our trip to Vivid. You can catch the ferry over to Milsons Point and look back towards Circular Quay and all of the buildings. It certainly gives you a different perspective on the whole exercise. While you are on the ferry, you may also want to pop over to the Taronga Zoo as they have a great display. Unfortunately I didn’t make it there but I will be checking it out when I am back in Sydney across the 17th and 18th of June with my family.

As this was something I have wanted to go to for a few years now, I was very excited to finally get there this year and it is safe to say that my expectations were not only met, but far exceeded. The general consensus around the area was that the event is getting better and better each year. It is no surprise then, that the New South Wales government made the decision to extend the whole festival to incorporate a fourth weekend this year, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for years to come.

If you get there, enjoy the festival. If you can’t make it, all I can suggest is that you hop on Instagram to check out #vividcanon – it will certainly bring you a great selection of images that have been captured around the festival.