Category Archives: Photography

First Saturday in December

I really don’t have a lot to talk about today. I’m pleased that I’m well on the way to fifty thousands words for the new Ptorix Empire book. I’ve also decided to invest a bit of money, and some time and effort, in mastering Lightroom and Photoshop. They are both incredibly powerful programs – Lightroom to spiffy up your photos, and Photoshop to turn them into art.

I’m not an artist (in the painterly sense) although I have tried in the past. I know they say you don’t have to paint to anyone else’s standards – but my own art doesn’t please me. I’d rather take a great photo. I’m not advanced far enough in my training to be able to share any photo ART with you. But I can (of course) share some of my favourite photos. I hope you like them almost as much as I do.

Nature's artistry and reflections at Geikie Gorge

Nature’s artistry and reflections at Geikie Gorge

A bee in a mass of wax flowers

A bee in a mass of wax flowers

Three swans in the mist on the Rhine

Three swans in the mist on the Rhine

Whale spyhopping

A whale pops up to say hello

The folded curves of the Flinders Range near Wilpena Pound

The folded curves of the Flinders Range near Wilpena Pound

 

Olympic Games and Census thoughts

1504477Weeks fly by when you’re past a certain age. This one has flitted off into history. But it has a few highlights. The Australian online census for one. As it happens, this household was one of the few that filled in the information and got it into the system before the Denial of Service attack.

Let’s get this clear, folks. Denial of Service is NOT hacking. DoS is what it sounds like – somebody triggers huge volumes of requests to the system so that it becomes overloaded and fails. Which means genuine clients are denied service. It’s impossible to prevent such attacks, but it is possible to mitigate them. That’s where the security failed. Hacking is when somebody gets in and steals data. We may never know if that happened, but personally, I’d be much more worried about my bank, or Centrelink, or a credit assessment company, being hacked.

That said, I think the Government has (hopefully) learned some valuable lessons for when it develops an online voting system.

And then there’s the Olympic Games. I used to be a fan, but my interest has waned over the years. We all had such high hopes when the East German doping scandals were uncovered way back then. Then there was the Chinese state-run doping. Then there was Lance Armstrong. Then there was the paralympic basketball team which won gold, and was then exposed as fraud. I could go on. Fixed cricket matches, drug cheat tennis players, and now the Russians have been exposed as state run dopers. Sorry, but I don’t believe any of it anymore – that covers pretty much all sport, not just the Olympics. It seems today you can’t win in elite sport unless you use banned substances. And even when the athletes are clean, you wonder. Michael Phelps? Chris Froome? It’s all about the money, isn’t it?

Speaking of money, it goes without saying that the International Olympic committee is likely to smell as sweet as FIFA, for the same reasons. But that’s just one part of the pie. National Olympic committees spend millions (at least) on putting up bids. Then when they win, they spend billions on the facilities. And that means in countries like South Africa, India, and Brazil, poor people are kicked out of their homes to make way for car parks and glittering edifices.  And the opening ceremonies are all about doing it better than the last show. I’m not surprised the Brazilian people are not happy. Imagine if all that money had been spent on improving the lot of the people?

Okay, that’s my grumpy-bum rant for this week. Here’s a few raptor pictures.

This osprey has just finished its bath in the shallows

This osprey has just finished its bath in the shallows

A Brahmani kite joins its mate on a rock

A Brahmani kite joins its mate on a rock

A Brahmani kite angles its wings as it flies down the beach

A Brahmani kite angles its wings as it flies down the beach

A spotted harrier cruising to look for food

A spotted harrier cruising to look for food

Musings on my week

This is where we live - NASA

This is where we live – NASA

This week is all a bit introspective and doom and gloom, so feel free to  scroll down to the photos.

I read an interesting article recently about the times we live in, and how many of us (including me) think it’s a very dangerous time. Is it me or is the world going crazy? Well worth a read. There’s a lot to like about what he has to say, and certainly the spread of social media has had a profound impact on where we source our news, and what we read.

And yet… Humanity never seems to learn. Since 2014, and for a few years yet, we have ‘celebrated’ the centennial of the Great War, with regular articles of one battle after another. We don’t get that for the Napoleonic Wars – just Waterloo, and Trafalgar. The Napoleonic Wars devastated Europe and its population it took decades for mainland Europe to recover, and incidentally, that was one of the reasons why Britain, which went through relatively unscathed, came to dominate the Western world. [Gets off history lectern]

Me, I’m a bit over heroism and sacrifice and fighting for our future, our very way of life.  Sorry, Australian troops in WW1 were certainly heroic and sacrificed their lives or their health in these awful battles. But they were cannon fodder, used up and spat out in a war which had even less to do with them than it had to do with the rural villagers of Britain, mown down by the German machine guns. All that war did was sow the seeds for the next one, in which our soldiers did indeed fight for our future, our very way of life – with their backs to wall.

Which brings me back to what’s happening now.  More and more, the world is beginning to resemble the political playing fields of the nineteen thirties. Putin is effectively dictator of Russia, making no secret of his expansionist policies. Erdogan, in Turkey, manufactured a coup to help seal his own despotic rule, to me reminiscent of Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives. The West is worried about Islamism (not ordinary people worshipping a God but fanatical nut jobs bent on murdering innocent people – which is reminiscent of the spread of Islam in the 8th and 9th century). The USA is turning ever further right wing, mass shootings have become commonplace.  “Democracy” is failing. And when will the West learn that you cannot force democracy on people? Nor can the West hope to assimilate millions of refugees with radically different beliefs and societal mores. You have only to look at the experience of women in German cities attending New Years Eve celebrations, where they were set upon and sexually assaulted by hordes of young men.

Seems to this old biddy that we’re heading into dangerous global waters. But meanwhile, here’s a few more insect shots for us all to enjoy.

Two dragonflies doing what dragonflies were designed to do

Two dragonflies doing what dragonflies were designed to do

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A European bee and tiny native Australian bees all drawn to the nectar on a waterlily

A tiny native bee collecting honey from a scaveola flower

A tiny native bee collecting honey from a scaveola flower

And to finish, a butterfly captured in flight. Do you know how hard that is to do?

And to finish, a butterfly captured in flight. Do you know how hard that is to do?

It’s been a busy week

Only one of the twin mountains of mulch

Only one of the twin mountains of mulch

I’m soooo tired of the f*cking American presidential election. Sorry (if you’re an American and think it all makes sense) but I think it’s a huge waste of money – billions spent over what feels like a couple of years, every four years, and for what? Unless the President has the support of the House of Reps and the Senate, s/he is pretty much a figurehead blamed for everything that isn’t working. Still and all, that’s America’s business, just as Brexit was British business, and our own too-long election was Australian business.

All of them show a pattern, though. We’re all sick of professional politicians. And that’s all I’ll say. This blog is all about ME.

backgroundI’ve published my latest novelette, Him Outdoors and I have been shifting a mountain of mulch, (see above) and I’ve recommenced work on the nameless story. I also did a fun graphic, just because.

And this week’s pictures is a continuation of the insects theme.

 

 

 

The male hornet literally picked the female up and flew her up to the fence. I don't think there was too much consent involved.

The male hornet literally picked the female up and flew her up to the fence. I don’t think there was too much consent involved.

A dragonfly clings on to a twig in a breeze

A dragonfly clings on to a twig in a breeze

This caterpillar is preparing to pupate. See the silk strand attaching it to the branch?

This caterpillar is preparing to pupate. See the silk strand attaching it to the branch?

Butterfly laying eggs

Butterfly laying eggs

Tiny little flying things

I confess I haven’t had the camera out recently – too busy sweating over a hot keyboard. But I have gone back to look at some of my old files and while some of the photos aren’t sharp enough or large enough for commercial use, they’re not half bad for all that. We all miss seeing the smaller things in our world. I’ve shared a few of those photos with you further down.

TDADD-ebook-webOn the writing front the new story is being beta-read so I hope to have it out there next week. I also received a wonderful email from someone who had just finished reading my historical novel, To Die a Dry Death. Here’s a little of what she had to say.

“Thank you for writing a brilliant book that I have enjoyed very much and just this very second finished. In the past year I have become very very ( obsessed my friends and family might say 🙂 about the Batavia . I work at sea, and whilst on a flight, saw a small piece about it in a history magazine I buy to expand my mind on boring flights… and it has totally gripped me

I have read several books on Batavia so far and enjoyed yours immensely and would just like to thank you very much for all the work you put into it and made the characters ‘come to life’ more so for me than the other books, which all differ in style as I know you appreciate.”

This sort of thing means so much to me. Not everyone is going to like what I write – that’s okay. But it feels wonderful to know I’ve reached someone, that I’ve told the story in a way that worked for them. So, dear reader, thank you so much.

Now on to the micro monsters.

A tiny praying mantiss. That story about cannabalising the males after sex isn't completely true

A tiny praying mantis. That story about cannabalising the males after sex isn’t completely true.

You know the story about their mating habits? Turns out it’s only true 30% of the time. http://insects.about.com/…/praying-mantis-cannibalism.htm

This butterfly was laying eggs - but this shot shows all four wings

This butterfly was laying eggs – but this shot shows all four wings

A European honey bee on rosemary

A European honey bee on rosemary

An Australian native blue-banded bee on a salvia. These bees are tiny, solitary little creatures, and very fast. I went through a lot of digital 'film' to get this

An Australian native blue-banded bee on a salvia. These bees are tiny, solitary little creatures, and very fast. I went through a lot of digital ‘film’ to get this

This dragonfly is a rescue. It was drowning when I took it out of the swimming pool. It's drying itself off.

This dragonfly is a rescue. It was drowning when I took it out of the swimming pool. It’s drying itself off.

Pelicans

Shaping to land

Shaping to land

It’s actually pretty easy to get a half decent photo of a pelican. They’re such majestic birds, floating through the air on those massive wings, hardly bothering to flap. Or soaring on an up draft. They’re so big they don’t worry much about humans, either. In fact, returning fishermen are sought out, particularly while they’re cleaning a catch.

Pelicans are everywhere. They frequent lakes, beaches and rivers – and they’ll fly thousands of miles into Australia’s dead heart when the inland rivers run and the salt lakes fill with water. I shared a couple of photos of the thousands of birds on Lake Eyre last March. Nobody knows how they know the lake is full.

But while it’s exceptionally simple to catch a nice photo of a pelican bobbing on water, reflected in a calm surface, I like to capture birds doing what they do. Burrum Heads, the mouth of the Burrum River, which is a short drive north of Hervey Bay, is a great place to see pelicans, and a great place to catch them landing on the water, or taking off. But we do get them down our beach at Torquay, or hanging around the Urangan pier watching the fishermen.

Here’s a few of my favourite pelican pictures.

A light pole on the Urangan pier is a favourite spot

A light pole on the Urangan pier is a favourite spot

Waddling out to the water at the beach Hervey Bay

Waddling out to the water at the beach Hervey Bay

Take off in formation

Take off in formation

Landing in formation

Landing in formation

Bundaberg botanic garden

Bundaberg botanic garden

 

 

A week on the wild side

It’s pretty well known I’m keen on birds. We don’t have any domestic pets, so our yard is a safe haven for many bird species. They’re part of daily life, adding colour and movement to the environment. But sometimes accidents happen, and sometimes very special things happen. This week was packed full of unusual events.

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Blue-faced honey eater about to land

One of the blue faced honey eaters decided to fly into the garage through the people door, and found itself stuck, with nowhere to go. So it flew toward the garden. But there’s a window in the way. It panicked, fluttering around on the glass. Fortunately, I noticed. The bird wasn’t interested in being shooed toward the door (which it couldn’t see), so I caught it in my hands. It squawked a bit, but latched onto my finger as it would a perch and sat quite calmly as I carried it out to the garden. It didn’t say thank you or anything, but it was quite remarkable that the bird allowed me to catch it. I felt privileged.

Young magpie begging

Young magpie begging

A day or two later, on my evening prowl around the yard, I noticed commotion from the rather decrepit shade house. The shade cloth has split at the top, so birds can get in. They can also get out, of course, but accidents happen. The culprit turned out to be a junior magpie. Once again, the bird thought it should be able to get out at the end of the shade house. The shade cloth is only thirty percent, so while not transparent, you can see through it. I went into the shade house, leaving the door open. But the magpie was in no mood to be rescued. I tried to coax it – the birds are territorial, so junior knew me – but I had to settle for herding it until it could see the open door at the other end of the shade house. It was off, and outta there. Job done. Yay me.

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet

And then a day or two later I was standing outside the back door watching the lorikeets flutter around the bird table. They’re used to me being there with the camera against my face. It’s a great place to try and catch a good photo of them in flight. (Thank goodness for digital cameras – if we were still using film I would have given up. I might get a two percent return rate. If I’m lucky.) Anyway, here I am with the 70-300mm zoom lens pointed at the birds. Fully zoomed, it’s quite long. A bird flew towards me. I expected it to disappear and fly up to the roof. To my amazement. the lorikeet landed ON the lens, and just sat, looking at me. A moment later its mate joined it. I was gobsmacked. On reflection, I think they were just curious. Twice a lorikeet has come inside when the back door was open. It landed on the back of a chair, had a look around, then flew out again.

I love my avian mates. Except the crows. I would probably like them, too, if they didn’t make such a row at the crack of dawn.

Today is election day here in Australia. I’m not sure I’m thrilled about the two major parties, but with our preferential voting system, voting for a minor party often means you end up voting for a major, anyway. Really, I think our Western society model is breaking down and needs to be replaced. We seem to have a choice between supporting business, or letting the trade unions rule the roost. Anyway, I’ve done my hard-won democratic duty. We’ll see tomorrow.

Back to the Big Smoke

Brisbane from Mt Coot-Tha

Brisbane from Mt Coot-Tha

Unfortunately, much as I hate cities sometimes they can’t be avoided. They are concentrations of many things apart from people. Or maybe because of people. Restaurants, hospitals, cinemas, live shows, shops. Pollution, traffic snarls, noise. Sigh. But yeah. Medical specialists tend to work best in the city setting. All the equipment and required facilities are more readily available. So we drove down to Brisbane for a procedure to take place over two days, while I kicked my heels in a hotel.

However – did I mention the shops? Much as I love where I live, and I’m not a great shopper, sometimes the lack of variety in Hervey Bay can be frustrating. So this would be a chance to go into town and find myself a coat, preferably leather, that I could dress up if needed. Usually it would be worn with jeans. I’d booked into a small hotel near the city centre, and walked into the Queen Street mall with high hopes. I’d get this done, drop off the jacket back at the pub and take my camera for a walk in the park. Yes. That was the plan. Then I’d go back to the room and work on the next book.

Well, let me tell you a couple of things, folks. The current fashion has gone back to skinny. Skin tight pants, leggings, form fitting jackets. Leather jackets are biker style, fitted to the waist, with lots of non functional pockets closed with zips. A year or forty – or even twenty – ago I could have gone down that route. But not anymore, for two reasons. 1) I don’t like that style, having gravitated (as you do) to comfortable sack style. Gone are the days of lying on your back on the bed to do up the zip. 2) I’m no longer size 10 – or even 14. It seems that if you’re in the size 8 to size 14 range, the world of fashion is your oyster. You might find an occasional 16. Anything larger than that – nuh-uh. There might be a few sections in the big department stores specialising in larger sizes, or the occasional large size dress shop. But while I know I need to lose some weight, I’m not obese. Nor am I unusual. I’d venture to suggest that with obesity levels in this country soaring, the buyers ought to be looking at their stock.

I should add that I could have bought a genuine leather coat in a style I found acceptable. But the designer label $800-$1,000 weren’t even in the venue let alone the playing field, and  I balked at paying $600 for a coat, and then another $75 to have the sleeves taken up. I just won’t wear it often enough.

Anyway, after five unproductive hours of wandering around every sodding dress shop in the CBD (including some mens stores) it started to rain. So I bought myself a cheap umbrella and winced my painful way back to my hotel room, coatless. I suppose the rain was a good thing. I was too sore to spend the afternoon walking around in the gardens (not as fit as I used to be) and the rain provided a perfect excuse to play on my laptop instead. Mind you, I played solitaire instead of doing some writing on my WIP. But I’ll attribute that to frustration.

forest

Forest path

Water and fernsOn the bright side, I went to the Brisbane botanical gardens at Mt Coot-Tha the previous afternoon. There is nothing quite so wonderful as walking along a narrow path in cool shade provided by towering trees, palms and ferns, with the sound of tinkling water filling the air.

The scenic rim

Imagine a massive volcano. No, bigger. Even bigger. Yep, more like that, with ash boiling into the atmosphere, and red hot lava oozing down the slope like icing on a cake. But that was twenty million years ago. The hot spot that created it moved on and the two kilometre high peaks surrounding the caldera began to erode. Here’s the story. These days the remains of the volcano rise above the plain of the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, where they provide a cool, refreshing contrast to the brash and vibrant coastal strip.

We visited friends who live in the Mt Tamborine area, and they took us on a whirlwind tour of some of the sites. We drove  a meandering, ear-popping road up the mountainside from the plain. From the top the high rises of the coastal strip lined up along the Gold Coast beaches are clearly visible.

The Gold Coast from the mountain

The Gold Coast from the mountain

Mt Tamborine boasts gorgeous gardens, rainforest and waterfalls. But it has been dry of late, so unfortunately the creeks and rivers have contracted. Still, you can imagine the volume of water which could crash down through this valley.

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One of the rock pools at Cedar Creek

On the other side of the caldera, looking inland, intrepid souls launch hang gliders or paragliders off steep, grassy slopes. It was a great day for it, not too windy, not dead calm.

Paragliding

This paraglider is just about to launch

We visited the Skywalk, which gives a different view of the rainforest from a gantry raised high in the canopy. Then you walk back amongst the tree trunks to your starting point. Once again, more water would have made the experience even more special. Not recommended for those afraid of heights.

Strangler fig in the rainforest

Strangler fig in the rainforest

The dry creek bed

The dry creek bed

We stopped at St Bernard’s pub for a drink. The garden is absolutely gorgeous and I would have taken a walk to St Bernard’s Falls if I’d had any faith there might be water there. At my time of life, without a guaranteed reward at the bottom, a long steep slope isn’t particularly inviting.

The view from the garden

The view from the garden

The garden St Bernard's

The garden St Bernard’s

All in all, Mt Tamborine is a beautiful place. Walk under the canopy of the rainforest and the temperature drops ten degrees. It’s obvious why it’s a mecca for ‘new age’ types. The village we visited had rows of shops devoted to the usual eclectic collection of clothing, coffee, cuckoo clocks and cafes. You can have your future told, and/or visit wineries, breweries and cheese-making facilities, as well as pubs and restaurants. You’ll need patience, though. The roads were crowded with day trippers – but it was a Saturday. Weekdays (non-school holidays) would probably be better. All the information can be found online at sites like this one.

Geology and rock wallabies

5V3A5106It’s day 6 of our Lake Eyre adventure. If you’ve missed the previous episodes, here’s day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4 and day 5.

We’re in Wilpena Pound resort. It is situated a short distance from the gap into the pound itself and offers a number of walks of different distances and fitness levels. But before we did that our intrepid guide took us on a drive through several gorges. The Flinders Ranges are ancient. A visit to Brachina gorge presses home the point with a series of information boards indicating the age of the rocks you’re seeing at various locations. It’s like a time tunnel. This website has some fabulous photos and information for visitors. Well worth a look.

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Brachina gorge with streaky clouds

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Clearing clouds and folded mountains

5V3A5152This rugged landscape is simply stunning. Unfortunately, the weather in the morning was overcast, so conditions weren’t ideal for photography, but the day did eventually clear. Meanwhile, the clouds put on their own show, which they so often did on this journey.

The other thing you’ll find is the elusive yellow-footed rock wallaby. They skip around on the reddish rock faces, blending in so well with their surroundings they’re very hard to spot. The picture of Brachina gorge up there is the kind of place you find them, up on those hillsides.

There's a rock wallaby in this shot.

There’s a rock wallaby in this shot.

See?

See?

Spot the wallaby

Spot the wallaby

Hiding in plain sight

Hiding in plain sight

Here's a back vire, showing the long yellow-striped tail

Here’s a back view, showing the long yellow-striped tail

The Flinders Ranges are simply wonderful. The national parks people are working hard to reduce the number of feral goats and cats to help preserve this amazing place. It’s great to see that conservation efforts have saved the lovely little rock wallaby from extinction. May they thrive and prosper.

This was more or less the end of th5V3A4651e trip. From here, we headed back to Adelaide, stopping for lunch at a Clare Valley winery. We enjoyed a magnificent dinner at Adelaide’s Playford hotel, and left for home the next day. It had been a full-on, very busy trip. We covered a lot of territory, and I ticked off three items on the bucket list – Kati Thana-Lake Eyre in flood, Birdsville, and Wilpena Pound.

Oh – I should add this was a small group (20 people max) tour conducted by APT. We rode in an air conditioned Mercedes 4WD truck (DON’T call it a bus) while our guide, Sam, told us all about what we were seeing. I’d recommend the trip to anyone.