Tag Archives: photos

The rains have arrived

Mangoes everywhere. That’s a small part of one tree

This one wasn’t too bad – sound and fury and 15mm of rain

The drought in Queensland appears to have broken – in our part of the world, anyway. A series of storms have swept in from inland Australia, the warm air mingling with a blast of cooler air coming up from the South, a perfect combination for storms. We were lucky. There was lots of thunder and lightning but no gale force winds, no hail, and no torrential rain.

Which brings me to another observation: Our two fairly large mango trees are covered in fruit, despite near drought conditions all through Winter and into Spring. You know what? I think trees are smarter than us when it comes to weather. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a dry Summer (because of El Nino). I reckon the mango trees are predicting good summer rains.

We shall see.

On the photography front, one of the big hassles of being a photographer on holiday is having to cart around lenses and the like. I did it for a few years, but changing lenses is cumbersome and frankly rarely happened. As I get older, I’m finding it harder and harder to cart around tripods, heavy lenses and so on. That’s okay for younger, fitter wildlife photographer types but I’ve slowed down of late. I don’t even get down to the beach much.

So… I’ve rationalized the camera situation and down-sized a bit.

I still have a Canon 70D and two smaller, lighter lenses – but I’ve sold a few items and bought a Nikon (shock-horror) Coolpix P1000. The camera is in the ‘compact’ range but it’s actually a hefty piece of kit rivalling the weight of a Canon 5D. Its claim to fame is an incredible zoom lens which will cover 24-3000mm. No, that’s not a typo. Three thousand. It means I can take the device on holidays and be able to take a landscape, then zoom in on a bird. Perfect for my needs. No, it’s not a ‘professional’ level lens and it has some short comings, but it’ll do for a hack like me.

I’ve started playing around, I have a lot to learn, but here are a few photos.

Super blue blood moon? Ho hum

Blood moon in eclipse

The Big Event of the week was, of course, the Super Blue Blood Eclipse moon. Forgive my jaundiced lack of excitement. The so-called super moon is just a shade closer to the Earth than a common-or-garden-every-28-days full moon. Nobody makes a song and dance when the Moon is at apogee (furthest away from Earth), but that happens regularly, too. The blue moon is so named because it’s the second full moon in a calendar month. A month is something we humans dreamed up to divide the year (the time it takes for the Earth to travel around the Sun) into more manageable pieces. It has no further meaning. And the blood moon (the reddish hue) is because of the eclipse. Up there’s one I took earlier (2014, actually).

Yes, I looked at the gallery of wonderful blood moon photos online. I had to wonder about some of them, but anyway, here’s mine.

Bat flies in front of super blue blood moon (honest)

Eclipses do have an effect on wildlife, though. Even lunar eclipses. Maybe it’s some sort of mystical crow thing, but the local crows must have been planning their corroboree for weeks. They started group singing at around 1am (just about the time the lunar eclipse finished) and kept it (and me) up for hours. Some of the buggers still hadn’t gone to bed at 6am. I hope they had the mother of all hangovers.

For some time now I haven’t talked much on my own blog about what I do to entertain myself and maybe earn enough for the occasional bottle of wine, since I retired. Oh, didn’t I tell you? I write books. Sometimes people buy them, but the numbers have dropped off over time. Too much competition, not enough marketing. But I digress. I also take photos. Sometimes (but not often) people buy them, too.

In my writing world two things have happened.

The first is that after a hiatus of quite a few months, I’ve plunged into a new book. I’d had the beginnings of this story sitting in my work-in-progress file for several years. I stopped because I didn’t know where it was headed, thought about re-purposing it for another story line, then decided it was fine where it was. I explained it all in greater depth here. I’m ploughing along with it. As usual, writing isn’t easy. But challenges are great, aren’t they? Keep the little grey cells active and they’ll ward off Alzheimers.

The second thing that happened was that one of my books from last year WON AN AWARD!!!! Read all about it here. The SFR Galaxy Awards aren’t the same as the Booker, or the Nebula Award. I don’t expect to be the next great best-seller. It’s an award in a niche sub-genre (Science Fiction Romance). Books are not nominated, and it’s not a popularity contest. The judges are readers/reviewers in the genre and they give an award to whichever books they want to, based on their own criteria. For the Greater Good won an award for the most coveted cat. Whatever. That particular judge decided to showcase my book, and I’m surprised and humbled – and yes, pleased as punch. It has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for writing, which can be a rather thankless business. For more information about the book, including where you can buy it, go here.

All this boost to creativity is a great thing. I realised the reason I hadn’t finished that next book in this series was because my original concept for moving from the finished book (Kuralon Rescue) to the next book was flawed. The character dynamic didn’t work. Once I’d sorted that out, the cover I’d had done for Kuralon Rescue didn’t quite work anymore – although the story was fine. I decided to redo the cover myself. That had the additional benefit of allowing me to hone my Photoshop skills. The result is at left and I’m very happy with it.

I’ll be doing the cover for the new book myself, too.

Also after a considerable hiatus, I’ve taken out the camera again. The lorikeets appear to have had a Summer break from the pool fence, but they’re back. We’ve made friends with the local magpies and it’s quite funny to see one running over to say hello when we go outside. The youngster is quite happy to take a morsel of bacon rind from our hands, but the parents are a trifle more wary. We also have the usual crowd of butcher birds, noisy miners, blue-faced honey eaters, and the rarer pale-headed rosellas, as well as an occasional kookaburra, crested pigeons, pee wees and so on. I’m glad to say the koels and the channel-billed cuckoos have buggered off back to PNG (they’re migratory).

But we can’t get rid of the bloody crows.

So… here’s a few photos.

Scaly-breasted lorikeet – slightly smaller than the rainbow lorikeets

Blue-faced honey eater

They’re not always cute little guys

Pair bonding calls for grooming

Young butcher bird – they go black and white

Pale-headed rosella

 

 

 

MORE unfortunate events

Isn’t it interesting how things go wrong at the most inconvenient time? When I wrote the blogs for our latest trip to Europe I entitled it ‘A series of unfortunate events‘, because so many things went wrong. Well, it seems the trip demons hadn’t finished with me. Not all that long before we left on that European trip I’d had to restore my computer to factory settings – which means reformatting the hard disk, which means losing all your data and all your apps. And the version of Windows is the one that came on the machine, minus the hundreds of updates Microsoft made after that. It’s a bitch of a job and Microsoft hasn’t made it any easier by changing the procedure to repair a damaged system. In the old days, you tapped the F8 key as the machine was booting, which stopped Windows from loading and gave the operator a chance to run some diagnostics and repairs.

Not any more. At least a little bit of Windows loads and offers suggestions. None of the repair options worked and I couldn’t get the system to reboot from a USB stick, or from an SD card, so I had to run the factory restore. Then I had to find and download the various apps (Lightroom, Photoshop, Firefox, Thunderbird, Microsoft Office, Adobe Digital Reader… etc etc), and restore from backup.

All good.

For a while.

Then a month or so ago, not long after I got home from my week in Perth the disk failed again, and none of Windows repair options worked. But at least I managed to get into the file system and copy my latest trip photos to my external hard drive where I had the rest of my backups before (once again) restoring to factory settings and reloading apps and data.

All good. Surely.

The disk failed again a week or so ago. Once again, I had to restore to factory settings, muttering obscenities as I worked. This time, though, the machine wouldn’t even boot. To quote Doctor Macoy, “It’s worse than that, it’s dead, Jim.” Fortunately, I have a reliable laptop, so I loaded my files from backup onto that.

Then the biggest blow of all. I restored from backup – but I’d changed where I kept my photos, and deleted some files from the backup disk because I wouldn’t need them. I had my reasons which made perfect sense at the time. The end result, though, was I lost all the photos from the European trip, and from the Perth trip. Just as well I’d written those blogs. We had Pete’s Europe photos. Not as good as mine, but still… 🙂

But wait a minute…

As it happens, I hadn’t been quite as stupid as I thought I’d been. Yes, I’d deleted files from the backup disk because I didn’t need them anymore, and their existence would only confuse. But I’d deleted them AFTER I’d put the photos in those files in the right place. I’m restoring them to the PC as I write this post.

And the upshot of all of this? My hair is even greyer. I’ll be putting a new hard drive in the Dell desktop and disposing of it. A shiny new HP is due to arrive in the new year.

This will be my Last Post for this year. I wish both of my readers (okay, all three) a wonderful solstice,  however you choose to celebrate.

Apart from finding I hadn’t been as STUPID as I thought I’d been, comments from people whose opinion I respect suggest that The Last Jedi does not suck, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing it in a store near me next year.

Here’s a collection of scenes from 2017 – I promise there will be more in 2018.

Crocodile at Cairns

Stoney Creek Falls

Galahs at dawn

Cobbold Gorge

Undara Lava Tube. Note the little stream at the side. These tunnels fill with water when it really rains. Greg said he’d been swimming in some of them. What’s more, the roof rpovides no protection from the rain. It just drips on through.

I can snort a rainbow

Windmills near Amsterdam

Golden trees and the cathedral at Wurzburg

Sunset reflections with ducks – the Danube River

Auschwitz – Birkenau

Meeting a golden eagle

Australia from 35,000 feet

A peacock’s bum is almost as pretty as the front

I must be getting better at this

Melbourne Southbank

Like it says on the header – writer, photographer, animal lover, space nut. It has been a little while since I addressed the commercial part of ‘photographer’, so recently I decided to divert my procrastination in the writing arena into offering a few photos to the stock photo sites I use to sell my wares.

Most of the pictures I’ve had online have been of birds, insects, or whales. To be honest, I’d found Dreamstime (which is a large stock photo site used by a LOT of designers) wasn’t very interested in my landscapes and sunset/sunrise shots, so I stopped sending them. Then I figured, all they can do is refuse. They didn’t (!). There are millions of photos on these sites, many of the same place. I had a lot of excellent photos of our Rhine cruises refused because, “we’ve already got lots of the same subject and this photo isn’t better.” Which is fair enough. But it seems the Australian landscape category isn’t quite so full.

I’ve even added a few quite old pictures to my collection. That said, I can certainly see how the quality has improved over the years. What I might once have thought was an OK photo is these days relegated to the ‘meh’ basket. Or even deleted.

Dreamstime accepted all the pictures I posted – except one. That very nice (if I do say so myself) picture of Southbank in Melbourne was refused. I knew not to show any logos, and carefully removed the few that were visible. But even that was not enough. I would have had to obtain property releases (permission to use their building in a photo) for Dreamstime to accept the picture. I expect the main culprit for that one would be Crown Casino – but – it’s not that important to me.

Buildings can be copyrighted. You can’t sell a photo of the Sydney Opera House without permission, and that’s just one I know about, Here’s what Dreamstime has to say about these matters.

check carefully for copyright issues such as labels, logos, characters from cartoons or movies etc. Note that some buildings are protected by a trademark (such as new sculptures), cars like Ferrari and Porsche, Harley Davidson motorcycles, the Coca-Cola bottle, the Olympic logo circles.

Bright spinnakers contrast with the storm clouds in a yacht race near Fraser Island

This photo (above) was refused because of the spinnakers. There are no logos on those sails – just standard bought-from-the-shop colour. But as we all know, many racing boats have sponsorship. I might have tried explaining the issue didn’t exist for my picture, but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered.

And I suppose all this makes sense. If a designer bought an image with a logo on it, then used it to sell something which would impact that logo, the owner of the logo would have every right to be annoyed. For example, a BMW bike ad showing a broken down Harley-Davidson (or something), I’m sure you can think of others. Any photos with recognisable people in them need a model release for the same reason, if the photo is for commercial use. You may think that’s not really an issue for me. I don’t take pictures of people – but it’s a consideration even if the people are in there by accident. For example, a photo of a whale spy-hopping. It’s nice to include people in those scenes, but I’d need a model release if the people could be identified, even from the back, like in the photo below.

Whale spy-hopping

Before you ask, I don’t sell many images. My best sellers (ha ha) are whale shots. So why do I do it? Well, quite a few people asked me if I sold photos when I posted pictures on Facebook. That encouraged me to try a stock photo site, where I quickly discovered that the quality required was quite a few notches above ‘looks good on Facebook’. And in the end, that’s why I do it. I get a silly little buzz when stock sites accept my photos simply because it means they’re technically good enough to make the cut.

And while you might think that ‘technically good enough’ is the same for all sites, it’s not. I’ve had photos accepted at Canstock and not Dreamstime and vice versa. So I guess there’s an element of subjectivity in the process.

Of course, you can see most of these online at Dreamstime. But I thought I’d share some, anyway. And one that didn’t make the grade.

Late afternoon sun lights up the cliffs at Geikie Gorge

A contrail catches the hidden sun as the horizon lightens

Sunlight strikes the rocks around Wilpena Pound

A moss-covered tree in temperate rain forest

Millaa-Millaa Falls is the highest waterfall in the Atherton Tablelands. I took out the people in the image before I sent this.

3 lorikeets fighting for position. This one wasn’t accepted by any of the stock sites – too much noise, too much out of focus. But there you go – those aspects are what gives the image its sparkle (IMO)

It’s all a matter of perception

Everlasting daisies in King’s Park

A few days ago a friend shared a set of pictures from Gardening Australia on Facebook. They are stunning photographs of flowers taken by Craig Burrows. It’s a shame they didn’t tell us what the common name was for each photo because with the “ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence” process, they are transported to the extraordinary. In fact, I was very much reminded of the world-building in the movie Avatar. Just for fun I took the above photo and changed the photo’s temperature right down to purple. This is what it looked like.

Not quite ultra-violet

Which got me thinking. We see the worlds around us very much from our own point of view, and we miss so much. Bees see the world in ultraviolet. I wonder if their view is like those pictures? Our sense of hearing is vastly inferior to that of dogs and other predators. I love Terry Pratchett’s description of sense of smell as experienced by the Watch’s werewolf, Angua. For her, smell tells a great deal about the maker of the smell. It comes in layers, and it has a history, so dogs can sense how long ago bitch X was here.

Then there’s hearing. Once again, dogs and cats can hear things we don’t. Elephants can communicate in wave lengths so low we can’t hear them, while dolphins use much wider frequencies that overlap our sense of hearing only to a limited extent. Dolphins in fact use sound to ‘see’.

And all this is on our own small blue dot. We can’t begin to know what’s out there in the vastness of space. What will a;ien species be able to do? How will they use their senses? And you know, that was the disappointing part of Avatar for me. Pandora was inhabited by wondrous, diverse (if recognizable versions of Earth) creatures. But the dominant species was a new version of pick your location of indigenous tribe. I suppose that was necessary in a romance movie for humans.

For this week I thought I’d share some lorikeet pictures. They brighten our lives, amuse, and annoy. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jostling over the apple juice. Note that one hanging upside down. I think they think that’s how the apple juice gets there. Also the two in the middle about to have an animated discussion.

This bird inserted himself between the two arguing – because there was a tiny gap

Things get a bit raucous

And sometimes they look like they’re dancing on the air

Pictures from the magic pool fence

I’m fortunate enough to live on a property where there’s room for a swimming pool. One of the downsides of having a pool in Australia is it has to be fenced. At least one and a half metres high, unclimbable, with self-closing gates. It’s a legal requirement to reduce the incidence of toddlers drowning in swimming pools, and non-compliance leads to fines. Yeah, yeah. We’re not forced to fence dams, or the ocean, or even garden ponds. We don’t get visits from people with small children and our property is fenced, but that’s irrelevant.

Hey ho. Rant over.

The upside of having the pool fence is that it’s not far from the back of the house and the local birds like to use it to perch. So we built a little feeding platform on it, where we put out bowls of apple juice for the lorikeets, and sometimes some seed for the seed-eating birds. It works like magic, folks. Here’s a few pictures to prove it.

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This is what happens when the alarm call goes up

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Long-billed corella looking handsome

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A young blue-faced honeyeater (that green patch becomes blue as the bird ages)

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A sulphur-crested cockatoo laying claim to the bird seed. That’s a full grown lorikeet he’s bullying

Wet crested pigeon

A crested pigeon in the rain

Jockeying for position

Jockeying for position

Another take on writing what you know

In the last few days I’ve been writing a short story to do with one of the major characters in my Morgan Selwood series. Admiral Ashkar Ravindra is commander of the Manesai fleet which ‘rescues’ Supertech Morgan Selwood and her shipmate, accountant Tony Jones, from a slow death on their freighter Curlew, which had a failed shift drive. Having a failed shift drive means the ship can’t go to hyperspace and is stuck with traveling through real spacetime, which means you’re going to run out of air, food and water long before you’re likely to get anywhere. That story is told in Morgan’s Choice.

Anyhow, back to Ravindra. He comes from a very regimented society, where everyone belongs to one of four classes, which are unable to breed together. The original intention of the people who genetically engineered the Manesai may well have been “a place for everyone and everyone in their place”. But as I’m sure you can appreciate, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Ravindra is a member of the military class, the Mirka. Naturally, each class had developed its own sub-classes (because people are like that) and Ravindra’s family is part of the Darya group – from which most Manesai admirals are recruited. His father was an admiral, his grand-father was an admiral, young Ravindra is going to be an admiral, he will marry the daughter of an admiral. His path is mapped out for him.

And yet, Admiral Ravindra has a tattoo. Not some small, discrete bit of ink that people wouldn’t notice. He has a bloody great vulsaur tattooed all over his right shoulder, down his back and over his bicep. That photo at top left doesn’t really do it justice, but you get the idea. So why does that matter? Ah, you see, Mirka – and most especially Darya Mirka – don’t have tattoos. Troopers have tatts, admirals don’t. So what in the wild world would have resulted in eighteen-year-old Ravindra, with school finished and the acceptance to the Fleet Academy in his pocket, having a tattoo?

You’ll have to read the story to find out.

However, I’m not giving much away to tell you it concerns a vulsaur, which looks a bit like our mythical dragon. In one scene in the story, I need to have the vulsaur take off from quite a low start. Large flying creatures (on our planet, anyway) either leap off high places and glide or they need a long takeoff. But I didn’t want to do that. So rather than emulate an albatross or a swan, the vulsaur acts like an osprey.

I took this series of pictures down the beach a couple of years ago. The osprey has gone for a bathe in the shallows. Now he’s finished and he wants to take off. Basically, with his wings raised vertically, he jumps, then brings those wings down hard. And he’s off.

Osprey lifts its wingsIMG_0684IMG_0685IMG_0686IMG_0687IMG_0688

And this is just one more example of ‘write what you know’.