Archives for the month of: October, 2013

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Stone. I wanted to nerd out a bit on this post and go through stone and how we have come to use it. As usual, the images in this post link through to my larger photos on Flickr

One of the coolest little road trips we have done is up to a “stone factory”, the Haleakala volcano on Maui island in Hawaii, USA. This was a surprisingly long trip for such a short distance – some 40 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. We were covered in clouds until we got to the peak and the heavens opened up. Next time I go to Hawaii (and there will be a next time) I am riding up Haleakala and bombing it down. These stones are untouched, and some are very hot!

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The Twelve Apostles in Victoria, Australia is an epic sight and a cool destination to drive to. The sandstone structures are constantly being pounded by the cold Tasman Sea. Still untouched, as people don’t even attempt to scale these or climb them (not sure if they are even allowed).

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Ubirr in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia is a mythical and magical place. The stones are of large proportion, and not worked by human hands.

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But the original Australians, our indigenous Aboriginal people, over 20,000 years ago (and in some cases older) used these stone overhangs and outcrops to communicate through rock painting the stories of people and “food menus” that showed the best parts of the different animals to eat. The style of “x-ray” painting is unique to the first Australians.

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During the age of antiquity, the Greeks created beautiful and complex structures out of stone. Of all the ancient sights that I visited while working in Athens, Greece, the highlight would have to be Delphi which is the sight of the Oracle. These are the ruins of the temple in which the Oracle issued it’s “findings”.

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The Japanese feudal classes perfected the art of fortification, and the best surviving example would have to be Himeji Castle in the Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan. When I say best, this place is awesome! Immaculately preserved and world heritage listed. Himeji was never taken in battle and you can see why from the massive stone foundations and winding staircase to the entrance that would have forced attackers to turn back on themselves several times while under projectile fire. Cool!

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The Old Town of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a beautifully preserved medieval walled town. I could have posted 20 shots for this week’s travel theme, but I chose this one which was down an obscure alley near the main wall. We only had a day to explore this town, wish we had more.

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During it’s heyday in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s (yeah I know I included the depression, but the city built its way out of this depressed period) the construction of New York City, in the USA, incorporated beautiful stone building details. Again I could have included many more shots, but I liked this one of a building near the downtown financial district. The stone relief of the eagle is sharp and distinctive.

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Cool theme, even though I am late to the trot. Check out my fellow bloggers and what they have posted.

A few days ago I blogged about a single photo of Sydney Harbour when the bushfires commenced in NSW. It looked like Armageddon had arrived in Sydney. Here it is again:

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I uploaded this shot to Flickr as I do with all my photos, for one main reason – I want to own the rights to my photos. So it was to my surprise that I received an email this morning around 10am that said:

“Hey Christopher Yardin, Yahoo Editorial has added your photo to their gallery.”

I started putting two and two together. Flickr is owned by Yahoo, and just recently they have revived interest in this photography based social platform by offering everybody up to 1TB of cloud storage for your photos. There are not many photographers who have 1TB of image files, so I think they are pretty safe when it comes to hitting their storage limits. But I have noticed a pretty big increase in photo views on my account as a result (I blogged about it previously – as it was pleasantly surprising to me). But through one very important user favouriting my photo and adding it to their gallery, my photo views and in particular this shot have gone through the roof. This is the graph after 4 hours of the favouriting action:

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This is now my most popular photo by a long shot and at the rate I am getting photo views today it will be in the multiple thousands of views by this time tomorrow. I am a bit shocked to be honest. I take photos for my own enjoyment and capturing visual memories, and then hope that other people enjoy viewing my photos as well. That is partly why I write I started this blog. But I never thought that I would take a photograph that would be viewed by thousands of people. It just goes to show you that being in the right place at the right time cannot be underestimated.

It also goes to show that my choice to pack a decent camera with me wherever I go (in this case my Canon Powershot G15) has borne fruit. This sparked public interest is giving me the impetus to get out and shoot more.

Regardless of my joy, there are firefighters doing it tough battling against Mother Nature in some pretty incendiary conditions. It looks like this Summer in Sydney could be one of bushfires and blazes.

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Brown. It was bizarre looking through all my travel photos and noticing how many different shades of brown there were in many shots. Here is my go at this week’s theme, and as usual the images link through to the larger photos on my Flickr site.

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on a few Olympic Games events, and lived in Athens, Greece for several months. This beautiful old church in the heart of the old town had beautiful brick and tile work in lovely hues of brown.

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One of the most surprising places to visit in Japan would have to be the old town of Takayama tucked away in the mountains. It’s streets are lined with many traditional wooden Japanese houses in beautiful hues of brown. This isn’t a museum, but a living and thriving town who have preserved their architectural heritage.

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New York City, USA, has the wonderful High Line elevated park that goes between and through buildings. This lovely preserved stain glass and brick wall was one of my favourite sites to see while walking on the park.

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Back home in Queensland, Australia, and the wonderful Fraser Island is a treasure trove of natural beauty. These mushrooms on the forest floor and logs would eventually turn to brown as they decayed and died. Vibrant in life though…

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And Mother Nature won this battle against the ship that strayed to close to the sandy shores. The rusting brown hues shone in many different ways as the sun flickered in and out between the clouds.

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In Victoria, Australia is the lovely Beech Forest on the South-Western coast. This was one of the first photos I posted on my blog, and I still love the strand of bark descending.

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My home state of NSW, Australia, has plenty of natural sites too, whether it is the brown winged kookaburras with their noisy laugh.

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Or brown octopus nestling in the tidal rockpools of Jervis Bay.

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The brown wooden barrels in the cellars of the Hunter Valley wineries have got plenty of yummy stuff hidden in their depths.

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But heaven on earth for me is Port Stephens. I love this shot of the jutting rocks and the pristine water which is sanctuary to the dolphins.

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Thanks Ailsa, great theme this week!

 

So while the state of NSW was under the threat of burning down, I headed to Victoria for my fourth go at the Around the Bay ride. This time round my Brother, our riding buddies Carl, Pete, “Liberace” Dave and myself set out to take on the 250km in the anti-clockwise loop. The challenge was to ride from Melbourne via Geelong to Queenscliff, then across the ferry to Sorrento, then back to Melbourne via Frankston – all in a day. This would turn out to be the longest ride that I have ever done, and boy do I feel it in the legs at the moment.

But this year was not as fun as previous years and there were a number of hiccups along the way. We set off from my Brother’s place at 5:30am to meet up with the crew that we were to ride with. The crew was 20 strong, but only 5 of us were planning to ride the longest circuit. But the crew were late and when they did meet up with us we had to motor to get on the back. But we all climbed the West Gate Bridge together, only problem was that the windy conditions did not offer us the fun of a rapid (70+kph) descent off the bridge. By the time we hit the M1 out to Geelong, those of us doing the 250km decided to breakaway so that we could all meet together for the ferry crossing – after all we had to put down an extra 40km to meet at Queenscliff.

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We set off but this is where the first hiccup fell on my shoulders. Riding at pace (35-40kph) on the freeway and incurring several bumps from debris littering the road shoulder caused a minor mechanical. I didn’t realise it at first, but I started feeling very sluggish and felt my legs deaden pushing the pedals. I went from riding at pace to struggling to ride above 20kph. My lungs were heaving and I pulled over to check my gear. Sure enough the bumps had caused my rear brake caliper to budge with the pad rubbing on the rim. I was riding with the rear brake half on. Quick mechanical adjustment, back to normal and back with the group. The five of us rotated through taking turns till we got to the hilly stuff. That is when Pete and ‘Liberace’ Dave started cracking. Dave no longer had his old bike, the Candelabra, but was riding a newfangled Focus Izalco carbon beast (in his own words “I can’t keep up with you guys when I am riding a bike made out of wrought iron!”). At this point I ended up pulling some big turns on the front and felt surprisingly strong going up the bumpy bits. This was surprising because the week previous I was on a week’s worth of anti-biotics to shake my lingering chest infection (or were those horse pills disguised for humans?).

The worst of the bumpy bits over, we stuck together through some beautiful beach side towns. It was at that point that Dave caught whiff of some brewing coffee beans which prompted us to stop at Portalington. A few brews and a couple of sausage rolls consumed by Carl, Pete, and Dave and we were rolling again onto the ferry stop at Queenscliff. This is where we were to cop…

Hiccup #2

As we rocked into Queenscliff at the same time as a whole bunch of the 210km riders we got to the ferry stop at just after 11:30 only to be informed that we would not be able to get on a ferry till 2pm. From a ride organisation point of view, this was crap. The ride organisers are normally pretty good, but to make the riders wait for what would be close to 3 hours (if you included the ferry transit time) was just not fair. We had another 110km to go on the other side and I had a plane to catch back to Sydney to get home. So the conundrum was do we wait or ride back into what would inevitably be a strong headwind on some crappy roads? My brother Marc made the call and I had to agree with him, scoff lunch down and ride back on the West side. It was here that we parted ways with Pete and Dave, with Carl choosing to ride with us. The three of us did not want to seize up and we had ridden some tough rides together as a trio before. So our choice was not to loop the bay. This is where I contributed to…

Hiccup #3

I don’t like Powerade – full stop! It is a sugar drink and that is all. I had discovered Hydralyte sports drink mix over a year ago and it has all the essential electrolyte chemicals. Plus, I can’t consume a drink that is blue (why is it always a blue fluid that is used to demonstrate the absorption characteristics of female hygiene products?). But my mistake was that while I discarded the Powerade, I did not drink anything else. I was dehydrated! As we headed back to Geelong from Queenscliff I hit the wall. Instead of riding at or near 30kph I was struggling to get over 24kph. That was coupled with the bad combination of rough roads, temperatures of up to 36 degrees Celsius and what I later found out was headwinds of 40kph. My bro and Carl were struggling too, but they were plugged in and pushed on. They hauled me along pulling at the front, and for that I am so grateful. I was craving fluid and then I thought back to watching pro cycling races where sometimes in the musette bag there is a can of Coke. We stopped in a service station at North Geelong and I grabbed a bottle of ice cold water and a can of Coke. My bro did the same. After a few minutes the magic dark fluid felt like someone plugged me back into the wall socket – power on!

The Freeway Run Back

From this point the cards started falling back in our favour. The wind died down a bit, and we saw a group of about 10 other riders in front of us. We hauled butt to get on the back of these guys and take advantage of the train. This lasted maybe half an hour at most, but they were too slow for us now and we had a target in mind – get to the finish line. We managed to squeeze past this crew and started hammering again at 32+kph, and I was back contributing to taking turns again at the front. We had one more drink stop before we made the final 30km dash. Mentally this is where I got a boost, because I was doing the calculations in my head… just over an hour worth of riding at the average pace we were pulling. With all the hiccups we just missed out on the cut-off for returning back over the West Gate Bridge and were relegated to crossing the Yarra River by ferry. At Port Melbourne we parted ways with Carl who rode home along Beach Road and ended up doing an extra 15km more than we did. My bro and I headed for the finish line, and we wanted to finish strong so we hammered in at 36kph. My bro’s wife Sal and her mother Di cheered us on as we came into the finish (as they have done every year for the past 4 years).

We set out 12 hours earlier that day and ended up riding 265km, the longest ride I have ever done. We averaged 27.8kph (17.3mph) for the whole ride, not bad considering the return conditions and marginally faster than last year too. My legs, feet, hands, wrists, butt, and back were aching, but we finished the ride with all its challenges. Did I enjoy it? Not sure. Am I proud of what I trained for and achieved? Definitely. And I got to share the experience with my brother and Carl along with a Pete and Dave for half of the way. Next year will be a different set of riding challenges.

Unusually I didn’t take any photos of the day, but here is my GPS trail of our ride, including the wrong turn for a few kms coming out of North Geelong on the A10.

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Thanks Marc, thanks Carl for the ride.

A strange light descended over Sydney Harbour this afternoon as the sky was filled with smoke from distant bushfires and the sun was only peering through a small hole in the clouds to the West. The Golden Hour hadn’t yet arrived either. The buildings in North Sydney appear to be glowing, but they are not lit up.

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UPDATE: When I posted this photo I didn’t realise the extent of the threat unfolding in the West of the city. I was simply marvelling at the photo opportunity. There are a lot of people who are now displaced with the threat of losing their homes. A great number of Rural Firemen risking their lives to get the fires under control. Godspeed to all these people.

Recently in Sydney during the International Fleet Review the visiting navies from around the world opened their ships to visitors to board and tour the vessels. You don’t get too many opportunities to normally do this, and of course I had to bring my son – AKA The Pok – to see the big ships. But where the ships were docked was a hefty walk and they told us not to bring prams. So we headed off with my Canon Powershot G15 in hand rather than my SLR and the infant carrier strapped to my back. By the time we got through the gate he was in the carrier on my back. Now at over 17kg he is a heavy solid little boy – a ball of muscle. It reminded me of this scene from Star Wars (me being Luke Skywalker of course) …

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Only problem is that my Jedi mind tricks don’t work on him any more… (by the way – I won’t be so stupid as to not recognise the copyright on this film image being by Lucasfilm, now Disney from Star Wars Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back. I am waiting for the takedown email)

Of the over 5 hours that we were at the naval base, he must have spent at least 4 of them strapped to my back. This made ascending and descending some of the steep ladders and manholes a fun exercise of watching my footholds. He did take the opportunity to have a snooze while strapped in too, so not all so bad. In addition it was a bit cool and I felt him tuck in his arms behind my back several times just to keep warm.

When he finally did decide to play, he had real fun. If they weren’t warships I would recommend to the Royal Australian Navy to do this every weekend as a jungle gym. Firstly decided that he wanted to run around the decks and be a 3 year old goof ball.

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Or posing for the camera

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Or deciding to play hide and seek in the metal base of the missile tubes insisting that is was “Your turn Daddy” to hop into an impossibly small hole for a grown adult.

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But it was when he arrived on the bridge that he found his true calling and assumed the chair. Seems like he wasn’t too impressed with the performance of the crew.

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It is possible that he wasn’t too impressed with my impersonation of Sherpa Tenzig, hauling his lump all around the naval dock. Ahhhh – to be as carefree as a 3 year old, and see the world through his eyes…

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Deep. Tough theme to choose photos for, and I think that quite often I am shooting sites that I know have depth lurking behind them. Here is my go (and as usual, all my images link to the larger photos on Flickr).

We visited the Lake District in the English North West for a long weekend at the onset of Winter. The weather was beautiful, but COLD! It was -5 degrees Celcius when we went out for a boat cruise on the beautiful Lake Windemere. The colour of the water was a deep and dark blue, and you definitely couldn’t see the bottom.

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When we went to Chichén Itzá in Mexico, we were amazed at the size and depth of the Sacred Cenote (sinkhole). Much human sacrifice had been made at this pit, and the murkiness of the water adds to the mystery. As if to reinforce its previous use, a large black vulture was standing watch in the trees but I could not capture him through the lens.

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Nearer to home, Jenolan Caves in NSW offers a quite surreal experience buried deep in the Blue Mountains and obviously underground. The different caves are spectacular and quite a sight to shoot with their stalagmites (ascending) and stalagtites (descending) – I think I got that right… or is it the other way around. This ribbon of mineral took thousands of years to form.

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Finally, deep in the heart of Australia’s Northern Territory lies the beautiful Kakadu National Park. The ravines in the rock are hundreds of metres deep and most have not been explored by man. True wild country.

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If you can, check out some of the other Blogger’s posts for this week through the comments section.

 

The International Fleet Review being hosted in Sydney, Australia, is being held to commemorate the centenary of the first entry of the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet into Sydney. It is to come to an end tomorrow, but in that time we have been greeted to a host of naval festivities around Sydney Harbour including plenty of cool Navy ships playing and strutting their stuff. On the weekend there was a great aerial display followed up the Royal Australian Navy going for a bit of a sail. From my vantage point West of the Sydney Harbour Bridge here is what I was able to shoot, though I wish I had an extra 100mm of focal range on my camera lens. As usual, all the images link through to my larger photos on my Flickr account.

First through the bridge were a couple of the smaller ships in the RAN fleet, the patrol boat HMAS Broome:

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Followed by the minehunter HMAS Gascoyne:

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Then the birds flew over! My boy, The Pok, got quite excited particularly when the large flock of helicopters flew past. I must admit, this was the largest number of helicopters that I have ever seen in the sky at one time. First were the jets, Hornets and Hawks flying formation:

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Then the submarine hunters, the Orions:

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Then the whirly-birds, of all shapes and sizes. There were Seahawks, Squirrels, and MRH90s:

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The RAN’s big boys came through next, with the Guided Missile Frigates HMAS Sydney and HMAS Darwin. HMAS Darwin’s resident Seahawk chopper peeled off and landed on deck, but I was at the wrong vantage point to capture it landing.

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With all this heavy naval metal, maritime security on the harbour was tight. I reckon that this police man on the jet ski has one of the most fun jobs in the world:

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The ship that missed out on all the fun and games was the RAN ship – ADV Ocean Shield, got relegated to hiding in Blackwattle Bay. But with all of its capabilities, I reckon that this is the coolest ship of all of them.

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Two days after all these games we got to go onto the ships that were docked at Garden Island, which was real fun. But that is for a later post.

 

With less than 2 weeks to go before my 250km Around the Bay ride down in Victoria, Australia, the training kilometers have been racking up. Saturday was an 80km ride with my mate JB (and his new Cannondale Super Six and his first road bike) where we rode from Sydney to Parramatta in Sydney’s West and back. I decided to back it up with another training ride on Sunday, but ratchet it up a few notches – 160km along the M7 Motorway cycle path. The challenge – do the M7 loop twice. JB was in, and this would end up being his longest ride.

Preparing for a 250km ride is tough from a time commitment point of view. Trying to balance the hours needed in the saddle and living a normal family / work life is the challenge. I would love to be able to afford the time that the pros have to train for their passion, but alas my path is different. So I have had to swap long flatter kms with shorter steeper ones. This isn’t too difficult to do in Sydney as you can ask any of the cyclists who ride around in the city. But I still needed to get a long stint in on the saddle.

We hit the M7 at just before 6am, which was really 5am as we have just gone to daylight savings time. JB took off as if he stole the bike, and I caught up with him to remind him that the next 6 hours of riding or so would not be a speed test. It would be all about pace, pace, pace. But that didn’t stop us from having a crack on the fun bits at over 60kph. When we got to the quarter mark, we were feeling good and the sun was just about rising. We headed back into a headwind on the return leg of the first lap, which knocked 2kph off our average speed. Still we were setting a good time.

Back at the cars, my preparation the night before was paying off. I had two ice cold bidons and some food for my second breakfast. We ripped off the bottom layers as the temperature which started at 10 deg celcius had already climbed to 20 and was still rising.

The temperature was to prove the killer on the second lap.

My Garmin measured 35 degrees celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit on the other scale) for extended periods on the second lap. We ended up going through twice the amount of fluid the second time round. This lap it was all about hydration, hydration, hydration. Our pace had dropped off again, and the conversation with that too. We were just focused on knocking the ride on the head. The last 20km was not fun, but having that stretch of the route burnt into my head it was just a matter of counting down the kms. JB asked me with 3km to go “how far we do we have left?” to which I responded “half the distance from your place to mine.” Exhausted satisfaction was what greeted us back at the car (and a swooping magpie too).

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In two days I had knocked down 240km and about 2,500m of climbing. Those vertical metres are double what I will have to do down in Melbourne. I backed it up on the public holiday Monday with one of my other riding buddies AC. A short 40km to Maroubra Beach and La Perouse into stupidly strong headwinds. The kms are in my legs now, and I will be easing it off now until the big ride in two weekends time. Should be a good ride, hopefully with some funny stories to tell.

This weekend in Sydney is the International Fleet Review which celebrates the the centenary of the first entry of the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet into Sydney. It kicked off yesterday in grand naval style by the tall ships entering Sydney Harbour. I missed the sight as I was glued to a desk and a computer screen, but the walk home across Darling Harbour offered me the opportunity to see the tall ships moored up next to the Sydney Maritime Museum. It is quite a beautiful sight seeing the rigging and sails gathered up around the booms while the boats peacefully rest in dock. I will be going to see some of the international naval ships on Monday and hopefully catch a glance of a few others around the Harbour on Saturday and Sunday. There will be a flyover on Saturday morning too of helicopters and jets, so the camera is going to get a bit of a workout this weekend.

So here is a taste of some maritime goodness. More to come…

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