Archives for the month of: December, 2013

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Birds. While I don’t go looking to photograph birds in flight, I found quite a few shots of birds in my travel photos. As usual, all the images link through to my larger photos on Flickr.

Starting in Australia up the NSW North Coast there is the Booti Booti National Park (just south of Forster). This kookaburra didn’t even budge an inch as I went to photograph him.

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Still in NSW but this time down on the South Coast is the beautiful seaside town of Kiama. The wildlife both in the water and the air is stunning. This pelican was stalking his prey in the water.

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Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Islands is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. While the island has been developed for tourists, it is pretty clear that the wildlife rule the roost. This Australian parakeet was eyeing up my breakfast.

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Off to Japan and in the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace in Kyoto I spotted this white swan cruising alongside his mates, the carp. It rained a lot while we were there.

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Off to Helsinki, Finland, and there is a definite port town feel about this capital. There were several different types of birds flying around the docks and wharves, but it was this seagull that I got mid-flight that I liked the most.

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I have seen swans in many places that I have visited around the world. These ones were gently floating on the lake at Ellesmere in England’s midlands. Their duck brethren were not far behind either.

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Finally in Mexico along the Riviera Maya is the eco-tourist park of Xcaret. The park was established initially as a breeding ground for native fauna and flora, and their bird breeding program is yielding spectacular results. These two Mexican parrots were quite happily perched on their ledge observing us as we walked by.

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The flamingo breeding program was in full swing with nearly 100 birds about. This was the first time that I had ever seen a flamingo, and they are just as striking in real life as they are on documentaries.

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Thanks Ailsa, great theme for the final week of 2013.

Christmas is over for another year and we had a stuffy Christmas Eve full of food and drink, rain all of Christmas Day (both presents for the Pok and the water kind), and Boxing Day was bright and sunny. But one of the most distinct traditions we have in an Australian Summer Christmas is a night raid of the Sydney Fish Markets. The markets are open for 36 hours straight and even at 11:30PM on the 23rd of December it was heaving.

The usual suspects headed out for the raid (i.e. my wife, brother and his wife), with cool bags in tow.

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The Police were alerted to our presence and were out in full force to placate the natives for our arrival (we walk there, while others join the massive traffic jam to enter the car park marshaled by the cops).

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The prawns were overflowing with multiple hands at work to dish them out. Our raid involve acquiring a few kilograms of this stuff.

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Crustaceans of all shapes, kinds and colours were on their best display for the evening. Even with the fake camouflage they couldn’t hide.

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Some fish were feeling special too…

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Mrs Clause couldn’t help but partake in some oyster shucking.

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And to think that this row of ocean fruit would all be gone in probably a couple of hours, replaced by the next batch.

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It wasn’t just seafood on sale, the deli was flogging off its fromage.

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And they also stocked all the colours of the rainbow of bottled goodness.

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The sushi reindeer were working overtime.

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And some of the salmon sold were longer than my arm.

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Hope you all had a good Christmas!

When I first started my blog over a year ago, one of my favourite post topics was to document Christmas. I am now officially on my Christmas holidays from work and won’t be back till 2014. So I now have the luxury of enjoying my Christmas break with my family. But it has also given me the opportunity to shoot some of my favourite Christmas decorations in the City of Sydney. As someone who celebrates Christmas I know the real meaning of this occasion, but I can’t help but enjoy the effort that is made to decorate and celebrate at this time of year. A lot of the decorations are tacky and (quite honestly) cheap, but I have chosen the ones that I think are special and hurt the power bill or cause storage headaches for the other 11 months of the year. The images in this post link through to my larger photos on Flickr.

The Christmas tree in Martin Place is really a centre piece for the city, but this year it has been hard to shoot it with a couple of over grown trees on either side of it. But it is quite unique this year with an LED ribbon that shimmers in different light patterns.

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The baubles are big and chunky and equally playful with the light.

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Some of the shop arcades have pulled out some stops to decorate. These are some of the giant Christmas people in Chifley Tower.

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The Westfield Mall in Pitt Street is showered in light and I love these hanging stars that cover four stories. They too dance with different light.

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By far the best decorations in Sydney are in the wonderful Strand Arcade (sorry QVB). It is as if the building was built to showcase Christmas.

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There are some cool shop displays too, trying to tempt us to buy their wares. I found this jewelry store shop window elegant and the shop owners made some serious effort to decorate with class.

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Even though we are in the Southern Hemisphere, doesn’t mean we don’t indulge in Christmas sweets. I love gingerbread…

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And this year the Sydney Town Hall had no scaffolding on it, so the illuminations could be displayed in all their glory. It is pretty cool.

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Only three more sleeps… hopefully it is shaping up to be a hot one 🙂

For those who don’t know Martyn Ashton – he is a cycling legend. He pretty much put the discipline of mountain bike trials riding on the map. He has done things on a bike that I can only dream of. I recently watched this video – “Road Bike Party 2 – Martyn Ashton” on the Global Cycling Network’s Youtube channel.

After being mesmerised by the bike handling of Martyn, Danny MacAskill, and Chris Akrigg, I was saddened to learn that Martyn had broken his back in a fall  during the filming of this video which has pretty much left him paralysed from the waist down. The sad thing is that it will be a long long time, if ever, that he walks again. Some people might say that he has risked his life – I say he is living it. After all, look at the smile on Chris Akrigg’s face!

To Martyn – respect, courage, and “Party on”!

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Still. I think it is quite appropriate leading up to the quietest night of the year, Christmas Eve, that we are posting photos of stillness (i.e. before the next day’s child mayhem of opening presents). As usual, all the image link through to my larger photos on Flickr.

Starting in Matsumoto, Nagano prefecture, Japan, is the beautiful Matsumoto Castle. In it’s heyday in feudal Japan it was a bustling centre of the Matsumoto Domain. I woke up at 5am to travel nearly three hours from Tokyo to see this castle and it was definitely worth it. Now it lies still away from the centre of the city, with the only movement being tourists gently climbing through it.

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Travelling to Europe, for my 30th birthday my wife and I did a mini road trip through the Champagne region in France. To get there, we chose to travel through the French town of Provins with its medieval castle walls. It was beautiful, and the local markets were in full swing too. Looking out from the walls were the rolling agricultural hills. This cemetery is one that was built to remember those who passed away during the two world wars, and it stands their still in the middle of the fields with the only thing moving being the flag in the wind.

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Across the pond, in the United Kingdom, I found solace on a lone walk with my camera through the English countryside around where my Mother In-Law lives in a tiny place called English Frankton. As the sun was setting the whole area subdued as if getting ready for a night inside. The winding roads in between the hedge rows were quiet, except for the sounds of birds doing their thing.

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Still in England, not long after I got my first digital camera, I went giddy after seeing snow fall late in the evening around where I lived in North Cheshire (just South of Manchester). The yellow street lights gave off an eerie glow. It was cold, and quiet, but beautiful at the same time. This was also the first time I learnt how to use long exposure too. Ah… my trusty old Canon PowerShot G2…

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Coming back home to Australia, this photo of the boat house in Lorne, Victoria (along the Great Ocean Road) would have to be one of my favourites. The water was so still you would swear it was a glass mirror. Great part of the world.

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The Australian War Memorial in Canberra is an interesting historical museum, but the Hall of Memory is truly stunning. It is silent and peaceful, and a fitting dedication to the lives sacrificed.

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The Hunter Valley in NSW is the playground of wine lovers. While lively during the day (with wine lovers chasing as many cellars as they can), at night the valley is peaceful and surreal. This shot of the sun setting is another one of my favourites. The sky came alive! Yet there was no storm or winds, just the stillness of the valley.

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And finishing off, the stillness of Christmas Eve is where this last shot came from.

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Thanks Ailsa, great theme this week.

It has been a while since my three brothers and I have been in the same city for Christmas. My youngest bro lives in Toronto, Canada. My second youngest bro lives in Melbourne, Australia, and first brother and I both live in Sydney (I am the eldest, smartest, wisest, etc. of my four brothers – eldest rights… we are not competitive…). This year we will all be in Sydney, with my youngest bro flying in today with his wife. I have been looking for an excuse to post this photo, he is the one of the left.

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Let the brotherly shenanigans begin, here is to some good times in the next few weeks.

Why is it that the lead up to Christmas is always the busiest work time? For the last four weeks and the next couple leading up to Christmas it has and will be silly busy. So I am trying to squeeze in some time to continue my blog in the lead up to the festive break. And also make some time to read my fellow blogger’s musings, photos, and posts.

But the weekend is here, and the last Pyrmont Growers Market for 2013 was held this morning. It is one of the monthly events that we love doing as a family, and on the first Saturday of every month food growers and connoisseurs descend on the grass reserve at Pyrmont out the front of the casino. Being the December market we were also on a mission – stock up for Christmas!

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It was a glorious Summer morning, and I hope we get many more of these this Summer. We weren’t the only ones to descend on the market, and it was quite busy with people both shopping and wanting to grab a quick bite to eat.

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I love going and grabbing a roll stuffed with yummy meat. Next month I am hunting down this guy with his shredded pork rolls and crackling. Our very specific food mission was to find our favourite French chef, Stephane, to put in our order for a Christmas terrine that he makes to order for pick up before the 24th. His wares are delicious!

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The market merchants weren’t just selling food and drink, but also flowers and some other decorations too.

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Most of the merchants allow you to try their goods and this is music to “The Pok’s” (AKA my son) ears. He could eat them all under the cover just in the tastings alone. And he smiles at all of them too, so they can’t resist giving him seconds. Boy does he have this game figured out – God help us when he turns into a teenager chasing girls. I got to try some Christmas pudding before the big show.

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I was thirsty and so was “The Pok”. It was hot after all. We found a stall that was selling homemade lemonade cordial, and I picked up a bottle to make myself at home (maybe with a hint of vodka when the little ones are asleep). The lady was selling takeaways too so we couldn’t help ourselves.

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Most of the merchants focus on selling fresh produce which have as much natural good stuff in it. We picked up some grain fed beef and some vegetables without all the chemicals.

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“The Pok” was having a lot of fun in the sun.

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We found one of our favourite food merchants who sell these fantastic caramelised vinegars and oils – yum.

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The colours are great too!

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They had prime position on the waterfront. What I love about these markets is that they are a good leveler between all types – the rich locals and the plebs like us.

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And while we were waiting for “Mummy of The Pok” to put the terrine order in, acrobatics were the order of the day. All of this activity still didn’t wear him out for a midday snooze.

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Now looking forward to Christmas and enjoying the delights of what we picked up. And while we are eating, I will have the opportunity to ponder how fortunate we are to be able to have some small indulges.

This is a bit of an abstract post, in that it could be perceived to be a rather dull topic. Recently we went up to the NSW Central Coast again for my Mother’s 60th birthday, and we took the opportunity to show the rest of the family the Crommelin Native Arboretum (or as my son – AKA “The Pok” – calls it: “the jungle”). It was a bit overgrown this time round but with all the recent rainfall it was very green. This time around I noticed the large variety of tree types, and it is most evident in the beauty of their bark. This is nature painting the most beautiful textures. I am not a rabid conservationist, but I would like to see people appreciate the natural beauty of our native flora more… and it is beautiful.

Tearing away –

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Mottled cuts –

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Grey crackling –

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Burnt ribs –

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Shotgun scars –

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Vertical rips –

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Lunar landscape –

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A wooden face –

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Bleeding bark –

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A mossy canvas –

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