Archives for category: Travel

If there is one spot in the world that I have found to be as close to idyll, it would have to be Port Stephens on the NSW coast about 30km North of Newcastle. It is an absolutely beautiful part of the world and less than 3 hours drive North of Sydney. The port itself is a drowned valley estuary, and the large natural harbour that it makes is 134 square kilometres (52 square miles) in size. Here is what it looks like from the sky.

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For me it has everything that I want for a holiday at the beach, and one day I will live there (maybe when I am old(er)…). If you want water sport activities and fishing – tick. If you want quiet harbour beaches with no surf – tick. If you want bushwalking – tick. If you want sand dune adventures – tick. If you want relaxing by the beach – tick. And if you want riding then big tick.

So when my wife said “let’s go up to Port Stephens for the Australia Day long weekend”, I was dead keen to go up there again. This would be the first time my boy would be old enough to comprehend that this would be a fun trip, so a family trip was the order – with my road steed on the roof racks ready to go. This is where I thank my wife profusely for allowing me to indulge in some two wheel exploring of the port, and over the course of the long weekend I managed to squeeze in over 180km.

The riding is mostly flat, but when it does get to the hilly bits then it is a bit Jekyll and Hyde. What I mean by that is that it is either flat or stupidly steep. There is one hill leading from Corlette to Nelson Bay which hits 16% gradient – ouch! The steepest road I have ever ridden up is in Corlette, and it would definitely be over 25% gradient. I haven’t run the GPS over some of these routes yet, I will keep that for another time.

It is so picturesque riding through here, even when you are in the suburbs. There are many roads like this, with the beautiful and natural Australian bush right on the side of the road for kilometres on end.

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With all the surrounding national parks and preserved bush and wetlands, you are bound to see the natives. If you look closely you can see not one but two koalas in the same tree.

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A ride around the area always involves destinations like the serene Soldiers Point, which looks Westward and in the evenings to a setting sun. Early morning is not just the dominion of us cyclists, the fishermen love getting out on their boats too. But what is awesome about Port Stephens is that even at the boat ramps you can still find one that is not bustling.

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From Soldiers Point, to the West you can see a similar location known as Lemontree Passage. As the crow flies it is only some three to four kilometres away, but a round trip on the bike is close to 50 kilometres of riding. Of course I had to do that ride, and I was greeted to an awesome sunrise at the boat ramp at Lemontree Passage.

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I had to get a shot of my road steed posing with the boats of the Marine Rescue of New South Wales, who voluntarily commit to supporting the saving of lives on the water – 24 x 7. I never knew about this organisation before this last weekend, until I had the opportunity to talk to one of the volunteers who was raising money to keep their operations going. Just in Port Stephens alone last year they went out to over 100 calls.

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Finally, I had to snap this shot of a sign that held very true this last weekend. Yes Australia has some nasty critters, and Port Stephens has many of them. You have been warned…

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I often joke about the fact that the critter danger in Australia is overhyped, but on my rides I had to twice swerve to avoid a couple of small snakes on the road shoulder. No problems at 30+kph. But the crap my pants moment came when we spent the day at Fingal Bay where my son was begging to go for a ride on his balance bike. He got very tired after 3 kilometres in the heat and I ended up carrying his bike in my left hand with him sitting on my shoulders (as usual). Gazing at the beach and not looking where I was directly walking, I stepped on something rubbery but fleshy. As I turned around I saw what I didn’t want to see, one of these scurrying off into the sand dunes.

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And it was big, at least two metres long! Yes, I crapped myself. Because while I was trying to deny it what I had just stepped on was an Eastern Brown Snake – the second most venomous snake in the world. But he was scared, I was scared, and we called it a truce. My son from his perch said to me “Don’t worry Daddy, he is a nice snake because he didn’t eat us.”

I can’t wait to ride up here again next time – hopefully minus the serpents.

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Silver. I didn’t realise how tough this week’s travel theme would be. I take a lot of photos of gold stuff, and colourful stuff, but you never see a lot of silver stuff. What I really wanted to find in my photo travel archive was a gleaming P-51D Mustang fighter plane, but alas donuts. But I did find some so here goes. As usual the images in this post link to my larger photos on Flickr.

Starting in Australia first, I really like this photo that I was lucky enough to capture in Caloundra, Queensland, Australia. The beachside “boardwalk” has lots of cool street furniture and these oversize silver taps add to the aquatic theme of the beach. The couple were not inserted, and I think make the photo.

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Off to Japan, and  the Fuji TV building in Odaiba, Tokyo is one of the many iconic buildings design by the renowned Japanese architect Kenzō Tange. This photo really doesn’t do the building justice with its silver sphere on the top floor walkway.

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Further South in Kyoto, Japan, is a temple called Ginkaku-ji – also known as the Silver Pavilion. This building was supposed to be covered in silver likes its sister building the Golden Pavilion, but they ran out of money (back in the 15th century). So it is not the building which is the highlight so much as the perfectly manicured grounds.

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Across to Europe and in Paris, France we have La Géode at Cité des sciences technology museum. It is a spectacular silver sphere which doubles up as high technology digital cinema showing cool Imax sort of stuff. The thing is 12 stories high! You can see from the sky that it was a perfect day to spend in a museum.

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If you ever go up to Northern England and one of my favourite cities Leeds (and home to the mighty Leeds United) is one of the best military museums in the world – The Royal Armouries. There are so many pristine suits of medieval armour on display, you almost get lost in there. I love this display of a knight in his silvery armour with battle mace in hand ready to do damage. I would love to go back to visit when they put on the jousting display in full kit.

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Finally, in New York City, arguably the most beautiful skyscraper is the Chrysler Building. It’s art deco finish is soooo beautiful. I particularly like the gargoyles.

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I have to post one more photo, I wouldn’t say no to one of these that I got close to at the Paris Auto Mondiale (motor show) back in 2004. The perfect mix of McLaren and Benz.

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This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Illuminated. I thought I would use this travel theme to show off my photos from the Vivid Light Festival in Sydney from last year. I had to travel the best part of 3km to get to this location, but it was tough hauling with my Canon Digital SLR, 4 lenses, and a Tripod. I am only showing a few of the photos on this blog post but I uploaded a whole heap more, particularly of the Sydney Opera House, up to my Flickr account on this set Vivid Light Festival 2013. Oh, and as usual, the images link through to the larger sized photos on Flickr.

The Sydney Opera House was AWESOME! The video show this year was something special, and was good for both photography and video. The husband of one of our fellow bloggers, Josephine over at Becoming Aussie (the link has a blog post with video of the show), had a hand in putting together this part of the light show. My favourite part was definitely the lizard eye.

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The Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) was well cool too and competed well against the ‘House, but was pipped into second place.

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There were another two video displays against buildings this year, in addition to the regular one on Customs House which was unusually average. One was against the old brick warehouse building behind the Overseas Passenger Terminal, which was better to watch in motion than still. The running horses were the best bit.

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Circular Quay was bathed in colour!

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Not all the displays were grand, some were on a more human scale. Like this oversized illuminated beehive.

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Or the light panels that were sensitive to touch.

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The terraces in the rocks were lit up again this year after being absent in 2012. Love the colours, and the light murals on the 1st storey balconies.

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I liked the giant neon tube light bulb – cool too.

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Some of the art pieces were quite abstract, but this one was sheer genius. It would have to have been very highlight calculated with the shade effects against the textured cubes. The lighting changed its saturation over time and the shadows changed with it. Chapeau to this artist.

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I think my boy enjoyed the light show a lot, particularly when he got to play on the light piano with his mum.

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I can’t wait to see what the lineup will be for 2014.

Great theme this week Ailsa, good excuse to post some cool photos.

OK – so this post may make some of my fellow Northern hemisphere bloggers slightly jealous, but sorry I am in the “back to work” doldrums. My Christmas Summer holidays are over and it is back to the desk in the middle of a Sydney Summer. It seemed like it went so quick! Christmas day was very wet, we belted the poms in the cricket to win back the little urn and restore balance to the force (for non-Aussies I will not translate this), and I got to take my family to the beach – several times!

We are lucky in Sydney that we have a great selection of beaches to choose from. My favourite surf beach is Maroubra because it is not full of tourists, but with a 3 year old in tow our favourite beach would have to be Balmoral within Sydney Harbour. It is family friendly with minimal surf and easy to get to, the only downside being the limited parking (which may also be the blessing to stop it from getting overcrowded).

And our boy loves it too! Whether he is pretending to be a starfish in the sand.

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Or jumping over the sinkholes that we have dug in the beach.

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Balmoral is a very nice stretch of sand and is very welcoming. Even for fellow beach goers trying to signal planes flying overhead with sand bucket writing.

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And camping out under the sun tent is the ideal location to get stuck into the snacks that would otherwise not be allowed at home.

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I have one more long weekend at the beach booked at the end of January, so hopefully looking forward to some more beach fun. It is the little travel trips that sometimes provide the best enjoyment.

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.

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.

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Delicate. I found this theme tough, because I realised that I don’t shoot delicate “things”. I shoot grand things (architecture and landscape) or things of interest to me, but not delicate. I marvel at the delicate, but not where I shoot the delicate. But here is my crack (and as usual the images link through to my larger photos on Flickr).

Starting in Maui, Hawai’i, USA, is a shrub that can only be found on the slopes of the grand Haleakala volcano – the Silversword. It is a tiny and delicate shrub whose fine leaves are protected by the National Park Rangers and visitors alike. It has a lovely silver hue to it. For the record, the altitude for this shot was over 10,000 ft.

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Moving to the Western side of the Pacific Ocean, and the Western side of the Japanese island of Honshu is the beautiful gold leaf artisans of Kanazawa. It is such a delicate art and the Kanizawa artisans account for 90% of the gold leaf pieces in all of Japan.

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Back home in Australia’s capital of Canberra is the immaculately preserved 1297 copy of the Magna Carta on display in the Parliament House. Not only is the document delicate, but the tenets of what it decrees are so delicate to the protection of a modern liberal society (and is the foundation all modern liberal democratic constitutions). In some respects, this document is more important than the bible.

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This tiny spider was delicately perched in the rain on his (or her) web. I found this one in the shrubs of the coastal bush land at Calalla Bay in Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia.

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Travelling not much further than the city centre of Sydney, Australia was this delicate sculpture promoting a book festival of some kind in the Galleries Victoria. I can imagine that this would have been a bugger to put up and take down. Pretty cool though.

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The annual vivid festival in Sydney, Australia is always a light show feast for the eyes. I loved this delicate (and oversized) chandelier which had the backdrop of the Sydney Opera House. It was almost impossible to shoot without my tripod.

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But the most delicate thing to me (and my wife) is our boy, who we nickname “the Pok”. While he is growing up big and strong (now 3) and not so delicate anymore, I still remember how tiny and fragile he was. This was him some 5 days after he was born, almost like he knew the camera was on him.

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And my wife is awesome with him, when he looks at these photos with me now on the computer he recognises that it is him with his “Mummy”.

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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.

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!

 

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.

 

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