Archives for posts with tag: nature

The weekend had arrived and I picked up my son – the Pok – from day care after I had finished work on Friday. He was looking forward to the weekend too, so when I asked him what he wanted to do on Saturday I was taken aback by his response – “the Zoo!”

So with sunscreen liberally applied, and hats donned, we trekked over to King Street Wharf near Darling Harbour in Sydney. The Zoo we decided to visit was the Wildlife Sydney Zoo – which features a colourful cast of native Australian animals. We had never been here, and at first I was a bit sceptical that this would be a tourist trap but boy was I surprised. Housed in a large building enclosure that has been built over Sydney Harbour with a high netted ceiling is a wonderful small zoo within an easy walk of Sydney CBD. The proximity you get to the animals left our son in a bit of a fright at first – particularly when snakes drop down from their branches to within a foot of your face having only a sheet of glass separating you. There were plenty of open enclosures for you to get close to the animals, but also safely away from those that require distance. The one I am talking about is “Rex” the 5m Saltwater Crocodile – the prime example of an apex predator.

The zoo staff support conservation and animal care and you can see they spend a great deal of time taking care of the animals and their habitats. So with my Canon Powershot G15 in hand, I tried to see if I could get some shots as opposed to snaps. I was quite happy with some of the results, even the ones that were shot through glass. BTW all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.

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Our 2 year old son had a great time visiting this zoo, and his fear of the reptiles abated ever so slightly by the end of the trip. The zoo also has plenty of other attractions to appeal to kids. In the end we all left extremely impressed, and I don’t think that this will be the last time we go here. If you visit Sydney, and only have a day or two up your sleeve, skip the tacky tourist traps like the Madame Tussauds next door and check out some of Australia’s native fauna here.

Pok at the Wildlife Sydney Zoo - #1

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Cyclone Oswald has well and truly left us now, but not without carving a swath of destruction over the Northern Territory, Queensland, and NSW. It has absolutely belted South Eastern Queensland and North Eastern NSW and hit Sydney with a vengeance early last week. There are a lot of people in Queensland who have lost everything again, but at least this time they were more prepared. The satellite image below shows its size as it hit South Eastern Queensland, days before descending down to where I live in Sydney. If you want to get an idea of the scale that the storm is covering, this would swallow up the whole of Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands at once (as well as parts of Italy and Germany) – I this checked by comparing the area of coverage on Google Earth.

Cyclone Oswald Satellite Image - SE QueenslandWhen it hit Sydney it was downgraded to a category 5 storm, but it pretty much drowned out the remainder of the Australia Day long weekend. By Tuesday morning (29 January 2013) the storm had dumped 100mm of rain between midnight and 6am – pretty scary. Being an amateur photographer, of course I wanted to capture my experience of the storm. I didn’t dare go out, given it was blowing a gale and my camera gear was not quite waterproofed. But I did venture out onto the balcony and pulled out my new Canon Powershot G15 to shoot a couple of snaps. I wanted to see what the in camera HDR setting would do and how would it show the detail in pretty horrid and bizarre low light conditions. Here are two shots that I shot on the Monday night before the real rain shower began. As usual all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.

Cyclone Oswald Rain Storm - Sydney - #1

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There is a complete lack of definition in the sky and the drowned out clouds kept on dumping more as I went to bed. The reflection of the water on the buildings and the road brought out a lot of detail that I wasn’t expecting to capture – and I must admit, for a couple of HDR images, they don’t look to unrealistic. By comparison, here is the same two compositions taken using the camera’s auto setting. I much prefer the low light detail of the buildings and trees being brought out in the HDR images, without muddling around with the colour balance, hue, and saturation of the images.

Cyclone Oswald AUTO - Sydney - #1

Cyclone Oswald AUTO - Sydney - #2Meanwhile, inland, between Sydney and Melbourne our poor farmers can’t buy a bucket of rain. I took this shot while flying back to Sydney from the air and was absolutely amazed by how barren and brown the land was – while the coastal cities and towns were drowning under rain and flooding. There is no denying that Australia is a land of extreme beauty, but also extreme weather and we get reminded of this every day.

Barren Country NSW from the air - #1


After the first day of camping at Shellharbour the weather had turned pretty ordinary for a few days. I was able to get some nice photos at dusk of Shellharbour on the first night, but was dying to get out onto the rocks and capture some of the water reflections and maybe a bit of seaside flora and fauna too – with some blue Summer sky. New Year’s Eve rewarded us with the perfect conditions, and late in the afternoon I trekked out onto the rocks to see what I could find. I love the myriad of shot opportunities that the rocky outcrops on the Australian coast offer. If you are patient and wait between waves you get to see all kinds of critters like crabs, anemones, and maybe even a bird or two. The other aspect about the rocks is that sometimes they appear to have been carved out by a giant hand with lines etched into the surface but what one would imagine is a large knife. I was the only one out on the rocks (along with a flock of seagulls), and after some exploring at low tide I came across a couple of decent photo opportunities. I wish I had a 70-200mm lens on me, as I only came armed with the 24-70mm. I also had fun with the circular polariser filter to achieve different effects – reflection or not. I was pleasantly surprised by the spread of colour, which at a distance only appeared to be a mass of reddish hued stone. I had to switch to manual focus for a few of the shots, the camera really struggled with the reflections of the water surface. BTW – all the links from the photos open up to the larger images uploaded to my Flickr account.

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The plan to stay at home for the Christmas break brought on a case of some very itchy feet. We were itching to travel somewhere. Not to some exotic overseas location (though that would have been nice), but to a place where we could relax and enjoy the Australian summer. About a month ago we planned to go camping, but a little thing called work got in the way. So with tent in hand, we searched for a place to pitch it. Luck was on our side as another family had cancelled a reservation that they had at Shellharbour Beachside Tourist Park – and it was a prime position too. Shellharbour is just over an hour and a half drive South of Sydney, very easy to get to. The spot we nabbed was right at the end of the camp site closest to the beach and rocky head. So far the weather hasn’t been on our side, but New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are looking quite promising. With grey skies dominating our first night, I decided to try some shots at dusk of the seaside pool and the rocky head. I love the way the ocean blurs on long exposure shots. The artificial light contrasting against the ill-defined clouds creates an interesting mood too. At first I was being lazy, shooting from a distance and holding the camera by hand. This didn’t really work, so I got down on the seaside rocks and pulled out my trusted Manfrotto. This was essential for this little shooting trek. Next time I will remember to bring a torch too so I can see what I am doing in the dim light. BTW – all the links from the photos open up to the larger images uploaded to my Flickr account.

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Hopefully the weather does clear up so my little man can get out of the tent and into the sun.

Camp Shellharbour

If anyone is interested in visiting this beautiful seaside spot on the NSW South Coast, below is the location on Google Maps of where we chose to stay.

Shellharbour - Google Maps

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