Wednesday, December 31, 2008

View From A Fort

I do tend to spend a lot of time at Fort Scratchley these days, mainly because I'm now  a Fort Scratchley guide & so, now most weekends I can be found doing conducted tours of the Fort Scratchley tunnel complex (at only $8.00 it is the best darn value for money tour in the Hunter Valley!).

Not only is it great value for money, but the view is spectacular & the best part ... the million dollar views are free!

Now, the other day when I went up it was a stinking hot summers day with the temperature hovering around the mid 30's, however, in the blink of an eye a southerly storm front blew into Newcastle & cooled the afternoon off. However, as quick as the storm arrived it had passed, luckily not causing too much damage (unless you count the poor soul that was drowned at Port Stephens or the sailor that got struck by lightning on Lake Macquarie!)    

So if you want to see a storm roll in, take in a unique view of Nobby's (Whibay Gamba), or just watch the activity on a real Australian working harbour, take the time to stroll up to Fort Scratchley.

And if you see me ... say hello!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Black & white is alright ... right!

I remember as a kid growing up & all we had was a 22" (55cm) black & white television set, the new fangled Polaroids were black & white & all those you beaut family snaps were in ... yep you guessed it, black & white.

Up until 1975, we certainly lived in a black & white world!

However, although we now live in a colourized world, black & white photography still is able to capture the imagination by its use of contrast to give subjects a beauty that can escape the casual observer
"Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony"

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunshine, Lollipops & Coalships

If Lesley Gore was living in Newcastle these days I'm sure she'd be tempted to re-write her 1965 hit song from 'Sunshine, Lollipops & Rainbows', to the title I have suggested above. Perhaps not as sugary as a song about teenage love, but still a catchy title!

You couldn't have asked for a more perfect Newcastle day, the sun was shining, the temperature was hovering around the high 20's, a light north easterly was keeping things pleasant on the sand, the water was bracing (not cold) & I was even able to park in the car park at Nobbys Beach (that is a feat in itself!). But the best thing was though, I had at least two of my favourite girls with me to share the absolute beauty of this picture perfect Newcastle day.

Jessica just loves the beach & also thankfully for me isn't the least bit camera shy & so I was able to get some great shots of her playing in the water & on the sand. it's great when you can capture kids having fun, without them having to pose, I think it just brings out their natural beauty!

As for coalships, well they just keep coming & going up & down the Hunter River, 24/7 to destinations around the world as they have done for over 200 years from the Newcastle Port. I hope Newcastle never loses its working harbour function & its coal operations. It maintains Newcastle's history & gives the city its 'real' character.
Although I'm sure environmentalists would beg to differ!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When Spring Is Reflective

There is nothing better than working in the vineyards in the early springtime, the days are warm enough for short sleeves, the winds are gone & the first hint of a new vintage are appearing on the vines. Yes indeed, the Hunter Vineyards are at their best at this time of year.

However, it is sobering to note that even in this time of renewal, some things must pass in order that the circle of life can continue & so it is, even in such a peaceful setting as the vineyards. So with a bit of time to spare, I decided to take a walk through a little ramshackle cemetery located next to Wine Country Drive Pokolbin. Armed with my trusty Canon 400D & a slowly setting sun, I took a walk through the distant memories of others.

What type lives did they lead, did they fulfil their dreams & were there many tears shed at their funeral?

I'll probably never know, but I do know that on one late sun filled September afternoon, the memory of Mr & Mrs Hungerford & the others that are laid to rest in that quiet place, were fleetingly bought back to consciousness.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Distance lends enchantment to the view

When Mark Twain, who was traveling around Australia in 1895, described Newcastle as one long street, a graveyard at one end and, at the other, a gentleman’s club with no gentlemen in it.”, he was, as expected, not warmly received by locals at the time. As he left Newcastle. he may walked to the rear of the train as it departed & been inspired to record that memorable quote "distance lends enchantment to the view"

So for this little assignment, I decided to walk around Newcastle & instead of capturing the outstanding natural beauty of this wonderful town, I decided to cast my eye over some of the blemishes of a growing, thriving city such as ours.

Of course, one of our biggest problems, as wth most urban area's, is graffiti, which at times, seems to plague any available wall space in the city, from bus shelters to buses & anywhere where these visual terrorists can blot the landscape with their 'art'

Also Newcastle has a plethora of buildings that were only purchased for the anticipated rises in the real estate market & then left to decay when the speculators couldn’t offload them quickly for a juicy profit . This is sadly represented by the old Newcastle Post Office, once an icon of this town with its beautiful sandstone facade, now left to rot away, home only to pigeons & vandals.

Slowly but surely we are getting Newcastle, especially the west end, together & hopefully in a few years, the ugly gutted buildings along Hunter Street will only be a vague memory

As for Mark Twain, if he could return back to Newcastle today, I'm sure that his view of this wonderful city would be vastly different ..... we moved the graveyard!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Come Fly With Me

It was a cold, cold August day on Saturday & one that was better suited to more sedentary indoor activities. However, we were minding our grand-daughter Heidi & so, given that she is a 'speed freak', it was off to Fighter World, located at the Williamtown RAAF Base. Newcastle Airport is also co-located with the RAAF Base & so there is also a high level of commercial activity. One real big bonus is Fighter World is located within the boundary of the airport & has an excellent observation deck just a couple of hundred metres from the main runway & while we were there, we were lucky enough to observe a Virgin Blue 737 - 8BK (VH - VOB 'Matilda Blue') coming into land.

Heidi had such a ball, sitting in the cockpits pretending to fly & playing with the old radar panels. Once again I was thankful that my low light photography is now at an acceptable level & I'm not reliant on the flash to get great indoor shots (although I am still saving up for a proper hotshoe flash ... anyone got a spare $600!)
After a couple of hours wandering around the displays & watching the activity around Newcastle Airport, we decided to head to Stockton, to catch the ferry across to Newcastle & walk down to Nobby's Beach. Once again Newcastle Harbour provided a stunning backdrop to my photographs as I chased Heidi up & down The Foreshore. When we got to the beach, I experimented with taking 'portrait' shots from different angles , instead of the usual 'stand up & stare' shot. Out of all the shots I took, I just fell in love with the one below. Just a tip for photographers, always be alert, kids, sand & DSLR camera's, are not a real good combination.

Friday, August 1, 2008

View From A Truck

"Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine
When you gonna let me get sober,
Let me alone, Let me go home,
Let me go back and start over"

What do you get when you combine a Canon 400D camera, a truck & the picturesque Hunter Valley vineyards?

Yep, you guessed it, the opportunity to grab some great scenic photographs. However, as a twist, I tried to take every shot from window of the truck I was driving that day. I will admit there were times, when due to safety concerns, that I did actually have to safely park the truck & go back & complete the shot that I had previously seen.

"Ramblin' around this dirty old town
A-singin' for nickels and dimes
Times gettin' rough, I ain't got enough
To buy me a bottle of wine, yeah"

Now, I really love the Hunter wineries & although winter is not the best way to showcase it's beauty, there are still plenty of photographic opportunities for capturing the vines in their dormant state.

"Pain in my head, there's bugs in my bed,
My pants are so old that they shine,
Out on the street I tell the people I meet,
To buy me a bottle of wine"

So next time you hear the old Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs classic 'Bottle Of Wine', just think of the poor Aussie Post driver, working hard, picking up cartons of wine for customers from some of Australia's best boutique wineries.

"Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine,
When you gonna let me get sober,
Leave me alone, let me go home,
Let me go home and start over"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

10 Minutes From Home

Where does a 10 minute drive get you these days?

Living at Warabrook a 10 minute drive will get you to the Lee Wharf precinct on Newcastle Harbour. Lee Wharf is currently under going a massive redevelopment & will soon complete the 'missing link' between Carrington & Honeysuckle. When that is completed Newcastle Harbour will be the best harbour in Australia, bar none, including the iconic Sydney Harbour!

Anyway, today after parking at Lee Wharf, I grabbed my trusty Canon 400D & decided to go for a walk up to the recently refurbished Fort Scratchley. It's an easy walk & today it was a real pleasure to soak up the late afternoon winter sunshine, although a light north westerly did keep the day brisk.

The construction of Fort Scratchley on what was known as Signal Hill, was commenced in 1881 & completed in 1882. The site has been, since 1866, the site of gun emplacements to protect the entrance to the harbour & earlier than that, the site of Australia's first coal mine. It was also the site from which, in 1942, the guns fired on Japanese submarine I-21, which makes the guns on Fort Scratchley the only guns on the Australian mainland to successfully engage the Japanese Navy during WW2! The Fort stayed under the control of the Australian Federal Government until June this year, then after refurbishment, which cost around $10 million, it was handed over to the Newcastle City Council.

Fort Scratchley is the perfect place to while away the hours, watching ships work the harbour, to observe the whales on their yearly migrations, to marvel at the sets rolling off the Pacific Ocean & the best best part ... its FREE.

Yes, 10 minutes from home can land you in a million dollar paradise .... that's Newcastle. Don't believe me, come & see for yourself one day.
Exif data:
Picture 1 - Eating Out - focal length 95mm, exposure 1/320 ,aperture f/8, ISO 100
Picture 2 - Leaving Nobbys - focal length 75mm, exposure 1/320, aperture f/8, ISO 100
Picture 3 - Afternoon Fair - focal length 75mm, exposure 1/200, aperture f/6.3, ISO 100

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Lesson Learned

It was my first day back at work today (not counting my O/T shift yesterday) & it was sort of comforting to see that it was cold, wet & miserable in the morning. However, it was because of the weather that I didn't take my 400D, even though I would be having my meal break in Swansea (NSW, not Wales!), which is a very, very picturesque part of the NSW coast & always worth a picture or two.

A bad, bad mistake!

As it was, I had 30mins to kill, so I thought I'd head over to Redhead Beach, take in the scenery & read a magazine ... as you do, lol.

Anyway, just as I was doing that, not 10mins prior, a car had plunged off a cliff & plummeted to the rocks below. This was unbeknown to me at the time, so as I drove up to Redhead Bluff I came across this scene of chaos & of emergency services everywhere!

As all this was happening, the Westpac Rescue helicopter came in to land to assist with the attempted rescue & here I was sitting around WITHOUT my trusty 400D, however, I did have my dependable Nokia 6120 (with movie mode!) to capture the action.

Sadly, it was a fatal accident & while I respect the pain suffered by those affected by this horrible event ... why oh why didn't I have my camera!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Way We Were

One of the highlights of driving around the bush is the amount of old vehicles & buildings that you see scattered around the countryside. All have had their day ... but I bet they all would have a tale or two to tell!

Bottle & Can House (Lightning Ridge) - This unique building is located up at Nettletons first shaft. What makes it a stand out is that it is made out of not only bottles, but steel beer cans as well. The cans & bottles were all held together by a rough mortar. I don't know if the house was ever finished, but by the looks of it, it wasn't. I don't know if the change to aluminium cans or liver failure was the cause of the non-completion, but at least some parts of it are still standing today!

FJ Holden Ute (Lightning Ridge) - How this old stager has managed to remain in the Ridge after all these years is truly remarkable. A fully restored FJ ute would fetch many, many thousands of dollars in today's market. I really do hope that the old girl does remain in situ as a reminder of the halcyon days of the past.

Old Service Station (Cumborah) - This old servo is located at Cumborah which is at the T - Section between Walgett, Lightning Ridge & Coocoran opal fields . The extensive use of corrugated iron is typical of these type of buildings out west. Notice in the foreground that someone once tried to beautify the area with a rock garden. However, the garden, like the servo has seen better days.

Mid 60's Commer Tipper (Lightning Ridge) - It may be hard to believe now, but the mighty Commer was once the mainstay of the Australian trucking industry, We imported thousands of this type of truck when the trucking industry was British to the bootstraps & bloody well proud of it! If you notice this model had the 'knocker' engine (see below) & not the Perkins diesel engine in it, a rare find in this vintage of Commer.

Rootes Diesel (Lightning Ridge) - The TS3 was 2-stroke 3-cylinder engine of 3.25 litre engine capacity developed 90 hp (67 kW), equivalent to contemporary 4-stroke diesel engines of more than twice the capacity. This engine was used in Commer trucks & was known as a 'knocker' due to its distinctive sound. The badge featured to the left would have to be worth a small fortune to collectors from the Mother Country.

Ford Tipper (Glengarry) - This is a pic of an old Ford tipper abandoned on the Glengarry opal fields. With the additional 'hungry boards' on the tipper body, I would assume that this truck would have always exceeded its axle weights ALL the time! Any info on the exact year & model would be most appreciated :)

Miners Cottage (Lightning Ridge) -This is a fine example of the type of miners cottages that used to be quite common around the Ridge, this one is heritage protected & is on Morilla St, entry is free. Usually these humble dwelling were made of corrugated iron & many just had earthen floors. These cottages are a long way from the McMansions of today.

Morris WE Tipper (Lightning Ridge) - The Morris tipper & its variants were the mainstay of many Australian local & shire councils throughout the 60's & 70's. These were great little trucks & a real pleasure to drive (showing my age here). Once again this little truck should be recognized & saved 'in situ' from any future treasure hunters. Even today, they still look cute!

Old Dwelling (Drake) - Unlike other old buildings I have placed on this site, this one isn't made of corrugated iron! However, it is an old timber structure from what I guess, was made in the 40's 0r 50's. It has now been deserted & left to the elements in the township of Drake, about 50klms east from Tenterfield. Gold was discovered in the Drake area in 1858 & proved a real bonus for Tenterfield. However, the gold mining days are long gone & when the strike faded so did the town of Drake.

Old Tractor (Lightning Ridge) -This old girl was spotted sitting forlornly along the Lorne Rd next to the 'Red Car Door' opal field road. She was fairly ratted for parts & I was unable to ascertain what make she was in the short time I had to investigate, however next time I'm in the Ridge, I'll do a proper forensic investigation, lol

General Store & Butcher Shop (Telegraph Point) - Located just 20klms north of Port Macquarie, just off the Pacific Hwy on the Wilson River is the sleepy little village of Telegraph Point. It is so named because in 1869 it was where the telegraph line crossed the river. Telegraph Point was also an important hub in the timber getting industry that flourished in the area in the late 19th century. In 1902 a bridge was completed that replaced the original punt & then that was replaced in 1974 by the current bridge. When the 'new' bridge was opened the road was diverted away from the town & as a result that would have caused an economic downturn that eventually closed many of the existing business's in that small community. These two buildings look like they may date from the 1920's or 30's & although the butcher shop may have traded until recently, the march of time finally caught up with it as well.

Commer QX TS3 Tipper (Glengarry) - This old tipper was a real joy to find deserted on the Glengarry opal fields. Judging by the way it was left, it looks like the men may have just gone down the pub & will be returning later, well that was probably 20yrs ago! But, given the pace of life out on the fields it could still be the case. Whilst researching these photo's it is apparent that these old vehicles are keenly sought after by collectors. I do hope that they leave them alone, for they give the area a rustic feel.

Milking Shed (Ulmarra) - As you drive south along the Pacific Hwy from Murwillumbah you'll noticed scattered beside the highway these quaint little milking sheds. All are mostly of corrugated iron & timber construction , although there are a few brick ones as well, but all seem to follow the same design principles of the one pictured opposite. I suppose with new 'agri' business models, over time, these quaint little farm buildings will slowly disappear from the Australian landscape.

1959 Holden FC (Lightning Ridge) - Would you believe I actually owned an FC exactly like this one located at Lightning Ridges Historical Societies Cottage on Morilla Street. Yep, the mighty Holden FC, wouldn't steer, wouldn't go, wouldn't stop. Nostalgia is nice to look at, but be thankful we have moved on.

If You Could Paint A Picture - 1 July 2008

Have you ever had one of those days when you walk around & the day can actually take your breath away?

Well today was just one of those magical days, the temperature was 24 deg., a light zephyr of a breeze was blowing from the north, the ocean glittered like a million diamonds, whales on their migration northward frolicked off the coast & this was all on the first day of July!

After of breakfast we went for a quick walk to the lagoon situated just behind the park & I was able to get some great shots of the early morning stillness.

After a quick morning tea with the locals (we scored free coffee cups!) we headed out to the Trial Bay Gaol located about 2klms from where we were staying & because it was close we left the car & enjoyed the walk in the sunshine. The old gaol wasn't a convict garrison, but it was built in the late 19th century to house 'good conduct' prisoners & use their labour to build a breakwall into Trial Bay. In 1903 that project was abandoned & the gaol lay dormant until 1915, when the government decided to intern male German civilians during WWI. This lasted until the end of the war & then, during the 1920's anything that could be unbolted & sold as scrap was achieved, till all that left was basically the building shell. In 1965 the area came under the control the Arakoon State Rec Area & since then rehabilitation works have been in progress to maintain this unique piece of our early penal history.

We also made the trek up to the monument that was erected for the German internee's that died whilst in captivity at the gaol & then down through the coastal heath to Little Beach. Every step you took presented another photographic opportunity & I was amply rewarded, although my photo's could never do justice to the beauty on display.

Later that afternoon, we went over to the Smoky Cape Lighthouse to see the beauty of the late afternoon playing upon the white starkness of the lighthouse & marvel once again at the whales migrating northward. Smoky Cape was actually named by Captain Cook on his discovery voyage in the Endeavour in 1770. If he'd had any sense he'd have stop & built a house there! With the last gasps of sunlight receding away, I once again headed back down to the lagoon & was able to capture the stunning beauty of sunset over a pristine coastal wetland.

This was such a special day, but unfortunately it was our last hurrah .... our next stop was Newcastle. Our 3,000klm holiday was over, but it will always be remembered as a stunning, relaxing & wonderful way to see NSW.