Thursday, June 25, 2009

Country Dreaming

One of the most overlooked parts of the Newcastle & the Hunter Valley is the rich country atmosphere that is right under our noses. While most of the time we look at our wonderful beaches, our bustling port, the coal industry & our exquisite wineries, it is easy to miss that this area was founded on the farming communities, communities that continue to thrive even today.

Tillegra Dam not withstanding.

So once again I packed the old 400D, some sandwiches & during my meal breaks travelled around some of the rural communities located alongside the New England Highway, to the villages of Lochinvar, Greta, Luskintyre, Oswald, Windermere, Aberglasslyn & Oakhampton. It was as at Oakhampton, located near Maitland, where I visited the historic Walka Water Works. This outstanding ornate industrial building was completed in 1887 to serve the growing water needs of Newcastle & the Hunter Valley & remained operational till 1929. Then from 1951 it had another life as a power station, till that was shut down in1978. It's history & archetecture is a real joy to be admired & another example of the making industrial buildings a work of art & not just functional.

Also located near to the Walka Water Works is the historic Oakhampton cemetery. A
comtemplative walk around this picturesque old cemetery (located on the banks of the Hunter River), gives a real insight into how hard life was for those early pioneers, especially given the amount of graves of infants & mothers who died during childbirth. This was a hard life for those who struggled tilling the soil & raising a family.

So if it's history, solitude or observing outstanding natural beauty, grab your camera & take a trip to some of the quaintest areas of NSW.

You and I, country dreamer,
when there's nothing else to do;
Me oh my, country dreamer,
make a country dream come true.

(Paul McCartney - 'Country Dreamer')

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Winter Solstice

C'mon I know you all love the winter & can't wait to go for those long romantic walks along a windswept deserted beach, just you & your loved one enjoying the moment of solitude that only true love can bring.

No? Well you're probably right, lol.

So here I was, shortest day of the year, the winter solstice & with about 15 other hardy souls
from the the Flickr group, Newcastle Sundance we
gathered at Stockton Beach at sunrise to capture this unique occasion. However, the weather gods weren't kind & the day produced an overcast morning to obscure the first rays of sun to
greet us hardy (some would say foolish) photographers.

The morning wasn't a total loss & after packing up our gear, we headed for Lexies On The Beach for a warming hot coffee & a bit of
breakfast. Later that morning I drove along the Hunter River & was able to capture some of the beauty of our wonderful river, bejewelled in the early morning light.

So if you see a group of amateur photographers wandering around some of Newcastle's iconic locations , especially around sunrise & sunset, it is probably the Newcastle Sundancers group.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When You Get A Little Hoarse

What a cold, cold day it was today in the Maitland area. This was our first real 'winter' day & for the first time, last summer seemed to be just a distant memory. The wind was blowing around 40kph & some gusts reaching over 50 kph. This really plummeted the mercury to just 13 deg (C) & with the wind chill, it felt like 0 deg (C).

But it was the wind, it was blowing that hard it would blow the milk out of your tea!

So at lunch time, armed with my Canon 400D camera & a couple of sandwiches I drove up to historic Morpeth for to check out some photographic opportunities.

Morpeth was established as a major river town in 1821 to service the burgeoning rural industries that were thriving on the Hunter River. It was due
to the expansion of Maitland & Morpeth on the Hunter River as major rural centres that hastened the closure of Newcastle as a convict centre in 1823. Today, as you walk down the original stone paved paths along Swan Street past the historic buildings & down to the beautiful Morpeth bridge (built in 1898, it is the oldest remaining example of an overhead braced Allan truss road bridge in service) you can catch a glimpse of what life in a 19th century river town must have been like. However, with siltation of the river & the arrival of rail, the life of the river port was doomed. So from around 1890 Morpeth's fate was sealed as commerce (& the money) moved to Maitland & Newcastle.

The only problem I had all day was the weather, but it is winter & it is that time of year when you can get a little hoarse.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Winter Wine 2009

Well our winter in Australia has now started & the changing season is best reflected in & around the Hunter Valley vineyards. It is a challenge to keep getting outside to try to capture some different aspects of winter in Australia (especially Newcastle) when the sensible thing to do is rug up & stay inside.
So when I was sent to the vineyards on the first day of winter, the first thing I did was pack my trusty Canon 400D with both lenses (the 18 - 55mm & the 75 - 300mm).
The day itself was just flat & grey, not too cold around 18 deg, not raining,
but rain wasn't too far off. The great thing about having an overcast day, was that I was always presented with even light & so I didn't have to worry too much about shadow. Also, due to the amount of rain the vineyards have had, the area still has some extraordinary colour, contrasted by the vines & deciduous trees.

One weekend I'll have to make a point of getting back out to the vineyards, when I'm not constrained by time issues & really do some serious photography in this unique part of the Hunter Valley.

Oh, the wine is also superb & if you scout around there some extraordinary good value tipples to be had .... just don't drink & drive.