Saturday, December 3, 2011

Getting Published & Re-living Antarctica: Articles in The Island

As another Christmas draws closer I realise that it is almost a year since I travelled to Antarctica and fulfilled a life long goal of travelling to all seven continents.  Last month I got to relive this experience when I was given two tickets for a free 3 course lunch at the Antarctic Experience, put on by National Geographic and a number of sponsors.

It was a cold, wet day even though it was the middle of Spring but I was determined to wake up early and make the trip to Darling Harbour.  We were a little tired as we had been at Steve’s nieces 17th birthday the night before.  Yet we were undeterred by the cold conditions, which seemed strangely fitting as we were celebrating all things Antarctica.  We watched videos and heard lectures about the history, wildlife and adventure challenges in one of the remotest and least travelled places on earth.  During lunch we were truly fortunate to listen to lectures from Don and Margie McIntyre – the couple who spent a year living in Antarctica; Ian Brown, who was a member of the first Australian party to walk to the South Pole, in 1997 and David Johnson, who was the founder of the Mawson’s Hut Foundation.  We found it incredibly inspiring to be in the presence of explorers and adventures such as them and listened in awe as they gave us an inkling into what it must be like to have experienced such things.  Don and Margie McIntyre’s had an incredible year-long stay, alone at Commonwealth Bay, in tiny Gadget Hut, which measured 2.4 x 3.6m.  During the winter, they would stay trapped inside for days with the longest period being 20 days.  They talked about going to sleep in bedding that was damp in freezing cold conditions and how they got through this ordeal!  I certainly didn’t envy them this adventure and would never wish to experience this myself!

A week after our Antarctica experience, I hear that the article I sent to Sri Lanka on Antarctica has been published. Here it is:

A visit to Antarctica

November 25, 2011, 7:52 pm

JPEGS  2010 12 28 Paulet Island-29

The snow is lightly falling as I fly in to Ushuaia at the tip of the South American continent in Argentina. I am in one of the remotest places on earth and yet it is quite a bustling little city, full of people either completing a Patagonian adventure or beginning an Antarctic adventure.There is a palpable sense of excitement in the lobby as we hear our ship has just come in to shore. I am chatting to Angela, a fellow passenger on the expedition ship that will take us to the Antarctic continent. In a few days I will accomplish my dream of travelling to all seven continents before I turn fifty and spend both Christmas and New Year in Antarctica. Life does not get more exciting than this.

Read More....

Sculptures by the Sea

We took advantage of a break from the rain and enjoyed a sunny November day at one of the most popular exhibitions held in Sydney - Sculptures By the Sea.  More than one hundred exhibits are installed along one of the most panoramic coastal walks in this city between Tamarama and Bondi Beach.  We drive to Coogee and start the walk there because finding parking close to this exhibition will be challenging. 

It is a beautiful day.  We admire the views and enjoy the warmth of the sun, which we haven’t seen much of this spring. 

There are as many people enjoying a swim or lying along the many beaches we pass, as there are people on the path enjoying the exhibition.  This is a great celebration of the outdoor life that Sydneysiders love so much.  It must be pretty challenging for the artists as the exhibits must withstand being outdoors drenched by frequent rain, roasted by the sun and weather beaten by the rough coastal winds that blow along these parts.

One of the favourites with the visitors appear to be the red boy series, presented by one of China’s leading contemporary sculptors – Chen Wenling.  I read that he grew up making toys out of clay because his family were too poor to buy him toys.  Yet, he counts himself lucky as is parents encouraged his autistics abilities and he went on to study at some of China’s leading universities!  A reminder to all of us that artistic talent must be nurtured, encouraged and given opportunities to flourish!

IMG_5874-5Red is an auspicious and symbolic colour in China and Chen has chosen this to depict the nostalgia of our childhood and to question the meaning of our adult life.

Another crowd favourite appears to be the giant tap where people line up to take their turn, posing as if they were having a shower.  The exhibit is titled, “Who left the tap running?” and is positioned over the ocean which is meant to be a giant sink!  The artists explains that it is a humorous way to generate discussion about climate change and rising sea levels and his exhibit has already won him a $10K Sydney Water and Environmental prize!


As we stop to admire the sculptures we wonder if the natural beauty of our surroundings are competing for attention with the man-made sculptures we have come to see.  The sculptures of course have been designed for an exact spot in this outdoor gallery but the permanent occupants of this space such as the weathered windswept rock seen below is just as beautiful as the red boy or the Easter Island replicas.  IMG_5898-12


I would certainly recommend you spend a day by this fabulous cliff edge walk and enjoy the show that sculptors from around the world have put on for you!  Here are a few more photos from this entertaining day out!

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blurb Photo Album

I have been working on my photo album for a few months. In October I finally took a week off to try and get this to print.  Unfortunately, being the perfectionist that I am, it took almost another month to be finally satisfied that I had done the best I could with this my first attempt to make an on-line photo album.

logoI tried a few different websites and settle for publishing Journey of a Travelbug on Blurb.  I like their layouts and the flexibility if the templates in allowing me to insert text and photos.  The Photo Album has been uploaded to the main blog (see above).  Feel free to email me with any questions on this book making software.  I should get my printed book in the mail in about a week!  I can’t wait!

Photography Club: Print of the Year Competition

It is the final competition night at our photography club.  I rush here from the screening of the movie Thirst as I am keen to see what the judge will say about the “best of the best”, from 2011.  I have only just joined this club, hence I can only submit photos from the one occasion when I previously submitted some entries.  There are four categories in the completion and this includes, colour prints, monochrome, mini prints and black and white.

I arrive late to find most categories have been judged but my gorilla has made third place in the colour prints category.  The judge on the night was Michael Smyth from the Lane Cove Club and we briefly chat at the end as I pick up my third place winner.  I am excited and pleased.  It is good to keep getting positive feedback about my photographs.


"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you." –Oprah Winfrey

Thirst – CrowdTV Documentary

I originally did a blog post about CrowdTV and my idea about Water & Culture:The Lifeblood of Our Planet that was voted to be the one made into a movie in the process of making the world’s first on-line documentary about Water in Western Sydney.  I am excited to be at the Bankstown Arts Centre with Steven for the red carpet premiere for the screening of Thirst

invitation crowd TV 

It is a collaboration between Kylee Ingram Australian Documentaries, and researches from the Institute of Sustainable Futures (UTS) and funded by WSROC.

It isn’t often that individuals get the chance to be part of making a documentary and it is a wonderful example of community collaboration where the visions of many have come together to produce a beautiful documentary about something that we all value and need – water. 

I am interviewed by UTS for their magazine and article titled Lifeblood, makes the front page!

Click on this link for the article:

It feels exciting to be part of this creative process and I learn I have been given an Assistant Producer credit for the movie.  Check out a few photos and watch the video!




"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." –George Bernard Shaw

Authors: Old and New


Susan Duncan – Author Talk @ Hornsby Library

When I heard that Susan Duncan would be the guest at our author talk in Hornsby I was excited.  I first read Susan Duncan while overlanding through South Africa in 2007 on my first big solo adventure.  I had picked up her book Salvation Creek by chance salvation creekat my local Borders Book store, which sadly is no more.  The book was about a woman who had a ‘sea change’ and moved to Pittwater to start a new life in a part of the world only accessible by boat! 

I find the life story of Susan incredibly inspiring.  From the words on her website she was a woman who at 44 seemed to have it all …

  “Editor of two of Australia's top selling women's magazines, a happy marriage, a jet-setting lifestyle covering stories from New York to Greenland, rubbing shoulders with Hollywood royalty, the world was her oyster.

But when her beloved husband and brother die within three days of each other, her glittering life shatters. In shock, she zips on her work face and soldiers on - until one morning eighteen months later when she simply can't get out of bed.”

I find it inspiring to read about successful women who have the courage to chuck it all in the quest to search for a different life.  She came to Hornsby to promote her latest book, Briny Cafe.  I look around the room and find it is mostly filled with Anglo women in their sixties.  I smile to myself, used to being in audiences where I am the minority and sneak a glance at Steve.  He seems unfazed to be one of only a handful of men there.  Perhaps, Susan herself is curious because as I approach her to get my  book signed, she takes the time to chat to me, asking about the meaning of my name as she autographs my book.  I tell her a little about my own ambitions to be a writer and photographer as I carefully pack away my copy of The Briny Cafe.  It is her first fiction book and she talks about how hard it was to make a start on this one.  She had first researched writing a thriller and even as she starting reading the gruesome, gory, graphic details of scary scenes described in the many books flooding the market in this genre, she realised it was a dark place she didn’t really want to enter. 

A chance encounter with a fan in a bookstore confirmed what she knew inside.. the stories she really wanted to tell were really all about the small close knit Pittwater community she now calls family.  Steve is intrigued by her description of the sense of community she describes as he is in the midst of  writing how we can transform the way we build our cities.

I listen intently as she describes the colourful, quirky characters that make up life in Briny cafe and I can’t wait to get stuck into this book.  She explains there are bits and pieces of people she has known from around the world, interwoven into the story and talks about how important it is to encourage people to be individuals and not judge them for being slightly ‘odder’ than the norm :)

I feel thrilled that I met a writer I have admired and enjoyed reading these past few years and I file away another inspirational encounter.


William Shakespeare – Movie “Anonymous”

There have been a few interesting movies showing at the moment and I thought I should post a blog about Anonymous, a political thriller that poses the theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford who penned Shakespeare's plays; The movie is set against the backdrop of the succession of Queen Elizabeth I, and the Essex Rebellion against her, during turbulent times of deceit and deception in England.  The movie is a fictionalised version of the life of De Vere who uses the plays to start a rebellion led by his son who he fathered with the Queen. 

The movie questions whether an impoverished man such as Shakespeare who could barely write and didn’t have a very good command of the language could have had the ability to write these plays.  In those days, it was only the nobility who would have had access to the education needed to extend the English Language in the manner in which Shakespeare did.  It was an interesting story of intrigue that certainly left us wondering who wrote those now famous plays. I would recommend you watch this movie!


Anonymous poster

“ To be or not to be, that is the questions.” William Shakespeare

Pete Murray in Hornsby

I always loved Pete Murray’s music ever since I was first heard it over the airwaves of Triple M on my long drives to work.  Pete is a man who wanted to create something different - music that would last a lifetime!  Without a doubt his music could be picked up many decades in the future and still be enjoyed because it hasn’t been stamped by the fashion of the day.  I am always drawn to  music and people who have the courage to be different and in an age where much of the music seems to be about noise (that duff duff stuff) I find it refreshing to listen to the plaintive sounds of a man singing to the strains from his guitar.  If you have never heard his music listen to the video I have embedded. 

Pete’s concert was held at the Hornsby RSL.  It was not the most atmospheric venue but very convenient for us.  He started the concert by introducing songs from his new album  Sky Blue Sky. The  tour was titled the The Free Tour named after one of the songs on this album which talks about breaking loose.   While it is a ‘break-up’ album, written after splitting with his wife, it is an album of hope and new beginnings.  While I am still not familiar with the new songs and can’t say I really enjoy the new approach that minimises the use of acoustic instruments and seems to have a different rhythm time may prove different.  Fortunately, he very quickly moved on to sing the old familiar favourites and we had a truly enjoyable evening.

It is amazing to think that Pete while being so gifted in music started out on a completely different career path.   He was a gifted sportsman with great ability in rugby, athletics and swimming but it was a sporting injury that led him to step off the rugby field and take up playing the guitar while recuperating.  While he thought he would take up a career in sport medicine he eventually discovered his talents in music and has obviously found his destiny!  His success both in Australia and overseas is an inspiration to me and I hope he continues to provide us music with meaning!  Good luck Pete…

A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.  ~Jean de La Fontaine

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mt Wellington & Hobart

We can’t stray too far on Tuesday as Steve has to register for his conference.  We haven’t spent much time in Hobart so we decide to browse the Salamanca Markets and try some of the local fish and chips.  I’ve read great things about Fish Frenzy so we decide to eat there.  It is another glorious day in Hobart so we sit outside at the docks and watch the action on the water.  The flat fish is wonderful and fresh but the pieces are tiny! 2011 10 25 Mt WellingtonWe’ve arranged to visit friends for dinner so we spent the rest of the afternoon driving up Mt Wellington.  It is a 22km winding drive up the mountain and it was interesting to see the change in vegetation from dense forest to more windswept and sparse vegetation as we neared the top.  The mountain is often covered in snow and even this late in the year there were pockets of the white stuff lying around although much of it was running off down the road we just came up.  The temperature was a lot colder up here and the wind a bit breezy so I put on another layer to keep warm!  Mt Wellington-3

We spend some time at the top exploring before we head back down to Hobart for dinner.  We have a great time with Steve & Shevaun, friends of Steve’s cousin Maria and her husband Shannon who we met when they visited Sydney a few months ago.  They have four kids and live in a lovely location, overlooking the water in a central part of Hobart.  They run a chicken farm along with looking after their four kids and it was fun spending an evening with them and hearing their stories of a very different life.  All too soon it is time to say goodbye and we drive back to surfside – another great day in a beautiful city! 

Picking Strawberries & Browsing Mona!

A cold front blew in on Monday and we woke up to cold winds (from the Antarctic?) howling outside even before we got out of bed.  Not in a rush to go out in the cold and wet weather, we got up late and had a nice breakfast in-doors.  Unsure what the weather might do we decided to visit the Sorrell Fruit Farm, a 10 minute drive from our cottage.  We are given umbrellas and a plastic box and encouraged to go outside and pick our own strawberries the only berry that is in season at the moment.  A little hesitant, I don my raincoat and set off.  We have only just started walking up the hill when the rain starts to fall again but by now we have reached the first of our strawberry patches and the taste of the ripe, sweet fruit has enticed me to stay and pick some more.  There is nothing like fresh fruit and veggies and in Tassie, everything seems to taste a little fresher and sweeter.  We can’t help but taste a few of the fruit as we fill our respective boxes.  The sweet juices run down our hands and I contemplate growing my own when we get back to Sydney.

Once our boxes are full, we go back down for a gourmet lunch of fresh salad, spinach pie and vegetarian lasagne.  It was absolutely yummy and after learning a little more about the farm and the fact that strawberries are so named because they grow in beds of straw, we get back on the road.

Mona Gallery-1 We drive through historic Richmond and head out to the rather nondescript suburb of Berriedale to visit the Museum of New and Old Art (MONA).   The museum is the brainchild of multi millionaire gambler David Walsh who has collected both old and new art with his winnings.  I am sure there have been many heated debates about what constitutes ‘art’ after people leave this museum.  It certainly gives you an insight into the mind of David Walsh!  I think of some of the words that might describe the art as well as the building – incredible, amazing, awesome, creepy, weird, gimmicky, thought provoking, bizarre…the list goes on.

006623-monaThe museum is referred to as the Temple of David and houses a collection that some may find to be both disturbing and confronting!  The collection which is valued at around $100 million is the largest privately owned collection in Australia.  The main focus of the art appears to be sex, death & bodily functions and it forces you to confront things you would rather avoid.  There is a machine that mimics the human intestinal system which is fed each day and excretes depending on what the curator fed it!  I am not kidding….it is one of the talking points and highlights that people seem to come in search of.

We were rather lost when we first arrived, finding it difficult to even find the entrance of this famous museum.  I read later that all this is intentional and the fact you have to walk through a tennis court to get to it is one of David’s idiosyncrasies that in fact annoyed the architect!  The museum has been carved out of the ground and you descend 3 stories to its depths to start your tour.    Down in the depths is a bar which serves David’s own brew – Moo Brew!  A solid 15m sandstone wall reminds you of the excavation carried out to create this museum.  P1010219

One of the first exhibits that catches my eye is Julius Popps Bit.fall where a sheet of water falls in front of a vertical wall and various words appear and disappear in a bid to remind us of the flood of information we are now bombarded with.  Words such as ABC, Tony, victims, mall, inquiry, accident flash by, making us stop and think about our world today.  I think the only problem for the curator is the popular appeal of this exhibit!  P1010208

Then there was Austrian Erwin Wurm’s fat car made specially in red as per David’s instructions.  The Porsche – the ultimate symbol of extravagance - has been deformed to resemble a puffy obese car reminding us of the unnecessary consumption occurring in the world around us.  

I was also quite taken with the exhibit of a human mind.  You can peer inside and have a look at the million bits of information (by way of pieces of fruit, other objects) swirling around.  It is a reminder that our conscious mind can only process a very small fraction (about 20 bits of information/sec)  P1010205compared to the more than 11 million bits that pass through our sub conscious mind.  People often talk about a sixth sense or intuition and this exhibit makes us realise the value of information stored in our subconscious from our past experiences and come to grips with the fact that not everything can or should be evaluated based on pure logic!

What strikes me about this museum is how different it is from anything I have seen before.  While most museums are just buildings that provide space for their collection, it was David’s collection that inspired much of the design of this building.  Sydney Nolan’s P101020345m long Snake is one such example where an entire wall is taken up by this piece of work.  It is a collection of hundreds of individual images that combined highlight the image of a snake reminding us of its significance in dreamtime stories. 

The artwork is not displayed in any chronological order but rather appears to be completely random.  The walls are devoid of any information and each visitor is given a set of head phones and and iPod type device which gives you access to both audio and written information about each piece.  The information you get changes each day and is random, so you may be reading something quite different to the person standing next to you.  A novel concept indeed.  The museum is quite dark, while the artwork is lit by spotlights.  There are rooms within room that surprise and startle you and it is the most innovative building I have seen designed to house works of art.  I read that during the opening festivities, there were a pile of dead animals next to the carvery, a reminder to people of where their food comes from!

It is certainly worth a visit if you have an open mind are able to think laterally and feel open to being challenged!  If not, I suggest you give it a miss…:) P1010183 “Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.”   - Erica Jong

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Postcard from Tassie..

We arrive in Tasmania to discover that although it was about 10 degrees cooler than Sydney, the sun was still shining brightly and it looked spectacular. Everything had gone to plan, our Qantas flight wasn’t cancelled despite the strikes and we picked up our car Surfside Cottage-11and arrived at our Surfside Cottage without too much fuss. It is a delightful little cottage, with beautiful views of the Southern Ocean.  The view is both stunning and mesmerising and the sound of crashing waves almost deafening!

We run down to the beach but the water is freezing and we both fight shy of diving in.   We are excited to be here and after devouring a hot cup of tea, toasted sandwiches and the cheese & crackers we discovered in our fridge we drive in to Hobart for desert.  It is Saturday night and the place is buzzing and we find ourselves a cosy cafe in the plaza behind the Salamanca Markets and enjoy desert and hot chocolates as we people watch.

We wake up excited.  It is another sun drenched day in Van Dieman’s LDrive to Port Arthur (4)and!  Our cottage is on the eastern side of the island and hence ideally placed for a trip down to Port Arthur.  Steve has never been to Tassie before so it is exciting to be here with him and discover it together.   We drive through beautiful tree lined back-roads (are the gum trees taller here?) on the Tasman Peninsular to reach our first scenic stop where we find a great example of tessellated pavement at Eaglehawk Neck. 

As explained in Wikipedia, tessellated pavement is a rare erosional feature formed in flat sedimentary rock formations that is found on some ocean shores. The pavement bears this name because the rock has fractured into polygonal blocks that resemble tiles, or tessellations. The cracks were formed when the rock fractured through the action of stress on the Earth's crust and subsequently were modified by sand and wave action.  It is a beautiful spot and we go for a walk, take pictures and marvel at the display of colours – the stark black of the pavement, the green moss and the blues of the ocean.  2011 10 23 Tessalated Pavement Tasman Arch & Port ArthurThere are many strange rock formation on the Tasman Peninsular but the Devil’s Kitchen seems to be an appropriate lunch stop.  This area is all part of the Tasman National Park and has spectacular coastal walks that hug the cliffs and provide great views of more formations like the Tasman Arch.  The arch is what is left of the roof of a large sea cave, created by the wave action thousands of years ago.  It is a beautiful sight that I almost missed because it is right at the car park! Tessalated Pavement Tasman Arch & Port Arthur-1It is past midday now and we decide we should make tracks to Port Arthur, the main reason for our trip today.

While the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first explorer to land on Tasmania, it was originally named after the Dutch East India Governor Van Diemen.  The British colonised Van Diemen’s land in 1803 as a penal colony and while it was initially part of NSW it became a colony in its own right in 1824.  From 1833 to 1853, Port Arthur became the destinations for the most severe offenders in both Britain and Ireland.  Generally, it was the re-offenders and the rebellious who found their way here.  Port Arthur became an example of a system based on the ‘Separate Prison System’ theory which was a shift from the old school thinking of physical punishment to the newer thinking of psychological punishment.  Ah…let’s play with people’s minds!Tessalated Pavement Tasman Arch & Port Arthur-2The layout of the prison was also interesting with each of the prison wings connecting to a hub from which they were controlled.  The ‘silent treatment’ was meant to give the prisoners the space to reflect on their crimes and hopefully become ‘reformed’ human beings!  Many of the prisoners developed mental illnesses from both the lack of light as well as sound and ended their days in the mental asylum built right next door!  The prison closed in 1877 and is a great open air museum that gives us a rare insight into the colonial era of Australia.  We finish a wonderful and exhilarating day with a boat cruise around the prison surrounds before we head back to base. 

2011 10 23 Tessalated Pavement Tasman Arch & Port Arthur-1 “Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” -Leo Burnett

The Salt Project & the Australian Centre for Photography


I learnt about the Salt Project an exhibition at the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP) through my photography club.  The ACP is located in Paddington, an inner city suburb renowned for its markets but equally appealing for its historic buildings and a great place to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon.  The ACP is located in a wonderful building and was hosting two exhibitions on the weekend we visited. 

The Salt project is the spectacular culmination of 8 years of hard work by Murray Fredericks.  He made 16 separate trips to the centre of Lake Eyre, camping alone sometimes for periods as long as five week to photograph and record this amazing landscape.  The photographs record the changing mood of the lake from those dull boring days where nothing happens to days awash with dark clouds, awesome thunderstorms and howling winds.  The changing colours are breathtaking from stark white to the orange hues of sunrise and sunset.   We sat on the floor and watched a documentary also filmed at the lake which gave us an insight into why he started this journey and some of the turmoil in his life which led him to chose a project that allowed him to be reflective of his past.  I was amazed at what he did to capture these photographs and would highly recommend this exhibition.  Check out his website and a preview of these photographs

"They are literally pictures of nothing, but nothing has never looked so good"
Art Critic John McDonald, Sydney Morning Herald 19th February 2006 - (on the Salt Project)


The second exhibition, also at the Australian Centre for Photography is that of outstanding Australian press photography.  As the website states, from daily-life and photographic essays, to portraiture and sport, the Nikon-Walkley Photographic Awards recognise excellence in Australian press photography.  Each year, more than 1000 photographers are judged for their work in capturing those moments that made us stop in our tracks.  From the triumphs in sport to the heartbreak of floods and gales, the photographs take us back in time through the lenses of Australia’s most talented press photographers.  Also definitely worth looking through!


“It’s not about breaking the rules. It is about abandoning the concept of rules altogether” - Paul Lemberg

52 Suburbs and the Museum of Sydney

When I returned from my travels around the world, I had at the back of my mind that I would write a blog about Sydney.  Perhaps, visit one special place each weekend, and share with the world all the hidden gems that only locals know about.  I many tourists have even heard of Berowra Waters, Dangar Island or our famous Pie in the Sky cafe?  How many people have made the trip up to the historic pub at Wiseman’s Ferry and sat outside to cook their own steak while enjoying the live music?  In fact, how many locals are out there who have never ventured further than a safe radius from the suburb they have called home for most of their life?  Most visitors to Sydney are taken to the usual icons – Bondi Beach, Circular Quay and the Three Sisters but there is so much more to this fabulous city. 

While thinking about how I might go about this project, I got caught up in life.  The 9 to 5 or rather 6 to 7 routine of waking up, driving to work and getting back home in time to cook dinner takes up much of the week.  In between I managed to throw a welcome home party, organise an exhibition, design a catalogue, have knee surgery, renovate my house, present my travels at a few forums, help move my partner to my place then help pack & clean up his house so it could go on the market, in fact we packed & unpacked a few times over, and the list goes on.  So, imagine my surprise to discover that while I had been travelling the world a lady by the name of Louise Hawson had decided to do something similar in Sydney.  She states that while she has lived in Sydney for over 30 years she had never set foot in most of its 600+ suburbs. So from September 2009 to October 2010, she explored and photographed one new Sydney suburb a week in search of the beauty in the 'burb!  She blogged about her experiences, 52 Suburbs, wrote a book and then launched an exhibition at the Museum of Sydney which we visited. 

Having just completed my own exhibition and kept a blog for a year, I had a great appreciation for the effort and discipline it must have taken her to put this project together.  As we viewed the photographs, many of them displayed as a double collage of complementary photos from the one place I was transported back to some of my favourite suburbs through the eyes of Louise.  However, I overheard comments from others that perhaps she had not captured their version of a particular place.  Art is never without its critics and will never please everyone but I thought the concept was clever and she had captured moments from each of these places that she thought was special and created punctum for others.  Ultimately, I think what is most important i that your art is an honest portrayal of a place through your own filter…and then you hope your audience will feel that connection as well! 

The exhibition has now ended but the Sydney Museum is still worth a visit.  As the website claims it was designed by one of Sydney’s best-known architects, Richard Johnson of Denton Corker Marshall, and it sits on one of Australia's most important sites. It was here that Australia’s first Government House was built in 1788 as a home and office for the colony’s Governor, Arthur Phillip. The museum forecourt, known as First Government House Place, preserves the remaining foundations of the house, while aboveground the art installation Edge of the Trees marks the site of first contact between the British colonisers and the Gadigal people.  It was a great day out and one I would recommend. 

Local Clubs – Toastmasters & Photography

Finding a local club in an area you are passionate about is a great way to meet local people who share your passions, make new friends and learn from each other.  Travelling gave me a chance to realise more fully the things I was passionate about – writing, public speaking, the great outdoors and photography were at the top of this list.  Before I left on my travels, I had pursued my love for bush walking by joining Trekfa, a bush walking club in Northern Sydney but now it was time to pursue other passions..

On my return to work I found that a corporate Toastmasters Club had been started at my office.  It was a young club and was having a hard time attracting and keeping members who were too distracted by their lives to dedicate time to developing a skill which would help in more areas than most people realised.  Toastmasters not only helps give you self confidence in public speaking  but develops leadership skills, impromptu speaking skills, enables you to listen and evaluate speeches and also helps develop your creative writing!  One of my favourite segments is Table Topics where you are given a topic of which you have no prior knowledge to which you speak for 2 minutes.  It was quite a surprise to enter my club competition for this segment and end up winning the competition and to then realise I would have to represent my club at the area competition!!  While I didn’t go any further in the competition, it gave me a taste for the competitive side of public speaking although my real passion is to eventually become an effective motivational and inspirational speaker!

While hanging up my photos for my exhibition at the Hornsby Library, I was fortunate to meet Sean Collins, the president of the Hornsby Heights Photographic Club.  He came along to my launch and invited me to the launch of their own exhibition, held at the library a month later.  Sean also invited me to join their club and after thinking about my time commitments, I decided to go along.  It has turned out to  be a really fun experience and in the short time I have been there, I have met new people and been introduced to many opportunities in Sydney to grow my love of photography.  The club has a competition each month to which you submit photos in 4 categories ranging from monochrome, to prints to digital.  The photos are judged by independent qualified photographers who award you a merit or a high commendation.  In my two visits, I have already collected my fair share of merits and commendations and feel I am already learning about how to go from taking a good photograph to a great one!  We had a professor of photography visit the last time and I was quite thrilled when he picked up one of my photographs and said – now here’s a photograph with punctum!  While the word is latin for puncture or wound, it was used by Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida (1980), to describe how he feels touched by certain photographs, because of incidental details which trigger emotionally charged personal associations, unrelated to the meaning of photographs as culturally determined.
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The judge kept reminding us of the importance of triggering a reaction in our audience and also that we should be trying to convey a story and that a photograph should have depth rather than being just a holiday snap.  I went home happy in the knowledge that I seem to be on the right track to capturing a bit of punctum…!

JPEGS  2010 12 28 Paulet Island-29

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off… They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.” - Pearl Buck

Stormwater Conference

During my travels of 2010, I became more aware that water has shaped the way cultures have evolved since the beginning of civilisation when our predisposition to settle along rivers shaped our societies.  I realised that humans the world over are intrinsically connected to water and this defines the way they live, how they spend their time and the quality of life they enjoy. 

This formed the basis of a paper I wrote for the NSW Stormwater conference putting together stories I had come across during my time in Asia….

Cambodians have an incredible history of water management and this is self evident when one visits Angkor Wat and the city of Angkor Thom.   P5061244 As I hovered over this city in a stationary balloon, I got an appreciation of the extent of the channels, reservoirs moats and embankments that covered this landscape.  This complex system enabled them to divert floodwaters during the monsoon season and store it for use during the dry periods, supporting both a large population and the agriculture of the region. Ultimately, due to prolonged droughts and a population that stretched the limits of the water supply that was available, this ancient Kingdom collapsed. As explained by Fagan in his book Elixir which I am currently reading, Angkor delivers a powerful message about the dangers of overstressing the environment and about the importance of maintaining sustainability.

As I travelled through Cambodia, and spent time in villages, I saw much simpler systems of water P4150579 management at work. With ground water often contaminated by arsenic and chemical contaminants The reality for most rural Cambodians is that they must source their own water, collect it, filter it and store it themselves for the survival of their families. As I travelled through the villages I noticed that every household had an informal system of rainwater harvesting mostly by way of large concrete pots connected to their roofs. These jars with a capacity of 200-500 litres (costing about $5 a jar) are the most common way to store water

While these traditional methods of rainwater harvesting need to be revised to safeguard against contamination during storage and use, it is still a great example of how rural Cambodians live sustainably within the water resource of their catchment. Perhaps with a little modification it is an example we could apply here in our own households in Australia.

Thousands of Cambodians die each year due to easily preventable water-born illnesses and due to the fact they ingest contaminated ground and surface water.  While in Phnom Penh, I spent a day with a volunteer from Engineers Without Borders. He worked for Resource Development International (RDI), an organisation engaged in providing an integrated and wholistic approach to providing clean water to Cambodians using a simple technology of ceramic filtration.


The water filtration process that has been developed is inexpensive, simple and sourced from locally available materials and technology.  It is another example of using local/simple solutions to solve a complex problem.

The Mekong and the Tonle Sap Rivers play a pivotal role in life in Cambodia where much of the nations psyche seems to be caught up with the ebb and flow of its rivers. 

P5070022I spoke about the lives of the people who live on floating houses in the lake or raised houses on land and how they have adapted to living with the ebb and flow of the river.  P4040099In Vietnam, in places such as the Mekong Delta where a child grows up around water, it becomes a fundamental part of the make-up of his/her life. Water is celebrated through festivals, and offerings are made to the river deity during times of hardship.  From the floating markets at which they trade and the navigable canals which they use as a means of transport, to the many fish they catch for their dinner table, the river has always been a wonderful provider.


This ‘celebration’ of water was brought home to me as I walked into an art gallery in Hoi An and discovered an entire wall taken up by a flood marker.  The rains around October/November dictate that part of this town shuts down for business as the town situated on the edge of a river is immersed in a few metres of flooding! Furniture from the first floor is taken upstairs to make ‘Room for the River’ and the faces on the marker (happy or sad) records how severe the flooding was!

I was also able to share some of the methods of water harvesting from my experiences in Sri Lanka. P7030151Rainwater harvesting is not a new concept to Sri Lanka whose irrigation systems and tanks for water storage were some of the most complex in the ancient world. In fact one of Sri Lanka’s much revered Kings once stated, “let not a single drop of water that falls form the skies flow to the sea without it being used for the benefit of man,” Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186 AD)

The tsunami in 2006 caused much destruction in Sri Lanka and many of the wells were contaminated by seawater intrusion. Thus many of the new villages that were rebuilt used the rainwater harvesting technology that had already been trialled in the country previously. The tanks are from 5-7000 litres in volume and cost up to approximately AUD $200. In the dry zone, these tanks will not be operational for more than 6 months of the year due to the total lack of rainfall. P7030167 The lessons learnt from the water harvesting projects in Sri Lanka are similar to those from Cambodia. Introduction of new technology was done together with education campaigns for both government officials and the villages. Trial projects in the early stages helped demonstrate the technology, making sure there was community contribution in terms of unskilled labour and hence ensuring a higher sense of ownership of the tank by each household. The recipients were also trained in the operation and maintenance of these tanks so they understood the importance of keeping contaminants out and minimising the opportunities for mosquitoes to breed. As the technology improved and first flush devices were introduced the water quality improved creating a greater sense of trust in the system.

As demonstrated by these projects, there are simple solutions to sustainable living that are both beneficial to the environment and also enrich people’s lives.  There are important lessons for us here in Australia from some of the remotest and poorest places in the world.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Water Stories

The exhibition has sparked off a few speaking engagements and other invitations.  Last week I presented at a wine and cheese evening organised by AECOM, highlighting some of the water connections and observations I made during my travels.  They ranged from the simple stormwater harvesting solutions I saw across the world from Asia to Africa as well as flood mitigation solutions such as raising houses in Cambodia.  It was a fun way to connect my work to my passion of travelling.  I got great feedback from the event and many of those present said they found it inspirational. 


Feedback..and a Winner!

As part of my exhibition, I asked people for feedback.  Many of my friends who attended the exhibition gave me very encouraging feedback but I was quite amazed to find that each time I went to the library to top up my business cards and flyers, there was a new stack of evaluation sheets filled up and placed in the box.

The evaluations asked for people to nominate their favourite and least favourite photos and for other comments in general.  The comments were all really positive and encouraging and it is very special to think that perfect strangers took the time to let you know how much they enjoyed your work.  I thought I would share some of the feedback with you…


As part of this process I had promised that the winner and their partner would be treated to lunch at the local Vietnamese Restaurant.  That was how last weekend, Steve and I found ourselves lunching with Lisa and her husband Brad.  Travellers themselves, they had previously done a world trip and come down under on working visas.  They loved it here so much, they have now migrated from Canada.  It was lovely to share stories with another couple who shared not just my love of travel but also other aspects of it such as photography.  Sadly, I didn’t take my camera that day..

“We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own and other’s people’s models, learn to be ourselves and allow our natural channel to open.” — Shakti Gawain

Crowd TV – Making an Online Documentary

I was intrigued when I first heard about the idea of making the world’ first online collaborative documentary.  My curiosity was further aroused when I heard the documentary was about Water Stories and would voice issues of concern to Western Sydney-siders.  Since I work in the field of water in Western Sydney and this was another link into the creative world I went along on a rather wet afternoon to the workshop to learn how I could be part of this process. 

CrowdTV is a social experiment to connect people and through the creation of documentaries they are interested in watching.  It is process that will link communities, help drive positive change in people’s values and attitudes to water and the environment and a rare opportunity for untrained people to be involved in the process of making a doco.   

Australian Documentaries and the Institute for Sustainable Futures, at University of Technology Sydney have come together for the making of Water Stories. The project is funded by the Water in The Landscape Program run by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC).  The website states the film will be submitted to film festivals around the world and that a red carpet event will be held to celebrate this world-first, participatory and professionally produced documentary.

My Idea

After the workshop I decided to submit my idea title, Water & Culture: The Lifeblood of Our Planet.  My idea was to explore the connections of people from diverse cultural backgrounds in Sydney to water.  As I travelled the world I came to realise that water was intrinsically linked to religious practices from baptism ceremonies in the Christian communities, to burial ceremonies in the Hindu culture to Muslims using water to purify themselves before worship. Water also plays a key part in many of the dreamtime stories of Indigenous cultures.  In addition many people have a spiritual connection to water.  I thought a documentary that drew on these connections would be quite interesting.

 And the Winner is…

Imagine my surprise to read the August News Letter from CrowdTV and learn that my idea had been the winning one.  The community will now submit ideas and a movie about water in Western Sydney will soon be in the works..


Australian Documentaries interviewed me about my idea and how it came about.  I can’t wait to see how this process unfolds…stay tuned!

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” — Henry David Thoreau

Photography and Artist Talks!

In early August we have the chance to visit the Hornsby Library a couple more times to hear more artists share their stories.  The first was a talk on 100 Years of Photography by Richard Batterley.  Richard shares some stories about the origins of photography and brings along his collection of vintage cameras for people to look at.  He has cameras from every decade beginning from 1900, to the modern cameras of today.  I couldn’t Richard Batterlyreally see myself getting excited about cameras but he is passionate about his hobby and sources his cameras from ebay to local markets! 

Richard says that the use of cameras in Australia has gone from 1 million  to 10 million in the space of the last 100 years.  He talks about the first photographic image that was created in 1830 and shares some early photographs.  Interestingly, he mentions that the one part of a camera that has not changed in over 100 years is the screw at the bottom for fixing on to a tripod!

During the same week, the library organised for the author Tony Park to come along and share some of his stories.  Years ago, I had read about Tony Parkthis man in the local newspaper in an article that highlighted interesting careers.  Tony had grown up in the western suburbs of Sydney and now he and his wife split their time between Australia and Africa, where they own a tent and a land rover!  An idyllic life.  He writes on location, basing his stories on the life, times and troubles of Africa.  There is plenty of inspiration around him and he never suffers from writers block!

Check out his website:

I find his life fascinating and would love to do something similar one day.  I buy a copy of his latest book, African Dawn and can’t wait to read it!

tony park book

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” — Albert Einstein


A few days after the launch we feel a load lift off our shoulders but my list of things to do never seems to dry up.  I am due for knee surgery just a few days after the launch.  It has been postponed for too long and the recuperation period will also enable me to catch up with a few projects.

Self Publishing 

A few friends have asked me to convert my catalogue to a coffee table book, so I started doing a bit of research about publishing.  I have found stacks of info out there and if you are looking for a traditional publisher then, this might be a good place to start..

However, if you are looking to do things online one of my favourite sites is Lulu.  Check it out..

This site will allow you to upload and create everything from photobooks to ebooks, then publish and sell on their site.  You set your own price and Lulu will print and ship your book according to demand, eliminating the need for a big outlay initially and the usual overheads!  The site is ranked #1 for self publishing sites.  You get an ISBN and the chance to sell your product in 4 continents. 


I was however, looking to create an eBook initially.  One that I could share both on my website as well as other places such as Facebook. 

As mentioned on the website, eBooks are electronic, downloadable books that can be easily accessed on a wide range of eReader devices and platforms, like the iPad®, iPhone®, and your home computer.  This gives you access to millions of customers who are constantly purchasing and reading eBooks everyday.  It is a remarkably easy way to share your ideas, creativity and information with people all over the world in a very simple way.  After researching for almost a day, I found this website called Issuu.  Once you have written your book, you create a pdf of it which you then upload to Issuee.   The website then compiles an eBook...which you can share with friends and family around the world.  People can also view, comment and share your material on other sites.  Check it out…

My catalogue can be found at this link or at the bottom of this blog..

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” — Henry Ward Beecher

Monday, July 18, 2011

Author Talks – Daniella Brodsky

I’ve decided that If I want to be a writer I have to start attending events where I get to meet other writers. I need to start mingling with people who have actually made it in the arts world.  Which is  how Steve and I decide to sign up for one of the author talks at the Hornsby Library.  The talk today is by the author Daniella Brodsky whose book Vivian Rising has recently been published in Australia.  She was born in New York and has recently moved Down Under to live in Canberra.   It is amazing to think she has published 10 books and has already experienced my new dream…that of seeing one of her books made into a movie.

We are there early and get an introduction to her.  We chat and she asks about my exhibition.  Yes, my photos are still up at the library.  It is very special to be attending an event at a venue that is actually hosting my exhibition.  I’m not a star yet..but I have taken a small step.  My travel movie plays while we wait for people to come in and I hear whispers about my photos..and the journey I’ve been on…

The evening commences with a Q&A session.  Daniella talks about her style of writing and how important it is to feel a connection to her characters and to understand what makes them tick.  This resonates with me as of course it is how I take photographs as well.  She talks about the importance of writing everyday and how researching plays a big part in the stories she tells.  She tells us there is wealth of information at the National Library of Canberra (don’t rely solely on Google) and mentions the exciting search facility Trove, which is transforming the way she writes.  Much of what she says rings true for me.  She finds travel invigorating and a real inspiration for her writing and says her style is quite organic in that she doesn’t really have a plan when she starts writing.  Her characters develop as she writes and as she researches the situations she places them in.  She bases her characters on real life people and herself although of course she does change them to make sure they become interesting reading material.  I take notes furiously and file this knowledge away for future use.  It is fun to sit and listen to someone so young who has become so successful and it gives me inspiration and courage to tackle the competitive yet compelling world that writers inhabit. 

It has been a fun evening and I certainly want to attend as many of these events as possible.  After the talk, there is a book signing and wine and sandwiches laid out for all those who attended.  Many of the people browse the exhibition and I chat to some of the attendees who ask about my travels and the work on display.  We say our goodbyes to Daniella and thank her for an entertaining evening.. P1010172

“When we engage in what we are naturally suited to do, our work takes on the quality of play and it is play that stimulates creativity.” –  Linda Naiman

Friday, July 15, 2011

Launching Connections

I’ve taken two days leave for the launch of Connections.  The lead-up has been hectic organising publicity, getting the catalogues and other material printed and making sure all the other bits and pieces were coming together.
I’ve spoken to the Bush Telegraph, the Hornsby Advocate and the Chronicle in Pennant Hills and links to these reviews are on my website connec2nil.  My partner Steven who has Sandwich Board Posterbeen in Copenhagen for 2 weeks, flies in first thing on Thursday morning and my day starts with a trip to the airport.  After a quick shower and a bite to eat we drive to the library to set up.  The process of hanging the photos and text is harder than we imagine but after two days of running around we are almost ready for the launch.
In addition to the photos we have a table with flyers, business cards, evaluation sheets, reviews, guest sign-in and my printed blogs for people to browse through.  A few chairs are scattered around the room but this will be a stand up event.  A sandwich board with a colourful poster at the entrance heralds the exhibition.
My friend Anita is busy setting up in the kitchen and by 6pm we are ready for our first visitors who start arriving shortly after. 
Steven opens the speeches with a warm welcome and invites the Mayor of Hornsby to the podium.  He gives a lovely speech to launch Connections and I wrap up with thanks to everyone who helped makes this a success and a bit of inspiration thrown in for good measure.   Steve and I have made a movie about my year away and they play as people watch and browse and chat.  The room is buzzing and I ‘ve launched my first exhibition…
A Travelbugs Journey Part 1 of 2
A Travelbugs Journey Part 2 of 2

  “The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” — Alan Alda

Monday, July 11, 2011

Designing a Catalogue and other bits and pieces…

A good exhibition needs a snazzy catalogue that will be unique and define you.  I was cover pagetossing up between colour schemes and designs when I decided the picture of the masaii warriors performing their jumping dance would be my cover page.  The red colour of their sarongs jumped out at me and I realised that the sandy yellow of the African landscape was the perfect compliment to the bright reds of their clothing.  This became my perfect colour palette for the artwork that followed. 

Determining how the artwork would be captioned and written up was my next challenge.  I tossed up a lot of ideas with my partner and then went back to read bits from the blog I had kept on my journey.  After a number of attempts I wrote the first piece on Laughter – the Universal Bond which became my template for the rest of the catalogue. 

It took a lot of brain dumps and discussions with my partner Steven before the words to each picture were written.  Eventually I began to see more of a pattern and the writing highlighted not just the place where the photograph was taken but my reflections of that scene.  I feel pleased with the final result because I am now not only sharing my photography but also my writing which formed a big part of my year away! 

african lady

As I mentioned previously, the catalogue was completed in Microsoft Publisher.  It was printed by means of a digital printer and cost approx. $5.50 a copy.

A final copy of the finished product has been included as an e-book at the end of this blog.   Once I had designed my cover page, the invitations, flyers, thank you cards and all other exhibition material such as posters fell out of that theme easily.  I have included a sample of the invitation and my business card so you get an idea of the material that was produced.  It took a lot of evenings and weekends from our lives but I felt pleased with the finished product.

A sample invitation and business card.. 

Invitation Postcard           Business Card3    


“Every day is an opportunity to be creative – the canvas is your mind, the brushes and colours are your thoughts and feelings, the panorama is your story, the complete picture is a work of art called, ‘my life’. Be careful what you put on the canvas of your mind today – it matters.”  — Innerspace