Saturday, November 10, 2012

Peter Fitzsimons

You don’t expect to meet a former Wallaby rugby international at your local library author phototalks.  The words literary great and rugby don’t usually go together.  Peter’s life indicates why generalising about anything or anyone is a pointless exercise. 

In 2001, he was Australia’s biggest selling non-fiction author with just under $250,000 in sales. He duplicated that feat in 2004 with his book on Kokoda and had similar success in 2006 with his book on Tobruk.  He is here to promote his latest book Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution. 

Right away it is obvious that here is a man with the X Factor.  A man who is funny and not afraid to be self deprecating.  He recounts a story about a time when he found himself in the company of the literary glitterati.  He shares the fact he has just finished his first book with the gentleman he is making small talk with, who gently encourages him to read another.  The audience is in fits of laughter…is he pulling our legs…?

The event is being held in the largest room in the library, normally set aside for computer users.  The audience is more than double the size of visitors that the usual authors attract.  It is also an equal mix of men and women, older and younger people, some of whom are just here to be in the presence of one who once played in one of the greatest Wallaby sides.  Peter not only shares stories of his literary work and his writing habits but also talks about the days on the playing field.  It has been a good nights entertainment but we don’t queue up to buy the book.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Photo Workshop

October is one of those special months that has 5 Tuesdays..and hence in addition to our monthly competition at our photo club, we also have a photo workshop.  I’m excited because this workshop is all about shooting water droplets….and I’ve never really given that a go.

Sean has done all the hard work prior to us getting there.  There are a number of setups that we can practice at…and I give the wineglass a go.  Sean has has fastened a wineglass on a piece of wood which sits on top of a bucket.  Our task is to photograph this has he carefully pours coloured liquid on to it.  Our camera’s are set on manual.  We choose a fast shutter speed (1/1600 sec) and an aperture of 7.1.  I adjust the ISO, to ensure my photograph will be exposed according to the available light.  I end up with an ISO of 800, which is quite high but expected under the light conditions.  I manually focus my camera and as Sean begins to pour I begin to shoot…….!

The following are a few of the images I captured that day……….2012 10 31 Water Drops (4 of 4)2012 10 31 Water Drops (3 of 4)2012 10 31 Water Drops (2 of 4)

2012 10 31 Water Drops (1 of 4)













I think a photography class should be a requirement in all educational programs because it makes you see the world rather than just look at it. ~Author Unknown

Questions of Travel–Michelle de Krester

The title of her latest book obviously drew me in. Questions of Travel…ah..has some one has already written the book that I had always meant to author one day..

Steve and I went along to the library talk not knowing what to expect.  When Michelle walked in and introduced herself, I was blown away.  She was Sri Lankan born and had lived on 3 continents…and was obviously a keen traveller.  Having lived on 3 continents myself and being born in the same town…I felt an instant connection.  This was interesting as Michelle questions in her book if travel helps us make connections with strangers or if it only serves to reinforce our isolation.  It is the first time we have had a Sri Lankan author at the library.   The author talks are dominated by a very Anglo audience as well as Anglo authors…so this is a refreshing change.

She is an engaging speaker and has come well prepared.   She talks to us first about her process of writing, the idea of creating a double narrative and of weaving stories within the main story.  She talks about the fact that the majority of people who travel the world actually do so for work or economic benefit or for the purpose of seeking asylum.  Having travelled for pleasure myself, I realise that my ideas about travel have been rather blinkered and am intrigued by what Michelle appears to question in this book.  Why do we travel………why is it that some people are quite content to sit at home and imagine distant lands while others are compelled to discover/smell/taste and hear the sounds of these lands for themselves? 

I buy the book and am looking forward to reading it…but as I sat and listened to Michelle I hear the voice within me…a voice that gets louder everyday…when will you start writing your first book…?  Each time I sit at an author talk and listen…I long for the luxury of time…so that I can begin in earnest my own journey of becoming a writer…….

Here is a snippet from the internet of what Michelle’s book is about.  It promises to be a compelling read….

“A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura Capture Traveltravels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events. Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories - from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia. Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser illuminates travel, work and modern dreams in this brilliant evocation of the way we live now. Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination - a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.”

The onset of a long hot summer…

It has been awhile since we have seen bush fires in Hornsby.  The last few summers have been wet and in fact last year, many of us questioned if we’d had a summer at all.

Recent reports indicate this summer will be different.  The smell of bush fires is already in the air as back burning takes place in many National Parks to reduce the risk we will face this summer.  The smoke that hung over Hornsby last weekend was a wake up call to all of us.   Let’s hope the preparation is enough to stave off the worst of it…

Melbourne Revisited

We have come down to Melbourne for the Stormwater conference.  It is being held this year at the Sofitel Hotel on Collins.  It is a beautiful location for what is the second National 2012 10 15 SIA ConferenceConference.  There are presenters from overseas as well as from around the country and we are here to learn from each other.

It is interesting to see what our peers in Melbourne are working on.  The large presence of Melbourne Water in the industry makes it a lot easier for projects to get funded and implemented.  We learn about the 10,000 rain garden project where residents are encouraged to build their own raingarden at home.  Well thought out pamphlets explain how this can be done simply and they have now passed the halfway mark in this ambitious goal.

We visit the Melbourne goal on our only evening off, and learn about the horrific treatment these inmates suffered.  Ned Kelly himself met his end at these gallows.

The technical tour is one of the best I have been on.  We visit a stormwater harvesting projects and marvel at the technology that can treat water that was once considered a nuisance to a quality that is virtually fit for drinking.  We visit an aquifer re-charge project and once again are taken aback at the scale of the projects here.  It is a great day of learning and looking and we leave Melbourne exhausted but full enthusiasm and ideas to share and implement.

2012 10 15 SIA Conference1


“Water is the driving force of all nature.”   Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rotten Gods

October is packed with interesting author talks at our local library. Steve and I are here to to listen to Greg Barron the author of Rotten Gods.  Greg draws on his studies in International Terrorism to write this novel set in Dubai.  The novel is about a group of extremist who hijack an international conference packed with presidents and prime ministers and hold them ransom till they come up with a solution that will release the stranglehold that has gripped the world in every sphere including the economic, social political and environmental dimensions of society.  Our leaders have gathered to bring the world back from the brink of disaster that it finds itself in.  The terrorist are there to make sure they deliver. 

Rotten Gods is a reference to Dubai, the city where the drama unfolds.  Dubai on the Capture rottensurface appears to be prosperous.  Sky scrappers look down on streets where cars zoom by at speeds unheard of in most other places.  Opulent shops are patronised by sheiks who have made their wealth on the oil this land has offered up in plenty.  But if you look closely one sees the disbanded construction sites, workers who sold their all to make their way here from the sub continent left without jobs and without the means to get back home.  The suicide rate is rising…but the world is full of rotten gods uncaring of the problems swirling around them. 

I am excited to be here but at the end of the session I am a little disappointed that he hasn’t shed much light on the actual book itself.  He talks about his writing experience and his time in both Kenya and Somalia where part of the novel is based.  The photos he shows have been taken with an iPhone and don’t really convey a sense of these exotic locations.  Neither of us have read the book so we purchase a copy…the cover hints that we won’t be disappointed.

Spring tour

It is the annual Spring Tour at work when we take the local residents of the local government area I work in for a tour of the projects completed during the past year. 

2012 10 13 Spring Tour (7 of 46)There is a bus load of people – 50 residents to be exact - many who work as volunteers on bush regeneration projects at various sites in the local area.   It is an opportunity to reflect and take pride in the work that they too have contributed to during the past year. 


This year we visit a variety of sites from the flying fox colony in Cabramatta to the rehabilitated wetland at De Freitas and the community nursery where native plants are cultivated.  The wetland was full of sediment and the recent work has helped restore its function to improve the water quality in Prospect Creek Thankfully, we have wonderful weather and we all enjoy a great day out…

2012 10 13 Spring Tour (26 of 46)

2012 10 13 Spring Tour (100 of 5)

Brian Skerry – National Geographic Photographer

I was excited to learn that 3 National Geographic photographers are coming to Sydney.  It is the last day of my Camera Craft 3 course and the first of 3 talks by the Photographers.  We have bought tickets to all 3 sessions.  In fact I’ve got them as a present to Steve for his birthday. 

Brian Skerry is an underwater photographer and he uses his skill to not only create beautiful images but also to raise awareness about the many environmental issues plaguing the oceans today. 

His images are amazing and you can check out his website if you wish:


He would typically spending eight months of the year in the field, often facing extreme conditions to capture his subjects. He has lived on the bottom of the sea, spent months aboard fishing boats and dived beneath the Arctic ice to get his shot. He has spent over 10,000 hours underwater.  The images are incredible and we leave inspired by his life and work…

One person with passion is better than 40 people merely interested. “ E. M Forster

Portraits from Chatswood

I am in Chatswood to spend the morning taking portraits of perfect strangers for my last photography class at Paddington.   I am hopeful that my new found skills in street photography will hold me in good stead.  Taking photographs from a distance is one option but I love the aspect of engaging with the people around me and getting a taste of their lives and their stories.  It is a little more daunting in a city where everyone appears to be busy or in a rush to be somewhere else…..and yet amongst the business I found a few willing subjects…

Today is market day – or perhaps this is the norm.  The open square is full of people from many different nationalities hawking their wares…mostly a variety of different food.  Some of the vendors are happy to chat and have their photo taken but still reluctant to engage.  They go about their business, making pastries, roasting coffee and refuse to actually look at me as I try and capture a part of their spirit. 

2012 10 05 Portraits Chatswood











I am pleased with the results of a few hours of work….and realise that while this might still be my favourite genre, portraits in Australia will never quite be the same as those I have taken on the road……..especially in Africa.