Monday, April 28, 2014

Camping at Glenworth Valley

It’s Anzac weekend and the warm sunshine of Easter weekend has given way to a rather gloomy, overcast start to Anzac weekend.  We are planning on camping for 2 nights with Steve’s brother Jim,
Eleni his wife and their 3 kids, Penelope, Marissa and Peter.  Their neighbour and Penelope’s best friend Simona has also joined us.  We regroup at our house before embarking on our adventure. Nobody except me has been camping before so I have my fingers crossed for good weather and positive memories of this experience.

The place is a hive of activity when we get there.  It’s the long weekend and Glenworth Valley is a favourite destination for horse riders.  With over 200 horses and 3,000 acres of wilderness to explore, it is an easy escape for families over the school holidays.  We check in and find a great spot to setup camp – a lovely clearing surrounded by woodland it is setback from the road and away from the more popular camping areas.  After a few false starts, we have setup the tents and the gazebo that Jim and Eleni have packed. 

The boys go in search of firewood, the kids fetch water and Eleni and I start setting up for lunch.  It’s still overcast but there is no rain for which we are grateful. 

The kids have brought card games to entertain us with and the fire draws us together for warmth and company.  The fire is of course where life revolves around while camping and it is a wonderful way to bond, toast marshmallows and stay warm.  There is no shortage of food and we cook meat over the fire for dinner and eat light for lunch.  There is good bushwalking around and loads of activities for the kids from quad bikes and kayaks to laser skirmishes.  They choose horse riding while we go off for coffee at the nearby café. 

A highlight of the trip for me was experimenting with star trails.  We are blessed with a wonderful cloudless night on our first day here and the Milky Way lights up our campsite.  I setup my tripod for a 30-minute exposure and wait patiently to see what I might have captured.  It is only the second time I have experimented with star trails and I am really pleased with the photograph.   We snuggle into our sleeping bags on our first night of camping and say goodnight.  Steve is really enjoying this experience and loves being outdoors. 

We enjoy a great two days of camping.  For us, it is wonderful to get away from computers and TODO lists and just relax.  Jim and Eleni have finally been able to tick camping off their bucket list – it has been something they have wanted to do ever since the kids were born.  When we pack up on Sunday we are ready for hot showers and real beds but we know we will be back in the woods once the weather is warmer. 

“A great many people, and more all the time, live their entire lives without ever once sleeping out under the stars.”   ~ Alan S. Kesselheim

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Strictly Ballroom

We are at the Lyric Theatre to see Strictly Ballroom.  We haven’t been to a show since we’ve come back from Europe so it’s exciting to be having a night out in town.  Sydney was chosen for the premier of the stage musical which is fitting because this is a quintessential Australian story with a theme that would appeal to a
From Strictly Ballroom photo collection
global audience at a time when many people are questioning the way things have always been done.  Baz Lurmann has said that of all his shows, this is the most personal as it drew inspiration from his own days in competitive ballroom dancing.  The show was originally created at NIDA and went on to become a box office hit at the movies.  Now it has come back as a live show to the place where it was born.

The story is about a boy named Scott who has been born into a dance federation legacy and the expectation of his parents and others that he will one day win the Pac Pacific championships.  However, Scott is a rebel and knows deep down that he wants to dance his own steps rather than those demanded by the federation.

While this might be an iconic Australian story, it has universal appeal in the themes it explores.  The theme of creating your own steps, rather than dancing to someone else’s, appeals to both my partner Steven and me.  It inspires us to break the rules and follow our own dreams rather than dancing to steps that perhaps have out grown their time.  It also highlights the fact that while the rules may seem to make sense in the world of ballroom dancing, when they are danced in another setting, another culture they make no sense at all.  It is the Latin American influence of his new partner and their family who teach him to break free completely and create a dance that truly communicates his passion and love for dance.  This reinforces for us the need to step back and take a look at what we believe to be the truth through other people’s lenses so we can create something unique and meaningful.  

Are you writing your own script?  Are you dancing to your own rhythm?

Rhino Conservation

On Easter Monday we came together to create the world’s largest painting. Our good friends Harvey and Emma Jones (who are originally from South Africa) organised the event in aid of Rhino conservation.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate the Easter weekend and a chance to reflect on the choices we make and to ask of ourselves…”are we leaving the planet a little better or a little worse than when we found it”?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, there is a very serious biodiversity crisis.  Experts have estimated the rapid loss of species to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural rate of extinction. 

The site goes on to explain that unlike the mass extinction events of geological history, the current extinction challenge is one for which a single species – ours – appears to be almost wholly responsible. 

Rhino’s are the second biggest living land mammals after Elephants and they live for about 40 years.  Only 5 species of the 30 that once roamed this planet remain today.  The five species include the black, white, greater one-horned (Indian), Sumatran and the Javan rhinos.   All of these species are threatened in some way with three of these species listed as critically endangered.  The world Rhino population has fallen by more than 90% in the past 30 years. 


At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia.  This fell to 70,000 by 1970 and today there are just 29,00 in the wild today. 


With the approach of World Rhino Day it seems appropriate to raise awareness around the world and especially here in Australia. 

The dramatic increase in demand for Rhino horn in the East for medicinal and cultural reasons is a major threat to Rhinos in South Africa.  Harvey’s friend Brandon Challis, started the Rhino Record project in an attempt to raise awareness about the plight of the Rhino. Groups all over the world are painting 3x3m canvasses of Rhinos, which will be stitched together in a bid to create a painting the size of a football stadium and used to raise awareness first in South Africa and then to the countries where there is a market for Rhino horn - Vietnam & China.  The massive painting will be made of up 1,200 individual canvasses, which when assembled together will make the world’s largest painting and will be a Guinness World Record.  He is gaining exposure in the South African press.  


We painted 2 of these canvasses in Sydney, which Emma will take to South Africa to donate to t
his cause.  Their two kids Rosco and Carmen set out the preliminary design for each of these canvases but the end result was a creative collaboration of all of those present.  It was a great example of what can be achieved when people come together to work towards a broader goal.

I hope my photos have captured the spirit of the day.  We find this cause inspiring.  I hope you do too.  Greed and indifference has created this problem.  What can we do to stop the extinction? 

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  ~Edmund Burk

Saturday, April 12, 2014

An Outing in the City

We have come to the City on another Photo Club expedition.  Our topic today is 'Letters and Numbers'.  It is very wet day but a few of us have braved the elements to try and take a few photos.  I’m not particularly inspired by this topic and

struggle to make a good start.  The lighting conditions and lack of a tripod also mean that my photos are not great.  It is Saturday evening and the city is full of wedding parties posing at strategic locations.

We get to practice a bit of wedding photography as the professional photographers are setting up their shots.  The brides are probably not impressed but they are in a public place…so we shoot away! 

The wedding parties seem to gravitate toward one particular laneway – the one with the art installation of birdcages.  As described on the website, the installation Forgotten Songs commemorates the songs of fifty birds once heard in central Sydney before they were gradually forced out of the city by European settlement. The calls, which filter down from the canopy of birdcages suspended above Angel Place, change as day shifts to night; the daytime birds' songs disappearing with the sun and those of the nocturnal birds which inhabited the area sounding into the evening.

My favourite photo of the day was taken when my eye caught the Harley Davidson’s parked opposite one of the hotels.  The bikes are beautiful and glisten in the rain.  The riders come out and I catch a photograph that I love…perfect for my letters and numbers assignment!