As me Uncle Ted would have said it’s been “reeet parky” hereabouts. Or to translate it to English it’s been freezing. It has been very hard to leave a nice warm bed in the mornings. Anyways yesterday I made the effort to go up to Mount Ronan Nature Reserve and take a look to see what’s out. Wasn’t a bad haul.
I had the chance to nip down to Margaret River for the day while my partner, Helen, was playing croquet in Bunbury. Most people when they think of Margaret River think about wine or surfing but there is more to the area than that. It is a beautiful part of the world with forests and beaches that are home to some very spectacular flora and fauna. I was looking for orchids, but as I had the dog with me I wanted to tire her out before so she would be more settled while I was on the hunt. I don’t know whether you, my dear readers are fans of so-called cosy crime TV such as Morse, Lewes, Midsummer Murder, or Endeavour, but when you watch those it is always the dog walker that finds the body. To be more precise it is the dog who finds the body. Well we were just walking along a track when Frida – the dog – took off like a rocket into the undergrowth and after much thrashing around emerged holding a large femur. As far as she was concerned she had found treasure and after a couple of minutes later thundered back into the bush and reappeared with another. At this stage I was wondering whether she had found a body and whether I should have a look, but I decided to have a look to see what sort of bones they were. Now whenever Frida gets a bone she becomes very possessive and develops a level of distrust befitting a paranoid schizophrenic. Fortunately she hands over the bone nicely as she obviously feels that she a great big pile of the things and again dives into the bush to return with the skull. Definitely not human, much to my relief, it was a western grey kangaroo which had obviously been hit by a car and managed to drag itself to these bushes to die. My overseas readers may not realise this but ‘roos are a bit like rabbits, if they get dazzled by car headlights they will just sit in the road rather than take off. Unlike rabbits they make more of a mess of your car.
Thankfully after all that excitement we managed to find what we were looking for which were leafless and hare orchids.
I’ve written about going to York Golf Course to photograph flowers, particularly orchids, before and today I’m going to do so again. This time was a little different. Firstly I was looking for pink everlasting daisies (Helipterum roseum) and secondly I went on a Saturday just after lunch instead of early on a weekday morning. It was a bad idea – a very bad idea. It was like something out of the movie Saving Private Ryan. The golf course was full. Here in the Wheatbelt when we say something was overcrowded it means there were three people, so to see roughly thirty people in one place was sensory over load – where had they all come from? To cap it all it was just after lunch the club bar been open and it seemed like everyone had been imbibing freely. Up to this point I thought it was the done thing to shout “Four” upon teeing off. Well at the York Club the word began with F and had four letters but it certainly wasn’t “Four” It was reminiscent of the opening scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral.
It went something like this. “Swish” went the sound of the club as the golfer made his swing, followed by a sharp “thwack”, followed almost immediately by a loud “F**k” as the ball was sliced into the rough. Unfortunately I was, along with the pink everlastings, in the rough. The late Spike Milligan once described an artillery barrage as being like Chinese water torture except with solids in his autobiography “Rommel?” “Gunner Who?”. Well the balls didn’t explode on impact, but they certainly had the effect of making me hit the deck and take cover. The only time I’ve moved faster was when the Rugby club president declared an open bar (my excuse being that I was an impoverished student at the time). After thirty minutes of cowering in the dirt wishing there was an air raid shelter nearby I decided to call it quits and I beat a hasty retreat back to the safety of the car. I did manage to get the two pictures of Everlastings shown on this page.
As I made my tactical withdrawal I hit the cover of some bushes where I found a small clump of green spider orchids (aka Fringed Mantis Orchid, Caladenia falcata) so I quickly stopped to grab a couple of photos.
All I can say is was a very traumatic experience. Every time I hear someone hitting a ball I develop a nervous twitch.
Clicking on a photo will take you through to my online gallery.
I’ve been hanging around the York Golf Course. Not to play golf you understand – I’ve never understood the compulsion to dress up in silly sweaters and shoes and drag a bunch of sticks in a cart around a large field while trying intermittently to knock a ball into a hole. No the reason why I’ve taken to loitering at the York Golf Course is that is home to a significant number and variety of wildflowers. Not on the fairways off course – they are barren bits of grass with the occasional large hole filled with sand. No the interesting stuff lies in the rough between the fairways. It’s not without its hazards mind you. Those people in their funny clothes reckon they can hit a ball straight down the fairway to the flag in the hole – well most of ’em can’t, they slice the shot and the balls land like a barrage of misplaced shells in an American artillery strike. The ground is littered with balls in among the bushes. I thought the rules state that you have to play the ball from where it landed, well the number of “lost” balls in the rough at York plainly shows that this is not happening. It’s so bad that next time I visit I’m seriously contemplating wearing a helmet. You can never be too careful.
As you might have gathered from my last post I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Wave Rock itself. Besides watching tourists I spent my time looking for orchids. I had seen on my Facebook feed someone had found some dark banded greenhoods at the base of the rock so I spent ages walking along the vegetation looking for a small green and brown plant amongst a sea of other small green and brown plants. Amazingly I found a patch of half a dozen under a clump of sedge. I did my usual thing of lying down to photograph them. So there I am my torso in amongst the sedge and my legs out on the path quietly photographing flowers.
After a little while of me lying completely flat trying to get the best possible viewpoint a woman walks along the path and finds my prostrate form. Perhaps being a fan of the “cosy crime” genre she thinks she has found a body, or at best someone who has collapsed sick while sightseeing. So she kneels down to touch me – I suppose to check whether I’m alive or not. I say “Hullo” and she jumps out of her skin and looks like she could keel over with a heart attack. I quickly explain that I’m fine really, and it’s very kind of her to be so concerned, but I’m just photographing some flowers. From the look she gave me I think she would have rather found a dead body than a mad man lying in the mud taking photos.
Yesterday I decided to go on a little road trip to Babakin in search of the winter spider orchid. You’ve got to be mad to do a round trip of 320Km in the hope of finding one very small flower. It was a good day for it, the weather was cloudy and overcast, perfect for this type of photography, and I had nothing else scheduled. So packed my camera gear into the car, made sure the mobile was loaded with music and set off to the teeming Wheatbelt metropolis of Babakin. Now Babakin is in the local government area of Bruce Rock, which according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics covers an area of 2,727 square kilometres (1,053 sq mi) and has a population as of 2015 of 939 people. Babakin itself has a population of 25 – it is safe to assume that the local canine population out numbers the people – so there’s not a lot out there except wheat fields.
The drive was great, a lot of it on dirt track so plenty of red dust, and the time and distance just flew by thanks to the music. The shuffle play threw up some golden oldies – the best being Crazy On You by American group Heart. Put that one on full-bore. I wasn’t exactly head banging but lets say that the bouncing around of the car wasn’t entirely due to the road surface. Oh that took me back to the Chichester RocSoc at the New Park Road Community Centre.
Now these days we rely an awful lot on technology, I’m no exception, I was using my mobile phone for music and navigation. As I got close to my destination the phone just cut out – no more navigation, no more music. No mobile network coverage could explain the first but not the later. I switch to my TomTom SatNav and that packed up – couldn’t get a signal. OOOOeeeeeerrrrrr! Luckily I was nearly there. When I got to the nature reserve I did what I normally do and that is switch on my handheld GPS and mark the position of the car. These reserves have no facilities of any kind, not even paths or tracks, so I do this so I can just wander around in the bush and then when I’ve had enough I just follow the GPS to get me back. So off I walk. After an hour and a half I eventually find a single tiny specimen and proceed to photograph it. I use off camera flash fired by radio triggers to light my pictures of orchids. I set everything up as usual took a shot and noticed the flash didn’t go off. Tried again – nothing. Checked everything was firmly in place – nothing. Changed the batteries in the transmitter and receiver – still nothing. Bugger! Had a rummage around in my camera bag and found an old TTL cable so that got me out of the fix. Eventually I packed up and started walking to the car. I looked at the GPS screen and saw that it was blank. Bugger! I replaced the batteries – nothing. Another set of batteries and still NOTHING!!! Buggeration with bloody great knobs! A rising tide of panic starts to wash over me. Wash? No it was more like a tsunami. After a little pep talk I heard a truck go past. Now remember how I said earlier that this was a sparsely populated area? Yes? Well I can tell you I have never been so glad to hear a truck. I walked off in that direction battling through the scrub and eventually hit the road about 300 metres from the car. Phew!
The drive home was quiet – no phone, no SatNav, no music. When I got there after an hour and a half I carried everything into my office and started my usual post shoot ritual of zeroing all the camera settings, downloading the images and checking batteries prior to packing everything away. I almost jumped out of my skin when my phone beeped and started to play music. I checked the SatNav and it was picking up a signal, as was the handheld GPS. I tentatively got the flash triggers out and checked them and they were working just fine. WEIRD! Perhaps there’s just something about Babakin.
I can’t go without putting a YouTube video up for Heart’s Crazy On You. It’s a cracking track and this time I’ll put up a live recording from 1978 and from 2013 so you can see how the band has fared over time. All I can say is that Anne and Nancy Wilson can still strut their stuff in their sixties. Respect!
According to those that know it has been an amazing spring here in the Avon Valley. We’ve had rainfall that hasn’t been seen for decades and we’ve had a flush of wildflowers that hasn’t been equalled for fifty years. It has been frustrating as I’ve only managed to get out and photograph the orchids three times, but when I did get out it was beyond superlatives. Here are the highlights.
Clicking on an image will take you through to my online gallery.
It seems like absolutely ages since I last made a post. The break came about because I moved house (yes again!) and as usual Telstra and iiNet cocked the whole re-location up resulting in me being without phone and internet for 6 weeks. Now I have signed up with Optus and I’m the proud owner of a fantastic broadband connection.
So in the last six weeks what have I been up to? Well I’ve definitely not been slacking off I can tell you! I’m pleased to announce that for the whole of September I will be artist in residence at Beverley Station Arts and I’ll also be showing a body of work entitled “Sex, Lies, and Flowers”. Sex, Lies and Flowers is a project on the terrestrial orchids of the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. The word orchid comes from the Greek “orchis”, which literally means ‘testicle’ (with reference to the shape of its tuber). Orchids are distinguished from other flowers by their uniquely shaped column which is composed of the fused stamens and pistils. Often the petals are modified to mimic the shapes of insects to attract male insects to mate with the faux female and pollinate the flowers. Some of the forms they take also resembles human genitalia Hence the title “Sex, Lies and Flowers”. Over the last eight years I have travelled within the region photographing the plants on location. Instead of taking the standard approach of photographing the plant in its environment showing its full structure I’ve chosen to photograph them in a style more used in portraiture so as to bring out the distinguishing features and characteristics of the plants. The aim is not to produce an exhaustive catalogue of the plants but to produce a series of images that show case the beauty of the plants and raise awareness of them and how fragile they are. Hopefully some of you can pop in and see me and the work, if you are unable then the images from the exhibition and many more can be seen here.
Below is a video clip I made a while ago about photographing orchids in the Avon Valley of Western Australia.
Thanks for your patience everyone and regular programming should now resume.
Cradle Mountain is without doubt the most iconic wilderness areas in Tasmania. Situated in the Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park, which is in the Tasmanian World Heritage Area, which covers approximately 1,584,000 hectares and represents about 1/5 of the area of the island state of Tasmania. Cradle Mountain is located in the Central Highlands and is 165 Km north-west of Hobart the state’s capital city. The park is world-famous for the Overland Track which runs for 65 km from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair and attracts some 6000 walkers per year. That figure pails into insignificance when you consider that 170,000 people visit the park annually and the majority of them just to see one thing – the rugged majesty of crescent-shaped peaks of Cradle Mountain and its neighbour Little Horn reflected perfectly in the waters of Dove Lake which lies at their feet. There is a slight snag to this, the weather conditions at Cradle Mountain are fickle – this is Tasmania after all – and the conditions that provide such imagery only happen on average about fifty days per year. Season doesn’t guarantee and success as snow and low-lying cloud can occur in summer so basically you have an approximately one in seven chance. At the southern end of the park is Lake St Clair (which Tasmania’s indigenous people called Leeawuleena which translates as “sleeping water”) and the southern terminus of the Overland Track. The lake was formed in the last ice age and is the deepest in Australia. Despite the rugged beauty this part of the park does not receive as many visitors as Cradle Mountain, probably because it takes a little more effort to see things and also because it just doesn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi its northern neighbour does.
On our arrival at Cradle Mountain there was low-lying cloud and constant drizzle – what the Irish would call a soft day. Wet enough to soak you through to the skin despite a Gore-tex within 2 or 3 hours, but not enough to stop you having an enjoyable hours walk, so we did two of the short walks – Enchanted Forest and the King Billy Pine walk. The Enchanted forest walk was as you expect from the name enchanting, walking along side a small stream through the rain forest. The King Billy Pine walk takes you to look at an amazing tree, it is over 40 metres tall and the gnarly buttressed roots and shaggy moss covering made it look like one of the Ents from Lord of The Rings and is estimated to be 1500 years old. It was mind-boggling to think that when the cathedral in my home town of Chichester was founded in 1075 AD that this tree was already 600 years old.. The park is a veritable biosphere, the list of native species is truly spectacular, both flora and fauna wise. In fact most visitors to the park don’t realise that it is a fabulous wildlife watching destination. Most of Tasmania’s large marsupials can be found here including wombats, Bennett’s Wallabies, pademelons, Tasmanian Devils and platypuses. Despite the ground being thick with wombat droppings there was no other sign of them, but we did see a Bennett’s Wallaby and her joey on our way back to the car.
On our second day we decided just to walk around Dove Lake which is supposed to be just 6km long, flat and only take two hours. This would hopefully give me chance to get a photo of the iconic view and experience some more of the alpine environment. The classic view is the one from the boat shed, which is quite near the car park, which means most visitors don’t do the walk but just head straight to it. As it turned out the track was not flat, this is Tasmania after all, and as well as the broad walk over sensitive areas there was a lot of climbing up and down scree covered slopes which was hard on the hips and knees. Although listed as easy we were both quite pooped when we got to the boat shed and me phaffing about taking photos gave us a welcome rest before the last leg back to the car. So did I get the perfect shot? No. The peaks were shrouded in cloud and the wind was creating waves on the lake so there were no reflections. But having said that with the equipment I had, the conditions and the time available I’m happy with the shots I got. For me they represent something of the day-to-day experience of Cradle Mountain.