When I was a kid one of the many rebuffs used was “take a long walk on a short pier” – it was, I suppose, a more imaginative way of saying get lost. Well whoever first coined the phrase hadn’t taken into account Busselton Jetty in Busselton Western Australia.
Busselton Jetty is the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and it is 1.81Km or 1.12 miles long. Building the jetty commenced in 1853 and it opened in 1865 and by the 1880’s it was already attracting tourists. By 1972 the jetty ceased operation as a commercial port and today it attracts a staggering 450,000 people per year.
At the end of the jetty is the Underwater Observatory which takes visitor down 8m to the seabed where they can observe the huge variety of marine life that has made the jetty home.
To get there you don’t have to walk, there is a solar-powered electric train, the Stocker Preston Express, which can carry up to 90 people. So now it is the case of a small train journey on a long pier.
A bloke I know has just got into photography and has bought an Olympus OMD EM1 with the 12-50 kit lens. By his own admission he knows very little about photography and hasn’t settled into any specific genre. He now wants some more lenses, specifically the so-called Olympus Holy Trinity of f2.8 zooms – the 7-14mm f/2.8, the 12-40mm F2.8 and the 40-150mm F2.8. Nice lenses and in Australia you expect to pay around $4000 for them, and that is the problem. He is pretty convinced that he “needs” these lenses to be a good photographer and has read countless gear oriented forums about them. The major hurdles are that he can’t afford them, and he doesn’t know what to do with them. All he knows is that he wants to post the shots on a photo sharing web site and maybe make the occasional 10×15 cm print. Pushed hard he said that if he were to only have the one it would be the 40-150, but the reality is that he can’t afford even that on its own. I suggested he look at the 40-150mm F4.0-5.6 R which can be picked up for around $200 AUD, sometimes less if a white box special. The look on his face gave the impression that he thought I was stark raving bonkers. He then went onto to site all the usual internet complaints about the lens – its cheap and nasty, slow maximum aperture, unpleasant bokeh, plastic body and lens mount, soft at the longest end. My answer was that the f2.8 model costs around 8 times more than the cheaper one and I doubted whether he would see 8 times difference in terms of optical quality.
I don’t own or have access to the 40-150 f2.8, but I do own the 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R and I then decided to test it against a comparable lens from another manufacturer that costs nearly $3000 AUD. The pictures were processed exactly the same way in Lightroom and because the non m4/3 camera had a different aspect ration its image was cropped and sized to same as that from my Pen EP-5. I’m not saying which is which, that’s for you to decide. All I will say is that the 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R comes out of the test quite well.
All this reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a work colleague Steve. We were chewing the fat one boring night shift and he let on that he had been a full on Hi Fi tragic and had spent an absolute fortune on buying the ultimate set up. I nearly choked when he told how much he spent on speaker cables. I thought that photographers were gear obsessives. Anyway after a while of swapping components in and out and reading lots of technical papers he had the realisation that he was forking out literally thousands of dollars to gain frequencies that only dogs and bats could hear. After that epiphany he settled on the equipment that he had and used it for what it was designed for – listening to music. It’s the same here, you could spend thousands on a lens and most people would not be able to tell the difference. Therein lies the problem for my acquaintance. He is new to the hobby and has been led to believe that to be any good he has to go out and spend a bucket load of whonga on buying the best lenses. He doesn’t have the cash and so he will probably give photography away as he will feel he can’t afford it. My advice was to buy the cheaper alternative and really use it. Push the lens as hard as you can in a variety of situations and then see is you like the focal range, and if that lens prevents you from getting any pictures. If after a year or so you feel that the lens is a must have and that you absolutely need the extra performance and can use it then buy the expensive version. Just to finish I’ll post a picture taken with a camera that internet forums love to hate – the Canon EOS 550d. Its plastic, has a slow frame rate, a poor sensor with little dynamic range, dog slow auto focus, and a minuscule buffer.
For the majority of tourists coming to the Tasman Peninsula the only reason visit is the Port Arthur Historic Site with its colonial convict history. Some will venture to Taranna for the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, and a few others will head out to bush walk in the national park. Very few tourists head out past Salt River to the Coal Mines Historic Site on the North West of the Peninsula on Norfolk Bay.
Driving out through the little hamlet of Salt River I was struck by the beauty and serenity of the place. Even now in the Twenty First Century this is an isolated spot, it seems light years away from Hobart. How it must have appeared to the first settlers and convicts in early Nineteenth Century one can only surmise that it must have seemed like the very ends of the world and that home and family in England were something they would never see again. As I walked down the path into the site one could be lulled into thinking it was some kind of Antipodean Garden of Eden. There were Bennett’s wallabies grazing on the grass, small birds flew amongst the low-lying bushes, and a possum wandered lazily up to within a meter of me to check me out before shambling off to a nearby tree seemingly without a care in the world. This quickly evaporated as I started exploring the ruins.
The whole reason why convicts were brought here was to punish them. It wasn’t enough that they’d been sent to the Hell hole of Port Arthur and put to spirit crushing hard labour in horrendous conditions. No a new more terrible fate had to be used for those prisoners who bucked the regime. Coal was found here, if you walk along the beach you can see it just lying on the surface, smooth, black and shiny among the other pebbles lying in the sand. That meant that the seams would have been just below the surface which meant that you didn’t need complicated pit heads with lifts and pumping stations. All you needed were men with picks and shovels and a few people to supervise them. It must have seemed the perfect plan – put your trouble makers out to an even more remote spot, make them labour in incredibly harsh conditions with a horrific punishment system for those who wouldn’t toe the line, and then have them mine something that was needed badly in colony so that the scheme would pay for itself. Very ingenious. So in 1833 the coal mines were opened up. The interpretive panels tell of some of the heart wending stories of those who were sent there and the deprivations that they suffered. as I read more and more about the site the beauty of the location receded into the background and was replaced by story of man’s incredible cruelty to his fellow-man. Even in colonial times government was not capable of running an economic enterprise and making money, so in 1848 the mine was privatized, but the logistics of running such a business in such a remote location were so difficult that it was never economically viable and in just another ten years, 1858, the mine working were shut down. Some of the infrastructure was dismantled the rest was left to decay in the harsh conditions with the wooden buildings and fittings being destroyed by bush fires. The building which were constructed from stone fared better than those that were made from convict brick, which because it was not fired at high enough temperatures was soft and crumbly.
Port Arthur, just down the road receives most of the tourist attention – and in many cases quite rightly so as the scale of the place, it’s location, and many of the buildings are still intact making it a tourist experience par excellence. But for me it is the Coal Mines Site that typifies the brutality of the convict era. It’s sole purpose was to strike fear into an existing convict population and to punish and brutalize them even more. Most of the colonial penal systems victims were people whose only crime was to try to alleviate the crushing poverty they were born into with criminal acts that were incredibly petty by nature – stealing food, stealing small items to exchange for food, vagrancy, non-payment of debt etc. Now nearly two hundred years later their history, their lives, their suffering has been made into a tourist industry to entertain people. What is even more puzzling is that in today’s Australia it is now considered very desirable to be able to show that you are descended from convict stock. Perhaps this should be something to ponder as we visit Tasmania’s convict heritage sites.
Visitors to the site should take care to stay on the paths as some old shafts are still open and others have caved in leaving sink holes that unwary could fall into.
One of the lessons that I have learnt from my dogs is that sometimes you should just follow your nose and live in the moment. Today we had planned to go up to Salamanca Markets, but at the last-minute we changed our minds and so I decided to take Frida out for a walk. Just out of habit I picked up my compact camera as we headed out of the door.We went down to a bit of beach we hadn’t been to before and just kept walking. We were having so much fun just looking and taking pictures. I had no pre-conceived ideas, I wasn’t out to make art I was just having fun. Before we knew it we had walked to the Lewisham boat ramp, so as it was warm we stopped to have a drink at the servo. Frida was being heathy and just had water, I had a Pepsi Maxi followed by a Magnum ice-cream. I knew we had stayed to long because Frida was getting fidgety so we had back home. I saw even more picture possibilities as we re-traced our steps simply because I was facing a different direction and the light had changed.
We both got home feeling happy. Frida is now sleeping in her bed as I write this, and I’m happy to have a day where we just were in the moment having fun.