Posted in On Tthe Road on March 24th, 2011 by MadDog
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“Been crook, mate.” is how an Australian might put it. It doesn’t refer to criminal activity. It means I’ve been sick. What seemed to be a waning viral chesty thing suddenly regained its foothold on my aging carcass and discovered a new and vigorous life in my tortured sinuses. I call this extremely poor timing. This is the first day in a week when I’ve felt like doing much other than laying in bed moaning about my face which felt as if it had been in intimate contact with the massive bumper of a speeding truck. This explains my absence from MPBM for a week.

Other than that, I’m having a pleasant, if surreal, time. The trip to Teewah was fun and refreshing. It took my mind off things for a while, a welcome interlude, indeed. I’m trying to retrain my mind to leave aside things best not thought of. Possibly you know what I mean. It’s those pesky themes which plague your thoughts, forcing you to go around and around trying to think of solutions to puzzles which have none. I had just about banished this kind of pointless mental exercise from my life. Recently it has returned with reinforcements. Now I have to subdue it again. The change of scenery is helping.

I’ll return to Teewah in my head this morning before I have to get to work and catch up on ten days worth of ignored urgencies. As the title implies, reflections are on my mind – not the moody kind – I disposed of that already. The watery places around Lake Cootharaba abound with captivating counter-images. Here are a few:

The phantom tree is far more, ummm . . . spiritual than its hardwood doppelganger.

The water here is deeply stained with tannin from the rotting vegetation:

The ground all around reminds one constantly that the path follows the contours of a giant sand dune.

Reflections create amusing symmetries everywhere:

There are great seas of magenta-tinged reeds. Nearly all of the vegetation in this area does not appear truly green to me. I find myself constantly removing magenta from green shades to make them look more natural to my eyes. That’s really a cheat. I shouldn’t be doing it. Coming from Madang, everything here looks dried out and sickly. I admit to freshening up the greens in these shots.

Huge swaths of scraggly forest show fresh evidence of bush fires. Two years ago an enormous portion of this area was burned out. Strangely, in these habitats, fires are not only untroublesome (to the vegetation, anyway), but absolutely vital the very survival of many species:

Many Australian plants cannot propagate without fire. The heat allows the seeds to escape from the protective pods. I’ll be talking about that in a post soon.

This burt-out Banksia tree is a good example. Though it finally succumbed to the last fire, its final crop of seeds was released to regenerate when things cooled off.

Here you see Ali Raynor cleverly taking my picture through the hole. No, that is not a spear she is holding.

What it is is the central spike of this plant. This is what is commonly (but politically incorrectly now, as I hear) called a “blackboy”. They are quite impressive and can live for hundreds of years. The proper name is Xanthorrhoea:

The reason for the political incorrectness of the common name is rather obvious, but seems just a little, uh . . . unnecessarily sensitive to me. Here’s the explanation which I casually ripped from Wikipedia:

“The best known common name for the Xanthorrhoea is blackboy. This name refers to the purported similarity in appearance of the trunked species to an Aboriginal boy holding an upright spear. Some people now consider this name to be offensive, or at least belonging to the past, preferring instead grasstree.”

Okay, enough of that. I’d rather let them explain it.

As soon as we started up the path to the lake and encountered the wetlands further up the dune, we were surrounded by millions of toads ranging in size from a pencil eraser to a tennis ball. Did I mention that there were millions of them? Mind you, I didn’t count them. Apparently, they all come from these:

Yes, Virginia, those are tadpoles, some of them sprouting legs already. There were millions of them also. They seem to have no predators here. I suppose that their number is limited only by the size of the edible insect population available to feed the adults.

It seems that they grow up to be these:

I, being ignorant, of course, believed these to be cane toads – a menace if there ever was one. Discussing this with the ladies accompanying me proved to be useless. None of these Queenslanders could state with conviction that these were or were not cane toads. Possibly that is because none of them have engaged in the popuplar sport involving a doomed cane toad and a hefty golf club. This morning I perused Google Images for cane toad pictures. It’s my judgment that these are something else. These are nowhere near ugly enough. Comments are welcome.

Tomorrow I am off to Toogoolawah for a few days with Ali Raynor. I have absolutely no idea what is in store for me, but I hope it includes some spectacular images of skydiving, kangaroos, koalas and whatever else I can manage to get stuck into. I’ll have a dial-up connection there, so my postings may be sparse.

If I can shake off this disease, I’m going to have some fun.

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Climbing Mount Pasta

Posted in On Tthe Road on March 17th, 2011 by MadDog
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Today is my last full day at Teewah in Queensland, Australia. Like everything in life, it’s been a mixed bag of treasure and trash. I began the trip under a cloud on Sunday evening when I finally admitted to myself that I was sick.

I can pretty well predict when I’m going to have respiratory problems; the symptoms are always the same. There’s no point in boring you with the details. It suffices to say that we ended up at the emergency room at the Gympie hospital, a place where I would have been very happy never to have seen again. Eunie nearly died there only a few months ago. I was told that (a) it would cost me more than A$200 just to see someone, (b) I would have to go to a pharmacy to get an antibiotic (if, one was prescribed) and (c) no pharmacies were open. Clearly, it was not a place of healing for me. As it turned out, I have been sick for the last few days, but it appears that I will live.

Other than that, it has been mostly very pleasant. I am staying in a house on the beach with five women. That can’t be all bad, eh? I’ve been giving basic photography lessons for a couple of hours each day. That’s fun also. I’ve gotten plenty of exercise and seen some interesting things. If you desperately need to see me before tomorrow morning, you will find me under the red dot:Exotic, eh? Hot, too. The first day was cloudy, but it’s been steadily improving. Yesterday, I got a little sunburned.

Speaking of yesterday, I got some nice shots on the beach and up at the picnic table on the low dunes. Here are Martina and Ali strolling up the beach:Since I’ve been doing photography lessons for a while, I’ll let you know that I got this shot by placing the camera only a few centimetres above the sand and shooting upward. “Dramatic Angle” is a good rule of composition. We also have “The Rule of Thirds” (well, nearly), and “Diagonal Lines”. You can cram a lot of rules into one shot. Don’t beat it to death, though. It’s a pretty picture.

In the later afternoon, up at the picnic table on the rise behind the beach I noticed that I could see my shadow on the beach:

The little vertical shadow in the middle of the bright area on the beach is me. It seems pretty cool to me, as it is about fifty metres from where I was standing.

There were several flocks of birds on the beach. I got lucky with this shot:My next camera will have a brighter viewfinder. If I have one complaint with the Canon G11 it is that you can not see a blessed thing on the LCD screen in bright sun. It’s pretty worthless. I will say that this is a very common fault with many cameras. For this shot I had to point the camera in the general direction of the birds, since the LCD screen appeared pretty much black.

In this shot timing is the key. I came down to the beach to get some shots of Jann and Narelle on their boogie boards. As it turned out, I couldn’t get close enough to get a decent shot without getting me or (horrors) my camera wet. The water felt like ice to me. Ali came along down the beach. When I saw her raise her arms something in my brain said, “CLICK” and my finger obeyed:

Here an unidentified woman on the beach adds a focal point to an otherwise uninteresting image:
We started off to Lake Cootharaba sometime in the morning. I haven’t cared a bit what time it is since I left PNG. I don’t want to know. I’m just letting life flow over me. I’m a big, fat rock in the middle of the creek of time. Let it flow, baby, let it flow. Anyway, it soon became apparent that the sign that proclaimed “Lake Cootharaba – 2KM” was clearly insane. It was not even close. We walked and walked. It got hotter and hotter.

We finally arrived at a huge expanse of water that was very pretty, but otherwise not very useful. The water is the colour of strong tea. The average depth is only 1.5 metres:

Then we started the long climb up the big dune behind the village of Teewah. We did this for the view. I’m always suspicious of advice that suggests that the view will be much better if you only climb higher. My suggestion is usually, “I can see fine from here.” Still, a man must be dragged along in the company of women. I’m not complaining – really . . .

It was not unlike climbing a mountain of pasta, the extra slippery kind. For each step forward, the foot slides back ninety percent of the original stride. Add the heat, the still air, the blinding sun, remember that you’re getting hungry and thirsty too – pretty soon you’re wondering why you left the house. Being naturally lazy doesn’t help much, either.

Finally, we reached the top of the dune. I sensed downhill walking soon. I was much relieved. Even with sunglasses, the bright sunlight was blinding when reflected off the white sand:I could see my salvation over the top of the last rise.

The view was amusing. Worth the climb. I guess it depends on how much energy one is willing to spend to reach the goal. Mountain climbing has never been my thing. There’s too much I haven’t seen from down here. Still, it is a pretty sight:

I can’t say that I’m proud of that panorama, but it’s not my fault. The contrast between the sky and landscape here was ferocious. It’s obvious that I had to bring up the brightness of the landscape dramatically to get some kind of viewable image. It appeared nearly black by the time I got the sky down to a reasonable level.

Bored yet? Hey, wait until tomorrow. It will be class day at Photography Boot Camp.

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Sand – Teewah Beach

Posted in On Tthe Road on March 15th, 2011 by MadDog
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It’s been quite a while since I have done a simple photographic essay, one in which the images tell the story. I like that sort of thing, because I enjoy working with the images more than the words. Images obey my will. Works fight me.

Today, I’ll show you images which I took yesterday during my first stroll up Teewah Beach, which stretches for about a zillion kilometres up the Eastern Australian coast from Noosa. From the little village of Teewah this sandy access roads leads down to the beach:You’re not going to go much faster than twenty KPH once you reach the top of the rise.

Ealier in the day I came up in the back seat of a 4WD vehicle at eighty KPH on the hard-packed beach:It was an interesting ride, to say the least. It seemed to go on forever, but it is only a few kilometres.

The vehicles on the beach leave an interesting comment on occupation of Earth by the human species:In case you are wondering about the little round blobs of sand:For lack of a better term, I’ll call them crab pellets. As the crabs clean out their holes after a high tide, they roll up the sand in little balls and shove them around in amusing patterns.

I also leave my marks in the sand:

Above the beach lies a tangle of native Australian flora:I’m told that huge monitors live here. I haven’t seen any yet. I don’t know if my leg is being pulled. I’m so gullible.

Where sand and sea meet, colours clash:

Surprisingly little life is seen; a few sea birds, random crabs and washed up Bluebottle Jellyfish, a very dangerous critter:Here is a washed-up green bottle:

Someone had a party out at sea. There was no message inside.

I observe the crabs at work:

I saw many curious marks in the sand above the tide line where some spindly grass grows:

It took a few moments of observation to realise that they are caused by the tips of the grass blades continuously flipping grains of sand from their paths as the wind blows them about.

The sands in different areas of the beach are remarkably variable:

I hope to make a longer voyage up the beach soon to the area called Coloured Sands – sounds interesting.

Walking the beach gives one plenty of time to think between grabbing images. It’s simultaneously noisy with the sound of the pounding surf and sometimes disturbingly quiet. Time for reflection.

But not too much reflection.

Yes, I enjoy letting the images do most of the talking.

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