Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking
Comments 8

This Year’s Model

Another nostalgia hit, folks, mingled with a bit of  the usual seaside stomping. Been doing a lot of wandering, mentally speaking, through landscapes of the past and future, steering well clear of the here-and-now when possible.

Never been much good at the zen thing, ‘cept when digging in a garden bed, hauling myself up a trail or maybe squinting through a viewfinder…

I got my Christmas package from Kate a few days ago.

You might call that weird — we prefer to call it “express delivery”. It’s been our long-running joke that hopefully my Christmas present would get here in time for my birthday (in June), but really, I was just glad to have something to look forward to.

Life’s been pretty dull for a long while, and it was great to have the break from my daily routine. I took the box, with its U.S. $54 in stamps (no wonder Kate had to wait — that’s a tank-full of gas) down to the waterfront to open.

The tide was out and it’d been a while since I’d walked the flats, but the sun still had a half-hour of ferocity left in the tank. I sat there in the shade awhile luxuriating in the sea-breeze, enjoying my gifts and the enclosed note, skimming with a shudder of horror through the documents and stuff for my résumé Kate had included.

At last I was ready for the mudflats — except for that Christmas package. My pack was crammed with a laptop and camera gear, so I dug out an old Aldi shopping bag, stuck the box in there, tied my shoes to the pack and clambered down the seawall, swinging my shopping bag and feeling more than just psychologically encumbered.

Progress was necessarily slower than usual, but I was in a pretty good mood. The sand between my toes — nature’s foot massage — and the cool of the estuarine pools were as soothing as ever. I made it the quarter-mile to the ocean’s edge and killed some time watching a guy in a little Calypso catamaran (we had one growing up) doing rough laps across Bramble Bay in the late-afternoon chop.

Ambling north, I stalled here and there — the sun was taking its sweet time hitting the horizon, which is when the magic would happen — keeping an eye on an errant dog of considerable size that circled me a couple of times, mildly agitated, spit stringing from its mouth. A Rhodesian ridgeback-cross whose owner strode into the water leaving the dog to its own business.

A ridgeback killed one of my favourite cats when I lived in Sydney years back, right in his own front yard. Never trusted them since. For this mutt, it was mutual. Dogs often find me scary. It could be the pack, or the sneer I was born with. One of those faces that scares dogs and small children.

The dog, spit flying, bounded into the water after the woman. The sun met the horizon at last beyond the waterfront houses…

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..and I turned for the return leg with the fun about to begin.

First stop was some large, sculpted banks that are always studded with dead shells:

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Dumped the shopping bag and quickly dug out my NEX with the good lens and the big tripod. For some of the shells, the tripod wasn’t low enough — I didn’t have the GorillaPod — so I had to detach the camera and plant my elbows and knees in the sand:

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I always come to life in the half-light, especially in Summer. It’s cool, the colours take on a renewed richness, and suddenly there’s this urgency to move, one eye on the sky and sun, another scanning the foreground for subjects and angles. I suppose I make a pretty crazed-looking figure for that frantic half-hour of action.

I trotted a little way back towards Sandgate, dumping the pack and shopping bag here and there to prop the tripod in choice spots. With the light dissipating by the minute, the tripod came into its own. I could keep the ISO at its minimum and still close down the aperture for a bit of depth of field.

I used to do this with the six-inch-high GorillaPod, but the options in height, not to mention its stability, make the real tripod worth its weight, most of the time.

Somewhere there I noticed the delicious appropriateness of the shopping bag:

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“The perfect Aussie Christmas” — and so it was.

I’m increasingly including myself — or my shadow self — in at least one picture on outings lately. Just for the amusement and to add some variety to a well-trodden repertoire:

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Shadow Goat in the settling dusk.

Plus I like the challenge of setting the 10-second timer, leaping into position and freezing!

Warning: Incoming Nostalgia!

I’m not much of a people-shooter (!) as a rule — they’re usually just distant, anonymous figures in a landscape, which is fine, but I sure miss the supply of live-in models I enjoyed during my six months in the States last year.

Kate, of course…

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At home enjoying the sunshine in Saratoga Springs on an uncharacteristically balmy Winter’s day.

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Black Mountain, NY. A nice walk compromised somewhat by a snowmobile convention on the shared trail. Snowmobilers: terrestrial jet-skiers.

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Which one of us is suffering a mild dose of acrophobia, do you think? On Crane Mountain in the lower Adirondacks.

..with or without her kids…

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One of numerous horror movie scenes that played out that Winter…

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Same spot in the driveway a few months later, sans snow and severed heads.

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It’s hard being a bald man in a society of hair-braggarts.

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Those were better, bouncier times. People would suddenly get airborne at the slightest provocation.

Once we’d built the gardens in the Spring, I never lacked for subject matter at home. If I was bored with insects or flowers, I could add something mammalian, whether in the form of mini-humanoids…

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The twins leading me up the garden path. All those garden beds were lawn a few months earlier.

..or a devastatingly handsome feline if there happened to be one around:

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Keeping us safe from chipmunks, the indomitable Dr Heinrich P. Mosenberg.

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Moe putting his best paw forward on the backyard catwalk.

Even the squirrels were photogenic:

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Greyjoy, my arch-nemesis, treated our bird-feeder as his private banquet table. When he turned his attention to wiping out the crop of corn you can just make out in the background, he pushed me too far. We trapped him and exiled him to a distant hunting ground. No, not death, a ridge up the road.

Hell, even the vegetables:

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We had a bumper crop of squash, three or four varieties.

Out here on the flats, it’s just me, perhaps a distant dog, a seagull or two that will tolerate me edging closer:

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The real stars are the brilliant deep-blue skies of twilight, the reflections of sunset clouds or lights coming on along the foreshore, the rippled sand and especially the foamy, ethereal water of the turning tide as fading light makes longer exposures possible.

Even so, I did intrude into the odd shot as I danced around making the most of the golden hour. These shots range from between half a second to 13 or so:

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A distant plane leaves a light-trail on a long exposure. Brisbane Airport is over there to the left.

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Fun with moving on a 1.6-second exposure.

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One last shot before I headed home to try on my new T-shirt. This one is a homage to the ghosts of all the hellish neckties I got rid of just over a year ago. Their time has passed, may they rest in peace!

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The Psychedelic Necktie Rack.

What an awesome Christmas that was…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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8 Comments

  1. Kate and her girls are gorgeous. Some kinds of reminiscing can be very sweet. Keep enjoying it. I know you say you aren’t much of a people photographer but these shots are lovely. Maybe another income source if you get desperate? Candid portrait photography out on the beach… I hope all the issues get sorted and you make it back to your favourite valentine soon!

    • Much appreciated, Jane. It helps to have such willing models (though keeping the little ones still for 10 seconds is similar in difficulty to photographing a cat or other small mammal).

  2. As ever, your writing evokes atmosphere so powerfully. I am sorry to find, after a break from reading blogs, that you are still in Australia and far from Kate. I really hope there’s a solution in the near future for you.

    • Good to hear from you, Rachael. I too have been keeping a distance from other folks’ online worlds for the most part — in fact it’s been difficult even to maintain my own. It’s been a very, very hard time since about July last year. And no idea if/when that’ll be sorted, but here’s hoping…

  3. Another sublime post, your blog is truly great stuff. It looks to me like you are just a natural photographer and writer, and you could no doubt wring wonderful photos out of an old instamatic, but I have to ask what sort of gear you enjoy using? Are you using Sony NEX stuff? You must pack a light camera kit on all those epic hikes. I pack a light kit for my epic hikes to the local park and the Harristown shopping centre car-park these days! Cheers, hope this finds you well. Rob.

    • Hey, Rob, believe me, I probably delete 100 pictures for every one that turns up on here! I delete mercilessly and seldom keep even one extra shot of a particular scene. I guess my success rate is getting better, and I usually know what I want at least before I take the shot, whether or not I get it. I also know how I want to edit the shots as I take them, which helps.

      Yes, I use two NEXes that I never leave home without, with a really good, expensive prime lens on one (24mm) and a cheap 16mm with optional fisheye on the other. Both get hammered and have permanent dust spots (or nearly permanent) on their sensors thanks to too much “in the field” lens-swapping in the early days. Now I never swap as I can’t afford to get them cleaned!

      I love this set-up and know it inside-out now, but have long wanted to supplement it with a tiny Sony full-frame and a zoom of some sort for wildlife etc. However adversity struck and left me in near-poverty, so I make do with my old warhorses. I did start lugging a real tripod recently, which gave me much more versatility in low light, as that’s my favourite. I used to be a lightweight hiker but the camera gear, even in such diminutive form, is eating into that luxury a tad! And I usually have a laptop in the daypack as well!

  4. Dave Hirst says

    Loved the comment about the terrestrial jet skis. The last couple of camping trips to Moreton and Double Island Point were punctuated by the aquatic kind. My son thinks the word for jet ski is bevan, with a falling tone. Walking past a boat ramp in Noosa where some enthusiasts were preparing to launch, he loudly and enthusiastically pointed out the bevans, much to my unadulterated amusement. I hate those bastards.

    Good to see you still kicking. I’ve been much slacker reading your posts when they are not on Facebook. I hate how that word auto-capitalises which I’m assuming is part of the reason you no longer use it.

    Let me know if you are going for a stroll up the coast, I’m happy to tag along to make you feel like an Olympic speed walker.

    Dave.

    • Dave, a criminally late reply here, though I did appreciate the fun comment and your even-occasional revisiting of these “pages”.

      I call ’em aquabogans — the bad ones, anyway. Never understood the philosophy of relating to the great outdoors by tearing through/over it in a noisy, obnoxious machine, but I wasn’t made for these times, it seems.

      I’m looking forward to returning to Moreton, perhaps in a month or so if it ever cools down. Over there, it’s those great Aussie gentlemen, the 4-wheel drivers, who present me with the greatest challenge. Mid-week works best for me; the odds of not getting flattened on the sand by a speeding, drunk driver are marginally improved!

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