All posts filed under: Animals

Merry…Solstice!

Hey, all. Well, I’d started another flashback-to-Japan post from the last trip, but it was so bleak and un-Christmasy, even for me, that I’ve decided to spare you such an un-festive come-down until my next post. What a way to kick in the new year it will be! Happily, I was reminded by the ABC weatherman this morning that today is the Summer Solstice in these parts — “when the Sun’s track across the Australian sky reaches its highest point. It is the day that has the most daylight hours of any in the year.” That news provided the impetus to throw together something lighter and sunnier, so here are 30-something chronologically presented shots from the last two or three weeks, all from the local area, the majority created in that beautiful few hours before and just after dawn when conditions are so good for walking and taking pictures. My sleep patterns are still crazed, and I’m surviving on around five hours per night/morning. My stoopid brain has lately settled on 2:00-2:30am as a good time …

Handsome Little Devils: The Water Dragons Revisited

Hey, all. I’ve bitched about Summer on here more than once: the energy-sucking heat, of course; the harsh, high-contrast, drama-killing, colour-draining light (photographically speaking); the insanely early start required to reach the waterfront or creek bank in time for sunrise (just made it this morning by heading out the door at 4:10am); cricket; bad TV (I mean badder than usual, and not in a good way); Christmas… So why bludgeon you with more of the same? Let’s focus on the good side of the Sweltering South-East Queensland Summer: the basking. Not mine — I don’t bask well, except in my own glory. I’m talking about the lizards: I’m still slogging through the pictures from Japan and have completed the editing of half a dozen days’ worth from that 47-day epic, plus several shots, at least, from each of the others. When Day 28, for example, starts to drive me crazy, I jump over to Day 13 for some variety. At least six hours a day goes by like that. When my eyes start to hurt, …

All Creatures Great & Just Plain Awesome

G’day, all. Lately I’ve been buried beneath a pile of virtual images from Japan over 5,000 shots deep, and am briefly surfacing for air and to check in with y’all before I take a breath and dive back down. As well as working on my shots from the Henro, I’ve been messing around with pictures that are a lot older, deleting mercilessly, shuddering with embarrassment at certain images that seemed decent at the time but now look like crap (basically 90% or more of my shots from Korea), and generally getting my photographic affairs in some kind of order. Between sessions at the Big Mac back home, and on the Little Guy here at the air-conditioned library or at my picnic-table “office” in the park before the sun gets too bright, I’ve done a bit of strolling and taken a few thousand more shots, most of which will undoubtedly end up on the virtual trash-heap… When I need a break from shots of temples, pilgrims, mantids, trees and Japanese coastal panoramas, I fiddle with some of …

Back Among My People

G’day, all. The standard apologies for the long time between posts, the tardiness of my response to always-appreciated comments, and for just generally being an awful human being. I’ve been back in the Bayside suburbs of Brisbane for a couple of weeks now, and am pretty well adjusted (by my standards), though there’s been a fair deal of lonesome soul-searching… ..and I do miss the feeling of short- and longer-term purpose that a multi-week walk provides, not to mention the simple daily routine of morning coffee, walking, vending machines, convenience stores, photography, nightly beer, and eating anything I damned well please in between. (No wonder I actually put on weight despite walking around a thousand miles in those three months in Japan…) I also miss the constantly rewarding 88-temple photographic project, though the editing and displaying aftermath of the actual picture-making is keeping me busy, as it will for several months to come. Meanwhile, there are occasional storms to keep me entertained back here in the subtropical Summer — including one predicted for tonight — and I’ve resumed …

The Welcome Committee

There were some things about getting home that were a definite improvement on Japan… ..but overall, this was the toughest time I’ve ever had leaving a country. Hey, all. Yup, back in Brisbane, as of Friday, and I’m just about recovered from the jetlag, lack of sleep on the plane (aisle seat + apparently weak-bladdered co-passengers = much annoyance) and I suppose the accumulated effects of all that walking. I’m still a little rundown, my walking speed has plummeted, and I’m pretty damned down over the end of another adventure. But all of those negatives are tempered by being home with my folks in a good place, and the satisfaction of getting so much done in those 88 days, including: My Daisetsuzan traverse in Hokkaido Climbs of Iwaki-San and Hakkoda-San, beautiful old volcanoes in northern Tohoku My first ascent of Yatsu-ga-Take, despite the cruddy weather A three-day return to the South Alps starting with Kita-Dake, Japan’s second-highest peak Lots of walking in and around the old capitals & temple heartlands of Kyoto & Nara Temple-rich …

The Backwards 88: The End of the Beginning, Beginning at the End

Hey, folks. How’s that for a mouthful of a post heading? But it’s a pretty good summation of where I am right now on this circular pilgrimage journey — one of the very few circular pilgrimages in the world, by the way. (By the way, I’ve just added a new post category, The Backwards 88, so all forthcoming posts about my Shikoku walk will be accessible from the “Recent Posts” section below.) It’s barely 6:00am and I’m recovering from one of my worst night’s sleep in the month I’ve been in Japan. Ironically, perhaps, it was here at Ryozenji, Temple #1, in a pavilion provided to pilgrims (wow, say that phrase really fast) where I was the lone guest. Unfortunately the bench I lay on closely faces a country road which, despite its narrow width, seems to funnel every speeding truck in Shikoku past the front gate. Also, I was a little drunk on the bad wine I shared with the head monk. Other than that, it was a great kick-off to my Big Walk. In …

Pilgrim Country!

I, KUKAI, WAS FOND OF WANDERING OVER MOUNTAINS IN MY YOUTH. WENT HIKING TO THE SOUTH FROM YOSHINO FOR ONE DAY AND THROUGH TO THE WEST FOR TWO DAYS. CAME ACROSS A SECRET ELEVATED PLAIN CALLED KOYA… ~ from a very fortuitously situated poster (a copy of which I immediately bought to send home), here in the tourist information centre in Koya where I am tapping out this post — and tapping into some free wifi & electricity — before hitting the pilgrim trail. *          *          *          *          * Hey there, folks. There’s an old monk tapping sporadically at the free PC here in the info centre. Things have changed a tad since Kukai (or Kobo Daishi as he was posthumously renamed) founded the place in the ninth century. Another example: there are a lot more foreigners on the streets these days, including this one. And my pilgrim staff is made of aluminium… I could go on, but I have …

Escape from Tomuraushi/Insect Meditations

From a picnic table in the shade in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, the conclusion of my Daisetsuzan saga… I went to sleep, or what passes for sleep at Club Mountaingoat, with the peace of mind that follows a few nips of Nikka whisky and a rare attack of good sense. Ahead lurked two more days of deeper penetration into the back-est of the Daisetsuzan backcountry; again I’d scanned the guidebook, looking for some hint of reward — terrific views, for example — to justify all those “hard”s, “long”s and “tough”s. I found nothing. Again. Outside, the mountain gods hurled volleys of horizontal rain against our pitiful shelters on crazed bursts of wind. I praised the stolid German craftsmen and women who’d manufactured such a sturdy little tent, and not for the first time saluted my own genius in leaving the syl-nylon tarp back in Australia. That merits another nip, my good man. Anyway, the decision was made, and I followed the final nip with the final Snickers in my food bag. The two Sapporo-ites (Sapporoids?) were exiting in the morning, …

Leader of the Pack

“Hey, little dudes! How’s it goin’?” My magpie welcoming party always assembles the same way: one sharp-eyed individual — The same one each time? Who can say? — leaves its fellows, takes to the air, and swoops low over the grass to bank and land with breathtaking pizzaz just in front of me: By the time its relatives have spied my approach and joined the party, the first arrival has usually burst into that ecstatic warble that is such a familiar presence in the Australian landscape, rural and urban, beginning before dawn and continuing at irregular intervals till the sun goes down or even later: The tribe takes up position. There are always at least a dozen, usually several more, and several of these will herald my return with an infectious and oft-repeated eruption of glorious song, puffing out their chests till they seem set to explode, tilting back their heads, pointing their formidable beaks at the sky as they sing. It’s the largest group I’ve ever observed — “our” magpies at home form a tight family …

The Truth About Flathead Lies

The tide was low, the air crisp and a winter sunrise was stirring the embers beyond Moreton Island as I approached the mouth to Cabbage Tree Creek. A lone fisherman in waders stood near the jetty, knee deep in salt water and presumably somewhat deeper in concentration: The cruising pelicans I’d hoped to encounter were absent; I walked out onto the jetty and introduced myself to another photographer I’d seen ambling around the headland on several equally sublime mornings, an air-traffic controller called Mike who was getting in some shooting before driving to work and an undoubtedly less tranquil scene. Mike enjoyed a cigarette while we chatted about cameras and lenses and travel. The fisherman had moved a little further downstream when next I noticed him. Mike commented about the gorgeous colours reflected in the creek surface; we fired off a few shots and I went back down the bank to get closer — “zooming with the feet” as we zoom-less users of prime lenses like to put it: Mike and I weren’t the only …

Scene from a Stroll #12: Don Quixote at the Seaside

The present was hard enough to deal with so that you couldn’t very well handle the notion of the future. He had noticed that it arrived in daily increments without any effort ~ Jim Harrison, Brown Dog Hi, all. It’s been a while since my last Scene from a Stroll — three years, in fact, way back in deepest, darkest South Korea! This shot, taken yesterday morning… ..is a way of buying me a little more time while I finish my almost-ready “real” post — and of introducing you to my new camera, which I’d only received two days before. I’ll tell you more about it soon — at the moment I’ve still got a long way to go till I know what it can do. The Sony, er, “manual” was typically woeful, and what I have learned has come from a lot of internet trawling, plus a fair bit of walking around with it, pressing buttons, twisting dials, and pointing it anything that moves or, more helpfully, doesn’t. But I can already feel the …

A Korean Flashback #4: A Dog-Forsaken Land

So here we are, flashbacking/flashing back to a generally unhappy period of my life again. Why? Perspective is a funny thing. I’m way more miserable lately, but at least my Korean prediament was alleviated by the promise of something exciting to live for at the end of it. It’s weird, but putting together these little collections, even when they’re not exactly uplifting, is distracting from the occasionally bleak present I occupy right now. Enough of that — there’s enough misery in this post, but it’s not mine, and just maybe it’s leavened here and there by glimpses of something else in the eyes of my charismatic assemblage of subjects. I did a Korean Flashback — which is my way of breaking from the regular seaside-wandering stuff I’m sharing of late, while mining some of the thousands of un-shared shots and stories from my two years in that country — a little while back about cats, and it’s easily the most-viewed, most commented-upon post I’ve ever done. That post, Where the Kitties Get No Pity, was featured on Freshly …

A Korean Flashback #2: I Was a Rice-Paddy Spider Man

The spiders were everywhere over there. When westerners talk about Korea as a destination or somewhere they lived and taught for a year or two, they often lose me pretty fast as they rave about the food or K-pop or the high-tech wonderlands to be found in the big cities. Well, I disliked the food, and Busan, the second-biggest city, just an hour or so from where I lived, will stay with me more for its decaying maze of hillside alleys and the really rather squalid seafood markets on its waterfront than any technological buzz it might have had. (Don’t get me started on the music.) Flashy, cutting-edge, Korea undoubtedly exists, but it was the half-made Korea, the good-enough Korea of the countryside, coast and city fringes that I spent most of my time in. Sometimes I wonder if I would have loved the country more if I’d been stationed in bustling Seoul with its mix of the gleaming-new and the mothball-antiquated, its countless options for diversion on weekends, holidays and before and after work. Certainly I would have been …

The Great Sandgate Blue Blubber Invasion

Yesterday afternoon I was wading through an incoming tide, recalling that it’s best to shuffle your feet when walking in stingray country. A few giveaway clouds of swirling sand just ahead reminded me that I really need to get some appropriate wading footwear. Then in just a few inches of water I stopped, startled, mid-step before a great brown, mottled, slightly convex disc that I took for a dead or floundering sea turtle. But nope, it was a stingray, and man, what a commotion it made as it panicked and thrashed its way to deeper water and safety. A not-so-clean getaway. It’s great witnessing mysterious visitations like these on such a well-trod shore — but this post isn’t about stingrays. Instead I thought I’d share some recent shots of some less lucky visitors, a plague of them in fact — or perhaps a swarm or a bloom, which are the accepted terms. For the last few weeks Sandgate and other stretches of the east coast have been invaded by jellyfish in their millions: If you’re a visitor, you …

Beyond the Smout, Where the Pelicans Play

Apologies to subscribers who received this post twice, or weren’t able to access it the first time. After publishing, I realised a random date had been added to the post. I deleted it and am trying again! *          *          *          *          * Can we name bridges here in Brisbane or what? The first bridge linking Greater Brisbane with Redcliffe across the mouth of the Pine River and Hay’s Inlet was the Hornibrook (“horny brook“) Highway, which opened in 1935 and at almost 1.7 miles was the second-longest bridge in the world. After closing to cars in 1979, the structure remained as the world’s longest footbridge till 2010. Meanwhile the Houghton (“whore-tun” — that’s how I say it, anyway) Highway had been constructed and when it proved unable to cope with the increased traffic, a companion, the Ted Smout (that’s it in the featured image above), was opened in 2010 to carry Brisbane-bound traffic. A clever writer of limericks or dirty verse could …

Topiary Reptiles: A Water Dragon Trilogy #3

Hey, folks. Some Goat that Wrote trivia for you: This is my 11th post to contain the word “dragon” in its title. You read it here first. You’re probably tiring of water dragons at this point, and that would be very sad, but with this short final episode we’re leaving our reptilian friends behind to bask and swim and otherwise squander their Summer in standard Queensland fashion. I’ll be back before long to catch up and share festive season stories with them — no doubt theirs will leave mine for dead. This was an interesting little visit to Roma Street… ..when for the first time I had a good look at the topiary garden. You don’t see much topiary in Australian gardens, although there’s no shortage of poorly pruned hedges. It seems very “eccentric English” and olde-worlde, and kinda ridiculous when it’s done badly — well, even when it’s done well (Stanley Kubrick omitted the topiary-animals-come-to-life bit from his version of Stephen King’s The Shining, probably a wise move), although there’s a quirky Australian take on …

Spiders in the Sky: A Water Dragon Trilogy #2

Hey, folks, so my Korean kitty-kat post a little while back has broken — vaporised, really — all my personal records on TGTW. As this post goes to the presses, the tally of “likes” from other WordPressers stands at 330, way more than 10 times my average number. Unbelievably, comments have reached about 75 and it’s been re-blogged a dozen or so times. Evidently there are a lot of cat people out there in the blog-reading world. If I’d known that, I would have carried a bag of dried fish with me on my Korean rambles. But without a zoom lens it was only due to good old dogged (catt-ed?) persistence (and having nothing better to do with my time) that I got the shots I did. Anyway, as a thank-you for all the nice feedback, here’s yet another picture of a certain devilishly handsome feline: Cheers, 山羊 *          *          *          *          * “I might grow old in Brisbane, but I would never grow up.” ~ …

Stalking Dragons: A Water Dragon Trilogy #1

Hey, so, it’s my blog and one of the biggest kicks it gives me is coming up with the post titles. I’m aware that “dragon” and “trilogy” are encroaching on fantasy novel territory, but there’s more than a touch of fantasy in this post (and the two follow-ups). (Plus I’m kinda hoping the post titles will turn up in occasional Google searches by fans of fantasy literature: folks feeding their love of all things Dragonslayer, Dragonlord, Dragon Hunter, Dragonpanties et al…) But the post itself: I’ve been so overwhelmed lately with a) general living and all its uncertainties and b) keeping my head above the constantly rising floodwaters of photos and post ideas (I have a dozen or more in mind at any point) that sometimes un- or partially edited pictures and post material get left behind and one day I come across stuff that’s relatively old, swamped by weeks of other stuff, forgotten. The other day I discovered photos from three excursions to Brisbane’s Roma Street Parkland: January 10, August 8 and August 28 this year. …

A Korean Flashback #1: Where the Kitties Get No Pity

Lately a few fellow early birds I run into as I make my rounds between seaside sunrise and coffee shop have asked how the morning’s snapping went and then hit me with “So, what do you with the pictures?” And I always mumble something about the blog, and personal satisfaction, and more tangible options along the line when I have some money — but mostly what I do with them is edit. Delete and edit. Pretty sad, I know. But they give me a reason to walk, I guess… A plus side of all this downtime is the progress I’ve made with a ton of shots from my two years in Korea, which was when and where I really buckled down and tried to improve as a photographer, largely as an attempt at therapy, self-medication and diversion. And it would be a shame if I didn’t share some of them, so I’m going to do periodic Korean Flashbacks built around a certain theme — and this inaugural episode is about cats. Cats are on my mind of late, and Kate’s …

The Predator Above

Breakfast, when I’m living alone, is the only meal of the day I consistently enjoy. For months now it’s been taking place in the park here in Sandgate after a few miles of seaside wandering in the good light just before and after dawn. That hour or so before the summer heat (forget what your calendar says — it’s Summer) and glaring light reach intolerable levels is often my last taste of the outdoors until the sun’s low in the sky again in late afternoon. I’m a poor excuse for a Queenslander, I know. Even that early, I’m rarely alone in there. There’s a group of ladies with a small herd of mop-like mutts, and then there are the three or four locals who gather daily under the rotunda or on a neighbouring bench and routinely start drinking beer by 6:30am. Sometimes they even bring an esky (“cooler” in American); it’s a big esky. They’re a pretty quiet bunch, at least until the second can or so, and the only conversation I’ve ever followed was an entertaining discourse on the correct preparation …