All posts tagged: reminiscence

orb spider in agave plants

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 …

pilgrim feet on temple steps

Going Against the Flow: Pilgrim Portraits on the Shikoku Henro

ON A HASHIHAMA-BOUND TRAIN, THURSDAY MORNING Hi again, all. Well, my pilgrimage may be over but the journey and adventure roll on. I stayed two nights in Matsuyama, back at Sen Guesthouse right near Dogo Onsen, after a 3.5-hour bus trip across the island from Tokushima. It was great to be back there, and hosts Nori and Matt greeted me warmly. Many stories from the trail were shared. Danielle, my saviour from several weeks ago when she rescued me from that Family Mart and took me to Sen to recuperate, came over last night for a visit. First night was spent here… ..but last night I moved downstairs to a tatami-floored dorm room. I replaced some of my gear (nights are getting chilly), sent some home, and had two more hot-spring baths while I was there, and last night we retired to the rooftop for sunset with a journalist who was in town to do a story about the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Her timing was impeccable and she nearly ran out of iPhone juice recording my …

iwaya temple shikoku

The Backwards 88, Day 27: Beyond the Difficult Place

SOMEWHERE NORTH OF KONGOFU TEMPLE (#38), EAST COAST OF CAPE ASHIZURI, KOCHI PREFECTURE, SHIKOKU According to legend, this location was given to Kūkai by a mysterious female recluse named Hokke-sennin. Kūkai carved two Fudō-myōō statues and created this temple which is considered a hansho (difficult place) ~ from Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, my guidebook Hi, everyone. It’s been a while. It’s always been a while… How long’s it been since the last post? At least a week. This post will cover quite a lot of ground in more ways than one, but I’ll try to keep ‘er lighter than that last one. Shouldn’t be too hard, since, as the title suggests, I’m in a far better condition emotionally this time around. Firstly, for the sake of clarity, that header shot, which I’m unable to caption, is from Temple #45, Iwayaji, the place referred to in the quote above — not Kongofukuji, which I visited yesterday. Kongofukuji must also be considered a difficult place, since getting there nearly killed me, yet again. (Once again, there aren’t many temple shots here, as …

okuho summit w 2 japanese guys A4 (1)

Good Things Come in Eighty-Eights: My Latest & Greatest Japanese Odyssey

Konnichiwa from Nippon, folks! I’m tapping this on my laptop, via some sweet Japanese wifi technology, from a table in my favourite Starbucks, right next to the park in Kichijoji, Tokyo. I got in to Narita last night on a half-empty flight via Cairns, and crashed in an airport hotel room smaller than my bedroom at home. Dinner was omu rice, some inari zushi, a “steam cake” and a big-ass can of Sapporo beer, in one hit checking four favourite konbini (convenience store) culinary delights on my to-eat list. I’m here for 88 days — nope, not in this Starbucks; that would be excessive. In Japan, I mean. I wanted to make the most of my 90-day tourist visa, and I’m covering a fair bit of ground, old and new, revisiting some favourite old haunts and walking some new paths. Let me backtrack, briefly. My American plans have been put on hold for some personal and legal reasons I won’t go into here. It was a rough year, and I hit rock bottom for several months. …

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Waiting for the Sun

It took more than the usual fortitude to head out the door into the pre-dawn blackness yesterday. For days the weather reports had forecast our first dose of indubitably “wintry” weather: a “polar [or Antarctic] vortex” was bulldozing its way north, with rumours of rare snow in far-southeastern Queensland and (for Queenslanders) a daunting maximum temperature of 15C (59F). It wasn’t the cold that I dreaded, but the accompanying severe winds. Although I hoped they’d whip up some photogenically frothy waves on the high tide coinciding with sunrise, their immediate effect was to dust my eyeballs with swirling grit, and I had to wear sunglasses in the dark till I left my street and cut across the park towards Cabbage Tree Creek. The creek mouth was a disappointment. Although the conditions had left the area agreeably deserted, there was no more froth on the waves than atop your standard morning latte, and I decided to climb the road to the crest of Shorncliffe. I’d been meaning to photograph the pier reconstruction project from above with the …

deagon duck after launch

Like a Duck to Water

I sometimes tell people I “grew up on and around boats,” and it’s true — but I always hasten to add that they should not infer from that any competence or affinity with things nautical. Nope, sadly, though I like the idea of boats, enjoy looking at them, photographing them and (in ideal conditions) travelling on them, I’m a dyed-in-the-nylon landlubber at heart and could no more sail a boat with any competence than I could pilot an aircraft. This despite a childhood in which at least five increasingly impressive vessels took shape under our house or in the backyard and were launched a few paces away into Moreton Bay, or down the road a few minutes into the local creek. I don’t know what sparked my father’s interest in boats — he grew up in rural Victoria and northern Queensland — but he always had a talent for constructing things (our house, for example — even our caravan!) and he worked as a boilermaker constructing big steel ferries, trawlers and working boats. At home, as …

two pelicans redcliffe

A Sunset Swim in Pelican Country

I just had a helluva week of walking and photography, one of my best ever. Just about every morning and evening last week I managed a beautiful, productive and fulfilling excursion to one of three or four favourite local rambling spots. Each day I did 6-10 miles, sometimes more. Some was familiar territory: the Boondall Wetlands, Cabbage Tree Creek, the Pine Rivers mouth. Some was new, like my first real chance to take pictures in thick pre-dawn fog over the waterfront, and my first proper (though short) missions down the mangrovey south bank of the Pine. But even the old places shone. I managed several really nice images, tried lots of variations, saw them in new conditions, or enjoyed those happy collisions with chance that make photography so unpredictable and fun. Unfortunately I got home each night pretty beat (often my day had started at 3:30 or so, and I’m trying to resist the urge to nap), and other than uploading the pictures, got little else done — certainly no danged blog posts. So tonight I’m employing a strategy …

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Starpower: The Mudflat Tumbleweeds

See them tumbling down Pledging their love to the ground Lonely but free I’ll be found Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds. Cares of the past are behind Nowhere to go but I’ll find Just where the trail will wind Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds ~ ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds’ by Bob Nolan There was a period there where I was drifting along the Sandgate mudflats, with or without the tumbling tumbleweeds, just about every day. Sometimes when the tides cooperated I’d find myself out there in both periods of twilight bookending my drifter’s day. I had a long break from the flats — it was hot, and how many hundreds of mudflat photos does a man need? — but now as the most delightful period of walking weather in these parts is here again, I’ve found myself drifting back. Surely a few hundred more shots of frothy incoming tides, rippled sand and the cosmic fireworks of an incipient or dying sun can’t hurt… For a little while I had some unusual company on the sand, or …

miserable stray dog korea

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 …

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A Korean Flashback #3: At Peace Among the Korean War Dead

The Korean War of 1950-1953 is probably more obscure for most non-Koreans — especially younger ones — than the older but far crazier, bigger, badder war of 1939-1945, and definitely than the more recent and oft-Hollywoodised Vietnam conflict. And what many westerners do “know” about Korea, they probably gleaned from eternal repeats of the M.A.S.H. sitcom. I never liked M.A.S.H. and anyway, it always seemed to me to be more about the Vietnam War than the Korean — I would even guess that many viewers thought they were watching yet another Vietnam show. The only time during my stint in Korea (as a teacher, not a soldier, although there were similarities) I was reminded of the sitcom war was one hot afternoon midway through my 13-day “Goat Killer Trail” death march up the roads of the Korean east coast. Passing this beautiful little ridge beyond some paddies as the sun-baked road hooked mercifully back towards the sea… ..I was reminded of those scrubby, arid hills stretching away beneath the dusty bubbles of those M.A.S.H. helicopters. In other words, it looked like a …

sitting around fire ring new york backyard

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 …

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Unexpectedly Spring: Some Snowmelt Reflections

Well, the snow is starting to melt and the air smells like spring…  That’s how Kate’s email began this morning (yesterday afternoon New York time). I was at once overcome with envy and nostalgia for that revivifying time when you feel the change in the air like the scent of hope and you know you’ve made it through the harshest of seasons. Pretty soon the first bulbs will be pushing through the melt-sodden earth. Here in Brisbane the harshest season is Summer, and we’re not through it yet; it seems to have saved its heaviest artillery for one bloody last stand. I don’t know if it’s age, my general malaise, or if all those southern summers I missed while living overseas made me soft, but I’ve really struggled with this latest one. Over in Upstate New York, of course, it’s been, by all accounts, an even harsher Winter than the one I lived through in 2014. That was the most consistently cold I’ve ever been, but it wasn’t just the temperatures, it was the grey, the gloom, the oppressive monotony of the …

dawn spider web korea

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 …

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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 …

ted smout bridge

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 …

photographer on creek bank at night

An Eerie Encounter in the Mangroves

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever bedded down in the outdoors? (Don’t answer if you’d be incriminating yourself.) I’ve laid down my bedroll in some pretty cool spots, not even counting the multitude of stealth-camps on or along the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. Here’s a few that come to mind: Under bridges, foot-, local and highway, in Japan and Korea Numerous beaches and river banks Atop a rickety New Hampshire fire-tower Two Korean roadside bus shelters In the bushes in a Tokyo park A complete stranger’s front driveway (oops) in southern California A roadside shrine in Shikoku, Japan Second-highest summit in mainland Korea A hammock hung over a gushing stream near a Queensland mountain top A derelict bikers’ guesthouse in central Hokkaido, Japan A WWII bunker on Moreton Island A closed-for-Winter tourist park next to a frozen Hokkaido lake, underneath a giant fibreglass tyrannosaurus A building site on the steep side of a gorge in central Shikoku So when the chance came to add another interesting locale to the list, I was pretty excited. If …

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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. …

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After the Ice Came Down

I was stuffing cameras into my daypack, readying for a trip up the road, when I heard it: a loud, sharp CRACK on the roof over the back verandah. Then another, and another. They started coming faster till we were under sustained attack, like a gang of vandals was hurling rocks from up the hill. But there is no hill to be up and the vandals around here are not that resourceful or organised. This was two afternoons ago. The forecast had suggested a storm, but I’d been disappointed before. Now with the temperature easing off and the sky darkening, I thought I’d try my luck at some very low-budget storm-chasing. I love the summer storm season here in South-East Queensland: rain, cooler temps, some much-needed drama. And I keep hoping one day I’ll fluke a nice magazine cover-worthy lightning shot and retire to somewhere dark and stormy with my earnings. I ditched the pack and peeked out from under the upstairs verandah. Leaving cover right then would have been suicidal. A few years ago I was way, …

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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 …

carpet snake in grass

Something Handsome This Way Slithers

So where were we? That’s right, in the bush half an hour or so from the northern New South Wales hamlet of Kyogle, visiting the container compound and incipient off-grid metal-box mansion of Alex’s brother and his partner. And I was just shaking off a bout of crippling car sickness, enjoying the trees and birds and quiet when the serenity of the pre-dusk Australian bush was blown to smithereens by — well, to borrow a line from myself (if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best): We were just settling into a cosy backcountry groove when Graham let out a tremendous holler, leapt into their little Suzuki Sierra 4-wheel drive, and went screaming down the track towards something exciting… I already had an inkling. I first met Graham, Alex’s little brother, a couple of decades ago or more. They shared an interest in the macabre, grotesque or just plain disgusting; if you’ve ever witnessed Alex’s housekeeping, you know what I’m talking about. And for Graham one manifestation (decorum in this family-friendly blog means a lot of self-censorship) was the keeping of …