Category Archives: Photography

Our Little Dancer & the Dance Solo.

Our Little Dancer gave her first solo performance today, and it was pure enchantment. More to the point, SHE was enchanting. Not just because she’s our daughter. Rather, because she’s reached that long awaited point, where she’s transcended years of training, commitment, lost ballet shoes, laddered tights, and entered the realm of magic. A realm so far beyond words, that I barely know where I am.

I don’t know whether you’ve been to this place yourself, but it turns being audience, into a flight without wings. One minute, you’re simply sitting in your chair. Then, inexplicably, you’re zooming off to unexplored realms and your feet are dangling in the air.  I suppose other people would simply describe this as their “happy place”, without all the flounce. However, as far as I’m concerned, a bit of flounce is quite approppriate. After all, we’re not describing a balance sheet here!

Unfortunately, at this stage, I can’t share any photos of her dancing or even in her dress. All I have at this point, is a photo of her costume hanging up last night. There was no time to even get that precious “before we leave” photo…her dark hair perfectly twisted into position, flawless makeup, lipstick, pink tuille all in motion swooshing out the door. Indeed, perhaps a shot of pink in motion, would have been more true to life than a staged shot in the hallway anyway.

Despite my spangled descriptions, my daughter wasn’t making her debut at the Sydney Opera House. Rather, she was performing with her dance school at a local nursing home. This was such a great place to start out. It not only gave students a chance to give to the local community, but it also allowed them to get experience in a less controlled but forgiving environment.  While the majority of residents were very attentive and could well have been seated in the Opera House, there was the occasional person walking through a performance on their Zimmer frame. A few sang along to one of the backing tracks and no doubt, there were those who fell asleep. Yet, this unpredictability is great, because it helps the dancers to  learn how to deal with distractions and adapt accordingly. A studio is a very controlled and largely predictable environment, which makes an excellent nursery, but the outside world is the stage.

Anyway, there I am in my seat wound up like a spring. I can’t wait and yet, I’m also absorbed in each of the other solos. I’ve seen them all before, and yet they still give me goosebumps. Take me on intense emotional twists and turns at 240 kph, which I can’t explain. I am just the passenger. A member of the audience. I don’t know how they make their magic. I just experience it.

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Ballerina Girl.

Finally, our daughter is centre dining room floor. She is beautiful. Beautiful, almost in an unearthly, ethereal way, becoming some kind of pink sylth whose materialized out of the air. Who is she? Where did she come from? Is she some kind of mysterious geni who escaped from an empty Coke bottle? I don’t know but she moves as light as a feather across the floor with such grace and poise that I’m totally spellbound. Me, the mother who gave birth to her earthly being, but this is a magic woven by her other “mothers”. Her dance teachers who’ve nurtured the butterfly out of her crysalis. Given her something I could not. Sure, I could give her the fire and the spirit, but I couldn’t help her mold and shape it into something that’s her own.

You see, as much as I love to dance and have even been doing adult dance classes for the last year, I have some disability and chronic health issues and let’s just say, that I’ve been unable to “reach my full potential’. Indeed, I try to resist saying “that she didn’t get it from me”, because I wasn’t me. I couldn’t be me with all that extra baggage, especially when I didn’t know it was there and what was causing my difficulties. I just thought it as me. Yet, despite having the hydrocephalus , I did ballet as a child and even had private lessons for awhile. I wasn’t always quite so clunky.

I often wish that I could experience more of my daughter’s dancing. At least in theory, I feel I could watch her dance all day everyday, which isn’t exactly true. However, as it stands, I feel like I’m peaking through a crack and I only get to experience the barest slither. Everything goes on behind closed doors, which it needs to, but I do crave for more. It would be nice if she danced more at home. Let me inside a little more. This is a comment lament of the parent, as sense of being on the outside when once upon a time, they were on the inside.

 

Yet, I know this is only the beginning. Not the very beginning but the beginning of her stepping up and starting to step out. Next year, she’s due to be getting her pointe shoes, and that really will be a huge development. That’s a ballet dancer’s coming of age…a right of passage. A ritual I never experienced, but I’ve been waiting for just as much as her. Indeed, I have my own pair of pink, satin ballet shoes with pink satin ribbons. They might not be pointe shoes but they’re beautiful, and they were my gift to myself. They were the materilization of a dream. That someone who struggles to walk, can also learn how to dance and dip their toe into ballet as a participant, and not always be a spectator relegated to the sidelines. After all, life’s too short to sit it out.

And now, my little dancer is asleep. All wrapped up in the world of dreams and I need to follow suite.

xx Rowena

Dusk: Day 3 – B&W Photo Challenge

Yesterday, I finally managed to nip down to the beach just before the sun had disappeared entirely, and the golden sand had descended into complete darkness. I know my mantra is carpe diem seize the day, but thanks to a weird sleep virus which has exacerbated my night owl tendencies, I am carpe nightum (or however you put that in proper Latin).

So, in my defence, I say: “At least, I walked the dog. At least, I did get to the beach and while it doesn’t need to be quite so dark to avoid the risk of skin cancer, it is a more sensible option than cooking myself under the midday sun.

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Colour.

Our beach isn’t overly crowded outside the peak Christmas – New Year holiday period. So, heading into evening in November, there were only a couple of dog walkers stretching over quite an expand of beach. There was a soft lapping of something which could hardly be called waves against the shore and it would’ve been quite relaxing and melodic if I hadn’t been trying to get my B & W image when I’d clearly left my run too late. The magic hour had set.

Of course, Lady didn’t care. She was nose down sniffing and I kept a cursory glance out to make sure she didn’t opt for a swim at dusk without adequate time to dry off. She has quite a thick coat and is definitely NOT “quick dry”.

Anyway, it’s time to pass on the mantle for the next person to pick up the Seven Day Black & White Photo Challenge. Today, I’m handing over to  Geoff Le Pard who enjoys a good walk around London and might as well take his camera with him.

Best wishes,

xx Rowena

Magpie On the Cross: Day 4, Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge.

This photo was taken on a day trip to Wollombi, NSW where my Great Great Grandfather married his second wife, Jane Lynch in the very quaint stone Catholic Church.

Wandering through the historic cemetery, I was struck by this momentary fusion of elements…a magpie perched on a cross, a historic headstone.

Being Spring, I had to be careful taking this shot, as I’d already been warned about swooping magpies and I wasn’t one to argue with that. Well, that’unless a resonating image was up for grabs.

A magpie doesn’t tell quite the same story, as spotting a crow in a graveyard and yet it’s presence resonates and feels a bit forboding. As it would be, I guess, if I were a small bird.

Today, I’d like to ask Irene Waters from Reflections & Nightmares if she’d like to take up the challenge.

xx Rowena

Not A Very Willing Santa Pup!

This afternoon, I pulled out my camera, donned my elf outfit and dressed the pups up in their Christmas outfits. I  never take a snap just for the hell of it. So, I should’ve known it was going to take more than spontaneous enthusiasm, to pull off this quasi professional photo shoot.

No doubt, you’ve also seen those uber cute dogs in Christmas catalogues. You know, the ones with huge, puppy dog eyes dressed up as Santa, elves, reindeer and Christmas trees. Don’t they just make your heart melt? Melt enough to buy your unsuspecting dog an entire new wardrobe.

Well, I’ll blame my daughter for falling victim this year… and the pups.

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The Micro Pups Last Week.

Besides, who wouldn’t be tempted to dress up two, six week old pups, especially in identical outfits? Well, I would’ve done the matching outfits,if only the store had delivered. As it was, we had a Santa and an elf. In addition to the micro pups, we also have our older pups to dress up in the Christmas spirit.  While they’ve grown up very quickly, they’re still only 4 months old and this will be their first Christmas. So, who wouldn’t want to do something special?!! The shop didn’t have their size and so we bought a Santa hat for them and a Christmas Tree outfit for Lady, who could well be an XL. Of course, she blames that on the fur coat, but we know better!

Such are the best laid plans of mice, men and me. As we rushed through the door with our grandiose plans, no one had briefed any of the pups, and they weren’t convinced. If they can it eat it…If they can chew it….If they can chase it…They’re in. “Wearing”…Now, that’s another story, and they made it quite clear, THAT wasn’t part of their contract!

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Our lack of planning didn’t help. We burst through the front door and before developing any plan of attack, our daughter was trying to guide little Dobbie’s paw through the leg of the Santa suit and it wasn’t going on. Getting stuck on claws and being too narrow for even his skinny puppy legs, it was a beast to put on Dobbie was NOT amused!! Needless to say, that was a fail.

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Zac, our 4 month old Border Collie X was next up. He was wearing a pseudo-luxurious Santa hat, which was attached via an elastic band. The elastic is a critical element of the hat’s design, as you’ll see from the photographic evidence. Well, he was wearing the hat for a few seconds. A very smart and innovative dog with a real gift for turning anything in into a chew toy or something to chase, he sat there shaking his head watching the white pom pom swinging backwards and forwards and trying snap at it with all his might.

Rosie Claws

This thrill didn’t last long as his sister, Rosie, soon stepped in and snapped hold of the hat. Santa’s hat was a red rag to a pair of voracious jaws, and it disappeared out into the backyard. Their latest prize.

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Meanwhile, I managed to get Yoda into his elf suit without too much difficulty, and put him on top of the green wheelie bin…my makeshift studio. With the backyard looking like a moonscape scattered with chewed up detritis, the bin lid almost looked glamorous by comparison. These shots weren’t there yet, but showed potential.

Obviously, I need to be more “strategic”, and have now put this one down to “practice”.

Next time, I’ll stick to the Scotto motto and “Be Prepared”.

How have you gone photographing pets in costumes? Any success? Any tips? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that the pups were under close supervision wearing these costumes. It doesn’t take much for puppy mischief to become tragic.

 

 

Our Son and the Rescue Pup.

This afternoon, I was tapping away on my laptop, when I glanced over and spotted a priceless moment. Our son was snuggled up on the couch with our Border Collie pup, Zac (ie Isaac Newton)  watching The Good Doctor. It’s Sunday afternoon, which quite frankly should be declared a “snooze zone” before having to return to the realities of “The Week” on Monday. Hence, I’d slept in, and was still in my PJs. That explains how I managed to capture the moment. I didn’t need to leave the house, or even my chair. My camera was sitting faithfully by my side, just waiting.

Zac is almost 4 months old, and we’ve had him since he was a little 6 week old pup, along with his sister Rosie. Rosie was meant to be a foster pup, and simply passing through. That was before she got caught in our heart strings. Zac and Rosie have also become inseperable. After all, they’re more than brother and sister. Now that the rest of their litter has dispersed, they’re “twins”.

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Rosie (left) Zac (right). Not quite identical twins.

Of course, with such young pups, you don’t know anything about their personalities, psychology or outlooks on life. You can only base your selection criterion on things like markings and which pup comes to you first. I was the one who chose Zac, because he had distinctive black and white markings, which I thought looked more like Bilbo. Our daughter chose Rosie as she has a broad, white stripe on her face, which she thought looked like Bilbo. Rosie also has black spots on her legs, which I wasn’t too sure about, but others loved. Both dogs were looking short-haired and Bilbo and every other dog I’ve ever had, has been long haired. However, I reasoned that short hair is better suited to our beach lifestyle. It was a tough choice.

Zac was instantly “my dog”, and he was also the pup most determined to turn a  recalitrant, growling Lady, into “Mum”. Rosie palled up with the rest of the family and was a little more cautious about turning to Lady for love. It soon became clear that Zac and Rosie were inseparable, and that having both dogs could be much less work than the one. They could occupy each other.

Back at the end of June before the pups came along, our beloved Border Collie Bilbo passed away. He was 11 years old and we’d had him since a pup. Back then, our son was 2 years old and our daughter was crawling. So, not only had Bilbo seen the kids go through the childhood years, he’d also been with us through each and every up and down with my severe health struggles. I don’t know whether all of that made him a sensitive soul, but he certainly was a very special dog.

And, Bilbo was also a survivor himself. Indeed, he was only a young pup when I was admitted to hospital for about eight weeks and he went from having the kids and I at home almost every day, to me being in hospital, the kids staying at my parents’ place and Geoff getting home super late from work after touring Sydney seeing the rest of us every day. On top of that, the pup also lived through the trauma. A stress beyond stress.

 

Above: RIP Bilbo.

At least, that’s how we explain Bilbo’s act of determined destruction, which could have killed the wee pup. Bilbo went exploring under the house chewing the the wifi and computer network cables. When an exhausted and irate Geoff retraced his paw prints under the house, he found that Bilbo had even started chewing on an electrical cable and must’ve received a slight zap, which made him stop.

Obviously, that wasn’t the best of times for us.

So, when Bilbo passed away, he took a lot more than memories along with him. There was also the deepest and most compassionate empathy, and an understanding of us which came with walking through the valleys and mountain tops with us and in our hearts.

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Lady.

While we have another dog, Lady, she doesn’t have that same sense of empathy or emotional depth…and isn’t quite so melancholy either. She’ll greet you with an uber-enthusiastic wag of the tail, which could almost take your leg off. She has different talents, but she also doesn’t fetch which was a rather difficult gap for us to ignore. We are a ball throwing family and that requires a dog to fetch, even if he was an annoying, obsessed maniac  more often than not.

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Zac & Rosie when they first arrived, aged 6 weeks.

Wanting to let our emotions heal before we adopted another dog, we were going to wait until next year and get another pure-bred Border Collie. However, I got word through the pet rescue group that some Border Collie x puppies were coming in. I could also see that our son could use another dog  now. At the time, this was more of a vague hunch than a neon sign.  although until Zac settled in, I had no idea that he had such a special capacity to heal. A capacity not unique to him, but not universal among dogs either. That he has a gift.

Reversing up a bit, not long after Bilbo died, I caught the flu and a nasty respiratory infection. With my underlying health issues, such infections become life threatening and I developed a powerful, incessant cough which was absolutely terrifying. After losing the dog, the kids were particularly concerned this year and didn’t have Bilbo for support.  After all, it was hard times like this, that Bilbo had always been there for every single one of us. Shaken by such fear on top of grief, our son in particular needed the love only a special dog can give.

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That’s why I was so stoked to see our son so snuggled up and entwined with the dog today. As a parent, we so often feel like we’re flying blind.Even when we know we’re doing our best, it’s all to easy to feel like we’re floundering. That despite our best efforts and utilizing every single resource we’ve got, that we’re still getting sucked into the vortex and drowning…along with our beloved child. Seeing our son so relaxed, content fused with the dog and knowing we’ve all made it through the storm, was such a relief. An answer to prayer in a way that made so much sense and yet seems hard to put into words on the weekly praise list…RESCUED DOG SAVES TRAMATISED CHILD.

And, so I’m happy.

In addition to sharing my joy, this photo marks Day 4 of the Seven Day Black Photo Challenge, which a friend roped me into on FB. The idea is that you post a B & W photo every day for seven days and you nominate someone new to take up the challenge every day. Today, I’d like to nominate Trent from Trent’s World.

Have you have a special dog or pet who has whispered magic into your life? Please share.

xx Rowena

Gloat- Day 2 B& W Photo Challenge.

You have to congratulate me on today’s photo. Not because it’s particularly good and when I think of all the millions on photos on my hard drive, it wasn’t even among the best. However, I did think the Scrabble letters would translate well into black & white.

The real reason you have to congratulate me, is that I didn’t post another B & W dog photo. That I was able to pull myself away from the five beautiful dogs chewing on my socks and feet (well, make that the four pups. Lady is too busy sleeping or growling at micro pups who are still convinced this old cranky puss could still be their friend.)Yes, I was able to think about something else.

Well, I have been thinking of a few other things, such as my Irish Famine Orphan research project. I am researching and writing up the stories of around 25 young women who emigrated from Middle Workhouse, Cork to Sydney onboard the John Knox arriving in 1850. I am approaching this as a you have 25 people in the same boat and what happens when they all get out retrospective social experiment type thingy. To get to the story part, I also have to do the geneology of each woman and not having a huge budget (ie $0.00), I’m doing a lot of sifting and my head has become some kind of tabulating machine process names, dates, deaths. Or, in too many cases, being unable to find who she married and their story ends as soon as they get off the boat. That frustrates me no end, because it could well be these women who have the most exciting stories to tell if only I could find them. I am also a tenacious idiot and won’t give up long after it’s become such a cold case, it’s frozen over. BTW, my 4th Great Grandmother was one of those women hence my interest.

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Getting back to Scrabble, I managed to spell out GLOAT in a Scrabble match against my husband and son a few months ago. I don’t get to gloat very often when it comes to playing Scrabble against my husband but from memory, I actually won that round. My husband grew up in rural Tasmania and what with all that cold weather in the days before computers and electronics, they played a lot of Scrabble. Indeed, his mother who was a former school teacher, had a massive Webters English Dictionary they used. It’s almost the width of two house bricks.

Our 13 year old son loves playing Scrabble, and wandered into this brutal battleground. Feeling discouraged, I told him that we were training him up so when he played someone else, he’d beat them. I don’t know if that’s the sort of approach you’d find in the parenting textbook. However, my copy must’ve got lost in the mail years ago, because it’s never arrived. How about yours? Do you have one?

Anyway, I have to admit (or more like “confess”), that I was gloating when I finally beat my husband. I knew it was only because he got bad letters, and that he’d soon reclaim his crown. Yet, victory was sweet.

Do you enjoy playing Scrabble or other board games?

BTW I would like to nominate Kathy from Time No Matter to take up the Seven Day Black & White Challenge today.

xx Rowena

7 Day B&W Photo Challenge – Day 1 Sheep Dogs.

Yesterday, I received a Facebook notification that a friend had dobbed me in for the 7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge, and so I thought I’d carry it over onto the blog.

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately, so I have a backlog of words to spew out and I’ll tap away furiously with the hope of getting to bed some time before dawn. Somehow, my hours have been inverted while battling the flu and night has now become day.

While conjuring up ideas for the challenge, rather than taking black & white photos of colour, I found myself wanting to photograph things that are black & white. Indeed, my mind even wandered off tinto the realm of  black and white thinking.

Fortunately, I have black & white pups. Not the micro pups. They’re tan and black kelpies. Zac and Rosie, our Border Collie X pups were just perfect and they even obliged by staging a tug of war over a stuffed toy sheep my mother bought them yesterday. They are SHEEPdogs after all!

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As you can see, little Dobbie on the right, is putting up quite a fight and almost keeping up with the bigger pups. 

Well, not wanting to be left out, Dobbie the smallest of the micro pups but the mightiest of the lot, took on Zac and Rosie and even made off with the sheep a few times. He sure is fiesty and if he ever gets a chance to become a true working dog, those real sheep had better watch out! Dobbie means business!

Anyway, like all these challenges, you need to nominate somebody to carry on the mantle. Today, I’m going to nominate Monika from Tails Around the Ranch. Monika writes a fantastic blog focused on the antics of her two standard poodles Sam and Elsa.

xx Rowena