Tag Archives: photography

A-Z April Blogging Challenge- Theme Reveal – Places I’ve Been.

Once again, yours truly is completely unprepared for the annual A-Z April Blogging Challenge, despite fervid vows to “Be Prepared” next year and have all my posts written up in advance. Well, I guess my disorganized, last minute response could well be in keeping  with the theme of today…April Fool’s Day. Last night, I decided to change direction from ANZAC Soldiers serving in France during WWI to a photography travel series covering places I’ve been. I chose this theme because much of our world is currently in some form of social isolation at home and any form of travel has been outlawed and a plane has become a rare sight.

So, let me introduce myself.

Rowena 2018

My name’s Rowena Curtin and I’m no longer a 40 something writer, researcher, wife, mother, photographer and poor impersonation of a violinist. I am now 50. However, let’s be quite clear. I haven’t become 50 something YET!!!

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The Family at Christmas 2019

The other cast members here are my husband Geoff and two teenagers simply known as Mr and Miss. Geoff is currently working from home having conference calls and the like from our kitchen dining area which has now become his office. Our kids are doing schoolwork from home until the end of the week when they go on holidays. Our daughter has also been turning our kitchen into a dance studio right through dinner time and then there are the three dogs who are overjoyed to have all their ball and stick throwers at home. So, as you can see. Our place is rather cozy at the moment and will be for the unpredictable future.

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, Umina, NSW.

By the way, we live at Umina Beach just North of Sydney Australia. The beach is only a short walk away, which has been a blessed escape hatch from being imprisoned at home. Well, being stuck at home hasn’t quite become a prison yet. So, perhaps I was exaggerating things just a little for creative effect. However, whichever way you look at it. The world as we know it right now is hardly situation normal.

Of course, we’ll be travelling around the world alphabetically. However, there will be a particular emphasis on revisiting my 1992 backpacking trip around Europe where I landed in Amsterdam and then caught a train to Koln (Cologne) in Germany and onto Heidelberg, where I ultimately ended up living for roughly 6 months with a local family which was the experience of a lifetime. I also spent a week in Berlin living in what had been an East Berlin student house which still had all the authentic “interior design”. Then, I spent two weeks in Mons which included seeing Van Gough’s house nearby. There was about 6 weeks in Paris, a weekend in Florence and a week in London. It has become the trip of a lifetime, despite my desire to get back. Added salt to the wound, was when our son’s 3 week school history tour of Europe was cancelled due to the Coronavirus. He was due to be there now, but my goodness! We’re so glad he’s home.

So, I invite you to join me for these vicarious travels and I hope these photos and stories lift you out of the coronacrisis and possibly even taken you to your happy place. Indeed, that is the hope for myself.

Moreover, if you are doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, please leave a link to your theme reveal in the comments below.

Stay tuned!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Survivors of The Storm.

“Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.”

Hunter S. Thompson

Last night, thunder rumbled, lightening flashed and a certain little black dog (AKA Lady) had jumped up on my lap, a blithering mess. She’s terrified of storms. The rain was pelting down and a quick dash out to the back room which had leaked like a sieve a few weeks ago, confirmed my husband’s repairs had worked. It was watertight and we could at least breathe a sigh of relief on that front.

“I pass my life in preventing the storm from blowing down the tent, and I drive in the pegs as fast as they are pulled up.”

Abraham Lincoln

Meanwhile, I was pleased I’d gone back to photograph the teepees which had sprung up on the beach over the weekend, because they had a snowflake’s chance in hell of surviving the storm. (see my last post). I had hoped to get back down in the morning to photograph them under better light, but there was no chance they’d survive this storm and the ravages of the angry waves. Disappointing, but photography is like fishing and you also have the ones which get away.

“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.”

John Muir

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Oh me of little faith! Somehow two of the teepees which were evidently made of much stronger stuff, were still standing. They’d survived and I was pretty stoked to have a third chance to photograph them, this time in much better light. Indeed, the sky and ocean were a brilliant blue and the beach was sparkling at its postcard best.

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So, after writing about transience and the force of the storm last night, now I’m addressing survival. What does it take to survive and still be standing (at least metaphorically speaking) at the end of the day? Is it luck? Resilience? God’s on your side? Or, good planning? We’re a scouting family and there’s a strong case for being “prepared”. In the case of the teepees, strong construction won the day. When it comes to myself and protecting my fragile lungs, I take 1000mg if Vitamin C on a good day and 3000 on a bad one. I also go for a “daily” walk, although “daily” could be interpreted more along the lines of “intermittent”. Of course, my intentions are good but life seems to grab me by the short and curlys and the sun sets on yet another day with a swag of things undone. After all, more humble humans like yours truly, can’t tick all of the boxes all of the time and some days I’m just glad to tick “still here”.

Perhaps, I’m just more human than most…

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“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

Indeed, perhaps you like me will relate to this addition I came across on the beach this morning. Of course, it’s open to interpretation. On one hand, you could say it it was a retake of Stonehenge in Australian driftwood. You could also say that it’s something that’s gone splat. I’ll leave it up to you.

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An ordinary Summer’s day.

Anyway, it was really wonderful just to walk along the beach in the glorious sunshine after last night’s storm, which was barely visible on the beach. The storm had passed.

It was another day…

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I hope you’ve enjoyed walking along the beach with me. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Best wishes,

Rowena

Magnolia Daze…Something’s Alive in the Garden.

I’m stone cold sober.Yet, I’m visually intoxicated by this massive, white magnolia flower, with its graceful petals imitating a dancer’s silhouette. Isn’t it absolutely beautiful?!! For me, it’s particularly appealing because our garden has been little more than scorched earth during the last few years of Australian drought. So, just seeing a blade of green grass is enough to send me troppo!

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Thankfully, however, the garden is feeling relatively happy at the moment. We’ve been having very heavy downpours, localized flooding and if we had frogs, they’d also be doing the happy dance.

However, unfortunately, you can have too much of a good thing. Last weekend, the rain and wind was so heavy that our back roof was leaking like a sieve and we had to clear out more stuff than the average sod keeps in an entire house. Numerous local trees were blown over and even our fledgling lemon tree (which is protected on three sides) was left bending right over looking and feeling like a weeping willow.

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All of this rain, also renewed my hopes for a spot of colour in the garden and being able to cook with herbs freshly picked from the garden like one of those swanky TV chefs.  Yes, the pots are still sitting out the front unplanted a few weeks later, but at least they’re out of reach of the doggies. So, there’s a chance they’ll survive.

However, after seeing interviews tonight with bush fire survivors who’ve lost everything, a beautiful garden or even a pot plant, feels like a luxury indulgence. Yet, at the same time, even when the battle is at its worst, we still need to pluck out anything which lifts our spirits. Raises hope. There is never just all doom and despair, there is a ray of light somewhere. Moreover, as a photographer myself, I can appreciate that the darker the shadow, the brighter the light.

So, how is your garden going? I think it’s still officially Summer here, although the actually weather is very unpredictable. What are the seasons doing in your neck of the woods?

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you, even if my response may be a little slow due to my current research load.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I love how you can zoom into your subject with the camera and blot out all the messy, ugly or simply distracting background junk. Your perspective, indeed your world, is only as wide as your zoom, which might be a be dangerous in other contexts but is great for a crisp photo.

Driving North- Photographing the Aftermath of the Australian Bush Fires.

No doubt, you’ve also experienced that mixture of excitement and disappointment on a long drive, when you spot something spectacular out the window, but are having difficulties finding somewhere to pull over safely. If you’re as desperate as yours truly to seize the moment in 6 x 4, the fear of missing out (popularised as “FOMO”)  grips you body and soul. You’re a possessed maniac just like that person busting for the toilet in the middle of nowhere yet precariously still strapped into their seat. Don’t you know that desperation too? You’re about to explode. You have to get out. You can’t wait any longer. The cry goes out: “Pull over!!!”

Sunset After the Fire's Been Through

That’s what happened two weeks ago when we were driving North from Sydney to Byron Bay via the Pacific Highway and we spotted the sun setting through the burned out bush. The sun was enormous, glowing like a ball of fire through the charred eucalyptus or gum trees. It was strangely breathtaking. I had to seize the moment, which was rapidly disappearing with the fading light.

Fortunately, my husband who was driving at the time, was sympathetic to my plight and pulled over without complaint. The photos didn’t work out quite as well as I’d hoped, and actually tell quite a different story now I look at them back home. After all, they contain so many signs of life and nature fighting back against the devastating impact of the fires. Indeed, we saw vast expanses of trees exploding in a profusion of fresh green leaves seemingly as a form of post-traumatic growth. My goodness. These eucalyptus trees are tough. Bloody resilient. The bush wasn’t dead after all.

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The family in front of the lens with me behind it. 

By this stage, the bush fires had been extinguished up North, but were still blazing fiercely on the South Coast. Yet, we still weren’t sure what we were going to find. Independently, Geoff and I have been up and down this road all our lives and since we met 21 years ago, we’ve driven up here at least once a year to see his sisters and family. So, while this stretch of the Pacific Highway isn’t quite an extension of our driveway, we know it well. We care about it, too, and it sent a chill down our spines when we heard that a fascinating time capsule to early settlement, a museum called Little Italy, was at risk. I’m sure I screamed out: “NO!!!” to the TV. If I didn’t, I certainly wanted to. The devastation has been catastrophic.

However, we were relieved and almost surprised to see that the bush had endured, persevered and overcome. Indeed, we saw kilometres of bush where trees were sprouting fresh green leaves, an almost freakish, furry-green regrowth, as their will to survive went into overdrive. Indeed, I wondered if this was a variation of the post-traumatic growth we can also experience following a traumatic event. I’m not a scientist so I can’t know for sure. However, on a personal level, I found it very encouraging and it certainly lifted my sagging spirits. After being confined to the lounge room at home to escape the menacing smoke, I’d watched months of bush fire coverage on TV. Indeed, I was seriously starting to wonder how much of our precious Australian bush would be left when we ventured further afield. So, I found these shoots of green such a relief. A restoration of lost hope.

Horses after the fires

Horses running from humans rather than the flames. 

We’d pulled over to photograph the sun setting through the scarred, burned-out landscape. However, while we were there a couple of skittish horses ran passed not to escape the fires, but from us. I madly clicked away and sadly didn’t do the moment justice. However, the makings are there. It doesn’t take much imagination to see these horses running from the flames. Much better in the imagination than reality, and I certainly don’t want to be around to photograph that. Indeed, I’ll leave that to the movies. Far too many animals have been lost in these horrific fires. I’ve seen enough. I just hope there’s some way our wildlife can bounce back like these trees and am grateful for the rain and for the incredibly generous donations which are coming in from around the world. They’re much appreciated.

There has been such catastrophic suffering. I don’t even know where to begin. Possessions can be replaced, but there’s the horror for many of the engulfing flames and smoke and many have lost their lives. There’s a post traumatic anxiety pervading all our communities. At a very basic level, just watching the coverage on TV is enough, but our population is relatively small here in Australia. Our friends and families were at the heart of these catastrophic fires, even if we were well away and not impacted ourselves. What is perhaps most telling, is that the smoke from these fires reached as far away as South America. That’s the other side of the world and a reminder, that we’re a global community.

Driving back home, we stopped off at Taree, where the fires hit hard. We saw the writing melted on road signs on the turn off and places where the fire had jumped across the freeway, showing just how bad it was. There was a roundabout covered in the charred remains of grass trees and it looked pretty bleak until my husband pointed out that fresh shoots were springing from the devastation. A keen photographer himself, he said: “that’s your shot”. Unfortunately, this time there was nowhere to stop, and that one went through to the keeper.

Have you been affected by the Australian fires? I’m thinking of you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sunset Through the Wires…the Aussie Fires.

Last night, I took a series of photos of the sunset through the overhead wires from our driveway. We don’t have any local fires blazing and yet the smoke is very thick and ominous.

Naturally, I was annoyed these wires were in the way. Wanted a clear view of the blazing sun glowing like melting cheese just above the horizon. However, as I peered through the lens, I thought the wires told a suburban story. I also remember how my childhood piano teacher who went on to get her PhD in Creative Writing told me how she used to see the five parallel wires of the overhead wires resembling the musical staff and the birds were the notes and she used to try and work out what tune they were playing.

So, there you have it. My blazing sun seemingly shooting across the musical staff playing a tune of its own.

Sunset Through the Wires 3

Meanwhile, I am contained in the lounge room with the air-conditioning on which is filtering the air. I went out into the kitchen and made a couple of pancakes and was almost a hospital job. Our son arrived home from school and said the smoke was so bad that you couldn’t smell people smoking outside. That’s a pretty good indication of how bad it is.

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A broader perspective of the sunset  through the wires and over the roof top. 

Please keep us in your prayers. We have the television updates running and it’s just terrible hearing about the destruction and loss of bush land and homes. I am equally conscious that the burning of our bush is killing animals and their habitat and not something to be glossed over either.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 14th October, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Tonight, I can offer you a slice of apple pie, which my husband Geoff brought back from Bilpin today. Bilpin, which is known as “Land of the Mountain Apple” is a small town in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

Above: Sunrise at the campground, Bathurst.

Geoff stopped at Bilpin on his way home from Bathurst Supercars Championship. Geoff and our son had met up with family and camped near the track and had grand stand seats.  They were only metres away from the start of the race and the atmosphere must’ve been electric. Nothing beats being there.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I were back home. She had dance commitments and car racing isn’t my scene for that length of time and the cost involved.

 

However, the car-racing contingent had a fabulous time.  Our son was apparently in seventh heaven and gets off on the stench of burning rubber and the roaring thunder of all those V8 Supercars zooming round the track. The oldies were taking a bit too long to get moving in the mornings. So, he’d make his own way down to the track and catch a few extra races. As you can see from the photo, he also managed to meet up with his favourite driver, David Reynolds.

Jon & Dave Reynolds

Unfortunately, the results of the race are currently in limbo after stewards slapped the winning team with a team orders rule breach charge.

Meanwhile, on Saturday our daughter was appearing in her dance school’s dance team production. The production had three different acts and our daughter appeared in two. The first act was their rendition of George Ballanchine’s Serenade. It was so incredible that it almost made me tremble inside. I was mesmerized simply by the way the flowing dresses almost glowed with a luminescence under lights. So much of our modern word is fast moving, but this was much more serene with the movement seemingly slowed down. Unfortunately, after only seeing it once, I can’t remember details only the emotions it roused and this sense of being in absolute awe of how well these young women could dance. I have since watched the New York Ballet perform Serenade (on Youtube of course) and these young women can hold their heads high. Unfortunately, I don’t have any footage to share from our production, but you can click Here to see it performed by the New York City Ballet.

Margaret & Edward Quailey

Margaret O’Neill and Edward Quealy/Quailey. They’re my Great Great Grandparents. 

Meanwhile, in between driving our daughter to rehearsals, I have thrown myself back into my family history research. A few months ago, the son of my grandfather’s cousin got in touch and when I checked my notes, they were in a terrible mess. I’d managed to trace this side of the family back to an Edward Quailey/Quealy who married Margaret O’Neil in New Zealand in 1881 and they moved to Sydney in the next year or so. Anyway, I ordered Edward’s death certificate, and this showed he came from Lisheenfroor, Moyarta, Kilrush County Clare. It also showed that his parents were Thomas Quealy and Bridget Haugh. So, I was able to spend a few days deeply immersed in data without really finding out terribly much. However, it does feel like I got to meet every other Quealy family in the district.

I don’t know what all this research tells me. With this particular branch of the family, they seemingly moved into an Irish enclave in Sydney and their children mostly married people of Irish descent. This makes sense in a way. However, I also have Aboriginal family members and that puts a different slant on things. This Ireland which was transplanted onto the the Antipodes, was Aboriginal land. Well, at least it used to be. BTW we also have an Irish Famine orphan who was brought out to Australia, Bridget Donovan. She married and Englishman and two of her sons partnered with Aboriginal women. So, it’s interesting to see how the immigrant experience can vary. That we’re all individuals. That said, some go with the flow, while others blaze their own trail.

Meanwhile, it’s meant to be Spring here, but the only signs of Spring, seem to be the dogs losing their coats. The pups are largely short-haired and the damage isn’t too bad. On the other hand, we’re surprised Lady still has any fur left. In the last week alone, we’ve brushed off enough fur to create a second dog and what with the cold snaps, I thought she might be wanting it all back. It’s actually been uncharacteristically cold and the guys were freezing up at Bathurst. No doubt, I’ll be complaining about the heat soon enough. It’s no doubt just waiting round the corner.

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 30th September, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

If we were having coffee this week, I’d be showing you some beautiful photos of my swan. You see, our daughter performed in Swan Lake & More with the Central Dance Company on Saturday and in all seriousness, I wish I could just bathe in that magnificent music and gaze at that dancing forever. It was magic. Well, not pure magic because they’ve been rehearsing every Sunday for five months. There’s also been a few injuries, not to mention the usual aching feet. Ballet is legalized torture, especially for the feet.

Amelia Swan Lake Waltz

Our daughter dancing in Swan Lake Act 1: The Waltz.

The night before her performance, I wrote a post capturing all those anticipatory emotions and thoughts including a photographic tour of her ballet journey so far from when she started out at four to where she is now at 13, a year after she stepped into her first pair of pointe shoes.

I have also been transformed by her journey. Not just as a bystander. I’ve also done some adult classes myself. There’s been ballet, lyrical, contemporary and tap. I’ve learned so much through these classes and have made the transition from being a taxi-driving dance mum to becoming a dancer myself both in terms of physical capability and in spirit. I’ve also watched a lot of dance to and find myself observing ballet type poses out in nature in how a dying flower might bow its head and wilt or how a towering tree raises its branches up into the sky.

Anyway, she still has one more performance to go. Otherwise, my mood would be a lot more sombre.

Meanwhile, yesterday I sat in on a script writing meeting with the Gang Show looking at generating material for next year’s show. That was quite interesting because I have quite strong views about promoting and maintaining Australian culture and fighting back against the tide of American culture. These aren’t always shared so I have to keep a lid on it. However, that doesn’t stop me from voicing my opinion here. I also feel our days of excluding our Indigenous Aboriginal people from our popular culture are gone. However, if we don’t have any Aboriginal people in the Gang Show, that’s pretty difficult to do. We can’t have someone dress up and pretend. We just have to leave it out. It was also interesting talking about our contemporary world and incorporating some of that into the show.

Aside from a poor excuse for a play I wrote back at uni, I haven’t done any script writing before. So, writing these skits is new ground. Moreover, I’ve never been in Guides or Scouts and my only understanding of the movement is limited to my observations as a parent. However, although writing these skits is going to be challenging, I’m determined to give it a shot. See what I’m made of. I’ve been working on some concepts today and they’re coming together surprisingly well. I’ll keep you posted.

Last week, I drove over to Terrigal for a hair cut and explored the beach afterward. Terrigal is 88kms North of Sydney and really is a beautiful spot. While our beach is less built up and developed, Terrigal has it’s stunning honeycomb cliffs and memories of going there for holidays throughout my childhood back when we didn’t know the dangers of coating ourselves in coconut oil and getting fried under the harsh Australian sun. I also remember almost drifting out to sea with my brother on these inflatable lilo things. It was a simpler world back then. Well, at least it was for me.

The kids started school holidays today. Next week, my husband and son will be heading up to Bathurst for the Bathurst 1000, a 1,000-kilometre touring car race held annually on the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia. It is currently run as a championship event for Supercars. They can’t wait and will be camping out there with Geoff’s sister and her son along with their friends. It was all too much for me and I’m staying home with our daughter who will be performing in a dance production.

Anyway, I’d better keep moving and finalise dinner. I had a crazy idea of making an apple pie and while I’ve had assistance with the apples, it still has a way to go.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena