Monday, 25 October 2010

Our Beach to Mountain Weekend Experience

Anyone who has seen the photography on my blog would realise I am very much an enthusiastic amateur. I love taking photos but I know very little about the technical aspects.
I have a Canon 1000D which is an entry level DSLR and the kit lenses that came with it. (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II and EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III.) Although I’ve had it for more than a year, I have never had the confidence to try anything other than the auto settings. I’ve never bought any extra lenses because the range that is available thoroughly confuses me.
My daughter had attended a Trekabout workshop a couple of years ago and loved it. Her confidence and photographic know-how increased tremendously. When I saw this workshop advertised, the opportunity to learn more about photography in a beautiful setting was just too tempting. The tutors, Michael and Mark are both accomplished nature photographers and the workshop would be a combination of informative talks, hands-on experience and one-to-one assistance. We both enrolled – a weekend away together doing something that we both enjoy – and hopefully we’ll learn a bit as well.

Saturday morning we rose very early and drove 150 kms to the Sunshine Coast to meet up with the group at 8 am.
Because we were both doing the course but only had the one DSLR we had brought one of our small point and shoot cameras with us as the second camera. When we showed our tutors, it was kindly suggested we should just share the Canon .
We met at Buderim Rainforest Park. There were twelve students. Three had been to previous workshops and were refreshing or honing their skill. Some of the students had a reasonable depth of knowledge but most were novices like us. Some had state-of-the art equipment worth megabucks. Others had quite basic cameras, like us. It didn’t seem to phase Michael and Mark. The workshop was geared to teaching you at your individual level.
After an introductory session where I learnt not only what ISO, depth of field and aperture meant, but which knobs and buttons on my camera control them and why they are important, I moved the dial from Auto to Av. I had never done that before. The first step was taken to a brave new world.

We set off through the rainforest to a waterfall to practice what we had just been taught. Time flew by… It seemed only moments and we were being told to head back for morning tea and the next session.

Because John and I were sharing one camera I had spent as much time standing around as I did taking shots, so by then I had decided that NEXT time we do this we will have a camera each. Maybe Santa would bring one?
After morning tea it was macro photography. I don’t have a macro lens so used my telephoto lens without and then with a 10x magnifying filter I had borrowed from a friend at work. I discovered “live view” and how to zoom in to manually focus on a subject. I discovered how to alter the depth of field. This was all amazing. The 10x filter increased the magnification significantly, but it reduces the clarity of the shot. Although it’s a cheap option and therefore tempting for a novice, it may not be the best way to go.

Macro photography is something I would love to get into so I’m asking Santa for a macro lens too.

After lunch we were shown some digital post-processing techniques using Picasa and Photoshop and Viveza. I’d been using Picasa for a while to upload and organise my shots and to do some minor editing, but still learnt some additional and valuable techniques. I’d never used Photoshop.

Mmmm – Santa, what do you think????

Then it was off to Point Cartwright to capture the ocean spilling onto rocks as the sun sets behind us.

We finished at about 6pm and picked up a takeaway meal and a bottle of wine on the way back to our unit. We had taken almost 200 shots, so had to empty the camera’s memory card into our netbook so we could fill it again the next day and recharge the camera’s battery. Maybe Santa could also fit in an spare battery and memory card as well????

Bed time was early. We had to be back at Point Cartwright at 4 a.m. the next morning ready to capture the sun rising over the ocean.
I fell in love with sunrise photography. The light was magic. I was getting used to the tripod (which also I had never used before either).

We were introduced to graduated filters and very slow shutter speeds which turned the water soft and milky.

As the sun rose we changed our ISO and used a fast shutter speed to catch the waves exploding over the rocks (hopefully catching the golden daylight behind them) and the light spilling on the rocks .
Again time flew. It was all over too soon. The sun was up. The soft light was replaced with bright harsh sunshine and it was only 6 am. Back to our unit to pack up and check out, down to Mooloolabah for breakfast and two cups of coffee each (We had been up before dawn). Back up the mountain to the rainforest by 8 am for bird photography. This was getting better and better.

 When we first arrived, we could hear birds in the trees and were amazed when Mark played a CD with the Eastern Yellow Robin’s call and one came down in response to the sound.

Once everyone had arrived, Michael gave us a quick tutorial on bird photography. This time we use the camera hand-held with auto-focus and with a fast shutter speed. He told us to always ensure the birds are as near to eye-level as possible and to focus on their eye.
Maybe there were too many people around or the birds were too shy, but although we could hear them, very few birds appeared and those that did remained high up in the trees.
“Never take a shot of a bird from underneath” Michael said. “You just get a bum shot” - so I tried it.
He was right - Not this fellow’s most attractive angle.

With my kit lens it was quite hard to zoom in on the birds. Maybe Santa could bring….OK, I’m asking too much now. I know. This photography thing could get out of hand if you let it.

After morning tea there was another session covering post-processing techniques. Michael and Mark told us about where to get the best deals on photographic equipment and tempted us with up-coming workshops they will be conducting.
It was time to head home.
We’d learnt so much.
Even though we took notes, it’s going to be hard to remember it all. Maybe another workshop ... next year.
This is Michael and Mark's website - http://www.trekaboutphotography.com/

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Missy's upset

I think I’ll ring the RSPCA – Well if I could use a phone I would. I know they are busy with really important work BUT this is really important to me.
This is my garden and my blog and lately I'm feeling neglected.

As you know they left me at a kennel while they went on holidays. I got over that and forgave them and life returned to normal. It was raining every day for a couple of weeks so we all stayed inside and I missed my backgard games and walks.
Now I have a new problem. Since the weather has fined up and the days are get longer, John and Ros spend more time in the garden. My dinner time has been getting later and later.

I’ll admit there's a lot of work to be done and it’s the best time of day to work in the garden…but….. they stay out there until it gets dark. Don’t they realise a dog needs to eat?

They’ve spread the compost from the bins and John has shredded all the foliage they’ve pruned to use as mulch on the garden or to make more compost.

I've had to supervise the whole process. It's tiring for a small dog.

They’ve weeded and fertilised and watered and mulched.

They’ve revamped the veg patch – Ros has ripped out the tomatoes and planted new seedlings ….. John shredded the old squash, pea and zucchini plants and they went into the compost bins.
The chooks are loving it.

That's right. The chooks get fed. But what about the poor little dog. Afternoons are supposed to be spent playing with your dog, taking her for walks, then feeding her.

Yes, I’m definitely going to complain… if I can find someone to dial the number for me.

Now they tell me they will be going away next weekend to do a photography course. Who is going to feed me?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Open the Floodgates


I would hate to be the man whose job it is to release water from the dam. He hasn't had a lot of practice.
The last time the dam was full was in 1999 and at one stage a couple of years ago it was below 30% capacity and we were conserving every drop. We were all given egg timers so we would have a three minute shower and told to put buckets in the bottom of the shower to catch the water to use on the garden.
For quite some time the only way we were allowed to water the garden was with a bucket or watering can and only on your allocated day for a couple of hours. Council water patrol officers cruised the streets looking for offenders who would be given on-the-spot fines. There were ads on the radio and TV reminding us that every drop counted. We were all encouraged to buy tanks to supply our own water. We bought three and no longer use "town water" for the garden.
A new water authority was created, and the price of water sky-rocketed. The government spent millions of dollars on pipelines and a water recycling plant and even  a desalinisation plant to turn sea water into usable water and now it's just pouring down the river and out to sea.
So now that the dams are full the water must be released. The ferries and CityCats can't operate due to the debri floating down the river. The Council put out a warning on Friday that there may be flooding to some areas of Brisbane, but it turned out to be a false alarm.

Why must all this water be poured into the ocean when only a short time ago we were in a drought? - Because our wet season isn't supposed to start until November or December and the fear is that, if we continue to have rainfall like this, we could have another flood like we did in 1974.
So while Brisbane continues to have restrictions on watering the garden and everyone is still in the habit of conserving water, the man at the dam whose job it is to release the water is preparing to prevent a flood.
In Australia we not only accept this, we expect it. Everyone knows Dorothea MacKellar's poem - Our Country.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

Monday, 11 October 2010

The new girls

With the new larger pen (the purple palace) there is room for more chickens so we decided to increase the flock. Although they will live with us until they die of old age, every couple of years we intend buying a couple more to keep up the supply of eggs.  Our original ladies are now over three years old so their egg production has reduced from 4-5 per week each to approximately 2 each per week.  As they age, it will become even less.
We rang Allan and asked him to bring us a few more next time he delivers their food. He had four point-of-lay hens available.
When they first arrived they were rather uncertain of their new surroundings and huddled together in the corner of the pen. They really don't look happy do they?
They are lovely quiet girls and don't mind being handled. That's the advantage of buying them from someone like Allan who hand-raises his chickens.

We chose to buy the whole four because we hoped it might spread the aggression if/when the old girls pick on them. Chickens can be nasty creatures. Flo is the boss and has to assert her authority, but they all joined in.
It's calmed down now (after about two weeks) to just the occasional peck if the younger ones try to go through the doorway first or try to steal food from the older ones.
We added a second roost in their pen so the new girls could have their own bed.  The first night they all slept together in one of the nesting boxes, but now they use their roost - with their backs turned to the old girls.

They've settled in well. They go in and out the pen to the compost bins and bamboo area whenever they please now. We are now collecting five eggs a day and only one or two look like pullets' eggs so it would seem that the older ladies have decided to lay more often as well.
The only problem I have now is naming them. They are all so similar I can't tell them apart yet. I might wait a while until we get to know each other better. I'm sure they will all have their own personalities just like the older ladies.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

What's in flower at the moment

 I've found a few flowers in the garden this week that have demanded attention so we are off to join in Flaunt Your Flowers Friday at Tootsie Time.

Golden candles (Pachystachys lutea) is blooming.
It is a close relative of the justicas which haven't started flowering yet but should soon.
This bottlebrush (callistamon) is a favourite with the birds (mainly lorikeets) but I haven't managed to get a photo of them yet this year. Whenever I hear them (they are a noisy bunch) and race inside to get the camera they all take off before I can return.
Strelitzias are one of the toughest plants we have. These are along the front of the house. This is Strelitzia Reginae. They seem to flower all year round but put on an extra show in the warmer months.
Strelizia Nicolai is the giant of the family.
The plants grow huge. Some of ours are they same height as our palms. As they grow taller the flowers form higher on the trunk and usually three or even four flowers will form from the same flower stalk. The old ones start to die off as new ones form. The plants form clumps like their smaller cousins and need to be thinned occasionally. We've just taken out quite a few and needed an axe to chop them out. 
Finally, an exciting find in the garden. My native frangipani Hymenosporum flavum has started flowering for the first time. It was only planted 18 months ago. It is a rainforest plant found from Sydney right up the eastern coast of Queensland. At the moment it's covered in buds with only a couple of flowers open, so I'm looking forward to a great show and wonderful perfume over the next few weeks.
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Check out more great blooms at Toostie Time

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Change is good, right?

This used to be the view from our backdoor.
Posted by PicasaWe have a large paved area at the back of the house which we have surrounded by garden.
Because there were quite a few tropical plants (heliconias, gingers, etc) it always looked rather tatty with bare patches and frostburnt leaves in Winter but came to life again in Summer. I didn't mind. To me, Winter is a time when the whole world closes it's eyes and waits for Spring. John wanted to get rid of the plants that suffered through Winter. I just wanted to tidy the area, give them fertisiler and new mulch and let nature do the rest.  John was adamant that he wanted something that looked good all year round. I could see his point I suppose, so we agreed to redesign the area.

We dug out most of the plants and moved them to other parts of the garden, then arranged some hollow logs that we'd got from a friend's farm. We left the crotons (which are towards the back and sides of the area) and the cycads, and little patches of mini-mondo grass.
We had a couple of bamboo palms and a lady palm that had been inside in large pots for a few years. They were liberated into the garden.  
 Also, we bought a couple of birds nest ferns and tree ferns Cyathea cooperi . We will put ferns in the open hollow log (in the centre) and I would like something at the front where it is bare, so it's not quite complete yet. We used fine hoop pine back as the mulch. It looks great and seems as though it will be good at water conservation.

This is now the view from our backdoor.

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