Volcano Gunung Batur on the island of Bali refracted through a glass sphere

Gunung Batur

Volcano Gunung Batur on the island of Bali refracted through a glass sphere


Oculus time again. This is a picture of Gunung Batur (Mount Batur) on the island of Bali. It is an active volcano and this picture was was taken from the rim of the caldera which was formed around 25,00 years ago. The present cone rises some 700m above Lake Batur which has formed on the caldera floor. The last major lava flows were in 1968 and can be seen clearly as dark basaltic out purings out from the main cone but the volcano urmbles and emits steam regularly. It looks and sounds remote but there are literally hundereds of restaurants and tea houses stretched along this, the southwest part of the rim forming part of the town of Kintamani.

Nearby is a Volcano Museum which wasn't there last time we visited and contains some great models and geological samples. My eldest (7), who's totally into seismographs at the moment (even more so after watching 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' twice on the plane on the way over...) thought it fantastic. We found a little staircase in one corner of the museum labelled 'Observation Room'. We ascended the stairs to find a little bright room with several tripods with high powered binoculars pointing vaguely at the volcano. The tripod mounts are very wobbly and the scopes could not be focussed ... oh well. On the way back down we stopped at a little glass door where we found the resident seismologist who seemed completely chuffed to have some interested visitors. He welcomed us in and showed us the seismograph which had a trace on its drum from a tremor that morning. Mr 7 was in heaven!

Of course my oculus came to Bali with me and although it stayed in my camera bag most of the time ... it came out whenever I remembered it was there ... like this occasion. Shot using my favourite lens my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4.

High key long exposure of waves upon rocks.


High key long exposure of waves upon rocks.


I had no words today
I thought to set words to this image
to say what I thought when I created it
or it created me ... I never can tell

then I realised
I remember standing there ... holding the trigger 
the roar of the ocean
the bright dawn light
I recall the click of the exposure ending 
after, I guess, the minutes I asked for
that in between I went somewhere
to where I do not know but it was peaceful

there were no words

Boy walking down back streets of Ubud in Bali

Walking A Different Path

Boy walking down back streets of Ubud in Bali

Walking a different path. Travel ... one of the best things we can do for both ourselves and our children. As a family we travelled ... a lot. I changed schools every two or three years and after a while you make friends like a traveller makes friends ... knowing that it's a temporary thing ... one or other of you will be gone soon. You don't put down roots, they'll only be torn up in a couple of years. You learn to be compact and self-reliant. On the other hand you get to see things other people do not. Countries that no longer exist. Ways of life that have disappeared forever. I remember seeing Chinese junks in Penang and Singapore harbours. Orchard Road with wooden shops before it became high-rise. Islands before they became the footprint for mega-resorts. It wasn't that long ago either.

I remember returning to Australia, to a new school again after one of these trips and finding people simply didn't believe that I'd been overseas ... that I was making it all up ... that everywhere was simply the same as it was here. How I longed to be able to teleport them  to walk along one of those streets, or to the center of an asian market where you chose the chicken you wanted for dinner, went away and returned to find it newly converted into fresh-plucked chicken ... still vitally warm ... or you could stay and watch. That would learn them ... maybe.

I believe it's vitally important to walk down another street. A place you've never been ... surrounded by people living a life completely different to yours (albeit superficially ... I mean we're all essentially looking for love and warmth and food) to see how people live. It changes the way you view the world and your place within it ... at times if only to realise just how lucky you are to have the things you have and often take for granted.

I took the picture above on a recent family trip to Ubud in Bali. I liked that it showed that essential nature of travel ... walking a different path.

Do you travel? Have you walked another path?

Compact flouresecent light buld against a rendered concrete wall

Changing Light

Compact flouresecent light buld against a rendered concrete wall Have you ever travelled somewhere you've been before but a long time ago? Somewhere perhaps where things are different to the life you left to go there? Although I'm an Australian and have spent most of my life here, I was born in Georgetown, Penang and have spent significant periods of my life growing up in Asia. I feel an affinity - there's a large part of me in Southeast Asia. I recently returned to the mountains of the Indonesian island of Bali after an absence of 10 years. Bali's a beautiful (& warm) place with rich a Hindu culture and warm, friendly people ... did I mention warm? The morning we left Canberra it was -6C! When we landed it felt the same ... it smelled the same. We couldn't find the driver our hotel sent so we jumped in a cab for what's normally a 40 minute ride. The trip took 2 and a bit hours in at times quite ridiculous traffic ... perhaps traffic is a bit generous - traffic implies movement of some kind. There was plenty of time to look out the window. As the sun set I noticed something had changed. At first I couldn't put a finger on it yet it altered my whole perception. By the road, shops and houses, scooter repair, makan (food) carts, temples and shrines - switched on their lights pools in the increasing darkness.

The shops felt colder, less inviting ... why was that? Of course! The light! The light was now blue! I remembered it as orange ... incandescent ... warm. The incandescent globes had all been replaced by compact flourescents (CF) with their cold bluey glow. Here in Australia, we've been changing the globes over for years and I remember noticing that houses looked less inviting and colder then. It was one of those 'Derr!' moments when I realise the obvious ... of course everyone everywhere is changing to the new bulbs ... of course it will look different. Then why did I have such a reaction to this?

I'll declare I dislike CF lighting ... it feels stark and cold to me ... somehow less intimate. Halogens still retain their warmth (literally most times!) ... I guess people who've grown up with nothing else do not yearn as I do for those warm oranges and yellows. I sincerely hope that lighting engineers are working on warmer, energy-efficient solutions - I'm sure they are!

How about you, do you miss the incandescents? Have you always known CF lighting? Does it feel cold to you? Less intimate?

Do let me know :-)

deliberately blurred square image of a full moon rising over the ocean

Sum of the Parts

deliberately blurred square image of a full moon rising over the ocean

Sum of the Parts

Ocean swells and falls as a twilight breeze ruffles my hair
salty fresh with spray
waves thumping deeply through bedrock
Watching the moon rise
and waiting

Alone now

Then it happens ...  the scene blurs and folds
into two ... then three
Ocean Sky Moon
as balanced as they are suspended
Individually separate
As the sum of the parts
they are the world

(Inspired by Ness 2012)

I have been working on a series lately called 'Sum of the Parts' in which I deliberately blur my photograph in an attempt to break it into it's component parts. The pieces invite the viewer to to meditate on a scene without visual distraction of detail in a realm without time. That's the theory anyways! The first image in this series was blogged here as Sunset Wave and is shown below.

Tell me, do you work in or on a series? By that I mean do you think "today I'm going to take a picture for my *insert classy description here* series"? Or do you look back on your portfolio and think "Hey I've got a lot pictures of flowers/car number plates/left shoes ... I should put them together in a series"?

Do tell! :-)

Fern unfolding, it's fiddle-head unfurling.


Fern unfolding, it's fiddle-head unfurling.


Damp, earthy - a faint musk
Cool, verdant
quiet ... still
Fractal patterns stretch
Unfolding gently, chaos becomes ordinary
and repeated
and repeated - seeming endlessly
easy to dismiss, to overlook as all alike
they're copies to a point
each unique - new and ancient both

Reaching for the light
As I to you
unfurling in hope that the light will come
Do you see me here in the fernland?
beneath the trees
striving for the dappled
When I find it I thrive
Without it a piece of me dies

(June 2012)


I'm not a religious person, let me just state that up front. Sometimes when I look over what I've written, I can see how some of the writing could be viewed that way ... all this striving and longing for light stuff. What I am striving for is a completeness that I don't find in my day-to-day life. A feeling that I glimpse every now and again of a natural patterning (and I emphatically do not refer to design) at once simple and mind-bendingly complex. I see it in the sky, in the forming of clouds or the way light refracts through a freshly rained droplet. Or in this case the fiddle-head of a fernlet reaching through the dark. I see them as beautiful but I also have the rationality to know that it's me who's labeling them that way. That they, in all likelihood would exist and go on without my observations ... or would they? Sounds like a discussion over a glass of wine (or three)! Anyways, enough rambling. Enjoy!

vibrant orange and yellow autumnal foliage

Autumnal Fire

vibrant orange and yellow autumnal foliage Canberra has had one of the most spectacular autumn displays in years. A combination of the drought breaking last year and a very mild, wet summer. The oaks and maples are still running yellows but the main show met the icy winter blasts that heralded the beginning of winter's grip ... great cold fronts dragging up air from the antarctic. Where there were streets transformed into riotous displays of colour, trees now reach for the sky with branches bare save a few hardy splashes of colour clinging on.

The first picture was taken of a golden ash in full flight using a Lensbaby 3G ... a quirky little lens that can produce outstanding results. The second picture, below, is the back deck after a recent rainshower. You could likely guess what kind of trees we have in the back yard...

autumn leaves scattered on a wet wooden deck

For a lot of you it will be late spring or early summer. Canberra, although known as the 'Bush Capital', has many exotic tree species and plantings ... which I find kind of nice as the Euclaypts, being evergreen, aren't renowned for their spectacular seasonal shows. Autumn in Canberra is gorgeous. Do you have native flora where you live? A mix? Is the landscape around you so modified by people as to form a new kind of 'natural' or native?

a coastal sunrise through a glass sphere

Temple of the Sun

a coastal sunrise through a glass sphere

Another oculus picture from my coastal artist retreat from earlier this month at Ness. Here the rising sun clears the top of an exposed rock.

Looking at a scene refracted through the glass sphere makes it appear both internalised and externalised at the same time ... like I'm both within and without simultaneously ... it does something for me ... something deep.

Do you have a special object or way of of looking that touches you deeply? You know, makes you think of things differently for a moment? That takes you beyond?

Do tell :-)

Rainbow with reflection from passing storm

Chasing Rainbows

Rainbow with reflection from passing storm

At the end of 2011 I had an exhibition of my work showing with a fellow artist at a local gallery. Part of the deal was that we had to 'sit' the gallery during the weekend opening hours. I took the Saturday shift and also took the opportunity to photographically document the show. I was putting the final touches to shutting up the gallery when I heard a clap of loud thunder and the afternoon sun disappeared. I had ridden my bicycle across town to the gallery and was literally about to step out the door when the heavens opened. You could just make out the car park through the rain and hail ... a little supercell ... after all of fifteen minutes it was past and the sun was shining brightly though the rain still falling lightly. I thought "there's got to be a rainbow following that" and I finished locking up, jumped on my bicycle and set off in the sunshiny rain ... I adore sunshiny rain. I love rainbows. Chasing rainbows? Oh yes, let's go!

Steam was beginning to rise from the freshly washed hot roads. A little way down the street and I could see the forming rainbow and quickly thought of places I could go where there wouldn't be any powerlines or buildings. I headed down to the eastern end of Lake Burley Griffin, the lake that runs through the center of Canberra. It's a ten-minute ride from where I am so I ride quickly ... the rainbow's in full blaze when I arrive at my site. I have pretty much all my photogear in the Chariot bike trailer because I had been documenting the show. I put on my Sigma 10-20mm and could see both ends of the rainbow easily within the frame ... (one of the reasons I wanted such a super-wide lens was so I could see both ends of the rainbow) ... not only that but the reflection of the arc in the water at each end. The small island in foreground is bathed in that brilliant storm-light. This picture won me first prize at this year's Royal Canberra Photographic Competition.

I talk often on this blog about those times when a picture simply seems to assemble itself before my eyes ... this was definitely the case here. It was a beautiful day.

Turning the camera around, I shot the scene behind me with my bicycle and trailer, sun behind the building being constructed, pavement shiny wet.

Do you chase rainbows, or storms or clouds or frosts? Have you ever seen a picture forming 'just over there' and raced to capture it?

Black and white image of a child's head with a bunched lock of hair

The Small Details

Black and white image of a child's head with a bunched lock of hair

It's easy to overlook the small details ... those little things largely unnoticed. Often they're the things I find most rewarding to capture ... the pictures that bring intimacy to an otherwise mundane scene.

Two stones stacked atop one another

Found Stones

Two stones stacked atop one another


Round and thin ground - not polished – sheens from within

colour the light grey of clouds that promise but bring no rain

Pale orange flecks spittle across its face

But these come after

My first thought?

That it would go far

skipped across the smooth surface of a dam or creek

maybe to the other side

maybe to be held again



The Other

A rough kite shape, smaller

Quartz intrusion speaking of a violent past

struck by the cross formed

I don’t believe in the crucifix

But I believe in space and time intersecting

A singularity we call the present



Seen amongst millions

Pondered, chosen

Carried up from the sea and

Placed atop a wooden table,

Talked about - discussed and played with

Then one forms a circle around the other

Yes, that works

They’re together again

Found stones


(Ness, May 2011)

Water falling as drops onto a fountain plate before falling as drops off the other side


Water falling as drops onto a fountain plate before falling as drops off the other side

falling as water through air
shaped and warped by passage
divide and coalesce then
merged - our instant experienced
then gone, essence perfuming the next
lingering as the half remembered dream
an aroma of reality at the edge of an instant
before falling and dripping away

Overhead tall trees disappearing upward into mist


Familiar hills
the horizon half-remembered
my folk grew
and grew old
died here
Yet I've never stood here before I know
the curves of the land drawn in me
How do I know this place?

My mind some structured facsimile for geography?
A genetic memory for place?
For time?
I cannot explain but I know
that my soul has been here before

Overhead tall trees disappearing upward into mist

I am fascinated by the notion of genetic memory ... that a landscape or place experienced over generations may leave some kind of imprint in the descendants of those generations. A line of hills, a mountain, a river ... these things change over time I know but their basic forms can remain constant on a scale far larger than the people living on them. I don't believe anyone has found any evidence such a phenomena may exist but that's not about to stop me pondering on it.

What about you? have you ever been to a place or landscape that seemed so familiar to you only to find out later that you ancestors had been there? Thought that they would practically be looking at what you're seeing now.

12 Minutes with a Super Moon

Rocky bay lit by enough moonlight to appear as day

I am always struck by the saturation quality of moonlight. The colours have a rich and understated vibrancy. 

This is a small bay on the far south coast of New South Wales captured using only the light of the moon ... the Super Moon of 6th may 2012 to be exact. The exposure time is 12 minutes @f/9 and you can see there was plenty of light ... and colour! Our eyes simply don't see the colours of moonlight ... they're physically incapable of doing so. In fact seeing by moonlight is perhaps the closest we will ever come to naturally viewing a scene in monochrome. (In brief, it's to do with the rods and cones that lie in our retinas and something I will do a separate post about.) It was close to midnight and although the surf was pounding in on a king tide (presumably to do with the perigee of the moon) with waves reaching to a couple of meters from the tripod ... the long exposure has effectively smoothed everything out.

About the 'Super Moon'

The Moon’s distance from the Earth is not always the same due to the elliptical shape of the orbit and variations in the gravitational attraction between the Moon, Earth and Sun. When a full moon occurs close to the perigee of the Moon (the point of its closest approach to the Earth) we observe a “super moon” phenomenon.There are anywhere from 4 to 6 super moons every year, not all appear as intense or last as long in their 'super' effect. The perigee of the Moon on the 6th of May was the most powerful in years and caused many discussions in scientific circles. There was even a claim circulating that a Super Moon contributed to the 'sinking of Titanic' (wtf!) occurring as it did 100 years after the sinking in April 1912 ... my mind boggles when I reflect that some people believe this!

What about you? Did you see the Super Moon? Did you watch the moonrise or do anything special other than perhaps go outside and look and think  'hey, it does look a little bigger'?


Figure of a man searching rocky wave platform bathed in golden dawn light

Finding the Spot

Figure of a man searching rocky wave platform bathed in golden dawn light

A couple of weeks ago I attended an artists retreat down on the far south coast of New South Wales. I had my oculus, my glass sphere with me and I was down at the beach before dawn each morning looking for that time when light and landscape come together to create something breathtaking.

Sometimes a picture seems to assemble itself before my eyes. I get this feeling as a scene unfolds, like a premonition, that right this moment or very soon after something beautiful is happening in front of me or 'just over there'. Perhaps it is simply my mind opening itself to the possibility of beauty ... that I am allowing myself to be open to what is unfolding in front of me. Other times I can be surrounded by a terrific scene and light but I'm oblivious to it as I search for something within it ... something beyond it. Those times I'm looking to scratch an itch I can't reach ... I know there's something there but I can't see it ... yet! This picture is a rare one of me doing just that.

This is a picture of me taken by my friend Helga as I walked across the wave platform in the light just after dawn holding my oculus out in front of looking for the spot ... in my left hand I'm cradling my camera and my back pocket holds my cable release and intervalometer. I have an obsessive gleam in my eye that speaks of concentration and an early start. I am surrounded by superb golden dawnlight that the ocean spray is carrying in foggy curtains around me ... beautiful!

About five minutes after this picture was taken I was taking the photograph below (which blogged about here) ... I had found the spot ... I had seen beyond and now I'm sharing it with you.

Rockt coast at dawn seen refracted through a glass sphere

How about you? Do you search, often surrounded by beauty but oblivious to it? Maybe you find yourself standing inside a tree heavy with spring blossom and buzzing loudly with bees looking for that bloom that speaks for the tree ... that speaks for all of spring? The leaf that speaks for Autumn... do you find yourself finding the spot?

I'd like to know :-)