Were you interested in science at school?

Were you interested in science at school? I was!

Recently I was asked by a friend on Google+ if I would mind if her son (in Year 7) could interview me as part of a school science project. The project involved speaking with with someone working in science. I was chuffed to be asked and I received a sheet of 12 questions. I had fun putting the answers together and I thought I might share them.

1. What is the best thing about your job and why?
The best thing about my job is that I get to colour in. OK, there’s the cool technology and the high-end computing gear and the conversations with bright people who really understand their scientific specialities. That and the thought that you’re doing something useful and in a way that will be helpful to the people that come after you.

2. When and how did you become interested in science?
I think I’ve always liked science. I have always been interested in the way things work but as I got older I became more interested in the way things work together … the relationships things (and people!) have with each other … the way they interact.

3. Were you interested in science at school?
I was! I was very lucky to have teachers* who were not only interested in science but helped to teach me to think scientifically. I learned that science is not a thing you learn, a subject for memory but a way that you learn … a method if you like. Sure, we did simple experiments at school but most importantly it taught us how to think. You asked if I attended a private school? I did not … public education all the way.

4. Have you won any awards for being a scientist & if so what were they?

Not for the science or research. I have won awards for the contributions my team’s work has made to much larger projects. A lot of what I do is create block for other people to place together to create something else.

5. What qualifications did you need for your job?
I required university qualifications in natural sciences and many years of information technology experience to do well in my job. I have a Bachelor of Science from the Australian National University. Another important part of my work is explaining to others what my area does and I’m a skilled communicator.

6. What is computer mapping and remote sensing?
Gosh … how long have we got?
Computer mapping (or GIS (Geographic Information Systems)) is making database recording not only what something is (tree, light pole, drain, road, house etc) but where it is in relation to something else (on top of, next to, 100m away from, north of etc). Measuring the where of the object and how it relates to the where (or spatial location) of another object is very time-consuming and fiddly. Computers (and GPS (Geographic Positioning Systems)) enable us to make those calculations very quickly and so representing & mapping those relationships becomes much easier.
Remote sensing refers to measuring the nature or properties of something from a distance rather than directly. There are many remote sensing platforms and sensors … some slung beneath aircraft or helicopters or mounted on satellites. These sensors measure all sorts of things; light, reflectivity, radiation, magnetics. The information they collect is filtered and processed and then overlaid over data and information to again look at the relationship between things. Not only the relationships but, perhaps more importantly how the things measured change over time.

7. What type of discoveries have you made?

I haven’t made any discoveries per se. I have helped to document and report relationships between ecosystems and natural resources (eg forests and water and salinity)

8. Are you passionate about your work or is it just a job?
That changes. Mostly I’m passionate about it … I do care about the quality of the work I do and ensuring that it’s useful to others to include in their work. Other times the repetitive nature of science based work (using the same tried and true technique over and over again to ensure consistent results – there is a lot of that in science-based work!) seems a drag and it becomes a job. That said, I believe what I do is important and makes a contribution.

9. Why does this type of science interest you?

I think I mentioned colouring in. The natural world is everywhere and we really don’t understand it … sure, we get bits and pieces of it and there are lots of people studying separate pieces of it very intensely but overall we don’t know how and why it does what it does. That we don’t know is what interests me.

10. Do you do experiments as well or do you just do research?

Not experiments in the ‘test-tube’ sense but we do put forward hypothesis, develop methods, test them, analyse results and then report them … so I guess we do :). Research? Always researching.

11. Have you done other types of science before?
No, not really … it’s all kinda scientific. I just want to say again what I said earlier … that science is not something to be learned but much more a way of thinking.

12. What do you want to achieve in your career?
It’s not a career more than a lifelong journey of discovery and (hopefully) understanding what goes on around me.

*thank you to teachers Lavers, Quodling, MacFarlane, Roxby, Scown, & Roseby :-)


Australian Science Communicators

Questacon - The National Science & Technology Centre

With These Hands I Will Make The World


With these hands I will dig

and hold


and fold


and grow

caress, create

with these hands I will make the world


Out in the backyard, playing in the dirt ... the simple joys of finding a creature alive in the soil. Then crushing it and loving it until it's alive no more ... I hope that if there is some kind of spirit guardian of the invertebrate realm that they perhaps look the other way when small children play with their kin.

don't forget to smell the flowers

Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers

don't forget to smell the flowers









I don't recall the very first time I heard the expression 'Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers'. I have always loved flowers and blooms, their myriad colours and forms ... and scents. My love of flowers has stayed constant while the way I look at them changes constantly. When I learned about plants and what flowers are for, the way they entice and mimic ... the way the look different under ultraviolet or infra-red. The way we use flowers to say things ... from red roses for love through a whole spectrum of colours to black roses for death ... 'say it with roses' indeed! Flowers as symbols of the transience of life. Fake flowers ranging from the trashy to the profoundly elegant. I learned about flowers as genetic markers, indicators of weed species, the passing of seasons, their rarity and their basic commonality. The sound of bees in trees in Springtime. The carpets of riotous colour beneath flowering camellia. I learned their smells ... I'd like to retire somewhere where I can smell the scent of frangipani blossoms ... the heady scents of Spring and warm breezes. Native Australian flowers whose scents pass into honey, bulbs, trees, bushes dripped with rain or dew. And then I started to take photographs of them.

And sometimes I don't see them, or smell them, or sense them ... I'm busy doing something else, preoccupied. Sometimes I sit and just watch them and think as I'm doing now about all the different ways I see them. The day I saw my children learning to sniff their first flower nearly made me cry. My advice ... don't forget to stop and smell the flowers :-)


2012 Royal Canberra Show - Clean Sweep

The Royal Canberra Show is held every year to celebrate and showcase the very best that the region has to offer. I have been entering photographs into the Canberra Show Art Prize for the past three years. There are four classes in which to enter photographs;

  • Open
  • Landscape/Places
  • People & Portraits; and
  • Black & White

I always try to enter a photo into each class and I have picked up several 1st places over the years in various classes. This year though something quite remarkable happened: I won every class! I still have not quite gotten my head around quite what this means but really it's an excellent result! The photos and their classes are presented below;

id="attachment_471" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="'Sparklers' (Open)"


Spring Storm (Landscape)
id="attachment_472" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Spring Storm (Landscape)"


id="attachment_473" align="alignleft" width="214" caption="'Accordian' (People/Places)"


Passing TRain
id="attachment_366" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="'Feel The Wind' (Black & White)"

Organ donor? I have decided. Have you? Does your family know?

Donate life LogoI was reminded by Ally over at her blog everyday miracles that it's Donate Life week - an initiative by the Australian Government to promote awareness of and (hopefully) increase the number of people willing to donate their organs. Organ donation in Australia is low. In fact, Australia has one of the lowest donation rates in the developed world.

I have always rationally believed in organ donation ... although I admit to finding the subject a little disturbing at first. I found that if I turned it around... if I thought about how I would feel if someone had donated to me and given me what amounts to a most precious gift ... then signing up for my card would be a lot less disturbing. So that's what I did. I figured if I'm not around to require it any more then someone else would be free to use it. I signed up, I had my discussion with my family who thankfully agree with donation and are (for the most part) organ donors too.

Some facts about organ donation in Australia (from the donate life website)

  • One organ, eye and tissue donor can save or enhance the lives of 10 or more people.
  • Australia is a world leader for successful transplant outcomes, yet has one of the lowest donation rates in the developed world.
  • Around 1600 people are on Australian organ transplant waiting lists.
  • On average, people on the transplant list can wait between 6 months and 4 years. 4 years!

With a majority of Australians generally willing to become organ donors it is vitally important that people willing to donate their organs have a memorable discussion with their family about their wishes. In Australia, the family will always be asked to confirm the donation wishes of the deceased before donation for transplantation can proceed. Less than 60% of Australian families give consent so it's again vital that your discussions are had and that they are memorable.

I carry my card, my family knows.

Organ donor? I have decided. Have you?



Princesses Aplenty - Riverfront Theatre Company



Towards the end of last year I received a lovely email from Paul Coleman at the Riverfront Theatre Company in Windsor Ontario, Canada. He was putting together a youth theatre production called "Princesses Aplenty - A Fractured Fairytale". Paul had seen a photograph of mine and thought it would be great to help promote the production and asked if he could have my permission to use it. Here's a part of Paul's letter...

"I work with a group of kids at a non-profit organisation called the Riverfront Theatre Company in Windsor Ontario Canada. We provide theatrical art programming to over 80 young people at absolutely no fee for the  participant. We are entering our 8th season we are spreading our creative wings to present an original production entitled Princesses Aplenty. There is a dragon in our play and we would love to use part of your image in our poster. Attached is a rough draft of what I would like to use. (with your permission of course) If you are willing to allow us to use it could you send me a higher resolution copy. We would gladly credit you on the poster and on our website."

I was chuffed and not least because it's nice to be asked. I said yes and provided a high resolution copy of the dragon image below to Paul. Anyways, time passed and every now and then I'd receive an excited email from Paul letting me know how things were going and how everyone loved the image and it looked great and then yesterday I picked up a parcel from the post office. Inside (see top picture) was a t-shirt, two tickets, a program and two posters ... cool! I was especially impressed with the t-shirt. Thanks mate, it made my day.

Dragon Tail
Dragon Tail

Now it transpires that Paul, as well as running graphic design house Creation Design is a photographer too and has some nice photos up on his website. Go have a look and tell him I said 'Hi'.

Sweet White Noise

When I first published this self portrait of me sleeping like a bat, I was listening to the album The Sound of White by Australian artist Missy Higgins.

Listening to the title track got me thinking about the sound of white noise and how relaxing I found it. About how white noise is the sound made by all the frequencies randomly occurring together at an equal or flat power. About how the sound is there but there is no discernible frequency or signal that stands out (because there isn't one!). It's like experiencing thick fog, an aural isolation chamber. Listening to white noise I find my mind exploring it, looking for a handle, something familiar. Rationally I know it's not there but my mind searches anyway, fumbling and groping. Then comes a strange feeling of floating with in the white noise as it surrounds me with no detectable source ... the sound comes from everywhere - omnidirectional.

White noise gets its name from the term white light which describes a light where all the frequencies are of equal power. I like exploring that too.

Wikipedia has a more thorough and technical description of white noise and it's myriad uses.

Summer Break - back on track

Not that I can believe it's February (or 2012) for that matter. I've been busy and had a lovely time over the Summer holidays being busily doing not much.

Over the summer break I had a 3-week period in January where I didn't even switch on the photo workstation! My processing has piled up and inspiration is coming back online. In a way it has been nice to not do any photography ... to just let it go for a little while, to regroup and reassess my focus so to speak.

Here comes 2012!

Flying foxes with lightning - Elizabeth Bay Sydney

Here's a lucky catch! A crop from a 30second exposure during a twilight thunderstorm at Elizabeth Bay in Sydney.

I didn't see until post-processing that I'd caught two flying foxes. Cool huh?

So ... Flying foxes with lightning - Elizabeth Bay Sydney :-)

Here's a lucky catch! A crop from a 30second exposure during a twilight thunderstorm at Elizabeth Bay in Sydney. I didn't see until post- processing that I'd caught two flying foxes. Cool huh?
Here's a lucky catch! A crop from a 30second exposure during a twilight thunderstorm at Elizabeth Bay in Sydney. I didn't see until post- processing that I'd caught two flying foxes. Cool huh?

'The New Year' a poem by Rudi de Jong

I see this poet in Civic standing tall and somewhat dishevelled asking passers by if they'd like to buy a photocopy of one of his poems ... yesterday I did and I liked it ... here it is....

The New Year - by Rudi de Jong

Time passing

the old becoming new

new hopes

new visions

a royal tapestry

old ways

resolutions forgotten

home, sweet, home

the golden handshake

the spoken word

prayers said

midnight joys

the economy in trouble

friends hard to find

the word spoken

another year

the future unknown

"Sufficient unto the day the evil there of"

the New Year.

Happy New Year 2012

Wishing everybody a Happy New Year and all the very best for 2012 ...

This is one of those pictures best suited to some quiet time pondering ... like the beginning of a new year ... or the quiet patch of a garden which is where I found this :-)

this is one of those pictures best suited to some quiet time pondering ... like the beginning of a new year ... or the quiet patch of a garden which is where I found this :-)
this is one of those pictures best suited to some quiet time pondering ... like the beginning of a new year ... or the quiet patch of a garden which is where I found this :-)

Family Portrait Session: R&T

From a family portrait session I did just before Christmas. These guys were great fun to photograph ... four families, 12 people including three littlies. There was much running around and chasing and everybody played. This is why I like taking pictures of people :-)

If you're watching ... thank you.

Photography Australia - Know Your Rights

Have you ever been out taking photos in the street or other public space and been approached by 'Security'? Ever wondered what your legal rights as a photographer are? I've compiled a list of useful resources to assist you and I'll add new resources as I come across them. If you're aware of any others please let me know so I can add them here and make this resource as comprehensive as possible.

"Photography Australia - Know Your Rights"

4020 φ NSW Photographer's Rights
Focussed on New South Wales but contains a LOT of valuable information, references, examples and real cases. It is lengthy and thorough and give Australia-wide examples and references where available. A most valuable resource and a must read for anyone interested in their legal rights as a photographer.

Arts Law Centre of Australia
The Arts Law Centre of Australia is the national community legal centre for the arts in Australia ... this link points to the Street Photographers rights page.

Caslon - unauthorised photography
Australian debate about unauthorised taking and publishing of photographs.

Copyright in Australia
Australian Copyright Council [http://www.copyright.org.au/]

Photography is not a crime [Sydney Morning Herald Blog]
Photography is not a crime [Sydney Morning Herald Blog] - an interesting experience by a Sydney Morning Herald journalist.

International Bit & Pieces

Photographers' Rights [UK]
Downloadable booklet [now in Version 2!]

Luminous Landscape [Erosion of photographers' rights - USA]
Mostly American but contains comment from Nick Rains from an Australian perspective

Nature Photographers [Erosion of photographers' rights - USA]

2012 National Photographic Portrait Prize

The shortlist is supposed to be announced today or tomorrow ... I'm keen to see who and what's on it ... I know I'm not but I'm still keen to see what the committee regards as Australia's best portraits.

Are you?

Fred Smith’s Dust of Uruzgan CD Launch - in review

I think the gig marked a real step-up in the stage-craft and production of a Fred Smith performance. As always, his songs were passionate and rendered well and his band (Liz Frencham (double bass), Lachlan Coventry (pedal steel and electric guitar) and John Jones (drums)) supplied excellent and solid support. The addition of projected images of Afghanistan worked well too. The audience was made up of an eclectic mix with many folk attending their first show after hearing a couple of tracks on the radio. ABC Canberra’s Virginia Haussegger introduced both sets with great gush. I never realised she was such a fan. I had the privilege of attending the soundcheck to get some stills of Fred and his band prior to the show and am attaching a couple of them for you to have a look at. There is a larger set to be found at Fred’s page on Lushpup Images.