Location: Manning Valley
Date: April 2008

April 27, 2008. Last year, I visited Mt George. The first time, my Hewlett Packard carked it. The second time I used my little Kodak but the resolution wasn't good enough for blow-up prints. This time, the THIRD time, I took the Sony cybershot. I went back for two reasons, one to get better quality pics and, two, I wondered if the watermelon kid was still there sitting on the stoop of his front door. I've never forgotten that little bloke. The first time I visited, I was driving out of town (town?) and spotted him sitting in his doorway in the sunshine, devouring a watermelon. He waved and said g'day. My instinctive reaction was to stop and take a pic, but there was nowhere to do a U-turn. The further I drove and argued with myself about going back, the more I regretted not taking advantage of the opportunity. DANG IT! Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

Sooooooooo, yesterday I decided to go back to Mt George... and I bought a watermelon with me 'just in case'. Guess what? I was roaming around the main (and only) street taking pics when a young bloke carried some stuff to his dad's car parked outside the same building where I saw the watermelon kid six months ago. "G'day," he said, so we got to talking, and I asked him if he was the same person I saw last year. "Yeah." "Guess what I've got in the car?" "A watermelon?" "I bought it yesterday in Taree." "From Soloman's?" I organized his dad's permission to take a few pics. Yes, I'm a happy chappy... missing that pic the first time around would have plagued me for the rest of my life.

His name is Jamie, and a delightful young bloke he is. He's gonna be a sales and marketing guy for sure... he says g'day to anyone and everyone, and has an engaging personality. He recommended that I take pics of this and that. He gets quite serious when he recommends things, as if your life depended on it. He gave me directions to a certain spot where I could get a good shot of the Manning River (swollen after all the recent rain). In fact, his mom and dad joined in. Little did they realize that I'm the world's most pathetic navigator, so on the return trip, try as I might to remember their directions, I missed it. So I better not return to Mt George a fourth time or they'll beat me to death with sticks.

Jamie's dog, a Staffie, took a liking to me as well... the first of two dogs I met. Before leaving Mt George, I took pics of the same things I did last time... like my favorite leaning shed in the whole world. Those other derelict buildings are remnants of the old timber mill days when Mt George was a thriving community. It's also known for its orchards and dairy. Anyway, I took a gravel side road and meandered through farming countryside, nestled beneath the surrounding hills and mountains, took a few pics here and there and finally came upon a derelict cattle chute (or whatever the old timber structure is) next to an abandoned farm house. As I took a few pics, a black dog wandered up to me and investigated my feet and various other bits. He decided that I was cool and then went about baptizing TT's wheels. He no doubt smelled Jamie's dog and took that as a recommendation.

On the trip back to Mt George, I approached a stationary car on the narrow dirt road - headed in the opposite direction - and realized that a young lady passenger was encouraging a little tortoise to get off the road. She had several goes at picking it up, but was terrified of being bitten. Each time the tortoise stuck its head out of the shell, the girl freaked and let it go. However, eventually she was successful in removing the reptile from danger. I was too late with the camera, dang it.

I took a few more pics in Mt. George and then headed back to Wingham, where I photographed two historic buildings, the School of Arts and the Post Office (which I photographed on a previous mission and managed to get it lopsided). The third building is Wingham Hotel, another historic structure and more fun. The other two don't sell beer.

Yep, a good day... got the watermelon kid and TT being baptized. And the weather was stunning, even quite warm later in the day. BTW, I've driven across the rail crossing at Wingham heaps of times, but this morning, on the way to Mt George, the red lights flashed and the bell rang. I stopped and waited for the train to pass... and waited, and waited, and waited. Jeez, those things are a kilometer long if they're an inch! Sorry... once again I didn't have the camera ready. Dang it III! Click here for the new Mt George album.

April 19, 2008. The Taree Collector's Club is holding an exhibition this weekend. The weather's not too flash to go galavanting somewhere exotic so I decided to amble up there to check it out and take a few pics. I can't say I'm terribly much into collecting, and I can't say that my attempts at photographing some of the exhibits are all that brilliant, but... *shrug* it was something to do... and an opportunity to meet Frank and Ted.

Frank is a collector of cameras as well as a camera fixer-upper. When I met him, I asked him if the 1966 Minolta rangefinder camera I brought with me was of any use to him. Nope. So my price dropped to zero. Still nope. "What am I gonna do with this thing?" I pleaded. "I don't wanna carry the damn thing around... where's the bin?" So he took pity on me and accepted it. The camera was given to me by a neighbor who had no further use for it. I don't either. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

Well, that was Frank's invitation to tell me the entire history of his collection hehe. Are my ears red? He's definitely a dedicated cameraphile, and explained how he had taken possession of a Thornton Pickard 'Royal Ruby' triple-extension camera (found on a tip) and then completely renovated it. He spent ages on all the brasswork - including all the screws - and timber. He even made the bellows himself. Clever dude. He's made new bellows for several of his antique cameras. He also told me a story about a camera whose mechanical action can take 360 degree photographs. You plonk it on a tripod and the mechanism turns the camera around while it also drags the film along to expose the entire 360 degrees bit by bit. Rather than end up with a series of separate images joined together, you get a single uninterrupted exposure of the entire scene. Pretty nifty especially considering the camera was available way back in the early 1900s and ceased production just before WWII.

Then I met Ted. He started the Collectors Club a few years ago. He collects stamps, coins and smallish stuff, but he also has a Beaver ultra-light aircraft parked in his garage... as well as a boat. I think he said he's selling the Beaver to make room for something else that he wants to work on. Meanwhile, he asked me about designing and operating a web site. Big mouth here, opened his trap and offered to help him establish one for the club. But it doesn't end there, no siree. He also wants me to give a speech at the next club meeting because I'm "interesting" and he thinks the Aussie Odyssey project is worth a talk. Jeez. I haven't spoken to an audience in AGES. On the other hand, when I'm on the road doing the 'real thing' I might be asked to do the talk thing quite often... plus press and radio interviews. Don't laugh... it's a possibility. So the practice might come in handy. Check out the Taree Collector's album pics here.

April 13, 2008. My friend Josh's footy match was a fizzer last weekend. I was on one side of the field and he was on the other... then the rain came. So this weekend, I toddled out to Old Bar for this week's match against the Pirates. I've been to Old bar a couple of times... it's the closest beach to Taree, 17 kilometers away. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article. I arrived about an hour early and went straight to the beach to practice action shots again, this time surfers, with my new monopod. Love the monopod, it works a treat and is MUCH easier to handle than a tripod. Then at about midday, I went across the road to the local football field where I chatted with the bloke at the ticket gate. Gate? What gate? His 'office' was an umbrella and a fold-up chair. He was an interesting bloke... been around a bit and told me about his trip to Cairns and far north Queensland. In his younger days he was a keen footballer and absolutely loves the game. He retired from league in his mid 30s. "It gets very emotional during a close match (as a supporter on the sidelines)," he said. "Best game in the world." He referred to rugby league, of course - none of that American stuff where the padded safety gear weighs more than the Harbor Bridge. Anyway, he gave me change of $5 ($2) because he realized that I'm an old bloke who's practically at death's door.

Well, I didn't do so well at this weekend's match either from a photographic perspective. No worries about Josh's position... he was on the same side of field as I was. BUT... for whatever reason, after about 20 minutes, the coach retired my mop of black hair and friend from the game and put him on the bench. The sun was hot, I was feeling a little woozie, and I had no idea of how long Josh would be sidelined, so I headed back to TT after getting only a couple of lamo shots of him without being on the bottom of a pile of front row forwards. Oh well, another day... I can tell you one thing, though, when that kid puts on a burst of speed he can fly!

Nonetheless, I was reasonably pleased with the surfing shots. Not brilliant but not bad. They're a little fuzzy but I put that down to the 'cheap' extension telephoto lens and full digital zoom. The 'burst' mode still tricks me (3 shots per second-ish). The viewfinder blacks out after the shutter button is pressed and I've gotta guess which direction the action continues hehe. Needless to say, I ended up with a few shots of riderless waves. Just when you think the rider is gonna go one way, he does a quick turn and goes the other. Grrr. Full marks to the monopod, however. That is one handly gadget. Check the photo album here.

April 5, 2008. I whizzed out to Tuncurry this morning to practice action shots at the King of the Kr8er skating comp for kids and teens (adults have more sense than to risk life and limb hurtling about on skateboards and BMX bikes at the skate park, known as the Kr8er (Crater in normal speak). Next door was the Baby Boomer Bash. Bash? Yeah, right, imagine a bunch of old fogies like me doing anything more than hobbling about looking at displays of crocheting and home cooked jams and scones. No, I gave that a miss and went instead to the skate comp. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

Like I said, it was practice at taking action shots. The trouble with action of this kind is that it happens too damn fast. Whoosh, whoosh! Forget all about focus... it's like trying to focus on a fly in mid flight. Those kids whizz around so much and so quickly the camera has no hope of focusing. Despite the mahem, I did manage to get a few half-decent shots. I missed the best one where a young bloke flew across the Kr8er away from where I had the camera pointed, zapped up a ramp on his BMX, performed a double somersault and disappeared. It was a fantastic display of incredible skill but... I wasn't ready. "Hey, mate! Come back here you bloody mongrel and do that again!" No such luck.

The only pics I did managed to get and keep in some sort of reasonable focus were the longer shots. Close ups were impossible to anticipate or even keep within frame. I had to ditch a number of shots that had been vacated by the skater/rider before I even had a chance to press the shutter button. "Hey, are you going this way?" "Sorry, mate, "I'm going that-a-way!" Zap, gone!

I used 'burst' mode, which is sometimes not a good idea. The camera takes three shots in about 1.5 seconds but blacks out the viewfinder so that you can't see what's in frame as the shots are taken. It's okay if the action takes place within a static area but no good at all if it continues on and disappears from frame. After that, the camera processes the info which takes maybe 10 seconds during which time you can't take any more pics. I used the Sony this time, by the way.

Anyway, it was practice, and all practice is a learning experience. Hopefully, I'll be better next time... but I'm not sure I wanna be an action photographer as opposed to taking nice, quiet stills that don't rattle the nerves. Tomorrow, I'll attend a friend's football match... the first this season. Maybe today's experience will come in handy... Maybe.

Oh, yes... a few skaters/riders came to grief on the concrete. Poor kids. They were highly strung and nervous about performing in front of a crowd, as well as the pressure of competition. I felt so sorry for them when they ended up sprawled unceremoniously on the deck. Luckily, there were no injuries apart from dents to pride.

AND... nothing to do with this mini Odyssey... I just happened to have taken a couple of pics of a spider web in my side yard a few days ago. It stretched the whole width which is about 5 feet. Whoa! Fortunately, the spider's not so big, but big enough to give you instant lessons in Irish Dancing. Click here for the photo album


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