Location: Manning Valley
Date: March 2009

March 20, 2009. Right, what does a country town airport look like? I went to Taree Airport today to take a few pics of a REX (Regional Express Airlines) Saab 340. It's Friday, so there are 3 landings and 3 departures. Not quite Heathrow or JFK but, hey, this is Taree folks! While I was there, one light aircraft landed and one taxied for take off. Busy, busy, busy.

However, despite Taree being a laid-back country town, security is still pretty high. The entire area is fenced which meant I had very limited access - the old poke the lens through the bars trick. AND... use the zoom. There was no way I was permitted to get anywhere near the aircraft... or even out of the main building for that matter. I asked at the front desk (when someone finally arrived) and I was given the big no, no, no. The bloke also cast a suspicious eye over my monopod which was under my arm hehe. "Is that a rifle?" "Yes, and if you're not nice to me I'll shoot you."

Anyway, I managed to get a few shots - nothing too thrilling. I also took a pic or two of the Manning River Aero Club and was pleased to see that they provide timber rails to tie horses to. No troughs though... but there's a pub across the road. "One schooner of Victoria Bitter and a bucket of the same please." "How old is the horse?" "Seven." "Sorry mate, can't serve minors."

I have to say, though, that the Saab 340 is a very nice looking plane. Click here for the photo album.

March 15, 2009. Yes, the Ides of March - Julius Caesar beware.

But today, down at the Manning River, it's the location for the Taree Dragon Boat regatta, with crews from up and down the coast competing for the major prize. I really didn't expect so many people! I drove along the road that runs parallel to the river where parking was impossible (2 hours after events started at 9am). Then I turned into the Rowing Club parking area thinking, "there's no way I'll get a spot in here." But I did!

There were two reasons I visited the event. 1) It was an excuse for a bit of color and movement and something to photograph, and 2) I wanted to try out the Fuji Finepix. I wasn't disappointed... the camera performs very well. There are a couple of things I gotta get used to, though... like resting my thumb on the damn zoom hehe.

And it was hot. Bloody hot! Perfect weather for a regatta... hardly a breath of wind, clear blue sky, and the Manning looking magnificent. So did all the boats, as well as the crews. 

The same four boats are used for all races - it's the crews that do the winning or losing. Most of the finishes I saw were excitingly close... some down to a photo to determine the winner. I heard the announcer say at one stage that the difference between first and second in one particular race was some thousands of a second.

However, unless you're involved with a particular crew, all races look the same, so I didn't stay long... just long enough to get some general shots of the action and the atmosphere. The crop of the kid sticking his oar into the dragon's mouth was something I hadn't noticed until I got home and checked out the pics on the computer. Kids... they're all the same. That crop represents only a very small part of the original pic, so I'm quite impressed with the quality of the Fuji. But not so impressed with my inattention to horizons and keeping them STRAIGHT! Dangit.

Anyway, it seemed to me that everyone present was having a wonderful time on a wonderful day, enjoying - dare I say it? - a wonderful spectacle. Click here for the photo album.

March 8, 2009. Back to Nabiac, about 15 minutes drive south along the Pacific Hwy from Taree. Initially I headed out to the (Taree) Airport Tavern Hotel where a collection of classic and vintage motorcycles was supposed to be on display. "Oh, you should have been here yesterday, mate!" said a drinker at the bar. "There were some fantastic bikes here." Thanks very much... just what I needed to hear.

The event was the 20th Taree & District Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Club's Annual Rally.

Then a bloke on a Triumph showed up and I asked him about the bikes. "They changed the itinerary, mate. They've all gone to Nabiac for the swap meet. I've just come back from there." While he was backing up his ute to carry the bike, I took a few pics of the Bonneville 750. Lovely looking bike... a 1977 vintage (six years younger than Tough Titties). The owner's name is David Purdon. I know that because he gave me a booklet listing all the bikes and years of manufacture.

BTW, David was smart enough to ride his bike onto a raised landing which was about the right height to wheel the Trumpy onto the ute tray. Clever boi.

Anyway, when I got to Nabiac, guess what? Yep, all the bikers were preparing to leave. I had to rush around and take as many pics as poss in about half an hour before they all vanished. One of the riders was the "pink lady". She was having trouble silencing the alarm on her Harley Davidson. Predictably, blokes came from everywhere to rescue the damsel in distress. Eventually, someone figured out a solution and she was on her way... but not before she posed for a pic (045).

As I photographed the Ducati (038-039) I overhead someone ask the owner how much he paid for it. "26," he said. So I thought for a moment and asked, "How many zeros after the 26?" "Three... $26,000." Whoa! For a bike? He was bitching about the fact that it chews a lot of juice. "It's got twin fuel pumps," he explained. "But it's quick." Yeah... I got the impression that it's VERY quick.

I spoke to another rider sitting astride his Harley (034) and, wondering if it was a vintage model, asked him how old it was. "Just over a year." Oh... well, there ya go... I wouldn't know one bike from another. So then I asked him if it was meant to be a retro style. "Nope, that's just the way I built it." That's the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it... "You built it?" "Yep."

The only bloke there with a PROPER biker beard owns a Suzuki 1400 (021, 022, 023). He paid something like about 12 or 13 thousand for his. He prefers air-cooled, the old fashioned way. It's a 2008 model. Nearby was a 2005 model, almost identical. Anyway, he's happy with his bike and the price he paid. He told me that one manufacturer (can't remember which one) had released a bike with a 2.4 liter engine. He says it's ridiculous, and I agree.

So what did I miss out on? Lots... a couple of mid-50s BSAs and a Norton, a 1951 Vincent, a 1914 750 Rover, a 1939 Matchless, a 1915 1000 Indian, a 1939 Ariel, a 1920 Douglas to mention just a few. "You shoulda been here yesterday, mate." Click here for the photo album.

March 6, 2009. Back to the Manning Art Gallery for another exhibition... this time "Wheels on Fire", a bunch of paintings and scuptures that represent automobiles and motor bikes through the eyes of various artists. There's no doubt that motor vehicles have revolutionised personal travel, and have themselves become objects d'art.

When I arrived at the gallery, I explained to the lady in charge that I'd been there a couple of times before and that I photographed exhibits in such a way as to protect copyright. She was very pleasant, but decided to check anyway. She took my card and went to the computer room. She was quite impressed with the web site and asked if I'd done all the work myself. *Blush* "Yes, it's all my own effort."

At first, I thought the Kawasaki motor cycle was real, and I had to do a double-take. The wheels and tires are real, and I assume the basic frame holds them in place, but the rest of the bike is made of papier-mache and aluminium foil. Quite an amazing piece of work.

I don't for a moment pretend to understand "art", but I do find that kind of artistic expression interesting... to see the result of a creative person's imagination. One piece I found particularly fascinating (although it's not part of the exhibition) was the whipcracker on horseback. That entire thing is made from old discarded barbed fencing wire, which just goes to show that any material in the hands of an artist has the potential to be transformed into something of wonder and beauty.

Anyway, let the works speak for themselves. Click here for the photo album.

March 2, 2009. Okies, this is the follow-up shoot to the one I did at Stebercraft, Taree last Friday, Feb 27 (Journal 0017). On Friday and over the weekend, the Steber 4700 underwent its finishing touches before the launch today.

I arrived just before 2pm, and chatted with the driver of the Mack truck which would tow the boat through town to the Manning River near the Rowing Club. Country Energy was on hand to oversee the lifting of power lines as the boat passed slowly underneath - and to be on hand should anything go wrong. It's a pretty tricky exercise, and a slow one. It certainly attracted the curious gazes of onlookers as the convoy passed through the streets.

The driver is a true-blue Aussie... bent hat, ciggie dangling from the lips, and full of stories about past exploits. He learned to drive on a tractor when he was a kid on a local farm. He got his truck license not long after that, back in '63. "Can you back it up the street?" "Yep." "Can you turn it around 180?" "Yep." "Do you know how to secure a load?" "Yep." "No worries... sign here."

He said the Steber was about 6 meters high on the trailer, which equates to about 20 feet. But what really got me was when he asked if I owned the boat. "Me? Own it? Yeah, right... like, sure, it's all mine." Jeez, that'll be the day.

Macks are big trucks, but the Steber made it look pretty small. We spoke about the size of the boat before we left the factory. "I've done a few of these jobs," the driver said, "and you'd be surprised how small the boat looks once it's in the water. It looks like a toy." Well, maybe a big toy, but floating in the vastness of the Manning River certainly has a way of diminishing the craft's size in comparison to what it looks like in the factory, or on the back of a trailer.

The entire exercise went smoothly, and pretty soon about a third of the Steber's height disappeared below the water line. Once again, I'd like to thank Glenn Dunbier, Stebercraft's production manager for providing me with this opportunity to photograph a relatively rare event. I very much appreciate it. Click here for the photo album.


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