The other day Ed Knepley in his terrific blog ‘Photography Improvement’ showed a photo from his collection of what he described as ‘The Common Thistle.’
Here in The Land Down Under their common name is ‘Scotch Thistle’ because they were introduced here by early settlers who hailed from Scotland.
Like many Aussies I’ve Scottish ancestry and the Scotch Thistle has a special place in my heart, or should I say, on my right leg.
That’s right I proudly display a tattoo on my calf of a Scotch Thistle SWMBO found growing wild near our place about twenty years ago. She picked it of course and directed me to have a tattoo created from it.
The tattooists made a realistic image of the real thing and did a good job as the ink has hardly faded even though I wear shorts most year round.
Here’s an iPhone selfie of the thistle taken just a few minutes ago. Sorry that it’s not up to Ed’s great standard.
A few years ago, SWMBO joined the local branch of the U3A. ‘What on earth is the U3A,’ I asked. SWMBO replied, ‘You are always mucking around with Google, find out for yourself!’ Short, ‘sweet’ and to the point, as usual.
A quick visit to Mr Google informed me that the U3A ( University of the Third Age) was formed in Toulouse, France in 1972, spread to the UK in 1982 and arrived here in Melbourne, Australia in 1984 and then spreading like wildfire across the country.
A further search led me to the U3A’s web site and an indepth explanation of what the U3A is all about. To quote from their blurb:
‘The University of the Third Age (U3A) movement is an unique and exciting organisation which provides, through its U3As life enhancing and life changing opportunities.
Retired and semi retired people come together and learn together, not for qualifications but for its own reward, the sheer joy of discovery.
Members share their skills and life experiences: the learners teach and the teachers learn, and there is no distinction between them.
The U3A movement is supported by its national organisation, The Third Age Trust.’
Now I’m no spring chicken but the thought of getting involved with a mob of oldies learning from each other was an absolute turn off and I decided there and then that SWMBO could have the U3A entirely for herself.
Then, early last year SWMBO enticed me to go with her on an U3A bus trip exploring the homes of some of Australia’s original British settlers.
It was a revelation for me. The people were great, the organisation of the trip was first class, the day passed by at great speed and I thouroughly enjoyed myself.
As a result I joined our local U3A, go on many of their escapades and twice a week participate in a walking for health program. In addition to that, twice a month I go to an U3A Photography Group where we have fun with our cameras and camera phones, swap photography information and learn from each other.
It’s quite amazing how great it is to mix with people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences who are happy to share their stories, information about various subjects and are happy to sensibly discuss differing views without getting bitter and twisted as is so often the case.
I could go on and on about the benefits of being a member of U3A and list the many, many courses and programs that area available to members. However I know that if you are interested you too will visit Mr Google, look for your nearest U3A and see what they have to offer. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
I’ve just finished reading Hogrider Dookes’ latest blog where he outlines a dilemma facing his best mate, Mr G.
Mr. G is recovering from serious injuries received when he was hit by a moror vehicle whilst riding his beloved motorcycle.
During Mr G’s early recovery phase apparently he gave serious consideration to abandoning two wheel and turning to sports cars as an alternative. However, as his recovery accelerates his thoughts have returned positively to the world of two wheels. So much so that recently Dookes accompanied him to a local motorbike dealer where Mr G test sat bike after bike. His dilemma, what brand, size and style will suit him best when the time comes to venture back on the road astride a motor cycle.
Reading of Mr G’s dilemma reminded me that he is not alone in facing these decisions.
On my 6oth birthday down in the pub, I recall a much older mate saying to me,’ Getting old isn’t for sissies!’ Seemed a rather inane thing to say and we all laughed.
Seventeen years have passed since then and my old mate is now in motor cyclists’ heaven. However, I no longer think that his comment all those years ago was far from the mark.
This brings me Mr G’s dilemma. I’ve been down a similar path, not through injury.
Harley Davidsons have been part of my life for more years than I care to remember and I’ve enough Harley T Shirts to start my own retail clothing store, not to mention Harley boots, Harley caps, Harley helmets, Harley gloves, Harley spare parts, Harley oils and Harley cleaning gear etc. The list goes on and on.
Here is my current pride and joy, a 2014 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic.
The unfortunate part of my yarn is that this beautiful piece of modern motorcycle art spends almost all of its time in the shed attached to a battery charger and not out on the open road, attached to my bum.
The reason is quite simple.
In 2014 I was diagnosed with cancer. Underwent radical surgery, all went well and I’m now in remision. A cancer diagnosis brings you back to reality with a thud I can tell you.
Since then I’ve been through numerous minor surgical procedures, not life threatening but scary never the less.
The funny thing is that almost every medico I’ve seen in recent years has suggested, quite bluntly, that the place for the Harley is on the market, not on the road with me in the saddle.
As a result, my desire to ride waxes and wanes on a daly basis and I decline, politely of course, invitatiions to go riding with my mates. The desire seems to be discipating ever so gradually.
Now a month or so back I finally decided that the Harley had to go and its replacement was to be a Mazda MX5 sports car. Red of course. What a dream. Crashed to earth heavily when in the showroom SWMBO and I discovered to our horror that we couldn’t fit in the bloody thing.
Back to the drawing board. Two wheels are back in with a vengence.
Since that day I’ve been to every motor cycle dealer within cooee and I’ve kicked every tyre imaginable looking for a motor bike that weighs in under 327 kilos(732.48 lbs) unladen, fits my body shape and is kind to two bung knees.
The result has been in the negative without exception.
That brings me back to the dilemma I share with Mr G. Two wheels or not two wheels? That is the question. Apologies to The Bard of course.
Apart from a short break here and there, I’ve been a member of a couple of camera clubs for over 15 years and I’ve been a visitor to more clubs than I can count.
Camera clubs vary widely in their approach to photography. Some take the ‘hobby’ very seriously indeed whilst others have a more ‘relaxed’ attitude.
However, all clubs have one thing in common and that is a monthly competition. To that end, the club’s management committee select a monthly subject to fit within a particular photographic genre, for example, Monochrome, Landscape, Open( where anything goes), Portrait, Abstract, Creative or Set Subject.
It’s accepted practise that clubs arrange for a photographic judge accredited by the State Camera Club Association to attend the competitions and judge the entries. However, in country areas this is not always possible as there is generally an attendance fee, accommodation and travel expenses associated with having a qualified judge from out of town. Additionally not too many judges are prepared to leave the metropolitan area. It goes without saying that local accredited judges are rare on the ground.
The end result is that many country competitions are judged by painters, sculptors, general artists and people whose occupation is in the field of the arts generally, for example, local art galleries, museums, TAFE institutions and Universities.
There is a major benefit in not using judges from outside the general field of photography. The most significant benefit is that they are not tangled up with the so called rules of photography that theoretically determine what makes a great photograph.
For example, one painter often asked to judge inverts every image on display before commencing her judging. Her rationale is that by doing so she can more easily evaluate the photographers’ understanding of composition.
Often straight horizons, the rule of thirds, balanced lighting and tonal ranges are ignored and as a result, award winners are chosen on their artistic merit and not on their pure technical excelence. That certainly is a positive for club competitions.
In all my years around the clubs, I’ve rarely heard any disparaging remarks about non technical judging. I can’t say the same about the so called professional judges.
That brings me back to the ‘relaxed’ attitude of some clubs. That doesn’t mean that their members aren’t ‘professional’ in their approach to the photographic craft, far from it. It means that all who exhibit in the monthly competitions are on an equal footing.
My local camera club falls comfortably into the ‘relaxed’ attitude category. However, every photographer in the club produces top quality images that would easily equal any work exhibitied at the more ‘serious’ clubs.
These days, exhibited digital images are either projected onto a screen or printed, matted and hung for display. It’s rare for traditional wet darkroom prints to be exhibited as a two year limit from the date the image was made is strictly applied.
As I pointed out in the header, joining your local camera club can be a lot of fun and provides a great opportunity to improve your photography skills.
Over the last few weeks I’ve ready quite a number of great blogs where the writers have related the fun and pleasure provided by their cat or cats. The supporting images are great too and one wonders how anyone could dislike our feline friends.
Casa Creakingbones is home to two cats, Tom and Ginger, both of whom have been the subject of previous blogs.
Ginger is, as the name implies, a ginger cat. He adopted our place as his home a couple of years ago, firstly by sneaking in through the cat flap, pinching Tom’s food and retiring to the garage to sleep on the back seat of our Land Rover.
Eventually, after the vet had cleared him of any disease and given him the appropriate inoculations he became a permanent and welcome household resident.
Like all cats, Ginger sussed out all of the good inside spots to have a bit of a rest, particularly on sun drenched chairs. He snores loudly when lying on his back, his favourite sleeping position. This is a typical pose:
He’s now developed a sixth sense which alerts him to whenever SWMBO sits in her favourite chair to either knit, read the paper or watch TV.
Does he sit on her lap as does Tom, enjoy a bit of a cuddle and then roll up purring.
Oh no, not Ginger. Like a flash he leaps onto the chair, climbs to the top of the backrest and immediately begins to click SWMBO’s hair. It’s become such a regular occurrence now that SWMBO accepts it as the norm and lets him have his way with her.
The whole process takes about four or five minutes before Ginger has had enough and returns to one of his rest up spots.
Fortunately he doesn’t find the crown of my head in the least bit appealing, probably because it’s devoid of hair. Them’s the breaks. I must confess that I don’t feel the least bit jealous of his attraction to SWMBO’s hair.
Over recent years a number of paddocks adjacent to where our house is situate have been subdivided to create a new medium density residential area.
As a result, the occasional fox, kangaroo, echidna and rabbits have traversed our block en route to pastures new. From time to time the rabbits decide to stay for a day or two before deciding that our place is unsuitable for permanent settlement. Luckily for us they are discerning little dears.
Over the last week or so my attempt to photograph this current transient bunch has been a dismal failure without one single image being suitable for retention.
Now rabbits are not native to Australia and have been in plague proportions for many, many years.
Currently, biological erradication methods are being successful and the traditional shooting and trapping of days gone by are exactly that.
Seeking more information about the origin of bunnies in Australia I turned to Dr Google and Wikipedia.
I learned a lot in a short time. In brief, between 1857 and 1858, numbers of breeding rabbit pairs along with hares, pigeons and sparrows were imported into Australia from Great Britain.
Then, in 1859 a bloke named Thomas Austin imported 24 wild rabbits and released them in South Australia to shoot for sport.
In just ten years, by 1869, rabbits were in plague proportions. So prolific were their numbers it was estimated over 2 million a year were being shot or trapped without making a dent in their populatiion.
Fast forward to the early 1940’s and as a lad living in the country, rabbit shooting was a weekend passtime. Browning .22 rifles were all the go and almost every kid in my school knew how to use one. If it wasn’t shooting, it was going after the bunnies with your pet ferret or setting rabbit traps in the hope of getting one or two for the pot.
About twenty years ago I remember talking to my father in law about the ‘good old days’ and how much fun I used to have going rabbiting. To my surprise he hunted around in his shed, turned up a rabbit trap and presented it to me with a laugh and a great grin on his face. Rabbiting he said, had been a lot of fun for him too.
Yesterday, it was my turn to hunt around the shed looking for that rabbit trap. Sure enough, there it was, hanging just where I’d left it, unused for years.
Back to Dr Google who advised that rabbit traps were manufactured in Australia during the 1930’s when trapping was the major method of rabbit control.
Then came the bombshell, in an article written by a Kate Dowler in the South Australian Weekly Times it was noted that on the 28th July, 2014, a ‘Platypus Regd’ rabbit trap sold at auction for, wait for it, $9,000.00 dollars. This is not a typo.
I broke all records going back to the shed and sure enough, there stamped in my trap’s cocking mechanism are the words, PLATYPUS REGD.
This time my photographny was a success:
Apparently, having the original chain and steel pin intact add to the trap’s value.
SWMBO is as excited as I over our latest piece of family history. Hanging in the shed is no place for our valuable artifact and it now occupies a special place amongst our family memorabilia collection.
Simplisticinsights.wordpress.com has nominated me, amongst a number of other bloggers, for the Blogger Recognition Award.
During 2015/2016 I fell into the Facebook trap of allowing myself to get involved in the ‘Post an image every day for seven days,’ challenge. This also required me to nominate other ‘Facebook Friends’ to take up the challenge.
In the beginning it was a lot of fun but as time wore on, my enthusiasm wore out and the majority of my FB ‘friends’ were similarly placed, no longer accepting the challenges.
As 2017 dawned I decided to take a stand and no longer accept FB or similar challenges.
Today, on receiving this Blogger Recognition Award nomination I was sorely tempted to ignore my 2017 New Year stance and accept.
However after due contemplation I find I must decline simplisticinsights nomination.
At the same time I thank simplisticinsights for reading my blog and taking the time to add me to her nomination list.
On the positive side, I’m certain that many readers of my own blog will be pleased to note that I’ve not accepted the challenge and as a consequence added their names to the list of nominees.
This morning, under the kitchen window, our resident magpies were bunging on an act because they hadn’t been given their regular early morning snack of mince meat.
Fortunately for the maggies, earlier this morning SWMBO had discovered a raw chicken breast that had found its way to the back of the fridge and outlived its use by date by over a week.
Tom and Ginger, our two house cats recoiled immediately they smelt the chicken and it was decided that the magpies, being wild birds and noted for their ability to eat anything meaty would soon demolish it.
Opening the back door, I threw the offending morsel onto the grass. and immediately the magpies descended onto it and began to tear it into small beak sized pieces.
As Tom, Ginger and the magpies peacefully co-exist in our backyard I wasn’t surprised when Ginger came out and sat at my feet, watching the magpies demolishing the chicken that could have been his.
I ducked back inside, grabbed the camera, whacked on a lens and returned to the backyard. The scene was just as I’d left it, magpies munching and Ginger taking observations.
No sooner had I made this image than Ginger decided it was time to get back inside into the warmth of the central heating. I grabbed another image as he began to turn away from the magpies and their chicken snack,
Magpies, crows, pigeons, galahs, sparrows, willy wagtails, sulphur crested cockatoos and various other native birds frequent our backyard and spend a lot of time on the ground.
In all the years we have had cats, which by the way, are only allowed out of the house during daylight hours, we have never had a instance where the cats have attacked the birds or vice versa.
Yesterday, Easter Sunday, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I went to visit friends at their farm on the outskirts of Canberra, our Nations Capital.
There is nothing more pleasant than sitting with good friends, under a beaut tree, on a wonderful autumn day, surveying the rolling hills and green paddocks, dotted with browsing cattle.
After a relaxing morning it was time for lunch and in usual country style, enough food to feed an army was soon on the table.
Ace, the Staffordshire Terrier was keeping us amused with his usual doggie antics as he smooched for snacks and occasionally succeeded.
I was fully relaxed and munching away when I was totally surprised by the arrival, unannounced, of our hostesse’s best mate, Baxter.
I never heard him approaching and the others around the table gave me no warning. The wide grins on their faces should have alerted me that something was up.
Anyway, I had just enough time to snatch my plate from the table as Baxter, closely watched by Ace, poked his massive head over my shoulder and snatched a few crumbs from the table cloth.
Leaving me, Baxter headed over towards our mate Bill. The two of them know each other very well.
Passing Bill, Baxter made his way around the table, snatching tit bits as he went.
It was amusing to watch Baxter doing his thing but when he tried to snatch a hot cross bun from the hand of the mother of our hostess, Baxter had done his dash.
Leaping to her feet she did her best to move him out of the way. At 17 hands he is no miniature and if he decides to stay put, that’s it.
Finally, his owner slipped a halter over his head, led him away and hitched him to the tree under which we were dining. Our mate Bill had strategically placed himself close to the tree’s trunk and was well in range of hitched up Baxter.
Baxter took an immdiate likeing to the cap our mate Bill was wearing and did his best to dislodge the cap and when Bill took it off, Baxter started to lick Bill’s hair.
We are going back to the farm in a month’s time for a Hot Pie day. SWMBO has decided to bake some apple pies and out hostess and her mum are going to bake meat, chicken and curry pies for the occasion.
I can’t wait to see the look on Baxter’s face when he tries a curry pie.
My Nikon gear was still in our 4WD but fortunately my iPhone was turned on and handy. What a great job it did recording a few images of Baxter having fun. I should have had the presence of mind to video the lot. I should always remember PPPPPP. If you have studied management you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Autumn is now upon us and in theory, garden growth slows to a crawl as it awaits the arrival of spring and summer.This year however, tree and shrub growth have made access to the back and side yards quite a challenge.
Free access to our back yard is vital as we often park our vehicles there for routine maintenance and general cleaning.
Last week brought the access issue to a head as our Isuzu 4WD needed a total clean out and wash. Without scratching it to bits, I couldn’t get it anywhere near our cleaning spot around the back.
The answer to the problem was obvious. Out with the bush saw and the secateurs and remove the offending foliage and branches.
Little did I realise how much work that entailed. The foliage was so dense on some trees that branches were hanging quite low. That required me to reluctantly climb a ladder to enable the limbs to be cut off near the trunk. I know people my age should refrain from climbing ladders but you know what blokes are like, ‘She’ll be right mate,’ is our mantra. Fortunately for me, this time, ‘she’ was right and no disaster ensued.
Gradually the access became clear and by the time the job was completed, two great heaps of greenery stood out the front waiting for me to get them to the Council’s green waste tip.
This morning I discovered a family of Black and White Fantails that we all call Willy Wagtails have moved into the piles. That means I can’t get to the waste tip until these delightful, tiny, active birds move on to somewhere else in the yard.
I should have photographed the access route before I started lopping but forgot to do so.
At least I remembered to photograph the end result and here are three examples taken this morning before the return of the heavy rain.
Later today, weather permitting, I’ll whack a telephoto lens on the camera and try and get some really sharp images of the Willy Wagtails as they flit about the greenery.