a dolphin tale

Do dolphins mate in spring ? If so, these ones started a couple of days early, probably the males idea but they did all seem to be getting along swimmingly (did you see what I did there ?).

I had just finished my walk along the coast and was pretty happy with the amazing skies that the sunrise had dealt up when I noticed a splash just below the cliff where I had parked.
It took all for a second to realise it was dolphins and the usual panic set in as you only get a couple of shots with dolphins, they seem to have a pretty full diary.

Not this time though, right from the first moment I knew I was watching something different, probably something I shouldn’t be watching and definitely something that shouldn’t be screened before 8:30 pm on TV.

At first I thought they were feeding on something but as they stayed in the same spot and continued to slide over each other, it became apparent that something else was going on, that and the occasional flash of pink penis which was a bit of a give away.

The sequence seemed to run with a bit of showing off, “look how far I can get my tail out of the water”, followed by jelly wrestling which was also a bit of a stacks on scenario where everyone joined in.
Then came the swimming on their backs, this obviously made it easier to cuddle during sex but with several swimming underneath at once, jousting for pole position I’m not sure how you’d know who the father was.

Success seemed to be followed by a lot of splashing and a couple of good bites and then the whole thing started over.
The odd one would drift off, floating on their back pretending to have a cigarette but would soon return to the mêlée.
A couple of the dolphins seemed quite pink on their underside, not sure if this is breeding plumage or just a hot flush from overexertion.

This went on for over an hour in the same spot below me before they all cruised off across the bay in a search for a cup of coffee and a chat about what colour to paint the nursery.

look how far I can get my tail out of the water

look how far I can get my tail out of the water

jousting

jousting

not really sure what's going on here

not really sure what’s going on here

nice tail swirl

nice tail swirl

the cuddle

the cuddle

flash of pink

flash of pink

bit of a bite

bit of a bite

hot flush

hot flush

cigarette time

cigarette time

let's go for coffee

let’s go for coffee

a private show

I’ve seen the occasional seals on my morning walks along the cliffs but this morning was a bit special, not one but three seals and they put on a bit of free entertainment too.

The seals had asked me to keep this as a private show, but I thought it was just too good not to share.

So after a patch of negotiation they agreed I could post it with a very brief explanation of what they were doing.

It started simple.

ONE UP

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THE DOLPHIN

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TWO AND FRO

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THE LINE UP

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IT’S A GOAL

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THE COMB

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THE TRAIN AND TUNNEL (a personal favorite of mine)

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STEGOSAURUS

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THE LOCOMOTION

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THERE’S A KAYAK OVER THERE

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lucky strike

The hail storm that hit Sydney last weekend also carried with it a pretty spectacular light show.
Although my ocean series by now is fairly inclusive, the one gaping hole for me was the lack of night shots, so with the storm heading west and out to sea and the sun about to set, I gathered up my gear and waited for it to pass over head so I could follow it down to the coast.

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evening sky lit by lightning

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The trouble with the weather and photography is that very rarely do the plans and the outcome follow the same path, so as I emerged from the heavy cloud and rain, I was pretty excited to see that this time things were going exactly to plan, that is of course except for the fact that I had come out on a night shoot with no tripod.
This realisation brought forward another one, the fact that in over twenty years as a professional photographer, I had never photographed lightning before. It pretty much looked like a studio flash gone rogue so that gave me a starting point.

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evening sky lit by lightning and the ship enters the scene

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The light levels were dimming and the electrical storm was reaching a crescendo, so after returning the dog to the car (he had decided that standing on top of a cliff in the middle of an electrical storm wasn’t too smart and wanted some insulating rubber under him), it was time to learn how to catch lightning.

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My first attempts shooting at around 1/4 of a second were a bit frustrating as I tried to guess when and where the lightning would strike, I see what they mean by lightning fast reactions and I can confirm I don’t have them.
Gradually I lengthened the shutter speed to around 1 to 5 seconds and braced the camera on a rock and as the storm slowed I was holding it for up to 10 seconds to catch the action.

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The first shots with the storm still over head, lit the entire scene and gave an eerie daylight feel but as it moved off into the distance it all became darker and just the lightning bolts took centre stage.

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the perfect fork

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During all this there was one ship in the target zone and the storm seemed to be doing it’s best to hit it, you could see from the angle of the bolts that there was a definite attraction.
The last shot in the series below looks to me like a direct hit.

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personal favourite

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both barrels

both barrels

lucky strike ?

lucky strike ?

I’m hoping it was the super trawler that is now fishing off our coast and they realise this was a message sent rather than a lucky strike.

devastatingly beautiful

kw15_4819I’m always a tad excited when I see there’s some big seas coming, small to medium surf is fairly predictable but when you see that big hump on the forecast chart you never know what you are in for. kw15_4907
9 out of 10 times it isn’t as big as they say or it peaks overnight and you miss it.
This time it was worse than they thought and it lasted for 3 days but with winds up to 100 km/h and torrential rain, it was damn near impossible to get decent shots.

Even with the camera protected, the lens lasted seconds before it was covered in water, if it wasn’t the rain, it was the sea spray being blown clean over the cliffs, the best you could hope for was some lighter patches of rain and take a good snorkel.
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Yesterday had some pretty amazing sand sculptures in Bondi and Coogee but this morning I was blown away by the sheer devastation around the beaches.
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FullSizeRender-4_MG_0096The beach has rocks all over it, so it will be interesting to see what shape the rock pools are in when it all dies down. _MG_0101
The boat club in Gordons Bay, where the boats get hauled up runners to keep them safe was totally destroyed. Boats were dragged up above the path to try to save them but even the ones you can see up high seemed to be covered in dents and some had holes.
Several boats were completely lost and another is wedged in the rocks on the north side of the bay where I doubt it can be retrieved.
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As destructive as it is, the power and energy of huge seas is exhilarating to be around and a challenge to capture.

Rain however I could live without.
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blue steel

Some days the ocean owns a look, it takes on a certain feel and that feel remains, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days.
Last week was like that, the lacy clouds let shafts of light punch through to highlight the surface of the ocean.
A blue tone emanated from the deep shadows and spilt across the seascape stripping any rogue colours of their individuality.
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The strong southerly wind grated the surface, tore it to shreds and rolled it into waves that grew until the wind in turn blew them back across the surface, repeating the process and laying lines all heading in the one direction like a furrowed field.
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The contrast and the speed with which the light changed meant every second was a new scene, just as impressive as the last.
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The wind stripped out the Sydney smog and the smokey colour that usually dominates the horizon and gave it a crisp clean look.
If not for the wind it would have looked like mercury but constant texture gave it the feel of Blue Steel.
Or was it Magnum.
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extra dry

kw14_12044I used think this either meant a nice cold drink with an olive in it or less sweat patches on my shirt, but this week I had a trip up to far North West New South Wales and now I know what dry is.kw14_12135
We flew into Moree and drove north through Narrabri, Wee Waa and on to Walgett.
The closer we got to Walgett, the drier it got.
Walgett hasn’t had rain since mid 2012, so they are suffering, the soil is like a crisp dust, it crunches when you walk on it, so no planting crops and the cattle have all been moved on, you only have to go 50 or 100 km to find an area that has at least seen some rain.
It’s hard to believe that in early 2012 Walgett was isolated due to flooding, maybe someone wished it would stop. Careful what you wish for.
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The drier it got, the more interesting I found the landscape to photograph, part of it was the heat haze that rose from the ground and distorted the scene.kw14_12069
I haven’t really thought much about heat haze, it general means it’s time for a swim, but when you start to study it, it gets pretty interesting, so here is a bit of technical stuff on how it is caused:
When the air between you and an object is hot and a number of areas of different temperature exist, each variation in temperature sets up different interference in the light reflected by the object. The light traveling from the object to you is being distorted by different amounts which creates a shimmer that prevents it from appearing sharp and still, either that or it was the speed the car was moving at and my inability to focus the camera properly, either way, I still like the effect.
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Then of course there is the mirage (or inferior mirage) on the ground, where the light rays actually bend and appear to give a reflected view of the sky, I think I’ll just give you a wiki link for that one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirage .
Given all this, what chance does anyone have of getting it sharp in the desert.
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Kangaroos and wallabys appear to cope with the dry better than most and are a big problem on the road after the sun starts to set, the road side is littered with their carcasses but will instagramers be the real problem of the future.
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beauty and the beasts

Recently I teamed up with makeup artist Chris King and models from Priscilla’s and Vivien’s to spend a week locked away in a dark studio creating or I should say enhancing and capturing beauty. (That was the week with blue skies and unseasonably warm weather ‘apparently’).
Each day started with a fresh model and a clean palate. It’s a tough gig for the girls when they are sat down and stared at like a blank canvas as we look for inspiration and start rattling off ideas, like “I found this cardboard packing the other day’ or “I have a huge roll of plastic wrap”.
We’d start each model with a natural look so we could get a feel for the model and then build with makeup, lighting, props and attitude.
Plenty of good ideas came up, it’s just a matter of sorting out the ones you have props for, the ones you have time for and the ones you think the model will survive.
My favourite was the light painting we did on the last day, it was something I’ve wanted to try on a model for a long time. Each shot was so different, it was hard to narrow it down to a couple to show.
Chris and I aren’t really beasts but everyone has to make a few sacrifices in the name of finding a title for a blog post.
Lilly Cobon ~ Pricillas models

Lilly Cobon ~ Pricillas models

Tess Angel ~ Pricilla's models

Tess Angel ~ Pricilla’s models

Paris Miller  ~  Vivien's models

Paris Miller ~ Vivien’s models

Tess Angel ~ Pricilla's models

Tess Angel ~ Pricilla’s models

Lilly Cobon ~ Pricillas models

Lilly Cobon ~ Pricillas models

Gemma Ossen ~ Pricilla's models

Gemma Ossen ~ Pricilla’s models

Tess Angel ~ Pricilla's models

Tess Angel ~ Pricilla’s models

Lilly Cobon ~ Pricillas models

Lilly Cobon ~ Pricillas models

Lilly Cobon ~ Pricillas models

Lilly Cobon ~ Pricillas models

tourettes and the tuna

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It’s that time of year when I head up north to South West Rocks for my annual attempt at catching big fish from the kayak (attempt often plays a bigger part than fish in this statement).
I seem to have attracted a bit a reputation for bringing bad weather with me, so most of the kayak fraternity that make the pilgrimage aim for the week before or the week after I’m there but there’s always a hardy few that stick with me, after all the law of averages says I’m due for a good week.
This trip the weather was varied as you’ll see from the photos, the trouble is that taking a good photo on a calm sea is a tenth of the challenge of taking one on a rough sea, so the pictures will always make it look better than it was.
one of the calm moments

one of the calm moments

one of not so calm moments

one of not so calm moments

one of the wet moments

one of the wet moments

Of my six days there, we managed to get on the water for five of them and spent at least eights hours out each trip, traveling upwards of 20 k’s per day.
To catch the fish you have to catch the bait and for the first time I seemed to have that one under control. I was bringing up strings of slimy mackerel and would have my bait holder full in no time.
That was stage one in the bag, the next stage was to prove a bit more of a challenge.
This is where the rumour started that I had Tourette’s, I have never had so many fish hit my bait and not hook up before.
The spanish and spotted mackerel hit your line very fast, so all you hear is the line screaming off your reel and you have to drop the paddle try to get the rod out of the holder whilst it is under a lot of pressure from the fish, then the line goes slack, the fish is gone and the stream of profanities starts flowing. The more fish I lost, the longer the stream and the more the rumour took hold. My days were starting to get rated by the number of fish I had lost rather than caught.
this was actually a dolphin but the first glance had done the damage

this was actually a dolphin but the first glance had done the damage

In the evening we would discuss where we went wrong and plan for the next day. The day I decided to tighten my drag up for a different tactic was an interesting one as my kayak suddenly stopped and then took off at quite a speed backwards, not sure about this tight drag idea, I could get whiplash. It doesn’t take you too long to figure out that you are hooked up to a big shark and then you have to decide what to do about it.
I had lost so many fish I decided to fight this particular shark and see it I could get him boat side and then at least I could cut the line near his mouth. It turned out to be about an eight foot long bull shark and I’m not sure which of us was happier when I got to the trace and managed to cut the line.
When we hook something big we try to stay in two’s in case we need a hand, Ian captured some of this fight on film. The rest is in the video so I’ll move on.
hooked up to a bull shark

hooked up to a bull shark

We had been catching a few mac tuna through the week but they aren’t much fun on the table so they had been released. Now it was the last day and I had a rather sad looking eski and was facing the prospect of telling those at home about the glorious fish I had eaten during the week from others catches but apologising for my own inadequacy, or I guess I could swing by the fish markets on the way home.
safety flag on a kayak

safety flag on a kayak

Other years the last day had saved my butt and I had returned the hero with protein and this year was to be no different.
The wind was up and I was pretty exhausted so I decided to hang in close within a kilometer of the shore and review it if the wind dropped.
I loaded up with some more live baits and started my laborious trolling up and down the areas I knew any fish heading south would have to pass through.
It was a slow start with only a mac tuna to show for the first few hours but as the tide got closer to the change more fish showed on the sounder and my exhaustion drove me closer to the breakwall for an easy escape back to the boat ramp.
As I went over the shallow reef near the wall my line shot off but then went slack and then slacker as a small yellowfin tuna came running straight at me. I wound as fast as I could slipping back into Tourette’s mode as I went but he was past me by the time I got the line tight, he then came right past the kayak so I thought I would tail grab him as he slid by.
That cost me my rod as he jumped, wrapped the line around the tip, dived and left me with half a rod. My tasted buds freaked as they saw their sashimi getting away so I took no chances and whipped him on board with the gaff as he swam past on his first circle (all tuna swim in circles when they start to tire).
That was my last bait and others were heading in so it seemed like the right time to finish the week and start packing the car, I had sashimi and my absence for the week would surely be forgiven.
That was until Jon swings by and says “do you want another bait, I have one”, I was too tired to say no so I took his slimy offering and rigged up another rod.
Down went the bait and I started one last loop, again heading back towards the breakwall as the wind had picked up and was blowing us offshore.
Then the drag starts screaming and I see some big flashes of silver on the surface so I knew it was a good fish, maybe a mackerel.
He gave me a good tow around but I was trying to go gently as I really couldn’t cope with dropping another good fish and this was my last chance for this year.
After towing me in several directions, my least favourite being off shore with the wind, it started circling and I knew it was a tuna but it kept passing under the yak and as I held the rod close to the bow, the kayak just kept going round and round and round in circles until I was getting quite dizzy ( it must have looked pretty funny from where Jon was sitting).
At last he came to the surface and on his first pass of the yak I sunk the gaff with such an amazing feeling of relief, which was followed with a feeling of ‘oh shit look at the size of it, what the hell do I do now’.
The wind had blown us out quite wide so I just pulled him into my foot well, half sat on his tail so I could get a foot on the rudder pedal and started paddling for home.
It’s the biggest fish I’ve boated on the yak and it’s taken 4 years in some pretty crap conditions at SWR to do it but it’s amazing how it all seems worth while.
Again this place has taught me so much about myself and fishing when I thought I knew it all.
longtail tuna and a small yellowfin tuna

longtail tuna and a small yellowfin tuna

the rough with the smooth

Most trips on the kayak are primarily about the fishing and the photography can be a bit opportunistic, but occasionally on days like this the camera becomes number one and a large portion of the fishing gear gets left at home.
It starts with no fishing gear but on the occasions that I’ve done that the fish pop up everywhere and snigger as I pass by, so I throw in one rod to wipe the smile off their face and maybe another just in case all hell breaks loose.
The trouble with summer is that if you want to be on the water before sunrise, your head has to be scraped off the pillow at about 3.30 am.
You have to weigh up whether to get up in time for a coffee to catapult you into the day for bask in those extra few moment of sleep and gradually wake up on your drive to the launch site.
I planned for option one and defaulted to option two.
Standing at the boat ramp with more cameras than rods I felt uneasy about the forecast two metre seas and decided to wait for the light to come up and get a better look at the situation.
This wasn’t going to get in the way of the photography though, so I kitted up in waterproof gear and headed off around the rocks (I usually get wetter on the rocks than I do in the kayak).
Malabar has an ocean pool and that seemed like a good spot to start.
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As the light came up I knew I had made the right decision, a bit of swell makes for some good shots but the sea around the headlands was huge.
I camped out on the rocks whilst the sun finished  it’s morning show before packing up and heading for Botany Bay and some calm water.
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After the wilderness of the coast, the bay felt pretty industrialised but I launched at La Perouse and paddled over to the breakwall at Molineux PointI might as well go with the feel of the place.
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You may have noticed that I’m a bit partial to a good reflection and my shots from the day make it look like a mill pond but in fact it’s hardly ever  that smooth and I had to paddle around to find the smooth patches on the water, they can be formed by fish oil from bait fish or current lines with changes in water temperature and of course in Botany bay I guess it could just be fuel from the ships.
I was lucky as there was a patch by the breakwall and after about forty minutes of drifting around, the planets aligned for me to get the shot I was after.
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Happy that the shot was in the bag, I headed out towards the ships in search of some more smooth water.
There’s something about ships from a low angle that reminds me of Thunderbirds.
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No fish were sighted, two rods did the job.

capture by the sea

It’s that time of year when the elements conspire to give you all the reasons you need not to see Sculpture by the Sea.
If you do make it, it is always worth the effort and if you miss it, still go, the coastal walk is worth it on its own.
Locals are probably bored with photographs of it but for me the variety and the different interpretations of each sculpture is great to see.
I guess I look at the sculptures in my own way, I love the ones you can get close to, the ones that reflect the light and interact with their surroundings. These sculptures will change throughout the day as the light shifts, they’ll photograph completely differently with clouds, sunrise, sunset or blue sky. It feels like they have been laid out for everyone with a camera to interpret in their own way.
The variety of shots I have seen, got me thinking that it would be great to see these uploaded in one place, where each sculpture could have its own gallery of images and the public could both upload and vote on their favourites. There are some brilliant shots out there and it’s interesting seeing such variety on the same subject matter.
According to the Sculpture by the Sea website, this does actually exist but good luck trying to find it.
Sculpture by the see.
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