Thursday, September 28, 2006

Get Into Footy, Boots 'N' All

The Biggest Football Game Of The Year

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
I'm pretty happy with this shot, as it captures two of the most recognisable symbols of Melbourne.
On the right is the historic dome of Flinders Street Station (for more pictures of this landmark, check out There Is Nothing Like A Dome) and on the left is a larger-than-life representation of the Australian Football League premiership cup.
It is presented to the winner of the Grand Final, to be held on the turf of the MCG (that's the Melbourne Cricket Ground) this Saturday.
The League comprises sixteen teams from around the country, with a home-and-away season comprising 22 gruelling rounds. If you want more information about the game, visit the Australian Football League website. This year's Grand Final - between the Western Australia-based West Coast Eagles and the New South Wales-based Sydney Swans - is a repeat of last year's contest.
And of course, because the trophy has such prominent handles, you often hear the distinctly uncharitable theory bandied about that they were crafted to represent the rather prominent ears of the heir to Britain's throne.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Flickr, Flickr, Little Star

Testing The Gravity Of The Situation

I wasn't aware that US entrepreneur and space tourist Anousheh Ansari was posting pictures from her shuttle mission until I made my daily visit to Biz Stone and realised that he has already posted a link to some of her shots. To those of you unfamiliar with Biz, he is the author of two books, Who Let The Blogs Out and Blogging. Well, I don't need to say any more, except that the picture of Anousheh Ansari and the apple casts new light on Sir Isaac Newton's research on the subjects of gravity and motion.

The Legend Of Bagger Advance

Come And Get Your Showbags

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
Without doubt the biggest attraction (yep, even bigger than the livestock, and we're really talking BIG) of the annual Melbourne Show is, of course, the myriad showbags catering to all ages and interests.
There are Dora the Explorer showbags and Cars showbags and Wiggles showbags for the youngest fans, cooler merchandise for the teenagers and even stuff for parents.
Because there is such a bewildering selection, newspapers actually publish ``showbag guides'' which families set aside so they can pore over them for hours, to try and assist the decision-making process.
Interestingly enough, the showbag concept started long before the marketing experts realised it was a bonanza. Manufacturers used to give bags of goodies away - free - at the Show, to entice visitors to buy their products. For decades, showbags have been the ultimate status symbol during the Show - and of course they are no longer free!
I've included the second picture merely for novelty value, because it was taken with my camera held high above my head. It just shows you how crowded - but orderly - the showbag hall can get, even on a day when the weather isn't too flash.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Discontent Of Our Winter

The Tale Of A Dolphin's Prosthetic Tail

Spotted a fascinating yarn today on
about a gravely injured dolphin, named Winter, that might get a prosthetic tail. Marine scientist Steve McCulloch, director of dolphin and whale research at the Florida Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution is hoping to work out the logistics - and cost - of the exercise. According to the story on the website, the prosthesis would be the first for a dolphin that lost its tail and the key joint that allows it to move in powerful up-and-down strokes. A partial prosthesis for a Japanese dolphin, called Fuji, cost $100,000 back in 2004 and Winter is likely to need three, as she grows.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Rhinestone Choirboys

For `King' And Country

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
These two blokes were as bold as - well, as bold as brass, if you like - at the Melbourne Show yesterday evening. I spotted them a few seconds before they moved on, but I just had time to shoot one frame before they left.
To my left was another photographer, obviously a professional, judging by his gear. I didn't recognise him, but judging by the picture in the `Herald Sun' this morning, the photographer was Gary Richardson. His picture was a vertical frame, whereas I went for the horizontal shot.
I didn't have time to ask the two Elvis impersonators who they were. But the newspaper caption identifies them as Luke and Greg, better known as Viva Las Elvis. Apart from the jumpsuits, wigs and sunglasses, these two even sported outsized rings on their fingers and replica precious stones on their impossibly wide belts.
If you want to invite them around for a traditional Aussie barbecue, just remember: they love meat tender.

An Effluent Society

We'll Drink To That

Great story in the Herald Sun this morning, revealing that up to 13.5 million litres of treated sewage is pumped each day from Melbourne's Lilydale treatment plant into Olinda Creek. The operative word here is ``treated''; and the investigation mentions that the effluent has been filtered and disinfected. The paper also quoted Victorian Water Minister John Thwaites, who said: ``The water is stored in such a way and treated to such an extent that by the time it gets to Melbourne's drinking system there is no measurable trace of treated or recycled water. Melbourne's water supplies are among the cleanest in the world.''

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gnome Man's Land

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Has anyone seen Allen Snyder's garden gnome? The red-and-white statuette disappeared from the Morgantown, West Virginia, garden - and has not been sighted since. The 30cm ornament seems to be travelling the country, judging by photos in Snyder's mailbox this week. The pictures showed the gnome surrounded by Steelers fans at Pittsburgh's home game. Does Snyder know who's responsible? He's not 100 per cent sure, but he says he has a lot of friends who enjoy pulling pranks.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ship Happens

Shining Example Provides Light Relief

All photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I guess there is something innately comforting in the sight of a lighthouse - even if you're not a mariner.

Apart from harking back to an era when they were the only way of warning ships away from treacherous rocks and other hazards, they still serve a purpose, even in this age of technology.

I took these pictures this afternoon, in wild and windy conditions on the St Kilda foreshore here in Melbourne. As you can see from the white-capped waves in the first frame, the wind was really whipping across the foreshore and while I stood there, it was like getting sand-blasted, too.

The contrast between the first and second frames show you just how much grunt the 18-125 lens has, on this Pentax K100. The first frame shows not just the lighthouse, but the container vessel on the horizon, to its right. On the other hand, the second frame shows the whole scene, without invoking the great qualities of the zoom. You can't even see a hint of the ship.

And the third frame? I just included it here because I was hoping to get some seagulls in the frame, with the lighthouse. I watched these gulls for a few seconds and tracked them with the camera. They were being fairly heavily buffeted by the wind, but I shot this frame just as they headed out to sea - with one to the left of the lighthouse and one to the right. Just a lucky shot.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Water Under The Bridge

And look, there's a bloke, too!

I'm not sure I'd emulate Florida man Mark Giorgio, who, according to the Sarasota Herald Tribune dived 16 metres into the Manatee River this week, when a $20 bill was blown out of his grasp into the Manatee River. It's a pretty big effort, especially when you consider he already had a broken collarbone. The good news is that he did not sustain any more injuries in the plunge - even though he had to swim another 100 metres to retrieve the note. Please don't criticise him for going to all that effort for the twenty. Think of the lengths that some people go to when they're chasing three tenors.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jose, Can You See ...

(By Dawn's Yearly Light)

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is a really rare shot because it's not often you get the waning moon and the rising sun in the same frame.

You can see the three-quarter moon in the top left-hand quadrant of this shot. I don't need to tell you where the sun is. But you can see that the sun is actually 180 degrees away, completely out of the picture. What you see is merely the reflection of the rising sun on the glass exterior of one of the buildings that makes up this segment of Melbourne's skyline.

This image, shot with a Pentax K100 digital SLR, has not been enhanced in any way. What you see is what I shot. Simple as that.

The colours and tones that you see here are exactly the colours and tones I saw through the lens.

I was just lucky, because it was a cloudless morning, one of those crispy early spring morning when there has been a touch of frost. And you have to take into account one critical element - given the gradually changing position of the sun through the year, there are only about seven or eight days annually where the sunrise is wholly reflected in the windows of this building.

Work it out mathematically. A maximum of eight days out of 365. That's a minuscule window of opportunity. But then you have to take into account the rapidly diminishing probability that you'll see the moon at the same time. Low cloud or even scattered cloud generally obscures the moon at sunrise.

But I was blessed with the trifecta (no cloud at all AND the waning moon AND the rising sun) - hey, how lucky could I get?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pilates Of The Caribbean

That's The Object Of The Exercise

My impeccably-credentialled colleague, Kit Galer, told me today he had chuckled at my recent post, titled `Many Miles To The Galleon'. But in the same breath, Kit told me the post headline `Jurassic Bark' from a few days ago, was a dreadful pun - then he unashamedly added that maybe I would like to make some sort of pithy comment about ``pilates of the Caribbean.''

Yup. Thanks very much, Kit. This one's for you.

It's all about skill and crossbones.

This Must Be An Orlando Bloom

Looks Like There's Been A Growth Spurt

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The colours in Melbourne's gardens are always diverse in September. These pictures show exactly what I'm talking about. The weather, however, is still a bit of a lottery at the moment. Two days ago it was about 18 degrees (that's Celsius, of course), then yesterday the mercury suddenly went up to 28 degrees and today the top temperature is back to about 18. Still, it's been a good start to spring, with plenty of sunshine, although the drought has led to a new round of water restrictions.

Tomb It May Concern

Sir, We Have An Extra Terra Cotta Warrior

In Xi'an, China, yesterday, it seemed someone had doubled up on roll call. German art student Pablo Wendel, wearing an elaborate costume, posed as a terracotta warrior beside the thousands of world-famous terra cotta warriors. He was interviewed by police after he climbed into the warriors' pit at the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi, who ruled China between 221-210 B.C. A good thing the place wasn't shut down as a result of his prank - that would have beeen a case of the Emperor's new close.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Many Miles To The Galleon

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Jest

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Okay, so why am I posting this picture? Because it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day today.

You think I'm kidding? Nope. It really is, me hearties. This huge hoarding of Cap'n Jack Sparrow and his co-stars can be seen on Waverley Road, Melbourne. It is high on the side of a building and the only way I could get the shot to show the blue-grey brick wall on the left was to include the eaves of a nearby shopfront on the right.

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum. What else do pirates say? Ah yes, don't they brandish their cutlasses and chant: ``Dead men tell no tales?'' No, I've got that wrong; I think it should be ``Deaf men tell no tales''. Either that, or I've been tricked - Hook, line and sinker.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Give Peace A Chant

Excuse Me, Is This The Norse Pole?

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

These totem poles can be seen in Dandenong, in south-east Melbourne. They are a compelling sight in what is a busy commercial precinct dominated by office blocks and restaurants. I couldn't help noticing that the Sixties peace sign is a central image, at eye level, on one of them. A Canadian travel guide, Tom Ryan, told me during a 1999 trip to Vancouver that the word ``totem'' actually came from the dialect brought by Spanish adventurers. That put to rest my misconception that the word was part of the First Nation languages. If you've got some more information on the subject, feel free to post a comment.

Come On, I Lean

No Midnight Runners For Segway Owners

Segway manufacturers are leaning towards safety, with the weekend recall of about 23,500 of the urban scooters. Seems the problem is software-related. The scooters, controlled not by a steering mechanism but by the rider leaning one way or the other, have been bedevilled by sudden changes in direction. The recall is laudable, but we're guessing it was a decision made by the, er, steering committee.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Bottle Of Trafalgar

Time For The Big Brush-Off

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The start of spring (yes, it's the first month of spring Down Under) coincides with the flowering of several varieties of wattle and, of course, the plant I've photographed here as well.

It's called a bottlebrush. Why? Because its blooms look exactly like the sort of brush that is used to scrub the inside of a bottle.

It's a variety of acacia (can someone can tell me exactly what the botanical name is?) and the scarlet bottlebrush that I've photographed here is the most common variety. The first picture is front-on, so you can see the myriad dots that look like LEDs (light-emitting diodes), one on the end of each individual spike. The second picture is more side-on and both shots show you the fresh green foliage that surrounds each bloom.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

All Systems Glow

This Is Literally A Bright Prospect

All photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I guess this series of three photographs says it all when it comes to the versatility of the Pentax K100 I'm testing at the moment, which has the compact 18-125 lens.

I took these shots on Thursday evening, when I just happened to be driving down a street at sunset. I quickly parked in the first spot I found and just thought I would make use of the trees and their foliage to fringe the pictures.

The first frame shows the entire streetscape and the golden glow down across the bitumen, illuminating the central white line on the road surface.

For the second shot, I opted for a much tighter composition. I was lucky, because the sun was just sinking into a low cloudbank. Even the overhead wires do not detract from the quality of the shot - I guess in a way they prove that the picture is shot spontaneously and is not contrived in any way.

In a way, my favourite is the third shot, the vertical composition. I was just lucky to have a tall tree on the right of the street and I only had to walk about 20 metres to use it to my advantage and give the shot some perspective, with the three or four low trees on the left.

This enabled me to get lots of sky into the frame, which in turn shows you the great quality of light here in Melbourne. The sky spans every colour, from gold at the bottom of the frame to azure up the top. And the interesting thing is that the light cloud up the top of the frame actually has a pink tinge to it.

Just a lucky series of shots, I reckon. What do you think? Let me know .....

And if you have (or have seen) some memorable sunrise or sunset pictures, tell me about them.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Low And Behold

Looks Like Trouble At The Branch Office
Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Some things were never meant to mix, right? So what do you do when high trucks are expected to share a street with low branches? No, this is not a trick photograph. These two signs are literally placed a few metres apart on Dandenong Road, Melbourne. But the interesting thing is, they are roughly at an angle of ninety degrees from one another. Like a cartoon character, I had to do a double-take when I realised the incongruity of the signage. After I'd parked the car and got my camera out, I realised it wasn't a simple shot to take. In order to get both signs in the frame, I had to take the shot from the middle of the pedestrian crossing. Because it's a very quick-changing light, I just about had time to shoot this frame - while I walked!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Jurassic Bark

In Melbourne, Spring Is In The Air

Photos copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The fruit trees around Melbourne have been like a cloudburst of colour for the past month, as the city emerges from winter. The cherry blossoms have come and gone like temporary pink froth. Now, just before the roses produce the first burst of early spring colour and perfume, the peach and quince trees are blooming. I stopped to photograph this tree, with its new green leaves and the white flowers, like snowy pom-poms. I took the first shot and then I noticed how the strong afternoon light was playing across the gnarled grey bark. I simply had to shoot the second frame. This time I made the tree bark the main point of focus, instead of the flowers. I'm sure you'll agree the second frame is a much better photograph, not just because of the variation in colour and texture, but because there is more of the brilliant blue sky as well.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

River Deep, Mountain Haiku

A Real Window Of Opportunity

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

What's the best way to test the versatility of a camera? I reckon it's when you use the camera in bad light, so as to assess every aspect of its functionality. As regular visitors to this blog would know, I do enjoy photographing in low-light conditions (see the posts titled `Dude, Where's My Carp?' and `The King And I' and you'll see what I mean).

So here are a couple of shots, taken from right across the Yarra river, that establish the credentials of the Pentax K100. The 18-125 lens is very compact and literally morphs from a stub into a bayonet. I took both these shots before sunrise, in steady rain - and through a window! I should point out here that, like all my work displayed on this blog or published in print on three continents, I do not manipulate or Photoshop any of the photographs. So read on ...

The first picture, the skyline shot, is really unusual because it's taken from a high-rise building, which gives the photograph a rather unique perspective. In other words, I'm shooting parallel, not upwards. To shoot through the window, I disabled the flash (easy to do on any digital camera, even pre-SLR models) so that I would not get unwanted reflection or distortion.

I did not shoot and review the picture and re-shoot until I was satisfied. I fired off just one frame. Then I unfurled the lens to its full extent - and shot the second picture. Again, just one frame. Pretty good result, because the lens takes you all the way into the clock tower of Flinders Street station. And the key factor to bear in mind is that I was deliberately testing in a combination of poor conditions - pre-sunrise, in rainy conditions and through a window, remember?

As the clock shows so clearly, it was only 6.35 am - and if you look to the right and slightly below the clcok, you can even see the tram stop, which for the benefit of non-Melburnians looks like an illuminated, golden figure 1.

Stand by for more results of this test pattern ....

Friday, September 08, 2006

Must Be Noah's Arch

Or Else, It's A Steep Learning Curve

Photos copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Both these pictures were taken this afternoon, on the pedestrian footbridge across the Yarra that connects the CBD to Southbank. Both were taken with the Pentax K100. The first shot, looking north across the river, shows part of the city's distinctive skyline. The second, looking south, shows the top of the Eureka building. The pictures are proof, too, of Melbourne's quirky weather. I must point out that the second shot was taken about 90 seconds after the first. Yet the first image shows a patchy, mainly grey sky while the second, with the point of focus literally only a few degrees away, shows a brilliant blue sky unsullied by even a trace of cloud.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Towers Mahal

A sound and delight show

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Both these photographs were taken with a Pentax K 100, an impressive digital SLR that I am reviewing at the moment. The shots are both of the pre-dawn Melbourne skyline, from a rather unusual angle. Most people traditionally prefer to shoot the skyline with the river in the foreground, but I honestly reckon this viewpoint, just beyond the rapidly developing Southbank precinct, shows how Melbourne is evolving. For those of you unfamiliar with our landmarks, the tall spire is Eureka Towers, the highest structure in the southern hemisphere.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Red-hot chilli poppers

GDP - that's growth domestic product

Does anyone know what this plant is? I spotted it in Bali, where it seems to grow fairly profusely. The blooms caught my eye because I like photographing quirky stuff - but I guess regular visitors to this blog would already be aware of that.

With the blossoms' vivid colour and the way they grow in clusters, they reminded me of Chinese firecrackers, even to the way they seem to be strung together.

The edge of each mature blossom is tinged with yellow which then begins to sprout miniature plumes, almost like a crab's pincers.

As you can see in the picture, one set of blossoms is more mature than the other. The plumes have formed on the blossoms on the left-hand side, while the other one, on the right, has only a couple that have sprouted on the bottom.

If any of you horticultural folk could help, that would be great. Or we could start by a canny process of elimination. Here goes. It's not a rose, it's not a crysanthemum, it's not a dahlia, it's not an azelea ....