Monday, December 31, 2007

It All Adds Up

Thank You For All Your Support

No blog could ever be popular without people who read it regularly and comment on it every day, just as no book would be a bestseller if people didn't buy it. So it is with great gratitude that I say to all of you that this blog probably wouldn't exist without your support. A few hours ago, I received my 50,000 hit - an appropriate milestone on the last day of the year. My very humble thanks to all of you for your support. I'm also on the verge of my 85,000th page view, and my Technorati authority is 252 and climbing. It's all thanks to you ....

Turn The Corner

Pick A Colour, Any Colour

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

What does a photographer do when you see two streets that converge in this unusual manner? You get as close as you can to the corner, to try and capture the way the walls meet. This shot was taken at Clarke Quay, Singapore. The place is simply a visual treat for a photographer or an artist. While I was there, I felt like the nursery rhyme character Little Jack Horner. Every time I came to a corner, there were more surprises for me.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I Spy

Does Anyone Recognise This Bloke?

This interview appeared in The Statesman recently. Mathures Paul is the assistant features editor of the paper and he wanted to time this article to mark the fact that I have handed over my second novel, 'Muskoka Maharani', to Penguin, my publishers. If you want to read the text of the interview, just go to Booked For Life. Do let me know what you think ....

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Three Men In A Tub

Make Sure You Give It A Really Good Scrub

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

On my first day in Singapore, I saw this person scrubbing down a glass-top tourist boat at Clarke Quay. It sure didn't look dirty to me, but he would hose down an area, then give it a vigorous going-over with a long-handled mop. Then he'd move on to the next area and repeat the process. He grinned and nodded when I asked if I could photograph him, so this is my contribution to this week's theme.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Party Time

Time To Let Your Hair Down

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

As I said a few weeks ago, today is The Great Aussie Christmas Bash. It's all explained in the post You're All Invited. Everyone's invited and you don't need to travel anywhere. It's an e-party and it's happening here. It starts now, because it's the morning of 27 December here in Melbourne - and it continues for almost two days, until it clicks over to midnight on 27-28 December in the US and Canada. Drop in, leave a comment and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Joy Hind

Indian Bowling Has Plenty Of Appeal

For the myriad cricket fans out there, here are some random observations from the first day of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. Do let me know if you agree - irrespective of the fact that when I was in my twenties, I was fortunate enough to be an international cricket writer.

* This India-Australia series is the most important battle of the year.

* Bravo, India, for taking five top-order wickets for just 106 runs (Jaques, Hayde, Ponting, Hussey and Clarke) to reduce the home side from 135-1 to 241-5.

* Any Test side would be fairly comfortable at 276-5, but when Australia loses its top order for less than 300, it is big news.

Away, Photographing A Manger

Homage To A Humble Birth

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

When our kids were little, we took great care to remind them that despite the hoopla of Christmas and gift-giving (hey, who doesn't love a Christmas gift!!) the real celebration is of a humble birth in a stable, where the first-time mother was surrounded by hay and animals. This Christmas tableau commemorating those scenes was on Orchard Road, Singapore. The real achievement here was in hitting the shutter when there was not a single person walking in front of the tableau, simply gazing at it or even photographing it. Believe me, that is some feat! From my family to yours, I hope you have a great Christmas with people who matter.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Great Big Raffle

I'm Dreaming Of A Red Christmas

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The Raffles Hotel in Singapore is the ultimate reference point in a) luxury and b) colonial history. This shot (above) was taken from the front of the hotel and perhaps gives you an idea of the huge scale of the decorations. The hotel, by the way, is named after Sir Stamford Raffles.

The second shot (above) was also taken from the sweeping semi-circular driveway and gives you some idea of the size of the bow. The arched windows are about fifteen to eighteen feet tall (between five and six metres) from the topmost point of the arch to the bottom of the window. When you think about it, the weight of those decorations would be considerable. I guess they would need specialists to put them up, with considerable skill and great dexterity.

This last shot (above) was taken in the famous courtyard of the Raffles Hotel. Along with the graceful arched wreaths, you can also see the landmark "RH" in stained glass in the front of this food pagoda as well as in the background of the picture.

The Tower Of Bauble

Welcome To A Singapore Christmas

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

A week ago, I was in Singapore where I spotted this elaborate tower of silver and gold baubles of many shapes and sizes. I took three or four shots before I realised I could try and focus on a central bauble high above my head. By doing so, I could capture a view of the arcade as well as a clear view of Singapore in the reflection. Look carefully and you'll see me reflected in the middle of the bauble as well. Then look below my feet and you'll see the beautiful gold decorations reflected from far below. The second shot (below) is a different view of the same thing. By this time, it had started to rain and I was looking for somewhere to shelter.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dress Circle

Beware Of Curves Above Your Head

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken at the Forest Research Institute in Dehra Dun, northern India, during my recent visit there. This scene caught my eye not just because of the curve of the balcony, but because I could also include two other curves in the frame - the metal railing and also the gentle arch of the high passageway. Many curves and great shadow and light - you can't ignore a sight like that,

Light Relief

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

With this week's Photo Hunt theme being "Light", I've got some great contenders from my trip to Singapore and India, but not one of them tells a story like this sequence. These three shots were taken during a fairly clear, cloudless morning about five or six months ago, during our Melbourne winter. In this first shot (above) I was intrigued by the "white" sunshine reflected in the windows of the building on the left-hand side of the frame, and also by the rays of light from the highest floors of the Commonwealth Bank building in the middle.

The second shot (above) was taken about three minutes later and it's a much tighter frame of the same scene. Can you see anything unusual? There is just the slightest hint of something, if you look really carefully!

This (above) is the final frame in the sequence, taken about five minutes after the first shot. You can now see the skyscraper that was completely hidden in the first shot. It's not often you see a fog like this on a clear day with blue sky and a bright sun. I call it a "blue sky fog" but I'm sure there is a proper meteorological name for it. On a technical note, I'd just like to point out that these buildings were on the other side of the Yarra River from where I shot this sequence, so I would not have been able to frame these shots so tightly without a 125mm lens.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Picture This

Memory Cards And Christmas Cards

Here I am at Changi airport in Singapore, waiting for my flight back to Melbourne. The past week has been a whirlwind across three countries and now I'm finally on my way home for Christmas. I'm writing this post at an airport cafe and even though it's 6.30 in the morning, the airport is buzzing. At my feet is my cabin bag, containing my laptop, SD memory cards and camera.

I've been backing up my photographs throughout the trip and if my maths is as good as it used to be, I've shot about 2000 images since I left home. I have many sights to share and many tales to tell, so I guess this blog is going to be quite busy after I get home. Stay tuned and I hope you all have a great time leading up to Christmas. Meanwhile, I have a window seat for my connecting flight to Melbourne, so I'll be looking out for Santa's sleigh all the way home.

Great Way To Start The Day

It Was Just A Snap Decision

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

While you're reading this, I'm on a flight from Singapore to Melbourne, but I had to post this anyway! One of the best decisions I made when I got this Pentax K100D, my first digital SLR, was that I would have the camera with me at all times when I was out of the house. It's a decision that has earned me some amazing photographs. I guess that's why they're called "snapshots" - because they're taken on a whim, in an instant, on the spur of the moment.

I was walking across from Flinders Street station when I noticed the beautiful hues in the sky. I could have composed a frame with just the sky colours, but I always prefer to have my surroundings in the shot, to give it more than just one point of reference. In this case, the illuminated T is a sign from the nearby Transit restaurant and the traffic sign is from a pedestrian crossing to Federation Square.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Roads Scholar

It's All About Cross Purposes

Like George Washington telling his father about the cherry tree, I simply have to confess to you, my gentle readers, that I flunked the ultimate test yesterday. I almost failed to cross an Indian road. It's a veritable art form, as I know so well. It can be a foxtrot without a partner, because you have to be fleet of foot, you have to be nimble and you have to occasionally sidestep and pirouette. Like dancing, you can sometimes fall flat on your backside.

Yesterday I airily tried to cross a narrow street here in Dehra Dun - and almost landed in ungainly fashion on my butt. I negotiated the first side of the street, with traffic coming from my right. Then I was almost ninety per cent across the second side of the street, with traffic coming from my left. And at that precise point of time, a motorcyclist roared past me, forcing me to retreat like a quickstep from Torvill and Dean.

How did I make such a basic error? I didn't. The motorcyclist was ignoring all rule of road decency and going the wrong way, at high speed. It was such a close shave I guess I can put my razor away for tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Warmest Greetings

Will You Wear Our Wares?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Here is another shot taken out of the window of our four-wheel-drive as it sped up the narrow highway from New Delhi to Dehra Dun on Sunday morning. I had my Pentax around my neck right through the journey and would gladly have stopped at least two hundred times to capture each sight I saw. But we had a long journey to make and this entire series of images was a real test of my skill, resilience and anticipation.

Try framing a shot through the open window of a moving vehicle and you'll understand what I mean. Apart from our speed, there was also the slight juddering across the often uneven surface of the highway (or the road shoulder) when I struggled to keep the camera steady in my right hand, using my left hand as a makeshift tripod.

This was taken just outside New Delhi. The pullovers (jumpers, we call them in Australia) are all hand-knitted and I guess the reason they are displayed in this fashion is to catch the attention of travellers or truck drivers who are slowly succumbing to the bitter cold that grips northern India at this time of year.

You'll never see a display showroom quite like this!

Military Precision

Roll Out That Red Carpet, Please

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

On Monday we were guests at the Indian Military Academy here in Dehra Dun. We were on our way from a splendid DVD presentation about the history and the aims of the academy, to be ushered into the magnificent Chetwood Hall. I stopped as everyone else walked on. My attention had been caught by this sight, a simple hallway lit by the mid-morning sunshine, with reflections rippling across the polished tiles.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What A Load Of Bullocks

This Is The Slow Lane On The Highway

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

For someone like me, being back in India is like returning to the comforting embrace of an old favourite blanket. It smells familiar. It feels familiar. Its rustle is familiar. I slip into it instantly. I revel in it. This country is where life began for me. This is where I was blessed with an education and an upbringing to cherish as long as I live.

I come here now - as I have several times in the past twenty years - with an Australian passport and a neutral accent that I call a "United Nations accent" because it is hard to place and has inflections that hint of a global upbringing. I come here with an open heart and an open mind. I revel in returning to this wonderful country.

This photograph was taken on Sunday morning, along the narrow two-lane highway from the Indian capital, New Delhi, to the hill town of Dehra Dun in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state. It is a slow procession of bullock carts, impossibly laden but proceeding with stately elegance and steady pace (if you can call it pace) up from the vast historic plains where the three battles of Panipat were fought, centuries ago.

As a child, I was fortunate to make many road trips across this land. But this journey is somehow symbolic. Now I am a novelist and I am a photographer. Now I am in a part of the country where I have never been before. Now it is my pleasure to chronicle the Garhwal hills and to capture the sights that caught my attention as a schoolboy. This slow, creaking convoy is one of thousands, every day, every week, every month. This photograph salutes all the bullock-cart drivers who take their cargo wherever it is required. This image is my salute to them.

Is This The Benchmark?

Nothing Better Than A Shadow On A Sunny Day

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Many things attract many photographers, but shadows always catch my attention. This shot was taken on a sunny evening at Southbank here in Melbourne and I guess in a way it tells the story of this city. Look in the background and you'll see the pedestrian footbridge across the Yarra, connecting the river's south and north banks. The south is the central business district, while the north is the newer arts precinct and more modern commercial premises. It's a city built on water, where we're never short of a bench for quiet contemplation among the seagulls and the tourist cruise vessels.

The Grin Reaper

Open (Wide) For Business

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

No, it's not an advertisement for a staging of The Mouth That Roared. But I saw this sign one afternoon and had to photograph it. The second shot (below) is also interesting because not only can you see inside, but you ca see the street scene in the reflection on the glass as well. Maybe the pink upholstery is conducive to soothing the nerves of patients-in-waiting. Look carefully in the window and you'll see the reflection of the cars parked behind me, as well as the leafy branches of a tree on the opposite side of the street. You must admit it's a very clean window pane. Or, because it's a dental surgeon, is it a case of window pain?

Cacophony Of Comfort

Greetings From An Indian Cyber Cafe

You're wondering why I'm on the other side of the world, high in the Garwahl hills of northern India? You reckon I should be back home in Melbourne, getting ready for the gastronomic delights of the Yuletide season? But there is a simple explanation. I'm in India for four days because my nephew is getting married tomorrow. This is a part of India I've never been to before. Last night we were up in the old British hill station of Mussoorie, where the temperature was just one degree and where it had snowed a couple of days earlier. I'm typing this on a recalcitrant keyboard in a cyber cafe in Dehra Dun, where the door is open and all the familiar sights and sounds of this country have embraced me again, like a faithful old friend.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lead, Kindly Light

To Be Shore, To Be Shore

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I often get asked by up-and-coming photographers when they should use a long lens. My reply is always the same: follow your instinct. What was your attention drawn to? A detail from the scene in front of you? Then zoom in on the detail. Was your attention drawn to the vista as a whole? Then focus on the entire scene.

Often, there is merit in both. This picture (above) was taken at St Kilda beach on a September afternoon when the wind was whipping the waves into whitecaps. I wanted to capture the entire scene, the blue sky, the scudding feathers of cloud, the lighthouse and the sweep of the beach.

I use a Sigma 18-125mm lens, which gives me a great range of options. It telescopes beautifully, so it's easy to carry. Immediately after I took the first shot, I unfurled the 125mm lens and took the second shot (below) from exactly the same spot. There's merit in both shots, which brings me back to my original message. Follow your instincts. You'll never go wrong.

Look Sharp

Cutting Edge Technology From Yesteryear

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Quite by chance, I caught sight of this contraption recently. I'm not sure what it's called, but it obviously goes back a few decades. I guess you'd call it a paper dispenser-cum-cutter. When I saw it, it had a thick reel of brown wrapping paper on its spool. And I guess the heavy chrome-plated blade is utilised to neatly tear off as much paper as you need. It took me a few seconds to figure out how to present one frame showing the businesslike blade, the contoured arm and the thickness of the paper reel. I figure this sort of contraption would have been fairly common in old stores where products were wrapped after being purchased. Any clues, anyone?

Weekend wandering
  • If you got the chance to go back to your childhood, whom would you like to say thank you to?

  • When did you last write or receive a love letter?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ribbons Across The River

Even In Darkness, You Can Find Colour

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Sometimes you see something that just stops you in your tracks. This was taken some weeks ago, in pitch black conditions. But the thing that really caught my attention was the ribbon-like pattern of the lights on the inky surface of the river.

My good friend, the Canadian blogger Allan Cook, reckons when I have a camera in my hand, I am irrevocably drawn to water. You know what - I think he's right. Maybe it's the fact that I spent my childhood a stone's throw away from water. Or maybe it's because you never know what mysteries you'll see on the surface of the water. On this occasion, the shimmering colours below the Swan Street bridge were impossible to resist.


Miles To Go Before I Sleep

The View From Seat Number 39K

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

You know my credo about always having a camera with arm's reach? Each flight I've taken on this trip, I've had the camera at my side. This shot was taken about ninety minutes before my Singapore Airlines flight landed in New Delhi a few hours ago. Look carefully at the leading edge of the wing, near past the engine nacelle - and you'll see a delicate reflection of the colours in the sky.

About fifteen minutes before I took this shot, I was gazing out over the wing. I suddenly spotted a little silvery-white object reflected on the surface of the wing, moving from left to right. Realising that the reflection could only be caused by something above us, I looked up. And there, maybe a thousand metres above us and travelling in the opposite direction was a mid-size jet, about the size of a Gulfstream.

You're thinking: did I get the picture? Er, no. Even though I had my camera with me, I had my meal on my tray and I didn't have time to get the camera out of the case, get the lens cover off and fire off a couple of frames. It would have been a really rare shot in wonderful light conditions, because the Gulfstream's silver fuselage was reflecting the light of the setting sun.

But when you figure the nitty-gritty, the combined speed of both flights would have been well in excess of a thousand kilometres an hour, so I had only a couple of seconds to juggle my meal tray, and extricate the camera and switch it on. Maybe I should have taken a circus performer's course in juggling. And perhaps majored in Contortionism 101 as well.

PS: I did chuckle at Terry Fletcher's footnote a few hours ago, saying that I'm like a whirlwind. He's probably right, but this is one whirlwind that gets a lot of fun out of life!

Plane To See

Many Flights Of Fancy

So you're wondering why I haven't been visiting your blogs for the past three days? And you're wondering why I haven't been commenting on your blogs since Thursday? Well, there's a simple reson. I flew out of Melbourne early on Thursday morning and spent two days in Singapore. Right now I'm in New Delhi, India, where I've flown in for a wedding. The posts you see on this site are being published by Terry Fletcher in Portugal - because I didn't know how much internet access I'd have for this five-day period. So don't worry, I'm okay and I haven't forgotten about all of you. I'm here - but you just can't see me!

(comment by Terry: I know you regulars already know it, but keeping up with this guy is akin to "reaping the whirlwind" (whirlwind: a. A tumultuous, confused rush). But he will be back soon, so don't stop visiting or I will begin to think I've done something wrong!)


Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's A Small World

That's What You Call A Song And A Dance

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I recently attended a function hosted by the Peruvian Tourism authorities and all of us were given this little memento. It is a brightly coloured box, but when you open the little wooden doors, you see this miniature tableau inside. The bright patterns on both sides of this display are actually the doors after they are swung open. To me, it was a fascinating glimpse of a culture I would love to experience, both as a writer and as a photographer.

Spool Your Resources

Losing The Thread Of Conversation

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Sometimes you get an interesting photograph in a place where you least expect it. This was taken in a shop that sells sewing machines. I was intrigued by the way the cotton reels were displayed with military precision. I could have zoomed in close, but I thought a more open frame was better suited to this shot.

Take a close look. A really close look. Tell me what you see. You've been REALLY observant? Okay, so you noticed the protruding white rods. You noticed the black reels. You noticed the array of colours. Ah, but did you notice the shadows that add such a discreet dimension to the scene? Did you really? Leave me a comment and 'fess up ...

Air Farce One

Our Investment Is, Er, Up In The Air

Burnley Football Club in the UK had to call air traffic control after a promotional blimp was cut free during its maiden flight. The blimp, proudly displaying the club crest, was flown above Turf Moor ahead of the match against Queens Park Rangers. But within 90 minutes of it taking off, someone had scaled a wall, climbed on to the container it was attached to and cut through the reinforced steel tether. Experts said the helium-filled balloon could have travelled as far as Scotland. The club alerted air traffic control over the incident and the matter has been reported to the police. Footage from CCTV cameras, which sweep the car park where the balloon was tethered, did not capture the incident.

FOOTNOTE: Up, up and away.

Lille Error, Wrong Border

Are You Sure We're In France?

Fifty British shoppers taking a coach trip to Lille in France ended up 100 miles away in Belgium in a tiny village of the same name, thanks to a blunder on the driver's satellite-navigation device. Furious trippers spent an extra four hours on the bus as the red-faced driver drove from the middle of Belgium to the French spot first intended. The day trippers paid nearly $400 each for the Christmas trip, but got fewer than two hours' shopping time.

FOOTNOTE: Big blunder, but at least they're not Down Under.


The Invitation

Cap that ...

Here is your personal invitation to my e-bash on 27 December. If you are looking at it, you've received it, and it is impossible to lose. So relax, but make sure you mark the date in your calendar.

Mouse-over the invitation for some visual confusion!


Friday, December 14, 2007

Dr Heckle And Mister Jibe

Heckler Fits The Bill

Former US presidents are used to heckling, but from a robot? Bill Clinton was speaking in Iowa City this week when a man dressed in a silver metallic suit demanded that the former White House resident apologise for a comment he made in 1992 about a rapper named Sister Souljah, and then threw coloured cards into the air. As the protester was being escorted out of the room, Clinton told him he needed to find a more environmentally friendly way to protest.

FOOTNOTE: Hi-ho, Silver robot, away.

Streets Ahead

The Sun's Over The Yardarm

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was one of a series I shot in September 2006. I happened to be driving through a south-east Melboune suburb when I drove past this street. I caught a glimpse of an amazing sunset, but I didn't have my camera with me. So the next day, I made sure I was there at the same time to capture the scene. Fortunately, the weather was exactly the same and it was a fairly clear sky. This picture was the first in a sequence of 20.

Because I was so intent on the sun itself, I didn't appreciate the fact that the end of the street was bathed in a soft orange light, while the sky was almost lilac. Only when I viewed this image on my computer screen did I fully appreciate the value of this photograph. Remember when we were kids and we were always told to ensure we had the sun behind us when using a camera? I still chuckle at that, because I've lost count of the number of times I've pointed my camera directly at the sun.

Do You Have A Valid Licence, Sir?

Guess Who Drove My Cab Today?

Michael Schumacher can add the unofficial title of Germany's fastest taxi driver to his other achievements after taking over behind the wheel to get his family to the airport on time. The retired Formula One champion drove the cab back to the airport himself after a trip out to the village of Gehuelz, near Coburg in southern Germany, left the family short of time to make their flight home. "It was crazy having Schumi driving, with me in the passenger seat," the taxi driver was quoted as saying. The seven-time world champion, who stopped racing last year, gave the driver a 100 euro tip on top of the 60 euro fare.

Whose Lane Is This, Lois?

It Seemed Like A Bright Idea

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken in the city of Ballarat, in central Victoria. I was just fascinated by the sight of this lamp in a brick laneway beside McDonald's on historic Bakery Hill. Take a close look at the wrought iron frame that supports the lamp. It was probably cast in a local forge by some long-forgotten artisan. It's that sort of history that makes me stop and think. This photograph is not simply a chance to capture an unusual combination of ochre and black, but also a salute to the craftsman whose work is still beautiful in the twenty-first century.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Studds Farm

The Danger Of Making Assumptions

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Sometimes, assumptions can come completely unstuck. Yep, even assumptions made on the basis of what might seem perfect logic.

Consider this case. It was back in the days when I lived in India and edited a weekly sports magazine for a large media organisation. I was about twenty-four years old. At that stage, I rode a motorbike and wore one of the first locally manufactured full-face helmets. It was a Studds helmet, produced in Madras and after a couple of years, the sliding visor cracked when someone dropped a cricket bat on it.

The only way to replace it was to take the helmet all the way to Madras and have a new visor fitted by the Studds staff. Because I travelled a great deal, it was not long before I found myself booked on a flight for a two-day trip to Madras. I took an overnight bag with me, and carried the helmet in my hand. A very good friend of mine, the late sports journalist Ashok Kamath, met me at Madras airport and we walked out in deep conversation.

At the exit, someone asked me something in Tamil, a language I do not speak. The man was immediately rebuked by someone standing next to him. As we walked past them I asked Ashok what had just transpired. He chuckled and gave me a translation.

The first man had asked me if I wanted a cab or an auto-rickshaw. The second man had chided him for his apparent stupidity. ``Don’t you have eyes? The fellow is carrying a helmet, so he obviously has a motorcycle parked outside.’’

Perfectly logical. But oh, so wrong.

You Mean The World To Me

Let's Map Our Ambitions

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

As a little boy, I used to be fascinated by geography and by the sight of a large world globe that used to rotate on its axis. Little did I realise that before I reached the age of 25, my dream career as a sportswriter would take me to many of the exotic and historic places I first encountered on that globe.

This globe can be seen at Southbank in Melbourne. It often rotates and always catches my attention when I walk down the graceful curved staircase to the riverside promenade. Because I always like to explore angles with my photography, this shot is taken with an unusual perspective. Instead of shooting the globe while walking down the stairs, I took this with my back to the promenade, shooting straight up.

It's the only time you'll get this view of the world - unless you join NASA's astronaut programme.

Bee Grade

It's A Hive Of Activity

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Looks menacing, doesn't it? A giant golden bee looking down over a Melbourne building could spell trouble for everyone. Is it a spelling bee? No. It's one of a giant swarm ....

On the side of the building, it looks as though they have taken over the entire premises. Should we ring for the emergency services? Each bee is about nine feet long. Officer, this could be an eleborate sting.

Naaaah, relax. A couple of days ago, the giant golden bees were hoisted into place above the main entrance to Eureka Towers - by crane, naturally. They are part of an outstanding art installation commissioned by the building's architect, Nonda Katsalidis.

Leap Of Faith

Sounds Like The Grate Escape, Guv

Gotta love it when a photographer solves a mystery. The owners of a trout farm in England were left baffled when fish kept going missing. But then a wildlife photographer caught their extraordinary escape route on camera. Swimming against the current, the trout make their escape from the farm. Photographer Dennis Bright snapped the trout making giant leaps out of their pond straight into the metal feed pipe three feet above the water level. They then fought against the current for 30 feet until they reached the end of the eight inch-wide pipe, which emerges underwater in a tributary of the River Itchen. To see his photograph, go to

FOOTNOTE: Current affairs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Handle With Care

U Is For Underground (But Not For Overweight)

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I'm very fond of my mother-in-law, but over the years, I've had a lot of fun at her expense, on the basis of this story. Back in 1984 I was based in London for about six weeks, covering Wimbledon and a Test cricket series. And guess who else was in London for a few days? Yep, it was my m-i-l.

You think you can shop? She'd leave you for dead. She enjoyed herself in London, checking out every inch of the city with her friends and relatives. Just before she flew out of London, she asked me to help her pack.

I was incredulous. Help you pack?

Something was not quite right here. I should have been instantly suspicious. But I think when I was born, someone disconnected the be-wary-of-traps circuitry in my brain - or what passes for a brain.

Turned out she had packed all right. But the suitcase wouldn't close. It held twice what a normal suitacse was designed to hold. To cut a long story short, I repacked the suitcase and actually managed to wrangle it shut. Mate, it would have been easier to wrestle a mountain lion than it was to lock that suitcase.

Next, it had to be carried down a narrow flight of stairs. If anyone had viedotaped the footage of me carrying that suitcase down the stairs and trying not to fall on my butt, it would have been an international hit. By the time I got it downstairs, I was gasping for breath, I had broken out in a sweat and my pulse had dropped to near-ER levels.

"Does it weigh more than 20 kilograms?'' she asked.

I snorted. It was probably double the allowable weight limit for airlines. So we weighed it. It was 42 kilograms. That's about 90 pounds. Huh, you try carrying that down a narrow staircase.

Then the penny dropped. I had to escort my m-i-l (well Mrs Authorblog and I were not yet married, so officially she wasn't yet my m-i-l) to Heathrow Airport. Let me paint the picture for you. We were in South Wimbledon at the time, and Heathrow was on the other side of the city.

And before you ask, no, the suitcase didn't have wheels. So I carried it to the nearest Tube station and by the time we got there, I was grey, had heart palpitations and my blood pressure was dropping. We had to change trains three times. And each time I had to carry the darn suitcase down the platform, up a flight of stairs and across another platform to catch a train on a different line.

But the m-i-l was striding ahead, whistling airily and turning around every so often to say: ``Why are you lagging?'' or words to that effect. Thank goodness Londoners are a discreet lot, or they would have called an ambulance for me, plucked me from the London Underground and tucked me up in intensive care, with an IV line in each arm.

So we arrived at Heathrow, one of us distinctly the worse for wear. And guess what? The flight was full. But the airline could offer her a seat the next day. My m-i-l was delighted. She clapped her hands in glee, proclaiming: ``One more day to shop''.
I don't remember what happened next. I think I must have passed out.

Logically, I knew I would not survive taking that suitcase back to South Wimbledon and then returning to Heathrow with it the next day. I was on the verge of an apoplectic fit.

Then I remembered that the airport had a left luggage office. So we went there, gratefully handed over our money and I watched as the strapping individual behind the counter tried lifting the suitcase. I would have gladly paid a king's ransom to have him take charge of it.

"Wotcha got in here, guv? Bricks?" was all he could say, panting.

Then I explained how I had carried it down the length and breadth of two London streets and four Tube stations.

"Really?" he asked. "I think the Queen should knight you for that."

Knight me? Naaaaah. But maybe Her Majesty could send the footmen round the next time, for the suitcase. And perhaps a St Bernard rescue dog, for me.

Boast Cards From The Edge

It’s All Downhill From Here, Darling

Did the car move for you too? Police in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, have set up a permanent patrol on a hill after a spate of accidents in which young lovers have sent their cars over the edge. In some cases hand brakes have been knocked free. In the latest incident, a couple parked on the hill but their car went over the edge and hurtled 10 metres (about 30 feet) down the slope and into the Miljacka River. The naked lovers were rescued by passers-by.

FOOTNOTE: River dunce (with apologies to Michael Flatley).

Watching Pawn

This Is A Study In Still Life

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Cop This

Officers Were Chanting: Stay Cheese

Italian investigators have busted a ring of mozzarella-loving cops who demanded bribes from motorists. Officers in the Campagnia region, which is famous for its mozzarella, stopped cheese delivery vans and forced them to hand over produce or face hefty fines. The police are thought to have used the cheese for their own consumption. Italy's Interior Ministry said four officers had been arrested and five more were under investigation.

FOOTNOTE: Mozzarella, fella.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

You're All Invited

Sign Up For The Great Big Aussie Christmas Bash

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

So you want to know what the Great Big Aussie Christmas Bash is all about? Allow me to explain. Drum roll, please, maestro ....

What is it?

It's not a political party. It's a post-Christmas recovery party. You don't need to travel, you don't need to leave home, you don't need to help clean up afterwards. All you need is a computer and an internet connection and you can join in the e-party. As I said in my earlier posts Party Politics and Party To The Decision, everyone's invited.

When is the e-party?

On 27 December. That'll give everyone time to recover from Christmas hangovers.

What will it cost?

Nuffin. Zilch. Nada. It's an e-party. Have mouse, will travel. And most of all, have fun.

Why are we having an e-party?

'Cause we can. 'Cause it doesn't cost a cent. And 'cause I genuinely enjoy your company.

Where is the e-party?

Right here on this blog.

Will there be presents?

Yes, there will be presents. Not real presents, of course, but a fellow blogger came up with this wonderful suggestion. Have a think about a "virtual gift" that symbolises your home country or home state or something that sums up your own personality.

How do I accept this invitation?

All you need to do is to leave me a comment here, in this format:
a) the one dish you want on the menu, be it a main course or a dessert
b) the drink/s you want
c) The "virtual gift" that you'd like to bring.

Does everyone get a virtual present?

Yep, you sure do. All will be revealed. Trust me. But remember, they're virtual presents!

Keep watching this blog for updates!

Uproar Over The Morning Paper

Petition Delays Christmas Rollout

Polish consumers are organising a petition demanding a Christmas loo roll be banned. The festive toilet paper on sale in Lublin by pharmacy chain Rossman has been branded "repulsive and base''. It features pictures of reindeers and stars and little messages in English saying "Merry Christmas''. A spokesman for the Lublin youth chaplaincy that is organising the petition said: ``This could only have been dreamt up by someone exceptionally thoughtless.'

FOOTNOTE: "Ass you like it" (sorry Mister Shakespeare).

Compose Yourself

Then Compose A Good Photograph

Moon haze on a clear night. Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

There's a simple secret to photography. Be instinctive. And be happy with the camera you have. Just as you don't need a $10,000 computer to write great prose, you don't need a $10,000 camera to take great pictures. Yes, we all want a 300 mm lens or a great macro lens or the latest bells-and-whistles digital SLR. But the key to photography is to enjoy using what you have.

So you can imagine how much I enjoyed the feedback to my Photo Hunt post The Long And Blinding Road.

Carver said: "I sometimes wish I had a serious digital camera but I feel like I can't justify it until I learn how to do everything it will do. I had a much better 35 mm with several lenses but when I switched over to digital photography, I've made do with an affordable one. I can add lenses if I get a converter but that will get into a lot more money and I don't feel like I can justify it until I develop more skill. I get decent macro shots but need more work with the landscape ones."

David said: "I totally agree with you about the camera - the most important thing is not the camera, but the time. Keep a camera - any camera - with you at all times, and you should be able to capture some good moments that are far better than any set up shots."

Willard, who used to work for the Pennsylvania Game Commission and uses an "old" Canon 10D with several telephoto lenses, said: "You are right with your comments about the cameras. It is amazing what can be done with low to mid range equipment if it is shot correctly."

Les Becker said: "I have to agree with you about taking pictures with just about any camera, David. The one I'm using now was considered mid-range in retail outlets for amateur photographers when I bought it, but it's a pitiful specimen compared to most affordable cameras. Still, I have managed to get some really great photos out of it. The one I had before (the HP PhotoSmart R607) doesn't even come close to this one, and yet with that little thing, I took photos that I'm very, very proud of. Had I not drowned it in coffee, I would still very happily be using it. Proof positive that there is no such thing as a camera that's not good enough".

Blossom Cottage, who has just posted memories of her recent South Africa trip, said: "I use a Canon EOS300 and a 350D love both of them, but I still like my old film SLRs for black and white."

Kate Isis said: "I'm fortunate enough to have a photographer friend who hands me down his old cameras as he updates. But I started with a small compact camera and learnt to take my time and see the world through the lens and I eventually started producing some decent shots. I think no matter what camera your working with, once you get the hang of composition you could take shots on a Box Brownie and come out with good results."

And finally, Epijunky said: "I was green with envy while checking out a camera I couldn't afford (a good ten years back) when the camera's owner told me these words which stuck with me to this day: It's not the camera or the lenses, it's what's six inches behind them."