Winter sunrise: Venus and crescent moon

Venus, crescent moon (plus star Aldebaran)

06:22 (eek!) Saturday 20 June, Sydney

Venus, crescent moon (plus star Aldebaran)

Six Word Saturday


Up close with cockatoos

“Must you poke that camera at me?” (focal length 108.0mm (in 35mm: 600mm))

I love photos like this: sharp object in foreground, blurred background. If you regularly view my blog posts, you’ll have noticed a few of them (and thank you for your visits!). But I freely admit I can’t be bothered to figure out the technicalities of taking them. I use a combination of zoom and focus area size to compose my shots. I set the ISO, colour balance, f stop and shutter speed manually, but don’t think about what’s happening beyond that. All of these photos were shot at 1/400 sec, F2.8, ISO 100.

But Jude’s assignment this week got me looking more closely at this selection of photos, and I did notice that the focal length corresponds to the amount of blur. “Lens focal length tells us the angle of view—how much of the scene will be captured—and the magnification—how large individual elements will be. The longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of view and the higher the magnification. The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view and the lower the magnification.” (source)

So I’ve presented these photos in order of longest to shortest focal length. The photo above and this one below have the same long focal length (most shallow depth of field) and extreme blurring of background.

“Yum, this is tasty!” (focal length 108.0mm (in 35mm: 600mm))

The photos were all taken at Hamilton Island last July. Despite large signs stuck to the balcony doors saying “do not feed the cockatoos!!” the people beside me did just that.

“I wonder what’s down there?” (focal length 79.80mm (in 35mm: 443mm))

“Oh, that looks good!” (focal length 73.0mm (in 35mm: 406mm))

“I know you’re watching me.” (focal length 73.0mm (in 35mm: 406mm))

“Are you still spying on us?” (focal length 52.30mm (in 35mm: 290mm))

“I refuse to look at you any longer.” (focal length 52.30mm (in 35mm: 290mm))

This last photo has the shortest focal length (longest depth of field), and while the trees on the hill are certainly not in focus, they are much less blurred than in photos with longer focal lengths. The balconies are definitely much sharper.

“The show is over.” (focal length 30.60mm (in 35mm: 170mm))


Early morning spider web

This little spider has been busy! I haven’t noticed any activity (the duranta tree is on my balcony), but this morning, with the early sun at the right angle, I clearly saw her/his handiwork. The spider itself is tiny (you can see it right in the centre, glowing in the sunshine), and by the same token the web is not as large as a dinner plate. What I love about this shot is how clear the web pattern is. You can easily imagine this little creature patiently crawling one way, turning, crawling another, turning … That’s a lot of effort to catch your dinner.

What I don’t understand is how spiders set those anchoring strands. Do they just shoot out some silk and hope it latches on to something?


Tomato Diary 2

23 May, down to 8 seedlings in 4 pots.

The experiment of growing tomatoes in a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato continues. On 23 May I ruthlessly discarded all but the sturdiest 8 seedlings and put the winners into four small pots.

23 May, aerial view

Above on 23 May, after repotting. Below on 6 June, after two weeks of growing.

6 June, aerial view. Definitely bigger!

Despite the less than ideal conditions, they are growing. Daytime highs now are 15-20C (59-68F) and they get only about five hours of morning sun — and that’s with me moving them four times to try to avoid shade as the low winter sun passes behind trees. Of course, many days are overcast and wet. Not what you’d call optimal!

Interesting to see the size differences. All the seeds are from the same tomato, but not all seeds are equal!

Yesterday I ventured to a garden centre for soil and stakes, being very optimistic that the plants will grow high enough to need staking! Some of you may be wondering why I bought “seed raising and cutting” mix. The answer is that I don’t have a car. Not following that logic? I had to buy soil in a bag small enough to fit into my backpack and of a weight I could carry. All that was available in this bag size was mixes for seedlings, cacti or orchids; this seemed the least-bad choice. I do have about the same amount of regular potting mix so when the times comes I’ll combine the two.

Ready to go.

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 3. (Tomato Dairy 1 here)


Tomato Diary 1

8 May: Something’s happening . . .

So, you know how gardening has taken off in lockdown? (Along with baking and cooking, but I’m too lazy for that much effort.) I read or heard, I forget which, something about how to grow veg even if you are a total newbie. One of the comments was that you don’t need seeds: plant a potato, carrot tops, the seeds from a tomato or cucumber. So I scraped the seeds out of a medium sized tomato — all the seeds — into a small pot of soil, chucked more soil on top (and as you can see, we’re not talking specialist seedling soil here), watered them … and mere days later, much to my astonishment, green things began to appear.

9 May: More things are happening!

10 May: Uh oh, things are getting out of hand.

Oh dear, a LOT of green things! I never expected such a freakishly high germination rate! When I counted 30 seedlings, it was time for action.

I’ve pulled out a number of little noodle-y seedlings, and am down to about 15. It’s survival of the fittest now! I plan to get the number down to under ten. Then when they’re bigger, I’ll move them into their own small pots and see how they go. (note: the photos above are so awful because they’re from my phone)

19 May: A forest of tomato seedlings. Which will make the final count?

Will they actually produce tomatoes? I doubt it. It’s autumn now, winter is looming, and my balcony gets sun only from 7:30am to about 1pm. The sun is so low now that nearby trees cast shade as the sun no longer passes above them — while I’m working from home I can nip outside and move the pots, but I’m not sure how much that will help!

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 2.


The Top End

The red outline shows roughly the area referred to as The Top End. (Google Maps)

In 2015 I did a marvellous tour of the area of Australia known as The Top End, starting and ending in Darwin. Here, in no particular order, are a few photos I like from that trip.

Pine Creek is about 225km (140 miles) from Darwin. Sadly, we did not stop for one of these icy cold beers.

Old ticket sales window at the Pine Creek Railway Museum.

Edith Falls: anyone for swimming?

This is Cahills Crossing, a road link to Arnhem Land. Those aren’t logs and twigs in the river to the right of the cars; they’re crocodiles.

No contest. You win.

Katherine Gorge, stunningly beautiful.

Termite mounds near Litchfield.

Kites at Wangi Falls. (Did you spot the one looming up from below?)

Wine and nibbles near Leichardts Point, a very civilised ending to a day of touring.

Becky is back with her squares, and for April the theme is “top“.



Moon, Fiji, 2016

Are these photos of moonlight, or photos of the moon? I suspect the latter, but I’ve included them in Becky’s “—light” challenge anyway! Does the moon look odd to you Northern Hemisphere dwellers? The photos were taken in Kakadu National Park, Australia (feature photo), Fiji and Sydney, so the moon’s orientation may not be what you’re used to.

This will be my last post for the January Light challenge, and once again huge thanks are due to our indefatigable host Becky. I don’t know how she manages these month-long challenges so many times a year.

Moon, Sydney, 2013

And a gallery of my square light photos, including a couple for which I couldn’t think of Xlight names so didn’t post:

Posted as part of January Squares, the theme for which is words ending in light.