Travel theme: four

Ailsa from ‘Where’s my backpack‘ has chosen a travel theme inspired by St Patrick’s Day and the luck of the Irish this week. I have no photos of the elusive four leaf clover lucky charm however I hope you’ll enjoy my selection of ‘Four’ themed images regardless.

Four artists in Crail, Scotland
Four artists in Crail, Scotland
Four numbers featuring the number 4
Four archways, home to Venice emergency services
Four more of Venetian arches on the canal
Four corinthian columns in the Borghese Gardens, Rome
Four gnomes in Paris
Rugged up and exploring Berlin

Travel theme: Paths (of Scotland)

My posts are few and far between at the moment as I struggle to find focus and think of things to write about. Thank goodness for Ailsa’s latest travel theme on Where’s my backpack? as I have some paths to share from my 2016 trip to Scotland.

Woodland path through flowering wild garlic
Wild garlic in flower almost conceals this path through the trees at Dairsie Castle.
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A well worn path past holiday homes at Crovie in the Scottish Highlands
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A path of daisies leads you up the hill for fabulous views of Gardenstown
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Pittenweem pathway from St Fillan’s Cave
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The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral
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The Fife Coastal path, St Monan’s
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Up the garden path

The year that was.

January

A relatively quiet month punctuated by time spent cuddling gorgeous shelter dogs waiting for their forever homes. Bundy celebrated his 9th birthday and unbeknown to us Australia Day was the last time we took Maxi to the beach, she loved splashing around in the surf and afterwards would sleep for hours.

February

A python and lots of cute puppies plus a lunch date with friends by the water. A short, sweet in stinking hot month.

March

Maxi’s 15th birthday is celebrated, Easter fun and games with the fur kids and a new car.

April

Sadly, we said goodbye to my father in-law who had been unwell for a couple of years. Even though he had been married to my mother in-law for a few years he was entrenched in our family and is greatly missed.

May

A much anticipated trip to Scotland. Traveling with a group of artists on a paint-along with my art teacher for two weeks was an amazing experience and provided me with lots of inspiration for my art and further travel in the UK.

June

Always lots of dogs waiting at the Animal Welfare League, I love my Sundays with them and it is hard not to fall in love with all of them.

July

Commissioned to do a portrait of Rumpole the chocolate lab in pastel, stalked by a pigeon on our morning walk and an art class focused on drawing birds. Finally winter seems to have arrived bringing with it some spectacular sunrises and the fur kids are loving their new blankets.

August

The weather starts getting warmer and Hubby celebrates his birthday with traditional fire making and drinks with family and friends. Walks with Maxi are getting shorter and she happily shares the rug with Bundy.

September

Losing Maxi broke my heart, such a vibrant and happy girl. Gone but never forgotten.

October

After losing our dear old girl, time with friends was especially important.

November

The festive season started early at work, our team heading to a winery for a long lunch to celebrate a good year with good people. There are always dogs waiting to be adopted and every Sunday I take photos of them to raise awareness on social media in the hope that it will assist in finding them a family faster. I also finished another commission, Honey the cat, sibling to Rumpole.

December

A quick trip to Newcastle to visit my brother and his family as well as meeting my new niece. So nice that the two families live in the same city, makes it easy to fit in quality time with all of them. Christmas was perfect, good company and good food. Now I am in need of a break, some quiet time at home after a busy and emotional year.

Out on the farm

The farm road
The farm road

My brother recently bought 100 acres of bushland in the Hunter Valley, he and his partner want to build a house there and raise their beautiful daughter in the country. He refers to the land as ‘the farm’ although it is far from it at this point in time. Much of land cannot be cleared for environmental reasons however this isn’t a huge deal because my brother doesn’t have any plans to raise cattle, sheep or grow crops. Obviously the previous owners have done some work on the property, farm equipment has been left to rust and there is a gate growing out of a tree. The land is in the middle of wine country in the Hunter Valley which aligns nicely with our desire for a winter retreat where we can alternate between visiting vineyards and enjoying local produce while sitting by an open fire.

I had the pleasure of seeing the property a couple of weeks ago and there is plenty of work to be done in order to make the land habitable for a family. Patches of land have been cleared previously providing nice open spaces and views of neighbouring properties, my brother and a mate of his have also spent time tidying up the area where they plan to build their house. Walking through the bush takes me back to my childhood when we used to explore the countryside looking for the perfect swimming hole. On one occasion we made fishing rods out of bamboo and tried our luck in the creek, the fish were much smarter than us. As kids we never really worried about snakes or eels or getting seriously hurt, but I was very wary of coming across a snake whilst walking through the bush on my brother’s property.

Camera in hand I was fascinated by tiny purple flowers, and funny looking nuts on a native tree. My fingers were crossed in the hope that I would come across wildlife of the furry and feathered kind. With a creek running through one end of the property and a dried creek bed at the other we were guaranteed to see something and sure enough we saw a few kangaroos from the car, as well as a goanna and a couple of rabbits. One kangaroo scared the bejeezus out of my when it leapt out of the bush to the left of me and bounded away, madly scrambling to get my camera ready I thankfully secured one shot which made my day. Even as an Australian I still get excited by seeing our native wildlife.

Without rain the bush is looking dry and the grass feels crunchy underfoot. Closer to the creek there is more colour, the water providing sustenance for plants as well as a variety of creatures that we hear but not see as they scamper away and hide. I envy the life that my brother and his family will have, living away from the maddening traffic and being able to look at the window and see sights that we grew up with. I don’t envy the work or the size of the mortgage that it takes to own such a property but I admire my brother for the commitment he has made in following a dream. I hope that one day I have the courage to do the same.

Swell Festival 2016 – part 2

On my last post I shared some of the sculptures featured in the Swell 2016 Sculpture Festival. As promised, here is a part two of my selection of images.

Iconic photo tour of Edinburgh

My flight from Australia arrived early morning and to help my body get used to the different time zone I was determined to keep busy until the sun set. A walking tour of Edinburgh combined with photography advice seemed like the perfect way to adjust to UK time and enjoy the sights. My art teacher was also arriving that day so she and I had signed up to join a small walking tour of Edinburgh’s old town led by local photographer Will from Iconic Tours.

We met Will outside the main entrance of St Giles Cathedral where he took us through aperture and shutter priority, two settings that would make taking photographs easier without relying on auto. The clouds above us were ominous, the tour would go on regardless and Will had a plan if the weather really turned to shite. The technical aspect is not all that we learned, we were encouraged and guided to look at potential subjects from a different perspective.

The Royal Mile forms the main thoroughfare through Edinburgh’s old town, popular with tourists it is home to many shops selling whisky, fudge, tartan scarves, kilts and various other souvenirs. Groups of tourists following guides in kilts compete for prime position in front of the main sights, the sound of bagpipes being played fills the air and attracts the interest of happy snappers as does the various street performers now using the pedestrian zone as their stage. The red phone booths are perfect for experimenting with shutter speed, stopping people in their tracks with a fast shutter speed and creating a feeling of movement with a slower one. Here we also try using manual mode, previous experiments helps me understand the theory however the time it takes for me to capture the shot is longer and the experience a little frustrating.

As the main square fills with people we venture to quieter parts of town to hone our skills, such as the Council Chambers carpark, Advocates Close and Parliament Square. Will shows us a series of golden handprints in the footpath, recipients of the Edinburgh Award and we listen to him tell the tale of John Knox and his final resting place which is now a carpark near St Giles.

Getting off the Royal Mile and exploring the other parts of the old town is a must, Victoria Street is a colourful and beautiful part of the city lined with popular restaurants, bars and cafes. It is easy to see why it is so popular with photographers on instagram. Will recommended a few places for dinner and some cheap eats for lunch, sadly we never got there but it is something to look forward to on my next trip to Scotland, whenever that may be.

The Princes St Garden is a beautiful place to take a walk in spring, the tulips are in bloom and the garden beds are filled with vibrant colour. Viewing the castle from below the rock will give you an appreciation of the effort and engineering that went into creating such a formidable looking and enduring structure, Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline.

Three hours well spent, the tour only cost $100AUD and in addition Will emailed a document containing all his tips and advice. Had I not signed up for the tour I probably would have found myself wandering aimlessly all afternoon and I would have missed all those wonderful photo opportunities.