I’ve spent the last few months debating whether to start a business focused on offering animal lovers a choice of pastel pet portraits and photographic portraits. The business idea is a possible alternative to full-time work or a side hustle that could supplement part-time employment whilst building up a client base. The latter certainly sounds more sensible.
Either way, one decision I have to make is to decide on a business name. Do I use my full name, a variation of my name, expand on the use of Two Black Dogs or even come up with something completely different? Two Black Dogs is my handle on Twitter and Instagram as well as being the title of this blog so I would need to have separate social media accounts regardless of what I decide. In researching existing businesses that focus on either pet photography or pet portraits there appears to be a mix of businesses using the artist’s name and those with names that reflect the genre of their art.
My reason for considering the expansion of the use of Two Black Dogs is the same reason for starting this blog, my black dogs Maxi and Bundy. Their antics, those big, brown eyes and my obsession with them inspired me to do pastel pet portraits, and being a crazy dog mum who volunteers in a shelter gave me a focus for my photography. Whilst the name is meaningful to me I realise it may not be meaningful to potential clients, which is often the argument for not using an individual’s name. It is all doing my head in and that is without even starting the business…what hope do I have?
My life is pretty quiet at the moment, when I’m not doing housework, drawing or hanging out with Bundy I am walking dogs at our local shelter and trying to get decent photos for their profiles. A good profile photo can help draw attention to shelter dogs waiting to be adopted and it helps me by allowing me to practice my skills while doing something I love.
Anyway, here are some of the beautiful kids that I’ve had the pleasure of photographing this year.
Queensland’s Gold Coast, the choice of holiday destination for many Australian families. Theme parks, beaches and the shopping mall that is Surfers Paradise are usually what they come for however there is another side to the Gold Coast. Away from the roller coasters, the surf shops and beaches overshadowed by high rise buildings visitors will discover a beautiful natural environment set in the Gold Coast hinterland. The hinterland is my favourite place to explore and it is where I often taken family and friends when they visit. As your tour guide for this week’s photo challenge the hinterland is the destination that I want you to experience.
Springbrook National Park, part of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest and home to spectacular waterfalls, subtropical and warm temperate rainforest, Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest and a variety of wildlife. The Purlingbrook Falls walk is 4km in length, relatively easy on the legs and if you’re keen or wanting to go for a swim you can walk an extra 2km to Warringa Pools. My friend and I did the walk in September, it was a perfect Spring day and we took our time, stopping to admire the beauty of tiny blossoms and to watch a goanna dawdle through the undergrowth. Others use the track for physical training, running up and down the stairs, slipping past us in their fluorescent athletic wear but most appear to do the walk in a more leisurely manner.
Purlingbrook Falls walking circuit
Waterfalls in abundance in Springbrook National Park
Tamborine Mountain is popular with day trippers especially on the weekend, but most tend to stick to the shops and cafes on Gallery Walk. My preference is take one of the many rainforest walks on the mountain, they vary in length and tend to be less than 3km. The Curtis Falls track is not far from Gallery Walk in the Joalah Section of the Tamborine National Park, and is heavily visited by tourists and photographers. Curtis Falls looks its best after heavy rain although the track might get a little slippery so wear appropriate footwear. There is a viewing platform overlooking a large rock pool at the base of the Curtis Falls, swimming in the pool is prohibited and there is a restricted access area below the Falls in order to protect a colony of glow-worms. There is an extension to this walk which takes about an hour to do and if you look beyond the track you will see huge strangler fig trees as well as elk horns, stag horns and birds nest ferns.
Bushwalking through National Park, Mt Tamborine
Which ever walk you do, remember that you’re in the Australian bush so the chances of seeing a snake are pretty good. Always wear covered footwear.
For birdwatchers, animal lovers and people wanting to spend a long weekend in a cabin in the rainforest, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat set in the Lamington National Park is ideal. Early morning guided bird walks through a small section of the rainforest are a wonderful way to start the day. See, hear and learn about the Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robins and Bowerbirds before enjoying a hearty breakfast in the restaurant. At the end of the day I recommend taking the tour out to the Moonlight Crag Lookout where you can enjoy a glass of champagne, beer or wine whilst watching the sun set over the ranges.
With 2017 being such a strain on my head space for a number of reasons, it was a joy to recently have a week off and indulge in some extended me-time. The objective being to organise my pastels into new storage boxes, spend at least two days drawing, and last but not least I wanted visit Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens and photograph the Spring blossoms.
The weather was mixed during my break, much needed rain fell and sunshine was intermittent. At one point I didn’t think I would get to the Botanic Gardens but luck was on my side and as I was wandering through the rainforest garden the clouds disappeared and the rest of my time in the garden was perfect. Spring is such a beautiful time of year, lots of birds, bees and after a shower of rain everything looks and smells so fresh. As you can see, it was time well spent and I felt so relaxed and happy afterwards that I almost forgot about having to go back to work.
Orchids in bloom
A leftover from the Spring Festival
The Japanese Garden
Loving the contrast of these bright colours
A little ‘cottage’ in the gardens
Hard at work
A friendly duck
Dragonflies were abuzz
Not quite what I was expecting when photographing the little green frogs
Tiny green frogs were everywhere once you knew to look for them
Splash! I quickly turn knowing that I have just missed my chance of seeing a water dragon. These little reptiles generally don’t stick around, especially when I have Bundy with me but I got lucky walking around a local wildlife reserve one afternoon. The lake in the reserve has been on the receiving end of a lot of regeneration activity in the past 12-18 months with native trees and grasses being planted all around the foreshore. Piles of branches stacked around tree stumps are yet to be cleared away and these make great little hiding holes for all sorts of creatures. Wary of snakes I steered clear of one pile and kept Bundy close as I inched towards the water’s edge in order to photograph the pelicans on the lake. It wasn’t until I looked away from the pelicans that I noticed a lizard sitting on the pile of wood, an Easter Water Dragon to be precise.
Easter Water Dragons can be found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. They can live for up to twenty years and will eat insects, small reptiles and frogs as well as fruit and other vegetation. Some people keep them as pets but I think you need a permit to do so and I would much rather see them in their natural habitat. Occasionally I see them lying on the side of the road, it is nice and warm for them and they will scamper off when they see you coming however they’re not always that lucky at escaping traffic.
The water dragon barely moved, his eyes watching every step Bundy and I took. I was grateful to have my camera and 70-200mm lens with me rather than my phone, allowing me to get close-up photos without disturbing him too much. You might be wondering why I’m referring to the water dragon as a male, if you look closely at the photo you can see that the water dragon has a reddish chest, apparently the chest of a male water dragon goes bright red during mating season so I’m thinking that this boy is on the prowl. After mating the female lays up to 25 eggs in the soft soil or sand and then she does a runner, playing no part in the parenting. Thankfully the kids are independent once they hatch, I just hope they stay off the road.
One year has passed since we said goodbye to our dear old Maxi. We have almost 16 years of wonderful and funny memories, at home we reminisce about her antics and have a chuckle and some bring tears to my eyes. Her nighttime dinner dance was always entertaining, she would stand in the doorway with a goofy look on her face, jump in and out and twirl around in excitement. We had our first storm of the season late last week, the thunder and lightning reminding me how much we used to dread storms when Maxi was alive. Storms terrified her, she would shake for hours, drooling all over the floor as she paced through the house and nothing would help her settle. It was so frustrating for me, there was nothing I could do to help her and when a storm hit in the middle of the night we all would end up a little on edge. I don’t miss those nights yet I would do it all again if it meant she was still with us.
I remember the first day we saw her as though it was yesterday, she was all ears and legs and she was the last of the litter. At the time we were living in an apartment, no pets allowed so we walked away convinced that we would not be getting a dog. Maxi was still there a few days later which had to be fate, she was meant to be ours. Too scared to walk to the car, I had to carry her in my arms whilst juggling bags of goodies that would help us get through the first couple of nights (in secret of course). Sneaking a dog in and out of an apartment isn’t easy and keeping cream coloured carpet pristine is impossible with a puppy around. The search for dog-friendly accommodation began and we made arrangements for her to stay with family for a few weeks until we could all be together in our own home.
For a long time after she passed I could feel Maxi’s presence in the house and would catch myself looking for her in her favourite spot under the Poinciana tree near the front fence. That particular spot provided Maxi with full view of our yard and she could also keep watch over our street, barking at neighbours, strangers walking past, and random cars. It was where we always found her when we got home from work, waiting for us with a happy face and wagging tail.
There is no replacing Maxi, she was not just a dog, she was our first dog and a member of our family, a beautiful soul with a soft and gentle nature. Maxi brought much love and laughter into our home, I wonder if she knew how much she was loved in return.
Gone but never forgotten, I will always love you my Maxi girl xxx