Before heading to Ypres for Anzac Day, I had been doing some research to find out more about the Ypres Salient and Australia’s involvement. I discovered that about 20 km south of Ypres, amongst all the other Commonwealth War Cemeteries lay one of the only two Australian only cemeteries on the whole Western Front. Ploegsteert or ‘Plug Street’ as it was known to the Allied soldiers was the sight of some intensive combat and also one of the first places where the Germans deployed the deadly Mustard Gas.
The fact that an all Tasmanian company – with men from the same district as my family came from – had been mentioned by an official historian sealed my decision to visit the site.
Traveling through the Flemish country side, it was hard to reconcile the peaceful farm lands of today with what surely must have been the closest thing to hell on earth back then. Only the stark white headstones of the numerous Commonwealth War Cemeteries scattered over the landscape gave any indication of the bitter struggle that had happened here. it was also sobering to reflect on the fact that the remains of thousands of young men on both sides lay beneath these fields, but had disappeared, perhaps forever.
It was a suitably gloomy day as we found our way down country lanes and a final short walk through the woods to find this peaceful last resting place of some Australian Diggers, ironically in a cemetery called Toronto Avenue.
In this quiet little corner of the woods lay the immaculately kept ( as all Commonwealth War Graves are) resting places of 78 Australian soldiers (mostly from NSW). Wreaths had been laid at the central Memorial and each headstone had a small plywood cross inscribed with a message from schoolchildren back in Australia. Even in this far-flung corner of the world they were remembered by their countrymen.
At the end of one of the rows of headstones was a poignant reminder of family bonds. Private J.S Luff had left behind a young family in 1917, in 2013 his Grandchildren had paid him a visit to leave old photos of that family and to let him know that he had not been forgotten.
April 25th is a very special day in Australia. ANZAC Day is a day that commemorates all the Military personnel who did not make it home from the various theatres of war that Australia & New Zealand have sent troops to since the Boer War at the beginning of the 20th century.
ANZAC actually stands for the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and sent to fight in the ill fated Gallipoli campaign in Turkey in WW1. It was there that the ANZAC legend was born and the Australian Diggers are remembered with a traditional Dawn Service and street parades throughout Australia.
Australian troops were involved in the horrors of the Western Front in Europe, where for four long years the opposing sides waged bloody & futile trench warfare with neither side able to score a decisive victory while whole towns were sometimes wiped off the map in the heavy shelling. ANZAC Day is also commemorated in small towns in Northern France where there are many Australians buried.
This time last year, I was in Belgium and had a loose plan of being in France for Anzac Day. When I mentioned this to some Belgian friends, a town called Ypres in Flanders was mentioned as having ANZAC Day ceremonies and that the Last Post was played every evening. I vaguely remembered reading about Ypres and WW1 so I thought “Why not”?
The Ypres Salient was a part of the Western Front that is not as well known about in Australia as Gallipoli or the battlefields of Northern France, yet there are many Commonwealth War Cemetaries, large & small, scattered throughout the peaceful farming lands of Western Flanders in which Australians are buried
The Menin Gate in Ypres is a huge Memorial to the 55,000 Allied soldiers who fought & died in this part of the Western Front and have no known grave. Each of their names are inscribed on the walls of this Memorial.
Of that number, approximately 6000 are Australian, 7000 Canadian, but the majority are by far from Great Britain. It is indeed a humbling experience to walk around this Memorial and when you think about the numbers of men who lost their lives during this futile ,bloody conflict, the thought inevitably comes that those who glorify war have really missed the point & perhaps the politicians who send young people to war should be sent into the battle themselves!
Winston Churchill , when he first saw the utterly ruined town of Ypres, said that the town should be purchased and left in it’s ruined state as a reminder to future generations never to let a conflict like this happen again. The citizens of Ypres had a different view and so the Menin Gate was built to honour those who had disappeared into the Flanders mud. Sadly, the world did not learn from this madness!
After the town was rebuilt, the citizens of Ypres have honoured the Allied soldiers who were stationed in the area, every evening (apart from during WW2) by playing the Last Post. ANZAC Day draws large crowds to remember the fallen from the ‘War to end all Wars’!
For those of you still following this blog, many apologies for the lack of posts recently! I fell down a rabbit hole and have been absorbed in teaching myself about Off-Camera Flash which has been an interesting journey full of frustration punctuated by the occasional AH-HA moment! I will post some more about that at a later date once I have climbed back out of the hole and let it all rattle around in the vacant space between my ears for a while.
In the meantime, fellow blogger True North Mark recently posted some great images of Singapore which inspired me to dust off and post some images that I shot on my way home from Europe last year.
Singapore is an amazing place to photograph, my list of shots that I still want to capture is ever increasing. Hope you like them!
It’s been a filthy couple of days outside due to a Tropical Low/cyclone which has been wandering around the Coral Sea for the last week, trying to decide whether it will cross the coast or not!
Recently I upgraded from Lightroom 3 to LR 5, so, while the weather has been wet & wild, I have been going back over some of my files to see what difference it makes. Without going into too much boring detail, the upgrade was well worth it with some new tools such as the Radial Filter and a revamp of exsisting tools such as the Spot Removal giving you more options for tweaking your images.
One tool I have been impressed with is the Highlight Slider which is brilliant for retaining detail in skies which I was always struggling with especially when conditions were light o/cast skies. It is nearly like finding an extra two stops of dynamic range in your camera!
The Clarity slider has had a makeover as well and they seem to have put it on turbo so it needs to be used carefully unless you want mid-tone contrast to make your images look like they have a sandpaper texture applied.
I have previously posted about this Skye Boatyard, while having a look at some files I played with these two different viewpoints of the same scene.
For me, they really bring back the bleak & forlorn weather & scenery of that day!
These are images of an area in NE Skye called the Quiraing which is an area of huge landslips. In fact the area pictured is still slipping to this day! It’s a surreal, almost Tolkiensque landscape that I had to myself for an hour or so and the howling gale just added to the wild, untamed feel of the place. On more friendly days it is very popular with walkers for obvious reasons.
Being careful not to get too close to cliff edges in case I got blown off, I managed to get a couple of shots that were fleetingly lit by the sun peeking through the racing clouds which was just above me. An exhilarating photo session indeed!
One thing I loved about driving around Scotland was the farmhouses, they just seem to suit the landscape perfectly no matter what the weather! White is the universal colour, chosen because it’s cheap and easy to re-apply. I would drive through a landscape devoid of trees and buildings and around the next corner there would sit a white house as a counterpoint to all the dun coloured grasses covering the slopes.
These are a couple of images I managed to get on a blustery morning in the north of Skye,blowing a gale and frequent showers!
It’s a pretty dramatic landscape, but the buildings help define it and give it more context, don’t you think?
I am a great one for heading down side roads just to see what’s there. In Scotland, once you are on the
road track you are commited to the end as they are so narrow!
Sometimes you find something interesting, often it’s a bust. This road ended at a rather non-descript jetty & boat ramp but as I looked around I spotted a rather different boatyard than in my last post.
Loved the Scottish colours (blue & white) as well as the rock enclosures but what really intrigued me was the stone anchors which I guess was to stop these heavy boats being blown away by the strong winds which these islands are subject to!
My first night on Skye was spent at Kyleakin which is near the end of the Skye Bridge. I decided to go for a walk out to the ruins of Castle Moil and came across this boatyard which had seen better days. The lowering leaden sky and the cries of the gulls seemed to suit the melancholy look of this place so I spent the next half hour here. Never did make it out to the ruins!
Castle Moil is in the background, legend has it that it was built in the 15th century for a Norwegian princess called ‘Saucy Mary’ who would hang a chain across the narrow strait and charge a toll on boats trying to use the strait!
The drive between Fort Williams & the Isle of Skye through the Western Highlands would have to be one of the most spectacular that I have done so far! Overviews of the Nevis Range are the first that you just have to stop for before heading down to Glen Shiel.
After heading along the shores of Loch Cluanie, the Cluanie Inn is a welcome stop for a bite and coffee. Their Bar stock over 200 varieties of Malt Whiskey, which I am rather partial to but the views of the surrounding ranges was what got my attention!
I was struggling to find a decent foreground for this image and had to settle for a clump of rocks poking out of the grassland but this is typical highland country, as you can see there are not many trees.
Heading on down Glen Shiel, I spied this old bridge which is part of the old military road built around the 1750’s. Not far from here is the site of one of the last battles of the Jacobite Uprising where British forces defeated a combined force of Spaniards & Jacobites in 1719. Rob Roy Macgregor was involved in the battle and managed to evade the British.
Seriously, this whole area is a postcard around every corner!
Just having a play with a B&W version.
What do you think, does it work?
Of course,no visit to the UK or Scotland is complete without castles of which there are quite a few. One of the most famous in Scotland is Eilean Donan near the Isle of Skye but that was festooned in scaffolding.
Castle Kilchurn sits on the shores of Loch Awe, dates from around 1450 and was the ancestral home of the Campbells of Glen Orchy. Originally, it sat on a small island which is now connected to the mainland after water levels were adjusted in the Loch.
After many alterations and a sometimes turbulent history it was abandoned in1760 after being badly damaged by lightning.
Once again, weather was not my friend! it had been blowing a gale with light rain most of the day. I walked down to the Loch edge during a break in the rain and as I set up, the sun broke through. A light sun shower forced me to cover the camera so at one stage I had the castle with great light on one side, a brilliant rainbow on the other and I was getting rained on!
Of course, when the rain stopped, the great light disappeared as well! Scottish photogs must have the patience of saints!
Spring was late in Europe this year, so for most of my time over there there were lots of bare trees. When you tell Europeans that our trees in Australia keep their leaves year round, they find it hard to believe! It sometimes takes a little bit of explaining to somebody who has never been downunder.
This image attracted me because of the stark shape of the oak trees against a leaden English sky leading down to the tower of St Boltoph’s church in Newbold-upon-Avon
Black and White seemed to suit this image more than dull colour and a featureless grey sky. The other cool thing to witness was how fast the leaves return when they finally started!
Back in the days before trains and trucks much of Europe’s goods were transported by water. Holland,Belgium & France have extensive canal systems which are still used to transport materials to & from their North Sea ports today.
The U.K. also has an extensive canal system. Although it is not used so much for heavy transport today, it is still well utilised by canal boats that have been converted to live aboard mobile homes.
The local council put a series of lights in the Newbold Tunnel which runs for a quarter mile beneath farming land above. Unfortunately, a couple of different coloured lights were out at the time, but it still looks pretty cool!
It looks like a very relaxing way to see the English countryside to me!
Dinant (pronounced Dee-non) is a picturesque town on the River Meuse in the French speaking area of Southern Belgium. Dominated by the Church of Notre-Dame with it’s distinctive spire and the imposing Citadel sitting atop the cliffs, it is a charming place to stroll around and get a great meal at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
Settled since around the 7th century it has had a turbulent history and has had many episodes of devastation over the centuries with the German Forces wreaking havoc during the First World War being the latest episode. The Citadel has been used by occupying forces over the centuries and has a great museum outlining the history of the town.
Dinant is also the birthplace of Adolphe Sax who invented that great musical instrument, the saxophone. Up until a few years ago, about the only commemoration of this fact was a statue and plaque in the middle of town, but nowadays the bridge across the river is adorned with colourful saxophones decorated by artists from many European countries which are a welcome addition to this beautiful area.
While I was in Belgium I was staying near the picturesque city of Mechelen. Situated about halfway between Antwerp & Brussels, it can trace it’s history back to Roman times and like many European cities has had it’s share of of prosperity & decline at different times. For a brief period it was even the Capital of the Low Countries during the 16th century. Unfortunately, one of the city’s low points came during WW II when the Nazis used it as a Transit Camp for Jews being sent to the infamous death camps
Today it is a cosmopolitan provincial city with parks,canals and a bustling town centre which is dominated by the imposing St Rombout’s Cathedral which began construction in the 12th century.
Believe me, that carillon is huge and it is just as impressive on the inside! Every day just before they strike the hour, the bells play a tune which sounds a little like “Three Blind Mice”, quite pleasant to listen to as you stroll around town!
The Grote Markt is surrounded by cafes and at the other end is the Stadhuis which although not quite as grand as Antwerp, still draws the eye quite well.
Antwerpen is the Dutch name for Antwerp and literally means ‘hand throwing’. Legend has it that a race of giants cut off the hands of travellers who refused to pay a toll to cross the River Schelde on which Antwerp is situated. A heroic figure by the name of Brabo managed to kill the leader of the giants,cut his hands off and threw them into the river thus ending their monopoly and giving the the name to a city. This heroic feat is immortalised in the Brabo statue situated in the Grote Markt of Antwerp. That is one of the best stories for a place name that I have ever heard!
Antwerp has a long history dating from around the 6th century and today is one of the great trading ports of the world. Beautiful place to wander around and it doesn’t feel like a big city at all! Like a lot of European cities, history and culture are reflected in the grand buildings that surround you of which Cathedrals are some of the most impressive.
The Stadhuis (Town Hall) in the image above is covered in the flags of many nations EXCEPT Australia! I did notice that there was a missing flagpole so I reckon that an Aussie tourist has souvenir-ed it for a drunken bet, as you do!
City skylines are always changing and Antwerp is no exception, not too far away a redevelopment of one of the old dock areas is underway and the centrepiece is the M.A.S. Museum which is strikingly different from anything around it.
One of the pleasant surprises about Europe was the fact that I could set up my camera & tripod just about anywhere and nobody thought twice about it! There was no official tapping me on the shoulder to ask me for a permit or telling me it was not permitted. I photographed trainstations,cathedrals in the middle of a service,and other places expecting someone to say something and it never happened.
I wouldn’t bother shooting places like that in Australia because some petty official would start quoting some reason why you couldn’t do it.
The following image is in the middle of Antwerp Central Station which is a beautiful old station. I was hoping for a lot more people moving around but on this rather cold day not many people were out & about apart from this young girl who stopped in front of the camera for the 5 sec exposure. Her mother thought it was a great picture!
After a couple of months hanging out in Europe, I am back! Been a while since I have been o/s so this little trip was well overdue!
Briefly, My itinerary was Aus.-Singapore – Belgium-Scotland -Belgium -Singapore -Aus., saw some pretty cool things along the way and even got some photos as well.
To avoid the looong flight to Europe, I decided to have a break in Singapore both ways which is a little adventure on it’s own. Last time I was there was 2004 and there have been some changes! One thing I noticed about Singapore is that they are always building something new and when they do they don’t stuff around. Money seems to be no object and I suspect that environmental groups don’t get much of a hearing in the planning stages.
One thing I like about Singapore is that it is firmly striding toward the future but that doesn’t mean that the past will be forgotten either so the modern,ritzy side of Singapore seems to sit comfortably alongside the older,slightly crumbling areas such as Little India,Geylang and Chinatown. Many cultures,faiths and ideologies appear to co-exist harmoniously in this island state.
i had seen some photos of Marina Bay Sands & Gardens by the Bay on postcards so I thought I would go & see if I could get some dusk shots.
Even so, I wasn’t prepared for what I came across! To put it mildly,the structures in the following images are fantastic flights of imagination that have been brought to life.
Gardens by the Bay is a huge botanical garden in which they have built these stylised trees and the really cool thing is that eventually they will be covered in foliage themselves. All this is free to walk around except if you want to go on the suspended walkway and I think there is a cafe in one of the trees. A bit hard to get your head around the scale & cost of all this i have to say. Off to the left is a building that houses a rainforest with canopy walks etc.
As evening approached I found a spot down by the artificial lake to get some shots of the Marina Bay Towers which I will just let you see for yourselves.
I always thought the Spanish designer Gaudi had access to some good “gear”, but not on a scale like this! Although I didn’t go up to the observation deck where there is huge swimming pool just walking through the middle tower was an eye-opener’,opulence on a grand scale! Twice an evening they do a laser & light show set to music from the other side of the towers of which you can see glimpses of here, but that’s another story.
After spending an enjoyable hour or so with another photog who filled me in on some other things to shoot, it was time to see the ‘show’.
Heading back up to the main arena, it was like stepping into a futuristic fairytale. An Aussie band was doing a free concert and the lighting on the “trees”was set to the music. Pretty cool to watch, I probably should have taken a movie on the iphone but I was just trying to find places to take stills that weren’t obscured by the many trees in the area.
Today is Australia Day! One thing that Australia is known for is our beaches. We just happen to be blessed with miles & miles of some of the best beaches in the world, many of which,see very little human activity apart from fishermen, surfers and the odd beachcomber.
The East coast of Tasmania has some stunningly beautiful beaches that for the most part are deserted. This is one I found near Swansea and I spent a good two hours here without seeing another person, heaven!
This rocky outcrop was an obvious subject, combined with the colours of sea & sky, a couple of nice images was the result. I think you’ll agree!
Another image from Coles Bay, this time it is of The Hazards. Even though the light is not the best, I like the contrast between the bright, lichen covered granite in the foreground and the stormy sky.
Guess I will just have to go back one day and wait for the good light!
This is an image from Coles Bay which is the gateway to Freycinet National Park. It is a very different place from my last visit around 25yrs ago! Back then, it was a sleepy little place with minimal accomodation options and the nearest Nat. Parks office was an hour up the road at Bicheno. Now it is a tourist mecca during the summer months and there are people all over the place!
After seeing some beautiful images of The Hazards reflecting the evening sunlight I was hoping to get some nice images but the weather beat me again as frontal cloud moved in from the west and killed any chance if good light. As they say, if the eggs are broken, you may as well make an omelette, so I got some nice images taking advantage of the pretty cool cloud layer that moved in!
There will be a couple more from this area coming soon!
This image is from earlier in the morning and was a brief show of colour around Cradle Mt. Back over my left shoulder the sky was aflame but I wanted that distinctive shape, so I had to hope that the slowly moving cloud in the mountain’s direction would ‘light up’!
A little tip for those of you contemplating a trip to Tassie for photography, at the height of summer the sun rises at about 5:30am and sets about 9:00pm. Add to that about an hour of twighlight at each end of the day and your photographic day is pretty long! Especially if you are travelling around as well.
Somewhere in that 24hrs you need to eat, download images, scout around, and do th0se other things that life demands AND get a good night’s sleep! Not to mention the amount of people that visit iconic sights like Cradle Mt & Freycinet Peninsula. Next time I go down it will be in March-April or August- Sept when the days are a bit shorter and Autumn colour or Spring flowers are showing.
Anyway, hope you like it! Canon 5D Mk II, 24mm TS-E Lens, 2 stop ND Grad Filter
If you have been following this blog you probably know that Cradle Mt. and I have a complicated history,photographically speaking! The weather Gods just seem to give me the thumbs down whenever I go there. During my little sojourn around Tasmania in a campervan recently I spent 3 days there with Mort Ellis to make sure I gave myself a fighting chance of getting some good images of the mountain.
This particular morning I got up there early and had the place to myself for a while before the holiday crowds started swarming and came away with some nice images of which this is one.
Funnily enough, the weather was actually a little too nice with minimal cloud around the mountain during the morning twilight but I managed to get a couple of nice ones which I will post soon. What made this morning pretty special though for me was the absolute stillness of the water which made for some great reflections.
Hope you like it! Canon 5D Mk II, 24mm TS-E Lens
Sorry i haven’t posted for a while but I have spent the last 2 weeks travelling around Tasmania in a campervan, I haven’t seen half of the places I wanted to get to!
Anyway, I have lots of new images to sort & play with so stay tuned in the New Year for posts on the Blog.
In the meantime, I hope you all had a great Xmas and have a Safe & Happy New Year! See you all in 2013!