Vagabonding – A Photographic Journey

Some of the stories of how we record parts of our Vagabonding journey in pictures.

Every picture tells a tale I have heard it said. In this blog I’ve picked a few pictures than mean something and added their background and story. This is not a catalogue of the most meaningful pictures or the best pictures, just some pictures we have with a story attached.

One time I was waiting to pick Jenni up from a weekend away. We’d arranged to meet at Ballina Lighthouse. Even though it was pissing down, that’s heavy rain for some folk, I saw that the lighthouse looked great in the light. I hid my camera under my coat and then sheltered under a tree and hunched over my camera to keep it dry as I fiddled with the controls to get the picture I wanted. As its not rain proof I didn’t want to expose the camera too long to the bad weather. I jumped from under the tree and ran to the position I wanted, snapped the shot and hid the camera under my coat again. Jenni turned up just as I got back to the car. It was one of the few times Jenni and I had been apart since we met.

As we traverse this vast and spectacular land I often look out the window of the car while we are driving and see something amazing. I think about stopping to take a picture of this amazing thing we just saw but if I did that every time we’d only get 10 kilometres a day. As we drive past the amazing thing I recall the introduction to “Sahara”, a photography book by Basil Pao. Basil was the photographer on all  Michael Palin’s televised journeys. The intro went along the lines of this, “while we are travelling every turn we take I see a perfect scene, a scene that I’d love to stop and set up my camera and capture. However the crew just keep on driving and I miss the picture and eventually I realise that me, taking that picture, is not the purpose of this journey.” So we drive on and commit another amazing scene to memory.

Travel Photography

We try and go walking each day, mornings often the best time. Jenni’s dad and step mum live in Kingcliff and we’ve visited a few times. The sunrise was beautiful this morning. These iconic statues guard the shores. and looked impressive in the light. We saw a family of Giant Sea Ospreys Jenni showed me where she took her daughter Maddy to swim. It was beautiful and perfect.

One of fun things I like to do as we travel is taking pictures, another is writing about our travels. These interests also help keep a record of where we have been and what we have done. Almost like keeping a journal.

As I write this bit we’ve been travelling 604 days. I carry a camera almost everywhere as we travel. I take a lot of pictures of our travels, Jenni takes pictures too, and in many different scenarios and circumstances.

We stayed in a camp site called Wilpena Pound at the foot of Flinders Range. Leanne, a friend, recommended it. She wasn’t wrong. We climbed one of the peaks, we met wild kangaroos called Euros that came and sat beside me while I tried to light a fire. It rained and our tent nearly got washed away. I saw Meat Ants for the first time and a beautiful wedge tailed eagle. I learned fire and flood are necessary to sustain life in the forest. There were an abundance of strange fruits growing at the side of the road that are still unidentified. I first tasted Pikes Beer then visited the winery/brewery shortly after just because it was so good.

I’ve come to understand Travel Photography isn’t one particular type of photography genre. It’s every type. Documentary, Candid, Street, Landscape, Sports, Concert, Portrait, Low Light, Astro Photography, Macro, it’s all of these and more. Maybe not wedding photography but who knows, it may happen.

We do not carry specialist photographic kit. I have a small entry level Olympus mirrorless camera with a cheap travel zoom lens and one other good lens I use for low light and concerts. Jenni and I have camera’s on our phones. Many of the shots in the blogs are from the phones.

What’s the Point?

Almost every great picture I see in magazines and on the internet has been meticulously planned, executed and manipulated. Sunrise pictures taken at the precise moment after waiting for 3 hours with a camera replete with graduated filters and using focus stacking techniques and 2 hours in Photoshop to make it look amazing. It took me a while to realise I cannot take these types of pictures on our travels but I can learn from them, I can make the best of what I can see with whatever camera I have with me at the time and take as good a picture as I can by using a little care and technique. I like to learn new skills, this trip is another opportunity do do that with photography.

I think this is a nice picture. I cannot remember where it is from, why I took it, what it is about or any story associated with it. The case in point is it is not a story picture for me, just a nice picture. It should not be in here, I should delete it. But if it’s still here and you are reading this, I didn’t.

When we travel, the purpose of the journey is not taking pictures, it is the journey itself. The picture taking opportunities are when we have time and are secondary. When we stop, when we go for a walk, wherever we happen to be at that time. The times we are out and about it is often not ideal photo taking weather. It is frequently too bright or too dark or raining or full of people or for any number of reasons, not a perfect environment for a perfect shot. But, we take the picture anyway. It’s for us, not for critical photographic analysis. This pic below, snapped out of the window means more to me than the technically better shots. Because it has a personal significance, its not just a picture.

This shot signifies the end of the longest days driving we have done on this trip so far. We were very pleased to see this sign. We had driven over 10 hours from Fraser Range along the Nulllarbor, the last hour or so in the dark. Judging by the serious amount of road kill along the Nularbor we were lucky to not hit something. This was roughly the mid point on one of the most epic sections of our trip.

So that’s the point. Do as good a job as you can, at the time you are present, with whatever camera you have with you at the time. They won’t always be amazing, they do not need to be, but they will be memories, and that’s the point of them.

Some pictures are technically quite difficult, well, for me that is. But the ones I found challenging that I like the most usually look like snaps taken on a phone. Like this one below. Sun low on the right, this side of the stone in deep shadow. Looks like phone pic probably. But again, don’t care. I remember the challenge and it came out ok.

This was taken at the Living Desert Sculpture in Broken Hill. On our last trip to Broken Hill Jim Ramsey, a friend told us we should visit this place, he was correct. It was nearly sunset and was beautiful, we saw a couple of experienced visitors bring sparkling wine and a couple of camp chairs to sit and watch the sun set. We read the story of how this place came about which was fascinating. This stone appears on the poster when you cross the boarder into NSW. We stayed at Broken Hill Outback just out of town and passed the Broken Hill Outback Observatory on the way there.

What’s in my kit bag?

The camera I carry round the most is my entry level Olympus OM-D EM10 Mkii camera with a travel lens 14-150mm. I take 90% of my daytime pics with this set up and most of the blog pics.

I also have a 17mm f1.8 for astrophotography and a 14-42mm f2.8 for general walking around and landscapes but mostly for concerts as it’s great in low light. It really helped me nail this picture at Panama Festival last year.

Panama Festival, Mar 2018. This was our second trip to Panama Festival. Every act was unique and interesting. Perfume Genius was out of this world as a live performer. Our camp site was close to the main stage so we could lie and listen to the music if we wanted. We help Danni, a lovely girl from Tasmania, put up her tent and she became a friend.

I still carry my original big bulky travel camera set up the Nikon D7200 and it’s travel lens which is a 15-300mm. Bloody great camera. Should really trade it in but I love using it too much. Having said that it only comes out of the bag very rarely.

When I go through my pictures I find it hard to tell which one comes from which camera. Some I can tell because the Nikon has a dead pixel I can spot buts that all the difference I can see

I have a Manfrotto Tripod and a Gorillapod gadget tripod that clamps around anything for selfies etc. I rarely use them except for the astro.

As I said the Olympus and travel lens takes all all the standard pics I need. Not sure of the cost, probably $750 Australian dollars new for both. That’s about ¬£400 Brexit currency or $500 US dollars

Every pic tells a story

Or is supposed to, each picture here has a story.

Jenni and I camped at Bridport in north western Tasmania and spent nights sitting out around our fire relaxing. It was quiet, off season so the site was empty, it was relaxing and beautiful place. With so many fire bans going on it may be a while before we can light a fire camping again. The fire was the feature that made this good camping experience – great.
Visiting Ordette and Paul in Albury, the girls decide to pose on the park bench for a snap. This was the original pose but this pose has been copied several times since on our Vagabonding journey. It reminds us of the fun we had visiting them and every time we post another pic of someone reclining on a thing we think of this time.
The outrageously beautiful Hawsbury River trip with John, Jenni’s dad. In this pic John is trying to start the motor which stalled. The colours are amazing but the memory is brighter. The outboard started this time but stalled many times later leaving us stranded quite a bit away from the boat. We caught a water taxi for the first and only time so far, it was fun. The entire trip was magical, 24×7 360 degrees of spectacular beauty. It was unforgettable.
On the Fatman Barge crossing the Pieman river in Corinna Tasmania. This was the day we drove the Tarkine Drive. 150Kms along a twisting dirt road through some of the most remote and beautiful countryside. No civilisation, no communications, no petrol. We started with half a tank of petrol and just made it to a petrol station with 2kms left in the tank. Not stressful at all!
Although this looks like another pic of Jenni on a windswept shore this was taken at the end of the Tarkine Drive at Worlds End. World’s End is where the Roaring Forties winds first hit land after travelling the planet for the longest stretch of uninterrupted sea. They deposit all the debris they picked up on the way, This point of the planet is unique and beautiful. Plus I like this picture. Could be an Album Cover.
Jenni’s dad has traced family ancestry back to Ireland in the 1800’s. When we were back in Ireland a few years ago we followed the trail back in history of Jenni’s ancestors before they left Ireland. Having a drink in a pub in Castlederg where we had a room, the owner, got talking to us and we told him of our quest. He told us of a local historian who might be able to help. Even though it was late he called him up, and even though it was late the man turned up at the pub with a pile of historical books. The historian then called the caretaker of the local church where he knew they held more records. The caretaker agreed to meet us the next morning and show us the records even though he had a funeral. When we arrived the next day he opened the safe with we big key an lifted out books over 200 years old and helped us find more details of Jenni’s family. This is the Castlederg Church, the church it happened in.
This is Baxter. We house sit a bit while travelling, this was our first house sit to see if we liked it. Baxter was lovely. We lost him though. He wandered off to visit his doggie friend next door and got locked in a neighbours garage by accident and couldn’t get home. Although we could hear Baxter in the garage his doggie friend was a guard dog and wasn’t letting us get near the garage. Jenni tried distracting him at one end of the garden while I sneaked over the other end but he spotted me and had a real fun time getting me out of there. It all ended well. Neighbour came home, Baxter got out and we all laughed.
This was our first Platypus sighting. We were in Lilydale in Tasmania, sat out several nights before we saw him. Very exciting. That kept us going on Platypus stories until Huonville where we spotted a few regularly. As an example of why the story is personal, this is a crap pic but a good memory.
This was how close we got in Huonville, it might be a better pic but you never forget your first time.
This picture reminds me of all the friends we meet,who put us up, who we then leave and occasionally do it all again. Sometimes instead of us passing through their territory on our travels, friends come to see us. Carol and Greg came to visit us in Tasmania. We had a bag of fun exploring the north west coastline. This was at the Edge of the World again and we also stayed in Stanley and Launceston. We had a ball exploring this beautiful region and saw swimming monkeys, vases made of seaweed and a bagpipe museum. The picture of the Sydney Skyline mornin, dusk and night I used as the opening picture of this blog was taken from Carol and Greg’s balcony on one of the many times they have .
You may possibly look at this pic and consider it a snap but there’s so much about this picture I love. It’s taken on our plot of land in Tassie with our shack, there’s our third Vagabonding traveller the Mazda in the background, Jenni’s big comfy moon chair she fell asleep on at Panama Festival, our first tent (RIP) and of course the love of my life, beautiful Jenni with that dazzling smile, but..also….Andy!! The neighbours dog that adopted Jenni and made our spell in Tasmania so much more fun. There are so many stories in this picture, it’s definitely one of my favourites

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