Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sailing Sydney and photo obsession

Today is a special day. Hubby and I are going sailing with Son 2 and Son 1 and his Girlfriend. The outing originated as a birthday present for Son 2 who was keen to try sailing as it is something he’s never done before. We got a great deal on Living Social and because we had the required number of purchases from our referral, Hubby and I got ours for free! Can’t complain about the value!
Our sailing is not until the afternoon. I am currently working on converting my blog articles into a hard cover book format as a personal backup. We're thrilled with our first volume so it's spurred me on with the project but I need some additional photos. Accordingly we have decided to head into town early and take a jaunt across to Manly to kill the time in the morning.  By the time we complete our essential errands it is almost 20 past eight before we are off and messaging Son 2 to be ready to go when we arrive at Coogee.  By this time we’ve missed the ferry I was hoping to get but never mind we’ll have just enough time to continue on with the plan.
We decide we'll base ourselves at the Opera House Car park. I'm playing with a new camera and I've got a moment or two to kill while Hubby returns to the car for the tripod. I snap a close up of Luna Park, that should test the zoom.
And an extra photo of the Opera House and Bridge never go astray! LOL I don't think I've ever captured this angle down along the Opera Bar before. It is challenging conditions today so we'll see how we do. If I want to put them in the book they'll need space around the edges. It's amazing how the different format impacts your choices of what to photograph and how to compose the shots.
We are JUST in time to race onto the ferry, the ticket queue is long and almost succeeded in causing us to miss it.  The day is heavily overcast and in the morning some shots I want are heavily backlit which is frustrating.  The ferry is quite busy and I zip around shooting this or that. All sorts of angles on the harbour views I've never bothered with before. Elements of our day to day environment that are just context and taken for granted, but change over time, and I figure they might be interesting to see in a couple of decades or so. 
Admiralty House - Sydney home of the Governor General 
Garden Island Naval base and the huge hammer crane
Farm Cove and the Opera House over on the edge of shot.. perhaps that might make a nice two page spread.
Or looking back at the city behind HMAS Sydney on the point.
I try the zoom again on Shark Beach and Neilsen Park behind. If the name puts you off you'd be reassured by the large netted swimming area! It's a long way from the ferry lane. This large capacity zoom is proving very handy.
I'm snapping away like crazy trying to get a decent shot of north head, but with the overcast sky and back-lighting I don't really get the image I want.
I keep it up on the approach to Manly.
The view across to Q Station.
 The south eastern side of Manly Cove.
Or the skiff club and the moorings around Manly Cove.
The ferry is really crowded and we alight with the hordes from the ferry at 10.30. We've only got 45 mins before we need to be back on the ferry, so it’s going to take some concerted effort to get round where I need to be.  I start by aiming directly for the record exchange in Whistler Street.  It’s gone. It was here in 2008 when I did my walk down memory lane article.  The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is still there though… I'm sure that’s from way back in the 1970s. Sahibs Indian Restaurant has a small group of tables facing the lane here. That’s new. We wander through to Sydney Road and decide to turn across to Belgrave Street and the park for a snap of the aviary.  We pass the hairdresser in Sydney Road. There’s been a hairdresser in that location as long as I can remember, though it may have changed hands. It’s where I had my hair done for my wedding.
The grass is long at the park and it’s all looking a bit ill kempt now. The aviary is there, but I don’t notice birds in it. Looking across the road Sahibs larger shopfront seems to have gone.
Back in Sydney Road where these days they have made an extension of the pedestrian mall, the market is in full swing. I use the zoom from a distance to discretely photograph the expensive photograph stall I had admired on our last trip here.
Time has raced past and we now have only 15 mins to get back to the ferry. The South Steyne Hotel. Snap. Manly Seafoods. Snap.
Humphries Newsagency. Snap. Malouf’s Chemist. Snap. St Matthews Church. Snap. I go looking for Wishbone Chicken. Gone.  Fruit shop. Gone.  I walk up to the school. I don’t remember the statue of Sir Roden Cutler, but it was definitely here in 2008.
Manly Village Public School… that’s changed a great deal. It’s a challenge finding an angle that fits the memories. I cross the road almost giving up.. but then.. yeah.. that angle is a bit more like it. Snap.
The Coles shopfront here is new too.  As I walk around back into the Corso I think the scales have tipped. In 2008 Manly was still the Manly of my youth. Enough has changed now that it’s gone. I feel like Manly has lost its soul to some extent. Nothing that would bother a visitor of course, some might even say Manly has improved from a visitor's point of view, but there is less of the village feel now. There’s still a couple more authentic local features. The Corso Bakehouse. Snap. War Memorial. Snap.
Having developed a new appreciation of the mundane elements of a landscapes of the past I snap a photo of the approaches to the wharf as we wait at the lights

As I walk down to the gangway I spy a beaut angle on Manly Wharf Hotel.  Nice. I like that shot.
....and pause as we walk onto the ferry to capture the scene. It may seem un-necessary today, but how I wish I had a photo of these places and experiences back 30 years ago.  Preparing the Walkabout Books has given me a different appreciation about what to bother with.
The quickly moving people will probably be blurry... No! I can't believe how much camera technology has gone up, and prices down in the last 3 years. Definitely worth upgrading.  The light is better on the way back to the quay, so I revisit some of the shots of this morning. I still don’t get quite the images I’m after though. I experiment with the zoom by taking a photo of the Bather's Pavillion at Balmoral.  I’ve done that before on 3 times optical zoom, so it will make a good test. It's almost not visible with the naked eye. Love this camera!
Back at the quay we have a little gap before our ferry around to King St Warf. Hubby is horrified to find that we don’t have our jackets in the manbag he’s been toting around all morning, and although the weather has been clearing and I suspect we won’t need them, he insists on heading back to the car to get them. Somehow he seems to think that this will justify his carrying the bag to Manly.  Son 2 and I go to get what additional tickets we need for the ferry, then head over to photograph and admire and photograph the Anish Kapoor sculpture outside the MCA. That's for this year's photo journal. I missed it when we came to the exhibition.
I’m starting to stress about where Hubby is, and frustrated when attempts to ring each other aren’t successful, but we meet up at the wharf and set off on the ferry, enjoying the sights and photo opportunities. That's a nice angle on the MCA as we motor out from the wharf. Snap.
I quickly compose a photo as we approach Luna Park. The ferry is moving quite quickly.  Hmm. Not bad. Luna Park is one of my favourite elements of the harbour landscape. I guess I'm not alone in that. It's heritage listed. They've even changed the law so that people living in the more recently built apartment blocks round about are not allowed to complain about the noise. Took a while but the years of whingeing by some of them really started to get up everyone's cruet. Don't ask me for an explanation of that saying by the way.. I've got no idea where it came from...I am sure you get the drift. The "new" law applies broadly for things, like pubs in the suburbs etc as well.
A phone call from my Aunty on the boat. Hubby takes over the camera duties and later asks if we’ve ever been to the restaurant at Macmahon’s point.  Not so far. Sails. Fantastic Sydney view from here. We must try it.  I wonder if Hubby has taken this shot to capture the phone number.. I live in hope.

It’s a pleasant ferry ride but it’s running a little later than the timetable indicated. We pull up at Balmain and I admire the lovely honey coloured sandstone in the landscaping and old buildings by the foreshore. I'm getting increasingly concerned about the time and it's a relief to see King St Wharf approaching. 
We walk briskly to wharf 9. I can’t resist a photo of the Maritime Museum and the various vessels moored in front.  Tsk. There’s a boat passing, should I wait? Hang on… that’s the boat we’re going on. Excellent. The focus of my efforts shifts. Snap. Such a tall mast. Wow.
Son 1 and Girlfriend are waiting at the wharf and we manage to be first on board after signing the usual waiver. Yeah, OK it's not your fault if we die. There’s about 24 or so passengers.  It feels a bit crowded actually. All bags are stowed below. So we leave our gear were indicated and take a seat down the back a bit, where some of us are obliged to vacate when we get underway.  I’ve already applied my own sunscreen, but the boat supplies sunscreen for anyone who needs it and people mill about passing the bottle around and smearing creamy white fluid along arms and across noses. Then we’re shuffled up together for the safety briefing. This boat is built for speed not safety and various opportunities for losing fingers or suffering other significant damage are pointed out to us. Our instructor holds a life vest. Who has flown recently? I put my hand up. Not only have I flown, I've crossed several bars down the coast. I put my hand up and am snaffled as volunteer to demonstrate how to put on the life vest. Very good. A little bit of briefing on the need to always be on the high side of the vessel and we’re off. Almost. Great timing. The cruise ship that has been moored at the International terminal has chosen this moment for departure, so we do a few manoeuvres stalling our passage under the bridge, while the crew and passengers discuss the means by which the big ships are now operated. Tugs will soon be a thing of the past.  The cruise liner now setting off down the harbour we make our own way eastward. The engine has been assisting us until the mainsail is raised. Volunteers are called to man the grinders for this purpose. 
I’m proud to see Hubby take a turn so early in the piece when so many were hanging back and deploy video and stills to capture the moment. It takes a while and it's heavy work, the assembled crowd calls encouragement. Keep going.. keep going... but I am definitely more camera happy than anyone else on board. 
As the wind fills the sails and the jib is raised the boat leans with the wind and the water washes over the lower decks. Periodically the direction is changed and the people on the grinders are changed, the rest of the passengers racing to the other side of the boat when instructed, increasingly able to anticipate when this will be. The whole thing is a blast. There are a lot of sailing boats out today due to state championships and the harbour is decorated with abundant sail. 
Our crew is James (who his colleagues call Jimmy) who leads the charge with the passengers most of the time , Bruce (bearded and America’s cup sailor), Mouse (sailing veteran and of course known to most people in the sailing arena, longest serving crew member of this boat) and ??
We sail down and around Shark Island and past the western wedding cake. Mouse tells us about these characterful harbour lights and their age. One is fairly new having been rebuilt after suddenly disappearing overnight.  The victim of some passing shipping no doubt, but noone owned up. 
The breeze stiffens and the swell rises slightly as we cross the heads. The crew count down to the people on the grinders as we approach a patch of darker water that indicates an area where the breeze is stronger and the grinding will be harder. We're heading north across the heads to Manly and some passengers are taking a hand at the tiller. The breeze today was forecast as 18 knots or so at midday.  This is towards the upper limit the boat can handle (20 knots) so ideal conditions for us.  
This vessel, Spirit21 is an America’s Cup veteran featuring lots of carbon fibre, titanium and such. It's not an ocean going vessel, can't take that sort of action.
 We cruise back from Manly with the wind.. a calm steady upright mode of travel, and not as much fun as the action of the outward trip, Mouse entertains us with stories of sailing in times past when we pass a replica (18ft skiff).  Back in the old days these sailing boats were manned by rugby players in the off season. You need the crew when heading against the wind, but on the return leg of the racing they’re not really needed so they took to jumping overboard and swimming to shore and catching a bus back to the club. So expecting that one day that was going to end in tears (Dad’s attitude to swimming to shore from boats and likelihood of shark attack springs to mind) they had to change the rules. It became that you had to finish the race with the same number of people you started with. No worries. A slight innovation, the wives of the footy players would travel out to the boat and swap with their heavier hubbies. Hmm. Ok, now you have to finish with the same people on board. This rule has permeated sailing competitions the world over but it started here in Sydney. The exception is the current America’s Cup where due to the sharp bow on the vessels, picking up crew is considered a too dangerous, so if you lose a crew member you get a time penalty.
Along the course of the day we've each had a go on the grinders. Towards the end I swap with a lady when Son 1 stands up for his second go, but from that stage the front sail is on auto and we’re not actually needed.  Everyone’s batteries have died in the course of our trip. I should have thought to keep a spare battery in my pocket. I retrieve a spare battery later in the trip and get a few extra photos. Too late for the camera to be used against me though.. a situation about which I have rather mixed feelings.
Son 1 and Son 2 are together on grinders for a bit and to my amazement Son 2 agrees to an action pose, for a photo when requested by Hubby, and embarrassed I guess he wears a beaming grin. One for the books. It's rare to capture a smile from this photo shy individual.
The breeze drops away as we pass under the bridge and the motors are engaged for our last short passage. We are back at King St Wharf bang on time at 3.30, greeted by a crowd who have assembled for the next trip. Belongings are retrieved and thanks offered all round and we're clambering off Spirit 21. It's been a great way to experience the harbour and we've been given a bit of a peek inside the world of racing yachts.
Our trip provides us with a discount and a free drink at the Cargo Bar - they mix a very nice Lemon, Lime and Bitters..so we adjourn there to a nice shaded indoor table. Hubby, Son 1 and I had very nice chicken parmigiana (should have photographed it!!! Grr) Girlfriend had a nice steak sandwich. Son 2 has brought an esky with food supplies and has periodically been munching away during the day.  He’s on a very restricted diet at the moment so he just has some steak fries. 
The footy season has just started and a game between Parramatta and Auckland is playing on the tele in the bar. It's the lower grades and Auckland is getting slaughtered.  We had been planning to stay in town and maybe see a movie or something and take some night shots with the tripod. There’s fireworks in Darling Harbour every week too, but Son 2 needs to get out and visit our new grand - daughter for the first time so we reluctantly call it a day in time for the next ferry and narrowly miss getting our parking for $15, arriving back about 15 minutes later than required. Grrr.  Sailing has been fun. I can’t wait for a shower though, and a quiet sit. Something it seems I will have to wait to get in South Australia!
During the week, we finally get a fine day. Better light and colour on the harbour and more like the day I'm trying to illustrate in 2008. I'm still not happy with my shots of North Head, it really is a challenging subject, so I take a long lunch and utilise the MyMulti 3 in my pocket by taking another jaunt to Manly.  The ferry heading over was even more packed than it was on the weekend. We might have to stop recommending Manly as a Sydney must do ;-)
Manly Cove is looking gorgeous today. It wouldn't be unpleasant to join the people swimming. It's a lovely spot. That's what makes Manly so special, so many beaches to choose from. There's a stiff breeze today, but the harbour side beaches are protected from the north easterly which is so reliable in Sydney on a summer afternoon.
It's quieter on the way back to town though. I try again to capture a reasonable shot of the lovely stripey light house on South Head.
If I don't have the shots I need for the book now it's just not possible.
We stop in town after work, see a movie, enjoyed another lovely meal at The East. Salt and pepper soft shell crab, Beef in black bean sauce and fried rice. mm. Great atmosphere dining along Opera Quays in the evening. It's getting dark now and time for us to get to work. The Opera Bar is absolutely humming. After so much showery weather it seems like half the world has emerged to enjoy this, more typical, glorious Sydney night as the blues deepen to black and the likes sparkle.  We wander around experimenting with the tripod and finally get a shot I think might do the trick for my book.  This is it. This is Sydney in the evening. Bridge, Opera House, and live music at the Opera Bar. Fantastic.
We walk slowly back towards the train. The pink lights of the bar above The East restaurant cause another delay as I stop to capture one of our favourite city dining spots. 
On the spur of the moment, I think I'll snap a shot of the platforms at the train station. Pretty mundane, but what the heck. One day I might be glad I have it. Turns out that day is today. Surprising how photogenic a train station can be at night.
We settle in on the train. I pull out my knitting and continue working backwards. Sigh. It's been another wonderful Sydney evening. I don't think anywhere on earth can surpass a perfect Sydney night.... no... not even Paris... and my goodness, isn't that saying something!

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