Twelve months ago I completed my Open Water scuba diver’s certificate. It was something that I have wanted to do for many, many years, and I am very pleased that I finally did it.
I recently had a chance to dive at Oak Park in Cronulla, Sydney. It’s a fascinating and popular dive spot that is relatively easy to access straight from the beach. I dove with a a local group and was “buddied” with a diver who, like me, was also a photographer. So we headed out and spent forty minutes on the bottom photographing the fish life off Oak Park Beach.
I am always surprised by just how “tropical” the fish around Sydney are. And the seemingly never ending variety is quite amazing.
The highlight of the dive for me was finally meeting some of Sydney’s famous blue groupers! These fish are HUGE. The males being the biggest, with a striking blue colour, while the females are smaller and a green/brown colour. They are quite comfortable around humans (due to being fed, which is not ideal) and when they spot a diver, will come to investigate and often hang around in the hope of a sea urchin treat!
The fish life is so varied – most of which I have never seen, or even know the name of.
These fish stayed close to the rock walls at all times and moved in large highly synchronised schools. I have no idea what they actually are! And fish identification, I have found seems to be even harder than bird identification!
If you are a certified scuba diver – or you would like to get your Open Water certification – I am available for adventure bookings, whether it’s a day diving in Sydney, or a week on the Great Barrier Reef, or diving in Fiji. I can am very easy to travel with and will bring you home safe with loads of beautiful photographs of your trip – both above and below the water.
To the South of Adelaide in South Australia lies Kangaroo Island. Small and green, it looks out to the Southern Ocean. It may not seem like the ideal place for a holiday in the dying days of winter, but a client recently convinced me that it would be a fun place to visit. We spent four nights there, staying near the centre of the island, and each day we drove one way or another and explored Kangaroo Island’s often breathtaking beauty.
It was a truly beautiful place to visit and a fun trip.
You can get to Kangaroo Island by car, on a ferry, which makes a few trips per day, or (as we did), you can fly there from Adelaide if you are more pressed for time.
I didn’t think that we would be able to fill five days, but (if you have a car) you can comfortably see two sites per day – and there are easily more than ten places to go!
Two different light houses
An open range koala park
A general wildlife zoo (not my favourite as I don’t much like things in cages)
A raptor zoo
Tall sand dunes (which you can “sand board” on)
Lots of wilderness hiking
Seal, dolphin, and whale watching tours by boat
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I think it gives you an idea of just how much there is to do on Kangaroo Island.
It’s a beautiful place and – if you are lucky like we were – is even great fun to visit during winter – but you definitely need to bring your warm clothing!
If you know me at all, then you know that I always travel with a camera (or three). And Kangaroo Island is a photographers dream. Here are just a handful of the photos that I took during the trip…
Those of you who visit my website regularly my be disappointed that I haven’t been posting here very much recently. For that, I am sorry. I intend to do better in the future!
To be honest, I have been distracted from writing for this site by a lot of things. Traveling with clients for longer bookings has become a large part of my business. I have also been dedicating some of my free time to photography and film making pursuits. And most recently I have been spending time working on a series of daily short films about sex work advocacy. It’s a topic that is very important to me and has become more so in recent times.
So all of these things have combined to leave precious little time and mental energy for writing these blog posts. I intend to redress that balance and post more regularly.
Apropos my advocacy short films, we are living in strange times for sex worker, sex workers, and our clients. Around the world regimes like the US, France, Canada, and others have been becoming more conservative about sex work, cracking down on it in the name of protecting workers (ironic I know) and fighting human trafficking (disingenuous at best).
Here in Australia generally, and New South Wales in particular we are incredibly lucky. For reasons I can only partly explain, Australian politicians have become some of the most forward thinking in the world (along with our friends in New Zealand). They have, for the most part, allowed sex workers and our clients to go about our business without judgement or interference (apart from South Australia where it is still illegal to sell sex and Queensland where, while legal, workers are harassed by police routinely).
I can’t express how important this is to women and to the industry of men like myself providing sex work services to women. It’s a cliche that “men see sex workers”. It’s something that society (sort of) accepts and generally turns a blind eye to – but definitely frowns upon. But the idea of women seeing sex workers is still a “fresh” and controversial one. To confirm that, just take a look at the tone of articles in the main stream media about the subject (it comes up semi regularly). It’s usually somewhat breathless and lauds women paying for sex as leaders and ground breaking. Which to some degree is true at the individual level – but the industry is well established and it’s really time that the conversation moved on from “Wow! She paid for sex…”.
For women in Australia and New Zealand, paying for sex is something they can choose to do at least without having to fear that they are breaking the law. There are multiple reasons that some (most?) men may not be put off by barriers of legality, but I get the feeling that this is a bigger barrier for women. So I am grateful that I live and work in a society that has removed another barrier from equality (or at least equal accessibility to sex work) for women.
As a result more and more women are choosing to explore their sexuality with sex workers (male and female). A week doesn’t go by that I hear someone lament the failure that is “online dating”. Tinder et al promised egalitarian access to sex for women, but in reality have just become deserts of bad male behaviour, even accentuating some of the worst traits. Sex workers by contrast are a safe and convenient way to explore and learn when someone isn’t actively looking for a partner, or has a specific need to fill.
In recent times I have noticed and increase in the number of women looking for lessons on sexual techniques, like kissing, giving oral sex, erotic massage, and more. This may be younger women with less experience wanting to improve their skills for potential partners – or older women, already in relationships who want to add some spice, or just be better lovers for their partners.
I think that it is fantastic that women are taking control of their sexuality, not just for personal pleasure, but as a means of improving their relationships. Once again, sex work is showing that women not only love sex, but are perhaps *more* prepared than men to explore its possibilities. I regularly hear clients say “I wish I could bring my husband to you to learn how to give oral”.
Well men – it’s time you lifted your game. Your partners are out here, putting themselves out to learn how to give you better oral. It’s time you returned the favour! I can teach any man to give better oral sex. To express more passion. To be a better lover.
So while other countries are busy alternately deifying and vilifying sex and ultimately just leaving their citizens confused and unhappy about their sexuality, Australia and New Zealand are simply moving forward, making sexuality just another part of our lives. Something to be respected, but also savored.
Thank you Australia. I am lucky to live – and work – here.
Last weekend I accompanied a client on a trip to a wildlife rescue centre near Canberra. On Saturday morning – around 4.30am we abandoned a nice warm bed to view the 2018 July Lunar Eclipse – you might have heard something about a “blood moon” – well that was it!
You can read more here if you are interested in the technical details of this lunar eclipse…
It’s hard to describe the strange beauty of seeing the full moon slowly, slowly eaten away by the earth’s shadow. Fading away from its silver brightness to a dull orange/red.
It was a humbling experience – a demonstration from nature of just how tiny we are – which I think, is a good thing to be reminded of occasionally.
I didn’t have the appropriate camera gear with me to take a good quality photo of the blood moon, but I did take a shot with my phone. You can see the moon bottom right with Mars in the background naming an appearance!
And another larger view. You can see the red colour bleeding into the face of the moon from the right as the shadow deepened.
I got out for a walk today. Down to Sydney Harbour and along the Hermitage Foreshore Walk to Neilsen Park. It’s a long time since I have been down that way, so it was lovely, despite the initially cool weather to see the views over the Harbour and walk along the cliffs.
It was very much a “stop and smell the roses” kind of day today. So I took the camera along with me and made the most of the excursion…
Have you ever been to Fiji? Until a couple of weeks ago, I had not.
I visited Vanuatu way back in 2005, which was a very interesting experience (and one that I would like to repeat one day), but I had never made it to Fiji.
As regular readers may know, travel with my clients has become a regular thing and I now take up to four bookings each year for longer dates to travel with clients who would like a companion to share their holiday with.
It is an extreme privilege for me to be invited to do this and I do my best to both make the trip itself memorable, and to document it photographically so that my client has a set of photographs and a photobook to relive the trip for year to come.
This trip to Fiji was no exception and I would like to share a few of the photos that I was able to take. Tropical paradise is not overstating Fiji’s charm and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to escape the winter and relax for a week with white sand and warm seas.
In preparation for this trip I attended a scuba diving course and gained my PADI open water diving certification. I now have the basic scuba diving qualification that allows me to dive to eighteen meters. This is all you need to be able to take advantage of much of the fabulous scuba diving that Fiji has to offer.
I had expected to have lots of photographs from the eight dives that I went on during this trip, however my plans were thwarted when the batteries for my dive camera being lost while clearing security scanning at Sydney Airport. It was a huge disappointment, however it did not detract from the experience of diving itself.
I had the most amazing experiences, including watching eagle rays drift out of the gloom and glide past my group, then fade back into the depths, having a sea turtle heave itself up and circle around me – curious, before heading off to another part of the reef.
And then there were the sharks. At a place called The Cathedral, where deep waters plunge away from rock and coral pillars, groups of two and three white tipped reef sharks – fine and streamlined – cruised in to look at us and circled around before heading away again into the dark. And overhead, unexpected, and seen only as a heavy silhouette – a bull shark, a powerful predator easily more than two meters long.
It is hard to describe how being in the world of these creatures makes you feel – besides small. The beauty of hard and soft corals and myriad life that they support, the schools of fish that flash silver as they turn in perfect unison when startled, even the tiny colourful fish that hover over corals and retreat as a family between the branches as you approach.
We are clumsy down there, able to exist only through our machines, and even then, only for such short times before we have to leave again and go back to the waves and the sky above.
But you don’t come back the same. You can’t. When I look at the water now, I am transported back to those moments of rolling back off the side of the dive boat, mask held in place with a finger tip, taking those first strange, cool rushing breaths of air from the regulator – and then the bubbles clear and your eye follows the shafts of light down to a wonderland garden below on the sea floor. And all you can think of is getting down there and seeing what mother nature will show you this time – making every breath of air in the tank count.
Little wonder that diving is so addictive.
And then it’s over, all too soon and you are slowly heading back to the surface, stopping to decompress, caught half way between one world and another. A moment to reflect on that place and its inherent fragility.
We drop anchors that break coral, we cast lines that snag and tangle, we set nets that take fish and other creatures wholesale. And while we stay on the surface we have no idea what is down there and what we do to this place of unfathomable complexity and beauty.
The chance to dive is a chance to become a larger person. A chance to know a bigger world. It is a chance that I am extremely grateful to have been given. And one that I fully intend to continue to explore.
Back above the waves, Fiji is no less beautiful. Beaches of white sand unroll around green atolls, and the sun, filtered through a thicker atmosphere than I am used to in New South Wales and Victoria needs less sunscreen to fend it off.
Perhaps one of the best parts though of Fiji is her people. Friendly, open, and lovely. They take a never ending tide of visitors into their land and make you feel a part of their family, sharing freely despite lives that are nowhere near as wealthy as ours. It’s a trait that stands out starkly in this age and makes Fiji such a lovely surprise to visit.
Another surprise to me was just how many American tourists I met in Fiji. For me it was a four and a half hour flight from Sydney to Nandi Airport. For many of them it takes eighteen hours or more to get to Fiji, yet they come here – many of them year after year, for something that they simply can’t get in the Caribbean, or other parts closer to home.
And while American tourists often have a dubious reputation (as do Australian tourists it must be said), I was delighted to meet many Americans who represented the very best parts of their culture and were fun people to spend time with.
All in all, I can highly recommend Fiji to anyone who is thinking of going there. It is a wonderful place, especially if you are looking for some respite from the “real” world.
I’m often asked to travel for my work, which is great. It’s an opportunity to take photos and explore – even when it’s somewhere like Canberra that I have been many times.
So here is a short story in tweets and photos from a road trip to Canberra!
No trip is complete without a camera (or three!). This was only an overnight trip though, so I limited myself to my big camera, two lenses, and my phone. More than enough surely! I managed to prove myself wrong, but it still worked out fine.
Leaving Sydney was mercifully easy, with only light-ish traffic on the M5.
The clouds in the distance were a harbinger of things to come…
In the spirit of good concentration and staying safe, we stopped regularly to “Rest, Revive, Survive”.
Tea is my beverage of choice – well, just about everywhere, and it’s a good choice when travelling as it helps me avoid the empty calories of soft drink that beckon from rest stop service station fridges…
The further we drove, the darker the horizon became! In the past (including once on a motorbike) I have been caught in torrential downpours south of Sydney that were so heavy that all of the traffic had to pull over to the side of the road.
I was really hoping this wasn’t going to be one of those storms.
And then it hit. Really serious rain! But thankfully not serious enough to make us have to pull over – although it did have it’s moments.
Much to our relief, the rain eased (a little anyway) when we got to Goulburn, so I was able to get a quick photo of The Big Merino!
If you’re not familiar with Australian regional highway culture, then this is the pinnacle of that culture: the BIG [insert regional speciality].
The Big Banana (Coffs Harbour)
The Big Potato (Robertson, NSW)
The Big Playable Guitar (Narrandera – apparently it’s the largest playable guitar in the world – who knew?)
And of course in a wool growing region like Goulburn – The Big Merino (sheep). There are many, many more “big” things dotted around Australia.
Random trivia: The Big Merino was moved from it’s original location, about 100m across the road to the new service centre in Goulburn some years ago to make way for a Bunnings hardware store. The jury is still out as to whether or not this improved Goulburn’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.
Rambo (as he is locally known according to Wikipedia) was sporting a very festive red thing around his neck. Good to see Goulburn getting into the Christmas spirit.
We set off again and continued through patchy rain for Canberra and took a moment to stop at Lake George. Actually two moment – as there are two quite good rest stops to view the lake from.
Now my tweet about the lake was somewhat confusing for some people. It’s called Lake George – but where’s the water? The answer is that Lake George is highly seasonal (and sometimes doesn’t fill up very much at all for years).
So most of the time Lake George is a flat plain of waving grass that hosts various birds and in the back ground a low line of hills – topped, controversially in recent years with a forest of wind turbines.
It was quite the view with the storm clouds coming over as you can see below! Click on the image to see the full panorama
If you love dramatic skies, then these photos are for you. It really was a beautiful scene and I was just a little disappointed that I hadn’t bought my equipment to shoot time-lapses!
The last time I stopped to take photos at Lake George (about a year ago) I managed to shoot a beautiful time-lapse with the passing clouds and the play of light and shadow over the lake grass. You can see it near the star of this video…
We waved Lake George goodbye and made the final run into Canberra before the sun set.
Now I’m a big fan of public transport and I much prefer light rail to busses. But it was disappointing that Canberra cut down all of the beautiful eucalypts that lined the middle of middle of Northbourn Ave to build theirs.
I suppose that they couldn’t really do much else, but it is a shame to see all of those trees gone now to be replaced with concrete and rails. I am hoping that they will replant with something once the rails are done, but who knows?
Hotel rooms in Canberra rarely have a beautiful outlook, but this one was rather pleasing.
While walking out to find some dinner, we discovered that one of the roundabouts in Braddon had been painted up in LGBTQI colours in support of the same sex marriage non-compulsory, non-binding, (totally-not-a-plebiscite) postal vote.
It’s nice to see such public, unambiguous support of marriage equality.
And it has become quite the tourist draw too – I wasn’t the only one taking selfies on it!
A burger and chips with a beer from Grease Monkeys Cafe seemed like perfect road trip fair! Not the finest dining in Canberra to be sure, but it was quick and easy and cheerful food food after a long drive.
Jump forward to the next day and we headed back for Sydney. It was a far better day to be driving! No rain and barely a cloud in sight.
Leaving Canberra though, there is an avenue of bottle brushes that were in absolutely spectacular bloom! This isn’t the best photo ever taken, but you can clearly see the beautiful red bottle brush flowers covering them.
The drive home was uneventful – but did include me sleeping for an hour! Lets just say that I am not a nervous passenger.
As always, there were many, many trucks on the Hume Highway (and a fair seasoning of highway patrol police too). It never ceases to amaze me the shear volume of “stuff” that we move around the countryside on trucks.
Despite roadworks and the usual disaster that is the M5 motorway, we made good time back into Sydney and I was soon home…
This was only a quick trip, but I am available to travel pretty much anywhere you might like to go. From a day or two locally, to a week or more in Australia or overseas.
Sydney has its problems, but distance from various spectacular natural attractions is not one of them.
I had some time this afternoon, so I decided to take my new camera – and drone out of Sydney and explore nature. My destination was the South Lawson waterfall circuit.
It’s an hour a little over an hour drive from my place in Olympic Park to Lawson, so it was a convenient destination that is reputed to have some fabulous scenery. And I have to say – it did not disappoint!
Don’t forget to click each image to see the full size version.
So, if you are contemplating a date with me and would like to take a walk in nature, then just let me know. There are so many special places to explore in Sydney and close by.
“The Camino de Santiago known in English as The Way of Saint James among other names, is a network of pilgrims’ ways serving pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups” – from Wikipedia
For those who follow my Twitter account (@JohnOhOfSydney) you will know that I was lucky to be booked by a client to join her for a few days walking The Camino de Santiago from the South of France down into Northern Spain earlier this year.
It was a fabulous trip – filled with beautiful scenery, physical challenge, and the solitude of wild places.
I am not a religious or spiritual person, but you don’t need to be to enjoy this trek and to grow as a person from the experience. I had the opportunity to practice my photography skills along the way and I can say that the scenery was truly stunning – like nothing that I have ever experienced. I love Australia and the Australian landscape, but I have always had a strong reaction to the deep and vivid greens of European lands and forest.
Something that surprised me was discovering that there was very little animal life – other than domestic animals – as we walked over the French Pyrenees Mountains. There was some bird life (including golden eagles which were most impressive), but I literally didn’t see a wild animal until we reached Pamplona – and that was a solitary red squirrel.
The food in southern France and Northern Spain was surprising to me. It was probably the biggest cultural difference from Australia. The local food was very limited in its variety. A lot of bread, cured meat, and cheese – and quiche! I love all of those things, but you can have too much of a good thing…
It emphasised to me how much Australia has benefited from migrant culture. We have such diversity in the food available to us on any given day on in any place. There will always be Asian food, European food, American food – the list goes on. And our fresh produce is, I think, second to none in the world, and that makes a huge difference to the quality of dishes.
The walking itself was serious and requires preparation. The first day from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles is approximately 27kms. It would be a long walk just on flat ground, but this part of the trip climbs 1,200 meters over the French Pyrenees and down another 500 meters into northern Spain. It’s a walk that many people split over two days rather than one, but we did the whole thing in one go. It was quite an achievement and a spectacular experience.
For anyone contemplating this walk, I would definitely recommend that you take your time. Don’t rush to get to your next destination. Walk slowly. Stop often. Look around. Take lots of photographs.
There is always another days walk ahead, but taking the time to really enjoy where you are (and will likely never be again!) is invaluable.
If you are contemplating a trip and would like a companion for your travels, then please seem my Travel Page for rates and conditions.
In the spirit of urban exploration yesterday I visited Parsley Bay, a place I never even knew existed until recently. It’s a quiet little harbour side bay that is home to beautiful waters – and water dragons and stingrays!).
It’s still a little cold in the water, but it made for a pleasant hour or two sitting in the shade admiring the view and photographing the scenery – you can click on any of these images to see the full sized version.
As the weather warms up (and the water too!) I will definitely have to come back for a swim in this delightful little spot – and hopefully see some stingrays!