Tag: photography

Market, Sintra and Belém

Here are the last photos that I want to show you from my January trip to Lisbon. I really enjoyed this ‘Jewish flea market’. I don’t know what was Jewish about it but it was definitely flea-style, the trash and treasure kind of market.


I love the colours.


Here’s Joan. Mum will ‘tsk tsk’ about me wearing sneakers with a dress but it would have been impossible to walk in the pretty black shoes that I brought to wear for the work part of the week.


Mmm, sexy reading material. Wolfgang and Rosangela paid a Euro for the sauciest one of these graphic novels.

We took a 45 minute train trip out of Lisbon to a town called Sintra. Sintra is famous for its three castles, and we made it to none of them due to underplanning and over-relaxing.


This ‘house of cream tarts’ (queijadas) was in front of the train station.


We came across this door on our long climb up the mountain towards the Moorish Castle.


The first sign of the castle were these ruins.


We reached the Moorish Castle half an hour before it was to close. We decided to save ourselves the cost of the entry fees and continued on the path to the next castle, Pena National Palace.


It was only to be expected. Pena Palace had just closed when we arrived. By this time we were a little weary of the whole thing, so we paid for the crazy lurching bus ride down the mountain to the centre of town. It is a picturesque place, full of little craft stores and the smell of roasting chestnuts. And of course the third castle, Sintra National Palace in town, was closed too.

On our last day in Lisbon, we took a 20 minute tram ride to Belém, home to the justifiably famous Pastel de nata, the Portuguese egg tart. The tarts are so yummy! I wish I took a photo of us sprinkling cinnamon and icing sugar on them and scoffing them down.


But here is a photo of Belém’s second most famous attraction, the Belém Tower.


The Tower and other museums are free to visit on Sundays.


The chapel of Jerónimos Monastery, which is a World Heritage site. It’s very pretty but, you know, I’m a bit over cathedrals and chapels now. I think I’m done, now that I’ve seen Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster, Winchester Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, the Dom in Cologne and other churches all over Germany, the Sacre Couer and Notre Dame in Paris…

Well, maybe I’ll make an exception. I might still put up the cash to visit Westminster Abbey one day.

Masquerade birthday

I volunteered to take photos at the gala 50th birthday celebration of Damjan’s boss. I love taking photos at events, especially when I don’t know many people. Being designated photographer gives me an excuse not to be awkward when I have no one to talk to but also gives me an opening to strike up conversation with people.

The only trick at this party was that the birthday man wanted me to use his camera, the Nikon D300. I’m sure it is an excellent camera (and it must be, costing £1000). It also had a rather magnificent zoom lens.

However, I’ve never used a Nikon SLR before. As soon as I arrived at the party, I had to frantically flick through the camera quick guide to get myself up to speed. I felt the pressure to do a credible job as the photographer for this milestone event.

It wasn’t until I had to do this did I appreciate just how much I had accustomed myself to my Olympus E-300. I’ve had it for 4.5 years. It is a dinosaur digital SLR. There’s no need for me to upgrade, though. I think I’m probably still limited by my skill more than my equipment.

Here are some photos. That’s me in the middle. I found a beautiful mask of red and black velvet with black tassells. It has a headband rather than a elastic that goes around the back of my head. The headband makes it comfortable and also avoids squishing hair to the sides of my head.

Masquerade party
Masquerade party

Sustainability and rugby

At work, I’ve been working on a project to look at sustainability issues for the Welsh Rugby Union. I’m not a rugby follower but there are plenty of people around me who are. They’re envious that I get paid to tour the Millennium Stadium and study rugby matches so popular that no one can get tickets.

So, a break from the holiday photography — here are some photos from the Millennium Stadium. The full set are in the gallery.


Walking onto the pitch.


Lots of resource issues in this picture. Firstly, the pitch has been imported from Holland. You can’t get high performance pitch from just anywhere.

Secondly, see those gantries on wheels? Those are high energy lights that are shining onto the pitch almost every day to help the grass grow. There is too little light reaching the pitch (and in Cardiff generally) to keep the grass lush. Before these lights were used, the grass would get very patchy.

Thirdly, the video screens — obviously, they use a lot of electricity but we were thinking of how they could be used for public service announcements, like ‘Do you know the four signs of a stroke?’ With 70,000 fans packed into the stadium for each game, it’s an opportunity to raise awareness.


Grounds maintenance crew preparing for the big Wales-Ireland Six Nations match.


Part of our work will look at the branding risks of particular sponsors, as well as how the Rugby Union can partner up with sponsors on outreach and business programmes.


It was a nice day.


Kegs and kegs of beer! Liquor licensing is an issue. I’m told that rugby fans are responsible drinkers compared to the more rowdy football goers. Football matchers are more tense than rugby matches. The fans of the teams need to be segregated because if they’re allowed to mix, there is the risk of punch ups.


Inside the team change rooms.


Inside one of the TV broadcasting suites. We’re looking at how the media travels to and from the match, as well as equity issues related to match scheduling. It appears that media demands for prime time scheduling sometimes conflicts with business hours (and how much local businesses can profit from more activity around Cardiff), as well as public transport timetables.


Joan, sustainability consultant.

Gantting off to Edinburgh

As you might know, I love Gantt charts. A few months ago, Damjan and I put together a Gantt chart to plan out how I could use my annual leave.

2009 holiday Gantt

My first scheduled vacation was Mauritius. That cost me five days annual leave.

The long Easter weekend meant that spending only one annual leave day allowed me and Damjan to take the train up to Edinburgh for five days.

It was glorious, such a picturesque city! We were especially fortunate in that it didn’t rain on any of those five days. This is highly unusual for Scotland.


This is Edinburgh Castle. Something funny happened while we were there. I got a text message from my friend, Frances (who is visiting London from San Francisco).

Want to join a few ny [New York] ppl at edinburgh castle tonight?

Confused, I replied:

Hi frances, did you mean the real edinburgh castle? I am here in scotland.’

From Frances:

Oh right, haha! No i meant the one in Camden [London]. Hope you’re having a fun holiday!

Here are some photos from inside Edinburgh Castle.


I thought it was funny, having a Royal Mail post box inside.


Here is an uncomfortably angled bench next to the guard house.


Loud annoying children playing with guns.


It’s good to see the Castle is up the latest environmentally friendly technologies.

Damjan and I stayed at Budget Backpackers in a private room. You know when you’re growing up when you become less and less able to tolerate hostels. I’ve stayed in hostels all around Tasmania, Germany, the UK, in Lisbon… I’m generally happy in a private room but in dorms, I feel quite anxious about waking people up and being woken up by late night party people and snorers.

Budget Backpackers was clean and friendly, though cramped. We joined one of their free Edinburgh walking tours. Our tour guide as an Aussie from Melbourne (Carlton). In our group, there were another two girls from Melbourne (Glen Iris and Gladstone Park). In the kitchen, we also met an Aussie from Geelong…

On the walking tour, we learned about body snatchers, people who would steal bodies (or murder to get fresh ones!) to sell to the anatomy school for £5.


It became necessary to protect graves from the robbers. In the first few weeks after a burial, family members would take turns to guard the body. This is the origin of the phrase ‘graveyard shift’!


The very posh George Heriot’s School, reputedly JK Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts. I thought the school kids could easily whip the tourists into a frenzy by coming out in black gowns, like we wear at Oxford and Cambridge.


It’s daffodil season!


We climbed to (the original) Arthur’s Seat. An easy one hour climb gave us a 360 degree view of Edinburgh.


St Anthony’s Chapel on the way up to Arthur’s Seat. Damjan and I sat down in the sunshine to draw the chapel for about an hour. Drawing is a hobby that we are experimenting in. I tend to draw fatter and more cartoony pictures, compared to Damjan’s more detailed and spindly drawings.


The Scottish seagulls are HUGE, so big they’re almost majestic. As Damjan said, ‘If they weren’t so common, I’d almost say they were elegant.’

All my photos are at the gallery.

Snow to storm to sun to scorch

In February, one of my best friends, Kate, got married. Kate and Avi had a multi-day traditional Hindu wedding in Mauritius, a little tropical island in the Indian Ocean. There are not many people for whom I would fly 12 hours. Kate is definitely one of them.

I stayed in Mauritius for a week. They were strange days, weather-wise. Just days before I was due to fly out, Britain suffered terrible snow storms and most flights were cancelled. I rushed home from work to buy travel insurance online. Even a flight delay of three days would render my trip to Mauritius pointless, as the wedding would be over.

The evening I was to leave, my departure time was pushed back two hours (Air Mauritius was kind enough to call and message me). Problems with refuelling and the closure of one of Heathrow’s two runways meant that we were stuck on the tarmac for another hour.

I was pretty anxious because as we were waiting, the snow starting swirling around the plane.

‘Oh no!’ I exclaimed to the girl sitting next to me. ‘Snow! It’s getting pretty white out there. I hope we get out in time.’

‘Hmph,’ the girl agreed and sadly curled up into a ball as she suffered through airplane allergies. (I get this too, when my eyes water and throat itches in the recirculated plane environment.)

Luckily, we finally took off. Later I was told that we flew out of a snow storm that shut down Britain’s transport systems for another two days.

It was not the end of eventful weather. The flight was the most turbulent I’ve ever experienced. We flew into a cyclone just north of Mauritius. For my first day on the island, the cyclone and choppy seas prevented us from going to the beach.

When tropical calm returned, I waded into the ocean. The water was beautifully warm. There was virtually no change in temperature going from the beach to the water.

I got a rather nasty sunburn. Carrying my backpack home (I managed with carry on luggage only!) sure did hurt my shoulders. It took me almost two months to recover fully from red skin.

It was only when I was flying home that I found out about the scorching bushfires in Victoria. The lady sitting across the airplane aisle had a newspaper with the headline, ‘Australian bushfire death toll its worst ever‘. I waved at her.

‘Excuse me, can I borrow your paper when you’re done with it?’ I pointed to the bushfire article. ‘That’s my home, Victoria.’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘The paper is a couple of day old already and I hear that there are more deaths now.’

I only got the full story about on the Tube back home from Heathrow. Imagine that, finding out about this tragedy from a rehashed press release in the free London Paper!

Anyway, the reason I am revisiting the events of February is that I’ve finally sorted out photos from Mauritius. A selection of the are here at my gallery. Here are some highlights.


I stayed with three of Kate’s friends in a massive holiday house. It was fairly swish and not expensive at all. I got the penthouse room. It had a walk in wardrobe, full size ensuite and, most importantly, air conditioning. At night time, the house also had cockroaches. They’re everywhere.


The Trou aux Cerfs crater high up near the shopping town of Curepipe. This crater is in the shape of a love heart!




Statues of Hindu gods at the Grand Bassin Hindu Temple, which is one of the most sacred Hindu places outside of India. Every year, half a million people make the pilgramage to the lake during the Maha Shivaratri festival in February or March.


I’m a sucker for waterfalls. This one is in Charamel, better known for its coloured sands.




The coloured sands of Charamel! So pretty, eh. I understand the colours are something to do with volcanoes. Not very specific, I know. I guess it’s to do with heating sands to different temperatures.




Giant tortoises! This one was very unusually active. It was eating leaves that tourists waved at it, it wandered around before settling down with its motionless friends in a puddle.

Finally, some beach photos.








Legs above belong to Kate’s family. Thank you for looking after me for the week!

Professional photographer

I got an email from someone called Jon.

Hi there, I would love to purchase a copy of ‘urinal‘! Would you be happy for me to do this? I go to Lisbon every now and then and your images are lovely.

How exciting! How very kind.

Having never sold a photo before (and having had a photo stolen for use on a website), I did some research into how to license stock photos and how much peopel paid for photos.

In the end, I sold the photo to Jon for personal use for the princely sum of £6. It’s not as much as comparable photos are being sold for on microstock sites but  I’m happy to start this professional photography career anywhere.

For a photo that I took for my own pleasure, £6 is a price I am very pleased to receive.

Lisbon by night

Lisbon by night is as interesting as it is by day. While we were there for work, we went out to dinner every night. I don’t have any photos from then, but here are some from my weekend off.


This made me, Wolfgang and Rosangela laugh for a long time. Maybe it wasn’t an error, though. Maybe resistance does give rise to more resistance.


The streets are lined with orange trees. I’m told these are Seville oranges, which I sometimes see at the grocery store labelled with the warning ‘BITTER ORANGES. Best used for marmalades and cooking’.

Despite the warnings, we decided that we would try them out.


Many people seem to have had the same idea as us because we couldn’t find any low hanging fruit. Damjan and Rosangela, the tallest of the four of us, were tasked with fetching some oranges.


Although Wolfgang is grimacing, he actually seemed to quite enjoy suffering.




And here is a view of Lisbon from a lookout that our hostel manager recommended. In fact, he mapped out an extremely detailed itinerary for us for the two days that we were there.

Lisbon Oceanarium

If I have only a few days to spend in a city, I tend to spend those days walking around. I prefer not to visit a big attraction that takes up the whole day.

In Lisbon, I made an exception. We finished up work on Thursday. Damjan was flying in Friday night so I didn’t mind frittering away my Friday until he arrived. I figured I would save my city exploring so that we could go together.

This is how Wolfgang, Rosangela and I ended up at the Lisbon Oceanarium. I absolutely did not regret it — such a wonderful place! It’s the largest aquarium in Europe. It has five massive tanks. The one in the middle represents the open ocean. The other four surrounding the centre tank represent the Atlantic, the Indian, the Pacific and the Antarctic Oceans.

My favourite sight was the single sunfish. I have never heard of this fish before. It is huge! According to Wikipedia, the sunfish has been recorded at ‘up to 3.3 metres (11 ft) in length and 2 tonnes (2.2 short tons) in weight’. You’ll see in one of my photos below Wolfgang standing next to the sunfish.


At the entry, a massive ancient sea creature is made of crushed aluminium cans. There are lots of environmental messages throughout the Oceanarium.


The Oceanarium was full of loud kids.


This is the open ocean tank. I think I saw those funny (serious-looking) fish below the manta ray in ‘Finding Nemo’.


Open ocean


There are schools of fish in the tank. Apparently, when the scientists notice that the schools are getting smaller, they realise that the bigger fish are not getting enough food. The big fish are hand fed. Shrinking schools mean that something is wrong with the nutrient balance.


These are Atlantic Ocean birds.


This manta looks like it’s flying.


The sunfish! The next photos are a series showing the sunfish being fed.


Sunfish feeding


Sunfish feeding


Sunfish feeding. You can see the hand reaching down. How does the sunfish know that the food’s for him?


Squid for lunch.


These birds were in the Antarctic Ocean. They flew around the tourists quite happily and weren’t scared at all.


This is is ice in the Antarctic Ocean. It is an extremely odd smooth texture. It’s because the ice is growing from the inside. It’s growing around an extremely cold pipe of some sort.


This is an sea otter in the Pacific Ocean exhibit. It was very cute.


Some shells encrusted on rocks in the Pacific Ocean.


Wolfgang next to the sunfish.




This lady’s talking on her mobile and her baby is watching the fish screensaver.


This photo looks like something you might see in a Chinese restaurant.

Lisbon photos

Long overdue, here are some photos from my trip to Lisbon, Portugal.


We found a hostel in the very centre of the city. When we stepped out, we were already on a main boulevard, Rua Augusta.


Lisbon seems to be an environmentally conscious city. The police had electric vehicles. Here’s one for tourists.




Here’s another example. In Europe, buildings require an ‘energy performance certificate’, which is a rating of how energy efficient the building is. These were being advertised in many bus shelters.


And besides these signs, even the ATMs where you get cash out had a sign telling you how much energy it was using!


This is the view of some rooftops from a lookout in Alfama, which is Lisbon’s old Moorish part.




That’s Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of St George) on the hill top.


I spotted this sign and it took me a second to understand what it meant.


And here it is! A very basic urinal on the streets approaching Castelo de São Jorge.


Although this was only a small tourist shop, it still had a large stock of port. Portugal is, of course known for the port, a fortified dessert wine. I used to drink it rather regularly after eating three courses at Cambridge formal hall.


Many houses were drying their clothes high up on the second, third or fourth floor of a building. What happens when a bit of clothing falls from a laundry line four storeys up?


You’d think only scooters could get up these streets but there are also quite a few Smart cars and tiny Renaults motoring around here. I think you need to be brave, driving around Lisbon.


A window sill that caught my eye.


Lisbon is a well developed city but there are quite a few abandoned derelict buildings. The city is still rebuilding after the 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake.




I spotted these mail boxes in a derelict building. Amazingly, one or two of them were still being used.

The golden hours

I really like the light in Cambridge and London, which are the places that I’ve lived in the UK. When the sun is out, we get a soft golden light. It’s the same as the light we get on an early Melbourne morning, only we’re getting at two or three o’clock in the afternoon in London/Cambridge.

The ‘golden hours‘ are when sunlight comes in at low angles. In Melbourne, I could get this kind of light at 7 AM on a spring morning. By 9 AM, though, the Melbourne sun is bright and white, which makes shadows pretty hard. Here, though, the golden hours last much longer.

For a long time, I wondered if I was just imagining it. Maybe I was exaggerating the brightness and directness of Melbourne light in my mind. Maybe I’ve just been paying more attention to the light here.

However, someone has given me a plausible explanation for London/Cambridge’s extended golden hours. I’ve been living at 52 degrees north. Melbourne is 38 degrees south. The difference in distance from the equator could mean that the elevation of the sun (the inclination?) is lower here in London/Cambridge than it is in Melbourne.

Do you think that’s right? Would such a latitude difference be noticeable?

This is Sackler Crossing at Kew Gardens. The light was really, really gorgeous at about 4 PM.

Unfortunately, it seems my lens was dirty. I didn’t notice the blemishes in this photo until now. I haven’t cleaned my lens recently so it’s probably still like that.

Here is the famous Canterbury Cathedral, centre of the Anglican world. (Doesn’t it look a lot like the Dom in Cologne? All that Gothic architecture, I guess.)

The cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral, which look a lot like the cloisters I’ve come across in Oxford.

The herbarium of the cathedral.

The ruins of Canterbury Castle, formerly a vital line of defence against the French, then a storage depot for a gas company.

A nice tree in a nice Canterbury garden.