Wagga Wagga dawn Wagga Wagga dawn

This foggy, frosty early-morning scene belies tragedy hidden in clear view.

March 5 2012, will be remembered as the night almost 9000 residents of Wagga Wagga were forced from their homes by the worst flood since 1853 — nearly 160 years ago.

Fortunately the city’s levee held and two months later its citizens’ lives have basically returned to normal.

However, the surrounding districts have hundreds of kilometres of fences swaddled in dead grasses and branches as a result of the recent floods. The slowly rotting debris has to be removed to save the fences from rusting and a small corps of volunteers is working to help the local farmers.

It is a daunting task. A strong team of four on a good day might manage to knock the debris off less than a kilometre of fencing.

Its what you do when the weather is inclement and you have a new camera to play with.

A quick sortie between wind squalls and showers, and a dozen or so clicks later you return home, fire up the computer and see what you’ve got.

Here are two examples, both of which are only showing about a 10th of the full image. Both show impressive detail in shadows and highlights in a potentially difficult high-contrast lighting situation.

I’m impressed. The new camera, a Sony NEX-5N, with an 18-55mm zoom and a 16mm prime lens, is an amazing little camera.

Light, versatile and easy to use, it handles tricky lighting situations with ease. Focus is swift, the shutter impressively smooth and fast (thanks to its mirrorless design), and initial results indicate it is a keeper.

Rather than list its technical capabilities I’d refer you to this review which says it all.

I’m looking forward to putting it head-to-head with my Nikon D100.

Digging through my photographic files to find comparison shots of Lake Dulverton before the 2011 winter rains I found these two that show the heavy waterweed growth that is now totally submerged.

They also revealed two potential new sports for the Olympic Games — the 100m dash on water, and syncronised ducking, below.

It has been a while, but finally I’m on the road again.

For seven long months I was forced to hover near Hobart for various medical appointments, operations, and followups. I won’t bore you with the details (some of which I’ve talked about elsewhere in the Ghostgum Chronicles), but suffice to say I did not enjoy the bleak views I was often saddled with — inner-city streetscapes and rundown caravan parks in particular.

There were brief respites here and there visiting with old friends living in the country, but often the views were blocked by curtains of rain as Tasmania succumbed to one of its wettest winters in history.

So, imagine my joy when I finally left Hobart and headed north to catch the ferry to the mainland in a few days time.

I made it to Oatlands, a longtime favourite free camping spot, and reversed into my chosen campsite to give me uninterrupted views of Lake Dulverton which, thanks to the same winter rains that kept me cold and depressed, was enjoying its highest water levels since the early 1900s.

From my ‘office’ windows I could see the ongoing variety show being offered by a new generation of coots, being silly. There was also the stately parade of a family of swans, and an old friend, the comical and basically ugly musk duck.

The high water levels also attracted the fishermen; with the best catch, a 1.5kg rainbow trout, going to a young guy from Launceston who’d spent hours drifting across the lake in his kayak.

Then came sunset, a glowing tribute to nature, and a fitting sequel to the first day on the road for my next adventure.

Camped at New Norfolk recently, I was surrounded by backpacking cherrypickers in their tents and whizbangs (Kombi-type vehicles with very noisy sliding doors). They’d be off early each morning and arrive back exhausted about mid- to late-afternoon.

An hour or two of online activity, a quick meal, and off to bed they’d go. The few I managed to speak to said it was all worth it. On a very good day the hard labour netted them $2-300. Enough to build the nest egg for the next travel adventure.

Among them were Adrien and Veronique, a young couple from Paris who had been following the fruit picking trail for some months.

Adrien had some unusual tattoos with a whimsical and creative literary bent.

Below the oak tree on his left arm was the first chapter of Cul de Sac by Douglas Kennedy which took five hours of inking.

When not travelling Adrien and his cohorts have a rather interesting band — Dinosaurus Volcanosaurus Dawgs — and together they create a bit of online mayhem.

Veronique is a direct descendant of King Behanzin of Benin. The Wikipedia entry is worth reading as the Kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin) was the last African outpost to fall to colonialism.

It was also home to the Dahomey Amazons or Mino who were a Fon all-female military regiment. They were so named by Western observers and historians due to their similarity to the semi-mythical Amazons of ancient Anatolia.

Talking with her it is hard to believe that her ancestors were rather fond of beheading opponents.

[Headhunter image courtesy Wikipedia]

The white quartz flank of New Harbour Point juts through the wild breakers stretching hundreds of metres out to sea.

A setting sun gilds its reflective canvas, throwing it into cheerful contrast with the grey hulk of De Witt Island and the bleak swells queuing up for their death dance on Hidden Beach.

For nine days the sun has hibernated deep in cloud cover and now its sweeps across the storm-washed beach and out to sea over the frothing wavecrests which have welded together in a turmoil of foam.

On the beach the noise is numbing, not unlike the roar of a steam locomotive at full bore — going nowhere.

That was the opening paragraph of the Tasmanian chapter of my book: Australia the Beautiful — Wilderness [Weldon, Ure Smith].

For the remaining two weeks of my journey through the bottom fringe of the Southwest National Park, the weather was a little kinder.

Click the link below for a small portfolio which hopefully gives a taste of the wild diversity and beauty of this, one of Australia’s last wildernesses. Allan Moult

Explore the South West Wilderness portfolio.

On assignment for a Sydney ‘foodie’ magazine when Japanese cuisine was still a rarity in Australia, I was lucky enough to be presented with this plate of sushi to photograph. How could you go wrong? No fancy angles or lighting needed.

And best of all was the tasting after. I’ve been a fan of Japanese food ever since.

Welcome to the first of a new series of mini-portfolios of worldwide destinations salvaged from a repository of nearly 90,000 colour transparencies filed away in six filing cabinets at a long-suffering friend’s home.

They’re the carefully-culled selection of a four-decades’ long career as a freelance writer/photographer.

Below is a small selection taken on assignment in the Fitzgerald River National Park in southern Western Australia.

The 250,000 hectare park is about 300km east of Albany.

Click here to see the gallery

It is a harsh environment encompassing a bleak landscape of spongolite cliffs honeycombed by the elements; scraggly dry streambeds outline with salt tidemarks; bronze-toned granite flecked with red flashes of weathered flaking rock; a coastal barrier of sand dunes as white as snow; broad valleys carpeted with low scrub, paperbark, rough mallee and wiry melaleucas; and three low ranges each topped with a small barren summit named Barren.

The three peaks — West, Mid and East Mount Barren — are remnant islands, once barely 90 metres about sea level.

Their existence is responsible for the botanical abundance found in the threatened boundaries of the National Park,

While still islands in an ancient sea, they provided refuge for the fertile flotsam of the plant world seeking anchor during the mammoth upheavals of the Proterozoic period some 3000 million years ago.

This was the age of Gondwanaland, the super continent formed when the world’s land masses were one and the fertile Fitzgerald River area was joined to Antarctica.

What happens when a musk duck, above, accidentally surfaces directly underneath a laid-back Pacific black duck?

A big chaotic splash …

… and an ongoing bitch and moan from said duck.

Pacific Black Duck

Just another bird story from Lake Dulverton, a favourite camping spot at Oatlands.

One of master luthier John Ferwerda’s violins starts to take shape in his Melbourne workshop.

“The challenge of violin making,” says John, “is to create something new from a shape and concept that is hundreds of years old.

“The design of a violin is eternal.

“The skill lies in bringing the instrument alive … in gluing together 72 basic bits of sculpted wood to create an instrument that ‘speaks’ … that is unique within its narrow paramenter.”

John is one of 34 highly-talented craftsmen and women who featured in Craft in Australia [Reed Books], a book I wrote and photographed during an earlier career.

Fly-tying is a skill not mastered by many. It takes countless hours of observation, concentration, and deft manipulation of fur, feather and cotton, not to mention supple fingers and keen eyesight to achieve the tiny works of art.

This small sample below also highlights the variation in size, colour and detail.

Here’s one of my early test shots taken with my new Nikon Coolpix S8000, my replacement “always with me” camera.

It is not much bigger than my ubiquitous iPhone, but it does come with a 10x optical zoom, a nice wide angle view, and macro-mode to .5cm.

It has proved a bit quirky to use but I guess practice will help.