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Author: Sarah Matheson

Wooramel Station Riverside Retreat

Wooramel Station Riverside Retreat

If you’re looking for a stop off point between Perth and the Coral Coast, Wooramel Station comes with our stamp of approval.  I’m not a huge fan of traditional caravan parks as a general rule, and station stays are a great alternative at a good price.

It offers unpowered camp sites for $13 per person per night.  You can choose from shady or sunny spots on the banks of the ‘upside down’ river, or select a spot on the grass. Dogs on lead are allowed at the far end of the retreat. There are also four glamping on site tents equipped with queen sized beds for those that don’t want to BYO.

Fire pits are set up at each camp spot, and wood can be grazed around the sites. The toilets and showers are cute, crafted from water tanks, clean and functional.

The artesian baths are a big plus.  Filled with naturally warmed waters you can sink in the thirty degree water and enjoy a nice soak while sharing tips and tricks with fellow campers from around Australia or the world. It feels very decadent after some time roughing it.

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Pilbara 2017

Pilbara 2017

I’ve lived in Western Australia practically all my life, but in this big old state of ours there are still so many firsts for me. We’ve just returned from a trip ‘up north’ to Karajini National Park in our new-to-us Hyundai iMax van (henceforth known as Coops*).

You may recall we had a fabulous camping holiday last year courtesy of Tears of Joy. Our holiday plans for this year originally involved setting off in a teardrop camper of our very own, but things haven’t panned out that way. Necessity being the mother of invention K spent the week before this trip decking Coops out to accommodate gear, and add a backup sleeping module in case our borrowed tent didn’t work out, (or the more likely scenario that one of us started snoring too loud – him not me BTW).

Loaded up with a significant amount of borrowed gear including a partially deflating blow-up mattress, a Waeco fridge, solar array and deep cycle battery, the afore mentioned tent, and a range of different tent pegs, we decided to go up by road – about a 16 hour drive. There weren’t a huge number of things we wanted to see on the way up, it was June and the wildflowers aren’t quite out yet, so we did it in two eight hour driving days.

You may want to grab a cuppa - this is going to be a long one. Don't complain later - you have been warned

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Copyright and Copywrong

Copyright and Copywrong

When visiting my niece  a while ago she was working on a school assignment. I noticed that she was using Google Images to locate and copy pictures into her document. Being the nosy parker that I am,  I asked if the teacher had talked to the class about copyright and  the need to include image information in their referencing.  She explained to me all about what they had been told about plagiarism, but looked at me blankly when I explained that copyright applies to images as well as text.

It wasn’t a suprise to me, a quick glance at Social Media highlights that most people don’t know that Copyright applies to images as well as to written works.

The Fair Use provision in the Australian Copyright Act allows for the use of copyright works for educational purposes. That doesn’t override the moral right of an image creator to be credited for their work. Copyright is a pretty dry subject, but here is what I’ve learned as it applies to photography.

For the more official word, check out these great documents by the Copyright Council of Australia;


Moral Rights

These days, everyone is a photographer. Many people are creating images on a daily basis. Lots of those are going to be uploaded onto social media by the photographer themselves, or by someone the photographer has shared the image with.

For those of you who have wasted a year and a half of your lives reading the T&C for each of the social media platforms you use, you’ll already know that by uploading images onto facebook, or Instagram or whatever flavour you are consumed by, that you’re agreeing that you have the right to upload the image and you are granting that platform the right to do an outrageous number of things with it.

However the photographer retains moral rights to their images. Just like you would reference a quote or a book in an essay, you should be referencing the creator of an image that you use.

Moral rights include ;

  • the right to be attributed as the creator of an image
  • The right to take action if someone else pretends they took the photo
  • the right to take action if someone has mucked around with an image in a way that is going to cause the photographer grief (see the technical wording stuff in the act – caused me grief won’t stand up in court and I’m not a lawyer)

If you’re sharing an image and you’re not the photographer,  ask permission first and make sure you include a photo credit for the photographer. Better yet, include a link back to their page or web site. If an image has a watermark, don’t remove it by cropping or cloning. That’s just not cool.

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Life Long Learning and Credit where it’s due

Life Long Learning and Credit where it’s due

A life without learning seems a life wasted for me. It’s a privilege I treasure.  Any day I learn something new is a day to celebrated, even if the lesson is hard and teaches me what never to do again. Everything I say here equates as well to my past as it does to my present and my future.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a HR professional about learning.  She was explaining the 70-20-10 framework where 10% of your learning comes from formal education, 20% from exposure or social learning and 70% from experience.

This fits very neatly with my life experience. I’m a big fan of formal education for me because it gives me the confidence to dig deep into the other two learning spheres. There are lots of others out there that don’t need that boost as much I’m sure. but I’m the girl who reads the manual from start to finish the moment she unboxes a new toy tool.

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On opportunity and taking chances

On opportunity and taking chances

A sense of agency in life comes from having opportunity and choices.

Some opportunities you happen across just as  you are wandering along through life.  It pays to have your eyes and ears open so you don’t miss these ones. They can be small, dull and easily passed over.

Other opportunities come from hard slog, from always turning up and giving whatever it is your best shot, reflecting on your achievements, and failures, and figuring out how to get to the next level.

Opportunities are funny things. Some are thrust in front of you in an almost aggressive way that makes people like me want to run screaming in the other direction. These are the opportunities that take us by suprise, those we have not been seeking or expecting and for which we feel ill prepared. Opportunities like these will always teach you something. Usually that you are capable of so much more than you think you are. And sometimes that you have a whole lot more to learn.

In contrast there are those for which we seek and hunger.  The opportunities that lurk in the strangest hidden places, the rare four leafed variety. We check under bushes, kick over a stone every so often in case we might, by sheer chance, stumble across one.

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Hitting the streets

Hitting the streets

I was out for my bike ride this morning when I came across a street fight.  I felt 100% comfortable jumping off my bike, grabbing my camera and squeezing off a few (mostly out of focus) shots to capture the action from a safe distance. In the end I think my presence helped break up the fight, but that wasn’t my intention.

Why did I feel so comfortable doing this? Well because the brawl was between a rainbow lorikeet and a raven.

And in that moment I realised I love street photograph – capturing a candid, unobserved moment in a pubic space – just so long as the subjects are birds or animals.  As soon as there are people involved I become outrageously self conscious.

What I need to remember is that when I first got a DSLR and a decent sized lens, I felt uncomfortable getting that out to even photograph birds, so with practice and perseverance comes growth and confidence.

I needed to try for a city or industrial portfolio piece recently which took me right out of my comfort zone.  After trawling around seeking inspiration I finally came across a scene I really liked, but couldn’t summon up the courage to work it. I came away with a hurried picture that had potential, I think, to be much more that that.  I know enough from my wildlife work that once you’ve missed a candid opportunity it won’t come again.

I’ve read up on the rights and responsibilities of street photographers as published by ArtsLaw Australia  and it is suprisingly wide open. That means that the inhibitions I have relate to my own innate respect for privacy.  There is a quite a bit of discussion on the issue in the public domain, and I’m not sure yet where I will settle.

I know some people who wouldn’t bat an eyelid, and others who would agonise over it as I did. There will be still others who wouldn’t even consider taking a picture of a stranger ever, at all, under any circumstances.

I could have approached the guy on the bench and asked him if he’d mind me taking his picture.  He might have said yes, he might have said no.  In asking the question I would have changed the moment, I could have worked the picture and then approached him afterwards. I did neither, I took an ordinary picture and scuttled away feeling a little bit guilty.

guy on a bench

If the man had had a dog with him, I would have trotted up and asked to take a picture of course.  Go figure.

What I will do next time is a question I’ll be exploring this year.


Rorschach, blowing your background, and the joy of learning something new

Rorschach, blowing your background, and the joy of learning something new

This is Rorschach.


He started life with Dora Designs, and we brought him home sometime after we lost our beloved Tilly the dachshund, and sometime before we felt ready to have a real live dog in the house again.

Rorschach is by far the best behaved dog we’ve had.  He never barks, he sits and stays where he’s told and has never left a puddle on the floor.

Today he has been helping me figure out how to combine studio lights with a speedlite to blow out the background. He’s a perfect model as he just sat there patiently while I scratched my head, googled manuals and fiddled with settings.

Because studio lighting is so new for me I’m going to record my settings here so I know where to find them if I need them again. Feel free to ignore this bit unless it’s something you’re interested in.

This set up used a bit of white polar fleece hung over a backdrop stand at the rear.  My Canon 430ex ii on its little stand sat on the floor behind Rorschach, pointing up at the polar fleece. Attached to it a Yongnuo 622c transceiver in manual mode.

Two Elinchrom D-lites were unimaginatively set at 45 degrees (roughly) either side of the little guy.. These were set to have the Skyport off (press up and down arrows together then set to 0).

On camera, the Yongnuo controller, set to manual. Camera also on manual with shutter speed 250, ISO 100 and Aperture at f8 (not sure why f8, I could and should have been lower but it meant less mucking around with the position and power of the key and fill lights and the purpose of the exercise was to get the Yongnuo set to trigger the speedlite and the Elinchrom lights to act as Optical Slaves).

And once I’d figured those variables out they all fired together and I’d learned something new. Clearly more finessing in future, but we all start somewhere.

A Man called Ove – a review

A Man called Ove – a review

It’s not often I experience a book that has me crying honest-to-goodness wet variety tears. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman had me in those tears.

I was riding my bike home during the last chapter and really struggled.  The tears were not the tears you would have had reading A Little Life. These were bitter sweet tears, tears you cry because the pain of loss and love is so very familiar and so easy to relate to. This is a story of people that you know, people that you are, or have been at some stage of your life. There is a deep familiarity about the people in this book. And that might seem all the stranger when you think these people live in Sweden and the book is a translation. The way these people are captured is just so intensely relatable.

Within the first chapter I felt I knew Ove. I think all of us have a little Ove in us at some stage in our lives about at least one issue. There is something that irks us about the way other people behave, the lack or respect, the failure to follow the same rules everyone else has to follow. There is a little bit of Arnold Rimmer form Red Dwarf in Ove – but he’s less officious and a lot more complex. And considerably more loyal.

Ove is a particular kind of person. He doesn’t make friends easily, he has his own mind on things.  But when he is devoted, as he is to his wife, then there is no stronger love and devotion than the kind a man like Ove can give.

A Man Called Ove is set in Sweden in the modern era.  Ove’s interaction when attempting to by an ipad is at the very start of the book and beautifully captures the experience many older folk must go through as they struggle to keep up with the pace of change.

Ove is befriended, by force of will more than anything else, by a new neighbour, Parvaneh, and her family. Mostly through Parvaneh’s intervention Ove is also seduced into friendship by the rest of the gentle cast, and a stray cat. Each of them in turn intervene, knowingly or otherwise, preventing his careful plans to end his life and be reunited with his late wife.

The scene where Ove teaches Parvaneh to drive resonated with me so strongly. I didn’t learn to drive until my mid twenties. The whole concept was really tough for me.  I had a good long cry after my first lesson. Ove’s speech to Parvaneh was just beautiful, tough and honest.

This story illustrated that some people may be hard to get to know, and harder still to keep knowing, but if you do you may discover untold richness in the relationship you find. Theser are the people that will have your back every time, and go to fight for you when needed, without you ever having to ask.

I’ll be buying copes of this book for some of the people I love most for Christmas this year.


A Little Life – a review

A Little Life – a review

It has been a while since I wrote a book review.

I rely on the reviews of others heavily, so my reluctance to put virtual pen to virtual paper is likely poor form. That said, if I’m reviewing books that I’ve read, based on he review of others, am I am adding any value? Well perhaps only to those who place value in my opinion because they either love the books I love, or hate the books I love and will read them and can thereby avoid them.

This month I feel inspired to share. In a completely unintentional way I stumbled across three great reads, with interleaved themes, one after another.

The first was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

I heard part of a review on Radio National a while back, enough to pique my interest enough to add it to my Audible Wish List, but not enough for me to buy it straight away. Having had a steady diet of fairly average reads I decided the time had come to give this one a go.

This is a novel that needs to come with a warning.  There are parts of this book that are harrowing. There are themes of physical, sexual and emotional abuse here. There is also self harm and suicide (theme one that cuts across the three novels in this review).

These days I read with my ears, and in this case I’m glad I did.  I don’t know that I would have made it through had I been reading old style. It would have been easy to put the book aside during some of the horrific scenes and perhaps not be brave enough to pick it up again.

The tale follows four young men. Not a new structure.  It doesn’t start as young as Stand By Me, but the friendship of four guys is common in film, perhaps more so that in novels now I think about it. The two main characters are Jude and Willem.

Jude’s heartbreaking story is alluded to from the beginning, but is reveled in pieces throughout. The cruelty of people to other people cannot be truly balanced by anything, but the love, devotion and care of the friends and family he acquires comes as close as it is imaginable to get. In fact, there is a part of me that envies Jude the love and devotion he receives from these people. I think very few people are on the receiving end of so much unconditional understanding. And you give thanks when reading this book that he gets that love and understanding. He deserves it, and so much more.

Making up the rest of the foursome Malcolm and JB are more vehicles for Jude’s story than characters in their own right, to my reading anyway. They do have a lot to say about society and friendship but have relatively little story of their own.

Jude’s relationship with his adoptive father and his doctor are richer. Harold’s affection and devotion to Jude are everything you would hope a father’s love for his son would be.  I know few father’s who would be quite so tolerant in real life.  Likewise his friend and doctor Andy.  This is perhaps one of the most conflicted relationships in the novel.  The duty of care hurdles Andy has to face are so deeply challenging.  I’d love to have a conversation with a real life doctor to see how they read that relationship.

I think you could tell someone the entire plot of  A Little Life and not ruin it.  The writing is beautiful, and the narration by Oliver Wyman was bang on.

The questions that linger with me some time after reading are, how do you keep your own sense of welling being when supporting someone who is filled with so much such doubt? I deal with self doubt myself, but never anything near as crippling as that which Jude has to carry. Knowing what to say or do when a loved one is depressed is a challenge many people face, and I’m yet to know anyone who knows the answers to that. It’s hard, it’s heart breaking, it is frustrating at times.

The latter part of the book left me bereft, and yet thankful that there are kind, loving, careful people in the world, because these characters are very believable to me.

I would recommend this book to anyone with a heart, and a desire to have a deeper connection to what it is to be a friend, a lover, and a family. Pick the right moment, the right mood, and have a good friend on speed dial just in case.  I feel forever changed by A Little Life.

Putting it out there and the 3 elements of a good creative project

Putting it out there and the 3 elements of a good creative project

I have been inspired by a friend to ‘put it out there’ and get make myself a facebook page.

Why?  Because I have come to think that the best thing you can do to improve your skills is to give yourself a project.  Having someone else give it to you works too. The most powerful projects have three critical elements.

  1. A deadline, or at least a target date.
  2. An audience.
  3. Feedback

These things are just as important for writing as they are for photography. The old adage “You can’t edit a blank page” credited to Jodi Picoult is every bit as true for a picture as for a poem or piece of prose.

A deadline is important because it means you win the battle against the inner perfectionist. That doesn’t mean you don’t strive to do the very best you can, but that’s driven by point 2 quite adequately, but it does mean you produce something and that you show it. Only by doing that will you be able to step back and get some perspective on what it is you’ve done well, and what you need to learn more about to improve on.

The audience you choose, or the audience that chooses you may or may not be within your control. There may be people you want to review or even critique your work that may not care to. There may also be people whose opinions you don’t care for who will.  In the internet age its trickier than ever to balance those two things.

The most important thing to remember is that Feedback is a Gift. My dearest friend Jane told me that once, and I have carried that sage advice close to my heart ever since. Negative and critical feedback can be of even greater value than praise, and for some people can be even harder for them to give you, so treasure it when you get it.

Praise is always nice too of course, and can help you pick up the camera, pen or keyboard again when you’re having a heavy day.

A while ago I joined up with The River Guardians as a Dolphin Watcher. It’s a citizen science project that helps ordinary people like you and I report on the behaviour of our community of swan river dolphins. Now I have to admit that I have been very slack about doing my online reporting of late because I haven’t seen dolphins lately. I do know that negative data is as important to them as sightings, but we all have moments of laziness, and I guess I haven’t been in the negative gift giving mood. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped putting the camera in my bag every day, and yesterday I snagged a couple of shots.


The Dolphin Watch people have been great in proving me with comments (feedback) on my past photography, and that inspires me to want to share my new pictures (audience) so I’m going to guilt myself into sitting down this morning and sending through all of those days over the last week and a half when I didn’t see anything (deadline).

It’s a great little loop to keep going, and like with any habit it’s easier to keep going than to break.  But when you do take  a break, it can be hard to get going again.

So, long story that has failed to be short, I’m putting it out there in the hope that doing so will give the loop more momentum and make it easier for me to keep pressing the shutter button, and sharing the results.

So consider this an invitation to provide feedback – constructive comments in particular gratefully received.