Fireworks over Sydney harbour

Earlier this month, Sydney Harbour hosted naval boats from all around the world as part of the Royal Australian Navy’s International Fleet Review. The event was held to commemorate the centenary of the Navy’s first arrival into Sydney Harbour, and thousands of people flocked to vantage points all around the harbour to see the boats sailing in through the heads.

On one of the final nights, a spectacular fireworks show was staged, with several barges in the harbour setting off simultaneous displays of colourful sparks. I am biased of course, but I truly believe that there is no better backdrop for fireworks than Sydney Harbour.

sydney at night

It was my first time trying to photograph fireworks, and after doing a little bit of research, I knew that I needed a sturdy tripod and an exposure of around 1 to 2 seconds. Another article mentioned focusing manually, since the automatic focus would find it very difficult to find a focus point.

The result was a lot of duds, some of which were over-exposed at first before I pulled back the shutter speed. Others were poorly timed with the setting off of the fireworks, so I didn’t capture the full explosions. Many weren’t quite as sharp as I’d like. It’s rather difficult trying to manually focus through a tiny little view finder!

These were some of the better ones.sydney fireworks sydney fireworks

After around half an hour of fireworks display, the air was thick with smoke, but it beautifully reflected the colours in the air.sydney fireworks smoke

Sydney puts on a good show, doesn’t it?

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The Australian Outback

My company was nice enough to recognise me amongst their “top 5%” of high achieving employees in the business last year, and as a reward around 30 odd of my colleagues and I were invited on a trip to Uluru with our partners at the end of October.  It was my first time to the Australian Outback, seeing red dirt, and visiting the iconic Uluru or Ayers Rock and The Olgas or Kata Tjuta.

Of course it was pretty damn hot out in the desert, and I was actually surprised by the amount of vegetation in the outback.  I had just assumed that the desert was just a vast expanse of nothing but red dirt!

We did a sunset tour of Kata Tjuta, and went for a short hike to see the formation up close.

 

During our visit, we also did a sunset visit of Uluru or Ayers Rock with glasses of champagne, a sunrise view of the rock again from a different angle (early start but well worth it!), the Sounds of Silence dinner where we had a buffet dinner under the stars and the full moon.  A wonderful way to see the outback.

 

 

 

The sounds of 2011

One of the best things about being back in Australia has been rediscovering Australian music.  Especially now that I have a car and am regularly listening to Australia’s youth radio station and all round promoter of Aussie music, I’ve been a lot more exposed to the country’s best hip hop, alternative rock, electronic, and indie artists.  I’m sure many fellow drivers have been amused when they’ve looked into my car windows and seen me in my protective car cocoon impersonating a rock star!

So when it came to picking my Hottest 100 songs of 2011, Australian artists definitely dominated.  Here were my top songs of the year (in no particular order):

What were your favourite songs of 2011?

The adjustment period

Almost every single Australian that heads to the UK intends to return Down Under.  Some return after their one-year working holiday, pulling beers at their local pub and then blowing all the money they earned on a shitty flatshare in Shepherd’s Bush and a few Contiki tours.  For others, they end up settling into British life and staying longer than they had initially planned, until they get sick of the weather, and of moaning constantly about how things are better in Australia.

I was one of the latter antipodeans, and returned after three-and-a-bit years away.  Having been back in Australia for nine months now, all I can do is reminisce fondly about is how life was better in London.  Sure the weather was a bit crap, and people always mocked me for saying “thongs”, and “DAH-tah” instead of “DAY-tah”, but it’s only after coming back that I’ve realised in what an expensive, isolated, and history-deprived country we live.  Grocery shopping is a depressing experience when you realise that everything costs twice as much as the UK.  On my second day back in the country, my brother took me to a cafe where an almond croissant cost $5.50 and all I could think about was how it would only cost me £1.70 (less than $3!) in Paul.  Jumping in a plane for 2 hours will get you from London to Barcelona for a weekend city break, but doesn’t even get you from Sydney to Auckland.  And in the UK, you can visit cities that were formerly Norse kingdoms, and ancient Pagan stone circles.  In Australia, we have a some cave drawings in remote parts of the country, and Heritage-listed buildings that are only 100 years old.

Before you all tell me to bugger off back to Engerland, there are of course upsides to living in Australia.  It goes without saying that the weather is rather more pleasant, we have proper beaches, and we have great Asian food.  Our economy is still putting along rather nicely, and incomes are a damn sight better than they are in troubled UK economy.  The newspapers don’t just contain headlines about which married footballer was caught with his pants down with some seedy WAG wannabe.  And our transport system doesn’t grind to a halt from dumpings of snow:

 

It has taken me a little time to adjust back to Sydney life, but things are going well.  I have a new job and a new car, I’m back living in my little Balmain flat, and I have quite a few travel plans in the pipeline.  So all in all, life is good!  How are you guys going?