Surprise birthday paddles with Sydney by Kayak

I love paddling around Sydney Harbor Bridge and in front of the Opera House at sunrise. Before the ferries start, the water is flat, sometimes glossy and glassy. It is quiet, except for the sounds of our paddles slicing through the water, and the occasional peals of laughter and excitement as our groups of paddlers push their kayaks beyond Luna Park and drink in the view of the iconic Opera House glinting in the golden pink hues of the early morning rays.

What makes it even more special, is when paddlers arrange for surprise paddles for their friends / significant others. Sometimes, it takes a bit of coaxing to get them out of bed before 5am in the morning, especially when they have no idea what’s in store, but always, their faces light up when they come to the boat ramp and see the colourful row of kayaks at the water’s edge.

And that’s only part one of the surprise! Part two is when we pass under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and float peacefully in front of the Opera House. That’s when Laura sneakily lights candles on cupcakes and then skillfully maneuvers one-handed to the surprised paddler. ūüėÄ

Totally worth those early morning calls!

Long weekend in Grampians and Arapiles

We put our paddles away this long weekend, in favor of our climbing harnesses. It’s been a while since we dusted off our gear and headed outdoors, but we did try to hit the gym this past month to get back into climbing shape… or some semblance of it at least.

Rose, Jeff and I hit up Grampians first on Sunday, where we managed several short hikes, including to the beautiful Pinnacles lookout and MacKenzie Falls.

We stopped by the picturesque MacKenzie Falls.

Our main attraction for the weekend though, was Arapiles, Australia’s climbing mecca. We hired a guide, Anthony, who brought us up 6 pitches of Kaiser and Resignation. Super beautiful quartzite climbs.

It was mostly overcast, with periods of intense sunshine that burst through the clouds. We did get rained on for short minutes a few times throughout the course of the day, but the fast moving clouds only lent to the beauty of the landscape. Check out those vivid canola fields in the distance!

 

At least the rain is no longer on us – Arapiles

We enjoyed a light lunch after pitch four of our climb, amongst the bright yellow crinkly Everlast flowers.

And when we finally reached the top of pitch 6, it was to the view of 6 different highlines strung across the valley. This was maybe a 300m highline – man!

Highline goals – Arapiles

Check out the views from the top of Arapiles – and the insane highlines! We’d chanced upon the annual slackline festival in Arapiles, apparently. Here’s a link from the 2016 gathering.

And before we headed back to sunny and warm Sydney, Rose and I managed one sunrise adventure in search of canola fields.

Foggy sunrise

 

Sunrise over the canola fields

Easter Weekend – and Engagement Shoot – at Jervis Bay

I can never remember that here in Australia, we get both Good Friday and the following Monday off. Back in the States, most companies don’t even observe Good Friday! But why question tradition, especially since it affords us more time to relax down in Jervis Bay? We took the opportunity also to take some engagement pictures for my cousin Calina and her soon-to-be-husband. Since they were¬†pretty chill in terms of photography, and preferred candid and silhouette shots, I took it easy and just snapped pictures of us out and about enjoying the beach. Initially, I had hoped to take some underwater photography, but despite the sun, the weather was pretty brisk, so we wimped out, and contented with lounging on Hyams Beach and taking short strolls. ūüôā

Jervis Bay sunset

Jervis Bay
Sunrise Saturday – not much color in the sky, but I loved the lines in the sand

 

Jervis Bay Sunrse
I loved watching the two fishermen in their bright yellow raincoats and their tiny little dinghy

 

We also explored the beaches in Booderee National Park – some, like Steamers Beach and Caves Beach, were exposed and had big surf; others like Murrays Beach was protected by the bay and had inviting calm waters. We hadn’t brought our kayaks along this trip, but Jeff and I can’t wait to go back to camp and paddle those waters.

 

On our last night in Jervis, we did manage to squeeze in a more formal engagement shoot. Although there was too much cloud cover, I reckon the effects we tried to go for weren’t half bad, and we even caught the moon rise.

Alas,¬†it was too bad the two boys couldn’t rise out of bed Monday to join Calina and I at the beach for sunrise, for we were treated to a simply spectacular, albeit short, display of color. Calina was halfway down the beach jogging when the sky lit up though, so I had to content with a selfie. Haha.

Sunrise surprise proposal

What an absolutely beautiful morning! I went out with Sydney by Kayak this am to shoot a proposal on their sunrise paddle tour of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. The couple had just flown in from Singapore the day before, and the guy, Alex, wanted to surprise his soon-to-be fiancé with a magical sunrise on her first and long-anticipated trip to Sydney.

Sunrise Proposal Shoot - Sydney by Kayak
Lavender Bay – Sydney by Kayak sunrise paddle

Sunrise Proposal Shoot - Sydney by Kayak

Sunrise Proposal Shoot - Sydney by Kayak
One of the more gorgeous sunrises we’ve seen all year on the water

The forecast had warned of strong winds, but the water was flat and glossy as Alex and Natalie paddled ahead of the group and parked themselves by Milsons Point, where Alex pulled out the velvet box and popped the question.

Sunrise Proposal Shoot - Sydney by Kayak

She said yes!

Family weekend up in Forresters Beach

Jeff’s family flew in from stateside this holidays, just narrowly escaping the polar vortex that closed in on the east coast. In exchange, they got, well, a couple of rainy days, but also days of warm sunshine by the ocean.

Jeff and Mike - sunrise at Wamberal Beach
Jeff and Mike – sunrise at Wamberal Beach

We spent last weekend up in Forresters Beach, renting a beautiful house situated on a hilltop between Forresters Beach and Wamberal Beach. It was a nice relaxing weekend of lounging in the house, at the beach, enjoying each others’ company.

 

Pelican feeding at the entrance
Pelican feeding at the entrance

 

 

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Weekend camping at Myall Lakes National Park

This past weekend, we loaded our car up to the brim full with our origami kayaks and camping gear, and drove 3 hours up the New South Wales coast towards Myall Lakes. It was the perfect weekend for a getaway.

We arrived early afternoon, and wasted no time in setting up camp and assembling our kayaks, before hitting the calm waters of White Tree Bay for a few hours’ paddling. Initially, the sky was covered by a low layer of shelf clouds, leaving us a little worried about catching a beautiful sunset and astrophotography later on.

But miraculously, as we hit golden hour, the clouds dissipated, and the winds then died down completely, leaving us with a mirror-finish on the glassy lake.

Pelicans
Pelicans at sunset
Oru kayak
Our Oru Kayaks have given us hours of fun

As the sun dipped below the horizon, Jeff slipped solar lights into his translucent kayak, and slid back out onto the water for a bit of a twilight paddle.

sunset paddle

Mungo Brush sunset

Twilight paddle

Twilight paddle
Jeff looking at his sky map app, trying to figure out the satellite or stars above head

Twilight paddle

When the last of the blue hour light finally disappeared, we packed up our kayaks. We’d have to go back out again on a full moon night – that would be quite the magical paddle! But it was time to get some food on the camp stove anyway. On the menu: steak and bacon fajitas washed down with a delicious bottle of Shiraz and finished with some homemade brownies. Pretty cool what my trusty little rocket fuel could do.

Mungo Brush campground astro
The clearest milky way we’ve seen in Australia. The stars looked so near

In the quiet darkness, the stars overhead were as bright as we’d ever seen before, and appeared so close. I snapped a couple quick shots, intending to go capture more shots later at night when the milky way had shifted over the lake. Alas, when I crept out of my tent at midnight, the clouds had shifted back in, obscuring most of the galactic core.

Mungo Brush campground astrophotography
I’d tried to take another picture of the milky way at midnight, but alas the cloud cover had come back in

In the morning, we went over to the beach section of the park to watch the sun rise, accompanied by a howling¬†dingo. Initially, I’d thought the dingo to be someone’s dog at camp, seeing it by a camper van when we pulled in. But as it crept closer and closer to us, I realized from its scrawny profile and scraggly fur that it was a dingo. I shooed it away with my tripod and carried on shooting. Happily, it bounded down the beach and out of sight.

Mungo Brush beach sunrise
Catching the sunrise by the beach, we were accompanied by a lone howling dingo

Mungo Brush Beach Sunrise

A short, but blissful weekend trip. Now, if only we saw the whales on the whale watching cruise we rushed to catch later that morning out by Nelson Bay. Oh well, something to look forward to!

 

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Moonrise and sunrise over Uluru

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On our Australian bucket list: Uluru, the famous monolith rising from the otherwise flat landscape of the scrabby central Australian outback. We got that checked off this past weekend when we joined Mulgas Adventures for a 4-day/3-night camping trip.

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I have to admit Рright after booking the trip, I kicked myself for choosing, of all dates, the weekend of the full moon. One of my main motivations for visiting the outback had been to soak in the grand sight of the milky way spilling across the unpolluted night sky. Ah well, lemonade: we got to watch the moon rise by the glowing Uluru at sunset. That was quite a treat in itself too.

Uluru Outback--4

The other thing about camping under the full moon though, is that it really is very bright. We slept in swags in the open, and I had to bury myself in my sleeping bag to escape the glare!

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But in the outback, the weather changes really quickly. Though we had watched the sunset under clear blue skies, by the time we awoke in the pre-dawn darkness, voluminous clouds had already moved in. The rains held though, and we were treated to a spectacular sunrise.

Uluru Outback--5

Uluru Outback-

Uluru Outback--2

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring the trails of Blackheath in the Blue Mountains

Sunday was the perfect day to check out a couple trails out in the Blue Mountains. It was hot down in Sydney – at least according to friends who were complaining. And the trails we did passed under waterfalls, where the mist was most welcome.

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Australia Day up by Nelson Bay

Fabulous weekend in all. Of hiking the dunes, soaking in the brilliant sunrises and sunsets, and a perhaps not well thought out adventure of deciding to kayak in crazy rip tide conditions where we ended up assisting three snorkelers.

It’s a place we definitely want to spend more time at, and can’t wait to return to. During whale season!

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Sunset at Birubi Beach

Sunset at Birubi Beach

Another shot of the amazing sunset we witnessed the other day at Birubi Beach. We loved the beach so much, we went back two subsequent times during our long weekend up by Nelson Bay Рonce at sunrise and another at sunset. I really love the light here.