Highlights of 2015

2015 was a good year, photography and otherwise. But since this is a photo blog, I’m just going to recap on the 12 photographic highlights of the year, by month.

Overall, it was a year of exploration, of the new place we now call home, Sydney, and its surrounds. It was a year of learning ever more closely of working with my camera, of understanding and appreciating light and clouds in their different forms and colors. I have chased more sunrises this year than I have in all my other years combined. I have realized how much of an ocean girl I am at heart, for nothing makes me smile more than the sight of the sea and all its varied moods – wild, frothy, raging or glassy, smooth, gently reflecting the color of the sky overhead.

January: We kicked off the year in Singapore, in my parents’ house that they rebuilt. Then moved to Sydney, and spent one weekend in Hunter Valley, and another in Melbourne watching the Australian Open. It was an action-packed month to say the least

Februrary: Jeff flew us up in a seaplane to Palm Beach as a surprise. We spent the afternoon kayaking and then hiked up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse before flying back to Rose Bay

watson bay

March: Caught a beautiful sunset by the Sydney Harbor Bridge at Milsons Point. Haha, one of the most popular locations for shooting the bridge, but I had to see – and capture – it for myself
Mar 2015 Milsons Point Sunset-46

April: Our first visit to the Blue Mountains. Well actually, to Mount Wilson
Blue Mountains Mt Wilson (1 of 1)

May: We brought both our parents to Maui Hawaii, for a week

June: Jeff’s family came back to Sydney with us from Hawaii, and Joe and I went down to Bondi early one stormy morning to catch the incredible sunrise
June 2015 Bondi to Covelly Sunrise (30 of 67)-1

July: We spent a weekend in Forster, where we went whale watching

August: Enjoyed a cool winter dawn up by Curl Curl Beach, watching fishermen and surfers. We also did go to Tasmania and Wellington to taste wines, but tasting took precedence over photography. Hehe.

September: My high school friend V came to visit, and the two of us and TPR went up to Blue Mountains for a weekend. We also returned Stateside for a visit, but catching up with friends and family and battling jet lag took precedence over photography
River Walk Blue Mountains (1 of 1)-2

October: Big month for us, with loads of activities. Well first my family came to town, and we went skydiving for my grandpa’s 90th birthday. And then we went to Fiji with Wendy and Chris

November: Sunrise paddle before work to Sydney Harbor Bridge where we saw two cruise ships come into the harbor

December: After a wonderful Christmas in Melbourne, we explored the coast along Southern New South Wales, then rang in the new year with some friends first kayaking to watch the 9pm fireworks, then mooring alongside a friend’s sailboat to catch the midnight one


Looking forward to another adventurous 2016!


Diving in Fiji, Clown Fish Edition

The past couple of years, we’ve dove in Hawaii and the Caribbean, and consequently have missed seeing the colorful clown anemone fish. Happily, we had an abundance of them in Fiji, and a few different species (and in different types of anemones) at that!

Glassy waters
The storms were just abating Monday, the first day we plunged in the waters. But by Tuesday, the winds had died down such that the waters were calm, glassy.
Baby nemo
Baby Nemo




Clown fish

Clown fish


There’s obviously tons of other colorful fish besides these cute clown anemones of course, including our new favorite wrasse, the bird wrasse.

Bird Wrasse
Bird Wrasse






Anthias galore






Scrambled Egg Nudibranch
Scrambled Egg Nudibranch


Diving the Somosomo Strait, Fiji

Except for one day, we spent the rest of our mornings in Fiji underwater. With over 2300 species of fish and nearly 400 species of corals, every dive was an exciting one.

Before this trip, I wasn’t really a fan of drift diving, because I preferred the opportunity to stick myself in one spot and have the luxury of slowly figuring out the proper exposure and strobe lighting for my subject. But currents are what lends the Somosomo Strait its fame and the title ‘soft coral capital of the world’. And with dive sites so brimming with life at every turn, photography can take a back seat. Half the time, I honestly did not know where to turn my head. From the moment we descended, there were so much to look at. Schooling black and red snappers, jacks, barracudas, big eyed brim, to the tiny thousands of blue chromis, orange and purple anthias. Heaps of corals – soft orange, white, blue, pink, purple polyps, hard stag horn corals, table top corals, fan corals. Beds of anemones with shy clown fish occupants. The odd sleepy white tip reef shark, the rainbow colored parrot fish and trigger fish. Nudibranches in all colors, stripes and patterns. Oy.

I did take photos though, loads of them. And I feel like I’m slowly getting the hang of this underwater photography thingy. If only half the time my camera doesn’t mysteriously reset itself to jpeg mode.

Getting ready for our first dive
Getting ready for our first dive


Little puffer
This little puffer reminded us of the ubiquitous puffers we saw in Belize


Lobsters, always a feast for the eyes


We saw so many different colored groupers
Anthias galore
Thousands upon thousands of these orange anthias greeted us on every dive
Green turtle
Initially, we lamented about not spotting any turtles. But Julie, owner of Taveuni Ocean Sports explained that wasn’t a bad thing, since turtles fed on algae and these reefs were healthy enough to have minimal algae
Spotted this tiny eel on the night dive
Honey and Tiger Cowris
Honey and Tiger Cowris


Flying Gurnard
Flying Gurnard


Puffer trying to hide behind this little twig of a coral


Golden Tunnel Dive
Golden Tunnel Dive
Blue Ribbon Eel
Blue ribbon eels are a rare sight in Fiji


Sea crate
These highly venomous sea crates are a fairly common sight in Fiji. We also saw a baby one climb up our dive boat


Scorpion Fish
As a friend so aptly dubbed it, the scorpion fish with the ‘resting bitch face’


Green Moray
It wasn’t till our last day of diving that we saw morays. On dive #10 at The Ledge, we saw a giant moray. On dive #11 at Fish Factory, we spotted this green moray and a white mouth


White mouth moray
White mouth moray
At our safety stop, the surge kept pushing us back and forth over this octopus, so safely ensconed in its hole

Sunsets in Taveuni, Fiji

We got lucky with the weather. It had been raining steadily the few days before we arrived, and was pretty wet the Saturday afternoon we landed. But the clouds steadily cleared up such that by Sunday evening, patches of blue sky could be seen overhead.

Spearfishermen at night
Spearfishermen at night
Our little haven for the week, Nakia Resort & Dive

Taveuni sunset

Taveuni sunset 1
Sunsets over the Somosomo Strait

Taveuni sunset 2

Taveuni sunset 3


Jeff reviewing his dive videos from the day
Jeff reviewing his dive videos from the day


Nakia Resort
The moon was waxing the week we arrived. It set at midnight Sunday, then at a later hour each night. The half moon meant we enjoyed slighter currents though. I’m not sure we could have handled 4-6 knots of current!

Lavena Coastal Walk, Fiji

We’ve just come back from a phenomenal week in Taveuni, Fiji with a couple old friends. What a trip!

Inter-island travel
We took a 12-seater propellor plane from Fiji’s international airport in Nadi to Taveuni

I’d picked Taveuni, out of the 300 Fijian islands, because of its fame as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’ (Jacques Cousteau). What we didn’t realize – and reveled in – is that Taveuni, also known as the Garden Island, is a quiet slice of haven still quite set back in time and away from the bustle and smog of city life. The island is 42km long and 10km wide, and has only 18,000 or so inhabitants who mostly stay in small villages dotted around the lush land. There are two small towns with grocery stalls, but most of the villagers grow their own crops, rear their own animals, and catch their own fish. There isn’t much to do in town, and there are only a couple restaurants that the locals frequent.

We spent most of our time on land lounging around our resort anyway. Nakia Resort & Dive, a small eco resort with 4 bures (Fijian word for wooden and straw huts) and a maximum of 12 guests. The week we were there, there were just 6 of us, and our routine was that we’d wake up at sunrise for an early breakfast before going diving. In the afternoon, we’d come back to a late but hearty lunch, then lounge around by the pool or the hammock with a book in hand. In the evenings, we’d gather for more food and drink, spend a couple of hours comfortably chatting or playing some board or card games, then retire to bed by the moonlight. Rinse and repeat.

We did spend a day poking around the north-eastern part of the island though, on the Lavena Coastal Walk:

Lavena Coastal Walk
Visitors can choose to do a roundtrip walk (13km) to the waterfalls and back. We took a boat one way – the lazier, but infinitely more fun option
The villagers typically keep a vegetarian diet, but rear animals for meat for special occasions
Lavena Coastal Walk waterfall
Wainibau Falls, the highlight of our walk. To get to the falls, we actually have to wade / swim our way through strong current. But the water was most refreshing


Wendy and Chris Lavena Coastal Walk
Along the trek back, we passed by little villages and tons of banana, kava, cassava trees / plants