How is it winter already?

2017 is zooming us by. I can’t believe it’s just a few days more before winter arrives in the Southern hemisphere.

Looking at the number of photographs I’ve taken so far this year, my output has fallen quite a bit. Indeed, I haven’t felt that driven to go out for sunrise shoots, or just shoots in general.

I could probably point to more than half a dozen reasons why this is the case, but I think part of it is due to my lousy sleep patterns. I just haven’t been sleeping that well. Most nights, I wake up at three and either just toss and turn for the next couple of hours or just give up and read in bed. By the time I’m feeling drowsy again, it’s almost time to get ready for sunrise – but I’m not in a safe state to drive.

The other big reason though, is that increasingly, I’ve felt that my seascapes photographs, in of themselves, are lonely scenes. They are just static pictures and don’t tell a story, of life, of adventure. I’ve enjoyed my past year in learning how to read the different conditions of the clouds and tides, the myriad compositions I can take to capture a certain mood or drama. But I’m beginning to feel removed from the action. Rather than take pictures of the waves, increasingly, I want to dive between the waves. To have my senses shocked by the biting cold waters, to be knocked off my feet by it’s sudden ferocity, then embraced by the swash.

And so, this past weekend, we have chosen to do just that. Left my camera and tripod at home, and just went ocean swimming with our snorkels. It felt good. To be able to efficiently slice through the water with bare hands, and ogle at leisure the schools of fish in the clear waters. Baby dusky whalers, wobbegongs, sting rays, groupers, squids, trumpet fish, old wifes, flounders, flatheads, leatherjackets, yellowtail scads, wrasses etc.

After, we unfolded our kayaks and paddled around North Harbour, starting from the Manly Sea Life Museum and hugging the Fairlight beach to Dobroyd Head, before crossing the harbour to Quarantine Station Wharf, Store Beach and Collins Flat Beach. It was a glorious end autumn day with brilliant blue skies and a warm sun.

I did snap a couple pictures with my phone though. Just for keepsake. 😉

Checking off our first open water swims

At the end of last year, we resolved that we would try an open water swim in Sydney. The 1.5km Manly to Shelly (and back) swim seemed like the easiest bet.

Last weekend seemed a good time to check off that bucket list. Winter is fast approaching; already, the water temperature is a fresh 20 Celsius. We’d a string of sunny days too and gentle swell in the weather report, so we asked a couple other friends keen to check off that swim as well and off we went!

Our friend Nicola has done that swim hundreds of times in the past 4 years. She did it again that Saturday morning at 7am, and messaged us soon that we just had to do it today. I’ve never seen conditions like it, she said. So many fish and sharks and awesome visibility, all the way through.

That was all the encouragement we needed. And indeed, what a swim! We’d brought snorkels in anticipation of gawking at the marine life, but it still blew our minds. We could see the bottom the entire length of the 700m swim from Manly to Shelly Beach, where we saw dozens of baby dusky whaler sharks lazily swimming about, schools of SBT (shiny bright things), three wobbegongs, groupers, sting rays (including a banded stingaree). We had so much fun, we forgot we were supposed to be swimming, and instead spent minutes hovering over the coral beds staring and pointing and grinning. Why had we thought it was a scary swim???

The next morning, Sunday, Nicola messaged us again. She’d gone out to swim again, and conditions were just as stellar. Rose and Lisa had other commitments, but Jeff and I didn’t need much prodding. This time, we brought the GoPro along too.

It was glorious. And we checked off our big 2017 resolution, twice. 😀

(Addendum: We went back to swim a week later – yesterday. The visibility was still quite good, but we learnt first hand that yes, the ocean won’t always be so nice and glassy. After battling the choppy waves for a while, we abandoned the effort. Oh well, the water was still nice and refreshing though.)

Gallery

Sunrise at Manly and Sydney Harbor National Park

August 2015 Spring Weekend Manly and Muogamarra Reserve (1 of 65)-1

I had a breakfast date with a coworker bright and early Saturday morning at Manly, so I made the best of it and caught the sunrise. The sea was flat that morning, so there wasn’t much surfing action. But there were dozens of swimmers out, making the long trek in the cold waters from Manly to Shelly Beach. Hats off to them! There were kayakers out too, and paddle boarders, and as the sun rose and cast its golden rays everywhere, the snorkelers and divers came out to play as well.

August 2015 Spring Weekend Manly and Muogamarra Reserve (22 of 65)-1



August 2015 Spring Weekend Manly and Muogamarra Reserve (19 of 65)-1

I also managed to make my way past the broken wall separating the Shelly beach lookout and Sydney Harbor National Park, and came across this quiet little oasis of a pond. It was all so lovely and serene, I felt happy, calm.

And then I slipped on a boardwalk off the trail that led to an old bunker, and chipped the glass on my brand new lens. Argh boardwalk! What’s wrong with a nice rocky trail!? Deep breaths. I think there’s no damage to the picture quality though. At least as far as I can tell now…

August 2015 Spring Weekend Manly and Muogamarra Reserve (55 of 65)-1

That incident with the camera lens aside, it was a perfect spring morning. Cool, fresh air, with excellent company and breakfast to boot.