Best wishes for 2022

December flew by, as it so often does. Unusually for me, I found it difficult to get into the Christmas spirit until pretty much Christmas Eve. We had a quiet family Christmas weekend, after which I returned to work for much of the period between Christmas and New Year.

For complicated reasons, we ended up making a rapid visit to the High Country on New Year’s Eve, visiting Mt Buffalo and Bright, before making it back home in time to celebrate as a family (with the boys’ partners too). More about Mt Buffalo in a future post.

All in all a nice time. I do have some plans for next Christmas to try and ensure my usual December Christmas feelings arrive more rapidly than Christmas Eve.

Happy new year from Schaefer

Creatures

This morning, Carolin and I attended a fascinating tour organised by the local Landcare group, of a 5 acre block belonging to a member. We toured the property, which he has turned into a bushland paradise, assisted with some weeding and planting and then had lunch. The vegetarian sausages at the BBQ were out of this world.

Although we do not have a 5 acre block, Carolin has worked hard in the garden to create habitat for native wildlife and to replant predominantly with natives. It is always a pleasure to see one of our wild Blue Tongues basking around the property and yesterday, I noticed what I think is a native “Teddy Bear Bee” in the mulch. Currently, the bottle brush is home to some very busy Wattle Birds and visiting Lorikeets.

With all the building, there is plenty of spare earth around, a new slope and an area that needs remedial work. I am now contemplating what we can do with this opportunity to further enhance our garden and attract more creatures.

Blue Tongued Lizard
Blue Tongued Lizard
I think this is a native teddy bear bee. A solitary creature, living in burrows. Uses vibration to release pollen that then sticks to its body for transport. Not a producer of honey.
Lorikeet feeding
Lorikeet again. The Wattle Bird is tricky to photograph, it tends to absent itself relatively promptly when we pass by
A stripped flower next to a fuller one
Cushion bush with the bottle brush debris around it

Distance

Since moving in a couple of years ago, we have been captivated by our view. It seems possible to almost see something different each day. As the seasons change, the extent and clarity of the view varies and it is never boring.

Yesterday, I finally got around to taking a few images with the zoom lens and working out what I actually see, via Google Maps. These assertions are approximate, if I track down a compass I will aim to be even more specific in the future.

This is a zoomed out take on our view. From due north to about 15 degrees

Further around, to about 30 degrees, is Mt Dandenong with the antennae. The antennae are about 60kms from us. In the background is Mt Saint Leonard, around 90kms away.

The Eureka tower is about 50km to the north. It has the slightly gold top and is no longer the tallest building in the city.

This view cuts across the outcrops of Mornington, towards Mordialloc, then Chadstone with Mt Disappointment 95kms in the background.

iPhoneography

Flickr has quite a few groups dedicated to “iPhoneography” and I occasionally upload iPhone images to add to my photo stream and the groups.

I admit to having been a huge skeptic about many things mobile phone related over the past couple of decades. I seem to have been wrong on most counts. I did not like the idea of mobiles in the first place. Now, I find mine invaluable for staying organised and getting work done. I mocked the idea of people looking on the new fangled internet on a mobile phone screen barely 3cm across when WAP was a thing. Clearly, a career in design was not on the cards. Then, when the first cameras crept into telephones, I scoffed at the idea that it would catch on. I am obviously not an entrepreneur in the making.

At various times, I have engaged quite proactively with mobile phone photography, beyond just quick snaps. I don’t really recall the name of the first camera phone I owned, I think it was a Panasonic flip phone of some sort. Looking through the archives, I found a couple of images, less than 400 pixels square, that I think were taken on this phone and made it into my collection. There is a chance they were taken on Carolin’s very odd Nokia 7600 (Google it – the weirdest phone you ever saw).

S at Roxeth Recreation Ground, August 2004. Taken on a very mediocre and early camera phone
Definitely on my first camera phone. The creative director probably thought he was being original using the phone for this purpose, but little did he know.

There seemed to be a tendency, with various offers, to turn phones over quite quickly in those days. By mid 2005 I had moved on to a Nokia 6630. Uncharitably described by some as looking like it had a scrotum, I had opted for it due to an extremely competitive deal with the “3” network and the fact that it was reputed to have excellent (for the time) camera quality, with a 1.3 megapixel resolution. Whilst I only ever used it for snap shots, I did manage to get some quite lovely candid ones with the kids at times.

A 2 month old J, taken on the 6630.
Mark Cueto, Sale Sharks winger in the 2000s. Also played for England, including a World Cup final appearance. Another ‘novel’ use for the camera phones I did not really believe in.

Clearly, colour reproduction and general quality was lacking, but often when I took the boys out I was so loaded with toys, changes of clothes etc. that lumping an SLR with me was not a priority.

The 6630 met a sad end. I had it in my top shirt pocket. It was the kids’ bath time and as I lent over to check the water temperature, the Nokia decided to check for me. No amount of towelling or storage in a Tupperware of rice (and other internet based remedies) coaxed it back to life. Disappointing. I cannot be sure what I replaced it with, but I know that my last “dumb” phone was a Nokia N73. I really liked the images on this one. It had a Carl Zeiss lens and wikipedia informs me, a 3.1 MP resolution sensor.

The N73….

I must have limped on with this phone for some time, but my archive contains less than 20 images definitely shot on it. I suspect this is because by early 2006, Carolin and a decent quality instant still camera and I had purchased a Canon EOS 350D, which I carried with me obsessively to document our family activities.

I purchased my first iPhone in August 2008, the second generation device confusingly known as the 3G. The camera was rubbish. Awful. I did try to take occasional snap shots, as well as using apps that offered different ways to present the photographs. Very few were keepers, but two out of three below demonstrate on some level why sometimes the best camera is the one you have with you.

The actual caption saved in my archives describes the iPhone 3G camera as follows:
It was a terrible camera, but that did not seem to stop me persevering with it. As long as one looks at the images no larger than postal stamp size, it is not too bad.”
This was taken via an app, with filters etc. No idea which app.
The majority of our stuff was either packed into cases at this point, or in a container on the high seas. This was taken on our last day in England, we flew out that evening. I don’t mind admitting that even now, almost 12 years later, this images tugs at my heart strings.

It was not until I purchased an iPhone 4S, in 2011 that I finally got into camera phones. I made extensive use of my iPhone 5 as a camera, because it coincided with my trusty Canon packing up. I even photographed an entire holiday with it and remain reasonably pleased with the results. There was a phase when I was somewhat disenchanted with photography, too, and only took iPhone snaps because I was fed up with carrying a large, bulky SLR around with me.

Macka’s Farm, Port Campbell, Victoria. We stayed here for a week and get well and truly involved in farm life. I had the new Canon EOS 600 with me, but the old 18 – 55 lens packed up, so it was iPhone 5 only for the week.
Great Ocean Road trip & Farm-stay at Macka’s Farm.
This cow had just given birth in the Copse.

Since the 5, which was lost at sea by Carolin, I have had a 6 Plus, an 8 Plus, an SE and am now on a 13. The 6 Plus was a reasonable camera, the 8 was terrible and I am coming to grips with the 13. I feel like the 5 may almost have been the peak iPhone camera. I am not a fan of the multi-camera and AI/software type processing on recent iPhones. The portrait mode attempts to create bokeh are hideous at times and very poorly done. The 8 in particular had terrible processing on many images. Since buying my X-E3, which is so portable, I rarely take photographs on a phone as I am not really interested in trying to turn them into something usable during post. It is early days with the 13 Pro, but I seem to find as long as I avoid zooming in beyond the stock 26mm equivalent, the photos are pretty good. As soon as you start to zoom beyond that, artefact and processing conspires to damage the image beyond repair.

Where I find the iPhone cameras come into their own, and have done since the 4S, is video clips. Whilst I now film occasionally on the X-E3, for the first two years of ownership I didn’t even know how to access the video modes! The phones did it all.

Willow, this evening. iPhone 13 Pro
iPhone 13 Pro, processed in Lightroom to convert to BW, crop and add grain
iPhone 13 Pro, processed in Lightroom to convert to BW, crop and add grain.

Thanks for reading my missive. Feel free to comment if you have any observations or thoughts, or can point me in the direction of your recollections of camera phones over the last 15 years or so.

Classic Cars

Carolin and I spent a couple of nights in Inverloch this week, which was my first visit and thoroughly enjoyable. The weather was mixed, the evenings being particularly nice but the days a little mixed. Victoria is currently in the midst of a rainy spell. I flew the drone, extending my confidence in windy conditions, but sadly something was not quite correct with the camera and despite strong composition, the image quality was poor with lots of moire and colour fringing that was irrecoverable in post.

During our first day there, a collection of classic cars drove into town. The highlight for me was two E-type Jaguars, accompanied by two Porsche 911s, an Austin Healey and a Jaguar XJS. I was pleased to have the Fujifilm with me and got a few images that were vastly more satisfying than the drone ones.

Jaguar E-Type
Jaguar XJS
Austin Healey

I am a huge fan of Porsche 911s, but curiously the two from this contingent parked somewhere else and I did not see them again.

It is written in various places that classic cars, when chosen well, are a sensible investment. I currently do not have a garage for one, I lack almost any mechanical or automotive knowledge and have little in the way of panel beating skills. Therefore, it does not seem as though a classic car is a sensible investment for me, however much I sometimes yearn for one. For the time being, I will content myself with Gran Turismo on the PS4, where one of my favourite steeds is actually the E-Type. I particularly enjoy trying to master the Goodwood Circuit in it.

1920s Krauss Piano

Back in April or May, I started to take piano lessons. Something I have wanted to do for a long while, but had somehow not got around to. Back in 2016, Carolin had purchased a second-hand electric piano off of Gumtree and I had set about half-heartedly trying to teach myself. This did not go well as I did not commit to regular schedule, nor was I prepared to start at the beginning. Each time, I simply tried to teach myself songs I knew from guitar.

I found a fantastic teacher via an online advertisement am working through the foundations. Jill chooses a nice range of pieces and provides excellent instruction. I have learnt some bluesy, honky-tonk type pieces which I love, as well as studying some more classical pieces.

I practice every day that I can and Carolin has started to play again since I had lessons. We decided that given we are both committed to it and enjoy it so immensely, that we would purchase a proper piano, rather than the electronic one.

Years ago, I had looked into buying and had found adverts on eBay for a piano tuner and restorer in Carrum Downs. I did not take the plunge at that time, but when we decided now to buy, I got back onto Google and tracked him down. Len Watterson is a fourth generation piano tuner and his son Douglas is the fifth. After a few telephone conversations, Carolin and I arranged to visit his workshop and try out a few pianos. When I walked into the workshop, I almost wanted to apply for a position as an apprentice. It is an Aladdin’s Cave of vintage pianos in various states of restoration. Seeing a Chicago piano stripped down, with the hammers out, was fascinating. Len had selected four trial instruments based upon our discussions and demonstrated them, before leaving us to our devices. One was from Dresden, two from Berlin and one from Stuttgart. We spent a good while playing a variety of songs on each piano until eventually settling for this beautiful instrument from Stuttgart, Carolin’s home city. It was built in the 1920s and was carefully delivered to our house on Monday.

It is absolutely beautiful to play, listen to and look at. We are overjoyed with it and play it multiple times each day. Although we don’t know much about its heritage and life over the last century, it is quite wonderful to have it in our possession now to play our songs on and enjoy. I get quite sentimental and emotional about music in general and this piano has already found its way into my heart.

Spring has sprung

Today was a gorgeous day. Perhaps one of the finest of spring so far. An early fog quickly burnt off and left an amazing blue sky. Joshua had his first flying lesson for several months, given the lockdown. We were at the aerodrome by 7:30 and Joshua was in the air shortly afterwards in a new Foxbat.

I took the dogs with me and once Joshua was airborne, the dogs and I went for a walk down the lane next to the aerodrome. The light at that time of the morning was beautiful, filtering through the flowering gums of spring. It was quite tranquil, apart from the occasional aero-engine. The aerodrome stimulates quite strong opinions amongst residents of Tyabb, but I was intrigued to note that nearly every gate I passed had a supportive poster about the aerodrome on it.

There were not many aircraft movements at that time of the morning, but I did get a photograph of a lovely 1947 Cessna 120 as well as some footage of Joshua flying. I had forgotten a few of my techniques for aero-photography though, so the results were not my best.

Renovations

We have been in this house for just over two years and we love it. Since moving in, we have been looking at different options for renovations and how we might like to put our own slant on it. The plans have chopped and changed a few times, but by not rushing in to it we have at least managed to decide on the best changes for us.

This winter, we got started with an excellent builder, Craig and his colleague Corey. They’ve been fantastic and we’d highly recommend them.

The first phase has involved removing the metal garage doors and replacing them with double-glazed windows, as well as having a sliding ‘barn door’ fitted near the kitchenette at the back of the garage. Joshua has now moved down to live in the small room we have down there and the dogs reside with him (most of the time). With the windows, it feels more homely, quieter and warmer.

We then moved the entrance of the house from the north side, via the balcony, to the south ‘uphill’ side. There had been a huge amount of foliage and some unusable steps there, which have been replaced with a lovely wooden walk way to the new front door.

The next phase, starting this week, is to replace the balcony. Some retaining walls are being done on the boundary between our block and our neighbour’s, which are technically interesting but dull to photograph. The old balcony is already gone, so we have to be careful not to step out the old front door!

The final part of the project, after the balcony, should be completed by Christmas and will be amazing! Watch this space.

New steps and windows
Missing balcony
%d bloggers like this: