Historic Aeroplanes

Last weekend, I took Joshua to the local airfield for his ultralight flying lesson. I took the new zoom lens to try some aviation photography. I was very fortunate that instead of the usual hum-drum Cessnas and Pipers of General Avation, the Old Aeroplane Company were flying two T6 Texans. One was in RAAF livery, the other in US Navy and both looked and sounded magnificent. These aircraft were advanced trainers around the time of World War 2 and have a unique sound as they become airborne. Back in the UK, airshow commentators referred to the propellor tips going supersonic, which caused this particular audio signature.

T6 Texan
Texan in RAAF livery
T6 Texan - US Navy colours
Texan in US Navy livery

The next aircraft is an Interstate S-1 Cadet, which I had never heard of before. I mistook it, from a distance, for a Piper Supercub. I love the colours on this aeroplane. Some online research at home revealed that it was a contemporary of the Cub, with some refinements but a heftier weight and price tag, which meant it sold less well. This example looks very well cared for.

Interstate S-1 Cadet
Interstate S-1 Cadet on take-off
EC120 Helicopter
EC120 Helicopter

Just as we were about to leave, this red EC120 arrived, which was a bonus for a helicopter fan such as me. I don’t believe Tyabb has a vast amount of helicopter ops, so it was a pleasant surprise.

I look forward to my next trip. Tyabb is certainly an interesting airfield, in terms of the chance of seeing some unique machines.

More from the Zoom lens

Last Sunday afternoon, the weather was quite wonderful. Carolin and I met our friends, Dean and Lisa, and took a walk through the wildlife reserve at The Briars, Mount Martha. This was exactly the place I had hoped to use the zoom lens, so I took it with me to see what wildlife I could spot. Overall, despite the ‘slow’ nature of the lens, I was pretty pleased with the results. I look forward to future visits, and also trying the lens out at the local airfield, when Joshua goes flying.

A resident Emu
Two kangaroos. There was actually a third one, just offscreen to the left.
We saw a number of Echidnas

The Briars is a beautiful place to visit and this enclosure, devoid of imported predators such as cats and foxes, is spectacular. Free to visit, so pop in if you are on the Peninsula.

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos

I ordered the Fujifilm XC 50 – 230 lens recently, during an online sale. I have not previously been particularly motivated to engage in long focal-length zoom photography, but the regular visits to our balcony by the wonderful local birds, and the chance to visit a nearby native animal reserve have given me new inspiration. The special offer sealed the deal.

The lens is an entry-level model, with a plastic mount, but otherwise feels well put together. I have been very busy with work-related things, so have not had an opportunity to try it out until today, when a couple of the regulars arrived looking for apple.

I am very pleased with the results so far. Although the lowest f-stop at maximum zoom is 6.7, I was still pretty happy with the sharpness and bokeh.

This image has had minimal editing and is essentially out of the camera. Fujifilm X-E3, 55 – 230 Zoom lens, f6.2 152mm 1/250 ISO200

Along the tracks….

The 5km lockdown restrictions over winter prevented us from visiting one of our favourite walks, along the railway in Mt Eliza. With the slightly eased restrictions, I dropped the boys at school and took the dogs for a walk along the stretch between Mt Eliza and Mornington. It was a lovely day to walk along, a few other people were out with their dogs and all of us enjoyed seeing various native flowers growing trackside. Sadly, there are more than enough weeds too and with the lockdown and the railway not operating, plus a very wet winter, the weeds are well and truly in the ascendancy.

Looking towards Bungower Road, Mornington.
Somebody environmentally minded has taken care to mow around the beautiful native flowers, which looked quite spectacular today.

Nature

I grew up in the suburbs of London. It was polluted and crowded. We had some lovely local parks, but as a child I did not really look for the nature around me and was largely ignorant of the natural world. Our holidays to the countryside were always wonderful, for the sense of space, but once again I rarely embraced the animal world apart from an obsession with dogs and a passing interest in horses and donkeys.

Since moving into adulthood, and particularly through Carolin’s influence initially and later Joshua’s passion for the animal world, I have come to learn much more about nature and embrace and enjoy it.

This morning’s dog walk was wonderful….

As always, being out with the dogs and watching them sniff and investigate is nice. As we crossed the park at the top, I enjoyed the small flowers growing out of the grass and watching little insects fly around them.

In the golf course, the lake was full with water. Really full. A Cormorant, I think, was gliding along with its body beneath the surface and diving from time to time.

As I got to the corner of the lake, some ducklings and their parents set off for a leisurely swim.

In the reserve, there were the usual various birds including some lovely Eastern Rosellas.

As I came back into Dorset Road, a flock of approximately 30 Ibis (I did try to count), came over quite low. I didn’t hear them, it was their shadow on the ground that I noticed and then looked up. I wondered if they were on their way to check out the lake.

As I checked our mailbox, on the driveway, a Blue Tongue scampered back into its burrow. We have four Blue Tongues around the garden.

It’s quite spectacular, Mount Martha.

Mia Cat

In the interests of fairness to all species, the cat warrants a short blog post. We re-homed Mia almost ten years ago. She was the only kitten from an abandoned litter to survive, having been lovingly raised by a veterinary nurse. If I recall correctly, she was less than two years old when we got her. In her kitten days, she was a playful and animated creature. She was not remotely phased by our dog, Micky, and used to roam our house, sunning herself on various ledges.

Mia is congenitally deaf and therefore does not leave the house. In our residential area, cats are also not permitted to leave the property due to the devastating effect they have on native animals of all descriptions. So, over the years she has had little supervised excursions into the garden, which she has not really enjoyed.

As she has got older, she has tended to confine herself to our bedroom, wardrobe and en-suite. This started in the last house and continued to this one. Any efforts to relocate her result in her either running back to the bedroom, or sitting by a door until she is allowed to run back to the bedroom.

We feel bad, as though life must be very boring for her, but it seems to be her choice. As with many cats, significant parts of her day are spent asleep. She goes through phases in terms of how interactive she wants to be with us, but lately she has taken to retiring for the night at the same time as me and parking herself right on top of me. Within seconds of me laying in bed, there’s a woosh as she jumps up to the bed, tramples all over me and then lays down on my chest. Nothing will dissuade her from this….. I’d rather she didn’t, but it doesn’t seem like I have a lot of choice…..

Mia. On my chest.

Schaefer and Willow

Our two German Shepherds keep us pretty busy. Willow, the white dog in the foreground, is a straightforward and very loveable animal, who is extremely affectionate. She settled into our family very quickly, almost four and a half years ago and has overcome some of the fear she must have known in her previous home. She is still a bit skittish around men that she does not know, but she’s never aggressive.

Schaefer turned 10 last week. He is vastly more aloof than Willow, but has moments when he is capable of great affection. He is as stubborn as the day is long, but secretly I quite like that strength of character. The last couple of months, he has been struggling as he does sometimes with his mental health. We have a wonderful vet and around three years ago, after excluding physical conditions, we started Schaefer on fluoxetine (prozac) which worked well. The last six weeks or so, he has begun to develop the same stress behaviours and agitation as before. Once again, a clean bill of health for a ten year old Shepherd meant we had to consider psychiatric treatments and have started him on clonidine.

Clonidine is interesting. It’s a medication I occasionally use in human practice, to settle blood pressure at times and delirium at others. It turns out it is extremely effective in dogs too. I trust our vet and he also took advice from a colleague with greater experience in dog psychiatry, so we are trialling it, but I was apprehensive about how much effect it would have on Schaefer’s anxiety, versus potential side effects such as circulatory ones. I am delighted to report that so far we are only seeing positive effects. Almost no stress behaviours, but the same alert and interactive German Shepherd one would expect and no signs of lethargy, over-sedation or cardiovascular issues. We will remain vigilant, but so far so good.

This image was taken last weekend, after Carolin and I walked down to the beach with the dogs and had a coffee sitting on the wall of the yacht club. The weather was mild. The dogs watched the comings and goings along the beach until it was time to walk back.

Birds

Just last week, these beautiful Lorikeets started to visit our balcony for apple. Quite wonderful to watch. Using the Fujifilm 18 – 55mm lens and moving slowly, I managed to get a number of photos I was pretty pleased with.

The 18 – 55 lens is absolutely phenomenal to use. I could not get over the detail in the birds’ eyes and their feathers.

Lorikeets again....

Spring

Spring in Victoria starts on 1/9, and as if nature knew the date, the weather seemed to change that day. The rain we have had over autumn and winter has mostly abated, the days seem warmer and the sun has been shining quite beautifully.

The Coronavirus lockdown persists and is showing effect in metro Melbourne, which includes our area despite our distance from the city. It’s not too bad for me as I go out to work still, but it is beginning to wear thin for the family. I understand that, because although I go to work, it’s not the same as being able to choose one’s recreation or daily activity. I am sure before too long things will ease as the numbers continue to fall.

This photograph was taken the other morning when I returned home from work after a night shift which included a helicopter trip to collect a regional patient and bring them through to the city. I’m a huge fan of helicopter trips, so it made for a decent shift. I sat here on the balcony with Carolin, had breakfast and a cup of tea in the warmth of the early morning and then retired to bed for a couple of hours.

Hammock on the balcony

Creativity

Apart from an almost unending ability to daydream and a fertile imagination, I don’t think many people who knew me as a youngster would have predicted the passion I have for creativity these days. Along with my photography, which I enjoy immensely, the movie making and writing, I have played guitar for decades. It is probably the most enduring of all of my hobbies. More recently, I am having a good go at learning to play rock Bass too.

In our new recreation room, downstairs, the family’s guitars hang on the wall. The amps are along the floor. I recently took a punt on a new product, via Kickstarter, called a Spark Pro. It’s a solid state, 40W amp with a tiny speaker and a lovely design. The premise of the amp is that as well as being played conventionally, one can use a partner app to emulate various pedal effects and amp tones. It actually works really well. It’s definitely a practice amp, you wouldn’t use it for a show. I stream the song I wish to accompany through it and the guitar or bass blends in really well. It’s a great product and reasonably priced.

Inspired by this amp, rediscovering my rock passion and a friend who recently purchased a Fender Telecaster, I have taken the plunge and purchased my first ever branded guitar. A new Strat is on its way to me, in white. I cannot wait to play it through the Blackstar or the Spark and work on improving my electric rhythm playing.

Meanwhile, a couple of pics of existing guitars.

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