Untold stories in rock art at Ubirr, Kakadu

Ubirr, one of the most famous sites in Kakadu, has an abundance of ancient rock art galleries, evidence of where aboriginal groups camped under Ubirr’s cool rock shelters, and amazing views of the surrounding flood planes in Kakadu.

The painting includes traditional x-ray art from the last 1500 years, naturalistic paintings of animals. and paintings recording the early contact with European people. There is even a painting of a Tasmanian tiger, which have been extinct for 2000-3000 years now.

Going in the wet season just increased the fun, as we had to catch a boat though the paperbark forests to Ubirr, the roadway being flooded for the wet season.

Get your Vivid on

Last Festival before Winter in Sydney

At times we like to pretend that it’s always summer in Sydney, but when winter is rolling around, we are lucky to get the bright colourful warm-up of the Vivid Light Festival.

For 18 days, the Opera House sails are dressed in colourful light designs, historic buildings bloom bright flowers and fantasy lands and light art and sculpture pops up in unexpected places. No matter how chilly it gets, when the lights come on at 6pm it is impossible to not smile and enjoy. Hopefully this gallery will make you smile too.

So did you get your Vivid on?

Removing background crowds from photos

Taking photos in popular public locations is complicated by that very thing – popularity. There are a lot of other people there to walk into my shot, or stand right in front of my raised camera to take their selfie. Every year I look forward to the stunning Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in Bondi, it is a photographer’s paradise, beautiful art in front of beautiful views. Plus forty thousand other people on the path at the same time as me. Many of them with children who will look great in front of, or on, every sculpture for a photo.

To make it look like I’m the only person there takes a lot of patience. I line up what I want and wait for 5, 10, 15 minutes for that split second break in the crowd. I look for vantage points, get low, get close, get high, get a long telephoto, crop in, wait, wait, wait. Or I incorporate them into the photo, if it adds to the composition.

So today I am celebrating the crowds, with these photos of what the Sculpture Walk really looks like, with all these marvellous people  getting out in the sun and enjoying the very same art as me.

Stunning Sculpture by the Sea in Bondi

The annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition is on again

This is one of my favourite times of the year, as spring is turning into summer and the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk hosts over one hundred stunning sculptures. With a backdrop of beautiful beaches, and ocean all the way to the horizon, it’s no surprise that hundreds of thousands of people visit it over 18 days each year in late October/early November. You should too.

Gallery of the sculptures.

a day before winter in Bondi Beach

It’s the last day of the autumn months (Mar/Apr/May) and one day before winter sets in (Jun/Jul/Aug) and the weather is phenomenal, don’t you wish you were here in Bondi?

Bondi Beach iphoneography
stunning weather at Bondi in the day before winter

It’s not really a secret that we have a pretty good climate here in Sydney. Some years it’s just better (or worse) than others. The current weather is bright blue skies, highs of 20&#8451 -23&#8451 , crisp overnights at 10&#8451-14&#8451, on the coast at least. I’m loving it – here’s some more of today’s iphoneography to enjoy:

Bondi Beach iphoneography
the ocean pool at Bronte in stunning sunshine the day before winter
Bondi Beach iphoneography
Attack of the killer seagulls (I really don’t like seagulls)
Bondi Beach iphoneography
fishing off a ledge near Tamarama
Bondi Beach iphoneography
light filtered through this leafy street

And here’s a few more shots of the rest of this week of Bondi in the evening sun, in the gallery below.






Rapt in the rock art of Nourlangie, Kakadu National Park

Nourlangie Rock is one of the most accessible rock art sites in Kakadu, even in the wet season. It’s an easy 1.5km walk alongside the base of Nourlangie. The Anbangbang gallery of aboriginal rock art is the main attraction, and it holds some very eye-catching drawings. Keep an eye out for the drawing of Namarrgon, the lightening man, so named because a rocky outcrop on Nourlangi was used as a lookout to see the escarpment on the other side of Kakadu, and see when the wet season weather was about to arrive.

In Nourlangie its easy to see some of the steps taken to preserve the unique art from the ever increasing number of interested visitors. Key parts of the path are walkways, so our feet don’t stir up dust to coat the art work, the walkways and hand rails are set back to ensure we can’t touch the artwork or environs, and the rangers can add silicon drip lines around paintings at risk to redirect the water flow away for those parts of the rocks.

Ancient rock art, Nourlangie National Park, Kakadu
Ancient rock art, Nourlangie National Park, Kakadu

Aboriginal people have been coming to Nourlangie to shelter from the wet season for over 6,000 years.

The surrounding flora and landscape is vividly green in the wet season. the Gunwarddehwarde Lookout, an outcrop on the each of Nourlangie, makes a greatpoint for viewing the surrounding landscape. In the dry season there is a great view of Nourlangie from the other side of the Anbangbang billabong, but it’s not possible in the wet season.

Kakadu in the wet season – to go or not to go?

Mention ‘wet season’ in the tropics, and I usually think it would be better to visit in the dry – isn’t sightseeing hard in the rain? But when I had the opportunity to visit Kakadu with a couple of friends in February (wet season is Oct/Nov to Mar/Apr) and I took it. Here’s the pro’s and con’s of going in the wet season.

  • There’s not many other visitors. This can mean that the tours from Darwin don’t run as frequently, although we didn’t find it difficult to get the dates we wanted. We found it meant we were travelling with, and running into, only a few other people. And for one amazing day it was just the three of us and the local guides, incredible for such a well visited area. We had Ubirr and the stunning rock art to ourselves, climbed to the lookout and could see to the horizon without being able to see another vehicle or person, an amazing privilege.
  • Some of the roads will be flooded and and the areas that can be reached are more restricted than in the dry. Exactly what will be accessible will not be very predictable in advance, as it depends on the amount and timing of rain each year. The locals and tour operators know which areas will flood more than others, and which ones are pretty much guaranteed to be inaccessible. We thought the road closures were a great bonus, because we then transferred to small shallow bottomed boats and cruised serenely through flooded forests of soaring paperbark trees – we were floating in nature’s cathedral.
  • Its harder to see the crocodiles. We all want to see crocodiles in Kakadu (as long as we are safely out of the water), and they are still there in the wet, but with all that extra water, it’s much easier for them to hide from us.  They’re not sitting under the bush on the bank, as the bank has disappeared under water. And its the season when they are protecting their young in their nests, another reason to hide themselves more than normal. So we did not see a single croc (except for a stuffed one at the hotel). Apparently its a rare day when you don’t see at least one in one of the billabongs, but you will definitely see more in the dry season.


  • It’s not just the roads that can flood, its the walking paths to the famous rock art sites. If the water levels are particularly high, more of the rock art sites might be closed. The paths don’t even have to be flooded, the water just needs to have risen close enough in the vicinity, to make it possible for a croc to move in close by and decide the track is a good hunting spot. We were fortunate that the water levels weren’t that high during our visit, so we had no problems getting to some amazing rock art. And much as we would’ve liked to have seen crocs from a boat, we did not want to see one while we were walking.
  • One area virtually guaranteed to be inaccessible all wet season is the waterfall area, particularly Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls, running off the escarpment. Of course the waterfalls are at their most spectacular during the wet. The solution is a scenic flight, which not only allows a spectacular view of the whole western escarpment and the spectacular falls, but also a perspective of the splendour of the whole park, with the rock formations rising above the green wetlands. In the dry season the roads run right up to the base of the falls, the waterfalls will be very diminished or even dry but they have spectacular rock pools for swimming at their base.
  • The locals say the timing of the wet and dry seasons are very predictable, but how heavy the rain, how frequently, in which parts of the season, cannot be predicted. So a wet season visit could be days of continual downpour, or just an evening thunderstorm. We were very lucky, we had clear blue skies and no rain at all, which is very unusual weather, so I can’t promise that you’ll be as lucky. We went with the assumption that it would rain, we had rain jackets, and the weather was going to be hot no matter what,  so we wouldn’t mind if we got soaked – but we were fortunate enough to not even have to test that. All I can say is, I’d love to go back again, any season.

Make tracks to Tasmania’s Magnificent MONA (Museum of Old and New Art)

I had to rewrite this opening sentence three times, as I tried (and failed) to remove the excessive hyperbole that kept coming out of my head and off my keyboard. And then I thought “bugger it, I love MONA, there’s no point trying to pretend I am impartial here”. So instead I am writing an open letter to David Walsh.

Dear David.

Thank you for MONA. It may have only been open since the start of this year, but you sure have gotten our attention – and apparently visits from about 250,000 of us so far! Let’s face it, when was the last time someone in Australia, someone who has variously been labelled “art collector, gambler, entrepreneur, and Hobart’s infamous son”, do something this breathtaking? I love your MONA, it’s a testament to the power of one person’s passion and vision. This is clearly not an idea that came from a committee.

And it’s not just the art. It’s the beautiful site on the edge of the Derwent river. It’s arriving at the old white lighthouse merged into the wonderful huge sandstone and rusty iron architecture. It’s the wines of your vineyard Moorilla – I’m particularly partial to the Muse Pinot Noir by the way. It’s the crisply modern tasting room at the Cellar Door (if that’s the right term for a soaring two-storey glass pavilion with a fine dining restaurant attached.?) It’s the MooBrew artisanal beers from your own brewery.

It’s the ferry service to and from the docks in central Hobart (although I must confess I was slightly disappointed you don’t have white branding on a black hulled ferry instead of the more ordinary black on white – that would’ve been the icing on the cake of the superb design aesthetics consistently applied to your brands and your websites). It’s the ability to easily go to the MONA website, book my ferry transfer times, and have my wine flight and antipasto plate booked and ready to revive me at The Wine Bar when I need them. It’s the fact that I can have a nice glass of your vino on the ferry ride too, have all the booking and organising work like clockwork, and not be overcharged for any of it.

It’s all much bigger than I imagined. And the technology is great – how can I not love being issued with my own ‘iPod-like’ O on arrival, which then identifies the art closest to me, gives me a choice of reading about the artist, or reading a more gonzo view on it if I didn’t want to take it too seriously? At the press of a button it records what I stop and see, and gives me access to a permanent online tour that follows in my original footsteps. I like that I can click “love” or “hate” for any part of the exhibition. I like the rumour that any art work which gets “loved” too much gets removed from the exhibition and replaced with something more controversial. I love the idea that you may have spread that rumour just to mess with our heads and have us second guessing whether to claim to love or hate something.

I am quite delighted with the Cloaca. I hear that this is the most hated exhibit, and also the one people spend the longest time in front of. First off, the smell is not that bad at all, I think a lot of people may have been exaggerating. It’s quite a beautiful, clinical thing, this shiny machine representation of our human process from digestion to waste. Maybe people stand in front of it for so long, like I did, because it is so much fun watching other people’s reactions?

I really like that people who would never choose to go to an art gallery will probably enjoy  MONA , there is nothing stuffy about the place or the enthusiastic staff, and the art is a mix of fascinating old egyptian and a huge variety of modern and new. Some I loved, some I didn’t, some I even found boring, but many made me laugh – and there’s nothing better than art with a sense of humour. The bit.fall waterfall of words was beautiful, the bean bags scattered around the floors so I could plop down and watch videos on the wall or the roof were very comfortable and inviting.

And I love that I completely underestimated how long I would need to wander MONA, have refreshment breaks, do some wine tasting, maybe some beer tasting as well, definitely some eating, a browse through the museum shop, not to mention taking lots of photos. We booked ferry times to give us almost 5 hours there, and it wasn’t nearly long enough. But it does give me an additional reason to visit again soon. And we really did love the antipasti tasting plates to death before we left.

So thanks David, its a wonderful thing you have done.