Southwest Tasmania day 2 (part 1)

This morning’s plan was to wake up early—well, as early as I’d need to when the sun rises close to 8 am—and take some sunrise photos over the lake. This plan was somewhat thwarted by the fact that everywhere was enveloped in fog and the sun was nowhere to be seen.

20180712-011 Silhouettes in the fog at the lookout

At the Lake Pedder Lookout

Never mind, I’d heard that fog was good for photos so I was excited for what the morning might present.

Our plan was to go to Gordon Dam, which is at the end of Gordon River Road, about 12 km from Strathgordon.

A little bit of context. Lake Pedder was once a natural lake but has been in its current form since 1972 when the Gordon, Serpentine and Huon rivers were dammed as part of Tasmania’s hydro electric development. The power scheme includes the Gordon Dam on the Upper Gordon River and the three dams that form Lake Pedder (aka the Huon-Serpentine impoundment): the Serpentine Dam, the Scotts Peak Dam, which dams the Huon River, and the Edgar Dam. It’s 242 square km and 2960 million cubic metres in capacity. It’s 16 metres deep over the original Lake Pedder and 26 metres deep at its deepest part, just behind the Serpentine Dam.

The water from Lake Pedder flows into Lake Gordon through the McPartlan Pass Canal, a 2745-metre long canal between the two lakes, and is used in the Gordon Power Station, which is built 183 metres underground.

The original Lake Pedder had been a National Park but the Tasmanian Government revoked that status in 1967 to enable the Hydro development to proceed. There was considerable opposition to this development from the conservation movement both in Australia and internationally and it saw the birth of the first Green political party in the world. Then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam also opposed the dam and offered compensation to Tasmania to preserve the area. Since then there have been calls to drain the artificial lake and restore it to its original state.

We left the lodge in the fog and continued along the Gordon River Road. Our first stop was the Lake Pedder lookout, about two km up the road. It had one of those cool directional signs that tells you what mountains you’re looking at. All very well when you can actually see the mountains but not when everything is immersed in fog.

Nevertheless, there were some cool fog photo opportunities.

20180712-003 Silhouettes in the fog at the lookout

Sunlight and fog

Continuing along Gordon River Road for another seven km, you reach the turnoff to the Serpentine Dam. From there, it’s a short drive to the boat ramp. By now, the fog was starting to lift, so it was amazing to make photos half in fog and half in clear blue sky.

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Serpentine Dam from near the boat ramp

There was no wind and only a slight ripple on the water so the reflections were amazing. Parts of it reminded me of the reflections in the River Derwent along Boyer Road.

20180712-028 Serpentine Dam the other side

Serpentine Dam

This dam was constructed in 1971. It’s a concrete-faced rockfill dam, which is basically a compacted rock wall that is made waterproof by a thin layer of concrete on the upstream face (the left side in this picture). The wall is 41.5 metres high at its highest point and 134 metres long. It contains 114 000 cubic metres of rockfill.

20180712-043 Serpentine Dam wall

Serpentine Dam Wall

Our destination was literally at the end of the road, the Gordon Dam, a further three km from the turn off. Completed in 1974, it’s 140 metres high and is the highest arch dam and the largest storage dam in Australia. It’s curved both horizontally and vertically, which apparently allowed them to use less concrete to construct it, reducing the overall cost. The horizontal arch is apparent from the photos, the vertical one not so much, but the dual arch explains why it doesn’t look straight.

Lake Gordon, created by the dam, was still shrouded in fog so it was impossible to see how big it was, but we could see the dam wall itself, which is pretty impressive.

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Lake Gordon

Apparently, people abseil off it.

I thought that sounded cool.

When I was at home in my lounge room.

When I got there and looked at it I was grateful I hadn’t decided to book in to do this. I was petrified just walking down the steps to get to the top of the wall where you’re allowed to walk.

20180712-100 Looking down on the Gordon Dam wall

Don’t look down! They are people down there . . . yes, you are going down there

I was glad when I got to the bottom of the steps. Walking on the wall wasn’t anywhere near as scary as walking down to the wall. It’s an amazing structure.

20180712-092 Looking down on the Gordon Dam wall

Gordon Dam wall

The climb back up is a lot less terrifying than the climb down and there’s a nice lookout at the top that you’d probably get great views from on a clear day. This was not a clear day. Still, it was a good experience and we were glad we’d made it.

There are more photos of the Serpentine Dam and the Gordon Dam on my photoblog.

 

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Southwest Tasmania Day 1 (part 2)

In the first week of the school holidays, we took a few days off and travelled to Strathgordon on Lake Pedder in the southwest Tasmanian wilderness.

You can read about our first stop on the way, at The Needles, here. Or if you just want to look at some photos, they are also here.

Not much further down the road towards Lake Pedder is another spectacular range called The Sentinels. It’s a quartzite range about five km long and one km high.

It would seem the most common reaction of people seeing it for the first time as they drive round the bend is, “Wow!”

That was certainly my reaction, and I insisted we stop immediately so I could take some photos.

20180711-057 The Sentinals copy

Wow!

20180711-062 The Sentinals copy

The Sentinels Day 1

That had to be the most jaw-dropping thing I’d seen all day and I certainly got my huge rock fix!

This was one of several photo stops here over the next couple of days. You can find the complete series of photos on my photoblog Straighlinesgirlimages. Or stay tuned for more posts here.

Our accommodation was the Pedder Wilderness Lodge at Strathgordon. Strathgordon was constructed in 1969 to accommodate the workers on the hydroelectric scheme (more on that in the next post). Apparently, it accommodated about 2000 people when the scheme was under construction but the population now is about 70.

We’d booked one of the self-contained units at the very reasonable rate of two nights for the price of one. Winter travel has its benefits. Our plan was to self-cater for breakfast and lunch then splash out at night and have dinner at the restaurant. It was a good plan. Because who wants to cook on holidays? Not me.

20180711-068 Lake Pedder at the lodge

Lake Pedder behind the lodge

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The helipad. No unauthorised landing.

I managed to capture some images of the lake in the afternoon sun as well as seeing the beautiful light on the hillside as the sun was setting.

20180711-092 Hills near the lodge

Beautiful afternoon light on the hills

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More giant rocks

The lodge has become popular with the local ravens, who seem to have no fear of people and are quite happy to pose for photos. And steal food, we were informed.

20180711-109 Raven at the lodge

Raven shows no fear

We ended the day with dinner at the lodge and were all looking forward to the next day’s adventures.

 

 

A journey to freedom

After Friday’s visit to TMAG with Kramstable, I said I was going to go back to take in A Journey to Freedom more fully.

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A Journey to Freedom

I often say I’m going to revisit something and never end up doing it but this time I felt I really had to. I don’t know if it was the lure of the virtual reality “Orbital vanitas” exhibit that I didn’t see on Friday because Kramstable was too young or whether I wanted to get more fully absorbed in the works by Jhafis Quintero and Ali Kazma in the Bond Store, but this time I went back and took my time.

I’m glad I did.

I went to the Bond Store first and was the only person there.

As I noted on Friday, the low ceilings of the basement gallery added to the feeling of being imprisoned. The ten videos by Jhafis Quintero were looping so I could hear different parts of them at different times as I was watching them. This time I watched all of them. I was especially moved by the video “All the way” which depicts a journey from prison to a hospital and is one of the only ways a prisoner could get to see the outside world.

20180722 AJTF-19 Bond Store edit

Bond Store

Being alone in here with these videos felt very creepy and, adding to this claustrophobic atmosphere, I could hear footsteps from the people in the gallery above me, as well as the music from Janet Biggs’ piece “Carpe Diem”.

I don’t know if this was deliberate, to be able to hear the strains of Pachelbel’s Canon alongside Jhafis Quintero’s pain at being incarcerated, but I found it very moving and it added a different perspective to the videos.

Janet Biggs’ piece, juxtapositioning a tethered eagle against an American football team, was interesting and the vision of the eagle was one of the most disturbing pieces for me. It clearly wanted to fly away.

The remainder of the exhibits were in the main museum building, which I had seen on Friday but this time I had the chance to take my time. I experienced the “Orbital vanitas” virtual reality exhibit, which was very cool but kids under 13 weren’t allowed to see it so we hadn’t done it on Friday. The artist, Shaun Gladwell, says, “You are placed inside an enormous human skull that is orbiting above the earth. The atmosphere reflects my current mood in both political and philosophical terms — which is very dark indeed.” The content wasn’t anything that I’d consider unsuitable for an under-13 year old so there must be some technical reason younger kids can’t see it.

I watched the 11-minute video “A Guard’s Story: at work inside our detention centres” by Sam Wallman, which is the story told by a former Serco employee at a detention centre. It sounded horrific.

“It is still nightfall” (C’est encore la nuit) by Mounir Fatmi was a series of photographs of the underground Qara Prison in Morocco. The photos were of the ground-level air vents that were the only source of light in the prison. It was disturbing to think that such a complex held thousands of slaves in the 18th century who were shackled and forced to work on building projects.

20180722 AJTF-40 Mounir Fatmi edit

It is still nightfall

Closer to home was the “Prison cell” exhibit by Jean-Marcel Pancin, which was a cell door from Risdon Prison mounted on a concrete slab the same dimensions as the original cells. Jean-Marcel Pancin has made other versions of this work in other places, and its aim is to “draw attention to injustice and suffering caused by confining people behind prison walls”.

20180722 AJTF-32 Jean-Michel Pancin edit

Prison cell

It was positioned alongside Sam Wallman’s wall of drawing, which included commentary on detention centres, convicts and prisoners, as well as the statistic that imprisonment rates have increased by 39 per cent in the last ten years. “Some people,” it says, “consider prisons holding cells for the poor.”

Ricky Maynard made his series of photos of Aboriginal men in prison, “No more than what you think” in response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which noted, among other things, that Aboriginal people are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Aboriginal people. He says the photographs “carry messages of our survival, not only of man’s inhumanity to man, but a feeling of what it’s like to be born black”.

20180722 AJTF-30 Rachel Labastie edit

A journey to freedom by Rachel Labastie

It was very thought-provoking. The exhibits were moving and powerful and made me reflect on how fortunate I am to live where I do and not be in a situation where I’m likely to have my freedom taken from me. I’m glad to have taken the time to go back and revisit it.

20180722 AJTF-20 Robert Montgomery edit

What becomes of the broken-hearted by Robert Montgomery

The exhibition is open until 29 July so you still have a few days to see it. I highly recommend it.

Hanging out at TMAG

Today was the last day of the school holidays. Kramstable and I went to the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (TMAG).

We started out in the Bond Store and looked at the Tasmanian displays. Kramstable pointed out the Tasmanian Native Hen, which he had done a project on at school recently.

20180720 TMAG 01 Native Hen copy

Tasmanian Native Hen

20180720 TMAG 09 Kramstable with the weights edit

Learning about weights and measures

I was especially taken by the exhibition that was there for Dark Mofo called A Journey to Freedom

A Journey to Freedom is a new contemporary art exhibition guest curated by Swiss curator Barbara Polla together with Olivier Varenne and Mary Knights.

A Journey to Freedom explores issues relating to incarceration from a range of different cultural and historical perspectives: from Tasmania’s dark convict past; to ‘doing time’ in the notorious “Pink Palace” Risdon Prison; and the experience of refugees held in camps and detention centres in Australia and beyond.

The exhibition brings together new and recent works by contemporary national and international artists working across installation, sculpture, video, photography and virtual reality with works to be presented across the museum’s temporary galleries and transitional spaces.

International artists include Janet Biggs, Nicolas Daubanes, Mounir Fatmi, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Ali Kazma, Rachel Labastie, Robert Montgomery, Jean-Michel Pancin and Jhafis Quintero. Australian artists include Shaun Gladwell, Sam Wallman and well-known Tasmanian Ricky Maynard.

Shaun Gladwell’s virtual reality work Orbital vanitas will be presented in TMAG’s Central Gallery, providing visitors with an immersive experience of being placed inside an enormous skull that is orbiting the earth.

A Journey to Freedom is presented by Dark Mofo, Mona and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG).

20180720 TMAG 17 A Journey to Freedom edit

A Journey to Freedom

The exhibits are scattered around TMAG and we didn’t see all of it but what I did see was thought-provoking and interesting.

I found the work by Ali Kazma on the structures in which people are incarcerated interesting and powerful. “Although nobody appears in the footage, the bleak brutality of the architecture and the constraints placed on the freedom of inmates is evident.”

There was also work by Jhafis Quintero, who had been in prison for ten years and had discovered art as a way of channelling the energy that had led him to crime. His exhibit was ten videos, each representing a year in prison. This was in the basement of the Bond Store building, which is dark with a low roof and has a very claustrophobic atmosphere that matched these two exhibits perfectly.

One work that was particularly interesting was “Prohibition” by Nicolas Daubanes, which is a collection of hundreds of litres of “hooch” he has brewed using prison recipes, using materials readily available in prison—plastic bottles, water, fruit, condoms and yeast. I wonder what MONA will do with this after the exhibition is over.

20180720 TMAG 15 Prohibition 2 edit

Prohibition

Nicolas Daubanes’ iron filing picture of the Isle of the Dead at Port Arthur was also intriguing, despite the smeary hand mark that an over-enthusiastic visitor had, unfortunately, made on it. The TMAG staff member on duty said it had been interesting to watch the picture being made, but he wasn’t sure what would happen to it after the exhibit finishes.

We couldn’t see the virtual reality exhibit “Orbital vanitas” as you have to be 13 to see it and Kramstable was too young, so I’m going to have to go back to see that by myself. Actually, I want to go and see the whole thing again, take my time and absorb it more fully.

The 20th Century Tasmanian gallery is always one of my favourites and something different catches my eye every time I’m in there. This time it was the Hydro-Electric Department poster, which was fitting because of our recent visit to Lake Pedder and the Gordon Dam (more posts on that are coming).

20180720 TMAG 10 Hydro Electric Department edit

The Hydro-Electric Department

We spent a bit of time at the Antarctic exhibit and I learned something in the currency exhibit: In 1966 when Australia introduced decimal currency there was no $5 note. That didn’t come until 1967.

I always enjoy visiting TMAG and am glad we have such a great space in our city.

 

The Needles—Southwest Tasmania Day 1

This week we had a three-day break at Lake Pedder in Tasmania’s southwest. None of us had been before so we were all looking forward to it and had several short walks planned.

From Hobart, we headed to New Norfolk and turned onto the Gordon River Road at Bushy Park.  After a coffee stop at Russell Falls, we resumed our journey. The Gordon River Road takes you past the Florentine, an area I am very keen to go and explore more, and into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  The area was listed on the World Heritage List in 1982 and covers approximately one-fifth of the area of Tasmania (1.584 million hectares). It incorporates eight of Tasmania’s National Parks, including the Southwest National Park, where we were going.

Our first stop, about 16 km from the town of Maydena, was the walk to The Needles. This is described as 2-3 hour return medium grade walk. According to the information we got from the motel, “this steep and muddy track takes you to a series of jagged rocks at the top of a beautiful ridgeline known as The Needles. It is one of the most rewarding, and seemingly unknown, short walks in the Southwest National Park.”

It sounds pretty cool, right? The description goes on to say “this steep 3 km return walk offers uninterrupted panoramic views from rugged mountainous terrain”.

Do you get the feeling it’s steep?

I’d read the description and thought the views sounded spectacular so was very keen to do this walk. The word “steep” obviously hadn’t registered in my mind, and when we got there I had to look a long way up to see the top of the hill. The walk starts at the highest point on the Gordon River Road, 651 metres, and the summit point is 1020 metres. That’s a 400-metre climb spread out of about 1.5 km. It looked fairly imposing for a non-hiker.

View from the road

The Needles from the road

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We’re going up there

As we set off it was nice and muddy underfoot. (So far, the description was spot-on.) I was grateful for having bought some new walking boots a couple of weeks ago rather than wear my old non-waterproof shoes that had holes in them when it became apparent the track was more of a watercourse than a track. The tracks I’m used to in my city-girl bushwalks come from the 60 Great Short Walks book. There were no formed paths, no duckboard over the muddy bits and no steps here. Thank you, past me, for the new boots.

It was very heavy going and I was regretting the multiple layers I’d put on in the morning to prepare for the cold. It was a sunny day and climbing was hot work once we got out of the bush and into the sunlight.

The view got progressively better as we climbed.

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Excuse the blown-out cloud there

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Getting to the top

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A  bit closer

Getting to the top was amazing and totally worth the slog. I’m a big fan of huge jagged rocks and here they were in abundance, everywhere I looked.

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Started to climb this. Didn’t finish.

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One of my favourite photos from the walk

The views off into the distance were stunning.

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Seeing for miles

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Snow!

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It was a perfect day for this walk

The sky was gorgeous and I felt a sense of having come somewhere special. The other thing was that it was absolutely silent up there. I don’t know if I can remember the last time I experienced such total silence and I didn’t want to leave. Giant rocks, blue sky, fabulous clouds and the complete absence of noise. I dragged it out as long as I could to soak in as much of this feeling as possible but we had to leave eventually.

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Stunning rocks everywhere

Going down was equally challenging because it was very easy to lose your footing and fall over into the mud. A girl we’d passed on our way up had done exactly that. I had no desire to do the same and managed to retain my footing the entire way down.

This was a fantastic way to start our trip and I couldn’t wait for the next experience.

You can find more about The Needles here.

what to do with the photos

Last year I started a photo challenge on my Instagram account to post a black and white photo every day. It stemmed from a seven-day challenge on Facebook where the idea was to post a black and white image from your life with no people in the photo and no explanation.

I decided to keep doing it after the seven days was over and posted the images here on my blog.

20171210 Once was tree IG tweak

Once was tree

At the end of 2017, I knew I wanted to continue with the project but I wasn’t sure if this blog was the right place for it. As you can see from my description, stepping on the cracks is all about finding my way out of my comfort zone. Most of my posts on here are writing about the steps I’m taking and they don’t always have photos because often there isn’t a photo that’s relevant.

The black & white project is part of what I’m doing to explore the boundaries of my comfort zone, but the photos themselves aren’t related to the things I write about. They didn’t seem to belong on the blog. It felt like everything was mixed up and incoherent. A bit like my brain in January.

It finally occurred to me that it would make more sense to make a new blog devoted to the photo project—plus a couple of other projects that I’m working on—and to keep the writing here.

So in between going out and actually taking photos, stuffing around with processing apps and Photoshop, working, and doing school holiday stuff, that’s what I’ve been doing. And here it is straighlinesgirl images. Thank you to my sneak-peekers who gave me feedback and encouragement to go live.

Book 2018/01 – Steal Like an Artist

Austin Kleon describes himself as “. . . a writer who draws. I make art with words and books with pictures”.

The book Steal Like an Artist is based on a talk Mr Kleon gave to some community college students in 2011 where he spoke to a list of ten things he wished he had known when he was starting out. People went nuts for his message and he expanded his work into a book, which was published in 2012.

20180130 Steal Like An ArtistI’ve had a couple of people recommend it to me recently so I decided to finally check it out. My local bookshops didn’t have any more copies when I went to get it, but the library did — and an electronic version at that, so I could download it on the weekend and read it immediately. Hooray internet!

It’s a great book for a skim through to get the ideas and let them float around in your head for a while and then to go back to in some more detail, in the spirit of stealing other people’s stuff as described in the book, to find the ideas that you want to take for yourself.

The book has ten “chapters”, or main themes, which are the ten things from the original talk.

  1. Steal like an artist.
  2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
  3. Write the book you want to read.
  4. Use your hands.
  5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
  6. The secret: do good work and share it with people.
  7. Geography is no longer our master.
  8. Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
  9. Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
  10. Creativity is subtraction.

The book then goes on to delve into each theme and explain it further.

The main idea that I got from the book is that everyone is a mixture of what (and who) they choose to let into their lives — “You are the sum of your influences” — and that nothing is original; the idea that all creative work “builds on what came before”. So your job is to collect good ideas, things you love, from people that inspire you, which can then influence the work you produce.

Mr Kleon suggests making yourself a “swipe file” where you can record the things you steal – quotes, observations, passages from books, overheard conversations, ideas, things that speak to you – and when you need inspiration to flip through it.

Then you go ahead and make stuff.

The book suggests that we learn how to do things by copying others who already know how to do it and encourages us to do exactly that. Mr Kleon makes the point, however, to not plagarise the work of others. Rather, he encourages copying in the sense of “reverse engineering”— taking it apart to see how it works”. This is why you need to understand your influences and what makes them tick. You aren’t stealing the style, you are stealing “the thinking behind the style”, understanding where they are coming from. And as you do this, he suggests, you move from the act of copying to “breaking through into your own thing”.

He quotes Francis Ford Coppola:

“We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice.”

The final eight sections of the book provide some practical ideas on how to develop your creative practice, which are nicely summed up by their titles. There is encouragement to just get stuck in and make something, to step away from the screen – because the computer is great for editing idea but not for having them — and to build yourself a world where you are surrounded by things you love. It’s also important to connect with people who love the same things you do and to share things with them, as well as to hang out with interesting people who do different things to you — whether in real life or online.

Once you start putting your work out there, you have no control over what people think of it, so you need to keep making what you love to make and be comfortable with people misunderstanding you, misinterpreting your work and ignoring it. The solution to this is to be so busy with making your work that you don’t care.

By being boring, Mr Kleon means that taking care of yourself by staying healthy, sleeping enough and taking long walks is important if you want to make your best work. He says that you need to stick with your day job but to schedule time in to do your creative work and to do this work every day, with no exceptions. He recommends working with a calendar and a tracker to keep a record of what you’ve achieved. He recommends the Seinfeld strategy (hint: it’s a wall calendar you cross off every day you do the thing you are supposed to do).

What now?

The book says the next things to do once you’ve read it are:

  • Take a walk
  • Start your swipe file
  • Go to the library
  • Buy a notebook and use it
  • Get a calendar
  • Start your logbook
  • Give a copy of this book away
  • Start a blog
  • Take a nap

So if anyone’s looking for me I’ll be digging through my pile of unused notebooks looking for the perfect swipe file. Actually, that sounds like procrastination. Perhaps I’ll go for a walk instead.