Archive for February, 2014

27.02.14

Cute alert!

CUTE ALERT! Does this make you go “Ahhhhhhh”? It’s Max the baby wombat from Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and this is what I call his ‘Hee hee hee’ face. So adorable!

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27.02.14

Tiny Tarkine World – The Devil’s In The Details

Late last week Deb and I were privileged to spend 4 days camping, trekking and exploring (and maybe a little wine drinking) in the Tarkine rainforest withTarkine Trails and 8 wonderful like minded friends and two knowledgeable guides.The Tarkine is the last known area within Tasmania free from the devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), an aggressive and indiscriminate facial cancer transmitted from one Tasmanian devil to another through biting. It results in an agonising death and has no known cause or cure.At Houndstooth Studio, we have been working hard for the past 5 months to raise funds and awareness for Tasmanias first 24 hour wildlife hospital, a project run by Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary (which will greatly benefit injured devils) and for the Tarkine Devil Project, a joint initiative between Bonorong, the Tasmanian Government and the University of Tasmania where 40 motion activated camera traps record devil activity in throughout the Tarkine. As the Tarkine Devil Ambassador for our Tarkine trip, it was incredible to see evidence of devil activity in the area, namely in the form of their feces. And how do you know if feces belongs to a devil? If you break it open, there are usually small bones inside. Now that’s a scientific method not to forget, LOL! To know the devils were going about their daily business, unaffected by us and were (as yet) still healthy, was very reassuring and made me feel that there is hope for their future.But instead of photographing creatures (or devil poop) this time, I went for something different. Everything in the Tarkine is BIG – there are trees as tall as sky scrapers and several metres wide in diameter, epic gorges to traverse, and rushing rivers to cross. Rather than photograph the obvious, I wanted to really look hard and discover my photo subject – to ‘earn’ them, if you will. So I sought out the tiny details of the Tarkine, most of which are often overlooked for the larger, more conspicuous plants and geological features.All images were shot using the Tamron Australia 90mm macro lens, and within centimetres of each subject, taken without using a tripod – instead I did held my breath a lot to prevent camera shake!

Hope you enjoy this photo essay of the tiny Tarkine world.

For more info on the Tarkine, particularly the Tarkine Devil Project, please click here http://tarkinerainforestwalk.com.au/tarkine-devil-project/ — at Tarkine Trails.

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26.02.14

Kindest Heart – Linda Tabone, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

KINDEST HEART! Welcome to our KINDEST HEART series, a collection of interviews highlighting the unsung heroes of animal rescue, aimed to inspire and educate you.Today we went to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary to visit Max the baby wombat. Do you remember him? He was the adorable star of our Baby Face Series, showing us his toothy grin in a photo so cute that it went viral on a global scale. Not that Max bothers much with news like that! Now aged 13 months, he has doubled in size and is happily spending his days at Bonorong until he decides it’s time to go back into the wild – which will probably be in around 11 months.

And given Max was doing so well, it was only fitting that our first KINDEST HEART feature should be about Max’s foster Mum, the dedicated and humble, Linda Tabone, who describes her role at Bonorong as “Privileged Carer of Tasmania’s Very Precious and Unique Wildlife.” How beautiful! 

Q: How did you get into wildlife caring and working with Bonorong?

LINDA: I always wanted to work with animals as a child but my parents insisted I work in an office and in those days you did as your parents wanted. Then when we lived in Healesville in Victoria I approached Healesville Sanctuary to become a carer, however as I was working full time they felt I wouldn’t be able to commit. Not long afterwards my husband Emy and I moved to Tasmania. We had no idea that we were actually building our new home very close to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. Once we realised this, I convinced myself that it was fate that we become carers and approached Greg, the owner. Greg and his partner Petra were very pleased to have another carer on board and they became our mentors.

Q: Who was the first animal you cared for?

LINDA: Our first animal was a Pademelon called Mr Magoo and he was followed by sixty other Pademelon, Bennetts Wallaby and Bandicoot joeys who came through our home in the next 3 1/2 yrs. Emy made all of our joey enclosures, both inside ones for the babies and outside ones for them to use as they grew up.

Q: How did you come to care for wombats?

LINDA: Our first love was to care for wombats and about 18 months ago Greg realised just how dedicated we were as carers and asked us if we would like to raise the baby wombats for Bonorong. This had always been done by Greg and Petra but with the growth of Bonorong and the instigation of their ‘’Friend of Critters, Friend of Carers” Program, they found it very hard to continue with full time wombat care. As sad as it was for Greg and Petra, it was a dream come true for us and we jumped at the offer.

Digger was our first beautiful baby wombat and he came to us as an orphan after his Mum was killed on the road. He was an absolute delight to raise at home, with us taking him up to Bonorong as much as possible so he could become familiar with the surroundings prior to living up there full time. Once he moved into Bonorong 24/7 we continued to go up 3 times a day to bottle feed him and give him lots of cuddles. During this time along came Trooper followed by Matilda, Molly and (bushfire victim) Sarah, Lucy and Julie, Ben and Little Boy, Cassy and Max.

Last year was a very busy year for baby wombat joeys and we were caring for 8 wombats at one time including Digger and Trooper who were living at Bonorong. The babies started off in our large indoor enclosure and progressed to the outdoor enclosures as new babies filled the indoor one. This year is a lot slower for baby wombats, thank goodness. At the moment we have Lucy and Max at Bonorong and we visit daily to give them a cuddle and spend some time with them, and at home we have two 8 month old babies, Sam and Mandy. These two little ones have started their introduction to Bonorong, going up there whenever possible for a couple of hours of wombat day care.

Q: How long does each wombat baby stay with you and what’s involved in caring for them?

LINDA: When you take on a baby wombat you MUST commit yourself for a full two years. The little ones usually come into care around the 6 month stage and may not be ready to be released until they are 2 to 2 1/2 years old, so you have to expect the at least two years of necessary care. You can’t pass them around to be cared for so you can go away for a week and you have to work your life around feed times and play times. You are taking on the role of their Mum and she is with them constantly, always being there for them if they need her. Without the right care and attention a baby wombat can become so stressed it will die. However despite all this, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a grown healthy animal being released who originally came to you as a trembling wide eyed frightened little baby.

Q: What is max like personality wise?

LINDA: As one of our current wombat joeys is Max has been photographed by thousands of people at Bonorong over the past 4 months and I know he is on Facebook pages all over the world. He’s such a great little ambassador for Bonorong. He’s very chilled out and quite happy to greet numerous people during the tours at Bonorong. But, look out at play time because he bites very hard when playing and I often come home from Bonorong black and blue. He has now learnt to dig a burrow and is very pleased with himself, often going inside his burrow and presenting you with his bottom.

Q: What message would you like to share with everyone about animals/ animal rescue?

LINDA: When I see my little ones running around at home, all safe and happy, I can’t help but think of all the babies who are not found because people don’t stop and check an animal that has been hit on the road. These little ones stay in the pouch or hidden under their Mum until they die of starvation, dehydration, or the cold. Some are even taken by predators. Either way, they die a slow and horrible death. I wish I was able to drive along ALL of our roads every morning to check for orphaned or injured wildlife. I do this on some of our local roads, but there are only so many I can cover as one person.

If you really care about our wildlife and would love to help them, please think seriously about become an “Friends of Critters, Friends of Carers” (FOC) member. This is a program run and funded exclusively by Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, where families or individuals are trained completely FREE on how to rescue injured or orphaned wildlife. You are taught how to handle them the correct way, keeping yourselelf and the animal safe. You learn how to put a rescue kit together from things around your home, to keep in your car. Once you are trained you only answer the calls by SMS if you are able to help. Nobody is pressured to do rescues at times that don’t suit them and everyone who does do rescues has someone on the other end of the phone to talk them through the rescue if necessary. The FOC program will also arrange for someone to come and help if a situation cant be managed by an individual. This program is the only 24 hour wildlife rescue service in Tasmania and helps thousands of orphans and injured every year. The more members we have the more of these beautiful babies we can help.

Bonorong are also trying desperately to build Tasmania’s first Wildlife Hospital with it’s own Vet who is trained to handle injured Wildlife. You can also help with this by becoming a member of our fundraising team or our pouch making team. The pouch making team meets once a month at Bonorong with our sewing machines and scissors and makes pouches for all of the babies who come into care. If you are interested in any of these teams please contact me at riverbankstudio@bigpond.com

And if you find an injured or orphaned wild animal, bird or reptile, please ring Bonorong on 62681184 (answered 24 hours a day) and they will get a member of our amazing FOC team to you as soon as possible.

Q: What one thing would people be surprised to know about wombats?

LINDA: You may be surprised to know that Wombats can run at 40kms an hour – they are so fast on those little chubby legs. They can run faster than any human on earth. Another facinating fact is they have ‘square’ poo. They back up to a log or rock and as they go to the toilet they continue to push their bottom up higher and higher so they can pile it up as tall as possible. This creates a show of size to other wombats who may roam into their territory and indicates who the biggest wombat is in the area.

FURTHER INFORMATION on the FOC program can be found at http://bonorong.com.au/wildlife-rescue/

PICTURED: Linda with Max the baby wombat

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26.02.14

Todays Inspiration!

Look who I just met at Kurrajong House in Launceston. This is 5 and a half year old Lucy the dachie and as one of Kurrajong B&B’s resident dogs she couldn’t wait to show me her groovy pink wheels. She’s had them since April 2013 and they are custom made from the USA. In the first few years of Lucys life, 4 discs in her spine slowly degenerated. Her lovely humans, Andre and Linda refused to give up on her, even when the vet recommended she be put to sleep because her back legs no longer worked. Her surgery cost over $8000 and Andre and Linda tried every medical and alternative therapy they could to get her mobile again … in the end a doggy wheelchair was the best option. Watching her follow me around, right on my heel, and race down the stairs in it today brought a tear to my eye. And I can’t forget to mention that she kicks about with her ‘much older but rich’ deaf dachie husband Otto, who’s a distinguished and kind gentleman.
What special pooches and special humans. Isn’t it so lovely how they sometimes find each other? Alexxx

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26.02.14

FROM ANOTHER WORLD!

Just spent 4 magic days in the Tarkine Rainforest with Tarkine Trails and 9 fab friends. My photography time there was spent on hands and knees doing a macro study of mosses, fungi and water droplets mostly within a 100 metre radius of the camp – using the Tamron Australia 90mm macro lens. In this pic is a tiny water droplet. Was such a juxtaposition to be in a vast environment filled with the tallest of trees, only to explore the tiny subtleties often overlooked when your neck is cranked skywards. Big loves to everyone who shared this experience with us. Alexxx

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03.02.14

“The Beast” Lens – Short Review

Last weekend I got to shoot with “The Beast”, Tamrons new Super Performance 150-600mm SP F/5-6.3 Vibration Control USD lens at the #noWAsharkcull rally. This was a real treat, as The Beast is currently “pre-production”, so not yet available in Australia, and I LOVE sharks – I felt really lucky to experience two wonderful things in one day.

I took over 1000 photos during a two hour period and to say I was impressed with it was an understatement. The Beast blew me away!

It was a bright sunny day and the sky was a rich blue. Despite this I initially assumed I would have to crank up the ISO to make The Beast fast enough to freeze the movement of the VIP’s speaking, and the crowd waving their flags and signs around. But set at ISO 500 a few shots started coming out over exposed, I decided to go with ISO 100 and thought I would increase it if need be. Instead  I left it there the entire time.

The Beast performed perfectly at that setting (on my 1DX camera body and set to AV mode, combined with the lowest F/stop for each shot)  and the first thing I noticed about the resulting images were how well the colours were handled and how vibrant they looked – I adjusted the exposure to one stop under given it was quite bright outside, and this enabled me to freeze the action and also produce rich saturated colours in the images. I love the look of deep colours (as opposed to washed out colours) and was thrilled that each image came out how I pictured them in my minds eye.

I also found it to be spot on with sharp and fast focusing –  I would focus at 150mm then zoom in as required and refocus or maintain focus. The reach of a 600mm zoo has to be seen to be believed. I was able to shoot the crowd reflected in the sunglasses of the speakers, pinpoint faces and small banners dotted throughout the 8000+ crowd and even capture a swimmer close up 100m  off shore. The splashes of water from his arm as he free-styled parallel to the beach were frozen in perfect sharpness. Very few shots were blurry, even when shooting moving subjects (boats, a jet ski, people, police horses) at 600mm.

I handheld the lens the entire time, whigh weighs in at 1.95kgs for The Beast plus 1.525kg’s for the 1Dx, and found it easily manageable to do, though a monopod would assist greatly if using it for prolonged periods of time.

And all this for a price point of approximately $1500 makes this a serious must have for anyone keen on photographing wildlife, events, sports, or shooting outdoors – it would suit hobbyists and pros alike.

I can’t wait to test it further in the rainforests of  northern Tasmania later this month, where the light will be different and subjects will be the animal residents going about their day under the foliage and among the shadows.

SCORE:  5/5 for shooting in full sun, no shade (will review shooting in shade in March)

** I am the  Tamron Australia Super Performance Brand Ambassador and use their super performance lens range. I am not under any obligation to review lenses and have not been offered any inducements to do so. **

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01.02.14

“Got a Killer On Your Arm!”

Yesterday I went to the #noWAsharkcull protest at Cottesloe Beach, Perth, Western Australia.

We arrived early and set up for breakfast at a café close to the beach. After sitting for a while the traffic started to increase as people began arriving for the rally. I saw a car drive slowly past with two large white flags coming out of both rear windows. The flag on the side I could see simply said “No cull”.

And with that, I lost it and started to cry. One of those cries that you can’t stop.

Yep, this photographer who has been exposed to the aftermath of the darkest and most depraved acts of animal cruelty was reduced to a blubbering mess because of a “No Cull” flag.

Why? Let’s rewind …

In early 2002 I walked into a tattoo parlour and two hours later came out with a small shark tattoo on my upper left arm. I grew up in the desert, but always loved sharks and my tattoo served as a permanent reminder that they had my heart, and showed this boldly for all to see.

A year before my tattoo experience I set out to swim with as many different sharks as I could. I started to tick off all my dream shark swims – whale sharks, grey nurses, bronzies, bull sharks, lemon sharks, wobbies, port jacksons, reefies …

In a 12 month period I‘d swum with over 30 different sharks and 9 species.  But I felt like I needed to take it further, and to really be true to my “I love sharks” claim, I needed to get up close and personal to the big kahuna of sharks. The great white.

So I set off on a trip to Africa where I had the privilege of working on a boat all day, researching and observing white shark behaviour and documenting it, cage diving, and generally hanging out with them – and yep, they do play.  The respect I had for these magnificent creatures grew during my time away and every misconception I had about them was quashed. They DON’T swim up to boats thinking they are a source of food. They DON’T bite everything they see. They are sometimes shy, sometimes curious, often sensitive to noise or bubbles from the hookah line. My mate Mike even kissed one on the snout. He is not crazy!

I saw over 50 of these magnificent creatures during my time there, and one of my life highlights, still to this day, is touching them with my hands.

And yes, I still have all my fingers.

The full details of my African shark adventure makes for another post entirely, which I promise to one day write, but for now, back to my tattoo.

My arrival in Africa was also the unveiling of my new shark tattoo. We were based in a stunning small ”shark” town on the South African coast and the residents there LOVED my tat. They commented on how ‘cool’ it was, and asked where I had it done. It attracted a lot of attention and it was great to have it appreciated by others.

Returning back to Australia though, it was a different story. Most people who saw the tattoo asked “Why did you get a monster on it?” or “I wouldn’t want THAT inked on MY body.”

I also received lots of feedback about peoples general shark opinions  – “I hate sharks”, “You wouldn’t catch me going anywhere near those bloody things”, “A good shark is a dead shark”.

For the past 12 years, there have been only a handful of positive comments about my shark tattoo; most were hateful and hurtful towards sharks. So much so that I stopped wearing sleeveless t-shirts long ago, and now have lovely ‘farmers arms’ where my tattoo hides.

And of course, hearing the news of the shark cull was devastating and I felt enraged at the stupidity of such an ill-conceived and merciless idea. We are not ENTITLED to kill the apex predator of the sea, which in itself has huge environmental ramifications, aside from the abject cruelty of picking off sharks at will.

Then came yesterday.

When that car drove past, with their home-made flag flying by, it suddenly hit me like a brick – finally, thousands of other people all around the world were standing up and speaking  out for this beautiful creature.

Other people were seeing what I saw in sharks, and feeling how I felt, and understanding that they need our protection.  And these people were taking time out of their day to attend an event arranged by other wonderful people who have always loved sharks – people who have worked tirelessly, day and night for weeks on end, and who continue to do so, fighting tooth and nail for our sharks. Once the minority, now the leaders of this growing movement.

After 10 years of “Got a killer on your arm”, yesterday my shark tattoo made me really proud.

Getting that tattoo was possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I will never tire of it, never regret it.

And that’s where the tears came from.

Thank you to everyone who is speaking up for sharks.

And now I’m going to get my sleeveless t-shirts out.

Peace.

Alex xx

PS Here are my pics from the day – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152157733616208.1073742175.177830156207&type=1

PPS Please help sharks by donating, volunteering or signing a petition  via the No Cull website at http://www.nosharkcull.org/petition?recruiter_id=244

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