A sunset to behold on the Thames

Travel

Ambling slowly to the bank of London’s Thames at dusk, I become evermore appreciative of my surroundings, cognoscente of the fact that it’s not necessary to gallivant across the globe to enjoy a rewarding travel experience.

I used to think an escape was needed to spearhead inspiration and break free from the restrictive confines of home. But it’s the state of mind that counts and not the destination. And while I realise this isn’t exactly earth-shattering news or an epiphany of monumental proportions, it does bear great importance. Fulfilment comes from an internal satisfaction, which, in my opinion, correlates directly to accomplished work.

Let's capture that bridge when we come to it. ©

Let’s capture that bridge when we come to it. ©

I’m continually fascinated by the innumerable ways to capture sunsets. Whether evincing its powerful and piercing fiery gaze, eminent majesty, or poignant subtlety, the sun’s colourful beauty effortlessly brings to light a photographer’s creative flare.

London's Hammersmith Bridge stands eminently as the sun says goodbye to another day. ©

London’s Hammersmith Bridge stands eminently as the sun says goodbye to another day. ©

Setting on another day, the sun shows off some fiery flare as it reflects off the Thames. ©

Setting on another day, the sun shows off some fiery flare as it reflects off the Thames. ©

Capturing an image of a mate capturing an image at gloaming on London's Thames. ©

Capturing an image of a mate capturing an image at gloaming on London’s Thames. ©

Slipping behind houses and trees, the sun makes an impression before disappearing for the night. ©

Slipping behind houses and trees, the sun makes an emphatic impression before disappearing for the night. ©

Stradbroke Island, an escape from reality

Travel

Tree branches, like two extended arms reaching for each other’s outstretched fingertips, form an archway leading to a place unlike any other, a world where time has no bearing.

One wave after another caresses Stradbroke Island’s sedate shoreline, our feet sinking into the soft, silky sand. It’s the type of satisfaction reminiscent of resting your head on a goose down pillow after an exhausting day.

The beach, barring a flock of seagulls circling above like starving vultures, was completely ours. I felt like Tom Hanks from Castaway, but unlike him, hoped there was no way off this peaceful paradise.

Everyone experiences a day they hope lasts forever, a perpetual escape from reality. This was one of those days.

As I chased the seagulls like an exuberant youngster without a care in the world and sauntered across the untrodden, unblemished sand, I peered out onto the vast expanse of the deep blue, the magnitude of which would leave even the most experienced seafarer speechless.

Shining and glimmering bright, the sun did its utmost to fight off the cloud’s menacing advances. Time was of the essence as the sun, with all of its energy, power and might, would remain uninhibited for only so long.

Dashing toward the Pacific Ocean’s wide open, gaping mouth with pace and intent I dove under a wave, my head popping up like an otter coming up to draw breath. I quickly realised how startlingly cold and refreshing the water is on Australia’s eastern coast in late autumn.

Wide-eyed and alert, I exited the frigid water before the sun became completely blanketed by cloud cover. As temperamental as a baby’s emotions, the skies opened up, battering the ocean and shoreline indiscriminately, with conviction and fury.

There was something ironically calming about the volatility with which the sky pelted the otherwise tranquil shoreline.

I would have stood up to Mother Nature’s wrath had it not been for the expensive electronic items I was compelled to protect, or so I tell myself. Invigorated, refreshed and full of life, I headed for shelter.

Almost as quickly as it began the violent storm subsided, calm once again prevailing across the island. The sun poked its head out once more as I sipped my perfectly made flat white.

Calmness pervades Stradbroke Island, Australia as nightfall looms.©

Unlike Tom Hanks’ perilous plight on Castaway, Straddie unfortunately does offer a way off of the island. A bus – although running less frequently than Rosie O’Donnell – transported me to a ferry for the final connection to mainland Australia.

The day, like every moment I hope lasts forever, felt as though it had evaporated in a flash.

Every moment, however, from my Straddie retreat, like the cave inscriptions of Ashoka, is forever etched and indelibly inscribed. I even had the pleasure of running into a lonesome – and more surprisingly awake koala – and a wandering kangaroo, underlining the already quintessentially Australian day on the island.

If ever entrenched in inconsolable despair, or asked to think of a happy place, my mind will immediately refer back to this day on serene Straddie, my Neverland and euphoric escape from reality.

Commuter scooter – a Vietnamese way of life

Photography
Savouring every morsel of her tantalising ice cream treat, this young Vietnamese makes the most of her afternoon scooter commute.

Savouring every morsel of her tantalising ice cream treat, this young Vietnamese girl, whose vibrant dress closely resembles the colours of a spaceship ice lolly, makes the most of her afternoon scooter commute.

©

Windsor Castle: Fairytales and a fiendish ogre

Travel

It’s an autumn weekend, although the gorgeous summer-like conditions indicate otherwise, and the royal town of Windsor is packed to the brim, almost bursting at the seams.

Town roads resemble parking lots, sidewalks bustle with life and people queue as far as the eye can see to enter Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.

Tourists by the hundreds queue for an opportunity to enter Windsor Castle.

Overran by tourists, one can expect to wait at least an hour before entering a castle renowned for its grandeur and opulence in a royal town richly steeped in history.

Planes descend overtop of Windsor Castle at regular intervals on their final approach to London’s Heathrow airport, their engines emit a constant hum adding to the quaint and idyllic town’s bustling aura.

Some families are clearly put off by the mere sight of the never ending line, turning around and going back from whence they came. Nevertheless, most tourists and locals display sunny dispositions reflecting the perfect weather and are unfazed by the queue resembling a Disney Land attraction.

The same, however, cannot be said for one particular shopkeeper, whose uncompromising and devilish stare is only matched by his dour and gloomy personality.

An ominous cloud coincidentally encroaches overhead with an eerie darkness, blanketing the sun and erasing a near-perfect autumn afternoon.

Locating an ideal spot to capture an image, I rested my laptop and camera bag against a pole metres from the vendor’s souvenir stall. Bending down to retrieve my camera, the stoic character asked if he could help me with anything.

I thanked him for his concern and, thinking nothing of it, returned to my principle concern. I switched my camera on and focussed in on the subject at hand.

The fiendish oaf demanded I leave the area and remove my gear if I had no intention of making a purchase at his makeshift stall. His ramblings continued like a madman who was long off his meds. I half expected froth to form and saliva to spray.

Making a mountain of a molehill, this irascible tyrant accused me of loitering and threatened to call the police, trying his utmost to impress upon me his inherently bullish nature.

How can one loiter, I pondered, while trying to take a photograph of an iconic castle on public property in one England’s most renowned tourist areas? If I was loitering, so were hundreds of other passers by. In fact, anyone holding a camera must be engaged in some sort of criminal activity.

I couldn’t help but laugh at his outrageous behaviour. Eventually I took the photograph I would have captured five minutes earlier had he not made a scene that quite obviously dissuaded numerous other tourists from shopping at his souvenir stand.

The fiendish ogre had quite clearly become his own worst nightmare, estranging many potential customers.

And in this case, as frowned upon and misguided as it usually is, one would have been right in this situation to judge the book by its overtly ugly outer exterior.