Sunday, March 29, 2015

Almost Macro Shot Too

These shots are at the Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia. I was looking at this tree because of its lovely white flowers. However, as i looked closer to get a close-up of the flowers, i saw the black lumps on the branches. I earlier thought they are plant characteristics, which might be common in these parts, anyway there are lots of biological materials that are unique to this country or this continent.

I looked much closer to scrutinize those black clumps, and i was surprised to see what they are! Can you guess what those black lumps are?

 They are black beetles with orange necks, tails and abdomens. They are actually cute in close-up, but scary too. I wonder what they are clumping themselves in specific areas of these tree. Other trees nearby do not have these bugs. I just left my curiosity thinking they might be beneficial insects, otherwise those park keepers who are so diligent in their responsibilities would have eradicated them if they are bad insects.

P.S. for those who will be interested to know about these insects, they are called plague soldier beetles. Stewart put the link at the comments below, here too:

At the other side of the park i saw bushes of these kangaroo paws. I also looked closer and i smiled as they really somehow look like paws, even if i haven't yet scrutinized paws of real kangaroos. I just assumed they resemble the real paws or these Ausies would have changed it even then! I even saw a yellowish insect with lovely color contrast to the paws!

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Day in Australia's Capital City

On my last day in Sydney our benevolent hosts, husband and wife, took us to Canberra. We were not able to start early, but we left house before 8:00 am. For Australians, driving long distances is not really a big deal. I am fascinated with the landscapes along the way, the vegetation that somehow change too as we conquered a long vast track of land. It would have been nice if i can get off the car for a few minutes and take some photos, but i don't have that option, so i just embed all the views in my consciousness. It is also wonderful to just look at the awesomeness of it all. I am at the right side of the car, so on the way back i will be on the right and i have fully seen both sides of the road.  It took us more than 4 hours to reach the capital city.

 That above photo is maybe at the middle of our drive. It is the only structure in a very long stretch of the highway. Yes it is a toilet, very well maintained with water outside that door, where that man on the photo is currently in. He is washing his hands. The room has the old old style toilet that is not yet water sealed. If you look down there, you will still see the septic tank under. There is toilet paper and a light bulb, and it doesn't smell repulsive. It is I guess well maintained. Perhaps that lone bulb inside is supplied with power by the solar panel at the top of that tall pole. Hmmm, i like that.

Our first step in Canberra is for lunch, where else but the very ubiquitous McDonalds that t is prominently inviting in front of where everyone pass. I wonder if it is the hunger, but i thought the filet-o-fish here is much more yummy than where I came from.

We only have a half day to tour around, so we first visited the Parliament House. The sun is shining hot and look at the sky, very lovely and blue. This new Parliament House started building in 1981 and opened in May 1988. The principal design is based on the shape of two boomerangs with an 82 meter flagpole on top. There are 4,700 room and more areas are open to the public.  

Photo above is lifted from Wikipedia, just to show you the full image of the Parliament House.

At the right when facing the building is this rows of flagpoles, with a telecom tower at the top of the hill in the background. I just don't know when the flagpoles get the flags hoisted there.

Just in front of the front building wall, on top is a big Coat of Arms of Australia. All the states are represented and held high by a kangaroo and an emu. These 2 animals are found only in that continent, and claimed to both just move forward symbolizing progress. However, i checked the net and they said the two animals actually can move backwards but very seldom. I smiled and at the same time nod in agreement with their choice!

The foyer of the Parliament House is massive and elegant. Those posts are clad with slabs of greyish-green Italian Carrara marble. Natural light filters from windows and skylights through those 48 columns, creating an impression that one is just walking through a forest. The floor is geometrically patterned in white marble and black limestone, the latter said to be about 345 million years old. Small marine fossils are contained in the limestone.

We entered inside the building and even attended the Parliament in session. The security is thorough and systematic, all our things are left outside in lockers made just for this purpose. The session is a typical happening maybe in all parliament/congressional sessions in the world. The pros read, and the cons contradict. It is a bit funny, and we left after a few minutes.

The Parliament House above is shot from the War Memorial, directly in line of sight from the two structures, where this shot is taken. I am imagining that it is a red carpet laid down on the ground from the War Memorial to the Parliament House, or maybe that is really the effect they envision there.

"The Australian War Memorial is a museum, archive, and memorial that aims to help people remember and undestand the Australian experience of war." I got if from their written tribute.  We spent the longest time that afternoon inside this museum, contemplating, saying some personal prayers, photographing many structures. We also encountered some tour groups with guides, and we left just the time enough for a late dinner back in Sydney. 

We hurriedly went to the basement parking when we heard the loud music signifying that a ceremonial service is starting. It maybe 30-60min long so we opted not to wait for it. On our way down we unexpectedly encountered this lone bagpiper, who is doing the loud music call signifying the start of the service. We left at the back door and started for home. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sydney Flowers

My stay in Sydney, Australia last December was quite short. But in between the daily trips from the house to the city, or when there's a little time wherever we went, i made sure that i take some shots of any flowers anywhere. Some of the following are from the garden of the house i stayed in, some are found in parks and two shots were in the supermarket flower section. 

Flowers in temperate countries are always looking fresh even if it is noontime. This is so obvious to me because here in our country, the petals immediatley showed some wilting as the sun rises to about 10 o'clock. Many flowers here are not able to reach the afternoon without showing dehydration. 

 This Agapanthus can be seen in many places in Sydney, from domestic gardens to the wild. Maybe those in the latter have escaped cultivated gardens when some bulbs dropped in these areas.

 Above and below are both gazania on the way to opening. There are many colors for this and i also see it sometimes in uncultivated roadsides.

This cactus is a desert plant but lends itself to cultivation. It blooms also here in our tropical country but not as prolific as when induced by the cold temperatures in semi temperate or sub-tropical climates.

 I am so amazed at this small butterfly, as it is also found in the tropics. I realized it is not very agile in colder temperatures that makes my shooting much easier. I was able to come nearer without it realizing my approach.

This is a young growing frond of a fern, the leaves still in thick embrace with the midrib, trying to unfurl so slowly. 

I am not familiar, nor have seen before this impressive flowers. A petal automatically drops to allow the stamens and the stigma be fully exposed to pollinators. I haven't seen this type of habit in flowers here in my country yet. 

 The bunches of arrangements are seen in a supermarket flower corner. Many kinds of flowers are included in the bunch. But i don't know anything there except a brown-banksia-looking type at the left.
Above is the flower i am very familiar with because its parents can be native to the Philippines.  It is a hybrid Phalaenopsis. It is sold in pots and fetch for AU$50. I felt a little envious as the vaselife of this bloom will be much longer here in Sydney.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains is one of the major destinations and a must see icon for tourists visiting Sydney. I have been here when i visited Sydney the first time. No matter how often you go there, there will always be something to see, do, experience and explore in that vast area. The first feeling is awe, grand, spectacular, then trying to sample the smaller details eventually will make the visitors feel more awe, more grand, more spectacular. I think the feeling gets bigger as you try and explore the smaller details. Here those smaller details are endless.

Blue mountains gets its name from the blue haze as you look further to the horizon. That blue color has a very scientific explanation because the eucalyptus trees fully vegetating the area produced oils that react to the sun's light producing the much obvious blue color. But of course, there is still the explanation from the color spectrum where other colors are absorbed, while blue is reflected.

It is only about 2 hours by bus, train or private cars from Sydney. The roads are beautiful and safe, with the route views also worth seeing. The circuitous roads to the top makes a lovely ride. Most of those vegetation are Eucalyptus trees, with all its plenty of species within that genus. Of course there are smaller trees, shrubs, wild flowers, or grasses not visible at the grand scale.
Geologic and historical data record millions of years ago pointing even beyond the dinosaur era. And they further report that a few volcanoes are responsible for some of these geologic and vegetation characteristics.

Those layers of rock formation mean a lot, but for us tourists they just mean awesome and spectacular. No matter how long you stare at those vast forests of eucalyptus trees, the awe will not fade, it will even heighten more enthusiasm to explore and look for details.

The rock formation above was labeled Three Sisters, it is a bit funny maybe, or it could have started as a joke and it stuck. I wonder why they didn't call it Three Brothers or Three Musketeers, or even Three Spikes! By the way, there is bridge at the side of the 1st sister to the left, it is visible from the major lookout. There is a good trail going there, unfortunately it was closed when we reached halfway. We just returned and took  photos of wildflowers on the way back. That can be a subject of another post next time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tallest Living Wall in the World!

Vertical gardens have been increasingly seen in cities around the world. With the increasing pollution due to transportation exhausts these gardens lessen the pollution impact. Infrastructure designs vary depending on the intention of the landscape architects or gardeners, and also to the overall maintenance and total cost through time.

It was Patrick Blanc who pioneered making sustainable vertical gardens. He is a French botanist, working at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, where he specializes in plants from tropical forests. His house epitomizes his dreams, and literally materialializing with him, with all the sidewalls and nooks full of tropical plants. From there, his projects turned up in most big cities of the word. They are like monuments built to honor him. He is trying to bring nature with fresher air to people in big cities, in turn creating a better quality of life.

These look like normal window sill ornamental plants. They are small to medium size plants with flowers. Then have a second look, there are wires that guides their growths upwards and maybe downwards. They are well maintained, growing well and beautiful.

This is where it came from. The cropped first photo is at the top middle section of the above. Everything there grows favorably well, and the central wider portion has diagonal designs with different colors of plants. Isn't it awesome?

 Now look at the height of that central portion occupying several floors of the building. This photo shows the vertical expanse of at least 5 floors.

What about the above? Can you now visualize the whole expanse of the vertical garden? It is incredibly tall and wide, everything growing profusely well.

The above is the expanse of the whole structures. At the top of the taller building are 38 luxury penthouse apartments, where underneath is a heliostat of motorised mirrors that direct sunlight down onto the gardens.  At night the cantilever is used as a canvas for a LED light installation by Yann Kersale. The gardens are fed through hydroponics. 

One Central Park Sydney Tower by Jean Nouvel together with Patrick Blanc is now the World's Tallest Vertical Garden. The living wall is a 166 meter facade with 190 native Australian and 160 exotic plants.  The towers are  116 metres and 64.5 metres in height,  with 624 residential apartments, and also include shops, cafes, restaurants and office units.   Regular guided tours to the gardens are available.

"The building, together with my vertical garden, will be an architectural work floating in the air, with plants growing on the walls – it will create a very special result that will be very new to Sydney," said Blanc.

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