Like many organisations, this year a certain virus has wreaked havoc with the planned activities of the National Parks Association (NPA) ACT. As an added challenge, the voluntary conservation group has also had to deal with vast tracts of fire-ravaged Namadgi National Park, its pride and joy, being closed since January. And all in a year when the NPA ACT was gearing up to celebrate its 60th birthday. Geez, talk about a triple-whammy.
However, one event the group of dedicated weekend warriors has managed to salvage from the ashes is their big birthday bash photography competition, although the focus had to change from Namadgi to the broader natural environment of the Canberra region.
But what a success it has been.
"Given the circumstances, we were delighted with the response. We had about 200 entries from about 80 different contestants, a lot of them were of very high quality," reports Allan Sharp, spokesperson for the NPA ACT.
The photo competition, targeted at amateur photographers aged 15 to 35 years, was part of a campaign to attract a younger audience to the NPA ACT, which like many volunteer organisations has historically featured a membership base skewed to older generations.
"We were hoping that there'd be people out there taking an interest in conservation issues by age 15," Allan says. "Apart from cash prizes, the winners were also awarded free membership, and we're hoping they will continue to sign-up when that membership expires."
And their plan seems to have worked, with the NPA ACT reporting more than 100 new members this year, including many in the 15-35 age bracket.
While the winning photos are too many to share on these pages (there were numerous categories), here are my favourites.
Crow crowd (above). "It's a foreboding look at what a world without water conservation could become," explains Joel Davis who captured a murder of crows perched on a decaying tree amid bushfires and drought near the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Centre in January "to show overseas friends the extent of the drought".
After being awarded top gong in the "conserving our water supply" category, Joel plans to keep taking photos of our region. "We are really lucky that driving half an hour in any direction basically puts you out into the bush. Having mountains and rivers so readily available for exploring means you don't have to go to the same place twice, but that being said I do have a soft spot for Uriarra and Tidbinbilla", he explains. Don't we all.
Wonderful wren. Eighteen-year-old Lachlan Read scooped three awards including first prize in the "native flora and fauna" category for his exquisite photo of a female Superb fairywren taken on a misty morning at Weston Ponds.
"I like this location because on foggy mornings the lake makes a beautiful grey-blue background to set a subject against. The light and scene were perfect for bringing out the soft and subtle tones of a female wren." reports Lachlan, adding "the cold morning air also meant the wrens where puffed up like little fluffy golf balls, irresistibly cute subjects." Love it.
Frog frolic. "It was a warm, rainy night and there were many species of frogs in amplexus on the ground", reports Lora Starrs, who, this spring captured a pair of Peron's tree frogs in all their glory at the box-gum grassy woodland at Justice Robert Hope park in Watson.
"I saw this pair climbing around on the trunk of the tree beside the pond," explains Lora, adding, "once I spotted them, I tried to photograph them while they were in an interesting pose together and not covered by extra branches."
Oh, and if you were wondering what amplexus is, well, it's is a type of mating behaviour whereby a male grasps a female with his front legs and at the same time or with some time delay, fertilizes the eggs, as they are released from the female's body.
Drought-breaker. "I originally headed into the mountains hoping to get some pictures of the snow in late winter, but the rainbow appeared and stole the show," reveals Tim who scored third prize in the 'conserving our water supply' category for his photo of a rainbow over Corin Dam.
Tim's rainbow proved to be a harbinger of good fortune because subsequent big rains resulted in the dam filling. In fact, the combined ACT and Queanbeyan dam storage levels this week were hovering around 99.5 per cent. Yippee!
Perhaps the next time we are in the midst of a drought, the NPA ACT could consider running another "conserving our water" photo competition. Just a thought.
All the winning photos will be on display at the Namadgi National Park Visitors Centre in Tharwa from this weekend until the end of January. They can also be viewed on npaact.org.au
A POINT OF ORDER
Several readers, including Peter Bradbury have taken exception at this column labelling the faded hand-painted sign in Boorowa advertising Pelaco shirts as a so-called "ghost sign" (Where in Canberra, November 14).
"Your definition that 'a ghost sign must be more than 50 years old and advertise a product that is now obsolete' might need a bit of polishing" argues Peter, who reveals "Pelaco is still in business and selling both shirts and pyjamas".
Oops. As someone who has worn the same plain brand of khaki shirts for the past 25 years, it's little wonder I'm no expert when it comes to designer clothing.
And for the record, according to Peter, "another not so ghost sign (heritage listed) can be seen in the Wikipedia entry over Pelaco's factory in Melbourne," adding "the factory has been converted and one of the current tenants is the Australian HQ for the very topical charity Movember."
Unsung heroes highlighted in documentary
What a difference a year makes.
This time last year the good folk out Braidwood way were about to enter a summer from hell, with the town ringed by bushfires for the best part of three months.
Last week, just as a COVID-safe crowd took their seats in the town's historic National Theatre for a preview screening of A Community Under Fire, a film about Braidwood's fight for survival and recovery from the fires, the skies opened up.
As tremendous claps of thunder echoed through the century-old auditorium, and rain pounded the tin roof, there were audible gasps from just about everyone in the audience. No one had to say it, it was written across all their weathered faces, "if only it rained like this last summer".
In fact, it was almost just as wet inside the theatre as outside, and not because of leaks caused by possums in the roof. Before the opening credits of the production, expertly cut by local filmmaker Matt Thane had even rolled, there wasn't a dry eye within cooee.
"The BBC asked if I'd sell them the footage and give them all the rights but I said no," Matt told the parochial audience. "Sticking a camera in the face of someone who has just lost their house results in pretty raw emotions and I wanted to control what happened to that footage." Too right.
With the trust of locals, fighting the fire with one hand and filming with the other, Matt masterfully managed to capture both front-line and behind-the-scenes footage that television networks could only dream of.
While the documentary-come-film is far from finished, it is clear that Matt and his team have all the makings for a lasting tribute to Braidwood's most tumultuous year.
"It is a film by and for the people around Braidwood, with 100 per cent of any proceeds going to Braidwood charities," says Matt, who is looking for sponsors to enable the project to be completed by mid-2021.
WHERE IN CANBERRA
Clue: Going, going, gone!
Degree of difficulty: Easy
Last week: Congratulations to Leigh Palmer of Isaacs who was first to correctly identify the location of last week's photo (below), as a cedar tree outside Albert Hall, near the corner of Kaye Street and Commonwealth Avenue, Parkes. Leigh just beat Janet O'Dell-Teys of Fadden, David Nott of Ainslie and Maureen Blackmore of Kambah to the prize. Maureen often passes the tree while walking in the area. "One of my regular walks goes up past from Lotus Bay via a beaut bush track up to the Parliament House gardens then back through the Rose Garden and Magna Carta Place," reports Maureen. "Passing this tree is always a delight and cause for comment." Long may it stand.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and suburb to email@example.com The first email sent after 10am, Saturday, November 21, 2020, wins a double pass to Dendy, the Home of Quality Cinema.
While Lake George still resembles a big puddle, its smaller, similarly land-locked cousins, Lake Bathurst and the Morass at Tarago are at the highest levels this century. Cid Riley of Tarago reports "there are an incredible number of water birds at the lake at the moment", adding "it's so good to see after so many years of drought".
After a heavy shower of rain on her property south of Jindabyne, Karen Davidson noticed the bark peeling off this fire-damaged tree in an unusual way. With its splinted orange appearance it does look a bit like a lobster, don't you think?