Out of my comfort zone

Orange is still not my colour.
Orange is still not my colour.

This weekend I stepped out of the media centre and into a flag point for round one of the Winton Motor Racing Championship as a trainee flag marshal. I learned more (and knew more!) than I thought I would and have an even greater appreciation for track-side officials. Ten hours in a concrete box with a tin roof is no easy feat.

There is no denying that watching racing on TV or from the grandstand is an exciting experience. One small miss-step or one race winning move has the power to draw a collective “oh s***” from the audience, I would say more so than any other sport – think SVG’s recent Bathurst 12 Hour debacle in the dying laps of the race or Fabian Coulthard’s heart-stopping smash at the Gold Coast last year. But, I’m not much of a sports fan outside of things with four wheels or a pigskin so don’t quote me on that.

But there is something to be said for being right in the action, breathing in the smell of a bit of burning rubber after a wheel lock or the sound of a turbo 13b brap-brap-brapping its way passed or watching the water in your bottle vibrate as the cars zip by. Seeing, hearing, feeling – that’s how you learn and that’s how you grow. You can’t write about what you don’t know and there is plenty about motorsport that I don’t know. I’ve never been the type of person who enjoys just sitting behind a computer commenting on what’s going on around me. I want to live and breathe the things that I write about.

I’m looking forward to many more 10-hour days in a concrete box with a tin roof in the future.

My opinion on opinions

WARNING: this post contains a lot of opinions; the irony is not lost on me.

We all know the saying: opinions are like a** holes, everybody has one.

But opinions are more than that, they make us who we are. They help to distinguish us from our peers and shape how we see the world around us.

Some opinions are simple: “Cats are better than dogs.” and “Blue is the best colour.” These opinions aren’t based in any sort of concrete fact, but it doesn’t matter because they are harmless. Sure, the cat versus dog debate has long been a highly contentious issue and that blue is way better than red has the potential to spark a heated argument between friends on the primary school playground, but you can just hug it out and move on. You can’t prove these opinions, and you shouldn’t need to. They are just harmless observations about how we perceive the world (even though we all secretly know that cats win every time and there is no way red is better than blue).

There are some opinions, however, that carry a bit more weight. The 2016 US presidential election brought out the worst in people – I think that’s something most people can agree on. Pro or anti-Trump, everyone has an opinion on the 45th President of the United States. But, unlike cats and dogs or red and blue, these opinions are serious. Disagreements on these opinions can’t be as easily hugged out and forgotten. These opinions have the power cause arguments between family members and friends and to divide a nation.

The next four years are going to be long, they are going to be trying, and they are going to rewrite the history of our nation. Now, more than ever, our opinions on the direction and actions of our government need to be informed. We need to base our opinions on hard facts, that we can research and validate through credible sources. We can already see the damaging effects uninformed opinions are having – the difference between Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act is a perfect example. The recent Jimmy Kimmel segment where people on the street were asked if they preferred Obamacare or the ACA shows just how dangerous uninformed opinions can be. One woman stated that she preferred the ACA over Obamacare because she doesn’t like Obama – she had no idea they were the same thing. This is frightening.

We need to have our opinions. Our opinions eventually become our beliefs. Our beliefs are integral to who we are and they are incredibly hard to change, no matter how many facts to the contrary we are presented with. And that’s okay – that’s amazing. It’s that kind of belief and faith that something can be done that has led to mankind walking on the moon and building the Pyramids of Giza. BUT – those opinions were based in some sort of substantiated fact that what was being attempted could be done.

I have a cousin who is a staunch Trump supporter which is causing some tension on that side of the family. A recent exchange with her and a few other family members is what inspired this post. My one request is that when you express your opinion – that we all have every right to – that you don’t ignore hard-core facts that may contradict that opinion. I want us all to remain vigilant and to do our research before we make decisions that can drastically affect the rest of our lives. Opinions that can cause harm to others need to have more behind them than ‘alternative facts’ and fake news. For the love of everything we all hold dear – please spend five minutes checking a reputable source. It’s like using Wikipedia as a reference for a university paper – did you ever get credit for it?

This of course, is all my opinion and I have little recourse to substantiate any of it.

This time last year

This time last year Mark Winterbottom was poised to win his first championship  One year later, a new first-time champion has been crowned, leaving the veterans to contemplate their own mortality in this game.

This time last year, I was in awe of everything around me and I was doing my best to not be a giddy school girl volunteering at my second Supercars event. I felt so incredibly lucky to be sitting in a room full of some the most notable motorsport journalists and photographers not only in Australia, but around the world. Many things have changed for me over the past 11 months – I’ve moved out of home (again), started a new job in a new town, made new friends and celebrated my first two-year anniversary with a boyfriend. I’ve learned a few life lessons, and there are a couple that are taking longer to sink in that I would like.

This time last year I had just finished my degree and was eagerly anticipating life after university.

This time, this year one thing hasn’t changed. I still feel incredibly lucky for the opportunities I have been given and the people I get to spend my days with on race weekends. The collective knowledge of motorsport and photography and journalism all working towards the same goal is awe-inspiring.

Every single person I have met since I began volunteering is here because they love what they do. They are here because they want to be, they aren’t just showing up to the office to collect a paycheque every week.

As this year draws to a close, there are many more changes on the horizon and we are reminded that nothing is for certain. Long-time stalwarts have found (or are still looking for) new homes and young guns with bright futures are making names for themselves with each passing race. We are also saying goodbye to Sydney Olympic Park, which has been home to the season finale since 2009.

What I’m trying to say, and not doing so very eloquently at all, is pretty simple: so much can change in a year. For me, 2016 has been an adjustment period and a year full of things that I would do a little differently if I were given the chance. While this year definitely had its highs, it also had some lows and that will be very happy to shake off once the clock strikes midnight.  In 2017 (much like the finale round for Supercars) I’m looking forward to moving on to bigger and better things.

Lazy Sunday

It rained today. Not the miserable, drenching rain that we’ve had for months, but a soft, welcoming rain. The air was warm and smelled very familiar. No matter where I have lived, the rain during a rain shower always smells the same, yet it’s so unique that I don’t think I have ever found anything else with the same scent. Candles and sprays can sometimes come close, but are never quite right, either too sweet or too heavy or too something.

I can’t put my finger on what the rain smells like, it’s accompanied by a feeling in the air too. I wonder if the fragrance is different for everyone? There is freshness and a calming undertone. Even if there is a foreboding storm on the way, the moment I realise it’s about to rain it all smells the same.

It was a lazy Sunday, something I’m still not used to after so many years of studying and working however many multiple jobs at the same time. My washing was blowing in the rain washed air and I was still. That’s also something I’m not used to – stillness. I was pushing so hard and so fast for so long that the thought of standing still never crossed my mind.

Now I find myself at a very strange crossroads, itching to finding my next challenge and start down the road of no return, into the familiar frenzy of deadlines and no return. That road is the pushing and the fighting and the blinders that keep me from seeing anything other than my next immediate goal.

For almost 10 years, that goal was to finish my degree, “Just three more, two more, one more semester.” Would tell myself. It was my mantra, it felt like I was constantly repeating some variation of that depending on the day of the week. Then what? What was I counting down to, other than the day that I no longer had to fit studying around work and some small thing that sort of maybe possibly (to a blind person, perhaps) resembled a social and family life. The ‘what’ was something I never really worried about, I just assumed that as soon as the last assignment was submitted and the last exam was handed in, that I would suddenly have all of the answers and everything would just fall into place.

I was so focused on the ‘after’ that I never really cared much for the ‘during. I focused on doing everything as quick as possible – the bare minimum required to get through, while still expecting to achieve the results of someone who worked a little slower and took the time to concentrate and observe and absorb.

There is a difference between finding quicker and easier ways of doing things and rushing, eager to move on to the next thing before even starting the current endeavour. I find myself constantly looking for inspiration for a big idea or project that is so abstract I can’t even begin to imagine it. Maybe I need to slow down and let the inspiration come to me. Maybe that’s why I love the smell of the air just before it rains.

Winter weekend waterfall watching

One thing that I love about Albury and The Border region is there is so much to do within an hour’s drive. Give yourself two hours and there is even more. Danny and I have been making every effort to explore our new home since an hour’s drive in Sydney was just to the next suburb over, we don’t want to waste our newfound adventure freedom.
Today’s drive was to Eurobin falls just outside of Bright, Victoria on the way to Mount Buffalo. The falls only flow when there has been enough rain, and with the deluge we’ve been having the last few weeks now is definitely a good time to check it out. Even though the falls are in Mount Buffalo National Park, there is no fee to get in and it’s a fun drive on some winding (sealed) country roads.

There is a 750m walking trail that takes you to two lookout points, almost to the top of the falls; to get to the very top, there is another trial that takes you across the top of the plateau. We parked at the base of the trail, there were a few other hikers but the chilly probably kept most people away this weekend. Even from the bottom of the trail, you can hear the power of the rushing water and can feel the movement in the air created by the falls.

Armed with my favourite puff-ball beanie and just my Galaxy S6 camera, we began the hour round-trip hike up to Lower and Upper Eurobin Falls. The trial is quite narrow, but the incline isn’t steep and there are plenty of rocks that create natural steps. There are signs everywhere warning you not to stray from the marked track and about the slippery rocks, but we didn’t have any issues with our footing and the views from the track are spectacular so wandering closer to the river isn’t necessary.

About half way up, the track cuts across the river, with a swimming hole and a cave to explore – this would be perfect for a second visit in summer when it isn’t only 2 degrees outside. I would also like to revisit with my Nikon D3000 to try out a few focusing techniques that I’ve been practicing.

Danny

At the top of the trail you’ll find yourself looking up at the cliff face, smoothed by millions of litres of water which have flowed over it. It’s quite an impressive view and would be even better to see from the top – which will be an adventure for another day. The road in is also perfect for the RX-7, there are so many places that I want to take her, and the list just keeps growing.

cliff face

The return trip was much faster, as this time we had gravity to help us and we were keen to reward our efforts with a burger and beer from the Bright Brewery, which is only about 20 minutes from the entrance to the national park.

Now, sitting at home under a blanket with the heater cranking and Masterchef on in the background, I already want to start researching a destination for our next day trip!

Hello camera, nice to meet you again

I’ve recently found myself in a bit of funk – I should know by now that moving to a new town is the quickest way to feeling off balance. After a weekend sightseeing and exploring some of the Victorian High Country last week I felt inspired to whip out my camera for the first time in, well years. It turned out to be the perfect time to reacquaint myself with my Nikon D3000.

I’ve been undecided for years now whether or not I should start investing in upgrading my equipment. I went into the Easter long weekend thinking that the only way I was going to start enjoying photography again was with an expensive new lens. I was, and still am dreading the thought of shelling out a few hundred dollars for the lens that I want, but I was also pleasantly surprised at what I was able to accomplish with just my kit lens that has been with me since the beginning.

My main goal for the weekend was to try out some techniques that I haven’t in a while and just photograph whatever happened to catch my eye. With the Albury Botanical Gardens as my playground, I set out on Easter Sunday to get to know my camera again and hopefully find a bit of passion again.

I discovered two things. The first being my basic kit lens is actually pretty versatile, something I wish I would have forced myself to realise years ago. The second thing? It was exciting testing my skills and being inspired by what was around me. This energy is a wonderful feeling and I’m not going to let it slip away.

Here are a few of my favourite snaps from the gardens and a drive in the mountains the day before. Enjoy!

Landscape view of the Albury Botanical Gardens
Nikon D3000 f/8 1/250 sec.
Hibiscus flower at the Albury Botanical Gardens
Nikon D3000 f/8 1/100 sec.
Bokeh at the Albury Botanical Gardens
Nikon D3000 f/4 1/500 sec.
Red flowers at the Albury Botanical Gardens
Nikon D3000 f/8 1/60 sec.
Beverly Hills palm tree vibe at the Albury Botanical Gardens
Nikon D3000 f/10 1/250 sec.
Road signs at Tawonga Gap between Mt. Beauty and Bright in the Victorian High Country
Nikon D3000 f/5 1/800 sec.
white flowers at the Albury Botanical Gardens
Nikon D3000 f/8 1/400 sec.

What do you get for the car that has everything?

If you know me, you know that I have a passion for anything with four wheels that goes fast – not really into motorbikes but hey they are still pretty cool.

Career wise, my dream job would be working in a media/marketing/comms. role that has to do with motorsport or cars in general (a recap of my weekend volunteering at the Eastern Creek/SMP round of the V8s is coming soon!).

When Supercheap Auto announced their Big Break competition to crowdsource their next advertising campaign, I knew it was a project that I had to do. The challenge for me in this would be the execution of the 30-second commercial. I haven’t done much with video so I approached it in the same way that I would approach writing an article or developing a photo series. Read and reread the brief: in short, “what does Supercheap Auto mean to you” and put together a 30-second commercial that was brand relevant and conveyed the message.

The concept for me was the easier part of the process. My Rx-7 is my pride and joy, my spoiled only child which quickly became the focus of the concept for me. I also needed to make sure that I was working within my capability as a filmmaker and wasn’t biting off more than I could chew. I enlisted the help of two friends and we spent five days filming, editing and revising the scenes and fitting everything together. I also spoke with some friends who have much more experience in the film and television industry than I do and took in as much advice from them as I could.

I am incredibly proud of the final product and so grateful for the help that I had along the way. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the top 10, but what I learned throughout the process will only benefit me in the long run. The full 30-second commercial is below – here’s to next year’s entry!