Agnes Caruso Photography

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Welcome to Alice


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The Heart of Australia

Welcome to Alice

Alice Springs is the heart of Australia. A place I always wanted to visit ever since I traveled with my finger through the World Atlas. I pointed to Alice on the map and asked my father what is the name of this town. Yes, I could not read yet, but that did not stop me from browsing the atlas and dreaming of traveling around the world. When I finally stepped in Alice many years ago it was everything I expected and more.

So why is Alice special? It may have never been there if it was not for the telegraph lane being build from Indonesia via Darwin to South Australia to connect the new colony to Britain and the rest of the world. But this is history and does not explain why the place feels special. As you drive from the airport into town you pass through the Heavitree Gap. A narrow gate like opening in the mountains – the MacDonnell Ranges. The narrow pass includes, the road, railway track and the Todd River. This narrow gap is like a doorway into a different world, you step from the harsh desert outside to a green oasis of town. While the town is not really as much of an oasis as one may think, it is definitely sheltered from the desert. You have now stepped into a different reality, a town like none other.

View of Alice

View of Alice Springs from the Anzac Hill

Alice is surrounded by the MacDonnell Ranges and that limits the winds in the town making the weather this much hotter. If you think the river can cool you down, think again! Todd river bed is RFDSdry most of the year. It only fills occasionally and then it is frequently flowing way too fast for you to enjoy a quick dip. In fact, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta held in Alice is a not exactly what you may think a regatta should look like. It is a dry river regatta, the only one in the world with boats being carried by the participants. And the boats are of all shapes and forms, including bath tubs re-used as boats. Alice Springs is definitely a unique town, culturally diverse and rich in history. It even made its way to pop culture when a movie “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” was released. It has also been described by Nevil Shute in his book “Town like Alice”.

History of European settlement started with the building of the telegraph station. At the time the town was called Stuart and became Alice Springs in 1933. An integral part of Alice Springs and the Australian outback is the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) and School of the Air. While in Alice you can visit the RFDS museum, School of the Air and the Telegraph station, three places of great importance to this region of Australia and the entire outback area.

You also need to realize that Alice is situated nearly in the center of the continent with one road going South to North from Adelaide to Darwin. There is a train which can take you from Adelaide to Darwin – The Ghan. It is definitely an experience to travel across the continent and on the only train route crossing the desert. However, most of the commercial transport nowadays is done by using the road trains. When you leave Alice to drive to Yulara you may see a few of them pass you in the opposite direction.

So now let’s travel a little out of Alice and into the the desert out there. We will visit Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.

Uluru also known as Ayers Rock is a place you are likely to have seen in images from Australia previously. The big rock monolith in the center of Australia is, however, not the only one. On the way to Yulara you will pass Mt. Ebenezer and Mt Conner. Both are very different in appearance and Mt. Conner is also known as Fool-uru as tourist traveling to see Uluru think that this is the rock.

Fool-uru or Mt. Conner Uluru

Uluru climb has been officially closed when we visited the area in October 2019. This ended up the long lasting problem the climb caused for the local Indigenous people, who consider it a sacred site.

 

There are photography restrictions around the rock aimed at protection of the sacred sites. One of the most interesting things to do around Uluru is the base walk which takes you along most of the rock. As you walk along the base trail in the morning you will witness a sunrise over the desert, amazing light on the rock as sun raises even further. Shapes of the rock are fantastic, there are also many colors visible on some of the rocks. It is an amazing place allowing you to relax but also think about how you connect with nature.

Bushfires are a part of Australian life and we have seen a lot of evidence of recent fires in the area. This was all before the huge bushfires started later in the year. Nature, unlike human settlement and agricultural sites or wildlife recovers pretty quickly. As you can see above a fire burned only along one side of the road.

While Uluru is a single rock, Kata Tjuta or Olgas is a collection of domes with interesting and sometimes strange shapes. There are walking trails leading in between the domes and also along the base of some of them. I like Kata Tjuta more than Uluru, it appears more dramatic and mysterious as you get closer to it.

This trip included a visit to Kings Canyon, a location a bit off the beaten track but extremely interesting due to it geology and very unique appearance. The different types of sandstone created a very unique appearance of the canyon. The colors are highlighted by sunlight as it reaches the bottom of the canyon towards mid-morning.

As our trip is slowly ending with a drive back to Alice, no trip into the Red Center will be complete without a picture of the red sand and the road leading across the desert to Uluru.

 

If you enjoyed this trip into the heart of Australia, you may also enjoy “The Heart of Australia” photo book I created from this trip. You can also purchase some of the prints from this book from my Pixels website. I hope you enjoyed the trip to the center of Australia.

Not yet sure where I will take you next time, but if you have an idea what you would like to see, leave a comment here or on my Instagram account. See you again in a little bit somewhere around the world!

 


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Travel from your couch to North Stradbroke Island

As we are still mostly in our houses and definitely not traveling anywhere far right now, I will take you on a trip to my favourite place in Queensland, one of most favorite ones in Australia and the world. So sit comfortably and let’s travel. North Stradbroke Island or Straddie as we call it in Queensland is to the east of Brisbane within Moreton Bay. The only way you can get there is by ferry or on your own boat. There are vehicular ferries and water taxis. As you can see below the big vehicular ferry is making its way across the bay.

 

Imagine yourself getting on ferry in Cleveland, there is a vehicular ferry, which can take you and your car across the bay or one of the passenger ferries that will take just you. The ferry will drop you off in Dunwich, one of the three main settlements on the island. My first visit to the island was many years ago when there were just two buses running on the island, one from Dunwich across the island to Point Lookout and a second to Amity point. And to get to Amity point you had to change buses at one of the intersections not that far from Dunwich. Things have changed now. There are more buses and they are now not mini buses but actual real buses.

Straddie became a bigger travel destination over the years and services increased and improved. There are a lot more rental properties, small resorts and just regular residents who moved here from the mainland. Sunrise on Straddie is special and soon after when you walk along the beach it is pretty amazing to just hear the ocean and enjoy the waves. It is nice that there are more places to stay on the island but the fact that it is changing by being developed is also sad. The beauty and emptiness of the Pacific beach is something that we do not want to see go.

  

  

So what is drawing people to the island, both residents and visitors? Let me show you how it looks and you can judge for yourself. From my perspective, it is quiet, not remote but also not in a city so you have to make an effort to get here. There are miles of open beaches, with not crowds, fresh water lakes, hiking trails, breathtaking views and fantastic food. One minute you can be close to people in a community center or a restaurant, and the next minute you can be the only person on a beach taking a walk or surfing. It is this ability to truly relax on your own that makes it special.

One of the special hikes is along the North Gorge. Rocky cliffs offer amazing views of the ocean and the beaches. You can also observe wildlife from the trail, you can see whales, dolphins, turtles, birds. It is truly a different experience each time you walk there. Rocks are volcanic and crumbly, so staying away from the edges is important. There are occasional benches you can rest on and just look at the ocean.

 

 

The beautiful tree next to the trail is unfortunately gone. The view has changed, but it is still stunning. You can walk down to the beach you see above and have a swim or surf, or just sit or walk and enjoy the views. Some of the strong storms we had damaged some of the beach as water got close to the dunes.

 

 

One of the features at the Pacific Beach is the Surf Club. Lifeguards and surf rescue make sure that you swim between the flags so they can help you in case you get into trouble. Surfing is pretty good on the main beach. However, you do need to stay alert in case there are stingers around. We do have occasional oceanic wildlife that can be a little nasty in close contact, like the bluebottle shown above. And these are not the only dangers on Straddie, Amity point beach is even more interesting with signs like those:

 

As beautiful the ocean is, Straddie is not just about the ocean. There are also fresh water lakes: Brown lake and Blue lake. Brown lake has a small beach where you can rest and enjoy a day. Blue lake on the other hand is by a walking trail with just tiny little sand strips.

In order to visit the lakes and an amazing Neembeemba overlook, you do need to bring a car or at least a bike with you to the island. Brown lake is just within a walking distance but Blue lake as well as the overlook are too far. Maybe in a cold climate you could make the walk but remember Straddie is in Queensland and it is pretty hot for most of the year.

I will leave you with a view towards the Main Beach from the Neembeemba lookout. It is a beautiful, far reaching view. If you are asking what is next, we may just visit the heart of Australia – Alice Springs and the Northern Territory. So until the next time.


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Australian places – Brisbane

My city – Brisbane, the capital of the South-East Queensland is one of my favorite places. While you may think that its being so close to the ocean makes it a coastal city, that is not quite true. For the most part Brisbane is not really on the coast, although some of its suburbs are quite close. Brisbane is cut nearly in half by the Brisbane River, which starts at Mount Stanley in Queensland and ends in Moreton Bay.

 

One of the most amazing views from the river is the sight of flowering jacarandas and flame trees in the spring time. Purple and red flowers adore the riverbanks. This is probably the best time to take a cruise up the river to the Koala Sanctuary at Lone Pine, or one of other river cruises and view the beautiful colors. Jacarandas are in fact in many places in Brisbane, for example at the University of Queensland St. Lucia campus. A Jacaranda lane was created specially for people to come and see the amazing purple sea of flowers. It became the place to go just as azaleas in the National Arboretum in DC or lilacs in Boston. As soon as jacarandas flower, you know the summer is just around the corner.

Brisbane used to have very few bridges but in the last few years a few more were build in the CBD, with two of them only for pedestrians and cyclists, who seem to rule in the city center and not only. While we have our share of bad traffic jams, the improvements in public transport – both buses, ferries and rail, together with lots of cycling only roads make it all manageable. In fact you can walk or cycle along the river from the University of Queensland to the Queensland University of Technology at Garden Point, near the city, and beyond. In fact a few times this was the fastest way for me to get home from the city center.

A feature on the Goodwill Bridge is a Merlo Coffee cart stand so you can refuel while walking, jogging, running or cycling between the city and the Southbank. If I was to name one area in the city that I like to hang around it is the Southbank. And if you remember, after the World Expo Southbank was an empty deserted area with only wind and sand roaming around. The area got converted into beautiful parklands complete with an open beach and pools. A great place to go out, relax, have a meal, a drink, sit by the river. You can catch a ferry, train, bus or a theater performance.

If you are visiting the Southbank on a bike, there are public and free service stations, like the one above, where you can fix your bike or add extra air. Yes, it is new and it is convenient.

Yet I expect that a lot will change now after the coronavirus pandemic. And it will be quite a while before we can all go back to the normality we know. Hopefully, we will be able to continue enjoying the beauty and relaxation of the Southbank. Many of the above images come from my morning walk through the Southbank. It was quiet but it picked up later with people going to work, it got busy on the bridges but not so much along the river.

Early morning can be very beautiful, with the sun coming up above the horizon, raising from the ocean. While it is not so spectacular in the city it really is on the beaches and islands in Moreton Bay. So in the next post I will take you to my favorite place in the South-East Queensland – North Stradbroke Island. Place that offers peace and quiet, even in the summer time.

 

 


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How to overcome challenging times?

The past year was a difficult one with many things happening for me all at the same time. With a few moves around the country writing was not high on my list of things to do. However, as we headed into the year 2020, little we knew it will be an even more challenging year and this time for all of us around the world. It has been now just over a month since I started working from home. While I have a nice office set up the challenge really comes from the fact that we cannot just randomly wander around and meet with friends or family.

An important question on everyone’s lips is how do we deal with the craziness, insecurity, instability and lack of knowledge what is coming in the next few months? What can we do to make the time at home more pleasant or productive? You can ask what do photographers do, when they cannot book portrait sessions, photograph weddings or even travel around to take wildlife and landscape photographs? It is not easy to suddenly stop doing what you love doing and put it aside. I have been going through my images from last year’s trip to Australia and will soon post some beautiful pictures from there. I have also been wondering about the backyard taking pictures so I can to keep my eye sharp and hand steady.

You can also focus on the indoor photography, taking pictures at home to improve your technique. The object is of little significance, focus on what you want to show and how. Maybe what this image can be used for later can give you an idea. an in fact focusing on photo editing, graphic design and preparing the photo books which were always waiting till you managed to get to them. Now is the time to write and edit the books, and include some beautiful images. I have been creating a book from each overseas trip we took and still have a few to make. So if you are patient, they may just be coming soon to Blurb. In meantime, let’s have a look at some of my early images from this year or actually end of last year.

First Night in Boston was cold but it was entertaining and certainly full of beautiful lights. Let’s think about the calm from the start of the year and hope that it will return soon.

And just to tease you for the next installment of the blog coming soon is the image from Central Australia showing Kata Tjuṯa or Olgas. If you are impatient, feel free to check out the book on the  “Heart of Australia”. And if you sign up on my website for updates, there will be some exciting free stuff coming soon to all those who subscribe.

Staying positive, trying to learn something new, read books, explore the world from the comfort of your own couch is one way to at least partly lift your spirits. I found that exercise also helps me to keep mind occupied and my body fit. And then there are all those projects we always wanted to get started, now is as good time as any to look back and see if you can start them. With the next posts I will try to challenge you to get on with something exciting and get creative.