The New Normal


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Seeing Grasslands Book

There is now a Seeing Grasslands book, which is available at cost price. It can be previewed for free via the links below. The book comes in two sizes, large:


and small:

We hope you enjoy it!


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Seeing Grasslands Exhibition

Chris Holly hangs one of the works.

The Seeing Grasslands Exhibition was opened on the 2nd of June 2011 at PhotoAccess in Manuka. We were really pleased with the turn-out and the response to the show. Many thanks  to all who made it along and who supported us along the way.

It was really pleasing to see the work on the wall and we were very happy with the way that the prints turned out. In keeping with the grass theme, the images were printed on Hahnemühle bamboo paper (bamboos being the largest members of the grass family).

Dr Maxine Cooper, opening the show.

The ACT Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Maxine Cooper kindly agreed to open the show and gave an insightful speech, which highlighted the significance of grasslands nicely, through a combination of facts, observations and personal insights. Dr Cooper has had a lot of experience with grasslands, having previously headed up an inquiry into the management of lowland native grasslands int he ACT.

We were very grateful for all the people who turned out for the opening or visited the show. For anyone who couldn’t make it along, below is a quick (if slightly rough and ready) virtual tour:

I hope this gives some flavour of what the show was like.

Finally, the project would not have been possible without the help of many dedicated individuals. Many thanks  go to Darryl Butler of Itchybrain Productions for handling the printing so professionally. Likewise, we thank David Chalker and Barbie Robinson of PhotoAccess for doing much of the behind the scenes work for the exhibition, including a great essay by David in the catalogue and production of promotional material, to name just a couple of things. While I am at it, we are also very grateful for the support given by Molonglo Catchment Group, in particular Andy Westcott and Lynton Bond as well as members of Friend of Grasslands, particularly John FitzGerald and Geoff Robertson. I would also like to thank Chris Holly for his dedication to the project and being so generous in sharing his knowledge with myself and workshop participants alike.

Though the exhibition marks the end of the first stage of the project, we hope that the project will continue to grow and become self-sustaining and that this will be the start of more projects to come in a similar vein.


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Spider in Buttercup (Ranunculus sp.) flower. Photo © David Wong 2010

When you take a closer look at grasslands you find that they contain a great deal of life. Animals are going about their business and the interactions between animals and plants become much more apparent. You can really start to appreciate the importance of plants for animals and vice-versa. I once heard a speaker use the term “habitat is where it’s at” and this has stuck with me ever since. It seems like a simple principle but if you protect habitat in good condition, you protect the animals and plant within that environment but also the processes that accompany that ecosystem, processes that are vital for life and often are taken for granted, such as pollination and purification of air.

Emerging cicada, St Marks grassland, Canberra. Photo © David Wong 2010

Mosquito on Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) blade. Photo © David Wong 2010

Fly on Billy Button (Craspedia sp.) flower head. Photo © David Wong 2010

These are just a few images of some mostly overlooked species that occur in grasslands. Animals such as flies and mosquitos are often reviled but they too play an important role in the ecosystem. They may pollinate flowers, help with the decomposition of dead animals and provide an important food source for other animals, and for me, it is hard not to marvel at their design when seen close up!

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Photo: © David Wong 2010

With the prevalence of digital technology today, many people have forsaken film cameras and photography. A lot of people contend that digital is much more convenient and it is difficult to argue with this point. However, for me it is the fact that film is less convenient that gives it some of its appeal. Sure, I take the majority of my photos with a digital camera, but when I take the time to do some film photography I find the process very satisfying. Film also requires the photographer to be more aware of what they are doing and to think about exposure and composition, so it can help you to become a better photographer and to understand how to control exposure.


Photo: © David Wong 2010

If you don’t have a light meter built into your camera, you can use a rule of thumb called “sunny 16” which basically means that if your apeture is F16 in bright sunny conditions, you should use a shutter speed equivalent to 1/the ISO. So if the ISO was 100 you would set the shutter speed to 1/100th of a second (usually written as “100” on the lshutter speed selector). There are also exposure tables available to give a guide as to which apeture and shutter speed combinations to use in different lighting situations. I have found these cards with success in most cases.

Photo: © David Wong 2010

But the reason that I really love film is the “look” that you can get from different films or lenses or cameras. Each camera has it’s own little idiosyncracies. So if you are looking for a new angle to photography and have not tried film, why not pick up an old film camera and have a go?

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Small things

Cheilanthes sp. (Photo: D. Wong)

One of the great things about macro photography is that it allows us to see the small things that we might otherwise overlook. Hidden amongst the undergrowth are tiny plants fungi, insects, spiders mosses and lichens.

Photo: D. Wong

Capsules from mosses are great subjects and you will soon discover the enormous variety of species that can be found in some places.

Photo: D. Wong

Mosses and lichens also have a compelling texture that you can explore with your images.

Photo: D. Wong

Light and shadow can also be used to effect with such images and the time of day you visit is likely to lead to totally different images. Early Morning and late afternoon are often favoured by photographers because of the “quality of light” available at those times.

Photo: D. Wong

And even unlikely subjects can make for interesting photos!

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Spotted Burrowing Frog Neobatrachus sudelli

Photo: Wendy Dimond

Most people wouldn’t think that frogs would be found in grasslands. However, this Spotted Burrowing Frog Neobatrachus sudelli was found by Wendy Dimond, a researcher at the Institute for Applied Ecology (University of Canberra), during survey for the endangered Grassland Earless Dragon in Canberra. These frogs are seldom seen or heard, but significant amounts of rain, such as those experienced in recent times in Canberra, tend to bring them out of the woodwork, or should that be “earthwork” (sorry, couldn’t resist that one). I sometimes hear people comment: “I only have a point-and-shoot camera”. I think this photo demostrates nicely how spectactular images may be captured on point and shoot cameras.

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