Autumn at the Bay

The experience of sunrise is greatly enhanced by full immersion in cold ocean water. It is not possible to feel anything other than fully alive when greeting the day in this manner.

Indeed, in late August at Apollo Bay it is not possible to feel anything much at all after a lengthy ocean swim, apart from exhilaration. Fingers and toes cease sending messages to mission control, the gift of speech is reduced to short words only understandable if accompanied by sign language, and whistling is completely impossible until after the administration of hot tea or coffee. But the water on this day was 14°C, which is cool rather than cold.

Sunrise at Marengo in autumn

Five or six dawn swimmers can be seen on the far right above the dark line of a small wave. The sun is rising just to the right of Cape Patton. The photo was taken from Marengo beach at the southern end of Mounts Bay.

Moderate swell on Little Henty Reef off Hayley Point

The waves over this reef are only surfed by seals and dolphins. Apart from the fact that the waves here mostly break over exposed reef, there are breaks nearby in deeper water which are ideal for surfing.
The water exploding upwards has already hit the reef and ricocheted back into the air to almost double the height of the wave.
The breaking wave in the background is over the reef. The surfers in the foreground are paddling around to their takeoff spot which is to their right.
This was one of the larger sets of the morning. This wave reared high and threw out a big lip of water as it reached the shallower water near the reef. A light north west wind smoothed out the face of the wave, held it up a little longer than would have happened with the wind from behind the wave, and also blew the white mane of spray up and over the back of the wave.
Finishing off the ride between Hayley Point and the reef which is home to an Australian fur seal colony.

Body boarder

The Harbour

Safe haven.
Crested terns love to huddle
That edgy hairdo on crested terns requires that beaks be kept pointed into the wind.
One of four resident geese at the Apollo Bay harbour. His limited facial movement permits only two moods to be conveyed – disdain and indignation. I think he was in transition to indignation at this point upon learning I was there to take a photo, and not to pay my respects with a bread offering which he was fully expecting.

One of my many studios

My attempts to capture an image of the full moon rising over the sea were thwarted by cloud on this night. A cold, quiet and beautiful place nonetheless.


Images from recent days in Apollo Bay doing stuff that requires only time – all within walking distance of home.

The New Holland Honeyeater and the House Sparrow

These birds literally flew between my camera lens and the surf break I was trying to focus on. They landed on cliff-top scrub that was just below my line of sight to the reef. As there were lengthy breaks between sets of waves, I wound the telephoto lens right back and took a few shots of these feathery little photo bombers from close quarters.

The New Holland honeyeater seems constantly on the move. It flits and darts at high speed, and only alights on a plant for a very brief time. They are a very difficult photographic subject. The sky was overcast when this photo was taken.
The clouds parted temporarily providing blue skies as the background for a few shots.
The beak on this female house sparrow was discoloured from feasting on the crimson berries on the branches all around it. This bird is not native to Australia. It was introduced from India and England in the 1860s. The species has thrived right across Australia, except in W.A. where they have not become established because of prevention measures taken by the W.A. state government.

Ocean scenery & ocean swims

The view to the north from Apollo Bay beach. There was a moderate swell this day. Friends of mine live in the low house on the cleared land in centre frame. The view from there is even better than you might think.
The stone wall on the right is at the entrance to Apollo Bay harbour. The ship was much further away than it appears here (due the foreshortening effect of the telephoto lens) as it headed west from Bass Strait. This photo was taken from Apollo Bay beach – the breakwater shown was about 600m from where I was standing.

The first two swims were done in the conditions and at the times and locations shown in the photos with the sunrise and the steps. The third swim was done in calm water – I just love the photo (which showed the conditions about two kms south of where I swam).

Surf & Surfers

Unrideable Waves

Around Anzac Day (25 April) there was a reasonable swell for a couple of days. There was a light offshore wind, and the sea was generally glassy. There was a long interval between sets, but when they arrived they were solid. This was a sneaker wave (surprisingly bigger than average on the day). The photo shows it breaking over the southern side of the Marengo outer reef. This shot was taken near dusk under overcast skies. I had the aperture wide open, I was constantly reducing the speed and increasing the ISO as the light rapidly faded. I was about to give it away and pack up when I saw this wave building out to sea. It was a short wait, and well worth it. This was one of the last photos I took for the day. The poor light washed out virtually all colour, except the vivid aqua sections as shown. The soft white manes of spray were the product of the light nor’ westerly wind.
Smaller wave breaking over the same reef (as shown in the preceding photo) but earlier in the day with much better light and a bit of sunshine.
The unrideable barrel. The dark areas directly in front of it are exposed reef.
Under overcast skies and with only a light wind, the swell was moody, glassy and grey.


Seamus looking for speed as the lip started to throw out overhead. The other photo shows the end of the ride on this wave, with Australian fur seals relaxing on the reef in the background.


Tommy can certainly lay claim to paddling out and over an unbroken section of this interesting and unrideable wave. But the wave he was heading out to ride was on the break to his right as he paddled out (as shown top right), which while not quite as spectacular, was eminently rideable.

The third photo was taken as the wave was closing out, the ride was over, and Tommy decided to bail out over the back of the wave. The photo captured the moment when it appeared he was levitating from the deck of his board to achieve this exit.


Leroy is over 60 and surfs like a young bloke.


Angus is a young bloke who was giving it a red hot go on this day. Those are his feet in the air on the left as he decided against a duck dive on the board, and simply dived for depth relying on the leg rope to bring his surfboard with him. It was a solid wall of white water. The timing of his dive looked pretty good to me.

This is Angus completing a long ride by pulling on a bit of speed then shooting up the face of the fading wave and through the crest of white water for an exuberant airborne exit over the back.

Waiting for waves

This shot reflects the tacit cooperation of these surfers, who all knew each other, in taking their turn on the waves in accordance with the clear but unwritten rules of the surf. The next wave in the distance had grabbed their attention at the moment this was taken.
This cray boat was checking pots which to my eye looked reasonably close to where some of the larger waves were starting to peak. The wave in the foreground is the wave the surfers ride here.

Happy 15th Birthday Minnie

Minnie our little pugalier, turned 15 a couple of days ago. She is showing her age in her movement and sleep habits, but remains alert and still runs up the stairs. She’s a bit deaf, and the eyesight is fading. This photo shows her either in deep reflection on 15 years well lived, or just about to have her eyelids slowly close for yet another nap. I suspect it was the latter. She has lived the dream for every day of her 15 years.

Personal best loaf of bread

I baked a loaf of bread in Queensland in 1975. It was not successful, and was used as an effective doorstop for some months. I had a bit of a break, and then baked this loaf last week. It was every bit as tasty as it looked. I have never baked a better loaf of bread. It was great to eat fresh with butter and honey, and it also toasted very well for the few days it lasted. I plan to produce a third loaf after a shorter break than last time.
I understand I am not the only non-baker who is experimenting during lockdown with the bread making art.

P.S. This is my 100th post on South.

The most liked post so far is:

Sooty oyster catcher, hooded plover, kookaburras, and the last big swell of autumn

As autumn turns to winter on the west coast of Victoria, the beaches are emptier, the wavs are bigger, the ocean is colder and the nights are longer.  The awesomeness and beauty of nature seem to peak in winter.  It may well be my favourite season.  It certainly is at the moment.

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The distinctive sooty oyster catcher, on the rock shelf at Marengo point in late autumn

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Hooded plover, finding plenty to eat as the white water washed backwards and forwards across the reef at Marengo point


Not so big Wednesday.

The forecast for Wednesday 29 May 2019 was for very big surf on the west coast. Surfers and photographers prepared and waited for the sun to rise on an epic swell (which  inevitably, down the track, would have been dubbed ‘Big Wednesday’). Instead, it was just a solid wintry swell which arrived a couple of days before the official start of winter (Wednesday 29 May 2019).

The first ten photos below were taken facing south east from Marengo point, near Apollo Bay.

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Such power. A favourite photo. The dark background is a heavy squall line which had just passed through.

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One interesting feature of this wave is on the left of the image. There is a solid green lip that has thrown forward as the wave reaches the shallower water over the reef. This is common enough. But what is unusual in my experience is the curtain of white water flowing over the lip and simply falling like a mini waterfall. Waves can be complex.

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The bombie on Outer Henty working (top left). In the foreground, the swell breaking over Little Henty reef.

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The Outer Henty bombie can be seen breaking mid-frame as it races across the horizon. My guess is that the face of this breaking wave was in the 15-20 foot range. It’s about 3kms out to sea from the reef over which the white water in the foreground is breaking, but appears closer due to the distance distortion (foreshortening) effect of the 600mm telephoto lens. Note the total absence of any horizontal water in this scene.

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This photo was taken one second before the photo immediately following.  Note the solitary seabird against the dark horizon.  The Outer Henty bombie can be seen on the horizon top left.

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This photo was taken one second after the immediately preceding photo.  Note the seabird silhouetted against the white water mid-right of image. With the freedom of the air at their disposal, such ocean conditions are merely another day for the seabirds.

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I had no desire to be in this water either on my surf ski, or in my wetsuit swimming. This is wild and unpredictable water.  But I could (and did) watch it for hours. I find it mesmerising. The big telephoto lens puts me right amongst the action in such a sea, while keeping my feet dry.

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This more orderly wave with its multiple breaks was on a reef out from one of the points just east of Skenes Creek (near Apollo Bay).  I took it from a point just west of Skenes Creek. The photo was taken pretty much facing into the sun. The bright sunlight to my left washed out such colour as was in this wave so I finished the job and edited it in black and white. The form of this wave is the thing, not so much its colour.  The strong offshore wind blowing the magnificent manes of white water over the back is always a sight to behold.

Just for contrast with the swell shown in the above photos, this shot was taken about a week into winter. The ocean was completely at rest. There was an offshore wind and a leaden sky ahead of an approaching front over the deserted beach and bay.  The ocean seems to have a distinctive colour palette for each season. On this afternoon it was the deep dark emerald of winter. Irresistible for a swim. I can confirm that the water in addition to looking cold, was cold. But one of the joys of winter swimming is wearing the right wetsuit and accessories (cap, booties etc). I was warm as toast on this swim. By the way, that’s Cape Patton in the distance.


The laughing kookaburra

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Our house is right beside Milford Creek, which has a beautiful stand of eucalypts lining its meandering course. The trees attract a wide variety of bird life. The laughing kookaburra (its official name) is a favourite. They are the largest of the kingfisher family. That powerful beak is put to good use for everything from grubs to sizeable snakes. Their famous laugh is always a joyous announcement of their arrival.

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A still photo allows you to stare contemplatively into the eye of a wild bird.


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This bird abandoned the impromptu photo session to seize a little snack which it spotted from the branch above.

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The caterpillar was quickly eaten. I think I detect a glimmer of smugness in the face and posture of the bird that got the grub.

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The beak of every kookaburra I’ve ever seen up close looks well-used, like this one, with scratches and marks suggesting it is has had a very active life to date. It’s quite a weapon.


Apollo Bay dawn

Low tide on the main beach, with the harbour lights still on. The sun was still 20 minutes or so from rising. I like the bold artistic stroke of the curved line of grey cloud rising from the pink cloud layer  on the horizon, going to the right then swinging back to the left and towards the viewer, somehow flinging out a series of evenly spaced tangential lines to the south as it does so.  On Facebook I captioned this photo: “Today’s clouds signing on with an artistic flourish.” I’m not sure a single viewer understood what I was on about.

These steps are 300 metres from my front door (downhill). The sand either side is more pleasant to walk on to get down to the beach, but the steps are a permanent and simple symbol of the eternal and irresistible draw of the ocean to be near it, on it or in it.

The luminous blue of the fading night sky in the west.

Nature’s invitation to walk down to the sea is more subtle than wooden steps, and more compelling. This beach is near Wild Dog Creek (between Skenes Creek and Apollo Bay).

Apollo Bay in Autumn

The Point at Marengo came alive in a solid autumn swell with waves that tested some of the young local surfers. There were reports of heavy hold downs and a lot of water moving around. Some of the younger surfers said they hadn’t seen it this big. From the little I saw, they handled it.

I arrived at the Point not long before sunset. Big waves were being ridden, bigger and unrideable waves were smashing in their wild way over adjacent Little Henty Reef, and even bigger waves were towering and breaking on the bombies at Outer Henty Reef 3kms offshore. Spray was hanging in the air. Light was rapidly fading. There was a silent but strong sense of spectacle.

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Billy carving confidently across a large green face as his options begin to diminish.

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Unidentified surfer facing an unenviable duck dive, and probably a flogging.

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After the sun had set behind the hills, Dan finally gave it away. But the power of the Point stopped him in his tracks as he walked cross the reef, drawing his gaze back for a moment or two of awe, and no doubt some well earned pride and satisfaction.

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This next level wave is on Little Henty Reef. It’s breaking directly over a very shallow and uneven part of the reef. The offshore breeze fittingly gave this force of nature its majestic white mane.

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Little Henty Reef again, with a lip throwing out as the bulk of the wave is abruptly pulled up by the reef directly beneath. I’ve never seen this happen before at this location.

By way of contrast with the might and power of the ocean, I interpose here a couple of photos taken less than an hour’s ride northwest from Apollo Bay. The GS is parked here facing north on a bank on the shores of Lake Corangamite, which is bone dry. The blue dot on the map below shows where the bike was parked. North of the coastal hills the rain shadow effect is always obvious.  But drought and near-drought conditions across much of the south of the Australian continent have created parched landscapes like the barren dusty plains once covered by the vast waters of Lake Corangamite.

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View to the east across the northern end of Lake Corangamite.

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The beaches at Apollo Bay provide endless beauty and joy, especially at dawn and dusk.

First past the post.

First light on Cape Patton and a flat ocean.

Colours created by sunlight filtered through clouds at dawn. The colours in this image have not been edited at all.  For the few moments that everything aligned to produce this scene, the sea was actually bathed in red light as shown. This photo was taken on my iPhone.

Some photos tell more of a story than others. These two golden retrievers, tethered only to each other, were waiting not so patiently on the beach for their surfer people to come back to shore. The surfers can be seen near a small line of swell out the back. The dog on the right, just as I went to take the photo of this scene, threw back his head and with mournful howls and half-barks sent  a message across the waves to let his people know they were required back on shore. A beautiful heart warming scene as daylight faded.