Toronto was buzzing last night!

It was the night of the annual Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (“sleepless night”) festival – a city-wide, night-time arts & cultural exhibition developed by the French over a decade ago which has since spread across the world. Ontatio’s largest city was the first North American location to take on the Nuit Blanche concept in 2006; 8 years later, 2013’s event saw 110 official art locations scattered around the CBD with easily a couple of hundred thousand sightseers taking to the streets between sunset & sunrise to revel in the festivities.

I had no idea the festival was even happening until the last minute – a friend pointed it out to me the day before so I decided I might as well check it out. Not knowing what to expect, I left my hotel in time to make the 6:51pm starting time, and as it turned out, the vibe was so electric that I didn’t get home until the very wee hours of the morning.

As with most cultural festivals of this stature, the artworks and performances varied greatly in dynamic, coherence & relevance, with a lot of room for interaction & participation from the public. From the traditional to the downright absurd, some of the exhibitions included:

– An impromptu streetside performance of Romeo & Juliet
– A panoramic screening of a future Martian landscape
– Artificially intelligent fishing rods playing tug-of-war with a canoe in the middle of a pond
– A raised platform where the crowd were encouraged to strap on a blindfold, walk around and see in the dark
– A wolf, hawk, frog, penguin and dodo (I think that’s what they were anyway) all having a tea party in a magical medieval garden

Here were some of my favourites!


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The magical medieval garden from A Quack Cure, which helped raise awareness in animal extinction due to human neglect


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There is an elephant in the truck: an elephant made out of cardboard mâché, its intention to point out the ignorance we lend to political and social issues going on around us


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Parallax: thousands of cardboard tubes stacked together with a light source behind them


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Part of the patchwork dress worn by the very pompous Queen of the Parade


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A few eerie, shadowy frames from the Tanks installation, where patterns from lace fabric were cut into steel to create the perfect juxtaposition between materials


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A tree embraced in LED rope in Pink Punch v.2


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A performance artwork called Night Shift. Paper was shredded to produce gold confetti; dancers then contorted their bodies relocating the confetti from one end of the stage to the pile at the other end.


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The Familia as seen through the contorted floor mirrors in the Church of the Holy Trinity. The pipe organist belting out contemporary rock tunes added tremendously to the atmosphere.


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5,000 pairs of socks in Clothesline Canopy, reflecting the number of people in Toronto without adequate housing


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The pièce de résistance, Forever Bicycles, by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. 3,144 bicycles were used in the construction of this exhibit.


The final piece I saw on the night made the cut as one of the most magnificent artworks I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. By this stage it was well past midnight and I was on the walk home to my hotel in the city’s north-west, when I chanced upon the Trinity College Chapel, discovering an off-program exhibit called The Composition Engine.

Positioned within the gorgeous chapel were a number of musicians, vocalists and script-readers, who each had a light assigned to them. Members of the visiting public were able to walk the halls of the chapel and turn the lights on or off: if the light was switched on, the performer would play; if the light was switched off, the performer would stop. It was an incredible concept – words can’t describe how peaceful it was to be part of this ever-changing soundscape and lightscape. I was there nearly an hour before completing the journey home in newfound harmony.


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The Composition Engine


Toronto – all I can say is that you’re doing a fantastic job at welcoming this newcomer to your beautiful city. I can’t wait to see what else you have in store… and bring on Nuit Blanche 2014 🙂

If you went to Toronto’s Nuit Blanche 2013, I’d love to hear in the comments below what your favourite installation was!

During the final week of September 2013 I paid my first visit to the mammoth, perpetual metropolis that is New York City.

Armed with my camera I set foot in a decent portion of the neighbourhoods that make up Manhattan, from Harlem down to the Financial District; occasionally venturing further to the boroughs of Brooklyn in the south and Queens in the west.

For me, it was a city of extremes. There were aspects of NYC that I adored more than anywhere I’ve been, from the glorious range of cuisines available at my fingertips to the remarkable ease of navigation thanks to the famous numbered streets & avenues. On the other extreme, I was taken aback at how tarnished the city appeared – it’s as though the urban thoroughfares hadn’t seen a scrubbing brush since the 1940’s! At the end of the day though, I must say the grimy streets do add to the charm and help make the most populous city in the United States what it is today.

I’ll definitely return soon to see more – but until then, this is what I’ve seen already:

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A bright flower garden near Bryant Park on 42nd Street


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Satan apparently dwells on 5th Avenue


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A chimney in the middle of the street!


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Splendid view of Macy’s (the world’s largest retail store) from the summit of the Empire State


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Masters of chess at Union Square


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I love how there are American flags like this posted on the doors at every subway station


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The majestic Brooklyn Bridge


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Padlocks of love


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Some indecipherably unique musical notation on a Brooklyn Bridge pylon


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A Jay-Z inspired message on the wall?


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Facing the Manhattan Bridge from Water Street in Brooklyn


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No parking sign in the DUMBO district (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)


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DUMBO was my favourite area in the whole of NYC to explore… it has an unrivalled character to it


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Some bright DUMBO street art


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A Brooklyn sunset


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The roof of an apartment building as seen from the north side of the Manhattan Bridge pedestrian crossing


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At the 9/11 Tribute Centre <3


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One of the nearly-completed new World Trade Centre buildings, with the Survivor Tree in the foreground. This tree not only survived the horrors of the WTC collapse, but also made it through Hurricane Sandy alive. May it live many more peaceful years.


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A fenced-off block near the Civic Centre


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A typical NYC subway


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Leading into the subway darkness…


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Some unrecognisable but interesting devices on the subway ceiling


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A playful Madison Square squirrel


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Soho health alert #1


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Soho health alert #2


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Looking down at the railway passing beneath 11th Avenue


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The streets below the Chelsea High Line


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Getting hitched on the High Line!


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A reflection of the MetLife building, above Grand Central Terminal


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One of the many 14th Street subway platforms

Not long after I moved to Sydney in 2009 I headed up to Palm Beach, famous as the setting for the TV soap Home & Away, and I noticed there was a lighthouse at the top of the Barrenjoey Headlands. I didn’t have time on the day to check it out, but after taking a recent tour of the beautiful Wadjemup Lighthouse on Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth, I was inspired to return to Palm Beach and make the trek up to northern Sydney’s very own towered beacon.

Constructed in 1881 close to the point where the Hawkesbury River meets the ocean, the sandstone lighthouse still remains in operation today, although it has been automated since 1992. It can be accessed by foot via the ‘Smugglers Track’, named so as the location was a popular for said activity in the early 19th century, up until a customs station was constructed in 1843. Currently, the spinning beam of 75,000 candlepower can be seen around 35km out to sea.

Here are some photos I took of my afternoon exploring Barrenjoey Lighthouse and the superb surrounding scenery. If you’re ever in the area, it’s totally worth spending some time up there yourself!


The lighthouse from the northern end of Palm Beach


Through the trees


The sand and cliffs of North Palm Beach from the Smugglers Track


Getting closer


The lighthouse 🙂


Against the glorious blue sky


Barrenjoey jet stream


There used to be two other lighthouses at the site; one was converted into a sundial after deconstruction


Palm Beach to the left and the calmer Barrenjoey Beach to the right, from the top of the service track

I love the Blue Mountains!

On a previous visit quite some time ago, I noticed a sign not far from the bottom of the world’s steepest railway that pointed toward a mysterious location known as the “Ruined Castle.”

I decided that I had to return one day to visit this seemingly dilapidated fortress. After some investigation, I found that it was not a castle as such, but a rock formation at the top of a hill which, if climbed, offers stunning 360° views from the cliffs of Katoomba all the way to Mt Solitary.

After a failed attempt two weeks ago due to poor weather, I headed back once again last weekend and successfully embarked upon the nearly-7km trek to the Ruined Castle summit. It was, quite frankly, a freakin’ incredible hike. I tried by best to capture some of this Blue Mountains beauty on camera:


A glimmer of sunlight through the rainforest along the Federal Pass walking track


Nature at work: I don't think the bird made it through alive


One of the Ruined Castle pillars in the foreground, with a view of the valley below


After about 2.5 hours of moderately graded bushwalking and a slightly hairy but manageable experience on the upward rockface, I reached the breathtaking Ruined Castle summit. This is what I was lucky enough to witness:


You can click on the photo for a larger view, or alternatively click here for a 360° panoramic tour (opens in a new window).

Whilst I was taking in my surroundings, a sneaky crow took advantage of the fact that I was far from my backpack, which I’d left on a rock about 20 metres below. He managed to pull out most of my jacket but eventually gave up after realising the food was too securely packed for him to get to. Then he flew up to the rocky summit, landed a metre away from me in the shade, looked me right in the eye and made these incredible hooting noises (similar to an owl) which I’d never heard come from the beak of a crow before. I’d love to know what he way trying to say to me.

The hungry/friendly/inquisitive crow

Some alien-like flora growing between rocks

On my return journey, I paused for a few moments to take in the atmosphere near a section of Federal Pass known as the ‘Landslide.’ I noticed a faint sound in the distance akin to splashing water, and after a short detour through the bush up to the cliff face that looked upon me, I discovered a waterfall.

The source at the top wasn’t large enough to expel a constant stream of water – instead, thousands of droplets sprinkled in wind-shaped clusters to the ground some 40 metres below. I stood still with my camera and watched from a safe distance. It felt like I was in a dream, with my own personal waterfall before me, the rainforest below, the cliff face & the open skies above, and not another single soul around for miles. Frozen in this state of surreality, the unpredictable breeze caught me off guard and showered my camera and I with a sudden deluge.

After only having taken a handful of snaps of my newly-discovered fountain, I was left with a soaked outfit in the already-shivering climate… not to mention a non-functioning Canon…

A slightly surreal impression of the rain-like droplets falling from the reservoir above


(fortunately it turned back on again after drying out for an hour, and I’m pleased to report, remains completely functional :))


After my awesome afternoon of exploration, I fully recommend anyone visiting the Blue Mountains who is chasing more of an adventure than the easily-accessible attractions such as Scenic World and the Three Sisters, to check out the Ruined Castle. There’s a fantastic guide at with further details on the walk and what to expect.

Just try not to wet your camera along the way!

I went for a drive up to the Blue Mountains today and on the way home I noticed a signpost near the small town of Glenbrook pointing to an historical attraction called Lennox Bridge. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take a detour and see what it was all about.

Turns out it was the first stone bridge ever built in Australia, and the oldest bridge on the mainland still in existence today!

Designed by David Lennox in 1832, it was constructed by convicts and completed the following year, crossing over Brookside Creek, and providing a link between what is now the western-Sydney township of Emu Plains and Glenbrook. It stood part of the main western route for 93 years before the highway was diverted, and its operation continued until the 1950’s when the bridge was closed due to damage caused by over a century of stress from increasingly-heavy vehicular use.

It was eventually restored and opened again for traffic in 1982. Today it can be accessed via the Mitchells Pass tourist drive, and I’m glad I took the turnoff and had the chance to witness this incredible piece of Aussie architecture:

Some of the original stones


A.D. 1833


The view from the eastern approach


Life is what you make it


These days the bridge is only there for show because the road just up ahead is closed!

A couple of evenings ago I went to the Toowong Cemetery, the largest burial grounds here in this fine city of Brisbane, with the intention of taking a few photos and admiring the sunset from a unique location.  Rumoured to be haunted, the cemetery is situated on 200 acres by the side of Mt Coot-tha, and much of it is positioned on a slant overlooking the city skyline. I have wanted to take evening photos here ever since I first set foot in Brisbane in 2005, and it’s taken me five years to return and fulfil the dream.

I’ve copied below some of the better snaps that I took; you can click on them to make them bigger if you like.

Along the way, I will also share two slightly eerie occurrences that I experienced…

*cue high-pitched theramin noise* 😉






It was around about this time in the proceedings that the first strange thing occurred.

I had my camera in manual mode, and I’d set the aperture to f/7.1. I took a few photos and moved on a few metres down the path.

I went to take another photo but I realised before I pressed the shutter that the aperture had somehow changed itself to f/13. I didn’t think anything into it, and just reset it back to f/7.1.

I took another couple of photos at this setting and moved on again.

I found another spot not far down the path and went to take another photo, but once more, the aperture had changed to f/13.

There is NO WAY that the camera could have done this automatically while it was in manual mode, and it’s impossible for me to have changed it by accidentally knocking something, as it requires the press of a button and the flicking of a dial at the same time to alter the aperture setting…


I stood in thoughtful silence for a minute and made the connection between strange electronic things happening and me being in a cemetery. Perhaps someone or something was trying to alert me to the fact that I wasn’t alone?

It didn’t happen again.







By this time it was quite dark, around 7pm, and I decided to call it a night and go home. Before I did though, I found a monumental cross-shaped gravestone that I thought would look superb in a photo over the night-time sky, with one small lone star shining through in the background. I set my camera on the tripod and took four photos of this gravestone, occasionally altering the settings and experimenting with the flash in the hope that one of the images would turn out ok.

I noticed nothing at all out of the ordinary while I was taking these shots, and it wasn’t until the next day when I looked through them that I found something quite interesting in the fourth and final picture of the set.

The first three of the four photos are below:





As you can see, they all look much the same, except I didn’t use the flash in the second one. For the camera buffs out there, these were all taken at 7:06 pm, at f/8 with a shutter speed of 10 seconds.

For the fourth shot, I increased the shutter speed to 20 seconds to see if it would improve the quality of light.

At 7:07 pm, I took this photo:



What the hell is this??


Here are some things to consider:

I had full view of the gravestone and the heavens while the camera was in action and noticed no other light, flash or reflection appear in the sky. My first sight of this was when I got home and checked the photos.

There were no planes or other such flying objects in this part of the sky – and if there was, it would have left a 20 second streak across the photo from left to right.

When looking at the four photos consecutively you can see the star in the lower-left corner progressively moving downwards in the shot with the rotation of the earth. The strange light, however, appears to have more of a left-right motion, if “motion” is in fact the correct word.

Aside from resizing, I haven’t Photoshopped or touched up any of these four photos.

I’m not saying that it “is” or “isn’t” the presence of a ghost or spirit, but it certainly is an interesting thought…

You be the judge!

If you enjoyed reading this, then perhaps you’ll also enjoy reading about my other ghostly experience in Scotland in March 2009: The Haunted Wiccan Stone Circle (Auld Reekie Edinburgh Ghost Tour)

This morning, for the second morning in a row, I rose from my slumber unusually early. Yesterday it was 2:45am for the ANZAC day dawn service, but today’s wake-up alarm was a slightly more reasonable 5:45am. Laugh at me all you will, my friends, but I had all intentions of heading on down to Circular Quay along with 5,000 screaming teenage girls in order to catch the Justin Bieber gig that Sunrise was putting on.

Just before I was due to leave home though, I heeded to the fact that the riot police had cancelled the event due to the overly raucous crowd refusing to abide by safety announcements, resulting in a number of tween girls getting crushed. I was quite disappointed – not at the ironic hilarity that fans had flown across the country for this moment only to screw it up for themselves – but because I genuinely did want to see him perform. I’d heard so much about him via Twitter and wanted to see for myself what the hype was about.

Which left me in a debacle as to what to do with my day seeing as it was so early and I was already wide awake. So I randomly decided to hop on the next train to Newcastle!

The first thing that struck me was the painfully slow three & a half hour train journey just to travel 160km. If I was still living in London I could have passed through three whole countries in that time, for heavens sake! A lot of the scenery was pretty spectacular though, especially around the Hawkesbury River area, so I couldn’t really complain.

Approaching the city though, the train line ran past the ugly rears of run-down, graffitied old shops & buildings, and my first impression as the locomotive pulled into my destination was as follows:

That really is what I thought. I was now beginning to understand why Daniel Johns’ music is so out there – clearly, growing up in Newcastle makes artists go crazy.

Following a minuscule and overpriced breakfast at a waterfront cafe, I felt like I’d not only wasted a good sleep-in, but written off a whole bloody day! Still, I thought I’d make the most of my time there and at least walk around the city for an hour or so and take some photos.

Thankfully, my dim impression of Newcastle was soon to change 😀

It turned out to be a gorgeous little town. I climbed the 40m tall Queens Wharf observation tower, then made my way down the Hunter Street mall, discovering some amazing buildings from the earlier part of last century, before making a detour to a beach nearby the famous Ocean Baths. I continued along toward Nobbys Head and journeyed up the breakwater, discovering some inspirational and heartfelt graffiti written on the rocks along the way. I returned back through the local funfair, and finally climbed the hill to the very impressive Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.

On the train bound for home I overheard something really cute and so typically Australian. We passed through the Novocastrian suburb of Cardiff, and an old man sitting across from me said to his wife, “Do you know where they get the name Cardiff from? It’s actually a small town all the way over in Wales which is a part of England!”

I now take back what I initially said about the unofficial capital of the Hunter region. You’d think I would have learnt by now after so much travel, but it just went to reinforce the fact that it does pay to break outside the walls of your immediate surroundings when you first arrive at a destination.

So thanks to the Bieber Brigade and their crowd-crushing, warning-ignoring ways which led them to ruin their own and everybody else’s fun, I was able to make the delightful discovery today that Newcastle is definitely not a hole!

PS. and unlike Rihanna, who inspired a previous blog about my travels in Rome, I really don’t mind this Justin Bieber kid at all 🙂