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A Week in Sydney

I’m writing this blog entry on my iPad as I fly back from a conference in Sydney. The conference ran for 3 days and I organised to have another 2 days after that. I have spent time in Sydney before of course, but I hadn’t been there for a while and this time I was unencumbered with family who usually seem to complain about two “annoying” activities I often indulge in while on holiday.

The first is my wish, while on holiday, to experience the place I am visiting instead of spending half of my life in shops (which are often very similar to those we have back home except bigger). In addition to that terrible proclivity I sometimes want to do things which might be a bit geeky (sorry, there’s the geek stuff coming up again) such as visiting technology museums and that sort of thing.

My second dreadful habit (which I must agree could get a bit tedious after a while) is wanting to take photos of everything, often from bizarre locations (just to get an interesting angle on the subject) and occasionally at odd times as well (I like doing photography in challenging lighting conditions, such as sunrise and sunset, where the lighting can give an unusual mood to the image).

So on this occasion I had the freedom to do what I wanted, except I was on a serious budget so it couldn’t cost too much. Well I wasn’t really on a budget but I did feel a bit guilty about going to Australia and leaving the rest of the family at home in the middle of the New Zealand winter (yes, it is winter in Sydney too but you would hardly know it because the weather was just beautiful every day I was there, although it did get quite cold once the sun set) so I decided that spending as little as possible might assuage my guilt somewhat.

Anyway, here’s a list of what I did in my two days…

I visited the Opera House and Harbour Bridge twice – once in the late afternoon and once after sunset – to get the quintessential great photo of those landmarks. And yes, I think I got some really good ones! I love that part of Sydney because it’s so scenic (not naturally scenic but scenic from a city perspective) and there’s always something interesting happening.

The last time I was in that area of Sydney I still had a film camera (yes, it was a while ago) so I was limited in the number of shots I could take. This time with the digital SLR I probably took several hundred photos with various exposure compensations, ISO values, apertures, and other settings. Of those I kept about 10% and trashed the rest. Because I didn’t have a tripod all of the shots were hand held which is quite challenging once the light levels went down. I should report that I was quite successful though.

Sydney Harbour Bridge South Pier

I also visited a couple of museums: the Powerhouse Museum which has exhibitions of old technology (railway engines, steam engines, old computer equipment, etc); and the Maritime Museum which has exhibitions of stuff related to the sea.

Maybe the best exhibit was the “Spirit of Australia”, the fastest boat on Earth. The story behind this was pretty cool. It was built in a Sydney backyard by a relative amateur, Ken Warby. He had acquired a J34 jet engine (as you do) to power the boat but was worried it might not produce enough power – so he ordered an afterburner for it! Wow, I would just love to call someone and order and afterburner. So this engine was a fire breathing monster and he set the world speed record on water with it, then went on to set another record of well over 500 kilometers per hour. After that he retired from racing which was probably a good decision if you consider the death rate of people trying to go fast on water!

There’s an Apple store in Sydney so naturally it was compulsory to visit that. Now this fact should impress you: I didn’t buy anything. Of course, as I said to the staff there, I own almost every product Apple has ever made already! The store is very impressive though with a completely glass front, a glass staircase, and plenty of cool Apple products with lots of people playing with them.

I also visited the Centre Point Tower which is the tallest building in Sydney. I got some spectacular views from the observation deck which unsurprisingly resulted in another pile of photos to sort through. The biggest problem I had in that situation was taking photos through the glass of the windows and avoiding the reflections and smeared hand prints.

I’m sitting in Auckland airport while I complete this entry and I have just heard that there will be no flights leaving for a while because of lightning in the area. It could take a while to get home yet! We often joke about how changeable the weather in New Zealand is but it’s only after spending a week in somewhere like Sydney (I had a similar experience in San Francisco) where every day is the same (sunny and warm during the day) that you realise how true that really is.

There was only a short delay for the weather and I am now in the air again. I will be back to work tomorrow and that could be a bit of a shock even though I’ve only been away a week. I’m not sure when I will be in Sydney next but I already have some more geeky and some scenic locations I want to visit when I do!

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