We had planned a day painting in Palermo, so after some questioning, decided the Plaza Marina was the place to go. After a long stop start procession through the town our bus driver stopped by a small park surrounded by dilapidated buildings. We couldn’t work out why and, after some head scratching, discovered it was a “photo stop” –  the only problem being there was nothing worth photographing!

After a traffic snarled circuit of the waterfront we decided to head out to Mondello to paint. That was our introduction to Palermo which tainted our enthusiasm to stay there before flying back to Rome. However, intriged by the infamous mafia history, we stayed a day to have a look around.

We were told that, around the time two high profile, anti mafia judges were killed, there was a 12 month period in Polermo that saw almost 1000 murders! This grisly fact also influenced our perception of the city.

It’s a strange town where hotel safes just sit loose in the cupboards.

where rubbish and broken furniture litter the streets…

abandoned Vespers decay in back alleys…

securely locked, with owners never to return…

Vehicles in various states of disrepair somehow cling to life…

double parking anywhere is condoned…

garbage bins overflow…

strange characters in dark suits haunt the city…

kids play with handguns…

and in any other city, a man carrying a violin case probably plays for an orchestra…

The secrets whispered through confession box windows in the churches of Polermo would raise the hairs on the back of the hardest necks.


Occasionally one of these weird green blowflies get trapped against the big gable skylight in my studio. I picked this one up the other day, set him up with a light and took some photos. I used  an old 28mm vivitar close focus lens with a 1.4x converter. It is a great, sharp lens and despite it 30 year+ age, still works perfectly on my Pentax K20D. All functions are manual, but the camera will still automatically set the speed to suit the selected aperture. It also beeps and flashes a red square indicating where correct focus is occurring. Not bad for backwards compatibility!

They sure look interesting when you look at them this close.


There is something irresistible about things in little wooden boxes. A friend lent me this old Camera Lucida to play around with. It’s an amazing device that allows one eye to see an inverted image of what ever is infront of you while the other eye sees your sketch book. Once the device is set up it is a simple matter to trace what ever you are looking at onto the sketch book.

The device was patented by William Hyde Wollaston in 1806 and was used as an aid to to sketching and visual documentation prior to the development of the camera.

The device is difficult to set up and the results have a tight, traced look about them. The camera lucida is beautifully made from heavy polished brass. The solid brass base clamp is hand engraved in French with the manufactures details. The wooden box has fine dovetailed joints and is lined with felt and satin. What a nice thing to carry around when you go sketching!

Today, the common pose of someone taking a photograph is two arms outstretched, camera gripped at arms length. This replaced the camera pushed to face, squint through viewfinder pose created by the invention of roll film. I wonder if the pose above, with the camera lucida and folding stool, was a common site through the 1800’s?



Louth is a small farming settlement on the banks of the Darling River in western New South Wales.

In Louth cemetery is the 126 year old grave of Mary Mathews. Every year at sunset, on the birthday of Mary Mathews, a beam of light strikes the headstone and shines directly on the door of the house she lived in.




sa map

Heading East out of Coober Pedy towards William Creek is some of the most desolate country imaginable.


The track crosses the Dingo Fence and passes through part of the Woomera Defence Area.



For a while there are only two things to look at. A huge blue sky and a dead flat absolutely featureless landscape.


The flatness soon gives way to sand ridge country. Dry salt lakes and claypans are dotted through this area


The old Ghan railway used to pass through here. Many of the old stone siding buildings are still standing. We also discovered that some of the discarded rusty railway spikes had found their way onto the track        …goodbye  tyre number three.


Weird creatures wander about at night…



…and airplanes do strange things as the sun goes down.


The Oodnadatta track ends at Maree where the track south takes you into the top of the Flinders Ranges. The ruins of Farina, once a thriving community, demonstrate just how hard this country can be.


Fremantle Maritime museum is an impressive building , and so it should be. The taxpayers spent 35 million dollars on it. What a shame someone decided that a saving on outgoings of 3% could be made by not opening on Wednesdays! Why not close every day and save 100%?


We visited an annexe of the museum dealing with shipwrecks late Tuesday afternoon. The woman at the desk suggested visiting the main museum tomorrow since there was an entry fee and we would not have time to see everything this late in the day.

We arranged to stay another night in Fremantle and next morning (Wednesday) drove in to the museum. The people on the door, with much embarrassment, frustration and apology told us about the money saving logic. I guess with that kind of thinking it is not surprising that the Shipwreck annexe doesn’t know when the main museum is open.