A Tale of Seagulls at Station Pier, Port Melbourne
Late Thursday afternoon around 4.00pm I decided to go to Port Melbourne to photograph the seagulls.
It was a spur-of-the-moment decision as I had been feeling so much better with the cool change in Melbourne. I even considered staying down the beach/port until the sun set and trying for some sunset images – something I’d never done before. I didn’t take my other lenses or tripod as it looked a bit windy. So….. just the versatile 18-200mm which is my ‘walk-about’ lens. I don’t think I’ve gone to Port Melbourne for a couple of months or more.
From where I live next to the Royal Botanic Gardens, it was a quick bus ride down to the north-east side of Melbourne and then a tram ride through the bustling peak hour in the city, through some beachside suburbs south-west of the city, to the end of the light rail line at Station Pier. This indirect route is much quicker than attempting public transport west from my home.
Of course it would be very quick via car, but I don’t have one. Once you get used to the trams and buses around Melbourne city & the inner suburbs you soon realise that you don’t need a car – petrol & parking fees are pretty expensive here (let alone car repairs, maintenance & car insurance).
Just to set the scene, the first 4 large photos in this post show the scene in front of you when you get off the tram at Station Pier which is the docking site for the overnight ferry to the island state of Tasmania across Bass Strait.
I can’t remember now, but this is the site where my family would have boarded the ferry with our car & caravan to cross Bass Strait overnight nearly 50 years ago – yep, that statement really ages me when I think about it. The current modern ferry takes about 10-11 hours and you arrive on the northern side of Tasmania about 6.00am the next morning. As a child I think we arrived about 8.00am in the morning in a smaller ship and certainly had both dinner and breakfast on board. This was a big thrill to me as a small child. It would not be until I was about 23 that I flew to the UK and took the ferry across the English Channel in a fierce storm one day with waves crashing over the whole ferry, that I discovered what a ‘big thrill’ (or ‘scared witless’) really was. I think it takes about 1 1/4 hours to fly to Tasmania (whereas it takes about 3 1/2 hours to fly to New Zealand from Melbourne, to give you a comparison).
As my Mother’s family all lived in Tasmania, we used to fly there most summer holidays to stay on my Grandmother’s farm in the north of the State. The Dec/January summer schools holidays are about 6 weeks here in Australia.
Anyway back to the story…………and you get a whole story in this post today.
This first photo shows you the car park for walk-on passengers & short-term parking in the front of the ferry (seen in the background). By the way, the main road from the south-east, ends here in a round-a-bout between where I’m standing and the car park. You can drive no further than Station Pier. Apart from the tram, (or light rail), ending here, the road ends at Station Pier also.
If you look to the right, there is a small cafe, 2 large restaurants, a small fishing pier & modern apartment blocks overlooking the water. I have done the long walk to the right along the path in front of the apartments to Sandridge Beach and more of the Port far into the distance. I notice the ship Greenpeace was docked in the distance on Thursday too. As you can see, the sun is quite low in the sky at around 5.00pm in the image below.
To the left of the tram stop, about 100 metres away (past the freight trucking short-term parking bays), there is a short wooden esplanade over the sand ending in a small viewing platform. There were a couple of elderly fishermen gossiping and looking out to sea on the platform on Thursday, but as the seas got pretty rough in the strong wind, I got dusted with sea spray so I don’t know how safe it would be at high tide in rough seas on this platform. The platform also gives you a good view of the large stationary ferry and further along the beach to the Port Melbourne Yacht Club. This short walk was at the point where I realised it was actually very cold in the sea breeze and I was way under-dressed in a light linen shirt & jeans – I would definitely not be staying until the sun went down that afternoon.
Down on the beach there is a small pool of water (most of the time – it disappears under water at high tide) and the seagulls congregate for rest, splashing around and generally having a hell of a lot of fun. This next image show you the reason why I go to Port Melbourne.
A pool of seawater and some gulls. Yes…….. I go here to take photos of a pool of water and some birds. Occasionally, there’s a few Common Mynas on the sand or other sea birds, but usually, just Silver Gulls.
It’s a great place to photograph them in the shallow water. It also has some sort of metal fence around a drainage hole to rest your camera on so you don’t need a tripod, although I just took hand-held shots on Thursday. I discovered this small pond of water on the beach one day when I got on a tram in mid 2010 and went to wherever it took me – just for the fun of it. I ended up at Station Pier, Port Melbourne.
I had ‘retired’ from office work a few months beforehand and had started to recapture a little more energy from my long years of trying to work full-time with chronic pain, fatigue & illness. The pain from my 2008 back surgery had returned and I was still limited in how much I could twist, turn or bend. At this time in 2010, it was almost impossible for me to kneel down to take a photo as the nerves in my right leg and foot are damaged and I had not yet learned how to get up from the ground using only my hands, arms & shoulder strength (usually crawling to a piece of furniture at home to pull myself upright). So while you adventurous hikers & nature photographers enjoy the great outdoors, country fields and/or mountains, I was only able to take photos standing upright, or bending slightly from the waist, with my new little Canon Powershot P & S camera at the beginning of my new Photography Hobby.
I wasn’t yet at the stage of really long walks, but was able to explore some of the surrounding inner city via public transport and very short walks in the Royal Botanic Gardens.
So……. I travel all this way from home to visit a pond of water on the beach – LOL. Probably pretty ‘tame’ to most of you, but I can assure you it’s a lot of fun trying to photograph seagulls splashing around in the shallow water. This little excursion usually keeps me entertained for a couple of hours.
On Thursday, there were even some gulls picking amongst the seaweed washed up on the beach at low tide. I tried to kneel in the wet sand to get some low down shots but kept wobbling and nearly got caught in the incoming tide, so just a shot of a jellyfish & some seaweed at this stage.
Then I got lucky.
I went back to the esplanade and sat down to eat and while I had a fork full of cold herb & vegetable frittata half way to my mouth I saw a seagull on the wooden fence. You’ve never seen anyone drop food so quickly and grab the DSLR and switch it on. Luckily, it had a reasonable setting for the bright sun and long shadows, so fired off 3 quick shots (all in focus, although only one where the seagull’s head was almost facing me). I thought it was a great shot with the dark blurred sombre colour of the sea in the background highlighting the white gull. The gull’s body was a little foreshortened in the image but that didn’t matter. It was one of those random shots which I often catch that turned out…… ‘just right’.
I occasionally get these type of good random shots at the zoo or in the city. They’re not staged or searched for – they just happen.
Then after finishing my early ‘dinner’, I went back to The Pool. I captured the usual seagulls, together with a couple of much larger Pacific Gulls (orange beak with a red tip) and then saw a really strange largish dumpy-looking brown bird. It was not until I got home and looked up my Australian Bird Guide and was able to identify it as a juvenile Pacific Gull. I’d never seen one before and was surprised to see that it looked larger than the adults. It’s rare to for me to see Pacific Gulls on the beach anyway.
Then looking along to the viewing platform, I could see the tide was starting to come in much quicker and the waves were getting very choppy around the platform posts.
By this time I was freezing cold, had goosebumps on my arms and decided to go home & not wait for the sun to set.
Well, maybe next time.
One of these days I’ll get some sunset images down the beach.
Yesterday I went to the zoo for some bird photography in the Japanese Garden and the enormous Aviary. Haven’t finished reviewing the images yet, so they’ll keep for another post.