A Winter Solstice Celebration
As the winter solstice approaches, the longest night of the year holds a special allure. It’s a time when darkness envelops the landscape. Here in the Dandenongs many of us associate the solstice with the Belgrave Lantern Parade. It is a truly magical evening when community come together and light up the main street of Belgrave with lanterns, both large and small.
This year I decided to take on a personal solstice photography passion project. I chose to photograph a number of shop windows in Olinda, Sassafras and Kallista after dark. I chose these towns as they aren’t the epicentre of the Hills’ solstice celebrations. They are also home to many small businesses and I wanted to shine a light on these.
I took the images on a freezing and very windy Saturday night 5 days before the 2023 solstice. I had just completed an extended family session at RJ Hamer Arboretum and was already chilled to the bone. I rugged up, took my cameras and went walking.
This was an opportunity to capture the essence of local community through their shop windows. Each window tells a story, exuding warmth and creativity. The lights, displays and decorations create a visual feast that captures the spirit of hygge and the solstice.
As I walked the streets on this cold, dark night I was taken back. It reminded me of the time I spent in Europe as an exchange student and later while studying at the University of Essen in Germany. There, in winter, there is barely 6 hours of a daylight so it was not unusual to be shopping by artificial light only.
Photographing in these conditions was a unique challenge. It was a chance to embrace the warm yellow hues of the lights, rather than fighting to balance them like in portrait photography. I had to balance the surrounding darkness. I had to time the shots to avoid headlights obscuring them or lighting up and reflecting whatever lay opposite.
I hope these images inspire you to rug up, get outdoors and explore despite the pending inclement weather.
Since it opened on the old golf course site in 2019 Olinda Playspace has become a favourite amongst locals and visitors alike. Less than an hour from the Melbourne CBD it is the perfect spot to visit on a a daytrip to the Dandenongs. Situated on the hilltop just east of Olinda township the playground has sweeping views north across the Yarra Valley. One standout of the space is the array of public art including statues of owls and wombats carved from wood and a giant gecko and frog which littles can clamber up and over. The playground is surrounded by established trees, with several within the space having been retained, providing ample shade on hot days. This has been combined with plenty of new plantings giving the park a lush feel.
LAYOUT OF OLINDA PLAYSPACE
As you enter Olinda Playspace and go to the left there is a zone for the littlest littles with sweet cubbies, toddler sized slides and swings. Over the bridge which spans the dry creek bed and the frog is on your left before you can to the triple inground mini-trampolines. A little further on you are guided to a large public art display and super wide slide on the right and the epic twin flying fox on the left. Then comes the play space for bigger kids with a roundabout, ropes course, larger swings and big slides. As you circle back towards the entrance is the huge sandpit which includes several waterplay elements and if your children are like mine they may never make it beyond this spot.
NATURE PLAY AT OLINDA PLAYSPACE
As an advocate of nature play I am impressed with the way natural elements have been incorporated throughout the park. The positioning of logs, rocks and embankments encourages children to engaged not only with manmade structures but these more natural ones as well. They are ideal for encouraging the development of balance and other gross motor skills.
SAFETY AT OLINDA PLAYSPACE
It feels like Olinda Playspace has been designed with safety in mind. There are plenty of areas with rubber fall mats to cushion falls. These are also perfect for crawlers or those littles who otherwise put tanbark in their mouths. In the center of the space is a large undercover pavilion with picnic tables. It is the perfect spot to position yourself if you have multiple children of different ages to watch over. What I really like about this park, over others, is the array of seating spots (including large flat rocks) so you can be nearby and engaged with your children without having to just stand around.
AMENITIES + PRACTICALITIES
For practicalities Oscar Vintage Coffee Van is onsite regularly (Wednesday-Sunday) to fuel mum or dad and there are toilets and bbqs available. I recommend bringing plenty of snacks because you could conceivably spend hours here. The hilltop location does mean it can be chilly, especially on winter days, so pack warm layers. Don’t forget the hills can be up to 5 degrees cooler than Melbourne.
If you are up for more outdoor adventures be sure to check out these nature play spots and nearby Pirianda Gardens. If you love parks be sure to check out the recently refurbished Belgrave Lake Park. If forests and bushland are more your thing be sure to explore the Dandenong Ranges National Park.