Camera club creativity Invercargill

April 30, 2012 … at the feet of a master

Now the conference is over.

Time for some pleasant weather and free wandering? Alas the weather is the weak link with strong winds, rain and hail.  Be that as it may, I need to make some closing remarks about the conference.

First, let me compliment the Southland Photographic Society for their splendid efforts as hosts in Invercargill. The conference was a happy occasion for most who attended. The venue was more than adequate, though they obviously struggled to serve morning and afternoon teas and lunches to 220 attendees in a timely manner. On the other had, the Ascot Park Motel more than redeemed themselves with the excellent banquet.

Conferences are not about food, though if it is done badly, it can overshadow the substantive conference. Despite my minor niggle above, this was not the case in Invercargill, and the mechanics were very well handled.  The selection of workshop topics was excellent, and I enjoyed most of the ones I went to. Field trips were enjoyed, despite the chilly one I opted for on Saturday. Some worlds class speakers included local artist Graham Sydney who was very provocative, and Tom Ang.

Tom was the highlight of the conference for me. This man is a superb photographer, yet it would be hard to find a more humble or gentle person. He shared his experience and wisdom unstintingly. My only regret was that he was unwell during most of his visit and that curtailed some of his participation.  Tom Ang at the podium -  PSNZ Conference, INvercargillMy image today is one of the few I took yesterday, and it is a hand-held shot in a dark auditorium and shows Tom at work.

I shall take every opportunity that occurs in future to learn from him, though he too was controversial (no RAW images and no “chimping”. I am happy to record that he now has a home in New Zealand.


Birds Camera club Invercargill

April 29, 2012 … beginning and ending

Yesterday started badly.

The first field trip of the day was a walk by the wetlands in the estuary of the Waihopai River. The organizers were keen for us to be there at sunrise, so we left the conference venue at 6 am. Drizzle and a chill wind made the experience of standing in the dark waiting for the sun to rise absolutely miserable. I shivered and huddled in what shelter I could find until about 8 am by which time I was “over it” as the youngsters say.  I could see the potential of the site as there were a lot of birds about, but the sheer bleakness of the morning killed it.

The conference ran its course, with some good sessions. The day ended early so that people could prepare for the banquet in the evening. Since I was staying with my brother, near Riverton, I had no intention of going out and back, and since the weather had transformed the late afternoon into one of warm golden light, I decided to revisit the estuary.

Judging by the number of very long lenses in evidence, my idea was not entirely original. However, it was definitely a good idea.  This must be amongst the most densely populated birding areas I have ever seen.

Variety was also amazing. I saw a strange little duck with an enormous beak (the Shoveler). There were stilts, pied oystercatchers, white faced herons, a huge population of Royal Spoonbills, many kinds of ducks and geese, gull-billed tern, and many birds of field and shore.

birdlife on the Waihopai estuary

I was engrossed in all this activity and except that the sun was setting, I might have missed the banquet altogether. Looking across the river towards the airport, I was fortunate to see a lovely soft light  and a convoy of swans.Swan convoy in line astern

The banquet was a pleasant occasion, sometimes quaintly formal. How often in these interesting times, do you hear a formal toast to the Queen?

But I enjoyed myself.

Architecture Invercargill

April 28, 2012 … no business like show business

The weather has taken a turn for the worse.

Local farmers are celebrating wildly. Apparently there has been little significant rain for months and they will take all they can get. Due to my own ineptitude with check lists, I neglected to bring a rain jacket.

Friday was an interesting day at the conference with many good tutorials and some fieldtrips. I chose to stay close to base rather than going to the Catlins or elsewhere, in the hope of learning from visiting experts. Alas the star attraction was unwell which rather minimised his input on that day at least. Nevertheless things went well otherwise, and while I was on the walking tour, I managed to get a personal guided tour of the inner workings of the theatre.

This building is as splendid inside as out.  I saw the fly lofts and the wiring room and many other bits that the public rarely see. Here is the view from the proscenium arch looking out to the audience.Invercargill Civic Theatre

Now that the conference is ended, I hope to catch up in the next few hours.

Camera club Invercargill

April 27, 2014 … at the uttermost end of the Earth

Shivering on a beach near Bluff before sunrise.

Eighty of us, each armed to the teeth with the best possible weapons for committing acts of photography were jostling and getting in each other’s way as we waited for the sun to ignite the crimson morning.

To the outsider, I suppose we are all nuts. In my opinion, they are delightful people to be with. Everyone is willing to share their knowledge, or to seek information in almost equal measure. Anyway of the 220 registered delegates at the PSNZ conference, it is a fine indication of dedication to our craft that so many of us made it to the Greenpoint track on the Western shore of Bluff Harbour. There we waited. Chilled but anticipating a glorious sunrise.

To add to the picture, there were two abandoned trawlers slowly rotting side by side on the shore. Over to the South. the lights of the aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point foreshadow the dawn.Trawler hulks at dawn in Bluff Harbour

Back at the conference venue, chattering teeth were stilled with hot coffee and croissants. And then the work of the day began, with tutorials and speakers for every photographic level. I was delighted to hear from Tom Ang, a celebrated photographer and Author, who honoured his commitment to the conference despite a flu-like ailment.

A similar early start is scheduled tomorrow to watch birds. Listening to the rain on the roof as  I write, I suspect I shall stay abed.

Architecture Invercargill

April 26, 2012 …

I know it’s not red, but somehow I almost expected to see Eva Peron on the balcony.

Invercargill Town HallOr even Mayor Tim! Never having spent much time in Invercargill, I was surprised at the grandeur of some of the civic architecture to be found there. I was also surprised at the extent of its urban sprawl. It really does seem to stretch a very long way.

The sixtieth annual conference of the Photographic Society of New Zealand is taking pace this week from Wednesday through Sunday, and I am enjoying both the conference, and the hospitality of my Brother and his wife who live a little way out of the city.

However, the days are very full from end to end, and the image today was seized as I drove home at the end of yesterday’s proceedings.  I hope to have more to say tomorrow.

Light night Petone

April 25, 2012 … at the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them*

On the road for a week.

I shall continue to take pictures and write every day, but I am unsure when and where I shall have the opportunity to post my blog entries.

Petone is the suburb on the beach at the North end of Wellington Harbour. It is among the oldest sites of post colonial settlement in the region, and was a significant site to Maori for long before that.  Like an elderly favourite aunt, it is one of those suburbs where the age and wrinkles are plain for all to see, but are part of  what makes her lovable.

Most of the houses (and shops)  are old by Wellington standards, getting up around the century mark. There are some new ones interspersed here and there, but for the most part, maturity is the defining characteristic.

But there is life in the old girl yet. Like Ponsonby or Grey Lynn in Auckland, Petone has not only survived the seedy run-down phase, but emerged defiantly  out the other side, clothed in an aura of desirability. Despite the housing downturn, Petone house prices are quite high considering the underlying quality of the housing stock. Trendy makeovers retain the external appearance while providing a pleasant habitat within.

Jackson Street is its main street, and suddenly it has life in the evenings. It is not Broadway, or Queen Street, but there are a surprising number of restaurants from which to choose. They range from shabby ethnic, to upmarket silver service.

Last night was one of the two club nights for the camera club each month, but at the end of the evening I had yet to take my picture for the day. So here we have a hand-held night shot  looking West along Jackson Street at no feature in particular.  The lights on the hill behind are in the suburb of Korokoro.Jackson St, Petone

I should add that Jackson street retailers have endeared themselves to customers over many years by mightily resisting every attempt by successive councils to introduce parking fees. Free parking is such an attraction, and I believe it has contributed to the success of the suburb. This is a lesson that Wellington will learn the hard way.

Well, off to Invercargill.

Ode to the fallen, Lawrence Binyon. Today is ANZAC day, the day on which we remember the dead of all wars, and especially the dead of those who served Australia and New Zealand

adversity Maritime Wellington

April 24, 2012 … Gimme the Boats*

Sunday was bad, Monday was chaos!

I knew that, at the end of the day, I had to collect Mary from the airport at around midnight. I was teaching from 5:30pm to 7:30 pm, so it made sense to take the car into town and park it ($9 for the day) in the stadium car park.  After the class I would find some food, and then mooch around with my camera and take shots, or just find a place to nap until that midnight flight.

Things went wrong from the start. I had discovered the previous night, that my beloved Canon 5DII had some sort of pollutant on its sensor that was not being dislodged by blasts of air, or the electronic dust remover. It needed a professional clean.

I am heading to Invercargill tomorrow (Wednesday) for the Photographic Society of New Zealand’s convention and really wanted a working camera. That required a hasty trip back out to the valley to drop it off at the premises of our splendid local camera repair specialist in Petone who said he could do it in time.

Fortunately the same ticket was still valid in the car park when I got back to the city. Since my other SLR was still in Brisbane (with Mary), I was now reduced to using a “point and shoot” camera for any shots yesterday.

During a belated stretch in the fresh air in the late afternoon, I saw HMAS Perth (FFH 157)  moored alongside Queens Wharf. She was the last of the ANZAC frigates, similar to HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Te Mana, but differently armed. It seems that our Australian cousins were not accustomed to mooring in a place exposed to such a sustained beam wind, and had neglected to put adequate fenders between the ship and the wharf. The wind and wave action pushing steadily on the ship can work with the elasticity of the piles and the mooring ropes to set up a rhythmic surging in and out which could result in damage to the ships hull.

A lot of sailors in grey disruptive pattern uniforms were struggling under the supervision of the ship’s XO, various officers  and the “buffer”  (Chief Petty Officer) to insert the big fenders as the ship surged in and out. They succeeded, but it required at least one sailor risking life and limb to jump on a fender with nothing more than a one-handed grip by the XO on the back of his shirt to save him from falling.

Up on the bridge,  an anxious looking sub-lieutenant was peering over the side in case any of this should turn out to be his fault while he was officer of the watch.Officer of the Watch - HMAS Perth

After the evening lecture, I ended up with undistinguished Chinese takeaways which I ate in the car in a layby near Moa Point. Then I slept in the car for a while.  Mary’s plane was 40 minutes late. It was well after 2 am before we finally got to bed.

But at least I now have both Mary and the other camera back.

 *”Gimme the boats” was the title of the first of a long line of naval fiction set in the wartime exploits of the Royal Australian Navy,  written by J.E. MacDonnell. I devoured them all as a teenager



Lower Hutt

April 23, 2012 … fingers of light

Sunday was pretty full.

Everything piled on top of me. First thing in the morning, before the sun was in the valleys, I completed my involvement with the search and rescue exercise by photographing the tasks that I had missed on Saturday.

The next few hours were spent in post production, cropping, balancing, selecting images to share with the participants. Later my younger daughter and I had a Yum Char lunch in town, and then we did some driving.

Then it was preparation for Monday’s class at the university, and finally some domestic duties. And then Monday got completely out of control, and was spent entirely on campus or in town, away from my laptop. Thus, this entry for the 23rd April, written on my iPad at midnight while I wait for Mary’s late plane from Brisbane. It will not appear until 24th.

What image to put up for Sunday? While I was waiting for the final search and rescue exercise to begin, I was standing in a gully on the track leading up to the Belmont Trig. The the first direct sunlight of the day was reaching its fingers through trees and into crevices.  Toetoe plumes would suddenly light up as if a switch had been thrown. With the sun warming up the bush on the bank opposite, streamers of mist began to arise, and the scene was transformed.Sunrise in Belmont Regional Park

There was no breeze at all, and the streamers of mist just drifted.


Lower Hutt Photographic commissions Rescue Social

April 22, 2012 … if I am lost, I want people like these looking for me

What an amazing day, with amazing people.

My youngest son is currently the relieving Wellington Search and Rescue Coordinator for the New Zealand Police. With his colleagues, he organised a regional  Search and Rescue training day. Since the Belmont Regional Park is almost at my back door, he invited me to come and photograph the event.

I  roped in a friend from the camera club, and so the two of us spent most of yesterday watching weathered  wiry people scramble up steep banks, administer first aid, and lower “bodies” down steep grades.  They dealt with crime scenes and had their powers of observation thoroughly tested. They erected (and dismantled) temporary repeater stations to give radio coverage where there was  previously none. There were eight exercises in all, and each of the eight teams had to demonstrate their capability at solving the relevant aspect of search and rescue skills. Each task was overseen and assessed by an experienced person who was a  combination tutor and judge (I learned a few things myself, just by listening).

Some of the scenarios were situated at the top of some very long steep grades, and I was well pleased that I managed to get to most of them under my own power.  I was prepared to take the easy way when it came to the summit.

The park itself is lovely, and one of yesterday’s benefits was the rare chance to get a  ride to the Belmont summit (451 metres ASL) in an SUV. The road is normally closed to private vehicles. Of course, the competitors had to do it the hard way, but they arrived at the top in under 30 minutes with little more than a glow.

Of course the temptation was to follow yesterday’s theme of another hill another point of view.

Instead I am using a shot of one of the exercises. The teams arriving at the top of the road then had to lug the repeater station including its aerial and all its fittings the last hundred metres or so to the summit. Though the weather most mostly reasonable yesterday, at that altitude there was a stiff Northerly breeze, so getting the flimsy rope-guyed aerial up was no mean feat. Temporary repeater station on Belmont summit

Yes that is the harbour entrance in the South. Then they had to repack it and cart it back to the gate in readiness for the next team. The day ended with a very sociable barbecue and some very fine steaks. I found myself in awe of a very fine bunch of people, and I enjoyed being in their company.


Plant life Weather Wellington

April 21, 2012 … another hill, another point of view

There was a time when gorse was an offence.

Under the provisions of the Noxious Weeds Act, it was possible for landowners to be prosecuted for permitting gorse to grow on their property. Unless of course you were the crown. And the most extensive fence line in the country was that belonging to the railways, and back then rail was owned by the government.  You could clear the pest from your land but if you were even close to railway land, you would be re-infested almost immediately.

Today’s image was taken from the foot of the wind-turbine on Brooklyn Hill. The blades were doing their slow whoosh over my head (a long way over my head), and it was one of those days on which it is a joy to show visitors around Wellington.  It wasn’t hot, you understand, but bright and clean, lovely to look at.  There was some cloud in the far distance beyond the Tararuas. But there in the foreground was the pestilential gorse. Looking across the gorse to the harbour

It’s pretty enough, in bloom, as long as you don’t have to touch its prickly anti-social branches. Today I was talking to a park ranger, and asked why there was so much tolerance for gorse now. The answer is that it is now viewed as an ideal nursery plant for many of our natives. It’s thorns keep pests away from the more vulnerable natives until they grow up through the gorse and eventually deprive it of light.

Meanwhile, out in the calm blue of the harbour, the interisland ferry Arahura was swing around without actually going anywhere. I suspect she was ”swinging her compass” as required for most ships and aircraft after any significant maintenance.

Today I am running late, am tired, and have less to say. I hope to offer more tomorrow.