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May 2, 2018 … A South Island Ramble

For the last two weeks, more or less, Mary and I spent time in the South Island. We visited the family in Queenstown, though I also had the ulterior motive of the Photographic Society of New Zealand’s  annual convention in Dunedin. The weather forecast was gloomy but somewhat ambiguous as we set out.

The Kaiarahi comes in to berth in the place our own ferry has just vacated.

I am always baffled by the loading process on the Interislander ferries. I imagine that they attempt to distribute vehicles fore and aft, port and starboard so that the vessel is properly balanced. However, the selections of who goes next and who goes where is seemingly quite random.

An elegant white swan at Liffey wetlands near Lincoln

We stopped on the way South at a nice AirBnB in the Lincoln district, near Christchurch. It was a lovely rural location that I might never have found without the aid of a GPS. As we left there on our way to Dunedin, we passed Liffey Springs, a spring-fed creek that flows into the Lincoln wetlands where there are a lot of waterfowl of one sort or another.

The broad flat lands of South Canterbury bump into the distant Southern Alps

Despite the forecast there was a clear view Westward to the snow-capped Southern Alps, seen here from somewhere near Dunsandel. Our travels took us to Musselburgh in Dunedin where we spent the night before I loaded Mary onto a bus bound for Queenstown the next day.

The harbour in Otago looking out towards Port Chalmers and the Taiaroa Heads

Prior to the opening of the convention, I took the road out to Port Chalmers and marvelled that the Otago harbour is more often than not, very calm when I meet it.

A white-capped or shy albatross cruises past the boat

The convention was well enough, offering a number of pre-booked field trips, each suited to one of the many genres of photography. My first such adventure was on the charter-vessel Monarch which took us down the placid harbour , offering some nice landscape opportunities, and then past Taiaroa Head to the open sea. There, as expected, we encountered a variety of the great pelagic seabirds including various petrels and gulls, as well as the Buller’s Mollymawk, the White-capped or Shy Albatross, and the greatest of the all, the Southern Royal albatross with its wings spreading over three metres.  Despite my notoriously queasy stomach, my only difficulty on the voyage was maintaining my balance as the vessel pitched and rolled in a swell that seemed to be around two metres. One hand for the ship and one for yourself is the ancient maritime wisdom, which leaves little for the camera.

A stationary steam engine spinning almost noiselessly at the Gasworks Museum

The trip I chose for the following day was to the Gasworks Museum in South Dunedin. The host club had laid on a local group of steam punk enthusiasts to liven up the trip. To my engineering-oriented mind, they simply got in the way and obstructed my view of the wonderful old steam machinery.

Millers Flat
From the bridge at Millers Flat looking North up the Clutha River

The convention came to its conclusion at lunchtime on Sunday and I set out to rejoin Mary and the family in Queenstown. I took the Southern route in the belief that the weather was going to be miserable. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and the Autumn colours at Millers Flat and Clyde were just magical.

Lake Hayes
Lake Hayes in Autumn

A few days in Queenstown with the family were a delight. I also managed a few side trips to Lake Hayes and even managed some times when the lake was flat calm. All to quickly, it was over and we began the journey homeward.

Hot Air balloon near Arrowtown

First we crossed the Crown Range, pausing as we climbed the hill to admire the hot air balloon settling into a paddock near Arrowtown and then it was around Lake Hawea and over the Haast Pass and up the West Coast.

Lake Paringa, with another 230 km to Hokitika

A lunch break at lonely lovely Lake Paringa was well worth the hassle of the flying pests. We paused for a travel break spending two nights in Hokitika.

Near Reefton
Near Reefton

As we set out on the long last leg, there was mist and rain, and as day broke, we were near Reefton. The road from there to St Arnaud is narrow and winding and having a logging truck ahead of you is no fun. You just have to wait patiently for a “slow vehicle bay” and you are past, only to find another one ahead of you.

Gulls leave their signature

Soon enough, we were at Picton where I discovered the ultimate in primitive art, or as I prefer to think of it, a seagull selfie. And then we were home, sad to leave the family behind, but glad to be in our own environment.

Seed head

Photography took a very brief rest, and then a little still life took place. Who knows what will follow from there.




Balloons Masterton

March 10, 2012 … choices, choices …

Smorgasbords always give me trouble.

What to choose? If I have a plateful of this, would it be greedy to come back for some of that? (Of course it would, chubby!)

Yesterday was a smorgasbord day, and I scarcely know where to begin. As you will recall, if you read yesterday’s belated post, Mary and I were in Masterton for the hot air balloon festival.

To give you an idea of my dilemma, these are some of the things we did yesterday. We started at Henley Lake on the Northern edge of town. The hot air balloons launched from the upwind side of the lake, attempted to dunk the bottom of their baskets in the lake, then to capture a tethered white helium balloon, to drop a tennis ball in a floating inner tube, and finally to touch down on a marked cross downwind.  Then we visited the display hangar of The Vintage Aviator Ltd, at Hood Aerodrome. From there it was down to Greytown to buy some Omega plums (mmmmmm!) from Murphy’s orchard. Then we went out to the Waiohine Gorge in the foothills of the Tararuas and after enjoying a picnic lunch and a brief siesta, went for an hour’s walk along the track in the direction of Powell Hut.  We had an excellent dinner in Masterton in the early evening, and then went to the Solway Showgrounds at the Southern end of town to see the balloons put on their celebrated “night glow performance”

See what I mean? As I said, it was a smorgasbord of a day.

I am choosing to focus on the morning trip to the lake.  It was a cool morning, and though the skies were relatively clear, it felt damp to begin with. After a while, the balloons began to appear on the Northern edge of the lake, and amongst  trees and nearby paddocks. Such vast areas of fabric billowing and swelling up from shapeless bags to become colourful balloons was absolutely spectacular.

There was just one specialty balloon this year, and that was in the form of an immense black and white panda-shaped balloon, transported all the way from Hershey Pa to participate in the event. It was truly spectacular whether tethered or in flight.

In keeping with the smorgasbord theme, I narrowed my choice down to two images.  I wanted to convey some sense of the colour in these wonderful balloons.  Hot Air  Balloon festival - Masterton
Oh what the heck,  I could not leave out the astonishing skills of contestant number 17 whose basket is seen skimming across the lake towards one of the tethered helium balloons.  If you look closely at the bottom of his basket (click to enlarge as usual), you will see he is leaving the smallest of feathery wakes. Such accuracy when your only control is periodic bursts on a gigantic gas burner is astounding.     I was using a long lens for this, so the swans in the foreground are well and truly out of focus. The hundreds of waterfowl on the lake squawked and got out of the way each time a balloon came  near, but settled back in as soon as it passed. Hot air balloon basket skimming Lake HenleyHaving broken the “one picture a day” policy, I may as well go all the way, and throw in a couple more from the “night glow” event.


Smorgasbords always did get me into trouble.