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Landscapes New York night Rail Travel

August 1, 2012 … friends in high places

Total sensory overload.

So much has been crammed into the time since the last blog, that I scarcely know where to begin.  We left Washington in the morning and enjoyed the space and comfort of a business class seat on the North Eastern Regional train.  This is a relatively “no-frills” service at a modest price with  just a tiny fraction of the hassle of air travel.

At around 1:30 the train was gliding steadily through Newark, NJ. Through the grey haze on the horizon, we could see some very tall buildings peering above the petro-chemical installations closer to hand. A down-side of rail travel is that it gives the passenger a glimpse into the backyards and industrial areas of  the country. The Hollywood version of America has a dark underside, and much of what we saw in that corridor between Philadelphia and New York had all the charm of a post-apocalyptic radioactive wasteland, And yet for many, it is home.

The next shock was the appalling squalor of Penn Central railway station, and its incomprehensible signage and dirty corridors. We eventually sought guidance from a janitor who gave us the secret directions on how to escape. On the surface, we emerged into bedlam. Every yellow cab in New York seemed to be somewhere in the vicinity of Madison Square Garden, and each was engaged in warfare with someone driving a huge Limo or a shiny black Lincoln Town Car, or a tour bus.

Our cabbie seemed to be going in approximately the right direction, taking into account the various one-way streets. He gave as good as he got, and every inch of the way, I was giving thanks I had decided I was not up to driving in New York. He was a true gladiator for the yellow team. Road gladiators We arrived at our hotel which is fine in its way except for the extortionate $14 a day they want for a woefully inadequate “broadband”.

Mary and I are walkers so the first thing we did guidance from our concierge, was to go shopping. My friend and former colleague, David Pauleen used to lament the absence of anything resembling a New York deli in Wellington. At last I understand what he was talking about. The food, the aromas, the variety, the quality of food was just astounding.  International food market in the Grand Central Building, New YorkPerhaps more on this in a future issue. We concluded the day with a night trip up the Empire State Building. Massive queues, thousands in line, but we got there, about an hour after entering the building.

I think I need to let the pictures talk for themselves.

From the 86th floor observatory of the Empire State BuildingAs always, the panoramas need to be expanded, This is a view from the observatory on the 86th floor of  the Empire State Building. The taller of the glittering towers to the South is the new “Freedom Tower” on the site of the World Trade Center. Due to open next year. Another Panorama from the ESBIf I have my orientation right this is looking to the South East, across the East River towards Brooklyn.Moonlight on the East River

The moon played its part to lend special illumination on the East River. According to signs in the tower, visibility was excellent and that horizon is 25 miles away.

Tired. Need sleep. More tomorrow.

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Eastbourne Lower Hutt Petone Rail Railway Weather

May 9, 2012 … the rough with the smooth

Submitting artistic creations to be judged by someone else is anathema to some.

Landscape artist, Graham Sydney certainly seemed to think it was a strange practice, and one which he thought unique to the photography world. He would have none of it, according to his keynote address at the recent photographic conference.  He had more to say, much of which I vehemently disagreed with, so perhaps I shouldn’t take that part of his speech too seriously either. On the other hand, I like (most of) his art.

Last night, at the judging of the “ladder competition” in the camera club,  I got whacked around the ears, metaphorically speaking, and pictures that I quite liked, received that dreaded “not accepted” tag for reasons that I simply disagreed with.

How to cope with this? If I am willing to accept uncritically, the praise, when it comes,  how then, can I object to the critique when it is less flattering?  The short answer is that I need to develop a tougher hide.  I invited  the judgement by entering the competition. I can scarcely complain when I got it.

As my kids would say, “take a concrete pill, harden up!” And he did like some of my other shots, though not effusively so.

Earlier in the day, I went down to Petone foreshore, near the railway line, to practice the art of “panning”. This is swinging the camera so as to keep up with a fast-moving  object, and making the exposure at a low shutter speed in order to blur the background, and thus convey a sense of speed.  This is one of the resulting shots. Commuter train at speed near PetoneWhile I am reasonably happy with the panning, the sharpness of the train could be improved by swinging more precisely in time with the motion of the train.

On the other hand, the people in the shot were the unexpected bonus. The train driver is wary of people near the track (as he should be, though I was outside the railway land). It is hard to tell whether he thought I was a potential threat, or merely a diversion from the usual trackside routine. And then, there are the commuters in the carriage (click to enlarge). They don’t look excited to be going home, do they? They have the look of puppets whose strings have been cut.

Between trains (it was rush hour), I looked around me, ever mindful of the advice to see what’s going on in the other direction. Though the day had started well enough, the weather was on the downward slope. However, I was lucky enough to catch what may be the last pale sunshine for the week ahead. And as is often the case, the sun was falling on Eastbourne and the Eastern bays, while the rest of us endured the overcast.Wellington Harbour and the Eastern Bays from the Western end of Petone Beach

Coming back to submitting images for judgement, I suppose I do that every day in this very forum, though you as judges tend to remain mute for the most part. I would most sincerely welcome any and all suggestions as to how my images might have been improved. Help me to improve! Speak!

Those of you familiar with Wellington may be intrigued to know that a wind turbine is to be installed on Matiu/Somes Island (centre of the picture above), to reduce the dependence of the facilities there on the mains electricity system. It is to be “three stories high” and will be “camouflaged” .

I suspect this will be a very small farm-style windmill, but I expect cries of outrage.

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Lower Hutt Rail Wellington

March 28, 2012 … faster than witches*

Making images with a particular theme in mind is fun, challenging, and very frustrating.

I say frustrating because I have yet to master the ability to make my original vision come to fruition.  To compensate, I sometimes end up with images that I like anyway.

Railway commuting has been part of the relationship between Wellington and the Hutt Valley since 1874. It really came into its own when the line through the valley was at last fully electrified in the early 1950s. Travelling on “the units” became part of the language of the region. The old red English Electric D/DM class car came to Wellington in 1938. Scarily, some of them are still in service, albeit now in a weird flat blue colour, with bright yellow fronts.

There are those who argue that we should get more people on trains and discourage cars. Though I like trains, the problem I see with this, is that the topography of our region tends to limit the places to which a train can be taken. We are spread out in gullies and on hills.

With fewer than half a million of us in the entire greater Wellington region, we are never going to have the critical mass to fund a satisfactory “go everywhere”  solution such as those in London, or New York or Sydney.

If you live within easy walking distance of a station on one of the four main branch lines in the region (Upper Hutt, Melling, Kapiti Coast or Johnsonville), then well and good, the train is useful. Otherwise, you must walk, cycle, drive or take a bus to the station. This double-ended addition to the journey, with all the irritating waiting between stages, adds wearisome time to the working day and makes commuting a burden and a chore. And so people take their cars.

Back to photography. There is an archery range on the South Eastern side of the intersection between White’s Line East, and Randwick Road between Woburn and Moera.  The Upper Hutt rail line curves in from the West under Randwick Rd, and disappears Northwards under Whites line. I reasoned that, if there were no one else there, it would be safe to go on that land to get an unimpeded view of the train at speed.

I was near the tracks, when I realised that there was now an archer preparing his equipment to start shooting sharp objects at high speed in my direction. I hastily withdrew to consult with him and he kindly pointed me to the (relatively) safe places I could use.

Back at the track, and well to one side of the range, I was looking over my shoulder to see what he was up to, and missed the first train through. It was beside me and almost gone before I heard it, and felt the hiss and shock of its passing.

This was a salutary warning about being on railway tracks.  If I had been on the track I would have been dead before I knew what hit me.

The next train was one of the new Hyundai FP class units. It was going quite fast as it burst from under the Randwick Rd overbridge and swished round the curve to disappear under White’s Line East. A North bound Wellington commuter train at speed approaching Woburn stationThey are handsome machines and I think my image has caught  some of the sense of speed I was looking for (click to enlarge), even though it was not the image I had imagined.

I may try again.

*“From a Railway Carriage” by Robert Louis Stevenson … it begins thus:

    Faster than fairies, faster than witches, 
    Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches ….