April 6, 2017 … in chilly Southern parts

Prematurely, it seems to be winter. And here in Karitane where Mary and I are currently staying in a borrowed “crib” (Southern word for a small holiday home), it is especially bleak as the remnants of a tropical storm cause havoc in the Northern parts of the country.

Kaitaki

Waiting in line at the Wellington terminal to board the ferry Kaitaki to Picton.

But let’s begin at the beginning. On Thursday last, we set out in the predawn darkness to catch the ferry from Wellington to Picton. The voyage across the strait on the Kaitaki was pleasant enough. and then we began the long, long journey through Blenheim and Murchison to get to our first stopping point at Hanmer Springs. State highway 1 from Picton to Kaikoura is still firmly closed and likely to remain so for at least another year consequent to the earthquake in November. The detour is also heavily damaged and there were dozens of places where traffic was limited to 30 km/h for road works, and often stopped entirely to permit one-way traffic to operate.

Hurunui

Organ Range in the Hurunui District

Unlike many, however, we had no pressing need to adhere to a schedule, so despite the mild inconveniences of the journey, we could enjoy the undoubted grandeur of the South Island’s scenery. I neglected to record exactly where this  image was taken, but I think it is somewhere in the Hurunui district a little way out of Hanmer Springs.  I think we are looking across the Hope River at the Organ Range with the Glynn Wye range to the right

Pier

New Brighton Pier with the curse of the scaffolding. Presumably this is post-earthquake remedial work

We spent two days in Hanmer Springs before resuming our journey to Christchurch. Check-in time at out next accommodation in St Alban’s was mid-afternoon, so Mary and I went to the New Brighton Pier to enjoy lunch beside the sea. I seem to cause scaffolding to be erected, and whether it’s the Washington Monument or the Castlepoint Lighthouse, I seem to put a visual curse on well known landmarks.

Surf

The horizon is actually in this picture, near the top and the sky is almost indistinguishable from the sea.

The surf at New Brighton was slight, but there were many enthusiasts out there in their wet suits enjoying various forms of their sport and waiting patiently for the right wave.

War Memorial

Citizens’ War Memorial, Christchurch

We settled in to a superb apartment (thanks Airbnb), and the following day I wandered around the CBD. Six years after the big earthquake, it is apparent that though much has been done, the damage to this still beautiful city will be visible for many years to come. Apparently a decision on the fate (replace or rebuild) of the iconic cathedral is imminent, but as of this week, it sits forlornly inside the fence with weeds growing up through its once clean and well swept paving. I liked the statue on the Northern side, and was surprised to learn that it is unrelated to the Cathedral, but is in fact, the citizens’ War Memorial, funded by public subscription after WWI.

Demolition

Flooded demolition site, corner of Colombo St and Oxford Tce

As I said, the damage lingers on, and despite all the new buildings going up, there are many fenced off sites where remediation or replacement has yet to begin.  This one is on the corner of Colombo St and Oxford Terrace.

Lyttelton

Leaving Lyttelton bound for Diamond Harbour. This was as good as the weather got

We enjoyed some time with Mary’s brother and his wife, and after a wonderful dinner with them decided to go to Diamond Harbour the next day. Sadly, the weather deteriorated, but we went anyway. A nice lunch was had in Lyttelton on our return from a grey and wet Diamond Harbour.

Karitane

A lookout on the old coast road looks Northward along the coast with Karitane as the first promontory and Waikouaiti next along. I liked the drama of the clouds, if not the bleakness of the weather.

We enjoyed our few days in the garden city and have now moved South to Karitane. This is a tiny coastal village on the southern side of the Waikouaiti River where it flows into the Pacific. In normal times it is a popular weekend destination for people getting out of Dunedin, but as of this moment, with rain lashing the windows and the trees whipping about in the garden, it seems a little less attractive. However, the weather is predicted to improve. We did a small tour of the area yesterday and I got this view of Karitane from a lookout on a hill to the South of the town. More of our journey next week.

 

May 8, 2015 … moist mist and sharp points

This has the makings of a long winter, and in theory we are still in Autumn.

Sheep

In moist conditions, farmers often bring the sheep together in densely stopped paddocks to minimise the risk of facial eczema.

Nevertheless, there is something to be seen each day, provided I manage my time somewhat better than I have recently. Mary is still working while I am very happily retired. It seems only fair that I pick up some portion of domestic duties, but as a lifelong procrastinator, this sometimes gets me into trouble. Yesterday I needed to be at home for the grandchildren to come from school. This left me with a bit of a scramble, and it was perhaps too ambitious to fit in a trip down the Wainuiomata Coast Road before I had to be back. But that’s what I did.

Violet Ace

Violet Ace makes her way to Wellington. That’s the South Island in the distance

Despite the vicious wind of the preceding days the South Coast was comparatively calm, and the only thing of immediate interest was the big vehicle carrying vessel Violet Ace passing briefly into Wellington before moving on to Lyttelton.

Catchpool Valley

Catchpool Valley

A quick side trip into the Catchpool Valley offered a view of the mist over the hills.  Despite the wind having dropped away, things were still grey and damp.

Stream

Reflections on a rock in the Catchpool stream

At the ford, I looked upstream and despite the high water level, the stream was prettily calm. I have taken this before in different circumstances.

Thistle

Prickly pest

A jab in the ankle might cause alarm in some countries but with no snakes and relatively few harmful spiders, the reaction is irritation rather than panic. It was just a thistle, but the water droplets and the spikes seemed worth a closer look.

See you tomorrow.

November 22, 2012 … fur, flaps and feathers

If I had known the freedom conveyed by retirement, I might  have contemplated it sooner.

At least for now, I am free to get up when I wake, and to go out and pursue anything that interests me. Yesterday I went out to the Pataka Gallery in Porirua where the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition was on display. If you are in the region and like nature photography, don’t miss it. The thing that distressed me most was the quality of images submitted by young people (ten years and up). I hope to become as good as they already are.

On the Porirua Harbour near the turn-off to  Titahi Bay, a flock of fluffy ducklings were being shepherded by proud and anxious parents. At this stage of their lives they are at risk of sudden death from below (eels) or above (Black-backed gulls). Other water fowl tend to bully them and I saw geese chasing them away from food put out by nearby householders. Duckling squadron

Near Titahi Bay is Whitireia Park, the wild windswept Southern headland at the entrance to Porirua Harbour.  Most Wellingtonians will know it as the site of the old transmitter masts  for 2YA (Radio New Zealand National) and four other AM stations.

With the prevailing Nor’Westerly wind, it is a much loved site for the model aircraft community for the branch of the hobby known as slope soaring. In the right conditions, pilots can put their models out into the updrafts and fly them up and down the cliffs for as long as their batteries will allow.

Since it was a working day for most, there was just one flyer there yesterday. In the light breeze at the start of the day, he had launched a motor-assisted glider. When I say motor assisted, it had a folding propeller and electric motor in the nose. If he found himself in trouble below the lift on the cliff face, he just opened the throttle. The blades swung into life, and the aircraft shot into the air like an express elevator. This was a purchased model rather than a made one.Model glider descending rapidly with full brakes From the Czech Republic, it made extensive use of carbon fibre for the spars and leading edge, and was an impressive piece of technology. He kindly brought it down from the heights with flaps in air-brake setting, and then swung across the harbour entrance to give me a more interesting background. Very nice.Model glider near Plimmerton On the way home I went past the bird hide at Pauatahanui where I found a pair of pied stilts meandering about, but not much else.Pied stilt at Pauatahanui

A new day tomorrow

August 16, 2012 … emerging from sleep

I think I must be on autopilot.

I have not really engaged with anything much since my return. Even the daily photography tends to be a bit automated … not helped by the drab weather, or the uncertainty as I wait for my travel insurance company to decide their stance in respect of the drowned camera.

However, I get out each day with the other camera, and try to see something new.  Perhaps I am spoiled by the endless variety of different and exciting sights for the previous two weeks.

Mary is back at work, but for me, the trip away has ruled a line under my working career. Now I need to establish what life will be like now that I am free.

Of course there are many tasks that have been waiting endlessly for me to have some “free time”, and my excuses are evaporating. Among the very first tasks is the thorough cleansing and reorganization of my totally chaotic office.

Back to yesterday’s photograph. I try to capture images late or early in the day. At present, given the seriously drab state of the weather, that tends to be around 4:30 pm, after which everything goes through battleship grey and then dark.  Since I was cooking dinner, I had to fit in my visit in a short time, so I went to the Seaview Marina.

Seaview Marina Reflections

Despite the solid grey overcast, the harbour was very calm, and offered some nice reflections. I tried a few odd angles and settled on this image for the day.

Seaview has one or two very nice modern boats, but it is also a haven for a mixture of work boats, and some of the ugliest home-built adaptations I have ever seen. I guess they would be equally critical of my photography.

Something different tomorrow, perhaps.

June 23, 2012 … changing gears

Daily blogging tends to assume a kind of uniformity to the day being described.

“This is the day on which such and such happened” … in reality, the quality of each day varies hour by hour. Some hours are serious, contemplative, others may be hilarious slapstick. And some activity, including photography, is just self-indulgent.

I take it as it comes, but that often presents a challenge as to which aspect of the day to write about. Mostly, some experience stands out as the most memorable and noteworthy of the day. At other times I find myself struggling to choose.

Let me start yesterday’s story at the beginning with valley mist, again.

The best kinds of mist, for me, are those which can be seen form the outside. The kind where tendrils drift up, over, and around the various forms that make up our landscape. Less useful are those mists which you find yourself in. Happily for me, most mist in the valley tends to occur in the morning, and to take the Eastern route. This allows me to look across the valley at the picturesque flow of light cloud through the dark landscape.Mist in the Hutt Valley

This patch of mist is up the Eastern hills behind Summit Rd.

And then, shifting to an entirely different gear, I had occasion to visit a fellow camera club committee member. He is an enthusiastic model railway fan with an extensive and well made layout and many hundreds of wagons and locomotives.  He kindly allowed me to set up my tripod and camera.

My friend’s layout is a work in progress, but as a sometime model maker myself, I just admire the quality of his craftsmanship. Model railway layout

One day I may return to model making myself, though my preference will be aircraft and sailing ships.

June 16, 2012 … Klingons on the starboard bow!*

Sometimes it’s hard to let go.

When we cleared our attic a month or two back, preparatory to insulating the house, there was much that we had to struggle to discard. Sentimental stuff, stuff that “we might find a use for one day”. Stuff! There were several tonnes of stuff that had hung for years over our heads in a an earthquake-prone region. The roof tiles and the chimney  are still a threat, but at least we won’t be buried in the forgotten rubbish of the last thirty years.

Letting go is a challenge. The week just ended is, barring annual leave and conferences, pretty much the first since I joined the university in 1995 that I have not been into the school where I worked. When I finish marking the final assignments in the week ahead, I shall be able to let go of that aspect of my identity entirely.

Time to do new things.  As Tony Bridge suggested in his lecture earlier in the week, time to be in, and to be present to, the landscape and to listen to it before I make my images. Time to stop taking hasty snapshots as I rush through it. Time to make pictures that attempt to answer the two essential questions: Who am I? Why am I here?

Time, as he said, to recognise the camera as a tool, secondary to the purpose of making such images.

One thing I am sure of, is that it is not my purpose to use my images or this blog to preach sermons to others. All I can hope to do, is to tell anyone who wants to listen, what the scene I saw meant to me.

Alan Greenspan, an economist and former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank,  is reported to have said:

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”.

Similarly, although the patterns of light formed on my camera’s sensor  may accurately capture the geometry, the colour and the physics of the scene in front of me, they can’t tell you what I saw.  Seeing is personal. You and I can look at the same scene and see quite different things.

My goal now, is to show  images that represent, as well as I can make them, what I think I saw.  And I refuse to be constrained by purist notions of what constitutes photography. I want to make images as an art form, not to freeze moments in time, merely as a forensic scientist or a documentary reporter.

Each discipline has its place. I just want to be clear, for my own sake, where I sit.

This clarification may not immediately make my images any better, but at least it is a statement of intent. So  here is today’s shot.hanging on

The tree to which these leaves are clinging so tenaciously, is at the main gate on Lambton Quay to the parliamentary precinct.

Most sensible leaves have realised that resistance is futile and have assumed their proper place in the cycle of life, death, and resurrection.  Not these ones. Despite some wild winds over the last month, they refuse to let go.

I am filled with reluctant admiration.

*from “Star Trekkin'” by Rory Kehoe … I chose this ridiculous title to remind myself not to take myself too seriously.

May 29, 2012 … the morning after the night before

That’s it! Teaching is done! Real life begins!

Having completed my last lecture yesterday, only the marking of final assignments, and helping in the preparation for the oral defence by two of my PhD students stands between me and the totality of retirement from academic life.

After the lecture, I went with those of my class who could stay, to have a drink at “the Backbencher”, a popular pub nearby. Since I was driving, I didn’t stay long, but I enjoyed their company while I was there. And so, I headed home.  Just before I passed under the Petone overbridge, I had noticed some nice reflections along the foreshore.

I drove a few hundred metres further, regretting that I had not taken the Petone exit to catch the shot, knowing it would not be like that next time I passed. Then it occurred to me that there was no need for regrets. The situation could be recovered! A quick diversion into Korokoro, and back over the motorway, and down to the Western end of Petone put me in position to catch the reflections after all.

I had my little “gorilla pod” with me, and though it’s not quite the equal of a real solid  tripod, it served well enough, sitting on the boot* of the car.  The wind was not completely still, and there was a lot of moisture in the air, as you might judge from the halos around the street lights on the Esplanade, and in the glare above the oil terminal at Seaview.  Reflections on Petone Beach

The row of green near the waterline on the right comes from some lights on the underside of Petone wharf.

Lesson for the day … seize the moment!

*boot = trunk

April 1, 2012 … avoiding the void

“That’s such a ‘First World’ problem, Dad!”

My younger daughter  sometimes puts things into perspective for me, in the nicest possible way, as daughters are wont to do. Yesterday for example, with petrol at $2.199 per litre, I was bemoaning the fact that it cost $130 to fill my car. She reminded me that, if I were on the unemployment benefit, that was my entire week’s money gone on one purchase.

Another “first world problem” is how to fill your time. I know people who, when retirement finally arrives, are terrified at the prospect of “empty time” spreading into the foreseeable future.  By contrast there are others who are so perpetually busy that they wonder how they ever found time for work.

It doesn’t take a lot of detective work to figure out that my preoccupation, some would say my consuming passion, is making photographs.  You may have observed certain patterns in the kinds of subject I choose.  Yes, I like birds, and landscapes, ships, planes, and more besides, some of which you have yet to see.

Each person finds an interest for him or herself. Some are noble, altruistic activities, community service,charity work, some are more self-indulgent. Some manage a mixture. The people who worry me most are those who sit in a chair in front of the television because they have can’t conceive of anything else to fill the void.

Yesterday, with my eldest son, I caught up with one of his old school buddies who chooses, as one of his hobbies, to fly radio-controlled helicopters. I use the word “helicopter” loosely, because the thing he was flying at Te Whiti Park in Lower Hutt bears no resemblance to any normal helicopter.  What he has is something that looks like two bars lashed at right angles, with an electric motor and a vicious-looking propeller on the outer and of each arm. In the middle, is a bunch of electronic circuitry and a big Li-Po battery. On the underside of each arm is a string of coloured LEDs which allow the pilot to see which arm is which when it is airborne.A remote-controlled helicopter with on board video camera in flight.

An auxiliary crossbar has a small digital camera attached underneath it, and this in urn is connected to a transmitter which sends the video feed back to a set of virtual reality goggles on the ground. You can, if you wish, fly this thing from a “pilot’s-eye” viewpoint.  The astonishing thing is that this contraption not only flies, but does so  in quite smooth and graceful ways just like any other aircraft in flight, and the view through the camera and goggles is amazing.

The strange dome over the circuit boards is the bottom of a Coca-Cola bottle that protects it from the weather.  This young man not only has an enjoyable hobby but he has some demonstrable skills both in problem solving, and in piloting this thing.  I aspire to achieve similar levels of mastery in my own chosen preoccupation.

In fact David (my son) caught me in the act of photographing our old friend the white heron yesterday.  You might be amused to follow the link.

February 02, 2012 … smiling all the way

This retirement lark has much to recommend it.  Of course many of you are still working, and have a long wait before you will recognise the truth of my words. That’s OK, I can wait.

Like many an academic before me, I have not been able to walk away from my job without some loose ends to be sewn up. A soft exit, if you will.

There are, for example,  some doctoral students I was supervising whose degrees are so near to completion, that it would be both unkind and unprofessional to abandon them this close to the finish line. And, mindful of the resource constraints in my school, I agreed (for a consideration) to teach one last course this year.  This means I have to “pop in” to the university from time to time, as I did yesterday.

I confess I do sometimes miss the company of my friends and former colleagues, though I have managed to socialize with many of them a few times since moving on. But I don’t regret my decision to go in the slightest. It remains absolutely the right thing to have done.  And I certainly don’t miss the meetings, the measuring, and the compliance procedures that are a part of every large organization in these bureaucratic times.

Going back for the occasional student supervisory meeting is a slightly weird experience. I have always been something of a “listening ear”, so my former colleagues ensure that I  get thoroughly updated about life in the institution.  My old office is no longer “my office”, and I no longer enjoy many of the privileges that come with being an employee. And though I am there voluntarily, for some reason, I get an attack of “the guilts” if I spend time doing things that, a few months ago, I would have regarded as “goofing off”.

During my visit yesterday, the weather outside was dark, wet and windy (Of course it was! This is summer, after all). While waiting in a borrowed office for my student, I looked out of the window and saw, against the moist grey background, a flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia) in full glorious bloom in the grounds of the law school.  Our own wonderful pohutukawa, I have already discussed at length, and need say no more about it. How like our dear Australian cousins to do it later, louder, and brighter.

The scene just cried out to be captured, and so, using the camera so generously loaned by a friend while my own camera is in dock, I did.  A flowering gum tree in the grounds of the Law SchoolThe scene is Lambton Quay, outside the law school (The old wooden Government building).  Traffic is emerging from Whitmore St on the left heading to Bowen St on the right. Beyond the intersection, on the left, is the corner of the Supreme Court building.  Surrounding  that building are the bronze screens or “sculpture” which purport to represent pohutukawa, though the symbolism eludes me.

But the real star of this show, and the reason I took this picture, is that darned tree. Just look at it. It offers such a vivid splash of crimson Australian exuberance on a grey wet day, that even the sober black-painted  statue of war-time prime minister, Peter Fraser, seems to be hurrying into its shelter.

The little fragment of a tree visible in the right foreground is another flowering gum which, like me, has done its thing, and is retired, happy with its lot, but hopeful of being here for a few seasons yet.