People who choose to live somewhere are often more fervent in their support than those who were born there.
I am a Wellingtonian by choice, and I proudly claim it as my city, my home. I am not referring to the municipality, the political entity, but rather to the geographic location. Maori mythology has it that the North Island is the great fish which the great explorer Maui pulled from the sea while fishing from his great waka or canoe, the South Island. The North Island is “Te Ika a Maui” , or Maui’s fish. Wellington is “Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui“, or the head of Maui’s fish. If you look at the map, you can see it with the harbour as the mouth of the fish. Around the harbour are steep bush-clad hills, and I love to get to those high places to enjoy the views.
It is fashionable to decry modern architecture as cubes of glass and steel, but as I look down on the central city I see a wonderful array of contrasting shapes, textures and colours. I like cityscapes.
Yesterday I found a residential street very high above the city and there was a unique and possibly short-lived opportunity to enjoy the view. An empty piece of land is for sale, and it has the proverbial million dollar view. I stitched eight shots to create this panorama so please click to enlarge it for best effect.
I had a parcel to deliver to a friend in the upper valley, so on the way home I found myself in Avalon, a suburb of Lower Hutt. The main feature of Avalon is the tower block which was once the headquarters of TVNZ before they sold their soul and relocated to Auckland. I am never sure why they chose to build it there, as it is obviously out of place in town-planning terms, planted like some great alien invader in the midst of suburbia. But the Autumn colours caught my eye.
Despite the theoretical freedom bestowed by retirement, civilisation (living and interacting with others) imposes a lot of constraints.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not seek to break those links. As a retiree, I can get up later than I did when I was working, though the contractors working on my neighbours’ landscaping arrive way too early and start up their noisy digger. There are very few meetings that I really must attend, though I make an exception for lunches.
I no longer have teaching to prepare for, so where does the time go, and why is so little of the day free? I don’t know, but somehow the spaces in which my kind of photography is practical are quite small. I spend about an hour a day on this blog, but that is a pleasurable activity except when I am running late and it becomes an obligation. There may be an element of obsessive-compulsive behaviour in there somewhere. Mary is still working, so simple justice requires that I do some domestic chores, though she still does more than her fair share.
When yesterday’s opportunity came, it was late in the afternoon and the random destination generator in my head said “go up the valley”. I didn’t go far and I made some errors in my choice of equipment, but my first stop was at Avalon. Most New Zealanders will recognise Avalon as the former home of Television New Zealand, back in its glory days of telethons, and “Gardening with Eoin Scarrow”. It has recently been sold and is now a suite of independent production facilities. The building is still an imposing structure, situated as it is amid a quiet suburb of predominantly sing story dwellings.
From there I went across Harcourt Werry Drive to the Hutt River where I encountered this couple enjoying the sun in a spot sheltered from the wind in the stony banks of the river.
A little downstream I came to one of those places where the shingle builds up and for reasons I don’t pretend to understand the river stops in its tracks and shifts sideways before resuming its journey to the sea. Downstream from there, families were swimming in the river and fun was being had.
Harcourt Werry Drive took me back to Lower Hutt and I found myself at the Northern end of the city’s original shopping precinct. We knew it as VIC corner when we first arrived here in 1980, and I have no idea of the origin of that name. This view looks South towards the main retail area of Lower Hutt. The foreshortening effect of the long lens makes the traffic look worse than it really was.
Occasionally I get asked why I persist in this photo-a-day thing when my grumbling indicates that it is often difficult, and even more frequently, unsatisfactory. This is day number 1,058. How long will I continue? And why do it anyway?
While I make no claims to be a participant in high art, my photography is a creative endeavour that is very important to me. It gives me great satisfaction. On the other hand, the vast majority of photographers don’t commit themselves to taking a photo every day, so why should I?
Another question is, how successful have I been? That question has two different answers. One is judged by those who read this blog (about 60 people a day), and the other is in my own mind. Some of you are kind enough to give me much valued feedback by way of comments on the blog. The comments have been overwhelmingly supportive and have been greatly appreciated.
In my own mind, as I have said in earlier blogs, this whole thing is about learning to see. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But I want to look behind the immediate details that present themselves. It sometimes eludes non-photographers that it is rarely enough just to “be there”. To create the desired image you need to be there again and again and again, in varying times of day, light conditions and seasons of the year. One of the images may eventually work.
Of course people, events, shapes, textures, colours and movement can all be captured at a moment in time, in the conditions that prevail at the time. But when the file is transferred from the camera to the computer, then I have to ask myself again, what was I seeing when I pressed the shutter? Does this image on the screen capture the essence of what I experienced, and can I make it say what I felt, or what I wanted to say about that experience?
Wait a minute! “… make it say?” … am I manipulating the images? Well of course I am. That, in my view is at the heart of modern photography. Manipulation has always been part of photography, by way of cropping, dodging, burning, multiple exposures and other clever tricks. However, digital technology has shifted the balance, and I utterly reject any assertions that processing in the computer somehow makes my images less legitimate. For every hour I spend with the camera, I spend about three beating the images into shape. I crop, I adjust the exposure, the contrast, the saturation. I judiciously remove distracting elements. I use vignetting and selective focus tricks to make sure you look at the subject of the image I made. That’s my approach to image making.
Back to the point. Why am I doing it every day? I do it because I can.
I enjoy and am thankful for the gift of sight. I enjoy making images that please me, and if they please you too, that’s a bonus. If I compare my daily images this year with those from earlier years, I like to think I am making better images most of the time. If I can be happy with on image in ten, I would regard that as a great success, but the nine are a necessary part of the learning process.
You may have noticed too, that I like to express myself in writing. Untill my retirement, words were my business … now they are an essential part of my creative urge. I am unlikely to stop photographing or writing in the foreseeable future.
Crippled and in considerable discomfort, I could not really get out and about yesterday, nor indeed today.
The blisters from the unaccustomed walking over the previous two days have forced me to walk on the balls of my feet, unable to put my heels to the ground. From the outside, it probably looks very funny. Needless to say, I am not enjoying it. However, my youngest son, “Ants” picked me up yesterday afternoon to accompany him and the kids to a scouting exercise on road safety.
His son Cooper is a member of the most junior branch of scouting, known in New Zealand as “Keas”, presumably after the mountain parrot. His daughter Maggie is in the next tier up, as a cub. Before we set out for the exercise, we paused at their house while the kids had their dinner.
While I was waiting, I took photographs from their verandahs which offer magnificent views over the harbour and the lower valley.
One of the amazing features of living on the hill is how different the views are as you move a few hundred metres one way or the other.
Down at Avalon Park, there is a set of tracks laid out and painted like street intersections, complete with traffic signs, for precisely the purpose of instilling road rules.
All the little Keas were soon whizzing about on their bikes, scooters or inline skates, giving way at the intersections in accordance with the signs.
Then the Scout leaders staged an accident and did the great melodrama about what to do next. Cooper was first on the scene, and he leapt from his bike, raced around the “victim” and began to administer CPR to the great hilarity of the other scout leader.
Cooper’s dad, as well as being a police officer, is a trained paramedic. The leaf is not far from the tree.
The exercise lasted about an hour, so I shuffled carefully along the path to the windmills which are installed as an art work at the edge of the park.