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

March 27, 2012 … confronting the law

It was a teaching day yesterday.

I like being in a classroom with mature students, which is partly why I accepted my current post-retirement contract. Of course I have my camera with me when I go into the city to teach (and pretty much at every other time except in bed or in the bathroom). At lunch time I walked from Rutherford House (adjacent to the railway station) through Manners mall and up onto Vivian Street, along to the photographic shop near Cambridge Terrace. There, I bought a spare mounting plate for my tripod for much less than I expected.

In Courtenay Place I was in the mood to enjoy lunch in a restaurant called “Ka Pai” (translates from the Maori to “very good”). It was made better by a chance encounter with a fellow camera club member and his wife who were also having lunch there. After the food and some pleasant conversation, I completed my circuit by walking down Blair St and Chaffers St to go onto the waterfront through Waitangi Park (where the old city corporation works depot, and the Wellington City Transport  bus depot were, when I first came to Wellington.

On the waterfront, behind Te Papa, I could see the deconstruction of the Overseas Passenger terminal taking place. It will soon be replaced by a much larger apartment block, though it will contain some features of Sir Michael Fowler’s original design, including the canoe-like prow at the seaward end, and the spire in the middle. I guess it will have the same relation to the original as the new BMW-built Minis have to Sir Alex Issigonis’s little pocket rocket (ie, a vaguely similar representation of the shape).

I made several images on the way round, but nothing I really want to offer here.  The class concluded at 7:30 and since the electronic sign at the bus stop in Mulgrave St  said the next bus to Lower Hutt was due in 15 minutes, I figured I must have missed the previous one by bare moments.

It was a still clear evening, so what else was I to do? As I said, at least one of my cameras is always with me (obsessive? Me?).  The floodlit Law School (Old Government Building) was looking attractive in the evening light, so I filled in my time thus:  A view of the Law School in Wellington and two sculptures near parliament

The sculptures in front of the pohutukawa at the right are by Ra Vincent, and are entitled “Two Pouwhenua, Wai-titi Landing”.  For those who need additional orienting references, the globular light in the trees at the right is at the gateway to the grounds of Parliament. I have always found these two sculptures difficult to photograph. From many angles they are very plain, and the floodlights can wash them out.

And so another teaching day is done.

February 04, 2012 … your sentence has been commuted

Something different today. New Zealand is not all landscapes and bird life. It’s not all hiking, surfing and spring lambs.

In our real world, we do mundane things like work for a living, in offices and factories, shops and schools. That usually involves some element of a daily commute.  In our cities that means cars, buses, trains, ferries, or the for the occasional very fit and hardy person, or the merely obsessive, a bicycle.View South on SH2 at Rush hourLet’s get the geography of today’s image out of the way. The standpoint is adjacent to SH2 in Percy Reserve at the bottom of Dowse Drive, Maungaraki, in Lower Hutt, looking South towards Wellington City.

This is rush hour on one of Wellington’s two main arterial routes North. It was at 5:30 pm on the Friday evening of a long weekend (Monday will be the Waitangi Day holiday). It doesn’t look so bad, does it? Aucklanders would kill for such a rush hour. To be fair, it doesn’t take much of an incident to turn this into a 20km long parking lot.

The tower on the ridge on the extreme left hand side is the Tinakori radio mast (if it is hard to see in the thumbnail … click on the image). To the right of centre is the microwave tower on Wright’s Hill at the back of Karori.

The new concrete bridge nearest us, takes traffic across the recently widened, lowered and straightened section of SH2, from what used to be Koro Crescent in Petone, to the bottom of London Street, Korokoro.  The white-painted pipe bridge behind that is the pedestrian overpass giving access to Petone Station from the Western Hills. Further back again is the new road bridge that gives access to the station car park for people who “park and ride”.

On the left, in the distance,  you can see the red tail lights of a city bound train that has just arrived at Petone Station. The yellow fronted train with its headlights on coming towards us, is on its way to Upper Hutt.

The background cluster of houses are in Wilton on the North facing slopes of the Tinakori Hills.  I think the few houses visible on either side of that nearer pine plantation  are at the Southern end of Khandallah, just North of the Ngaio Gorge.

It struck me that, while I like making “pretty” images, there is much to see and celebrate in the ordinariness of life. The daily journey from home to work and back, whether by car, bus, bike, train, ferry or on foot can offer a rich experience.

I have no idea whether this image will do anything for you, dear readers, but I set out to get a sense of rush hour as it is experienced by some of the people who live in the Hutt Valley.

Why this particular image? I liked the curve of the road contrasting with the rigid geometry of the bridges, and the organic shapes of the distant trees and hills.  The receding planes in the hills also appeal to me.

I liked the fact that there is a lot happening.  Did you notice the indoor sports centre just to the right of the train? When I came to Wellington, in 1980, that was part of the Todd Motors group, where Hillman and Chrysler cars were assembled.

Toetoe flowering on either side of the road,  lead our eyes along the path towards that mysterious portal through which people from the Hutt Valley disappear each morning, only to reappear each evening like starlings flying in formation back to their nests.

Happily for me, I need no longer join that daily ritual.