Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Film Processing

After a couple of hours printing in the darkroom and a few odd jobs I found time to drive over to Harman Technology at Mobberley to drop off for processing my 96 rolls of Ilford FP4 from New Zealand plus another 3 rolls from before we left. Should have them back early next week. Look forward to seeing what I have from some important locations for me and my picture library.

Lovely Day in the Peak District

It's a couple of degrees below freezing here in the Peak District today and we have blue sky and sunshine! Everything frosty would be great for pictures but today is a darkroom printing day - catching up on orders that came in while in New Zealand.

Walked to Buxton yesterday for a day in the Gallery in Pavilion Gardens. It was a dry cold day but not bright like today. It was a good day for walking though, even enjoyed walking back over the tops in the dark.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Home Sweet Home

Finally, we made it home yesterday morning at 11am. I lasted about an hour before going to bed to catch up on sleep - I can't sleep on planes. Apart from a few hours yesterday evening I slept through to this morning.

We left our hotel in Christchurch at 11am on Wednesday so it took 2 days to return, except that New Zealand is 13 hours ahead  so if you add that into the mix it actually took 2.5 days to return. It was a long way and most of that time was spent flying (over 25 hours) or hanging around at airports!

I don't understand why when you get off a plane for less than an hour while they clean and refill it you have to go through another security check, which means another hand-check of my film. On the whole trip the only place that would not do a hand-check of my film was London Heathrow. Sydney and New Zealand do checks both going in and out of the country, so that meant 6 hand-checks plus 2 at Hong Kong making 8 in total for my film.

I took 123 rolls with me from the UK, Ilford kindly had another 100 rolls delivered to my hotel in Sydney to avoid some of the possible x-ray scans. Of these, 195 were exposed and the remaining 28 rolls were unused; 99 rolls were processed in Wellington in New Zealand to avoid any possible x-ray damage on the return trip. I would have liked to have had another 80-odd rolls processed but the timings didn't work out.

Unfortunately, staff at the scanners think they know better than anyone what the effects of x-rays on film are. I know differently, having worked for Ilford for 21 years, including running the department that saw a lot of the customer enquiries after x-ray damage to their film, and I have seen x-ray fogging on my FP4 120 after just 3 passes through x-ray machines.

Now I'm wading through the 1648 emails that were waiting for me on my pc, about 80% were spam. I had kept up with most while away using my Blackberry but I have to go through the whole lot again once I return. We also shipped all the book orders today and revived my Amazon shop.

The builders have finished the work on the house. This included extending the gallery so most of today was spent putting things back and hanging pictures on the walls. It looks good now though. Just the computers to move back and it's pretty much sorted.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Sydney Airport

We are in the airport lounge at Sydney sipping a cold glass of white wine. Summer has arrived in the 3 weeks since we were last here on the way to New Zealand. Temperatures are top 20's here today so it was jolly warm walking around taking photos.

I didn't have blue sky images of the Opera House so that was the only thing on my hit list for this morning. We had an early breakfast and left the hotel at 8 O'clock for the 40 minute walk. We kept to the shady side of the street and then through parkland.

Very few people around at the Opera House so clear for views but sun high in sky and reflecting off the roof tiles so had to be careful on viewpoints.

Mainly blue sky with high wispy clouds so just what I needed. After several rolls we headed back along Pitt Street as I spotted a few shots last night that I wanted in daylight. We stumbled over The Strand arcade, it looked Victorian with 3 levels and all freshly decorated for Christmas and full of individual shops, no big chains. I don't usually take photos indoors but I couldn't resist.

Then it was straight back to the hotel to pack and shower before coming here to the airport. We fly out of here in a couple of hours if Jan can be prised out of the airport shops.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

One Night in Sydney

Just settling down after some night-time photography in Sydney. It's is almost full moon so took a few photos using this - above Opera House, in some building shots, etc. Quite a warm evening wandering around.

The day started in Christchurch with a walk around the Botanical Gardens, very dull though so no pictures. Then had to return hire car, we had driven over 4000km in 3 weeks, mostly by our good friend Rob and a few by Jan.

Then to Christchurch airport. Managed a hand-search of my film here and a sniffer-dog on the way into Australia so no x-rays again.

We had to say our goodbyes to Rob and Annie in Sydney, which seemed strange after almost 4 weeks together. We will miss them as they live in Colorado but we had a great time with them and saw some fantastic sights along the way. Lots of photos too - 189 rolls so far and I have tomorrow morning still to go. Tried a double exposure with the Monorail Train that runs above the street - one exposure with the train standing at the station (end on) and the other with the train moving across the picture; both about 10secs. Wonder if it will be any good!

Fly out of Sydney tomorrow afternoon and arrive home in Derbyshire Friday sometime.

Returning Home

Just at the gate waiting for our flight to Sydney at the start of our journey home from Christchurch in South Island, New Zealand.

Picked up my 99 processed films on Monday from ImageLab after a day around the Banks Peninsula. Very pretty area and coastline, especially Akaroa. Films look fine, thankfully. Didn't get them to do 2nd batch, as originally planned, as very tight on time. Have another 86 rolls Ilford FP4 for processing.

just want to click my fingers and be home, so much wasted time at airports and in planes!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Wet Travel Day

Today was a travel day. We left our chalet in Aoraki Mount Cook by 9am in the rain. Clouds were way down on the tops and it was still windy.

No sunshine and no views as we moved closer to Christchurch. Couldn't even see the small hills close to the road. We pressed on and checked into our hotel early before walking the mile or so into the city centre. I took a couple of photos of the punts on the River Avon, reminded me of Cambridge. Then it was a quick whizz around the Botanical Gardens for some exercise. There were some spectacular plants and trees but in dull light I resisted taking many shots. A bit of brightness was needed to separate the tones (shades of grey) - a bit of sunshine can spread this range and really add to a picture.

I took a few night shots tonight but not much lit up at night. The Cathedral square and an illuminated sculpture looked good though.

Tomorrow we go to the Banks Peninsula and Akaroa, about 50 miles from Christchurch. Hope we see some sunshine and a few small clouds.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Mount Cook and Mount Sefton Photos

We awoke to a blue sky day. A few odd clouds came and went through the morning. We had decided to walk the Hooker Valley trail from Mount Cook village, a round trip of about 11 miles.

No clouds at all to start with. First shots were of Mount Sefton reflected in the lake at the foot of the Mueller Glacier. Then over 2 suspension bridges and a couple more miles to the lake at the bottom of the Hooker Glacier right below Mount Cook. The views were spectacular and I found a stream running into the lake for a bit of foreground interest. A low viewpoint helped to exaggerate the foreground water and reduce the blank section of lake water. I took lots of variations on a theme with various waterfalls in the foreground and Mount Cook in the background.

What a hot day! There was a breeze every now and then otherwise we would have fried. At last I have some clear shots of Mount Cook and the summit snowfields.

The day ended with drinks in the Alpine Bar at the hotel on the balcony looking out at both Mounts Cook and Sefton. The wind was gusting strongly here, so much so that one gust caught the sun umbrella which moved the table and spilled some of my beer, a cardinal sin!

Tomorrow we drive to Christchurch for 3 days before flying out on Wednesday. I collect my 99 rolls of processed Ilford FP4 Monday afternoon from Image Lab, hope they did them well as there were lots of good shots on them! Can't wait to see what I have. Lots of night shots in Hong Kong, Sydney, Auckland and Wellington and you're never sure what you have until you see the negatives. Night photography is a bit of a lottery as I don't have a light meter that works at low enough light levels.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Mount Cook Reflections - Almost

Today we headed walked up to Sealy Tarns above Mount Cook village for reflection photos of Mount Cook. It was a very pleasant walk, about 3 miles each way and 400m of ascent and we reached the tarns at 10.15am.

The tarns were small puddles of water still with snow at one end; any English Lakeland tarn would easily put them to shame. The only other problems were the wind which meant very poor reflections and clouds which hid the top of Mount Cook all day (except the few hours before we started, it clouded over just as we left).

Sounds like all was lost but not so! The clouds were spectacular - lots of shapely lenticular clouds over other peaks in the valley. Nice light in the valley on and off too. I took 33 images and have maybe 8 images to use with the rest being exposure variations and different clouds for the same view.

In all I spent over 3 hours waiting for Mount Cook to come out of the clouds before calling it a day and descending to the valley for an early beer with our very patient friends Rob and Annie from Boulder, Colorado who have been with us since Sydney. Rob has done most of the driving and carried spare kit for me that my bad back wouldn't let me carry myself. Jan is carrying some of my kit too.

Mount Cook came out of the clouds at 9pm tonight and looked spectacular (from the bar!) with Alpenglow on the summit snow fields but all around was dark.

Tomorrow we go the Hooker Glacier for some close-up shots of Mount Cook. Fingers crossed we get the sunshine that they forecast for tomorrow morning.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Mount Cook New Zealand

This morning we had a leisurely breakfast before heading out to Moeraki headland. Some nice rocky coves on one side and the fishing village harbour on the other.

A seal performed for us amongst the kelp. We watched it for 20 minutes or so before we moved on.

Today we hoped for our first views of Mount Cook since there were no views from the west side when we were there.

As we approached the town of Twizel we had our first glimpse of Mt Cook. This is still 40 miles south. It was clear, just a few thin clouds around the tops. Peaks on the west side were in thick cloud. Although I couldn't reach the best viewpoints I took quite a few images from near the car and Mount Cook village, just in case we never see it again!

Hoping weather is kind tomorrow and we can head to Sealy Tarns for some reflection images. Limited beer choice here in Mount Cook village - be warned!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Moeraki Boulders

Travelled from Milford Sound today and arrived at Moeraki late afternoon. Went straight to the boulders on the beach for pictures. Fortunately, it was high tide and the water was gushing over the large spheres on the beach. They really are huge, up to 5 feet across, and round. There are several groups of them as well as different sizes and stages of decay. I took quite a few shots from various angles and managed to avoid getting my feet wet!

This evening we ate at Fleurs Restaurant in Moeraki. The fresh fish was excellent, as was the Creme Brulee. This was recommended by Pauline at our accommodation, Noahs Boutique b&b in Moeraki. It was also recommended independently by people that we met in Wanaka and Queenstown. Worth a visit if you are in the area.

Tomorrow it is more boulders on the beach, the harbour here and then over to Mount Cook village for 3 nights. Fingers crossed for clear views of the top of Mount Cook but the forecast isn't good.

Gitzo Tripod Fault

Forgot to mention in last blog that one of my carbon fibre tripods developed a fault yesterday. I was using my small Gitzo 1028, since we had been walking, holding it by the head when the legs fell on the ground and I was left holding the head alone.

The top plate, which the head screws onto, had come adrift from the centre column. It should be glued on, permanently. Pushing it back on is a temporary but unreliable fix; it is not as stable as it should be and can come apart at any time.

This is the second time that this has happened with my 1028 and the UK Gitzo distributor, Bogen Imaging, kindly supplied 2 new replacement centre columns free of charge the last time it happened. I will use the other spare one on return home.

In the meantime I will use my larger and heavier Gitzo 1541, which I have had for a couple of years. This is my favoured tripod when I can carry the weight (about 0.5kg heavier). It is just that my back has been somewhat painful for most of this photo trip to New Zealand so I have used the small one quite a bit.

I will contact Bogen UK on return and let them know of failure again, although they have already provided a replacement centre column.

Looks like they have an adhesive problem as, apart from the 2 centre column top plates, I have also had leg end stops fall off and these are also glued on.

The 1028 was replaced by the Gitzo 0541 a couple of years ago, I wonder if they designed the fault away with the new version?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Milford Sound

We have been in Milford Sound in the New Zealand Fiordland. No mobile signal so no blog (or emails) for 2 days!

The day we arrived (early afternoon) the weather was great, blue skies and a few clouds and high tide. I rushed around taking lots of photos before the clouds rolled in. The conditions were still good so we decided to take a cruise along Milford Sound. Jolly quiet at this time of year, only 4 others on the 2 O'clock sailing, a large boat too.

Windy on way down fiord but good views to peaks and falls. Had quite a close view of a Fiordland Crested Penguin, the rarest penguin in the world, allegedly. Then lots of New Zealand Fur Seals basking in the sunshine on some rocks. Then a free shower as the boat went very close to Stirling Falls.

The water was very choppy so the boat was going up and down a bit. Had to use a fast shutter speed of at least 1/125 or mostly 1/250 with the lens wide open as didn't need any depth of field. Bit of spray too so kept hand over lens hood until ready to take shot to avoid having to dry lens before each shot. Lot smoother on the return.

Took some low tide shots on return then into the Blue Duck for a beer or two and some dinner. We stayed in the only accommodation at Milford Sound, Milford Sound Lodge. This felt more like a Youth Hostel than a hotel but had a nice feel to it and helpful friendly staff.

Yesterday was another good day with blue skies and some cloud. We started with breakfast at the Blue Duck after I had taken quite a few images on the beach. There was a bit of a breeze so no reflections on the open water but there were lots of pools of water and I used these for reflections of Mitre Peak and the Sound. I felt quite lucky to get these as it was quite a windy place.

We intended to walk to Gertrude Saddle (1400m) but there was too much snow and high avalanche risk so we turned back at 1110m, between some waterfalls and Black Lake. The waterfalls were great, very shapely with huge snowfields downstream of it, bit like a moraine bank with snow underneath.

Then we stopped at the Chasm where a river runs down a narrow gorge, difficult to photograph as the bridge across was obscuring the shot! Then down to Milford Sound at what was just 1.5h after high tide, in fact it was well on the way to low tide. More shots of the Sound. Then it was Blue Duck pub time again! Lots of good pictures in the bag from the day.

Today we left early in rain and headed south. Now we are on way east to Moeraki for some beach shots. Hot and sunny now we are away from the mountains and it is just after midday.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Ben Lomond in New Zealand

We moved on from Wanaka today, but just an hour or so down the road to Queenstown. We started with a walk down by the lake before deciding that we should do at least part of the planned route to Ben Lomond as far as Ben Lomond Saddle. The walk was made easier by a gondola that saved several hundred metres of ascent.

It was 12.45pm as we left the top gondola station following the signs for Ben Lomond. It was hot work with blue sky everywhere. We reached the col after an hour or so.

The sign said an hour to the top so although we had only intended to go as far as the col we decided to carry on, after a brief break. In 2.5 hours after leaving the gondola we were on the top of Ben Lomond, including stops. It was an easy track all the way and I'm sure it would have been quicker if we had kept to the ridge line.

It was a good viewpoint for photos. Snow was still on some of the more sheltered slopes and the view was extensive for 360 degrees. We lingered a while on the top but still made it back to the gondola lift by 5.10pm and were in one of the bars in Queenstown at 5.30pm.

The beer wasn't great so we moved on to another bar (Atlas Beer and cafe) where we had the cheapest meal of the trip so far. Jolly nice too, as well as banter with some locals who had moved in to Queenstown from Canada and Australia.

We staggered across the road to our lodgings for the night and crashed for the night.

Tomorrow Milford Sound and a good forecast. Fingers crossed for a good day!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Wanaka Walk

No blog yesterday as we transferred from Franz Josef to Wanaka. I usually write last thing at night but yesterday evening heard that my PhD supervisor, Prof Dudley Williams, had died after a short illness. He was a big influence on me and my career and a very kind, special man. I will miss him. Our thoughts are with his wife Pat and the family.

My back is still not good so instead of the originally planned big hike we walked a small hill just outside Wanaka called Rocky Mountain, about 740m high. Clouds on the high tops to start with but then mostly clear blue skies. Saw Mount Aspiring in the distance, one of the 3000m peaks in New Zealand.

Stayed on the top for an hour or so waiting for the view to clear, which it did. Then back to car and a few photos from the odd roadside stop before heading for the Wanaka Ale House for a few beers.

Tomorrow we move on to Queenstown.

If you ever get the chance to visit South Island New Zealand and want some different photos stop at Ship Creek between Fox Glacier and Haast. There is a freshwater stream running behind the sandy beach, past some rocky coves and across the sand into the sea. Lots of sand dunes and tussock grass too. A great place for photos and I could have spent all day there.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Wet Day In Franz Josef

Today was a bit damp for most of the day. Clouds were down on the tops all day so we headed to the coast.

Okarito Beach was first stop but the rain was torrential so we sat in the car and waited for it to ease. It did eventually and I went on the beach and took some photos of the sea and some driftwood. My Mamiya 7 camera was very wet.

It was an hour or so after high tide and the sea was looking very impressive, big waves and lots of spray, as well as the rain. I ran off a film before retreating to the car to change film and move on to the next location.

A short way down the road was a large lake with a jetty and receding hills in the background. Quite a simple subject but very effective in black and white. The rain resumed just as I finished.

We headed south to Fox Glacier and off to the coast at Gillespies Beach. It was raining heavily as we arrived but soon eased to steady rain! Time to get out taking photos. I put my relatively new Rohan poncho on over my waterproof jacket to protect my camera gear (it covers everything and I don't need to carry a huge rucsac large enough for the camera case). The Poncho also served as a shelter under which I was able to change films and lenses. It worked really well.

The beach was strewn with driftwood - everywhere above the high tide line. This wasn't the odd twig or branch but enormous tree trunks complete with roots, and lots of them. The sea was still running high so it was a photographers dream. I ran off 5 rolls of different pieces of wood and various views to the sea or along the wood. Mostly I used a wide angle lens so that the wood was the main event in the image but 1 roll I ran off with the standard lens to bring the sea more into the shots.

That was it for the day's photography as the rain returned with a vengeance.

Tomorrow we move on to Wanaka. Hope the clouds move off the tops as I still don't have a shot of Mount Cook.

Nearly forgot to mention that we saw Tui birds today (bit like a large pigeon with 2 small white ballon/sacs inder its bill) and yesterday we had close encounters with Kea's, nesting high on Alex Knob. These are large dark coloured parrots that live and nest in high alpine areas but are quite rare. They didn't seem to like anyone walking up the track to Alex Knob as they made such a racket and swooped in quite close. We guessed that their nest must be very close.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Alex Knob in the Clouds

The forecast was for a reasonable start to the day before the clouds thickened and rain followed in the evening. An early breakfast was called for, 6.30am. We had a short drive to the start of the walk near the Franz Josef Glacier car park. We were walking by 7.45am and it was uphill all the way starting from just above sea level. That gave us a climb of 1300m.

Mostly we were in lush forest, lots of trees and ferns. The track was challenging too, lots of tree roots, rocks, big steps, big drops, etc. The uneven ground didn't help my bad back!

Made it to the top by 11.15am, the last 400m being in the clouds and cold and damp. No views. Very few views on way up because of high, dense foliage. Looked like I had no saleable images. Took a short detour to Wombat Lake on way down. This was particularly uninspiring so started looking for other subjects and homed in on ferns and brackens. I ended up with 3 rolls from the day, 1 of views from the hill, 2 of ferns.

Now we are in the Landing Bar in Franz Josef and it's happy hour!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

South to Southern Alps

Today was a long travel day. We had to drive from Nelson in the north of South Island of New Zealand to Franz Josef, about half-way down the west coast.

We had an early breakfast and were on the road by 8.15am. A few coffee stops were needed to keep us going but the weather was good. After Greymouth we stopped in Horitika. I had no idea what to expect as this was an impromptu stop. Heading straight for the beach I was greeted by the usual grey sand, pretty close to 18% grey by my reckoning! I found some tree stumps and with waves crashing in the background and a low viewpoint ran off a couple of films. These were the only films of the day; we arrived in Franz Josef by 4pm with clouds well down on the tops.

Forecast is for reasonable weather to start with but deteriorating to rain by evening. We are planning to walk Alex Knob for views of glaciers and big mountains. This is about 1200m of ascent and will take about 8 hours. Hope the weather holds

Monday, 1 November 2010

South Island New Zealand

Didn't quite fit in doing blog yesterday before falling asleep! Tried using Blackberry browser again and it was extremely slow so gave up and am back to Opera Mini, this posts blank blogs which I then add text to from clipboard. Why doesn't new technology work as you expect it to?

Yesterday we had a few hours wandering around Wellington before catching the ferry to New Zealand South Island. First job was to drop off 99 rolls of exposed Ilford FP4 120 film for processing. These included all the shots from Hong Kong, Sydney, Auckland, Tongariro mountains, Wanganui beach and Wellington at night. We will pick up the negatives from their lab in Christchurch in 2 weeks time.

The ferry journey was about 3 hours and it was a sunny day, pretty smooth crossing too. I spent most of the time outside on deck as you could see land most of the way. Jolly cold though. The last section down Queen Charlotte Sound was very pretty and I took a few rolls from the ship. Very uninteresting foregrounds so took all expecting them to be panoramas.

From the ferry we took the coast road from Picton to Nelson. Lots of hills, large expanses of water and trees everywhere. We stayed the night in Nelson and after an early start are now driving south to the mountains. Should be in Franz Joseph tonight ready for a good walk tomorrow.