Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The oldest unblogged NZ photos

I got asked yesterday about the photos I haven't blogged yet, and why. Volume. There's just so many. Even ruthlessly cutting down on what gets edited still produces a huge pile of photos. I'm thinking about ways to organize them, or group them to support stories.

This was during a walk along a green space beside a motorway. I was liking the shape of the tree against the sky. This is one of the recurring themes of the photos from NZ, a tree against a background, trying to make it stand out, or show how the light was falling on it. This one is a failure in that regard.

Part of the Auckland Botanical Gardens, trying for a geometric shot.

Same gardens, trying for art. You there, I can see you rolling your eyes.

The light was doing interesting things, except the camera didn't see it in these next couple shots.

At this point I was still taken with ferns and pretty flowers.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Yes, still editing, but took a break, and ranted

I'm about half way through an editing pass of the photos taken in New Zealand. Mostly my judgement about what I marked to edit while there holds up. Mostly. Some of them I turned out to already have, and so they are de-starred. A few are not what I remembered or have some flaw or another. A few are WTF was I thinking? Even some of my edited ones I look at and wince. But there are a few along the way that reward me for looking at each.

But I thought it would be fun to look at some moving images this weekend, rather than still ones, so I stopped at the library to get three. I haven't seen a movie or TV show this year, so I guess early March is a good time to start. I wonder if I could go an entire year with no TV shows or a movie? Hmmm.

Geostorm is terrible! From end to end, in all aspects. It was worse than cookie cutter. Dialogue that was embarrassing to listen to, and I can only imagine how the actors felt saying it. The best movies drop you into a world and you believe it, regardless if it's believable or not. This is unbelievable, and I'm not being complimentary. Expensive effects that might as well be Ed Wood. Our world doesn't work that way. It's a mishmash of elements that not only don't add up, they subtract from one another.  Obligatory kid with dog during crisis? Yup. My response was 'meh'. Why would I care about a character on screen for a few seconds, when I not only don't care about the main characters, I actively dislike them?

His Girl Friday is an old black and white movie. By old, I mean it came out in 1940. Imagine that, just for a moment. Yes, in many ways it looks dated. Not just telephones and typewriters, but the very office itself, to say nothing of the attitudes of the (mostly) men in the office.

Except that it's a delight to watch. I'd watch it again right now if I had the time. The dialogue sings and snaps along. Rosalind Russel holds her own with a youngish Carey Grant. There's all sorts of stuff going on all over the screen and all of it is there for a reason. In lots of ways the characters are delightfully horrible to one another. I was thinking John Varley must have watched this movie a time or three before he wrote Steel Beach.

Watching it right after Geostorm made it look even better, though I can understand not many people would think so now. They'd probably find it hard to get past the B&W, let alone the old technologies. Their loss.

Then Annihilation, with Natalie Portman. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it wasn't that, and that makes me happy. I love it when I don't know where a movie is going, or how its going to turn out. Not your typical monster or SF movie, or even an adapted male buddy movie rewritten for women. Much of the work was done in camera shooting real life sets, and it's well done. Even the CGI is well done, presenting an unreal but believable world. There are complicated layers happening with the characters. If I saw it on sale I'd probably buy it so I could watch it again when I was in the mood.

Unlike yesterday, where the photos segued into a rant, that little mini rant doesn't have apropos photos. So you get semi random photos.

These are from our day near Lake Taupo, walking along a river. Yes, it's really that colour.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

It wasn't that comfortable, she said

A photo of Linda sitting in a garden.

A close up of part of the chair. Little tiles.

Some more serious stuff, you can skip if you like, or if you've heard enough of it.

As it happens, that chair is in a lovely peaceful garden that is next to the mosque that was one of the targets of a hate filled extremist.

I'm not religious. It isn't any of my business if you go to church or not, or how often you go, or what you call the building you go to. Church, temple, mosque, it's all the same to me. What you believe in your head about God, whatever you call it, is your business. Equally, (and for most religions this is true,) it's none of their business what's going on in my head. A few of them come bang on my door to tell me I'm doing it wrong, and they are subjected to some withering comments.

I'm a weddings and funerals kind of guy when it comes to church. I view the ceremony as theatre, and will be polite about watching it. I consider myself a guest in a space that some people think is important to them. Every church treats their space as a refuge from the world, a place of peace and contemplation. That works for them, and is probably overall good for society.

To violate those spaces is a vile and hateful act. To murder people peacefully going about their business is bad enough, but to do so in their house of worship is a special kind of horrible.

How do we find such hatred before it's acted on? How do we balance free speech and finding the line between "I think we should reduce or stop immigration into our country," and more specific outbursts of vitriol against specific groups of immigrants? Politicians have become experts in so called dog-whistling, saying things that sound relatively (or defendably) innocuous, yet are interpreted by the base as meaningful signals.

I'm old enough to remember politicians trying to bring people together to accomplish something, and sometimes they played fast and loose with the truth. But now they deliberately create wedge issues to drive people apart and appeal to their worst instincts. What's appalling is that there are enough people to make it worth doing.

One of the sources of this hatred are a few so-called-churches that preach hatred as a form of devotion, and they are sad twisted places. No particular denomination is being called out here, there are fringe elements in almost every faith, and like calls to like. I don't know how to balance religious freedom against cracking down on these so-called churches and their adherents. In some senses I don't even mind them believing complete nonsense, it's their actions, doing God's work as they say, that is the problem.

I would say that if God wants something done, It can come down and do it Itself. Us humans are not competent to interpret the desires of a being that is presented as infinite in all ways. Helping the homeless, as an example, needs to be done, and if you do so while saying you're doing God's work, well, whatever gets you through the day. You can arrive at the same place through logic or compassion. But if you're doing something with a gun in your hand, then you've crossed the line. If God wants to smite the sinners, that's up to It. You keep out of the business, and let us alone.

One thing is clear, though. Putting restrictions on the weapons of choice is possible. There is no reason for anyone outside the army to possess a semi-automatic rifle or other weapons of war. Handguns should be highly restricted to on duty police officers and people in similar duty. A rage filled rampage armed with kitchen knives is much easier to deal with, and will produce a much smaller body count.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

That was a surprise

There have been times in my life when I was eager to find paying work. Eager, verging on desperate. What the work was, was secondary to the paying part of it. I would polish the resume as best I could, tailoring it to exactly fit the job ad. When an interview was scheduled I'd do everything to put my best foot forward. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Mostly it worked out.

I have this theory of life. When two or more parties are negotiating, the one that needs it the most ends up with the short end of the stick, at best. Not always, but it's the way to bet.

How does this play out in the seeing work world? Going into a job interview when things are getting tight, it's like the interview can smell the taint of desperation, and they don't want it or you. Which explains the old adage, the best time to look for a job is when you've already got one.

An even better time is when you aren't looking, and have no intention of looking, and are far from any need to look. Then it seems like the offers come out of nowhere and find you.

So there I was, vacationing in New Zealand. A lovely remote South Pacific island. (Two big islands, actually and lots of smaller ones.) But they have great cell service, and I had a temporary chip in my phone that let it talk to the world. (A cheaper and better service than I get at home, BTW, and Telus, I'm looking at you!)

The first thing I saw was an email saying that one work colleague had given my contact info to another, and was I interested in talking about a contract? A few emails later that colleague showed up with some of the details. We arranged a tentative time and date for a coffee shortly after I got back. Confirmed it the day after I got back. Next work day the coffee happened. The following day I showed up in their office to look over some paperwork and start getting into it. Two days later I was in the office first thing, going through spreadsheets, and ended up over at the ultimate client's office to start getting into the details. Let's just say the view from that meeting room is awesome and leave it there.

So WTF, you are asking. I thought you'd retired, doing the photography and writing thing, you say. Yeah, I've been a bit conflicted about the work/retirement thing. I had no intention of looking for work again, and my last contract ending was just a little fraught, shall we say. (As I learn more of the story, my timing was pretty good, all things considered.)

I've been musing about shutting down my consulting company, and tidying up that portion of my life, and making the appropriate financial arrangements. There is a meeting scheduled with our financial advisors in a couple weeks to do just that. The model I've been working on the last few years is to work for a little while, then not work for a while, with the idea the working would fund the not working part of the year, and eventually what with various revenue streams the not working part would support itself. So when a few months of work will fund the rest of the year, it's easy to carry on with the working model of life.

But there are complicated financial things that happen in the transition. For people like Linda the concept is easy, though the financial calculations are computer hard. Stop working, start pension. Start CPP. Start drawing down RSP and other investments in a tax efficient sort of way.

Even the theory of my calculations is harder. My work income is erratic, to say the least, both in timing and amounts. To some extent I can manipulate my personal income in a year by controlling how much and how I take money out of my company. As long as I'm working at all, claiming CPP is kind of dumb. The more I put off taking it, the larger the amount is based on my years of contributions. The company owns investments, and just now selling them attracts fees and tax, but is this more or less the annual cost to prepare corporate taxes? Those are just some of the questions. In one sense it's easy to give instructions that we don't need to worry about it just now, and we'll carry on for another year as before.

My transition from working full time, to mostly deliberately working only part of the year has been mostly pretty smooth and working out well so far. The transition to not working for money at all is a bit more difficult than I thought it would be. Work is a habit. I've worked most of my adult life, barring some periods of unemployment. The expectation is that adults work at something.

Retirement is different. We get choices. Some people want to play golf some place warm every day. Or do whatever else it is they enjoy doing. Many of my retired friends say they don't have time to work, what with all the activities they get up to. I was nearly into that mode, finding it a bit tough to schedule the coffee and a start date. Even so, I've got time off put into the work calendar for various appointments and I'll probably have to make those up, just for a deliverables perspective.

Others want to continue work, but on their terms. That's me, for just now. A little bit more money from a short contract to fund trips or camera equipment isn't a problem for me. But I wouldn't take a full time long term contract now, no matter the pay or work. Nor would I take a job at a cut rate, I have my self respect, after all. (Volunteer work is something else.)

So here I am, back in the work world again. The mound of work is big, and the timeline is tight, so it's going to be a nose to the grindstone, head down tail up sort of thing. But this sort of thing is fun for me, so it's all good, even though I'm likely to miss some sunrise or sunset photos, or photo trips with buddies.

Speaking of photo trips, I know at least some of my readers have been scrolling down the giant wall-of-text, and are looking for the New Zealand photos.

Here you are.
That transition land to see looks clear cut, doesn't it?

Maybe not so much, when you look a little closer.

Or a clear transition, but with complicating factors. The sign says, "Do not get between seals and the sea!"

Two similar shots and I can't decide which I like more, so you get both.

Friday, March 15, 2019

One of only a few sunsets

I didn't get a lot of sunset shots. Mostly by that time of day I was bagged, done like dinner, and half way to bed. Sometimes even all the way.

But this night we were still up, listening to the live music from the street on a warm evening. It was like old times, I looked up and scuttled for the camera. After I got the sunset shot we decided to go for a walk. It wasn't quite as nice as an evening stroll in Italy, but only because the gelato shop was long closed. Pity. Somehow the evening crowd at the Lone Star cafe and bar isn't quite the same.

This is the view from our apartment in Napier. Yes, palm trees are going in the middle what is apparently the street. It's mostly a pedestrian mall, with one narrow lane snaking along.

You may remember this chunk of driftwood from a failed evening shoot.

We were into the sunken gardens just as the light was nice.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

After Milford Sound

You may recall we took a bus to Miford Sound rather than drive ourselves there. Smart decision. It's a mountainous road even by BC and Alberta border standards. Twisty turny hilly isn't even the beginning of it.

Linda, playing with a rock. Just an ordinary run of the mill rock, nothing special for size from when they constructed the tunnel.

Our tour bus is in front and you can see the exit structure of the tunnel behind it. That cliff face is seriously up.

More of the views from that parking lot.

 A nearly 360 panorama from that parking lot. You can just see our bus, and Linda is just showing at the bottom of the shot. This seriously reduces the scale of the mountains, but I did this to see if it would work. This panorama is nearly 25000 px wide, and would print out almost 7 feet wide by about 20 inches high.

I liked the texture of this rock.

What's a mountain without mountain streams?

I was delighted the camera captured the light as I saw it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Formal and informal views

My buddy Sean dropped over last night to drink some wine and talk photography. We had a wonderful time, with me trying to learn more about groups of photos, how to make them more than the sum of their parts.

I posted such a group yesterday. I think. The last 4 photos had something in common. They represent a bit of my photographic journey, some of the threads that are being woven together. A view of trees in Fish Creek, somewhat moody, but showing an obscure path disappearing into the distance. A snapshot photo of a dear friend waiting for something, showing serenity but also asking what's interesting about me that you're taking a photo? Then a landscape destination photo. Lastly a self portrait of me fighting off the jaws of opposition threatening to engulf me, or something.

Or maybe Sean might say that's after the fact pretentious bullshit. Because if you look at the file numbers, they are all 3530.jpg, with different dates to make a unique file name. When I searched for that number to bring up the seascape I got all 4. I thought that was a delightful bit of serendipity and would blog it.

So here's three panorama shots for you, a standalone, and a pair of similar shots that I like so much I can't bear to assign one to unseen oblivion.

When we were driving up to Larnach Castle we saw this gorgeous view. We dared not stop. There was nowhere really to stop on our side of the road, and traffic all over the place. On the way back we deliberately took this route, even though Siri said she had a faster route. One that side of the road is a tiny little pullout not much bigger than our car. I stopped. Clicked. Enjoyed the view. Back in the car.

Larnach Castle is amazing. Built into the grounds are a gazebo and a viewing platform overlooking the bay, as part of a set of steps going from the grounds to a lower garden. I sat in each for a while, enjoying the view, and thinking what composition I liked. There are several photos of individual chunks of this in more detail that you'll probably see sooner or later.

But I could just picture myself in the gazebo, drinking coffee in the morning, mint tea in the afternoon, and wine in the early evening, plugging away on the never-ending novel on my laptop. Or maybe editing photos. Or maybe just enjoying the view while dedicated staff brought the drinks. In fact, now that I think of it, working there probably wouldn't be terribly productive from an output point of view, but sure would be peaceful.

And yes, that's what it really looked like.

Some other posts you might enjoy.

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