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.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The great photo review is in progress

I've been working through the photo backlog, and I'm up to Milford Sound day. The main chunk of work is to do the HDR ones that I flagged. My laptop chugged on those. There are lots to edit that I had marked and never did. There are some I overlooked entirely for who knows what reason. A filthy laptop screen, probably. Some I marked to edit that are now meh.

During vacation I was chatting with my buddy Sean about groups of photos. There will be further discussion over beer with photos to hand. The theory is that when you look at several photos displayed together they influence each other. My thinking is that it makes sense to show you groups of photos that influence each other in happy ways, and are not just a group of shots of flowers, but I don't know anything of that. If you do, then I'd be happy to feed you some wine and talk about it.

As an example, here's some of the groups of things I shot. Lonely trees, driftwood, murals, flowers, cityscapes, beaches (but no BCC), reflections, birds, mountains, dark sky, Linda, scenic overlooks, museum displays, experiments to see if the camera would see a particular pattern of light that struck me, and on and on.

Part of it is the audience. Which is complicated for me. I know many of my small but loyal band of readers, but I suspect there are a few people reading that I don't know well. (Don't be afraid to comment!)

Some of these people are curious about us and our travels and are happy to look at ordinary travel photos. Some are photographers looking for interesting or art shots. Some are writers looking for interesting stories or my particular brand of humour. And Linda, she wants to see all the photos because they remind her of the trip and our experiences.

Then there's current photo stuff that will start soon, I imagine. So I still have no idea how or what I'll show you on a day to day basis. I'll try to tell a story about each. Some may relate back to a blog done on the day, and I'll try to reference those, but no promises. You'll just have to show up, not knowing what to expect.

We did public transit in Auckland. The system includes bus, train, and ferry service. One card, tag on, tag off, periodically top up. You can even set it to top up automatically so you never have to think about it. Get on, tap the card to the reader, pick a seat. Tap it to the reader on the way off, and get on with your life. WTF Calgary, how hard can it be? Let's stop dicking around and get on with it.

The view from the ferry on the way to Waiheke Island. I still think that tower is butt ugly.

You tell me. Is this a cleverly designed and carefully photographed model, or the real thing?

A view of our loft in Dunedin. The entrance is to the left, as is how you get up to the little loft. The bedroom and bathroom is along the brick wall. The bedroom is dark, and it's quiet. I'll stay here again if we go to Dunedin.

This is one of the reasons why I'm so happy to be doing this photo review, and blogging it. I discover interesting things I'd forgotten about. So these last 4 photos all have something in common, something you can discover from carefully reading this blog. Very carefully, I have to say. Some clues, which might be red herrings, to titillate my writer buddies.

Fish Creek, from 2017.

My dear friend MC waiting to check in for her IM 70.3 race.

We never figured out how to get to that beach.

This, of course is obvious.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Thoughts re New Zealand

Somewhat randomly thoughts as our trip wraps up, updated after we got home.

-Bring all the lenses you use regularly at home to do the photography you like. Figure out how to do that, but bring them. There were any number of times I deeply regretted not having my 100 mm macro, though I'm not so sure I'd have used the 150-600. For us the problem was not the international flight; we had lots of weight and baggage allowance. It was the internal flights and my reluctance to put lenses in checked baggage. Half the stories say the Air New Zealand staff are brutal about the 15 pound carry on limit, and the other half say they don't care. The ones I've seen didn't care about me, but they were picking on a crew of geezers. Maybe as long as they think you get get your bag into the overhead bin they leave you alone.

-Bring your floppy photographer's hat and work out a system for dealing with your sunglasses. You need both, and for a while I lost my sunglasses because I was taking them off to shoot, and putting them in different places. I got lucky and they came home again.
-Bring lens cleaning supplies. You will get salt spray on them if you go to the beach.

-Bring more SD cards than you think you'll need. They are 2x the price in Alberta. I brought a 2TB portable drive and copied photos from the card to the drive every day. As each card filled up I set it aside and started another. I wanted to come home with a set of SD cards containing each photo taken, and a copy of each in Lightroom on the drive. Now the trick will be to import the NZ catalog into the main one on the RAID drive at home. (That went really well, and the photos are WOW on the big screen.) Then I'll have 3 copies, but the cards will get reused. WIFI is pretty good, though one place was wonky, so if you have a cloud service going, that might work. It might be best to check with your Airbnb host when you are booking.

-You will have a big bag that holds all your photo gear for airline carry on, but it's probably overkill for day trips. Bring a smaller bag to carry the camera body and the carry around lens, and the other lens you might use for where you are going, plus a pocket for backup battery (batteries) and SD card. There are times and places so beautiful and photogenic you will burn through both much quicker than expected, especially if you are mirrorless. My rule was when in doubt was take the shot. When was I going to get here again? On day 54 I've taken just over 11,500 photos.

-Scout your locations in the daytime. The roads here can be scary in places. Moke Lake for example. It's beautiful, and I think it's a great location for night shooting, but I wouldn't drive up that road at night. (There is a place almost as nice not that far away that I'll share if you buy me lunch :-) ) If I hadn't found another place my plan was to drive up in the fading light, shoot sunset, moon stuff, milky way/dark sky stuff, sunrise, and drive out in the morning. Maybe snooze a little.

-Once you've scouted your locations, use an app like The Photographers Ephemeris to check sunrise/sunset/moonrise/moonset times and locations and directions. Don't forget tide times if you're doing a beach. For some of the places you need low tide, others mid-tide is best. I didn't get out that much for dawn or sunset shooting but there is a ton of landscape that would be absolutely magical. Part of the problem is there is so much to see during the day, it's hard to start that early, or keep going that late, depending on time of year.

-Dark skies can happen surprisingly close to where you might be staying. A short drive out of town is likely to get you to darker skies than much of southern Alberta. Next time for sure I'm going out to one of the dark sky preserves, or to the Catlins, or Stewart Island, and stay long enough to wait out a spell of poor weather. (Poor from an astro photography point of view.)

-Even if you aren't a photographer, stay up late one clear night and drive out of town to look at the stars. WOW!

-Have a plan to deal with rain if you do the west coast. We got lucky. Remember, 8 m of rain a year at Doubtful Sound.

-Museums have wildly different rules about photography, and it might vary by the exhibit. There is often some sensitivity about Maori art being photographed. Ask if you're not sure. Don't be that guy.

-The local photographers that I ran into were, with one exception, friendly and helpful. I didn't make any effort to find them in advance (via facebook or Instagram) and maybe I missed a bet there.

Accommodation via Airbnb:
-At the very least we liked all the places we stayed, and would consider staying again. Several of them I could have made an extended stay in. A couple of them I could live in.

-We found all the places to be as described, and usually nicer. Even after the description, the view from the Wellington place was WOW upon walking in.

-All the hosts were wonderful and there were a number of suggestions of interesting things to see and do. Don't be afraid to ask!

-Heating and air conditioning here is done with a wall mounted unit controlled by a remote. A fuller description of how this operates would be good. Locals would know, of course, but few from North America do. I had to google it.

-We tried to get checked in and inspect the pantry before buying groceries. Some places had quite an extensive choice of basic stuff, others not so much, or at all. Some might have been supplied by the host, some might have been left by previous guests.

-Places seem to vary widely as to how rubbish and recyclables are dealt with. If the house book doesn't say, ask.

-Each place had lots of brochures about various nearby attractions. Keep in mind the problem is not finding something to do, it's choosing between them. If you get a chance, talk to your host about what you are interested in, they will almost certainly have some suggestions.

-If you rent a car, ask about parking. Along the way we had our own garage, free on street parking about a block away, cheap daytime free at night/weekends street parking across the road, the driveway, and free on street parking in front of the house.

-There is a series of emails through Airbnb as you book, and reminders as arrival day gets closer. They're all the same. We didn't need any of the booking details or confirmation codes. A few days before arrival an email will come with the actual details of entry, like where the lock box is and the combination. Flag that email so you can find it. Don't ask how I know to tell you this.

New Zealand travel in general:
-Sunscreen is a must. As near as I can tell every day is a high UV day. Find a cream you like and bring lots. A 200 ml tube was about $30. I haven't seen sprays here.

-Driving on the left is a cognitive demand, and you will tire quicker than usual. Take lots of breaks. Even after 2 months I've occasionally (under stress) reverted to turning on the windshield wipers when I wanted to signal a turn. (I talked to a local, and they're amused by the whole thing. "We see a rental car and the windshield wipers start on a sunny day, we know they're going to turn. At least they're trying," they said.) (We met a nice couple from Red Deer in the Vancouver lounge. They've been going to NZ every winter for 12 years. He said he STILL sometimes hits the windshield wipers to signal a turn. I didn't feel so bad.)

-Driving between many places involves twisty hilly roads populated with tailgating locals. Let them by, and take frequent breaks. A 2 hour drive can be tough sledding. Forget about the scenery, stay focussed on the road.

-The speed limit sign often says 100 and it's not even remotely possible, though the locals try. The road yesterday had a passing lane going around 50 kph corners, and the trucks here are about the same size as trucks at home.

-We used Siri to navigate and mostly it was pretty good, with some frustrating exceptions. She didn't know one roundabout now has 5 exits, not 4. That got exciting for a few minutes, but wasn't the meltdown. Get used to her lecturing 'return to the route!'

-Some beaches don't have cell service, so remember the way out to the nearest town. Usually there isn't much choice of road so that's not much of a problem. Not much road for some beaches.

-Gas is expensive, about $2 a litre or so. It's worth it to check out if public transit will work for you. It seems to be really good, much better than Calgary.

-The flights are cheap, so fly from major city to major city. Unless you like ferries, fly between the 2 main islands. There are rules about rental cars and ferries, find out what they are. The problem is that the internal flights have tighter weight restrictions so you might have to buy extra for your gear. That's better than trying to drive between major cities. Don't look at the distance, google the driving time and add some.

-Do not drink and drive. Just don't. I won't say I was 24 hours bottle to throttle, but generally I held off drinking anything alcoholic till I was home for the day. The laws are strict, and you need every scrap of attention for the road.

-We did most of our grocery shopping at New World. They have a ton of stores, a tourist club membership for free, and the receipt gives you a discount on gas from an affiliated station.

-Countdown is the other big chain, and it seems to be a Co-op/Safeway thing. Check out both and see which you like.

-Pie is a food group of it's own here. The best we had was in Lyttelton, in a tiny little pastry shop. The pastry was melt in your mouth. Most of the cafe pie were quite good. Even ordinary pie from New World is pretty good. Simple Simon pies would be laughed out of New Zealand.

-Cafes are everywhere and the food is good, and the treats are awesome, but they usually close by 3, and the kitchen sometimes closes earlier.

-All the coffee is good, though sometimes the quantities are small.

-Fish and chip is awesome. Better than Nova Scotia awesome. Wedges are even better than chips. Don't forget that tartar or ketchup usually comes extra. Ask the staff for recommendations about what's fresh or what's local.

-Food in general is really good, and not particularly any more expensive than at home, or only a little moreso. Maybe the swanky high end places are more, but we didn't eat in any of them.

-Check your electrical stuff to make sure you can plug it in here and don't forget the adapter. The laptop, phone, and camera battery chargers were fine. The electric toothbrush was not. We went back to manual, and I'm probably gonna hear about it from my dental hygienist.

-For the smaller coastal town it is worth checking the cruise ship schedule. If you can, avoid days a cruise ship docks in a small town. Just the way the locals asked "Are you off a cruise ship?" has me rethinking the cruise idea.

-Public toilets are almost everywhere. Most were clean, and some were surprisingly well furnished for the location. Like Dyson hand driers out in the boonies. Some of the more remote ones, like at beaches might have a flush toilet and running non-potable water for a sink, but no soap or hand drier. If you're fussy about such things, carry a tube of hand sanitizer. There was a "Super Loo" in Taupo that advertised like a supermarket, but we didn't check it out. The Ironman New Zealand race had been there the day before and there was still a ton of people there, with lots crowded around the Super Loo. I admit to being curious, and maybe we should have braved the mob. No, I did not attend the race.

-If you go to New Zealand, I cannot say enough about springing for business class on Air New Zealand. Start looking early for the dates you'd like to go, and track it daily. Compare the price of seats in economy, premium economy, and business, and you'll find it's not that much more, and it's a MUCH better experience. No, really. This is one of the places where trying to shave a few dollars off the cost is dumb.

-We had essentially no jet lag, and we attribute this to the comfort in business class. Next time we fly into Auckland, we'll plan several hours for a layover to have a shower (yes, the swanky lounges have showers!) then fly on to the ultimate destination.

-Be careful about tours. There are tours for everything. Mostly you can save some money and buy the admission yourself; then you can take as much or little time as you want. Sometimes you can't, like for the Milford and Doubtful sound tours.

-Lots of people rent camper vans and travel that way. They call it Freedom Camping, and there are lots of rules about it, where you can and can't. Check it out before you rent. Go back and re-read what I said about driving and the price of gas. It might or might not be cheaper than renting accommodation. We were on one road with a sign, 'Vehicles must be shorter than x feet.' I'm told some places there's a lot of that.

-If you like the Art Deco period, going to Napier mid-Feb is a MUST. Google it. Plan. Book in advance.

-They are serious about what you can and cannot bring in to the country. Very serious. Seriously Serious. Check the requirements. There are serious fines.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Taieri Gorge in photos

Or the start of the great photo review catchup. I've been working on that, finding a few that I'd always meant to come back to, finding some that I wonder why I didn't edit then, a few marked to edit that have a similar one edited and what should have unmarked for edit, and a few where I've fixed the edit.

These are different. They're from the train trip up the Taieri Gorge to Middlemarch and back. My thinking was to shoot the wide lens on the way out and the long lens on the way back. I still think that's a good plan, but there was a problem that I'm embarrassed to mention.

The night before I'd used the wide lens for star shots. That means manual focus to infinity. I left it that way for the first bunch of railway shots. It was only when I took a break and was paging back through the photos and wondering why they were so soft that I figured it out. I was pretty pissed at myself.

At least I figured it out before the scenery got really good. On the way out the observation car was at the back of the train, and I had it to myself for the entire trip. That's nice, and I didn't realize how nice till the next trip.

On the way back the observation car was right behind the locomotive, so it was a lot louder, and a lot more exhaust fume-y. More importantly, it was a lot more difficult to shoot, even with the long lens. There were a couple other photographers, but sharing the space wasn't a problem. Several pairs of eyes looking for a photo is better than one.

Shooting from a train is difficult; trying to keep the camera steady as the train moves. In hindsight I should have bumped the ISO and shutter speed a bit. There is no time to compose. No re-dos. When in doubt, click. By the end of the day I was so tired I didn't want to face editing, and we were off to Larnach Castle which was a wow and generated a ton of photos. Then the next thing, and I never got back to it.

The trip was fun, and the scenery was pretty. If you like train rides, and have a day, I'd say do it. You can't see this by driving. Would I do it again? Probably not. Maybe if I was with a bunch of people and the light was really good. I'd take a lot fewer photos.

So scroll on down and enjoy. There are some comments along the way, and a surprise near the end.

This is one of the iconic shots I wanted, the curving train beside a river.

So many bridges!

Linda savaging her pie. It was really hot.

Do you see Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli running along?

I'm sure there's a story here, but no idea what it is.

Bridges are obvious. This is the brick wall of a tunnel. I was thinking sort of an abstract.

Your surprise, Linda showing off her (then) new hair style.

Some other posts you might enjoy.

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