Thursday, January 31, 2019

The observation cattle car

I mentioned the train yesterday. My last train trip I had the observation car completely to myself for nearly the entire round trip. No, you haven't seen any photos of that; they're part of the backlog and nothing really stunning jumped out at me as I was importing them. That's not to say it's not a stunning trip, just that photography from a train is really difficult.

For this trip you need to book in advance. Vacation is often about sleeping in, but not always. We wanted to get to bed a bit early, but there was this amazing sunset to watch. That's the view from the deck.

So this trip across the Alps I was mostly expecting to be alone in the observation car. Except, not. Firstly, was the bossy tour guid that wouldn't let anyone else board the car till his group was loaded, in the order as needed to be to fill the seats. Another couple tried to get on as they were getting it together and got yelled at.

The first hour of the trip is pretty blah, unless you like farmland. It reminded me of Fraser Valley. I was hanging out in the observation car, then as it filled up wedged myself into the railing at the end of the car. I unfortunately guessed wrong which side would have the scenery.

The car was swarmed by the tour groups. There was lots of jostling. If there was a body count limit for the car I'm sure it was exceeded. As each bit of scenery appeared, mostly out the right, people waved their iphones at it, trying to see between the heads. There were only a few of us with real cameras, and we all rolled our eyes at the show.

At one point, and I thought this was pretty funny because I wasn't involved, I watched one person wiggle their iphone around someone else to get a clear view out, and then someone dropped an iPad in front of it. I'm pretty sure I know what Cantonese swearing sounds like now. There was some pushing and shoving.

I mostly didn't worry about trying to get photos, and enjoyed both the scenery and the people watching. There were a few jerks about sharing. Some people having no sense of personal space whatsoever. There was an outraged 'Hey!' at one point and a minute later a girl stormed out of the car. One mom used her kid as a battering ram.

At the top of the pass all the tour groups left and the observation car was ever so much more civilized, though there were some grumbles when the staff cleared the car for the tunnel. There is a 8 Km tunnel, and for safety they want everyone in their assigned seats. Once we were allowed back in we got a chance to actually take photos.

Here we are in Greymouth for a late lunch at an excellent cafe. I'm sure the locals know not to come in when the train is there.

On the way back there were even fewer people. I spent much of the trip chatting to a couple of the other photographers, in between pointing out nice vistas and taking photos of them.

In the tunnel on the way back I got the idea for a reflection shot.

Much of it reminds me of Kamloops, but not all. There lots of lakes and rivers, and some serious mountains. I think doing the trip in the winter would make for some excellent snowy peaks shots. If you didn't freeze your fingers.

That's the front of the train going over a bridge with these huge fences on either side. The view between the slats is amazing! There was a cry of outrage when people saw that the first time. The people with actual cameras rolled their eyes and put the cameras down. the iPhone/iPad users kept filming.

On the way back we found out there is an actual reason. The winds can be so strong they could blow the train off the bridge, so the fence is actually a wind break. Who knew?

It was a longish day with nowhere near as much walking as usual so we were a little still stiff getting home, but we could sleep in today. Except I was up early and got this sunrise. Life is so hard.

We arrived 48 hours ago, and

I'm 800 photos further behind. That's from the balcony view, another set of botanical gardens, and a train ride. I've only just started editing. Here's a few, to whet your interest.

From the Christchurch botanical gardens. As always, don't ask me what they are, except I know these are a rose, a dahlia, a rose, a pair of roses, and a sunflower.

The bees are huge here! I was trying to get either this little guy's bum (to indulge Susi's fetish), or or face, (to indulge mine), and what do I get? A pollen covered takeoff.

The iconic train shot everybody tries to get. This is the Christchurch to Greymouth and back train ride, up and over the alps. It's pretty gorgeous. There's a few stories to tell about that, stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The unblogged Linda extravaganza

I suddenly realized as I was about to blog that I was way, way, WAY behind on the photos of Linda, which is really only why people come here I'm sure. Well, that and cat photos. As an aside I got sent a photo of Curtis looking so sad it nearly broke my heart.

So all of these are obviously Linda. Here she is:
-getting some Maori culture

-indulging in Mad Max-iod fantasies of gunning down her enemies as a straight forward action, to lure the rest of them into thinking she is done with convoluted plans.

-scoping out her secret escape rocket from the secret lair from which she rules

-running for a deal on gear (you may have seen this on Instagram)

-sitting peaceably

-considering trying the full sized rat wheel as a source of power, putting her conquered subjects to work

-wondering if it would scale up, and if so, how much would it cost to feed (there is a rule about this )

-posing with a model of the secret underwater munitions delivery system

-proving she's not late

-wondering if she wants to do the loop once or twice

-looking at the chocolate treat place next door

-overlooking her domain (the view from here is spectacular)

There, you might think you're caught up, and it's almost true. There are more of her still in the camera. This glass of wine is tasty, and I'm going to have a big photo day tomorrow.

A few galaxies

So there I was, high on a bluff between Queenstown and Glenorchy, about midnight. It's windy enough to keep the bugs down, but not so windy as to move the tripod. Light jacket cool. And clear!! Holy doodle clear! So I took a photo or two. When I get home I'll do some work to assemble them into a time lapse. There could be several time lapses, actually.

No stand out shot like the beach one the other night, but I like these. If I'd moved the tripod about a foot to the right I'd have the milky way coming up between those shrubs, except there's a big rock there. Am I complaining? NO!!

I even dug out the 70-200. It's harder than I thought to get zeroed in. I'm pretty sure this is the Greater Magellanic cloud.

Looking the other direction we see a familiar sight first at 14 mm to give you some context, then 200 mm.

I was surprised by all the streaks in the various images. I'm pretty sure most are satellites, but one I think was a meteor. It was short and there was a hint of green, nothing in before and after images. There was one really bright light I saw with my eyes, but I haven't found that in the camera images yet.

Unless I want to drive several hours, I think that's it for really dark skies for this trip. There might be other dramatic sky photos, we'll see.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Another travel day, you get backlog

So here we are in the airport at Queenstown, awaiting our flight. It was a wonderful 3 days here, in the swankiest accommodation yet. I managed to get out last night from 11:30 to about 1:30 for some astro, but in quickly looking this morning nothing spectacular jumped out. We are talking seriously dark skies, at least by Calgary standards. It was beautiful just to look at. Maybe I should learn more astronomy so I've got abetter idea of what I'm looking at.

Then again, I haven't looked at every frame, and there were several bright streaks I saw with my eyes. There are some nice looking milky way shots. You'll have to wait till I get a chance to look and edit. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, you get some random backlog. This bird posed so beautifully on a plaque or something. Just as I was about to click the shutter, it disappeared. When I looked at the photo later, the bird had been considerate enough to take off and stay in focus.

During our day of Maori culture. 

Another view of a sculpture.

From exactly the same spot, a nicely shaped tree.

Two of a bee in flight at Glenfalloch Gardens. The bees were HUGE!

One from the Steampunk museum.