Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Big-Eyed (March 25, 2007)

Winnie, AKA "Little Film Star", strikes again with those doe-eyes and the tri-colour nose.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Alice & Jayne (July, 2001)

I think this was taken in Vieux Port de Montréal, near the Champ de Mars Métro station; it was shot on film with my Minolta XD-11. I think it's an example of why I always prefer natural light to flash.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Whitehall (July 9, 2009)

There isn't much left of the old palace that use to stand here, at Whitehall in London; only the Banqueting House designed by Inigo Jones. Destroyed by fires in 1691 and 1698, the sprawling palace complex once covered an area that stretched from Downing Street and Derby Gate in the south to Northumberland Avenue in the north, from the Victoria Embankment in towards St James Park and ending at what is now Horse Guards Road.

Now Whitehall is the name given to a road running from Trafalgar Square down to Westminster, and it is also used metonymically to reference the British government. Ironic, since famous royal Whitehall resident Charles I--whose bust is shown in the picture above--didn't think much of parliament, and ended up getting into rather a lot of trouble for it. The bust and plaque commemorate Charles, and the text below his effigy reads:

"His majesty King Charles I passed through this hall and out of a window nearly over this tablet to the scaffold in Whitehall where he was beheaded on 30th January 1649."

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Old Growth (February, 2002)

Taken in Cathedral Grove, a well-known stand of Douglas firs on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

iPray (September 9, 2008)

Clever (religious) advertising on Bathurst Street, just south of St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto. The synagogue it refers to is further up the street on Bathurst, towards Eglinton Avenue.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Cloud, Field Near Opera (May 15, 2007)

I remember dramatic skies in Italy, beautiful weather that snapped to extremes, a thunderstorm that created dramatic lighting as it moved across the sky near sunset and the orange light poured under the clouds; and an airbrushed pigment-blue backdrop, the light very clear and crisp even when filtered by heat-haze.

This picture was taken on the walk from Juliet's workplace, the American School of Milan, in Novaresco to her flat in Opera, a nearby suburb of Milan. There was a pleasant rural feeling about it, these yellow fields at dusk, and the May weather would have been unseasonably warm in Canada--feeling more like mid-June. The clouds struck me as being heavily articulated, as if drawn and washed with graphite and ink. Their mass was fully three-dimensional, somehow sculptural, and the range of tone within created crisp contrasts against the placid sky. Even my camera was drawn to this as its object, the landscape darkened and downplayed as the image centres on the complex cumulus.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Highway of Heroes" (August, 2002)

Taken on the 401 near Darlington, on the drive from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario.

This sign would not be nearly as funny if "Pingles Fun Farm" weren't juxtaposed with "Nuclear Info Centre". There's something reminiscent of "The Simpsons" here, and I'm picturing three-eyed fish on display.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sky Tower--Auckland (February 14, 2010)

Back in Auckland, the last morning of my trip was humid and drizzle-grey as in this picture, where the Sky Tower in the background is partially obscured by mist or low cloud. I took this picture while walking from Verandah's up Hepburn Street (though the street runs downhill) to the Victoria Park Market, where I was planning on doing some last-minute souvenir/gift shopping.

My flight didn't leave until that evening at about 8pm, so I ended up spending the afternoon wandering through the Ponsonby Road area around the hostel. Later at the airport, there was still low cloud, a determined overcast pall that didn't lift until the sun was almost setting. I ended up sitting in an aisle seat anyway, so there was no view as the plane took off and we shot back into the sky over the Pacific, headed northeast and bound for Vancouver.

The last thing I'll share in this sequence of photos is this little video I put together, from a series of clips I shot during the trip. I wanted to do something with the videos, so I taught myself the rudiments of iMovie and you now see the result!

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Monday, March 22, 2010

West Side--Central Plateau (February 13, 2010)

What looks like (and probably is) a small volcanic cone skulks in the background as our Intercity bus drives north on Highway 4, west of the most prominent trio of volcanoes in the North Island's Central Plateau region (Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe).

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Herb Farm--Manawatu (February 12, 2010)

The Herb Farm near Ashurst is an excellent place to visit if you're interested in indulging your sensory functions... smell the delicious herbs and flowers, listen to the breeze rustling the leaves of tall eucalyptus trees and the sounds of distant magpies chortling, and later, taste some of the delicious food available at their little restaurant (they also flavour their drinking water with something called "Mexican Marigold", which sounds potentially sketchy but tastes lovely).

Here a gum tree, fence and a kind of woodshed are some of the elements that make up the "look" of the Manawatu for me. Those trees were everywhere, like their fellow immigrants the poplars and (marking out streams and rivers) the lines of weeping willows. A paddock in the background completes the scene that was very familiar to me as a child.

Gum trees grow much more rapidly in New Zealand than they do in their native Australia, due to the temperate climate (more rainfall, more growth). They sprout slim branches that shoot out laterally from the trunk and often break off and fall, because the quick growth doesn't allow them time to grow strong enough to support themselves at the trunk. The trees are often surrounded by a pile of their own detritus--small branches, leaves, and the stringy/papery bark the peels off in long strips, leaving a smooth skinlike layer of new bark below.

They also smell fantastic.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Charly--Palmerston North (February 11, 2010)

Snuggled up against the back of the couch belly-up. This was quite possibly the most affectionate cat I'd ever met in my life, which is saying something given the two with whom I currently live. Something about orange tabby males, they just love it. If I sat on the couch, he'd jump onto my lap and push his head against the underside of my chin. And he drooled onto my shoulder when overcome by cat-happiness.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

View from Wind Farm--Near Ashurst, Manawatu (February 10, 2010)

Looking like an Andrew Wyeth painting (something about the grass in front) the Manawatu spreads out, a fertile tablecloth, at the foot of the hills in which the Tararua Wind Farm is situated. My aunt Carole took me for a drive to take some photos, and after a lovely afternoon tea we ended up at this lookout point, which could be reached by a long "metal road" (unpaved or gravel road).

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Palmerston North City Library (February 9, 2010)

Palmy, as it's known, is generally the brunt of unfavourable comments if it's raised in conversation. It's not considered to be 'scenic', it isn't a bustling hive of commercial activity, and it doesn't have a beach (just a river that floods from time to time). A lot of what's said about Palmerston I'll politely set aside as a matter of opinion; and to demonstrate the 'up side', here is a picture of their library, which was certainly as nice as the nicest libraries in Toronto.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Molesworth Street--Wellington (January 8, 2010)

This is the Backbencher Pub and Cafe in Wellington. It is right across the street from the Beehive, New Zealand's parliament buildings, which was why I noticed this sign and found it so giggleworthy. A nice sample of kiwi humour, in the nation's capital...

Later on Google Street View I noticed that the same billboard had a different message ("The Rumble here. Pre-election vote-catchers"). In the image it looks like Helen Clark's caricature on one side, but on the other side--interesting--the face of the candidate's caricature is fuzzy/smudged, not visible. That would certainly "date" the image (why so old?). I can't tell if Google or the sign painters did the smudging; after all, putting the face of the National Party leader on the other side makes the assumption that National are the (only?) opponents, and with about seven parties in Parliament, that wouldn't necessarily be the case (although traditionally National and Labour are the two biggest parties).

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Harbour Fishing--Wellington (February 7, 2010)

Another picture that clearly wasn't the most "scenic" of the day, but there it is: a bit of a "moment". You can catch a few fish during lunch hour before heading back to your civil service job--just kidding (this was a Sunday afternoon).

The Wellington waterfront was lively; there was a line of vintage cars parked by the water, paid rides with proceeds going to charity. Children populated the playground, the waterside and the water itself--some of them floating in strange plastic bubbles, others dive-bombing off the wooden walkways. The museum was busy with visitors, both locals and tourists; people strolled along the walkways and enjoyed their coffee and food in the waterfront restaurants.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Edwin Fox--Picton (February 6, 2010)

Immediately reminded of James Burke's explanation of "a copper-bottomed investment", here. The ship was built of teak and covered with a layer of copper to keep destructive wildlife from consuming the hull.

This visit was a little historical gem, really; I didn't know the Edwin Fox carried not only emigrants to New Zealand and convicts to Australia (!) but was also used during the Crimean War, and later as a freezer ship. All this during a career that spanned the second half of the nineteenth century.

Standing on board the dilapidated ship, I remembered the roll-call of my probable ancestors who had been deported to Australia (though both my parents emigrated to New Zealand from England in the 1970s), most for poaching and petty crime. I also recalled how as late as the 1950s, my mother's family emigrated to Australia by boat (later moving back to England). And the paths of the ship itself, if mapped, form a cat's cradle of lines woven onto the globe along the paths of trade and conflict, communication and migration.

There was something very physical about the connection to history, the experience of standing within the hull of the ship, of feeling that space around you and wondering what it would be like to be trapped on board for months at a time in egregious conditions. It reminded me of the way I felt sitting inside an Anderson Shelter from WWII at the Croydon museum in London.
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunset--Near Kaikoura (February 5, 2010)

South Island, east coast, Just past Kaikoura going north to Blenheim on the InterCity bus. The shot is facing inland, to the west.

I love the warmth of this picture, though I'm not sure what makes me feel that way about it (other than the obvious sunlight). I almost get the feeling that it's just been raining and the sun is now popping out momentarily, before ducking away until morning.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mackenzie Country (February 4, 2010)

Taken in the Mackenzie "basin", on the drive from Queenstown to Christchurch. This place was all golden rolling hills, something visually soft about a landscape that would be unstintingly hard in terms of actual survival.

I can just imagine this place at night; it looks desert-hot, oddly congruent in these small islands packed with side-by-side extremes, the sharp eroding alps and the yellow burnt plains and opal-blue water, the volcanic scrub, the rainforests and pastures. For some reason I'm convinced that the revealing moment, here, would be standing in the quiet after sunset and feeling the heat radiate back from the ground and hearing who knows what other than an occasional engine: seeing all this under a bright moon.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Clear Day--Mt. Aoraki (February 4, 2010)

The weather gods continued to smile on us in midsummer Mackenzie Country. Here at Lake Pukaki we were treated to this unfiltered sunshine, cardboard cutouts of scenery overlaid like mosaic with Aoraki surreal and crinkled, shaggy with impressionist ice, in the background. The lake's colour looks 'fake', overshooting its mark, going beyond the simulacrum blue of water to a solid dye-like hue.

Our driver informed us that there are "about five days" every year--non-consecutive--when the view looks this clear.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Queenstown Track (February 3, 2010)

This picture is a part of a bizarre photographic foible, a longitudinal series of 'foot portraits' that began about ten years ago with a photo of my feet on a bridge in Ottawa. It has continued through trips to Italy (my feet at Lake Como), England (my feet and the Prime Meridian of the World) various locations in Canada and now, New Zealand.

The hike to this point was worth it, not only for the serene end view but also for the walk through cool pine forest at 9:30am on a day that later turned scorching.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baldwin Street (February 2, 2010)

Apparently the World's Steepest Street, Baldwin Street in Dunedin certainly looks formidable. I knew better than to try my luck with a quick jog to the top, though our intrepid driver pulled it off admirably--and drove us safely back to Queenstown after, to boot.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Temptations--Lost Gypsy Gallery (February 1, 2010)

A stop-off at Papatowai, on the drive from Invercargill to Dunedin in South Otago. We had quite a few stops this day. I thought that other than the sea lion, this was the highlight of that leg of the trip, a kind of shop/'gallery'/theatre (performance space?) apparently in the middle of almost-nowhere, and again rather difficult to describe...though something about this picture feels representative.

A fellow called Blair Somerville crouches in a workshop on the right-hand side as you step inside the door to the gallery-cum-curiosity shop. Somerville's 'automata', are perched and arranged in nooks and on shelves throughout what is, in fact, a permanently parked house-bus.

The little machines are made of wires, shells, old electronics, an assortment of the remains of other things, re-assembled to perform new and eclectic tasks. Turn a wire handle, and a 'gurgler' cycles water through a curved shell, making a pleasant throaty sound. Turn another handle and a tiny wire whale spurts copper plumes as its tail undulates. Outside the door, the button (pictured) beckons, and upon pressing it a thin stream of water hits home, the classic clown gag re-worked--and certainly not unwelcome on a warm day in mid-summer.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Boat and Falls--Milford Sound (January 30, 2010)

Another picture from Milford Sound, one in which I'm attempting to demonstrate what I couldn't in the previous post--scale and angle, as it were; the way that cliff goes straight up and the trees dig in anyway, helping to hold it together but possibly tearing it apart at the same time.

On the left you can see one of the skeinlike waterfalls that dress the walls of this channel. With the wind they tended to spray sideways, skewed off-course by the gusts because they were tenuous enough to bend in the blast, having such a long, practically vertical drop.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Low Cloud--Milford Sound Highway (January 30, 2010)

Perspective is skewed in this photo I took along the Milford Highway in Fiordland. What looks almost like mist or even steam lying against mossy slate rocks is actually cloud nestled upon the steep side of (what seemed like) a v-shaped, glacier-carved valley, but unfortunately without a wide-angle lens there was not much I could get into the shot to demonstrate the scale.

The landscape around Milford was like that: too much to capture, you had to drink in the excess and hope that some of it stayed with you for longer than the day, which in my case was difficult because the urge to 'show' things is second only to the need to see them for myself. Woundingly beautiful--literally awesome--this place left a mark that will hopefully move beyond the images.

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