A Belfast Love Story

True Romance

Venturing through a new city while it is raining is a very frustrating exercise due to the fact that knowing where you are requires you to observe your surroundings. This is something that is very difficult to do if you’re trying to duck and weave around rain drops at the same time. This was just the case when I arrived at the former Harland & Wolf shipyard, otherwise known as the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. 

Upon arrival, shaking the rain off like a wet dog and noticing the rather large puddle of water I had created, I was suddenly startled with a cheerful ‘good morning.’ Having moved through the entrance way, I was now aware of the sizable water obstacle I had made right in the doorway of Belfast’s popular ‘Titanic Experience.’ Replying to the ‘good morning’ with a sheepish ‘sorry’ I moved towards the direction of the ticket booths. It was at this point that it struck me how appropriate it seemed to be drenched in rain, visiting a museum about a ship that sunk. It also struck me how empty the place was, this was partially by design and partially by hope.

With my ticket in hand and the clock sitting just before 10am, I made my way through the near deserted foyer. The plan had been to arrive early and thus avoid long lines and lots of slow moving crowds. Adding to this plan was the fact that the school holidays had finished and people had returned to work after the December/January festive season. Pleased with the success of this planning and having paid the entry fee while watching people avoid the water jump I had created, I headed for the escalator with a head full of Titanic excitement. 

I have to admit I fall into the group of people who find the Titanic fascinating. I also have to admit that I agree with James Cameron. I agree that the Titanic is a love story. I’m not sure it’s the epic, romantic disaster tale that James Cameron showed us in 1997, but it is a love story nonetheless. My visit to Belfast showed me that it’s not a romantic story between two people, it’s much more complicated than that. It’s a story of a love affair, about hopes and dreams, death and survival, of passion, of lust, of beauty, greed, wealth, vision and a promise of a golden age yet to come. It’s a tale of love between a ship, the city it was built in, the people that built her and the families that watched it grow into the sky at the Harland & Wolf shipyard. It’s a Belfast love story.

* * *

Speaking of the Titanic, let’s talk about acts of heroism. Let’s talk about John Jacob Astor IV. In the early hours of April 15th, 1912, just after 1:55am on a clear, star light night Astor stood smoking a cigarette. Having just kissed his darling wife and helped her into lifeboat Number 4,  he watched the lifeboat get lowered into the water, having given his own place to two scared and frightened children. You can only imagine what would have been going through his mind as he watched the boat lower without him. Seven days later Astor’s body was found and identified by the initials sewn on the label of his jacket. Found on him was a gold pocket watch which his son Vincent wore for the rest of his life. Some time later, while his wife and unborn child sat in a lifeboat, a survivor claimed to have seen Astor in the water clinging to a raft with supposedly frozen feet. At some point the coldness forced him to release his hold. 

Titanic Belfast – Order Print

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The Octagon Experience

Digesting New Information

It wasn’t until I got off the bus and started for Moray Place that it suddenly hit me. It could have been the Juicy rental car trying to do a u-turn in a very awkward way, it could have been the foot traffic seeming to be walking in the middle of the street or maybe the rather large, bright orange barriers blocking the street but something suddenly reminded me that the Octagon was closed for traffic. This information wasn’t altogether a surprise yet nor had it been at the forefront of my mind. To digest this not quite new information, I knew I would need alcohol, so I headed to the nearest bar. Once inside, I took up a seat where I could view the street from and began pondering what it all meant.

I couldn’t help but think that the Octagon closure might well be doomed before it began. After all, Dunedin doesn’t take to kindly to change. There’s a good list of ‘resistant to change’ examples hidden in Dunedin’s past. Going back to the 1850’s there were squabbles over matters between the Dunedin City Council and the Caversham Borough Council. In more modern times the new urban cycleways project has received much criticism over the last 5 years as did the newly created central bus hub. Not to forget the heated debate between Carisbrook and Forsyth Barr Stadium which seemed to deeply divide the city. 

Watching people happily walk up and down Stuart Street I decided that I needed to find out more about this ‘Octagon Experience’ so I pulled out my phone and headed straight to the Otago Chamber of Commerce website. I discovered ‘The Octagon Experience’ is the brainchild of the Dunedin City Council who want to create/transform the area into a public space within the streetscape of surrounding business by making it pedestrian-friendly and so drawing people together (so they’re closing roads I thought to myself!). Upon further investigation I discovered that the full closure is happening from January 27th till February 16th with partial closures from February 17 until March 23. Maybe it was the beer but it took awhile for the realisation of what this actually meant to sink in. 

Suddenly the impact of these closures hit me and I didn’t know what worried me more. Putting up with all the angry drivers that will inhabit Moray Place, forgetting the Octagon is closed and desperately try to find another route at the last minute, thus blocking traffic at one of the barn-dance intersections. Or, having to scroll past all the angry Facebook and Twitter posts about the chaos that will inevitably fill my streams. Either way, filled with dread and bracing myself, I finished my pint, opened Facebook and headed out the door.

Robbie – Order Print

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Woosung Street in Hong Kong.

Destination: Hong Kong

It’s not till I’m going somewhere that I realise how little I actually know about a place. It’s here, sitting in a departure lounge at Heathrow airport at 9:00am on a Monday morning with a boarding pass in hand, that I suddenly realise that I don’t know much about Hong Kong at all. My thoughts quickly scan back and forth between the notion of this being both a positive a negative, when I’m shaken from my day dream by a very disgruntled traveler who is very clearly not having a good morning. While he quickly makes his way to the boarding line, he pulls behind him one of those oversize suitcases that hasn’t the faintest of chances of fitting in the overhead compartment. As he pushes past me, it’s hard to tell if he is more annoyed by the fact he actually had to wait in line like the rest of us or by the two overly excited children standing directly in front of him. Either way, his complete annoyance is only matched by the children’s delight and the cynic in me now secretly hopes they are all seated together for the next 13 hours. 

Once joining the line myself, my thoughts again turn to my lack of Hong Kong general knowledge. As I scan my thoughts, I find myself brightened somewhat when I realise I know more than I thought I did. As the line inches forward and I’m greeted with a friendly good morning and welcome, I settle on knowing four definite facts about Hong Kong (even if they are somewhat fictitious). 

Firstly, I’m certain that I know parts of it are dangerous for tourists like myself. This comes from recent news coverage (which I no longer watch) and the endless supply of emails I’ve been getting from Safe Travel on my phone. These email warnings have had headings such as ‘Ongoing Protests’ or ‘Ongoing Demonstrations’ from flash mobs dressed in black. To me, it initially looked like a combined game of Tetris and Pac-Man but with a serious undercurrent. This game is played with molotov cocktails, rubber bullets and is driven by youths fighting for their right to freedom. Sounds like serious stuff. While the photographer in me can’t help but be interested, my good sense, what little I have, says it’s best to steer clear. 

The second thing I’m certain about is that Hong Kong was known as a place to get cheap electronic goods.  I can’t help but get a little excited at the prospect of picking up the latest canon lens for a dirt cheap price and getting years of shooting pleasure out of it. This will of course have the effect of catapulting my images into the next stratosphere. Unfortunately, the reality is bound to be nothing like this at all. I fear that prices will not be as cheap as I hope, the bargains will elude me and my best bet will be to keep my pennies in my pocket! 

Thirdly, I’m certain Hong Kong wasn’t, then was, but now isn’t a British territory. I seem to remember it being returned to China in 1997 as part of a one hundred year loan agreement. To me, this sounds very much like wanting the lawn mower back you lent to the neighbors. Which I can understand, particularly if it’s one of those fancy ride-on ones. 

Upon entering the plane and having to hide my disappointment in not being able to sit with the pilots and help push buttons, I discover I’m sitting at the back of the plane. I also suddenly remember that the Hong Kong 7’s we’re an important fixture in the rugby calendar. This iconic event still maintains its place as an event on the global stage but unfortunately due to the now endless supply of rugby coverage it’s lost a little if it’s uniqueness. 

As I relax into my seat and settle in for the next 13 hours, I glance down at my phone to check it’s switched into aeroplane mode. I notice a new email has just popped up from Safe Travel. Pausing for a second, I dismiss it like all the rest when my gaze is drawn to the annoyed gentlemen from the boarding line with the over sized suitcase. He’s trying to get comfortable. Yet, he has two overly excited children bouncing on the seat in front of him. 

Woosung Street, Hong Kong. Buy

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Dear Mammy

Postcards From Ireland

Postcards from a travelling photographer discovering Ireland and connecting with some truly wonderful people along the way.

The RMS Titanic was the pride of Belfast in the years leading up to (and including) 1911.

Malahide Seawall and Beach, DublinDear Mammy [or insert own name here]
Had a very quiet New Years as we spent the day relocating from Shankill to Sandymount and collecting belongings from Malahide.  It’s nice to have all our gear back in one place. 
It was a beautiful New Years day here with almost a cloudless day. The temperature was around 10 to 12 degrees, very crisp but fine and clear. We’ve hardly had any rain since we’ve arrived. The weather is so mild no-one can believe it!
It was such a grand day today we went for a walk from Sandymount to Sean Moore Park in Dublin Bay and around to Poolbeg Lighthouse and back. Such a lovely place to visit, and a great stroll by the sea. There is even a little coffee van that serves hot drinks to keep you warm and hydrated. 
After such a splendid walk we definitely deserved a whiskey and beer. 
Hope you get some fine summer weather soon.
Love John


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Peace & Beauty In Dublin

Daniel of Dublin

Discovering a little peace and beauty in Dublin.

Amongst the jigsaw puzzle streets of Dublin that twist and turn across the city, you’ll find St Stephen’s Green. Undoubtedly one of the hearts of the Irish capital. While in Dublin, if you’re looking for a bit of  peace and beauty with a touch of tranquility then St Stephens Green is the place to head too. And within St Stephen’s Green, you’ll find a man called Daniel. 

If you take the entrance to the green via the top of Grafton Street, you’ll pass under the impressive Fusilier’s Arch that was built in 1907. The pleasant sights of lush green spaces, water stretching and bending out of sight and trees of all ages shading and arching over the many walkways. It was while slowly wandering around one of the many paths that loop back to Fusiller’s Arch that I spotted him, a man called Daniel. 

The few items that he was carrying with him were carefully placed on a park bench while he chatted to anyone who would stop by to talk. He was polite and friendly and spoke in a gravelly tone that told of a less than comfortable life on the streets of Dublin. He spoke of having many favourite spots in the city centre but this spot was by far his favourite. Manly because of how peaceful it is and the calmness of the place. Then just as he spoke they arrived, pigeons. Lots and lots of pigeons. 

It turns out that Daniel works for one of the homeless shelters in Dublin. Collecting money and donations, along with doing other ‘odds and ends’ that need to be done. But, what he really likes to do is feed the pigeons. As he threw seed out for them and gently poured it into the hands of strangers who stopped, the pigeons were quick to find the food source. In an instant, three to five pigeons were on heads, shoulders and arms, gently pecking. Suddenly, as quickly as they had arrived they were off into the sky. They swooped in a massive loop before landing in exactly the same spot and continuing their hunt for food.

Only then in the peace and beauty in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green did he ask for a small donation.

St Stephens Mall Buy

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Fairytale of Dublin

The Christmas Lights of Dublin

It’s Christmas evening in the Irish capital of Dublin. The temperature is now sitting on a chilly 5 degrees and the clock has just struck 9:30pm. A fire roars, spreading out heat and warmth to a room filled with good company, good food and plenty of laughter while talk turns to Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and the upcoming festivities. 

Across Dublin, the glow of the Christmas lights have long taken hold of the city of merriment and festive cheer. The streets surrounding Grafton Street and O’Connell bridge are decked out with twinkling lights of all shapes and sizes that make you stop and wonder while the air is filled of music coming from buskers up and down Dublin’s cobbled streets.

If you haven’t experienced a Northern Hemisphere winter Christmas then it really should be on your bucket list. Having grown up with Christmas in the summer, New Zealand traditions revolve around BBQ’s, trips to the beach. Relaxing in the long twilight hours with an ale or two until the Christmas lights take hold after 9pm or 10pm (ish). Christmas lights certainly give kiwi homes a very festive feel, but it’s not till you experience a city where nightfall takes hold around 4pm, that Christmas lights really make sense. People hurry from shop to shop filling their bags with last minute gifts or food items. People are warmed and brightened by the wonder of the Christmas lights on show. It’s in this moment that Christmas lights make sense.

Corner of Grafton and Annie Street Buy

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Dunedin’s Signs of Summer

Dunedin’s Mixed Bag

Sixteen days into Dunedin’s summer and it’s been a mixed bag of weather so far for those that call Dunedin home.

When the calendar switched from November to December and the seasons changed from spring to summer, the daylight hours got suddenly longer. The sun got a wee bit warmer and a renewed energy sprung into people’s step. While the change in season brought with it an optimistic energy, a hangover from spring’s traditional changeable weather remained.

In recent weeks, Dunedin has been bathed in deliciously hot sunshine, it has been wrapped in settled warm and calm weather, hit with high winds, heavy rain, hail and intense thunder and lightning storms. While the temperature has dropped as low as 10 degrees and risen to over 30 degrees, depending on where you are.

Dunedin’s Signs of Summer

The sign of Dunedin’s summer is ever present at the Botanical Gardens where the paths and gardens twist and turn through it’s 30 hectares of wonder and beauty. Every where you look there’s seasonal flowers in bloom showing off the bright freshness of summer.

The cafe’s and bars around the city have also taken on new life. In the early morning sunshine locals get into their morning exercise and enjoy a freshly brewed coffee. As the lunch time crowds extend into the afternoon, tables are full and bustling with life well into the evening hours.

St Clair esplanade takes on a fresh look in the change of seasons. The sea temperature rises, meaning the thicker winter wet suits are put aside for thinner summer suits. The local surf school also takes on a busier trade as visitors and locals try their hand in surf. Finally, the local surf living saving clubs have begun their daily patrols between the hours of 11am and 7pm.

Dunedin's Botanic GardensDunedin’s Botanical Gardens Buy

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Ida Valley Back Road

Ida Valley

This is the view of a storm moving up through the Ida Valley from the south from one of the back roads. Fortunately this time it moved on through without any major rain or wind however while it was passing through it was fairly impressive.

So this is me at the moment: I’m really enjoying exploring images that represent a place and time and hint at a human presence at the moment. Personally, I think that by capturing representations of human life that show the passing of time, it gives me a stronger inner connection to my own memories but it also allows me to connect and make sense of the world around me.

Ida Valley Back Road
Ida Valley Back Road
Ida Valley – 2014

Purchase Description:
Limited Edition Framed and Mounted Print of 20 .
Titled, numbered and signed.

Limited Edition Print of 20
Titled, numbered and signed.

Contact me for pricing and further details: [email protected]

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McNally Road

Ida Valley

There are an amazing amount of places and spots where you can stop and watch the world go by in the Ida Valley. No matter where you look the horizon seems to travel on forever.

So this is me at the moment: I’m really enjoying exploring images that represent a place and time and hint at a human presence at the moment. Personally, I think that by capturing representations of human life that show the passing of time, it gives me a stronger inner connection to my own memories but it also allows me to connect and make sense of the world around me.

McNally Road
McNally Road
Ida Valley – 2018

Purchase Description:
Limited Edition Framed of 20 .
Titled, numbered and signed.

Limited Edition Print of 20
Titled, numbered and signed.

Contact me for pricing and further details: [email protected]

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Old Fence Post in Long Grass.

Exploring

I’m really enjoying exploring images that represent a place and time and hint at a human presence at the moment. Personally, I think that by capturing representations of human life that show the passing of time, it gives me a stronger inner connection to my own memories but it also allows me to connect and make sense of the world around me.

Description:
Limited Edition Framed of 20 .
Titled, numbered and signed.

Limited Edition Print of 20
Titled, numbered and signed.

Contact me for pricing and further details: [email protected]

Old Fence Post in Long Grass.
Otago Peninsula – 2019 

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