Just Another Day In Godzone

Describing New Zealand in less than 400 words.

If I had to describe New Zealand to any overseas visitor, in 400 words or less, this would be it. 

The other day, on my drive home, I noticed that a neighbour had misplaced their house. After a few seconds of cognitive processing, I quickly detoured and headed around the block to check. My eyes sometimes play tricks on me and I suspected this was one of those times. I approached where my neighbour’s house used to be. I slowed down to ensure that there wasn’t some mirage in the evening sky. Nope, it was gone, the entire house. ‘How peculiar’ I thought to myself. ‘I’m sure it was there when I left for work this morning.’

After parking my car, I went for a walk. 30 seconds later I reached the empty lot. Not a soul was around. The entire house, foundations included had disappeared, evaporated in less than 24 hours. Left on the section, apart from a concrete pad and some rubble were two items. A BBQ and a picnic table. Thinking that David Blaine might be in town, and while checking that it wasn’t April the first, an elderly man walked past. 

“Lovely evening” he said, looking through the vacant lot towards the setting sun. Clearly, he wasn’t as bothered by an entire house disappearing from his neighbourhood as I was. 
“Are they rebuilding” I asked? Digging for information.
“Not sure, terrific view though” he added before continuing his walk. 

Just then, two youths of about 16 years of age, carrying rugby boots around their neck ambled past me bouncing a rugby ball between them. At the same time, a Mitsubishi land cruiser filled with surfboards and slightly older youths whizzed past in the same direction. It became obvious that I was the only one concerned that an entire house had suddenly vanished, leaving only a BBQ and a picnic table.

I headed home. The old man was right, it was a splendid evening. Just then, my taste buds informed me that it was beer o’clock. I wondered if they’d mind if I used their picnic table. After all, it has a stunning view!

Continue reading Just Another Day In Godzone
Please follow and like us:

No Chicken Lines

Even silence has a voice

Twice a year, there are times when photography and writing have to take a back seat. One is late June, early July and the other is early December. It’s no coincidence that these times are when school reports have to be written and assessment data analyzed. Unfortunately, these tasks have been occupying my time and mental capacity of late. However, last week I managed to put these tasks to bed and turned my attention back to my newly created ‘Jacinda’s Law’ and exploring Dunedin.

Jacinda’s law states; where possible, we are to get out and see our own backyard. With this in mind, I recently found myself walking up a misty and muddy track on one of Dunedin’s surrounding hills. The beautiful thing about Dunedin is that it’s relatively easy to escape onto a bush track or path. From the city center, you can be on a bush track in 10 minutes if you wish.

Engulfed in mist, the track I was now on twisted and stretched up into the forest. Initially looking like a vehicle access track, it quickly narrowed. Continuing, gently falling rain collected in the autumn leaves which had created a blanket on the narrow bridge. Wet and muddy, with rain running into a stream, the track continued until deep grooves started crisscrossing the trail before me.

Suspecting the trail …..

Suspecting the trail I was on was a mountain bike track, I now feared that I might get struck down at any moment without having the faintest idea of what hit me. Proceeding, but with a greater awareness of my surroundings, I continued on through the mist. I passed exit signs that read ‘No Entry, Rockin Roller Exit’ and ‘No Entry, Three Little Pigs Exit’. As I walked, it became clear that on this day, I had the area to myself. Feeling confident, and no longer worried about being bowled over by an adrenaline filled speed rocket, I continued. My concerns of having to arrive home with tyre makes across my back abated further when a sign appeared that read ‘No Chicken Lines, Don’t Ride Wet.’ Relieved, I spent the next hour exploring the surrounding tracks, jumps and paths that wound their way through the forest. 

Feeling wet, I made my way back to the car as the mist lifted and the rain got heavier. Once again reaching the small bridge, I couldn’t help but get distracted by a casually ambling stream. It appeared from the thick bush, ran under the bridge and continued on down the hillside. I stood listening to the sound of the stream bubbling over rocks and branches. For a moment I forgot about the Dunedin traffic noise. That’s the beauty of nature, even silence has a voice.

Continue reading No Chicken Lines
Please follow and like us:

A Rugged Paradise

Exhibition 2011

Back in mid 2010, I set myself the challenge of putting together a solo photographic exhibition to show case my work. Having no experience in setting up shows whatsoever, I naively thought it would simply be a case of choosing a few images, buying some frames, finding a display space and inviting a few friends. The reality was very different. I quickly found myself conversing with professional art dealers in topics I had never thought of, thinking about art in a whole new way and the very being of who I am, challenged. What follows is a rerelease of my 2011 exhibition, A Rugged Paradise.

Welcome, I am pleased to present to you the inaugural solo photographic exhibition by John Caswell, released in October 2011. The exhibition features beautiful crafted landscape images from around the Dunedin are. The exhibition draws providence from ‘The Rugged Paradise’ that the early Scottish settlers found when they landed in Dunedin (New Edinburgh) in 1841. 

Traveling slightly off the beaten track, over 26 contemporary photographs are on display, ranging from the Otago Peninsula and travelling down the east coast to St Clair and beyond, as well as venturing inland over the Taieri Plans and through the Dunedin Bush. 

This exposition celebrates the rocky, harsh, yet beautiful place that is Dunedin.

Wooden Poles On St Clair BeachWooden Poles On St Clair Beach (St Clair Beach, 2010).

Continue reading A Rugged Paradise
Please follow and like us:

A Walk On The Beach

A Big Adventure In Familiar Surroundings

We’ve been told constantly that exercise is good for us and to walk in your local area. With this in mind and a clear sky above me, I set out for the beach. 

Whenever I go to the beach I can always be assured of one underlying fact. A fact and event so simple it hardly seems worth mentioning. Yet, each time this event happens, my annoyance with myself for letting it occur is only ever matched by my surprise that it has happened at all. No matter how careful I am, no matter how much pre-thought and planning I put in, it always eventuates. And, to make matters worse, the severity of the event will proceed anything else that has happened. I once became so fixated at a local beach trying to avoid this event that I almost stepped onto a fur seal. I can tell you that having a close encounter with an angry fur seal is not a pleasant experience and one that makes you check your underwear afterwards! This cruel and seemingly unavoidable event is of course, getting my shoe and sock wet. Not both, that I could handle. One. It’s only ever a single shoe and sock that gets completely submerged before requiring two days drying time. It’s my beach affliction. 

Knowing that I wanted to keep my feet dry for as long as possible, my planned route would be to take the local streets to the St Clair Esplanade, then venture back via St Clair, Middle and St Kilda Beaches. The grand total of this walk I calculated afterwards was just over 9 kilometres. With the prospect of spending most of the walk with a wet shoe and sock not too enticing, I elected for a return path along the beach, thus ensuring I would have at least half the distance with dry foot wear.  

I set off from the top of Tahuna Road and walked at a brisk pace down a hill that leads past many typical New Zealand quarter-acre sections that were filled with all the sights and sounds of Kiwi’s doing a bit of DIY on a long weekend. Things like water blasting, trimming hedges, mowing lawns, painting the fence, trimming trees. Possibly everything I should have been doing rather than being out walking. 

At this point, at the bottom of the hill, Tahuna Road changes to Victoria Road. I can’t be too sure this applies to all areas of New Zealand or even Dunedin for that matter, but the one aspect of my local area that I often lament over are the street names. Titles such as Tanui, Tahuna, Aotea and Tomahawk have an interesting appeal but the area is also surrounded by streets with names such as Royal Crescent, Queens Drive, King Edward Street and Prince Albert Road. All good names that reflect our colonial heritage but all fairly unimaginative. I often wish that town planners had put a bit more creativity into their street names, like in Sioux City, Iowa which has a street called ‘One Fun Place’ that leads directly to the Jolly Time Popcorn factory or ‘Chicken Dinner Road’ in Idaho. 

As the street started to flatten out, more pondering over local government decisions greeted me with the curious town planning of locating a bowls club, a golf course and an A & P Showgrounds encircling a waste water sewage treatment plant. Many of these decisions had of course been made at the turn of the 1900 century (or thereabouts) and weren’t made with modern day hindsight. Further to this curiosity is the fact that Tahuna Park (formally the A & P show grounds) has the distinction of being an international test rugby venue.

You wouldn’t give it a second glance heading past, but on the 27th August 1905, New Zealand hosted Australia there. The fact the match was played at all was a miracle. The test was originally scheduled to be played across town at Carisbrook but so heavy was the rain and atrocious the weather leading up to match day the test was about to be scrapped when a city wide hunt for a playable surface was found at Tahuna Park. Reportedly around 3000 people flocked to the ground to see New Zealand win their 3rd ever test match 14 to 7. It must surely be one of the unlikeliest international test rugby venues in history. There can’t be too many right beside a poo-plant either I would imagine.

Now continuing on and leaving the area of Tainui and St Kilda behind I headed for St Clair and the Esplanade. The one thing I can say is that Dunedinites are an amazingly friendly lot. As I walked through neighbourhoods decorated in bears, chocolate easter eggs and colouring competitions in the window, every person I met gave me a friendly wave and hello. It really is a pleasant feeling to be out walking on a sunny day being passed by people who are as friendly to you, as you are to them. Just as I received another friendly ‘good morning’ I crossed a roundabout that signals that end of Victoria Road, and turned left, through a traffic-less round about and headed for a few steps towards the social hub of the Esplanade of St Clair.

There are few sadder sights than beachfront bars and restaurants closed when they are drenched in warm sunlight on a long weekend. Having arrived at St Clair, it was hard not to notice the emptiness of the place.  Usually on a day like this establishments placed on the Esplanade such as Salt, Starfish, The Esplanade and The Spirit House would be full of customers from dusk to dawn. Today however, I slowly ambled past the shut signs, the Covid 19 enforced closure clearly having an effect on the local economy. Continuing on past signs the advertisements for Steinlager Pure Beer, Roaring Meg Pinot Noir, Shared Platters, Asahi Dry Beer, Kapiti Ice Cream and A Winter Wetsuit Sale. I shook off the sudden urge for a swim, a beer and a bite to eat and continued along the Esplanade.  

As biased as I am, I must confess that I think St Clair beach is a delightful place. At low tide you can walk from the Salt Water Pool and the rocks on the point all the way to Lawyers Head. A distance of some 3.5 kilometers of white, sandy beach. On this day, there was only a very gentle and light onshore breeze, the clear water reflecting the sun and footprints in the sand seemingly going on forever. It was what locals call a dunnerstuner. As I took in the smell of the salt air and the sound of a child asking for an ice cream while determinedly announcing they weren’t walking any further by sitting down, I viewed where my journey home would take me, along the beach. With the rolling rhythmic tone of the waves being drowned out by a child who was no longer sitting but being carried and now more sure than ever that they did indeed want an ice cream, I headed down to the beach. 

To get to the beach I needed to navigate down a short flight of stairs and step on the beach via a small set of rocks. Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, I carefully took stock of the situation, picked the easiest and safest path from the stairs, to the rock, to the beach and sprang forward. My first step went as planned, I landed on my right foot and quickly continued my momentum forward, pushing off again from the rock as soon as I had landed and stretched out my left foot, preparing for a safe beach landing. No! Instead my left foot went straight into an unseen puddle of water that the tide had left behind, engulfing my shoe, sock, ankle – the lot. I stood looking at the dripping mess that was now my left foot. Then up at the long stretch of beach ahead of me. I sighed and set off. The child’s screams for ice cream having been replaced with the squelching of my left foot. 

One of the fascinating aspects of Dunedin beaches is the increasing wildlife population that can be seen. A walk on the beach at any time can result in fur seals, penguins and all sorts of other bird life being spotted. Only a few weeks ago dolphins were spotted from this very beach and in 2016 a grouping of rare Shepherd’s Beaked Whales was also spotted just off the coast, causally drifting past. On this occasion I wasn’t so fortunate to spot any of the aforementioned species, I did spot something that is nevertheless as intriguing. A former rubbish dump being exposed from erosion. When the decision was made to create this landfill over a hundred twenty years ago it seems that everything washing into the sea can’t have been high on the agenda. 

Now, some 100 years later after the dump was capped and turned into playing fields known as Kettle Park, parts of it appear to be one good storm away from collapsing and crumbling onto the beach. In 2007, when parts of the landfill became exposed, tests found traces of arsenic, asbestos and other industrial chemicals in nearby sand dunes. An ongoing tribute to the genius idea of putting a landfill beside a beach, what could possibly go wrong! 

My beach walk eventually came to an end at Lawyers Head, my squelching foot now having collected what seemed like half the sand on the beach. It’s called Lawyers Head because the profile of this large land promontory is meant to look like a lawyer in traditional legal wig. I’m not sure where the person was standing when they came up with this idea, but it certainly isn’t anywhere close to a vantage point I’ve had. The last leg of my walk took me over the fairways of Chisholm Park and into the local cemetery. 

As home came into sight at the top of the hill, I passed timeworn headstones with names such as Reginald, Ferdinand, Gertrude, Linford, Ike, Desmond and Fanny on them. It was then that I noted that the noise of DIY jobs like water blasting, trimming hedges, mowing lawns, painting the fence and trimming trees had ended. I thought about my own list of jobs, most of which had been started but not finished. I then remembered the unwritten Kiwi male law that states I’m allowed to finish these jobs, when I get around to it. 

St Kilda, Middle and St Clair Beach from Lawyers Head.

Continue reading A Walk On The Beach
Please follow and like us:

Keep 2 Metre’s Away From This Blog – It Need’s Safety Too!

The Socially Distant Shopper

It’s not often I’m allowed to go grocery shopping for our household these days, you see, I have history with Supermarkets. It’s not that I’ve been completely banned by my family from stepping foot on the premises, it’s just that it’s better for all concerned if I don’t go. To be clear, I am entrusted to pick-up small amounts of items that are essential to the evening’s meal, and beer. But nothing more beyond that. 

Kiwi chef Simon Gault often speaks about adding 5% magic to dishes to really elevate it and give it WOW factor. My banishment from the weekly shop started with this very premise, adding 5% magic. Originally, some years back during the regular weekly shop I added a few extra, carefully chosen items to the trolley to add that 5% magic to one of the weekly meals. I then repeated this the next time I went grocery shopping, once again adding a few extra, carefully chosen items to the trundler to elevate one of the nightly dishes. This process then continued for some time, with me adjusting the list accordingly as I went and occasionally coming home with more items that weren’t on the list than were. 

The second to last straw came one day when I arrived home and started unpacking the grocery bags out of the car.
“Where are the rest?” my wife said.
To which I responded “what do you mean? This is it”. 

The next short while was spent with myself having to explain how in fact it is humanly possible to spend such a large amount on so few items and still manage to forget essentials like toilet paper, bread, milk or 95% of the other items I went out to get.

The final straw in my banishment from the weekly shop came after my invention of the sport ‘grocery item tower-building’. After a lengthy absence from the shop floor, I was once again entrusted with the food gathering task. Off I went, list in hand, my wife accompanying me and acting as chaperone to ensure I brought something that was edible for all and stuck somewhat closely to a budget. Having successfully negotiated all the aisles, I added a few last minute items (that would definitely add 5% magic) before proceeding to the checkout. Upon arrival at the checkout, I then proceeded to build a tower with our grocery items on the conveyor belt. The object here being to build the highest possible tower without it falling over when the conveyor belt is moved.  My tower, having reached ten items high, unfortunately proceeded to crash to the ground and all over the counter when forward movement was applied. The imploding tower resulted in two things. Firstly, my grocery item tower-building personal best of nine items still stood, and my banishment from the weekly grocery shop. 

Here, many years later on a windy Saturday morning, my first trip anywhere in a week, I found myself standing in line outside Countdown. List in hand, once again being entrusted with the weekly shop. I can thank PM Jacinda Ardern for this turn of events. “Shop normally,” she said.” I was also told that it would do my mental health the world of good to venture out. So off I was sent with the mission of doing the weekly shop. 

The line to gain access to Countdown stretched all the way through the carpark and almost out to the footpath. Maybe it was it an early morning for us all, maybe it was the cold wind, maybe there was a sign saying ‘no talking or smiling while in line’ that I had missed or maybe everyone else wasn’t as excited as me. Upon joining the end of the queue, I copied what was clearly the expected protocol and stood in silence. The hushed stillness was deafening. Once and a while we’d all take two steps forward, inching closer to the main door yet keeping a good 2 metre gap. The somber and bleak line continued to inch forward at regular 2 metre intervals with the occasional break in silence coming from the sound of a car heading past or someone questioning if we were allowed to bring our own bags, if we had to wear face masks or if they were handling cash? For the greatest time, I couldn’t put my finger on what the mournful feeling reminded me of when the answer suddenly appeared in the wind. It was like being back at school. Everyone lined up waiting to be told off by the principal. I found myself imagining an irate Cabinet Minister stomping up and down the line, telling everyone off for not shopping properly and stating that this is what it’s going to be like until we prove we could shop properly. Again we stepped forward, one person entering as one person exited, eagerly waiting our turn, list tightly gripped. 

The next 40 minutes was one of the most unique shopping experiences I will encounter. Everyone walked around in silence, some with gloves and mask, some taking their time soaking up every ounce of time allowed out, others racing around the aisles like Lewis Hamilton through the chicanes at Monte Carlo. My second stop, after the beer, was the fruit and vegetable section. It seems that the 2 metre rule doesn’t apply when you’re choosing your capsicums, lettuce, cauliflower or beans! My first listed item was cauliflower. Having scanned the surrounding area and establishing a healthy 2 metre gap between myself and one other person, I went for it. With only four left I was quite delighted to be able to add one to my trolley when suddenly a hand appeared. Out of nowhere my trolley collected a heavy bump, shifting me sideways a bit and a wrinkled old hand, covered in rings and bracelets suddenly grabbed two of the four and disappeared. Before I could gather my senses, another one disappeared, from my left hand side this time. I quickly grabbed the single remaining cauliflower and retreated. What I proceeded to watch was people applying the ‘dive in out out quickly’ method to grab their chilled vegetables. No patience, no 2 metre gap, similar to a six kid lolly scramble that had got slightly out of control.

Fortunately, the rest of the shop was calmer. Casually being able to amble through the isles adjusting the list accordingly as I went. The empty shelves meaning my family didn’t have to worry about extra items being added for that 5% magic. The biscuit aisle seemed to be another hotspot where large groups of people had obviously decided to risk it and break the 2 metre rule. Fortunately my list didn’t have them on it and on I went to the baking aisle where a barren shelf greeted me, only an empty space left where the High Grade Flour used to be. With that being the only item on my list not to be crossed off, I paid and headed out the door. 
Feeling very impressed with my ability to stick to a list and stick to a budget without adding extra items, my mind turned towards packing. I was suddenly drawn to a halt by the lady in front. In one motion she had instantly frozen and clicked her fingers.
“Oh shoot” she said, the jingling sound of her bracelets catching my ear and eye as her wrinkled old hand covered in rings clicked her fingers.
“I forgot high grade flour” she added to no-one in particular. I smiled to myself, recognising her from the Cauliflower invasion. I paused, thought for a second, looked at my Cauliflower then watched her join the end of the queue via a detour to her car. It seems being kind and patient has its rewards I thought, my shopping trip having been made a little better.

Song of the Autumn LightQueens Drive, The Town Belt, Dunedin (2013).

Continue reading Keep 2 Metre’s Away From This Blog – It Need’s Safety Too!
Please follow and like us:

Thus Sang The Jolly Autumn

To Dunedin’s Autumn Song

If we could somehow bring William Thomson back to life, what would surprise him most- apart from being here at all – would be to find the wonderful and delightful area Dunedin’s town belt has grown into.

But, who is William Thomson? Well I didn’t know either until recently, but it transpires he was, above many other things, a lover of trees! He loved trees so much in planted many in the town belt around the area of Olveston. While he wasn’t solely responsible for all the trees in the town belt, he is responsible for many in the area. 

In actual fact the town belt in Dunedin is one of New Zealand’s oldest reserves and is only one of three Victorian town belts in the world. Such is the importance of the town belt to Dunedin, the planning of it started on a map in Scotland that was probably stretched out over an old wooden table before settlers arrived in the 1840’s. As Dunedin grew as a city and the gold rush took hold, there became a need to protect and develop it’s green spaces which is where the Dunedin Amenities Society comes into the picture. By the end of 1888 the Society had 245 members (one of whom was William Thomson) and sought to involve itself in conservation and development of the new city including the town belt. 

Skip forward to the year 2020 and at this time of year the temperature drops, the winds pick up and the town belt starts to take on a splendour of colour as the leaves change and eventually float to the ground forming a crunchy blanket on the ground. It’s one of Dunedin’s glorious (and often forgotten) places. William Thomson would be proud of his trees. 

The Town Belt, Dunedin 

Continue reading Thus Sang The Jolly Autumn
Please follow and like us:

A Cultural Guardian

The Dunedin Kuri

One of the genuinely pleasant aspects of living in Dunedin is that not only are you never too far from anything, but you’re more than likely to bump into people you know at the same time. Usually these random social meetings are an altogether delightful experience as you exchange details about the wonderful spell of weather, how much the kids have grown up and if you are still working at your previous place of employment. I myself had such an encounter down at the esplanade recently when a voice called out to me, which turned out to be a local car dealer who sold me my Hyundai. After a few moments of conversation, I brought up the fact that the am radio frequency seems to drop dramatically in quality when heading out of town, to which he said he’d ‘look into it and get in touch. At the time, I remember thinking how appropriate it was that I was now asking questions about my vehicle, when at the time of sale, all we seemed to discuss was the fortunes of the Highlanders. It’s random social interactions like these that can be a blessing, if like me, you’ve still got jobs sitting on your ‘todo’ list that have been there since before Christmas, 2018!

What does astound me however is my constant ability to forget that places in Dunedin even exist. If I was living in a city the size of London or New York then this would be explainable. I’m certain that everyday in London people open the bent and heavily leafed pages of their A to Z guide discovering places that they had never heard of like Bollocks Terrance, Ha Ha Road and Hanging Sword Alley before popping into an equally unknown pub that is 400 years old and has the word white, king, royal or crown in its title. In Dunedin however, with a population of just 130, 000 I’m not so sure that’s as forgivable. By comparison, Dunedin’s population is the same size as Tonbridge and Malling in Kent and slightly larger than the English county of Cambridgeshire. Having made these discoveries, my astonishment turned to the realisation that maybe I need to get out more.

Having made the firm decision to get out around Dunedin, I turned my attention to finding one of the many art sculptures that are strategically located around the city that I haven’t visited recently. One that had been sitting on my mind was the Kuri/Dog sculpture. I eventually ended up at a place that I remembered having forgotten about, the Otago Yacht Club. If you’ve never been there it’s tucked behind some industrial buildings near Forsyth Barr Stadium and is home to not only a marina but a number of rowing clubs and a squash court. It also has a lovely running and biking track that in one direction takes you back towards the Harbour basin and the other along the harbour to the suburbs of Ravensbourne and Maia and Port Chambers. Once I arrived and abandoned my car I decided on two facts. The first being that on a fine, still day it would be an extremely tranquil and calm place to walk, bike or read the day away. The second being that if the wind was blowing hard down the harbour, it could be an extremely exposed and cold place to be. I, of course, had chosen the latter of these two days to visit. 

My visit to such a location on such a windy day hadn’t been by choice, more bad judgement. Knowing full well that the sculpture wouldn’t be hard to find I spent some time wandering in and out of the various boat clubs, moorings and rowing sheds. After a good twenty to thirty minutes of curiously wandering I deduced that I know absolutely nothing about sailing and my personal vocabulary of nautical terms is extremely limited. I’m certain I would be of no use on a sailing ship and even less use in a pub quiz team specialising in nautical terminology. Having searched all the places in the immediate surroundings, I headed for my goal. A 3m-high sculpture by Stephen Mulqueen called Kuri/Dog which looks up towards the harbour entrance as a cultural guardian looking after Dunedin and the surroundings. 

Now I don’t know about you, but this sculpture makes me smile for some unexplained reason. It also makes me wonder if Tonbridge and Malling in Kent has a large Dog sculpture looking out for its residents or maybe some other oversized animal artwork? It was at this point that I decided that I definitely need to get out more.


Kuri/Dog Sculpture – Order Print

Continue reading A Cultural Guardian
Please follow and like us:

The Recap

Shoot, Edit, File and Repeat

Over the last week I’ve spent a lot of time working on images and writing from the Spartan’s charity rugby tournament I shot over the weekend. Here are a few excepts from my Tape, Boots and Beer blog.

* * *

I arrived at around 8:30am and now some 7 hours later I was starting to feel weary. It wasn’t the feeling of weariness that comes as a result of being tired or bored. Like having to listen to another ‘what happened last night’ on the Bachelorette conversation or having to listen to a Simon Bridges interview. This was the all over body weariness you get when you know that if you sit down, you just won’t get up.  

With camera in hand, I sat down (taking the risk and knowing full well that this could been a fatal mistake) behind the goal line and waited for the lineout. It wasn’t that the Women’s final unfolding in front of me wasn’t interesting, very far from it. It was a thoroughly enthralling final, it was just the fact that 7 hours of shooting was now catching up with me.

As players started to gather in front of me, the sunburn on my neck was starting to sting, likewise the tip of my nose. My legs were starting to feel heavy and I was now operating with a definite fatigue in my step. All this and I hadn’t even played a game of rugby! In this instant the thought suddenly crossed my mind that maybe I need to participate in some preseason training instead of shooting it. Realising that this was most definitely a thought to not dwell on, I let it pass and returned my attention to the lineout in front of me and the cold Speight’s that awaited me.

* * *

I quite enjoy shooting in the rain, it makes for interesting results. Plus you have to work harder for your shots so there’s a sense of satisfaction if you grab a quality image. I’ve certainly found a few surprises on the SD card after working in the rain that I’ve been very happy with. But, I’ve also had my share of wet weather days when it all seemed a waste of time! The other dynamic when shooting in the rain is that fact that it is just harder and more fiddly.

Fortunately none of this applied on Saturday. When it’s wet you have to keep everything dry along with yourself as well as try to find locations to shoot from. By happy chance the weather was stunning for the Spartan 10’s meaning no restrictive wet weather gear, no needing to dry off, and no needing to find shelter. Believe me, I really do like the challenge of wet weather however on Saturday all I had to do was shoot, edit, file, eat a Lions Burger and repeat. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday really.

* * *

Lest We Forget – Order Print

Continue reading The Recap
Please follow and like us:

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

Continue reading A Belfast Love Story

Please follow and like us:

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

Continue reading The Octagon Experience

Please follow and like us: