A quiet Sunday, a need to get out of the house, and a long time since I last went to Muriwai lead to a quick trip to check out the sunset. It started out promisingly, but a band of clouds killed off any real sunset opportunities. So I just ambled around the rocks at the base of the Gannet colony, checking out some of the interesting textures and the few people still out fishing. Quick post for a quick shoot, because I'll forget about it if I don't do it now..
Shipwreck Bay is on the outskirts of Bluff, at the bottom of the South Island. I spent part of a day with my friend Blaine walking around the bay and Bluff township. The bay is filled with wrecks of old steam ships, most of which have rotted down to skeletons and the odd piece of steel, or in one case a whole steam boiler sitting among the wooden spars. We also checked out the fishing pier and factory at Bluff, where I assume the famous oysters are landed..
Bluff town itself is pretty (very) quiet, but with a few interesting old buildings in various states of repair. I also took the opportunity while down south to check out the town of Riverton, and the adjacent rocky beaches of the Rocks and Colac Bay. The beaches themselves are pretty rough, which made for some interesting images with the surf crashing into the steeply sloped shores.
The big idea was to head out again to the 'wild' west coast, to Muriwai beach, one of our regular and favourite locations, in the afternoon before Cyclone Pam was due to strike NZ. We were hoping for dramatic skies, and both Sven and I had dreams of long-exposure landscapes with clouds streaking across the frame. This was not to be, unfortunately, as Pam veered out to sea a bit and hardly touched NZ. After giving up on our first plans, we instead played around in the sand dunes and also the edges of Woodhill forest.
I had a good time playing with a recent acquisition - a 1970's era Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AI lens, which as well as being dirt cheap is also excellent for shooting video due to the smooth and direct manual focus ring. Most modern lenses are terribly difficult to manually focus, and are not at all repeatable shot-to-shot when filming video, so collecting vintage lenses is both very worthwhile and significantly cheaper than modern options. Even though I bought it for video, it still takes quite an admirable image in still photography too. It is a bit soft wide open at f/1.4, but very sharp from f/2 onwards, and even the soft vintage look wide open can be fun sometimes too.
Lens geekery aside, it is always good to get outdoors and explore places with a camera, even when it's a location we've visited many times before. This time we pushed a bit further up the beach onto the horse tracks, and around the edge of the forest in parts we'd quickly walked past before. Just goes to show there is always something new to see if you look hard enough, which is not always easy to do in familiar locations.
English beaches always surprise me with just how much 'stuff' is on them. In New Zealand, beaches are basically sand + water, maybe a cafe up the road if you're lucky (not counting Mission Bay or Takapuna of course). But at Weymouth, there are a million beach chairs for hire, changing sheds, rental paddle boats and kayaks, organised games of football and volleyball, fairground rides, minigolf and even Punch & Judy is still around. Maybe I'm spoiled by the large amount of sandy real estate on our beaches, but in summer Weymouth is packed almost from edge to edge. Not quite Copacabana, but far beyond what Muriwai looks like even in the peak of summer.
All this action on the beach does make for interesting sight seeing and people watching, and in fact I made the video above to show a bit more what it looks like in person. And for something to do to keep me entertained for an hour or two one afternoon. These pictures look quite different to those from my last visit in the UK winter, which you can see here. I also enjoyed checking out the old fashioned Punch and Judy show, which i guess is quite an idiosyncratic British type thing.
Not much more to say about this really... just a selection of images to show Weymouth in all it's summer glory. Definitely a lot more going on here in summer rather than winter, and a lot more pleasant to walk around and explore. Check out the previous blog post for a quick history lesson about Weymouth including the royal holiday visits from King George, making this one of the first modern tourist destinations. Oh, and potentially the site where the Black Death first reached the UK!
After a day on Jersey island, we caught the next leg of the ferry to St. Malo, in Brittany, France. St. Malo is a walled and fortified city which was notorious for piracy and independence, as home to the Corsairs - French privateers who attacked and captured merchant ships of enemy countries. In the middle ages the whole town was given the right of asylum, encouraging all sorts of theives and dodgy sorts to move in. It is quite pleasant now however, and a popular tourist destination - supposedly the population goes from 50k to almost 200k in summer! It was very interesting to walk around the old city ramparts, and also to check out the fortified islands and swimming beaches which only appear at low tide due to the massive tidal change of up to 12 metres! The whole beach and rocks around the outside of the walls in these pictures are completely under water about half of every day, meaning you best time your swimming to suit.
There were plenty of interesting spots to explore around the old city, both inside the walls and out. It was amazing how far the tide dropped, revealing lots of features that were completely covered before, including a long walkway from the bottom of the walls out to the larger island (Grand Bé). There are even signs warning you off from attempting to cross the walkway once the rising water reaches its edges, as it rises so fast you will be washed away - in which case you have to spend the night on the barren island, or else hope for a kindly boat passing near.
The Ile du Grand Bé also holds the gravesite of famous French author, diplomat and politican François-René de Chateaubriand, also now the namesake of his favourite cut of beef - and more than one restaurant and hotel in St. Malo! The inside of the walled city was very busy with tourists, a high concentration of cafes, restaurants, gelato shops and some normal high street stores, as well as a few sights such as the Cathedral of St. Vincent. Very pretty inside, but for some reason they seem to have built the end wall a bit crooked! It's not just my photo making it look wonky.
We also visited St. Servan, a former fishing village and now outer suburb of St. Malo. Another few little bays to check out and a good point to stop at a cafe and order Cafe au Lait in broken French.
'Durdle Door' is a hilarious sounding feature of the 'Jurassic Coast' - which a stretch of the southern cost of England on the English Channel, in Dorset. The Jurassic coast is a World Heritage site, consisting of limestone cliffs and natural features spanning 180 million years from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The coast also includes Lulworth Cove (which I'm yet to visit) and the Isle of Portland, which is near Weymouth, where my parents are currently working. At the end of this trip to Germany, I visited my Dad on the way home as he had just landed in Weymouth, and we checked out some of the local scenery.
Durdle Door was really interesting to visit - I'd heard the funny sounding name before but didn't really know what it was - but it's a big limestone archway poking out into a bay, accessed down a moderately steep track on private (opened to public) farmland. I got a little too brave with the (tiny) waves coming into the bay trying to get the right low-angle shot and got nice cold, wet feet which amused my Dad. English seaside in November isn't that warm! According to wikipedia, Durdle is from Old English 'thirl' meaning bore or drill. So that's a handy fact for today's photo set.
Portland is another a reasonably big island connected to the mainland by a long causeway, and the harbour was used to shelter ships of the Royal Navy for over 500 years, and a major embarkation point for the Allies on D-Day. The Navy base shut up shop after the cold war, and it seems the last thing of interest to happen there was hosting the sailing events of the 2012 Olympic Games.
The southernmost tip of the island is called the 'Portland Bill', and hosts a reasonably well known lighthouse, built in 1906, striped red and white and often photographed. I was there just around sunset, and there were several 'real' photographers already there setting up tripods. But I was just touristing rather than seriously photographing so didn't hang around that long. Plus it was cold.
There are a couple of other lighthouses further up the hill, both built in 1716, and now repurposed as a bird watching station and holiday cottages. Also somebody built a big white Obelisk on the edge of the cliff in 1844 to warn away ships, but I'm not sure why, with 2 lighthouses already there. I don't imagine a big stone being that much more effective! Overall, this part of the coast was quite interesting - not much going on in town, but definitely some nice old things to walk around and explore and photograph.