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.
Last weekend I took a road trip out to Whatipu, at the very southern point of the Waitakeres with regular shooting buddy Sven (www.bokeh-monster.com), with no particular goal in mind other that to see what there was to photograph and hopefully get some nice light later in the afternoon. It is a bit of a long drive from the North Shore, and a rather hot day, but we eventually made it out there with some limited energy left to walk around and explore the quite wide open spaces out there. We started out at the campground end towards Paratutae island, but without much photographic luck in the bright sun. It was a longer walk than it first looked to the other end of the bay by Ninepin Rock, but the sun was getting lower by this time, and we had a lot more fun exploring the low sand dunes and scrubland next to the beach.
While we didn't discover any amazing new locations or photos, it was quite an interesting looking beach (although hardly any of my photos show the beach landscape itself!) and a good change from our usual beach visits to Muriwai. Looking at the map, it turns out we only explored the very Southern bay of the beach, which stretches all the way North up to Karekare, so there could well be some more trips out here and more to see. Although I did bring two shoefuls of sand back home last time, which I'm still enjoying.. next time I won't be wearing my street shoes!
Water levels were high at Lake Manapouri, the final stop on our winter roadtrip. Good news for power prices I assume, as the lake is connected to Manapouri Hydroelectric Power Station, the largest hydro station in NZ at 800MW capacity. When the power station was built there was a plan to raise lake levels by 30m, but the decade-long 'Save Manapouri' campaign prevented this and now the lake levels are tightly controlled near to their natural height. The Save Manapouri Campaign is considered one of the milestones in environmental protection in New Zealand. Of course at times of high rainfall and low consumption it gets pretty high, and this was nearly as high as it gets. I haven't been there before to see the normal level, but the semi-submerged picnic tables on the beach were a good clue.
We drove around the outside of the lake through the township and parked by the boat owned by Meridian Energy, which goes out to the power station. It was a pretty quiet day down by the lake, but patches of sun were coming out and it was quite pleasant to walk around and take some photos of the boat and the mist rising from the water. We ambled around for perhaps an hour before starting our journey back to Invercargill early enough so as not to be driving home through a snowstorm again in the dark!
The next part of our winter road trip through the snow got us to Te Anau, the main (only?) town on Lake Te Anau, one of the great lakes in Fiordland. The snow had barely reached ground level there, but there was a lot of low cloud and fog around, making quite a nice scene on the lack and in the mountains over the water. Took me a while to find the right topo map, but I think I was mostly looking at Jackson Peaks and Mt. Luxmore over the nearest park of the lake.
We walked around the near shore of the lake for some time, ducking into the visitors centre as a rain shower passed, and back outside into some small snow flurries. Being a weekday there wasn't much activity in this tourist town - although i expect it's more of a summer destination than a winter one. I ended up taking a lot of different photos of essentially the same scene of the clouds in the hilltops, but also tried to shoot a little fantail that was buzzing around us looking for food. After a hot lunch at the nearest pub restaurant we got back into the car to check out Lake Manapouri early enough so we wouldn't be driving home at night in the heavy snow.