New Zealand Road Trip 1

17 March 13

Posted at 8:08

On December 28th 2012 we set off on a swift three week road trip around New Zealand. In hindsight three weeks is not enough time at all but we will return. I last went to New Zealand about 15 years ago visiting the usual tourist venues, Rotarura, Auckland and Queenstown spending the majority of time in Queenstown. This time I wanted to see more of the country at a slower pace so decided to rent a camper van. I hoped to capture  some good landscape images on my travels.

First things first. This was to be home for the next three weeks.

The Van 

Fiat Ducato

Well it's a Fiat Ducato but had a strong resemblence to a Ford Transit. This was to be home for three weeks and I have to say it was remarkably comfortable. Once we got used to battening down the hatches before setting off it was great. Well the was a minor mishap but I'll save that for a future blog. We flew intop Auckland at some unearthly hour, hung around for six hours and caught a flight down to Christchurch, on the South Island where we took possession of the camper van. Without any delay we set off for our first destination, Oamaru.

Oamaru is famous for three things, Limestone, Penguins and Steampunk.When deciding to visit Oamaru I was only aware of one of these, penguins. I though it would be great to photograph the worlds biggest colony of Blue Penguins as they made their nightly return from the ocean to their nest sites in Oamaru. But first of all - limestone...

The Woolstore Oamaru

Omaru The Woolstore

Oamaru is built of limestone. It is quaried at Weston, near Oamaru, and is used in buildings throughout the South Island and further afield.

Oamaru is also famed for Steampunk

Steampunk HQ

This is the Steampunk HQ. An exhibition of some fantastic creations. Each year there is a Steampunk festival, creations, music, fashion and partying. See this video on the   Steampunk festival.

Oamaru has given itself over to Steampunk in a big way.

Steampunk

But as I said earlier I came to see the penguins. Shock, horror, when I arrived at the nest site two things struck me. First of all it is highly commercialised. The nest site has been developed and protected. From a conservation point of view the nest site is protected and the colony has survived and grown as a result. But as the blue penguins instinctively return at nightfall to their nest site they are more or less entering an 'open zoo'. The second thing was that photography is BANNED! Hang on a minute, I came here to photograph the blue penguins. I was advised over and over that photography 'harms the penguins'. Excuse me Oamaru - it doesn't!. Flash may well harm the penguins and would certainly startle them and deter them from returning to their nest sites but that's flash and not photography. Yes I understand that some tourists probably can't even control the flash on their camera and some will still ignore the warnings about not using flash. The authorities in Oamara prefer to police the use of cameras with an attitude similar to the Gestapo than to seek ways to prevent the use of flash. I wanted to see the penguins what ever so I refrained from my usual rebel approach and fell in line. As dusk closed in I did manage a few shots before the penguins approached.

Omaru Breakwater

This is the breakwater pre dusk with a colony of Cormorants sunning themselves at the end. they stay there until just before dark when they leave and the penguins arrive.

Omaru Dusk

A later shot from the penguin viewing point. The last I could take before being 'arrested' for using a camera!

Omaru Gull

Photography did this gull no damage a little earlier in the evening.

Omaru Bay

and here is a shot again from earlier taken from the highest point in Oamaru overlooking the bay with the penguin nest sites hidden behind those trees on the right.

Kiwi

My penultimate shot of Oamaru is a local reciting songs and poetry of the region on a Sunday morning in Old Oamaru. It's a really pleasent place to visit and to stay for a couple of days. I'd love to be there at the Steampunk Festival. Unfortunately the over commercialisation of the penguin colony and their nonsense attitude to photography left a hint of a bad taste. Having said that I'd visit there again if for nothing else than breakfast at The Roost Cafe  divine food, coffee to die for and excellent service..

The Roost Cafe

Coming up in road trip 2 - Lake Wanaka, diesel in the water system and some interesting images, look out for it soon.

 

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State Education

13 March 13

Posted at 5:57

I'm sure you've heard it at some time or other. How bad our state education system is. How our inner city, multi ethnicity schools are out of control, poor teachers, standards and so on. I don't often see the system first hand so my information comes from various second hand sources. Well today I had the privilege to shoot a workshop being attended by around 30 pupils from a West London lower school in what would be described as a deprived area. If you look at my blog regularly you will be aware that I often take on photography projects for Foundations UK   a charity aimed at guiding young people to sustainable health. Often I work with children and adults with learning difficulties or severe disadvantages but occasionally, like today, I photograph workshops around cooking and healthy eating with mainstream school children. Today's workshop was run by another charity, intouniversity  and supported by Foundations staff ( and indeed some Princes Trust volunteers) for the food preparation and cooking sessions. The workshop was held in a church hall so was a trip out of school for the children.

I am not blogging on the actual workshop, maybe another time, and I only have one image to share today (so hardly a photo blog!). I just want to comment on the experience I had as it differs so much from the common perception of state schools in our cities today. As I said earlier I was photographing just the food preparation activity. I was with the kids, their teachers and volunteers for around three hours. The children were incredibly well behaved, courteous and very enthusiastic. They were the melting pot mix of ethnic origins that you would expect in West London. Their communications skills in English were simply excellent without exception. Halfway through the session there was a break and the children had their packed lunches. Again I'll blow away another myth, their lunches consisted of what I would describe as healthy and balanced and, other than some not chosing to eat the crusts on sandwiches,everything was consumed. I chatted with some of the children as they ate their lunch, mainly about the workshop and I answered questions about my camera. As the room was tidied up in preparation for the afternoon session I noticed this girl...

Untitled

....she appeared to be diligently reading a Spanish/English dictionary, of her own accord, as the children relaxed post their lunch. I asked her if she was learning Spanish and if she spoke any other languages. She is eleven years old. I was amazed when she told me, in her perfect English, that she was fluent in Arabic and French in addition to English (which she didn't class as a language as she saw it as her 'Mother toungue'). I was amazed and really impressed. A bunch of such highly motivated, educated and balanced children from  a state school in an inner city. You'll never read this in the Daily Mail so I thought I'd give it a mention here. Big respect to the communities, teachers and young generation in West London and of course to Foundations UK and intouniversity

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Zara Kershaw

10 March 13

Posted at 2:38

Last week I spent some time in the studio shooting singer/songwriter Zara Kershaw. I met Zara a couple of weeks ago with a view to doing a studio shoot. Zara is a really talented singer and musician so it was a privilege to have the chance of doing a studio shoot with her.

Check out Zara's music here  http://www.zarakershaw.co.uk

Zara Kershaw

 

 Checkout Zara's own website

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