Monday, August 31, 2009
Just a Tad at Riccarton Park Racecourse, 2008.
Spring is in the air and as the cherry trees around Christchurch’s Hagley Park begin to burst into blossom, thoughts are turning to New Zealand Cup and Show Week. Come November 7-14 it will be festival time again, when racing, fashion, food and entertainment converge on the city and everyone goes slightly nutty. The Christchurch City Council created New Zealand Cup and Show Week back in 1996 as the umbrella brand to coordinate the growing number of national-interest races and local events and it’s grown significantly ever since. The festivities are now a highlight on the New Zealand racing calendar and a social occasion that attracts more than 125,000 people, including over 45,000 visitors to the city. New Zealand Trotting Cup Day at Addington Raceway, 2008. Central to the festival is New Zealand Cup Week, which includes the New Zealand Galloping and Trotting Cups, Ladies’ Day, Guineas Day and Show Day race meetings, where the Addington and Riccarton Racecourses celebrate the finest New Zealand has to offer both on and off the track. Get in early - get your tickets to events from www.nzcupandshow.co.nz Both images courtesy Christchurch City Council, NZ Cup and Show Week.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Porters Pass, 88 kilometres west of Christchurch is the highest point in the journey from east to west (it’s 20 metres higher than Arthur’s Pass, further into the journey). It is also one of the prettiest spots, especially in winter, when it attracts many visitors, who come to toboggan the slopes, ice skate on nearby Lake Lyndon, or just to play in the snow. Nearby Porter’s Pass Skifield is also popular with skiers and many will be pleased to hear the skifield is on the verge of a major multi-million dollar expansion.
I’ve never been a snow bunny myself, so I’m more attracted to the area because of its geography. The landscapes here are magnificent and ever-changing at any time of the year and as you stand in the middle of it all, it’s hard to imagine the 19th century pioneers walking across the pass to the goldfields on the West Coast. They must have been a hardy bunch. I drove up to the pass a couple of days ago and while the weather was foul – driving rain and wind – I still managed to stop and photograph a very pretty group of stark birch trees. I think I can now safely say I have photographs of Porter’s Pass from every season, every time of the day and in every possible weather variation – which might be one of my oddest boasts.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I got on my bike this morning and went cycling through the city, stopping where the photographic whim took me. It was a perfect morning for it - sunny, warm, busy, with everybody out and about enjoying the start to both spring and another weekend. Wandering about with a camera (usually for hours at a time) is one of my favourite activities; and I don't have to be somewhere new. In fact, 'reinventing' the familiar is often a more satisfying challenge; and a city never stays the same for long. It doesn't matter how many times I walk or cycle through Christchurch - and I do know it like the back of my hand - I always see something new.
Friday, August 28, 2009
It was all mood and mist the day we walked along Bullock Creek Road in Paparoa National Park, just north of Punakaiki on the West Coast late last year. It was an eerie sort of landscape that spoke of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures that might leap out from behind the foliage. Towering limestone bluffs rose out of the mist on either side of the road and river and creatures – probably just a weka or two – rustled about in the dense bush. It was wet, silent and beautiful – a Lost World almost, filled with damp moss, earthy aromas and lanky tree ferns. It was a place of caves and deep, hidden potholes and we were walking to the pretty track that led to the deeply incised gorge where the headwaters of Cave Creek emerge from an underground cave system.There were five of us – an Aucklander, an Australian, two from Christchurch and our guide – and we were midway through the West Coast Trail.
Devised by Christchurch’s Tuatara Tours, this four-day walking adventure had taken us through some of the most beautiful, the most dramatic and the most popular walking trails from Castle Hill to Punakaiki and despite never having been a dedicated tramper – hardly a tramper at all in fact - it was hard not to be won over by the rugged, diverse landscapes we picked our way through. But give me lush ferns, flourishing coastal broadleaf plants, towering nikau palms and flat tracks over tiny tight little flowers, slippery rocks and ridiculously high places any day. And it’s here that the West Coast Trail truly delivers. From the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks Loop Track at Dolomite Point with its mist-enshrouded flax ‘forests,’ its gushing blowholes and wild, breathtaking coastline to the moodiness of Bullock and Cave Creeks, the remarkable variety and lushness of the Truman Track and, my favourite, the quiet unspoiled beauty of the Pororari River Track, it’s green in as many shades as you could ever wish to see. It’s the wild West Coast at its best. www.tuataratours.co.nz
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third largest island – a place of unspoiled beauty that sits 30 kilometres off the bottom of the South Island’s coast, across the wild waters of Foveaux Strait. Surprisingly, it is similar in size to Singapore and only 1% of the island is inhabited. The first time I visited the island – around ten years ago – I was amazed by its balmy climate. It can get cold of course, but it much less so than most people imagine. I was back there again in February and I had three days of perfect weather. It was great to have the time to roam about with my camera, exploring accessible parts of the island I hadn’t visited previously. And it’s always fun to hang out around the wharf – you’re never short of good photo opportunities on any wharf but at Stewart Island’s wharf, the action never stops.
It’s the only berthing place for the ferry that shuttles people to and from the South Island; its where the tourist vessels tie up; and it’s home to the numerous fishing vessels that frequent these waters. I got these shots of one of the crayfishing boats coming in to tie up. I was attracted to the rusty cray pots set against the brilliant blue-green water – lovely! The waters all around the island are incredibly clear and clean and most of the island’s population (around 360) are involved in either commercial fishing of some sort, or tourism. Given that so much of the island is now dedicated to Rakiura National Park (our newest national park), it’s also a magnet for hikers, bird watchers, and general adventurers. www.stewartisland.co.nz
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
When Australian chef and brewer, Scott Watkins-Sully decided to embark on a journey around Australia, travelling from pub to pub, everyone he knew threatened to quit their jobs and join him. With “a fondness for pubs, beer, food, wine and 1980s tabletop video game machines,” Watkins-Sully had hit upon the dream job. He shut down his own brewing operation and hit the road with his wife and two young kids. Over “25,000 kilometres, 300 counter meals and 200 tantrums” later, he could be forgiven for having imbibed more than his share of cold beers. He should also be applauded for producing “The Australian Crawl”, a comprehensive guide to Australia’s regional pubs. It’s not the definitive guide – it doesn’t include the big cities for a start – but it is ample evidence that the Aussies still love nothing better than the ritual of drinking beer and spinning yarns down at the pub.
The grand old Aussie pub in fact, is about as iconic as it gets. The embellished corner establishments (and they’re almost always on corners), have been written into Australian culture and whether you’re roaming the sun-baked outback, cruising through small-town Australia, or roaming city suburbs, you’ll find a pub with a great story. They’re a cornerstone of the Australian way of life and in many small outback towns, the local pub is often the only substantial building – a testament perhaps, to the early days when it may have been the first structure built in newly-colonised areas. Back then, then pub was often more than a rowdy, convivial watering hole. It may also have served as the town post office, restaurant, hostel and general store. I love Australian pub architecture and it goes without saying that I’ve spent a lot of time taking photographs of pubs wherever and whenever I’ve been in Australia. These are just the tip of the iceberg!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
How many times have I been back here - to Auckland's SKYTOWER?
It's like some perverse self-punishment (I have a fear of heights)
But also, it's all about the view. And yes, those are people in orange suits, walking around the very narrow edge of the tower.... that's the thrill that Skly Walk gives you - if you're brave enough that is. www.skywalk.co.nz
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
I’ve been digging around in my Australian photo files again to bring you a few more images from the Noorama Picnic Races, a crazy much-anticipated annual event in the Queensland Outback. This by way of introducing the fact that this year, for the first time, I will be bringing news and views from Canterbury’s major racing event, New Zealand Cup and Show Week, here in Christchurch. That’s not until November 7-14 but in the lead-up to the numerous events that take place that week, I’ll be bringing you a whole lot of behind-the-scenes insights into the country’s largest spring festival – and it goes without saying that I’ll be making numerous Twitter comments to add colour to the proceedings. So stay tuned for my new Showtime series – New Zealand Cup and Show Week as you’ve never seen it before! www.nzcupandshow.co.nz
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wellington. April 2009 Ajr I’ve never been a real fan of Tanya Ashken’s sculpture ‘Albatross,’ which sits down on the Wellington waterfront. For a start, it always looks dirty and slightly slimy and stained. But I’m sure there are people who love it. It was installed as part of the Wellington Sculpture Trust project in 1985-86 – in fact fundraising for this ferro-cement work was what spurred the formation of the trust. It’s one of three of Ashken’s works around the capital and to be frank, I don’t like any of them. Ashken was born in England and actually trained as a silversmith. She married New Zealand artist, John Drawbridge in 1960 and after a stint in Paris (where she studied sculpture) they returned to New Zealand in 1963.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
As I drove to and from the West Coast last week, I was given to thinking about corrugated iron – mostly because nothing says corrugated iron quite like the West Coast. You’ll find the stuff all over New Zealand of course - it has, after all been an iconic rural building material here for over 150 years – but from Arthur’s Pass all the way over to (and up and down) the West Coast, corrugated iron buildings have a character all their own.
One of the characteristics of corrugated iron is its lightness and durability – the two key factors that have accounted for its proliferation in rural New Zealand architecture for over a century. It was an ideal material for farmers, who could knock up a shed or a barn in no time at all – and not given to waste, it was often re-used once a building had reached the end of its life. That’s what I love about so many of the West Coast buildings – they’re a multi-coloured patchwork of shabby, re-used sheets that have been gathered from all corners. And West Coasters are inventive when it comes to corrugated iron – you’ll see it on houses (old and new), barns, implement sheds, chook houses, pig pens, mountain huts, shearers’ quarters, sheep shelters, fences, chimneys, garages, roves, signs and even as edging on vegetable gardens.
Corrugated galvanised iron, it turns out, was invented by British architect and engineer, Henry Palmer of the London Dock Company, in the 1820s. It was originally made from wrought iron and in fact many older New Zealanders still call it that. Its light, strong, corrosion-resistant qualities and the fact that it could be easily transported meant it was widely applied to the building of makeshift dwellings and rural buildings in several countries including USA, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and India. Here in New Zealand, it was and still is, widely used as a roofing material and painted in a host of colours. It is still those bright, multi-coloured corrugated iron roofs that I notice first when I fly back into New Zealand after being overseas.
These days, the techniques for producing corrugated iron have become much more sophisticated and it is available in any number of corrugation sizes - this because there has been a rather surprising corrugated iron renaissance. Ever since the 1970s new corrugated products have led to an increase in its use here and with the development of corrugated iron cladding products in the 1990s, New Zealand and Australian architects have bombarded us with residential and commercial architectural designs that pay homage to the rural corrugated iron vernacular – some more successfully than others it must be said.
Personally, I think one of the modern masters of corrugated iron is Australian architect, Glenn Murcutt. His ‘touch the earth lightly’ philosophy (adopted from an Aboriginal proverb), has seen him produce a string of beautiful Australian houses that owe a great deal to rural inspiration and the use of simple materials like timber, stone and corrugated iron. The two images immediately above are two examples of the contemporary use of corrugated iron that I photographed on the West Coast - the little blue cottage in the tiny settlement of Kumara; and the shiny new facade on the (old) Kumara Racecourse grandstand.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I am fascinated by old buildings in small New Zealand towns – especially old banks, rural town halls and small-town club buildings. They say so much about the sociological fabric of our country, yet sadly they continue to disappear as towns make way for the new. I know many photographers who share a passion for photographing old buildings and of course New Zealand photographer, the late Robin Morrison was an early forerunner in capturing these great little ‘architectural nuggets.’
When I was over in Hokitika last week, I noticed that a number of the old buildings there are now being preserved – I’m not always a fan of flashy coats of paint but it is good to see that someone has colonised these old relics and made them tidy and sound enough to endure a few more decades yet. The old bank building (lower image) is now home (upstairs) to a local craftsman, who makes his sculptures in the downstairs rooms; and directly across the street, another old bank building has been converted into a popular theatre space (top image).
Monday, August 17, 2009
I was sorting through my Australian Outback photo files the other day when I came upon these ones from the annual Noorama Picnic Races that I attended in 2008. Noorama is miles from anywhere. You probably won’t even find it on a map – it is after all, little more than the recreational centre that was formed in the mid-1900s as a meeting place for the farming community’s sporting and social activities. Yet in the South West Queensland outback, Noorama is legendary. The district dates back to the 1880s and has a rich pastoral history; and the Noorama Picnic Race Club is the jewel in the region’s social crown. Formed in 1964, it held its first race meeting on May 14th 1966 with 43 horses competing for A$365 worth of trophies. It was a huge hit and today people still travel hundreds of kilometres to attend the three-day event. Forty-two years on, the 2008 five-event programme offered prize money in excess of A$31,000 and the feature race – the Noorama Cup – was worth A$7,900.
Located on Noorama Station, almost one hundred kilometres southeast of the tiny outback town of Cunnamulla, Noorama is isolated. It took me 14 hours to get there from Christchurch and I flew most of the way - via Brisbane followed by a two-hour flight to Charleville, a two-hour drive to Cunnamulla (where I was given a hot pink jackaroo hat for the occasion) and another two-hour drive further south to Noorama. By the time I arrived it was just after 5pm on a Friday night and I felt as though I had been to London and back. My pink jackaroo hat was on a nasty lean, I was dusty, over-heated, tired and wondering what I had let myself in for. The race track was all but deserted, there wasn’t a horse in sight and I was still pondering the mystery of why the plane’s flight attendant had given such detailed lifejacket instructions - given that we were flying over a vast, shrivelled outback landscape and the chances of our crashing into water seemed highly improbable.
My outback hosts were kindly. They propped me up in a chair with a bottle of water, trying for their part to digest the fact that they had landed themselves a non-drinking, non-smoking Kiwi journalist who didn’t eat meat and had never attended a race meeting in her life. Noorama promised to be a learning curve for us all. And so it was. My first lesson the Friday night Calcutta – the pre-race horse auction - kicked off around 6pm just as I began thinking about sleep. Locals arrived in a steady stream of dust and congregated around the bar in the biggest marquee. Everyone was primed for action, the barbecue was fired up and the auctioneer started the bids. And that’s all I remember of my first night at Noorama. I fell asleep to the pleasant drone of outback hilarity and the sizzle of gigantic steaks.
By 11am the next day, it was 28-degrees and the first horse floats were pulling up to the open-air stables. Horses were being hosed down, brushed and fitted with nose-bags; track preparations were underway; the First Aid team had arrived; the bookies were setting up; and the first fancy hats were bobbing among the growing crowd. The energy was infectious. Ladies in their race-day finery banded together, swigging champagne and preparing the members’ pre-race cocktails and treats. Men strutted around the grounds clutching beer cans and brushing flies from their Akubras. Jockeys gave the track a pre-race check; and kids of all ages ran free and wild.
Later, as the horses turned for the straight, locals in fancy race-day outfits leaned over the rails cheering for their favourites. Glasses of champagne spilt over, hearts pounded, fists pumped the air and the loud speaker was drowned out by hooves thundering down the dirt track. It was a dramatic scene set against enormous cloud-filled skies and parched red dirt that hadn’t seen rain for seven years; and as the locals yelled and cheered in 35-degree autumn heat, I thought how similar race meetings were the world over. And now, with spring in the air here in Christchurch, racing fans are already thinking about the annual New Zealand Cup and Show Week in November – a crazy extravaganza of six major horse racing events, fashion awards, international rodeo events, the Royal New Zealand Show and more. This year, New Zealand Cup and Show Week runs from November 7-14 and you can find out more about how we do the whole race-day thing here in Christchurch by checking out www.nzcupandshow.co.nz And this year, my appetite whetted by my Noorama race day experiences, I'll be checking out everything the Christchurch week of racing festivities has to offer!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
When I visited Hokitika on the South Island's West Coast last weekend, the weather was perfect. I took no time at all to find the town's magnificent Catholic Church - though it must be said that the town isn't big and the church is! I love church architecture and I took dozens of photos of this beauty at different times of the day. And on the Sunday I went back again expecting to find the church packed with people. I was obviously too late getting out of bed - I suppose the Catholics were all up at a dawn mass or something and long since finished by the time I arrived - which suited me because it meant I could tip-toe into the church to take a look all by myself. I expected something marvellous and was greatly disappointed. The inside was austere and it smelt decidedly fusty - in short, it failed to live up to the architectural promise of the grand exterior. I would have loved to have found a way up into the gorgeous bell tower but in these days of rigorous safety precautions, I suppose that's long-since been locked up. Lovely to admire from ground level nonetheless!