3 Weeks in New Zealand

On Saturday an Air France 777 dropped me back into the greyness of a Paris January, after three weeks back in my island home.

Despite a very wet December, the consensus was that pohutukawa flowers this year were particularly spectacular.

However, the Hawke’s Bay region provided us with 6 days of perfect sunshine, and some wonderful scenery. It was my first visit to the east coast of the North Island.

At Cape Kidnappers, the gannet colony was noisy, smelly, and full of…  gannets.

 

The trip along State Highway 2 through the Waioeka Gorge was like driving back to before the arrival of humans.

In towns like Opotiki, the local colour reminds you that we are a Pacific nation…

It is a privilege to belong to the nation that invented the paua wonton!

Glimpses of Budapest

A weekend before a week of trade show madness… a chance to scrape the surface of a another European city… I quite liked what I saw. These are all the obvious tourist shots, I’ll have to go back sometime when I have more time.

The Danube, viewed from Gellérthégy hill

The Royal Palace in Buda

The Chain Bridge and the Országház

Országház

The New Camera

Shooting at Fontainebleau, earlier today…

A recent investment in a Canon 60D and a tripod will give me a chance to expose my rather rudimentary photography skills to public scrutiny. My trusty Canon Ixus 55 has provided sterling service for 5 years, and for a little 5 megapixel point-and-shoot, it did very well, travelling all around Europe, and beyond.

Entering back into the world of SLRs will be interesting – my last SLR (a Minolta 404si) was a film camera (remember film?). The Minolta accompanied me on my first adventures through northern Europe, and documented the early days of one million dollars. But picking up the 60D feels like I’m learning how to take photos, all over again.

Sigurdór gave me some good advice last year – “go manual from the start” – and so I’ve turned off most of the automatic functions on the 60D. This means having to think about aperture, speed and ISO all the time. It’s a tough discipline to learn, after several years just pointing a lens at a target and pressing the shutter button.  It’ll take a while to get used to it… but here are some of the first images:

The Grand Palais, Saturday night last week

Fire painting at the Palais de Tokyo

Forest flower, Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau

The little ships of Denmark


Fishing boats at Gamborg. Fyn, Denmark

Looking back over the photos I took in Denmark, one would be forgiven for thinking that the country contained little except small fishing boats and wharves. Somehow, nearly half of the images relate to waterfront, watercraft and jetties of various descriptions. Perhaps this islander has been missing the sea while living in Paris?


Wharf at Moesgard beach, south of Århus

My three days in Denmark only provided a short glimpse of the country, but I liked what I saw (OK, I’m an avowed Nordophile). Apart from anything else, the Danes seem to be the best drivers in the world – I didn’t see a single speed camera or cop, but everyone stuck to the speed limit.


Countryside in central Jutland

The real highlight of my visit was meeting up with Sigurdór and his family. We’ve been friends on the internet for something like five years, but never met in person. Somehow it turned out that the midpoint between Paris and Reykjavík was a trampoline in the garden at Hingeballe.


Copenhagen

A short few hours in Copenhagen on my last day was not enough time to really get a feel for the city, but sufficient to convince me to return for a longer visit sometime. Although I’d probably come home with another bunch of photos of little boats.


Sailing boat at Svenstrup. Fyn, Denmark


Beside the Norsminde Fjord. Jutland, Denmark


On the beach at Løkken. Jutland, Denmark

Vertical Panorama

I took this photo while walking through the Ecusson (the local name for Montpellier‘s old town) a couple of weeks ago. It’s actually two photos, stitched together vertically. I like how the image gives a sense of the narrowness of the streets (there are definitely no cars in this part of the town!), and I managed to clean up the light so you can see some of the stonework.

The little square is called Place Saint Ravy, and apparently in summer it’s full of restaurant tables, but on a quiet Sunday afternoon at the end of January, it was silent and deserted.

Library of Congress on Flickr

At the Vermont state fair, Rutland, VT. September 1941

Old photos are cool. A good way to take a break from study is to browse the U.S. Library of Congress Flickr Stream . All of the photos are available without copyright restrictions.

The colour photos from the 1930s and 1940s are particularly fascinating – bringing an immediacy to an era often seen by us modern kids in black and white: women building B-17 bombers that will flatten Germany, farm scenes that seem pulled straight from the pages of a William Faulkner novel, portraits of people who seem to have a story to tell.

Painting

Irma Lee McElroy painting the wing of an aeroplane, Corpus Christi, TX. August 1942

What emotions are hidden behind the smiles of the evacuated Japanese-American ladies, deported to camps in the desert because of their race?  How long did the worker at the carbon black factory in Texas live?  Did the negro boy near Cincinnati, Ohio live long enough to vote for Obama a few weeks ago?

These are glimpses of America near the height of its industrial and military mobilisation. And yet amidst the images there is an intimacy that helps you realise how much has changed in 70 years, and how much is still the same.

Pie Town, New Mexico

At the Fair, Pie Town, NM. 1940

Ways of Seeing Afghanistan

One of the more fascinating features of the Guardian online over the past few months has been the regular contributions of photojournalist John D. McHugh. McHugh is spending 6 months with the US 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan (it’s his third “tour” in Afghanistan – what a way to make a living). McHugh’s work is insightful and moving, and I hope he gains some recognition for it.

Despite being embedded with an American military unit, McHugh’s photos and stories comes across as stark and factual, and are all the more engaging because they effectively communicate some of the grim reality of war for the Afghan people as well as the western soldiers stationed there.

McHugh makes a honest attempt to remain objective, whether he is documenting the days of boredom and minutes of terror for soldiers sitting in a mountain outpost, or the real communication challenges faced by local Afghan citizens and US soldiers.

McHugh’s approach to war journalism is an interesting contrast to the recent coverage by NBC, whose camera team was in-and-out of the country in one week, (they were heading onwards to Baghdad). and whose presence may have contributed to the friendly-fire death of a US soldier.

Violin Soldier

Photo by Violinsoldier

But perhaps some of the most insightful images of the Afghanistan conflict have been taken by soldiers themselves. Violinsoldier’s images on Flickr are a fascinating mix of beauty and mundanity: photos of his MRE meal-packs sit next to candid snaps of local people taken while on patrol.

Currently the internet provides ready access to a western view on this conflict. Hopefully in the long term (if you believe the debatable supposition that the situation in Afghanistan can be improved), more local voices and images will be seen and heard around the world.