What Charlie taught me

I am currently visiting Charlie and her parents and Jeff and Cloud (the dog and cat respectively) and have been exposed to her unique 8-year-old thought processes.

  • “Donald Trump is an idiot, because he is.”
  • Answering questions from your aunt AMA mother is not nearly as interesting as dancing like a cat to “I’m sexy and you know it.”
  • Pets are to be loved, played with, and ignored at your pleasure.
  • Art galleries are worth visiting
  • Virtual reality is awesome because “you don’t have to use controls you just use your head.”
  • A good library is a great discovery.
  • Delayed gratification is a terrible idea.

As many of you know, I love compiling my photos after a trip, then completing a photo book. Over three years ago, when we came home after our five month trip to the Middle East and Europe, I set to work, relishing seeing all our photos again, and producing three books – one for the Middle East, one for our three months spent in Italy, and one for our Poland, Slovenia and Switzerland explorations.

I had also kept a blog during the trip and thought it would be nice to have a hard copy, so I sought out blog-to-book software, settling on Blurb’s Booksmart. Initially, I thought that maybe I could incorporate my blog into a wider book, filling in the bits I never got to write about when I was away, but life intervened, and the project languished for months at a time. Finally, a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to finish it off; my forthcoming trip and the fact that the company was offering a 40% discount for a limited time were added incentives!

After proof-reading over 100 pages, I finally sent it off for printing, receiving it back last week. It was just what I needed to cheer me up:



Getting Perspective

I love travel photography. That’s no surprise to those of you who know how much I love to travel. But I’m a bit shy, and I’m not very good at asking people if I can take their photographs. My husband is much better at it than I am, and he is especially good at getting children’s photos. Neither of us, however, like getting our own photographs taken. So when last week’s photo challenge was to take a portrait of someone in their natural habitat (work, hobbies, for example), I groaned. I had great plans of snapping the builders putting an extra storey on the house next door, or the road workers just down our street. But I didn’t. Then I thought that a photo of myself sitting at the computer, or my husband reading on his iPad, would be a good example of an environment. But that wasn’t going to happen. So, on my walk the other day, I sneaked this photo of a mailman, as he turned the corner ahead of me.

P1020635 mailman web

The other challenge at the time was for perspective. This could be something as simple as a scene showing perspective by distance, or a forced perspective (the classic “holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa is an example of this), which I have always felt are … well … forced. The idea of showing the perspective of distance is easy when you live in the hills. So I was lazy and didn’t go out actively seeking shots. On the same walk that I found the mailman, though, I came up the stairs that deposit me (puffing) near my house. Maybe the difference between the stairs at the bottom and top would be perspective, I thought. And so I snapped away. I’ve since discovered that there’s a name for this – vanishing point perspective. I hope you’re impressed, not with the photograph which is very average and quite boring, but with the fact that I regularly climb these stairs (I’d already climbed about 20% of the stairs to be able to even see the top) at the end of my walks around this hilly suburb.

P1020645 stairs sm


Those were both last week’s challenges, and I haven’t even begun to think about this week’s subjects, so I’m slipping behind. Last weekend I finally completed the book of my blog Lemons to Limoncello as I noticed there was a 40% savings offer to get it printed. It required detailed proofreading and polishing the formatting, and I am delighted that I have finally ordered it, even beating the deadline for the discount. I’ve been shopping for the trip – a cheap tripod (though my husband has suggested I’ll have to leave some shoes behind if I want to fit it in my suitcase*) – and researching and reading about my destinations, figuring out where I can see particular species of wildlife, and trying to learn how to photograph in different conditions.

Real life seems to have taken over – now that’s perspective for you!

* Needless to say, I was not amused.

Monday morning

After the gym this morning, I stopped around the bays at one of my favourite cafes for a welcome coffee, after abstaining over the weekend. The good weather of the past week of so had vanished, and we were encased in misty rain and low clouds, limiting visibility and sucking the colour from everything except the bright yellow and orange lifeguard stand in the middle of Oriental Bay, pointless and forlorn, useful for only a few short days this summer-in-name-only.

Unlike the sunny days we basked in last week when locals and visitors had filled its tables inside and out, today the cafe was not crowded. I had avoided it for the summer months when school holidays and cruise ships had contributed to crowded waterside cafes, and today it was just how I like it. Cosy inside, with its deliberately kitsch 70s decor, there were a variety of customers; a man on his laptop between meetings, the three elderly women catching up over coffee and cake, a few young couples, including the couple grabbing a coffee in the under cover outside tables so one of them could smoke, later replaced by a man who was simultaneously indulging his caffeine, nicotine and crossword addictions, and of course, there was me, reading, watching, and writing.

Outside and also under cover, a sleepy bulldog was curled up in the dog bed, looking ever so slightly grumpy and unappreciative when one of the staff woke him to give him a pat. He was then regularly disturbed by deliveries and customers coming and going, wearily opening one eye to check on proceedings as they walked by. He’s trying to sleep again now, his eyes closed, weighed down by his wrinkles, plump and perfect, unlike my own.
  1. When do people ever have the time to listen to podcasts?
  2. How can someone have a workout and then not shower afterwards?
  3. Why would you bother buying a Maserati four-door sedan?
  4. Why did the plural “there are” disappear (particularly in speech), and when did “impact” become a verb (with a nod to my friend who once titled his blog, “Impact is not a verb”)?
  5. What is the attraction of selfies?
  6. By deliberately not revealing our 2017 holiday destinations yet, have I made it an inevitable anti-climax when I finally do, and will I know when it is the right time to do the big reveal?
  7. Will I ever get around to tidying my office?
  8. Is it obvious that five of these questions had been recorded for this post for a while, and three of them were made up on the spot to get to eight sentences?

As a blogger, I’m quite enjoying the weekly photography challenges, because they give me topics to write about. Yes, I know it’s cheating a bit, and I may tire of it, but this week’s challenges gave me two very appropriate topics.

The first was Shadows, Light and Absence of Light. This photo of the new fence, on our renovated driveway, was perfect one evening. For the first time in the more than twenty years in this house, I both like the fence is required to surround our driveway, and feel confident that the metalwork holding the driveway up (I’ve mentioned before that it hangs off a hill) is secure. This time last year we had just begun work on the driveway, as we had to replace all the steel support structures holding it up. It cost us a fortune, dug uncomfortably into our retirement funds, and meant that we couldn’t travel for a couple of years, but it had to be done. And now it can even give me pleasure.


The second challenge this week was Still Life. I took a lot of photos, though you’re only going to get to see a couple. Needless to say, I learned a few things about Still Life photography and me:

  1. I don’t have the equipment to light things beautifully
  2. I don’t have the patience to light things beautifully
  3. I would need to spend a lot of time to find an artistic and appropriate layout of precious objects
  4. When you take close-up photographs in the sun, you can see all the dust on surfaces, props, etc, and therefore …
  5. Attention to detail is important
  6. A moving metronome on a Mozart Sonatas book next to a little statuette of Beethoven probably doesn’t qualify as a Still Life, given that the thing I liked most about the photo was the blur of the metronome as it ticked and tocked!

Still (no pun intended), my final two choices were representative of the last week. The Travel Still Life photos reflect the shopping I’ve been doing (hiking shoes and cute woolly hat now purchased), and all the research time I’m spending online. I’m including two – I think I like the composition of the second one the best, but the first has the additional feature of a booking confirmation. (Though it doesn’t show the time it takes to make those bookings!)


This week, finally, we have had consecutive days of beautiful weather, so in the evenings – both with guests and alone – we have enjoyed relaxing outside in the garden, just sitting, seeing, and being still. We’re going to do it again tonight.


Still Life in the Garden with Drinks





A perfect Monday

Yesterday I kicked myself as I drove again to the gym, around the bays, where the harbour was a flat, reflective, surface, the boats and boathouses sitting perfectly in the morning light, just waiting for me to photograph them with the camera that, you guessed it, I’d left back at the house.

Still, I worked out at the gym where the glass doors were flung open onto the balcony, enjoying the feelings of a summer come at last, and realised I didn’t need a camera to appreciate the sights, or to take them for my blog readers.


Then, I drove further east, through movieland – occasionally called Wellywood, the base of Peter Jackson and Weta’s extensive movie-making businesses, the birthplace of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies, where work on Avatar and many other movies is ongoing – through to the seaside suburb with the movie-industry-induced high residential prices, and always the feeling as if you’re on holiday at the beach, where I was meeting a friend who had escaped the Polish winter for a week or two, and had been welcomed home with a perfect day.

We sat beachside to catch up, appropriately donning hats and sunscreen, over coffee and avocado-smash toast, enjoying the sight of the interisland ferries passing out in the channel, plotting some last adventures offshore before her years in Europe end and before old age (and, in my case, lack of funds) gets us.


Then I drove home around different bays, enjoying the spectacular views and making note of old piers for future photography assignments, noting truly that you can’t beat Wellington on a good day, even though this year they have truly been few and far between.


The afternoon was spent working at my in-laws, taking advantage of the lack of wind to chop down/prune some trees, to collect bags of lemons which my in-laws hate to go to waste but forget to give away, the by then inevitable visit to the tip (which is much less frenzied on a Monday), and a few minutes to play with my camera, enjoying the different angles of their raised flowerbeds, and the copulating butterflies who were also taking advantage of this stunning day.

The day ended with drinks on our deck, shaded by one of our trees, taking therapy not only from the alcohol and fine weather, but from watching the tui and fantails and many other nondescript and therefore nameless birds in our trees, the quantity of which (as I had learned earlier in the day from national radio) apparently decidedly reduces our stress levels (as I am sure my bird-watching friend are well aware). It’s good to have another reason to relax outside with a camera, a drink, and each other – not that I needed one after the pleasure of spending time with friends and the satisfaction of a job well done.