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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Getting back to the gym

I have a confession to make. I had a two-month break from going to the gym. I was disrupted by Christmas and New Year, the terrible weather, and an appointment with a surgeon about my knee (though surgery was discounted, that makes it more difficult in some ways), and then basic inertia set in. I’ve been back the last few weeks, but I’m procrastinating about a decision I have to make about the gym. To stay, or to leave. I have an emotional connection with this small, quality group of gyms – one of the owners was my personal trainer when he was still qualifying as a physiotherapist, back at the turn of the century. And I enjoy the therapy of the drive around the bays to the gym, always different, always dramatic, regardless of whether it is fine or stormy, whether the sea is rough or calm.

These days I am taking my camera with me more frequently. So this morning, driving home after a good workout, I was pleased to see some yachts out on the water, with a large container ship moored further away. I braced myself against the wind, and tried some photos. But the sea, the hills and the sky all blended together a little too much, on this colourless morning.

Yachts on Wellington Harbour

I drove on, and as I came around into the inner harbour, I decided to try again. This is our little city on a cloudy morning, where the buildings hug the water and are framed by the hills. (I’m pleased to report the sun is out and the sky is now blue! But no, I’m not driving back to repeat the photo!) There were no cruise ships in the harbour, though there were two yesterday when it was warm and beautiful, so today we locals had it all to ourselves.

Wellington waterfront

 

In case you hadn’t already guessed, one of my photography challenges this week is to take a panorama. The other challenge was to take just one shot and use that. I guess it is supposed to encourage careful planning, deliberate framing, and accuracy. In keeping with the beachy theme, my one shot is below. I have to confess though that it involved no careful planning, only a little deliberate framing, and happily some accuracy! The husband and I headed north to an estuary one lunchtime this week, determined to make the most of a warm day, and enjoyed a picnic by the water. On the menu was bacon and egg pie, of course, and afterwards, I got my camera out. This little fellow was not upset that we didn’t share our lunch with him, and posed nicely. What could be more summery? Green grass, sand, and a seagull.

Seagull on grass

 

 

Good grief!

Nineteen days into February, when in previous (almost as disappointing) years autumn was preparing to knock on the door, summer has decided to turn up for a visit. After a bit of gloom yesterday morning, and some overnight rain, we’re now basking in the second consecutive day of sun and warmth. I’m wearing a sunfrock for only the second time this year, and this morning I had breakfast out on the deck, enjoying the fact that I was not locked into an air-conditioned office like the rest of my friends.

I’d already resigned myself to the fact that summer this year was a bust and so, after many weeks of disappointment and disbelief and shock, I decided to relax and see the funny side.

I’m doing that elsewhere in my life too, where I’ve experienced similar emotions (and I suspect I’m not the only one). Frustration and anger are exhausting and can be upsetting, and the resultant swearing – although research says that it can be therapeutic – might be briefly satisfying but isn’t sustainable long term. So right now, I find I feel better instead when I can laugh and say, “Good grief!” and so I’m saying it multiple times a day this summer.

But not today – today I’m going to enjoy the moment, the sound of the cicadas outside, the blue sky, and the balmy temperatures.

 

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Forgotten

This week’s photographic topic is Forgotten. It seemed made for me, not because I wrote this (I’ve since found my camera and my spare cellphone), but because Wellington is truly the land summer forgot.

Here is what today looked like from my house:

Sigh. Though in the Pollyanna tradition of making the most of what I have, I was quite pleased with myself that I could capture the bouncing raindrop!

But the other evening, when it wasn’t raining and wasn’t cold and wasn’t even too windy, I walked down my street to photograph this house.

Forgotten House

It’s by far the worst I’ve seen in our hilly, only-ten-minutes-from-the-city neighbourhood, which is full of lovingly maintained and modernised homes. There is evidence that it is probably occupied, but it certainly receives no outward TLC. I couldn’t get a good angle on the house due to the slope of the street, but the fence was I thought, quite photogenic, and has certainly been forgotten. I played around with it, and quite liked this posterized version.

Forgotten Fence Poster

 

Things I am happy about today

I’m enjoying the photography challenge that I do in between Microblog Mondays posts, but I think I’ve realised that one of the things I like best about it is that I get to explore things that are important to me, and to then write about them here (however briefly), taking as much or more pleasure in that than I do the photography.

I found my old camera!

The grilled chicken sandwich I made for lunch, with leftover chicken from dinner last night (marinated in coriander – cilantro for you North Americans – and mint and lime juice and red curry paste) and the spicy banana chutney that goes with it.

Remembering that friends and relatives are so important to our well-being, and should be celebrated. The last few days have been especially good – I got to see two friends on Friday, a niece and her partner on Saturday (and it was fine enough to have drinks on the deck), and other friends for dinner last night, a friend who spends half her life in France will be visiting in a few weeks, and I’m anticipating the arrival home of another friend after four years in Europe.

That we manage to balance our interests by happily driving an old, increasingly beat-up car (we bought it new 19 years ago), not owning diamonds or fancy clothes or expensive shoes etc, so that we can travel.

After waking up (at 5 am) to a gale that was shaking the house and rattling the roof, with mists that shrouded the house at the same time, followed by heavy rain, now it is bright and sunny (though still reasonably windy). Three seasons in one day, but there’s still time for a fourth, so here’s a Crowded House treat for you:

Sweet things

I have a sweet tooth, but for chocolate and ice-cream and desserts rather than for confectionary (lollies/sweets/candy). So I wasn’t wildly thrilled at the photo challenge for candy this week. As I’m doing both last year’s challenge and this year’s, the Candy challenge required both photos of candy, and photos that implied candy. The first photo speaks for itself.

The chocolate is just asking to be made into a chocolate mousse, in the very glass I’ve used to serve chocolate mousse. I can’t remember the last time I made chocolate mousse. Yet it was one of the first ever fancy desserts I would make for guests. At least one person reading this will remember how I used to make chocolate mousse, and decorate it with chocolate palm trees. I need to try that again, and show you, although it has been years since I made chocolate mousse. Just talking about chocolate mousse makes me want to make chocolate mousse. I love chocolate mousse.

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The second photo is really about my opinion that tomatoes are the candy of the vegetable world. I’ve written about tomatoes before. When I was in the Middle East, I adored the cherry tomatoes that I ate in Israel and Jordan. In our hotel in Amman, we were served a small bowl of cherry tomatoes, along with a small bowl of olives, with our drinks. Perfect!

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Photographically speaking, this challenge taught me a number of things. I played with light, and with different backgrounds. I realised that I should have done this challenge with traditional round cherry tomatoes, as the oval ones look as if I distorted the photo. I learned that I should not always go for a very wide aperture, as it can blur too much of the photo. And I learned that I should take more time for my challenges, and not try to sneak in five or ten minutes of photography when I’m waiting for my husband to get home with the takeaways for dinner.