Monday, September 22, 2014

Aurora Activity

I recently downloaded a new app warning me of aurora activity. I set it to southern hemisphere, activity level 9, and waited. Unfortunately most of the alerts came during daylight hours - not much help for viewing or photographing. I had previously photographed the Aurora Borealis in the high arctic 12 years ago. An amazing phenomenon but difficult to capture in the low temperature. And back then, I did not have the advantage of digital and being able to view my results immediately. Film was the norm then and I had to wait nine months before I was able to see what I had captured.

Aurora Borealis
Last Friday night the skies were clear and alerts indicated a good chance of significant activity. Off I went into the darkness with tripod and camera bag - togged up in boots, down jacket and woolly hat. As I frequently do, I am drawn to my favourite location on the Port Hills - up near Coopers Knob, the highest point along the summit road.
Whilst the wind in the city was calm, up on the tops it was blowing a gale and bitterly cold - I shudder to think what the wind chill was. The car temperature gauge indicated 3 degrees.
The Aurora Australis was nowhere to be seen - what activity there had been, had dropped to levels of 5-6 if my app was to be believed.
Not to waste the moment completely, I'd be wanting to photograph the stars and milky way for some time - a recent image taken by Chris's old friend in the outback of Australia spurred me into action.
Keeping the tripod still in the gale force wind was a challenge, but I played for half an hour before the cold eventually won out, and I trudged back to the vehicle and drove home to thaw out.

Looking due south - spot the Southern Cross
Looking due north - city lights affecting the view

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Perigee Moon

I missed last month's perigee moon. This month the moon is not much further away. So where to photograph the full moon on Tuesday 9th September? Moon rising at 1828, twenty minutes after sunset, so still sufficient available light to capture the surroundings. TPE told me the moon would rise just north of the peninsula so I figured Godley Head would be the place to go.
I was expecting to have company out there with other photographers in action, but there I was - alone and happy, but cold in the brisk easterly wind. A WW2 bunker was soon found for shelter.

Godley Head and northern Banks Peninsula
I soon discovered I wasn't totally alone. Sheep and lambs were keen to hunker down out of the wind for the night, and I was preventing two pairs of swifts returning to their nests inside the bunker.

Full moon rising on target
After a superb cloudless day in Christchurch, the sea mist started to roll in but eventually the moon rose above it.

And so rose a perigee moon, a mere 358,621 kilometres away.


If you live in Christchurch, it's good for the nerves to get out of the city regularly.
And so every few months, we head off with our good friends Graeme and Sue and do just that!
Arthurs Pass, Akaroa, Tekapo, Hanmer are  examples of previous escapes.
This time it was to be up to the Clarence Valley north of Kaikoura - and from Friday afternoon to Monday, a well deserved long weekend.

Woodbank Cottage
Woodbank Cottage - an older circa 1930s farm cottage, hidden up the valley - perfectly appointed.
A few minutes walk from the Clarence River, heaps of farm tracks to wander over - something for everyone. A great log fire, four bedrooms, heaps of magazines, and if you are desperate, TV. And best of all - silence - apart from the morning and evening songs from the bellbirds, tui, thrushes and blackbirds!
This is a place we will definitely come back to. A family time beckons.

Farmland by Cottage
Clarence Valley and Inland Kaikoura Range
Which way?
On the way home, we visited the waterfall near Ohau Point to see if there were any baby seals in residence. This is now a tourist attraction with most vehicles now stopping off for the 4-5 minute walk in to the falls. There were five youngsters frolicking about in the pool. These guys find their way up the stream from the beach at least half a kilometre away.

Seal pups at Ohau Stream

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Weekly Walk

The week would not be the same without our regular Wednesday morning walk.
Five of us - sometimes six - is now reduced to four. Plus of course Graeme's Huntaway, Hemi.
The venues are many and varied - flat and hill, beach and walkways, town and country.
They start at 0900, Jim calls the shots for morning tea - he's English so its usually bang on 1000.
Sometimes the smell of coffee defeats us.
We're usually done and dusted by noon.

Sumner Beach
Plans are made, the world gets sorted, stories told, heaps of laughs..............................

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sharplin Falls

Last Monday I had to go down and speak to the Timaru Photographic Society. The original plan was to leave home at 4pm, drive down and grab a quick meal, present the talk, and then drive back home late that evening. However, I invited my friend Martin at the last minute. We chose to take the inland route and stay the night in Geraldine.
A good move - firstly, it was far more relaxing, and second, we missed the mayhem at Ashburton Monday morning with the WINZ staff.
After coffee at my favourite cafe in Darfield, we headed towards Staveley (Topp Twins country) and the Staveley store for lunch. Alas, closed on Mondays! Despite the best of intentions, I had never visited the Sharplin Falls there, so off we hiked on a great track - ~40 minutes each way.
Mission accomplished - finally.

Sharplin Falls
Sharplin Falls
The Mayfield pub is also closed Mondays!!
The remainder of the journey and the talk went very well. On the way home, we were gobsmacked at the irrigation plans and preparations for dairying on the Canterbury Plains. Fences and shelter belts being removed producing huge paddocks - I shudder to think of the amount of money being invested.
I am not convinced.
A case of 'watch this space'! 
What happens if/when the milk prices drop?
How long before Christchurch is forced to chlorinate its water supply?