Sunday, November 30, 2008

A thought provoking week of bird survey work and another mountain accident

After waiting for good settled weather for almost a month, finally mid last week I was off on a two day braided riverbed bird survey as a volunteer for DOC. This is an annual event I really look forward too and this year the river was the Matukituki that drains all the eastern slopes of Mt Aspiring.

A handful of us spread out across the braids and then walked downstream for about 30 Kms recording every bird we saw ahead of us. It's a physically demanding job, peppered with the need to cross and re-cross many of the branches and sometimes even the main flow, deal with the relentless reflected heat from the riverbed, very nasty quicksand [actually gravel over glacial silt], and any wind that is about.

Because we were a month late our survey coincided more with the juvenile stage of the large and prolific [Southern Hemisphere] Black Back Gull. This species seems to be on the increase and this is probably to the detriment of the increasingly rare Black Fronted Tern. Our course took us through several of the gull colonies and so we saw some chics...

These riverbeds are very raw, but they also have amazing landscape perspectives - we had this view of Mt Avalanche [centre] and Mt Aspiring [behind on the right] over our shoulders for two days. Little did I realise though, as I gazed often indulging my passion for panorama landscape photography, that a tragedy was unfolding: two of my client friends were on the classic South West Ridge, and one of them fell to his death on Thurs. The top of the ridge can be seen here in profile just to the left of Aspiring's summit...

The NZ Herald has the nicest article honouring John - one of the best "top drawer" people I've ever met. My sympathies go out to Meg and his family.

This is myself in full kit on the right complete with sun hat, binos, clipboard and a ski pole [to help with river crossings]. We also carry radios so we can check any duplication of sightings as we travel...

Black Back Gull chics in conference with attendant parents overhead [not seen here] making quite a racket [it's best to not look up!]...

On this survey we noted quite a delightful increase in Banded Dotterels. Although nesting was over for this spring, I took this photo of a protective parent last year...

Also early last week, before the survey, there was lots of bad weather with accompanying high rainfall which filled Lake Wanaka to the brim, and also made our survey river crossings much more difficult. It would also have swept away many chics and nests, and this has given me much to think about re. the dynamic nature of survival! However we noted decreases and increases, another of the latter being the ethereal and beautiful Pied Stilt [I've yet to capture on the camera]

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Photography for a Wanaka art gallery and Search and Rescue training.

I've was busy last week doing web sites and one required a few fine art shots downtown in Wanaka for Art Upstairs, and following last week's theme I had some more Wanaka Search and Rescue training one evening.

At the gallery it got a bit boring just shooting pictures on walls, so I captured a desired look and feel by examining what was there that could be utilised to good effect in the foreground...

As most Wanaka Search and Rescue operations use helicopters and the nature of the New Zealand terrain is mountainous, our training one evening last week was all about getting people and baggage in and out of helicopters on sloping terrain. Smoothness is required when getting in and out so as to not unbalance the machine abruptly, knowing how the door and luggage pod latches work, and obviously walking away uphill is not good for the head! These may seem simple things to master, but not when you're surrounded by so much on-going noise - all accompanied by significant air blasting as the machine arrives and departs.

Although the front of the skids are on the ground, this machine on the lower slopes of Treble Cone, is still flying in this photo. What pilots like to see in this situation, is no one rushing about as they embark and alight, but moving quietly within the pilot's field of vison...

I had planned on some tramping and fulfilling a self imposed landscape photography assignment this weekend, but the weather has not cooperated.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wanaka Search and Rescue exercise on river safety

Yesterday having crossed the mighty Makarora river by 4wd, we went up the Wilken valley to escape the wind and sand storms to carry out the following Wanaka Search and Rescue exercises:

River crossing in a group on foot and how to retreat, doing it solo, self rescue techniques, on foot with a patient in a stretcher, and 4 wheel drive strategies and safety in rivers.

Crossing the ever changing Makarora to the remote MtAlbert high country run - that's not a boat in the middle distance and the sandstorms can quickly strip the paint off of any sharp edges on car body work, should they be left parked in these exposed and silt laden braided river beds that are so unique to New Zealand...

My friends using a mutual support technique in the Wilken...

Self rescue practice using the "ferry gliding" technique, with the beautiful Wilken peaks in the background...

We had it all wrapped by 2.30 and we headed back to the farm house, which is over the river from Makarora village, for a barbi of venison and organic sausages. One of my friends Mike is the manager of the farm and he taught the 4wd stuff. Since he's had eight years of crossing this river more than twice daily I learnt an awful lot about vehicle techniques - especially as pertaining to modern diesel trucks [he demonstrated with water over the head lights at one point, rather freaking out his passengers who suddenly found themselves getting their lower trousers wet - there are no floor mats and the thus exposed holes in the floor mean the truck fills up quickly so it won't float!]. There were a lot of my other old friends present on the day too, so we had a lot of fun in the sun, and managed to keep out of the raging nor west winds that prevailed preceding today's bad weather!

Bun in hand Mike describes some aspect of the day's exercises to Colin...

This week coming up, weather permitting, we'll have an evening on helicopter safety.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Actively in the New Zealand landscape

I'm just back from a wonderful weekend in the nearby Ahuriri valley. One of my favourite places since I was a kid. Access is just so easy, it's so quiet and offers so much be it for the landscape photographer, artist, fisherman, or like myself in my early days for: canoeing, tramping and mountaineering.

I've always thought someone made a great job on this range of cutting out the sky to match the ridge...

The greens in this landscape attracted my attention...

Lambing is late in these high country parts. A few days ago there was 3 inches of snow here...

Birchwood Station, with my favourite Mt Barth in the back ground...

Overnight the weather came in wild, and today, it made for much wind and cold rain near Canyon Creek...

In the last 3 posts I've written extensively about perception and reality, and with today's upcoming storm I was reminded quite vividly that our New Zealand mountains are not the place to go to sort out your head, or be a guru in, but places of extreme reality and environment. Thus I reckon a trip or two where bad weather intrudes brings out the best in life!

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Basing peace, calmness and perception on the energy of the landscape

For 2-3 years now a favourite tome I reference often, seeking clarification for my journey, has been a paper back written by the Dalai Lama called "The Way to a Meaningful Life"

...lent to me by a dear friend I'll have to give it back when the opportunity presents! So just before my recent holiday traveling to Nelson, I ordered another of his books, and then the serendipity began again...

While visiting an artist's gallery in Upper Moutere, an aspect of Nelson's environs I'd never checked out before, I asked her if there were any good private/remote places to camp the night in my 4wd camper. "Yes", she replied, "a cleared forestry area over in that direction, oh, and up Sunrise Road that goes to the Buddhist center that the Dali Lama stayed at, you might find something"

The forestry area won the day near this school and the Toss Woolaston gallery, and the curiosity that is the landscape photographer in me was piqued by the light and the energy I felt about me...


So... having identified a lovely spot overlooking Nelson City for the night, exploration of Sunrise Road was called for by my intuition.

With a growing sense of peace I was led to this amazing... Supta, a concept quite new to me. It's overlooked by the Chandrakirti Centre Tibetan Buddhist Study and Meditation Centre , but above all else it was the setting that impacted on me, with it's inherent peace and tranquillity, no doubt extended by the Centre ...

The brief stay, and walk around the Supta taking photos [apparently there are benefits from circumambulating Stupas], made a profound mark on me: I knew in my heart great peace - one I've known many times before often in people's homes or gardens, my own even, and our mountains and high country. The experience was so heightened this time though, that I believe it's a message to explore the concept further, and share it, raising awareness to aid all in a "Way to a Meaningful Life"!

The head of the Fox Glacier in South Westland - despite numerous alpine hazards such as crevasses, avalanche terrain, high altitude and the potential of nasty weather to arrive almost instantaneously from the Southern Ocean, this place is recognized by many to be conducive to human well being and growth...

However before I diverge into wrapping this post up, there was a funny side to the visit: at the end of Sunrise Road there is a nudist camp. I'm sure the Dali Lama with his renown sense of humour, and others will join me in a grin if we ponder how we could become totally at one with ourselves at the Center, then finish the break with a sojourn down the road being "only" ourselves!

Attributes of energetic and non energetic places:
  • Some people refer to the energy on the earth's surface as Geopathic Stress lines or areas.

  • I believe there is nothing mystical about high or and low energy locations - one day science will learn to measure same [radon gas emissions from the earth are already implicated as are overhead power lines]

  • A peaceful energy in a place lends itself to healing, creativity and growth.

  • Sensitive people should avoid spending time in places they feel are low energy, and especially should not sleep in same.

  • Plants don't seem to flourish in low energy locations

  • People with an open heart will gravitate subconsciously to healthy locations, those who are closed off will actively promote less than ideal locations

  • Low energy locations can be detected with techniques similar to water dowsing

  • In-sensitive people may not, in the short term, be affected unduly by low energy locations, but maybe in the medium to long term. Manifestation examples being relationship problems, tenseness, divorce, conflict, and less than perfect health mentally and physically

  • Feng shui must surely be just another name for what I'm on about!

  • Another high energy mountain location in South Westland I've spent aprox. 80 days of my life in: from the slopes of Mt Hooker looking down into the Clarke valley, and The Solution Range, beyond which is the The Landsborough River, and further away yet my home town of Wanaka...

    Wrapping it up: The two posts below talk about perception. Raise sensitivity and awareness and perception changes, then the identification of healthy areas to live in simply follows! This is one [rather odd I'll admit], technique that works for myself:

    I imagine an aspect of myself being anywhere from 10 metres to hundreds of meters away from myself looking in my direction observing myself.

    Then, and this is where for me it gets rather multi dimensional: I then observe this observer observing myself.

    When I get it right I then notice my vision and other senses, but especially my vision, notices multiple instances of acute attention to details, in rapid succession - the end result being I simply see objects and patterns of light and shade I'd normally miss. Thus I look at my New Zealand landscape photography literally through new eyes, but the real implication is the way to a means of a "Meaningful Life". Of course astute composition can draw the attention of others to seeing things differently, and hopefully with compassion we'll all get there sooner rather than later!


    The Way to a Meaningful Life... more>>

    Stupa ..more>>

    The Chandrakirti Centre Tibetan Buddhist Study and Meditation Centre ..more >>

    Feng shui.. more >>

    Geopathic Stress.. more >>

    Landsborough River... more >>

  • NZ Photographer Tony Bridge has a wide range of beautiful work and textually diverse material on photography and perception ... more >>

  • My good friend Roger Wandless has a great New Zealand landscape photography site with shots that demonstrate what is possible in terms of how the eye can be taken on a journey [perception over time!]... more >>

  • PS just after posting Tony [as above] sent me this link to a couple of interesting posts... more >>

  • Acknowledgments:
    Rika Couwenbergh ex Wanaka
    His Holiness the Dali Lama
    Roger Wandless
    Sam [Pepper] White

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