Lake Kaniere Panorama

Just diggin’ through the archives and happened across this wee gem. Stitched panorama of Hans Bay shot from the CineStar UAV. There’s a subdivision going in the foreground of this image – but not some cookie cutter suburban maze. The sections in this part are huge, with lush forest, and they all reach out to the edge of the terrace overlooking the lake. The taller forest to the right of the image is conservation land, with stunning mature emerging canopy trees.

Hans Bay, Lake Kaniere

Aerial stitched panorama overlooking Hans Bay, Lake Kaniere

Dobson Wave

I live in a wee town called Dobson, just up the Grey River from Greymouth. It’s a lovely little place, and it’s got a neat, hidden gem. The Dobson Wave. It’s a standing wave which forms off a large rock when the Grey fills up after a decent dump of rain. It’s a whole lot of fun to play on, and kayakers (and sometimes surfers) in the know are glued to the flow telemetry on the regional council website whenever the river starts to rise. My buddy Damo is almost certainly it’s most avid user, living locally as well, and he’s pretty persuasive at getting everyone else out to enjoy it as well. Recently the wave came in on a weekend, and a whole crew got in on the action.

Dobbo Wave from Jason Blair on Vimeo.

Next time I’ll have to get the CineStar out and get some aerial footage. It’s a bit of a tricky one though, as the weather is almost always going to be rubbish when the wave is in. It’s heavy rain that sets it up in the first place, after all!

ANZAC Day

Gun on display outside the Greymouth RSA

Gun on display outside the Greymouth RSA

ANZAC Day services are a significant and powerful part of New Zealand culture. Until today, I hadn’t been to a dawn parade for around 10 years. I guess it isn’t something I feel a strong personal connection to. It doesn’t usually seem particularly relevant to me, and I imagine that I would feel out of place being present at such an emotional ceremony that doesn’t feel like part of my own story. This year the NZIPP organised a national project collaborating with the RSA with the aim of photographing all remaining WW2 servicemen and women. The object was to photograph as many as possible on ANZAC day.

The ANZAC dawn parade approaches the Greymouth Cenotaph.

The ANZAC dawn parade approaches the Greymouth Cenotaph.

I volunteered to participate, because although the day’s commemoration and ceremony feels a little unfamiliar or distant to me, I understand the value of remembrance. I understand that documenting our history and heritage is important. In the case of war, though I don’t appreciate glorification I do believe in honouring those who had little choice but to participate and suffered great personal loss in the course of serving in the armed forces. I also believe that the road to a peaceful world involves much reflection on the past. And I wanted to use my skills and resources toward a project that I could see had huge value from many perspectives. Since I was going to be photographing vets on ANZAC Day, it seemed appropriate to attend the dawn service beforehand. Both because I had never attended a Greymouth service before, and to add to the documentary value of the project by photographing the ceremony.

Crowds at the Greymouth for the ANZAC dawn service.

Crowds at the Greymouth for the ANZAC dawn service.

I’m really glad that I did participate. I’m especially glad that I went to the dawn service. It was moving to see a large crown gather in spite of inclement weather conditions to pay their respects. It was great to spend time talking with gentlemen who served in World War Two so long ago. And it was fantastic to be able to be part of such a huge and meaningful project documenting a disappearing part of New Zealand’s history.

Here are some images from the service. The portraits will be released as a full collection by the NZIPP and the RSA down the track, in time for the centenary of the Gallipoli landing, ANZAC Day next year.

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The Eastern, at Barrytown Hall

Lyttelton band The Eastern are one of my favourite artists to go and see play live. The first time I saw them they played last at a show called The Slow Song Review. The other artists were talented, but pretty quiet, low-key musicians. The small crowd, at Franks Cafe, Greymouth, was sitting, drinking cups of tea quietly and enjoying a relaxed evening. Then The Eastern took the stage. The inimitable Adam McGrath grabbed a quart bottle of beer and used it as a slide to play his guitar fast and loud, the crowd almost falling off their chairs. We all leapt to our feet, and stomped along with Adam and Jessie as they finished the night on an energetic, furious, hoe-down note. It was really quite a show. They’ve been back to the Coast numerous times since, and I’ve caught most of their shows. This weekend just been they were over again, this time with a new violinist and Reb Fountain adding vocals. As usual they did not disappoint.
Lindon Puffin opened, and played beautifully. His incredible cover of Elton John’s Benny & the Jets was a highlight of the evening.
When The Eastern came on, in between foot stomping and hootin’ and hollerin’ I shot a few frames. It really hit another level when, after throwing out a trouble maker (which seems to be a regular feature of the Adam’s Barrytown shows), the whole band left the stage, and played a few songs amongst the crowd. Not to be outdone by Lindon in the wonderfully executed cover stakes, they finished with an encore of ACDC’s It’s a Long Way to the Top. Check it out.

Wilderness Magazine

I’ve submitted a bit of work to Wilderness magazine lately. So far this year they’ve run a full page photograph from my Mt Rolleston trip, and a DPS and short article from Sunset Saddle, Nelson Lakes National Park.

NZ Mountain Biker Article

Tearsheets from a recent article about the Coolgardie Track published in New Zealand Mountain Biker magazine. It’s great to have full control over a piece when both writing and photographing the story.

Blackball heritage

I spent an absorbing and adventurous couple of hours behind Blackball township this evening, poking around the old mining relics. There’s a great deal of history in this area, and Blackball in particular has a lot of tangible evidence of past industry and settlement. Most of these sites are seldom visited but rich in fascinating glimpses into a different, but also not so different, way of life. Having the CineStar to get an aerial perspective meant I could get a better view of it than most.

The bridge being reclaimed by the bush has long fascinated me and I was pretty excited to get up and photograph it. You only see a little part of it from the road, so seeing the whole thing, with both ends leading nowhere in particular anymore, is pretty neat. The other photos are from a site that has some tracks and signage, but is obviously not heavily visited. There used to be two chimneys but one recently fell down, which made me extra keen to get up there and photograph the remaining one.

Bridge to nowhere

Historic Blackball Coal Mine

Historic Blackball Coal Mine

Calendars!

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Rome Ridge

Chris looks back over the valley we came from.

Chris looks back over the valley we came from.

Climbing mountains is a pretty special thing to do. Those of us who do it are fortunate enough to be able-bodied, have access to or own expensive equipment, have the time to learn the skills required, the money to travel, etc. Lately, I have been reflecting on this privilege and what it means. I cam to the conclusion that I’ve been squandering said privilege. I have the gear, the ability, the knowledge, and the time, but I don’t get around to putting it all together. And somehow that feels inexcusable. Mountains are one of my passions. There really isn’t anywhere better, to me, than to be above the bushline, climbing a big hill. I don’t care a great deal for summits, or even technical difficulty. I mean, the best view is generally form the top, and the climbing is more engaging if it is varied and challenging, but I don’t have a great desire to bag particular peaks based on their height or their grade. Mostly I love to be up there, both in good company and in solitude. I love to feel totally exhausted at the end of a great trip. I love to make critical decisions, work in teams, rely on myself, push through sapping energy, overcome fear, and just absorb the wonder of high places.

My good friend Chris ascending Rome Ridge on Mt Rolleston, shortly after clearing the valley fog, and the bushline.

My good friend Chris ascending Rome Ridge on Mt Rolleston, shortly after clearing the valley fog, and the bushline.

For a long time I’ve struggled to combine this passion for mountains with my passion for image-making. I often find them nearly mutually exclusive – when I am engaged in one, I can’t focus on the other. Consequently I have very few images from my climbing. This is something else I have reflected on and determined to change. In fact, it’s a similar privilege to be a photographer. What a luxurious way to make a living – taking photographs. What fortune to have the equipment and to be able to hone one’s craft to the point of mastery. To neglect the responsibility that comes with this fortune is a waste. I am determined to climb more, and to photograph it. That way, those who do not share my fortune may share a little of the experience in seeing my images. And perhaps seeing them will inspire someone who hasn’t ever experienced climbing a mountain, but could, to try.

Chris picks his way through loose rock.

Chris picks his way through loose rock.

So on Tuesday I went out with my friend Chris to climb Mt Rolleston, in Arthu’s Pass National Park, only an hour’s drive from my home on the West Coast. We set out at 4:30am, and stared walking about 6am, in the foggy valley of the pass. As we got above the Beech forest, we looked back south on a stunning view of mountains growing out of cotton wool mist, with the sun just cresting the peaks across the valley. Straight away I knew that this was the right thing to be doing. That I need to make more time for mountains. That I need to make more effort to carry my camera in these special places.

A happy climbing partner!

A happy climbing partner!

Thanks Chris, for coming out for a day in the hills, and helping me see what is important to me. Look for more mountain images on this blog in the near future!