Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200

Rainbow Connection

Red Granite, Blue Sky, Catlins Coast, Southland. New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Red Granite, Blue Sky

The colours in this image taken in the Catlins on the Southland coast of New Zealand’s South Island were what caught my eye.  Red granite rock formations protrude into the sea to cause reefs which claimed their share of shipwrecks during the early history of the area.  On the day of our visit the weather was changeable, as it often is autumn, but a break in cloud cover let the sun catch a distant rain shower and allowed a show of rainbow.


Mount Doom, Mordor

Mt Doom

“Mt Doom”

Mt Ruapehu in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand is a mountain I was introduced to in my teens.  Prior to that I had driven past it on the Desert Road, which forms part of State Highway 1.  It was from the Desert Road that this image was taken.  Over the years I have hiked, skied, climbed and stayed on the mountain in all of the seasons of the year. Our family of three boys learned to ski here.

In 1953 the Crater Lake at the top of the mountain broke through a ice plug in the side of the crater and flowed rapidly down the Whangaehu River, washing out the railway bridge at Tangiwai on the Main Trunk Line just before the express train from Wellington to Auckland was due to pass over it.  At 10.21 pm on 24 December the train ploughed into the river killing 151 crew and passengers.  This tragic accident happened during the first visit to New Zealand of the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II.

The volcano is still active and from time to time it erupts into life, the last time in 2007.

Mt Ruapehu and the surrounding area proved ideal as the dark and savage realm of ‘Mordor’ and ‘Mount Doom’ in the “Lord of the Rings” films. Whakapapa Ski Field, on the slopes of Ruapehu, supplied Middle Earth’s snowy slopes and the opening battlefield on the slopes of ‘Mount Doom’, where an alliance of men and elves defeats the armies of ‘Mordor’.

The mountain often has a gloomy feel to it when viewed across the desert-like foreground of the Central North Island Plateau, across which the Desert Road runs.

Shining Mountain

Shining Mountain, Taranaki, Mt Egmont, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Shining Mountain, Taranaki

The dominant feature of the Taranaki landscape in the western part of the North Island of New Zealand is this conical dormant volcano which last erupted in the mid nineteenth century.  Prior to European discovery by Captain Cook in the late 18th century the mountain was known to the Maori as Taranaki, thought to be derived from two words Tara (mountain) and ngaki (shining).  When Captain Cook discovered New Zealand he named the mountain after John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont, the First Lord of the Admiralty who promoted Cook’s first voyage.  In 1986 the Government ruled that there would be two alternative and equal official names, “Mount Taranaki” or “Mount Egmont”.

The flat land that surrounds Taranaki is very fertile and ideal for dairy farming and the region is one of the three major milk producing areas in the country.  The other key economic driver in Taranaki is oil and natural gas which was discovered in 1865 but only exploited on a large commercial scale after 1959.

On the day this image was taken the weather was changeable, but clearing.  We were hoping for a clear view of the mountain but the lingering clouds from a westerly front that had passed over the region in the previous day still hung about.  Taranaki is the first place on the North Island to cop incoming south-westerly fronts which ensure that the grass is always lush to produce the “white gold” of the dairy industry. On a clear winter day the mountain is magnificent with its crown of snow glistening in the sunlight.

Old Style Co-operation

Okato Puniho Co-operative Dairy Co Limited Factory, Taranaki, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Okato Puniho Co-operative Dairy Co Limited factory at Puniho, Taranaki

Dotted around the country roads of the Taranaki region on the western cape of New Zealand’s North Island are relics of farmer co-operation in the form of old dairy factories.  In the early dairy farming history of New Zealand farmers banded together to start co-operative dairy companies to process their milk into butter and cheese to supply the more populated towns and cities, and export customers in the United Kingdom.  At that time colonial New Zealand was seen as a food basket for the growing UK population, and was still under a heavy British influence.

The first dairy co-operative was established in Otago in 1871. By 1920 there were 600 dairy processing factories, of which about 85% were owned by co-operatives. In the 1930s there were around 500 co-operatives, but after World War II improved transportation, processing technologies and energy systems led to a trend of consolidation where the co-operatives merged and became larger and fewer in number. By the late 1990s, there were only four co-operatives left. Today, Fonterra is the largest processor of milk in New Zealand. It processes 94.8 percent of all milk solids from dairy farms throughout the country. (Wikipedia).

The small dairy factory shown above is at Puniho on State Highway 45 in the hinterland of Mt Taranaki, the dominant feature of the surrounding landscape. State Highway 45 forms part of the “Round Mt Taranaki Bike Ride” circuit. Like others of its type it now sits looking forlorn and unloved, although many others have been turned to different uses.

Morning Papers

Newspaper Man, Star Ferry Pier, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Here is another image of my visit to Hong Kong in 2009.  As is usual during any visit to a new area I tend to wake early and go for a walk with my camera.  After a night of high winds and pouring rain the morning dawned fine and the area sparked in its newly washed state.  The Star Ferry Pier was any easy walk from our hotel.  People poured onto and off the ferries as they plied the  routes across the harbour.  At the entrance to the terminal building newspaper vendors set out the morning editions of English and Chinese language newspapers ready to catch the passing trade.  As this man and his papers were in a patch of morning sun he caught my attention.  It is one of my favourite Hong Kong images because for me it captured a bit of Hong Kong life at my favourite time of the day.

Hong Kong – Selected Views and Thoughts

Over the years Hong Kong has been the territory (now part of China) that I have visited most in all my world travel. My first visit was in 1985 with my wife and three young sons (4,6 and 8 years) at the end of a round the world trip.  For my wife it was a second visit as she had been there twenty years earlier as a student. The total number of visits now stands a six, the most recent in 2008. As one can imagine, Hong Kong has changed immensely since 1965. One of the things that fascinates me every time I visit Hong Kong and its “fragrant harbour” is that there is always something new being built and yet another part of the harbour edge reclaimed from the sea.

Hong Kong Street 2, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Nathan Road, Kowloon

Our visit to Hong Kong in 2008 was during the annual typhoon season.  It rained almost for the whole three day visit, heavily at times. The above view of Nathan Road was taken from the upper deck of the bus from the airport. As we alighted from the bus the skies opened, leaving our party of five with all our luggage stranded on the pavement and somewhat bewildered.  Finally in the pouring rain we bundled ourselves into a taxi and were driven to our hotel.

Central at Night from Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

One of the key attractions in the evening is to watch the nightly sound and light show on the buildings of the Wan Chai and Central districts on Hong Kong Island from in front of the Culture Centre at Kowloon. At the same time as the music and lights started, so did the rain.  It came quickly and sent locals and tourists alike scurrying for whatever shelter they could find.  This image was captured just as the rain began. Our hotel, the Salisbury (YWCA), overlooked the Culture Centre towards the island and we were able to see the end of the display through sheets of rain powered in by the rising high winds.

Ferry leaving Star Ferry Pier at Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

A favourite part of any Hong Kong visit for me is to cross the harbour on a Star ferry.  These old-style ferries have been running for decades and are an iconic part of the HK landscape.  A ride on a Star ferry provides views of both sides of the harbour and the volume of shipping that makes this one of the busiest entrepôts in the world. The ride starts at the Star Ferry Pier in Kowloon and ends at Central Pier on Hong Kong Island.

Star Ferry Pier and Hong Kong Culture Centre, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Kowloon Star Ferry Pier and Hong Kong Culture Centre

Morning Star crossing from Central, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

"Virgo" and Star Ferry, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

"Northern Star" Star Ferry, Central, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Night Star leaving Star Ferry Pier, Central, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Night Star leaving Star Ferry Pier, Central

Central is the banking and commercial district of Hong Kong and is just as bustling as the as the more retail oriented Kowloon.  Some of HK’s tallest buildings are in Central, which sits at the harbour edge below Victoria Peak.

Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Gloucester Road, Wan Chai

Wan Chai is one of the older areas of Hong Kong Island and was made famous to many English and American moviegoers of the 1960s  by the film “The World of Susie Wong”.  Its a fascinating area to wander around as many of the older buildings nestled among the newer skyscrapers show distinct signs of decay.

Hong Kong Fine Arts School, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Abutting Wan Chai is the Admiralty District which is home to the Bank of China Tower (abbreviated BOC Tower).  It houses the headquarters for the Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited. Designed by I. M. Pei, the building is (including the two masts) 367.4 m (1,205.4 ft) high. It was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia from 1989 to 1992, and it was the first building outside the United States to break the 305 m (1,000 ft) mark. It is now the fourth tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong, after International Commerce Centre, Two International Finance Centre and Central Plaza (Wikipedia).

Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Bank of China Tower

Two International Finance Centre, Central, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Two International Finance Centre, Central

One of the best vantage points from which to appreciate Hong Kong is Victoria Peak (552 m).  The public viewing area at the Peak Lookout and Galleria presents views over exclusive housing and towers of Central, Wan Chai, Admiralty and across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon and surrounding districts.

View from The Peak, Hong Kong, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

View of Hong Kong from the Peak Lookout

It was great to revisit Hong Kong in 2008, even if it rained for most of the time.  This is one of my favourite Asian (even world) cities. It is a dynamic place, ever changing but still quintessentially Asian.  It is modern, and old. Its a splendid mixture of international commerce and finance, and ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. Its a place of hustle and bustle, and hidden pockets where you can find peace and tranquility. Its a place of exclusive designer everything, and fake knock-offs of everything. I couldn’t live there for any great period of time, but love to revisit it as often as allows.

Grey Dawn

Rangitoto Grey Dawn, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2009

Rangitoto Grey Dawn

Rangitoto Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf can be seen from many parts of the city. This volcanic cone guards the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour and all shipping entering the harbour passes through the channel seen in this view.  The mood of the island changes throughout the day and with the weather.  This image was taken just before 8.00 am on an early spring morning in 2009. The clouds reflect the changeable weather we have in Auckland at that time of the year.

Strings of Pearls

Strings of Pearls, spider web, fence, mist, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Strings of Pearls

I was strolling along, and there it was glistening in the early morning light. Dewdrop “pearls” strung on webs of silk in Alpine Victoria.

Taking Shelter

Taking Shelter, Myrtleford, Victoria, Australia, Copyright Chris Gregory 2009

Taking Shelter

This sight caught my attention one morning as I was walking on the trail between Bright and Myrtleford in Victoria, Australia.  Clearly the caravan has seen better days, but it seems to be still in use as there is an electrical connection.  I would guess the roof leaks though if the shelter over the top gives any clue!

Abandoned Tobacco Dryers

Tobacco Dryers, Myrtleford, Victoria, Australia, Copyright Chris Gregory 2009

Tobacco Drying Sheds

Until 2006 Tobacco was the major industry in the area surrounding Myrtleford in the Ovens River valley, Victoria, Australia.  Scattered throughout the are disused tobacco drying sheds  like this which was photographed through the early morning mist in 2009. Farming is now the  important industry in the region, including wine grapes, walnuts and chestnuts, berries, fruit, olives, vegetables, hops and beef and dairy cattle.

Big Surf

Surf at Porpoise Bay, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Surf at Porpoise Bay

One of the features of any coastal area that is exposed to the prevailing weather is surf.  The Catlins Coast catches all of the weather systems that come from the south, and south here means the Antarctic and South Pole.  It was an overcast and windy day when we visited Porpoise Bay and nearby Curio Bay, and the wind had a decidedly polar feel to it.  The waves were large and unwelcoming, fascinating and alluring at the same time.

Porpoise Bay

Rocks at Porpoise Bay, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Rocks at Porpoise Bay

The tiny settlement of Curio Bay in the Catlins region of Southland on New Zealand’s South Island hugs the long white sandy beach of Porpoise Bay, while Curio Bay proper is around the headland at the southern end of the beach. Near the camping ground at Curio Bay is a reef at the foot of the cliff of the headland, which is where this image was taken.  The sandy beach is to the left of the image. A pod of endangered Hector’s Dolphins live here and they can often be seen from the beach, hence the name.

Nugget Point from Short Bay

Nugget Point from Short Bay, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Nugget Point from Short Bay

To reach Nugget Point one has to drive some 25 km off the main road south of Balclutha to the coast at Port Molyneux , and then via Kaka Point, Willsher Bay and Short Bay along the coast on The Nuggets Road. Immediately it becomes clear that this is a coast with many reefs and why it was such a hazard to to early mariners in the time of sail and no GPS-based navigation.  This view was taken at Short Bay, the last small bay before the final sweep toward the point. One of the many reefs along the coast cuts through the scene just below the skyline. The famous Nugget Point lighthouse can be seen at the end of the headland.

Surat Bay

Surat Bay, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Surat Bay, Catlins Region, Southland, New Zealand

Surat Bay on the Catlins coast in Southland has one of the most beautiful unspoiled beaches in New Zealand. The bay is named after a 1,000 ton immigrant sailing ship that became wrecked here in 1874 after striking rocks further south along the coast. No lives were lost. The wide golden sandy expanse at low tide acts like a mirror as the breaking waves recede and leave a glassy  surface that reflects the sky and view in the distance beyond.  It is also one of the favourite resting areas for sea lions that come here from their breeding grounds in the Auckland Islands south of New Zealand. Click on the image for a larger view.

Tautuku River and McLean Falls

Tautuku River, Catlins Forest Park, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Tautuku River, Catlins Forest Park, Southland, New Zealand

The Tautuku River is in Catlins Forest Park and it cascades over the McLean Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in New Zealand after the equally picturesque Purukaunui Falls, also in the Catlins Forest Park. The walk to the falls passes through native New Zealand forest beside the Tautuku River. McLean Falls is a favorite travel destination for many of the visitors who tour the Catlins on the South Island of New Zealand.

McLean Falls, Tautuku River, Catlins Forest Park, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

McLean Falls, Catlins Forest Park, Southland, New Zealand

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2010

Purakaunui Falls

The Purakaunui Falls are a multi-tiered waterfall on the Purakaunui River in the Catlins region of the southern South Island of New Zealand.  These falls are an iconic image for southeastern New Zealand, and were featured on a New Zealand postage stamp in 1976. This image with its silky water was inspired by a well known photograph taken by New Zealand photographer Craig Potton.

Nugget Point Light

Nugget Point Light, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2010

One of the most popular places to visit in the Catlins region between Dunedin and Invercargill in New Zealand’s South Island is Nugget Point. A walk to the lighthouse which was constructed here in 1870  from rock quarried nearby yields spectacular views of the rugged coast that caused a number of shipwrecks in this country’s early settler days.  In 1989, along with all other lighthouses around the New Zealand coast, it was automated.


DID IDSAY THAT OUT LOUD, Seoul, South Korea, Copyright Chris Gregory 2008

Every English speaking person who travels abroad comes across an occasion where a quaint usage of the language is sighted. I’m sure it is the same for speakers of other languages as well as foreigners mangle their native tongue.  When travelling in Asia the most common sightings of unusual English phrases is on clothing and signs.  I couldn’t help myself when I saw this young girl walking in a main street in Seoul.  I’m sure she knew what the words were intended to say, but was probably unaware of the spelling error!

Chuseok Girl

Chuseok Girl, Metro Train, Seoul, South Korea, Copyright Chris Gregory 2008

After a short trip to the south of South Korea we returned to Seoul to celebrate with our hosts the harvest festival of Chuseok.  This a family gathering time and a celebration of a good harvest and of ancestors. In the days leading up to Chuseok the shops are full of gift items and special foods and furniture that are part of the rituals that go with the day.

Chuseok is also a time when you see the national Hanbok costume worn in the streets, especially by older people and children.  Supermarkets and department stores bring out racks of Hanbok to entice first-time buyers or older customers to update their costumes.  Hanbok  is often characterized by vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets. Although the term literally means “Korean clothing”, hanbok today often refers specifically to hanbok of Joseon Dynasty and is worn as semi-formal or formal wear during traditional festivals and celebrations.

This image was captured on a Seoul metro train and shows a young girl with her mother.  Mother probably has a wedding photograph showing her wearing Hanbok, but probably only otherwise wears it on formal occasions.  Young girls especially like to be seen in Hanbok at the time of Chuseok.

Monks Swimming

Monks Swimming, Geojedo, Busan, South Korea, Copyright Chris Gregory 2008

Whenever I see this image taken at a beach on Geojedo, an island near Busan in South Korea, I immediately think of the title of the book by Malachy McCourt “A Monk Swimming”. The title arises from a childhood mishearing of “amongst women”, a phrase from the Catholic rosary prayer, Hail Mary.

The image of the two Buddhist monks was taken in the early evening when we were wandering along the beach after a day of exploration and a visit to the Samsung Heavy Industries Shipyard on Geojedo.

Brass Cleaners

Brass Cleaners, Gyeongju, South Korea, Copyright Chris Gregory 2008

A visit to any place of worship, no matter what religion, usually presents a group of willing people preparing or maintaining property or articles of worship as part of their commitment to the faith.  Such was the case when we visited a Buddhist temple in Gyeongju Province, South Korea.  This happy group of ladies was polishing the temple brass in the shade on the lawn beside the temple.  There was animated chatter and laughter as they went about their task of bringing the brassware back to a high luster.


Jagalchi Fish Market, Busan, South Korea, Copyright Chris Gregory 2008

Before we went to China in 2008 for our Yangtze River Cruise my wife and I spent three weeks touring South Korea with our hosts, the parents of our new Korean daughter-in-law.  One of the highlights of this time was a visit to the Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan.  It was a wet day and people visiting the market crowded the areas under the canvas awnings seeking shelter while they inspected the daily catch offered by the market vendors.  Many of the fish on display were new to us and we were fascinated to watch local housewives carefully selecting fish for that night’s meal.

Fan Ladies

Fan Ladies, Old Chongqing, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2008

And now for the last of the Chongqing series.  This was also almost the last photograph taken at the end of our Yangtze River adventure. It was a warm afternoon. It was the fans that caught my attention as these two ladies emerged from the shop doorway.  In order to capture moments like these in street photography you have to be constantly on the lookout, but patience and persistence pays off. And thus our second trip to China, the first was in 1987, came to an end.

Lunch Time

Lunch Time, Old Chongqing, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2008

This is the last of my series on street vendors in Old Chongqing. Here the lady is cooking in the street.  In the bowl there appears to be a type of tofu, while the wok contains what looks like sliced tofu in a broth.  It is clearly a popular dish, judging by the number of people seated at the tables in the background.  Whenever we ventured into the back streets in China we came across food outlets similar to that shown above.