Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement


Luxmore Grunt

Let’s get it out up front. Some people are masochists; either that, or plain stupid (or more kindly – very determined)!

We had heard of the famous “Luxmore Grunt” from friends who do lots of walking whenever they are on holiday.  I wouldn’t call them serious hikers (or trampers, as they are commonly known in New Zealand), but keen day-walkers.  They keep a book listing all their completed walks, which they respectfully call their “Alzheimers Book” in case they forget which walks they’ve done.

The “Luxmore Grunt” is a mountain running event sponsored by the Asics sports shoe company and is run each year in December. The full race runs over the complete 60 km of the Kepler Track (another of  New Zealand’s “Great Walks”), a circuit that starts and ends at the control gates outlet of Lake Te Anau. Part of the track between Brod Bay on the lake shore and the Department of Conservation operated Luxmore Hut is normally a 4 1/2  hour, 8.5 km one way walk, and part of that rises from lake level (210 meters) to the hut at 1085 meters, the first 3 1/2 hours of which is steeply uphill. The course record for the full 60 km Kepler Challenge is 4:37:41 for men, and 5:23:34 for women! For the Luxmore Grunt from the control gates to Luxmore Hut and back (27 km) is 1:52:30 for men, and 2:04:18 for women!

With only part of this knowledge available we set out to walk the return trip to Luxmore Hut, on the day after dropping our son and his wife at the start of the Routburn Track. Starting at the Lake Te Anau control gates at 9.45 am we thought we had plenty of time to complete the walk, given the long evenings experienced in this part of the country during summer.

Kepler Track, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Following the lake shore we made our way to Brod Bay which, according to the walking guide was a gentle hour and a half walk through forest of mountain and red beech.  The problem when two people walk with cameras is that time gets stretched out – one and a half hours turned into two.

Kepler Track, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Knowing we had a steep climb ahead of us, we stopped for an early lunch to fuel us for the next stage of the walk. With energy levels duly topped up we set out on the climb, gentle at first, but then into an unrelenting 750 vertical  meter grind.  About one third of the way into the climb we glimpsed a view of the Te Anau township across the lake through the trees.

Kepler Track, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Onwards and upwards for another hour we reached a limestone bluff, a suggested lunch stop in the walking guide.  Having already eaten lunch, we stopped anyway for a drink and some trail mix.  Hikers making the downward journey informed us there was still another hour before the track cleared the treeline, so back into the grind we trudged.

Luxmore Grunt, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Finally, four and a half hours after leaving the car we emerged from the forest onto alpine meadow-land.  The immediate reaction was one of relief. After catching breath the scenery came into focus.

Alpine Grasslands, Kepler Track, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

There before us were panoramic views of the Te Anau Basin, Takitimu Mountains, and the Snowdon and Earl Mountains. We never did reach Luxmore Hut. It was another 45 minutes further up the hill.  That didn’t really matter as we achieved what we set out to do, which was to get a high alpine view of the lake, township, and surrounding mountains.

Being late in the afternoon we needed to commence our return journey after only a short rest.

Long stretches of downhill walking are very tiring.  After a long day of walking legs turn to jelly. It was tempting to stop on reaching Brod Bay, but we were still ninety minutes away from the car. Switching to auto-pilot and brains into neutral we stumbled our way to the car park and collapsed into the car, ten and a half hours after setting out.  Back to the motel we drove, dived into a hot bath, grabbed some food for a quick dinner and fell into bed, exhausted!

The Luxmore Grunt had lived up to its reputation.

(Click on images for a larger view)



I am presently reading “The Genius of Photography” by Gerry Badger, the book of the 2007 BBC TV series of the same name.  In the prelude to Chapter 2 the following photograph, which was taken in 1912 by French photographer Eugene Atget, reminded me of one I took in Istanbul, Turkey in 2006.

Eugene Atget - Corsets, Boulevard de Strasbourg 1912

Boulevard de Strasbourg, Corsets, Paris 1912 – Eugene Atget (1857-1927)

Atget built up a large portfolio of documentary photographs of Paris during a period of great change.  The importance of his collection was only recognised much later.  I doubt that my single image taken in a back street in Istanbul will carry the same gravitas in years to come!

Corsets, Istanbul, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Istiklal Cadesi, Corsets, Istanbul 2006 – Chris Gregory (19xx-Stll Here)

Corsets, Istanbul, Turkey, copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Istiklal Cadesi, Corsets, Istanbul 2006 – Chris Gregory (Original colour version)

Weekly Photo Challenge – My 2012 in Pictures

Cape Palliser, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Cape Palliser Lighthouse

For me, this image sums up my 2012 and points to a beacon of light for 2013.  Last year was quite a challenge for my wife Valerie and me – not the year that we had envisaged in January.  A straight forward looking year turned into one of unplanned trips and a crippling accident which entailed several long periods away from home.

The above image was taken at Cape Palliser near the entrance to Wellington Harbour. We visited this remote cape as a side trip before journeying to a family wedding. When I look at the stairs they represent the long haul through the year where out-of-town family child minding trips dominated the early part, followed by Valerie’s recovery from a skiing accident in the latter part.  The lighthouse at the top represents the beacon showing a clear passage for the year to come.

In between all of this we fitted a whale watching trip to Kaikoura on the north eastern coast of the South Island of New Zealand, a holiday on Queensland’s Gold Coast, and a lovely couple of days skiing before the accident.

We are grateful that our wide circle of friends have given us encouragement and support throughout the period since August, for which we feel blessed indeed.  Such is Val’s recovery that we are already planning our travels for this year and are excited by the prospects of what is to come.

The stairs also represent my journey with photography and blogging.  It has been a year of learning and experimentation.  Each new discovery leads me towards the next summit.  My blog received its 10,000th visit just before New Year’s Eve, which was one of my goals for the year.  I don’t do this for the numbers but, being a retired numbers person, I am interested to watch how the visits increase and where they come from.  This blog gives me an outlet for my photography and a reason to keep on finding new material and to improve my craft.  I am grateful for those who take the time to visit and explore my blog, and especially for the growing number of followers.  In return I follow the blogs of others and get great enjoyment from reading what they post and how they see the world.

Thank you for your support.  Best wishes for 2013, and may you succeed in all you do and have a happy and healthy year.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

St James Station, St James Conservation Area, Hanmer Springs, Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Historic Farm Buildings, St James Conservation Area, Canterbury, New Zealand

This oasis of green is at the site of the old St James Station homestead beside the Clarence River in the St James Range in North Canterbury. The original St James Homestead built around 1880 burned down in 1947 but the out buildings that remain are considered of special importance and worthy of restoration by the Department of Conservation. The area is reached by car by following a winding narrow unsealed road out of Hanmer Springs leading to the Molesworth Station. At a “T” junction the road to the left leads to the site of the old St James Homestead. In summer this area is very dry but the area immediately around the homestead site is green and sheltered by trees.


Silhouette, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012


Memorial Square, Martinborough in the Wairarapa District near Wellington. The early morning sun casting shadows across the square.

Still Abandoned in Venice Street

Abandoned in Venice Street, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Abandoned in Venice Street

Here is a monochrome variation of the post Abandoned in Venice Street. I have been playing with the techniques of producing B&W images for a while and have added Perfect Effects 7 to my kitset of tools. Some images develop a whole different life when given the monochrome treatment. The original colour image is shown below for you to judge for yourself.

Abandoned in Venice Street, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Abandoned in Venice Street – Original

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.


Americas Cup, Team New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012


Anyone who knows about elite yachting knows that to enter a yacht into the Americas Cup contest requires lots (that’s LOTS) of money.  That obviously limits entrants to millionaires (maybe billionaires) who can fund the development and testing required to produce two very technical craft for the challenger series, followed by the main Americas Cup event itself.  The next Cup series will be sailed in 72 foot catamarans with wing sails and a crew of  about a dozen sailors.  And these craft literally fly on their winged dagger boards.

This image was taken at the limits of my 18-200 mm zoom telephoto lens. From camera position to the Emirates Team New Zealand cat is approximately 4 km, with the lens zoomed right out.  The image has been cropped to give an even “closer” view. Although there was only a light breeze the yacht still had one hull lifted completely out of the water.  Already when testing their yacht in San Francisco Bay, Team Oracle have managed to nosedive and flip their boat, spilling all the crew into the water.  Its expensive having an accident in these yachts!


Poles, St Clair Beach, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012


This is another image in my series taken at dusk of the sand control poles at St Clair Beach, Dunedin. A previous image in the series can be seen here.

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.

Life can change in a split second

Rescue Helicopter, Cardrona Resort Ski Field, Otrago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Lift Off

This isn’t the greatest photo, is was taken with my mobile phone to record an intermediate step in a day that started out great but  suddenly changed direction.  While dismounting a chairlift at Cardrona Resort skifield near Wanaka in Central Otago, New Zealand, my wife fell and badly fractured her left leg.  This required a 45 minute rescue helicopter ride to hospital in Dunedin.  On board was another skier from the Snow Park across the Cardrona Valley (you can see it in the distance) with a fracture on his right leg in the same place! Needless to say, this has caused a major rearrangement of our lives for the next few weeks as she recovers from a pinning operation and gets used to moving around on crutches. Our special thanks go to the Cardrona Ski Patrol and Westpac Helicopter crew from Dunedin, as well as the staff and doctors at Dunedin Hospital.

It all goes to show, it doesn’t matter what type of camera you have with you, even a humble mobile phone, you can still capture the moment.

Incy Wincy Spider

Spider, rice field, Gyeong ju, South Korea, Incy Wincy Spider, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Spider in rice field, Gyeong ju Province, South Korea

While on an early morning walk in rural Gyeong ju Province, South Korea in 2008 I spotted this colourful spider near the pathway beside a field of rice. I didn’t get closer than my telephoto lens would allow!

Capturing the Moment

There is little more that I can add about this image.  It was captured from a lookout at Curumbin Beach on Queensland’s Gold Coast.  It was a rather opportunistic shot, but it captured the moment.

Capturing the Moment, Curumbin Beach, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Capturing the Moment


Devonport is a small seaside suburb a short ferry ride across the harbour from the the main Auckland CBD.  It has managed to retain its quaint early colonial character because a fiercely loyal group of local inhabitants who have fought for years to prevent development that is out of sync with the local environment.

A major feature of the Devonport waterfront is the ferry wharf.  It has undergone several redevelopments over the years, including the most recent (1990s) and probably most controversial.  It is about to undergo another major refurbishment in 2012.

Several weeks ago I had a short walk along the Devonport shoreline and captured these images.

Devonport Wharf, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Towards Auckland CBD from under the Devonport Wharf

Devonport Wharf, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Cross bracing under the Devonport Wharf

Sea Wall, Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Sea Wall, Devonport

Waiting with the HOG

Waiting – who hasn’t?  We’re always waiting for something. The length of a wait is a function of importance, impatience, indifference, intolerance, or any other personal trait you can name.  Waiting time can seem incredibly short or intolerably long.  It all depends on one’s perspective.

Watching people waiting can be interesting.  Some people are relaxed and take in the scenery around them.  Others fidget and look at their watches every few minutes,  anxiously looking around for the person or thing they’re waiting for.  There are also people who slip into a state of limbo and appear to be totally detached from the world around them.

Waiting with a HOG - Harley Davidson Motorcycle and girl

Waiting with the HOG - Viaduct Basin, Auckland, New Zealand

The object that caught my attention in this image was the motor cycle – a modified Harley Davidson I think.  Then the surroundings came into focus, especially the sight of the lone girl waiting in the shade while diners eat at the nearby restaurant.  If you look carefully you will see the motor cycling clothing piled up against the wall by the restaurant sign.

As photographers it seems that we’re always waiting.  Waiting for inspiration, for improvement, for the light, for the sun to rise or set, for the right expression … for the magic moment!

Climbing the Learning Ladder

If one was to believe all of the camera advertisements about how easy it is to make terrific photographs, then every person who owns a modern digital camera would taking award-winning pictures at every press of the shutter button.  If only it was that easy!

Sure, anyone can create an image by just “pressing the button”, but would they be satisfied with the result? For some, the thought about whether it is a good or bad image isn’t a worry – they’ve got a picture and that’s all that matters.  Others agonise over the technical perfection of their images, but still produce ordinary photographs. And there are people who don’t care a damn about the technical details of the shot, but have a natural ability to see things that others overlook, and regularly turn out great images that capture the mood of the moment or the essence of the soul.  Wouldn’t it be great to not only do the latter, but also know why and how the result was achieved so that you could be repeat the process on purpose on another occasion?

Oil Tank - Tank Farm, Western Reclamation, Waitemata Harbour, Auckland, New Zealand

Oil Tank Inspection Ladder - Is the tank half empty of half full?

When looking at this image – taken on a recent photo walk around the Western Reclamation oil storage area near Auckland’s Viaduct Basin – I began to wonder where I was on my imagined photography ladder.  Climbing my ladder has at times been very satisfying, and other times highly frustrating.  Sometimes when looking into the tank of photographic experiences it has appeared to be “half full”.  At other times, when I am not getting the results I want, it looked very much “half empty”.  The photography game can be very frustrating, especially when trying to find one’s own “voice” or style.

As a regular reader of photography blogs, browser of magazines, and borrower of library books on the subject, I see versions of my own journey retold by others.  Whilst that is comforting, it is not necessarily helpful. When I read comments by the likes of Joe McNally who says “if you want to make more interesting photographs put yourself in more interesting places” it makes sense, but you still have to know your craft to make a good image.  Learning the “craft” of photography takes practice – lots of it – where making mistakes leads to learning how to achieve better results.

During my journey I have learned that I shouldn’t expect every photograph to be a masterpiece – not even the masters could achieve that!  I’ve learned that experimentation can lead to unexpected surprises, and that leads to incremental improvement.  I’ve also learned to look at the world differently, to take notice of the small things as well as the obvious, about how light changes the shape and colour of things, to look for patterns, angles, lines and curves, to seek a different point of view, and much more.  Most of this  comes from practice, making mistakes, observing, listening, reading, and making an effort to continually ask questions on how to do find a better way.

Have I reached my destination yet? No. The road ahead is still long, but it is a journey worth the effort.