Some trips are too good to be true. When I first came across images of the Owen Plateau, I put it right at the top of my wish list. The terrain looked like something from a fairy tale. Take the rolling limestone rockscape of Castle Hill, put it into Fiordland’s Valley of the Trolls, then blow it up tenfold. The result would look something like Kahurangi National Park’s Mount Owen and the surrounding open tops of the Marino Mountains.
For years I had been shooting alongside photographers who use panoramic heads. For my style of photography I never really saw the need. I would shoot the odd single-row panorama, but I was totally fine doing so with a standard tripod head.
As more panoramas started creeping into my work, I encountered more issue with panoramas that would not stitch properly. Ridges in the distance would not align or my foregrounds had zig-zag patterns of misalignment running through them.
This is not a fully fledged review. If you are after a comprehensive analysis by someone who has spent weeks with the GFX you will be bitterly disappointed. What you will find here are honest first impressions by a not-so-very-technical guy who makes a living with photography. Chances are that I got some things wrong in the little time that I had with the camera. I will trust you take my musings with a grain of salt.
In the spirit of full disclosure you should also know that I am a Fujifilm X-Photographer. The Fujifilm NZ team was so kind to provide me with a sample GFX and assorted lenses for some personal testing. Why they trusted me with kit equivalent to the value of a mid-range car is beyond me, but hey, you know the one about gift horses!
How to combine an ergonomic day pack and a camera insert to create a pain-free alternative to classic photography backpacks.
I’m 38 years old, and I’m a bit of a wreck. A lifetime spent behind a desk combined with bad luck playing the genetic lottery will do that to you. I love tramping (aka hiking, if you are a non-Kiwi), but years ago I was not enjoying the experience any more. Back and neck pain had finally caught up with my sedentary lifestyle. It was time to find a new carrying system.
I fell in love with Aarn Packs, a New Zealand outdoor gear company that specialises in ergonomic backpacks (or bodypacks, as they call them), after exploring the market for a while. Considering that they completely reinvented backpacks, that’s a bit of an understatement. I started using one of their bigger overnight packs and my pain just went away.
When a tropical storm sneaks up on your tramping adventure, you better have a backup plan. It was just before Easter when cyclone Cook slowly bumbled along the east coast and right into our long anticipated trip. Instead of packing, our evenings were spent with weather forecasts. Plans were amended, and nails were bit. The forecasts all seemed to agree that things were not looking quite as dire in the north-west corner of the South Island. Simultaneously however, the talking heads in the news were saying the exact opposite. Thanks to the unpredictable nature of NZ weather, we took all of the above with a grain of salt.
In war as in tramping there is one rule: No man left behind! So how did we end up on top of our little pile of rubble with one person missing? Let’s start at the beginning.
My lovely Better Half (she asked me to capitalise due to her significance) and I enjoy open tops tramping. The biggest commitment to staying on tracks usually involves getting through a stretch of otherwise impenetrable New Zealand bush. Once above tree-line we tend to find our own way to a scenic location to spend the night. The extra effort of going uphill is rewarded with amazing views. Obviously we are both very appreciative of instant gratification!
Dear summer, where are you?
I’m the first to admit that performing under pressure can be hard. But then I look at the calendar and can’t help but wonder where you are and what you are doing. Are you even thinking of us lately? Sure, you teased us for a few days. But by the time I had dug out my shorts, I needed to turn on the heater once again. The heater. In January!
A few weeks ago a friend and I were exploring the old war bunkers and gun emplacements at Godley Head in Christchurch. At one of the sites we ran into a guy who mentioned that there had been secret concerts there in the past. We thought to ourselves what an amazing location this would be to listen to music and take in the environment.
When I started out in landscape photography I did not have a clue what I was doing. I mashed the shutter button on my camera in the expectation that, surely, the result would look exactly the way I remembered the scene. Then there were all those smug veteran photographers with their amazing images that all looked so effortless. I always wondered how much of these unique looks were achieved straight out of camera, and how much of it was done at the computer. Since no one shared their processes or RAW images in any great detail, I just decided that my photography sucked.
New Zealand is not exactly known as prime snowshoeing terrain. Our winter landscapes are mostly dominated by snowless valleys and ragged, imposing peaks. So it is either no snow or outright mountaineering terrain, right?
Luckily there are a few exceptions. Thanks to its high altitude, reliable snow cover and gentle terrain, the Two Thumbs range near Lake Tekapo is a good starting point for a snowshoe adventure.