23 September 2014

37/52 and 38/52: Camp connoisseur and a master builder

A portrait of my children once a week every week in 2014

Noah: you were so amped to go on your first ever cub camp. The reality may not quite have lived up to expectation with a ghastly weekend of weather meaning that you spent the entire weekend wet and cold. You got to experience sleeping in a tent for the first time, and managing your self for the whole weekend. We were a little surprised you came home in the same trousers you'd left in, and I'm not sure if you remembered to brush your teeth on the second day but it's all part of the learning experience right?! You told me that you'd heard so many moreporks while sleeping in the tent, and that you did get a little homesick (as did many of your other cub pack mates) at dinner time on the second night knowing that we were at home celebrating Mylo's birthday with Nana and Poppa, but you were a trooper and stuck it out till Dad came and picked you up on Sunday morning. You sure appreciated giving us all hugs and jumping into your warm and soft bed again on Sunday night.

Mylo: it's been a huge week for you - your last day at daycare, your birthday and party and your first day of school all within a few days of each other. And even though the LEGO movie party was a great success, quite possibly my favourite moment was just hanging out with you at home quietly on your actual birthday day with Nana and Poppa. We gave you a Toy Story LEGO set for your birthday that had been sitting in the cupboard (for about 4 years!) and you set to work building the whole thing by yourself. What determination and concentration you showed, you'd only let one of us sit and look at the page and comment if something didn't look quite right (which was pretty infrequent!) otherwise you just kept going till the whole thing was complete. You surprised us all with your master builder abilities again when you got a LEGO movie set from Jackie and Heidi for ages 8-14 the next day and proceeded to build this with no trouble at all either! Oh my little boy it feels like you've grown up so much just in the space of a few days!

22 September 2014

A virgin outing, leading lines and vanishing points, and an annoying black spot

As we slip further into spring, it is inevitable that the days are getting longer. Which I know most people will be rejoicing over, but for this early bird who likes to catch the sunrise - guess what that means - I have to get up even earlier! Back in July, visiting Castlepoint and New Plymouth, I could roll out of bed around 6.30am and still get to my photo shoot location in the almost dark preparing for the sun which would rise anywhere between 7.30-8am.


The morning I took these shots I had to set the alarm for 5.30am to make sure I could drive to Seatoun and be ready for the sun to rise around 6.30am. Well you might say that's no big deal as the alarm always goes off at that time during the week for me anyway, but I do look forward to a slight sleep in on the weekends.  Anyway, as it's entirely my choice to be out taking photos at this time of the day I just need to suck it up!

The last time I came to Seatoun Pier was on Queens Birthday weekend and it was about 3 degrees and I'm pretty sure I wasn't even shooting my images in RAW format at that stage. So I was determined to get some better quality shots here and also road test the new D800 camera - that alone was enough to get my butt out of bed if nothing ese. The last time I was here there wasn't a cloud in the sky which was lovely in its own way, but do think I prefer the moody skies that I captured here on this morning.

The one thing I immediately noticed upon setting up the camera was how amazingly big the eyepiece is, and looking through the viewfinder at a scene like this above was enough to make me gasp in excitement. There may have been a few 'holy wow's spoken to myself during this session after seeing the shots that were being captured - just saying.

I do love piers because of the lovely symmetry and lines they offer in a shot - the technical photographic terms for this phenomena is 'leading lines' - the way your eyes are led down the centre of the photograph towards the 'vanishing point' - where the lines appear to disappear altogether. This shot below is quite possibly my favourite ever example of both leading lines and vanishing point - I'm seriously tempted to put this one up as a canvas at home - and that's saying something with all the other shots I've taken and loved these past few months!

But there's only SO many shots you can take of  a pier after all so I decided I'd head around the bays a bit further to Scorching Bay.

The light here was rather lovely - the sun had risen and was hiding behind all those clouds on the left hand side and was trying hard to break through in places. I put on the neutral density filter to get a longer exposure which gives the clouds that lovely silky look, and the muted reflections in the water were quite lovely too.

It was at this point that the morning took a bit of a turn for the worse. I suddenly noticed that there was a very large black speck showing on the photos - see the photo below as an example. As I'd only just put the ND filter on I thought it might have been something on the filter. So I checked and cleaned both the filter and the lens and tried again.

Same deal.

Then I tried using the in-camera image cleaning sensor which worked and the speck disappeared, but only for about 5 shots before it reappeared in a slightly different spot.

As you can imagine I was cursing somewhat. After spending several thousand on a new camera the last thing I wanted to happen was this!

Thankfully with the wonders of Lightroom, you can see with the shot above as a 'before' and the shot below as an 'after' version, and I have managed to 'heal' the photos in post-processing and also crop where needed to get rid of the speck but still that's not really the point.

You can also see the difference between using the neutral density filter above and not below and the effect this has on the water and clouds. Both are lovely in their own way I guess.

I really love this shot below too, it's so very calming don't you think?


As I had to drive back around the point to get to the main road, I decided to stop in again at the mini lighthouse in Kau Bay because the light and clouds were just too lovely not to stop!

It was lucky I did get out and get these shots because the day turned to custard about two hours later and remained that way for the rest of the weekend.


When I got home, I had to wait two hours, but the minute that the photo store opened I was on the phone explaining what had happened to the camera. I took it in to show them and they agreed this was not just a little piece of dust on the lens but something far more obvious and unwelcome! On zooming into shots, it looked rather like a piece of plastic or metal had gotten itself dislodged from the body housing.

I'm thankful to say that I walked out with a brand new camera body after only ten minutes in the shop - so good on them for coming to the party. Just another reason why I am super grateful I bought locally with a 3-year Nikon NZ warranty and not over the Internet where I might have saved a couple of hundred dollars but I would have had no comeback with an issue like this, I would have needed to send the whole camera back to wherever it came from (probably China), so this little mishap alone completely vindicated that decision!

Here's to more lovely mornings like this (minus that little black spot!).

19 September 2014

Celebrating you...reflecting on the first five years

How is it even possible that you are turning five tomorrow? My heart is both happy and sad in equal measures. You, the little one who completed our family. Whose name we took a long time to choose but it was the name I liked as soon as we knew another boy would be joining our family, and so it was eventually the name you got. But with a Y not an I – deliberately so that it looked nicer with our last name and would hopefully reduce any associations with 'that' drink.

You have always been your own person and known your own mind, that is for sure. Whereas your big brother can usually be cajoled or convinced to do something, once you have your mind set, you can be unwavering and hard to persuade otherwise.  

I had grand plans not to let you be a bad daytime sleeper like your big brother who had to either be held to sleep or taken out in the stroller till he was about one year old, and to be fair you did sleep well during the day from an early age. Not so much at night, but hey we got there in the end.

When it came to eating, you made it pretty clear early on that you were a HUGE fruit fan, and you still are. I could only ever get you to eat pureed veges if I sweetened it with some apple or pear, and even today you will often choose fruit over other more sugary treats. Blueberries, grapes, kiwifruit, banana – they all go down singing hymns as your Grandma would say. Meat – not so much, it’s always been a struggle to get you to eat anything chewy like chicken and beef, often only a mouthful in one sitting, and even that is painful and takes an age. Cheese on the other hand is your other favourite thing – we know whenever we go to a café as long as there cheese scones you’ll be as happy as larry. There were times when I despaired that you preferred eating snails and old lemon skins (that looked like cat poo) over your own food, but it was probably all good roughage as they say!

Unlike your brother, who craves company and being social every minute of the day, you are very happy in your own company and always have been. Often if it’s just the two of us, you’re happy to just amuse yourself, minutes and hours can go past without the need for conversation, you’re just happily playing in your own world.

Your rides to daycare with Dad in the mornings have encouraged your love of music and singing and you can quite tunefully sing the words to a good number of songs like Tonight by Fun and Pompeii by Bastille (the songs I have chosen for your 'This is the Life' video at the bottom of this post).
We were so worried about your big brother being so painfully shy before he went to school, but we needn’t have been as he thrived almost immediately, and not a skerrick of that shyness remains today. You are also quite quiet in big gatherings and unlikely to speak up unless you feel comfortable in a setting, but we know that you will thrive too, we’ve seen you easily take on your brother at home and have no doubt you can and will hold your own.

Quick to move and crawl, we were SO sure you’d be quick to walk too. But in true “I’ll do it my way” fashion, you decided to shuffle around on your knees for a good couple of months while we despaired that you would ever do it before finally deciding that it might be more fun to actually walk on your feet. You could do it and you had already done it, you just wanted to do it when you were good and ready.

From an early age, it was obvious that you had great hand-eye co-ordination and you were kicking a football before you could even walk properly.

Your daddy was most impressed with your ‘left foot’ and you’ve carried that into your Little Dribblers football which we started you off at age 3, and you can score most times you get near the goal with both feet. We will carry on encouraging your confidence to be a bit more aggressive in tackling and running after the ball, but you are already a great little footballer. You get in plenty of practice at home with your big brother too!


When it came to riding a bike, you were reluctant to give up the running bike because you'd been on it for years, but we were amazed at how quickly you picked up the ability to ride a big bike with training wheels and then very quickly progressed to without – all those years on the running bike clearly giving you great balance to get you started.

Being a younger brother has some great perks, like learning games that are way older than the ‘recommended age’. You caught onto UNO and Sleeping Queens very early on, and your love of numbers (much more so than letters) shines through in your desire to do ‘maths’ rather than ‘writing’ given the chance. You could count to 100 when you had just turned four, and can skip count in tens to 100 and do basic sums up to 10 all before heading off to school. You know all your letters, but you’re not that bothered about learning to read words yet, and we know that there’s plenty of time for that to develop at school.

When you put your mind to something though, you do like it to be 'correct' or look exactly how you imagine it, and sometimes it is hard to convince you that what you have done is 'good enough'. It's great to have a little bit of 'perfection' and a desire for something to look just how you want it to (Mum knows this all too well), but we hope we can encourage you that sometimes just doing your best is OK too.

You are our little magpie - you love 'collecting treasures' - whether this be the latest Macdonalds Happy Meal toy, or something you have created at crèche or daycare, and often your dresser is overflowing with such treasures, each important to you in it's own way.

You are an affectionate wee thing, and any time we are out and about, a little hand slips into ours quite naturally. I love that I can still pick you up and carry you, and I’ll be sad when you get too big for this. You’re a smaller build than your big brother, but just as tall at the same age which never ceases to amaze me as Dad and I aren’t that tall, and you were on the small side of average as a baby. I remember how you weren’t putting on enough weight at about three months old, and having to make extra trips to Plunket to make sure you were doing OK, and looking back that just seems crazy now!

You’re a delightful, affectionate, co-ordinated wee guy and it has been our greatest pleasure to watch you grow these past five years. This next chapter of your life will bring new challenges and adventures and we will encourage you to embrace them as they arise, to develop your existing talents and to pursue your God-given hopes and dreams.

We love you!

This is your life Mylo age 4-5 from mnms on Vimeo

18 September 2014

My brother is an IRONMAN!

This post is dedicated to my amazing big brother-in-law who just a week ago completed the Welsh Ironman in Tenby in 14 hours and 21 minutes, smashing his goal of 15 hours and well within the required 17 hour maximum time.

He only entered the race it in May of this year, and although already pretty fit with the amount of road biking and other activities he's done over the past year or two - this was a whole other level of intensity.

Like I described it to the boys, it was like Uncle James swimming from our house to school and back twice, then jumping on the bike and riding all the way to Whanganui and then running from our house all the way to Upper Hutt. When you put it in terms like that, it seems utterly incredible and a feat of incredible stamina and endurance.


An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world.

Most Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race. The race typically starts at 7:00 a.m.; the mandatory swim cut off for the 2.4-mile (3.9 km) swim is 9:20 a.m. (2 hours 20 minutes), the mandatory bike cut off time is 5:30 p.m. (8 hours 10 minutes), and the mandatory marathon cut off is midnight (6 hours 30 minutes). Any participant who manages to complete the triathlon within these timings becomes an ironman.

We are so incredibly proud of you James! And a big cheer for your amazing support crew Ann-Marie, Jack and Mum and Dad.

P.S. Thanks to Ann-Marie for the pictures I stole off your Facebook too!

17 September 2014

Gone Girl {Book Review and upcoming movie}

Golly gosh, if there was ever a book to mess with your mind (in a good way!) it's Gone Girl. I lost count of the number of times I thought I had the measure of the storyline only to find that WHAM! another twist I didn't see coming had me reeling in utter shock.

This is the story of Nick and Amy, a seemingly happy couple living in the Mid West of the USA. However, on the day of their five year wedding anniversary, Amy disappears without a trace. Nick is unable to fathom what could possibly have happened, and willingly assists the police in their investigations. Signs of a struggle at their home make him believe she was taken, however he soon finds himself targeted by the police as their main suspect, and this makes him even more determined to clear his name and find out what has happened to 'Amazing' Amy - his wife is well-known as the only child and muse of a long-running children's book series written by her parents.

The story is incredibly cleverly written in alternating chapters between Nick and Amy, Nick's chapters written in the present day - in the days following her disappearance, whereas Amy's chapters are written as diary entries from five years before when they first became a couple and continue up to the moment of her disappearance. Nick hunts desperately for clues - and finds some very real clues as he completes the annual treasure hunt anniversary tradition that Amy had set up for him this year as on every other year, and he is ultimately completely shocked by what he finds, setting the tone for the second half of the book.

The author does a fabulous job of weaving her words so that you become so accustomed to Nick and Amy, to their personalities and their flaws so that when the biggest twist in the book is revealed it's like someone barrelling into you so hard that it literally knocks the breath right out of you for a few moments. I found this book so hard to put down that I literally read late into the night one Saturday night until I couldn't keep my eyes open one more minute, and then got up very early on Sunday morning as I just had keep reading to find out how it would ultimately all be resolved.

To begin with, I found myself completely unwilling to accept the realities of what did actually happen to Amy, it just wasn't what I expected and I had grown to completely accept the characters for who they were, so the reality really hit me hard. I also found myself swinging wildly in support between Nick and Amy depending on whose chapter I was reading, but it became evident that I had been played for a fool by both sides along the way, and long after the final chapters played out I couldn't stop thinking about them both, as a couple, as individuals, and about the part that the media plays in sensational disappearance cases like this. It is clearly very different to how it might have played out twenty years ago, and it really got me wondering how much sway the media can have in deciding who is right and who is wrong.

It also got me thinking - how well do we really know our loved ones? We can think we do, but can we ever, really, truly know what's going on inside someone else's mind? An interesting, and somewhat disturbing thought if you let your imagination run wild - I think it is honestly far easier to decide not go there and just accept that what's on the surface is all you really need to know. Something to ponder on, and this book has certainly resonated with me, so much so that despite knowing how it did all turn out, I am desperate to see how this gets adapted into a movie.

Gone Girl - the movie premieres in NZ in just a couple of weeks on 2 October starring Ben Affleck and Rosmund Pike.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is published by Hachette NZ and is available from 9 September. 

RRP: $27.99

Thanks to Hachette NZ for the review copy.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Gone Girl in exchange for my review.  I am not being compensated in any other way.

16 September 2014

Sunset at Princess Bay - jewel of the night {landscape photography}

The day I picked up my new D800 camera it had been exactly two weeks since my last excursion out and about in search of the golden hour of photo opportunities. I was so ready to be out in the great outdoors again, I’d been itching to get out of the house for days but with the busyness of everything else going on right now I just hadn’t found an opportunity to get away.  Although it would have been great to be able to take the new camera out on its virgin outing, the battery was still charging on the kitchen bench and I didn’t want to rush out willy nilly without all the right protective filters on the new lenses first. I’ll admit it was hard to leave it behind though!

Island bay sunset

south coast waves Island Bay Wellington

After getting dinner organised for the troops at home, I literally dashed out the door the minute Mark arrived home just after 5pm, and headed straight for the South Coast. The sun was still casting its golden light on the island in Island Bay and there was an unbelievably big swell out in the Strait even though it wasn’t actually that windy. I put it down to the big full moon that would soon rise over the harbour.

I do love Island Bay as a location, having the island and rocks as a focal point in photos makes for a much more interesting horizon than ones with pure water alone. Having said that, more recently I’ve also fallen in love with Princess Bay. Here you can actually get right out amongst the rocks themselves quite easily, and on a clear day with stunning views looking back across Island Bay towards the Kaikoura ranges and in particular Mount Tapuae-o-uenuku it is an incredible setting.

sunset princess bay south coast wellington

reflections in rocks princess bay wellington

princess bay wellington sunset rocks and reflections

sunset princess bay south coast wellington

sunset pink skies Wellington views of Kaikoura

Even though that morning in the city hadn’t promised much for the day with unusually hazy skies, this was going to be my one and only opportunity to get out this week, so I just ‘carpe diem’ed and went with it. And as the sun sunk behind the western coast, the mountains of the South Island literally rose up out of the salmon sky overpowering even the biggest waves that were crashing on shore. With the telephoto zoom on (at full stretch) I still felt I could only just do justice to the incredible vista.

I found a beautiful spot near some jagged rocks to set up camp, enjoying both the reflections of the rocks in the water as well as the opportunity to capture some silky wave action as the waves threw themselves with abandon at the face of the rocks.

princess bay long exposure at dusk

Island Bay silhouette south coast wellington

Rocks and silhouettes south island from wellington

Tussock and Kaikoura mountain range from Wellington

Lyall Bay Wellington at dusk

When I moved further round the headland, I got distracted taking photos down low amongst the tussock, and then let out a squeal of delight when I turned around and saw the very big full moon rising from behind the eastern hills.

Moonrise Wellington harbour

Moon rise reflected in water Wellington harbour

Capturing a very ‘in-focus’ moon shot rising is still an elusive goal for me – and one I am determined to knock off at some point, but being down near the water to get the moonlight reflections was still unique and something I can’t do from up in the hills at home.

Mark was due out at a meeting by 7.30pm, so with a rumbling stomach in need of dinner, a need to empty my bladder growing by the minute and the dark having almost fully enveloped me, I headed home, once again in awe at nature’s amazing entrée I’d lovingly savoured that evening.


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