19 December 2014

Spinning the night away: my intro to steel wool spinning

One of the nicest things about social media (as opposed to all the downsides like getting addicted to it, potential stalkers and the like!) is meeting like minded people who share common interests who you never otherwise would have the chance to meet.

Blogging was like that to begin with, though blogging has somewhat died a bit of a death for a lot of people this year), and this year meeting up with other photographers I've found on Instagram has been awesome too.

A few weeks ago, three lovely NZ photographers from Auckland (IG tag: lilminxy), Tauranga (IG tag: rach_stewart_nz) and Hamilton (IG tag: brentpurcell_le.nz) descended on the Capital to photo up a storm. And that they did even though the storm and wind of Friday night/Saturday was pretty crazy and put a few restrictions on their photo taking opportunities.

I'd caught up with them (plus a few local Wellington IG photographers) for a drink on Friday night and then spent most of Saturday afternoon and evening with them too. The walk to Korokoro dam to take photos had to be quashed with over 100 km/hr wind and driving rain making the 1 hour return walk seem less appealing than a black banana. Instead we holed up at Chocolate Fish Café to wait out what we hoped was better weather to come later in the day.

If there's one thing photographers are good at it's sussing out the weather. The Metservice rain radar information was closely studied and analysed and we decided that it was all going to come right at about 7pm - hopefully in time for sunset. Actually it was even earlier than that, by the time we got back to town and took some photos around the boatsheds, the skies were clearing.


After a walk down Wellington's own graffiti lane, we headed to a newish restaurant in town called Mexico for dinner - the plan being to get out to Princess Bay for sunset. We were a bit late leaving the restaurant and unfortunately the best colour in the sky was during the very fast (only slightly speeding!) trip out to the coast.

That being said, the light was still lovely for a shot or two even without the fiery skies!

The one thing I'd been really looking forward to was to try steel wool spinning for the first time. I'd seen some of these friends' photos of other times they'd tried it and I was super intrigued to get some shots of it for myself. A couple of the Wellington crew (IG tag: thelongsilence  and IG tag: indigo_id) had been up to this fort before a few weeks back and said it would make a great spot for spinning. They were right!

Fort Balance is an old abandoned fort up high on the north end of the Miramar peninsula, apparently built in 1885 after fears of an impending war with Russia. It's covered in graffiti and I cannot wait to go back up there in daylight and take some shots too - it's got photo opportunites galore!

But we were here for the spinning and spin we did. It's quite intriguing but the concept is simple - take a kitchen whisk, stuff it with fine grade steel wool (that you can buy from Repco or the like), attach it to a metal chain, and light it up. Spin like crazy for about 30 second or as long as the sparks fly. Not satisfied with this show, Brent has also developed his own automatic version which is basically a drill with a long piece of metal attached to the drill bit that has two whisks on it. Twice as many sparks and twice as fast! Wowzers.

After trying a few different techniques with the drill including one brave member volunteering to go into the hot seat, a few of us had a go at some manual spinning - it was super fun and not scary like I thought it might be.

This is my spin in this photo above!

For the finale, we wanted to go out with a big bang and do something worthy of the occasion. We found a circular room (almost like where you'd have expected a cannon to be set up with the ability to swivel 360 degrees) which looked like it would be the ticket. Getting up on top of the walls however proved a little more tricky which involved some of us climbing up a rather flimsy metal ladder with camera gear in tow, while the rest of us bush bashed our way up and then had our camera gear handed to us from below.

After one false start where Brent nearly set himself alight and we laughingly joked we may need to call on our only other male to wee on him from above to put out the fire, we got our spectacular finale. Boy was it amazing watching the sparks fly out in all directions while Brent lay on the ground holding the drill above his head. So worth the effort to get up above to take this shot!

By this time it was getting near to midnight, and I reluctantly had to farewell my photo buddies, but feeling very much on a high after an evening of conquering new photography techniques! It's something I am definitely keen to try again one day!

17 December 2014

50/52: A shepherd and a drummer boy

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

Whew we are on the home stretch to Christmas now.....and it sure felt like it over the weekend as we enjoyed watching the Arise Christmas production 'Nativity' and seeing the boys participate in it on stage too.

We are still fairly new to Arise - we only started attending about six weeks ago, and despite the size of the church (well over 1,000)m, we have been made to feel extremely welcome and part of things so quickly which was my initial fear in going to a church this big. The Christmas production is a pretty big affair there - put on at 4 sessions 10am, 12pm, 5pm and 7pm on the day. This year the younger kids in Rocket Junior (age 4-7) sang Mary's Boy Child all dressed up as shepherds, angels, and barn animals. Then the Rocket kids (age 8-12) put on a rousing rendition of Little Drummer Boy complete with red buckets for drums - although you have no idea how far and wide I had to search around Porirua to find that dang red bucket two weeks before that!


The production was incredibly well done, had a powerful message and it was awesome seeing the kids both up on stage getting into it! It was awesome to have both Nikki and our friends Jackie and Heidi along to see it and then we all enjoyed a BBQ back at our place afterwards.....on a rare afternoon of sunshine!

15 December 2014

Learning the hard way.... and searching for a silver lining

Back towards the beginning of the year, some mutual creative friends and I started meeting once a month to talk about all things creative. We didn't have a specific cause or plan at the outset, just a mutual love of our own craft and a willingness to share our ideas and encourage each other.

Fast forward a few months, and we started discussing the possibility of sharing a stall at a fair together, coming up with the idea of the Thorndon Fair as the best option to showcase our crafts. The Thorndon Fair is on from 10-3pm on the first Sunday in December and it's one of the marquee fairs around the region, with up to 20,000 people getting along on the day.

In the meantime, I was getting out practicing my craft at every opportunity. On freezing, cold winter mornings wrapped up in puffer jacket, hat and gloves. Actually who am I kidding? Most times I go out like that in Wellington, whether it's winter or not!

It was good having the goal of the fair to work towards and a deadline meant I was spurred into action - to build an online presence where I could also showcase my photos online in one place. I managed to build and launch Meghan Maloney Photography on the same week of the fair - not 100% complete but complete enough that behind the scenes I can carry on tweaking it in the future.

And then came the weekend of the fair. The day beforehand (Saturday) we met at lunchtime at Sherein's work and spent an hour or so setting up the table to see how it would look. Sherein and I ended up being there all afternoon making up some kitset beer crates to assist with the table display and putting up the gazebo in the garage to make sure we knew what we were doing on the day. The weather forecast was not looking that great but we kept praying anyway. After five hours on our feet for the day doing preparation I was knackered and the red wine waiting at home for me was very appealing.

I'd also made the decision to shrink wrap the canvases just in case the weather was dodgy - this turned out to be one of the better pre-emptive things I did in preparation for fair day!

On the morning of the fair, I could hear the wind blowing the minute I woke up, and looking out the window saw low cloud as well and I said a prayer that by the time I arrived at 8am to our stall spot it would have eased. Unfortunately it only got stronger and once we got the gazebo up and weighted into buckets of wet sand I had brought along (it was handy having an unused sandpit at home for the occasion!), we also put up a tarpaulin to try and protect the table from the wind and then rain which started. The spot we had was particularly exposed and the gusts of wind coming through were only getting stronger. It required one of us to be standing full-time against the tarpaulin to try and keep it from blowing right into the stall. Right before the 10am start, a particularly large gust of wind caught everything and one of the gazebo poles bowed badly as a result.

I spotted an empty space across the road (which looked decidedly more sheltered being right by a large building) so after checking with one of the organisers we made a last minute switch across the road. It was way more sheltered but even we made the decision not to put the tarpaulin back up - opting for one of us standing there with an umbrella to protect one end of the table from the rain.

Unfortunately the weather had a big impact on the turnout of the day and the people who were there seemed very focused on getting through the fair and back to the shelter of their cars rather than stopping and leisurely looking around. It wasn't a complete failure but it was still disappointing to only sell 3 calendars on the day (one to the lovely Leanne from Paper Moon Blog - thank you so much for your support and for coming down in such miserable weather!) and my lovely friend Marie (It's Marie Made) who makes beautiful knitted and crochet baby wear and blankets sold 3 hat and bootie sets, while our other two ladies didn't have any sales at all. The weather meant I also couldn't showcase all my canvases as I just wasn't willing to get out the large A1 and panoramic canvas as they would have gone flying down the road without being properly weighted down.

At about 1.30pm, the rain which had been on and off really started to bucket down relentlessly and despite the fair still being on till 3pm, we followed the lead of most of the other stall holders around us and packed up for the day - extremely cold and wet and pretty disappointed.

When you put your all into something, you plan for it for months, you spend hours getting a product range ready, you check it all once twice and then again.  You think of every single little thing you could possibly need to pull off a successful launch and fair day. You make lists, and cross them off. You feel that you can't possibly be more ready. And then the one thing you cannot control at an fair like this is - the weather.

I like to think that I'm reasonably optimistic - although probably also a bit too realistic at times. I tried not to feel too disappointed by the outcome but being so wet and cold and miserable it was hard not to wallow for a while, and I might have shed some tears while warming up with a hot shower when I got home. It felt like even more of a punch in the gut when the very next day blue skies and sunshine taunted me from my office window all day.

So I had to search for a silver lining and it was this... without the prospect of the fair I doubt I would have had the Meghan Maloney Photography site and business up and running by now. Sometimes a deadline is exactly what is required to galvanise one into a course of action. So for this I am grateful.

And I have to remember to trust that the Creator - the very one who has given me an ability to capture his Creation looking through a big hunk of metal and glass in my hands and share it with you all - has it all in hand. Perspective I think they call it.

12 December 2014

Flying visit to the Tron for a precious family meet up..

A few weeks back, actually a whole month back (yes I am THAT behind with my posts!) we travelled up to Hamilton for a short-long weekend with the family. I say short-long as by the time we got up on Saturday afternoon, had crazy fireworks with daredevil Uncle Sam on Saturday night, hung out with Nic, Kim and Maia who'd arrived over from Oz on the Sunday, had dinner at Sam and Alesha's on Sunday night, spent some time at the Hamilton gardens on Monday, it was time to come home again. Just like that!

We seem to strike it pretty lucky on our journeys north through the centre of the island, and this trip was no different. With a cold snap only a few days behind us, there was an incredible amount of snow on the mountains for this time of year - it sure made for some good photo opportunities as we drove.

Most times, we avoid getting stuck in traffic in Taupo and skirt around it on the bypass. But today being a normal (non-holiday) weekend, we figured it would be safe to venture in - plus we needed to pick up a voucher for my brother's birthday and it was bang on time for lunch. We found ourselves a lovely little self-serve sushi place that wowed us all - so much so that we stopped in again on the way home! Love finding little spots like that!

The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful. But we had plenty of thrills and spills that night when Sam brought over a whole load of unsold fireworks from his shop and proceeded to get all crazy making sparkler bombs and fireworks cakes. Let's just say it's a good thing Mum and Dad's field was still pretty green during the spectacular otherwise I'm fairly sure we'd have set the paddock alight. Great fun though!

Sunday was a quiet day, our weary travellers who'd taken an overnight flight from Oz needed some time just to recover and rest, and the most exciting thing we did was take a bike ride over the new swing bridge a few roads over and then bike all the way home to Nana and Poppa's. Which sounds like it should be fun but it's a bit terrifying as a parent letting your child loose on the country roads where the speed limit is up to 100 km/hr. I breathed a big sigh of relief when we made it back onto their dead end road.

We'd struck lovely weather for the weekend, and so a trip to Hamilton Gardens is always high on the list of places to go when we're there. Hamilton Gardens has gained such a reputation over the past few years with its constant development of new themed gardens that it's even winning international awards these days! There are new gardens being developed all the time so visiting only a couple of times a year means there's a lot of progress to see.

Someone may have been having a 'moment' in the photo below! Love how he curls his feet over like his daddy though!

This photo is available for sale in the Nature Gallery on my website: Meghan Maloney Photography

This photo is available for sale in the Beautiful NZ gallery on my website: Meghan Maloney Photography

And then there was the joy of hanging out with this little girl.

As you can see I also made up for lost time shooting loads of photos of our niece, she is such a gorgeous wee cherub and just recently turned one. She's growing so fast (it seems especially so when we don't live in the same country!) so I had to take advantage of the moments while they presented themselves. Missy Maia as I like to call her has quite possibly the sunniest, smiliest personality of any littlie I've ever met and I think this shines through in the photos!

On our last night, we settled in for a game of Settlers of Catan - which is a bit of a tradition, and always ends up being a little too competitive - I may or may not have been shooting daggers at Mark very early on in the game !

It's hard to believe the next time we will all be together is in Rarotonga next May for Sam and Alesha's wedding - it feels as if a week on a tropical island can't come soon enough right now!


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