30 June 2014

26/52: Boys at the bike park

I love to see my boys enjoying the great outdoors.

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Hamilton was making the drive to Cambridge (20 minutes away from my parent's place) to visit the new Gallagher Bike Skills Park.

It's located right next to the world class Avantidrome (recently officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and the Te Awa Cycleway which will be a whole 70km of cycle paths along the Waikato River when all the various sections have been completed.

There's something for all ages and stages of bike-riding ability here - from a tar-sealed road circuit complete with traffic lights, stop and give way signs and roundabout. All designed to encourage road rules awareness from Mocka riding toddlers right up to mountain bike riders of Noah's age and older.

Right next to it is the more advanced off-road bike track with gravel paths and plenty of undulating hills and curves to test the skills of the riders. The recommended age on this track is 10 years old but in all honesty even Mylo could do a fair bit without assistance.

In the middle there's also a smaller wooden circuit to practice some tighter turns on too.

The morning we went (Saturday) it wasn't too busy as we imagined that most kids our age would be busy in scheduled sports games.

I love seeing how far Noah has come in his mountain bike riding of late. He's done enough off-road mountain biking at home on the hills behind our house with Mark now to be super confident in his ability to negotiate a track like this.

Mylo was also happy to give it a go albeit with Dad close enough behind to help control him on the big downhill slope and gently help him get up some of the hills with a guiding push when needed.

We also went into the Avantidrome to have a look at the track - it's a very impressive facility and Mark said he can imagine the world champs being held here at some point in the near future. The angles at each end are pretty mind blowing when you're looking straight down at them but unfortunately the camera can't really do justice to what the eye can see.

And this week marks halfway through Project 52, I've loved the focus it brings on what is happening in the boys' lives week to week, and with two birthdays and a little guy starting school later in the year I've no doubt the rest of the year will be equally fun and momentous to capture.

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

27 June 2014

The morning the water caught fire {Wellington waterfront photography}

I've well and truly been bitten by the dawn bug lately. I've been keeping an eye on the long range forecast each week and when I see sunshine and little winds forecast, my heart does a little flip-flop at the thought of the potential for photo opportunities such as these.

taken on the iPhone 

taken on the iPhone

The biggest problem I have is deciding exactly where to go. Living in a harbour city there is no shortage of vantage points that might prove worthy of a shot or two near the water.

Even though I'd previously been down at the waterfront only a couple of weeks before, this week I planned to try out the new shutter release cable I'd bought for the camera to allow for some longer exposures.

To begin with I walked all the way to the end of the Clyde Quay marina thinking I'd have a great vantage point in the dark back towards the city lights.

However, I didn't count on the very bright street lights they have constructed all the way along the new apartment/shopping development (opening in July) which rather ruined the opportunity for any dark night city lights shots. I'm definitely starting to realise why the pro photographers say you should always scope out your potential photo location in advance!

I was a bit annoyed at this point thinking the whole morning might turn out to be a waste of time. And although I wasted about ten minutes here, in the grand scheme of how the morning eventually played out it didn't matter one iota, so I'm glad I persevered.

F16 @ 60 seconds. ISO 100. 17mm.

One of the things I was most excited about was the opportunity to try out the new shutter release cable that I'd bought earlier in the week for $30 on Trade Me. Until now I'd been making do with the camera 2 second self-timer to ensure there was no camera shake with the long exposure shots I'd been taking. But the maximum exposure I could take was only 30 seconds without the addition of the shutter release which allows you to put the shutter onto 'Bulb' and decide for yourself how long you want to keep the shutter open for.

F16 @ 88 seconds. ISO 100. 14mm.

The shots above and below are nearly 90 seconds long, giving the clouds that dreamy, floaty look. The shot below is one of my absolute favourites of the day and was also selected by an Instagram group I follow wuoceania as their photo of the day.

F16 @ 88 seconds. ISO 100. 14mm.

As the sky continued to lighten, I turned my attention to Solace in the Wind (who I thought made an interesting looking foreground even though a couple of other people said it looks rather scary) sculpture, and at 30 seconds long managed to also get a lovely glowing candle effect in the harbour.

F16 @ 30 seconds. ISO 100. 24 mm.

I'd have been happy enough to go home after getting just these shots, but the sunrise had other ideas.

F22 @ 2 seconds. ISO 100. 24mm.

When I turned to look behind me, there was an intense glow reflecting off the clouds and onto the water.

F16 @ 1 second. ISO 100. 12mm.

It really was as intense as the photos show. And I found myself with tears in my eyes watching the splendour of this play out in front of me.

Morphing every minute or so, almost as quickly as I could capture it.

I had a little bit of fun with the above shot. Zooming in the lens on a 1 second exposure to give a very unusual blurred effect.

F22 @ 2 seconds. ISO 100. 16 mm.

The city managed to capture a few of its own dusky hues.


F 5/6 @ 1/125 seconds. ISO 220. 13mm.

With the sun not long to rise, I moved to a better vantage point in front of the city directly facing into the sun and waited for the inevitable rays to begin casting their glow.

F22 @ 1/10 seconds. ISO 100. 200mm.

Wistfully thinking how amazing it would be to be out on the water on boat or canoe right now.

F22 @ 1/10 seconds. ISO 100. 55mm.

Can you imagine being these two on this morning?

F22 @ 1/10 seconds. ISO 100. 62mm.

It must have been like rowing across liquid gold.

At this stage I had been taking photos for about an hour and a half and I was starting to get hungry for breakfast.

Not only that, but I knew I had better make my way back to the car fearing the parking attendants would be out in force with the meters starting at 8am.

F22 @ 1/15 seconds. ISO 100. 24mm.

I still couldn't resist two more shots of Solace with the sun flaring behind him as I walked past again.

This last picture is - together with the boats reflecting in the marina I mentioned above - quite possibly my favourite of the morning. I love the position of the sun silhouetting the statue, the swirling clouds which are reflected so beautifully with equally similar colours in the water.

F22 @ 1/8 seconds. ISO 100. 14mm.

It was a magic morning to have experienced in person. Morning like these make me feel incredibly exhilarated, and good to be alive.

25 June 2014

25/52: Mt Nguaruhoe and a Cub Scout

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

Mylo: last week we came to your Matariki performance and boil-up dinner at daycare. You had been practicing so hard for your part as Mt Nguaruhoe in Battle of the Mountains. As coy as you looked standing up there, you were confident enough in yourself to don your costume and hat and play your part with the other children. It was a joy to see you do as some other children got stage fright and wouldn't take part in the actual performance no matter how hard their parents and the teachers tried to encourage them.

Here you are singing and doing the poi with your friends. This will be our last Matariki and boil-up at daycare, but we shan't think too much about that just now.

Noah: even though you still haven't officially been invested into Cub Scouts yet, you have so been enjoying going along each week this term. Daddy has offered to help out when needed and describes the scenes there as 'happy carnage'. Two weeks ago you went out in the dark with the other Cubs looking for and finding glow-worms in the dark. You had a wobbly moment when your torch broke, but after the leader called us and you had a quick pep talk from Dad you pulled yourself together and carried on. Most nights you come home dirty and scraped up from some rough outdoors action game like Spotlight or Capture the Flag, but you love it. We are proud of you for getting stuck in and being involved!

23 June 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog {Book Review}

Surrounded by Jews and madmen in 1931 Germany, which would you choose?

Ask Gretchen that question at the beginning of the story and she would tell you that Jews were madmen, a sub-human race to be feared and degraded. She has no reason to think otherwise. As the daughter of the famous Nazi martyr, Klaus Muller who jumped in front of Hitler to take bullets and save his life, her path until now has been close entwined with the family friend she calls 'Uncle Dolf'.

But several chance encounters with a young investigative reporter Daniel, who also happens to be a Jew, give Gretchen cause to wonder whether the past is really as it has been described to her. The events leading up to her father's death and the way he died are called into question. And her quest for answers proves stronger than the fears of what might happen to her in the process.

The deeper she digs, the further she finds the layers of lies go. Everything in her upbringing, in the propaganda that has been fed to her all her life tells her she shouldn't trust this boy and all he stands for. But when her hero Hitler fails to save her from a brutal encounter with her psychopathic brother she has nowhere else to turn.

Instead, she is surprised to find solace and gentleness in his company. And together they realise they must uncover the truth no matter the cost. This leads them on a dangerous journey, eliciting the truth from those closest to Hitler without the others realising the importance of the information they are giving away. The more Gretchen uncovers about her beloved father, the more she wonders whether she ever knew his true nature. And all the while, Gretchen must play a role. Feigning a demure and compliant young girl within the National Socialist party circles, where one wrong word or look could prove her undoing. Despite her caution outside events overtake her and she finds herself pitted in a desperate battle for survival against the most powerful man in the country.

I have to admit for all I've read and heard about Hitler and World War II, I was pretty clueless about the years leading up to it. The fact that Hitler was preaching the 'exterminate the Jews' message for nigh on ten years before the war even started and that he had been diagnosed as a 'classic psychopath' after some time in a special hospital after suffering from hysterical blindness in World War I was news to me.

The author did a fantastic job of weaving the stories of real-life characters like Hitler, his later to be mistress Eva Braun, his half-niece Geli, and other high ranking Nazi officials with her own characters like Gretchen and Daniel. I was actually quite surprised just how many real historical events were able to be woven into the book without it seeming too staged or contrived.

There are many World War II stories out there to be read, but very little has been written of Germany in the 1930's especially from the perspective of a girl who has the first-hand opportunity to be awoken from her Nazi slumber.  This is more than a love story, or a narrative on the events of the time. It is also a deeply disturbing, psychological thriller which will leave you turning pages furiously and hoping against hope for good to overcome.

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman published by Hachette NZ is available from 10 June 2014.

RRP $29.99.

Thanks to Hachette NZ for the review copy. 

Disclaimer:  I was given a copy of Prisoner of Night and Fog in exchange for my review.  I am not being compensated in any other way.

20 June 2014

Things I'm Loving: end of an era

There may be a very small number of you wondering where the usual Things I'm Loving posts have gone to lately. But then again maybe no-one has even missed it (which is probably the more likely scenario!). Either way, I've decided it's time for Things I'm Loving to head into retirement in its current weekly linky form.


Like many others who've noticed comments and interaction dropping on their blogs in recent months, I've also noticed there's been a big drop-off in people joining in each week. The last weekly link got only one post linked up (thanks Nikki from Life's wonderful happenings!) compared to 6-8 each week this time last year and about 15 a week the year before.

As much as I love finding fun and interesting things from far and wide to bring you each week, some weeks it can be a massive rush to get a post out in time by Friday. Most of that pressure is self-imposed I know, and it's a bit silly thinking this but I always feel I don't want to let anyone down who might have a post ready and want to join in.

This year I've also committed to a weekly post in Project 52 and have really been enjoying being more intentional in capturing moments in the boys' lives and for now that feels like enough and where I would rather focus my efforts. Oh that and my current rekindled love affair with photography that I'm wanting to devote a bit more time and energy and therefore more blog posts to as well.

I have over the years managed to crank out near on 200 Things I'm Loving posts, firstly joining up with the gorgeous Kristy at Paisley Jade as the original creator and host of Things I'm Loving back in the day and then taking it on myself over 2 years ago. But life is full of different seasons, and this is the merely the end of a wonderful season with many other equally lovely things to look forward to ahead instead.

That's not to say I won't still write a Things I'm Loving post from time to time because there is always much to love that I'll want to share. But it just won't be week in, week out like it has been.

And so...lastly, thank you.

Thank you, all you lovely people out there who have dug deep to find things that you've loved in good times and bad. Every time you've joined in you've chosen gratitude over grumpiness, and thankfulness in spite of tiredness and trials going on in your life.

It has been my greatest pleasure to have you along with me on this journey and without sounding completely corny (but I know it does anyway, and it's too bad!) it is the thing I've loved the most.

18 June 2014

Wellington waterfront photography, and the sunrise from Mt Victoria

The long Queens Birthday weekend in Wellington delivered a forecast that was for fine and still weather three days running (which is pretty rare for the first official weekend of winter let alone any time!) so I wasn't about to waste it.

The previous two days I'd also been up at 6am to take some shots, the first day at Seatoun Pier and the next morning at Island Bay so on the third day I thought I might try out the waterfront.

Thankfully it had warmed up a few degrees from the previous two days where I'd nearly lost all feeling in my fingers, so standing out in the 6-7 degree chill felt positively tropical by comparison.

Wellington is famous for its wind. And there's not many days of the year where the wind drops enough to grace us with a harbour that could so easily pass for a mirror. Which is why this particular morning was just so special.

Still enough for all the bright lights along Oriental Parade to be reflected as golden candle flames.

Clear enough for the odd, bright star to still be visible as a twinkle in the sky.

I found myself with itchy feet though. I didn't want to be stuck in one spot wasting other points of view and so found myself back in the car moving further around the parade to pause and take an even wider view of the city.

It was at this moment that the possibility of catching the sunrise on Mt Victoria suddenly captured my imagination. The great thing about living in such a compact city is that it's literally only a 5 minute drive from the photo above at sea level to the photo below on the summit.

To begin with I took up a vantage point at the main lookout overlooking the city accompanied by at least a dozen enthusiastic teenagers who had obviously gotten up early especially to see the sunrise and an enthusiastic photographer capturing some time lapse shots with his shutter clicking away continuously every minute or so. But I still thought the vantage point lacked something, so after a few minutes (and with time not really on my side as the sun wasn't far off rising) I made a snap decision to move to the other lookout nearer the harbour and tower.

I was the only one there and I couldn't quite believe that I had this amazing spot all to myself as it had much better views, largely uninhibited by any trees.

And as it turned out there was just enough cloud cover on this morning to turn just another sunrise into something else. I managed to catch an early morning Jetstar flight coming into land over the harbour while watching the sun's rays get steadily brighter.

I was given a vision of Heaven for these few short minutes.

I've lived in Wellington for twelve years this month, and yet I have to admit I'd never seen the sunrise from here before. Because our house looks out towards these hills, we get a pretty good sunrise show most mornings, so I'd never really thought too much about going anywhere else.

But with these memories safely tucked away in my heart it won't be the last time I come here, now that I know what could be on offer. I'm now dreaming of a morning where I can bring the boys up here and watch the miracle of the new day together. Now that will be special.


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