Monday, 21 October 2013
The soulless hustle and bustle of all the shopping and business commuters seem a world away on Lantau Island. Looking into the eyes of the 'The Giant Sitting Buddha' is an awe inspiring experience. As you can see, the peaceful, serene Giant Buddha has one hand raised while the other rests on his lap, open. Maybe he has a gift for all who visit here? Something to share? No matter your views on religion or spirituality, this is a wonderful location to unwind. Personally, I believe this place is the beating heart of Hong Kong. Batteries re-charged, I feel it's possible to face the shops of Kowloon once more.
You could be forgiven for thinking this was another photograph from New Zealand, but it's not. This shot was taken in the Northern part of Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong. I feel the 'Hong Kong Wetland Park' doesn't get enough publicity. After spending a good half day here, I found myself wanting tell all who'd listen what a special park this is. It's a wonderful place to learn about conservation and comprises of a 10,000 square meter large visitor centre, wetland interactive world, and a 60-hectare wetland reserve. All this, combined with themed exhibitions and a magnificent resource centre make this a special retreat. This picture is just a simple shot surveying the landscape in front of me while exploring the reserve.
I love a good building and yes, Rome is full of em' ! This shot was taken while looking skyward. I think I must have been looking for pictorial inspiration at the time ! I quite like how this photograph worked out. I think I was in one of Romes many Piazza's at the time, enjoying the summer sunshine.
Sunset At Karekare Beach. This is the one place I could watch the sun set every night of the year. Not good at getting out of bed for sun rises, so I think I'll just skip those :) The rock you see before you is Paratahi Island (see other listing below). This was a beautiful calm evening. The cloudless sky let me capture the sinking sun in all her glory.
Another simple shot. This photograph was taken in a small village called St Ive (near Callington in Cornwall). Wind and rain are Autumns companions, yet this delicate looking thing has almost seen the season out. No small feat ! The secret to getting a shot like this is to get in close. The blurred background helps highlight the rich colours on display.
Rome is impressive on many levels. So many sites to see ! Even if religion is unimportant to you, the Vatican Museum proves a breathtaking place to explore. Highlights include the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's Rooms. Pictures of these will be added soon. In the meantime I hope you like my shot of the Vatican staircase. I wonder how many people have trod these steps this week, month or year ???? Answers on a postcard.
Christmas time in Auckland doesn't necessarily mean sunshine and strawberry's. Stuck in my hire car - while the rain pelted the windscreen - I reached for the camera. I was parked close to a beach called Mission Bay - a popular spot with locals and tourists alike, with extinct volcano - Rangitoto in the background. Like the mood of this picture. The shot looks best in black and white.
Te-Henga or Bethells as it's sometimes known is one of the most popular beaches in the Waitakeres. A 30km drive (along winding roads) will lead you to this beautiful long coastal location. Though this photograph was taken when few people were around, Te Henga has a population explosion in the Summer months ! The Te-Henga Valley shows evidence of human settlement dating back over 1000 years. It's even possible to imagine dinosaurs exploring this kind of terrain ! This picture was inspired by the reflection. Spot the cave to the left of the picture.
A photograph of the Hong Kong Island shoreline at night. This is the central business district of Hong Kong. It's located across Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui, the Southernmost point of Kowloon Peninsula. Many multinational financial services corporations have their headquarters in the area. This picture shows how colourful the area is at night. Midnight walks come highly recommended.
Another photograph of the Auckland Sky Tower. This one was taken at night from my apartment balcony. I like the way the clouds have taken on the light from the tower. This building - the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere is New Zealand's most popular tourist attraction. The viewing experience offers breath-taking views of more than 80 kilometres in every direction. Night visits are possible and offer amazing views of the North Shore and beyond !
One of the great things about living in England is the change of seasons. Autumn with it's golden leaves is especially welcome. This very simple picture was taken near St Neot's in Cornwall. You can't escape the richness of colour at this time of year and Cornwall is a great place to experience Autumn at it's best !
A close up of the Waterfall at Karekare. This magnificent sight is about a 5 minute walk from the car park at the bottom of the valley. I imagine this place has hosted it's fair share of full moon parties and I'm sure a great number people have swam in the perfectly preserved pool of water at the bottom of the falls ! It's a beautiful spot and a great place for a Sunday afternoon picnic !
Shopping arcades, restaurants, underwear, the latest electrical goods, ice cream, flights, cafes, bars, CD & DVD releases. All these (and more) get the neon light treatment in Hong Kong ! Advertising is most definitely king and shopping is a religion in this vibrant city. It was easy to get lost amoungst the streets of Central or the avenues of Wong Kok. Bright lights lead the way at every turn.
Rotorua is the thermal capital of New Zealand. Geyser's and bubbling mud pools are plentiful. This particular geyser gets a helping hand every morning at 10.15am ! Heights of up to 20 metres can be seen and it can continue to erupt for up to an hour ! In 1901 the first open prison in New Zealand was established at Waiotapu, its object was to accommodate some of the better behaved prisoners from around the jails of the Rotorua Lakes District. It was a gang of these prisoners that first discovered the clearing in which the geyser is situated and that the bubbling hot water spring could be made to 'erupt' by adding soap. A fact discovered when they first used the hot water to clean their clothes in ! Rocks were subsequently placed around the base of the spring to enhance the eruption and over the years silica from the eruptions has built up to give a white cone shaped appearance.
I love clouds and this was a good day to capture a few 'fluffy ones'. As mentioned previously - the South Pacific sky seems more vibrant than others I've experienced. This was taken on a sunny afternoon at Muriwai Beach - on the West Coast of Auckland. Are these beautiful shapes telling us something ? Answers on a postcard :)
Mokoroa Falls is a wonderful retreat that forms part of the Goldie Bush Walkway in the region of Rodney. Take my advice and wear strong footwear if exploring this area. Even though the picture captures a place of tranquility, getting here was no picnic. Due to very wet weather conditions the day before - the mud around my feet was extremely slippy and dangerous. Almost fell into the surrounding stream on numerous occasions ! Thankfully I got a few good pictures out of it. This one is my favourite from the day.
Lion Rock in all her refective glory ! This natural formation is named after its similarity to a lying male lion. Visitors to Piha are able to climb the rock, though (be warned) a certain amount of stamina is required. Lion Rock divides North and South Piha beaches. This landmark is immediately visible to visitors as they descend along the only access road. Lion Rock is an iconic sight synonymous with both the West Coast and New Zealand in general (it's even been featured on stamps in the past) ! This picture was taken one late afternoon. Managed to get a good reflection on this one.
This Koala Bear picture was taken at Steve Irwin's Zoo (Australia Zoo) just South of Brisbane. Early European settlers to Australia called the Koala the 'Native Bear', but in fact it's not a member of the bear family, it's a marsupial. The Koala's scientific name (Phascolarctos Cinereus) comes from the Greek: 'phaskolos' meaning "pouch" and; 'arktos' meaning "bear". It was the only Koala I could find awake. I guess the others were asleep due to being 'high' on eucalyptus leaves !
Time to mix things up a bit. From South China Seas to Southern Ireland! A selection of photographs from Ireland and more specifically the little town of Blarney will come soon. I had a wonderful Christmas break close to here with family. A real chilled affair. Apart from playing with my beautiful niece, watching rubbish on TV and eating way too many Christmas snacks, I took the time to walk to Blarney and take a selection of pictures in relation to the Castle and it's grounds. The best ones will show up on my web-site soon. The Blarney Stone is without doubt the most famous part of Blarney Castle. Also called the legendary Stone of Eloquence, it's located at the top of the castle’s tower. Legend has it that if you kiss it, you’ll be struck with eternal eloquence and you will never be at a loss for words. That's why I've been writing so much on this web-site of late! This picture features the castle in all her glory.
At the entrance to this reserve you'll find a secluded picnic spot with tables. A sign shows where the track begins. The track (only an hour long) is a little beauty ! The vegetation is interesting and the bird's that frequent this spot make it well know you've entered their domain. After a short uphill climb you'll find two lookouts with excellent views of Auckland. The Kepa Bush is in the region of Orakei.
The city of Auckland as viewed from 'North Heads' in the beautiful suburb of Devonport (on the North Shore). Really love the view of the city from this spot. Auckland is known as the city of sails. It's easy to see why the city had won this reputation. Auckland's population is approximately 1.3 million, making it by far the largest city in New Zealand, with one third of the country's entire population. Many of it's inhabitants like nothing more than taking to the water on sunny weekends !
Rock Close (a short walking distance from Blarney Castle) is certainly worth a visit, although many people find it rather creepy at night and wait to explore it in the light of day! There are many interesting things to see, including many Druid-related structures. For instances, a sacrificial stone is situated so the first rays of the sun strike it at the appointed time for sacrifice. Other sights to see are the Wishing Steps, the Witches Kitchen, the Head Druid’s Cave, the Witches Stone, the Fairy Glade, and the Druids Circle. Here's a typical scene from this area. This would've been a great place for Peter Jackson to film some scenes for 'Lord Of The Rings'!
There are about 1,800 living species of starfish in the earth's oceans. The greatest variety of starfish can be found in the tropical Indo-Pacific. Areas that are also known for their great diversity include Australia and New Zealand. I photographed this little fella at Karekare beach one late afternoon while he was waiting for the sea to come back and reclaim him.
Tolaga Bay is on the East Coast of New Zealand's North Island (North Of Gisborne). The bay, named by James Cook is a popular holiday spot in the Summer. The beach or bay is famous for having the longest boardwalk in all of New Zealand. This picture was taken on an atmospheric afternoon. I stopped off on my travels to take this photograph of the famed landmark. I couldn't 'walk it' as it was closed for repairs at the time, but this picture captures a little of it's majesty. Liked the shot in sepia.
This photograph was taken a late December afternoon at Muriwai Beach (West of Auckland) and features a fisherman braving the rough seas lapping around him. This gentleman was having a successful day fish wise, but salt water was soon to get into his eyes. The waves can be treacherous here and it's best to respect the power of nature, hence my reluctance to get too close to the edge of the rock ! No doubt dinner tasted extra special this particular night.
The grounds that surround Blarney Castle are a mini treasure trove of delights. I'm always on the look out to photograph things of interest. I hadn't used the macro lens facility (in order to focus in on things at close range) for a while, but this was the place to do it. It was great to have a nice bright, crisp Winters day to explore Blarney Castle and it's grounds. Here's one shot taken real close!
Taken after a visit to Bar Street (Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong Island). I'm surprised I managed to get the picture in focus at all. I love modern cameras with anti shake features, especially after a trip to the bar ;) Just a simple street scene looking skyward. Bright lights, BIG CITY. I've mentioned this before, as a rule of thumb I hate taking pictures with a flash because this generally kills the life of a shot. More from the city coming soon.
The North Face of Blarney Castle in Southern Ireland. This now historic place was built in 1446. Over the years, it's become a world landmark and one of Ireland’s most popular attractions. Many travelers believe that a trip to the medieval Blarney Castle can’t be missed; it’s on par with the Guinness Brewery and other attractions and is viewed as an intrinsic symbol of Ireland and Irish heritage. It's located in Blarney Village, about 8 km northwest from Cork.
Why does anyone feel the need to do this type of thing ? Believe it or not people pay good money to fling themselves off Auckland's Skytower. I'd much prefer to be standing on the ground taking a photograph with my trusty camera ! While this guy was screaming his lungs out for all of Auckland to hear, I took his photo. The Skytower always looks great in the sunshine. Liked the whispy clouds too.
Another picture from Karekare beach. This one was taken after seeing a magnificent sunset. I was just on the way back to the car when I saw the reflection of the rock face in the stream that enters the sea here. The dying light and it colours are plain to see, as well as some cloud in the distance. I'm a sucker for a good reflection and I'm pleased with how the shot turned out.
Stunning views of Piha can be obtained before you drive down the valley to the beach. This place is famous for it's wild surf (big surf competitions take place throughout the year) and the rock you see before you. 'Lion Rock' is an iconic sight - and one you can climb ! The community in Piha has it's own radio station because being out on the West coast is not conducive to connectivity. Leave the mobile phone at home ! It's time to unwind and enjoy nature when you get to Piha ! As you can see (looking at the trees in the picture) it was a windy day. This is not an unusual event. This landscape has been shaped by wind and other elements for millions of years.
Hong Kong's auditions for X Factor were hotly contested this year, but these guys didn't make the final 10! In real life the gentleman with the megaphone is a tour guide on a trip I undertook to 2 of the islands that lie to the very North East of Hong Kong. This shot was taken in Tung Ping Chau famous for strange rock formations and lovely sandy beaches. The name "Ping Chau" means "flat island" in Chinese. Though I didn't understand a word spoken, the rest of the tour party listened intently as our guide explained a little about the history of the Island. I subsequently discovered that Ping Chau has a dark history. Guns and opium were once smuggled from here, and during the Cultural Revolution many of China's mainlanders swam through shark-infested waters in hopes of reaching Ping Chau and the freedom of Hong Kong.
Wonderful Hong Kong! If you feel it's impossible for a city to be thing of beauty, I implore you to take a trip on the tram (or by bus) to the dizzy heights of The Peak. Sure, it's Hong Kong's number one tourist attraction and can be a busy place night and day, but the views this location afford are simply stunning! Night time is best in my book (see top of page), but a visit in the day will leave you with a sense of wonder too. If you opt to take a trip to The Peak by tram then prepare to experience a 45° climb to the summit! The fabulous vista was further enhanced (in 2006) by the Peak Tower. For a close up of Hong Kong why not take a view through the telescope? City life never seemed so big and beautiful.
Sometimes you get lucky ! On a trip to Karekare beach I noticed some sticks planted in the sand. No need to stage anything, just a question of finding the right angle. It was late afternoon and I wanted to try and retain the shadows the sticks made. As you can see the wind - coming off the Tasman Sea - leaves its own imprint in the black sand.
Auckland at sunset. This picture was taken from 'Mount Victoria' in Devonport (North Shore). I wondered if I'd get a decent shot as the day had been very cloudy. Thankfully late evening saw the grey clouds disappear as the sun came close to setting. One of these days I plan to catch Auckland at sunrise ! Getting out of bed this early has proved impossible so far !
The beach at Mangawhai Heads is a fantastic place for a long walk ! White sand turns to shell as you head North. Strange rock formations and pools make this an interesting place to explore. The picture (right) captures a small number of the shells on display here. Rather than stand on em', I decided to take a picture of em' :)
This picture was taken at Bodmin Moor (In Cornwall). Bodmin Moor has been officially designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. During the Bronze Age, the moor was densely populated and many prehistoric stone's remain. It's a place well worth exploring ! This picture was taken on a very windy and wet afternoon. I guess this particular shot is moody because of the bad weather friends and I were experiencing at the time. Even though it was wet, I decided to get on my hands and knees in the name of art :)
More from Hong Kong soon, but now to New Zealand and Karekare Beach, my favourite place on the planet (apart from my bed) ! This picture was taken late afternoon in December. The black sand, pounding waves and largeness of landscape get me every time. As soon as I land in New Zealand, my first thoughts usually involve getting back to Karekare and the Waitakere Ranges. This picture features Paratahi Island.
In 1951, Buddhist preacher Yuet Kai founded the 'Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery'. Despite his old age, Yuet Kai (along with various disciples) carried the building materials personally from the foot of the mountain to build this holy place in the hills of Shat Tin, Hong Kong. It took 8 years to complete the monastery and a further 10 to finish the 12,000 Buddha statues found here! A small selection are photographed. This picture shows the start of the path that leads to the temple door. It's easy to lose count of the golden Buddha's you encounter along the way.
Yes I know they're just trees, but I love the shadows they throw and I've always liked this picture. Maybe the reason I love it so much is because it reminds me of a special day I shared with my Brother on a very cold afternoon in the Wicklow Mountains (surrounding Dublin). The whole area is much frequented, especially at weekends by Dubliners. This region offers a multiple choice of things to do, including fishing, rafting and hill walking. This picture was taken late afternoon when the light was spot on !
Mangawhai Heads is an unspoilt beach North of Auckland on the East Coast. Many holiday makers head this way in Summer. The beach is a strange mix. As you walk Northward the white sand under your feet suddenly turns to shell (see listing above). I love the rock formations here (I wish I was a geologist because then I'd attempt to sound knowledgeable about them - haha). I like this image because it looks somewhat unreal. It's as if I've been transported onto the moon. This place lends itself to cloudy weather. As a result the picture (above) is both moody and otherworldly.
I've visited Muriwai and the 'Gannet Colony' many times in the past. To be close to nature is always special, but I was in for a treat when I saw them December 2006. Usually these amazing creatures are viewed from a platform. For whatever reason (possibly because it was a wet day) a few of these magnificent birds came to inquire what I was up to (and also find materials for their nests). This gannet was particularly inquisitive - hence I managed to get this photograph at close range. Note the fisherman on the rocks below.
This picture was taken at Karekare Beach on a late Winters afternoon. The black sand helped me in my quest to capture the reflection of the clouds. This place and the surrounding rain forest has had a turbulent history. Man's quest for Kauri Tree's was unquenchable at one point in time (for building homes and spars for sailing ships). The rain forest that surrounds this spot was almost completely destroyed in the 1800's. Since those dark days the forest has been left to regenerate. Today Karekare is part of the Waitakere Regional Park...
Another picture taken at Muriwai Beach. A close up of one of the gannets that populate the area. As explained in a previous posting, it was a wet day and for some reason the birds seemed oblivious to me pointing my lens at them. As you can see, I've just captured the head of one bird while it's fellow colony comrades are out of focus on the nesting ground below.
Hong Kong at night - taken earlier this month (December). Evening or night is probably the best time to view the city from 'The Peak' (less haze than in the day). FYI Hong Kong is a shopaholics paradise ! I've never seen so many ardent shoppers. Nathan St in Kowloon is at the heart of the action. Can be 11am or 11pm, the streets are always jammed with people looking for the latest bargains. More photographs of Hong Kong coming soon. This picture was taken without a flash. Always take photographs using 'available light' if possible. The results are usually far better.
The sun has just set at Muriwai beach. The waves undaunted continue to lap the shore like they've done all day. The colour of the sky and the way the waves caress the black sand below my feet prompt some camera action ! This picture makes me feel restful and reminds me of a beautiful evening spent at this special place. Though you can't see them, surfers ride the larger waves further out.
Another sunset shot. This was taken at Piha, a stunning place on the West coast of Auckland. Famed for it's surf, it's a place many Aucklander's retreat to in summer for rest and relaxation. The tides can be treacherous, but the sunsets are wondrous ! A great place to explore. If you love walking you can do the 'Coman's Track' (North Piha). A walk up 'Lion Rock' (which is on the beach) is a must ! This shot was taken on a cloudless evening.
Before heading into the heart of the Waitakeres you should head into the Arataki Visitor Centre. It's a great place to discover more about the ranges and the unspoilt beaches that lie ahead ! A mine of information is readily accessible. You can also undertake a fantastic 1 hour nature walk to experience the surrounding rain forest at close range ! 360 degree views await you. This picture was taken at the front of the Arataki Visitor Centre. This 11 meter high Pou (guardian post) represents ancestors of Te Kawerau a Maki and is one of the largest of its kind in New Zealand ! Check out the link list on the right to discover more.