Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Looking for Sunsets

I never really thought about sunset much, about what conditions need to be present to achieve a sunset of startling beauty. From time to time, I look out the window and admire a particularly lovely one, and may even take photos, but there are always rooftops and power lines in the way. So a holiday seemed like a good opportunity to take sunset photographs, from the vantage point of a harbour cruise, or a beach.

We never really saw a good one, though. There always seemed to be a clear sky except for clouds low on the horizon, and I realised that's the opposite of what is needed. The sun needs to shine up from below, onto the underside of layers of clouds, to produce those spectacular sunset colours. I learnt instead to appreciate the subtleties of the gentle tints that we had to be content with. Here are three "not really a proper sunset" photos, taken as the sun was going down.

Port Macquarie:

Port Stephens (I love how the sun appears to be smiling in this one):

Stockton Beach:

Monday, September 27, 2010

On Navigation

Arrival in Sydney was relatively easy. We had decided that paying over a hundred dollars extra to pick up a rental car at the airport was ridiculous so we made the alternative choice of staying the night in Sydney and picking up our rental in town the next morning. The underground train system went from the airport to our hotel and the hotel was a few blocks from the rental car place. And the rental car place was within a couple of blocks of the route north, which was fairly straightforward even if a little slow.

Coming back was another matter. The under-the-harbour tunnel is a toll route into the city (though not out of the city) and we asked our GPS for a non-toll option. It was working out OK, slow but scenic, until we got into the city itself and found ourselves hemmed in between buses

and then "Tammy" (our GPS) told us to turn right at an intersection that said "no right turn". So we went straight ahead, Tammy re-routed us, and eventually after a number of twists and turns we found ourselves coming back to the same intersection from the opposite direction, facing down a sign that said "no left turn". Only then I saw another sign that said "no left turn except buses, taxis and hire cars" so we decided that was OK after all.

On Sunday, back in Christchurch, I headed off to buy a pair of trousers - too many holiday indulgences meant many of mine were uncomfortably tight. Then I looked up Colombo St, the main north-south street that goes right through the centre of the city, and decided to drive up it a wee way to check out on earthquake damage.

It has pretty much turned into a slalom course. In the suburb where I was, a historic borough, at every point either one side of the street or the other had safety fencing placed out into the middle of the street protecting passers by from unsafe buildings, and it was a matter of weaving from one side of the street to the other to drive up it. It seemed to be one way south to north only, though my husband said that he had driven north to south the day before, and my daughter commented that road restrictions change daily. It occurred to me that there's no way any GPS system could cope with the rules in Christchurch at the moment. It's just as well it's easier to get round here than Sydney. If you can't turn at an intersection, just head one block over and try again.

Not so many aftershocks today, and nothing higher than a 3.6. I felt that one, though I missed several others, either because I was walking or because I slept through.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Meet the Locals

A few of the locals we met on our trip.

I'm busy trying to sort photos and tweak them in Photoshop where necessary in time to take advantage of a special offer on printing that finishes tomorrow.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two Weeks Without Shaking

Australia has many attractions, and one of them is the fact that it is not centred right over the junction between two major tectonic plates. So I was very glad that a few months back we had booked a holiday there. (New Zealand on the other hand, was described by one of my offspring as "a fault line with a sprinkling of topsoil on it".)

We flew out on the Friday and arrived in Sydney where we spent the night. And it didn't seem as strange as I had expected that the earth didn't do a little dance every couple of hours or so. After all, if the aftershocks are coming every two hours, that's two hours without any shaking which is exactly like that same two hours in Australia. But the next day we went to the supermarket to stock up on supplies for our drive north, and I thought "something looks strange". Then I realised, oh yes, all the shelves are full. (Apparently 95 million dollars worth of damaged food and beverages ended up in the landfill here). The second strange thing was seeing newspapers without "Earthquake Edition" plastered all over the front page.

We had great weather, mostly in the low twenties but it felt warmer because we are just coming out of winter and Christchurch is distinctly cooler in winter than northern New South Wales. We had a very relaxing time, apart from the return flight home - that is, not so much the flight itself but the drive to the airport, check in, customs and immigration procedures etc. It was getting towards 1 a.m. when we arrived home, then I started catching up on e-mails, headed to bed just after two, and slept very well until I was woken by a slightly more than gentle rocking just before nine thirty. When I was fully awake, I thought "was that an earthquake or did I dream it?" And yes, it was another aftershock. They are thinning out. So no more until late afternoon/early evening when we had about five within a couple of hours. My daughter headed to the geonet website to check up on them and found they were rather smaller than we had thought. Since she has been getting very good at the "guess the magnitude" party game, she then put the coordinates into google maps to check out the location. And one of them had it's epicentre precisely three blocks from our house. Well, OK, then. Obviously my welcome home party.

D comments on her blog:
Anyway and then I took my bus, which drove me home right over the epicentre of that 4.0. Is this or is this not pretty cool? I bet none of you has done anything this cool today!

Holiday reports and photos to come.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Little Things..

And the not so little..

It was a great relief last night to hear that after three days of clear tests, the "boil water" advisory had been lifted.

A thousand university students, unable to attend lectures because the university is closed, are out shoveling sand and silt from the worst affected properties.

A digger driver carefully lifted a treasured crystal chandelier from a business that he was about to demolish, and handed it to its owner held delicately in his digger bucket.

I'm off on a blogging break, and an actual break, somewhere where the worst that nature can do is drought, bush fire, floods, poisonous snakes, spiders and crocodiles. (The crocodiles are north of where we are headed, and the floods, which haven't made the news much here, given that we have our own problems, are south. So I think we'll be OK).

See you all in a couple of weeks or so.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Of Aftershocks, and Springtime

I headed off to work this morning with my nerves still jangling from the big aftershock. I planned to do all the errands on the way to work that I hadn't done on Saturday, because everything was shut. So it was first to the post office, then to the bank. Which turned out to be shut again, due to the aftershock. It was no use going to the next nearest branch on my route, or the one after that, because they have both been behind cordons since the initial quake. So I just went to work, and sorted the travel money later. No thanks to the call centre, which directed me to the web site. Or the web site, which claimed all branches were open, with the exception of the two behind cordons that I already knew about. I guess it is difficult for them to keep up, because things keep opening and closing and opening again - including the airport, so I have my fingers crossed for Friday.

I had my camera with me, since it was the first time since the quake I had had to drive from one side of the city to the other. But I realised that I was in absolutely no mood to take photos of ruined buildings. The newspaper is doing a great job in that respect, so I'll buy the book (there's bound to be one). Along the way I drove over a couple of bridges with suspicious bumps in them that weren't there before - I presume they've been inspected and approved as safe - and along a number of roads where safety fencing partly blocked off one lane at intervals, where rubble had fallen.

But then I did stop to take photos (see above). As we'll be away for just over two weeks, I'm hoping there will be no aftershocks when we get back (feeling a bit guilty about leaving the family behind to put up with them. Even if they are grown up enough to take care of themselves). However, I can also guarantee there will be no daffodils when we get back - or at least, only shrivelled ones.

It reminds me of Housman when he wrote of cherries:

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

So, it suddenly seemed important to stop and take photographs of daffodils, since I probably have considerably fewer than fifty springs left.

Christchurch is glorious in springtime.

It Goes On...

I was sleeping in a bit this morning when the latest aftershock hit, a very sharp jolt that had me leaping for the floor to shelter beside the very solid bed without any hesitation. The power went off for the first time since Friday morning, but it was restored fairly quickly.

It was brief, fortunately, but strong enough to have done significant further damage. Our own house has a couple of cracks in the stucco that we are pretty sure weren't there before. Hopefully there is no major structural damage, I don't think it is unsafe but we will have to have the assessors in. Presumably all the city buildings that have been assessed as safe will have to be assessed again.

I am going to head out and hope that banks are open as I have a major "to do" list of errands put off from the weekend.

I want one of these chairs..

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What's Been Lost

A year or so ago I had the opportunity to tour the beautiful gardens at the historic Ohinetahi homestead. This near derelict building and grounds was restored over many years with much hard work by architect Sir Miles Warren and his team. Sadly it has been severely damaged. The quake collapsed four upper gables and sent stones tumbling on to the building.

Other buildings have sustained even worse damage - however, this was one I have personally visited and had photos available in my collection.

Tomorrow I will cross the city for work and no doubt see more damage. In some cases, there will be gaping holes where badly damaged buildings have already been demolished.

We have had a relatively calm day after several big aftershocks overnight. The biggest at 5.4 had me wondering if I should get out of bed and take shelter. While I was still pondering, it stopped. Another of the same strength later in the night didn't even wake me. I guess I am getting used to them (and we are all getting very tired).

Apparently advice is that rather than getting out of bed, it is OK just to put a pillow over my head. Or to roll onto the floor and lie against the bed - then if the ceiling collapses, there will be a small safe space adjacent to the bed. (If the floor doesn't fall in. Our bedroom is on an upper floor).

I spent a couple of hours tonight discussing holiday plans with my husband. Our flights and a week of accommodation were booked a while back, however we still had to book a rental car and accommodation for the first night. It was good to forget about earthquakes for a while. And to know that they are rare in Australia, where we are heading.

Although it wasn't quite so reassuring to learn that in 1989 an earthquake in Newcastle, north of Sydney, killed 13 people and injured more than 160. And it was only 5.6 - not much stronger than the biggest aftershocks we have been getting. Of course, since earthquakes are rare in Australia, their buildings aren't built to cope with it, as ours are. That rarity is why I fully expect to forget about aftershocks for the two weeks we are away.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Earthquake Poetry

One of the few things that fell in our house during the earthquake was the metal panel with my magnetic poetry on it. I picked it up but left the words there for a day or two. I was feeling too strung out to put them all back in an orderly way, so I have scooped them all up into a box in the meantime.

When I am feeling a little less jumpy I may see if I can write a poem or two using these words.

Schools, libraries and universities are still all closed. Buses will resume tomorrow, but the bus exchange in the central city is in the cordoned off area, so the buses will go to and from the city fringes only. The rubbish collectors and the postmen, bless them, are working as normal. We will hear in about 24 hours whether the water is safe to drink unboiled or not.

My workplace is unaffected, but my work computer seems to rattle a lot more loudly than my home computer during aftershocks. We had several this afternoon around a magnitude of 4.0. One of them further damaged some buildings that had been damaged in the main quake, and they had to be demolished.

We are very glad that the forecast bad weather has not eventuated so far. High winds and heavy rain are not good for buildings with crumbling brickwork or holes covered by tarpaulins.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

More Earthquake Photos

There's a shortage of things to think about round here at the moment. Despite many suburbs looking normal, nothing is running. No buses. All public buildings (schools, libraries, movie theatres etc) closed till at least Wednesday. I can't even keep busy doing big piles of laundry, as I had planned for the weekend, since we are supposed to conserve water. I'm tossing up between doing some small loads of essential laundry, and going on holiday at the end of the week with a suitcase full of dirty laundry to do when I get there.

So, with not enough else to do, and feeling pretty edgy anyway, I went for another walk. Watching the damage on TV, I was pretty sure I knew where the nearest badly damaged buildings in walking distance would be. And I was right.

The yellow spray paint reads "Falling Debris NG (no go) 5/9/10 11.00 a.m."

I suspect these buildings will be pulled down, and replaced with something like the shiny but bland modern block across the road.

I have work tomorrow. Probably will spend the day picking up files from the floor and sorting and re-shelving them. My Monday-Tuesday-Thursday job is in a home office at my boss's home, which is undamaged (apart from all the files ending up on the floor).

I think the office for my Wednesday-Friday job is OK too, except that I may have to take a rather roundabout route to get there, given that the central city and a few other parts are still cordoned off, and some bridges are closed.

It sounds as if the gale force winds that were predicted have just reached us. That won't do some of the damaged buildings much good.

My daughter works at the university library (closed for the week). She gave me the link to photos of the library here. I think she has way more picking up and re-shelving to do than I have.

Before our holiday, I need to get to a bank. My usual branch is in a badly-damaged, cordoned off area. I'm assuming I'll be able to find one that's open somewhere not too far out of the way.

More earthquake photos at Christchurch Daily Photo

Earthquake Day 2

Superficially, everything around here seems normal, except that it isn't. Parts of the city are still without power and water. We are being asked to boil water and to flush sparingly as the waste systems are not fully operational. There are no buses running and the central city is still cordoned off. I am grateful, of course, that the damage wasn't far more severe. I had planned to be in the area where the worst damage occurred, running errands, just a few hours later. There can't be a much better time of day to have an earthquake than 4.30 in the morning.

The photo is for Carmi's Thematic Photographic theme for this week, transportation. This old style delivery bike stands outside Johnson's grocery, a store near the centre of Christchurch which looks very much like the grocery stores of my childhood. It has managed to survive by providing specialty items such as imported biscuits, cereals, sweets etc to the immigrant community who want the items they remember from home (especially the UK). I have no idea if the shop will still stand undamaged when I can next get into the centre of the city.

We are still experiencing frequent aftershocks. It's a bit unnerving.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Shaky Isles

We are quite used to small earthquakes in New Zealand, but nothing as big as the one that woke me this morning - as big as the one in Haiti, apparently. After the rumbling and shaking stopped, my husband went around the outside of the house with a torch, reported no apparent damage, and since the power was out, we went back to bed - by far the warmest place.

It wasn't until the power came back on about 10 a.m. that I was able to switch on the TV and see what the damage was like. Around my neighbourhood, there is nothing much to see at all. But the soil structure in Christchurch is very variable, and apparently parts of the city have severe damage, while others are relatively untouched.

You won't see any really dramatic photos here. If that's what you want, head on over to Stuff. I spent most of the day being a good citizen and staying at home as requested. But I did go for a bit of a walk around the neighbourhood, where all seemed pretty much normal...

it was a beautiful spring day...

except that I'm sure this crack across our street wasn't there yesterday.

And a small cluster of three or four houses all had chimney damage.

I've never seen the river quite this colour before, even after heavy rain. It's not usually so full, either. We have been asked to keep away from the water because of sewage contamination.

But the whitebaiters either didn't know or didn't care (whitebait are the young of several species of native fish, considered a delicacy).

The hospitals are not too busy, some minor injuries and two more severely injured patients. But they are braced for potential gastroenteritis in the next few days. I suspect the whitebaiters will be among the first patients.

(Lots of aftershocks. We had about three or four small ones while I was writing this post).

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Couple of Oddities

Or perhaps not so odd...
When I logged in to post, I saw that blogger has enabled automatic spam detection, which explains the first mystery.

A spam comment appeared in my e-mail, so I immediately logged in to the offending post to remove it, only to find that the comment wasn't there. It appears I receive spam comments by e-mail, but blogger removes them for me. Thanks, blogger!

The other little oddity was that I was at the Moo website. Moo recognized that I was from New Zealand, and invited me to click through to the site for my closest Moo retailer. This, it turned out, involved redirecting me from the US site to the UK version. Huh? Last time I looked, the US was closer, or has the world rearranged itself while I slept?

Thematic Photographic: Floral

I have many, many flower photographs in my files. Most of them, to be honest, don't excite me very much. I've been thinking about it all week and realised that it is probably because it's hard to improve on a flower.

I can take a photograph of a detail of a dilapidated building, and feel that I've made a silk purse out of a sow's ear. With flowers, I'm more likely to feel I've made a sow's ear out of a silk purse.

I keep trying, of course. Maybe if I capture the light shining through and making it translucent, or zoom right in for a spectacular close up ...?

The first two shots are not particularly special, but they are recent. Spring has definitely arrived (although a cold polar blast is on it's way). The centres of rhododendrons particularly intrigue me. Apparently those patterns of little dots and splashes help guide the bees to the centre of the flower.

The third photo is one that does continue to excite me - a rather spectacular flower as photographed in the courtyard of St John's Hospital, Bath.

And the last two also continue to appeal to me, even though the flowers captured here are less than perfect. I like to think they show that age can also be beautiful.

Sunflower, Avebury Manor, England

Unknown flower, Inverness.

For more flower photos, visit Carmi here