It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves
Choose the road to the mountain
Valley of dreams and hopes: Your journey is unique, make it yours
Lead me to the mountain
Where does the path take you
Is this a bridge too far
This was the life that was given to me, make it the best
Dream of being in the clouds
Be grateful for your own story
Whiles I have been out taking photos and running, I haven't quite kept up my blog entries, not for this week anyway. They are in the works, and I want to put together photo stories. In the meantime I was just looking back at my 2014 photo reel, and found some beauties in there:
It must be about 2km in and I see the group come around the corner, we stop briefly and we stop again as we bump into Jenny and Pete. The whole group is now together and we are off on our way into Goldies bush to set on a adventure we won't forget. We climb up those Constable Rd stairs and cover a bit of the gravel road and into Goldies bush, it's a big downhill, more stairs (that we'll have to come up on our return). It's very lush, the trail here is nicely groomed, and we are all having a bit of fun running downhill, jumping about, taking photos.
We reach the swing bridge, this is where we decide to tackle the river. But first some photos on the bridge, there was a group of 3 girls there chatting with some of the group. One of the girls asked kindly to take our photo, and later I found that she is my insta-friend Paige! A chance meeting out on the trail - I'm very thankful she took our photo, we did miss Liz though, as she hadn't caught up yet (taking too many photos ;)), and we had almost forgotten about her!! (Sorry Liz)
I wanted to go when it was still wet season, there would good water flowing through for some good photos as well. And of course the others were keen on hitting some trails as well, there is big network of trails out in the Kaimai Ranges and I haven't been to ranges myself.
Ad sets a date for the adventure, it's a Saturday and nearing beginning of spring time, there has been lots of rain recently as well. It's a busy weekend on the calendar though, on the Sunday there is the Xterra Woodhill, which most of the running group are opting to go to, read my other post on why I'm not doing Xterra this year. Which means most the group won't be going to the waterfalls adventure and there is also the North Shore Marathon for the speedy road crew, ah I do remember the times I used to run road races :) But it is what it is. There ends up to be 6 of us, myself, Ad, Liz, Sean, Bronwyn and Hayley W.
It's just over a 2 hour drive down to the falls, we opt to leave at 7am in the morning. Sean has his big 4 wheel drive 7 seater so we all hop into, thanks Sean :) And we are off. Firstly the weather is perfect, like totally perfect no clouds in the sky - that is amazing. Along the way we decide to stop over at Te Aroha, for coffee and refreshments. It's a cute little town, right on the base of Mt Te Aroha - that has to be a future adventure! We stop over at Te Aroha domain for a loo stop, the gardens are small, but again cute. The lawn greens and the small museum at the end reminds me of a miniature version of Rotorua, even the smells as there is a thermal pool at the back!
We are about 30 minutes from the falls car park now. The road is a narrow flat road with the impressive Kaimai Ranges to the left. As we get to the car park, there is already a few cars there and people ready to go out onto the track. After getting all our back pack gear ready: for me - I'm carrying my Sony camera with a kit lens but also have a zoom lens in the bag, along with my knock off GoPro style camera. 2 gorilla pods, a sandwich, banana and hydration pack and my buff. And we're off after a quick selfie of course!
First impressions of the trail is just how rocky it is, just big slabs of rock on the trail. First photo op is at one of the bridges, and then another bridge, which Bronwyn points out how I could frame my shot! I'm telling ya she had her photography hat on that day from the start! There are mini waterfalls all along the way as we cross little and big bridges, something definitely around each corner, the moss growing the rocks, the sun peaking through the trees, the sound of the water rushing down the river. Then we hit the stairs, huge criss crossing stair case, awesome little workout.
As we come off the stairs and some more trail, we approach the first lookout point, seems about mid way through and we can see the whole length of the waterfall, through the bush and with that morning light coming through this is magic. A bit of a stop and a few photos later, we back on the track - ready to hit the top of the waterfalls. It's a good climb up to 400m+ and I have fallen behind the group now, hah my great fitness coming into play again. As we near the top there are glimpses of the spectacular view on the right hand side - the Waikato country, blocks of farm and in the distance the hills and mountains looking at west.
Towards the top part of the track it's a little muddy, nothing too bad really. The others are there already, along the river and now we head to the lip of the falls, there are little cascading falls along the way. We reach the viewing platform, the view is amazing! At this point, we are all doing our separate thing. Hayley and Liz are filming the 22 push challenge videos with those views in the backdrop, the others have got some food out and just taking in the view. For me I want to get to the other side of the river and get onto the edge!
I begin my trek across the river, the flow of the river is not too bad, but the rocks are slippery, like really slippery, slippery enough that I almost fall over!! There is about 5 metres to the edge of the falls, it's a bit hairy, I look back and see Ad and Bronwyn looking at me and gasping a bit! I take it easy for the rest of the way across being extra careful and then down onto these big rocks nestled on the right hand side, on the edge of the waterfalls, by edge I mean over the edge is 150m down!!
I settle in and sit on a rock where the water is not flowing, in a relatively "safe" spot. The view here is amazing, all I can hear the water rushing by me. Under neath me the water goes directly down, ahead of me is the most awesome view of the Waikato - there is no cloud in the sky and can make out some of the hills and mountains further away. To the left of me more rocks and beyond that the viewing platform where I can see the others hanging out doing their thing.
I know I can't be there forever, but I just spend a few moments sitting on the rock taking it all in. And then reliase, I've got a camera in my hand - I better take some photos. I take a wide panaroma to the left is the viewing platform to the right the bush, I take a short video and I also take a few photos of the others on the viewing platform. Hard to describe the feeling, but hopefully the photos do.
I make my way back across the river very carefully, I'm back. The others are ready to go, fair enough. I take out my sandwich, scoff down a quarter, have another quarter in my hand. And we're off - we decide to go further down the Wairere Track - the best thing we did that day!
It starts off pretty muddy, it's definitely not well groomed, it's wild, there is the river / stream running on one side of it and the most beautiful bush throughout. A beautiful green grove welcomes us - trees are really rich saturated green colour, the moss on them making it more so. The light in coming in through the trees. At this point Bronwyn has started to melt in this beauty and start taking photos in burst mode, 30 in each burst! The green extends out onto the river, which I may add is crystal clear, we can see right through it and the rocks on the bottom have green mossy stuff growing on it. There is a great shot from Bronwyn looking down the river with foliage on either side, it's magic. We are in love. The river is quiet, there's nobody else on the track - it's incredibly peaceful, again it's hard to describe in words. But there is more gems to come.
I wake up - it's early in the morning, around 6am or so on Sunday. Fuzz had sent me a message day earlier about shooting a sunrise down by the marina. I had said yes, sure I'll join in. It was one of those weekends - after Thursday night trails with Ad, I was feeling all sniffly and just a cold coming along. The running group had organised a mega cool adventure up to The Pinnacles in Coromandel, but I just didn't think I was going to make it. I let Ad know on the Friday, and besides I had done The Pinnacles a few months back - blog post on that in future.
So anyway I thought I need to get out and Sunday would be a good opportunity to do that - and pursue a sunrise which I haven't done in a while. I'm running a bit late, I let Fuzz know - meeting point is at Westhaven, there is a little beach there. I get there - Fuzz is already setup with his gear.
I wanted to go for my 2 camera setup this time - one taking in a time lapse and the other free handing some shots around the location. After we were done there, we decide to walk down the marina and check the Wynyard Quarter and the fish market there. Fuzz told me about his experiences overseas, where he was shooting a fish market, much more bigger scale. He has lived in many parts of the world, and shooting with him is always interesting as there is always something new to find or a new story he has.
I had never been to our fish market myself, so was good to check it out. it was fairly empty, we took a few photos inside and then left walking further onto the waterfront. By this time the magic golden hour light was gone and after taking a few more snapshots and talking about street photography we were done. It reminded how much photography is about timing, to get that golden light, you to be there at the right time, to capture that emotion you have to have captured it at the right time. This is what we have to think about lots. Here's a few snaps and the time lapse I ended up with.
I get a message from Fuzz on a Monday evening about who would be keen to going out for a astro shoot on the following night, as the weather, conditions and timing was looking good for it. It was a group message, others in the group started replying that they could be keen, it could be a option. I reply later - "peer pressure" jokingly, as everybody else was keen!
It's a weekday with work commitments the next day, it's pretty crazy. I tell the group I will the decide the next day. The Tuesday is a pretty cloudy day to begin with, and at that point I had already decided I would probably not go. As the day went along - it started to clear up, and by late afternoon, virtually no clouds in the sky! I reply back to group "I'm in". By 9pm I'm heading my way out to Bethells Beach, we meet at a meeting point in between to do car pooling. We all hop into my car and we are off to Bethells.
Few advantages of Bethells is that it's not too away, and also one of the less popular beaches, with hardly any light pollution around. We meet up with another group there - Guillaume with his friends James and Brendan. The plan is head to south end of the beach, near some rocks out there. It is still clear out, milky way still pretty high above us, but getting lower and lower. As we approach the southern end, we are pretty free to explore the area and we split into little groups. I'm initially there with Alan, we climb up a rock, Alan nearly falls over whiles we are up the top. But the spot is not so interesting, as there is no foreground to shoot. The milky way is still up and beautiful, but after taking a few photos we can see clouds showing on our photos.
We come down from the spot and now I split off to climb another big rock - Alan, Fuzz, Grantis are all nearby somewhere, as I can see the light from their head torches and the LCD screen of the cameras. I'm in search for a spot to setup a time lapse.
I find a space to setup my time lapse camera - it's a pretty sweet spot I think, with a rock on the right hand side, the end of the beach on the left hand side and a slight elevated position showing the beach in between. As soon I finish my setup I look up and I start seeing dark patches of sky!! The clouds - it is covering a lot of the sky. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. I thought maybe this would only be temporary and would look OK on the time lapse anyway, I set it and let the camera do it's thing.
I make my down from the rock, being careful to use my red light only, as I can see the others are shooting beside and behind me. It is pitch black, so I need some sort of marker to remember where I left my camera as well, in case the battery dies and I can't see the LCD screen - I remember a branch on the ground being nearby, use that as my marker.
I'm back on the beach now - make my around the rock I just climbed to the other side. I've got my other camera on hand - it's time to explore a little bit. But the clouds have set in for good, for most part there is cloud all over the galactic core of the milky way. I take in a few shots and some mini time lapses. I see the others are now shooting behind the big rock, Mars is visible - about to dip behind.
At this stage - we had spent almost 2 hours out there and with no signs of the clouds retreating, we called it a night. There was some awesome shots taken by Fuzz, Guillaume, Alan, James, definitely go check out their work. Alan got a nice glowing milky way photo behind those clouds. Although at end it didn't turn out to be greatest night out for milky way shooting, we made the most out of what we had.
This was not the first time I've been out star gazing, but yet again I was just so amazed by looking up at the sky seeing a billions and billions of stars, galaxies, planets, and other objects out there. And for a lot of people - they have not seen this, if you live in a urban area, you will not see the sky like this, all the light pollution around you just doesn't allow for it. Go out to a dark area, let your eyes adjust and it's amazing what you will see, I saw a couple of shooting stars that evening as well!
A Cloudy Way
Search for the milky way - Bethells Beach, Auckland, New Zealand kunalkumarphoto.com http://ift.tt/2a5cNQ5 fb.com/kksnap Music: http://ift.tt/1JeOXIs
It's a ball of rock 380 odd thousand kilometers from the earth and it's our only permanent natural satellite - something that orbits around the Earth. Every month as it goes through it's lunar cycle we get to see a full moon, as the sun sets on west, almost at the exact same time the moon rises in the east. Being totally opposite each other the sun's light reflects off the moon's face and we get to see it in it's full glory.
So what's the fascination with it. I don't know really - I always had a thing for it I guess, but I know exactly the moment when I've wanted to capture it. Few years ago I came across this video clip - Full Moon Silhouettes by Mark Gee aka The Art of Night. If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to watch it now, and then come back right here :)
Like many people I was fascinated, intrigued, amazed and I was also wondering how was he able to capture this so beautifully. I became a instant fan of Mark, and have been following him since - he was also named Astrophotographer of the year in 2013. At about the same time - I had been looking into upgrading my camera - I had sold my point and shoot camera about a year back, and looking at an interchangeable lens camera, I saw a deal online and after reading a few reviews I brought my first "serious" camera. Since then I have been trying to capture the moon and the night sky (and everything else really)
Fast forward a few years, and back to a last month - Full moon July 2016. I have been thinking about capturing a iconic moon shoot, maybe against the city or another land mark. I had seen a photo from earlier in the year with the moon and sky tower - another amazing shot. There is a bit of planning required to get this sort of a shot, and also for the weather to play ball. I had started using a app called TPE - well known in the photography circles - it will let you know exactly where the sun and moon is going to rise and set, as well some technical data, that I don't fully understand yet, but it's a great tool.
Along with the planning there is also which day the moon is going to rise, weekday or weekend? Can I get to location after work etc, for the July moon rise - it was a Wednesday evening. And it was a fair day, I set my sight one of local east coast beaches - Castor Bay and try to capture the moon coming over Rangitoto. It was fantastic - and this laid the platform for what I wanted to do with City Moon Rise.
Initially I had thought West Harbour would be the location to get the shot from but TPE was saying it wasn't going to line up, I saw a piece of land sticking out on the map - Te Atau Peninsula! There is a walkway there, placed my marker and thought this could work. Now it was a waiting game for the next good moon rise, August came along and the weather started to break, we had a few days of great weather, full moon day was coming up!
Thursday 18 August - Full Moon. It was looking promising. Only one thing - it was a work day - sux! Moon rise was going to be 5.38pm, and Google was saying about 35 mins to the location. i.e. giving me 3 minutes spare to set up! And this is pretty much exactly how it turned out. As I got to Te Atatu Peninsula, I parked the car, rushed out with my gear - I knew I had to walk along the track a little bit to get the positing, but at this stage it was bit of a guessing game. There was a little beach - I decided to go right to end of this and setup my time lapse shot - I framed up and took one test shot, set up my intervalometer and crossed my fingers - I just let it go.
There was some cloud on the horizon, I couldn't see the moon at all. The time lapse was going, at this point I thought maybe this wasn't going to be the day. A couple of minutes pass and I see it - just a little of that moon behind the clouds and behind the Sky Tower!! This was it, I have my other camera on hand - change lens quickly and start taking handheld shots with this. At the same time a few locals are on there evening walk. One stops and tells me about the amazing sunrises from there especially with the early morning fog, he has not seen the moon yet. I point behind him and tell him about the moon - there is gasp! and a "wow" There is another photographer further down the path setup with tripod and all, say a quick hi as I carry on taking a few shots.
A lady in a car calls me over, she's eating her dinner. She tells me in amazement - "I just saw the moon right behind the Sky Tower!!" and stated she couldn't believe how fast it moved!! She asked me a few questions and then explained she didn't want to go home to eat dinner because she was so amazed by this sight.
I'm now a bit far away from my time lapse camera setup, it must have 20-30 minutes. I head back towards the beach, time lapse has finished in the way of the battery running out. But it's OK - I have about 300 shots and I have it - This is the City Moon Rise:
Getting back to what I've been focusing on for the year - has been my photography, and that is why I haven't signed up for events - main factor being time, if I'm not out there running events, you really do have to train for them and that would eat into my chances to do photography. I had opted to do weekend adventures where I get to combine photography and trails - which is what I've really really loved.
Xterra Waharau was my chance to see if I could do this at a event. I was armed with both my cameras, I only took one of them up running. The photo running pack - which is slightly bigger than your normal runners hydration pack, but still very compact and able to hold a hydration bladder, camera, lens and other things like jacket etc, especially for this event as there was compulsory equipment required - this one is serious! I'm getting used to running with this pack. The peak design clips - I'm also starting to use now, although the tripod mount did not work well with my Sony NEX-5R as I found out on the day - it has very odd angled tripod mount to maintain it compact size.
So along I went, I started off well, but eventually started to walk as the climb started to get tougher. We get to the first lookout point, and it must be about 400m above sea level, this itself is a great view looking out to the firth of Thames - I stop for a while, bump into Jenny's friend Vicki, she says she recognises me from the photos I post. This makes me smile for sure. We come into aid station - this is the junction for us "super long" competitors to turn off to go right to the top. I see Steve at this aid station, stop for a while, chat and take a selfie (sorry Steve it's out of focus - I need to work on that selfie game) Steve is a big inspiration - he's part of the Total Sport team that put these events together. He's a awesome runner, like really really awesome and gets to go to run in places I can only dream of at this stage, and most importantly a super awesome guy.
Leaving the aid station, off we climb now to the hardest part of course, I go past Ronald, but he overtakes me later - being on the trails is all about experience! I find myself running behind another guy, who's setting a really nice slow pace for me. I actually enjoyed this, and makes the climb not too bad and I had plenty of time along the way to take a few snaps. As we get close to Trig K - Mark from Total Sport is there checking off numbers, I stop by, take a selfie (look at the focus - nailed it!). He tells us it's another 5 mins to the top. Ingrid and Reti have now caught up to me from the last aid station, we get to the Trig, climb the viewing platform and take in the views from the top of Auckland! It's spectacular.
A few more minutes up there and I'm on the way down. I've lost the guy I was behind on the way up and Ingrid and Reti are also long gone. So for the last 10km of the journey, I'm mostly behind a lady and, in front of a guy, I play tag with both of them as I slow down to take a few photos and speed up to my pace again to catch up. This is where I really feel stink that I wasn't able to keep with any of the BBCM crew, like last year, and knew my "training" was not great. Gone are the days of running 5min/km with my ex work mates at lunch times, which was only 12 months ago! Though one thing I'm finding is - huge improvements in endurance and recovery, I can spend a lots of hours on my feet out there, with little fuel and the recovery is great as I was running 10km at the pub run the next day, albeit very slow!
Anyhow I was able to speed up a little on the downhill sections. We come back to the junction point where the aid station is, Steve is still there - I have good chat with him, I'm done with my camera put in my bag and try to find the source of the jiggling sound in my bag, later I find that I had left my keys and the lens cap in this bag and not put in my drop bag - all the rush at the start line reminds me just have to sort this stuff out the night before really.
It must be a good 5 minutes stop at the aid station, anyway I'm ready to go again. It's a great downhill run from here, there's another little viewing point - I do stop, but no photos this time, just stand there and take it all in. And then I catch up to that lady in front, pass her and I'm on the way down down down. The trail is now mostly gravel, we cross over a stream - nice to wash off those shoes from the mud. Hit the last aid station, now only 2.5km from the finish. This part is very lonely, only part of the trail I've had nobody around me - apart from some New Zealand wildlife - I get very close to a Fantail, spot a Tui or two and also a very tiny and cute Tomtit - that was the best sight; I quickly remind myself I was running a event!
I would normally stop, try to get my long lens out and try to capture these sights. I've noticed from my time on the trail I've been able to spot these things better now, and the advantages it has brought to my photography, the speed at which it takes to notice and capture one of these moments. Trying to predict the light better, as it comes through the trees. Still lots to improve on as blurry shots and just even sweat on the front element on the lens is a issue!
As we come down - the finish line has changed from last year, now further down near the entrance of the park, so going through here was very dead and eerie - absolutely nobody is around! There a short little hill, and short track before I pop up into the finishing chute. There's encouragement from a woman on a line, loved that. And then a absolute great feeling as I hear the BBCM crew cheering, shouting and clapping as I cross the finish line - high fives all round. That's the best finish I've had, so great to have such a awesome crew who waited for me for so long. I think I was about 10 minutes slower than last year - who cares! I was so pleased for the rest of the crew who had put some great efforts in training and banged out awesome times - these guys are absolute legends.