March 31, 2009

Shooting Stars (Abel Tasman Nat'l Park, NZ)

The most visited park in NZ is the Abel Tasman National Park. As much as I want to stay off the beaten paths, when you keep hearing the name like that, you want to have a look.

Well it wasn’t the amazing place I thought it’d be after that whole build-up, I’d say the Marlborough Sounds region we drove through to get there was so much more interesting, but, it turned out to be a good experience.

We rented a kayak, which would have been perfect had it been for the half-day briefing on how to operate this highly complicated palindromic devise. But at some point we were on the sea, rocking with waves that sometimes made the horizon and mountain disappear. Kayaking was a better option than hiking just because my photo gear was not on my shoulders.

Saw a bit of wildlife, no wow-landscapes, but at night, I got a few photos I’m really proud of.

First off, I shot close-up pictures of the Southern Cross, a constellation only seen from the Southern Hemisphere. It’s featured on many flags of countries around here, including the kiwi flag. (Note, the line going through the picture is a satellite that moved throughout the exposure)

Then I wanted to take a wide shot of the sky, to give more of a feel of what it looked like (actually I wanted to take a photo of star streaks, but I forgot an important cable at the car so I couldn’t). While walking on the beach, looking for a cool spot to shoot the stars from, I noticed the phosphorescence caused by the plankton. Plankton are microscopic organism in the sea (they’re at the very base of the food-chain) and when this phenomenon happens, the movement of water makes them emit light. If that’s too technical an explanation: it was like in the movie The Beach, with Leonardo DiCaprio.

At first I thought it wasn’t bright enough to photograph, and decided that I’d give a shot at wearing the writer’s hat to describe how incredible the experience was. But then I also thought “screw that, I want a picture of this”. This was really tough to shoot, but keeping in mind that there’s no Photoshopping whatsoever, I think this photo is amazing.

Windy-Welly is swell (Wellington, NZ)

Leaving the Tongariro region, I drove East to see Mount Taranaki (Mount Egmond), from closer (that didn’t happen because of the clouds), and chose to drive on the Forgotten World Highway, a gorgeous sinuous road, where you’ll drive through farmlands, valleys, forests, gorges and the independent Republic of Whangamomona (worth Googling, it’s a funny story!).

I’m sharing this bit of the trip with Helen, a British globetrotter. We stayed that night at Dave’s, a friend of hers, who lives on the west coast. Again, so much better to meet locals, get to talk to them, chat about where would be the best place to cross from Egypt to India (he’s a well travelled person as well).

We then headed south, to capital city Wellington were I celebrated my birthday (thanks everyone for the wishes). We had two days there before taking the ferry for the South Island, so we visited. I got to buy a four cassettes (NZ$1 each, a bargain!) because my nice rental car, a Nissan Sunny, only has a tape deck.

Here’s a picture of the famous cable-car in Wellington. Got many more, but I’ll keep them for the book!

March 25, 2009

Volcanoes (Turangi, NZ)

Photo from volcanic park, Wai-O-Tapu. Weirdest landscape with vivid colours. There were craters and smoke coming out of the ground. Pretty cool.

And those are from today's walk, at pretty big climb. The actual distance walked was a bit more than 19,4 km (and I ran the last 3 to make sure the bus wouldn't leave without us; long story). I just pulled a few pictures like that, haven't looked at the whole thing just yet.

Below is a view at people climbing to the top of Mount Tongariro; in the background is Mount Taranaki (or Mount Egmond). Both are active volcanoes.

Below is a view at Lake Rotoaira and Lake Taupo behind. Lake Taupo is New Zealand's biggest lake.

Heading to the South Island soon. It's said that the landscape are amazing there.

March 22, 2009

Downunder Hospitality (Rotorua, NZ)

Backpacking can be tough. You meet a ton of great people, but you say goodbye to just as many. Sometime you’ll chat for an hour, sometimes you’ll spend two or three days with someone (or a group of travellers) but inevitably, you’ll part ways.

To get a feel for the lifestyle of the places you visit, you have to meet more than just fellow travellers.

A few days ago, Ray and Sue (that I met through Carrie, that I know through Sheena) where really nice to host me for a night. We drove around their nice town, we even ran into twins Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell at the supermarket, Olympic champions in rowing. At night, they almost apologized for “not doing much after dinner”, which was I thought was perfect considering I keep running around all the time. So we sat and watched some Kiwi/Aussie TV; a good way to get a grasp at the local lifestyle.

Then, Lloyd and Margaret welcomed me, just as I stopped by their farm to take pictures. Really kind people, the nicest kids; I got another glimpse at the Kiwi lifestyle by staying a day at the Roxborough Farm. Not to mention that the photos at sunset and sunrise the next morning are a lot better than the original set of pictures I got in mid-day.

Sure, do the touristy stuff, but don’t forget to get off the beaten paths.

Now to get a bid technical about the photo of the kiwi. They say it’s a nocturnal bird which makes things a bit complicated. That frame was shot at 1/10 second (handheld), aperture f/2.8, and ISO 64000. Now it was too dark for the autofocus to see anything, and that little bird kept on running around, so considering all of that, it’s not a bad frame.

March 21, 2009

(Tirau, New Zealand)

Just a few pictures, I’ll write more when I have a minute.

People jump off their big tower, that’s what they do. We shovel snow around; to each his own.

Sheep, had to take pictures of sheep in NZ. I’ll have to tell you about the kind people I met along the way.

Next up: geysers and thermal waters from the Rotorua region.

March 17, 2009

Kiwi Report (Auckland, NZ)

Good evening in North America, good night in Europe; here it’s the top of the morning. Well, let’s be safe and say "early morning", because I never quite got which part of the morning was the top, it just sounded cool.

Anyway, short post, just that one picture, today is a work day. I had the alarm on, I took a quick shower and I’m having a quick McDonald’s breakfast (not because I wanted the toxic food but because I thought, wrongfully so, that I’d have free Wi-Fi here). Today I’m with the New Zealand Herald, the national newspaper. I got to meet the photo editor (illustration manager as they call it here) yesterday, and I’m spending some time with them today. Networking my way through things, as always.

I’m spending a few days with Severine, whom I’ve met here (our paths will probably cross again in Sydney towards the end of my trip). We took a ferry to a superb suburb called Devonport where we climbed a hill and watched the sunset from that good vantage point.

So far, considering that the big city is supposed to be the ugly part of this landscapy/natury country, it’s pretty promessing.

More on Auckland next time.


March 16, 2009

More pictures from Samoa (Auckland, NZ)

I'm now in Auckland, New Zealand.

Posting some more pictures of Samoa; still trying to figure out why I have such a hard time with pictures...

More on NZ in the days to come; so far so good.


Paradise is hot as hell (Lalomanu, Samoa)

They’ve nicknamed it “paradise”. Possibly to attract tourists, but also because it’s probably as close to paradise as it gets. Don’t get me wrong, the day I spent in the capital was awful; Apia is a real dump. I’ve seen things I didn’t dare to photographs just to stay out of trouble. But when you move to the countryside (which is everywhere else), you see some breathtaking landscapes (and not just the beaches, the mountains, valleys and forests are just as impressive), you get a feel for the Samoan lifestyle, which is really simplistic, and you realize you’re in the middle of nowhere.

The photos don’t lie, it’s gorgeous. What they don’t tell, is how warm and humid it is. The locals are used to it, the tourists seem to adapt fairly quickly, but this one Canadian boy who wears shorts in the dead of winter wants to rip his skin out. That said, the memories of falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the Pacific Ocean will last longer than those of the worst sunburns and bug bites of my life.

The locals are friendly, some are intrigued. It’s great to discuss with the few of them who fluently speak English. They aren’t fed up with tourists yet. If they see you on the streets they’ll ask you “where are you going” like it’s the US customs, but it’s actually they’re way to offer help if you need direction. (A few couldn’t get the word “Canada” and think I’m from Kenya; After all, aren’t we just a none-skinny-marathon-running version of Kenyans?)

The travellers all have different stories to tell, each more interesting than the previous, but frankly, in this kind of background, even a long boring Obama speech would be great to hear (yes, I know, I’m one of the rare who finds him boring as hell).

As I’m writing these lines they are getting ready to put on a traditional show, with dance and music because it’s Saturday night. Saturdays are when they play rugby, dance and drink. Sunday though, you can’t have fun, it’s Jesus’ day. I think the eleventh commandment was “Thou shall not play ping pong or beach volleyball with your Finnish friends on the day the big guy sat back and got drunk”.

Oh, yeah, there are bugs, rats, wild dogs and all, but what can you do… Still beats paying 14 bucks to park at Seneca.

You will probably read this when I’m in New Zealand because Internet is rare around here.

The pictures will be randomly inserted before or after the text; I’ve had issues with that. They’re pretty self-explanatory anyway.

March 11, 2009

When Things go South (Apia, Samoa)

Just as I was thinking to myself that everything was going alright and that I was stressed for no reason, as I was eating a disgusting Caesar salad at LAX, I hear an announcement that on my flight there’s a 7 kg limit for carry-ons.

Of course all my camera gear weighs way more. The Air New Zealand guy wanted me to check the back and I told him that there’s no way my gear leaves my sight. A little sweet-talk got me enough pity to get to keep my gear with me (though I had to have the computer and a camera on me during the whole flight), but what if this hadn’t worked?

Just a little reminder that, especially when you’re far from home, it doesn’t take much for things to go South (or North, whichever one is the wrong way in this hemisphere).


I took advice from different people:

-Last thing I did on Canadian soil was to buy and eat a Tim Horton’s honey-cruller (good idea Karen).

-Just before my trans-Pacific flight, I took Ron’s suggestion to buy an inflatable pillow, which made my 11-hour flight, barely endurable.

-And a few times along the way, I had a Diet Pepsi; thanks Fred!


The rain sounds like a train, it comes fast, it pours like hell (makes buildings shake), and goes away. Until the next train.

I have to say I’m really thankful for the clouds because this morning, the heat and humidity were unbearable (35 degrees, 78% humidity).

So I decided to do what locals do, which is, not much. I took a walk “downtown” Apia, the capital city (population 40 000). Not much picture-wise (anyway tomorrow I’m going to that fale (hut) on the beach).

This photo was snapped out the window as the driver was on his way to drop me off at the so-called hotel.

Sunrise in Samoa (my plane landed around 5:30AM local time).


Internet is not easy to find around here so it might be a while before the next post.

LAX (Los Angeles, California)

All airports look alike. But right now, even though I don't really get the vibe, I'm on Californian soil. Seeing the lights of the gigantic City of Angels, is pretty amazing.

I got to sit down a bit, watch Steve Nash play on TV.

Nothing else to report on; just wanted to say I was in California.

Pearson Airport (Toronto, Canada)

Well that’s what I will look like for the next two months (plus a better tan, minus a few pounds).

In just under 24 hours, I will be in the Southern Hemisphere, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in Apia, the capital of Samoa.

No much to report on so far; even though the new terminal 1 at Pearson is a very nice piece of architecture, it’s still a bunch of line ups leading up to the usual, press here, fill that, check this, scan that, take off your belt, your shoes (she was coming on to me), etc.

Again, as it goes, feel free to write comments in French or English. If the website gives you a hard time, just select “Anonymous”.


I have absolutely nothing to write about other than I’m amaze I can write these lines (and there’s power for my computer), flying over probably Chicago or Des Moines.

March 07, 2009

Getting Ready I (Toronto, Ontario)

Just a few days before departure.

This is one of two backpacks I'm taking with me.

March 01, 2009

Sports Photograhy

Here's a bit of what happened for me this past week; a couple sports fronts.

Monday's National Post

Thursday's Globe and Mail

Sports photography was what I was first interested in. Now I realise that shooting sports, even though it requires skills and knowledge, is quite repetitive. One team wins, one loses. The situation are predictable, to some extent, and you just have to be in the spot where you have the most chance of getting the picture. Shooting sports can be both really frustrating and really rewarding. It requires almost no creativity, unlike the rest of the jobs a photojournalist will be assigned to.

Here's one of my favourite photos.
Not that it's a great action shot (it's actually more of a trading card photo), but it's a nice and clean photo of Steve Nash and he's my favourite player. I use to come to Toronto every year when he was in town. I remember sitting in the stand, with the camera I snuck in, trying to get a picture of my hero. I remember saying that, one day, I would be on the baseline with the big camera (along with the guys I was jealous of). It became a goal, something I had actually written on my To-Do List: "Photograph Steve Nash before he retires".

And now, that picture is framed nice and big in my living room.


Also on the To-Do List, visit New Zealand. And that's happening in 9 days!