Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Camera Collector

I'm not obsessed or anything, but when I think about it, actually own a total of eight cameras.

Film cameras:
Pentax zoom90-WR (somewhat broken)
Pentax ME super (somewhat broken)
Pentax K1000 (crack in the prism but otherwise intact)
Ansco gaf (old split screen point-and-shoot)
Lomo Super Sampler **NEW ADDITION

Digital Cameras:
Olympus D-460 zoom
Pentax K100 (digital SLR)
Motorola KRZR-K1 (camera phone) **NEW ADDITION

With the exception of the K1000 (which was given to me by a friend of a relative) and the Super Sampler (which I only got last week), all of these cameras have been my primary camera at some point. They all have their particular strengths and weaknesses. The Ansco was the only camera I took with me to Cuba - it just felt right and my ME super had just started throwing tantrums - and it took lovely photos of crumbling Havana architecture. The Olympus was my 1st digital, and the fact it was so light for cameras of its time made it a perfect companion when backpacking for the Hawkesbill Turtle Project. I took some incredible shots on that thing, simply by being able to take it places my other cameras couldn't go.

SO. The obsession continues. I'm currently having a great time checking out the particular charms of my camera phone. The Super Sampler is a toy camera from the Lomographic Society that I've had my eye on for YEARS. It is essentially four near pinhole camera lenses that take four side by side exposures on one "picture" - each image taken 2 or .2 seconds apart. For this camera to really shine, you need bright sunlight and lots of action (a sporting event, perhaps?). But sunshine is scarce this time of year, so I haven't made it through the test roll yet. Here's a blurry photo of the gadget, taken on my camera phone:
super sampler
AND, I was in the Metshop the other day, when I saw something I couldn't stop myself from buying: Sunprints. These are little blue squares of paper. You place an object on the square, stick it in the sun for a couple minutes, rinse in tap water, and an image appears. Magic! I can only assume these things are based on existing blueprint technology. My parents are in the land surveying business, this involves drawing maps, and originally my parents worked with my grandad and his ancient equipment. This included a blueprint machine: you take an existing drawing, stick it on some blue paper, run it through a machine that stinks of ammonia, and out comes a blue-and-white copy: the original meaning of "blue print." When I was a kid hanging out at my parent's office, I'd use the special blue paper to make images: find a leaf or something to stick on the paper in the sun, run through the stink machine, and you get a picture. I hadn't thought of this in years, but holding that tiny blue package in my hands, it all came back.

I was determined to test it first chance I got, but waited too late in the day and the sun was failing, so I went on a mad dash through the city looking for a spot of sun. Just as I was giving up, the sun broke through some clouds - it was on the verge of disappearing behind some mountains. So I just laid down my set up on an anonymous bit of side walk and tried not to look like a crazy person as I sat there staring at it and waiting for my five minutes to be up.
In the end I got a washed out image, due to the thin sunlight and long exposure time. And of course it has been raining ever since. Another new toy just waiting for a sunny day.
bule print feather

Windy Welly

"Gusts of 130 km/h are likely in exposed parts of Wellington and coastal
Wairarapa through to about 6pm today"

Damn. So much for getting a bike ride in today.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Can someone tell me why I keep taking photos in public bathroom mirrors? It's become a compulsion or something.

aro park metal mirror

Honestly, I just love what the metal mirrors do with reflections. If only there was something more interesting to take photos of in a bathroom stall besides myself. I'm starting to feel a touch narcissistic.

And let me take this opportunity to say a few words about public restrooms in New Zealand. They are absolutely the best public restrooms of any country I've ever had the opportunity to take a piss in. Kiwis will look at you like you're some sort of toilet fetishist if you tell them this, but that's just because they don't know how good they've got it. Friends, there are at least FOUR public restrooms in the small space of down town Wellington, and they are all clean, devoid of graffiti, and on average smell better than my own bathroom. Some of them are even HEATED in the winter. There is no garbage or human waste on the floors of any kind, they have hot and cold running water, all of the fixtures and appliances are undamaged and in working order. I have even had the confidence to change my clothes in a bathroom stall without once shuddering or getting the urge to run home and take a hot bath. I think all this has to do with the sense of pride Kiwis have for their public facilities, right down to the toilets. Indeed, there is even an annual award for Best Loo. Not to mention the famous toilet in Kawakawa that was designed by a noteworthy German architect.

It's a little thing. But when I talk about quality of life, in reference to why I've moved to New Zealand, this is just on tiny piece of the puzzle. And probably I wouldn't spend so much time taking photos in restroom mirrors if the restrooms were unpleasant.

Friday, 20 June 2008

What the camera saw

I took a rather leisurely stroll today, putting up fliers for Karori Wildlife Sanctuary and window shopping along the way. As I had my camera phone on me, I took a few covert photos along the way:

fictional packages

On a shelf above some science fiction/ fantasy books, some presumably fictitious postal packages. I've been in this use book store many times, but never noticed these before.

there is no religion

Down an easy-to-miss side street, I saw this mysterious building and had to snap a photo. Turns out the Theosophical Society is some kind of occult religion (according to Wikipedia). Still, I can't help but apreciate the motto above the door.


I simply love the fact that this little cafe exists. Between the Che logo and the Cuban coffee sold within, this place would be an impossibility in the States. The availability of Cuban coffee, cigars, and rum still amuses me, though I've been here over a year. And on the subject of alcoholic beverages, I still can't get over the fact that absinthe is widely available in liquor stores.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

I have camera phone technology now

It's tiny, I take it with me everywhere I go, and it performs well in low lighting situations. It's completely silent, there's no flash, and it just looks like I'm checking my text messages when I use it. It's the perfect stealth camera. And what of it's photo quality? I happen to like cameras with interesting limitations. They inspire certain kinds of creativity This is my favourite camera phone photo so far.
I have camera phone technology
Taken in the brushed metal mirror in a public restroom stall the day I got my camera.

Monday, 16 June 2008

the greener grass (written Thurs. 12th)

A universal part of the expat experience is longing for those little items, things you took for granted you could always find at the store, that are no longer available. It's different for everyone: pumpkin pie filling, Bounce dryer sheets, Fritos, doughnuts, graham crackers. One person I know gets American cooking chocolate shipped over once a year for making American-style brownies. I meet a lot of expats and they've all got something, and nearly every one of them has found some way to import some keenly missed item on at least a semi-regular basis. Loren and I have made a sort of unspoken vow to resist the urge to do the same. I don't begrudge my fellow expats, don't get me wrong: hey, whatever it takes to get you through the difficulties of living in a foreign culture on the other side of the world from your homeland. It's just a difference in philosophy, really: our strategy for adjusting to living here long term is to go cold turkey on American products as much as we possibly can.

That's not to say I don't get those cravings. Part of it, of course, is borne of homesickness, but some of it is just the allure of the unavailable. I was here months before I realised there's no doughnuts. Back in the States, I probably ate about one doughnut every six to twelve months, but the realisation they were gone made me crave a Duncan Doughnuts' chocolate glazed. Just the other day I had a dream about Pop Tarts. Now, I haven't had a Pop Tart in maybe four years, but still, I woke up thinking about my favourite flavour - brown sugar and cinnamon - and how nice and crunchy they are fresh out of the toaster. Until that dream, I hadn't even noticed the lack of Pop Tarts on the grocery shelves.

Which brings me to today. I'm at the grocery store, getting the usual basket full of tasty New Zealand items, when I spot a shelf of sale items. The sign reads "novelty bars: two for two dollars." What I'm looking at are a stack of Snickers, Twix, and Mars Bars. Now, I'm not a big junk food fan, I'm not really much of a candy eater. But faced with $1 snickers bars - an item I was just last week remarking on the sore lack of - I couldn't resist. Snickers are my favourite, even though the caramel hurts my teeth.

It was silly of me. I don't like junk food, and it seems like most of the American things there are to miss are junk food. On the other hand, the kind foods I really care about are almost universally better here. Just take the other items in my grocery basket:

Milk - SO much better in NZ, once you've had a latte here you'll never want to go back. I've gone off soy milk since we moved here.

Lamb - my favourite meat, fresh and readily available year round.

Carrots, onions, broccili, and mushrooms - All the local fruits and veggies are fantastic, you can mostly find anything you're used to if it's in season, plus some new and exotic stuff you can't get anywhere else.

Moneith's Doppelbock Winter Ale - Local beer here is just so much better. We have become regular beer drinkers!

(Still, I have to admit I'm a little excited about the Snicker's bars.)

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