Oh New Zealand by scotland symons

So since I was a little kid I always wanted to go to New Zealand. I am not really sure what it was that struck up my interest. It could have been any number of the books I read about adventure or nature but I know I always wanted to go and that I needed to go. I travel a lot and its no secret that I have a strong affliction with wanderlust and that this area of the world has been begging at me to wander through it and I finally did it for almost a month.

I was worried that my idea of what this place was and the expectation that I had of this place was going to ruin it for me like I wouldn't be surprised or impressed. That was the furthest thing from the truth this country, its nature, and the people that call it home blew me away from the moment I first landed till the day I left and all I can do now is count the days until I return. New Zealand you dropped the mic and won a fan in me From the bottom of my heart thank you, you changed me in ways I didn't think possible anymore and for that you will have me back to stay maybe not right away but as soon as I can.

Ok lets get into the photos because I know that you have been waiting for them:

Making and hanging out with friends both old and new

This was a common thread across my whole trip and not once in all my travels has this happened with such frequency as it did in NZ. Even nature itself was apt to get to know me and share in its kindness. The photos below are not even half of the people that I met and started a friendship with. The animals that I ran into would often come to me and I wish I had video of the bird that not only followed me on my hike but decided that my shoulder was a great place to hang out.

The Cities

Earthquake or not I did my best to see as much of this country as possible in the time I had I wanted to get a feeling of the whole country not just a place or two that I wanted to go to. I was everywhere from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown for the larger cities and stopped everywhere in between these places often staying in tiny little places or towns the smallest being a town of 7. Every place had a vibrance or life of its own that I still distinctly feel and cherish the memories from.

Driving and the Roads

So friends and the internet told me that the roads of New Zealand are different and that I really should take some time to understand them. Having driven in many different countries I decided to stick to my habits about reviewing the signs and laws ahead of time so I had some idea of what to expect. For the most part it was pretty much like driving in the UK with a mix of Hawaiian roads. What was really interesting was that aside from Auckland all of the roads were small and not banked on the turns and if you like to drive you can imagine the fun challenge of this. What this means is that turns become a bit of a game of wits with yourself and depending on the speed of the road its an interesting game. After driving it for myself on the south island I wasn't surprised that the accident rate was so high and in fact I say about 14 different car went off the road type of incidents. All that said some of these roads were the most fun driving I've done in a long time and honestly I'm surprised the TopGear hasn't driven or reviewed them.

Queenstown to Glenorchy 60mins of pure joy and the best white knuckle road I've driven.

Riding Horses & Hiking Forests

I like horses and I am beyond grateful to my ex for introducing me to that world who taught me all I know. That knowledge has afforded me the opportunity to go out and ride where ever and when ever I want to and I appreciate it beyond measure. On this trip I got to ride in the river valley of Glenorchy. It's a pretty famous spot that has been used in countless films and is in habited by very few people making it feel more epic and much like a grand expedition. On the day that I was riding here the rain had been pouring for a few days which made the river crossing some of the largest I have ever done on a horse so imagine a 10 lane freeway with 1 to 2 meters of rushing water on it. I got complemented on my riding style and skill and even given lead  by my guide. For me this was a huge milestone for me as I feel like I finally graduated from a beginner rider to a strong and confident intermediate rider.

The hiking I did was just so perfect, the weather and scenery just made for perfect hikes or trail runs. On most days that I went there was light rain and cooler temperatures allowing for longer jaunts into nature that just kept egging me on to do another km.

Hobbits and Workshops

On this trip I also got to do something totally nerdy and something I've dreamed of doing. First of yes I went to Hobbiton and yes its pretty much everything you want it to be and its as ideal and everything you would expect it to be like in the films. That said the design detail and crafting of it is top marks, I think I spent more time fussing over the details and the gardening which actually made me miss my bus out of the farm. 

The real treat for me was getting to see the inside of Weta Workshop, not the awesome tour that everyone can take but inside the actual workshop. Now the super nerd in me was already gushing from the fact that I got to see where some of my favorite fictional film works were built but the hacker & maker in me was melting with that amazing things I got to see inside. I can't talk about to much of it but lets just say that I have seen heaven and it is this workshop.  The photos below are from the public areas and from some of the very cool installations that are all over Wellington. The military ones are from an exhibit that Weta built part of at the city museum, the scale of the figures are massive and the story that they tell is heartbreaking through the emotions that these pieces convey, it was beautiful work and I am deeply moved by it. But this was a dream accomplished and I have my friend Keir to thank for helping me get there. Now the next part of that dream is a bit more tricky "work on a project at Weta" which is a bit more challenging but I feel up to it! 

Art and Unused Structure's

There are massive amounts of art in this country and the street art was superb. I think every city I was in I always came across a wall or 10 that were covered in a great design or piece. Also the amount of old war structures seemed to be abundant and I would often run into them on hikes. The sense I got from Wellington and Christchurch is that community of street art was strong and important

Stars & Skies

The stars and the skies in this region of the world were a real treat more often then not my travels take me to place that are not in the southern hemisphere so getting to see this vantage point warmed my heart. I tried to do some night photography where ever I went and I learned two new things on this trip. The first being that I really wanted more time to shoot in all of the places I was in. At lake Tekapo I had a night or so but really I could spend a few months there shooting, The second is that after 3 continents and a dozen countries my faithful Sony may be seeing some age and was shooting really strange so what this means is next time I bring 3 cameras.

Fulfilling a Promise

I made a promise many many years ago that I would bring a ring to Mordor to let it rest in such place. it started off as a jest that later became a promise. I kept that promise and I am sad that the person that this ring was bound to was not there to stand with me but hopefully we can both rest now.

So now it lies in Mordor (Mt Raupehu @ 2700 meters) and it was some of the worst conditions and danger I've hiked or climbed in but I would do it again to be true to myself and the promise I made.

This is a story that I will tell over a drink and in person as its a very emotional one for me but I also think its important to share because it taught me to really see the good in people that can still exist even in the worst of times.

Caves and Glowworms by scotland symons

In my previous post I talked about the caving adventure I went on, that trip was more or less an adventure. I touched on the fact that these caves are just some of the best kept and clean caves I've run into in a while. The practices that are in place for cave preservation are pretty solid without compromising the accessibility of the caves. No granted the majority of the caves are tourist friendly meaning to dont have to gear up or worry to much about cave stability. Although that takes away from the adventure of going into a more wild cave I think there is a benefit in that I can spend more time allowing for study of cave features. I think its also fascinating to see how caves handle a higher influx of people and the effect that has on a cave. These cave also have the benefit of being the home to glowworms and not just a few but an epic amount. I was lucky enough to be granted some extra time in the caves to do a little photography. During that time I got to be by myself for a while in the dark and something magic happened. I have this point that I usually run into in which I get weirded out being by myself in a cave and this time around it never happened. Instead I felt more comfortable then I have ever felt before and it was amazing, I finally felt like I had walked over and through a weird fear. 

I also got to make a new friend Denise who works for these caves and is featured in the pictures below. I started out with shooting the glowworms thinking I could shoot them in the same way I approach some other low light stuff that I do and boy was I wrong. It was a good learning experience and I came out with a great understanding of what will work that I will be working on bringing next time I am here. That said we had a blast doing some light painting and experimenting with the different techniques in this super wonderful place. One thing is for sure I will be back and I want to work with the Caves to make some amazing art.

And here are all of the other photos, sadly many are a tad to grainy for my liking due to an issue I had with my remote trigger deciding that "bulb" was no longer an option that was possible and I had to rely on ISO. I am still really happy with the way things turned out but it means that I want to go back and shoot it again with a new rig that I need to build.

Ruakuri Caving by scotland symons

I am just back from maybe one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and I am just getting going on the footage and the photos that I took. On this trip I had the privilege of time to go on a caving tour of the Waitomo Glowworm caves. This was a group tour provided by the Black Water Rafting company (http://www.waitomo.com/black-water-rafting/Pages/black-abyss.aspx) that is a direct partner with the caves themselves. The caves are so well kept and preserved for how much traffic they see so I am beyond impressed with the work that this group does to keep them this way.

On the trip they wanted us to focus on the climbing and the adventure bit and asked that we not bring in our own cameras. I respect that and since I had never climbed or caved here it made a lot of sense. The photos were taken by one of our guides and I cleaned them up a bit. 

To learn more about the caves start here - http://www.waitomo.com/

Tiny Whoop Build & First Flight by scotland symons

Just wanted to do a quick update and share some of the first flights and video from my Tiny Whoop quad copter. Its a great quad and maybe my favorite yet to fly around. I am newer to FPV flying so no crazy tricks yet.

These guys have a great walk through on how to build your own and where to get all the supplies. 

http://fpv-flightclub.com/tiny-whoop/

I also really dug the video that the Flite Test guys put together.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8IEX...