Sunstar in New Zealand

Including a sunstar in your photo is a cool way to punctuate a photo, when you get the irresistible urge to shoot directly at the sun. Of course, it’s usually not a good idea to look directly at the sun or to point your camera there either. When the sun is peaking through the trees or around the edge of something like the Eiffel Tower, it’s hard to resist. (I do have a favorite black and white print of a sunstar beside the Eiffel Tower.)

While hiking the Milford Track on the South Island of New Zealand in September, I noticed the sun peaking at me through the mossy trees. I knew that if I manually set my lens to f/22, I could defract the light and punctuate the image with this sunstar.

Hiking the Milford Track near Milford Sound, New Zealand. Sunstar in the trees.
Hiking the Milford Track near Milford Sound, New Zealand. Sunstar in the trees.

Here is another image from the same hike.

A sunny day is a special gift in the rainforest, where 18m of rain falls each year. Milford Track, New Zealand.
A sunny day is a special gift in the rainforest, where 6.7m of rain falls each year. Milford Track, New Zealand.

Don’t Miss the Boat

A day hike in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand is a scenic treasure as long as you can stifle your fear of missing the boat and becoming stranded in the bush. I’m pretty much a city girl, accustomed to instantaneous car, taxi and subway travel, so I’ve got to admit this fear did enter my mind, especially since I was traveling alone.

Abel Tasman is a vast area of untouched wilderness on the northern coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The nearest city with an airport, accommodations and shops is Nelson, although the airport is so modest that one claims one’s bag by lifting it directly from the luggage cart. Nelson is also convenient to many lovely vineyards, and visitors can keep busy wine tasting as well. (Stay tuned for details on that!)

A great way to enter Abel Tasman is to catch the water taxi at Kaiteriteri, about an hour’s drive north from Nelson. You can examine the schedule and buy your tickets online, and pack your picnic as well as your camera. On the boat, you can ride about 30 minutes to Anchorage/Torrent Bay where you can take a lovely hike, and then watch for the boat to return for a quick pickup two hours later. On the summer day that I made the journey, the surf was choppy and passengers on deck got quite wet. The drop off point is a deserted beach where there are toilets near the Department of Conservation shelter, but no food or drink, so you don’t want to miss that boat when it returns. It’s the only way to get home, and I didn’t have the food or camping equipment to make an overnight stay comfortable.

Here are a few of the wonderful views from the hike to the point. I was nervous about getting back on time, not being familiar with the hike and the time it would take me with stops for photography.  My anxiety apparently clouded my mood, and I doubted that the hike would be very scenic.  Two days before, I was in Milford Sound — which is so beautiful that it just blows your mind. For that reason as well, I was prepared to be disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed. See for yourself.

View from day hike in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
View from day hike in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

 

Rocky island at entrance to Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, NZ
Rocky island at entrance to Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, NZ
Deserted beach in Torrent Bay, New Zealand. December 2014. Abel Tasman National Park, NZ
Deserted beach in Torrent Bay, New Zealand. December 2014. Abel Tasman National Park.

 

Lastly, I caught the water taxi, two hours later. I even got back to Kaiteriteri in time to drive to the Rimi Vineyard before it closed at 4:30 and taste their heavenly Chardonnay.

The Koru: New Beginnings

Every culture has its important symbols, and I am intrigued when I find ties between different cultures. Greece and Turkey have the Greek Key, named after the Meander River near Ephesus, which winds all over the place and seems to go on forever. The Greek Key carries the meaning: going on forever or “infinity.”  Therefore is a popular design on antique vases and in both antique and contemporary jewelry.

You will find the same design in Chichin Itza, the Mayan ruins in  Mexico where the we presume the design carries similar meaning. I thought of this iconic design that developed separately for the Mayans and Greeks when I encountered the spiral shaped “koru” design of the Maori people, native to New Zealand. I wondered, “Could this mean infinity too?”

I posed this question to a Kiwi who explained that it means “new beginning.” Later, I fully understood why the koru connotes new beginning, more than “infinite” or “without end” when I observed the koru in nature. You see this shape in the very early stage of a fern leaf. Ferns in their seemingly infinite variety are quintessential New Zealand.

Here are two images of the koru, as I observed an early fern leaf’s development along the Milford Track, one of New Zealand’s wonderful hiking tracks.

Brown Koru along Milford Track, December 2014
Brown Koru along Milford Track, December 2014

I would also like to share this image of a sculpture on top of Queenstown Hill, which adapts the koru design to the beginning as well as the end.

Koru Sculpture on Queenstown Hill, overlooking Lake Wakapitu
Koru Sculpture on Queenstown Hill, overlooking Lake Wakapitu

The Koru has poignant meaning for Christchurch, New Zealand today as the people there struggle to recover from two devastating earthquakes that occured in 2011 and 2012. There is extensive demolition, repair work and rebuilding going on there — work expected to take another ten to fifteen years. Engineers and construction workers are as ubiquitous as the orange cones and metal fences. My daughter Erin Kelly is one of those engineers, working on the Rebuild. Perhaps never before has the koru meant so much.