Porto Party

We loved Porto. After three short days in Lisbon, walking a lot, the smaller scale of Porto was a relief. Both places were very interesting, but Porto was characterized by incredibly friendly people, affordable prices, and a vibrancy that was very compelling. At the same time, Porto was run down in places, with a lot of empty and derelict buildings, and apparently quite a lot of people living with not very much.

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To the Top of Mont Blanc

I would visit Europe more than once a year, if time allowed. There’s so much to see – nature, history, cities, countryside, food, shopping, architecture, music, art.

This year we went to Geneva for a week, and took a day to visit Chamonix and Mont Blanc – the highest mountain in Europe. Chamonix is a great ski resort; however in summer it fills with tourists (like us) who swarm to the top of the mountain to see the view. As it was also our only day in France, we took the opportunity to eat at a friendly little restaurant just outside the town, recommended by Tripadvisor, and a great find.

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A Trip to Rhode Island

I haven’t spent much time on the East Coast, and was therefore very grateful for the opportunity to visit Spectrum Lighting, just north of Rhode Island. In addition to learning about a modern lighting company, and how products are designed and built, I had the chance to walk and moped around the town, which is a mix of sailing and water-based activities, with beautiful early colonial houses, and gorgeous countryside. The combination of rolling hills, historical architecture, and the ever-present water made for some beautiful views.

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South Africa!

We’re just back from a month or so of travel to the UK and South Africa. 

We had a great time staying with various members of our family in SA—Ralph’s apartment in Cape Town, Caroline and Peter’s holiday home in Onrus River, and Rob and Angela at Watermead. Here are a couple of photo galleries showing our trip to Cape Town and to the farm.

Here’s another gallery: this one is of our visit to Robben Island, the prison / leper colony where Nelson Mandela and many others were imprisoned. The tour is well worth the trouble: the trip through the prison was narrated by a man who was imprisoned there. His commentary was quite understated and matter-of-fact, but compelling and vivid.

The boys had a great time on the farm getting to know their cousins Claire and Emma, picking raspberries, swimming, sailing and playing a variety of board and card games.

Rob’s dairy is amazing—a rotary affair that goes around once every six minutes, and milks over 700 Jersey cows in a couple of hours. I don’t envy him the schedule: up at 0430 every morning, rain or shine!

Back from a trip to LA

We drove down in my Acura—it’s comfortable for long distances. The purpose was to attend a party given in honour of Donald and Melany’s baby: Naomi. We stayed for a week or so, and it was good to see everyone again.

Towards the end, I developed a bronchial infection and was out of action: in fact it’s just on the mend now, a week later. As a result Marina had to drive us back, a tiring but not unmanageable task. Subsequently Caelean also developed a fever, and he’s also on the mend. We think both of these may be connected to Jeremy’s bout of pneumonia, but it’s hard to tell. So Marina is the only one left unscathed.

Naomi is a very cheerful child, now seven months old, and we attended her first outing to the beach, well hatted and protected from the sun. She was fascinated by the waves, and not at all fearful. I had previously only seen Naomi when she was very tiny, and of course at this stage she changes almost every day. I think her happy disposition will be an asset.

Naomi is born into the paparazzi world of digital photography: I’m sure she was photographed several hundred times during the few days we were there! But I am not inclined to publish pictures of other people’s children on the web, so if you would like to see any, please let me know.

Ana Nuevo and the Elephant Seals

A big, lazy maleBetween San Francisco and Santa Cruz, on the Pacific coast, lies the Ana Nuevo State Natural Reserve. It’s home to a big colony of elephant seals—in fact the largest colony in the world. Every few years we go out there to see them—it’s different at each season of the year, and this year we went out to see them in early February. The weather was cold and grey, but it didn’t rain (except for a few moments, perhaps), and we were able to have a great view of the different parts of the colony. It’s important to book, because you can only go near the animals as part of a guided tour, which keeps everyone safe, and limits the disruption to the seals.

Lighthouse keeper's ruinThey are really big—especially the males, which seem mountain-like. The males compete for rank in the colony, and develop deep scarring around their chests, and in some cases all around to their backs. The dominant male in a colony is kept busy chasing off all the other males.

There’s a lighthouse, with a now derelict keeper’s cottage on a low island facing out to sea. It must have been very inconvenient, with no direct access by land, and now it’s automated and the cottage is no longer used.

The gallery is here.

Seattle: a few pictures

The original StarbucksWhen we were in Seattle, we tried to spend some time on the water, with a trip to Bainbridge Island, and a tour around the harbor and through the locks. We also visited the Boeing facility in Everett, but they forbade photography, so we went to the Boeing museum closer to Sea-Tac airport, where we saw a lot of interesting aircraft including the Blackbird and the Concorde. I’ve just uploaded some of the pictures, which you can see here.

Yet more pictures from the past

These pictures are quite old – I’ve just installed a new Mac for myself, with Apple’s Aperture for image management. I’ve been using a combination of iView (now owned by Microsoft) and Nikon’s Capture NX, but Aperture is very well integrated into the Mac environment, and I have a plug-in that automates uploads into Gallery, which is the software I use to manage my photo galleries online.

Capture NX has one unique feature that I really like – the so-called U Point technology that was created by Nik Software. This allows edits to be applied to regions identified both geographically and by tone. The result is the easiest way to fix a wide range of localized image problems. The bad news is that while Capture NX does stellar work on Nikon raw (.nef) images, Aperture converts images to TIFF before passing them to Capture NX (or any other external program). The good news is that Nik’s Viveza software, which supports U Point technology, is supposed to be available integrated with Aperture 2.1 in May. So perhaps at least I’ll be able to get some of the integration that way if I can stomach the price, which is more than the cost of Aperture!

The new gallery contains some old pictures from a trip to Annapolis in 2000. They are actually negatives that I scanned – not the best way to do things, but the only choice for a second life for these old pictures.

A few new pictures

Volvo Ocean Race: PortsmouthWhen we were living in England, I followed the Volvo circumnavigation race – big powerful boats doing up to 500 miles in 24 hours under sail. They visited Portsmouth, and we went down to see them and take some pictures. This boat is the Brazilian entry, who came third in the Portsmouth race, but I was supporting ABN Amro One – a European entry, but skippered by New Zealander Mike Sanderson, the ultimate winner of the race. I have infinite respect for these sailors – this is extreme sport taken to the ultimate, with a months-long race in the hottest, coldest, toughest conditions anywhere.

Ducklings in the sunI’ve also put up a few pictures from the UK – Horseshoe Lake. This is one of the many gravel pits in England that have been flooded and are now used for sailing, fishing etc. We used to go to Horseshoe Lake to sail, but on this occasion I think we just pottered around and enjoyed the very tame birds that were hopping around on the bank.

De Young Museum, San FranciscoFinally some pictures from San Francisco: the De Young museum in Golden Gate Park, designed by the Swiss firm of architects Herzog and de Meuron. I learned about them from an exhibition at the New Tate museum in London, where there was an extensive display that described their process, including a lot of the work they did in designing the De Young museum.

New Zealand pictures are up…


A bit of a rush job – it’s challenging to get all the pictures edited, organized and posted, and I think some of my edits might not have made it through to the posted jpegs, but here they are anyway. The main page is here.

Over time I’ll try to get in and edit some of the notes so you know where they are from and so on, but I have at least organized them into sub-galleries, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find your way around.

One of the best things we did was a trip to Akaroa, and a swim with the local Hector’s Dolphins in the wild. These are the smallest dolphins in the world, and endangered. The Akaroa Harbour is a sanctuary for them. Here’s the site for the company we went with – their pictures are better than mine! Akaroa was a French colony, and retains some of the French character in the street names, for example. Also some great cooking!

Have fun!