Mother Photographing Son 9,000 miles from home

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If Ansel Adams were in New Zealand in 2019, he too would be shooting from the roof of his car.

When you haven’t seen your son for months, what’s 22 hours on a plane? Nothing.

And when you get there, a 1,400-mile road trip across islands that were among the last to be inhabited by humans? Irresistible.

My New York clothes stayed in my closet; I packed for the back of beyond.  My son Peter Cary joined me in Auckland, New Zealand.

The South Pacific Ocean where New Zealand lies is vast, big enough to swallow all of Europe, Asia and the Americas combined. “Vast” also describes New Zealand. Fewer than 5 million people live on 100,000 square miles. By our standards, it’s empty. And that’s its glory.

We drove on windy back roads through some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. But as parents know, the real pleasure is time in the car with your child. Long conversations. Tender childhood memories. Possibilities. Ambitions. Ideas. Dreams. In the end, all of that happened, but really, the majority of the time we simply listened to great music.

And I mostly photographed my son photographing New Zealand.


We took three cameras. A Leica Q, Mamiya 645, and my iPhone. This image is of Mount Taranaki in the Mamiya view finder.

We arrived before dawn to watch the light change. This is the view from Mount Taranaki.



Capturing the morning light …



Mount Taranaki is considered the most perfect cone shaped volcano after Mount Fuji.



The Whakarewarewa Forest is an exotic forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. California Redwood Trees were planted in the 1900s. The climate in New Zealand is similar to California’s. Tree ferns dominate the forest floor. The music of the forest is vibrant with the songs of birds and insects.



And yes … this happened.



The black iron rich sand of Opunake is a result of the eroding volcanic rocks. Because of the high percentage of iron oxide, the sand tends to heat up to very high temperatures which have been known to give unsuspecting beach goers third degree burns.



We crossed on the Interislander ferry from New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, on the North Island to Picton on the South Island.



During the three-hour crossing of Cook Strait my son and I explored the ship. We came across an enormous truck transporting hundreds of sheep.



In 2010 a severe earthquake devastated the city of Christchurch. Shipping containers were adapted in ingenious ways as temporary housing, shops and cafes like this one. The coffee in New Zealand is taken very seriously.



One of the world’s fastest moving glaciers, Franz Josef, tumbles down the western side of New Zealand’s Southern Alps to near sea level through the rain forest. But not fast enough to counteract the effects of global warming, so the glacier is in fast retreat.



As we were photographing the glacier, the heavens opened in a pounding tropical storm, which we could not outrun.



Lake Pukaki takes its blue colouring from the minerals in the melting glacial waters. Aoraki Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand and lords over the Southern Alps.



Aoraki Mount Cook creates its own weather. Seen here beyond the blanket of purple lupines typical of the South Island’s Mackenzie Country.



Rows on rows of European trees now characterise New Zealand’s vast farming landscapes, planted as windbreaks against the prevailing north-westerly winds funnelled by the Alps.



We settled into the Millbrook Resort near Queenstown as a base for hiking and a break from the road. Peter Cary was using a firedragon, a three foot long tube you can effortlessly blow air into the heart of the fire.



Every morning these four lovely duck friends waited at the door for us. We, of course, welcomed them into our room. A mallard duck cautiously accompanied them.



There was something so sweet about the bond we formed … never mind that it was over our morning toast.



The trees remaining in the central South Island are the failed plantation pines. Logging is out of control, scarred mountains of patchwork deface the landscape all across the country. These stone stacks left by hikers could be a touching memorial to lost nature.



A harvested tree was being carried down the hill in time for Christmas.



We hiked up Queenstown Hill to view the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatpu set against the Southern Alps.



The majority of livestock comprise deer, cattle, and abundant flocks of the woolliest sheep anywhere. Cattle and sheep graze contentedly together.



There are three sheep for every person in New Zealand. Not long ago there were thirty sheep for every person. The first European to visit the islands, Captain James Cook, introduced sheep to New Zealand in 1777.



Once again he’s on the roof of the car.



Calf on the run!



Crown Range Road is the highest main road in New Zealand, snaking through the hills lined with millions of lupine: pink, blue, purple, white and yellow.



Lupine … a visual feast.



The lupine flower spikes are often called chandeliers.



Nature reveals grandeur in wide landscapes … And in details.



Cows, unlike skittish sheep, are calm, inquisitive, even vaguely menacing … side or face on.



The Cardrona Bra Fence is a controversial tourist attraction in Central Otago. It was rebranded “Bradrona” to raise money for breast cancer.



A beautiful walking path takes you through grassland with towering mountains that encircle Lake Moke.



One last day of stormy weather.



Mom and son say farewell New Zealand!


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