Wednesday, April 13, 2011


My planned trip back to Christchurch went pretty much as planned. My youngest brother organised a 70th birthday lunch for my father, but Dad didn't know that middle brother and I had flown over from Australia. It was a great afternoon, made better by Dad introducing his fiancee to us all. Surprises all round then!

Conversation naturally gravitated to Christchurch's favourite new topic - the Earthquake (capital E). Everyone has a story, whether they were at home, driving or shopping when the quake hit. As calm as they all seemed, every time the restaurant's front door banged, they all jumped. Maybe some of them always will.

Large areas of Christchurch are untouched, with uninterrupted water, electricity and sewerage. Hardly a crack to see anywhere, all the shops are open and life continues as normal. Meanwhile, residents in eastern suburbs are living in houses which will certainly be condemned when the overworked insurance assessors arrive, have no water or working toilets, and no indication when they will be able to start rebuilding. Their workplaces are sealed by red 'condemned building' notices, no supermarkets are open, and they have to navigate broken roads to the other side of town to buy food and bottles of water.

I only had two days on the ground and little time or desire for rubbernecking. Driving down a few streets and seeing familiar buildings half-collapsed or gone was enough. It doesn't look or feel like home anymore, and the sense of loss is everywhere.

Once out of the city, though, the landscape is the same as ever. And it's autumn, the prettiest time of year. A friend showed me a new walking track in North Canterbury, to an old fire lookout shed overlooking the Balmoral Forest on the Culverden Plains. I've been playing around with HDR photography and the colour contrasts that afternoon were a good opportunity to test 'Photomatix Pro'. Some of the results are a little extreme, but it's fun trying the various processing options!


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