G’day I’m Bruce I work in the engineering sector and I’m also known as hottriggeredkiwi. A clue to my history is that I grew up on a dairy farm near a tiny town in rural Waikato.
I was diagnosed with sero-negative ankylosing spondilitis back in the late 80’s, and have since had further health issues with more arthritis with associated complications.
My day generally starts in the dark and finishes long into the night. I try to just enjoy life and get the most out of each day, spending time with my lovely wife and indulging my passion for photography - mostly of cloud formations, seascapes and landscapes.
Sitting on this cold rock seawall waiting for the sun to rise maybe wasn’t one of my best ideas.
The air temp was a temperate one degree and the dew on nearby grasses glistened like diamonds in the pre-dawn light.
The iciness quickly cut through to the bone as I walked to the beach. Then the pain transferred to the cutting of razor sharp edges of oyster shells and dull bites of stones on bones as they hit pressure points of my feet.
All this was accentuated by the icy air temperature and clumsiness of sleep deprivation. I could scarcely stay upright as I balanced on rock edges.
The skies were cloudless but this was just an exploratory exercise so I didn’t have the real camera with attendant tripod with me. I was reconnoitring for future ideas – and using the walk as a motivational tool to just get out and use what I have while I can.
It’s also to keep life real – to feel the pain and do it anyway, to strive and never let the bastard (arthritis) win.
It’s to feel the ice, the softness of the sand, to squish the strands of Neptune’s necklaces, and to feel the relative warmth of the water
It’s to smell the sea and taste the salty air.
It’s to listen to the final calls of the moreporks and the first thrush and tui’s song before all the other birds add to the dawn chorus.
It’s to listen to the fish splash as they feed next to the rocks where I stand.
It’s to see the first light of the day and feel the warmth soon after. And to sit under this huge weather and time twisted old pōhutukawa tree.
Sun’s been up a while now. Time to re-enter the world for another day. Time to go back home and resume the medication to get through another day of cutting firewood and keeping the gardens shipshape for another week.
What’s that noise? Oh. It’s gone. No, there it’s back, louder….
Nah, gone again . . . bah, what is it? Like the look of a dog as you’re eating lunch on the back step of the woolshed, the persistence, oh, it’s the alarm. Sod it.
It’s so warm and sooo cosy in here, and I can feel the icy breeze over my face, yep, it’s freezing out. Can’t I, just a few minutes… oh, I loathe me sometimes. As a part-time photographer, I’ve got to get these aching bones up to catch that light, even though it’s dark now and the light is yet two hours away.
As with anything else, the tougher and more distant the gain, the more satisfying the reward. Walking to location in the pre-dawn half-light, I’m sure that my forever trusty tripod has turned into the heaviest dark slithering wet beastie with a life of its own. I mean – it can’t be that my wrists and hands struggle to hold her, as it’s only the same few kilos of aluminium last weekend, eh? And of course it’s nothing at all to do with the arthritis that I “don’t” have, that I do my utmost to ignore, deny, and generally shut out of my mind every other moment of each waking day.
Some hours later, the session is over with the memories full, batteries empty and warm fuzzies from having silently observed Papatuanuku’s beautifully silent activities. With some great images on film, feelings of accomplishment start dissipating as the foot department gradually lets me know it’s time to go.
The walk back to the car each weekend gets longer and longer with ever shorter steps, always a reminder that I really should get some insoles to go into my gumboots. The kind of insoles that it doesn’t matter if those same boots fill with water as they do. Insoles that don’t mind fresh or salty water – usually salty, often muddy, sometimes even with sticks and stones, and usually a combination of all the above.
Insoles that massage like a TENS machine, ever so soothing and relaxing. Insoles that come laced with anti-inflammatory and pain killing properties that are absorbed into the feet, irrespective of the thickness or dryness of sock would be a dream.
Home now. Nothing quite like shedding the boots and that first morning cuppa, laced with some manuka and just a dash of cream for the ever-dry throat. What a treat!
Another long week at work with 50-plus hours on the clock… again, the extrication of self out of an extremely warm, soft and cosy bed on this cold autumnal morning is a toughie.
I have to wake up anyway, even if only to silence the alarm that is yet to go off at 0530hrs, as per the daily routine, and this being Saturday morning, it actually isn’t so shabby. Yay … it’s the weekend.
No dragging my tired bag of arthritic bones out of a soft, warm bed this morning; it’s all coming together and I must be on the river. There’s not a breath of wind although it’s raining, but the Swanni will fix that. I must pack a teatowel to keep some of the rain off the camera while in action.
A good look to see how and where the clouds are placed… Great, they’re high with some at mid-level and there’s some nice structure there too, a nice bonus.
I know the tide’s high, even right on the turn at sunrise so the stillness will be complete. I make a decision as to location and with plan B rattling around in my mind, I’m off.
Just the sounds of nature… The clear, sharp plop, plop, plop, of fish jumping here and there and the louder slap of larger fish on re-entry, all on a mirror-like surface. The splashes of birds diving for fish nearby and further away… I love that silence.
The screech of the heron and call of the kingfisher, then another splash as it dives for fish just at my feet. I see the bow waves of fish beneath the surface and of others being chased. They scatter across the surface in hundreds of the tiniest leaps and splashes, spreading out in a spray-like pattern in their attempts to escape being a part of the menu, all against the earliest pre-dawn light behind. There’s a brief frenzy then silence again, even more silent than before, if that’s possible.
The reflective surface gradually returns to the water; the tide is full so there isn’t any current. I see the shapes of kingfish stalking and stingrays cruising in the clear waters.
Hey, the colour’s starting to appear; we’re on. Having already wiped the camera lens, I re-meter the light, refocus, recompose, and … action!
I shoot a couple of single frames slowly at first, then, maintaining a level of calm and order, I make the first frames of the first row of the first panorama.
Pale reds reflect off the bases of the clouds then progress quickly through to deeper reds as the colour spreads further, bouncing off cloud bases and glowing through cloud walls as the sun begins to close in on the horizon.
With greater intensity, the reds turn through the spectrum to orange, yellow and now with fading intensity the morning with its day colours and clouds comes alive. That’s it. Batteries flat, digital film full, the tide has turned and it’s time to return home. Several minutes of action have become a couple or three hours. Time stood still, yet the water has now risen so much higher under the jetty.
On the long driveway up to our hut in the orchard, I have to go slow as the chickens saunter to one side then the other. Rabbits hop about, undecided, and quail run beside the driver’s door along the hydrangea boundary fence line. Last year’s hen and three of the four cock pheasants suddenly fly from behind the orange tree to another field to the north, calling as go.
Home again. Morning my love, you’re up, how ‘bout I put that brew on? There’s nothing quite like that first weekend cuppa of English breakfast leaf tea made in a teapot after a full-on week. It’s the best thing ever – mellow yet strong, with a dash of full cream milk, a drop of cream, and a teaspoon of mānuka honey.
That cuppa doesn’t touch the sides so we have another, lingering in the joy of the second brew together, savouring the time, the taste, and our space surrounded by the walnut trees in autumn’s final colours. Soon, we comment, we’ll be seeing the sun on the washing lines again.