31 October 2008

At the wedding, Kileswar

Wedding guest, Kileswar
The old men had gathered to celebrate a wedding. Two men in their twenties; a bunch of young boys and girls some distance away. The women were elsewhere. As we left, the old men began singing, dancing slowly. In a decade or two, these rituals might be nothing more than memories; the stories those young boys and girls laughing and playing over there in the shade might tell their children. "I remember one day when the old men were at the wedding a foreigner arrived. He had long pale hair and a big camera. Now we don't get married like that. No one knows how to do the ceremonies properly anymore. But there are lots more foreigners."
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30 October 2008

Whio at Ngamoko hut

I waited until he grew used to me, then moved forward a little and waited again. Little by little, until I decided this was close enough. He preened, ruffled his feathers, hunkered down, then pulled one leg up. He seemed to have all the time in the world, out there on his rock surrounded by the swift, clean, cold river. Most of the few remaining whio are now largely restricted to the headwaters of wild rivers in hard country, so one doesn't see these things easily.

March 2008, in the Pohangina river below Ngamoko hut; the shortest way there is at least 4—6 hours' walk up and over the Ngamoko Range.

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29 October 2008

Temple bell, Ganesh

Temple bell, Jamnagar
Ganesh watches the bell in a small, quiet temple on the outskirts of Jamnagar. The bell waits to be rung, to wake Ganesh. Outside in the courtyard, in the shade of the big pipal tree, pigeons feed and a thin dog lies on her side, eyes closed in the midday heat, suckling her pups. Perhaps, right now, someone is ringing the bell.

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28 October 2008

Silk patolas, Gujarat

Silk patolas

And now, after so much subdued colour, something completely different: silk patolas spread for display at the manufacturer's, a small family-run business near Bhuj in north-western Gujarat. The information on the wall said these patolas take on average 10–15 days each to make. Each of the small dots forming the pattern was formed from a tiny wrinkle of cloth tightly wound by hand with cotton to prevent that part from absorbing the dye; we know it as "tie-and-dye" but here, where the art reaches its pinnacle, it's called bandhani ("BUND-a-nee") Even for a bloke like me, they were strikingly beautiful, but capturing the colours and sheen in a photo proved difficult, particularly in the dim indoors. However, the slow shutter speed did capture the movement as he spread them with a flourish.
[1/15 sec., f4, ISO 800]

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27 October 2008

After lunch in the Barda Hills

Tiffin bearer, Barda Hills
After lunch in the Barda Hills, Gujarat. A few locals dozed in the shade on the far shore of the small lake; buffalo wallowed; a mugger (crocodile) drifted across an inlet. A paradise flycatcher hawked insects, too far away to photograph. Terrific heat. The slightest breeze felt like relief.

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26 October 2008

The ghost of India past

Rotted fabric cover on palanquin
Old India recedes further into the past. Here, in an old palace in Gujarat, a fabric cover over a palanquin gradually disintegrates among the earthquake- and cyclone-ravaged ruins. Colours fade and return to the colours of dust, of age, and loss.

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25 October 2008

Wave over weed, Burdans Gate

Wave over weed, Burdan's Gate
Eastern shore of Wellington harbour near Burdans Gate, just South of Eastbourne.

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24 October 2008

Benediction at Rishikesh

Dabah wallah, Rishikesh
How does one make a living by selling fried bread (more like a western loaf than any traditional roti), with a saucer of dipping sauce?

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23 October 2008

Saddhu's minder at Rishikesh

Saddhu's minder, Rishikesh
This man was one of three who looked after a saddhu in a small, walled enclosure on the outskirts of Rishikesh. They seemed utterly unconcerned with asking anything of me; the place and its people emanated a deep and quiet sincerity — quite unlike my two "guides", one of whom was unquestionably a con man and the other, ... well, I still don't know.

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22 October 2008

Reflections at Picton

Reflections at Picton wharfWhile waiting for the ferry to leave on my return from the South Island, February '06.

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21 October 2008

Winter nests

Winter nestsAbandoned nests of sparrows in the magnolia near my back door.

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20 October 2008


Waverush, Flounder BayEvening at Flounder Bay, northern Hawkes Bay coast.

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19 October 2008

The pink transistor (radio)

The Pink Transistor (radio)
As a work of art, this "found sculpture" might compare favourably with Damien Hirst's famous shark ("The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living"), or his diamond encrusted skull (not Damien's personal skull, I hasten to add. I believe he's still using that). The pink transistor's certainly cheaper, though. Seriously, Damien gets huge criticism (as well as enormous sums of money), but I must admit I find some of his work interesting (in the non-pejorative sense), and that seems to be what he's claiming to do (as well as making enormous sums of money).

I'm willing to negotiate with the owner if anyone wants to buy The Fading Voice of the Electromagnetic Spectrum Unlocks the Shielded Past (a.k.a. The Pink Transistor), although I don't actually know whether it's for sale. I suspect it will be if anyone does offer the reserve price of $10 million (Come on! It's a bargain! Only about one tenth of the price of Damien's skull!). You'll be supporting me, too — my commission will be a mere 1%.

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18 October 2008

Farmer's son, Barda hills

Farmer's son, Barda hills, Gujarat
One of two sons living with their elderly parents near Kileswar, Gujarat. They tend buffalo for milk, churning it into butter with a wooden paddle — a process I attempted, causing much laughter, although after a couple of false starts I did get the knack. The family lives alone near a lake in which Lord Krishna bathed millennia ago. Muggers (crocodiles) inhabit the lake; at night leopards hunt in the dry and thorny hills. A place on the edge of the present; not quite here yet not fully in the past. And what of the future?

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Shoveller pair, Pohangina wetlands

Australasian shoveller
A pair of Australasian shoveller (colloquially called "spoonies") at the Pohangina wetlands.

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17 October 2008

Shingle, Birdlings Flat

Shingle beach, Birdlings Flat
You lie on the stones and wonder. How many are there? How long did this beach take to form? How deep is it? It's a good cure for ego.

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Beach sculpture

Beach sculpture
The sculptor surveys his art on Birdlings Flat.

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16 October 2008

On the beach

The beach at Birdling's Flat
Dad, son, mum. At Birdlings Flat (Kaitorete Spit), just south of Banks Peninsula on the eastern coast of New Zealand's South Island. Those are the Peninsula hills — the southern edge (they're far more extensive than they appear here) — in the background.

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Common redshank

Common redshank

Common redshank (Tringa totanus), Keoladeo Ghana National Park, India ("Keoladeo" is pronounced "Kevladev"). I'm struck by the contrast between this beautiful, clean bird and the disgusting, foetid water — sadly ubiquitous in the parts of India in which I travelled. Still, I guess it might resemble the primordial soup from which life, including birds like this, evolved.

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14 October 2008

Krishna's brother

Krishna's brother at Naini Tal
And this is Krishna's brother (see the post about Krishna for more information).

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Krishna at Naini Tal

Krishna at Naini Tal
I met Krishna by chance in Naini Tal (Uttaranchal, India). He grew up in India but now resides in the United States. He returns fairly often to India and I count myself lucky to have met him and enjoyed his company, albeit briefly. With his brother, who speaks no English and bears little resemblance to him, I spent a great evening dining and drinking whisky. I finally made it back to my hotel some time after midnight — I had to climb the wall to get in as the gate had been locked. Evenings like that stick in the memory, for all the right reasons.

One day I trust I'll catch up with Krishna and his brother in India again. The country and its people are like that.

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Tomato truss
Well, the orange in the basket might be store-bought, but the rest is home grown. Unfortunately, I can't claim home grown by me...

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Hounds in morning mist
Fenrir (often called Fenris-wolf in English), will devour Odin at Ragnarok but will then be killed by Odin's son, Vidar. Although now fettered by a thin chain made by the dwarfs from six things including the sound of a cat's footfall and the roots of a mountain (things which now no longer exist because of this use), Fenrir still hunts in the nightmares of men and women. At dawn I managed to photograph him returning through the mist to his mythology, close on the heels of Amarok.

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13 October 2008

Great white pelican at Khijadiya

Great white pelican, Khijadiya, Gujarat
Great white pelican, Pelecanus onocrotalus, at Khijadiya bird sanctuary, Gujarat, India.

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12 October 2008

Along the line

Telegraph pole, No 3 Line
Along No. 3 Line.

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11 October 2008

In the valley

Pohangina Valley trees
A view across the Pohangina Valley.

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Dabchick at Pohangina

NZ dabchick, Pohangina wetlands
New Zealand dabchick (weweia; Poliocephalus rufopectus); Pohangina wetlands. Open since 22 December 2005, the wetlands cover 6 hectares (ca. 15 acres) and provide a haven for many species of birds, including the uncommon endemic dabchick.

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Putangitangi chick

Paradise shelduck chick
Putangitangi: the paradise shelduck, Tadorna variegata. One of a family of nine (7 chicks) at the Pohangina wetlands.

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09 October 2008

Textile worker

Textile worker
A textiles worker near Bhuj, Gujarat

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08 October 2008


A field somewhere near Bristol. June 2007.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor