After multiple phone calls to Virgin Blue, American Express and Air New Zealand I have just been able to secure a seat on a delayed (due to volcanic ash) Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch late this afternoon that was scheduled to leave this morning. That is the good news. The bad news is the single ticket was about the same as a one way ticket to Las Angeles and that the flight may still be cancelled. Currently Christchurch airport is closed and a decision is pending wether to re-open it for flights later today. Thankfully the ridiculously priced aire fare is fully refundable should the flight be cancelled. I wont know until later this afternoon if the flight is actually leaving. Until then its more waiting time at the airport…
‘Thanks’ Virgin Blue. I got up at 4am this morning and logged onto the Virgin website to see if my flight to New Zealand had been affected by the volcanic ash cloud that has been hovering around Australia and New Zealand disrupting air travel. I have been keeping an eye on it over the last few days as my trip was drawing closer and there was no mention of cancelling the flight. At 4am this morning and again at 6am all systems were go and green – at least according to Virgin’s Website. So bags in tow I drove to the airport (a one hour drive) expecting to fly out this morning only to find on arrival at the airport that the flight had been cancelled at 3am and Virgin had failed to update their website or alert their customers to the cancellation. To add insult to injury the best Virgin can now do is to book me onto what I am told is the next available flight; which does not leave until Saturday.
I don’t mind that the flight has been cancelled, I understand the safety implications of flying through volcanic ash. What I object to is the complete lack of communication by Virgin – its pathetic in this day and age of the internet, social media, mobile phones etc. that an airline cannot alert its passengers to cancellations or delays.
I am currently sitting at the Lounge at Melbourne Airport trying to get onto another flight to Christchurch; but its not looking good. Everything is either cancelled or fully booked (and about to be cancelled). Volcanic ash strikes again… This could be a very short trip indeed.
I am leaving for New Zealand in less than 12 Hours (provided the plume of volcanic ash does not delay or cancel my flight). I am packed (almost), bookings confirmed, itinerary set and feeling very much like I was before leaving for Iceland in July last year…nervous about Volcanic ash. It seems I have a small knack for planning photographic travel that syncs with the eruption of volcanoes. All being well I should in Christchurch by tomorrow afternoon and time and internet permitting I hope to post some updates to my blog throughout the trip. New Zealand’s spectacular South Island is a place very dear to my photographic heart and I cant wait to compose the first frame of the trip.
I just found out one of my photographs from Namafjall in Iceland “Highway to Hell” made it to Travel Photograph of the week at National Geographic magazine. This photograph holds special memories of Iceland for me as the soft rosy light that illuminated the rising sulphur and clouds lasted no more than a few seconds before the thick clouds obscured the dawn glow and turned the skies to dull grey. A high resolution wallpaper can also be downloaded from National Geographic’s website HERE. Prints are available through Source Photographica in Brighton.
For as long as I have been into landscape, nature and wilderness photography I have been searching for the perfect gloves for outdoor winter photography. The problem has been that I have struggled to find gloves that are waterproof, yet are thin enough to retain enough ‘feel’ to enable me to use my camera equipment unhindered. I have a drawer full of potential candidates that have all ultimately disappointed for one reason or another; usually because the gloves ultimately lack enough tactile feel for camera operation or are not waterproof. Believe me when I say it has been quite a search.
Up until recently I had settled on a thermalite glove liner; which was both warm and thin enough to enable me to use my camera equipment relatively unhindered. The problem is that they are not waterproof and every time I have been shooting with them in the snow I have ended up with wet and subsequently freezing fingers. It also necessitated having multiple pairs (since one pair always ended up wet). Last weekend I was shooting up at Wallace’s Hut at Falls Creek at sunrise in a sleet and snow with the thermalites and yet again ended up with wet and freezing fingers. I told myself at the time I just had to find a better solution before I leave for New Zealand in a few days and before Antarctica later this year. I have no desire to find myself shooting from a zodiac amongst the icebergs in Antarctica with wet and freezing cold fingers.
Later that morning when I was getting a late breakfast / early lunch in Bright I popped into a couple of outdoor stores just to see what they had in the way of gloves. Amongst the usual assortment of skiing gloves (which are just to thick), woollen gloves (which are to slippery and not waterproof) I found a pair of ‘Seal Skinz‘. On first inspection these gloves ticked all the boxes: Waterproof – Yes, Thin for tactile feel, Yes, Grippy and non-slip, Yes. The Seal Skinz are very similar in appearance to the Lowe Pro gloves (I have never really liked the Lowe Pro gloves finding them still too thick and not waterproof), however, they are slightly thinner for better tactile feel and completely waterproof. Only problem was they were just shy of $70 a pair and they did not have my size in stock. Unperterbed I decided to try and order a pair online when I returned to Melbourne; which I did and the gloves arrived late last week just in time for my trip to the South Island of New Zealand. As an aside, I was also able to find them significantly cheaper online. I ordered the standard version of the Seal Skinz glove. Seal Skinz also make a chill blocker version of this glove; which although warmer again with its fleece lining is too thick for photography for me. Time will tell if these gloves prove their worth. The South Island of New Zealand in the dead of winter should certainly be a good test. Last time I was there I experienced -19 Degrees celsius while shooting from Helicopter above the alps with the doors removed (and that was cold!).
As an outdoor photographer whose favourite season is winter I am willing to accept some degree of finger discomfort (cold) to keep good tactile feel with my camera equipment. I can put up with being quite cold as long as I am not also wet. The trick is finding the right balance of warmth and tactile feel and I am hoping these new Seal Skinz finally fit the bill. I will see how they fare in New Zealand as a precursor test to my Antarctica trip and report back.