Auckland, October 2017
Auckland city probably deserved more time than I gave it, but between volcanic beaches, fifty-something volcanoes in the metropolitan area, and arresting scenery spitting distance from the city center, it was hard to want to be downtown. Having just spent four solid months in crowded, uber urban Singapore, all I want at this point, is space. And if it came with volcanoes, black sand beaches and spectacular vistas around every hair pin bend in the road (and there are many), heck, why bother fighting crowds in the city?
Well, for one thing, being so far from the equator, there is the light. That amber, slanted light I sometimes can’t believe comes from the same sun. In equatorial cities, it’s thick with moisture and atmosphere, which makes shooting in shadowy interiors so sweet. But it either comes at you straight from above, or isn’t there. Twilight is a 10 minute affair – now you see it, now you don’t. No mercy. Light at latitudes though… ah… it leans (joy!), sunset is a languorous and nuanced affair, and it is golden. Do I shoot in the middle of the day? Absolutely. Not because blinding afternoons are a particularly great time to be shooting, but all that slanty light reflects off glass and steel quite delightfully then.
I never stopped loving evenings during the decade and a half I lived in Western Australia. That bend-and-gold that signal the waning of the day is even more pronounced here. Mmmmmm mmmm mmmmmm.
But heading into Auckland isn’t too daunting for this hermit, as there simply aren’t that many people around. At close to 1.5 million people in spread around approximately 1000 square kilometres, New Zealand’s most populated city feels semi deserted, next to Singapore’s 5.75 million population crammed into in just 719 km2. Flemming and I did head into the city one day, riding the ferry from the suburb of Northcote, where we spent our first week, across the neck of the harbour into the main ferry terminal.
You could say that everything about Auckland is a novelty at the moment. I’m sure it will wear off at some point, but for now, I’m dizzy with the euphoria of being in New Zealand.
Auckland is built on a volcanic field. This accounts for the dozens of small extinct volcanoes that dot its metropolitan area, including parks like One Tree Hill, Mount Eden and the ever visible (or feels that way) Rangitoto, which erupted a mere 600 years ago. If you’re climbing up a natural high point to catch a panoramic view of the city, it’s probably a volcanic cone. It’s ridiculously lush all over, and an extremely photographic green. I can’t stop shooting trees: the gnarled, old giants that shading leafy suburbs, regal sentinels in parks, and the walls of greenery that spring from random sides of roads.
All Flemming and I did in our first week here, was visit volcanic beaches, and wander around parks in serendipitous proximity. For seven days, we gave ourselves the liberty of enjoying the light, the cool, the lush greenness of Auckland, and being together, just the two of us. It was a decompression from this year, and for me, the crush of humanity that should feel like home.