Scenes From a Week in Auckland

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?

Between street. Auckland, New Zealand, 2017

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.

Auckland, New Zealand, 2017

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.

Auckland, New Zealand, 2017

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.

The city center from Mount Eden. Auckland, New Zealand 2017

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.

Chelsea Estate Regional Park at sunset.
Random wall of green along the road to New Zealand Sugar Company in Birkenhead. New Zealand 2017
Gnarly, ancient tree on Takpuna Beach. Auckland, New Zealand, 2017
View of the city from North Head. Auckland, New Zealand 2017
And because it’s not NZ without sheep: lamb on a limb. Cornwall Park (One Tree Hill), Auckland, New Zealand 2017
A phone the first night in the country. Flemming watches the light fade over Auckland. New Zealand 2017


  1. Mike says:

    Auckland looks great in ‘slanty light’ (love that expression).

    1. Charlene says:

      Hehe, the light’s always slanted here I imagine

  2. Mark Kinsman says:

    Great set. NZ is one of those bucket list places that I would love to visit. Those greens are calling for more photos.

    1. Charlene says:

      Know what you mean Mark. It’s been on my bucket list for a while too, so stoked to be here

  3. Mike Fresh says:

    An excellent and descriptive account, such a great introduction to New Zealand, Auckland specifically. Very enjoyable read , closing your eyes yours take you there and you pictures set the scene.

    1. Charlene says:

      There’s more to come Mike. Also, my goodness, I finally know what Two Two Fresh’s name is!

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