Once a living being, the ocean takes it in, polishes and shapes it, tumbles it around like a washing machine, and then spits it out, sometimes thousands of miles away.  Trees become mysterious objects such as dinosaurs, knarly hands and little worms.

Perhaps my imagination is a little vivid, but hey driftwood is cool!

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“Knarly”      © Sue Thomson 2014


“Driftwood Worm”      © Sue Thomson 2014

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“Moonrise over Bribie Island”      © Sue Thomson 2013


“Tyrannosaurus Rex”      © Sue Thomson 2014


“Upended”      © Sue Thomson 2014


“Low Tide at Maine”      © Sue Thomson 2014

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“The Hand”      © Sue Thomson 2013


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The Absence of Colour

One of the most exciting times of being a landscape photographer is during sunrise and sunset at an awesome location, when the sky has the potential to erupt in magnificent colour.  You just cant wait to get home, download the images, relive the adrenalin and hope it matches what you felt and saw.

Once the romance of the colour explosion is over, the images can be viewed objectively.   I like to take a few weeks to do this, because sometimes little gems will appear and outshine the diamonds which jump out during the first cut of processing.

I like to look carefully at the structure and lines of the landscape that I had chosen to frame at the time of capture.  Sometimes I am disappointed with my efforts, but I know I did the best I could at the time with my ‘seeing eye’, and I always try to learn from opportunities missed.

I am a big fan of black and white images and absolutely adore the work of Michael Kenna and Clyde Butcher and truly believe the essence of the landscape can sometimes be enjoyed more, once colour is removed from the image.  A black and white image of a landscape reduces it to its purest form of shape, structure and texture.  It then becomes an interpretation of reality by the artist.

On my recent trip to Haast Beach in New Zealand, the colours which presented in the sky, were singing right off the richter scale!   Now that I have had time to sit and ponder these images, I have processed a selection of seascapes in black and white. 

I am enjoying these images now, more so than at the time of capture when the colour fuzzed up my brain and there was little opportunity to savour the beauty of the moment due to the fast changing epic light.

I hope you enjoy them too.


“Ocean Edge”       © Sue Thomson 2014


“Retreat”       © Sue Thomson 2014


“Ten Seconds”       © Sue Thomson 2014


“Spill”       © Sue Thomson 2014


“Haast Beach”       © Sue Thomson 2014

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Where River Meets Sea

Dramatic coastlines, unspoiled wilderness, and a dramatic backdrop of mountains are all part of the amazing area known as Haast on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

Haast  is remote and sparsely populated, and offers the traveller a refreshing experience than the usual heavily populated tourist spots of New Zealand. The scenery where the Haast River meets the Tasman Sea is truly breathtaking and river edges pulse with activity when the whitebait are running.

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“River Meets Sea”       © Sue Thomson 2014

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“The Whitebait Stand”       © Sue Thomson 2014

I wrote about the whitebait phenomena last week in my blog “Little Fish are Sweet” and I share here a few more images of the charming little caravans where the fishermen hang out between tides.

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“Gold at Haast”       © Sue Thomson 2014

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“Window to Haast”       © Sue Thomson 2014

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“Mountain View”       © Sue Thomson 2014

Next week’s blog will feature seascapes from Haast Beach.

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Little Fish Are Sweet

There is a certain fascination with little fish in New Zealand and watching and learning from the whitebait fishermen in the Haast area, and tasting this delicacy, was one of the highlights on my recent visit to the South Island.

Legend has it that the best whitebait are caught on the wild West Coast of the South Island which is an incredible area of wilderness.  Word soon gets out when the whitebait are running and each spring, you will find hundreds of fisherman trying their hand at catching the tricky little devils as they make their way upstream from the sea.  The little whitebait swim close to the river’s edge and are quite elusive.  Big runs often follow floods, a few days after the water clears, and usually in the daytime on a rising tide.

Strict controls have been put in place by the Department of Conservation to control whitebaiting due to declining catches. Fishermen must have a licence, can only use one net, and must be within 10 metres of it at all times.  A variety of nets are used to catch whitebait, and they can be fixed screens, or hand held.

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“West Coast Whitebaiters”       © Sue Thomson 2014

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“Inside the Net”       © Sue Thomson 2014

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“Setting The Net”       © Sue Thomson 2014

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“Claire”       © Sue Thomson 2014

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“Help Is Golden”       © Sue Thomson 2014

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“Dressed To Fish”       © Sue Thomson 2014

The beautiful West Coast landscape is simply breathtaking.   Dotted along the river banks, are funky retro caravans or baches (shacks) and are used as whitebaiters take up residence for the season.  In next week’s blog, I will be sharing images of these quaint little abodes.

Whitebait fritters or patties are the most common way that the little fish are cooked. Eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and whitebait are added together and spoonfuls are then fried in butter or oil. The fritters are often eaten between slices of buttered white bread. I had mine with a salad and oh yes, little fish are sweet!

I hope you have enjoyed the blog.  I will be sharing more of my New Zealand images this month on FACEBOOK , so hit the LIKE button if you would like to see them.

I also look forward to sharing more of my documentary work with you this year via the Getaway Images  BLOG.

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Population Ten

On my recent trip to the South Island of New Zealand, I had the pleasure to discover and stay in the wonderful little historical town of St Bathans, located in the middle of Central Otago.

The origin of the town dates back to the early 1860s when gold was discovered and migrants came from as far afield as Ireland and China to seek their fortune.  It was originally named Dunstan Creek and by 1864, approximately 1000 people lived in the immediate area.

As a legacy of the mining, the amazing Blue Lake was formed.  Named after the distinctive blue colour which was caused by minerals in the water, it was created by miners digging away at a 120 metre hill until all that was left was a deep pit. When the mining stopped, the hole filled with water forming the lake.  Today, the lake is popular with weekend visitors who swim and jet ski in the lake.  There is a two kilometre walking track around Blue Lake so you are able to see the amazing colours and reflections from many different viewpoints.

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Blue Lake

Today there are only ten permanent residents, which include the owners of the haunted historic Vulcan Hotel, Mike and Jude Kavanagh.    You wont find a website to advertise the charming digs of this hotel accommodation, but you will find wonderful hospitality and have the opportunity to hang out with the locals when they drop in for a beer at the end of the day.

A couple of times a year, they run sheep through the main street in order to move them to different pastures.  I saw an amazing photograph on the wall of the pub which showed this happening.  The image had one sheep standing up in protest in the middle of the mob which really made the shot.  I was chuffed when Mike gave me a postcard of this image to keep.

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Many images of the renowned artist Grahame Sydney hang on the wall in the Vulcan Hotel.  Grahame has spent a lifetime painting and photographing the Central Otago landscape.

Little has changed in the town and it is easy to imagine how things might have been in its hey-day.  Historical St Bathans is now managed by the Department of Conservation and the only currently operating buildings are the pub and the post office.   I found it interesting that there were two cemeteries.  One for the catholics which took pride of place in town near the church, and one for non catholics which was located out of town.

I wandered through the township of historical buildings and found many items of interest to photograph, including vintage bicycles and old farm equipment.

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The Catholic Church and Cemetery

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Bike and Rabbit Trap

Only 17 kilometres away is the amazing Central Otago Rail Trail at Oturehua .  I was surprised at the number of families who were out riding parts of the trail.  It is such a wonderful landscape though to keep you distracted from the pain of cycling up the many hills.

St Bathans is a wonderful little place to put on your ‘must see’ places if you are travelling in the South Island of New Zealand.

A gallery of my St Bathans images is now able for viewing on the Getaway Images website.

Cambria – A Hugger’s Paradise

Some of the most enjoyable travel experiences are those which are unplanned.  Whilst I do love to research and plan before travelling to new locations, I also like to go with the flow and take advantage of any opportunities that arise along the way.

Over a beer with the locals at the Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans, a really cool little town in the middle of Central Otago in New Zealand, I mentioned to the friendly folks that I was a photographer visiting from Australia and would they be able to share their knowledge on any great spots for me to photograph.  Whilst my main intent was to photograph the lake and surrounding landscapes of St Bathans, getting some unique shots of the area is always a travelling photographer’s delight.

I should mention that there was never any more than six people in the pub at any one time, and legend has it that the ghost of Rosie, a lady of the night who was murdered at the pub and her body was found down in the lake, still haunted the pub!

As I was the only house guest on the first night, I declined the option to stay in the haunted room.   Yep….I was piked out!

People always love to help and I was advised that I should go on up to Cambria and meet “Bob”.  I was warned to watch out for him because he was a hugger!

I didn’t know what to expect but the next day I thought I would check out this place called Cambria where Bob the Hugger had created his own man made forest.

I came across the first of many interesting signs on the dirt road leading into Cambria.  It provided directions to Lower, Middle and Upper Cambria.  I chuckled as I realised that each area only consisted of about six houses.

Then another sign asking me did I want to go “here” or “there”


I chose “here” and ended up at the forest.


I parked the car and was immediately greeted by “Bob” who gave me a big hug and genuinely welcomed me to his piece of paradise on earth. He was beside himself that someone had taken the time to seek out his little piece of paradise and to come and admire his handiwork.


Bob had painstakingly planted thousands of beautiful trees which were now in full autumn splendour.


In amongst the forest were a number of quirky objects and were testament to his sense of humour.


Nothing but the best….silverware and a welcome drink for guests


The forest was a quiet meditative place for some.


Sold in St Bathans” – I am sure Bob has plans for that old washing machine….one day!


Curiosity will lead you to mysterious places in the forest.


There are places to rest your weary exploring feet…..albeit a little rustic!


Plenty of old cars for the motor enthusiast to see


Of course every good forest needs a submarine. Bob told me that this one was a work in progress. “I have just got to build up the bank at the back and wait for some rain”, he said.

Take the time to meet the locals on your next trip, you never know where you might end up.

It sure was a pleasure to find this little treasure, and of course you can never have too many hugs!

Moeraki – A Magical Place

I have recently returned from a short trip to New Zealand and I had an awesome time.  One of the areas that I really wanted to see and photograph was the Moeraki Boulders which are on the coast south of Oamaru on the South Island.

The Moeraki boulders are huge sperical stones that are scattered over the beach.  They are not shaped by river or water, but apparently were formed in ancient sea floor sediments in a process similar to how oyster pearls are created.  Erosion of the cliffs has released the three tonne captive boulders which now lie in a jumble across the beach.


I have seen some amazing pictures of the boulders and was determined to try and photograph them my way.  I stayed three nights and every sunrise and sunset I was back at the beach during the ‘golden hour’ getting to know the boulders.


And getting to know the boulders I did….there was one which was like a plum pudding, one which was broken open, small smooth boulders, and one which had a really cool textured pattern all over it.


I stayed at the charming fishing fillage of Moeraki and during the day walked around the headland and was able to see plenty of New Zealand fur seals and other wildlife.  I have never seen so much kelp in my life!


It is always fun to meet people when you are travelling, and I really enjoyed the hospitality of the Wilson’s from the Gold Coast who treated me to a cup of tea and a boiled egg in their newly collected RV after my last sunrise shoot at Moeraki.  Fine dining atop the Moeraki cliffs indeed!

I have now posted a few of the images up on the Getaway Images website if you would like to take a look.